Book Study: Kids, Parents, and Power Struggles

We are kicking off our new book study on Mary Sheedy Kurcinka’s “Kids, Parents, and Power Struggles:  Winning for a Lifetime.”  Some of you may be familiar with Mary Sheedy Kurcinka’s book, “Raising Your Spirited Child,” but this book is just as wonderful and I think applicable across a wide range of ages and stages. So grab a copy of the book and follow along!  Also, check out IG and FB @theparentingpassageway for tips/reminders each week based off some of the ideas in each chapter so we can all have winning families and be the parents we want to be!

I love how Mary Kurcinka writes, ” On the surface power struggles look like a tug of war.  Parents and kids pitted against one another.  Opposing forces pulling in different directions.  Two individuals at odds with each other, both determined to win!  The trouble is that if you win by simply outmuscling your child, you still feel lousy.  There’s little pleasure in victory when your child is left distressed and angry.  If you lose, it’s even worse.  When kind of a parent can’t even get a child to brush her teeth or finish her homework? Power struggles are frustrating.”

What a great summary of how things really go!  Who hasn’t feel angry or frustrated as a parent?

The reality is that a power struggle is like the tip of an iceburg.  Below the surface, every power struggle is about feelings and needs.  And feelings and needs encompass both parties involved.  Recognizing emotions and building relationships by responding to emotion is a way to deal with power struggles, because power struggles aren’t really about winning or losing.  

“Every power struggle offers you the opportunity to connect with your child or to disconnect.” (page 4)  If we can connect with our children, we can help our children and ourselves  cooperate, get along with each other – and play for the same team.  If we can become more emotionally intelligent, then our ability to manage our own intensity and our own triggers increases.

You can have a more harmonious home; emotional coaching is the key.  Seek first to understand and then be understood.

More to come on this wonderful book!

Blessings,
Carrie

Book Study: Kids, Parents, and Power Struggles

We are kicking off our new book study on Mary Sheedy Kurcinka’s “Kids, Parents, and Power Struggles:  Winning for a Lifetime.”  Some of you may be familiar with Mary Sheedy Kurcinka’s book, “Raising Your Spirited Child,” but this book is just as wonderful and I think applicable across a wide range of ages and stages. So grab a copy of the book and follow along!  Also, check out IG and FB @theparentingpassageway for tips/reminders each week based off some of the ideas in each chapter so we can all have winning families and be the parents we want to be!

The authors states in the “Greetings!” section that she saw families that were winning and gives examples of the parent who could scoop up a toddler headed for a meltdown and totally change the direction, the parents who can just raise an eyebrow and their child actually stops doing what the parent asked them not to do, parents and teenagers living together happily.  So what’s the secret for the rest of us?  Part of what she discovered, outside of love, was the idea of emotional intelligence.  There is a great sentence on page  xiv:

People who are emotionally intelligent are able to use their knowledge of emotions to nurture their most important relationships, and to build the connections that lead them to want to work together.

Read that again.  So does that mean if things are not going well, or if we have a spirited child, or a troubled teenager, that we aren’t emotionally intelligent?  Not necessarily; after all, things happen.  Life happens.  Sometimes we are just tired in the trenches.  But, it could also mean maybe we need a reminder or a tune-up to use our emotional intelligence to build a family team, to connect.  Perhaps we need a reminder to use this to help OUR CHILDREN learn to recognize their own emotions and take care of their own emotions if they are old enough – just like we teach them to take care of their physical bodies. 

But in order to do this, we have to be able to take care of our OWN strong emotions.  And I think many of us never learned how.  I think that’s why as an American society in particular, we see domestic violence/intimate partner violence, why we have an opioid epidemic, why people drink a lot after work, why people stuff their emotions down.    And part of dealing with our strong emotions involves some things many people try to avoid:

  • being vulnerable with others
  • building up a tight-knit support community (family members or not!  I think today most people say their support is NOT their extended family but chosen family)
  • learning to communicative in a way that is not passive-aggressive or full of sarcasm or put-downs, but in a way that says in a heartfelt way, this is what I need, this is what I hear you saying, can you recognize me and how can we work together
  • self-care – if we are completely exhausted, constantly on the go, never eating good food or drinking enough or exercising or taking care of our spiritual life, how can we hope to have enough to give our children or to be able to teach our children?

