Brave Parenting

The time to be courageous in your parenting is now.  Brave parenting requires a sense of values and what to be willing to confront and endure in order to have those values live within our children.

If you know your values, then you can ask yourself, “Is what is going on with this child serving those values?  Will this child grow up to be an adult that embodies these values?  What can I do to faciliate these boundaries so these values have a better chance of being a dynamic principle in our lives?”

Sometimes brave parenting requires making hard decisions that are not popular with our children and teenagers, and in this day and age of parents wanting to be friends with their children, this seems more difficult than ever.

When I lose the forest for the trees in parenting, the big things I look at are

  1. Perspective. Would a mom of a now grown-up child think this is a make or break situation?
  2. Boundaries.  Have I been consistent, what are the boundaries? I have friends who cannot name ONE boundary their child has. This, folks, to me, doesn’t bode well for the teenage years.  There are boundaries in life.  They don’t have to be arbitrary or mean, but should organically grow out of your family’s values and love for your child.
  3. Strengths and weaknesses.  Many of you have smaller children, but I have a 16 year old.  So I constantly look at my older children and try to think ahead a bit.  What skills does this child with their personality and temperament really need in  order to succeed in their adult life?
  4. Will our relationship be overall preserved?  Nothing should be so big a deal that it should shatter our love, but I am okay with my children not liking me for short periods. I want to be their friend when they are all grown up, and I want to have fun together, but my job as a parent is bigger than just that.  I need to help guide them towards their own unfolding and their own discovering and yes, eventually their own life.
  5. Self-care.  This is usually the one I totally lose, and this month has been a super stressful and exhausting month.  Aggressive cancer in family member necessitating emergency travel, and emergency surgery for our horse who had colic.  We aren’t out of the woods yet, so I hope I can look at self-care again.  To me, one of the major components of self-care for homeschooling mothers might actually be just letting things go.  We can always find more school days at some point during the year!

How are you brave parenting this week?

Love,
Carrie

 

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Boundaries, Empathy, Consequences

So in order to understand how to use a three-fold model of discipline ,one must have a little background about the three terms involved:

Empathy –   Empathy can  be offered non-verbally, by holding a hand, rubbing a shoulder, hugging a child or even a smile.    It can be offered verbally by acknowledging feelings with a word or sound. All feeling are acceptable, but all behavior is not.   Empathy can be offered before or after a boundary is set, or both.   Modeling empathy is an important tool for today’s children.

There is a large push to help tiny  children “name their feelings” these days.  Helping children to name feelings, to me, is not the same as empathy.  To me, this is a separate step. Yes, it is important for older children to be able to express their feelings and know what their feelings are and how to deal with negative emotions in a self-compassionate way.   It is important to understand nuances of emotion as this is a tool for the real world and real relationships.

A back post that may help you: Changing Our Parenting Language

Boundaries – boundaries are particular to a situation/place (the rule when we are at the museum or place of worship or wherever) in society, or particular to your family’s values.   Boundaries are the rules of the house that everyone tries to abide by because we all live together and work as a team.  Boundaries should be stated calmly, and firmly, and described. (For example, “Books belong on the bookshelf, not on the floor” is a simple example of this, when a parent sees a book on the floor).   The child should never be attacked or blamed.  Sometimes  one word will suffice, especially with teenagers.  If your child always sets their smelly sneakers on your kitchen counter and you don’t want them there, you can just point and say, “Shoes!” Sometimes boundaries can be put in writing as well, and this can work well for teenagers.  If the boundary is broken, we state what the expectation (the boundary) actually is again, and decide how to proceed with consequences and restitution.  We need to proceed to this step when we are calm.

A few back posts that may help:

Boundaries for Gentle Parenting

Re-claiming Authority Part One

Consequences – The best consequences are immediate and relatable to what happened.   For small children, this is often easier than with older children.  For example, our little guy tried to hot glue gun his sister’s door shut this week.  She was unhappy with that and felt it was just an extension of him hanging outside her closed door.   So, as a consequence and restitution, the hot glue gun ended up with me, he had to write an apology note to this sister (and I had to sit with him to write it since he doesn’t write very well yet), and he had to clean the door.  Consequences often take our time, our energy, our physical help.  Yelling at a child isn’t a consquence; it shows our frustration, but the child doesn’t get much from that in terms of correcting the original problem.  And what we really are teaching through natural or logical, immediate and relatable consequences is problem- solving for when children are older and we are modeling conflict resolution skills for life.

