THIS IS TWO-AND-A-HALF!

 

I recently received the following question, and I realized it is likely something many of you are up against.

 

Can you give me some tips on handling my 2 1/2-year-old when he seems suddenly possessed by the devil? Ninety-nine percent of the time he’s an angel and the best big brother, but lately he’s been lashing out a lot.

 

Two-and-a-half year olds. You’ve heard the term “terrible twos,” and there’s a reason for it. There’s so much emotion for these kids. At two-and-a-half years old, emotion is a big thing, in the sense that they’re not familiar with a whole lot of it before this age. All these feelings are new and often scary.

 

What’s Happening

Toddlers don’t have the language to identify their feelings, or how they’re feeling, or what’s going on. Here are a few possibilities of what is happening when they seem to be “possessed by the devil:”

 

·      Maybe they’re still developing language, and language comes in different ways

·      Some of it is receptive—what they understand

·      Some of it is expressive—what they say

·      They may be engaging in non-verbal communication, which is waving and saying stop or come here with their hands

 

The more they develop language and learn how to articulate their feelings, the better they are able to communicate their needs.

 

Name = Tame

Dr. Dan Siegel uses the term, Name it to tame it. So if your two-and-a-half year old is going through this frustration period, or temper tantrums—or acting like the devil—you might want to say, “Hmmm, could you be feeling frustrated?” Just by giving the emotion a label, it begins to regulate your child.

 

Contributing Factors

Why is this happening? A number of factors can be partially responsible for this kind of behavior. Here are a few possibilities:

 

·      At two-and-a-half years old, maybe thay are potty training.

·      Maybe they are switching from a crib to a toddler bed.

·      In this case, the parent mentions the child is a big brother, which means there’s a little sibling, who I’m guessing may be new to the family.

·      Are they hungry or tired?

·      Is the one nap of the day on its way out?

 

At two-and-a-half years old, this temper tantrum is appropriate for them, developmentally. But we can’t just let it go, right? We need to teach them some skills so that they can begin to learn how to communicate their needs and wants.

 

Set Them Up for Success

First and foremost, take a deep breath.

 

Our job, as a parent, is to teach, which is what discipline means. So again, I would name it to tame it. See if you can give your son some vocabulary.

 

Another way to set toddlers up for success is to give them positive behavior to follow. We have these things called mirror neurons, which are amazing in the sense that if I walk into a room and I smile, the likelihood is you’re going to smile.

 

If I walk into the room with a frown on my face, you’re probably going to frown back.

 

So if your child’s lid is flipped, and they’re having a temper tantrum, and you’re also feeling agitated and annoyed at what’s happening with your son, there are mirror neurons actively working. Once you start to calm down, he likely won’t continue to escalate. With time, he’ll probably calm down as well.

 

Instead of him escalating, and then you escalating or trying to control or change the situation, bring it back down. It starts with us. Try to bring it back down and then do your intervention:

 

·      “Hmmm, seems like you might be feeling frustrated, tell me more.”

·      “How can I help you?”

·      “Do you need some quiet time?”

·      “Can I give you a hug?”

 

A Vocabulary for Expression

You want to start asking some questions, and giving the child the necessary vocabulary. Once you name it, you tame it. It actually begins to regulate your child back to a feeling of safety.

 

Even as adults sometimes we have a tough time expressing ourselves, when we’re angry and flooded with emotions. Holding them, holding a space for them, just allowing that expression helps. Say, “I hear you. I’m sorry. You seem so angry. Tell me more about what’s going on.”

 

We want to make sure he’s safe, so if these temper tantrums are just screams and hitting the floor and stamping the feet, and being angry, fine. Allow for that expression. Once you’re both calm, especially him, once he’s calm, check in with him later, and say, “Hey buddy can you tell me again what happened? What can you do next time?”

 

Ready for Next Time

You don’t want to tell him what to do next time, you want to ask him. At two-and-a-half they’re still growing and learning vocabulary, but you can practice this skill: “What do you think you can do next time” is a great opportunity for self-reflection. Have your child start exploring some ideas about how to handle that situation next time. Because there will be a next time.

 

At two-and-a-half he’s probably not going to come up with ideas by himself, so after you ask him, “Hey buddy, what do you think you could do next time you don’t get to play with the train you wanted,” and you give him a moment, you say, “Maybe you could let me know, you could tap me and say, Mommy I need help.”

 

It’s OK to start giving him the language and the vocabulary to begin advocating for himself!

Take a look at my calendar for some upcoming workshops on this topic!

And remember to reach out to me if you have your own parenting questions. I am happy to answer it in a video, blog post or both!

Almost....back to school!

Yup! It’s just about that time of year again where we are somewhat excited as parents to send our kids back to school but a little bit apprehensive because we know how busy the school year is. I just wanted to offer you some quick reminders before the school year starts (I know some of you have already started because I’ve seen the posts on Facebook).

It’s important to recognize that just like all the different emotions we have about school, our children also have lots of big emotions around this. Whether they are beginning kindergarten or entering high school the feelings of excitement and nervousness are starting to creep into their heads. We need to be mindful that we don't project our own fears and concerns onto our children and at the same time, be sure that we are not over-hyping it either. Some parents think, “This is going to be the BEST year ever!” and they say it out loud in hopes their children will start to feel that way as well. Some parents will talk about their concerns in front of their children and say things like, “I hope he makes the football team.” or “I don’t know how he’s going to make it all day without a nap.” So be mindful about what you say and where you say it and more importantly consider taking a different approach to having conversations about the new school year.

