“Love And Anger: The Parental Dilemma” Chapter One

So we are embarking on our new chapter by chapter book today:  “Love and Anger:  The Parental Dilemma” by Nancy Samalin with Catherine Whitney.  You can read about the introduction to this book, with a link as to where to purchase it here:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2011/03/25/love-and-anger-the-parental-dilemma-introduction/

This first chapter opens up with a quote from a father ( that I am sure many of us have said or have heard a parent say):  “I was the perfect father until my son was born.”

The scenario opening this chapter regards a working mother and her seven year old son who was prone to making a huge mess in their apartment:  “By the time Sharon walked in the door, she had already built up such an anger that she started yelling before she could stop herself.  Now she stood towering over the chaos in her living room, hands planted on her hips and face contorted in rage."  The mother later recounts in a parenting workshop that she cannot believe where her anger went.  How many of us have ever felt that way?

The author writes on page 4, “The subject of anger almost always comes up when parents gather, and it’s a subject that troubles them a great deal.  They believe that good parents don’t yell, much less shriek, loving parents don’t seethe with resentment, mature adults never give in to uncontrolled rage.  They look to me {the author} for ways to exorcise these uncomfortable feeling, hoping that I’ll offer them a solution, like a magic elixir, so they won’t feel angry with their children anymore.”

The author goes on to say that anger is normal, both on the part of the parent and the child, and points out the ultimate parenting paradox:   that often the greater our love, the greater too our capacity for feeling a troubling range of emotions including anger, resentment, rage. What we need to do is to teach OURSELVES and our children how to express anger, rage, those troubling emotions without attacking our children and in a way that may actually be helpful.

The author mentions that for many families their homes are battlegrounds filled with sarcasm, bickering, shouting, power struggles.   There can be many points of irritation, many hot buttons that trigger parents’ anger.  Here is a small sampling of the things parents listed as anger-provoking from a very long list on page 5:   “When they won’t do what I say”  “When they won’t take no for an answer.”  “When they defy me.”  “When they give me that attitude.”    “When they talk back and say things that hurt or insult me.” 

However, anger and rage can be downright scary; both for ourselves and our children.  It can fill us with self-loathing, guilt and other things that do not more our family lives forward. 

We must learn to separate our actions from our feelings.  All feelings are okay, not all actions are.  I am sure many of you have heard that before, but it is important to be able to deal with anger without hurting, insulting, demeaning our children.  I personally think the ability to  be firm and  hold boundaries in a loving way takes practice.  There will always be conflict between your needs and wants and what your child needs and wants.  Add in multiple children and it just gets more complex from there.   Our children will not always be happy about the boundaries that we set, yet those boundaries are there to help them  mature and grow.  Boundaries are not mean; they look toward the future when the things your children will do as adults may cost in big ways – in their jobs, their marriages, their own parenting of your grandchildren. 

And to do that we need to be able to accept all the emotions that come with being human, but to develop the will to stay the course that will benefit our children the most.  Only can we take responsibility for our own feelings and attitudes, our own actions, and yes, our own mistakes, can we move forward and truly be free.

I hope you will join along in reading this book with me.

Many blessings and much love,

Carrie

“Love and Anger: The Parental Dilemma” Introduction

Well, let’s kick off our new book to look at chapter-by-chapter.  This book is by Nancy Samalin and Catherine Whitney.    Here is a link to this book on Amazon:  http://www.amazon.com/Love-Anger-Parental-Nancy-Samalin/dp/0140129928/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1301051202&sr=8-1

I think most of us can agree that staying home with our children all day is wonderful; we wouldn’t want to trade that for the world.  Our children are precious, they are funny, and to hear their joy and laughter just makes our hearts feel good.  All that love wrapped up in a small package of childhood.   I personally have so much gratitude that I can stay home with my children and homeschool them.

But there is often another side that seems to go with parenting these days.  I am not sure if it is due to a combination of economic stress, a lack of extended family and other support due to families being more transitory, a lack of a cohesive view toward childhood in our society, a lack of turning toward a religious or spiritual path to help support and guide the parenting journey – but mothers today seem more confused, more stressed  and yes, more angry by their children’s behavior than ever before.

There it is, that parental dilemma of love and anger toward our children.  I don’t think it does much good to pretend that anger in parenting does not exist or to even strive toward having a valium-calm household.  Peaceful and loving household, yes.  Sterile and without emotion just so any conflict might be avoided, no.  That is not life in my book.

