15 Ways to Turn a Bad Day Around

Sunday, July 31, 2016 No comments

Are you having a rough day with the kids? If you feel like you’re in a funk and just can’t seem to shake the negative energy swirling in your home, try these quick positive parenting ideas and tips to turn your day around and your frowns upside down.

1. Listen to Music
Music is known to affect mood, so put on something upbeat and play it loud. Dance party! Or if you’re day is already too loud and chaotic, put in some earbuds (at least one!) and listen to something soothing.

2. Listen for Inspiration
While you have that one earbud in (because you have to have a free ear to listen to/for the kids), listen to a podcast. Try a parenting podcast for inspiration or a guided meditation or positivity podcast.

3. Dress yourself up.
My days home with the kids usually mean comfortable pajamas and no make-up, and that’s great sometimes. On other days, it makes me feel better to put on a real outfit, a bit of make-up, fix my hair, and throw on a few inspirational bracelets. If you don’t want to do a full-on dress-up, just wash your face, lather some delicious-smelling lotion on your body, and swipe just a bit of gloss on your lips.

4. Take a time-out.
Busy the kids with a coloring book, puzzle, or even a cartoon for 10-15 minutes and do something you enjoy. These little breaks can go a long way in keeping your tank from running on empty.

5. Write down 5 things you’re grateful for.
Say them out loud. Gratitude combats negativity and lifts your mood.

6. Get outside.
Being in nature is shown to boost your spirits, and you could use the vitamin D. If you can’t get out into nature, look at photos of nature. Research has shown that even a plant in your room can reduce stress and anxiety.

7. Tackle that thing you’re dreading doing early.
If you have a full inbox or a mountain of laundry, tackle it first thing in the morning so that it doesn’t loom over you all day.

8. Love your exercise.
We’re not all runners. I prefer kickboxing. You might prefer CrossFit or Zumba. When you love your exercise, you’re obviously more likely to do it regularly. Regular exercise boosts your overall mood and well-being. Even 10 minutes of moving your body has benefits.

9. Look for the miracles around you.
See the blessing in your chaos. Seek out the beauty in the ordinary. Consciously shift your perspective. Dr. Wayne Dyer said, “If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.”

10. Change up the routine.
Do something different – something unexpected. Whether it’s a special waffles topped with ice cream for breakfast, a trip to a new park, or building a fort in the back yard, a changeup might be just the thing you need to shift your attitude.

11. Do something silly.
Laughter is the best medicine, right? Look up some kids’ jokes and read them aloud. Put on silly outfits and have a photo shoot. Have a goofy face contest.

12. Accept that you feel crummy today and nurture yourself.
We all have bad moods sometimes, and maybe your body is trying to tell you that you need to take it easy for a bit. Snuggle up under the covers and read books together or watch a movie in bed with the kids.

13. Seek out a friend.
Having someone to talk to and to share your heart can make a big difference. Rather than texting, try calling, or if you can meet up for coffee or a play date, all the better.

14. Be affectionate.
By giving and receiving affection, you get a boost of oxytocin which can make you feel more connected and energetic.

15. Engage your senses.
Take a few mindful moments to see, hear, feel, smell, and taste.

*This post was originally published at CreativeChild.com


Connecting with the Child In Front of You, Even When It’s Hard to Do

Sunday, July 17, 2016 No comments
Connecting with the Child In Front of You, Even When It’s Hard to Do

Guest post by Casey O'Roarty of Joyful Courage

All they want is you.
I talk, read, write a lot about this.  Parenting all comes back to relationship. I know what you're thinking, "Yeah but, Casey, this doesn't solve our bedtime challenge, or the sibling conflict, or the back talk, or..." and I am going to say, YES IT DOES.

Human beings are hard wired for connection.  HARD WIRED PEOPLE!!  We are MADE to CONNECT.  And when we feel disconnected, something literally feels off, feels wrong, feels out-of-sorts...  And when humans feel out-of-sorts they find creative and unusual ways (read: annoying and inconvenient) of getting what they need.