You might want to begin a conversation with your child by saying something like, “So what are you thinking about how Kindergarten will be?” or “I’ve noticed that sometimes you say you are excited to start middle school and other times I hear you say you’re nervous. Tell me more about that.” As your child begins to share, resist the urge to fix their problems and offer a solution.

Another big shift is the summer schedule versus the school schedule. Summer time may include times where maybe kids are staying up late, watching more tv and using their iPads more and overall not much structure. Then there’s the transition to the school year which likely means going to bed earlier, waking up earlier and having many academic and social demands. The transition needs to be just that, a transition, not a total flip of the switch. This transition will be easier once you are clear on your boundaries and you share in a conversation about the transition with your child. Pick a time to sit with your child and ask them what they think they will need to shift for the school year and how they think they will do it. This is a great practice (asking your child what they think first) so that you can hear where they are coming from. From there you can move into some shared brainstorming ideas of how to implement the transition and finally, pick something that is mutually satisfactory. My guess is, the more involved your child is in the process, the more likely they will be motivated to cooperate.

Overall, I think the best thing parents and kids can do is communicate their expectations, anticipate problems that might arise and have a mutually satisfactory plan of action on how the school year will go. Finally, a weekly check-in is ideal. It’s a good idea to have a regularly scheduled family meeting to go over the week and as a family figure out what’s working, what’s not working, and how are you going to make it work.

I wish you all a great 2019-2020 school year! Make sure to sprinkle in a bit of fun too!

Stay tuned for my Fall workshops or click here for my calendar!

And please remember to let me know if you want me to come to your school, office or home for any of my parent workshops!

The 3 Cs of Camping with Kids


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Hi everyone—happy summer!

I haven’t seen you all in a while! One of the great things our family did recently this summer was take the kids camping.

 

I think this is our third summer camping. I know some people go camping, and sometimes people think it’s glamping. Here’s what we do: we drive to a spot within a family campground, and we take out our tent. Yes, we sleep in sleeping bags on the ground.  My husband thinks it’s glamping because we’re in a tent and there’s a nearby toilet. But I still think that’s camping. Whatever you call it, we absolutely love camping with the kids.

 

Growing up, I only went camping a few times. My husband only started camping in adulthood, but it’s something we really love to do with our girls. They’re currently 6 and almost 8 years old. I guess we started when they were about 3 and almost 5. And while there are a whole lot of reasons to go camping, I thought of three reasons why camping is great—three reasons that happen to begin with C.

 

Connections

As you can imagine, in some areas cell phones don’t even work, so you’re totally disconnected from Instagram, Facebook, text messages, and all the little ding-ding-ding-dings that normally happen throughout the day. Now, that’s a disconnection.

 

We camp on the Delaware River, and for us getting there is about a two-hour drive. It’s absolutely beautiful. During the drive, we sing, we talk, we play games, we do whatever, and we are all super psyched for our weekend ahead.

 

Now that the girls are bigger, they’re able to help once we’re there. They help get the poles into the right places and help set up the tent. They help set up our areas for food and set up the tablecloths. Whatever there is to do, they do, which is awesome.

 

We get to laugh and experience things together, and it’s just so great. Sometimes we go as a family of four and sometimes we go with friends. It’s another way that we’re building even more connections with friends. It’s just so peaceful and quiet and I absolutely love it.

 

Creativity

I have a list—a Word document—that includes all the things we need to bring whenever we go camping. I go over it every time we go, to make sure I do my part, and my husband does his part.

 

One section says, toys for the kids. Before this trip, I went to the basement and spent about half an hour trying to fill up two little backpacks for them.

 

What do I bring?

What’s not going to get dirty?

What is easy to wash off?

What’s not made of plush material that’s not going to latch onto dirt or bugs or anything like that?

 

Guess what? I packed up the two backpacks and the kids didn’t use any of it! I couldn’t believe it. There were so many times I said to my friend, “Look at the kids. Look at the kids! Why did I spend half an hour looking for toys, when they’re playing with dirt and sticks?”

 

Here’s why: creativity.


Creativity happens when there’s boredom. When there’s nothing else going on, and you’re outside. What an amazing opportunity to find leaves and branches and rocks and so many other things to create. I know it’s not always that easy, but this time it was!

 

The kids were in heaven for hours, playing with the two other little girls we were with. They all just played and played and played. There was no need for adult interference, to tell them what to do, what not to do, how to play, how not to play. It was all about their outdoor creativity and connecting with nature, which was amazing.

 

Community

When you’re camping, you’re living out in the woods. I say “living”—we did two nights, so we were living, for a weekend, with people everywhere. When we walked to the water, when we walked to get our raft*, when we went to the shop, when we went to the restroom—anything—we were passing other people.

 

 “Hey, how are you?”

“Where are you from?”

 

We’re connecting with our community. We’re getting to know people who we wouldn’t otherwise know.

