Walking The Walk

The Collect for today, Easter Thursday, has to do with showing in our lives that which we profess to believe.  It seemed a very nice way to say that statement so many of us have heard: “Don’t just talk the talk, but walk the walk.”

In many times, this can be the most daunting part of parenting. Our lives become transparent and our children see all the parts, even the parts we think we have hidden from them.  We cannot be less than our authentic selves; our children know.

This leaves us with really having to work on ourselves.  What do we honestly think is real, true, sacred, noble?  How do we show this in our lives to our children without saying a word?  Are there areas in our lives that don’t match up with what we say we believe?  And if this is so, how do we make all areas of our lives align with what we say we believe?

This alignment comes with sacrifice sometimes, and requires an exertion of will.  If we do the same things over and over again with less than satisfactory results, than we must overcome our own inertia and do something different.

We live in this strange age where thoughts and feelings fly over technology; action is done by a push of a button. We have forgotten how to live in concert with the season and almost seem surprised when weather intrudes on our lives.  It leads to a situation,where quite frankly, we often don’t have to do much  exertion of  our own will anymore.  I wrote a post about developing the adult will some time ago and was just looking at it today:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/04/30/the-adult-will-and-how-to-develop-it/

Rudolf Steiner gave an interesting exercise to help in the development of initiative and control of the will.  He proposed choosing an activity that is simple and perhaps unrelated to what you normally would do at that time of day, such as just opening and shutting a door or window or watering a plant, and do it at the same time every day.  

I think the other piece of developing the will that can be hard in this day and age is  to think and come to grips with the fact that we cannot “have it all” and when we do things on a consistent basis that are not in line with our professed values, it ripples an effect into our lives, and into our children’s lives.  So, I ask you does it foster in you the real, the true, the sacred, the noble?

I know in this impersonal electronic medium, these thoughts have the possibility of coming off as unloving or holier than thou or damning.   None of this is my intent.  It is just questions for you to ask yourself: how does my walk match my talk and how could I align these two things more and more for my own holistic health and that of my children?

Many blessings,

Carrie

Step Up And Be The Parent

Just for today, step up and be the parent.

Just for today, stop making excuses and explaining all the reasons things can’t happen in your household and just make it happen. 

Just for today, live your life in accordance with your values in front of your children.

Just for today, model how you want your children to behave.

Just for today, show your children the world is a place of beauty, truth and goodness.

Just for today, have empathy for all the hardships present in growing up.

Just for today, speak to your children kindly, even if they are not speaking kindly to you.

Just for today, get a sense of humor.

Just for today, set boundaries and stick calmly to those boundaries even  if your children don’t like it.

Just for today, be the parent you want to be for the sake of your grandchildren.

Just for today, have fun.

Just for today, step up and be the parent because you are the only parent your children have.

Love to all,

Carrie

Is “Keep Calm and Carry On” Unfeeling?

No, it is not meant to be at all!!  The main point is to connect with your child, but not “connect” by yelling, screaming, shouting.  Please go back and read the “How to Keep Calm and Carry On”  back post as I went back and highlighted in bold all the sections about loving and connecting.   This whole blog is about love, and I certainly didn’t mean for anything to come off as uncaring. 

Feeling as if your child’s behavior is not the end of the world, ie, equivalent to “please pass the salt” or picking up lint on the floor is simply an inner attitude to help you keep your cool and only part of what needs to happen in a situation of true conflict.  I think this also helps underscore that a child is ONE part of a FAMILY.  A family is a social organism onto itself, and the behavior of one child, one person, should not be enough to upset the whole balance and get the whole family in a tizzy.  That is more what I meant, but you may have to go through some back posts to really read the Keep Calm and Carry On series in context. Guess that is the problem of having a blog over say, a book.     

