Thursday, December 25, 2008

Your Presence for the Holidays

This time of the year, it is easy to forget what our children really need.  The focus in the outer world is still on material possessions, on what they did or didn't get, rather than on our relationships and what really matters.  This is a time to turn inward and to find inner peace, then to look into the eyes of our children and see them for who they really are- beings on their own life journey who rely upon us to learn what is appropriate in a loving and respectful way, to model what unconditional love is, and what it looks like in relationships.  

Let the lights of this season remind you of the light within each child that needs to be nurtured and respected, and the light within yourself that needs to be nurtured as well.  And the presents remind you that our children most need from us our presence.  Turn off the cell phones, the computers, the games, and spend time together.  Look into each other's eyes and remember how marvelous you all truly are.  Look for the light.  What you seek, you shall find.

Happy Holidays from my family to yours. 

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Communication behind illness

My son missed his first day of school this year because he wasn't feeling well. We spent time cuddling and I took extra time to be with him, putting the computer down, and letting the housework not get done. I understood that this illness was communicating something important- that he needs more of my love and attention right now. Kids get sick when they have needs that are not being met- needs for connection. Yes, there are germs out there and illness is passed around. But children who have parents who connect with them in the way they need them to rarely get sick or hurt. Call it stress-related illness and positive, healthy relationships mediate the stress and the body's immune system's response to the invading germs. We are all exposed to the same germs, so why don't we all get sick from everything we are exposed to?

This may be a source of disagreement. But think of when you were a kid and you were sick. What did you want? What did you need from your parents or caregivers? Some of the most tender memories I have heard people share have been when the individual was sick as a child and someone took care of him or her with love.

When our children are sick, we are encouraged to give them medicine and put them to bed to rest. I suggest making them comfortable and pulling up a pillow if they'll let you. Snuggle in. If your child is very young, spend time holding your child while they sleep, if possible. Children need appropriate physical touch, comfort, unconditional love, respect, and an emotionally present adult to value them. When our children are sick, it is an opportunity to stop and do these things to connect if we haven't been doing them as much as our children need us to do them.

BUT won't that make them want to be sick all the time just to get my attention? If a child is sick, it is saying that your child needs more of your attention when they are well. Don't wait until your child is sick to spend time together. This is something that needs to happen every day. Yes, if you don't do this on a daily basis, your child may choose to communicate with you this way if you do only respond to them when sick. Your child needs you to connect with him or her in meaningful ways on a regular, daily basis. Illness is a late indicator that things are out of balance. Heed the communication and spend some long-overdue time with your child connecting in a meaningful way to reconnect in relationship and make a plan to stay connected in the future.

It is especially common this time of the year for a reason. Look at the stress levels in your own life. How much are you able to connect with your child? More than any "thing," your child really just needs you to be emotionally present. Something important to consider in our thing oriented emotionally disconnected world. We do have to make a conscious effort to turn off the outside noise (TV, cell phones, music, video games, etc.) in order to connect. It is well worth the effort.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Beyond Reasoning to Connect in Relationship

It doesn't matter what the situation is specifically. We have all been in situations as parents when we want something to change, probably our child's behavior or attitude. Perhaps it is a child who won't go off into the classroom at the start of the school day who comes to mind. Or a child who won't do as we ask. These situations are confusing and frustrating for parents who are working to parent from a relationship-focused place. We've never seen what it looks like to approach situations like this from any other way than bribery, threats, or force. ("I'll give you ____ if you go inside easily." Or "You won't be able to do ____ if you don't do it." Or "Here, just pull him off of me and put him into the classroom.")

Yesterday, this situation was in the forefront of my mind when I agreed to help a neighbor with her 4 year old daughter while her mother flew to her grandmother's funeral. There had already been numerous changes (her mother left, she was moved to several different places already, and now she was separating from the people she had stayed with last night and her sisters so that they could go to school) and she was clearly done with that! She had reached her window of stress tolerance. She made it nearly to the front door of my house before she turned around and went the other direction. In a corner near the garage, she stayed and cried while her sisters and another neighbor tried to reason with her.