 

Camping = Connections + Creativity + Community

I just think camping is so incredible. It’s such a great pastime.  During the school year we’re busy playing sports and afterschool activities and playing with friends. As the girls get older, and there are more opportunities for them to be independent—so it will be important to find ways to keep the family together for special occasions like camping.

 

I didn’t grow up going camping. I really didn’t start going until I was about 15 or 16 years old. So now that my kids are starting from a young age, my hope is that this is something we can continue. Maybe we can even do it when we’re grandparents and we bring our little grandkids!

 

If you get the chance to go, give it a shot. It might not be for everyone, but if you know me, you’re welcome to borrow my stuff if you want to give it a try!

 

If you need any tips, reach out to me. I’d be happy to give them to you!

 

Take care and have a great summer!

 

*We went rafting with Indian Head Canoes & Rafts. If anyone is in the NJ / Pennsylvania area, this place has a really great setup for rafting down the Delaware and for camping in the area.

 

DEALING WITH OUR CHILDREN’S STRONG EMOTIONS



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I recently received a parenting question I’d like to share with you.

Can you share any resources to help my kindergartner deal with negative emotions? I think she prefers to distract herself or bury her feelings, and even avoids talking about negative things that may happen, such as a fight with a friend or being reprimanded by the teacher. Some of it may change as she gets older, but I want to help her express herself so that she can deal rather than mask what’s bothering her.

 

Initial Response

It’s absolutely wonderful, first of all, that the parent is reaching out, even while knowing that the likelihood is that her child will change over time, with age, and learn other skills about how to express herself. But why not dive in early, while they’re young, in Kindergarten, to give some support? Here are steps to follow to accomplish this.

 

Check Your Feelings

The first thing I like to suggest is that you check your own feelings. If your child is relaying a story about how they got left on the playground, the first thing we need to do is check our own response level and what we’re thinking and what we’re feeling. Do we know the story, or are we hearing a familiar story?

 

Sometimes as our children are telling us stories, our own emotional response is triggered. And if it’s something that we don’t feel good about, like, Oh I do remember how it feels to be left on the playground, that’s going to show up as we’re interacting with our child. So we do need to check in with our own emotions about things like being sad, being lonely, being angry—all those strong emotions are often difficult to manage for a lot of us. We need to recognize that those are our feelings, and our feelings are based on our experiences, but our children are not necessarily going to experience the same situation in the same way, with the same feelings that we did.

 

Remember, Emotions Are…Emotions

The question refers to “negative” emotions. Now, I understand what the parent is trying to say, but “negative” emotions could also sound like “bad” emotions. The truth is, emotions aren’t bad, and they’re not good. They just are. Feeling happy is just like feeling sad in that they are both part of a spectrum of emotions that we feel. So re-labeling that, not only to ourselves but to our children is really important. We don’t want to make feelings such as anger, jealousy, frustration, seem like they’re something bad. We want them to be allowed and welcome to be expressed. With that in mind, it’s best not to label them as good or bad, or negative or positive.

 

Give Each Feeling a Name

The other thing about labeling is, that in itself, naming it, Dr. Dan Siegel, in his books, talks about “Name it to tame it.” And what that does is it actually gives freedom to the expression of the feeling. It helps to process and release the feeling.  Just being able to say, “I am feeling angry; I am feeling frustrated,” is so important. As our kids get older, we can give them more words, instead of just angry, frustrated, jealous, confused, disappointed. The older they get, we can give them more language, so that they can identify with different feelings. So really, “name it to tame it” is huge. If they are unable to name the feeling, offer it to them.

 

“Say, could you be feeling angry?”

 

“Might you be feeling frustrated that you didn’t get to play with the friends that you wanted on the playground?”

 

Go ahead and give them some language so that they can then start to learn how to use it for themselves.

 

Love Your Local Library

Another suggestion is using books. If you go to the library, the librarian should be able to help you find books about feelings. And those are the best tools. Because books speak kindergarten language, for example. I end up talking too much, I end up saying things that I don’t really need to say, or over explaining things, so if you use a children’s book, that book will speak to how it feels to be sad. How it feels to be angry. How it feels to be happy or confused and all of that. And it allows your child to then take some of that pressure and onus of their own feelings off of them and instead focus on the character in the book. And see the character resolves and navigates those feelings. So, I absolutely love books. I highly recommend you partner with your librarian, because they are absolutely wonderful in helping to find appropriate age level books that speak to feelings and emotions.

 

Refer to Your Own Experiences

Give your own examples! If my child is having a tough time explaining a frustration, or a sadness, or something like that, I might think back to a time that I felt those feelings, or in everyday life, like, Oh man, I was so disappointed I didn’t get to go hiking with you guys. I had to work and I kind of felt left out. I’m really happy you guys went, but I was also feeling sad that I was a bit left out today.

 

Something like that really shows that if the parent can handle that difficult emotion of sadness, they are now modeling what that looks like for the child. And our children learn so much from how we deal with our own emotions.

 

I let them in on it if I’m feeling sad. Let’s say there was a death in my family, and I was feeling sad about it but I don’t talk about that and I don’t show that I actually cried—that’s a disservice. We can share that with our children. We can tell them, I loved Grandma so much, and I am so sad that she has died. These tears are because I miss her. I know I’m going to be OK, and I know this feeling will pass, but right now I’m feeling sad.

