Don't Spit-Smudge My Face: Respecting Children's Personal Space

Tuesday, March 21, 2017 No comments


My son had food crumbs on his face. Absent-mindedly, I began wiping them off in the presence of others who were just feet away. Apparently, this was quite embarrassing for him. Of course, I didn’t mean to embarrass my child. In fact, I thought it would be more embarrassing for him to walk around school with crumbs on his face, but his look of disdain caused me to take pause and think of my actions. How would I like it if someone started wiping my face in front of my friends? My honest answer was, I wouldn’t.

I think of myself as a respectful parent. I honor my children as valuable human beings and do my best to treat their minds, bodies, and spirits with respect, and yet I realize that there have been many times when I have unintentionally disrespected their personal space. Let’s look at some of the common practices most parents do that we generally don’t think twice about.

Wiping Hands and Faces Without Warning


It would feel bazaar to say to a baby “I’m going to wipe the milk off your chin now” or to a toddler, “Your hands are sticky. I’m going to clean them with this wet wipe.” We usually wipe them clean without permission or often warning, but isn’t this rather rude? When I consider how I would feel if perhaps a waiter came up to me at a restaurant and wiped my face abruptly, I cringe. We wouldn’t dream of disrespecting an adult in such a way, but it is common practice in how we relate to children.

Scooping Them Up and Away


There have been countless times I have swooped in and scooped up my children without so much as a whisper of caution. Come to think it of it now, it probably gave them quite a fright! I can no longer do this because they’re half grown, but when they were little and light, I would scoop them up and away from undesirable objects and predicaments or just casually pick them up for a snuggle, and they never saw it coming.

Smacks, Slaps and Spankings


Still very common practices, many parents smack little hands away from outlets or hot stoves. They slap legs and spank bottoms to deter unwanted behavior, but these common methods disrespect a child’s body and dignity. While many still argue that the occasional smack or spanking is a necessary tool in child-rearing, I believe all humans have the right to protect their own bodies and that we send a dangerous message by violating this right with our young ones.

Tickles, Hugs and Kisses


I believe strongly in showing affection to our children, and I’m not going to assert that we must ask permission every time we want to hug them. What I am suggesting is that we be aware of the cues our children give us and know when to ask and when to back off. One of my children loves hugs but not kisses. Another despises tickling. I think it shows our children respect when we honor their wishes regarding tickling and affection and allow them to have a voice. Relatedly, it is quite common to expect children to hug and kiss family members they may not know well or feel comfortable with, and I think it is good idea to give children the option of a handshake or high-five in those situations.

Honoring Children by Giving Them a Voice
 

We can honor our children and show respect by starting when they are babies. Though it may feel silly at first, voice what you are doing as you change a diaper or wipe them down. I know they will not understand your words early on, but your gentle, respectful demeanor will be communicated nonetheless. As they grow, give warning before you pick them up, and explain why they mustn’t touch the outlet or get so near the stove. Point out the smudges on their faces and hand them a wipe, allowing them to take charge of keeping their bodies clean. Offer hugs and kisses often but never force them, and allow them the opportunity to say “no” to tickling and affection. Give them a voice by teaching them to say “Please don’t do that to me” or “I’d prefer a high-five, Uncle Jim.” Children are valuable, whole human beings from the beginning. Giving them the message “you are worthy of respect” from day one tells them they are safe with us and that we value them as people.

This article was originally published by Boston Parents Paper.

Great Expectations: Holding Children to Higher Standards Than Adults



I once said in a book, “So often, children are punished for being human. They are not allowed to have grumpy moods, bad days, disrespectful tones or bad attitudes. Yet, we adults have them all the time. None of us are perfect. We must stop holding our children to a higher standard of perfection than we can attain ourselves.” This quote has gone viral, being seen by millions around the world, and has received mixed reactions by people who love and understand the meaning of the quote and by those who misunderstand it to mean we should let children by with being disrespectful.

