Back to Basics: Emotional and Physical Warmth

Warmth is one of those areas parents in the United States  seem to rarely think about.  Everywhere I go I see hatless infants, infants and children who are under-dressed.

It is getting to be the time of year to think about physical warmth.  There is a wonderful article here regarding this topic:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/12/06/warmth-strength-and-freedom-by-mary-kelly-sutton/

Here is part of that article for your careful thought and meditation:

Cold is a stress for the body. Touch your child’s fingers and toes — with your own warm hand.  (If your hand is cool/cold, first warm it up.) Then feel other parts: the trunk, front and back, abdomen, forehead, chest. The fingers and
toes should be as warm as the warmest part of the body. If they are
not, the child is dealing with cold stress, and you can help him/her a
great deal by changing the clothing so that fingers and toes become as
warm as they should be. Shunting blood away from the extremities is a
survival mechanism in the body. It protects the vital organs (heart,
lungs, liver, kidneys).

Cold stress can make children overactive, in an effort to warm up.
Warm clothing allows them to settle down, join in group activity,
focus and learn.

In some children coldness interferes with normal weight gain. I have
seen one wiry 5-year-old in New Hampshire who gained two pounds in the
first week her mother put her in wool underwear.

Runny noses commonly are related to coldness. And coldness is a
significant factor in more important immune suppression in a very
significant way. ‘The skin is the proper place for disease to happen,’
states an old holistic medicine pearl. If the skin is cool, the battle
with a common germ cannot be waged on the skin. The blood has gone
into the deeper organs, and with it, the battle is carried to deeper
organs.”

I know it can be such a challenge to keep clothes on children!  Just keep reminding yourself that just whilst you wouldn’t drive around without a child in a car seat, you will not under-dress your child.  Be firm that when we put clothes on, we (get to go outside, go eat our snack, etc.).  Hold that intention in your heart that this really is important for their health and carry that through!

My favorite place to order woolens and woolen/silk blends is through www.greenmountainorganics.com.  However, I am completely not above thrift store finds.  :)

Emotional warmth is an essential part of parenting.  This was a three-day challenge I posted last October and think it would be an excellent time to renew this focus (the latter part of this focuses on spouses, so change the focus and  language as appropriate to your household!)

But I think the other thing to think about sincerely is how to convey EMOTIONAL warmth to our children.  How many times a day do we laugh with our children?  Hug our children or have them sit on our lap?  Smile at our children?  Say positive and encouraging things to our children?

So, my three-day challenge to you is this:

Set a goal for how many times a day you are going to try to laugh, hug, hold, smile and say positive things to your child and act on it!   This may seem very stilted and forced, but sometimes we all need that structure in order to make a behavior more automatic.  See after three days if there is a difference in not only you and your children, but in the peacefulness of your household.  Can you also  do this with your spouse?  How many encouraging things do you say to him each day?  How many times do you walk by him and touch his hand or touch him on the back or give him a kiss? “

After you hit three days of trying this, I would encourage you to mark forty days on your calendar and consciously try this for 40 days. I feel it takes 40 days to affect a true behavioral change!

Many blessings,

Carrie

Back to Basics: Parenting With A Plan

We are continuing with our back to basics series this month by remembering to look at our parenting as part of a bigger picture and an overall plan.  Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result!

Many families have told me that having a family mission statement is helpful to them.  Here is a bit of a post from May 2010 in which I addressed mission statements, and a little about life and homeschooling:

You are the architect, you are the designer, you are the artist of your life and the lives of your children.  If things are overwhelming right now,it is okay to say no to things.  It is okay to set boundaries.  It is okay to be real and authentic and honest about what you can and cannot handle!

One thing that always helps me is  to go back to our Family Mission Statement.  Here is a back post about writing a family mission statement, you can see that here:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/05/08/creating-a-family-mission-statement/  Once you have this piece of paper, please do make sure to review it, use it, keep it in your mind as you make decisions.  It should be like a guiding compass for your family and the things you choose to do as a family.

