some-days

It happens, our children are driving us up the wall and to be totally honest, we don’t want to be around them.  We don’t want to hear their voices.  (We don’t really like them) and it feels horrible.

We react differently when we feel this way and we want to get out of this cycle but they are just so annoying.

So practice gratitude around your child.

We know this makes a difference.  In another one of my favorite articles in the New York Times, the author talks about how a bad situation is flipped upside down when he invokes gratitude.  It can work with your kids too.  When you add in gratitude, your whole perspective will change. 

  • So while you are making breakfast, think about one thing that you love about your child.
  • Before you go to bed, write down one thing that you enjoyed about your child during the day
  • Your children may be pain in the necks, but remember what you do have, food on the table, a safe place to sleep, clean clothes to wear.  When we put things into perspective, it is easier to practice gratitude.
  • Volunteer at your local homeless shelter or a group that works with refugees.  When you give, you are also practicing gratitude and if your kids are old enough, have them participate too.

This is real.

When our kids are complete pains, we can really turn things around by practicing daily gratitude.

 

 

 

consent

In all this talk about consent with teenagers and young adults, it is important to look at how we teach our young boys.  We should also be teaching our girls about consent, but the two lessons are different.  Here’s what you can do with your little boys:

Boys like to play physically and that is a good thing. Boys like to push boundaries physically and that is also a good thing.  Boys need to know that “stop” means “stop” even when (and especially when) they are toddlers and preschoolers.

I just read this comic strip about consent and I think it is brilliant, but I truly believe that the teaching starts when children are very young.  It starts when they are playing around with their father, brothers, neighbors, friends.

In my household, tickling is a very common thing.  The boys love to tickle and their papa loves to tickle.  When they were answering questions for their Father’s Day presents, the most common response was, “I love it when my papa tickles me.” “My favorite thing about my papa is tickling”.

However, in the midst of a tickling fest, there will often be a “no!”  or a “stop!”.  No matter who is saying the no or the stop, the action has to stop.  This is important for my boys to know and it is also important for my husband to know.  Because this is where it gets tough.  They are having fun, there is momentum to continue, but they also want to stop.  But as soon as anyone says “no” or “stop”, they have to stop.

This isn’t as easy as it sounds.  Everyone is having fun, everyone is laughing and no one really wants it to end, it just got to be too much.   But this is where little boys learn about physical limits, respecting the other person, and being able to stop something that has a lot of momentum.

It isn’t easy for my husband either.  He knows that another tickle will get another laugh and he doesn’t want to fun to end.  But “no” means “no” and “stop” means “stop”.  

It may sound like I might be stretching; relating fun wrestling and tickling with little boys to consensual sex with teenagers and adults, but it isn’t a stretch.   If you wait until your son is a teenager to teach about consent, respect and “no” means “no” then you are waiting too long.

 

family dinner

I was talking with my husband about kids last night and how difficult it is to raise children with drugs, media, violence, diseases, addiction and all the other bad things out there in the world.  We were starting to feel a bit depressed when I remembered that there is one thing that you can do to guard your children against all that.

The Family Dinner

Here are the top 5 reasons why you need to have a family dinner with your children this week:

1) Connection

When you sit down at a dinner table, all facing each other, there will be conversation, questions, and connection.  You will build memories, vocabularies, world knowledge and just know more about each other.  This connection will be with your family through the thick and thin.

2) Screen-free

An important part of the family dinner is to turn off all screens.  Not only does this set a precedent for how to eat with others, it will carve out an automatic screen-free time where everyone can be in the present and not connected to something else.  

 

If there is just one change that you make to create a stronger family, more resilient kids and a better world (corny, I know, but it’s true) then have at least one family dinner this week!

 

3) Nutrition and picky eaters

Do you have picky eaters?  Family dinner is one of the many ways that you can help them, but the most important thing to remember, is no pressure.  When food is presented in an attractive way, everyone is eating it and everyone is happy and comfortable, children are more likely to try it.  That doesn’t mean that they will eat it, or like it, but if a child just tries a bite of food, science shows that after 20 tries, they will like the food.  So don’t pressure them, just enjoy the food yourself and over the years, your children will be less picky.