We do this sort of thing all the time: try to reason with those who are not in a place where reason is effective. I watched as bribery, threats, and the question of force all came up, though none of it was working. She still was in the corner by the garage and clearly had no intention of leaving. What to do?

When we're upset- or in any sort of emotional state- reason and logic do not work. We need someone to validate our feelings, to connect with how we're feeling. But many of us are afraid to do that. We don't want the feelings to grow stronger. We want them to stop. But we don't recognize that the feelings will stop if we can work our way through them. The only way out is through, not shoving the feelings down and pretending that they don't exist.

I suggested that her sisters say goodbye to her because they were starting to get worried about being late to school, so they said goodbye and went on their way. I moved in closer to her and said, "I'm sorry this is so hard." No explanation of why. No bribes. No threats. And I felt it with her. I had experienced others leaving when I was a child and I know how that feels. She started crying harder. I stood nearby. I didn't try to make it stop. When she calmed a bit after about a minute, I said, "It is hard being away from your mom right now." She cried harder again for about half a minute, then visibly relaxed. I said, "When you're ready, I would love to have you come inside. I know you'll let me know when you're ready." I stood nearby for another minute before I moved away just a bit. She started playing with her dolls, still standing outside in the cold in front of the garage door. Within a few minutes, she headed into the house on her own.

What happened? When children (and adults, too!) are given some space for their feelings, to have someone just be there and listen, they are capable of working through things on their own. Bribes, threats, and force get in the way of children learning to do that on their own. The outside chatter seems to only muddle things more, rather than helping someone find more clarity so they can make a good decision. We want our children to make good decisions on their own, so we try to manipulate things outside of them to make that happen. It is only when we step aside a bit and allow their own process to unfold that they will truly learn to do this for themselves. When we use bribes, threats, and force, children make changes out of fear. When we keep the relationship in the forefront of our mind, amazing things can unfold.

Think of the last time you were upset. Did you need someone to validate you and connect with how you were feeling? Or did you need someone to try to fix it, or to reason with you? We all need connection. We just need to remember that in the moment.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

A comforting ritual

This past week, I had a friend visit from Australia.  On the first day, she asked about making some tea.  I have a teapot that I occasionally use, so I dusted it off, dug out my tea cups, and found my tea bags for her to use.  Every day, several times a day while she was visiting, she would go into the kitchen and make some tea, always offering to make me or my boys some tea as well.  So, I started joining in on her ritual.  Each morning before breakfast, in the afternoon, and before bed, she would go through this ritual.  I thought it was a wonderful way to nurture oneself and just take a few moments to pause in the day.  As Americans, we are constantly on the move and rarely do we stop to indulge in taking time like this on a regular basis.  I know that this is not something I had really ever seen anyone do on a regularly like this and I soon found myself looking forward to this time.

The week ended and she went on with her journey.  And I found myself thinking about tea.  But mostly about taking that time for me that goes along with having that cup of tea.  This evening I went into the kitchen, found the teapot and all that goes with it and took some time for myself.  Such a simple thing, but such a powerful message to myself.  I have value and I'm worth taking that time for me.  

Do you have any rituals that bring you comfort like this?  Do you have a cup of tea, or do something else on a regular basis to nurture yourself?  To slow down and just breathe in the moment?  I'd love to hear how others are nurturing themselves through rituals.  Did your parents or grandparents have anything like this that they passed along to you?

I'm off now to drink my tea.  Cheers!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Connecting to Our Children, Connecting to Ourselves

I've settled on a title for my upcoming book and wanted to give you a peek as a thank you if you are managing to find my blog and actually read it!  :-)

The full title is Connecting to Our Children, Connecting to Ourselves: A Relationship-Focused, Research-Based Approach to Parenting with Unconditional Love and Respect

The book is organized by 9 guiding principles and I thought I'd share the first one with you right now.  If you have feedback or examples of these principles, I'd love to hear about it!  