Just a few of my thoughts off these brief pages.  So grab your copy of the book, and look forward to diving into Chapter 1 on Monday!

Blessings,
carrie

 

 

 

The Winning Family: Increasing Self-Esteem In Your Children and Yourself

Who’s pulling your strings?

Chapter 21 is called “Who’s Pulling Your Strings?” and I love it because it points out that “growing up is the process of making the shift from an external to an internal authority, or locus of control.”  So, when children are little they look to PARENTS to be the authority because they only have an external locus of control.   Over time, as a child develops and matures, children learn how be confident and how to have responsibility for themselves, their responses, their reactions.  (You might be wondering exactly HOW to do this; this is the cruxt of understanding development and why it is so valuable in parenting!  Go to the header and click “Development” and a drop down menu by age will appear.  These posts will give you guidance as to what to expect at each age and how you can empower your children to become functional adults.  More on raising functional adults later this week).

This shift occurs, in my opinion, when we let children make mistakes and learn from those mistakes.  The author writes on page 213, “Many people trust others more than they trust themselves.  They don’t know their own values, opinions, beliefs, habits or identity.  They look outside themselves for approval, for a sense of worth, for happiness.  Fully grown adults, they may still look to others to clean up after themselves or to rescue them from problems.”   The authors has an entire section on the difference between cancer patients who decide to just “die obediently right on schedule” versus patients who take control and decide their cancer is not incurable.

The author gives exercises to help develop your own sense of self on page 215, and I can’t wait to try them out! There is an entire list of great suggestions on page 216-217 of how to move your children from external locus of control to internal locus of control.  I highly suggest you look at these pages.

Chapter 22 is “Play”.  Play is a universal language.  We can meet children at their level during play.  The author talks about how children who are entertained with a “high TV diet” wait to be entertained for their play.  Children can actively entertain themselves, but screens often thwart that between humor that is mainly put-downs, violence, and commercials to encourage consumerism. Children are born with a love of work – work is play, play is work.  Parents make the distinction.  If we put back fun into our work, then our children will enjoy it as well.   Have fun, and laugh.  Laughter is the best immune booster out there!  Other great tips in this chapter.

Chapter 23 is “The Winning Environment” and I love this chapter as it talks about how children need “optimal growing conditions in order to thrive.” The author has a checklist for what a winning environment would look like on page 226. This is a short chapter, but worthy to read.  Chapter 24 is also short and called, “Extending Your Family” and talks about how important the extended family is – American families used to be multigenerational, extended families which is not always the case now.  Kids used to be able to see how grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, all got along with each other and resolved conflict.  They got to see how different people handled life events. If a parent died, other family members would step in and keep the family going (this happened to me, so this wasn’t so many generations ago).  Today we have smaller households, and people and families are more isolated. Communities are often not supportive.  Neighbors don’t always pop in and out. The hard work of raising children is  lightened by sharing with others.  I believe this is the main reason mothers are exhausted today: no community!  Different families are being formed today, one extended often by friends, and I think this is so valuable.  I couldn’t raise my children without my good friends at this point!

The last two chapters of the book are about the winning family, and how this family can come in many shapes and sizes and forms.  What they share is connection, a sense of the family team, a balance of being close and separate, and the idea that we are all better together than apart (my wording). There is no perfect family, like a highlight reel on social media.  But there can be a great family that is always becoming as we help create it and rise to challenges together.   Chapter 26,  the last chapter talks about “A Winning World,” because families are where societies begin.   “Self-esteem begins in the family, but doesn’t stop there.” – page 240.

