I HATE The Mother That I Am

Every so often, I get emails that break my heart.  This has been one of those weeks.  There are many mothers out there just hating what their mothering is, what they themselves are right now.  And that breaks my heart.

Sometimes I don’t know all the details, all the circumstances.  Is this a chronic feeling and struggle or is it something right here in the moment?  Is it part of or tied to the July doldrums (if any of you have read this blog for awhile, you know how I feel about July here: http://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/07/05/the-july-doldrums-again/   )

We ALL have moments we feel like this.  We may even be having more than just moments, we may be having rough patches with our children where we honestly feel like this for an extended period of time.  Some seasons of parenting are so difficult, so challenging.  Some children have behavior that is challenging and it just challenges us.

And we don’t always handle it well.  We don’t always handle it with grace.  We don’t  always handle it with love.  Sometimes it is hard to see how to best react when it is your own child and we don’t have that outside view looking at someone else’s child doing the same behavior.

Sometimes we feel our children would be better off with anyone else but ourselves.  I have been there too.  I get to those points too, and all I can say is that for me, it is a sign that there is too much going on.  Too much outside pressure, too harried to respond to things in an even-keeled way,  too many things to tend to, and a clear sign my spiritual footing has been neglected, and most likely a sign that my physical body is not being taken care of.

I often think of the village raising a child – how different than all the shaping of a child being done by mainly one or two parents!  Or I think of my own childhood – at school most of the day, coming home and going outside to play until dark, going to bed.  I wasn’t always around a whole lot.  No one had to “arrange” play dates and things to do back then, and the parents were not involved in every dramatic friendship disagreement or thing at school.

For better or for worse, things have changed on a societal level and we put an awful lot of pressure on ourselves.  We talk about not wanting to push our children, but yet we push the hell out of ourselves.  We talk about our children being wonderful, never taking credit for that at all, but when they don’t “act well”, then somehow it is all our fault.

Just musings….So, anyway, once you have a good cry, see if any of this resonates: Continue reading

Are You Drowning In Stuff? A Challenge!

This article is a fascinating look at Americans and their things: http://realestate.msn.com/blogs/listedblogpost.aspx?post=e0026a0a-03df-4f70-b1e5-6eaaeec9ec86.   This article is an anthropologist’s look at “stuff”.  In particular was mentioned the accumulation of things that comes with adding more children.  One thing that was amazing to me was one particular child’s room contained 248 dolls!

I actually don’t know anyone in real life that has “stuff” to this amount of excess, to be honest, although I am sure it exists.  It is a sad commentary on American society if this is a normal state of affairs for much of the population. As we become more overweight, more depressed, more anxious – here we are, taking our homes that we are so fortunate to have in comparison to the rest of the world and stuffing them to the brim!

I love the summertime for doing major, deep, significant de-cluttering.  So, I have a challenge for you this week:  set aside a two-week period this summer, and every morning, work on getting rid of your stuff.  No, don’t just organize it! Get rid of it! Continue reading

The Rant Of The Day! Parenting With Boundaries!!

(I think this post has a very uniquely American message, so I apologize if it does not resonate with my international readers as much today.)

Connection between the parent and the child  is a huge help regarding discipline and boundaries because that connection IS the basis of all guiding.  Connection helps us really know our children and helps us get what makes them “them”; what really motivates them.  That is a big help in discipline and guiding and shaping behavior!  It also helps that when we are connected to our children that our children really know us intimately too!  These children have an incredible feeling of being a vital  part of the family, which actually can be a powerful tool:  to be a part of a culture and to have intimately seen and known the rules within that  family culture are vital and important.

However, here is my beef!  If you are a parent and you have structured everything so there is no conflict, your child never hears “no” (and yes, just plain “no”, not a couched “no” with twenty words surrounding the “no”), if you never try to balance your child’s “likes” and “dislikes”  or uplift your child to the next level, are always swooping in to rescue your child, well….. I just think you are wrong.  Plain, dead, worrisome wrong.