Living with children is messy, noisy, sleep-depriving at times, joyous, fun, wonderful.  I have said it before, and I will say it again:  parenting will stretch your soul like a yoga pose you can’t get out of.

I have met wonderful parents over my many years of working with parents, parents who were so mature and had it all together and were so self-controlled.  They were centered, and calm, and whilst they didn’t always do everything “right” (and what is that anyway?), they seemed to raise children who became great adults.

I want to be like that, don’t you?

So let’s take a walk through the introduction of this book!

In the Introduction to this book, the authors write, “I use this example (there is an opening example of parental anger written by none other than Dr. Benjamin Spock, MD who found himself in a blended family situation) to demonstrate that there are no absolute guidelines forged from our own experiences and the experiences of others. ….This caveat –that no single expert has all the answers-  is important to note, for you will not find  a series of no-fail solutions in the pages of this book.”

The goal of this book, the authors write, is to “offer practical, positive ways to redirect [that] anger.”

Many blessings as we go through this book,

Carrie

Back to Basics: Dealing With Anger

Anger is a very real emotion in parenting, and I think so many times people are afraid to talk about it.  Acknowledging that anger can exist in ourselves towards our children not only makes us feel sad and guilty, it forces us to face our own imperfections.

I wrote this in May of last year:

“If we create a battlefield in our mind against our children, then all is lost.  By battlefield, I mean the minute we begin thinking, “My child is doing this on purpose!”  “My child is out to get me and make me miserable!”  “My child knew what they were doing and planned this!”  “My child is just wanting to push each and every one of the buttons I have!”   Keep reading to find out the implications of what I mean by that!

Mamas, I have been there and done that and I would like to share something with you that I have learned:  If we create a us versus them mentality in our mind and in our attitude before we even open our mouths, then we have lost.

We have lost the opportunity to warmly hold the space for our children, we have lost the moment to guide in peaceful energy the behavior we would like our child to show, we have lost the connection between us and our child.”

The whole post the above came from is here:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/05/22/the-battlefield-of-the-mind-anger-and-parenting/

I wrote some more regarding anger in parenting last November (modified text for this post today):

Conflict is a part of life, and anger is not a BAD emotion – it is just a feeling like other feelings.  However, many parents choose to discipline their children when they are angry or hurt.  Some parents choose to hit their children when they are angry.  Hitting a child is wrong, (if you need an argument for this please see this post:   http://theparentingpassageway.com/2008/10/20/getting-past-fear/ )  and when we lose control and responsibility for our actions when we are angry we lose that teachable moment.  A  split-second action in anger can also cause a parent to have remorse and guilt.  It can necessitate an apology!

Instead of losing control, I would like to talk to you today about how not to be the angry parent……I believe anger issues actually are OUR problem, the parent’s problem.  Usually we are trying to do something in a tight time frame, we are carrying in baggage from our own childhood (“I NEVER would have talked to MY parents that way!), we are tired and stressed out over things that may or may not even have to do with that child, we are carrying unrealistic expectations of that child’s behavior, or just in general our needs are not being met.

The questions becomes:  what do we want our CHILDREN to do when they are angry and how can we model that for them?  If we walk around yelling and slamming doors, how can we be surprised when our six-year old does that?

After you are calm, hopefully you can return to the situation and work to solve the problem. Help the child, guide the child.  Breathe in and breathe out.

Patience is developed over time.  I am certain I am more patient with this third child than I was with my first child.  Learning to relax into parenting and how to let go of the mentality that every single thing must be addressed so the child will not become a Detriment To Society is also learned.  Set a timer and see if you can keep your patience for half an hour if that is where you are, and work up from there. You can do this!  Fill your own tank so you have something to give.  Get your children into a rhythm with an early bedtime so you have time for you and time for you and your spouse.

Most of all, be thankful.  Go look at your children while they are sleeping, those small faces, realize how very little ages three, four and five really are.  And in this time of dwindling light and moving into darkness, work to cultivate yourself as a light for your family.

Need more help?

Here is the popular back post on “defiance”:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/09/16/a-few-fast-words-regarding-defiance-in-children-under-the-age-of-6/

Here is a post for when you are feeling chronically angry toward your family:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/01/05/an-emergency-how-to-how-to-parent-peacefully-with-children-under-age-9/  This is probably my personal favorite post I have ever written on anger.