 

That’s OK to share with our children. In fact, it’s very important.

 

 Picture This

The last thing I want to mention is drawing. This such a great way for kids to express themselves and express their feelings. When I used to work in schools, this was an activity I did a lot with kids as I was teaching them about labeling their feelings, and what those feelings looked like. We played a lot of games with kids with, What does happy look like? Show me a happy face! How would you feel if someone took your eraser? Show me that face, and they would show a sad face.

 

Drawing is another opportunity. It could be something specific, like, Oh it seems like you might have had a difficult day at school. Instead of telling me about it, do you want to draw a picture about what it was like at school today?

 

Or, having nothing to do with a specific situation, you might say to your kid, Hey, today let’s do some drawings. Why don’t we make a feelings book? I’d love to make a book about all the different feelings that we feel. Let’s draw a picture of you being happy. Show me something that makes you happy.

 

And allow your child to draw a picture of that. And then something that makes you sad, something that makes you scared or frightened. And that just gives you, again, an opportunity to make all these feelings OK. It’s something that’s not scary to deal with.

 

I really hope these ideas come in handy. If you have other ideas or suggestions, I’d love to hear from you!

Transitioning, parenting a transgender child, and conscious parenting

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I want to tell you about a conversation I had about a month ago, with a mom I met locally. It was kind of in passing but the person who introduced us said, “Oh, and [this is] Judy. She has a child who went through a transition. And you guys should get a chance talk.”

An Unexpected Introduction

I took that as a great opportunity. I emailed Judy and asked her if she would mind having lunch or a coffee so we could chat. When we sat down to meet, she said, “OK, so why are we getting together?”

“I just want to pick your brain,” I said. “By all means, you don’t have to answer any questions but I’m really curious about what it was like raising a child who went through a sexual transition.” She was born with a son who transitioned to a woman. And please forgive me. I’m still learning the lingo, so I don’t mean to be offensive. It’s a tricky thing, learning these new terms. And that was part of this discussion: I want to educate myself.

A Bit of Background

Judy told me what it was like to have given life to a boy. And she knew something was different, “Something’s different about this child.” And she named her child Corey, which interestingly enough, can be for a boy or a girl. From very, very early on, and of course there’s a spectrum of what this looks like, but Corey leaned more toward more girl-like clothing and behaviors.

So Judy always knew, Corey should really be a girl. They had a super close relationship and it was during Corey’s Bar Mitzvah, which is for boys, that it really came to light, like “how can I go through this transformation if, I’m a boy, but I’m not, and my belief is that I’m a girl and that’s who I ascribe to and what I want to be and how I want to represent myself?”. And it was that turning point that both Judy and her daughter Corey went along the path of transitioning and finding a therapist to be able to do the whole transformation and what that would look like with their friends, and with their synagogue, and with all of the other pieces involved, in school, and everything. And I know I’m not getting all of the details right, but the thing that kept striking me during this conversation, was how much Judy loved her daughter. As you may or may not know, much of my work is based around conscious parenting. Conscious parenting is really about letting go of our own agenda, of what we think should be. And here is a situation where Judy easily could have been thought, you should be a boy. I gave birth to a boy, you should be a boy. Instead, Judy was able to put aside her fears and her concerns and whatever it was about whatever her own thoughts were, and really tune into what her daughter’s needs were, and where her daughter was.

Staying in the Present

We are, as parents, always thinking about the future, Oh, my goodness, where are they going to be in the future, are they going to be successful? So many things keep us out of the present moment. And what Judy was able to do was stay in the present moment, and meet her daughter where her daughter was, and accept her daughter for who she was. And again, that’s not easy for us to do. We often want to change our kids: they’re too rambunctious, they’re too social, they’re too messy, they’re too shy. And we don’t accept our kids for who they are.  

Keeping Conscious Parenting at the Forefront

And this gets me a bit emotional, because I heard this mom talking about how much she loved her daughter, no matter what that looked like. Whatever she looked like, she supported her daughter, and transgendered kids are having such a tough time, with depression, and shame, and guilt, and suicide. And now her daughter is 20-something years old. Coming out of her shell beautifully, advocating, supporting other kids and adults going through their transition. And I have not met Corey, but she seems amazing. And part of that is her mother. Her mother really embraced who she was, and to me that is just the most special and most clear example of what conscious parenting is: accepting your child for who they are.

And it shows.

What did that relationship do? They had a connected relationship. They talked about so many difficult things. And they made it through. And, again, at the end of our conversation, I was bawling. I couldn’t even breathe. Because I loved what she was able to do for her daughter. So, Judy: she’s a stylist, she creates beautiful jewelry and also styles people beautifully. Part of what she does, is that she works with parents and kids who are in transition. She helps them style themselves. So that process of going from boy to girl, or girl to boy, or whatever that representation is for you, wherever you lie on that spectrum, if there is an outward transformation that needs to happen, whether it be hair, makeup, clothing, anything, Judy has helped the parents go through that transition but also helped the child go through that transition, so that they can feel beautiful in whichever way they want to express themselves.

Corey lives in California and has connected with the transgender community and is doing some amazing work. She has written some beautiful blog posts. Some of them have to do with the relationship she has with her mother, so you can see it yourself. There’s a touching Mother’s Day blog by Corey that gives a clear example as to why I’m so impressed with and so grateful that these two people exist.

