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!)

Chapter Three is “Bringing Down the Intensity: You’re The Role Model.”  The author jumps right in by saying, “Learning to express strong emotions, like anger and frustration, respectfully and selectively is learned behavior.  You don’t have to be a victim of your emotions.  You can choose your response.  You don’t have to react.”

This is so often easier said then done!  The connection between threatening or frustrating situations and stress hormones is clear.  Our strong emotions can lead to pretty instinctual responses, such as striking back physically or screaming or yelling, giving in completely, shutting down, or emotionally distancing yourself from your child and just breaking off the relationship.

The problem is, none of these things really solve the problem.  They don’t teach our children a new way to react, and they tear apart relationships.  

Instead:

  1. Change the frame.  Our children are not out to get us, to make our lives miserable, they don’t have character flaws that are going to end them up with a wasted life.  See their behavior for what it is.  With older children you can ask them about the why’s.  Give your child the benefit of the doubt and listen.
  2. Set standards….for yourself.  What ways did your family express anger or frustration that you don’t want to repeat?  What do some people around you do to express anger that you don’t want to do?  Is it shaming, yelling, threatening (hopefully not hitting), swearing?  What is your standard and how will you uphold it?  Fear and intimidation may stop a behavior momentarily, or the whole thing may escalate – and does fear and intimidation teach your child how to deal with frustrating emotions or help your relationship with that child?  The author suggests we fill in this sentence:  “The next time I am angry, I promise myself that I will NOT……..” Fill in the blank that works for you.
  3. Monitor your feelings.  Standards are goals, but emotions can really derail our best intentions.  We need to learn how to identify early how to recognize what emotion WE are feeling, and diffuse it.  If we don’t, then we are over the edge and go into the behavior we don’t want at all.  Anger is usually a second emotion – we went past frustration, disappointment, fear, sadness and just went right into anger to cover that up.  The way to start to learn to identify emotions early is to pause for fifteen second throughout the day and just note your feelings.    Look for the big ones- hungry, tired, happy, irritated – and then for the more subtle emotions.  If you find your emotion, you can choose a better response.

Part of this is knowing  your stress cues.  When you are stressed, what do you do?  The author gives examples such as slamming doors, being impatients, screaming at the kids, not smiling, rushing, gritting or grinding our teeth.    We can take the time to diffuse before we walk in the door  or start bedtime routines.  Recognize what the most vulnerable parts of the day really are for you.   Many of us have control of how to tackle those daily or weekly spots, if we just recognize where those spots are!

4.  Learn effective strategies.  PAUSE is the biggest one.  Take a break and come back (walking is a great break).  If your child follows you and clings to your leg and won’t let you take a break away, you can have a time -in place where you can all sit together.  There is a very moving story about this on pages 50-51 if you get a chance to read it.  Some children who have had significant losses or separations, find a parent leaving to gather themselves traumatizing.  Be sure to explain you are not abandoning them, you will come back.  You can use a calming couch or chair (the time in all together method) or find great support for your child, like a neighbor or friend who can come over, and help you.  I urge you to have a few friends or family members you can call when you desperately need a break and who will come no questions asked (and no judgement!).  

Now is the time to make your plan and how you will handle things.  This would also be a great topic to talk to your partner or other adults in the house about.

Blessings and love,
Carrie

Book Study: Kids, Parents, and Power Struggles – Chapter 2

“The best antidote to U.S. teenagers’ major health problems – bad habits such as drinking, smoking, promiscuity – turns out to be a close connection with caring parents.” – The Journal of the Medical Association

This is a great quote I think, and it reminds all of us when we lose the forest for the trees why we try to do what we do.  Parenting and being in the trenches is exhausting!  The cajoling to reach normal things in the day for littles – going to the bathroom, brushing teeth, washing hair leads into  juggling homework, dealing with friends for older children and into navigating high school, driving, employment, romantic relationships and more for teenagers.  How can we do it?

I think the answer is in the title of this chapter, Chapter Two:  “The Decision to Connect.”  If we perceive the child as an obstacle to getting something done, something accomplished – then we may be sorely disappointed.  If our goal is to connect with our child in the process of life and in doing all the life things along the way, then we have a much better chance of success.

Chapter Two starts off with a great observation from children jumping rope.  The author writes, ” When we’re in those tugs of war with our kids, it’s much easier to see those struggles as opportunity once we realize we have the same options the kids across the street did.  We always have control of our end of the rope!  We can decide that this is the time to hang on tight, stand firm, and insist, “In our family this is the rule!”  Other times we may decide to step in and work with our child, enjoying together what we couldn’t do alone.  And then there are occasions when we realize it is time to let go of our end of the rope, to hand the whole thing over to our child, and say, “You’re ready.  Take it. You can make this decision.  You can handle it on your own.”

How do we know which of these tactics to use? I think some of it has to do with the size of decisions to be made, and the age of the child. and what our vision is for their adult life. How are we making them functional adults?  The author talks about Stephen Covey’s adage of “Begin with the end in mind.” She gives the example of sitting  with a three year old at bedtime, and people say don’t start that!  However, do you want your teens to see you as someone who makes time for them, who can answer their questions, who can be trusted and help them?  Think about the significant adults in your life who helped you (and those who didn’t) – what were their characteristics?

This does NOT mean we don’t have limits.  When I was a young parent, I think I had a picture of doing all the things so my children would feel close and connected.  I now think what children need to know is family is a partnership of respect, trust and communication between all parties.  Emotional coaching and teaching our children is about meeting their needs – of course!  It is about being responsive and senstive to them!  But it is also is about teaching them through being supportive and encouraging to meet the things that must happen, that need to happen.   How do we emotionally coach a child versus intimidating them?  Building relationships, and building a emotional coach type of parenting style is a process. You will mess it up along the way!  You may go back to less desirable behaviors.  Keep moving forward.  

One way to keep moving forward is to keep track of the developmental phase your child is in- what common things come up?  What has come up for your child?  What are potential strategies you could use to guide this while still connecting?  Who is YOUR support team?  I find many American mothers at least are functioning with NO support team.  No family really, if they have a partner they are gone for long hours, no neighbors per say.  You need a web of support.  Who can be in your pocket?  Who can you call when you are ready to melt down?

Can you identify what your child is feeling and why?  They may not be able to articulate it.  Most feelings have a need behind them.  What’s the need and what’s the best way, including the health of  you and the rest of the family, to address it?  This is partly why I am such a big proponent of rhythm for children – having the same rhythm really decreased the amount of decision making and stress.  If the bedtime order is always the same, there is less protesting and fighting.

Start with the little things–  there is a list on page 34, but here are my favorites from that list:

  • Don’t invalidate. Even if it doesn’t make sense, it can be important to your child, especially littles.  They don’t always make sense; they are little.
  • Take time to listen.
  • Assist but don’t take over
  • State things calmly.

There are great tips in this chapter!  I hope you all are enjoying this book.  When I first read this book, a long time ago, it seemed so much to take in but 18 years into parenting it seems pretty logical – so I think I am proof that we can grow and internalize these behaviors.  You can do it!  If you need help, and want to talk, I have some coaching sessions available by phone if you email me at admin@theparentingpassageway.com

Lots of love,
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!

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