Many blessings to you all tonight,

Carrie

The De-Escalator

Do you frequently come into a situation in your home in which a conflict needs to be worked out?  (Uh, every parent on the planet nods their head here).  Okay, so then do you typically escalate the situation or do you de-escalate it?

I ask this because many times we are in the midst of a situation in which our children require our guidance, and we think we are offering guidance, but we are doing it in the heat of the moment and in such a way that most likely all the child will remember afterwards is not the situation, not the “lesson” to be learned, but the way you made him or her feel.  Remember, you cannot guide the situation or have the child learn anything from the situation if everyone is crying, screaming, yelling or hitting.  You really  have to wait until things calm down until you can guide.  And then the piece after that is in the activity of doing, of restitution.  Save the lecture!  Work on the doing!

This is also true in any relationship where there is a conflict.  I remember finding this 45 record (remember those from oh so long ago?)  amongst my mother’s things – The Beatles’ “We Can Work It Out.”  Here it is to get you in the mood for some conflict resolution:

 

Love this, and what a timely reminder in conflict.  This phrase also happens to be the title of a nifty little NonViolent Communication book entitled (yes!):  “We Can Work It Out:  Resolving Conflicts Peacefully and  Powerfully:  A presentation of Nonvionent Communication ideas, and their use” by Marshall B Rosenberg, PhD.  This little booklet is only about 22 pages long, but I think it is very valuable in helping decipher what to do in conflict. 

The minute we start thinking, “Well, the problem with my child is that they won’t do “X”” that is really not expressing what we NEED.  We also do this with our spouses as well:   “Well, if my husband didn’t do “X” everything would be fine.”  I find that often mothers don’t really know what they need, but they sure know what they don’t like when they see it. :)  However, in order to have someone help you get what you want, you have to know what you need.

Dr. Rosenburg has a wonderful sentence in this book:  “At the point where either party hears themselves being criticized, diagnosed, or intellectually interpreted, I predict their energy will turn toward self-defense and counter-accusations rather than toward resolutions that meet everyone’s needs.” 

So, I think if you can define what you DO want, and then think of a strategy that meets what your need is, then you  have a much better chance at guiding your child.

The other part that can be very challenging but necessary in parenting is what Dr. Rosenburg calls “sensing the needs of others regardless of how others are expressing themselves.’ 

This is very hard with children if they are yelling or hitting or screaming.  But they are telling you something with this behavior if you can look underneath all that and then try to meet that need that they are showing you.  They need action from you, not a lot of words or questioning.

So, when you walk into a situation that requires conflict resolution, a situation that requires you to be “The De-Escalator”, know that you can do this. Children and family members give us the chance to practice this every day.

Many blessings,

Carrie

Parental Anger and Forgiveness of Children

This month I mentioned we are going to be looking at temperaments, love languages and nonviolent communication in an effort to be better wives, husbands, parents, friends and people.  We kicked it off with a  post on love, a post on patience, a post on changing our language and now this week we will be moving into the heart of the matter. 

So let’s dive in.  I wrote a post not too far back about “Parenting Exhaustion” that seemed to really strike a chord for this time of year, you can read it here:http://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/04/13/parenting-exhaustion/  This post today is sort of a piggyback on the “Parenting Exhaustion” post and the post about yelling in parenting available here:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/04/30/yelling-in-parenting/

Sometimes mothers talk to me and  feel as if they are doing a relatively good job at controlling their actions, voice and thoughts during a time of parenting challenge, but worry that afterwards, they just don’t feel loving toward their children for several hours.   They don’t feel like taking their child somewhere, and they are still thinking about whatever happened even though the child has obviously moved on quickly and is no longer thinking about the time in the morning when they were so frustrated and screaming, or hitting their parent, etc.   Children live in the moment, more about that in a minute, but let’s start with the mothers.

Some mothers I have spoke with really do attribute these feelings to fatigue and perhaps not enough exercise or time to themselves.  I think this is a possible contributor.  It certainly is easier to let things roll off your back when you are better rested and feel positive.  Many mothers describe how hard it is even to get fifteen minutes alone.  Even if husbands have taken the baby to give the mother a break, they are sometimes walking around with the baby right in front of the mother so the minute the baby cries, it is, “Why look, he wants Mommy!”   Some mothers feel as if they are on duty all the time, or at least on call.   Some mothers want to exercise and recharge that way, but  have a really hard time leaving their children, even older children, in the child care section at a gym. And, it is easy  if it is nighttime and Daddy is home but everyone is falling apart to sort of feel as if one cannot actually leave.  So self-care does become a hard-to-fulfill priority.

