Tuesday, December 28, 2010

2011 Parent's Top Ten List -- Tip #10


For almost a decade, Whole Hearted Parenting has released an annual Parent’s Top Ten List with ten items for parents to focus on in the New Year to promote peaceful conflict resolution, self-reliance, cooperation and assertive communication. The 2011 Whole Hearted Parenting Parent’s Top Ten List is now online here.

Beginning with tip #10, “Be clear on who owns the problem,” the Top Ten List is terrific to post on the fridge so parents can easily refer to it when things get off track at home. If there is conflict, being clear on who owns the problem can guide parents in deciding whether to provide assistance in problem solving (the child owns the problem) or to provide discipline – such as offering choices, setting clear limits, or using “I statements” – when the parent owns the problem. Providing support to a child who says he lost his homework (the child owns the problem) includes discussing how he feels and exploring his options for resolving the issue. Being clear on who owns the problem can also remind parents to avoid ineffective communication such as lecturing (“If you keep loosing your homework, you are going to fail your math class”), comparing (“Your brother never forgot any of his homework”), sarcasm (“If your head weren’t attached to your shoulders you would probably forget that, too”) or solving the problem for him (“I’ll bring your homework to you at school”).

One way of determining who owns the problem is to notice who is bringing it up. Your child is probably not bringing up the messy counter where he did not clean up after fixing his cereal for breakfast or the clothes left all over the bathroom floor! You are most likely bringing up these issues, and the problem belongs to you. If your child is bringing up issues, such as loosing his homework, being pushed by someone at school or being left off the invitation list to a party, he owns the problem and you can provide support.

When the problem is yours, speaking about how you feel is much more effective than talking about the behvior you would like your child to change. Be clear on how the problem influences you. For example, you do not like to cook in a dirty kitchen and someone might trip and fall while walking through a space with clothes on the floor.

Being clear and talking about how you feel are the first steps to resolving the problem.

Tune in next week for Tip #9!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Ways to Overcome Holiday Depression During and After Divorce

Many thanks to Rosalind Sedacca for this article. Whether separated, divorced, feeling that "empty chair" around the dinner table, or missing someone who has passed away, Rosalind's suggestions are up-lifting.

By Rosalind Sedacca, CCT

Thanksgiving, Christmas – most any holiday -- can bring up painful memories of happier times, especially if you are divorced and have children. But keep in mind that with the pain comes a choice. You can choose to acknowledge the past for what it was. You can value the good times you might have had together. Then you can choose to move on and let go.

If you don’t, you will likely get stuck tormenting yourself with the "shoulds." We should still be a family today. He should be ashamed of what he's doing to us. She shouldn’t be able to have the kids on Christmas Day. I should be over this by now. It should be easier for me to move on – but it isn't. You get the idea.

Use this holiday season as a marker for starting a new mindset for yourself. You are creating a future that will be as positive for you as you allow it to be. Close the door to what was so you can open the door to brighter tomorrows – for yourself and your children. This holiday season and the ones to come can be weeks of great celebration for you if you start planting the seeds in your mind today.

Here are some useful tips for creating a positive mindset for the holidays.

Be your own best friend:
Divorce and its related stressors can take its toll on your self-esteem. It’s easy to start falling into cycles of despair, fear, anxiety and depression fueled by messages such as “who’s going to want me now?” or “how can I cope with all this pressure in my life?” This can certainly compound over the holidays, which add another layer of stress to family life. Use this time to celebrate you and starting a new chapter in your life. Look ahead to reinventing yourself in ways you’ve always wanted – and acknowledging yourself for assets you have that can be further explored. Take time to laugh and indulge in some holiday spirit. It’s good medicine for you and the children you love.

Focus on lifting the spirits of others:
Gratitude is a mindset that reminds us of our blessings. Do you have a loving relationship with your children? Do you have your health, a roof over your head, the income to purchase a few holiday gifts? Many people are not so fortunate. Be grateful for your blessings, share a smile or kind gesture with others, volunteer for the less fortunate and you will be rewarded in ways you never expected – physically, emotionally and spiritually!

Integrate – don’t isolate:
Take advantage of this social season to circulate and re-connect with family and friends. Plan some small gatherings with those you care about and accept a few invitations to get out and meet other people. Limit your “pity party” time to an hour or two. Then pick yourself up and get back into life. You’ll be surprised by the support systems available to you. You will also find that you are not alone in the post-divorce emotions and challenges you are experiencing. Be receptive to help and it will come to you.

Initiate New Holiday Traditions:
Remembering holiday traditions of the past can set you into a downward cycle and negatively affect your children, as well. This is the time to develop new ways of celebrating the holidays that you and your children can cherish and enjoy together. Perhaps it’s a special trip, celebrating with new friends and neighbors, attending special holiday events in your community or place of worship. Encourage your co-parent to do the same when the kids are with them, so that they have something to look forward to in each home.

Use this time of the year as the emotional starting point for bringing into focus the “you” you’ve always wanted to be. Visualize the future you desire. Make commitments to positive changes in your thoughts, habits and actions. By doing this, every year to come around holiday time you will be re-energized with positive appreciation rather than brought down by sadness and despair. The choice is yours. Embrace this season as the start of wonderful things to come and you’ll have much to celebrate in your future!

Rosalind Sedacca, CCT, is founder of the Child-Centered Divorce Network and author of the ebook, How Do I Tell the Kids … about the Divorce? A Create-a-Storybook™ Guide to Preparing Your Children -- with Love! Please visit Rosalind's website for more information, free articles on child-centered divorce and her free ezine.



Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Consciously Created Holidays

On this last day of November, I invite you to consciously create the holiday season that you desire. Remember the “not enough” thoughts that trigger stress, such as “I don’t have enough help,” “I don’t have enough money,” and “I don’t have enough time”? I feel the most stressed when I think “I don’t have enough time to get everything done.” It is even hard to enjoy getting things done when thinking this thought! Each time you feel the clinch of stress – which walls off your enjoyment – remind yourself that you DO have enough time, help and money. Set aside things on your “to do list” for another time or another day, ask for help or reduce the number of things that you are doing, and plan how you wish to use the money that you do have or ways to raise money for what you would like to do.

We talked in the last post about Simon Sinek and starting with WHY. Get clear on your WHY for the holiday season. It might be about honoring your faith and connecting with the people you love. Begin with your WHY on December 1st and your level of joy will expand.

Each of us has twenty-four hours in each day. I invite you to savor every single one of yours.

For ideas on reducing your stress over the holidays and assisting your children to reduce theirs, please visit the following websites:

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-power-imagination/200911/7-holiday-stress-busters-kids

http://www.stressfreekids.com/articles/stress-buster-focus-color-image-1-minute-kids/

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Why in Your Family

The It Takes a Village to Create Change Conference in San Diego over the weekend was phenomenal. Organized by the Indigo Village Educational Foundation, the one-day event was presented with immense love and grace. I felt privileged to be a speaker on the program, particularly after listening to Simon Sinek speak about Start with WHY, which is also the title of his new book.

Simon drew a target – which he calls The Golden Circle – with three parts. The bull’s eye at dead center is the WHY. The next layer surrounding the center is the HOW and the outside ring of the target is the WHAT.

The WHY is your purpose, your passion and your dream. The WHY is about leadership. “There are leaders and there are those who lead. Leaders hold a position of power or influence. Those who lead inspire us. Whether individuals or organizations, we follow those who lead not because we have to, but because we want to. We follow those who lead, not for them but for ourselves.”

The HOW is the strategy. It consists of “guiding principles or actions that inform the path you will take in pursuit of your WHY. They are the road map or the code of conduct to start to move a Why into something useful and tangible. They are, quite literally, the actions you take or the environment in which you work best.”

The WHAT is the execution. Simon quoted Edison who said, “Vision without execution is hallucination.”

The principles of The Golden Circle can be applied to any organization, and they can be highly beneficial to our first organization, our family. Just as we teach the value of disciplining our children so they develop their own inner direction in Redirecting Children’s Behavior™, Simon said to start from the WHY, from the center and from the heart. If we are clear on our WHY as a family, clear on our purpose as parents, centered as family members, nothing can lead us off course.

