Wednesday, December 30, 2009

New Class!


I'm excited to announce the birth of my new baby- a class based upon my book that will one day (soon) be finished (I promise!). The 5 week class is called Consciously Repairing Relationships and it is based upon the mismatch between what we think parenting will be like and the reality of parenting. On my own parenting journey, I read inspiring books that left me feeling inept. Why couldn't I parent that way? What was in the way? This class is about what is in the way and how to move through it, into peace and unconditional love for yourself and your children. It talks about the brain science of parenting, so it isn't just based in opinion. But it isn't full of mumbo jumbo, either.

So much of parenting information is about short term compliance. When we focus on that, we might get them to do what we ask when we're looking, but it doesn't help the relationship! And what happens when our backs are turned? When we focus on our relationship, our child's natural desire to please us can surface. This class is about removing the parenting Chinese Handcuffs together. In this process, we'll understanding ourselves and our children in a whole new light and start moving into a peace we often dreamed of, but weren't sure was possible.

These classes are like nothing else out there! Participants don't want the classes to end (and I hate to see parents go, too!) and often find themselves with bonds to friends from all over the world. Classes are based very much upon what is going on with each family, rather than just a lecture. They are more like parenting support classes than just a class you take and soon forget about. Expect to be transformed in ways you didn't think possible! Just remember, parenting is a journey, not a destination, and lasting change takes time and dedication to achieve. But it is possible if you're willing to take the first steps on this journey!

I'm hosting a free demo class next Tuesday, January 5 at 8:30PM Eastern so that you can see what the class is like. This class will be a Webinar, which means that you'll be able to see me on video and see my Power Point presentation. If you don't have access to a computer at that time, you can call in and just listen to the presentation or you can watch the recording later. If you're interested in joining in on the free Webinar, please send an email to Lianne at admin@consciouslyparenting.com and she'll make sure you're on the list to get the information!

We're having a buy one, get one free special for my two classes starting in January- Connection Parenting and Consciously Repairing Relationships. If you love Consciously Parenting classes and have been trying to get a friend to try it out, now is your chance! Or if you've always wanted to try a class, but just hadn't done it yet, now is a great time. You can split the cost with a friend or gift your friend with a free class. But don't miss it! Once this class is full (registration is capped at 7), this deal will be gone.

Here's a link to the course description and the sign up page.

Blessings to each of you for a prosperous and connected New Year!
Rebecca

Thursday, September 17, 2009

A new beginning

I haven't written for a while on the subject of Kindergarten and Josh's transition. We had a really awful week the second week of school that just didn't ever feel right for him or for me. Was it the specific school? Was it too long away from me too many days a week? Was it just a transition? It all felt so uncertain and unsettled. I talked to many of my wise friends who encouraged me to listen to my intuition on this one- that I knew what he needed. We are connected to each other and my discomfort with this transition went beyond the feelings of a mother who was separating from her "baby." This means that action is needed.

One week ago today, after Josh had a brief illness and missed the days of school right after Labor Day, I pulled him out of school officially. It didn't go the way that I wanted it to go because I wasn't able to talk to his teacher face-to-face to let her know of my reasons for taking him out. We had had a conversation about the lack of play at the beginning and I had told her that I would do what was in his best interests, even if that meant pulling him out of school. It was interesting for me to stand back and look at the collective communications of my son's behaviors. He stopped eating at school during the day. He was refusing to eat breakfast before he went. This meant that when I picked him up from school, he ate all the contents of his lunch box as soon as he got out of school. He would then eat for the next 2 or 3 hours. When he would finally start playing again, it seemed forced and erratic- not at all like his usual play. Then at night, he had a very difficult time settling down to go to sleep. Then he got sick. And then there was the complaining about going to school. He just didn't want to go. A year of this seemed like torture for everyone. I told him that we were taking him out of school and asked if he wanted to go for the last day. Without hesitation, he said, "No. I'm not going." "Don't you want to say goodbye to your friends?" "No."

OK then.

We started looking at other schools, since he really seemed to want to be with other children and play more than anything else. Monday, we went and visited another private school nearby with a focus on the arts. While they are different than public school in many ways, it seemed like the same general structure to the day: reading time, math time... lots of time in their seats. Josh wouldn't let me leave the entire day, which was at least alright with the teachers and the administration. It was a fun day for me just to see how other schools do things.

We set up a visit with a local Waldorf school on Wednesday. I was prepared to sit with him for the day again, knowing what it had been like for him in public school and even what it was like on Monday.

We arrived at the school and there were children playing outside everywhere. His eyes grew very large with excitement. He had already chosen the tree he wanted to climb when I had to redirect him to the Kindergarten playground. The children were going inside at the time we arrived after their beginning of the day play time and transitioning into the classroom. Josh decided after a few minutes that he wanted to just go join the other children, even though the teacher had told us to take our time and come in when we're ready.

We entered the classroom and it was quiet. We took off our shoes and joined the children in the middle of the room for a circle time. After a verse, a short song, and the lighting and extinguishing of the candle, the children were dismissed for inside play time. Josh stood there as if he hadn't heard, so I bent over to him and whispered that he was now allowed to play. He looked up at me with the happiest eyes, conveying his surprise that it was already play time. Within 30 seconds, he had joined a group of boys on the floor who were playing with little wooden people and a house. He was completely engaged, completely unaware that I was even there.

I stood and watched him playing with the happiness sparkling in his eyes and knew that we were in the right place. The stars had aligned for him and he was truly where he was meant to be. I talked with the teacher who also commented on how engaged he was in his play and with the other boys. After about 5 minutes, we interrupted him to show him around the room and where the bathroom was, especially after his long car ride. After he had gone to the bathroom, I was worried that he would now want me to stay. But he returned immediately to his play and didn't seem to care about whether I was there or not! After another minute, I told him that I was going to go to fill out some papers in the office. I got a half nod of acknowledgment and headed towards the door. Once outside, I stood and waited for a moment to make sure he was OK. But I knew in my heart that he was home, too.

Today was his second day and the drop off was easy again. He came to the door after he had started playing to tell me goodbye and offer me a hug and kiss before I left. Effortless. Transition into Kindergarten should be just like this for all children.