Principle #1: Behavior reflects the internal state of the individual and the relationship's level of connection.  All behavior is a communication.

We, as parents, tend to take our children's behavior personally.  If our child refuses to do something, we may automatically find ourselves upset at our child.  Let's explore an example that happened at my house today.  (I'm full of examples of all of these principles!)

My older son was dysregulated this morning because he was worried that he was going to be late for school.  I think my track record is quite good for getting him to school before he needs to be there, but my son wants to be there as soon as he can be dropped off and for that my track record is less than stellar.  He was anxious and dysregulated.  I found that he was sometimes staying calm and other times he was yelling.  His behavior was really reflecting his internal state.  

Some mornings, he'll be in this same place and I'll be totally dysregulated myself.  When I'm struggling, he struggles more.  Other mornings, I can stay present with him, truly feeling that this isn't about me.  I can help him shift out of his dysregulation and help him get ready for his school day.  When we are generally connected, this shift happens relatively easily.  When not connected, I'm distracted with everything I need to do to get 3 people out the door on time in the morning and things don't go as smoothly.  All behavior is a communication and an opportunity to connect or to create disconnection.  By focusing on the behaviors, you'll get more disconnection.  By focusing on the relationship, you'll create more connection.

Next time, we'll take a sneak peek at Principle #2.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Changing the Brain takes repetition!

My 9 year old doesn't love to write.  He went through a time that he just wasn't going to write if he couldn't do it perfectly- there was a series of broken and otherwise unhappy pencils that didn't stay long on the paper on which they were destined to write.  Thankfully, I recognized that it wasn't so important in that moment that he write right now.  After all, I had decided to pull him out of school and teach him at home.  He now has absolutely incredible oral math skills (as I sit scribbling down the series of numbers to check his math and he sits with a grin watching me, asking why I need to write it down!) and that is such a great skill.  His oral vocabulary is also off the charts because we've spent so much time just being together, interacting with one another, and reading all sorts of books with big words for fun.

So, when he decided to return to school this year in the fourth grade, my only concern was his writing.  He just hadn't been doing it.  It isn't that he can't do it, he just wasn't practicing.  I tried to impress upon him over the summer that now was a good time to start practicing, but it wasn't something I wanted to force.  After all, I wanted him to enjoy learning and writing, not hate it more.  I held my breath a bit on his first day, hoping that he'd be able to handle the stressors of a classroom that is entirely focused on writing.

He came home after the first day saying, "Wow- we did a lot of writing today.  And they said we didn't do very much!"  He certainly had moments of frustration with it, but he was actually handling the stress fairly well.

At the time, I was taking Janet Conner's Writing Down Your Soul class ( and she had just gotten to the research about why her writing process works (my favorite part!).  She shared information from Robert and Michelle Colt, who are "brain consultants" working with top athletes and Fortune 500 executives in NYC, on neural pathways.  They said that it takes repetitions to create a new neural pathway and change your brain.  Changes begin to occur immediately when you are learning a new skill or working to break an old neural pattern (exercising, changing your diet, learning to write, etc.), but if you don't keep working on it, the pathway begins to recede.  It gave new meaning to "use it or lose it!"  And 30 days is an important number in creating a new neural pathway.  If you maintain something (eating healthy, making a change in your parenting, etc) for 30 days, you can effectively change your brain.

I let that sit for a while, then I shared it with my son one afternoon when he was frustrated with his writing.  I explained that he was changing his brain and that it doesn't happen right away.  He almost visibly relaxed.  

And doesn't this apply to us as parents, too?  When we want to make a change in our parenting, we need to remember to give ourselves some grace.  Changes don't happen overnight, whether you are trying to serve more vegetables to your family or stop doing something that your parents always did to you.  Change requires us to change our brains and that doesn't happen instantly just because we want it to.