More on how Simon’s principles apply to families and parenting to come!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Public Tantrums and Self-Calming


Please visit Moms Miami for today's post on Public Tantrums and Self-Calming. You can also listen to this post as a podcast.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Good Night Moon



I first heard about Bedtimes are for Suckers from a colleague who posted a link on Facebook. She asked what people thought of this blog, which is billed as “a preschooler fed up with being exploited by her mom’s ‘mommy blog’ tells her side of the story.” The responses on Facebook were almost evenly split between people who thought the blog was hysterically funny or a reflection of their world and others who thought it was at best crude and at worst horribly wrong.

The first photograph you see at the site is a preschooler in large sunglasses with her arms folded across her chest and her feet firmly planted. She emanates the classic power struggle response, “I don’t want to and you can’t make me” or “just try and make me.” The next photo is the same young child holding up her left hand with the middle finger extended under the post entitled “5 Reasons I Don’t Want to Go to Bed (So Get Off my Ass)”. It is explained elsewhere that the gesture was photoshopped. Other posts include the following phrases in the titles: “Idiotic Parents,” “WTF is that on My Plate,” and “Mommy Put Down the Goddamn iPhone.”

Here is what I like about Bedtimes are for Suckers – The piece about moms and iPhones from the perspective of a child is brilliant in concept.

Here is what I don’t like about Bedtimes are for Suckers:
• The tone is hostile, sarcastic and manipulative. The language is crude. The purpose of the blog is to fight, so it does not create closeness or connection.
• If a parent envisions his child thinking or behaving like this, it will become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
• Thinking of children in these terms is not in the best interest of your relationship with your child.
• Children do not think like this. This is adult language, beliefs and attitudes being attributed to a child.
• Karen Deerwester, author of The Entitlement-Free Child and owner of Family Time Inc, said the blog is “a celebration of a precocious attitude that a child has learned.” The child has learned this behavior, and adults have permitted the behavior to persist.
• The blog feels pornographic to me in that a child is exploited even as the blog claims to be fighting exploitation. The child is not a fully consenting participant in this endeavor even though thoughts, behaviors, beliefs and attitudes are attributed to the child.
• There are no solutions to problems or improvements in the relationships. There is no desire for solutions or improvements in the relationships.
• Our children do what works, and mom does not take responsibility for her child’s behavior. The sarcasm is actually blaming the child for mom’s lack of leadership.
• Family life does not have to be this way.

I checked out if I had somehow left my sense of humor aside when reading the blog. A few lines did make me laugh. The presentation of a child and the relationship between a parent and child in such a corrupt light simply did not hold any humor for me and I’m OK with that.

Personally, I think bedtime is for everybody.

Goodnight room. Goodnight red ballon. Goodnight moon. Sleep tight.

Friday, October 8, 2010

The Feelings Behind the Words


One of the most helpful suggestions in the Redirecting Children’s Behavior™ course is to look for the feelings behind a child’s words and actions. When discovering and understanding the feelings are your top priority, it is easier to separate the “deed” from the “doer” so that your response is helpful, calm and non-reactive even when your child may be out of control. Your response is directed towards your child learning a different way of doing what he is doing rather than becoming a statement about his character. Your response honors your relationship.

Two triggers that can quickly escalate a conversation into an argument are “never” and “always”. The use of either of those words, particularly if they are describing someone else’s behavior – “You never clean up your room” – do not solve problems. Imagine a scenario in which you’ve said “no” to a request from your daughter to spend the night at a friend’s house. She responds angrily, “You never let me go anywhere!” If you were to quickly react, you might become defensive, seeking to provide evidence of how that isn’t true. You might prove how wrong she is by tossing out all of the times that you said “yes” to her requests. The interaction could easily become a heated power struggle with you thinking she is ungrateful for what you do and your daughter feeling like you do not understand her.

Instead, look for her feelings behind her words. She is striking out because she is disappointed and angry. Looking at her feelings behind her words allows you to respond lovingly and effectively. Your response can then be, “You sound very disappointed. You must have really wanted to spend the night at Lisa’s house.” That will not be the end of the conversation, and it can be the end of the power struggle.

The same holds true for “always.” Imagine that your child says, “You always tell me what to do. You are not the boss of me!” If you look at the feelings behind the words, you will see a classic power struggle in which your child is proving that you are not the boss of him. He may be feeling powerless or over-powered. Your response can then be, “You are right! I am not the boss of you. You are the boss of you.” Again, that will not be the end of the conversation, and it can be the end of the power struggle.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Talking with Teens



In talking with the mom of a teenage girl today, I was reminded of the importance of two things in the relationship between parent and teenager: the language used and the practice of turning agenda-driven discussions into open conversations. Here are some simple things to keep in mind to create peace in your home and to stay connected with your teen as she traverses these turbulent years:

Listen.

When speaking with your teen, put things on the table. If you think your son has been less than truthful with you, let him know what you know to be true rather than attempting to catch him in a lie. If he said he was at a friend’s house and you know that he wasn’t, avoid saying, “How was your visit with your friend?” Instead, say, “I spoke with Mark’s mother today and I know that you were not there. Let’s talk about what happened.” If you don’t think your daughter has completed her science project, avoid skirting the issue with questions that will probably imply mistrust. Instead, use an I-statement to dispel her defensiveness and to voice your feelings. For example, “I feel uncomfortable because your science project is due next Friday and I haven’t seen you working on it. How is it going, and can I help in any way?”

Listen.

Use “and” as your conjunction rather than “but.” When you say to your teen, “I love you but I am not willing for you to spend the night at Julie’s house”, she will not hear the “I love you.” People tend to ignore the words that come before the “but”. Simply rephrasing the statement by substituting “and” for “but” will keep the “I love you” in the conversation and in her heart.

Listen.

Some big issues for parents of teens and for teens themselves are school success, love relationships, drugs and alcohol, and relationships with friends. By having conversations about these big ticket items, you keep the door open for connected communication. As you let go during the teen years, you can embrace being your child’s ally. The one item that distinguishes a conversation from a lecture is an agenda. If you are promoting your agenda rather than seeking understanding, it is a lecture. A conversation means that both you and your teen have a space to voice feelings and desires. What do you want? What does she want? What are your boundaries and limits? What are hers? The more “conversational” the discussion, the more empowered and invested your teen will be. The more of an ally you will be. The more connected you both will be.

And did I say listen?

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Driven to Distraction


Our mission at Whole Hearted Parenting is to assist parents in creating peace at home. A few days ago a mom who had scheduled a coaching session asked a follow-up question about redirecting children while in the car. What a great topic! Everything happening in the car seems somehow magnified. The distractions of children who might be fighting, continually requesting your help or making demands can be unnerving and unsafe. Here are a few suggestions for creating peace in your car.

Have a conversation at home with your children about safety in the car. Let them know how important it is for you to be able to focus without distractions while you drive and that they are your safety team, helping you to keep everyone safe. Request that they ask only once for something (rather than the barrage of “Mommy, mommy, mommy”) and that they handle things themselves. For instance, if you child has something he needs to use or play with while in the car, it is his job – if it is age appropriate – to place it within reachable distance when he gets in rather than depend on the driver of the car to retrieve it for him. The driver's job is to drive.

Ask your child to create a verbal or physical signal so that you can let him know that you feel distracted. Examples are the words “focus” or “OM” or the peace sign. It could also be some very calming music that you play. It could be a song that you sing. Let your children know that if you are distracted, you will pull over and stop to be safe.

If your children are fighting or out of control or your feel distracted while you are driving, first give them the signal. For instance, firmly say, “Focus!” Put on your calming music or begin to sing the chosen song. If the behavior persists, calmly pull over to a safe place and park the car. One mom got out of the car and sat on the hood until her children calmed down.

A friend tells the story of driving her children and their cousins to Orlando for a trip to one of the “worlds.” While driving out of town, they began arguing over which “world” they would visit. The arguing got heated. She safely exited the turnpike, parked the car and calmly said, “I am willing to take you to any of the theme parks that you choose to visit. I am not willing to listen to the arguing any longer. You have ten minutes to reach a decision on which park you wish to visit.” As she stepped out of the car to let them have privacy to negotiate, she overheard her son say, “And she means it!” This is a mom who sets clear limits and followed through.