If you haven't read Crisis in the Kindergarten, please take a few minutes and look at it. Published by the Alliance for Childhood, these folks are taking a good hard look at what we're doing in education and what research shows our Kindergarten-age students really need. Something to consider.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

First Week of Kindergarten Confessions

I admit that I was surprised when I picked my son up after his first day of school and he was upset. Really upset. I didn't know what it was about. I had been standing out by the letter "F", our designated pick-up point with the herd of other anxious Kindergarten parents, when I saw him come out of the front door of the school in a line of other adorable and tired looking 5 year-olds. Immediately, he ran to me. And just as quickly, the teacher reached down and tried to move him back toward the wall. I understand why they did it. They need to keep order in the midst of the afternoon chaos. They have to keep track of all of those kids! I would be upset if they lost him. So, I do understand that. Really, I do. But my 5 year old... well, let's just say that he didn't. It was the end of a very long day away from me and he was done. It was time to be with mom now and there was no logic that could change that.

As the teacher moved him away from me, he burst into tears. The first thing out of his mouth was, "I don't ever want to go here again. Ever." I held him and just listened to his feelings. Thoughts spun around in my head: was the whole day like this or was it just the last few minutes. He cried and I held him, refraining from launching into the series of questions that were heavy on my own mind. The next thing he said was, "I didn't even get a snack. I didn't want what was in my lunch." Oh, I thought. Was there more that happened during this first day of school than what I had observed? I held my judgment, knowing that he was upset and needed to just work through his own feelings before I tried to talk more about it.

As he began to settle down, we were able to walk to the car and start talking about what my two boys wanted to do to celebrate the completion of the first day of school. We decided upon a buffet. As everyone settled into their seats, my older son asked Josh if he wanted to go back to school tomorrow. I held my breath, wishing that he hadn't asked that question, knowing he really didn't have that choice, yet secretly glad that he asked it. He hesitated, then responded: "If you ask me if I'm going back, I will always say... YES!"

What?

He had a good day. He stayed on a green light (not my green stoplight kind of green referring to a state of calm, but the school version of not being bad sort of green light, which of course is really about being able to stay calm and regulated anyway... it just isn't used that way- yet.) and he had enjoyed his first day.

Huh.

I was relieved that it had been a good day for him. But secretly, I think I was hoping it would be cut and dried that it wouldn't work. That I wouldn't have to go through the days and weeks and months of trying to keep him motivated to go to public school when I believe there are better choices that are more in alignment with my own beliefs about what young children should be doing with their time.

Day 1, I thought. It is only the first day. 179 more to go.

Every day this week, I started to see signs of protest. Tuesday, he half-heartedly said, "I don't want to go," as he proceeded to get himself dressed and put on his shoes. His actions weren't congruent. It was almost like he thought he was supposed to complain.

Wednesday, he was a bit more insistent that he didn't want to go. He got himself dressed, but refused to put on his shoes. But he got willingly into the car. I put his shoes on him while I told him a story when we had arrived at the school. This was the first day I left him at the door to the outside of the school and his brother walked him to class. (Well, actually, Josh knew the way, so Zack followed him to make sure he found it OK.)

Thursday, he didn't want to get dressed. Or eat breakfast. He was playing. It took Zack magic to get him excited about going. Yes, today was PE day and he had looked forward to this after hearing his big brother talk about it all last year. He got dressed with my help and we made it to school. Thursday was the day at pick up that Josh was totally escalated into a red light brain state (survival- fight, flight, or freeze) when the teacher tried to physically put him back on the wall.

Friday, he point blank refused to go. "There are too many rules," he said at my prompting. "I can't even get out of my seat." My older son and I worked together and eventually got him dressed and into the car. When we reached the front door to the school, he refused to go in. The teacher at the door tried to help and suggested that there was an oatmeal cookie for breakfast today. It wasn't on his diet (he has some dental issues going on), but at that point I told him he could have it today. He may have no teeth left when this is all over, but he will have gone to public school Kindergarten. It all just seems wrong somehow. Why is getting him to go in more important than anything else right now?

Granted, he seems to have a good time once he is there. And I'm glad for this. Last year, he had a brief time in Pre-K and he didn't like it. I didn't see the point in forcing the issue, so I didn't and pulled him out again to be home with me. It was a very good decision for him. It was what he needed. This year, I think he has a much better teacher who is kind and respectful. He is making friends. He smiles when he talks about school, except for the drop off part. And being away from me, which is very hard for him.

I don't know what next week will bring, but probably more questions than answers as we feel our way through this huge transition. Whether you are homeschooling and starting school now or transitioning to a program away from home, school is a transition for everyone. How is everyone doing right now?

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Reflections of a new Kindergarten Parent

Tomorrow my baby will be starting Kindergarten. I've known this day would come since he was an infant and his older brother went off to school for the first time. I suppose that is what comes to mind when I think of Kindergarten and the first day, since I don't really remember my own first day of Kindergarten. I was only 4 when I went away to school for the first time, since the state I lived in required children were 5 by the end of the year to start. But I was ready for the playing, the singing, the coloring, the stories... I remember my teacher, Ms. Hart. How could you go wrong with a Kindergarten teacher with that name?

Fast forward to when my older son went to school. I had been planning to homeschool him. After retiring as an elementary school teacher forever even before my oldest was thought of, I really didn't plan to send him. But my husband, who had staying in education, had different ideas. When my son Zack started asking to go to school, I felt I needed to give him the opportunity to try it out. We enrolled him and I chose his teacher because he had connected with her during the "testing" process to see what he already knew going into school. Before school even started, he had changed his mind and decided that he didn't want to go anymore. But we were committed now and it felt like there was no going back.

That first day was so hard... for ME! My husband went with me to drop him off, our 9 month old in tow in his sling. After our tearful goodbye at the door, my husband and I walked away hand in hand and cried some more before my husband went off to work and I went home to our quiet house with only my baby. I missed Zack terribly! We had been connected since the day he was born- before really- and we had never really been away from each other. Especially not for so many hours.