The other thing that can keep you centered is to have your own Personal Mission Statement or what some people call a Personal Vision Statement.  The more you can develop yourself, learn about yourself, and calm and center yourself (which means actually figuring out what makes you feel calm and centered to begin with :) ), your family will absolutely benefit.  Children want a mother that is calmly in control of things and can be a resource, a guide, a boundary, a wall to bounce off if need be – but a gentle, calm and nurturing presence.  What children don’t want is out- of- control, screaming and yelling parents where the whole atmosphere of the house feels stressed and falling apart.  You can get to the first thing, but you have to stop and think.

  • Think about what would make the biggest difference in your life to make yourself more calm.
  • Think about what your priorities really are, and how your life could reflect that. 
  • How could your marriage be a priority?  What would that look like?
  • If your children are small, they must be a priority.  They are depending upon you to guide them and to love them and to teach them.
  • What do you want your homeschooling adventure to look like?  Have you assessed your child and know what they need to work on – not just “skill-wise” but also emotionally, physically, spiritually?  What do they need to develop into “whole” human beings?  What would your homeschooling look like to reflect that? 

The process of writing mission statement, whether personal or family,  should help you start to figure out how to discern the core values in your family and then you can move on to HOW you show your core values.  These values should show in how you treat your spouse, how you treat your children, and how you interact with those outside of your family.  Just as an example, our Family Mission Statement involves Kindness, Integrity and Positive Attitudes.  The values are what we come back to time and time again.  Try this process for yourself and see what arises from it!

Do you have a parenting notebook where you plan, write, dream, read?  Here is a back post about that:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/11/22/my-notebook/  I would love it if you have a parenting notebook and you would like to share about this, or the process of when you made one.  Please do leave a comment and a link in the comment boxes to help other families get started!

What time do you take every week to learn more about parenting? To connect with parents who are parenting the way you wish to?  To talk with a parenting mentor?  To read something that will help you in your parenting?  You can see more about my personal parenting plan right here: http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/12/10/my-plan-for-personal-development-as-a-homemaker/

Take the time this week to set up a notebook or binder for yourself and get to work!

Many blessings,

Carrie

Back To Basics: How To Be Content

The foundation of the peaceful family is YOU.  If you are unhappy and discontent, your family is going to reflect this back to you.  Your spouse or partner will be unhappy and your children’s challenging behavior will increase.  Being content in your homemaking, in your life, and in your parenting is the foundation of a healthy and peaceful family life.

Here are my top ten ways to be content:

1.  Take everything to prayer and meditation.  The more time I spend connecting with my  Beloved Creator, the more I realize that I am His Beloved, the more smoothly things  go.  The more I take my worries and anxieties and questions about life, about my children, about where I am going,  to prayer, the  more peaceful I can be.

2.  Before you speak, before you act, think in LOVE first.  If you can think in love toward your partner, your children, your relatives, the better things will be.  And if you don’t act in love, love yourself and forgive yourself for BEING HUMAN.  It is okay to be human, and it is okay to not be perfect.  Sometimes perfection is in the striving.

3.  Attribute positive intent.  If someone is doing something that is challenging you, can you see it from their viewpoint?  Can you see it differently?  And if not, can you set a boundary on it?

4.  Discern the essential.  What is your family’s Mission Statement?  What kind of adults do you hope your children to be?  What would contribute to that?  If it is not contributing to that, can you set a boundary on it?

5.  Can you pare down?  Can you pare down “stuff”?  All “stuff” has maintenance, all stuff needs to be taken care of.  Can you find the beauty in simplicity?  Can you pare down activities?  

6.  Where is your warmth?  If you are thinking in love, you can show emotional warmth toward your family.  You can laugh, you can find joy, and you can be content with where you are.  It is good enough for right now.

7.  Surround yourself with content and positive people.  This will really help lift your spirits and keep you on track.

8.  Spend time in nature.  Nature has a way of making problems seem smaller.

9.  Strengthen the ties you have with your partner/spouse.  If you can face things together, it is easier to be content with what you have, and easier to be content with what you have.