The more you successfully redirect the fighting, rivalry, power struggles and attention-seeking at home, the less often you will experience it in the car.

Hunger and fatigue are triggers for power struggles and meltdowns, so it pays to have snacks in the car as well as a comforting pillow or blanket. After school, when blood sugar is low and kids are tired, and long trips are times to have these supplies on hand.

You might also wish to declare your car a “peace zone (PZ).” Be clear that negotiating, helpfulness, gentle touch, honoring a sibling’s personal space and a respectful tone of voice are all part of the PZ.

Peaceful driving!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Adoption Myths


This week I am blogging on Adoption Myths on Moms Miami. Join the conversation.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

How to Make School Your Child’s Ally After Divorce




Many thanks to Rosalind Sedacca for this timely article on creating a team with your child's school to assist the family post divorce or separation. This team can also be helpful when a divorced parent remarries, particularly if the new spouse has children from a previous marriage who will be living at home. The team can assist a child experiencing the intense, complex and ambiguous emotions that may arise from sharing his parent with another adult and other children, sharing a home, and having another adult in a parental role. You will also find wonderful meditations and Verbal First Aide in this week's issue of Parenting News. The meditations are calming and create clarity around emotions. To receive Parenting News, please visit www.WholeHeartedParenting.com.

Returning to school after their parents have separated or divorced can be difficult for any child. You can ease the transition, however, by opening the door to the many resources available to you through the school. The key here is in forming a cooperative relationship with key personnel.

Making your child’s teachers aware of a major change in your home environment is helpful both for them and your child. That’s because school is really a second home for children in our culture.
Regardless of their age, children can’t be expected to turn off their emotions during or after a divorce any more than their parents can. Fear, insecurity, shame, guilt and other emotions are usually triggered when a parental marriage ends. These complex feelings can affect a child’s focus, self-esteem, relationships with their friends as well as their academic performance.
Many children trust and feel safe with their teachers. By talking to the teacher in advance and explaining the status of your post-divorce arrangements, you can go a long way toward helping your child feel more secure or less alone.

Here are some tips for making the most of your school system and professional educators:

• A compassionate teacher can keep an eye open for signs of distress or depression in your child. You can provide some messages for the teacher to share should they feel it appropriate to talk with your child about their feelings. A trusted teacher can remind your child that he or she is not at fault … that they aren’t the only students at school who are going through these challenging times … and that life will move back into a more comfortable place before too long. This can be helpful in reinforcing prior conversations you’ve already had with your child. It also reassures your child that the divorce is not a big shameful secret. It can be discussed candidly and openly without shame.

• It’s also wise to speak with your child’s guidance counselors. These professionals are trained to handle challenging circumstances and can be an ally that you and your family can count on for support and suggestions.

• The key here is to bring these educators onto your team on behalf of your child. With their eyes open, it will be easier to detect signs of depression, aggression or other behavior changes that need to be brought to your attention and discussed as soon as possible.

• Some schools offer support groups for children coping with divorce issues. It can be very helpful for children to talk to one another, sharing their fears and other anxieties during or after the divorce. Knowing they’re not alone, that they’re accepted and that others are facing the same type of family dynamics gives children a sense of belonging. It’s also an opportunity to vent and make new friends with children who can empathize with them. The less alone a child feels, the better they are able to accept the challenges they will be facing in the weeks and months ahead.

Talk to your child before sending them back to school. Discuss any changes in routine or scheduling they can expect. Also let them know who they can talk to at school if they are feeling sad or have questions about adapting to life at school post-divorce. School can be your child’s best friend at this time – and a great support system for your family – if you take advantage of all the resources available.

Rosalind Sedacca, CCT is a relationship seminar facilitator and author of How Do I Tell the Kids … about the Divorce? A Create-a-Storybook Guide to Preparing Your Children -- with Love! The ebook provides fill-in-the-blank templates for customizing a personal family storybook that guides children through this difficult transition with optimum results. For free articles, coaching services and other resources on child-centered divorce or to subscribe to her free ezine, go to http://www.childcentereddivorce.com/.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Practicing Compassion


This week I am blogging on Practicing Compassion on the Your Infinite Life Training and Coaching Company website. Click here to be redirected, and enjoy!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Boost Your Child's Brain Power with a Little Imagination


Thank you to Dr. Charlotte Reznick, Ph.D. -- author and Associate Clinical Professor of Psychology at UCLA -- for contributing this post about maximizing your child's learning style using imagination tools.

It's just the beginning of the school year and soon the test grades will be pouring in - not always with the best results. Does your child have a learning style that sometimes gets in the way of his success at school? Is he sometimes labeled slow, lazy, or disruptive? Without understanding and support, kids with different learning styles than their peers can suffer from low self-esteem, anxiety from too much pressure, or a negative attitude toward school and learning.

Not every kid can be a super learner, but every kid can aspire to reach her potential. Your child's imagination is a resource that can be used to maximize her own individual learning style and boost her brain power and overall school performance.

Here are six imagination tools to try:
Go on a tour of her brain. Have your child take a few deep "balloon breaths" - with her hands around her navel, have her breathe slowly and deeply into her lower belly so it presses into her hands like an inflating balloon. Now ask her to close her eyes and take you on a tour of her brain and describe what she sees. Which images and symbols are happy? Which are gloomy or sad? Which part is associated with homework and school? The images she conjures up will give you a common set of symbols to talk about and work with.

Clean out his brain. Encourage your child to take time before homework to clear out his fuzzy brain of negative thoughts about his abilities or the subject at hand. Have him start Balloon Breathing, then imagine cleaning out the dust, clutter, and gloomy places with white soapy bubbles, light, or anything else that pops up. He can picture his brain primed to learn, or he can increase his brain power with a Super Smart Solution. Finish by having him imagine how satisfied he'll feel when he successfully completes his homework.

Invite a Subject Wizard to Help. Your child can close her eyes and ask for special help - with reading from a Reading Wizard, or math help from a Math Wizard. For example, have her describe the wizard in detail and tell the wizard what she wants him to do. In one girl's case, a Spelling Wizard helped to turn her spelling drills into a fun studying game. Her spelling improved to the point where there were just 3 or 4 errors per paragraph dictation down from 27! Wizards can also help during quizzes too, when they can come up with the right answer even when the child can't.

Give his feelings an identity. Next time your child is obviously distressed while doing homework, ask him to name the feeling. Then ask him what the feeling wants to tell you. When children are permitted to give a voice to their feelings, such as anger, their feelings will have a lot to tell you! Ask your child what the feeling looks like and where it lives in his body. Once a feeling has a name, voice, or identity, you can work with it. You can negotiate with it, ask it questions, draw it, erase it, surround it with a soothing or neutralizing color, and so on.

Create the ideal school. Listen to your child's thoughts and concerns about school, and ask him about his favorite subjects: What are the easiest and the hardest? How would he like school to be? Have him visualize what he desires – describing his dream school. You will learn a lot about him by doing this, it will bring you closer, and it will give you lots of ideas to play with.

Give tests a positive spin. Have your child imagine the grade he hopes for at the top of a returned test. Ask him to picture the smile on his teacher's face when she hands it to him. This is not hocus-pocus. Visualizing a good grade will reinforce his goal and encourage him to work hard to achieve it. The rewards for clear goals and hard work are practical magic.

Charlotte Reznick PhD is a child educational psychologist, an Associate Clinical Professor of Psychology at UCLA, and author of the LA Times bestselling book The Power of Your Child's Imagination: How to Transform Stress and Anxiety into Joy and Success (Perigee/Penguin). In addition to her private practice, she creates therapeutic relaxation CDs for children, teens, and parents, and teaches workshops internationally on the healing power of children's imagination. You can find out more about her at www.ImageryForKids.com.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Back to School


After shifting into the glorious groove of summer, it is time to line up the uniforms, repack the backpack, dig out the lunch box and begin the daily routine of school. Are you feeling the stress yet? Your children probably are, and as with any transition, misbehavior may increase. Here are some tips for making a smooth switch from summer to school.

