"I watch their softly tousled heads slumbering on
their pillows, and sadness wells up in me. Have I drunk in their smiles
and laughter and hugged them, or have I just checked things off my to-do
list today? They're growing so quickly. One morning I may wake up and
one of my girls will be getting married, and I'll worry: Have I played
with them enough? Have I enjoyed the opportunity to be a part of their
lives?" -- Janet Fackrell
It's part of our job description as parents to guide our kids and keep them moving through the daily routine. All too often, that means setting limits, denying requests, correcting behavior. Sometimes we're skillful enough that our child doesn't perceive our guidance as "negative." More often, kids give us the benefit of the doubt because all the other loving, affirming interactions create a positive balance in our relationship account. READ POST
Today I'm honored that Aha! Parenting is the final stop on Annie Fox's Teaching Kids To Be Good People blog tour.
Raising good kids isn't easy in an age where kids have so many role models -- online, on screen, in their peer groups, and throughout our society -- who seem to normalize mean-spiritedness, cheating and greed. Most parents I know struggle with how to talk with their children about ethics and morality. We all know that lecturing doesn't work. How, then, do we help kids feel good about choosing to do the right thing, especially when that costs them -- which it inevitably does? READ POST
"Today I stepped outside to clean up
some toys while my kids were eating. My 2 year old ran to the back door
and cried out for me. My 4 year old didn't like his screaming and ran
over and punched him several times. My 2 year old got so upset he threw
up his whole lunch all over me. My 4 year old confessed "Mom, I did a
bad thing...I punched S because he was crying and it made me mad." I
have been getting very upset, sternly asking my 4 year old "Why do you
want to hurt your brother?...I'm very disappointed in you and sad about
this." I typically do 4 minutes timeout and an apology for the bad
behavior, then be nice to your brother for 3 days and then you get a
superhero movie. Is this wrong?"
Is it a bad thing to use rewards and punishment? Well, it doesn't actually work as well as emotion coaching and empathic limits to stop your son's hitting, and it doesn't teach the lessons you want to teach. The research says that if your son does stop hitting, it won't be because he has learned that hitting hurts his brother, but because he doesn't want to be punished. Of course, most parents would be willing to accept this, just to stop the hitting. But most kids just keep hitting, because the rewards and punishment don't help them with the underlying feelings or teach them a better way to solve the problem that caused the hitting. They just get sneakier, stop confessing, and start blaming. And it doesn't sound like your rewards and punishment are working, if he's still punching his brother to the point where his brother throws up. READ POST
Dr. Laura, I see how all your
mindfulness techniques make me a more patient mother. But when I find my temper rising, what can I do in that
moment? I know yelling doesn't work. I know that my inner critic that
tells me I'm a bad mother just makes things worse. But what do I actually DO?" -- Cara
Nothing. Really. You notice what you're feeling, you breathe your way through it, and you DO nothing.
When our temper rises, we all feel an urgent need to DO something, anything. But that's our emergency response system operating. And parenting, despite how it feels, is not usually an emergency.
So the most effective thing you can do is restore yourself to calm before you act. Why? Because the rational brain stops working when you're angry. So when you act from anger or fear, you're never taking constructive action.
I define mindfulness as just noticing our own feelings and thoughts without acting on them. Meditation teacher Sharon Salzberg says it more directly: "Mindfulness is not hitting someone in the mouth."
Sure, it feels like we MUST intervene at that moment. Otherwise, our child will "get away with" bad behavior, and will become a terrible person. But that's fear speaking, and it drives us to take actions that make things worse. Later, we realize that we let our emotions run amok. We didn't guide our child with love. We didn't help her WANT to be a more loving or cooperative person. Instead, we dumped those yucky feelings from our full emotional backpack onto our child.
So what can you actually DO when you feel your temper rising? READ POST
"I just don't believe that kids learn to do what's right by us giving them hugs. The only reason I ever did my homework was the strap waiting if I brought home a bad report card." -- Jack
It's true. Kids need our hugs, but that's not what teaches them to do right. How do kids learn?
Our modeling. When we take responsibility, when we apologize, when we regulate our own emotions so we aren't yelling at them, children learn to take responsibility, to apologize, to regulate their own emotions and treat others with respect.
Our guidance. When we talk with them about the choices in their lives, kids learn. Should he lie about his age to get a cheaper admission price at the amusement park? Can she break a date with a friend when she gets a more exciting offer? Should he help pay for the window he broke with his baseball? Talk about the fact that ethical choices are worth making, even when it costs you...And what ethical choice doesn't cost you?
Our family habits. When kids get used to "repair" rather than punishment, they automatically look to make things better after a fight with their sibling. When they learn that everyone has big feelings, but emotions aren't an emergency, they learn to take responsibility for their emotions and their behavior. READ POST
"When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother
would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who
are helping.’ To this day, especially in times of ‘disaster,’ I remember
my mother’s words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are
still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world.” - Mr Rogers
By now, many children across the United States and the world know that two bombs went off yesterday at the Boston Marathon, killing three people and injuring 140 others, some of them quite seriously. How can we answer our children's questions, when we don't know why this happened? How can we reassure them that we'll keep them safe, when we suddenly aren't sure that we can? When a tragedy like this shakes our faith in our own sense of safety in the world, it's tough to talk with our kids about it.
But it's our responsibility as adults to communicate to our children that we can and will keep them safe. So before you talk with your child about this tragedy, reassure yourself. Your child is no less safe than he or she was last week. The chances of your family being touched directly by such a tragedy are much, much, much less than the chances of a car accident, and you get into a car every day.
If you have a hard time believing this, it's a red flag that you've exposed yourself too intimately to the news. Every time you see more news about this tragedy, you're sending yourself back into fight or flight mode. But, in fact, unless you were at the Marathon, or someone dear to you was injured, this is not an emergency for your family. It's our job as parents to manage our own emotions so they don't adversely affect our children, so it's important for us to move ourselves out of flight or flight.
Then, start from the premise that your goal is to help your child integrate the news and feel safe. Use this as an opportunity to reassure and give age-appropriate information so he has a context for whatever he hears from his friends. Ten pointers: READ POST
"It’s like a big stick that I hit
myself with from the inside. Really, would I want anyone I love to do
that to themselves? Certainly not! And, I’ve made a commitment to
support my kids and myself in putting that stick down. For good. The
other day...the part of me that is Unconditional Love stood up, turned
towards the Critic, and embraced it. In that moment of love and
connection, the critic dissolved. Now I make it a practice to embrace
the Critic, over and over again. I am learning that whatever has a hold
on me, that which we most want to turn away from, is exactly what needs
undivided, loving attention." -- Jennifer Mayfield
The inner critic's goal is to protect us. It thinks its job is to constantly scan for threats so it can keep us safe: future dangers, past problems we keep reliving to prevent their recurrence (or prove we were right!), defects in others that we need to control and correct, and deep flaws in us that we fear threaten our very survival because they make us unlovable. No wonder we so often ricochet between anxiety and depression. READ POST