I love this quote from Brene Brown about connection:

“I define connection as the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgment; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship.”

This connection piece is HUGE!  And sometimes, well meaning, loving parents forget about this and we find ourselves pulling out our hair, wondering why our children are making our lives so difficult.

Well my friends, I would like to invite you to take a deeper, more intentional look at your child(ren)'s sense of connection.

When you consider your current challenges with a child (toddlers to teens), I would like for you to consider taking a "balcony seat" and observe the situation with a bit of perspective. Imagine that you are looking down on the experience.

From this vantage point, ask yourself these questions:
  • Am I taking into consideration the experience/perspective of my child?
It's true, your child sees the world out of a different set of eyes, and they are having a different experience than you are having.  How can you honor/respect/acknowledge that in this moment?
  • Is my response bringing us closer together or farther apart?
As Jane Nelsen says, "Children do better when they feel better" - is the way you are responding/reacting to your child in this moment encouraging them to do better, or are they feeling more discouraged?
  • When was the last time I had one on one time with this child?
Special time is a powerful tool and has a surprisingly big effect on behavior.  When kids feel connected to us, they show up better - and WE SHOW UP BETTER FOR THEM!  Sometimes, a behavior that has been making you crazy for weeks comes to a halt when we focus on spending more individual time with our child.
  • Does this child feel felt/understood?
Whenever we respond with empathy, our children "feel felt" and they are much more likely to move towards cooperation and contribution.  Empathy shows up when we are in relationship with our kids...  It is a powerful tool for connecting and really being in the present moment.
  • How can I release the feeling of urgency so that I can connect with the human in front of me?
You know what I'm talking about right?  The urgency?  The physical sensation of anxiety/fear/overwhelm that so often shows up on the parenting journey?  It's not helpful.  In fact, I would argue that this sensation, and the emotions and thoughts that accompany it, are what railroad us the MOST on the path to being the parent we want to be.  Take a breath. Practice being mindful of the here and now, and be in the present moment.

These questions, and the practice of finding perspective during intense moments, are what help me on my quest for being the best I can be.

The practice is the key, right?

Because when we are worked up in the moment, we don’t remember to “take a balcony seat” or “respond with empathy.”  Instead, it is our emotional selves that show up, often creating disconnection.

This is why I am so excited to share a gift with you…

It’s called #JoyfulCourage10 – a FREE 10 day program that will guide and support you in your practice of choosing connection.

"The joyful courage 10 challenge was thought provoking and helpful. Each message was like receiving a warm hug of wisdom on how to not only be focused, but to really enjoy every part of parenting. " - Carly H, mama of two

#JoyfulCourage10 is 10 days of exploring and practicing the parent you want to be through daily support and inspiration. You will receive text messages to encourage and inspire you around the daily theme, as well as deeper conversations and live support in the Joyful Courage Facebook group. Best of all? YOU decide your level of engagement.

We start August 24th - I would love to have you join us!

Peace, love and parenting - Casey

Casey O'Roarty, Med, is a wife, mama, Positive Discipline Trainer and Coach, doing her best to walk her talk on the daily with her own two kids.  For more information on offers, her blog, or to check out the podcast, head over to www.joyfulcourage.com.

Sensible Alternatives to Traditional Discipline Techniques

Friday, July 15, 2016 No comments

Common discipline tricks include time-out, spanking, removal of privileges, and grounding. Many parents are even getting quite creative with their tricks, using humiliation, public shaming, and hot sauce. Unfortunately, while these tricks may work in the short term, they erode the trust and connection that are so vital to our true parental authority.

Which leaves many asking “well what do we do?” Giving specific discipline advice is my least favorite thing to do as a parenting author and educator because all situations, children, and family dynamics are unique. I believe we parent at our best when we evaluate each circumstance, reading our children as best we can in that moment, and meeting them where they are to teach them what they need to know depending upon what the problem reveals to us. I believe we need to let go of fanciful ideas of one-size-fits-all discipline, promising programs, and quick fixes and look to our own intuition and knowledge of our children and circumstances.