4) Family stories

One of my favorite New York Times article talks about how children who have more of a foundation can weather trauma better.  So if they have heard more stories about their family and know more details about their parents and their lives, then they have more tools in their toolbox when things get rough.

5) Routine

With routine, you build trust and create rituals that will ultimately build a foundation on which your child can grow.  One of my favorite routines is to have everyone take a deep breath before everyone starts eating (or once everyone is sitting at the table).  “In through your nose” *breathe* “Out through your mouth” *breathe* “Smell the flowers” *breathe* “blow out the candle”.  This daily exercise will not only help you as a parent to relax and ground yourself, but it also teaches your child essential calming skills.

consent

I’ve been reading a lot lately about teaching consent and how to get the point across to students in college and high school and as young as middle school.  But you can very easily start with toddlers and preschoolers about consent. 

You have to be the model.

It is super duper important that dads and other adult male figures wrestle and rough-play with their boys.  There have been lots of studies on why this is important.  But probably the most important part of the play is communication.  

As soon as your child says “stop” or “no” or shows sign of no longer wanting to continue (whining, frowning, etc) then you stop and say, “You’re done, I’ll stop.”  

Then the hard part is actually stopping.  Your child will turn around and want to wrestle some more and here’s where the teaching and the learning begins.  “No, I could tell a minute ago that you had enough.  We’ll stop for now and if you want to play again later. Let me know.”  And your child is going to say, “I wanna wrestle more!” and again, you are the model.  “That’s good, but you just said, “No” and I’m going to respect that.  Let’s toss a ball or read a book for a bit and then we can see how you are feeling later.”  

This is hard.  It is SO hard because you were both having fun and even though your little one showed a sign of not wanting to continue, they are saying that they do.  And you have to teach them that no means no, that we communicate in many ways and that we are respectful of each other.  

If you are the dad, then you need to do this.  Do this for all our sons and daughters.  If you are the mom, talk about it with the dad and be the voice that says, “He said no, you need to stop.”

It’s funny because I’m always reminding my husband to stop when either child fusses, says no, or shows that they don’t want to continue playing.  But a couple of weeks ago, I was playing with my boys and we were both laughing and though the laughter, one of them yelled, “No!” and I didn’t stop.   Then from across the room, I heard my husband say, “He just said ‘stop!’ You need to stop!”  and I stopped and thanked my husband because sometimes we all need reminders.

There’s a lot of great articles about teaching children about their private parts and being comfortable with saying no or about children and adults asking for permission to hug or touch.  All of these things together are how we build a new culture of respect and consent. 

empathy

(The most important thing you can do, by the way, is eat a family dinner together).

Often my posts are about changes you can make when working with your children to help create a better life for you and them.  But today, I’m going to talk a little bit behind the scenes with some “why’s” behind what we do.

Empathy is really such a cornerstone concept because it is super important for parents to have with their children and even more important skill for children to learn.

What is empathy?  My husband said that it is knowing how other people feel.  That in itself is correct, but it is so much more than that.

Empathy is understanding other people’s feelings and what is happening behind the feeling.

Empathy is putting yourself in other people’s shoes.

Let’s first talk about empathy, sympathy and compassion.

Empathy is understanding where someone is coming from.  It is the why behind the actions or behavior.

Sympathy is either feeling the same emotion or being able to feel the same emotion.

Compassion is wanting to help someone who is in need.

All three of these are very important but the one that gets forgotten the most is empathy.

Here are some examples:

With the war in Syria, we have empathy for the refugees. We understand why they are leaving their country.  We probably won’t be able to sympathize with them, unless we ourselves have had to leave our country under duress.  We will most likely have compassion for them and want to help.