Find the Benefit. Our time may be more our own during the summer (or not!) and the change to a more rigid schedule may feel almost painful. (That could definitely be a projection!) Look to the opportunities that school provides to help regain perspective. There will be learning and growth. New friendships will be made and old ones recharged. Our children will experience fresh challenges and learn to meet them. Frame the return to school in terms of an adventure, of opportunities and excitement.

Tie Summer Activities into School Life. When talking about school, mention summer events that your child might want to share with his teacher and friends. A trip to a museum or a visit to another state may tie into a project or paper. Have him put together a few photographs to bring to school to share. Finding the connections between summer fun and school activities will help integrate the experiences.

Let Your Child Know that the Fun Will Continue. Even though summer vacation is officially over, you will continue to go to the beach, to movies, and on trips. Are there things that your family had hoped to do over the summer and did not have the opportunity to do? Put them on the calendar to do during the school year. Ask your child for one thing he had wanted to do over the summer but did not, and put that on the calendar, too.

Contact Friends Before School Begins. Have your child call a few school friends in advance of the first day. They can reconnect so they feel more comfortable when they meet up at school. Knowing they have spoken will add familiarity to the many unknowns of the new school year.

Involve Your Child in Back-to-School Preparations. Have him list the things he needs and allow him to help you with the shopping. Create a check list on the computer. Does he need a new lunch box, backpack, or more uniforms? Do her school shoes still fit? Does he need a haircut, school supplies, or lunch items? Have him prepare daily menus if he takes his lunch so everything will be on hand. Make shopping for what you need an adventure.

Create Space to Discuss Feelings. Provide opportunities for your child to express his feelings about returning to school. Be supportive and encouraging. If he expresses fears, help him discover what he can do to feel more comfortable.

Routines Make Things Smooth. Routines are calming and soothing. Begin to roll back the bedtime to an hour acceptable for the school year. If your child wakes up to an alarm clock have him set it earlier each day until he is waking up at the appropriate time for school. Discuss the schedule in advance. Be clear on the time he will get out of bed and the time you will leave for school. Will she choose her school clothes the night before or in the morning? Do you want to include new things this year, such as your child waking to an alarm clock or preparing his own lunch or breakfast? Will he take a bath before bed or before school? Create clarity prior to the first day of school, particularly if there are changes from last year such as a new school, different departure times, or added responsibilities.


Monitor your stress. Your body is your greatest barometer for measuring stress, so check in periodically and teach your child to check in, too. Notice your face, shoulders, jaw and arms. If you are feeling tense, take a few moments to move and breath deeply. Just as you would do in a yoga class, tense your muscles then let them go. Raise your shoulders to your ears, then let them drop down. Tighten your face muscles, pulling everything to the center of your face, then release. Relax your jaw. Make fists then let your hands fall to your sides. This -- along with taking deep belly breaths -- is an easy relaxation technique to practice with your child.


All the best for a fun and exciting new school year!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Limiting Beliefs


I was in a beautiful class this weekend on Limiting Beliefs facilitated by Pam Dunn, president of Your Infinite Life Training and Coaching Company. It was a weekend of discovery, as twenty-two people uncovered limiting beliefs and moved through fears. This is a wonderful course for parents, because our limiting beliefs influence our parenting and our relationships with our children.

We are all belief driven. Some beliefs we are aware of. Others are below our level of awareness. Limiting beliefs fit into the latter category and although they may have kept us safe or worked for us in a beneficial way at some point in our lives, they limit us from full satisfaction or closeness in our relationships or success in our work now. Shifting a limiting belief is liberating. You feel a tremendous freedom in your life.

Wes Hopper, who writes Daily Gratitude, just today sent out an article called “Expand Your Limits” which is, wildly enough, about limiting beliefs. Here is what Wes has to say:

Rabbi Michael Lerne said, "Idolatry is believing that what now exists is the only possibility." Every important aspect of our lives is constructed from the building materials of our beliefs. Change your beliefs, build a different life. That's what Rabbi Lerne is telling us. Ah, but it's not so simple, is it?

Why is it so difficult? It's because beliefs are powerful, they are often hidden, and we've lived with them for so long that we don't question them. We just live with the results.

Here's my challenge for you today. Think of one thing that you'd kinda like to do, but which you think is just not something you'd ever be good at. You could never get up and speak to a group? Sure you can. Find a local Toastmasters Club and learn how. That's how my wife Sandra got started. Her first talk, she was so nervous she fell off her high heels! Two years in Toastmasters and she was a confident pro.

Like to write, but don't think you've got anything important to say? Go to Wordpress.com and start your own blog. Start writing.

As our quote says, what's true now is NOT the only possibility. It's just a childhood belief. So pick something impossible for you and just do it. If other people are doing it, you can too. Expand your limits of the possible!

You'll be grateful you did!

Thanks, Wes!

Friday, July 23, 2010

The Heart of the Matter


Have you ever had an ongoing conflict with someone or a relationship in which you easily slip into an ugly dance of thinking negative thoughts about the other person? It could be with your son or daughter or spouse or your own mom or dad. It could begin as a simple pet peeve about closing cabinets after opening them or putting dirty dishes in the dishwasher instead of leaving them on the table. It could be about your child’s requests for a cell phone, a car or a sleepover with friends. Your discussion might begin as a conversation but it always seems to dissolve into the ugly dance. You feel unappreciated or disrespected and the other person is angry. You've attempted to change things, and the problem stubbornly resists. Sound familiar?

Just as dance classes train your body to elegantly perform grand jet├ęs, continued practice of the ugly dance trains you to quickly begin that dance at the first sight of an open cabinet or request for a cell phone. You see dishes on the table and the spotlight is on you as you take the first steps in the ugly dance by thinking, “How many @#%& times do I need to remind him to put the dishes in the sink? He doesn't respect anything I say. He is a brat!” If you have an ugly dance-a-thon happening in your home, check out Wes Hopper’s insights in this article The Heart of the Matter:

"I have discovered from years of work with hundreds of people that when a stubborn problem does not yield, it is because there is a need for forgiveness." … Catherine Ponder

Forgiveness is a subject that many people misunderstand, and as a result they suffer needlessly. It's easy to believe that forgiving someone who has hurt us is letting them off the hook for their bad behavior. Actually, forgiveness is freeing US, not them. Carrying a grudge works havoc in our body and affairs. It takes up space in our mind that could be used for better things. And as our quote suggests, it can cause problems in other areas of our lives that don't seem to be related at all. Forgiveness can clear up health problems, business problems, mental problems, of all kinds. Why would we want to carry that kind of baggage around?

One of my favorite songs is one by singer and songwriter Don Henley about a failed relationship, "The Heart of the Matter", in which he concludes "It's about...........forgiveness." And that is the heart of the matter, whether it's a relationship or some other issue. So set yourself free with forgiveness.

And you'll be grateful you did!

Thanks, Wes, for the insights, and you may be asking yourself how forgiveness relates to your child’s demands for a cell phone or car. Set clear boundaries after you forgive your child for having desires. Forgive yourself if you’ve given up your desires and stoke your fire to live your life more passionately. Forgive him for not knowing how to show you how much he appreciates and respects you. Then teach him how to do just that. Show her how to appreciate you by consciously appreciating and respecting her.


You are your child's guide. It is through your guidance that your child will begin to understand the heart of the matter.

Friday, July 16, 2010

A Path with a Heart


In exploring ideas on what to write this week -- while in the Zen-like state that mowing the lawn induces -- it occurred to me to express how meaningful it was to take the Redirecting Children's Behavior course when my daughter was a toddler. She is turning thirteen next week, and the difference that Redirecting Children's Behavior made and continues to make every day in our family life and our relationships is amazing. It shows up everywhere for all of us. Taking the course was also the beginning of an amazing and transformational journey, a journey down a different path -- a path with a heart. Then this article by Wes Hopper, who writes on the power of gratitude, showed up. Couldn't be more perfect! Enjoy Wes Hopper's Have a Heart:


"Look at every path closely and deliberately, then ask ourselves this crucial question: Does this path have a heart? If it does, then the path is good. If it doesn't, it is of no use." … Carlos Castaneda

What do you suppose it means for a path to have a heart? And why would one without it be of no use? Every time we make a choice, we're choosing a path. It may be a short path or it may be a long path. Each time we get to ask - does this choice, this path, have a heart?