Connection is your number one discipline tool, I have said this over and over and over.  See this post: http://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/04/05/renewal-commit-yourself-to-gentle-discipline/ 

Absolutely,you must connect with your child, and you must de-escalate the situation before they get the point the child is having a temper tantrum.  However, whining and laying on the floor saying “I am bored” over and over deserves not only not yelling and shouting but a calm response and an assurance that the family life does not grind to a halt where everyone is tense and shouting because of just simple pushing against forms by a child.  Everything deserves a loving and  calm response.  I am certainly NOT suggesting you go off somewhere else and fold laundry whilst your child is melting down. 

What I am suggesting is that many parents have the problem of being calm in order to help their child.  Many parents blow their fuse almost immediately the moment a child does something normal, small and age-appropriate.  For small things, I think “keep calm and carry on” can help parents find their center.  The trick is being able to be connected and loving to your child on the outside, calm on the inside and show it through smiles, warmth, an “I am here” attitude, and even saying, “I hear you!” 

Sometimes there is only so much complaining and whining one can really hear but you can say to a six year old and older, “I hear you, and I have listened to you talk about your sadness (boredom, etc)  and right now I really am full but I will carry your thoughts with me  whilst I wash the dishes.  Come and help me” and take them by the hand to help you.  Sing.  This may sound harsh to some of you with smaller children, but many small children find it oddly comforting  that family life is still humming and they don’t have the utter power to make the whole family unbalanced.  When a small child can sense that their behavior can de-rail the whole family, that is scary to them.  Does that make sense?

I also honestly think that because many parents are only having one child or two children, these children live closer under the parent’s scrutiny than say, children living in a larger household.  Not everything needs to be so serious and taken so under scrutiny.  Children are not little adults, they deserve attention and love, but there is also something to be said for a bit of benign neglect where children are part of the family, not just something everyone in the family should be orbiting around like a small sun.   I like this post about benign neglect:  http://christopherushomeschool.typepad.com/blog/2008/01/a-bit-of-benign.html

Older children, your five and six to ten year olds. really need to see this calmness.  I am sure we all remember instances of being teenagers and not wanting to talk to our parents because they “would freak out”.  If you can be calm(er) in the years preceding these years, hopefully your teenagers will feel they can come to you with things because you will be calm and helpful and listen.

How-to’s of “Connection, Keep Calm and Carry On” in the next post!

Hope that helps to clarify a bit…Many blessings,

Carrie

Small Child, Your Challenging Behavior Is About As Interesting To Me…

As a piece of lint on the floor. Ho-hum, ho-hum.  I am over here doing real work, and please come join me.  I hear you,  I see you, I will connect with you and help you move into work and movement.  I will help you with a good sense of humor.  I will help you stick to the boundary I set,  but with my  ho-hum.

A fifteen month old will arch and protest over what he does not want to do.  A two-year-old will experiment with “no” about a million times.  A four-year-old will get wound up and use “potty words”.  A six-year-old will tell you they hate you and slam doors.  A nine or ten year old will experiment with swear words (which is about the equivalent of a four year old saying potty words).

Ho-hum.

It is hard not get emotionally wound up about challenging behaviors when they stem from our own children, when these behaviors  stem from pushing against the boundaries we have set, and when we have to live with this pushing against forms 24 hours a day.

Yet, the more you can be warm and loving but ho-hum, the better life will be.

The more we can stop and think before we say something or do something, the more we model that temperance for children that is so important.  However, by the same token, we do not model passively sitting by and doing nothing when something clearly needs to be done.  There needs to be a Middle Way, which is something that Waldorf Education frequently talks about.

We want to raise a generation of children who can take that moment to pause and to think before they act, but yet  we also want to raise a generation of children who will grow up to DO.  We want to raise a generation of children who are healthy enough in their bodies and their minds that they can do what will need to be done to make our world a better place but to  do it with thoughtfulness and reverence.

And it all starts in the home, with us, the parents, being able to distinguish and discern when to act, when not to act, what to say and what not to say.   It starts with us, the parents, being able to give our children a childhood that is real and authentic and not a watered-down version of adult reality.  It requires boundaries and it requires love.  A whole lotta of love.