However, we may also have empathy for the countries who are not taking in the refugees.  Why are they not helping?  If we look at the “why” behind their behavior we might read that they don’t feel like they have the resources to take in all the refugees.  They might even be afraid of what the future will look like with so many people who don’t have jobs or who speak the language.  If we look at the why’s behind their behavior, we might have empathy for these countries. Even though I may not agree with these countries, I can understand where they are coming from. I myself wouldn’t have sympathy for these countries because I believe that I would feel differently. And it certainly doesn’t mean that we have compassion for these countries.   If they are refusing entry to the refugees, they don’t deserve any compassion for their actions.

So the three are intertwined but can also be very separate.  When empathy becomes the most difficult, but most important, is when we see behavior that is undesirable.  In the first example, pretty much everyone would have empathy for the refugees, but in the second example, it is a bit more difficult to have empathy for countries refusing refugees entry.  We have to dig deep to find some empathy and figure out where the behavior is coming from.

When we have empathy for our children, our conflicts de-escalate, our connection builds and we can solve problems without all the fussing and fighting that often happens with people don’t get their way.

If your child doesn’t get a toy that they want, you can empathize with that.  They wanted something, they didn’t get it.  That sucks.  It sucks for us adults as well when we wanted a poppy seed bagel and we get to the bagel shop and they are all out.  We can empathize.  “You are bummed because you didn’t get that toy that you wanted.”  We can sympathize, “I feel the same way when I don’t get something I want.”  We can have compassion, “Would you like a hug?”

We also need to have tons of empathy when we are giving consequences.  We may be angry with our children when their behavior is unacceptable, but it is wiser and more effective to give consequences with a big ol’ dose of empathy.  Let’s say your one child has just smacked your other child after a particularly trying morning.  

Without empathy:

You can pick him up angrily and bring him into his room and say, “Don’t ever do that again!”

With empathy:

You can stop, say, “Uh oh.  I can’t allow you to hit anyone.  I know you wanted that toy, but you will have to go somewhere where everyone will be safe.” and carry him gently into his room.

 

And equally important as empathizing with our children is teaching them empathy.

How do we teach empathy?

First, we are empathetic with our children.  Then, we teach them problem solving skills which include looking at other solutions (seeing where the other child is coming from).  Thirdly, we talk about the why’s behind behavior.

For really young children, we can just point out the “why” behind the situation:

Without empathy:

“Stop fussing! You both need to share!”

With empathy:

“Look, Eliza wants a turn with the toy, too.”

Without empathy:

“Ugh, that child is so whiny.”

With empathy:

“Let’s give some of our snack to Melissa, I think she might be hungry.”

And for older children, it can be much more of a discussion:

Is someone bothering your child (a sibling or a child at school)? You can start the discussion with, “What do you think is going on?”   “Do you think that the other child wants what you have?”  “Do you think they might be lonely?”

When you look at the why’s behind the situation and help your child look at why someone is acting someway, then you are teaching them all about empathy.

 

Why does all this matter?

Just like blueberries are one of those super-foods, empathy is one of those super skills.  Children and adults who have empathy end up having more friends, getting better jobs, are better bosses, have better relationships and so on.   There is one caveat, however and that is that there is a study that says that the most powerful people in the world have less empathy than other people.  So if you want your child to be a ruler and be able to get power with any means necessary, then don’t teach her empathy.  But if you want her to be successful and happy, then use empathy yourself with your children and teach them how to be empathetic as well.

 

How to deal with a 2 year old (3)

Here is an info-graphic that you can refer to, or print up which gives a summary of how to work with your child’s behavior.  It includes minor transgressions, common behavior issues as well as more major safety issues. 

spanking(20)

I realize that not too many people who follow me are ones who spank their children, but even if I’m just preaching to the choir, I still need to preach.

After reading all the news about the recent (and history of) police brutality, I have to speak from a parenting point of view.

Do not spank your children.

What does this have to do with people in a position of power harming other people?

Everything.

I write about discipline all the time and mostly my stance is on finding a balance between setting limits and positive parenting.  It is a confusing topic and parenting is tough, so there is a lot to say about it.   I rarely talk about the exertion of control over your children although it actually is a key part in understanding discipline and teaching positive skills to your children.  So when you look at the continuum of parenting styles, you’ll see authoritative on one side, permissive on the other and unconditional or positive parenting somewhere in the middle.  But what separates one style from another is the amount of control, or the amount of power:Parenting styles (8)

Authoritative parents tend to run on the idea that having complete control over your children helps their behavior.  Parents make the rule and parents enforce the rule.   And what is the most popular way to enforce rules? Spanking.