This is a terrific book, and I highly encourage you to read it this summer if you haven’t already. I also encourage you to get a copy of “Kids, Parents, and Power Struggles” for our next book study!

Blessings,

Carrie

the winning family: increasing self-esteem in your children and yourself

Today we are delving into Chapters 19 and 20 in this wonderful book by author Dr. Louise Hart.  We are moving through this book, and will be starting our new book entitled  “Kids, Parents, and Power Struggles” by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka and it comes in audiobook and Kindle editions, along with the traditional paperback and hardcover versions, so grab a copy to be ready for  later summer!  Here is the Amazon link (no affiliation)

Chapter 19 is titled, “Obsession with Perfection.”  This chapter opens with a description of the author trying to be a perfect hostess but not enjoying herself or her guests.  She writes: “When I realized how much my perfectionist expectations were inhibiting my lifestyle and cramping my self-expression, I decided to make some major changes.  I gave myself permission to attempt things I never thought I could do and enjoy myself more.  In doing so, I have taken more risks, made more mistakes, and gained more wisdom.  From the vice of perfectionism, life is much more fun and a lot easier – page 179

I love this, and I think many of us can relate as recovering perfectionists. Being a perfectionist essentially means we are looking for what is wrong, for meeting unrealistic or impossible expectations.  Perfectiontists see the world as black and white – it is good or it is bad.  One thing wrong, one mistake, means things are bad.  Perfectionists often cannot accept themselves or others. Making decisions turns into anxiety – because what if it is the wrong decision?  It also turns into the perfectionist overworking, because no one else can do the work correctly. Children who are perfectionists often have all of this ahead of them.  Help tame your own perfectionism, and that of your children’s with the tips beginning on page 183.  In addition to these tips, I urge you to look at all the work and resources around growth mindset.

Chapter 20 is about “Cultural Barriers to Self-Esteem,” and begins with a description of codependency.  Major symptoms of codependency include low self-esteem; being a people pleaser; feeling like a martyr;  having poor boundaries; seeking outside distraction from feelings such as food, work, sex, alcohol; feeling addicted to and trapped in damaging relationships; feeling powerless the change relationships; being unable to express true love andintimacy.

Perhaps the very first step toward overcoming these things is our own self-talk.  Then we can listen to how we talk to our children. We should not speak negatively of ourselves or others, and we need to look at the good things about ourselves and others.  If indeed we must “love our neighbors as ourselves,” which is tenet of nearly every major religious and spiritual core, we must begin with loving ourselves.  We must learn to take good care of ourselves, and in this way we can take good care of our children too.

There are great sections in this chapter on always pleasing others (do you have a permanent smile because you are happy or because you want everyone to like you and you don’t think your feelings count?); assuming you are responsible for everyone else’s lives (news flash, people are responsible for themselves and you can’t control what other people do); that our bodies are okay the way they are; avoidance strategies and dualistic thinking; comparison traps and more. This is a great chapter full of practical advice!

We have five chapters left and then on to our new book!  I have gotten a lot of email that so many of you have really enjoyed this thought-provoking book!  Let me know what you think!

Blessings,

Carrie

the winning family book study: increasing your self-esteem in your children and yourself

Today we are up to Chapters 16, 17, and 18 in this wonderful book by author Dr. Louise Hart.  We are moving through this book, and will be starting our new book entitled  “Kids, Parents, and Power Struggles” by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka and it comes in audiobook and Kindle editions, along with the traditional paperback and hardcover versions, so grab a copy to be ready for  later summer!  Here is the Amazon link (no affiliation)

So, off to Chapter 16- “Touch.”  The chapter opens with “the recommended daily requirement for hugs is: four per day for survival, eight per day for maintenance, and twelve per day for growth.  Touch is vital for life.”  We have all heard stories of babies who were deprived of touch and died, and have seen the importance of parents, caregivers, and volunteers who cuddle infants born prematurely who have to stay in the hospital.  Touch disorders – neglect, abuse, incest – are all trauma that needs to be healed.  Touch is not just sexual; it can be warm, affectionate, nonsexual.  This can be a hard thing for people to learn. There is an exercise in this book on page 153 modeled from a program in New Zealand; try it out!  There is an entire section of this book devoted to child abuse.  Sexual, physical, emotional, and verbal abuse needs to be discussed and healed in order for us to parent effectively.  Behavioral patterns are handed down from one generation to the next, so sometimes we have the first opportunity in our family to choose to break the cycle.