Parenting can become much more grey the older children become, and the consequences aren’t as immediate or relatable. It is okay to take time with teenagers and think about what would be most helpful in any situation.  Consequences are not there for punishment at all, but as a logical and natural outcome of what has happened.

Restitution – While a  consequence is often external or even natural (I forgot a coat after my mom reminded me ten times, and now I am cold),  I like to think of restitution as a more internal part of the child trying to get this boundary down.  Restitution could be writing a letter of apology, fixing something that was physically broken, doing a kind deed for someone that the child has hurt.  Part of restitution with older children is also working out what will work for the future for both of you, the parent, the family, and the child.   Because when we live in a family, it isn’t just about you.   This is part of the child learn how to rule over himself.

A few back posts that may help:

How To Instill Inner Discipline In A Child

I hope that helps.

Blessings,
Carrie

 

A Discipline Toolbox

The major discipline tools for all ages are

  • Empathy/Compassion
  • Correction (The Boundary)
  • Consequences and Restitution

If you have only empathy/compassion without the correction, then you have an empty discipline toolbox indeed.  All three parts are needed to have a functioning toolbox to help guide children into becoming healthy adults who can have functioning relationships, families, and jobs of their own.

Children may protest boundaries, but yet it is ours to lovingly hold boundaries until are children can internalize the boundaries and hold them for themselves.  Only providing a child with compassion or empathy, and no boundary and no consequence, will not help a child internalize that.   Many parents I work with will protest this and wonder why we need boundaries at all, but boundaries are where I end and you begin.  Boundaries are what enable healthy relationships;  they enable us to be able to take our responsibility for things in life but also to not hold things that are not ours to carry.  We can help our children attain this, using all three of these pieces.

If boundaries are difficult for you, then it  may be hard to teach it to your children and hard for you to hold boundaries. It may be that nothing short of hurting someone else deserves a boundary.  However, there are many tools children need to function in the world that involve more than just not being able to hurt someone, and boundaries are there to help develop these qualities.  We want children to know who they are, what they are responsible for, how to intiate and maintain loving relationships.  Because in the end, you are not raising this child for yourself.  You are raising this child for all of humanity, and for this child’s future family.  Sometimes, this means uncomfortable growth for both us and for the child.  And that is okay.

Always and ever growing,

Carrie

 

 

 

Regulation of Emotions In Children – Part Two

Back in the fall of 2015, I  went to a course for my physical therapy licensure renewal  that focused on the regulation of emotions in children who have anxiety, anger challenges, ADD/ADHD, or who are on the autism spectrum.  It was geared toward teachers, therapy providers, and principals in the school setting.  One thing that was emphasized over and over is that a calm child who is not feeling stressed by the environment can learn better than a child who is stressed. Part of education is to understand ourselves as teachers and therapists (why do we do what we do in the classroom or with the children we are with?), to empower children to understand who they are and why they do what they do,  and to help children develop emotional regulation.

I talked about the first part of this course in this  back post about the things some schools in the United States are doing to try to keep things calm for their students, including:

  • Understanding the brain
  • Ryhthm, including the use of photo books to show the child doing each daily activity and using accommodations to make certain children do not get over-stimulated
  • Using connection and love to calm the child
  • Use of movement, art, hydration, music, art, time in nature to all help increase learning and memory and keep children as even-keeled as possible.

The question I posed at the end of Part One of this post (linked above)  was what are the schools doing in the moment, when things are going really badly?  Children with these kinds of challenges can throw desks, they can really fall apart, and it can be difficult for not only the student, but the teacher and the other students in the class when all of this is happening.

The approach in some schools and as modeled in this course I attended is a three step process involving  to  take notice, to intervene, and to plan ahead.   I don’t know if this would appeal to parents in the home environment or not, but I place it here as food for thought and for you to decide how it fits into your philosophy of education and development.  This course was absolutely NOT geared toward Waldorf Schools, and again, I place it here for thought.