As the days and weeks passed and we went through many painful goodbyes at the door to his classroom, I began to wonder why I was doing this. I stayed true to my commitment to not throw him into the classroom crying as I had seen other parents do. I would stay until he was ready for me to leave. When he was ready, he would give me a nod and the baby and I would head home. Some days were easier than others. Some were painful from the moment his eyes opened. But his teacher was caring and always did her best to reach out to us, supporting us when she could.

So we stayed. He learned how to write and he was reading before the end of the year. His math was way ahead. But he wasn't really happy. Finally the year came to a close and summer arrived. It took a long time before he really relaxed into summer and back into the rhythm of our family's life. I started to really feel connected to him again as it drew nearer to the time that school was to begin again. That was when I felt it: a strong urge to keep him home with me. I brought it up, but it wasn't really an option. It was suggested that we just give it a try. He'll be fine.

School started again and with it came chaos. He was fine at school- a model student. But at home, it was a nightmare. He would have temper tantrums for 2-3 hours most nights. I couldn't figure it out, so I went in to observe. I was horrified to see only about 5 minutes of direct instruction during a 3 hour time block! Clearly I could do better myself.

I took my case back home to my husband and we explored our options. We finally decided that the best choice was to bring him home to homeschool, so that's what we did. Once he was home, he started to relax more and to begin to enjoy life again. But I found it curious that he was refusing to read and refusing to write. I knew it wasn't important and that eventually he would be willing to read and write again. And I was right- now he is writing very well and reading way above grade level. So what did his Kindergarten experience really do to him? He was "ready" to read and write according to the experts at the school, but was he really ready for all of that pressure? Was he ready to abandon his need to play and to be close to me or did we push him too hard, too fast? It took a lot of time and patience to undo the damage.

Now Zack willingly goes to school. Actually, he loves it. He couldn't wait to get back to it. Would he have felt that way without the break? I don't think so. He is ready for that sort of pressure now and actually enjoys it in a way that I don't think I ever really did. I'm just glad to see that he's happy after all that we went through.

So tomorrow, I start this school journey with my youngest son, Josh. I must admit, I am reluctant after my experience with his older brother. I am also very concerned about the lack of unstructured playtime in Kindergarten. After an exhaustive search, I've found the majority of schools near me are similar: early academics are the rule, rather than the exception. What happened to play? What happened to the play house and the dress up station? Painting and circle time? They seem to be casualties of this push to make our children do better on state testing.

But we're missing the point. We're missing the point that children's work is play and that there is no more powerful way to teach a child than to respect the way children learn best at the age of 5 and 6. Children who are pushed too hard, too fast, too early are more likely to diagnosed with learning problems that wouldn't exist if we simply gave them time to develop at their own pace. Teachers have also told me that they are seeing many more discipline problems than in the past, probably because Kindergarten children are facing 5 hours of academics per day with no time to play out the stress in unstructured playtime. Yes, that's right. Kindergarteners. Can you pay attention for 5 hours without a good long break to de-stress? I can't.

Teachers aren't to blame. They're all upset about it, too. When I spoke with another long-time Kindergarten teacher last year, she told me that she had finally decided to get rid of the play house in her classroom. She said with pain in her own eyes that it was just too difficult for them to look at it and not be able to play in it every day. Another Pre-K teacher said that Kindergarten teachers are giving away huge sets of very expensive wooden blocks because they don't have time to use them anymore. Something is wrong with this picture. Since when have children lost the need to play?

With all the stress in our society today, children's need for play is greater than ever. Yet, there is less and less time for this critically important activity. School days are planned down to the minute of every day and then most children are involved in other outside structured activities once they leave school. Homework and dinner round out the evening, then bedtime before we do it all over again.

I'll keep writing on this topic and share how things unfold for us this time around, along with my own attempts to make some changes within the system. I'll also work to provide the time and space for that much needed playtime for my own children and share what works for me this time. I'd love to hear your thoughts on this topic as well.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Someone to listen... really listen

I have a lot on my plate and on my mind right now. School is starting soon and we have quite a bit of indecision going on about where our children are going to go. Well, I don't have indecision, but others in my life do. I reached a point today of being on a total red light. I was back in survival myself with my amygdala's fight, flight, or freeze response hijacking me. When I get this overwhelmed, I tend to go into a freeze mode. I've gotten much better at identifying that this is where I've gone now and working my way out of it. This is what I did.

I went outside by myself and watched the rain fall earlier this evening. I needed some time to quiet my mind and my nervous system and found the rain to be soothing. I was dozing as I sat on the patio, letting my incoherent thoughts swirl around in my brain. I focused on my breathing, taking in deep breaths- feeling my breath all the way down into my belly. I have no idea how long I was out there, but eventually my children came to find me.

When I had returned to a yellow light (emotional part of the brain, which was a step up for me from that red light), I connected with a friend I knew could really just listen to my feelings. I called her up and just let whatever needed to come out in whatever form and order it needed to come out to do just that. I'm sure it wasn't pretty, but I knew that she would be willing to do that for me. I knew that my feelings wouldn't be bothersome and that I would be safe expressing them to her.

After about 15 minutes of being on the phone with her, I started to feel better. I had been heard. I had been listened to and embraced. And I was now back on a green light (regulated and calm), ready to return to my life and to make the decisions I needed to make to move forward. As I looked back on my earlier thoughts, they were completely irrational. With the time and the connection with my friend, I had moved out of that irrational place and back into true connection with myself and my own inner guidance.

This is what our children need when they are upset. They need someone to listen to them... really listen to them. They can make it back to that regulated place when someone invests the time in them to listen to their feelings without trying to make it better or to explain to them why they shouldn't feel that way. Try it with your child and see how it goes. And let me know! And if you haven't had this experience, find a wise friend who can listen to your feelings. This is how healing happens for parents and for children!

Monday, August 10, 2009

I eat butter and other do other unconventional things

My 10 1/2 year old son walked into the kitchen tonight as I was putting the butter away and said, "You know mom, there are commercials that say that butter is bad for you." I stopped when he said it and listened. "They say that it is one of the deadly sins or something like that." I nodded. "That's strange. We put like two sticks of butter in our potatoes," he continued. We talked about how everyone needs to make their own decisions about such things with the information they have available to them. We choose to eat butter, but not everyone does. And that's OK.

