Doing Gentle Discipline….Even If You Don’t Think You Know How

I think so many of us want a better connection and closeness for our relationship with our children, and we all want our children to grow up to be happy and functional adults. Yet, sometimes I think parents think these two things are at odds with one another – like connection and the things required to be a functional adult are separate and almost at odds in a way.  Love may be this important but soft commodity and surely children need stronger discipline to make them grow into success, right?  I think that’s what people think.

Many of us grew up in punitive if not downright abusive households where we weren’t heard on any level.  Many of us know we don’t want that in our families, but then we aren’t sure what else we want and how would that work.  Is any level of confict okay?  How do we handle conflict without damaging?  In order to be a gentle parent, does that mean no boundaries whatsooever? Will I damage the connection I have with my child by setting boundaries?

Secure attachment in the years of infancy and toddlerhood of our children is extremely important and sets a foundation for the rest of a child’s life.  However, attachment and connection must change to be developmentally appropriate as a child ages, and this involves boundaries set with love and respect.  So if you are wondering how to be a better guiding force for your child and having a peaceful family, it begins with the end in mind.  What do you want your family to look like?  What do you want your relationship with your child or teen to look like?  Do you want your child to be a functional adult, and if you don’t want to work towards that in the school aged years, when will you start helping them be more independent?

Love and respect is the foundation of  all of this, but do not mistake respect for equality.  In the scheme of things, you are the adult and while the child has input at the points that they can, you have a lot of life experience to hopefully guide them through the things they can’t think through as well for themselves (and you can use your experience to help them learn these skills as developmentally appropriate through your modeling).

Attachment to your child is also not the same as doing everything for them.  Attachment is supporting and guiding, and letting them make the small mistakes or the decisions they can handle with the consequences included without you rescuing them as if they are incapable.  To do so, takes away their power as an individual. For example, you can help a teenager brainstorm ways to deal with consequences, but you cannot remove the consequence.  Otherwise,  nothing has been gained by this practice of making smaller decisions.

Gentle parenting means getting a handle on our own triggers, building community so when we are exhausted our children are not bearing the brunt of this without other adults around to help. It means taking care of ourselves, and letting our children know they are okay with trusted other people besides just us. It means not just sucking in our child’s energy and spitting it back at them.  If our children are wound tight, we might need to be loose.  If our children are angry and frustrated, we might need to be calm.  We can empathize and sympathize, but we also need to be the grounded one.

Halloween is in two days, so please share with me your favorite gentle disciple tips and tricks!

Love,
Carrie

 

Cozy Warmth for Fall

Waldorf Education puts a high priority on warmth as a quality we want to imbue into the lives of children for their health and ours. And whether or not you follow Waldorf Education, I do think there is something about fall that we all crave, even if we live in more southern climates where it doesn’t get as cold.  Even here in the Deep South, there is nothing but layers and short boots and pumpkin spice everywhere! (I am currently wearing a sweater even though it is 68 degrees Fahrenheit outside because, you know, it is October).

Warmth is about more than just physical warmth.  When a child is very little, we think about warmth in the physical sense – hats for babies, layers for littles, warming foods and warm drinks for winter. Providing physical warmth for our children via layers of clothing and hats is so important, especially for young children whose physical body doesn’t work like an adult. Children have a metabolic rate that runs faster than an adult’s.  Therefore, under the age of nine especially, they are unlikely to know whether they are truly cold or not.  I am sure we have all experienced the child that is swimming in cold water and is literally blue, but doesn’t realize they are cold.  This is common!  I love silk/wool blends for winter, and for littles we do recommend three layers on top and two layers on the bottom for cold climates.

However, I also want to point out that  warmth is about creating a sense of love, of acceptance and belonging.  I want to give you some very concrete ways to do this in your own home for this special time of year.

My first tip is to create  a rhythm that carries your family, especially for those under the age of 12 (although even teens need and crave rhythm!). The staples of rhythm, which is a loose order of the day, includes things such as wake-up times and sleeping times, but also mealtimes, and a flow of activities through the day and the week.  This provides an important sense of security for children and helps us know what is coming next without spending a lot of time re-creating the wheel every day.  Children can then use this energy for growing and playing and not use it in worrying about what comes next in their day.  Schools have a rhythm to their day, day cares have a rhythm to their day, and homes do have a rhythm even if you don’t think that you do – humans are rhythmical.