Because I worry about children who never hear “no”.

I worry about children whose lives are so perfectly orchestrated that there are never any tears of frustration.  I worry about their future flexibility and resiliency.

I worry about children who count on their parents to buffer them from other adults and other children.

I worry about children who have no boundaries in their own homes – bedtimes, nap times, mealtimes, whose things belong to the parent and can’t be taken and played with, how we treat one another.

I worry about  children who never have to follow through on the consequences of doing something wrong, especially for  those children aged nine and up.  And yes, my friends, sometimes children do things that are just plain wrong. They are learning, just like us.

I worry about children who cannot seem to accept authority from other adults.

I think in America it seems as if the pendulum has tottered from the inherent natural boundaries of the farm, hard work, the rugged individual to lives of relative ease where parents work so hard to provide everything for their children their children have nothing real to cut their teeth on, including boundaries.

Sometimes I do think the larger issue is not that parents don’t necessarily think boundaries are important, but they worry they are being too “authoritarian” and they don’t know HOW to set boundaries.  It seems to me the way we try to set boundaries in our society is to talk our children to death, to treat them as miniature adults with less experience (so therefore if we talk to them more they will “get it”).   Yet, we know there are clear developmental stages for a child, and clear points of neurologic maturation.  We can see this from biologic studies of the brain, we can see this from the work of Rudolf Steiner, we can see this from the Gesell Institute and we can see this from Piaget.

So, the question becomes:  how do we set boundaries in a calm way without treating our children like miniature adults?

Here are a few of my suggestions; take what resonates with you!  Continue reading

Discipline That Works!

 

Discipline is about guiding your child so they can grow up and be a wonderful adult.

Think for a moment about what you what your child to be like when they grow up. What qualities would you like them to have?

 

Now, erase that picture. It is not that that picture in your mind doesn’t count; absolutely it does.  You are the parent, you are the loving authority in your family.  It is just that children bring with them their own unique gifts, unique qualities.  They bring things you could never anticipate nor plan for.  They have as much to teach you and probably more than you have to teach them.  So, the impression of what you want to bring them will stay on the paper as it was erased, but something more important is being drawn over this…

 

That doesn’t mean that we throw up our hands at what our child brings to us, we don’t and cannot abdicate our responsibility in teaching and guiding,  but it does mean that we keep our respect for the child alive and well throughout the process.  It means we keep our sense of humor, and it means we keep our sense of love and warmth.  It especially means, I think and in my personal style of parenting, that we also look for BALANCE for our children and try to introduce balance to them – in their personalities and temperaments, in their passions and interests.  It also means we give them a solid foundation:  they can choose to steer their canoe a different way when they are older, but for right now, we help them along the rocky shoals by giving them the basics of our own family culture, our own spirituality, our own boundaries.

 

If you are feeling lost lately with being positive with your children and guiding your children well, take a deep breath.

 

Remind yourself that this is the heart of parenting, and that keeping yourself calm and ho-hum is the first step toward being able to connect with your child in the moment.  Guard what comes out of your mouth!  You cannot take those words back!

 

A child’s actions do have consequence, all of it does have import, and it does carry responsibility.  Make sure you are not hindering the possibility of your child learning how to be a responsible member of your family and of society by imposing inconsistent, unfair, unclear and emotionally-driven punishment as opposed to moments of consistent, fair, clear and calm direction.  Ho-hum.

 

Make sure your expectations are realistic. Know you are going to have to say the same thing 500 times, and that you will have to be physically by their side to make sure what needs to happen actually happens.  That is parenting. 

 

Parenting is loving and connecting, but it also having boundaries and teaching your child practical things to make life worth living.  I have found in observing my own children and many other children, yes, some behaviors children do grow “out of” but many things stick there until the parent takes charge and helps the child change the behavior.  Do not be afraid of this, this is part of parenting as well.

 

Be confident, clear and calm.  Be the authority and step up and be the parent.  Love your child enough to do this for him or her.

