For My Children - A Book Review

Thursday, February 21, 2013 2 comments

Tucked away on my bookshelf, lost and forgotten among the piles of books I never seem to find the time to read, I recently found and dusted off For My Children - A Mother's Journal of Memories, Wishes, and Wisdom.

I have been pondering some deep questions lately, such as what legacy am I leaving my children, what do I really want them to know about these years of raising them, what do I, myself, want to remember most about these years, what wisdom have I gained that I really want to impart on them, etc.

I was looking online for a journal I could keep for them, when it dawned on me that I already had one. I remembered this little gem and went searching through the book pile to pull it out. Looking through it this morning has brought me to tears. When I think of handing this book to my grown sons, I get teary-eyed.

This book is full of writing prompts for the mother to reflect on and write about. There are so many wonderful things in here that I would have never thought to write about on my own, such as "What songs and music have been important to you as a mother?" and "What experiences helped you become more confident as a mother?" to things I feel are so important to tell our children, like "What are the keys to happiness?" and "How have you learned to handle life when you felt discouraged?"

Full of beautiful art and over 150 writing prompts, this book is sure to be a gift your child will treasure and pass down through generations. It covers subjects from pregnancy through raising teens, so I will be writing in this book for many years to come. I can write about their infant and toddler years now, while still fresh on my mind, and continue through the book as I, myself, gain more wisdom I want to share.

I highly recommend this book to all mothers, whether you are pregnant for the first time or your children are grown. It will be insightful for you to journal in and a beautiful gift to your child.

You can purchase the book on Amazon here.

Also be sure to visit the author's website, Code Name: Mama  and Facebook page.

Positive Parenting: 2 Steps for Success

Tuesday, February 12, 2013 12 comments

There are many facets of positive parenting, and it's nearly impossible to explain the entire philosophy in one post. Of course, philosophies are important, but concrete guidance for parents is also necessary to help facilitate successful positive change, which is why we have written Positive Parenting in Action.

If I were short on time and needed to explain positive parenting to someone, I think it can be done in 2 simple, basic steps, or ideas.

1.  Expect a lot from your child.

Positive parenting is not permissive parenting. I have high expectations regarding behavior, manners, helpfulness, cooperation, etc. High expectations are good for a child's esteem and character, as long as he is given the tools and knowledge of how to meet those expectations in a loving and respectful way. Falling into the permissive trap of not expecting much from your child for fear of breaking your connection or making him feel "bad" only leads to a child who doesn't expect much from himself. Of course, within the realm of this, we have to understand what is age appropriate for our children. We can't reasonably expect an 12-month-old to sit through an hour-long dinner or a 2-year-old to manage his emotions well all the time, but we can expect them to do what we know they are capable of.

It is a huge misconception that positive parents allow our children to run willy-nilly through restaurants and stores, never provide boundaries, and don't discipline our kids!

How do you get your child to meet your expectations without punishments or bribery? The key is in #2.

2. Let him know you believe him entirely capable of meeting those expectations. 

We know that a child's self-concept determines his behavior. We also know that self-concept is largely formed, in the early years, by his parents and caregivers. He sees himself the way you see him. What messages are you sending? I was out with my family over the weekend and overheard 2 parents in 2 different stores chatting with other adults in their child's presence. One parent called the child "mean" and other other parent said her's was a "wild child." How do you think those children are going to behave? Now I know sometimes parents say those things in jest, but if those children are constantly getting that message, they will come to believe that they are mean or wild. Give your children positive labels. "You are so helpful!" "You are kind!" "What a great big sister you are!"

"Cleaning up is a big job. I know you can handle it."
"I love how you say 'thank you'. You have good manners."
"You have a lot of homework? Well I know you'll crush it! I believe in you."

How you speak to them becomes their inner voice. I believe Peggy O'Mara said that.

For more on building a positive self-concept, click here.

What might this look like in action? What if your child still refuses to cooperate, even if you said you have faith in her that she will get it done?