However, with that said, I understand that parents like to have alternatives when getting away from traditional discipline practices while they get their “positive parenting legs” underneath them. Below are several sensible alternatives that keep trust and connection intact while providing children the guidance they need through childhood.

Alternatives to Time-Out:
Spanking and time-outs are the most popular forms of toddler discipline in traditional parenting.

Try these instead:

Time-in is a great alternative to time-out because rather than isolating a little one, which can feel scary and threatening causing further agitation and misbehavior, time-in brings the child closer, often onto our laps or sitting next to us. I know this may seem counter-intuitive at first because we’ve been so conditioned to believe that we must push children away in order to make them behave, but many parents have shared testimonies of success with time-in.

What does it look like: If you away from home, let’s say at a park, and your child pushes another child down in frustration, you’d go to her, say “Uh-oh, you pushed her down and that hurt her. Come sit with me and I’ll keep everyone safe.” You bring her to your lap, arms gently wrapped around her, and judge what state she is in.

If she is angry, she may need your help to calm her brain. Perhaps rocking back and forth, humming a familiar song, or telling her a story will soothe her. She needs to sit with you until she has calmed down and is able to tell you that pushing others down is not okay.

Depending upon development and maturity, you might ask her how she made the other child feel and what she can do to fix it. Keep your sentences short and simple. “I’ll keep everyone safe.” “Are you feeling better?” “If you push again, we will go home.” Then, of course, follow through by going home if she continues such behavior.

If she is frantic and will not sit on your lap or next to you, it’s probably time to go home and give her some food and/or a nap. If leaving isn’t an option, consider keeping a calm down travel bag in your purse. I’ve used them in stores while grocery shopping.

Calm-Down Area – This is basically a time-in while you are in the comfort of your own home and can transition to a place your child can go independently to calm down with time and practice. I’ve given detailed instructions on setting up a great calm-down area in this post.

Cool-Off – For older children, taking a period of time to cool-off may be just what they need. This works well with arguing siblings, too. Ask them to go to their separate rooms or separate areas of the home until they can be peaceful together. There is a difference in using a harsh attitude to force a child into his room for 30 minutes and suggesting that a child take some time to read a book or get some space from his frustration. Delivery is important.

Alternatives to Removing Privileges and Grounding:
Taking Something Away…Logically – Taking away a child’s iPad for a week because he rolled his eyes at you is retribution. Taking away his iPad because he’s gone past his screen-time limit and is becoming a zombie is a logical action to take. I’ve taken away toys because they were thrown and Kindles because they were used in a way that violated the electronic rules.
It’s my opinion that anytime something is taken away from a child, it should because that particular item is being misused in a way that is unhealthy or violating family rules, not just to make them miserable or suffer.

Hold Them Accountable – Rather than dishing out a punishment or grounding them, holding children accountable by putting it in their hands to fix actually helps them learn true accountability. Being grounded only makes them resentful. So, if a child breaks something, he may need to work it off. If she is rude to someone, she needs to repair the relationship. These things are done with parental support and encouragement but it should be made clear that it is up the child to make amends and right her wrongs.

Stopping Sibling Disputes:
Pull Over – If a spat breaks out in the car, pull to the side of the road and tell them it is difficult to drive safely when they are arguing. Then sit and silence. When they stop arguing, resume your trip. This isn’t always a feasible option, but when it is, it really gets the point across quite quickly.

The Peace Table – A way to teach children to solve their disputes peacefully is by taking them to a peace table. Each child gets a chance to state their case and the parent walks them through to a peaceful resolution and then sees that it is carried through. After a few practices, mine were able to work through their own disagreements without my assistance.

Repair - When children fight with one another, they should learn the value of repairing relationships. Teach them the value of an apology and ask what they can do to reconnect with their sibling. My children usually choose to write a note or card or just give a hug. It doesn’t have to be a verbal apology but just a reaching out to make amends.