And it requires a ho-hum attitude.  

Be peaceful.  Be authentic and be real, but know when to raise a fuss and when to be ho-hum.  Big things require big reactions, but little things do not.

That is part of the parenting path and work for us as parents in this year and in this time.

Many blessings,

Carrie

How Do I “Keep Calm and Carry On”?

Kathy, Lura, Stephanie and all you other wonderful mothers out there:  How do I “keep calm and carry on?”  Wow, that is the question, isn’t it?  Many of us realize after some time in parenting and in homeschooling that we actually are the ones who set the tone for our families.  However,  it can be a “whole ‘nother ball of wax” trying to figure out the steps to take to do this consistently and effectively.

What you are looking for is to cultivate a really peaceful energy of quiet joy in homemaking, parenting and in life.  I do think some of this comes just with time and experience.  I know that for myself as a third-time mother I am much quicker to set boundaries in a calm manner and follow through in a patient way.  It is always my goal to cultivate that same sort of interest in challenging parenting situations as I see in picking up a piece of lint off the floor.  Ho0hum, ho-hum, ho-hum.  I really think any parent who has a child of any age can do this though.  It really is just a commitment to practice, just like practicing anything else you have learned in your years of living.  Practice, and don’t give up!

I don’t think the goal is to be a “valium mother” where you are not authentic or real, but I think over time you learn to save your big reactions for the big things and you hopefully have perspective from knowing development of the holistic human being in body, soul and spirit.  That is what this blog is all about!

I am an Episcopalian, and one analogy often used to describe the basis of this religion is “the three-legged stool”of Scripture, Tradition and Reason. I would like to borrow that analogy for a moment.  See if you can picture a simple, wooden three-legged stool in your mind’s eye.   Do you have it?   On the seat of the stool is the word “Calm” or the phrase “Keep Calm and Carry On”.  On each leg of the stool  the following words are written:   “RHYTHM”  “THOUGHTS/WORDS” and “TIME”.  Let me explain each leg:

1.  The first leg of this stool is RHYTHM.  We all want peace in our homes.  Well, the opposite of peace is CHAOS.  If you would like to tame your chaos, then you need a rhythm to your day.

A rhythm is not a “schedule by hour”, but it is a flow and an order.  I have many back posts on this blog about establishing rhythm.  Rhythm  is the best and most important place to start in establishing peace and authority (remember, not mean and nasty dictator authority but loving authority!)  in your home.  Start around awake times, meal times, nap times and bed times.  This includes a reasonable bed time and awake time for yourself. 

Once this is established, then move into more of the details:  outside time, time to have a practical activity that you focus on each day of the week, inside play, time for singing, maybe adding in a time to tell a story.  Time for in-breath and time for out-breath. 

Rhythm also goes along with the festivals of the year, so you have to spend some time with your journal, a piece of paper, your significant other and think about what festivals your family will celebrate and why that resonates with your family and how you will celebrate.  Then you can move into planning for those and working those things into the DOING with small children at home.  The doing becomes pieces you can fill in for the practical work of your daily rhythm – baking, crafting, creating.

Rhythm also needs to include when you will do your housework.  Again, there are many back posts about this subject on this blog.  I personally like www.flylady.net for mothers trying to tame their homes.  I like Flylady because I think her plan is actually “do-able” with small children because it tends to work in small chunks of time, it asks you to start where you are, and it works in baby steps.  Many mothers I personally know have found success with the Flylady system, including myself.  Smile

2.  The second leg to this three-legged stool is “THOUGHTS/WORDS”.  Change your thoughts, change your words, change your life.