To learn more:

www.CoreyRae.com

Instagram: @imcoreyrae

www.JudyZDesigns.com

Instagram: @judyzinnato

While I’m not an expert, I am eager to educate myself on this topic. I will help you find the right connections to help you through this if this is something you are going through or if you know someone who is.

INHERENT RESILIENCE

I went to the playground yesterday, and it was a beautiful day where we live in northern New Jersey. I took my kids bike riding and to the playground. And at the playground you get to hear some amazing conversations. One of the conversations I heard was between a mother and her three- or four-year-old daughter who brought two dolls with her to the playground. We’ll call the little girl, Susie. The mother said to Susie, “Susie, you need to give me Shimmer and Shine, because you’re going to lose them, and if you lose them then you’re going to be sad and I’m going to be sad.” When I heard that, I thought, hmmmm.

 

Good Intentions

 

The mother, in my opinion, is trying to protect her daughter from sadness. And that actually made me sad! And then I thought, Why is this parent trying to protect her child from feeling sad? From feeling sad about losing these two dolls, Shimmer and Shine. And I thought about how this would have been a great opportunity if the parent had just allowed the child to potentially lose the dolls, right? We often don’t allow our kids to fail, because of fears of our own. What would happen if my child became sad? Guess what—we teach them how to handle being sad. It’s a feeling, not good, not bad, just a feeling that we all feel and should learn to sit with. That’s a great opportunity. If the child lost the two little dolls, the parent could have used that opportunity to teach her daughter responsibility, what happens when you bring your toys to the playground. Her daughter would have also been able to experience sadness, instead of her mothering protecting her from it.

 

This is a chance to teach your child what to do when they’re sad. OK, so you’re sad, tell me about it. How does that feel? Why does it feel this way or that way?  This is a chance to teach our children that feelings come and go, they are not good or bad, they just are. This is also a chance to help our children find healthy ways of riding these waves of emotions. It’s an opportunity for both child and parent to grow and connect.

 

Getting the Boot

 

The other conversation I heard involved a dad holding his little boy, who was wearing rain boots. We’ll call the boy William. There were a few of us sitting on a bench, and all of a sudden, one of William’s rain boots fell off. And three adults—not one, not two, but three, said, “Oh William!” And to the dad, “He dropped his boot!”

 

I’m thinking, There goes another opportunity! The other adults could have removed themselves from the situation and just allowed William to figure that out on his own. Don’t you think once the dad put him down, and little William had run off to play, he would have realized, Oh, I’m missing my rainboot!

 

As adults, we always try to insert ourselves. We always try to fix the problem, find a solution, or what some people call “lawnmower parenting”, where we try to smooth the surface so our kids don’t fail. By doing that in itself, and not allowing our kids to practice failure, we actually fail them. It’s important for them to feel competency, Oh, I can do this; I can make decisions for myself. There’s that autonomy—for the child—of saying, I get to decide what happens. I get to experience my feelings, the way I should feel them. I can navigate a solution to a challenge.

 

The Root of this Issue

 

I spent some time this weekend reading Out of Control by Dr. Shefali Tsabary. She’s my favorite. And there were two lines, on pages 32 and 33, that kind of explain what I’m talking about. One of the things she says here is, “If a parent either unloads their own anxieties on their children, or protects them from their anxieties, they rob their children of the ability to discover their inherent resilience.”

 

These parents didn’t do a any major harm, but yeah, they sort of did rob their children of their inherent resilience, to get back on their feet: to find the boot that they had just dropped, to deal with the consequences if that little girl had lost her dolls, Shimmer and Shine.

 

On the next page, it says, “The reason Nicole learned in one day what her mother had been unable to teach her over a period of weeks, is that the mother took herself out of the equation, which allowed the natural consequence to emerge. And there’s no better teacher.”

 

A lot of parents come to me asking me about consequences and discipline, and these are situations where, while there wasn’t any real discipline happening, there was natural consequence. If we allow for the natural consequence unfold, we can be there to support our child as they get back up. Think of it as a gift, to allow your child to use their skills to handle the situation. These are the skills of responsibility, autonomy, agency, self-discipline, and self-reliance.

So just for you, the next time you’re interacting with your child, see if you can take that pause, and allow your child to experience the situation and deal with the consequences, without trying to run in and fix it. Be mindful of your own anxiety that might be triggered as you take part in the role of the observer.

 

The Challenge of Asking for Help

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I had to ask for help the other day and it was a real struggle for me, so I started thinking about the challenge of asking for help.

 

My Challenge

My situation was that we had snow. We had snow, we had ice. And my husband was working. I had to take care of the shoveling by myself in the morning. On top of that, I had to get my kids ready for school—make breakfast, make lunch. I thought, I don’t know how I’m going to get it all done.

 

My neighbors and I share a driveway. And I heard my neighbor out there with his three kids, shoveling. I thought, Oh, gosh, how embarrassing is this—he has his kids out there shoveling, and I can’t get myself together to get out there and help shovel.

 

I didn’t want to have to ask for help. This was really upsetting to me: that other people had to come to my rescue and help me.

 

Why Didn’t I Want to Ask for Help?