So, consider that the next time you get frustrated with yourself for, "doing that again" and forgive yourself.  Think in terms of making the change for 30 days, working to be gentle with yourself when you make a mistake.  And like my son, you'll find that this works much better than getting mad at yourself for not doing it perfectly! 

Saturday, August 23, 2008

"Mommy Time"

I've been homeschooling my oldest son since he had just started first grade.  Every day of the first 9 weeks of first grade had been awful, from the temper tantrums in the morning when he couldn't tie his shoes the way he wanted to the moment he got off the bus completely overwhelmed from his day.  He was perfect at school, but I dreaded the evenings.  And the mornings.  And thinking about the mornings.  And the afternoons.  And the evenings.  Finally, I had decided to pull him out of school, figuring that school was what was creating his stress.

I was part right.  Yes, there was a lot of stress for him to try to be perfect at school (he was terrified of getting on yellow light or making a single mistake), but that wasn't the whole story.  I had no idea how to help him deal with the stress and overwhelm he was feeling because, guess what- no one had ever helped me with mine when I was growing up (not because they didn't want to, but they didn't know how either) and I didn't know how to support him through it.  It wasn't that I didn't want to help him.  I truly did.  I could see how horrible he was feeling and how he must feel just awful about himself, but I didn't know how to make it better.

Fast forward three years and lots of effort on my part to make my family work, along with incredible synchronicities and answered prayers that led me to the right people at the right time and my son was ready to go back to school.  He asked to go.  He wanted to start 4th grade.  My husband is teaching 5th grade this year and he wanted to go with him to school.  I knew that he was ready to handle the stressors that go along with school that he couldn't handle in the past.  And I was ready to help support him through the stress that I knew would come with returning to that environment when he came home at the end of the day.  I felt better knowing that my husband would be in the classroom next door and that there would be lots of communication from school during his transition.  But I knew that we had more tools and understanding as a family now to support him through it.

What I had learned was the most important is that I am really present with him when he is home.  I wanted to be with him and spend time with him, so I made it the priority.  When he was getting ready in the morning and when he came home at night, it was his "mommy time."  He was going to have moments of dysregulation.  I expected them.  But how would we all do with this huge transition?  I must admit I was a little concerned.  But he seemed confident and excited.  I relaxed more once I met his teacher.  We were now ready for the first day.

He started this past Monday.  He came home with a smile on his face, excited to tell me all about his first day.  Sure enough, over the first week, there were moments of fairly extreme dysregulation.  But I had learned that this was about him and not a personal attack on me, so I was able to stay calm and validate his fears and concerns.  He was able to calm down in seconds instead of the hours it had taken before and then we were able to go on with our time together.  
Our "Mommy Time" schedule for the first week went something like this:  In the morning before school, I made it a point to get up with him and just spend some time with him not asking him to do anything.  Sometimes I'd just hold him and help him to get regulated to start his day off on a good foot.  Sometimes we'd just sit and talk.  Either way, he was ready to start his day after we'd spent this time together, even if he had woken up feeling anxious or upset.  Usually this is about 10 minutes long.

After school, "Mommy Time" starts when my husband takes my younger son, who is 4 1/2, to do something special so that I can spend some uninterrupted time together with my older son.  This time really helped him to regulate after his day, knowing that he was special and loved unconditionally no matter what had happened at school.  This first week of school, we spent between 30-60 minutes together doing something that he wanted to do, like reading the book series we've been enjoying together or going outside together.

At bedtime, I go in and spend another 10-20 minutes just letting him talk about whatever he wants to share with me about his day, his thoughts about the next day, or something fun we're going to do together the next day or over the weekend.

As the school year goes on and he adjusts to school, I know he won't need that amount of time every day.  It won't always be like that, but I will do it as long as he needs it.  When he's ready, he'll want to go out and play with his friends after school after a short time with me instead of needing these long times.  I know it is an investment and something I can do to help him transition to his new environment.  It is worth every minute.  He is worth every minute.  Nothing else is more important than our relationship.  Nothing.