Most people can agree that this style of parenting stops undesirable behavior mostly in its tracks.  It might make a child upset or cry, but hey, parents can stop that behavior too with enough force.

The underlying, indisputable, persistent message to children with authoritative parenting and spanking is:

It is never OK to hit, unless you are in a position of power or authority.

So with authoritative parenting, children learn what is OK and what is not OK from a parent’s point of view.  This sounds like a good thing which is why so many parents choose to be authoritative.  But they learn other lessons too, that might not be as desirable.  They learn that you can control other people who don’t have as much power through force.  They also learn that this kind of violence is somehow OK.

I am not a scientist, and I’ve only thought for about 5 minutes of actually getting a PhD, but if I were to do a dissertation, it would be on how many people who are in position of power and have abused that power were spanked as a child.

I don’t know how accurate the data would be since I was spanked as a child and I don’t go around asserting myself through force, but I do think that there is a relationship there.

So instead of requesting obedience through complete control and hitting your child, you can send them another message of working together to solve problems by giving the children some control.   Some food for thought…

positive

A lot of families are turning to positive parenting these days because they want to leave the yelling, screaming and anger that can happen with parenting in the past.

But what ends up sometimes happening with positive parenting is that the parents become permissive parents.

Positive parenting is still strict parenting.

It is loving parenting, but it is not permissive parenting.

Let me explain:

Parenting is a confusing world to navigate.  Most of us are on board that we no longer hit or spank our children.  And everyone would love to never yell or be angry with our children.  But the in-between section is gray, nebulous and full of indecision.

But you don’t want to be indecisive and your children don’t want you to be indecisive either.

So you have to come up with a plan.  And the first place that parents look for advice is on the internet.  This is great because the internet has so much information, and this is overwhelming because the internet has so much information.

I often find articles that say, “time-outs are bad”, and “consequences are bad”.  I read these articles and they make me want to hug my children all the time.  But then I scour them for exactly what I’m supposed to do when my whole family is losing it.  They give advice like: get close to your children, or give them space, or talk them through their emotions.

I’m sure that this works for some families and it is probably the ideal way to raise your children, but unfortunately, it doesn’t work for me and I’ve spoken with many parents who also struggle with this type of positive parenting.  I’ve only seen it confuse children because they don’t know what the expectations and limits are.

What does work for children is setting limits in a loving way.

So let’s make a plan.  You set a limit that says, “We do not hit people.”  You talk it over with your child and say, “We take care of each other, we do not hit people.”  Then you let them know ahead of time what the consequence will be.  “If you are hitting, that is not safe and you will need to spend time in your room where you and everyone else will be safe. Then when you are calm, you can join us again.”

Then, when your child hits someone, you pick up your child and bring them to their room (or pack n play, or safe space where they can calm down) while you calmly say something like, “We take care of each other.  We do not hit. I need you to be safe.  You can join us again when you are calm and safe.”

In this manner, you weren’t punitive, you weren’t aggressive, you weren’t angry.  You were loving and you set a limit.  This is important for children because children who don’t have limits have to keep pushing and questioning boundaries until they do know what the limit is.   So you can set a limit, have a consequence and even give a time-out in a positive way.

Now your child will probably want to leave the time-out almost immediately. That’s OK by me.  If they are truly calm and they are safe, then they can follow you back out.  If they are thrashing and screaming, then they need more time.

I read all the time that isolating a child when their behavior is unacceptable is damaging for the child.  So, I have to ask myself what do I do when I am overwhelmed?  Yes, sometimes I like a good hug, but most of the time I just need a minute to myself.  So what do I do when I’m losing it?  I go into my room, or I go outside for a minute.  I give myself a “time-out” and that’s not damaging to me.  It helps me calm down.  And that is what we are teaching our kids to do when we do it in a calm way.