All these things were flooding my mind. I felt, definitely, a lot of blame. I was basically like, Why is my husband not here, why is he never here when it snows, why am I always stuck shoveling?  I mean, he has a job, he has to do what he has to do. But in that moment, that’s what I was feeling.

 

And there was a lot of shame. I felt embarrassed. I didn’t feel like I was able to take care of my own home, and that was really upsetting to me. I had a fear, also, of being judged.

 

Even though my neighbors are great people—we love each other—I did feel some judgement, like Ugh, we always have to help Maria. We always have to shovel for her. We always have to help her lift big packages. Recently, I was putting the minivan in the garage, just as the trunk was opening and it got stuck. Of course, my neighbor comes to my rescue, helps me lower the gate of the car, and it all just was so frustrating to me that I couldn’t just do it myself.

 

So I’m thinking, My clients have to do the same thing, right? We’re parents—why do I have to ask someone for help? People feel vulnerable when they’re calling me, to say, “I need help.”

 

The Blame Game

 

I know, a lot of people resort to blame.

 

“Well if it wasn’t for my kid…

 

If they weren’t such a jerk…

If they weren’t such a drama queen…
If they could just get their life together…

If they just didn’t have anxiety…

If they just didn’t have ADHD…

 

I wouldn’t need to be calling you. It’s because of them that I need to call you.”

 

The Shame Game

Shame. It’s embarrassing, sometimes, for some parents to say, you know what? I’m having a tough time, and I’m embarrassed to say that and I’m embarrassed to be honest about that. That is a tough thing. We think we should be able to parent with ease.  We have all these preconceived ideas about what parenting will be like.  And then we have kids and things change, specifically our expectation versus reality.

 

Also, judgement. We’re fearful—we’re fearful of other people judging us. It doesn’t feel good. It’s really hurtful to think that other people could be judging us. And with the parent coaching, this is a judgement-free zone, so that is not what I do. But a lot of clients, when they’re calling me, do feel like they’re going to be judged. It does take some time for some clients to say, OK, this is a safe place. I do feel like I can do this.

 

So I’m seeing a lot of parallel between my asking for help or needing the help to get my driveway cleared and parents calling me and needing help and support with their parenting.

 

Breakthrough

On the flip side, the awesome thing is that once you’re able to ask for help, you can delegate. You can say, OK, my husband’s not here, so my neighbors are going to help with the driveway, I’m going to take care of the kids. I’m going to make sure they get fed, I’m going to make sure they have lunch, I’m going to do whatever else I need to do. I know my neighbors are helping and are willing to help.

 

It’s about recognizing your strengths and weaknesses, which is really awesome. When it comes to parenting that’s a big part of what we talk about.

 

The Value of Delegation

Who else, who can you delegate these things to? Who can you tap into and say, You know what, my husband and I need a night out. Or, my kids are driving me crazy and I don’t know what to do. Who are my resources? What can I tap into? Can I call my neighbor and ask them to quickly watch my kids for 10 minutes while I take a walk around the block?

 

Delegating and knowing what your resources are is really important. Figure out what your strengths and weaknesses are. That’s such a gift: to know what you can handle and what you might need support with. And there’s nothing wrong with that. In fact, that’s a great strength!

 

It’s better to ask for the help and to realize where your strengths are and where your weaknesses are, so you can get help in the areas that are your weaknesses, and you don’t try to do something that you’re not ready or able to do.

 

Finding the Help You Need

Overall, that was a very challenging morning for me, to have to accept the help from my neighbor. But in that processing of hearing my neighbors outside, helping me with the driveway and all, I thought about my clients, and the challenge they may face when reaching out to me.

 

With that in mind, I do want to say thank you to those of you who have reached out to me. I know it’s not always easy, and I also want to say, to those who haven’t yet reached out to me, who are maybe afraid to take that step, and say, you know what, I need an extra helping hand, please do it. Please do it for you, for your kids. It’s totally OK, and I’ve got your back. So let me take you by the mind and we’ll walk the walk together.

Tell Me More

black-and-white-boy-child-208106.jpg

I had an awesome session today and I wanted to share a little bit about what we talked about. I think it’s something that can apply to a lot of families.

 

My clients have been struggling with their child not wanting to go to school—saying, “I don’t want to go to school, I’m not going to school,” and really fighting to get out the door. Then once they get out the door, they get in the car and then it’s a fight to get out of the car. Then when they get out of the car, it’s a fight to get to the door of the school, and it continues. So we’ve been talking about how to use some communication practices that may be helpful in toning down some of the escalation that’s been happening when their child is fighting about going to school.

 

A Suggestion

One of the things I suggested is that next time their child does have this temper tantrum or is acting out, to just say, “Tell me more.” But before the parent even says that, the first thing that has to happen, is that we need to check in with ourselves.  We need to calm ourselves, we need to remind ourselves that our child is trying to tell us something and that our we can handle this. And so, we say, “tell me more” from a place of calm and a place of wanting to connect.

 

If we’re frustrated and angry about the situation and maybe about other things in our lives, and we say, “Yeah, tell me more,” with the tone of frustration, it’s not going to work well. So we first need to calm ourselves—maybe that’s through a deep breath. Or maybe it’s through some other way.

 

When we say the words “Tell me more,” what we’re doing is opening up dialog. What we’re doing is letting our child know that they are seen and that they are heard. That they are valued and that their words, their thoughts and their feelings are important.