I know it is early in the school year, but I am confident that we are all going to be just fine this year.  I know there will be bumps in the road.  I know there will be days when we struggle with dysregulation and meeting everyone's needs, but it is wonderful to feel positive about all that we have accomplished in the past 3 years!  Mommy Time hasn't solved all of our problems, but it sure has made a big difference in my family!  Thank you "Mommy Time!"   

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Just want to fix it?

My oldest son woke in the middle of the night unable to breathe and was coughing a really croupy cough.  He doesn't normally wake up in the night and come in to me, so I knew when he came in that this was something different.  He has a lot of stressors in his life right now and I know this is part of what's going on with him.  I can see that some of it is emotional, rather than purely physical and I want to fix it.  I want him to feel better.  

So, I got out of bed and tried to figure out what it was that was bothering him and what I could do to help him.  I pulled out my homeopathics and set about trying to figure out, through my groggy middle of the night brain, what it was that he needed.  Try as I might, I couldn't figure it out.  Where was this coming from?  What did he need?

I was so busy searching for a solution that I realized that I had moved away from him.  I was off in my own little corner in my own little world trying to fix it.  Yes, maybe there was something I could give him that would make him feel better.  But maybe I just needed to be there for him to support him, laying beside him and knowing that this is simply where he is in this moment on his own journey.

As mothers, we want to make it better, easier, for our children.  We want to take the pain away.  But that is simply not always possible, especially when it comes to our children's emotional pain.  Sometimes our children are just communicating that they need our presence.  And that is the best thing we can do for them, knowing they will find their way through it if we are just there for them emotionally.

Be open to what your child is communicating with you today and strive to be emotionally present- that is the most healing thing you can do for your child on his journey.  We can't always fix it, but that's okay.  Connection is what really matters.  Thanks for the lesson, Zack.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Resources for Parenting

When I first became a parent, I knew the kind of parent that I wanted to be.  I wanted to be kind and connected, showing love and compassion for my children.  I wanted a peaceful home with love everywhere.  I was determined to do this.  I went to therapy before I even got pregnant with my first because I knew that my own childhood had been rocky and I wanted to learn from my parents' struggles.  

When my son was a baby, I faced a number of challenges.  He was colicky.  He wanted to nurse all the time.  He never took a nap on his own.  And as he grew, it seemed the number of situations I just didn't know what to do about expanded.  I needed more information and support, but wasn't sure where to go.  As I looked around at the available parenting books, I felt more confused. Family members were uncomfortable with my choices and they warned me that what I was doing was going to create a monster.  It was a difficult time for me, but one that stretched me to connect with what my son really needed and learn to find support from those who understood what I was working towards.  I had no real blueprint for what I was trying to do, but I was still determined to do it.

Well, life has a habit of sending you exactly what you need to grow and I felt for a while that I was way too blessed in this department.  I was overwhelmed after a series of losses in my own life and was struggling with the same difficult behaviors my parents had faced with my brothers now with my own son.  I didn't understand how my son needed me to connect with him because I had never experienced it.  As his behaviors escalated, I continued to seek answers.  I read as many parenting books as I could find, but they all seemed based on behaviors and I knew that it didn't work.  It only made it worse and the disconnection in my home was so far away from the family I had imagined.  How could this have happened?  

As circumstances always seem to unfold for me in such an amazing way, I was guided to the people who were able to show me the way out of it all.  I am so thankful to Heather Forbes for being that beacon of hope when I was in the middle of the darkness.  There is hope.  And there really can be peace in our homes and in our lives.  It has been such an amazing journey for me and it has touched upon so much more than just my parenting and my relationship with my son.

So, the resources that I am developing through my website are all those things that either helped me on my own journey or that I wish I had had from the beginning.  This is only the beginning and we already have much to offer here.  Check out our TeleParenting classes, based upon the book Heather Forbes, LCSW, co-authored with Dr. Bryan Post: Beyond Consequences.  We also offer phone coaching, which was another one of the things that made a huge difference for me on my own journey.  I am also having a Family-Friendly retreat this fall on St. Pete Beach, Florida, which was another big part of my healing journey.  And be sure to check out my store and my new e-booklet about Handling Criticism When You Are Parenting Differently.  It is only $3!  These were the words I so needed to hear when I was first starting to do things differently.