This post was originally written for and published at Creative Child Magazine.

4 Habits of Happy Parents

Thursday, July 7, 2016 No comments

“In our happiest of childhood memories, our parents were happy, too.” – Robert Brault

I’ve been thinking about happiness a lot lately. As parents, we often think about how to raise children who are happy and thriving, and I think about that plenty, too, but in the past several months, I’ve been thinking about how our own happiness affects our children.

This led me to ask my 7 year old this question – “If you had to choose, would you rather have all the toys on your wish list or happy parents?” He didn’t miss a beat before he answered, “Happy parents. I mean, it’d be nice to have all the toys, but it’s more important that you and dad are happy.”
I was floored. This little boy of mine would choose my happiness over all the toys. My curiosity piqued, I went on to ask, “Does it affect you when you think one of us might be unhappy? What does it feel like?”

“Yeah,” he said. “It makes me feel kind of…” and he made a yucky face. Apparently, feeling that their parents might be unhappy makes kids feel yucky. Or at least, it makes my kid feel yucky. I’m willing to bet, however, that most children would have the same response because I think their parents’ happiness matters to them a lot more than we think it does.

I couldn’t find much in my research on the topic, but there is information about how depression affects children. Still, I didn’t need a peer-reviewed paper to tell me that it matters. I have a 7 year old who told me.

Since my conversation with my son, I’ve been reading a lot about happiness. Most of them say the same things: Eat healthy, exercise, manage stress, and limit screen time. Those are all solid suggestions for sure, but I wanted something more, so I kept reading and taking notes. As a result, here are 4 habits I’m convinced will make us happier parents.

4. Challenging negative thought patterns.

If you’ve read my new book, you know this is a challenge I’ve tackled before. I even list the steps to become a more positive thinker in the book.
  • notice your thought patterns
  • write down your most recurring negative thoughts
  • challenge them by asking if they are true and coming up with a more positive counter thought
  • then stopping those negative thoughts in their tracks and replacing them with the counter thoughts
It takes a lot of willpower at first, but it gets easier with time.

3. Connect with those around you.

I mean really connect, not just occupy the same space. You see, they tell us to get off our screens, and we should, but if we sign off and still don’t make an effort to communicate and connect with those we love, what’s the point?

I think often times parents think that because we do so much for our children, surely they feel connected to us. This isn’t necessarily true. It isn’t about the quantity of things we do for them but the quality of the time we spend with them. Read this article for 10 Ways to Connect with Your Child.

2. Live with integrity.

Sometimes we get out of step with who we want to be. We may let others influence us negatively, allow them to make decisions for us, or take away our personal power. I think this is becoming an increasing problem with the constant influences of social media.

Well-meaning friends, family, strangers on the internet, and even professionals may talk us into doing things that feel counterintuitive. We also may overstretch ourselves to please others even when it means sacrificing the personal values we believe in. We may allow our priorities to become askew and get off track for a period of time.

I believe living outside our values and beliefs is a cause for much unhappiness.

The Executive Happiness Coach, Jim Smith, says, “You can experience pleasure, yes.  But true happiness, as it is related to meaning and engagement with life, is difficult to achieve and impossible to hold when one is out of integrity.” I like this definition of integrity: “The state of being whole and undivided.” Decide what values you hold dear, what beliefs you stand firm in, and don’t let others cause you to become divided.


Making Sense of Aggression: What's Really Going On and How to Help by Bridgett Miller

Wednesday, July 6, 2016 1 comment
Making Sense of Aggression: 
What’s Really Going On and How to Help

There are few things that concern parents quite as much as seeing aggressive behavior in their little ones does.  I believe this is most likely because as caring parents we are heavily invested in wanting to raise children who are socially and emotionally responsible. When we see them acting out in ways that rub up against our hopes and expectations, we naturally become concerned.