 

What We’re Not Doing

What we’re not doing when we say, “Tell me more,” is we’re not judging. We’re not saying, “It’s January, you should be excited about school. You’re always so negative about everything.” We’re not fixing the problem. We’re not saying “OK, what if we go out for ice cream after school?” We’re not coming up with a solution. We’re not shaming them by saying, “You’re such a baby, grow up. You should be able to do this by now.” We’re not doing any of those things.

 

An Important Voice

Again, what we’re saying is “Your voice matters. You are seen and you are heard.” And in today’s session, my clients said they had tried this. and when one of the parents said, “Tell me more,” this is what their four-year-old child said: “So I’m worried about my brother taking all my toys, and I’m wondering if there’s a place for me in this family, and do you think there’s going to be enough toys if he plays with it, but he really doesn’t like my toys.” The child just went on and on, talking about what she felt was bothering her.

 

Getting the Story

The back story is that there a new sibling in the family. All the parents said during the car ride to school was, “Tell me more” that’s all they said, without saying anything else. And at the end of the conversation, as they arrived at school, the child put their head in their hand, and let out a deep sigh, and said, “My brain is feeling better. My little brother can stay now.”

 

Seen and Heard

What that tells me is maybe, just maybe, that child just needed to let that all out—just needed to be seen and heard. And for someone to understand why it’s so difficult to go to school.  It’s as if the child said, “It’s so difficult to go to school because I don’t get the time to spend with my parents and my little brother does.”

 

Maybe that’s the answer. We don’t really know. What we do know, is that sometimes we can look at behavior like it’s an iceberg. The tip of the iceberg is what we see—that’s their behavior. That’s the temper tantrum, the slamming of doors, the eye rolling, the huffing and puffing. And in this case, the child not wanting to go to school. Underneath that, is the need. So the need for this child right now, based on the conversations I’m having with the parents, is to understand: “Am I loved?”

 

The child is essentially asking: “Am I loved? Do all these things that are changing and happening with my new brother still mean there’s enough love for me? When I go to school, I don’t feel like I’m loved. Because I miss my parents, I don’t get to see them, but I know my little brother gets to stay home and play with my parents”

 

I think this is a really great snapshot of how communication can be such a great tool. And this is great for kids—this child happens to be around 4 years old. This is a great tool even for children who are teens and tweens.

 

Opening up the Conversation

We want our kids to come talk to us, right? We want our teenager, when they’re considering doing drugs, staying out late, making friends, whatever it is, we want them to talk to us. And we know we’re going to be shut out of a lot of conversations. But if we start now at an earlier age, to start just saying, “Tell me more,” then maybe later we can have more of a discussion.

 

But right now, “Tell me more.”

 

“You want a tattoo? Tell me more about that! Tell me why you want a tattoo. Where are you thinking of getting the money for that? What do you think having a tattoo will do for you? How do you think that will change who you are?”

 

It’s coming from a place of curiosity. It’s questioning, and it allows the child to feel seen and heard. And for a lot of children, that really matters.

 

Try it out and let me know how it works for you.  But remember, first you have to come from a place of calm and true curiosity. 

 

So I hope this little snapshot of an inside peek at one of my coaching sessions helps, and can guide you. And if you would like to talk more about this or any other parenting challenge, feel free to reach out to me.

 

Connection + Discipline = A Winning Combination

 

I recently received a question on my Instagram: How do you substitute connection for discipline when your child continues to make bad choices?

 

Connecting

The first thing I want to point out is that we’re not trying to substitute connection for discipline. They should happen together. Connection should happen when you are disciplining. We don’t throw connection out the window when we’re disciplining. In fact, connection is the most important thing to ensure that your child feels heard and seen, especially during a time that’s difficult—like disciplining.

 

Disconnecting

So let’s talk about how we create disconnection. Disconnection comes from yelling, shaming, blaming, placing guilt on our children. Shunning them. Sometimes we put them in a time out or just say, “Leave me alone,” or we yell at them. All of that shuts our children down. It makes them feel like they aren’t loved. Even if we say “I love you, but”—that doesn’t work. We don’t want to create that disconnection.

 

Disciplining

It’s easier said than done, I know. Throw out the yelling, throw out the shame, throw out the guilt. Throw out all of that.

 

The question asked, how do you substitute connection for discipline? If you remember what the word discipline means, it means to teach. And that’s what this opportunity is. It is an opportunity to connect with our children, and to teach them. So, ask yourself, what and how can I teach in this moment? 

 

Taking a Level-headed Approach

A lot of time, with my little ones, I’ll get on my knees, and make sure I’m at their level, so we have eye contact. I make sure that I check in with myself and that I’m at a place where I can offer connection. If I am angry at them and feeling frustrated, and breathing heavily, and just so irate, that’s not a good time for me to create connection and it’s not a good time for me to discipline my child. So before even going to the place of disciplining, first take care of yourself.  First, calm yourself down.  Splash some water on your face, stick your head in the freezer, have a sip of coffee.  Remember that the goal is to teach and you’re the best teacher when you are coming from a place of calm and love. 