10.  Take care of yourself….your body deserves your attention and time.  If you are suffering from poor health or things that will eventually lead to poor health, then you know how hard it is to be peaceful.  You have only one body, and there is only one you!  You are worthy of your own  time and energy!

Many blessings,

Carrie

Back to Basics: How To “Do” Gentle Discipline

 

Please excuse all the hiccups my computer is having…something is very wrong with my keyboard…..

So, in our last “back to basics” post, we looked at how to develop a framework in order to look at guiding our children  in a loving way.  Another post that may help stimulate some thought on this topic is this back post regarding how parents view children as “defiant”.  You can find that post here:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/09/16/a-few-fast-words-regarding-defiance-in-children-under-the-age-of-6/

When using gentle discipline, the question becomes what tools does one use to guide?  Here is a handy list of things to think about!

1. Your Own Inner Work/Physical State.  If you are exhausted, running ragged, not going to bed, not eating well, not exercising, not dressing yourself and looking pretty, I can almost guarantee that things on the home front will not be going well.  Please, please, step back from everything outside your family and home for a week and get your house in order as much as you can, go to sleep when your babies go to sleep, arrange some help (yes, you must ask! I know how hard that is, but people love you and it gives people a chance to give to you!).  You must have something to give to your children, and that starts with you.  There are many, many posts on here regarding parenting exhaustion and parenting burn-out and what to do.  Please use the search engine on this blog with those terms and see what comes up that resonates with you.

2.  Attachment and connection are key.  This is why I write so much about attachment on this blog.  We have recently been going chapter by chapter through the book “Hold On To Your Kids:  Why Parents Need To Matter More Than Peers” by Neufeld and Mate, and perhaps that will give you some background and inspiration.

How do you connect with a young child?  A young child is in  their body – hug them, kiss them, rub their backs, massage their hands and feet, pat them on the back, tickle them, rough house with them, hold them, carry them, treasure them – and do it at the times when things are falling apart.  Get down to their eye level and love them and support them, even if you don’t feel they are being lovable.  I have written several posts on the “love languages” of children that you can go back to and look at.  What is the love language of your child?  Do you know?  How do you use this EVERY DAY to help you?

Your relationship with this child is what carries the discipline. Please do not use “discipline” as an excuse to squash your child’s will and personality.  Understand your child’s temperament and use that to help and guide you.

Use your words like the pearls that they are!

3.  Imitation Rahima Baldwin Dancy says this in her book, “You Are Your Child’s First Teacher”:  “If you want to teach a certain behavior to your child, one of the best ways is to actually do it in front of (or with) him.  This demands that we as adults get up and actually do something, rather than giving the child orders or directions.”

4.  Humor – Lots of parents take parenting very seriously.  But please don’t take every word that comes out of your small child ‘s mouth so seriously and feel whatever they say is in deep need of serious explanation and weight. 

5. 

Distraction – this is a viable tool for all children under 7, and even children that are 7 or 8  can still be fairly distractible.  However, this takes creativity in the heat of the moment to think of an appropriate distraction.  Distraction is not a bribe; it is a way to change to scene to your advantage.

Distraction can also show itself by changing the environment.  Some children just need to be outside when they are upset!

6.  Using your words to paint a picture in the consciousness of your small child under the age of 7.   This is a Waldorf tool that is very useful with small children.  Instead of pulling children into their heads and into a thought-decision kind of process, try using phrases that paint a picture instead.  This can be anything from “Turn that siren down!” for a noisy little one or “Hop like a bunny over here for some food.”  You are re-directing behavior into something more positive through the images that arise from these types of phrases.  For those interested in more about pictorial imagery, please do see Donna Simmons’ bookstore and look under her audio downloads for her CD entitled, “Talking Pictorially” at www.christopherushomeschool.org.    There is also mention of this with examples on the free Christopherus Audio Download about Waldorf Education as a therapeutic education.