Some mothers have told me they thought anger and holding on to parenting challenges was lack of self-care but then they realized that they were fairly angry all the time about many things.  They scheduled sessions with a counselor and realized they had issues coming from their childhood that needed to be addressed so they could be happier parents.  That is a possibility as well.  I don’t think there is one thing wrong with seeing a mental health care professional for a tune-up just the way you see a physician for a physical check-up.  Parenting is a big adjustment, and each stage in parenting can bring different challenges.

The books on anger that I most often recommend are “love and anger: the parental dilemma” by Nancy Samalin and “How Anger Hurts Your Kids” by McKay, et al.  For other books about  gentle discipline, please see here: http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/11/27/favorite-books-for-gentle-discipline/

So, if we handle things well, why do we feel so badly that we don’t bounce back as quickly as our children do?   As I always say, it is one thing to read in a parenting book that a child of “X” age is likely to spit, or hit, or kick, or scream in your face, but it is a whole different ballgame when those behaviors actually happen to you!  In real life!

So, I think in some ways this boils down to how you handle forgiveness in general.  What do you do, and how do you handle forgiveness in such circumstances as when someone won’t apologize to you, if you remember some “wrong” that has been done to you, how do you handle yourself when you make a mistake?  How do YOU react if someone talks to you about something you have done that wasn’t right?  We all are human, aren’t we?

And please do know that with a very small child, a child up to the nine-year change, that child really just lives in the present moment with probably very little connection to what just happened and how you are feeling (and do remember my mantra about the verbal games young children can play about feelings and such if they have been “trained” in such ways.   See back posts about this).

I think this can also go back to the original incident.  Did you handle the parenting challenge by stuffing your feelings so far down and smiling through the whole thing?  Probably not very authentic.  Gentle discipline still means you can be authentic.  I think it is okay to say,”Mommy doesn’t like that when you do that.” It is okay to feel angry or frustrated.  What is not okay is hitting your child or screaming at your child.  Show them what to do with anger or frustration that is productive, how to handle conflict. Don’t show them the way to handle conflict is to just stuff it down so you feel sick the whole day!  Model calming down and forgiveness.

I think it is okay to say, “Would you please draw me a picture and tell me you love me?” as restitution once things have calmed down.  I think it is okay to go sit outside and say, “I am going to sit here a minute until I feel better.”  l think it is okay to assume a child must be rather tired or over-stimulated  and perhaps just need to be home instead of going out that  afternoon and to go to bed a bit earlier.  But, what doesn’t work is the guilt trip thing, the “write the lecture down and leave it under their pillow so they can read it thing”….Because if you are having a hard time moving on from some incident that happened, , some part of your own Inner Child is saying, “Wow, that child was not nice and on some level I would like to see more remorse on that child’s part!  More angst!  In fact, that child should feel terrible… treat your mother like that!  I gave birth to that child!”  So, essentially we want to see more sorrow and sadness and restitution. 

I think what happens as we parent though, is hopefully that we get better at forgiveness.  We become better at forgiving ourselves, our spouses, and yes, our children.  We start to realize that  a little self-care goes a long way, and that as mothers we can make our children  a top priority but that we also need some inner work for ourselves to make the family run better.  We can  hone our skills of compassion, of meeting our child where they are  and enjoying them.  We can choose forgiveness and essentially choose to be warm and loving and to realize a child is not going to react to things the way an adult would, which is often really what we want.  We want that small child to be able to say, “Wow, I will never do that again” and how horrible they feel..Your child in their first seven year cycle of life does  not view things the same way you do being in your thirties!

That is the hard thing about parenting, to understand and carry what children do when they are small and don’t know better and need to be guided over and over.  To understand that whilst developmental stages still need to be guided because children have to live out in the real world eventually, that most of all what they need is love and compassion and forgiveness. 

We all learn together.

Many blessings,

Carrie

Patience, Parenting and Verbal Spillage

Part of having a loving attitude toward our children is being PATIENT.  I have written about patience here:http://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/03/29/five-things-every-parent-needs/      and here:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/10/15/the-power-of-patience-day-number-18-of-20-days-toward-being-a-more-mindful-parent/

Having patience is an important part of loving our families.  I think there are  two very concrete ways you can put patience into action in your marriage and in your parenting:

1.  Practice listening without interrupting, judging or being defensive.  How many times do we cut off our children, or our spouse when they are upset, to promote our own point of view, or our own judgment?