Notice – in this course, this meant to empower children to understand emotional states and triggers.  For small children under the age of  9  I am a fan of using stories, music, little circle time activities, modeling, sharing good things in circle time, etc.  I think this can be empowering in the feeling life for the purpose of “noticing”.    For older children, discussion as they need to start to learn to function in the real world may be necessary.  Children with challenges may need very well to start these “noticing” strategies before the nine year change in development, and I think what this entails  is really  up to the family and the health care/educational team.   Remember this course was geared toward those working with children who had challenges with anxiety and anger, which is different.  Some children especially  need real help in  noticing other people’s behaviors, body language, tone of voice, etc.  and again, I think we have to look at the child in front of us whilst keeping in mind development.

Intervention:  This may include  a proactive phase. For example,  what are the child’s triggers?  What is the environment doing (or not doing) for the child?  How do we prepare the child? For example, some children need serious help with groups. Some need serious help with transitions.  How do we anticipate the problems that might come up? In a school setting, this might require a team conference involving almost all staff present.

The early intervention phase might include redirection, and moving into proximity to the child to help, and to use calming strategies.  If a child is past early intevention and is melting down, then steps might include removing the child to a safe environment, not engaging in a power struggle, distracting, offering a safe activity, allowing time to calm down, and then addressing the situation but more in an informational gathering way, not in a way that immediately goes into the negative behavior of the child for that setting.

Note to families reading:   Remember, these are grades aged children. From a Waldorf persepctive for tiny children under the age of 7, I wrote a post about time in for tinies that might give you some ideas about how to create a “meltdown plan” for your littles.

Plan:  The plan part of this is to know that this behavior is cyclical (most likely).  Most likely it WILL happen again.   A plan is helping to empower the child (and I have to say I think this is much more appropriate for older children than younger from a Waldorf perspective) and using a classroom behavior plan.  Role-playing, drawing the scenario and how it would be a happier ending for all parties can sometimes help, and for older children, journaling can be helpful.

Practice: There are many other very cognitive-based approaches that were mentioned that I think could be useful for middle school and up for the normal course of health class or whatnot ( to me personally.  I am sure in some school settings these techniques are being used with much younger children and especially for those who desperately need these tools to try to self-regulate).  These include things such as introducing the parts of the brain and functionality (which in one sense I am for in that children should learn correct parts of their body just like other bodily names but this is applying the names and functionality in a pretty cognitive way that might be better for interested middle schoolers); introducing a “circle of control” (ie, what is in the child’s control and what is not in the child’s control), scales of emotional intensity, scales of importance of events and comparing to the emotional scales.  Other things mentioned were breathing techniques, (which could be used younger than middle school ages obviously )   and using post-incident interviewing techniques.

Here are some ideas for searching techniques that could be helpful for your child (I am not endorsing any of these per se except ones we have used personally); these are just repeatedly mentioned in courses I have taken:

  • Brain Gym (which we do use, I have taken a course in it, and I would endorse)
  • Heart Math
  • Ready Bodies, Learning Minds
  • Play Attention (this might be computer based, I am not sure?  Has anyone out there used it?).
  • Under the Thinking Cap, which is the company of the person who presented this course
  • MindUP Curriculum (has three levels – grades K-2; grades 3-5 and grades 6-8) (I am currently looking at the level for grades 6-8 and hope to have something to review about it soon!)

Are there any products, programs, or techniques you have found for emotional regulation that you have loved?  Have you found a better age to introduce some of these things than other ages?  What did you find worked best for your child?  What about those of you with children who do struggle with anger, anxiety, or other challenges?  Did starting earlier help?

I would love to hear from you.

Blessings,

Carrie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5 Ways To Make Gentle Discipline Work For Your Family

Gentle discipline is not just a toolbox of tricks; instead I like to view it as the art of connecting and loving as we resolve a conflict together.  It is about hearing the other person, yes, even if that person is a toddler or someone who is small; it is about not reacting in a defensive and emotional way; and it is about forging a path as a family together where the family agenda is the priority and all needs can be met (but perhaps not all at the same time!)