We are continuing to create resources that you tell us you need, as well as those that were of benefit to those of us on our own journey.  Let us know how you're doing and what you need most to help you on your journey.  We're listening.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Time to breathe

I can't believe that more than a month has passed since I added to my blog!  Everything has been moving at such an amazing pace in my life and with the Consciously Parenting Project.  We are adding classes and have some wonderful people coming on board to offer more classes and services to meet the needs of the families who are seeking information and resources to create connection in their homes.  We're working on some really cool t-shirt designs and my book is coming along nicely.  I plan to have it widely available by the end of this year, so keep watching for details as they become available.  

But with all this excitement is a much needed reminder to keep the balance in my life: to make sure that I am taking time for my children to be completely present with them in the way they need me to be.  To take the time for those who are nearest and dearest to my heart and not let the busyness of the outside world take away from what matters the most.  

I also remind myself that I need to take time for myself.  If I am struggling, I cannot support someone else.  If I am not fully present on my own, I cannot be fully present with someone else.  And those around me, my husband and my children, need me to connect fully with them.  So, I set aside time for my work, time for play, time to reflect quietly alone, and time to connect with the other important people in my life.  I take the time to just sit and breathe.  I am modeling self-care for my own children, so that when they grow up they will know within themselves that it is good to take time for themselves.  It is good, for they are human beings, not human doings.  Who they are is enough.  

Take the time today to stop and breathe.  Just allow yourself to be.  For you are enough just the way you are. 

Monday, March 31, 2008

Exciting changes here!

 I just got my Pam Leo, "Have you connected with your child today?" bumper stickers in the mail.  How about you?  See my previous blog for information on getting your free bumper sticker.

I've been busy working on many different projects to expand The Consciously Parenting Project to reach more families who are looking for information on how to connect with their children and how to stay connected.  I'm ready to launch a whole new series of TeleParenting Support Classes with a new instructor coming on board who can offer different times and free me up a little more to work on some other projects I have going on.  Wilma Vance, who brings with her many years of parenting experience as an adoptive, foster, and mother of a biological child, as well as many years of professional service working with adoptive and foster families, is joining us to help teach parenting classes.  Wilma actually did the pilot program for the Beyond Consequences classes and has been teaching them for over 2 years.  More importantly, she has been implementing this model into her own home and brings with her a wealth of practical experience "where the rubber meets the road."  I'm delighted that she will be joining us here!  You can send Wilma an e-mail to welcome her at

I'm also excited to announce that we will be beginning a new series of both Level 1 and Level 2 TeleParenting Classes in mid-April.  Check out my events page for more information ( on the dates.  I'm still working on the Level 2 sign up, so if it isn't ready when you check it out, please return in a day or so and it should be up.  I'm still working on the second class date as there seems to be a conflict with the Friday night class time.  

The Level 2 class is very exciting and it will be taking a much more in-depth and personal look how the concepts discussed in the Level 1 class and how it applies to our lives and the lives of those around us.  These classes will be every other week and will also be limited to 6 participants.  Because of the smaller class size and the personal nature of this class, each class will be $20 instead of $10.  There will be work outside of the class and this is definitely one of those times when you will get out of it what you put into it.  We are bringing in lots of other resources to deepen your understanding of this paradigm.  I'm looking forward to this class probably as much as the participants!

I'm also excited to announce that we now have a toll free number.  You can call The Consciously Parenting Project for more information on phone coaching, TeleParenting Support Classes, or just general information.  The number is (888)631-4441.

I'm also planning a workshop in Boynton Beach, FL on Saturday, June 28 from 9-12.  This will be a family-friendly interactive workshop entitled: "Parenting Beyond Behaviors:  What Really Matters in Parenting."  Information and sign-up is also available on my events page.