Well, of course hearing the message once isn't going to take root. She needs daily affirmations that she is capable, good, loved, kind, enough.  And even if she does have a wonderful self-concept, she's still a human being. Let's not forget to allow for her humanity. I know that sounds like an absurd statement, but trust me, many parents don't allow for their children's humanity. If you ask her to clean her room and you know she is capable of doing so, yet she refuses, you have options. I'm not going to suggest you let her live with the mess. Some would suggest that, and it's reasonable if you can deal with messes, but I can't and I'm not going to get started down that path. It needs cleaned, she's capable of cleaning it, I expect it to get done. So what are my other options? I can offer to help her clean it. Offering help isn't a weakness. If I expect her to sometimes help me with my dishes, I can, in turn, lend a hand in helping her clean her room. Another option is to set a time limit on it. "You may finish your game first. I need the room cleaned up by 8 p.m." She's got things she wants to do. This isn't an emergency. We think if they don't jump up and obey us immediately, we've gone astray, but as long as she gets it done, it gets done, right? I can't tell you how many times I've put off the laundry until just before bed!

What about a toddler who bites his baby brother? Well, you know he isn't capable yet of controlling those impulses, but that doesn't mean you let him bite the baby. Once you check on the baby, take the toddler to a time in or a calm down corner and tell him, "I can't allow you to bite. Biting hurts. I know you would never want to hurt your brother. I'll help you." Notice how there was no "How could you be so mean!?" Instead, I told him that I know he'd never want to hurt his brother and that I would help him. He didn't want to hurt his brother. He got angry and acted on impulse. So now I'll help him learn how to manage his impulses. We'll talk about anger and strategies for dealing with it, and we'll talk about repairing the relationship with baby. It takes a lot of practice to get control of those impulses, but the more we reinforce their positive self-concept and give them tools they can use to handle themselves, the more successful they'll be.


For an in-depth look at the philosophy of positive parenting, please see these posts:

Positive Parenting: What, Why, How?

Positive Parenting is NOT Permissive Parenting

Nonpunitive Discipline ≠ Lazy Parenting

What's the Deal with Consequences

10 Things that are More Important than Discipline

5 Ways to Improve Your Parenting

Sunday, February 3, 2013 3 comments

1.  Stop yelling. Yelling at our kids accomplishes nothing positive, but sometimes we can slip into a habit of yelling when we are at our wit's end. According to a 2003 study published in The Journal of Marriage and Family, 88 percent of the 991 families interviewed admitted shouting, yelling or screaming at their children in the previous year.

The good news is that it is that there is help. Check out the Orange Rhino Project and take the challenge to become a more peaceful parent.

2. Connect.  Adults play an important role in the development of a child's self-concept. It takes very young children a lot of growing up before they are able to picture themselves as separate persons capable of thinking and acting for themselves. During the time that they are "painting" this picture of themselves, the relationships they have with those most important to them, particularly their parents, influence the picture they are developing of themselves. Do they feel loved and wanted? Are they able to count on their parents to meet their needs and take care of them? These are important components of a young child's self-concept development.

Another way adults can influence children's self-concept is by the way they apply labels to children. If adults continually label children as "bad" or "dumb," children will begin to believe these assessments, feel negatively about themselves, and act in ways that reflect the labels applied to them. In other words, they will be bad or they will act "dumb" because adults have told them they are this way. In contrast, if positive qualities of the child are emphasized by the adult, then the child's self-concept will more likely be positive as will his or her behavior.

Bottom line: When kids feel better, they behave better. Help them feel better by letting them know you see them, that they matter, and by acknowledging and expressing what you love about them. Check out The Three Things You Should Say to Your Child Every Day and watch your child blossom and your connection deepen.

3.  Be present.  Make the decision now to be present and engaged with your children daily. Here is a good place to start. And here. They aren't little for long, so let's slow down and savor these years.