And with that conversation, I began thinking about all the things I have been doing that most people don't. I know everyone will make their own decisions and each person needs to decide for themselves what they can live with. I don't want everyone to be exactly like me and to make all the same decisions I have made. My decisions are right for me, but not necessarily right for you. I've spent years researching some of my decisions and realized that most of the information I've found isn't what most people are hear, so some may scoff at my decisions. I've made it my goal to get information out to parents so that they can make their own decisions in a truly informed way. That's what the Consciously Parenting Project is really about.

It isn't easy to be different, but it is the road I am traveling during this lifetime. I know within my heart that I am true to myself and that's what really matters. I choose to respond to my child who is having a temper tantrum in the store, even if all eyes are on me waiting for me to reprimand him. I choose to homeschool or not according to the needs of my child at any given time. I chose to unschool my oldest child for a while, then I followed a Waldorf curriculum because it was what was right for him. I still co-sleep with my youngest child and I allowed him to wean himself from breastfeeding when he was ready (and it was years before he was ready). I choose to limit my children's exposure to television and to junk foods, even when their friends do those things. I don't punish my children when they "do something wrong," but rather connect with them and help them to calm themselves before we talk together about what happened and how we can make it better. I work from home so that I can be with my children when they need me (and feel grateful that I am able to do this). I buy our food directly from farmers as much as possible. And I eat butter.

Are you parenting differently? Are you making choices that are different than most people make? Do you feel like you're the only one who feels the way you do? Tell me about your decisions and how you feel. I know I'm not alone.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Happy Birthday, Parenting Outside the Box!

Yesterday, on July 1, 2009, I completed the first draft for my book, Parenting Outside the Box, which will be published later this year. I'm so excited to have this part finished! It has taken me more than 2 years of writing and 36 years of personal and professional experience to get to the point that I could write it! The book was handed into the loving arms of my book "midwife" who is going to clean it up and get it ready for publishing! It has been an amazing journey that has gotten me here to this point and I'm so excited to share it with you!

If you are on Facebook, I'm posting quotes from my book all day today there. If you'd like to join us there, here is a link to the Consciously Parenting Facebook page. Check it out and share it with your friends if you like what you read! Here are some quotes to get you started:

Feedback loops are patterns of communication, spoken and unspoken. It is important to recognize that intention, unconscious communications, and body language speak just as loudly, if not louder, than our spoken words.


When we seek only to make a behavior stop, we miss the communication and sometimes even the opportunity for our child to develop to his fullest potential.


The words we use to describe our children can help to connect us or create disconnection right from the start.


The difficulties our children present to us are opportunities for us to grow beyond where we are in this moment.


I'll be posting more later today on Facebook. Check it out!

What do you think of when you read those? I'll be posting excerpts here over the coming weeks and months so that you can read some more of the book yourself.

Hope you are having a wonderful day!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

New Website!

I wanted to let you all know that our new website was launched this morning. We know that this will make things much easier to find. It has been divided into three main areas on the homepage: Building, Maintenance, and Repair of Relationships. Each area has different information, classes, and resources to guide you according to your current parenting focus. For example, if you are just starting out as a new or expectant parent, Building Relationships would have pertinent information for you. If you want to create more connection on a day to day basis with your parenting decisions, Maintenance is an excellent place for you to visit. And if you are dreading waking up in the morning because of what might happen with your children, and if you're dealing with severe behaviors, then Repair is the place for you.

Remember that we have the forums for all of these areas as a free resource. Forums are moderated and you can ask any question you have about any of these main areas.

The three sections are based upon my upcoming book, Parenting Outside the Box, to be released sometime this fall.

Check out the new website and let us know what you think! http://www.consciouslyparenting.com

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Monday, May 25, 2009

Risking Love

It has been an emotional weekend here for me after I learned that one of my cousins lost her baby at 20 weeks of pregnancy. I found out early on Sunday morning- one that was particularly busy for me. Normally, I would take news like that and make my world smaller for a little while, but I had to move into my day this time. I found myself crying in the car on the way to church, wondering how I was ever going to make it through the church service. On top of that, I was in the choir and we were performing which meant I'd be right up front. Ironically, this is why I was going. Our choir is very small and they need my voice.

I went up to my minister to say good morning. As she hugged me, I said that I really needed the hug right then and she said that she did, too. I hadn't planned to elaborate, mostly because I didn't want to start crying again, but she stopped me and asked what was going on. I took a deep breath and told her what had happened.

She said that when we become mothers, our heart is then outside of our bodies. Becoming parents is always a risk. We don't know how long we'll have our "babies" with us. But it is worth it. All of the pain. All the uncertainty. It is always a risk, which we take gladly.

Having lost a baby of my own, the news of this loss really hit me hard. It was especially difficult because my cousin's baby was diagnosed with the same fatal condition as my baby was diagnosed with. I knew that I was being pulled back into the vortex of my own pain. Of decisions that I didn't want to have to make. Of knowing that my baby's birth day would also be the end of his life.

The stakes are high when becoming a parent. We risk everything. And it is messy sometimes. And still we show up. And we step outside of our own comfort level to risk love.

This risk can scare us into not stepping out at all. Or it can help us to rise to the occasion and realize how much we really do have in this very moment. I pulled my kids in tighter and embraced this moment- the only moment we ever really have.

I think it is like that for all relationships. There is always a risk. Reaching out to anyone always entails a risk. But not taking the risk means that we miss out on the greatest gifts of all. I simply cannot imagine my life without my children. Has it been hard at times? You bet. I've struggled perhaps more than I would like to admit. Was it worth it? Absolutely. I would not be who I am today without the experiences I have had thanks to my children. All of them.