Change your perception of anger:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/05/22/the-battlefield-of-the-mind-anger-and-parenting/

Change your attitude:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/06/17/the-power-of-being-a-positive-mother/

Be kind in your home:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/05/03/kindness-in-your-home/

Change the words you use with your children:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/05/23/changing-our-parenting-language/

Set boundaries in a loving way, referred to on this blog as “holding the space” and “being the rock”.  Here is my favorite post on that subject:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/12/02/re-claiming-authority-part-one/

3.  The third leg to this three-legged stool is “TIME”.  If you know what your values and priorities are because you made a Family Mission Statement, are you using your time in a way that reflects that?  Or are you wasting a lot of time wandering in circles feeling overwhelmed and not knowing where to start?  Go back to rhythm!  Plan your week out on a piece of paper!  Start somewhere!

Are you wasting time on the computer?  I find for many mothers the biggest time waster is not TV or even the phone, but the computer.  Many mothers, especially mothers of small children, seem to spending an awful lot of time looking at blogs of so-called “perfect homes” and “perfect families” instead of spending their time planning or actually being with their families!  For the most part, I keep pictures OFF of this blog for that reason.  You should not be comparing your family to mine or to anyone else’s family, and pictures make this a really easy trap to fall into!   It is so tempting with these blogs to feel inferior and as if everyone has it all together, so why don’t we?  I guarantee that I am just a humble work in progress with real life days and so are all the mothers of those beautiful blogs.  We are all  just real human beings!

I think one of the biggest ways we can become guardians of our time and to redeem our time is to spend it in PMP.  PMP is my way of saying prayer, meditation, and planning.  If you pray over your concerns, meditate and see what that small quiet whisper tells you and plan, you will make better decisions for you and your family.  Life will flow!

Remember: rhythm, thoughts/words, time.  The keys to keeping calm and carrying on.  If you need to, tack up some reminder words or pictures on pieces of paper.  Come up with your plan for what you will do when that last boundary is crossed; how will you react and how will you de-escalate the situation when it is no longer a time for learning for anyone in the household?

These are things worth pondering during these Holy Nights.

Much love and many blessings!  You can do this this year!

Carrie

The Mini-Rant: Keep Calm and Carry On

Are you feeling a bit grumbly right now, looking about at a house strewn with holiday decorations, new holiday gifts that don’t have a home yet, the vestiges of company and entertaining, the children running about and no rhythm to speak of going on?

‘Tis the time of year.

Sometimes all of us stop and think and want to whine and  complain:  “But I don’t WANT to be the one to set the tone in my home!  Why can’t it be someone else!”

“Why can’t it be my spouse?”

Well, because if you are mother reading this, you know small children under the age of 9 are rather tied into your energy.

“Why can’t it be grandma?  Grandma lives with us, let it be her to set the tone!  Really!”

Uh, grandma can give you The Wisdom of Tradition, but she has raised her own family and now it is your turn to raise yours.

“Oh, drat.  I know, let the CHILDREN set the tone!  That’ll do it!”

No, really, YOU must do this.  The children cannot do it. You have many more years of living, of experience, of wisdom to guide them.  They are full of emotional excess, of raging willing and feeling.

You must set the tone in your home.  Because you can either set it intentionally or unintentionally.  But you are the one doing it!

I wrote a post about this awhile back in which I likened this to being the Queen of Your Home.  In that post  (http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/12/19/cultivating-how-to-hold-the-space-the-inner-work-of-advent/)  I said:

“If you were the Queen, you would not be running around like a chicken with your head cut off (my great-grandmother’s saying!), trying to accommodate three or four children’s wishes and desires of any given moment.   Instead, you would be calm and collected.  You would have a kind way but a Queenly Way.  You would probably think before you decreed something, and you probably would not explain the heck out of yourself……

You would not be swept away by the torrents of wee ones’ tantrums and emotion because you would know your number one job would be to hold the balance when your child cannot hold it for themselves.  This does not mean to be an unemotional  rock, but it does mean you can understand how words can be just words, feelings can change on a dime and if you can just hold on, your child will eventually calm down.  You will understand that you are being a rock for your child to hold onto so the torrent of emotion doesn’t escalate for the child.