2.  Many women tend to “verbally spill” a cascade of words when they are upset.  It is very difficult to have self-control of one’s words, but well-worth the attempt. Can we just be silent  but warm and loving during times when the children are falling apart?  Can we just be there without verbally (please excuse the term) “throwing up” on family members with our own anger and frustration?    

I think especially in this age where people seem to say whatever they are thinking (uh, in multiple forums such as in person, in email, on Facebook, Twitter), and many times with language that is less than appropriate, it is important to show children that we can stop, we can think, we can deliberate, we can decide and then we can speak. 

Here are some other ways I am thinking about patience today:

Patience does not mean being a doormat and doing nothing, that is being the jellyfish of Barbara Coloroso’s “Kids Are Worth It!” book, right? However, patience does mean being calm enough to do the right thing!  This post talks a bit about that:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/11/14/how-not-to-be-the-angry-parent/

Patience is knowing that children take time to develop, and whilst you guide the behavior during development, split-second guidance in a rough way in the heat of the moment is not modeling patience or how to deal with life’s upsets.  De-escalate the situation,  guide, go about what you need to do, but show that deliberation.

As the Internet expands, I find we take things more and more at face value in terms of “experts.”  Anyone can put a website up and say they are a parenting expert or a Waldorf expert or whatever.  Perhaps part of patience involves not jumping into believing what someone says right off the bat, about thinking about what is right for one’s own family and then being able to distill what information works best for one’s situation and beliefs.

I was thinking about patience as a part of having a relationship with friends who may not exactly share our same beliefs  but are still people we enjoy and want to spend time with.  Why should we all be the same?  Many Waldorf homeschoolers complain that they have no friends who homeschool like them, but my question is can we look beyond Waldorf to the fact that we are all homeschooling?  Can we look beyond homeschooling to see that many parents are thoughtful and caring and trying to do their best even if they choose not to homeschool? 

In the area of faith and spirituality, I know many people of one faith who have no friends of any other faith.  A faithful and spiritual life can become very insulated without that.  Do you have the patience to develop long-term friendships with people outside of your spiritual beliefs?

Do you have patience with yourself?  Do you forgive yourself for not being perfect and for not being able to do it all?  This is not an excuse for doing nothing, you know my mantra about planning, planning, planning and doing, but mothers tend to be so very hard on themselves.  I have a friend I always say to, “Isn’t it amazing when a child is going through challenging behavioral stages, we always look to ourselves and what we are doing wrong but when a child is having a smooth stage and behaving the way we would expect, we don’t look back to ourselves at all?”

Happy meditating on patience today!

Many blessings,

Carrie

An Emergency How-To: How To Parent Peacefully With Children Under Age 9

(This post is geared toward those times when you are feeling angry daily with your children, not so much for the occasional angry moments.  This is sort of like “Emergency Management for Chronic Anger”…)

If you are having an emergency in attempting  to parent peacefully, here is a top 10 list of how to do this:

1.  Start with understanding your own triggers for anger.  Write down the things that are “making” you angry.  If every item on that list is child-related, please check and double-check if your expectations are realistic.  Underneath anger are usually other feelings such as fear or sadness.

We are all human, and we do get angry.   Here is a great post about the opportunity that occasional episode of  anger affords children in learning:   http://christopherushomeschool.typepad.com/blog/2008/08/dealing-with-anger.html  , just to remind you that the complete elimination of anger is not a realistic goal, and that occasional anger is normal and even healthy.  The important thing is to show your child constructive ways to deal with anger AND how one can transfor oneself from “Angry Person” back into “Normal Person” without hurting anyone physically or verbally in the process!

2.  Get support.  Find your local La Leche League group here: www.llli.org and find your local Attachment Parenting group here:   http://www.attachmentparenting.org/.   Call these Leaders on the phone and talk to them.  Both La Leche League and Attachment Parenting put loving guidance/gentle discipline as a main philosophical tenet.  Get a family counselor’s assistance as well.  Many health care professionals will work on a sliding fee scale.

3.  Get support from your family, friends and neighbors.  If you are out of control angry everyday with your children, you may need more support right now.  Even the 10 year old down the street who could come and play for an hour with with toddler while you are there could be helpful.  Investigate all possibilities for help.  Call in your friends and explain that you need extra help right now.