That means that it's the choice that we're going to be happy about tomorrow and the next day. It means it’s a path in line with our purpose and our vision. It means that it’s a path that reflects the person we want to be.

When we find ourselves in angry conflict, we're off the path. When we're allowing others to determine whether we follow our dream, we're off the path. When we feel good, the path has a heart. When we don't, that's of no use to us because it's not taking us where we want to go.

And Castaneda's Toltec wisdom is reminding us that we pick our path not in the few big choices that we make, but in every little one, one choice at a time.

Today practice noticing your choices, all of them. See if they have a heart. You'll be very grateful you did.



Monday, July 5, 2010

Freedom to Explore


Deborah McNelis, the creator of braininsights, is a brain development specialist. Her website Early Childhood Brain Insights offers up succinct "Brain Facts." The June 29th and June 30th "Brain Facts" both support concepts that we have spoken about in the past -- the value of being in nature, the importance of unstructured play and the benefits of physical activity. The two Brain Facts are:

  • Freely exploring nature and objects increases blood flow to parts of the brain

  • Physical activity enhances brain function through providing more oxygen to the brain

Unstructured play is not only important to children, it is important to a child's future happiness as an adult. It is vital for children to have time to explore their world, both in nature and at home. You can learn about setting up spaces at home that inspire children to learn and play at Childhood 101. Find time to be in nature and let your child play without an agenda. Seeing my daughter playing with river rocks by a running stream at the base of a waterfall this summer was one of the most fulfilling moments of play I can recall. She was charged up finding different shapes, exploring how they would break and creating "statues" with groups of rocks. She also loves the "swamp walks" in Big Cypress National Park. Talk about sensory learning -- you slog through waist-deep water under ancient cypress trees.

There are so many sedentary distractions for children, from portable media players to cell phones to television. Take time to disconnect from electronic devices and get physical. Those clever animals in the animated film Madagascar knew what they were saying when they sang, "I like to move it move it!" Research from the National Institutes on Health is even showing that being physically fit at 18 is linked to higher IQ and is a predictor of educational and professional achievement later in life.

Use these final days of summer to experience nature in an unstructured way. Be explorers. Disconnect from electronic devices and connect with one another. Hike, bike, walk. Physical activity will not only benefit your child's body but his brain as well.

If you would like to listen to this post as a podcast which can be delivered to your cell phone or heard online, please click here.


Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Vacation: A Time to Connect


We just returned home from a wonderful vacation, and one of the things I loved most about our trip was how everyone in our family became participants. We were all in the same boat -- literally for a while -- learning, looking and experiencing things together. We laughed at the same things and are still laughing at some of them. We have stories to tell our friends back home about what we each felt and saw and heard. We were in on it together. It was a shared experience that created closeness even when we disagreed or things were uncomfortable, like the day on the river when we were soaking wet and cold.


Luisa Frey has a great article on the Parental Wisdom blog on How to Connect with Your Teens Through Travel, and her ideas rang true from our vacation. You can apply her suggestions, particularly getting your children involved in the planning process and turning "car rides" in to "confides", to everyday life not just to your time on vacation.


For all of Luisa's ideas, please visit www.parentalwisdom.com/blog/?p=628. Luisa also suggests the website http://www.teentraveltalk.com/ to inspire and inform your teen about vacation adventures. To see the river trip that we experienced, go to www.adrift.com/yampariver.html. It was amazing!

Monday, May 31, 2010

Creating a Summer that Rocks, Part 5!


We are into single digits in the countdown to summer, and since April 26th, here at Whole Hearted Parenting, we’ve been talking about ways to create a summer that rocks. Our final suggestion in the series is to notice every opportunity for learning. Summer is a rich time for discovery and learning, as Amy Webb pointed out in her guest blog last week. Amy discussed “brain drain,” and she had many terrific suggestions for keeping the learning alive over the summer. Here are a few more.

One of my favorite memories from childhood was being “the navigator” on our family road trips. I loved having a job, and looking at maps and checking mile markers was fun! When children have a job, they feel capable, valuable and powerful – as I did giving my dad directions on where to turn and answering his questions about landmarks, cross streets and distances. It was team work. As a bonus, I learned how to find my way around new locations, so when I traveled later, I felt very confident. Summer trips, even if they are simply across town, are rich in opportunities to learn.

Look at atlases and maps with your children. Teach them how to determine the number of miles from one location to another. Teach them the meaning of the symbols, such as highways, capitol cities, National Parks, trails, airports, mountains and rest areas. If you are on an urban adventure, take public transportation. Using your bus, metro or subway map, teach your children how to navigate. Which stop is the closest to your final destination? Do you need to transfer? What do the different numbers, letters or colors of the routes mean? Children will learn that maps and atlases are much more informative and fun than simply using Google for directions.

If you will be traveling, learn about your destination and the areas you will be traveling through before you depart. Each family member can pick a location, research it and make a presentation to the family. An afternoon of family presentations can be entertaining! Each of you can be tour guides preparing everyone to look for special things – including wildlife – along the way. You will not miss the largest frying pan in the world, alligators lying by the side of canals or all of those “See Rock City” signs because you will be on the lookout!

Keep the learning alive this summer!

Summer Suggestion #5: Notice every opportunity for learning

For more ideas for creating a cooperative and connected summer, please read Whole Hearted Parenting’s book, 20 Steps to a Summer that Rocks!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Creating a Summer that Rocks, Part 4!




A little over two weeks remain in the school year here in south Florida. Students are preparing for exams and completing projects (or not!) and thinking about the last days of school. At Whole Hearted Parenting, we are thinking about more ways for you to create a summer that rocks! In Part 1 of this series, we talked about how your focus – the things you concentrate on or wish to accomplish – may be different during the summer. Today’s post is all about focusing on your child’s strengths.

In a few weeks when your child’s final report card comes home, consider what grades are going to get the greatest amount of attention. Will it be the A’s and B’s or that single C or D? It is typically the lowest grade that receives the most attention. Often the places where a child is struggling or is the most challenged are the places on which we focus. As Dr. Becky Bailey, author and creator of Conscious Discipline©, says, “We get what we focus on” and you’ve probably heard a variation on this concept, which is “what we focus on expands.” Shifting your focus from your child’s challenges to his strengths has many advantages.

One of the advantages of focusing on your child’s strengths is that it is encouraging. Isn’t is easy to slide into being critical and discouraging when talking with a child about that “D” on the report card, the dishes that were not put in the dishwasher or the uniforms that were not put in the dirty clothes hamper? By focusing on what your child does well and what he DOES do, you become more encouraging and he becomes more encouraged. As he becomes more encouraged, you will notice more things that he does well and more that he DOES do. What we focus on expands.

A second advantage is that as your child feels more capable about his successes, he will be more willing to take healthy risks that stretch his abilities. Self-esteem is feeling loveable and capable. As he feels more capable, his self-esteem will rise. He will feel more confident experiencing something new – something he may not be great at…yet!

Use the summer to focus on your child’s strengths. For instance, my daughter loves caring for younger children, and she is approaching the age when she can baby sit. This summer she will take a course to become a certified babysitter. Her love for children is her strength. Math is not. The success she will experience in learning the skills to be a babysitter will assist her in moving through the challenges of math. Encouragement is fuel for handling the difficult spots.

Summer Suggestion #4: Focus on your child’s strength’s.

For more ideas for creating a cooperative and connected summer, please read Whole Hearted Parenting’s book, 20 Steps to a Summer that Rocks!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Encouraging Life Long Learning, Even During the Summertime


Please welcome Amy Webb, who is not only a wife, mother and Ph D in Human Development and Family Sciences, but also the author of a highly informative blog, The Thoughtful Parent. Amy has the gift of translating scientific research into understandable and usable information for parents.

by Amy Webb

With the school year winding down and summer just around the corner, many kids may think it’s time to turn off their brain. Parents, you know that there is a certain amount of “brain drain” that tends to happen during the summer when kids are not in school everyday. To help prevent this, summer is a great time to focus on learning skills and knowledge “outside the box” of the usual worksheets and homework. We all know that lifelong learning is important for everyone, even adults. Much research has shown the importance of continuing to challenge your brain and learn new skills as a way to build new neural connections and keep your brain healthy and vibrant.