Abuse may have some common background traits: a history of battering the belief that beating is the “right way to discipline”; a view of the child as inherently bad and deserving of punishment; unrealistic views of childhood development; exepctation that children will fulfill the parent’s needs; lack of warmth; a negative focus; poor communication skills; abuse of power (the child “must be taught who is boss”); overpunishment for small things; isolation.  The author gives suggestions and examples from parents who have overcome this cycle.

Chapter 17 is about “Beliefs.”  Most of our beliefs are not conscious, and were handed down to us from our parents. We create this belief pattern and system and use it in our lives, even if the pattern becomes outdated.  On page 164, the author offers up some questions to look more closely at belief systems – what do you believe about life? what do you believe about children?  what do you believe about parenting and family dynamics with a partner?  We also carry expectations, attitudes, judgment, and self-talk, and then we behave as if our map of beliefs is true.  Therefore, in order to change our own behavior, we must change our beliefs.  And, we must be careful what belief system we are instilling in our children – this, to me, is the true power of inner work for the family. We must constantly weed and prune out the beliefs that are not good for our lives.

Chapter 18 is about “Self-Talk.”  Our internal dialogue (self-talk) becomes our beliefs, which creates our feelings, and our feelings become the basis of behavior and our behavior becomes our concept of self.  Self-concept is how we view ourselves at any given moment, and self-image is how we imagine ourselves to be.

Affirmations can help us flip our self-talk, that internal dialogue.  I rountinely use affirmations and visualization. Dr. Hart writes on page 172, “We tend to act out feelings – with words or behavior.  If we feel like winners, we act like winners – working hard, thinking clearly, an ddoing what we need to do to win….Over time, we tend to become what we think about the most.”

Our worst thinking may be polarized (black or white, either or, no middle ground); taking everything personally; projecting what is going on in our own self-talk to others; catastrophizing (imaging and expecting the worst); blaming; overgeneralizing.  Affirmations that you can repeat 20-30 times a day can help.  One affirmation story noted in the book is,”I am a loving and effective mother.”  I think more mothers I know need to hear that, internalize that, and believe it!

Change your mind, change your life.   As an aside, if you skip ahead to the appendixes, there are many valuable tools there, including “100 + ways to praise and encourage a child,” my very favorite “New Rules for Kids,” leadership styles chart, locus of control charts, more resources for parents.  The appendixes are great!

I would LOVE to hear from you.  Do you use affirmations? Have you had an abusive past and how did you overcome it?  As always you can also email me at admin@theparentingpassageway.com if you need help getting your family life together via phone consultation!

Blessings and love,
Carrie

 

Guest Post Book Review: “A Gift of Wonder”