So the next time your child reaches a limit and you are giving a consequence,  you can give them a hug while you do it.  Say, “As soon as you are calm and can be safe, we would love to have you join us.”  Hug and consequence.

That is positive parenting.

 

Boulder Child Whisperer

Man oh man.  When was the last time you got a good foot rub?  Probably way too long ago.  Well, if you aren’t getting any good foot rubs, at least your little one should be.

When my boys were babies, I really really wanted to take a massage for babies class.  I thought that it would validate me as a “good mother”.  But, alas, the cost of the class and the fact that I had two babies got in the way and I never took the class.

So for a while, I felt like a bad mother and kept putting off giving my baby a massage since I didn’t know the “right” way to give one and then one day, I just started rubbing my baby’s foot and his whole body melted in my hands.

Then it started to become part of our bedtime routine.  We couldn’t do it every night due to timing, but most nights that we didn’t do a bath, we did foot rubs.  Then came a time where they didn’t want a foot rub.  They would laugh and kick my hands and said it tickled.  We stopped doing it.

Then I remembered the foot rubs again and it changed the whole energy of the bedtime routine.

  • Foot rubs calm the whole nervous system of the child
  • Foot rubs are a great way of connecting.  If you have had an especially trying or tiring day, it is so nice to end it with a foot rub
  • I don’t know much about reflexology, but I love to imagine all the ailments that I must be curing while I’m giving a foot rub. (“And while I’m rubbing here, the tummy ache is going away…”)
  • They feel so good

So if you are having a great day or if you are having a horrible day, tonight give your kiddo a foot rub!

 

work

After years and years of parents not spending enough time with their children, we are seeing a backlash (only in certain cases) of parents not “working” in front of their children.   For many, many parents, this is not a problem as their children see them working all the time, but for some parents, they have let the pendulum swing too far in one direction and that can be damaging for the child. It manifests itself as:

  • I will wait until the children go to bed to clean the house, or I won’t clean the house at all.
  • I won’t make a phone call or use my phone in front of my children (there’s a lot of guilt surrounding this one especially after the viral post about moms on the phone came out)
  • I won’t go back to school because I don’t want to take that time away from my children
  • I will hire cleaners, personal chefs, lawn-mowers, etc to do the work

Parents have a lot of guilt around how much time they spend with their children.  We’ve all heard that saying about the one regret we had before dying was working too much and not spending enough time with our kids.   This rings true for any parent who is working 60 hours per week and then taking home work as well.  I’m not talking to those parents because I know how hard that is.  I tried it and it didn’t work for me, for my husband, for my kids or for my work.

I’m talking to parents who work part-time, work from home or are stay at home parents.  

I’m talking to parents who have guilt around doing work while their kids entertain themselves, or sit in a bouncy chair or do whatever while the parent gets things done. 

 

I’m talking about this poster:

cleaning and cooking

It is a sweet poster and if you aren’t spending anytime with your child, then it is a good reminder.  But if it is keeping you from getting things done and it is keeping your kids from seeing you work, then throw it away and find some balance.

This means that the kids are watching you do the laundry after breakfast, instead of everyone going and playing together in the backyard.

This means that the kids are sitting on the counter while you prepare dinner.

This means that you are relaxing with your husband after the children have gone to bed rather than doing all the housework.

This means taking an important phone call and reminding the kids that they need to wait a minute while you do a bit of work.

This means talking about how mom and dad work hard to take care of the family and that’s how we earn money to buy our food and our house.

This means talking about how we take care of each other and that means sweeping the floor after eating cereal, taking out the garbage all together, putting the dirty laundry in the washer, emptying the dishes, cutting the vegetables, etc.

This means that you find balance in a crazy world of parenting, and don’t spend all your days and nights working, but don’t leave all your work for when the children are sleeping.

This means children will understand that people have purpose in a family, that clothes need to be washed and how to wash them, that food doesn’t come from a box and that money doesn’t grow on trees.  Obviously, having them work with you and eventually on their own is the logical path that they will follow.   But this is the first step, it’s an important step- let them see you work!