Benign Neglect

Lately I have been receiving emails from mothers who are frustrated with their children’s behaviors and can recount every small thing their child does (or does not do!)  The cycle seems to be a difficult one to break as mother and child get locked into battle positions.

May I suggest something to try? 

Benign neglect.  A tad of benign neglect.  Benign neglect is that art of discernment in parenting; in knowing what really needs your full attention and truly needs to be addressed, but in also knowing what needs to not be seen and what should  have a blind eye on the part of the parent!   It is being fully present yet knowing that the best way to respond at times is not to respond.  For example, the discernment of knowing that your child can come up with a cure for their own boredom, for example,  when you stop drawing such consciousness to it and keep on with your own work whilst being fully present.

Therefore, based upon that, I think one of the best ways to work with benign neglect is rhythm and real work.  Everything does not fall apart when one child falls apart.  That child is loved, but dinner is still served, joy is still there and life is happening, come back and join us, small child.

The other place where benign neglect starts is through your own inner work.   You must carry your own confidence and know that putting every behavior to psychoanalysis is not only unnecessary, but also harmful.   I see so many mothers today putting out fear and anxiety in their parenting.   Sideways parenting through just planting the small seeds of things is ever so much more effective in the long run of parenting.  Think stories, think your own work and space and time.

Give your child space to breathe.  Give them room to make mistakes and to fix those mistakes.  Laugh and find the joy and humor.

Live your life and enjoy it.   Here is a rather old post on the topic of letting go, but I think it still stands:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2008/11/28/letting-go/

Many blessings,

Carrie

When Your Children Are At Their Worst….

You need to be at your best.

You need to set the tone.  Quietly.

You need to calm down.

You need to use your hands gently to help.

You need to approach your child in a true manner that shows you actually want to help them.

You need to be able to pass this duty to someone else in your family if you cannot do it right this minute.  This does not mean you have failed, it means you are human.

You need to still be able to love your child, even if you don’t like them this minute.

You need to know this too shall pass.

You need to know life is full of these moments.

You need to know there is no perfect peaceful house.

You need to know that your child is not doing this on purpose.

You need to know your child loves you and wants to connect with you more than anything.

You need to know you are doing your best.

Many blessings today and every day,

Carrie

Collecting And Connecting To A Challenging Child

In our last post, we looked at the four things the authors of “Hold On To Your Kids:  Why Parents Need To Matter More Than Peers” outlined in regards to “collecting” our children after separation.  You can see that post here:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2011/02/01/hold-on-to-your-kidscollecting-our-children/

I got a wonderful comment on this post that basically stated it didn’t seem as if the steps outlined in this chapter would really work for a child that was either in a truly difficult developmental stage and where parent and child were feeling disconnected or perhaps in a situation where a lot of separation was going on due to life circumstances.

I have a few thoughts about this and I hope if you are in this sort of  situation you will go through these suggestions and take what resonates with you and your family.

  • If you are in the situation where separation is occurring frequently, is there a way to pare things down?  Sometimes families cannot pare it down due to work obligations or school, but if the separation is due to things outside of school and such, perhaps it is worth investigating cutting activities outside the home down.  Can you pare down how many hours you are working outside the home?  Could you possibly homeschool this child to give them extra time at home?  What can you do with extracurricular activities?    Many families will put a stop on sports for part of the year and just enjoy family activities.  Some families will say no activities at the dinner hour.  Perhaps if separation is occurring due to these extra activities, these need to be looked at within the context of the needs of the whole family.  Sometimes we have to give things up in order to gain things.  Simplify.
  • Get out a piece of paper and write down what separation is occurring each day and what happens before the separation and what happens after you and your child are reunited.  What rituals are there around going out the door, or reconnecting after school or work?
  • Do you cook and eat dinner together most nights?  This is really important and well worth the effort.
  • Do you parent your child to sleep?  This is important for all children, but for children nine and older, this may be the ONLY time they open up about their day. It is important to be able to give your child this time.
  • What do you do on weekends?  Is there a family activity one afternoon a week?  Even if children protest, this is an important ritual to establish. It does not have to be expensive, and can involve something as simple as hiking, taking a walk, bathing the dog, having tea.
  • Are you speaking this child’s love language?  Here are the back posts on that: http://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/06/16/how-to-work-with-the-love-languages-of-children/   and this one:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/06/13/loving-children-in-their-love-language/
  • What kind of language do you use daily with this child?  (http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/08/19/using-our-words-like-pearls/)   Do you connect with this child through your warmth and love throughout the day?  Do you consider yourselves on the same side and maintain your calmness whilst you help your child meet the rules and boundaries of your family?  
  • Boundaries foster security.  If you are being a jellyfish in your family,  (see this back post for an explanation of what a jellyfish is:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/02/10/what-kind-of-family-are-you/) now is your time to stop.  It is not punitive to consider logical consequences for behavior that you would not want your child to do to any relative or friend!
  • If your child is very enmeshed with peers, is there a way to change the scenery?  Is there a way to limit time with peers?
  • If you are going through a rough patch with a child, actually spending more time together and not less is often a key to drawing closer and communicating.  Some mothers I know have even brought their most difficult child home to homeschool with excellent results.
  • Meditate and pray about this child and carry this into your sleep and see what new insights come to you in the morning.  You have the keys to help this child within yourself. You really do!
  • Go slow.  Things are not going to change overnight.  I suggest you look at this as taking at least a six month period.  Write things out on a piece of paper, your plan, and put it into action.  Tweak as you need to, but start small with something tomorrow. 