I, of course, believe in teaching children to be kind, considerate and respectful. I believe in coaching them to have positive attitudes, and to be aware of their emotions and how to manage them. I also happen to believe this is best done by providing an example, and if I’m honest, when I listen and look at many of the adults around me, I’m just not seeing it.

We generally expect children to be on their best behavior at all times, yet this is a feat we can’t accomplish ourselves. Who of us has never lost our temper? Who of us doesn’t get grumpy or have a bad attitude from time to time? I’d be a hypocrite if I said I was always perfectly well-behaved, and I dare say most readers would as well. It is not possible, in our human condition, to be perfect, and if I, in all my nearly four decades, haven’t managed to attain perfection yet, why should I demand it of my children who have only be here a very short while?

Consider the way we behave toward children in contrast with the way we expect children to behave toward us. We tell children “hands are not for hitting” but the majority of Americans still spank their kids. We tell them to use “inside voices” but we yell at them when we are frustrated. We tell them to be patient but quickly become irritated at backed up traffic or other daily annoyances. We demand respect but humiliate them on social media. It seems to me that adults aren’t upholding the many values we try to impart on our children, and we aren’t behaving in the excellent manner in which we expect them to behave.

When I scroll through my Facebook newsfeed, I see name-calling and rude behavior. When I watch politics, I see much of the same. When I run errands, I hear cashiers being fussed at and bank tellers being yelled at. I worked in banking for more than a decade and was on the receiving end of many adult tantrums. I am not suggesting we are all bad people. It’s the opposite, in fact. We are mostly good people who, on occasion, behave badly.

As a parent, I’ve lost my temper and yelled at my kids. I’ve ran to my room and slammed the door. I’ve yelled at my spouse, hung up on telemarketers and said negative things under my breath to the person who cut me off in traffic. I’m not a bad person. I’m a human person. Our children aren’t bad kids. They’re human kids. They make mistakes. They get angry. Sometimes they’re rude or grouchy. It’s never OK to treat others badly, and of course they should be taught that, but when we correct them, let’s do so bearing in mind that we, ourselves, are sometimes guilty of the things we are correcting them for.

My opening quote isn’t a suggestion to lower the standard we have set for our children so much as it’s to raise the standard for ourselves. It’s a call to rise up to our own fullest potential as people and parents and behave in a manner suitable to be imitated. And it’s also a call for understanding and compassion because being a kid is hard sometimes. Being a person is hard, sometimes. We all need a soft place to land. As parents, let’s not fail to teach our children all the right things, but just as importantly, let’s not forget to wrap them in arms of grace and say, “I am your safe place. Here you will always be loved.”

*This post was originally published by Boston Parents Paper.

This One Thing Helps Children Behave Better

Friday, March 17, 2017 No comments


“You can’t teach children to behave better by making them feel worse. When children feel better, they behave better.” – Pam Leo

Nearly eight years ago, I found the above words by Pam Leo to be absolutely true, and this truth led me down the path of connection-based parenting for which I am so grateful to have followed. When I used punishments such as time-out and tricks like behavior charts, my son’s behavior became increasingly difficult and we were locked in what I perceived to be constant power struggles. I felt like my son was always struggling to gain the upper hand when really he was only struggling to regain our connection. When I provided his attachment needs, he felt better. He was able to rest in our relationship, and his behavior improved.

Much of today’s parenting advice is based on behavioral theory. Time-out, for example, is a result of B.F. Skinner’s work on operant conditioning. We tend to think in terms of positive and negative reinforcement because Skinner showed us that a hungry rat will quickly learn to push a lever for food (positive reinforcement) or push the lever to avoid being shocked (negative reinforcement). As a result, we spend our days handing out food pellets or shocking children (metaphors for punishments and rewards, of course) to condition them to behave how we want them to behave, but, as Alfie Kohn, author of Unconditional Parenting, explains, “Behaviors are just the outward expression of feelings and thoughts, needs and intentions. In a nutshell, it's the child who engages in a behavior, not just the behavior itself, that matters."