One of the most important things to remember about behavior is that it gives us information about our child’s emotional development. It gives us clues as to where our support is needed. When we see disconcerting behavior and automatically label it as anger being directed towards something or someone, we are being distracted by the symptoms and lose sight of the root cause driving the action. What we are really observing is evidence of frustration in the system. Something is not working for whoever it is displaying the aggressive behavior. When this happens to anyone, our children or to us, we get stuck in what Dr Gordon Neufeld refers to as ‘The Frustration Roundabout.' 

When a child encounters an incident they find frustrating, the first thing that occurs to their brain to do is to try and change the situation. For example, we might have said ‘No’ to giving them another cookie. The child who really wants another cookie may feel compelled to move in to get us to change our mind. They know what they want and are driven to pursue it. This shouldn’t surprise us but all too often it does! Our child’s brain has locked onto the idea of getting another cookie and anything, or anyone, getting in their way will further fuel their frustration. The outward expression of  this frustration will likely come across as untempered and volatile behavior, particularly in an immature child.

When we hold our ground, as being a responsible parent regularly requires us to do, and we continue to convey the message, ‘No, no more cookies today’ it will begin to occur to the child’s brain that they cannot get mommy or daddy to change their answer.  Some children move more quickly than others to feeling their futility and relinquishing what they so desperately want. Young children tend to burst into tears of upset, or if they are older, they may instead let out a big sigh and shrug their shoulders as the disappointment of not getting their way sinks in. It’s in these moments that we might well struggle with our own feelings of discomfort as we have led our children to where they feel their passing sorrow. That’s not an easy place for most parents to be in.

If you have more than one child you’ve probably noticed that when confronted with limits and  restrictions, not all children react in the same way. Some children move to tears quite quickly whereas others seem to resist feeling their sadness and their frustration erupts in volatile behaviors such as hitting, kicking, biting, spitting, screaming, harsh words or perhaps something else. While there are many forms of aggression, each one of them serves as an expressive reminder that our child is experiencing frustration because they couldn’t change the situation (by getting another cookie) or wasn’t changed by it (by feeling their sadness about not get a cookie).

More often than we maybe realize, we inadvertently move our children to aggression by not making it easy for them to have their tears. One of the most common reasons we try and shut down their tears is because of how they make us feel. We may feel saddened, guilty or perhaps even frustrated by their tears and so we try to make them stop as quickly as we can, either with distraction or by admonishing them for crying.  Each time we do this we block the child from feeling their sadness and in so doing, we rob them of the opportunity to feel their sadness about that which they cannot change.

As parents we need to know and value the purpose of tears. Few people realize that tears of sadness signal the process of adaption taking place in the brain. The child who is able to feel their sadness around that which cannot be changed, is being changed by their experience. Therein lies the recipe for growing children into resilient adults. With each opportunity to feel their sadness, at the same time as being comforted in their upset, another layer of resilience is formed. As their parents we can help them to do this, but we need to understand what is happening for our child and how we can support them through the process.

The way through with a child who is displaying aggression is relatively simple, but not always easy! Aggressive behavior is a response to being frustrated and the child is being driven to act out on how they feel. They are responding to what isn’t working for them. Young children, or the immature, lack what’s called ‘brain integration’ which means they are not yet developed enough to feel their big feelings and simultaneously consider their actions. That’s why young children say what they think, and behave how they are feeling. They don’t yet have the capacity to think twice, or to consider the consequences of their behavior in order to reign themselves in at that very moment. They often know better than they do, which is true for anyone immature, regardless of their age.

So, how do we help our children when they are being aggressive? Firstly, we should acknowledge their upset as frustration. They are not rude, mean, or inconsiderate, they are feeling FRUSTRATED. “I can see you’re feeling really frustrated with your little brother right because he took away your toy.” “I’m sure you’re feeling really frustrated with me for saying no to one more cookie.” Acknowledging their frustration isn’t giving them permission to act out, it’s helping them to take up a relationship with how they are feeling…and that is a really crucial ability to develop when we are growing up. So many adults still don’t know what they are feeling, they just act out. 