Risk it all for love. It is worth it!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Time for feelings

I was teaching the Connection Parenting teleclass last night and shared an example from my own life of a time my son wouldn't get in the car seat that happened several years ago. I had tried everything and even ended up forcing my son into the seat because we "needed to go." This felt so wrong on every level, but in that moment I was doing the best I could do. I drove for a few minutes with him screaming and then just stopped the car. I took the time to be with him, to acknowledge his feelings, and apologized to him for making him get in the seat. He calmed down, willingly got back into the car seat and we went on our way peacefully. From that experience, I decided it was better to spend the time connecting than to get my way and have him get into the car seat right that second. Nothing mattered more than the relationship. It didn't matter if I was late, really. Nothing was more important than our relationship. If he needed to have some time for his feelings, I would just plan for it.

Some of the class participants kept saying that they were in a hurry and didn't have time to stop to deal with the feelings. I certainly understand having time limits and outside obligations. And I used to put those things first. I guess some of my willingness to let go comes from my Cuban friend who taught me about "Cuban time." She would say, "I am going to be leaving the house at 7." 7 would come and go. She would be milling around the house, getting a bite to eat... not leaving. And the world didn't fall apart like I thought it would if we didn't leave by 7! I wondered what would happen if I had this attitude with my children? Where did this idea come from that we don't have time for our children because we have to be somewhere? We've made this whole thing up and put all of this external pressure on ourselves and it isn't good for relationship and it isn't good for our children.

I didn't go to the extreme of adopting a "Cuban time" lifestyle, but I let go of the pressure I was putting on myself to be there at that certain time AND I started building extra time into my schedule to allow for those setbacks so that I could still be on time. Most of the time, we were able to handle minor difficulties without it ever getting to the point of actually being late. I drive my son to school each morning and go back and get him in the afternoon. It is important that we are on time. However, we plan to be there 20 minutes early (as my older son likes) and then plan to be in the car an extra 10 minutes early. Is this time I could sleep? Yes. Is it worth it to stay in bed longer? No. Having that extra cushion means that it would take a major catastrophe to end up being late. It means that I can relax and just be present with my children without the need to rush them most of the time. A calm parent helps children to be calm, too.

So one morning recently, my 5 year old was having a very hard time. I had gotten him into the car and he melted down about something else. We didn't have the time that morning to wait any longer, but that didn't mean that I needed to ignore him. I spoke to him in the car, extended my hand into the back seat with him and held his hand, and told him how sorry I was that we weren't able to just stop. After a few minutes, he calmed down and we had a pleasant car ride. We ended up laughing and joking with each other. Amazing how quickly the tide turned. It doesn't mean that we never set limits because we plan on that extra time for feelings. Sometimes we need to say no. Sometimes it can't be what they need in that moment. But we still need to acknowledge our child and his feelings. There is nothing more important than relationship! Nothing.

It is interesting to note after several years of taking this approach that most of the time those things that start out as something that could turn into a huge meltdown don't. By allowing the time and decreasing my own stress, it allows me to be more fully emotionally present with my child because I'm not worrying about what will happen if I don't get him in the car in the next 5 minutes. What my son needs at that time is for me to be fully present with him. When that need is met, he is able to move through it on his own and is then ready to do what we need to do. It is somewhat of a paradox. Let go of the outcome and things will probably work out better than if you struggled to control the outcome.

A little extra time can make all the difference. Try it and let me know how it goes.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Doing the best we can do

I love how my children remind me of important truths and am open to the lessons that they are here to teach me. So much healing has happened in my own life by listening to what they have to say and being open to a relationship with them in which I am not the only one here to teach. I don't know everything and never will and find such beauty in being open to what I need to learn from them.

This morning, we went to church, my younger son and I. We had a nice time together and talked about our ongoing kitty adventure series we make up for fun on our way to and from places. Today we were talking about what kitties should not do. Today, we decided that kitties should not try to fly. Anyway, when we got home, my son went into a full blown meltdown when we were trying to get lunch. In retrospect, he was starving. He hadn't eaten much before we left the house and it was already after 1PM by the time we got home.

I was a little more than hungry myself and a bit tired because I was up late last night, so I didn't have much patience. Not a good combination.

My son was yelling at me to get him this or that. I stopped and reminded him that I have a hard time when someone yells at me to do something, and asked if he could talk to me a little nicer and ask for what he wanted. He sobbed, "No, I can't." And in that moment, he couldn't. I sat with him to help him calm himself and once I felt he was calm enough to actually eat something, I took care of what he needed.

Once he got some food in his belly, he calmed down and started laughing. He returned to his usual happy self only mere minutes from the last meltdown over the fact that I had used a paper plate to put his warm bread on to carry it to the table and he didn't like paper plates.

I really thought about how he had said, "No, I can't" calm down. He really was doing the best he could do in that moment. I think we have a tendency to think that our children can do better and so we push them to do better. But what if that truly is the best they can do at that given time? Why not trust that our children are doing their best and that things must be difficult for them for some reason right now if they can't do as well as they sometimes do? Why not trust and open the possibility for love and connection rather than judging them and their actions or behaviors?

I was hungry and tired, too. I didn't do as well as I have sometimes done when I'm not tired or hungry. Was I doing the best I could do at that time? Yes. Now that I've spent some time taking care of myself (listening to music and playing on Facebook), I am sure that I could handle that same situation better. But at the time, I was doing the best I could.

I believe that we all do the best we can every moment. Love and forgive yourself for not being able to always see that. Love and forgive your children, too. And see what happens in your family life when you shift this one simple thing.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

I choose love

I think a lot about where we are parenting from and how we relate to our children. For so many of us who we were parented ourselves from a place of fear and coercion, we find ourselves in our less than ideal parenting moments parenting this way as well. The words may just come out and hang in the air before we even realize it, leaving us feeling awful because this isn't the way we want to parent. We want better for ourselves and better for our children. Yet, there we are with a strong reaction to something our child did or said anyway.

My minister last week at church talked about having a mantra, or a statement that we could say to ourselves when we needed to shift our focus away from fear and back into the present moment, when we were reacting from our past instead of responding in the way we wanted to respond. One suggestion was, "Peace, be still," which is one I've used myself many, many times as a parent to calm my own stress. The other she suggested was, "I choose love." This resonated deeply with me as soon as she said it. Yes, I choose love. I choose to parent from a place of love, not from fear. I choose love.

