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"To listen fully means to pay close attention to what is being said beneath the words....You listen not only for what someone knows, but for who he or she is. Ears operate at the speed of sound, which is far slower than the speed of light the eyes take in. Generative listening is the art of developing deeper silences in yourself, so you can slow your mind's hearing to your ears' natural speed, and hear beneath the words to their meaning." -- Peter Senge

In our fast-paced life, we often take a secret pride in how busy we are, how good we are at multi-tasking, how fast we can move. We enjoy the rush of adrenaline. But that fast pace can make us impatient with ourselves, and with our children. Too often, we don't take the extra moment to slow down and connect. We forget to appreciate and take joy in our kids--which is, after all, what makes parenting worth it. We fly through the day without really listening to what matters to him, or the questions she's struggling to articulate.  READ POST

Thursday, August 21, 2014 | Permalink

"How many times have you felt forced/nudged/shamed/coerced into parenting in a way you don't usually because you were in a public situation? I know I have, and it still happens now that my kids are out of the toddler tantrum stage." - Ask Moxie

"Where I struggle is under the judgmental gaze of grandparents who believe in PUNISHMENT and CONSEQUENCES when the line is crossed. I can almost hear a tsk, tsk as I do my empathic parenting. .. No matter how old I get....I still want parents' approval, you know?" - Ann

Kids don't always behave as we'd like when we're out and about.  They get over-stimulated and stressed out. And when children are at family gatherings, they're often off their schedules and especially excited, so their behavior can be particularly challenging. 

The hard part is that we have to be extra creative to help our child cope in a way that doesn't infringe on the rights of others...AND we have to do it in front of an audience! An audience that we suspect is judging us as bad parents. It doesn't matter whether it's grandparents judging us as Permissive and Spoiling, or supermarket cashiers judging us as Lazy or Mean. If we were good parents, our child wouldn't be acting up to begin with.  Right?  READ POST

Tuesday, August 19, 2014 | Permalink

"Dr. Laura....I just want to give my kids a better start in life than I had.  How can I make sure they're self-disciplined but happy?" - Katie

All of us want to raise children who become self-disciplined -- and happy -- adults.  The only question is how best to do that.  Luckily, we know the answer.  Research studies have been following children from babyhood to adulthood for decades, so we actually know what works to raise great kids. Here are the five most important things we know.

1. Children need a secure attachment with at least one loving adult.  Parents facilitate this secure attachment in the first year by listening to their unique baby and responding to her needs. They continue to nurture secure attachment by accepting the full range of who their child is -- including all that messy neediness and anger -- into the toddler years and beyond. Parents who are unable to tolerate the child's neediness, controlling (rather than accepting the child as he is), intrusive (rather than taking the child's cues), or otherwise reacting out of their own needs rather than responding to their child's needs are less likely to raise a securely attached child.  READ POST

Friday, August 15, 2014 | Permalink

“Dr. Laura…My son is wound tighter than a drum and everything makes him mad.  I know there are tears under there, especially from having a new baby sister. But he won’t cry, he just gets mad! How can I help him work out all these feelings?”

Sometimes, our child seems to be provoking us on purpose, trying to make us crazy. It's almost like she's trying to start a fight, because the minute we set a limit ("Please don't hit the dog; it hurts him"), our child gets angry at us. The truth is, she IS provoking us to start a fight. Not to make us crazy, but because she feels awful inside and doesn't know what to do about it. The best defense (against those bad feelings) is a good offense, so she lashes out at you.

If you can summon up all your warm compassion as you set a kind but firm limit (Get between her and the dog and gently restrain her while saying "I won't let you hit the dog"), your child will sometimes burst into tears. After she sobs her heart out, she'll end up in your arms, and then be cooperative and delightful for the rest of the day, or even week.  This can be hard on parents, but once you experience it, you'll start to notice when she just needs to cry, and even to "schedule" meltdowns  when she's having a hard time (as described in this post on Preventive Maintenance.)

But more often, your child will be too frightened of that logjam of emotion he’s been tamping down, and he'll stay stuck in the anger, which is a useful defense.  The problem is, he needs to cry to release all those feelings.  Otherwise, he’ll spend the day (or week) bouncing from one angry incident to the next. But how can you break through his anger to help him release the tears and fears that are driving it?   READ POST

Tuesday, August 12, 2014 | Permalink

“Scheduled meltdowns work just as you describe with my 3.5 year old daughter…But how do I follow this technique, which usually takes about 10 minutes of undivided attention, when I'm also taking care of my 16 month old at the same time?”- Kimberly

“I have found when another child is witnessing the process of my helping a child with emotions they become aware and able to help. Mine often imitate what they've seen me do and can even help each other through upset on their own with empathy and understanding.”- Seasyn

If you have more than one child, you know there are many hard things about parenting siblings. Perhaps the hardest part is when they both need you at once. After all, your love may be unlimited, but you only have two hands.

That’s why preventive maintenance (discussed in our last post) is so important—children’s needs for connection and emotional processing are met on a regular basis, so they don’t fall apart as often.

But there will inevitably be times when you’re the only adult present, you have more than one child in your care, and both children really need you at once, or one child needs your attention for ten minutes but you can’t focus on him because the other child is there. What can you do?  READ POST

Thursday, August 07, 2014 | Permalink

Dr.  Laura....I don't understand how to even begin to validate our very strong willed 2.5 son when he is screaming at me from inside the van and won't get in his seat so we can get his big sister from school and the 6 month old is there as well..." - Anita

In my last post, When You Just Don't Have Time for That Meltdown, I pointed out that Preventive Maintenance can help you avoid meltdowns at those inconvenient times, like when you're trying to get your kids in the car to go somewhere. What's preventive maintenance?

Well, what happens to your car if you don't fill it with gas, change the oil, and give it a regular tune up?  It ends up in the breakdown lane.  Life with children isn't so different. Unfortunately, parents aren't given a preventive maintenance plan for their children.  But if you don't refill your child's love tank, roughhouse with him daily so he gets some good giggling in, and give him regular one-on-one time, you can count on more breakdown time. Especially if there's a relatively new baby in the family, or if you're transitioning from conventional parenting to gentle parenting and your child has some old stuffed emotions to process.  READ POST

Tuesday, August 05, 2014 | Permalink

"How would you handle a situation when you have to leave the park to go get your other two children and unfortunately can't sit on the bench for thirty minutes while she cries?" - Sandra

In our last post about setting limits with empathy, the three year old was upset about leaving the park, so the parent supported her through her disappointment, which involved tears and anger on the park bench. But that's not always an option. What do you do then?  READ POST

Thursday, July 31, 2014 | Permalink