In creating the warmth of fall, we can add markes of warmth to our rhythm. Maybe breakfast is candlelight with warm porridge and warm hot chocolate or tea.  Maybe if you homeschool, you have lanterns or tea lights in your schooling space.  Maybe bedtime involves snuggly blankets, and a cup of warm milk of choice before bed.

My second tip is to incorporate your child’s love language into your day for a sense of warmth and belonging. Children need warmth not only in terms of hugs and holding, but in words of affirmation and in spending time together. We can do this easily within a space of rhythm and working together in the house or garden or with taking care of our animals.

Lastly, warmth is done well and rightly when we share with others.  If we help our children spread joy and warmth to others, whether through helping the family or helping neighborhoods or through service and volunteering opportunities, we can bring warmth to the world.

I would love to hear your favorite tips for autumn warmth.

Blessings and love,
Carrie

 

 

Partner Strong!

I think fall, with its turning inward, is an amazing time to check in on your relationship with  your significant other.  Are you feeling separate, distant, strong, powerful together?  What things are working – and not?

It’s hard to give general advice as to  how to keep any intimate relationship particularly strong as I think every couple is so unique and what works for one couple may not work for another.   But over the years, I have seen a common thread of either drifting apart or pulling together when people reach their 30’s and 40’s, so I have a few ideas to toss out……

  • How are you keeping your friendship alive?  If you don’t talk about your day, your hopes, your fears, your dreams but only talk about how to pass off children to activities or who needs to pick up something at the store, it’s easy to not feel very invested in each other personally – more like you are just managing practical stuff together like housemates.   Gottman’s work ( I covered his book “The Seven Principles For Making Marriage Work” on this website chapter by chapter – you can find it under the Book Reviews header) talks about how partners make bids for each other’s attention.  Usually someone will try to get the other person’s attention, and then the partner responds (hopefully! – or not, sadly).  If you don’t respond to each other, it’s hard to be close!  You can read more about that in the summary of Chapter 5 of this book I wrote here: Chapter 5 summary
  • Some couples are really happy to do all the things as a family with their children, and I think that’s great if it works for them! However, I will say my husband and I really value any time we get to go out just us or with another couple.  We started taking overnight trips just the two of us a few years ago, and that was also really wonderful for our connection.
  • Your love language is also very important to know about yourself and your partner.  Sometimes I think we don’t feel love or our partner doesn’t feel love because we aren’t expressing it in a way that is understood.  Have you read the Five Love Languages book?
  • Physical intimacy is important – and for that I think several things need to be in place:  feeling close to each other and like you can have fun and trust one another, you both need to have decent health (if you are perpetually falling asleep on the coach at night or just so stressed out all the time it’s hard to think about being physically intimate), and you need time to unwind and relax without worry together (ie, some couples can deal with children or teens being up and awake and other couples really can’t and feel stressed about it).  I think the older we get, we do need to be on top of the health changes.  Hormonal changes for both men and women can make things different than they were in the past, and you have to be close enough to talk about it!

But lastly, I think it’s mostly about having fun! If you can have fun together and laugh through all the things life throws at us, you will enjoy each other and be closer to each other.

I would love to hear your thoughts on being partner strong!  What helps the most?

Blessings,

Carrie

“Kids, Parents, And Power Struggles” – Chapter 5

This is a GREAT chapter called, “Stopping the Tantrums.” Teaching children how to recognize their emotions and take actions to soothe and calm themselves is really, really important.  It takes years to practice this, because many of us are still working on this as adults (and yet we expect our children to control themselves like adults!)

Think of the way we respond to children.  The scenario author Mary Sheedy Kurcinka gives on page 74 is that of a child coming home from school where every.single.thing has gone wrong.  The child comes home and falls apart.  Did this ever happen to you as a child?  Were you heard?  Or did you hear:

  • Go sit in your room
  • It’s no big deal
  • Or did you hear nothing?  Child problems were ignored because somehow they weren’t as valid as adult problems.
  • Did your parents hug you?  And did you want to be hugged or touched at that time?
  • Did they get in your face and match your intensity?