As often happens with me in my life, I had an opportunity to put this into practice that very afternoon. I found myself reacting to something happening in my family and didn't respond the way that I wanted to respond. I took some nice deep breaths and said to myself, "I choose love." As I let that settle into my body at a deep level, I said it again: "I choose love." That means that I am going to let go of the need to be right, the need to be in control, the need to convince someone else that they are wrong. I choose love. Our children deserve it and so do we.

Have you ever seen Dr. Emoto's Messages from Water? His pictures of water with different words or thoughts on them were then frozen and the crystals were photographed. Nothing brings the point home more than these pictures. My favorite right now are the two pictures of "Do it" and "Let's do it." You can check out his children's book and share it with your own children here.

Release your parenting fears. Fear grows nothing but fear. Love grows more love. As Heather Forbes says, "In mathematics, a negative plus a negative is a positive. In parenting, a negative plus a negative is always a negative." Choose love today and see what amazing things happen in your family!

I choose love!

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Parenting Outside the Box

Where has the last month gone? Seriously... I feel like I just blogged last week, but that whole time and date stamp that goes along with this blogging program put things back into perspective for me. Wow!

I've been busy working on my book and trying to stay focused. Writing a book is certainly a challenge, to say the least. And I truly enjoy writing.

So, I've decided on my title, I believe: Parenting Outside the Box. My original working title was Parenting Beyond Behaviors and I just finished a DVD by that title. But the book has taken on a life of its own and needed a new name. I'm finding that it is quite fun to play with the idea of things being outside a box and our parenting ideas here are definitely outside the norm, even though they are much closer to the heart of our intuition than most of the parenting advice out there. Today I spent a big part of my day looking for a picture that would work for the cover of the book and for inspiration for me to pull everything together with the new name. I found one, but my husband thought that the boxes weren't in the middle enough or were too much on the outside. I'd love to hear what you think about it. Here's a link to the picture.

The book has three parts: Foundation of Relationships, Building and Maintenance of Relationships, and Repair of Relationships, though I'll probably come up with something "box" related for each section if I can. The beginning talks about what is really needed for a strong foundation, looking at attachment and brain development. The second section looks at ages and stages of development, focusing on emotional age, rather than chronological age. The third section looks at how to create or recreate connection in relationships when there has been an attachment break. Everything is very relationship-focused and is anything but the ordinary parenting information that only creates more disconnection.

Now to just figure out how to get the word out about the book! I'm thinking about offering free excerpts to get a preview of the book leading up to its release. What would help you to understand more about the book and how it would be helpful to you? What would you need to know? Please share your thoughts about it. I'm all ears!!

Thanks for listening. Next time, I'll get back to my regularly scheduled outside the box ideas about parenting. :-)

Friday, February 6, 2009

Needs vs Strategies- NVC

I signed up for one of the courses I offer through my website this week: Parenting From Your Heart with Stephanie Bachmann-Mattei. I knew the class would be good and that I would learn some helpful things, but I was unprepared for the depth at which the material would touch me.

I'm not new to the world of parenting information or to being introspective. I enjoy sitting down with my journal to work things out when I'm struggling with something and I enjoy helping others to do the same. It was interesting that it was this simple idea that has caused me to turn inward and really look at the way I'm communicating with the world.

I have spent a lot of time looking at needs. Needs of children and needs of parents both occupy a large portion of my waking hours in thoughts and actions. But I hadn't thought about the difference between a need and a strategy to meet a need. It isn't a need to have a child pick up their socks or take their dishes to the sink. The need is for order in the home and strategies include, but are not limited to, a child picking up her socks or taking the dishes to the sink. This may be one way to restore order, but it isn't the only strategy.

When we tell our children and others what they need to do specifically, we take away the ability for the other person to see alternative solutions to problems. We also miss the opportunity of connecting through understanding the needs of another person, taking everyone's needs into account when children are developmentally ready to do so. (Those with trauma histories may take longer before they are ready to do so, for example.)

When we can connect with our own needs and create a space for others to understand what our needs are, as well as to understand the needs of others, we can come up with new solutions.

For example, I started looking at interactions with my children today where they were fighting. I looked to see the underlying need. My older son created "Eraser Man" at school- a very creative use of time and energy. (He is made completely of eraser tops from pencils and staples- oh, and a little piece of paper for a cape. Can't forget the cape!)

My younger son saw Eraser Man and wanted one, too. They were starting to fight over it, so I stated to my younger child, "Sounds like you want Eraser Man because you need to fit in and have what your brother has that is special." He nodded. I thought it was a good sign!

And to my older son, I said, "Sounds like Eraser Man is special to you and you have a need to keep him safe from harm." He nodded.

I said, "So what do you think we could do to help your brother fit in and your need to keep Eraser Man safe? Would you be willing to make him his own Eraser Man?"

"Yes, just get me some more erasers."

Wow. We'd just completely avoided the "normal" fighting over something by simply stating needs and asking what they'd be willing to do.

I also managed to get my house cleaned up with the total cooperation of my children by stating needs (my need for order) and working to understand my children's needs at that time.

Everyone's needs are equally important and I'm really looking forward to learning more about putting NVC into practice with my family and with my clients! Thanks, Stephanie!!

Here's a link to check out the information about Stephanie's class! There's also a free interview with Inbal Kashtan, author of the book upon which the class is based. Let me know what you think of it!

Friday, January 30, 2009

Sleep Training

I use gmail and it constantly has ads popping up that somehow pertain to something about the e-mail I've written or received. They are distracting to me and I try to ignore them, but find myself reading them anyway.

Today, there was something about infant sleep and how to help your child sleep through the night. I thought about it for a minute, then decided to click on it to see what the information being disseminated to parents said.

I read the advertisement. Very convincing. Yes, sleep-deprived parents are a problem. The answer is that babies must learn to sleep through the night using specific techniques. But as I read my free tips to help my child sleep better tonight (which I don't need because my child is 5 and sleeps quite well unless he isn't feeling well), I felt a twinge of uncertainty.

There were a lot of assumptions: 1. Babies waking up is disruptive to the parents. 2. Parents need their sleep and so do babies or there are major health risks for both. 3. The only healthy solution for parent and child is to train the baby to sleep. 4. One of the tips is to use a transitional object so that when baby wakes up alone, he will have this object that is "with him" to help him go back to sleep and be comforted.