I have written an entire post on this subject here: http://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/04/01/talking-in-pictures-to-small-children/ 

And here is a post regarding talking to the seven and eight-year-old: http://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/02/26/how-to-talk-to-your-seven-and-eight-year-old/  

7.  On the subject of words, try limited choices, less words or no words at all – Sometimes just a look suffices more than a hundred words.  Try just helping your child get into their coat while you sing a song that you usually sing when you go outside.  Try just handing your child their toothbrush after their bath instead of a whole book about the necessity of dental hygiene. 

8.  Time-in.  According to Alfie Kohn, author of Unconditional Parenting,

“Sometimes parents are advised to use a time-out instead of spanking their kids – as though these were the only two options available. The reality, as we’ve seen, is that both of these tactics are punitive. They differ only with respect to whether children will be made to suffer by physical or emotional means. If we were forced to choose one over the other, then, sure time-outs are preferable to spankings. For that matter, spanking kids is preferable to shooting them, but that’s not much of an argument for spanking.”  -Alfie Kohn, Unconditional Parenting, page 65-66.

“Time-out is actually an abbreviation for time out from positive reinforcement. The practice was developed almost half a century ago as a way of training laboratory animals….When you send a child away, what’s really being switched off or withdrawn is your presence, your attention, your love. You may not have thought of it that way.” -Alfie Kohn, Unconditional Parenting, page 26-27.

So, consider the value of time-in instead.  Some families have a place where adults and children can sit together until they all calm down, some mothers just have their child sit near them while they do some sort of rhythmical work.

9.  Ignoring –yup, you heard me right.  The Gesell Institute books routinely recommend turning a blind eye to some of your child’s behaviors if it is not hurting others or themselves (or just driving you plain crazy!).  There are times to draw a line in the sand, but if you nit-pick every behavior, you are on the verge of demanding, and not commanding as an Authentic Leader.

10.  Physical follow-through – If you say something to a small child, you should expect to have to physically  help them follow through.  You should expect to have to physically hold an upset child if they need it.  The physicality of life with a small child is always there – hugs, kisses, a lap to sit on and help to do things as needed.  The child’s respect and dignity always needs to be respected, so you need to be calm when you are following through, but please remember a young child under 7 is probably not going to function well on verbal directives alone.

Rahima Baldwin Dancy states in her book, “You Are Your Child’s First Teacher”:  “It isn’t until elementary-school age that a child is ready to respond consistently to authority that is expressed only through the spoken word without being accompanied by actions. With the preschool age child, you need to correct and demonstrate again and again, but you can’t expect children to remember it.  Their memories simply aren’t that mature yet.”

11. RESTITUTION – How does the child make this right?  No moralizing, no lecture, just what ACTION can they take to make it right?  Do this AFTER a time-in, after everyone has calmed down!

11.  FREEZE!  One of the best tools in parenting is learning to take that quick pause in your mind’s eye and ask yourself if what you are about to do is going to help your child be the adult they were meant to be; is it going to escalate or de-escalate the situation, is it going to teach your child something or is it just a moment of anger for you that will pass?

Many blessings,

Carrie

Back to Basics: The Framework for Gentle Discipline

This month we are headed “Back to Basics” in honor of The Parenting Passageway’s birthday.  We will be taking a look at the hallmarks of peaceful family life:  ourselves and our framework toward the family, children and gentle discipline, the environment in which we live, rhythm and moving into looking at the holistic child and education.  This promises to be a renewing month!

So, to kick us off, here is one of the first posts I ever wrote on gentle discipline (October 2008), updated for today!

GENTLE DISCIPLINE AS AUTHENTIC LEADERSHIP

From infancy on, children need loving guidance which reflects acceptance of their capabilities and sensitivity to their feelings.”  THE WOMANLY ART OF BREASTFEEDING, published by La Leche League International.

 

“In practice, gentle discipline means making mistakes, working with your own anger, and growing as a person.”  (Adventures in Gentle Discipline, pageXXii).

“We would like to think that children learn the civilizing virtues- caring, compassion, consideration- simply by our good example, but most children need a little more than that. A clear definition of acceptable behavior, our expectation that they can meet the standard, and periodic guidance when they stray- all of these are necessary…..Guiding our children-lovingly-is an important part of caring for them and helping them to be loving and lovable to people within our families and beyond.” (THE WOMANLY ART OF BREASTFEEDING, page 256-7, Seventh Revised Edition).