The author describes pulling out a big bag of fluffy white cotton balls and having parents imagine themselves soothing and diffusing those strong emotions with our children. What would that look like?  What would the words be?  How would we want to be treated?  Teaching children to soothe and calm themselves begins with US. We can choose to soothe and calm, and our children will learn to do the same.

A child’s emotions can be completely hijacked by their fight or flight system.  The author describes on page 77, “Does Your Child Need To Escalate To Be Heard?” on page 77, a common scenario.  She writes, “The more you know about your child’s day and life, the easier it is to pick up the more subtle cues.”   It all begins with connection.  

If we are stressed, our children are stressed too.  When we are stressed, things that don’t normally bother us do bother us, and we either don’t pick up on other’s cues as well (the author calls this “neural static”) or we overract.

Several of the strategies to help bring down intensity:

  • Get down on eye level.  Listen.  You are not getting in your child’s face to yell at them, you are getting on their level to listen to them.
  • Allow enough time for transitions, because this allows time to monitor emotions and then you have time to help manage the emotions.
  • Physcial activity – kids and adults NEED it.  A twenty minute physical break can be really important.
  • Space -sometimes the best thing we can teach our children is to say, “I need space.”
  • Deep breathing
  • Distraction
  • Sensory Activities

Parents wonder if this isn’t SPOILING the child.  The point is this is the first step, not the only step.   Have a plan for soothing for all ages, and teach teens to exercise DAILY (see more about that on page 86).  If you do all of this, and your child still just rages, it’s time to call in a professional.  They can teach your child the best strategies, and it’s easier to do it sooner rather than later.

We are here to be the alley of our child.  Let’s make a plan.

Blessings and love,

Carrie

The Season Of Light

I love this time of year! Finally, the temperatures have finally dropped here in the Deep South, it hasn’t rained for too many days in a row yet (winters have tended to be rainy the past few years), and we still have had blue skies most days!  The leaves are finally turning colors, and the world is full of October.

But even more than that, I love this season of light we are entering into. I love how it begins with the ideas of harvest and jack o’lanterns, and heads into the festivals of All Saints Day, Diwali, Martinmas with its Lantern Walk, the soft candles of Thanksgiving dinner, and the lights of the winter holiday season.

Are you ready to bring this light to your family? Here are some of my favorite ways, by festival and by seasonal ideas:

Diwali is actually coming up on October 27, 2019 this year.  We usually celebrate this within our neighborhood. There is also usually a large celebration at our local library, and at our local mandir that is open to the public.   The largest mandir outside of India happens to be in my metro area, and it is always open for tours; you can read more about it here.

I don’t love Halloween, (sorry, I know many do), but I do love harvest and pumpkins (and i do have a few back posts about Halloween on this blog if you are searching).  I so like  what the book “Festivals With Children” by Brigitte Barz says about experiencing Halloween as a transition point between Michaelmas and Martinmas:  “The candle inside the pumpkin or turnip, both fruits of the earth, is like the very last memory and afterglow of the summer sun with its ripening strength.  Then for Martinmas a candle is lit within the home-made lantern; this is the first glow of a light with a completely different nature, the first spark of inner light.”   The holiday we actually celebrate the most is All Saints Day and you can read some of our traditions in this back post.

November 11 is Martinmas.   Martinmas marks the burial of St Martin of Tours (316-397 AD).    St. Martin may be well-known for his compassionate gesture of sharing his cloak with a beggar.  This charitable gesture is at the heart of this festival for many Waldorf schools, who hold coat drives and other charitable drives around this festival. One symbol of this is working with light from lanterns in the traditional Lantern Walk.

Regarding Lantern Walks, the authors of the book “All Year Round” write:  “The traditional way of celebrating Martinmas is with lantern walks or processions, accompanied by singing.  St. Martin recognized the divine spark in the poor man of Amiens, and gave it the protection of his own cloak.  When we make a paper lantern, we, too, may feel that we are giving protection to our own little “flame” that was beginning to shine at Michaelmas, so that we may carry it safely through the dark world.  It may only be a small and fragile light- but every light brings relief to the darkness.”  There is more about this festival with links to stories, how to make lanterns, the idea of coat drives and warmth and more in this post.