This assumes that: 1. babies shouldn't be waking up during the night. It is simply a bad habit and it is the parent's job to teach them to sleep, 2. That there is something wrong if they are waking up and 3. That separation and disconnection are the answers. How scary and sad that this is what parents think sleep is supposed to be about.

For babies who are separated from their parents all day while their parents are both at work, the child is expected to spend maybe an hour with parents before he or she is off to bed for the night. Where is the bonding and connection? It is absent.

In The Continuum Concept, I was amazed to read about cultures that don't have all of the rules about what night time sleep is supposed to be like. I read about one group who would regularly wake up, tell a joke, everyone would laugh and then return to sleep. We would never think of doing this sort of thing. Once you're asleep, no one is supposed to disturb you.

But what does it mean to disturb one's sleep? I think this is more about interpretation than anything else.

If I look at my child's waking as a major inconvenience and I don't understand that there are biological reasons for young children to wake, both for frequent breastfeeding and to keep baby out of the deep sleep states that are correlated to SIDS according to Dr. James McKenna, mother-baby sleep expert, I would probably do everything I could to "fix" this "problem." But what if it is we who have the problem of interpretation instead of a problem with our baby?

What if we brought our babies into our beds (following safe co-sleeping guidelines) or brought them into our rooms at night, as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics for the first 6 months of life? We would find that our sleep states synchronized and we would naturally be waking when our baby was waking. It is much less disruptive this way than when baby is down the hall and the sleep rhythms are different.

What if we redefined what was disruptive and instead looked at this night time as precious time with our little ones who will not be little for very long at all. In fact, when I think back on the time with my little ones, I look back fondly on those nighttime feedings once I realized that I didn't have to even get out of bed anymore and could doze as my baby nursed. I enjoyed being close and knowing that my baby's needs were being met all the time, but that mine were not being forgotten, either.

Babies and children pick up on our emotional states. If we are stressed, they will be stressed. And stress does not help anyone get back to sleep. When we look at ourselves and our own feelings and interpretations about our struggles with our children, and release the stress we have around those situations, sometimes that is enough to change the situation entirely. That means that we can make it different and we don't need to buy another book about sleep to make things different in our lives. Imagine that! We can be our own expert or our own life! We can focus on connection instead of disconnection and make our lives work for us! How empowering!

The answers are within you and you don't need another expert to tell you what to do. Turn inward and connect with yourself. Connect with your baby. That's where the answers are!

Happy sleeping...

Friday, January 23, 2009

Cell phones can pop popcorn?



According to Snopes, this isn't real. However, it did get me thinking about the fact that I wrote and article last year about cell phones because I kept finding information about how it could alter children's behavior and brain function because of their thinner skull bones. The fact that they are still growing and we simply don't know what happens with long-term exposure warrants caution, especially where our children are concerned. I'm posting my article below for your reference and information. You, of course, need to make the best decision possible for you and your family regarding this issue.

Cell Phones: What You Need to Know

They’re everywhere you look; young children, senior citizens, everyone seems to be using cell phones. They’re convenient and seemingly necessary for our fast-paced life style, for parents to keep track of their children, and for parents to communicate with others for business and family obligations. Many of us have difficulty remembering what life was like without cell phones. Seriously, how did we survive without them?

So why are prominent brain surgeons telling Larry King on CNN that they no longer hold cell phones to their ears? What do we need to know to make good decisions about cell phone use for our families and for ourselves?

Read the newspaper or watch the news on television and reports seem to fluctuate wildly: one day saying that cell phones are dangerous and the next stating that there is no danger in cell phone use. But cell phone use has been linked in numerous studies to brain tumors, genetic damage, fatigue, asthma, heart disease, headaches, depression, impaired learning ability, and cancer.

What we do know is that we could be on the verge of a brain cancer epidemic. There has been a 40% increase in brain tumors in the past 20 years, which coincides with the use of the mobile phone. At the present rate of increase, predictions of 500,000 cases as soon as 2010, and over a million cases in the United States alone by 2015. We know that cell phones do affect the brain; we just aren’t sure how much exposure to cell phone radiation is too much.

Children and Cell Phones

In the US, 40% of children between the ages of 4 and 18 use some kind of wireless device, with one in three US teens using cell phones.
Scientists at the Spanish Neuro Diagnostic Research Institute in Marbella found that a two-minute cell phone call can alter the electrical activity in a child’s brain for up to an hour afterwards! Disturbed brain activity can lead to psychiatric and behavioral problems and impair learning ability. As Dr. Gerald Hyland, a government advisor in the UK said, “The results of the Spanish study show that children’s brains are affected for long periods even after very short-term use… This could affect their mood and ability to learn in the classroom if they have been using a phone during a break time, for instance. We don’t know all the answers yet, but the alteration in brain waves could lead to things like lack of concentration, memory loss, inability to learn, and aggressive behavior.”

The French health minister, Roselyne Bachelot, has taken such concerns public, issuing an alert in January urging parents to limit use, and reduce children's telephone calls to no more than six minutes. Her announcement followed a similar warning by the Health and Radio Frequencies Foundation, a research group backed by the French government that was created two years ago to study the impact of radio frequency fields on humans.
"I believe in the principle of precaution," Bachelot said during an interview. "If there is a risk, then children with developing nervous systems would be affected.”

In 1999, the UK Government formed the Independent Expert Group on Mobile Phones (IEGMP) to examine possible effects of mobile phones and transmitter base stations. This group was made up almost entirely of biomedical specialists and led by the famous British biochemist and president of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, Sir William Stewart. Their report, Mobile Phones and Health, was released in April 2000. In regards to the use of mobile phones by children the IEGMP stated:

"If there are currently unrecognized adverse health effects from the use of mobile phones, children may be more vulnerable because of their developing nervous system, the greater absorption of energy in the tissues of the head and a longer lifetime of exposure. In line with our precautionary approach, we believe that the widespread use of mobile phones by children for non-essential calls should be discouraged. We also recommend that the mobile phone industry should refrain from promoting the use of mobile phones by children.”