More to come.  Stay tuned...


Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Pam Leo's bumper sticker campaign

I just loved this and wanted to let everyone know so that you could participate if you wish.  Pam Leo, author of Connection Parenting, is launching a bumper sticker campaign.  Her own words about this campaign are below.  Her granddaughter, Magnolia, will be handling everything as part of her homeschooling.  Please also indicate the nearest large city, as she will also be locating where the bumper stickers are on a map.  At this time, this offer is only available to those in the United States, but she is open to ideas about how to make it available to everyone the world over.  Visit her website to learn more about Pam:

Be part of the shift to connection and helping parents to think about connecting with their children!

From Pam:  Have you ever been driving home at the end of a day feeling stressed and distracted and found yourself cracking up at a funny bumper sticker on the car in front of you at a red light?  I have and I love bumper stickers because they have the ability to make us laugh, make us think, and to inspire us.

At over $3 per gallon, I want more for my gas dollars than transportation; I want inspiration.  We can all make a difference for families by turning our transportation vehicles into vehicles of inspiration.  By the end of March, the Connection Parenting bumper stickers: "Have you Connected to Your Child Today?" will be available.

Wouldn't it make you feel good to think that your bumper sticker made life better for a parent and child?  Imagine some harried mom or dad driving home from work on the way to pick up the kids, and sees your bumper sticker and thinks, "I haven't connected with my children today, but I will when I see them."

My hope for these bumper stickers is that they will remind and inspire parents to connect with their children.

In the US, you can get your free bumper sticker by sending a self-addressed, stamped envelope to:
Pam Leo
Connection Parenting
attn: Magnolia
10 Old Orchard Rd
Gorham, Maine 04038

Your first bumper sticker is free.  Additional bumper stickers may be purchased for $1/ea.  Please make checks payable to Pam Leo."

Pam's granddaughter, Magnolia, is going to be handling this project as part of her homeschooling.  Please indicate the nearest large city so that she can mark it on her map and they know where all those bumper stickers have been sent!

I hope you take advantage of this and spread the word!


Sunday, February 24, 2008

Balance in the present moment

I've been working really hard lately, trying to find that delicate balance between work, family, sleep, cooking, cleaning (which my husband asked if I've given up doing), homeschooling, tending to the cats, spending time journaling or reading a book now and then.  I realized that I was lacking balance, which became apparent after an especially demanding work week for me.  

So today, I took the day off.  I left my computer off until dinnertime and that is an amazing accomplishment for me.  I think the lines get much blurrier when working from home sometimes. When am I actually at work?  When am I home?  When is it family time?  When is it time to rest? It was so much easier when I went away to an office in so many ways.  I haven't worked much without my kids since my first born over 9 years ago and had only a brief time of working away from my oldest son when he was around 3.  It was only a few hours a week and I remember that time rather fondly.  It was just enough that I really missed him and was ready to come back.  But it gave me that time that was distinctly mine to be a grown-up- to drink a hot beverage without worrying about someone getting burned and perhaps have a complete thought without an interruption before 10PM.

I knew this past week had been too much, so I decided today was going to be a family day.  I ended up having some wonderful quality time with my 4 year-old son.   We played on the front porch with those little seeds that fall to the ground like a mini helicopter for the longest time.  I watched his face fill with joy and excitement as we raced our little helicopters to the ground.  He'd cackle as he let his fall from his hand way before anyone said, "Go!" and would rejoice in his triumph when his hit the ground first.  

It was through this encounter that I saw how much he was simply in the present moment.  He wasn't worrying about future events or chugging through events of the past.  He was simply right there watching the little helicopters make their flights with great anticipation, even though the races were over nearly as soon as they began.  Watching his face light up was one of the highlights of my day.