Here are a few ideas for fun and educational activities to do with your kids this summer:

- Nature can be one of the best classrooms. Camping, hiking, and bird watching are all educational and fun for kids of many ages. There are beautiful state and national parks all across the country and admission is usually very reasonable. Geocaching is another great activity for older kids. It combines technology with treasure hunting.

- Most local libraries have wonderful summer reading programs for kids. Many programs include guest speakers, crafts, or competitions for reading the most books.

- Let’s be realistic; most kids will watch some TV during the summer. If you let your kids watch TV try to find an educational activity that coincides with it. For example, watch Finding Nemo and then go visit an aquarium or watch Night at the Museum and then go visit your local history museum.

- Visit a farm or farmer’s market and discuss where vegetables and meats are raised. Since most kids live in urban areas, many are not exposed to farms or gardens on a regular basis. It’s a great learning experience to understand that food does not originally come from the grocery store.

- If kids say they’re bored, challenge them to invent a new game or use an old game in a new way. Encourage them to create new rules for an old board game or card game.

- Encourage kids to learn a new skill during summer. I fondly remember learning to cook in grandma’s kitchen during the summer. Help them learn a musical instrument, learn to garden, or learn to build something. Many home improvement stores or nurseries offer kids’ programs that teach these skills.

- Help your kids learn about entrepreneurship. Of course, the classic lemonade stand is always a summer favorite but there are other ways as well. Older kids can help you or a neighbor organize and run a garage sale. Many times charity organizations need help with garage sales or auctions.

Take advantage of all the time available to kids during the summer and create a summer that rocks!


Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Creating a Summer that Rocks, Part 3!


Four weeks and counting! Last week we talked about the advantages of planning organized activities in advance. Today our topic is the need for downtime during the summer. The two – planning and down time – are not mutually exclusive. In fact, it is great to plan down time.

It is inspiring to have activities over the summer. It is exhausting to be over-scheduled. Do you remember reading over the summer for as long as you wanted and then talking with your friends on the phone about the book? Did you get together with friends with an open day before you, decide what you were going to do and then play baseball, go swimming, write a play and perform it, or bake cookies and sell them? Having that flow of free time is wonderful. It is a terrific time for creativity.

In his book The Childhood Roots of Adult Happiness, Dr. Edward M. Hallowell identifies five things needed in childhood to become a happy adult. One of those five things is play. He means the kind of play with flow – the kind of play where it is about the journey not the destination. This is the kind of play that happens during down time.

As you plan your summer, provide gaps for down time. Large gaps! If your children claim boredom, leave them with the responsibility for how they handle their time. When you hear, “Mom, I’m bored” reply, “What are you going to do so you are not bored?” Here is where the creativity begins.

Summer Suggestion #3: Consciously create balance over your summer so that your children experience the advantages of down time.

For more ideas for creating a cooperative and connected summer, please read Whole Hearted Parenting’s book, 20 Steps to a Summer that Rocks!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Creating a Summer that Rocks, Part 2!


We are now five weeks out in the count down to summer, and this is a great time to plan organized activities in advance. Planning in advance helps things to run more smoothly and with less stress. Smooth and stress-free sounds good!

Planning in advance can also give everyone in your family something to look forward to. Knowing that she is going to experience a summer sleep-away camp, a hiking trip, a theatre or arts program, or trip to see family allows your child to feel the excitement long before the actual event! Planning in advance also gives you time to get special items you may need, i.e., name tags for the inside of your camper’s clothes, and to fully enjoy the preparation rather than being caught up in last minute details.

If your child will be flying for the first time this summer, planning in advance gives you time to let him know what to expect. Describe what he will experience in the airport and on board the plane. Let her know about seatbelts, what the inside of the plane looks like, what take off and landings feel like, how to handle the bathroom, and what she can take onboard with her. You will even have time for a pre-trip visit to the airport!

The same is true for children who will be going to camp, whether a day camp or sleep-away, for the first time. Their experience will be much more comfortable if they know what to expect in advance, and being prepared will take away nothing from the adventure.

Many organized activities or programs may also fill up quickly. Summer camp programs are cranking into high gear. Reserve your space now to eliminate disappointments.

Summer Suggestion #2: Have a family meeting to brainstorm and plan what you will be doing this summer. Build the excitement and adventure!

For more ideas for creating a cooperative and connected summer, please read Whole Hearted Parenting’s book, 20 Steps to a Summer that Rocks!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Creating a Summer that Rocks!


In less than six weeks, school will be out for the summer here in south Florida. As we begin the countdown to summer vacation, it is a great time to explore what you would like your family to experience this summer. Over the next few weeks, we will be discussing how to have a summer that rocks!

Shifting from school into summer is a transition for both children and parents. With any transition, there will be stress, and you may notice some increased misbehavior. You can reduce the stress by being aware of how you and your children’s routines, activities and focus will be different over the summer.

Routines
The times to wake up and go to bed may be different. Eating meals will be different. What your child wears each day will be different. Because routines create comfort, predictability and safety, a change in routines can be very stressful. Let your child know ahead of time how his routines will be different, and explore everyone’s ideas for a new “summer routine.”

Activities
Instead of the school activities that your child has come to anticipate, what will he be doing? During family meetings, brainstorm about things that everyone wants to learn and do over the summer. If there is something your child wanted to do but did not have time during the school year, here is his opportunity. Are there any programs going on in your community that are a good fit for your child’s interests? Do you want to have a “beach day” each week? Do you want to teach your child to cook, sew, knit or play a sport? Will he be in a camp and if so, what can he expect? This is the time to check in and see what your family is inspired to do.

Focus
Your child will not be focusing on tests, projects, homework and his school job. What will he be focusing on? What will be your focus for the summer? The more specific you are, the more helpful this will be. Explore what you would like to focus on over the summer.

Summer Suggestion #1: Plan a “See Ya Next Year” event. It could be a pool party, year book signing, visit to the ice cream parlor or a trip to the movies. It is a setting for saying goodbye for a few months. If you make an annual event out of it – a ritual – it can be something that everyone anticipates. You can keep a scrap book of each year’s event.

For more ideas for creating a cooperative and connected summer, please read Whole Hearted Parenting’s book, 20 Steps to a Summer that Rocks!

Monday, April 19, 2010

When It Hits Close to Home Part Deux


As Laura Ingalls Wilder’s mother often said, “All’s well that ends well.” The experience that I reported last week has ended well.

The school administrator handled everything beautifully, first speaking with my daughter and then asking if she would like to be present when she spoke to the student who had slapped her. She did want to be present.

With the administrator’s kind guidance, it remained a conversation between two middle school girls and an adult facilitator rather than escalating into an inquest. No one was labeled and no one was blamed. I was happy to hear that my daughter assertively expressed herself and held the other young girl accountable for her actions when she said she had only been playing around. Slapping is not playing around, and that was made clear.

I also liked that the administrator asked the girls what kind of relationship they would like to have. Did they want to remain friends? If so, she told them it would require work and respect.

They agreed to do it.

Many gifts came from this experience. My daughter felt empowered to define how she wanted her relationships to be. Her friend learned limits. Both learned that friendship takes energy and understanding. I learned that the concepts in Redirecting Children’s Behavior™ that we have used in our family for over a decade really do inspire inner-directed, self-reliant and influential children.

It not only ends well, the next step begins well.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

When it Hits Home


Yesterday – exactly one week after writing the last post on Changing the Bully-Victim Paradigm – my daughter came home from school and let us knows that another student had slapped her across the face. As the three of us – my husband, daughter and I – sat down to talk about the incident, the thought that her school was not safe flashed through my mind. That thought did nothing but escalate my fear. I set that aside because what I wanted to discover more than anything else was how my daughter was showing up. In what way was she saying – through tone of voice, words, body language and presence – that it was even remotely possible for someone to hit her?