As Freud so wisely stated, ‘What we do not express we depress and then we get sick.’ Frustration is an emotion that needs to be expressed. We have to provide the support and structure for children to be able to express their frustration in ways that let it out but don’t hurt or damage anyone or anything in the process.

In order to lead your child, you must first learn to read your child.  Watch them closely. How do they respond when they are starting to feel frustrated? What happens when they are driven to express their frustration? Be careful not to be distracted or derailed by their outward behavior, it is providing you with insightful clues as to where they need your help with their inner struggle to adapt. Expression is key to healthy development. As children grow up their outward expression of frustration becomes more controlled, not because we teach them self control, but because their brain has integrated. As human beings mature, we become capable of having our tears on the inside in the form of feelings of disappointment or futility and we no longer have to physically act out, or openly weep in response to every frustration in order move through it. Many adults are still ‘a work in progress’ in this developmental area.

As you now know, a significant part of our parental focus needs to be on understanding and providing a safe outlet for aggression, BUT another important piece to be aware of is the energy we bring to the interaction. Whilst it is natural and understandable that our own level of frustration rises as we witness our children’s struggle with their frustration, it’s up to us to keep ourselves in check. Understanding what’s going on for us emotionally is the just the beginning. Reminding ourselves in the incident that unleashing our own frustration will further alarm and frustrate our children will help us to temper our own reactions. It’s not always easy to act like an adult, but in our parent-child relationships it is essential that we dig deep and then rise to the occasion when our children need us most.

Trying to teach a lesson in the moment is never very productive because we are feeling emotionally rattled and so are our children. No one takes in much information when they are in this alarmed state, least of all children. Our desperate attempt to wedge in a lesson on acceptable behavior during the incident is wasted on them. It might make us feel like we are at least doing something, but you can be sure that very little is sinking in for the child. Our work is best done after the incident when our nerves and their upset has subsided and we have restored the heart connection between us. That’s when they will be ready to hear our words and take in our values and expectations.

So, what does this all mean for the parent who gets frustrated by their very frustrated child? Well, it may help to know that our emotional system functions in the same way as our children’s does. We also get frustrated when things are not working for us and we have to either change what’s not working, and if that’s not possible, we need to be changed by it…or else our frustration will be expressed as aggression. That being said, our children shouldn’t be on the receiving end of our day to day frustration or lack of integration, this is something we have to take responsibility for and work at managing. We need to be aware that we typically lose ‘our mix’ when we are tired, hungry, stressed, or under the influence. Given that any one of these conditions, or a combination thereof, describes the state of a typical parent, we have a lot we could focus our attention on. Simply by becoming more conscious of how we are feeling has the potential to shift how we respond to our children’s frustration almost instantaneously.

Parenting brings with it countless delights and challenges, often way beyond what we could ever have imagined. We expect to raise our children but along the way we find ourselves presented with many unanticipated opportunities for our own growth and development. From the moment we become parents and little eyes look to us for guidance and support, we begin to discover more about ourselves as we strive to become the parents we yearn to be for them. It’s in our open-hearted efforts that we find ourselves faced with a choice, to either seek to understand what’s driving behavior or to get stuck in fear trying to control it. Once we shift our focus from the distracting external behavior to instead supporting our children with their emotional development, we find our way though with them and often without expecting it, back to ourselves.

Bridgett Miller has a background in Education, Special Education and Psychology. She is an Authorized Facilitator of the Neufeld Institute and has over a decade of experience teaching preschool and kindergarten children. Bridgett is passionate about helping parents and educators make developmental sense of the children in their lives.  She is the creator of  https://www.facebook.com/look.with.love.bridgett and has a parent/educator consultation practice www.truegrowthconsulting.ca in Vancouver, Canada where she lives with her husband, children and two longhaired dachshunds.

For more information on the relational developmental approach of Dr Gordon Neufeld and full course details on Making Sense of Aggression please visit www.neufeldinstitute.org. or www.truegrowthconsulting.ca