Here are 12 exercises for mindful parenting: (Source)

  1. Try to imagine the world from your child's point of view, purposefully letting go of your own. Do this every day for at least a few moments to remind you of who this child is and what he or she faces in the world.
  2. Imagine how you appear and sound from your child's point of view, i.e., having you as a parent today, in this moment. How might this modify how you carry yourself in your body and in space, how you speak, and what you say? How do you want to relate to your child in this moment?
  3. Practice seeing your children as perfect just the way they are. See if you can stay mindful of their sovereignty from moment to moment, and work at accepting them as they are when it is hardest for you to do so.
  4. Be mindful of your expectations of your children and consider whether they are truly in your child's best interest. Also, be aware of how you communicate those expectations and how they affect your children.
  5. Practice altruism, putting the needs of your children above your own whenever possible. Then see if there isn't some common ground, where your true needs can also be met. You may be surprised at how much overlap is possible, especially if you are patient and strive for balance.
  6. When you feel lost, or at a loss, remember to stand still and meditate on the whole by bringing your full attention to the situation, to your child, to yourself, to the family. In doing so, you may go beyond thinking, even good thinking, and perceive intuitively, with the whole of your being, what needs to be done. If that is not clear in any moment, maybe the best thing is to not do anything until it becomes clearer. Sometimes it is good to remain silent.
  7. Try embodying silent presence. This will grow out of both formal and informal mindfulness practice over time if you attend to how you carry yourself and what you project in body, mind, and speech. Listen carefully.
  8. Learn to live with tension without losing your own balance. In Zen and the Art of Archery, Herrigel describes how he was taught to stand at the point of highest tension effortlessly without shooting the arrow. At the right moment, the arrow mysteriously shoots itself. Practice moving into any moment, however difficult, without trying to change anything and without having to have a particular outcome occur. Simply bring your full awareness and presence to this moment. Practice seeing that whatever comes up is "workable" if you are willing to trust your intuition. Your child needs you to be a center of balance and trustworthiness, a reliable landmark by which he or she can take a bearing within his or her own landscape. Arrow and target need each other. They will find each other best through wise attention and patience.
  9. Apologize to your child when you have betrayed a trust in even a little way. Apologies are healing. An apology demonstrates that you have thought about a situation and have come to see it more clearly, or perhaps more from your child's point of view. But be mindful of being "sorry" too often. It loses its meaning if you are always saying it, making regret into a habit. Then it can become a way not to take responsibility for your actions. Cooking in remorse on occasion is a good meditation. Don't shut off the stove until the meal is ready.
  10. Every child is special, and every child has special needs. Each sees in an entirely unique way. Hold an image of each child in your heart. Drink in their being, wishing them well.
  11. There are important times when we need to be clear and strong and unequivocal with children. Let this come as much as possible out of awareness, generosity, and discernment, rather than out of fear, self-righteousness, or the desire to control. Mindful parenting does not mean being overindulgent, neglectful, or weak; nor does it mean being rigid, domineering, and controlling.
  12. The greatest gift you can give your child is your self. This means that part of your work as a parent is to keep growing in self-knowledge and awareness. This ongoing work can be furthered by making a time for quiet contemplation in whatever ways feel comfortable to us. We only have right now. Let us use it to its best advantage, for our children's sake, and for our own. 

4.  Rekindle your romance. We know intuitively that how happy we are -- in a relationship or otherwise -- affects our children. Our emotions are contagious, and so when a romantic partner loves us unconditionally, the happiness and security that love brings can spill over, to our children's benefit. Romance also has the potential to make us better parents: positive emotions (like love) and the social support of a partner can make us warmer and more responsive to our children. A strong relationship provides security for your children and demonstrates how a loving, respectful partnership should be. What could be more important?  Check out this article, and this one. 

5.  Let go of the guilt. You are enough. Love yourself unconditionally for who you are. How? Here are some ways to start.

  • Spend time alone with yourself this week. Turn off the iPad, leave your cellphone behind, and go for a walk. Just hang out with yourself. Get comfortable with who you are.
  •  Pay yourself an amazing compliment, and make it meaningful. Say it out loud while looking at yourself in the mirror.
  • Look at what you're feeding yourself, and I'm not talking about food. What you really have to ask yourself is whether the television shows, movies, music & art you indulge in are enhancing your life or detracting from it.
  •  Exercise! It's good for your body and your mind!
  • Go to bed early. None of us get enough rest! Make it a priority.
  • Forgive your mistakes and move on. So you got grumpy with your kid? Apologize and forget about it. Focus on reconnecting and don't dwell on your mistakes.

Read this for some inspiration, and this, too. Oh, and this.