My wonderful friend Amanda Evans recently read the book “A Gift of Wonder:  A True Story Showing School as it Ought To Be,” written by teacher Kim Allsup, and kindly offered to share her impressions and thoughts here.  Thank you, Amanda!
A Gift of Wonder Review
Home education is such an interesting journey. The reasons that lead us to embark upon it, and the reasons that cause us to stay, are unique. There are, however, a few major themes that seem to beckon most of us to undertake the journey, and I believe one of those is to cultivate a wonder-filled childhood for our children.
Kim Allsup’s new teaching memoir, A Gift of Wonder: A True Story Showing School as it Ought to Be”, invites us to consider the points where childhood wonder and education intersect. While the book reflects Ms. Allsup’s journey as a Waldorf classroom teacher, I found it spoke to me as both a home educator and a parent, and I feel that her story is worth pondering for anyone involved in education. Certainly those committed to the Waldorf method will find it pedagogic. I feel it will join Torin Finser’s “School as a Journey” and Marjorie Spock’s “Teaching as a Lively Art” as a “must-read” Waldorf teaching memoir.
Each chapter of the book cradles a pedagogical lesson within the comfortable embrace of a well-told story – quite perfect for a Waldorf teaching memoir. Even adults learn better from a story. This made the book a breeze to read – a boon for any busy homeschooling parent, to be sure!
What I found particularly remarkable is how the lessons shared throughout truly transcend the vehicle of learning, whether that be through a traditional classroom setting, or a homeschool. I found myself nodding along in understanding as she shared about learning the dance between keeping order and being spontaneous, and realizing that we are, in fact, students of the student in this endeavor. I felt excitement with her when she experienced afresh that the key to effective teaching *truly is* meeting the child at their developmental stage – something that is foundational to the Waldorf approach, but never ceases to be incredible when we see it in action, right in front of us.
As I read the introduction, it dawned on me that what I was reading is, in fact, at the core of why many parents choose to homeschool. “It is impossible to underestimate the value of wonder in childhood. It is the mother’s milk of the soul, the human foundation for a lifelong worldview that affirms our joyful existence in the web of life. When we experience the condition of awe called wonder, we are lured outside ourselves and the soul is stretched and is irresistibly drawn to become one with a piece of the universe previously outside of our awareness.” (Intro, xv)
While I agree with the premise of the title, that school should be a habitat for developing wonder in its students, in practice, many of the available educational options fall short of that purpose. And often, those institutions that embrace such values are beyond the reach of families due to finances or extensive travel commitments (or a plethora of other reasons). So, when the school system cannot offer a space for our children to inhabit wonder as described, many of us elect to come home.
I took heart later in the introduction at a beautiful description of the role we play as adults, which I feel is the essence of a living education at home. “If the offerings of parents and teachers and their own encounters in the natural world are beautiful or significant to the child, his or her experience of an ever-evolving symphony of wonder can be almost continuous.” As we feed our own wonder, we can walk together with our children as they also feast on the wonder around us, and we spiral in and out as the glorious world around us unfolds. And in doing so, we’ve given both ourselves and our children a remarkable gift. Coincidentally, Ms. Allsup chose one of my favorite quotes to open her first chapter, which illustrates this quite beautifully: “If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder, he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement and mystery of the world we live
in.” (Rachel Carson)
As someone who loves Waldorf education, the book provided a wonderful window into how a Waldorf teacher connects with her students, and how she considers their needs on a daily basis. The mixed-grade progression of her class from first grade to fifth grade (when Ms. Allsup had to step away due to family illness) gave me much food for thought. When she wrestled with the content of certain blocks meeting the children, and for some, needing to patiently wait for them to engage with the material, I felt encouraged because I, too, have had to wrestle and wait for a child of mine to be ready for material. When she had to ditch the “plan” in order to provide a hands-on experience the students needed to understand a certain concept, I felt a sense of solidarity, for when you’re a homeschooling parent, making adjustments to the “plan” often seems to be your main job description!
“The world will never starve for want of wonders,” said G.K. Chesterton, “but only for want of wonder.” Here in America, we celebrated “Screen-Free Week” a few weeks ago. At this point in humanity’s journey, we have the greatest access to information there’s ever been. We can walk outside, find a plant, google what it looks like, and discover every detail and facet about it. Yet, information is not an education. While the world is at our fingertips, perhaps we are losing something more valuable in the process. Reading “A Gift of Wonder”  left me more committed than ever to the pursuit of education in the context of the child – whatever educational approach we take, and whatever choices we make at home to support that, the child’s capacity for wonder is paramount.
Thank you so much, Amanda!  I am really looking forward to reading this book, available at Amazon.
Many blessings,
Carrie