Tomorrow I am determined to keep checking in with myself and make sure that I am giving rapt attention to those little miracles that my children seem to see so much more easily.  I'm going to take lots of time to play and learn how to better set aside time to just simply be in the present moment with my family.  Everything else can wait.  Nothing is more important than my family.

I know it will take time to get the balance right, but intention is a very important part and I have that now.  And I am thankful to my son for reminding me how it is done.

Friday, February 22, 2008

A blogging we will go...

My cousin, Matt, suggested that I start a blog. So, here I am. I had no idea it was so easy to start. Almost too easy. Anybody can do this. Anybody. Five minutes ago, I was not a blogger and now I am. I've been thinking about this for months as if it was some sort of dental procedure I was trying to avoid, but it was painless.

So, I am a parent. A conscious parent, of sorts. I realized that so many people go into parenting and never really think about how they are parenting or what effect their decisions will have on their children today and in the future. Once I started really looking at all of the parenting information out there, I became really overwhelmed. This expert says one thing, while another says the exact opposite. Let your child cry. It helps strengthen their lungs. I cried it out and turned out just fine. (That, of course, may be subject to debate at another time) Another book may say to never let your child cry. And I'm a so-called expert. If I'm confused, how many other parents are confused, too?

As a former elementary school teacher, I saw clearly that the way many parents were parenting just wasn't working. The system I was working in as a teacher was relying on behavioral methods, or looking simply at the children's behaviors, then providing a consequence, punishment, or reward if we wanted to increase or decrease a behavior. It never really made sense to me and I saw many children's behavior get much worse with these types of interventions. But I didn't know what else to do.

I finally left education and went back to school to get my masters in Marriage and Family Therapy. I was going to study behavior and help those families find the answers. But college turned out to be somewhat of a disappointment as far as my classes went. They all emphasized glossing over the core issues to get clients in and out in a short number of sessions covered by most insurance plans. Not for me. I wanted to do much deeper work that would actually result in healing, not just put a band-aid on a gaping wound. I did, however, find many interesting journal articles to read which helped to deepen my understanding of what I wanted to do. I found myself drawn into the attachment and trauma literature by some invisible force and I knew the answers were here. But I still didn't know exactly what this kind of parenting was going to look like. How do you apply this information?

Fast forward several years and children later. I was volunteering for La Leche League and Attachment Parenting International, having discovered these fine organizations which respected the importance of the early parenting bond, helping parents to make those early connections with their own children. I was contacted by Heather Forbes, LCSW, who was writing a book that would later be called Beyond Consequences, Logic and Control: A Love-Based Approach to Helping Children with Severe Behaviors, and we met for lunch. I had no idea how much this meeting would change my life and answer those questions I had been seeking the answer to.

She shared with me her work with adoptive families and the love-based approach they were using with great success. She totally had my attention and I couldn't wait to hear more. I knew the information was valuable for all families, but I wasn't sure how to apply it yet.

Fast forward a couple of years and lots of practice applying this in my own home with my own family and things are looking very good from here, indeed. We had so many struggles with my son, even though I had "done everything right" from the beginning. He had had all that nurturing, co-sleeping, extended breastfeeding, holding care and we were still stuck. I didn't understand, even though I had studied it intensely, how trauma was really affecting us all. It wasn't until I went to the BCI Live Event that it all came together for me.

So, things aren't perfect here, but I'm okay with that. We aren't having hours of temper tantrums anymore and we have a much deeper understanding and appreciation for each other parenting from this place of love and respect than we ever did with consequences and love withdraw.

I'm putting this out into the world because I know that every family wants to raise healthy, high-functioning children who are loving, and families need tools, a greater understanding of their children that goes beyond the mainstream information out there, and the support to parent in a different, responsive way. With information, all parents have a chance to create families who are caring and loving no matter what things currently look like. And empowering families to make conscious decisions from the start is a huge part of the mission of The Consciously Parenting Project, as well as providing information for handling those times of disconnect when things aren't going as we'd like them to. Pre-conception to grandparenting, everyone can find support to parent from a conscious place and that is a beautiful thing.