 

That discipline, that consequence, may have to wait until a later time, when I’m feeling a little bit better, where I can create that love, and that connection. Because a lot of times, we’re disciplining our children because they did something “wrong.” They made a “bad” choice, right?

 

So we need to figure out:

What was that about?

Why did they do that?

Is there an unmet need that they have?

Are they not feeling loved?

Are they feeling confused?

Are they feeling hungry or tired?

Is there a lagging skill?

 

Sometimes it’s just that—that they’re making those bad choices. Or maybe it’s a skill that they don’t have. Maybe they need to be taught how, and maybe they don’t have that flexible thinking that allows them to think about other things, like, “No you don’t get it your way, we’re not going to go to the store that you want to go to today.” We need to create opportunities to teach our kids the skills they need to handle upsets. Discipline is an opportunity to really create connection, even when our children continue to make, as this post said, “bad” choices.

 

Prioritizing

Our job as parents is, first and foremost: take care of ourselves. Make sure we are in a place where we have calmed ourselves enough to allow for connection, to allow for discipline.

 

Then I want to look at, what is the unmet need? What—even in their rage, even in their bad choice—could be the reason behind why they made that choice? Is there a skill that’s lacking? If there is, how can I teach them that skill?

 

In conclusion, Connection + Discipline = A Winning Combination.   You can still create boundaries and set up expectations.  You can still discipline.  Tone matters.  Intention matters. 

You can do all this with connection.  Connection matters. 

 

Reaching Out

If you want to talk any of these things out, or understand how this all works, I’m happy to offer you a 30-minute consultation call. You can book it on my website. Or you can reach out to me, call me, message me. Please know that I’m here for you. I want to make this an easier journey for you.

 

Weathering the Storm of Anxiety

Storm/Anxiety

I’d like to share a little story about how stress—our own stress that we feel as parents—can show up in the way we parent our children.

 

Storm’s Coming

About two weeks ago, we were expecting a small snowstorm. We were supposed to be getting around one to two inches. My husband happened to be traveling that night, so he wasn’t going to be home. I thought, eh, one to two inches, no big deal.

 

Later on in the day, it really was coming down. I thought, “What’s going on?” I hadn’t been on Facebook and I hadn’t turned on the news, so I didn’t know what was going on. And it was seriously coming down, so I opened up Facebook to see what’s going on with the weather, and I read, We’re going to be getting 5 inches, 6 inches, 7 inches.

 

Concern Sets In

It wasn’t a conscious thing that happened, but all of a sudden, my chest started feeling really compressed. I was having difficulty breathing.

 

Part of it was awareness. I was feeling some sense of a panic attack or anxiety from this snowstorm that was coming and knowing that my husband was not going to be there. I don’t like being alone with the kids when there’s a major snowstorm. I just get worked up about how I’m going to handle shoveling and taking care of the kids and “what if this”, and “what if that”—that catastrophic thinking that happens with anxiety sometimes.

 

Response to Stress

So, I felt my chest squeezing in and I thought, alright, I have to take some deep breaths. I have to change my mindset, so I started working on that. But the change doesn’t happen quickly. It took some time, and meanwhile, as I was having these thoughts and these feelings, my kids were going about their afternoon, and I noticed that I started snapping at them.

 

I wasn’t being horribly mean or anything really terrible, but I was snapping, I was really short: Just do this, Do that, you know, not my typical warm, compassionate parenting style of calm and connection.  My verbal tone with my children was similar to how I was feeling on the inside: this compression and tightness.

 

Time to Breathe

It took me a good half hour or 40 minutes, to be able to get my breathing back in order and be able to focus on more positive thoughts, focus on the strengths that I have, focus on the supports that I have to get me through the snowstorm.

 

After taking a pause to work on my mindset, I was able to feel much better, which also resulted in me being able to parent from a place of compassion, and not based on the fear and anxiety that I was feeling. (But I’m lucky, because I’ve done all this work on conscious parenting. So for me, that timeframe probably was about an hour.)

 

Here’s a recap of what happened:

I found out we were having a lot of snow, then I started having these anxious feelings that were noticed in my chest and in my breathing.  I started to have the “what if” thoughts swirling through my head.  I started snapping at my kids. Finally, I started working on relaxation techniques.

 

All of that, from start to finish, was about an hour. I was conscious of the process and I had the skills that I have used from Conscious Parenting to help me move through it.

 

Anti-Anxiety Checklist

 

1.     I was aware of the physical sensations/feelings that were happening to me, which is one of the first clues when dealing with anxiety.

 

2.     I acknowledged the thoughts that were happening in my head—all the “what ifs” that were going on.

 

3.     I noticed my behavior change- I was snapping at my children.

 

4.     I took notice of my feelings. If you can, take notice of your feelings that are happening on the inside, notice the thoughts in your head, and then notice your behavior—how you’re behaving toward people, whether it’s your spouse or your coworker or your children.

 

With anxiety, these are three elements that you want to call out. You want to recognize them. You don’t want to suppress them and say this isn’t happening, because it is happening. Call them out! I recognize that my chest is tightening. I recognize that my thoughts are saying, “I’m afraid of having this big snowstorm without my husband here.” I recognize that I’m not treating my children nicely, and I’m being short with them.

 

As soon as you recognize it you can free it, it open it up, and start moving through those feelings, thoughts and behaviors, moving through them to a different place.