4.  Check out what is going on with you and your family members physically.  Is there a physical reason why you are so tired or depressed?  Is there something going on with your child?

5.  Check your environment – visual clutter can wind many children up.  Clean up their sleeping areas to be restful.

6.  Make a list of what you will do to calm down when you are angry and post it somewhere prominent.  There is no problem that cannot wait a moment to be solved, and on top of that, how many problems can be solved anyway with everyone yelling and crying?  That is not a teachable moment.  It is okay to take a moment before you address the situation.    Remember that your role is to teach and to guide your children toward being capable, loving, responsible adults.

7. Check out your food; dyes and preservatives and common allergens can make behavior worse.

8.  Check out the amount of outside active  play your children are getting!  They need to get some energy out before they can sit still.

9.  Check out what you are requesting of your children; particularly with chores, which seem to particularly anger parents, children under 9 need you there to supervise and assist, to show them how to do itChildren under 7 need to most likely do it with you to have it done to your satisfaction.  Children should be expected to work round the house as part of the family; however, for small children we view the parent working and the child weaving in and out  and then moving into chores that you have helped them to learn over time, and at under 9 they may still need some supervision or they will get distracted by something else along the way.  Check how many times a day you are requesting your children to do something; if it is constant nagging and asking a child to clean up or assist in household chores, that to me is a signal that there 1. Is too many things out in the environment to clean up and/or  2.  is no consistent rhythm to chores on a daily basis or a weekly basis.

Watch what you say to your children!  Use your words like pearls: http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/08/19/using-our-words-like-pearls/

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

10.  Learn how to forgive yourself.  See this post for help:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/05/22/waldorf-guilt/

and this one:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/04/15/my-kids-deserve-a-different-mother/

Much love and peace to you,

Carrie

How Not To Be The Angry Parent

To read  this in Spanish, please see here:  http://fabiolaperezsitko.blogspot.com/2010/01/eres-un-padre-enojon.html

Are you ever an angry parent?

Conflict is a part of life, and anger is not a BAD emotion – it is just a feeling like other feelings.  However, many parents choose to discipline their children when they are angry or hurt.  Some parents choose to hit their children when they are angry.  Hitting a child is wrong, (if you need an argument for this please see this post:   http://theparentingpassageway.com/2008/10/20/getting-past-fear/ )  and when we lose control and responsibility for our actions when we are angry we lose that teachable moment.  A  split-second action in anger can also cause a parent to have remorse and guilt.  It can necessitate an apology!

Instead of losing control, I would like to talk to you today about how not to be the angry parent.  I personally believe the number one reason parents get angry with their children is that their children “are not listening.”  Many times this happens in conjunction with having to complete something on a tight time table.  Sometimes it just seems as if the child is endlessly negative, or the temperament of the child in conjunction with the parent leads to a fragile relationship between the child and the adult.

However, aren’t children supposed to be immature?  Children are noisy, messy, and yes, often immature.  Otherwise they would be born as adults and age backward, right?

I believe anger issues actually are OUR problem, the parent’s problem.  Usually we are trying to do something in a tight time frame, we are carrying in baggage from our own childhood (“I NEVER would have talked to MY parents that way!), we are tired and stressed out over things that may or may not even have to do with that child, we are carrying unrealistic expectations of that child’s behavior, or just in general our needs are not being met.

In the heat of the moment, what one needs is the ability to calm down.  This may entail taking a “parent time-out”.  Many parents complain about this because they are ready to explode, they are trying to get away to calm down for a minute, only to have  a screaming child follow them!  Ah, that  youthful immaturity again – an adult probably would give you the space to calm down whereas a child may not!

What do you do then?

My personal vote is to go outside.  I pull a lot of weeds in yard when I am angry, and that helps me calm down before I do something stupid.  My children can be out there, but will often give me a bit of space in an open area (as opposed to going into the bathroom with everyone yelling and screaming on the other side of the door!). 

The question becomes:  What do we want our CHILDREN to do when they are angry and how can we model that for them?  If we walk around yelling and slamming doors, how can we be surprised when our six-year old does that?

After you are calm, hopefully you can return to the situation and work to solve the problem. Help the child, guide the child.  Breathe in and breathe out.