Here are 3 ways we help our child feel better, thereby helping them behave better:
  1. Be the light reflector. While punishment may temporarily stop a certain behavior, it makes children feel bad about themselves, and when children feel bad about who they are, their behavior will reflect that. Rather than being behavior managers, we can become light reflectors (click the link to read more about becoming a light reflector). In this nurturing role, we simply reflect back the light that our children already possess. When they get off track, as humans do, we remind them of their goodness, their kindness, their willingness to help. We hold faith that their intentions are good, even when behavior is bad, and we guide them back to their true (good) selves.
  1. Use positive discipline. Positive discipline looks beyond behavior to the heart of the child. It seeks to determine why a child is behaving in a certain way so that the root cause can be fixed. Punishing or rewarding behavior is like slapping a Band-Aid on an open and bleeding wound. It might cover up the problem, but it doesn’t heal it. Positive discipline has 3 simple steps: Assess the need (find out what is driving the behavior), calm yourself and your child (because until you are both calm, your brains aren’t ready to engage with one another with empathy and the ability to solve the problem), and teach/problem-solve (look for a solution to the problem).
  1. Continue reading at Creative Child Magazine.


How 10 Minutes of Joy Can Change Your Life



I’ve been thinking a lot about joy lately. After dealing with a bout of depression in 2016, I decided I wanted to wear joy like a suit of armor. I wanted my children to remember the sound of my laughter. I wanted them to remember my smile. I knew that the prior months didn’t offer much in the way of reaching either goal, and so I made it my mission to find simple strategies that would increase my joy. Did you know that if you carve out just 10 extra minutes a day to focus on joy, you’ll collect more than 60 joyful hours per year? Imagine how that could impact your life!

I got curious about just how an extra 10 minutes per day would impact my own motherhood and my life, so I added up how many joyful minutes I’d add over the next 9 years (until my youngest child reaches 18 and could potentially leave my nest). If I practice joy with my kids for just 10 extra minutes per day, I’ll gain 32,850 joyful minutes.

That might be 10 minutes of reading aloud.
10 minutes of Lego building.
10 minutes of Monopoly (okay, we all know Monopoly takes forever, but stick with me).
10 minutes of stirring the cookie dough and rolling it out.
10 minutes of snuggling.
10 minutes of listening.
Or talking.
10 minutes of undivided attention.

10 minutes a day equals 32,850 more minutes of happiness during their remaining childhoods.

32,850 more smiles my kids see.
32,850 more minutes of feeling loved, cherished, and seen.
32,850 more minutes of feeling connected.
32,850 more minutes of focusing on those that matter most to me.

.....Continue reading at Creative Child Magazine.


When the World Says Your Child Needs Changing

Thursday, March 2, 2017 No comments

*I am so pleased to welcome Rachel Macy Stafford to the blog today! She is the NYT bestselling author of Hands Free Mama and Hands Free Life. Her new book, Only Love Today, will be released on March 7th. See the bottom of this post to find out how to get the book plus 4 bonus gifts! 

Here's Rachel!
**************

When my daughter was three, someone told me during a toddler music class that I needed to "toughen her up" because she was too sensitive and "would have a rough life ahead.” When my daughter and I got home, I looked into my child’s big, brown eyes that held so much promise and declared, “I will never ever ‘toughen you up.’ Mark my words. Someday, that tender heart inside you will be your gift.” 