My daughter, who is in middle school, shared that she had been loaning books to two friends. Each girl would read the book and return it the next day. One friend returned book #5 in the series. While waiting for the bus to go home after school, the second girl, who is in the grade ahead of my daughter, demanded “Five!” My daughter felt intimidated, and instead of telling her that she needed it for her book log, she told her a lie. She said that the first girl had not given it back. In response, the second girl slapped her across the face. She had already been told by another girl that #5 had been returned to my daughter.

My daughter did not hit her back. She said, “That really hurt!” She then deflected a punch.

We talked about and demonstrated body language – assertive and passive – and the results of each one. We talked about the possibility that the girl who slapped her was on the receiving end at home, especially for lying. We talked about how the girl’s height and very demanding tone were intimidating. We talked about the options for responding to intimidating people and what our daughter wanted to do to handle the incident.

I felt proud for my daughter for many things. She told us about it, she did not hit back, she honestly explored her feelings, and she wanted to be actively involved in handling it at school. She also has some more learning and growing to do, so this conversation will continue.

Today I spoke with the school’s administrator, and it is now in her hands. I let her know that my goal for my daughter was for her learn to assertively express herself and to show up in a way that says “I am not for hitting.” My goal for the second girl was to learn another way to deal with her anger and to find a safe place to talk if she is being hit at home. The administrator will be calling me back after she talks with both of them individually.

I'll keep you posted.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Changing the Bully-Victim Paradigm


Over the weekend I listened to the archive of author Pamela Dunn’s recent radio program Can the Bully Be Magnificent? Can the Victim be Powerful? Pam is the president of Your Infinite Life Training and Coaching Company, and she is writing a book on shifting the bully-victim paradigm. If you haven’t listened to the program, please do. In writing about the topic and the program before it aired, I wrote that “Pam will explore how our language often limits our ability to cooperate and be creative in seeing the magnificence in others, no matter the way they are acting.” This program was so much more than that.

I loved the discussion – rich in the principles from Redirecting Children’s Behavior™ (RCB) – between Pam and Leilani Long, a high school teacher in San Antonio who is successfully applying the RCB concepts in the classroom. Their conversation was about children, individual children with needs. Listening to Pam and Leilana, I realized that much of the time when we discuss bullying, it is talked about at the level of an epidemic. We forget the individual child and how children are drawn together in this dynamic.

When a child gets hurt – when a child dies – fear escalates our sadness to outrage. We label a child as either a “bully” or a “victim”, criminalizing one and disempowering the other. When we wage an assault on bullying – a war on aggression – we may raise awareness of issues; however, we fail to raise the self-awareness and self-acceptance of individual children. To do that, we can take Pamela Dunn’s suggestion and look inside.

Slow down and look inside. Teach children to slow down and look inside. Deal with individual children with unique faces, feelings, relationships and lives. Bring it down from an epidemic to a single face. That takes a different energy.

Know that when a child’s needs are met – he belongs, feels valuable, powerful, special, and loved – he is a contributing part of a team, family and classroom. He is neither aggressive nor compliant. When he belongs, he steps into who he really is, and that IS the solution. Look for the magnificent leader and the powerful individual. That is who they really are.

The war on bullying is our outrage, and outrage does not model solutions for children. If you slow down and look inside, your vision of a child’s magnificence – beyond any behaviors – will be what changes a child’s perception of himself. That is not outrage. It is love. And that is who YOU really are.





Monday, March 29, 2010

Our Choice of Words

Our choice of words is powerful. Please visit http://www.momsmiami.com/ where I am blogging on this topic. Simply click on "Blogs". The post also mentions a terrific radio program airing live this Friday, April 2nd at 2:00 PM EST. The program is all about our language and how it can limit our creativity and flexibility, particularly as it pertains to bullies and victims. You can listen to the archived broadcast if you cannot make the live show. Have a great week!

Monday, March 15, 2010

GMO's


March is National Nutrition Month. We really are what we eat, and Barry Sears, author of The Zone Diet, says that food is the most powerful drug we take. Every day our children ingest foods and beverages that we hope are nutritious and safe. We shop the outside aisles of the store to purchase foods that are “close to the earth” rather than the highly processed foods stocked in the inner aisles. We read labels so that we can avoid foods containing additives, dyes, high fructose corn syrup, and transfats. Unfortunately there is one “ingredient” that is not included on the product label, and to me, it is the scariest one of all – GMO’s.

According to the website Non-GMO Shopping Guide, a GMO – Genetically Modified Organism – “is the result of a laboratory process of taking genes from one species and inserting them into another in an attempt to obtain a desired trait or characteristic, hence they are also known as transgenic organisms. This process may be called either Genetic Engineering (GE) or Genetic Modification (GM); they are one and the same.” This Genetic Engineering is different from traditional cross breeding, grafting and hybridization. “With genetic engineering, scientists can breach species barriers set up by nature. For example, they have spliced fish genes into tomatoes. The results are plants (or animals) with traits that would be virtually impossible to obtain with natural processes, such as crossbreeding or grafting.”

There is no research showing that GM foods are safe. In fact, the American Academy of Environmental Medicine states, “several animal studies indicate serious health risks associated with GM food consumption including infertility, immune dysregulation, accelerated aging, dysregulation of genes associated with cholesterol synthesis, insulin regulation, cell signaling, and protein formation, and changes in the liver, kidney, spleen and gastrointestinal system.”

Without the benefit of a label, how can we avoid GM foods? Non-GMO Shopping Guide lists four ways:

1. Buy organic because certified organic products are not allowed to contain any GMO’s
2. Look for “NON-GMO” labels
3. Avoid at-risk ingredients such as those made from the “big four”: corn, soybeans, canola and cottonseed
4. Use the
Non-GMO Shopping Guide available on the website

The shopping guide identifies GMO brands and non-GMO brands. I was sad to see that Morningstar Farms and Gardenburger may contain GMO ingredients. The list is very thorough and easy to follow, and it includes dairy, alternative dairy, meat, fish, eggs, alternative meat products, baked goods, baby food and formula, frozen foods, soups, sauces, canned foods, beverages and more. It even includes chocolate. Goodbye Ghiradelli.

I would add one more tip in addition to our vigilance – lobby Congress for mandatory
labeling.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Raising Teens




My daughter is twelve. It feels like only a short while ago that she loved for us to read to her at night and lie next to her until she fell asleep. I would carefully and ever so slowly move to get out of the bed so I wouldn’t wake her up. She loved to be carried and held and hugged. I knew in my head that the path towards falling asleep on her own and reading books independently was a good one. After all, our goal as parents is to raise self-reliant children. However, I didn’t know how much my heart would miss those connections. I didn’t know it would feel like a loss…like there was less love in my life. Having a teen or tween means learning to love and be loved in a different way.

My tween daughter now distributes her hugs sparingly. She doesn’t want us reading Percy Jackson books to her. She wants to read to us. She wants to talk to her friends and maybe give a high five on occasion to her parents. Our arguments seem to have a quicker trigger and escalate more rapidly. With the feelings of loss, the changes in our relationship and the desire to manage this stage of our family life with greater understanding, Haim Ginott – therapist and author – had the answers I was looking for.

Over forty years ago Haim Ginott published Between Parent and Teenager, and his ideas on conversations between parents and teenagers are still helpful today. Simply reading the dialogue put me in touch with what it felt like to be a teenager again. Heck, I remember feeling like that and saying those teenager things. I didn’t love my parents any less. I was simply on the roller coaster ride of discovering and becoming ME. The key points made by Ginott are so simple yet so meaningful:

· Parent with compassion
· Make it about handling the situation, not about the person
· Accept that in the natural course of events, we parents will feel uncomfortable, annoyed, irritated, angry and furious
· We are entitled to those feelings without guilt, regret or shame
· Express parental anger by stating how you feel clearly and without insult to a teenager’s personality or character
· State boundaries, limits and rules clearly, such as saying, “There is no place for acts of revenge or retaliation in our home. It is against my cherished values” after one teen pushes another off the bed in retaliation for a perceived insult
· Acknowledge your teen’s feelings without criticism or denial

Ginott says, “As parents, our need is to be needed; as teenagers their need is not to need us. This conflict is real; we experience it daily as we help those we love become independent of us. This can be our finest hour. To let go when we want to hold on requires utmost generosity and love. Only parents are capable of such painful greatness.”