Again, this does not mean being unfeeling!  You can hold your child, pat your child, move your child, but you may  not fall apart with your child as they fall apart.  You may not unleash your own torrent of emotion on a small child and expect them to not crumple in front of you.  Behavior that is not fabulous in an under-9 child generally needs to be treated in the same ho-hum tone you would use to ask a child to pick up a book off the floor.  Then you can move into having the child FIX his poor action, because the child is a WILLING and DOING being at this point.  He needs to DO to fix it!  But he cannot fix it if he is falling apart and you are falling apart with him!  He is learning, help him!

For children over the age of 9, as Queen you would realize feelings are predominant.  Feelings were also important before, but feelings were more in an undifferentiated kind of state. Now feelings are so specific!  Being Queen, you would be able to hear feelings expressed immaturely ( meaning not always in a way pleasing to the Queen’s ears!) and still be able to be a calm rock with a ho-hum attitude to help the child learn to fix this challenge!   Feelings can be acknowledged without judgment because most of all,  The Queen is a problem-solver, and if she can model being calm, solving the problem, being respectful, then the child will as well!

For children over the age of 14, they are interested in your thoughts, in the nature of constructing an argument, in your thoughts and why you think that and how you got there in your thinking.  It is hard!  Don’t you remember being a teenager?

Barbara Coloroso, in her book, “Kids Are Worth It!  Giving Your Child the Gift of Inner Discipline” :  “If you are raising adolescents, you are in a high-risk category for a coronary.  You’re up against someone dealing with a major hormone attack:  feet are too big, hands are too big, bodies are too big or too small, voices are up, voices are down, zits are coming out all over their faces.  They come to the front door, all smiles; two minutes later they are in the bathroom crying.  You ask what happened.  “She used my comb.”  “He wore my shirt.”  “She didn’t call like she said she would.”  Are we going to make it through this?  Yes, but we can’t keep hooking in to our kids’ adrenaline.”

A Queen is the Ultimate Helper, problem-solver, balancer, peacemaker.

Can you be that Queen for a day?”

No, really you must step up, even if you are whining and kicking and complaining and screaming INSIDE and be the one to be calm and carry on!

Smile, you can do this for your family!

Tackle your most important priorities first and do it with a good attitude.  Pray; get your house in order; assess where your children are and  get your plan for parenting and homeschooling in order.

Be the keeper of your time this year, 2011.  Find your values and your priorities and plan your time around those.  Look carefully at commitments outside of your family; look carefully at what nurtures community for your children.

Be calm and carry on!

Many blessings to make 2011 a year of DOING,

Carrie

Re-Claiming Authority: Part Two

Many of you have written in and wanted to know how to start to be the authentic leader in your own home. 

You have authority because you are the parent!  Whether or not you choose to recognize the fact that you are the authority in their own home or exercise BEING the authority is up to you.  All you have to do is claim it and own it, that you can do this in a kind way.  Again, do not confuse “dominating and misuse of power” and otherwise being mean and nasty with authority.   You can be kind and loving and  still set boundaries in your family.  When you are being an parent who is an authentic leader, you will be guiding your child toward right action.  This is love in parenting!  Help your child learn and grow!

However, in order to have your child do the right thing you have to know what the boundaries are in your family.  What are the VALUES of your family, what kind of person do you want your child to be when they grow up and how will the boundaries you set now guide them toward that?  Love them enough to grow up to function in society as a moral human being.

This requires THINKING and TALKING to your partner.  Get on the same page, or at least agree to follow sometimes and lead sometimes.  Compromise on areas where you disagree.  Get a community behind you.  I am a proponent of having a spiritual community, or a parenting community, or some kind of community, so your child sees these moral messages everywhere, not just at home!

Here are some other “helps” for re-claiming authority:

1.  One is to believe in yourself that you can have boundaries  that make your family function in a healthier way, a way that meets the needs of everyone in the family, and that boundaries are okay and you are not being “a dictator.”  Rules are okay and it is not a dirty idea to have a healthy, happy family.  Smile 
Have confidence in yourself and the decisions you make on behalf of your family.  