Then that leads into the gratitude of Thanksgiving in the United States; Thanksgiving is one of America’s oldest festivals, and one of ten federal holidays declared by the United States Congress.  Although schoolchildren often trace it back to the Pilgrims and a harvest gathering, the first national observation of Thanksgiving was actually proclaimed by President George Washington in 1789.  Thanksgiving was celebrated  erratically after this date by individual states and at different times, and Sarah Hale, editor of the and , championed the idea of having a national day of Thanksgiving for nearly 15 years before Abraham Lincoln proclaimed Thanksgiving to be the Thursday in the month of November in 1863.  We can use this holiday for gratitude, for being together and making wonderful food, and for serving others.

Lastly, we head into the Season of Light.  My family celebrates Advent, so I have many posts about Advent but also other different winter festivals on this site.  Here is a back post about Advent and other Winter Festivals in the Waldorf Home but there are many back posts about each specific winter holiday (St. Nicholas Day, the weeks of Advent, Winter Solstice).  If you are looking for Winter Solstice ideas, try this back post as the reader comments with ideas were terrific!

This is a wonderful time to draw inward, and to really penetrate what you want these festivals to be about for your family and how you will celebrate these special times of closeness together.

I can’t wait to hear what you have planned!

Blessings,
Carrie

 

 

“Kids, Parents, and Power Struggles”

This chapter is entitled, “Enforcing Your Standards and Staying Connected.”  Author Mary Sheedy Kurcinka begins this chapter with a story about her fifteen year old daughter who wanted to rent a hotel room with friends to have a party instead of going to the homecoming dance.  They said no, and their daughter complained but didn’t scream and yell or give her parents the silent treatment.  The author writes,” What I realized is that over the years, my daughter had learned our family’s standards – not perfectly, mind you; she is human- but pretty darned well.  Those standards had helped her keep her cool and continue to work with us.  But it’s often difficult to imagine how you can teach your child those skills when his screams drown out your words or his blows are bruising your arm.  How do you soothe and  calm him when he’s kicking and flailing at you?  What do you do when he swears at you?  In the heat of the moment you have to help your child to stop reacting and instead to learn to choose a more respectful and suitable way to express his strong feelings. ”

The steps to this process are all practiced separately over time; only then can the child learn for him or herself to put the steps together to have a more mature response.  The steps are:

  • Have standards and expectations.  That is the foundation, and gives you the ability to say, “This behavior isn’t right; let’s make a different choice.”
  • Enforce the standards of reaction. By that, do we accept hitting as a response to a standard?  Do we accept being sworn at?  We can then stay, “Stop. In our family, we don’t hit.  We don’t swear at each other – you can tell me how angry you are!” Your words have to match your actions, and usually this step is more effective in children who are not yet adolescents.
  • Keep your standards consistent.  You cannot punish when you are in a bad mood, or let things go because you are in a great mood.  No one can predict how you will react if you aren’t consistent, and that can lead a child or teen toward being hypervigilant and prone to being frustrated and feeling helpless because the child doesn’t know where the line is.
  • Deal with guilt.  It is so hard to see our children upset, crying, sad, frustrated, angry.  However, if we avoid all boundaries, our children may not be very nice to be around. If we can’t help them handle their strong feelings, we are showing them that those feelings are not acceptable, and that we are helpless when they feel strongly.
  • Match your actions with your words.  Shouting isn’t action.  Yelling isn’t action.  We need to stop and move to stop our child.
  • Review your standards with the child BEFORE you get in the situation again.
  • Teach your child what they CAN do!  Teach them how to act when they are frustrated or upset.  
  • Practice with your child.  You can pretend and role play the situation with smaller children and go over the situation verbally with older children.
  • Consequences are okay.  Consequences are planned out, laid out, discussed before the situation occurs.
  • If you make a mistake, it’s okay!  There are no perfect parents.  It is okay to admit you didn’t handle something right.  It is okay. too, to have backup.  From page 69, “Research has shown that if one adult says what the standard is, kids may or may not get it.  But if two people say what the standard is, even weeks later, kids still know the standard and follow it.  So if you want to increase your effectiveness, get a backup.”  If you and your partner end up fighting instead of backing each other up, just give each other grace.  Learning to work together is a process that takes time and it involves creating a plan.  
  • You can always change the standards.  If you have been doing things that hurt each other instead of helping, you can always come together and decide what to do differently.