This has become my daily practice along with cherishing the occasional, freely given hugs that completely fill my heart.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Teaching Children about Healthy Eating

March is National Nutrition Month. Parents are a child's introduction to food, and we begin to shape our child's food preferences even before birth, according to Dr. Alan Greene, author of Feeding Baby Green. As we learn more about the impact of nutrition on our health, we also realize how vital it is that we teach our children about healthy eating. From finishing their vegetables as a toddler to making healthy choices in the school lunch line, we want our children to understand the connection between what they eat right now and their energy, their feelings, their weight, and their future health. We also want to avoid quibbling over every carrot and candy bar. Here are steps that parents can take to teach their children important things about eating healthy.

Keep it Peaceful
What our child eats or doesn’t eat at the dinner table can easily become a power struggle trigger. When we pressure our child to eat something he does not want – even when we know that it is good for him – he may resist even more. Eating then becomes more about resisting and less about health and enjoyment. To avoid power struggling over food, remind yourself that your job is simply to present healthy meals to your family. Commit to keeping mealtime peaceful.

Keep the Connection of Food to Feelings and Energy
Maintain an ongoing casual conversation with your child about the impact of the food we eat on how we feel and on how much energy we have on tap for the things we want to do. If you notice that your child becomes cranky, lethargic, jumpy or scattered after eating sugar, processed foods or foods with artificial colors, ask him how he is feeling. Ask him to notice his energy levels. Ask your child to notice how he feels after eating raw fruit or a healthy, balanced lunch. Include the questions, “How do you want to feel?” and “How much energy do you want?” If your child complains of feeling tired, make the food connection. When was his last meal and what did he eat? Following a healthy snack, ask him to check out his new energy level.

Keep it Varied
Offer an array of different foods throughout the week, including new foods, and offer new foods many times. If your child says he does not like a new food, continue to offer it over several months – up to twenty times – so that it becomes familiar and he has more opportunities to sample it. Offer the new food prepared in a variety of ways. Add some adventure by preparing food from different cultures and countries.

Keep Health His Responsibility
Our health is our responsibility. As our children get older, their health becomes something for them to own. For example, we made an early connection between dairy consumption and ear infections with our daughter. When she was younger, we limited her dairy consumption. As an eleven-year-old, she began to monitor her intake of dairy, knowing if she ate or drank it more than a few times a week, she would most likely get sick.

Children feel very valuable when they help prepare meals. Together, plan menus for the week and shop for ingredients. Include menus for school lunches in your planning, and let your child begin to make his own lunch when age-appropriate.

Children’s cookbooks offer recipes for children as young as four. Mollie Katzen is the author of many beautifully illustrated and healthy cookbooks for children, including Salad People, Honest Pretzels, and Pretend Soup. American Girl also offers cookbooks for young people.

Keep it Real and Balanced
No matter how healthy we eat home, our child will probably have a piece of cake at a birthday party or drink a soda with a friend. If we keep it in balance – avoiding “outlawing” all soft drinks or criminalizing cake – our children will keep it in balance, too. As vegetarians, we have walked that tightrope. We have made eating meat a choice for our daughter and have requested that she choose vegetarian meals at school. Loving Mexican food, she once opted to eat tacos with ground beef for lunch in the cafeteria. She ended up coming home with a stomach ache. By avoiding the extreme of “you may never eat meat,” she took the responsibility for her food choices, we avoided power struggles over food, and she was clearly aware of the food-feeling connection.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Trampoline of Self-Esteem




February is National Boost Self-Esteem Month. High self-esteem is sometimes compared to an umbrella that shelters a child from harmful choices and unhealthy risks. There is an old image, maybe from an ancient Mother Earth News, of a child under an umbrella marked “Self-Esteem,” and it shielding her from drugs, alcohol, violence, promiscuity, suicide and addiction. All of those scary labels are coming down from the sky like rain. Yikes! Comparing self-esteem to a trampoline feels better. Self-esteem as a trampoline gives a child the bounce to stretch herself in the world, to take healthy chances, and to rebound when things don’t go as she had hoped. The trampoline metaphor has a much more empowering energy. Y ou can reach for the sky rather than protect yourself from things falling from it. You can jump!

We parents can benefit from a few jumps on that trampoline from time to time. In our efforts to effectively discipline to build our child's self-esteem, we sometimes forget about our own. When you really think about it, fostering respect and appreciation in our relationships – especially those with our children – begins with fostering respect and appreciation in our relationship with our self.

For parents who wish to discipline for high self-esteem: Listen more and monitor your tone of voice when speaking with your children.

Trampoline for Parental Self-Esteem: Listen more to you – your body, emotions and inner dialogue – and check out the tone of voice you use in your inner dialogue. Is your body relaxed or stressed? Are you composed or upset? Is your self-talk encouraging or discouraging? Does your inner tone of voice sound respectful and appreciative or sarcastic and diminishing? You are the only one who can listen to your body, emotions and inner dialogue. There is no one else who can. It is your gift. Begin by spending five minutes each morning and evening listening to you. You deserve to be heard! After listening, care for yourself. Care for your body. Care for yourself emotionally. Become self-encouraging so that your self-talk is full of kind, caring words.

For parents who wish to discipline for high self-esteem: Give your children choices.

Trampoline for Parental Self-Esteem: Give yourself choices so that you do things because you “get to” rather than because you “have to”. You get to cook dinner or you get to say that you don’t want to cook dinner. You get to take your child to piano practice or you get to request that someone else take your child to practice because there is something you would like to do. Exercise your choices. Ask for what you want.

F. Scott Fitzgerald said, "The world only exists in your eyes – your conception of it. You can make it as big or as small as you want to." The view from the trampoline is a big wide open sky. Come on and jump!

Monday, February 1, 2010

Building Your Child's Confidence

Many thanks to Tina Nocera, author and founder of www.ParentalWisdom.com, for this guest post, which is totally in alignment with the concepts in Redirecting Children's Behavior. High self-esteem is the result of children feeling both capable and lovable. Children learn how capable they are by doing things. Turn over to your child something that you are doing for him that he is capable of doing himself.

I've been used to my GPS constantly correcting me and requesting that I make a legal U-turn when possible; but the other day it simply didn't work. There I was, left to fend for myself.

Quite frankly I am directionally challenged, and not able to look at a map and figure out where I am or where I'm headed. At that point I realized how much dependency I put on the GPS, and now it failed me. In reality I failed myself by not having enough of a foundation to figure things out. I realized that without the GPS, I was lost.

There isn't any difference in the world of parenting. Our job is to give our children a good foundation, but it's the confidence they build in handling situations that creates one of life's most important characteristics; self reliance. Much like me without the GPS, your children will be lost without self-reliance.

Think about how we teach children to ride a two-wheeler. You put the training wheels on and then kept loosening them up little by little until they are confident enough to take the ride without any training wheels at all.

p.s. Great hint - -when you're running along side the bike, it's a great idea for you to be in rollerblades. It makes the job so much easier!

Here are some ways to make sure that you're heading in the right direction in teaching self-reliance (no pun intended):

1. Let the kids make some decisions as early as possible. So what if they're wearing stripes and polka-dots?

2. Demonstrate that you are always solving little problems and learning along the way. Aren't you? After all, who figured out how to install the new TV?

3. Move from being 'the all wise and powerful' mom or dad to a coach. Tell them less about how they should do something, and instead raise questions they could answer for themselves. "Why do you think your friends responded that way?"

4. Be a great support system. They might need your encouragement to try again, or a little harder, or in taking a slightly different approach. If they come to you for permission to give up, don't make it so easy for them.

5. Responsibilities are very important for building self reliance. Even with very young children, assign chores that make them part of a family that works together. For example, for a child as young as age 3, take digital pictures of them making their bed; 1) put the pillow in place, 2) smooth the sheets and lift the blankets, and 3) lift and smooth out the comforter. Laminate the pictures and put them near the bed so they can see how well they did.