the winning family book study: guidance in the age of TV

Every culture has teachings that are transmitted from parent to child.  American parents don’t usually have to teach their kids how to deal with rhinos, but they do need to guide them in many other ways.  Parents need to forewarn their children and protect from the numerous hazards that prevail in urban, suburban, and rural environments.  There are poisons under the kitchen sink and in the medicine cabinet, pollutants seeping into the water, and escaping into the air.  There are toxic waste dumps that should be avoided.  Likewise, there are mental poisons parents must be alert to, many of them running loose on the TV set.” – page 131-132, “The Winning Family” by Dr. Louise Hart

Of course, today’s parents have much more to deal with then just television.  However, screens are still a prevelant force in our society.  Many households have computers and televisions sets on all day.  The author asks the reader in Chapter 14 to think what role TV (and i would substitute screens) play in your household?  It is a family activity or passivity? Is it a companion, lifeline, babysitter? Staring at a screen is different than real-life activities, and it may generally discourage interaction or communication with others.  TV generally doesn’t intent  to teach values or skills, but children often assume what they see on a screen is what real-life is about, or are they are influenced by commercials designed to sell products. 

The author contends that the child should be looking to the parents first in order to learn values, behavior appropriate for the culture, skills.    One can ask oneself what the computer or television shows are teaching – much of revolves around consumerism and violence.

So, what can a parent do? (and I use the term “older children” a lot here, because I feel no media for little ones is best, but of course, the portal to screens opens slowly over time)

  • Monitor your children’s media and screen intake.  What are they watching?  What is the message?
  • Limit viewing time.
  • Use what you do watch together with older children as a springboard for discussion.
  • Keep guiding them in all the moral, ethical, emotional situations that your older children find themselves in.

Chapter 15 is called, “Problem Solving,” and this chapter talks about teaching our children to solve their own problems.  Problems and conflicts are natural in life, and what many of us learned when we were growing up was to either placate people in a pleasing way or to blow up in order to get what we wanted.  We need to teach our children strategies that bring about connection and resolution of conflict.  

Asking ourselves “whose problem is this?” can be very helpful; especially with those 10 and up.  Is the problem this child is having yours to carry and solve? Or can you empower your child to start to solve their own problems?  Children need to learn to deal with disappointment, conflict, problems, loss, pain – and overcome these things and be resilient. Children who have been overprotected will not function well in life. 

Let’s encourage and support our children through their struggles, but not solve the problems for them. Children need to make mistakes and learn from those mistakes.  We can share how we handle disappointment or failures in life.   When all we teach our children is to run away from a problem, throw money at a problem, threaten our way out of a problem – we are not teaching skills.  We are teaching dysfunction.

The author lists all the barriers to problem solving:  denial, drugs, distraction, storing up pain and anger and stuffing it down and then letting it explode, blaming, rejecting people and cutting them out of our lives, fighting or withdrawing, attacking someone personally, rationalizing the situation, or just feeling defeated.

So how do we solve problems?

  • We believe the problem is solvable.
  • We figure out who owns what piece of the problem.  We can dissect the problem.
  • We don’t blame because we are in it together.  No judging. It doesn’t help.
  • Is the problem certain important to you or not?
  • Use phrases like “I want” “I feel”
  • Listen to the other people in the situation
  • Express our own values and truths.
  • Read between the lines a bit – what is the other person not saying
  • And many more techniques are mentioned in this chapter!

The problem-solving steps:

  • Identify the problem
  • Brainstorm for solutions
  • Evaluate all the solutions
  • Work together and choose the best solution
  • Implement the solution and follow-up with an assessment of why the solution worked or didn’t work.

All of this sounds so simple, and we probably all know these steps, but it is so easy to lose sight of this process when emotions are running high!

What did you all think of this chapter?

Blessings,
carrie