Patience is developed over time.  I am certain I am more patient with this third child than I was with my first child.  Learning to relax into parenting and how to let go of the mentality that every single thing must be addressed so the child will not become a Detriment To Society is also learned.  Set a timer and see if you can keep your patience for half an hour if that is where you are, and work up from there. You can do this!  Fill your own tank so you have something to give.  Get your children into a rhythm with an early bedtime so you have time for you and time for you and your spouse. 

Most of all, be thankful.  Go look at your children while they are sleeping, those small faces, realize how very little ages three, four and five really are.  And in this time of dwindling light and moving into darkness, work to cultivate yourself as a light for your family.

Blessings,

Carrie

Raising Peaceful Children

This is probably the most important thing one can think about in this world – raising a child that will become an adult who is peaceful, who can be peaceful in the midst of whatever circumstances come their way, a child who can be a peacemaker with others.

To me, there are many ways to work toward this in parenting.  For all ages, I believe the most important thing is to be calm oneself and to be able to model being calm.  Children, especially children under the age of the 9-year change   can be seen as having/being prone to “an excess of emotion”.  Therefore, self-control is not the strongest point of a child under the age of 9…and logical reasoning begins around the age of 14….so, it is really up to you, the adult to model how to be calm and how to be a peacemaker while the child takes all these years to develop these skills.

Remember how big and huge and scary you can look to your child in your moments of highest anger.  A giant, to be sure and an image that can be stuck in a child’s mind permanently.   I am not suggesting that as parents we can be perfect and never get angry and always behave calmly.  However, I am suggesting that we do as much as we need to do to keep ourselves as centered as possible. 

For women, I truly think this means not wearing so many hats.  Many women are not only working inside the home, but outside the home as well. They are running businesses, parenting, volunteering, trying to be perfect wives and mothers and neighbors – all whilst they have small children.  Some women handle this beautifully, but many women find it to be a fast-moving train that is difficult to jump off.  Priorities count:  your children will only be little once and that is it.  Wearing so many hats forces things to be hurried, stressed, anxious and can lead to less than calm moments.  Is it worth it?

For women who work within the home, I find so  many of them are trying to do everything perfectly.  Keep in mind that people are more important than keeping things clean, than material things, than having the perfect home.  Many of the mothers I speak with feel so isolated and despite so much information being available through books, radio, TV, the Internet, seem to have a limited grasp on developmental expectations, and positive tools for discipline.  There is a lot of conflicting information out there, and it is confusing!

I offer this as a way to discern this information:  you cannot err on the side of being too gentle (unless you are equating gentle with no limit setting).  You can set limits and still be very gentle indeed.  To me, connection and gentleness are of utmost importance as I travel this path.  Any method or thing that recommends otherwise is not what I hold to be true.

The truth is that the foundation for connection and closeness is laid in the Early Years. You know, the ones we have so backward in the United States.  The years where people ask you how fast you are going to push your child away to “be independent”.  When are they weaning, when are they sleeping by themselves, why do they cling, when are you leaving them to go on vacation for a week alone, when do you need a break from that baby?  All these questions that have things so wrong.  A baby, a toddler, a preschooler, a child in Early Elementary really needs these years for connection, for compassion and empathy and for intimacy within the family.  This leads to a greater ability later on to be independent at the proper time. 

Frustration can be a key cause of feeling and acting not peacefully!  If you can do your best to revise, reframe how you are thinking about something, sometimes that can be the key to heading off frustration and anger before it starts.  Set limits in a peaceful way, and stick to them calmly.  Listen to your child, listen to their point of view, understand their developmental level.

Work on your own anger, your own hostility, your own sarcasm.  Try to model being able to step away, to bite your own tongue, to use less words, to step out of the room and breathe and come back in.   Model finding solutions to problems, framing things positively.    As you model emotional health, so will your children be able to handle things peacefully.

Many blessings,

Carrie

Parenting the “High-Needs” Older Child

This post is one that has been hard to write, as there are many varying perspectives out there.  Typically one reads something along the lines of, yes, there are children who have “difficult”  behaviors, but if Mother and Father just get through it, the child will grow up to be a wonderful person.

Sometimes it seems these authors never really had a child with “difficult” behaviors to be gotten through for years on end, right?? 

I am talking in this post about children who are essentially within normal development, not children who have been diagnosed with ADHD, sensory processing disorders or autism spectrum disorders. 