Hope you enjoyed Chapter Four!  On to Chapter Five!

Many blessings,

Carrie

Manbabies

Manbabies are the subject of sarcastic definitions and memes on the Internet….here is an example from Urban Dictionary:

Manbabies:

A man who acts like a baby. If he doesn’t get his way, he becomes crabby and unable to work with. thinks he’s always right. Can be angered and upset by anything.

Must proceed with caution!

If you come into contact with a Manbaby, back away quickly and run like hell.

Manbaby’s are good at concealing themselves amongst society. They seem normal at first but throw fits not long after dating them. Be wary.

-From Urban Dictionary

I am so fortunate because TERRIFIC and WONDERFUL partners and dads write me every single day!  I am so grateful for them!  I am married to someone who is the complete opposite of a manbaby and I am grateful for that, every day of our 27 years of marriage.  However, I have to say being 49 years old can be a bit disheartening because I see a lot of women in their mid to late 40’s and early 50’s dealing with divorce.  

Some of it is infidelity and growing apart…but a large reason is women who have killed themselves for years doing EVERYTHING and her spouse or partner essentially  wanted to do nothing at all, sometimes not even wanting to work, and who certainly didn’t act like they wanted a close emotional relationship with their family – partner or children.  They wanted to do what they wanted to do, and it didn’t really involve the family.

Selfishness in romantic relationships has always existed. In this sense, the idea I think people are trying to convey with “manbaby” is maybe just a new term for something that has been around for ages.  So, my definition of a manbaby  might be a little bit different then the Urban Dictionary one. My indicators, not all inclusive but a few brief points  in the context of family life goes something like this:

  • Does your partner want to at least equally contribute to the finances of your relationship? Does your partner hold tight finances over your head but buys whatever he wants? Can you even talk about finances?  That’s partnership level stuff in a relationship.
  • Does your partner support and nourish and protect you? That’s the friendship/lover side of a relationship.
  • Do you find equity in household chores and caretaking?  Inside and outside, lawns and garbage and car care and cooking?  Or are you doing EVERY single thing every week, including working outside the home, taking care of children, and everything thing else?
  • Does your partner do anything with the children – does he change diapers, feed them, help set boundaries, do bedtime, help with homework, help arrange so you are not always on and that you can have time by yourself? Or is every single thing an unwanted chore and source of complaint?
  • Is your partner verbally and emotionally supportive?
  • Does your partner want to be home or are they always gone out with friends or zoned out in front of a screen?

I know relationships can be more complicated than the famous Ann Landers question, “Are you better off with or without him?” – especially when it involves children and marriage. It’s complicated!!    And sometimes there are extenuating circumstances such as addiction, mental illness and more.  Sometimes I do wonder though if the whole phenomenon/idea of manbabies is sort of a cover way of saying “narcissist” – you can always look up narcissist and find a therapist specializing in how to deal as the partner of a  narcissist if you think that is what you are dealing with.

However, not withstanding all that, maybe a better question is this:

Can this relationship become legendary? Can we be an amazing, communicative, connected TEAM that drives the family?

 How can we move towards this?

What would that look like?

Is my partner or spouse open to that?

Perhaps the second better question than a casual meme or definition found in Urban Dictionary is:  Can relationship dynamics change?

I guess I am always hopeful that relationships can get better, that we can get better.  Maybe you are saying  right now, hey, my partner and I are ready!  We have talked about it and we are ready to change our lives and level up!  I love this, I have seen it happen, I think it is possible if both parties are open and narcissism is not involved.

But How?

  • Clear and open communication
  • Visionary goals set together!
  • Counseling
  • Time and attention on your actual relationship, not just the children. You are a team, you are the beginning of the family as a unit and after your children are grown up and living their own lives, you will be together again without them living with you.
  • Respect and appreciation for each other and each other’s strengths

A few recommended readings:

Feel free to DM me admin@theparentingpassageway.com and share your thoughts or comment here.

Blessings,
Carrie