I would love to hear the experiences of mothers who have survived a difficult period of connection with their child and came out even stronger in the end.  Do you have a story like that to share with us?

Many blessings,

Carrie

A Guest Post: Take Pause With The 10 X 7 Rule

I have a lovely reader who told me about a valuable tool she uses to “keep calm and carry on”.  It was so profound that I asked her to write a guest post and share her thoughts with all of you.  Thank you, Jennifer S.!

Take Pause

by Jennifer S.

"Our behavior is a reflection of who we are at the moment. Hating your child’s behavior is like saying you don’t love the part of your child that wants to behave that way." Author Unknown

My mother was a gem. She mothered me like a lot of others mothers did in the early 70’s – the natural way. Quite frankly, she mothered me in the spirit of Rudolf Steiner’s teachings without knowing who Rudolf Steiner was. My memories of how I was mothered, coupled with my inherent nature and my experience teaching Waldorf preschool have all shaped how I mother my 22- month –old- daughter. I’d venture to say to that I am doing an exceptional job. But I do have my moments. We all do. After all, we are mothers which typically means we wear a couple of hundred hats a week. We are allowed to be human and to have not so stellar mothering moments.

For me, the hardest part of mothering is not having that knee jerk reaction to behavior I consider bothersome or unwanted. I get in a tunnel sometimes and when my daughter does something that pulls me out of my mothering tunnel, I find that I react with an immediate exasperated sigh. I hate this. I do it more when I am tired and feeling like the weight of the world is upon me. (Which it is – I am, after all raising a human being!) I am conscious of the fact that I do this and I am also conscious of the downcast look on my daughter’s face.

I know mothers who do this very same thing and often times their reactions are even more extreme. Dealing with unwanted behavior (and by unwanted, I am referring to behavior that is annoying to us as mothers, not behavior that can cause harm to the child or others) is a daily, hourly, sometimes minute by minute challenge. So how can mothers put their negative reactions in check in an effort to be a peaceful parent to their child?

When I asked myself this question about a year ago, I thought back to my gem of a mother and some pearls of wisdom she provided me with long ago as I struggled with little ones both as a nanny and in a preschool setting. She told me to “take pause” and consider what impact your child’s behavior will have in seven different increments of time. I asked her what she meant by “seven increments of time.” It turns out that it is very simple and quite frankly works. When your child acts in a way that causes you annoyance, exaggeration, anxiety and the like, take pause and consider the following:

  • What impact will your child’s current behavior have on you and others in 10 seconds?
  • What impact will your child’s current behavior have on you and others in 10 minutes?
  • What impact will your child’s current behavior have on you and others in 10 hours?
  • What impact will your child’s current behavior have on you and others in 10 days?
  • What impact will your child’s current behavior have on you and others in 10 weeks?
  • What impact will your child’s current behavior have on you and others in 10 months?
  • What impact will your child’s current behavior have on you and others in 10 years?

For me, I usually calm down and am no longer irritated with my child by the time I hit “10 days.” I very rarely have to look much further down the timeline.

Taking the time to play out the effects of my child’s behavior is a calming moment in and of itself and it almost always makes me realize how trivial my child’s actions are and that it is some problem in myself that I need to address. Using this ten by seven rule simply lets a mother catch her breath before she expels it in an exasperated sigh (or worse!)