There are five ways I have found to really help families as they work through problems and conflicts together:

Commit to gentle discipline.  If you have a partner in the home, commit to it as a team and agree to back each other up.  The commitment is important.  It may not always be perfect; gentle discipline is a process.  For some families, gentle discipline comes easier than other families.  Some of us have more baggage from our own childhoods to overcome.  It may feel unnatural to try to connect to a child who is being difficult in our eyes.  We may all have different things that our children do that may really bother us.  We need to be able to step in for one another when things are flaring,  and to back each other up as loving guides for our children.  We must commit to the process of connecting during conflict every day.

Know yourself and your partner and how to nourish each other.  What really upsets you and sets you off?  Does knowing what is normal for each developmental stage of childhood help you?  I find this can often help parents feel calmer, to just know what is normal for the developmental stages.      Where is your self-care?  If you are empty, it is so much harder to respond in a connected and loving way to your child.   How do you love one another so you can respond to your children lovingly and patiently so you can guide them when they are having big feelings or big things happening?  This is so important for all stages of development, but I think especially with teenagers.

What is the family agenda?  It is  incredibly hard for a child to know what is expected and how to live with the other family members in the household if no boundaries are set.  The earliest harbinger of boundaries can be found in rhythm, and this happens when children are very small.   As children grow, they can understand the boundaries (rules)  of the family reflect values of the family.  However, in order to have that, the adults of the family must get together and talk about the values you are creating together. Values are something that teenagers can respond to and discuss with you – are your teenagers’ values the same as your family values?  Why or why not? What conflict does this create and how do you navigate this?

Recognize the patterns. Most families have recognizable patterns – this is what happens, this upsets this person, this is how this person reacts.  It is hard to change conflicts within the family if you don’t ever see the patterns or if people are not willing to try something to change the patterns, especially the adults in how they react to what children do.  Who is the calm one in conflict? Who shuts down?  Who walks away? Who gets angry?

How do you resolve conflict?  Because children are not miniature adults, they are not going to reason like adults in times of conflict (and even adults often do not do well in that!)  Small children  do not need intellectualized verbal sparring in order to resolve conflict; what they often need is distraction, rhythm, a boundary that is held lovingly without many words at all, the action of restitution.   I find children ages 9-12 often function not much above these tools.  What helps to limit conflicts in these ages is boundaries that are set up ahead of time and are known.

For teenagers , decide on how you will approach conflicts.  The steps in our family, which we just wrote down recently so everyone was on the same page  include:  taking the time to calm down, making sure the problem is really and actually a problem ( some of the more verbal family members really need to write it down so the problem can be defined and not just a whole slew of emotions with nothing definable other than feelings), meet together in order to discuss  without blaming others and  in order to take responsibility for their own part in things, to really listen and paraphrase what the other person has said and then brainstorm solutions that work for the whole family.  Lastly, we forgive, affirm, or thank the other person and make restitution.  So that is a longer process appropriate for a teen who can really do these steps.

I would love to hear what you steps you think make the difference in making your family a home of gentle discipline and problem solving.    I also have many, many back posts on this blog dealing with gentle discipline if you just search.

Many blessings,

Carrie

Playing For The Same Team

I grew up in a sports-loving family (even though I was not a great athlete myself!).  Despite my immersion in the world of sports and “sports lingo”, it took me quite awhile to see how to see how building a family does have similarities to building a team.  Sometimes in a family, especially with juggling careers, financial concerns, everything being new and each phase of childhood development being new and different with no road map, it could just seem like putting out one fire after another or just reacting to one thing after another rather than having the skill to really build a vision, build a family, build a peaceable team.

We often hear a lot about being a mindful parent or being a “conscious” parent.  To me that means attempting to be proactive, not reactive.  However, I think there is more to family life than that.  Family life is about relationships.  It is about building something more wonderful than you could have on your own.  And yes, in a way, it is about succession of the team as your children grow up and go out into the world and make choices completely independently.

Shared values lead to two things:  a shared vision and also boundaries that support your values.  What does a “X” family member embrace?  What are the values of the family?   For example, if the value is to stay home and be home more as a family, then the boundary might be a child can play one season of sports per school year (ie, just fall sports; not fall, winter, and spring!) Or that might mean summers are slow, and not full of camps because you value being a family together.  I have written before about the power of a family mission statement.  I urge you, and all the adults in your house (especially if that includes extended generations) to talk about what that means.  What are the values and the vision?  Some families are lucky enough to really have a clear sense of this without a lot of discernment or fuss, but other families  are starting at ground zero and really have to work at it as a process.  The process is so valuable!