 

Blessings,
Carrie

Rhythm: Part Three

Once you have the basics of going to bed, waking up, naps and food happening around the same time each day, you can now look at planning perhaps the most important part of the day:  how you will spend time with your children if you are the parent of small children, or how you will set up your homeschooling day if you have children in the grades (or a combination of children in the grades and small children not yet in the grades! Smile)  This post is mainly about the Early Years, with food for thought for the grades. Continue reading

Preferred Parent Of The Week

This is the term my husband and I used frequently when our older children were smaller:  preferred parent of the week.  You are probably familiar with this phenomenon if you too  have small children whose temperaments are not so laid back…”no, no, MAMA DO!”  or “I don’t want you!! I waaaaannnnntttt Daaaaddddyyy!!”

I honestly wonder, in those of you with big families, does this occur much past the third child?  It seems to me, by necessity, that the youngest members of the family often get used to older brothers and sisters helping out, and the flexibility that develops from that precludes the “Preferred Parent Of The Week” syndrome.  I would love to hear from you if you have a comment on that!

Parents always want to know how to handle this.  In our family, we didn’t argue about this for the sake of arguing (“No, you must have Daddy put your fork on the table!”) for small things, but there were certainly times when a child’s desires could not be accommodated.  Mama had the wailing baby, so yes, little four year old, Daddy will have to give the bath.  And yes, there would be wailing.  But Daddy is a parent too.

It can be hard for parents going through this for the first time to  not feel baffled and hurt, especially fathers.  One has to carry on in good humor, this is a small child!  They say all kinds of things and have all kinds of feelings!  Once fathers realize this can be a very normal phase, I think many of them can sort of shore themselves up and not take it so personally.  Whenever our children would go through that, we would just look at it other and shrug, “Guess you’re PPW this week!”

It is important to have a good sense of humor about the whole thing and also a very matter-of-fact, less words, less explaining kind of manner when things are not going the way the child wants.

I have a very astute friend who pointed out that if Dad is never on the “preferred list” for baths, ouchies, bedtime, etc that she wondered if the father and child were doing anything positive through play at all first.  It is hard to expect the child to want Dad during those tired, hungry, hurt and whiny kind of times if the child and father have no positive bond together during happy times.  There should always be time in the family schedule for FUN, with BOTH parents. Build on a happy platform of play as a foundation!

I would love to hear your experiences with “PPW”.

Blessings,
Carrie

Meaningful Work For Adults: A Discipline Challenge

I believe the key difficulty lies in that adults of this time and place try to relate to small children through words and through the perception that the small child should be treated the same as an adult- provide logical explanations, more explanation, more talking, more experiences – in order to make discipline go well.   The fact that the child then does something that was never done to them (“Why is my child hitting me and biting me?  We don’t do that to them!” or disappointment when “She could have cared less that she was being wild and disrupting the baby’s nap.  Why can’t she have consideration for the new baby?”)

Disappointing indeed, to discover all those parenting books were wrong, and to discover the completely different consciousness of the child.

The child of birth through seven should be living in their bodies, and we should be able to hold discipline through rhythm, through using song along with movement, through silence and loving authority as we  keep calm and carry on.  Less words, more warmth, more work on our parts.

In order to help our children, we have to become agents of doing.  This is what a small child relates to.  When we don’t show our children any meaningful work within a meaningful consistent rhythm, they are rightfully confused. Continue reading

Discipline: Eight Facets Of A Healthy Family Culture

 

Discipline is our seventh facet of a healthy family culture.  Discipline, to me, boils down to nothing less than how you guide your child or children toward becoming a mature and healthy adult. Discipline requires authenticity, yes, but also a steadiness and platform of patience and evenness, and an understanding of children’s development and the best tools to use when.  The tools of discipline, to me, differ based on the developmental stage of the child.