Honestly, my daughter is too young to know what I am doing but she watches me and realizes that I am taking a moment to push myself into a better parenting space. And she appreciates it. I know this because she will often give me a hug or a snuggle along with a grin that says “you’ll miss my antics when I outgrow them!” And she is right! I will miss her sneaking onto the top of the couch, just to fall off moments later. I will miss her dumping over the entire contents of the cat’s food bowl. I will miss her taking all of the trash out of the trash can. I will miss her unstuffing all of her cloth diaper inserts. I will miss her smearing her food all over the table. I will miss her dumping all of her water on the floor. I will miss all of these things and more because someday she will be off living her grown -up life and I will long for the pitter patter sound of her little feet followed by the perverbial “uh oh.” And I will wish that I had taken more time to savor those moments which caused me annoyance. The ten by seven rule allows me to do this because I ultimately realize that my daughter is just being her “age” and that I need to take pause and enjoy it for it is a mere fleeting moment.

It’s funny but I have seen similar concepts circulating around blog land recently. I would like to think that my mother was the mastermind behind this idea but hence, it really does not matter. What matters is that she gave me a tool to became a better mother. I hope that I have given this to you in turn. And on that note, I leave you with another great quote: “Believe in your child beyond today’s problem or behavior.” Author Unknown

Carrie here:  The other thing I love about this is the demonstration of passing on how we parent to the next generation.  Grandmother to mother to granddaughter. 

What kind of legacy are you leaving for your children in the way you parent?

Many blessings,

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

Gentle Discipline = Connection Plus Boundaries

We have been talking quite a  bit of late about power, authority and boundaries in parenting.  Our book study of “Hold On To Your Kids:  Why Parents Need To Matter More Than Peers” by Neufeld and Mate spurred the discussion, but boundaries are something I have ALWAYS discussed on this blog.  You can go through the archives or use “boundaries” in the search engine to pull up back posts.

If things are not going well in your home with discipline, here are a few quick tips:

1.  Where are you emotionally and spiritually?  It all begins with you.  Children need to see you modeling how they should be behaving and what values you hold dear.  What comes when as your children grow? When can they go to a friend’s house without you, when can they walk somewhere alone, when can they ride their bike to the corner store, when can they have their first sleepover?  Befriend some mothers with older children and see what issues are coming up for older ages; this helps you plan because you will be there one day as well!

How do you show reverence, how do you show gratitude?

Where is the rhythm of your home?  Where are your moments of laughter, joy, fun, wonder?  What are you doing for demonstrating real work, what is your child doing for real work, what are you doing for sleep, rest, warming foods and nourishment for the soul through singing and verses and stories?  What are you doing to get energy out/outside time?  These things help children of all ages!

How do you speak kindly in your home?  How do you use your words to help each other? 

Are you communicating to your small children that the world is a good place?  That people are helpful and kind?  How are you showing your older grades-aged children beauty?

What is your physical health like?  It can be  hard to be emotionally and spiritually stable and growing if your physical body needs your attention. Sometimes illness, bed rest, an accident can all be a blessing and force us to grow in ways we otherwise would not have, but I am generally speaking here of mothers who run around in their day to day mothering without a thought of water, healthy food or exercise for their own bodies.

2. Are you trying to do this ALL ALONE?  Many mothers are, for a variety of reasons.  Some just will not let their husbands do anything; some are single mothers; some are alone in their marriages.  I have written quite a lot about marriage and even some posts on being alone in marriage, you can refer to those for some encouragement.

You cannot do this all alone; it takes a community of loving family members and friends to help raise a child.  By the time your child is five, this community is increasingly important and by the time your child enters the grades even more so. 

Where do you fit into the equation of the family’s needs? 

3.  Are you connected to your child?  Connection is the basis of discipline.  You do not need words to connect with the small under 7 child, and even the child of 7-9 does not need so many words.  A nine year old does not have logical thinking and less words are truly better!  Connect through being warm and loving, through a steadiness in the home, through physical touch and through play.  Connect with your child by being emotionally stable yourself!

Meditate and pray about your child, look into your heart and see where they are and what they need.  What would uplift them THE MOST at this very moment? 

Sometimes growth comes in spurts with regression, especially for a younger child, and we can tailor our rhythm to these demanding stages. However, very often what an older (six and a half year old and up) needs as they struggle with emotional growth in childhood is to not be rescued and have that feeling of being uncomfortable taken away and alleviated.  Older children, as they grow, need to learn to deal with all of their  feelings, positive and negative, with peers and with people who do things differently. 

4.  What are your boundaries and do you understand what tools are available for each age to help you stick to those  boundaries?

What do you do when your child will not adhere to the boundary?  Sometimes a time-in together or just a little bit of space together outside in the backyard can change the energy just enough – but you still have to go back to the boundary.

Is what you are asking REASONABLE for the age of the child?  And remember, we don’t ASK small children to do things – we do it together.  Exhausting, but alleviates so many problems.

Parent your child for the age that they are – do not treat your ten year old like a three year old and do not treat your three year old like a ten year old!

Look for the next few posts to be from our book study.

Many blessings,

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