I have a few things that I have found to be helpful with my own “higher-needs, intense child”, not in any special order:

1.  Get rid of that label. When I first was a parent, I thought “high-needs” was wonderful…..Now  I think this label serves its purpose when the child may be in infancy so you don’t feel as if you are going insane, but really as the child grows, I think it is better to just accept where they are and what things are more challenging for them than labeling it.   Every child brings challenges and things that need balancing and guidance and I think that can be easy to lose sight of if you consider  your child “hard” and everyone else’s child “easy”. 

I have also heard too many parents refer to their “higher-needs” child with the child standing right there!  The child truly does understand this, and even if you think this is a nice way of saying “difficult”, the child translates it as such and feels something less than positive about themselves!  Stop it!  Stop telling the horror stories of your child’s infancy if your child is there, and even see if you can re-frame those thoughts in your head before they come out of your mouth.   How about these instead:  “We got through together the best we knew at the time.”  “We did a great job in that situation.”  “There were positive moments.”  

Positive thoughts equal positive parenting, which is often exactly what this little person needs and longs for because sometimes these children are not the first to look on the sunny side!

Secondly, think about the fact that human development takes a LONG time and that three, four and five and even six  is still little, is a period overall of rapid growth and often disequilibrium, and that in many cultures the child is perceived as  not really having a set personality from infancy onward the way we look at this in the  United States.  Ask yourself, how would I be treating my child if I thought this “higher needs”  was not so ingrained within them?  Would I be able to be calmer and patient because I was guiding them, teaching them?  Maybe not, but interesting food for thought.  Your child may be a much, much different person at 7 or 8 than even at 4,  5 or 6.  Seriously!

2.  Stop drawing individual attention to that child’s behavior as much as possible, and accentuate the positive as much as possible. Less words for judging (because even saying, “Gosh, you are feeling aggressive today!” or “You are  being so persistent” is judging in my book.  Why go there?).  Try meditating over your child while they sleep, try warm hugs and smiles, try really looking at the positive with your own warmth toward the child and finding the humor.  Humor can diffuse a lot.

3.. Understand normal developmental stages and what works best – less words and don’t reason,   more movement, more play, more imagination, more humor. 

4.  Be ready to accept your child’s behavior, pull back and be okay with that.  This can be a real challenge for the adult, and I have been there.  It was a challenge for me.    So your three-year-old doesn’t do well at playgroups, so what?  It used to be a child really didn’t have any play dates until they were over four and a half or so – maybe there was wisdom in that!    It used to be small children were mainly at home with siblings and not off to gymnastics and art and museums and such.  If your child doesn’t do groups well, look at it not as a character flaw, but normal development!  It is really okay, and again, unless your child has been diagnosed with some sort of autism spectrum, it is likely to change as they grow. 

5. Be calm and be patient.  Try to understand things from your child’s point of view, and let your RHYTHM carry things. Have some limits that just include what you do, “We will play after lunch.”  “We wash our hands after going to the bathroom.”  We works really well.

6.  Be aware of any reflux, food allergies or things within the environment that your child is sensitive to that triggers things not going well.

7.  Make sure this child is getting enough rest and sleep.  That is an absolute cornerstone of rhythm.   

8.  Are you feeling positive and centered? C’mon y’all, you knew I was going to say that one!  Work on your own stuff so you can be what this child needs.  Guard your words and your thoughts toward the positive and away from the negative. 

Most importantly, FORGIVE YOURSELF.  You are a wonderful mother, you are working hard, you wouldn’t be thinking and worried about this otherwise!  Give yourself a break!  Love yourself and use that as a model for how you can love and forgive your child!

9.  It is okay to help your child play.  Children under the age of 7 are in the height of the imitative phase, and may NOT be able to come up with what to play out of their heads.  It is okay to help them out – set up play scenes, give them ideas (“I am the old woman of the villager who is washing dishes and you are coming to my village on  a train!  Here is a train cap and train whistle!”)  Invite them to help you with practical work.  Tell them stories and things that may spur their play.  Your oldest child might really need this help, your younger ones will have the older one to imitate.

10.  Try to spend some time alone with this child every day in a positive way.  Whether this is just curled up together reading a book, tossing a ball, rolling around on the floor, just be together. The more you are together in positive ways  the more  you can love each other.

11. Again, this post was not geared toward children who have been diagnosed with something specific, but if you think your child is having issues with anger, or processing sounds or textures, or whatever, get help.  Don’t wait!  Trust your gut instinct because you are the expert on your child,  you know your child best, and you are the advocate for your child!

Peace and cyber – hugs,

Carrie