 

 Being An Authentic Leader – This is one of the very first posts I ever wrote on this blog:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2008/10/16/gentle-discipline-as-authentic-leadership/

 

The first ingredient is of course, you.  Your views, your steadiness, and yes, your family culture obviously influence things.  And no, I don’t think you need to be this completely calm mother who walks around like she in a valium-induced haze.  I know loads of mothers who have incredible energy!  I do think, though, that there has to be a steadiness of not being completely overwhelmed and frustrated.  And that, to be honest, can be really difficult when children are very small.  And teenagers also take a lot of energy!

 

The qualities I think about most in my own mothering were the ones I described in the series “20 Days Toward More Mindful Mothering”.  Some of my long-term readers might remember that series.  Cultivating these qualities is what inner work and personal development is all about.  You can see those posts here:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/category/general-wisdom/20-days-toward-more-mindful-mothering/

 

How Do You View Children and Childhood?  Much of this boils down to what you think about children. Do you think they are miniature adults with less experience just waiting to be filled up with knowledge?  Do you think the consciousness of the child and the rationality of the child is the same as the adult?  Many times we would point to teenagers, and laugh, and say, oh no of course a teenager is not as rational as an adult, but yet we parent them by talking them to death and expecting them to come to the same conclusions that a forty-three year old adult would in the same situation.  They might, but they might not!  Smile

 

I often think of the ages of birth through seven being a time of doing, the time of age seven through age fourteen of being the time of strong feelings, and the time of age fourteen through age twenty-one being when rational thought is being developed.  To me, childhood ends around the age of twenty-one.

 

If we concur that development does take time, that children of different ages actually are different in the way that they think and respond to things, then we can look at tools and expectations based upon development.

 

However, the one thing that remains steady through all of these ages is CONNECTION and ATTACHMENT.  You cannot parent without this.  Please do go back and read the posts that summarize the wonderful book “Hold On To Your Kids:  Why Parents Need To Matter More Than Peers”.  Connection is the number one way to discipline a child. 

 

Discipline Tools – So, for me, the methods and tools of discipline looks a bit different dependent upon the child’s age.  I have written many, many, many posts on this.

 

In a brief nutshell, for  the ages birth to seven, your discipline techniques really involves slowing down.  Rhythm, rhythm, rhythm, and slowing down really sets the tone for what happens. Small children should be involved in meaningful work, and plenty of  indoor and outdoor play.   Physically moving with your child into what needs to be done whilst you are singing and helping them is most helpful.  Children of this age imitate what you are doing, so making sure you are doing something worthy of imitation is very important.  Words and talking the child to death is the least important part of this picture. 

 

For children ages seven to fourteen, this is a time to be a loving authority in your child’s life because there will be many instances of your child discovering what the boundaries of your home life truly are, and they are searching to see  if you yourself walk the walk of what you are telling your child.  Criticism of the parent seems to start in our times around ages nine or ten, not in the same way that a teenager criticizes, but children of this age certainly do notice if you tell them one thing and then do another!  Calm, sure, steady and warm are hallmarks in discipline of this age.

 

For children fourteen to twenty-one, the parent is moving into more of an age of being the expert guide on life’s issues and the child is of course taking increasing responsibility.  Here is an interesting blog post from over at Christopherus regarding parenting teenagers and talking specifically about dealing with friends:  http://christopherushomeschool.typepad.com/blog/2005/07/keeping_one_ste.html

 

Many blessings,

Carrie

Real Life Resources For Children With Challenges

I just wanted to thank all of you who have been so supportive of my recent postings on children who have challenges in the realm of sensory modulation, and also regarding my postings on our twelve senses.  This work is really important to me as a physical therapist and in how I see the generation of children coming up now who are really struggling in these areas.

Many parents are looking for resources that could be helpful in real life for their children with sensory challenges, children who have been diagnosed along the autistic spectrum, or children who are facing other challenges that are deemed “medical” but as we know from a holistic perspective involve the whole being.

Here are some resources I have been gathering since the workshop I attended on the twelve senses: Continue reading