“Gentle discipline means, quite simply, placing empathy and respect at the very center of your parenting.”  (Adventures in Gentle Discipline, page 3).

Okay, quick!  When I say the phrase, “Gentle Discipline” what comes into your mind – the first thing? No censoring!  For many of us, gentle discipline equates with permissiveness and the thought of a Kids Gone Wild Video!  For others of us, gentle discipline equates with being the parent, who, for lack of better phrasing, is the “valium parent” –you know, the parent who never raises their voice, the parent who is always calm and composed.  “Okay, you just pierced your little brother’s nose with a screwdriver in the garage?  Okaaaay, maybe next time you should ask before you do that!”

Maybe some of us are sad when we hear this phrase, because we would like to not be yelling at our children, or hitting our children, but we are not sure what other tools we have in our toolbox to use.

What if I told you I see gentle discipline in a completely different light?

Many parents equate discipline to punishment.  My Webster’s Dictionary defines discipline some other ways, including as “instruction”; “training that corrects, molds, or perfects the mental faculties or moral character”.  I love the idea of discipline being a way to guide or lead a child. There are consequences to the behaviors we choose as individuals, but many times we punish children for being in a developmentally normal state.

Eda LeShan, in her wonderful article, “Please Don’t Hit Your Kids”, published in Mothering Magazine in Spring of 1996, writes:  “We actually tend to hit children who are behaving normally.  A two year old bites because he doesn’t yet know better ways to deal with problems.  A five year old steals crayons at school because five is too young to control the impulse to take what she wants when she wants it.  A 10 year old lies about having joined some friends in teasing a newcomer at school, since at this age it’s normal to want social approval more than fairness.  It takes many years to learn self-restraint.  This is not a crime.  And making children feel guilty and bad doesn’t solve the problem.  What is called for is help in making retribution, having adults explain why such behavior must be overcome.”

Guiding with loving firmness.  THE WOMANLY ART OF BREASTFEEDING, page 257 states: “Discipline is a much maligned word, often associated with punishment and deprivation. Yet discipline actually refers to the guidance which we as parents lovingly give our children to help them do the right things for the right reasons- to help them grow into secure, happy, and loving persons able to step out in to the world with confidence in their own ability to succeed in whatever they set out to do.”

“Bear in mind that to say children are equally deserving of dignity and respect does not have to mean that the relationship itself is of equal power. As a parent, you have a broader view and more life experience to draw from, and these are assets you bring to the child as his adult caretaker. You also bear more responsibility for choices surrounding your child than he does.” (Adventures in Gentle Discipline, page 11).

So, there is another oft-maligned word that  I believe needs to be attached to the idea of discipline as a way to guide a child – and that word is AUTHORITY.  Authority is a word that leaves a bad taste in many parents’ mouths.  “Authority?  We don’t need any of that here!  Our home is not a police state!”

Well, when I looked up authority in my Webster’s Dictionary, it said that authority is “a citation from a book or file used in defense or support”, “a decision taken as a precedent”, or finally, “power to influence or command thought, opinion or behavior.”   Influencing my child’s behavior is part of my job as a parent, but I felt it did not get across everything I wanted to say in this situation.  Then I noticed that authority and the word a few entries above, authentic, share the same root.  The dictionary says that authentic is “authoritative” and “worthy of acceptance or belief as conforming to fact of reality:TRUSTWORTHY.”

So, perhaps you could view your path in gentle discipline as a way to authentically guide your child.  You, as a trustworthy, authoritative guide. You, providing loving boundaries that will guide your child toward being a healthy adult.

Truly AUTHENTIC LEADERSHIP. 

How can you be an authentic parent today, building connection and warmth with your child to guide them effectively into the adult you would like them to be?  What kind of adult do you want them to be?  What values does your family hold most dear and how do you SHOW that in action to your children?

Many blessings,

Carrie