It wasn’t until I was cleaning out my daughter’s backpack six years later that I received confirmation for nurturing my child's tender heart rather than trying to change it. 
At the bottom of her book bag there was a speech she’d written and recited to her class before being voted class president in a mock election.
My daughter wrote:
"I would very much like to be your class president. I am hard working. I am very kind. I take care of the animals and the plants. I have self-control. I am very brave and honest. I am caring and a little curious. I am very smart and fun. I make a good leader. I care about other people. I am so exided to be one of the class presitents. Please vote for me."
I cried as I held that paper.
I cried for every little boy whose parents are told he is too rambunctious, too inquisitive, too loud.
I cried for every little girl whose parents are told her head is in the clouds, that she is a daydreamer, and too much of a free spirit.
I cried for every little boy whose parents are told he is too small, too weak, and too timid to ever play the game.
I cried for every little girl whose parents are told she is too clumsy, too uncoordinated, too slow to ever succeed.
I cried for the mother who was told her child needed to be toughened up and for ever year that mother waited for the moment she would know she had done the right thing by nurturing that tender heart.
The moment was now.
And there was cause for celebration. Not because I had been “right.” Oh no, there was something much more miraculous to celebrate.
In the act of protecting, nurturing, and encouraging that overly sensitive heart at age three, my child’s gift had blossomed.
And what was more important than the fact the world could see and appreciate her gift was the fact that she could see it herself.
I shudder to think if I’d tried to change her, mold her into something she was not.  What would I have destroyed in my beautiful child? I was certain she could have never written these words, her purpose, and her future in clear legible letters.
But what about the others—the ones who are being told they are “too this” or “too that?” I want to protect their unique and beautiful inner lights too. May the following plea inspire you to step back and allow your loved ones to do things in their own way … in their own time … with their own flair. May this plea confirm what you’re feeling deep in your heart: To let them be who they are. Perhaps in time, you will see something that the world thought needed changing doesn’t need changing at all. Perhaps you will see something courageously brave and beautiful that is worth protecting and nurturing. Perhaps you already do.  
Don’t Change, Extraordinary One

They say he’s too quiet.
They say she’s too inquisitive.
They say he’s too energetic.
They say she’s too sensitive.
They say these things thinking it will help,
But it doesn’t.
It only causes worry and the pressure to conform.
The truth is, changing would be a tragedy.
Because when they say “too quiet,”
I see introspection.
Don’t change, thoughtful one.
You’re gonna bring quiet wisdom to the chaos.
Because when they say “too inquisitive,”
I see problem solving.
Don’t change, little thinker.
You’re gonna to bring answers to the toughest questions.

Because when they say “too energetic,”
I see vitality.
Don’t change, lively one.
You’re gonna bring love and laughter to desperate times.

Because when they say “too sensitive,”
I see heart.
Don’t change, deep feeler.
You’re gonna bring compassion to hurting souls.

Because when they say “too anxious,”
I see caution.
Don’t change, little protector.
You’re gonna bring deliberation to tricky situations.

They might say change is needed.
I ask that they look a little deeper and observe a little longer.
From where I stand, these individuals are just as they should be–
On their path to bring the world exactly what it needs to thrive.

Don’t change, extraordinary one.
You’re gonna light this place up.



Editor’s note:
This article is a small sample of what you will find in Rachel Macy Stafford’s highly anticipated new book, Only Love Today: Reminders to Breathe More, Stress Less, and Choose Love (release date 3/7). With a unique flip-open, read-anytime/anywhere format, this book is soulful encouragement for busy parents and individuals yearning to anchor themselves in love despite everyday distractions, pressures, and discord. “Only Love Today” began as a mantra to overcome her inner bully, but it is now the practice of Rachel Macy Stafford’s life. It can be a practice for all of us. Join Rachel and her supportive community at HandsFreeMama.com where you can also pre-order Only Love Today by March 7th and receive free bonus materials with your order. Follow Rachel on Facebook at The Hands Free Revolution!  Join the #onlylovetoday movement!


About the Author

Rachel Macy Stafford is the New York Times bestselling author of Hands Free Mama, Hands Free Life, and soon-to-be-released, Only Love Today. Rachel is a certified special education teacher who helps people overcome distraction and perfection to live better and love more. Rachel’s work has been featured on CNN, Good Morning America, The Today Show, Global News, TIME.com, and FoxNews.com. Rachel loves taking long walks, baking, and volunteering with homeless cats and nursing home residents. Rachel lives in the South with her husband and two daughters who inspire her daily.