2.  Forgive yourself!  Some mothers really feel badly that they have not handled guiding their children  differently.  Here are two back post to help you out: http://theparentingpassageway.com/2008/11/27/forgiving-ourselves/  and the wildly popular post: http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/04/15/my-kids-deserve-a-different-mother/ 

3.   Again, figure out what your family values; this will help you determine what boundaries are important to you.  Sometimes creating a Family Mission Statement can be a big help.  Your own inner work is essential.  Here is a Christopherus blog post about this:  http://christopherushomeschool.typepad.com/blog/2005/12/discipline_ques.html

The main way we use our authority is by modeling RIGHT ACTION.  What are you modeling based upon the values of your family?

4.  Figure out where your children are; sit and think about them and meditate and pray about them at night.  There are so many posts on here about each age from birth through age nine and what typically happens developmentally at these stages.  These posts should give you a “heads-up” as to what typically challenges parents at these ages.  Just because something is developmentally normal does not mean it does not have to be guided, however!

5.  Love your children and make a list. What are the things that are challenging you right now about the behavior of your children? Can you pinpoint a cause that will prevent this behavior?   Does this behavior need a boundary?  What will you do when this behavior happens?  How will you walk your children through it?  What tools will you use that are right for the age of your children?  How will you be consistent about this?  How will the “consequence”  of this behavior come out consistently? 

I see from the messages in the comment box many of you are getting hung up with the idea of consequences.  Try this back post for help:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/06/23/gentle-parenting-and-boundaries/ for help with what consequences look like by age….

By consequence, I don’t mean mean and nasty punitive punishment!  I just mean fixing the problem, working together, and being a rock when it comes to right action.  Spilled milk?  The consequence is we clean it up together.  Broke your sister’s toy?  The consequence is we fix it or we use part of your allowance money to buy a new one.  For all ages above about four and a half or five,  restitution is the key!  Here is a back post:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/02/28/the-number-two-way-to-discipline-a-child/

This includes being okay with “ the community” I spoke of above also providing consequences when appropriate.  If your older child doesn’t do their homework and gets a zero from their teacher, I would hope one would not go to the school and argue with the teacher.  I personally am fine with the parents I know helping to provide guidance for my children.  I welcome it because I have a community of people I trust, and I am grateful these men and women are there for my children as they grow to back up the ethics and moral character building blocks we are teaching at home.

 But again, the age and developmental stage of your child matters!  Do not use tools for a 12 year old with your three year old.  Your three year old needs connection and needs you to help him or her meet the boundary that you have decided upon  by regulating the environment, the rhythm of eating and sleep, the amount of physical activity, the amount of supervision you are providing.  There are many, many posts on this blog about the Early Years and how to infuse your guidance with singing,verses, imagination, stories whilst STILL sticking to the BOUNDARY.  These are not mutually exclusive things!!

This leads us to…..

6.  Know your parenting tools.  Connection and attachment are the first foundational keys!  For the under-7 crowd you also  have such things as prevention,  imitation, working in pictorial imagery and movement, less words, less choices, rhythm, using your gentle hands to help move your child, singing and verses, outside time, distraction  and having the child make restitution with you helping them.   Restitution is really important: http://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/02/28/the-number-two-way-to-discipline-a-child/

Pictorial imagery is one that can be difficult for parents to put into practice.  I have written about pictorial imagery before here:http://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/04/01/talking-in-pictures-to-small-children/     and here is a lovely blog post from a mother who put this into practice with her children: http://flowingwithmyducklings.blogspot.com/2010/12/talking-pictorially.html

7.  Commit yourself to 40 days of Being Queen Of Your Home. Cultivate that energy and attitude of a peaceful rock;  here is a back post that may assist you:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/12/19/cultivating-how-to-hold-the-space-the-inner-work-of-advent/

Love your children, build that foundation of fun and love and trust, and be ready to be THE ROCK that weathers the storm!

Many blessings,

Carrie