Here are some suggestions for cell phones:

Reduce your cell phone use. Remember that the radio frequency fields affect adults, too, and you are modeling behaviors for your child. If you are on your cell phone all the time, your child will naturally want to do the same thing, too.

Keep your cell phone at least six inches away from your body. This means that you are not carrying the cell phone in your pocket unless it is turned off. Even when phones are not in direct use, they are still emitting a frequency. Also, using the speaker feature when possible will reduce your exposure.

Carefully consider a child’s cell phone use. If children are going to use a cell phone, teach them to use the speaker feature whenever possible and limit their phone calls. Because of their thinner skull bones, children are far more vulnerable to cell phone radiation than adults.

Use your cell phone only where reception is good; the weaker the reception, the more power your phone must use to transmit and the deeper the dangerous radio waves penetrate into your body.

Consider using a headset with well-shielded wires. However, be aware that if a wired headset is not well shielded -- and most of them are not -- the wire itself acts as an antenna attracting ambient radio waves and transmitting radiation directly to your brain. Make sure that the wire used to transmit the signal to your ear is shielded.

According to Dr. Mercola, the best kind of headset to use is a combination shielded wire and air-tube headset. These operate like a stethoscope, transmitting the information to your head as an actual sound wave; although there are wires, which still must be shielded, there is no wire that goes all the way up to your head.

I encourage you to educate yourself on this very important issue so that you can make the best, informed decision for yourself and your family. You’re worth it!

Resources:

“Children and Cell Phones: Is There a Risk?” Reviews research from the world’s top scientists: http://www.emrnetwork.org/schools/maisch_3_03.pdf

“Why Brain Surgeons Are Avoiding Cell Phones.” New York Times, June 3, 2008

http://www.mercola.com

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

What is "regulation?"

I just posted this in my forums in response to this question and thought that you might be interested to read about it. Below is my response.

I was just writing a chapter in my book about this very topic. Yes, it starts with the obvious level of calm and relaxed, but it actually refers to the regulation or calmness of the nervous system (which includes the network of nerves that run up the spinal cord and into the base of the brain that is connected to the rest of the body- we're talking about body level regulation here). When a person is upset, overly tired, cold, shocked in some way (like when the water for the shower is too cold), it is dysregulating at the level of the nervous system. If someone is saying that he is calm, but his palms are sweaty, his heart is racing, his stomach is upset, he is dysregulated on a body level and is thinking in part of his brain that he's calm. That's not what we're talking about.

Dysregulation can show up as hyperarousal or hypoarousal. Hyperarousal would be throwing things, classic ADHD, yelling or screaming- outward expressions of dysregulation. OR as hypoarousal, which is a shut down state. We tend to get less excited about a person who shuts down, but this person is just as dysregulated.

Regulation is learned through relationships, generally in the first 3 years of life when parents respond to their children's upsets with calm presence 100,000+ times and the child learns to do this for themselves. With high need children (i.e. emotionally reactive children, particularly those who have experienced early trauma of any kind), it takes much longer than this for them to learn to calm themselves down after a stressor. Regulation can also be taught to grown-ups, though, and it is never too late to learn. Our parents couldn't give us what they didn't have, but it doesn't mean that we're doomed to live a dysregulated life if it didn't happen.

Regulation is one of those things that is talked about very little in parenting books, but it is utilized by literally every scientific discipline. AND, chronic dysregulation, or the inability to calm oneself down after a stressful event (which can be anything, including being unable to tie his shoes the way he wants) is correlated to nearly every psychiatric disorder.

Such an important concept, yet it is strangely absent from parenting information.

To teach regulation, we need to be able to regulate ourselves as parents. When stressful things happen, we need to be able to remain calm all the way through, not just on the surface, in order to help calm another person's system. It takes connecting through relationship, which can be challenging when the other person is big and angry. But it is possible. And indeed, it is the only thing that really works.

AND when a person is dysregulated, we are not fully in our rational thinking brains anymore. We actually lose IQ points and the ability to reason. I'm sure this is something we've all experienced. Ever try to find your car keys when you're in a hurry and you're upset? Rarely does it work well.

So, that's an explanation of regulation (and dysregulation) in a nutshell. I could go on all day and all night about this (and indeed, I probably have in the past!). Feel free to ask any questions that come up for you as you read. I'm more than happy to explain this and to help others understand. That's why I'm here doing this!!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

The Silence Experiment

So yesterday, I had oral surgery (long story) and was told that I needed to spend the weekend talking as little as possible. No problem, I thought. I'll just make sure my husband is home to handle the kids and we'll be fine. I'll get to rest (maybe even blog!), and he'll get some time with the kids.

I was not prepared for my youngest son's response to my silence. Even though I had tried to prepare him ahead of time for what to expect when I returned from my appointment, he just couldn't understand why I wasn't talking. It seemed that he needed assurance that I was OK and the only way it really clicked in with him that I was OK was for me to talk to him. After I did a little talking and he was reassured that I was OK, things settled down in a very interesting way.

It seems that I talk all the time. I didn't realize that I did this, as funny as that sounds. I'm not a loud person and I don't think that I am constantly chattering, but I think it is nearly impossible to be a silent parent. And that has become really obvious trying not to talk for the past 24 hours.

But the interesting thing is that everyone, from the girl at the counter when I was buying some juice at the health food store, to my children, have all responded differently to my lack of conversation. For example, my son just came into my office asking for a piece of printer paper. I pointed to where it was living. He got the paper and left the room without saying a word. There was a quiet acknowledgment from him before he left, but he didn't say anything. It seems like people around me are also quieter when they are near me.

I'm still communicating, though the nature of my communications have changed. It more resembles charades and is certainly comical for them, though sometimes frustrating for me. But I have found it interesting that the nature of their communication with me has also changed. Go figure. Perhaps if I want my house to be quieter, it means that I need to be quieter at times when I would normally have a lot of words.

Maybe we can all try this and see what happens with our children if we just stop talking sometimes when we would have said a lot of words to say and simply stop instead and listen. I wouldn't suggest going the oral surgery route to try it out, but see what happens if you are just quietly present with your children and see how they respond. I'd love to hear!