We all protect each other.  We calm each other with love, we encourage each other, we play for the same team so it is never parent against child or child pitting parent against parent.  We are kind, we protect each other in that our home is a haven, we use kind and gentle words and most of all, when mistakes happen, we forgive each other AND we make restitution.  We are all learning and not one of us is perfect.

We trust each other.  In small children, this idea of trust begins with the fundamentals of attachment – emotional attachment, physical attachment.   You can see organizations such as La Leche League League or Attachment Parenting  International for more information about how to do this with infants and beyond.  Boundaries, limits with love,  are also a form of attachment because they provide respect for a child’s developmental age and they give security and confidence to a child.  People often wonder about attachment in teenagers.  For teenagers, attachment means being available and present, and trusting and knowing when to push and not push, and how to embrace differences in a livable way .  It also means still setting appropriate boundaries and making sure you know the differences between why a 14 year old is different than a 17 year old. It also means letting older children and teens make mistakes and not rescuing, not hovering.

Finally, embracing our differences as people makes a family successful. In my family, there are introverts and extroverts. There are huge age differences as well.  There are common points we all share, and sometimes there are viewpoints we don’t share.  Family meetings can be a great place to bring some of that out.

Share with me how you build your family as a team.

Many blessings,
Carrie

Three Reasons I Need Rhythm…

I find many of us are still trying to get our rhythm back at this time of year.  I know I am!  Actually, in my world of the Anglican Communion, we are still in the season of Epiphany and now coming up to Lent, so there is this sense of still being in the middle of things in a way….and many of us find our children grow and change over the holidays, so whilst the work of the day may remain, perhaps meal times or outside times or bedtimes needs to shift around.  Never be afraid to make a rhythm that works for you!  I always start by looking at what pattern we are in, and then seeing if it needs to change…or maybe it is a real pattern that remains..

Rhythm is this idea of a flow to the day; it is not a schedule because it is  flow -oriented and not as time-oriented perhaps as a schedule (although there may be times assigned to meals and bedtime).  It provides an order to the day and a sense of strength for the parent because it takes away some of the thinking involved with every single decision we have to make in a day.  If you know your errand day is on Friday, then you don’t need to go out on Tuesday, for example.  If you know you always put your boots after your walk in one spot as part of cleaning up from your nature walk each day, then you don’t have to round up boots that land in various places.  Rhythm just IS, like the tide coming in and going out or sun coming up and setting.

The three reasons I  particularly need rhythm are:

To continually remind me of the importance of the home. In a society that often does not seem to value being home except for short pit stops between activities (even for small children), rhythm in my home reminds me of the time and care it takes to create a nourishing environment and that there is value in that for the health of all of us in the family.  Ideally, in a home full of rhythm, a small child would be able to tell what day of the week it is by the meaningful work being done in the home on those days.  For example,  perhaps Tuesdays are always ironing days or Thursdays are always bread making days or Mondays are always the cleaning of the home from the weekend.  Traditionally, Waldorf Education has assigned different work to different days based upon more planetary influences (does that sound esoteric enough?!), so there are suggestions from Waldorf kindergartens for different activities for different days of the week.

It reminds me of the importance of what I call “soul hygiene” – that there should be a time and place in the day for inner work, for physical activity outside, for sleep and rest.  This helps remind me to pace myself and to honor these activities.  This helps me remember my main goal of parenting is to help my children be healthy adults – healthy physically, emotionally, in how they see light in others and how they communicate with others, spiritually.

We set up the environment with care, which teaches me attentiveness to activities and models this for my children.  We might have a song or verses to go with the activity.  We put things away  and clean up with care.  Again, it forces me to slow down and see the value of the activities we are doing for the physical, emotional and spiritual realms.

Lastly, (yes, I couldn’t resist sneaking in reason number four!) is that rhythm is your aid to discipline.  When we know when things will happen and how it will happen, it cuts down arguing.  This time of year, that can be valuable.  It is even valuable for teenagers and older children.

How is your rhythm valuable to you?

Blessings,
Carrie