Sunday, July 31, 2011

How Doing Less Could Make You A Better Parent

Last week I had the great pleasure of observing one of Janet Lansbury's RIE classes here in Los Angeles. I have known of RIE (Resources for Infant Educarers) since my kids were very little, but never really delved into it or understood what drew people to it until I met Janet and another colleague of hers, Lisa Sunbury, last year. Both Janet and Lisa studied with the founder of RIE, Magda Gerber, and are passionate advocates for children. I have learned a great deal about respectful interactions with children by paying close attention to what these two remarkable women share on their blogs and elsewhere.

As I sat in Janet's bright, spacious classroom I noticed a sign on the wall which read:

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

A Special Discount For My Readers Only

The gold, flat charm so popular with
celebrities: $170 (but you get 15% off)! 
Just about every mother I know has some sort of charm necklace with her children's names or initials engraved on them. Grandmothers love them, aunts and big sisters wear them, even I have a set my husband gave me.

Today I came across a lovely jewelry line called Jordann Jewelry who offers, among other things, really unique engraved charms.The designer has graciously offered readers of The Twin Coach a 15% discount on any purchase made between July 28th and August 3rd, 2011. Read on to find out how!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Feeling Gratitude. Really, Truly, Deeply.

“I don’t want to teach my kids to say ‘thank you’ to someone just because it’s polite and kind. I want them to say it because they feel gratitude. From a place deep inside. A place they are very aware of.”
~ Annie Burnside

How can I teach a child the enormity of
expressing gratitude for things like
a day spent at the beach?
I read this quote in a great post today by Jim Higley on The Good Men Project. In it, he spoke about wanting to help his children feel really and truly grateful.

I think we all want our children to have gratitude for what we provide for them, for what we do for them, for the things they have. We remind our children a hundred times a day, "say thank you". But do we ever stop to think that there is so much more to giving thanks than just saying the words? 

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Want To Talk About Siblings?

They like each other now, but will they always?
Some of you may already know that I have been talking about working on a book about sibling relationships. By "working" I mean trying really, really hard to find time in between everything else I have going on in my life to formulate a coherent thought or two and write it somewhere that is not my blog, Twitter, Facebook or Google+.  

That being said, I have made the giant leap forward to say, out loud, that I am working on this book. I even have a writing partner with lots of degrees and credentials to work with me on it. So now I guess I actually have to do it. And if I have to do it, I need your help. But your part is easy. All I really need from you at this point is to take a few minutes to answer a survey I've put together: Click here to take my sibling survey!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Need Ideas For When You're Stuck At Home With The Kids?

This weekend in Los Angeles one of our major freeways is shut down for about  55 hours. That's right. For a little over 2 days no one will be able to drive along the 405 freeway for the stretch between the 10 freeway and the 101 freeway. For those of you not in LA, I'm sure you're thinking, "so what?".

People are freaking out about it here. I'm originally from New York where driving is a definite luxury and most people take public transportation regardless of how much you earn or where you live. Here in LA just about everyone drives. Even if you're just going a few blocks to the post drive. People are so freaked out about the closure that they've coined a name for it: Carmageddon. There's even a website dedicated to it: where you can get paraphernalia and watch a time clock tick down the seconds until...until what? Until you might have to stay at home for 2 days and enjoy some down time with your family?

Thursday, July 14, 2011

I Must Be Big Time

Those of you who have been reading my blog for a while know that I love going to parenting workshops and sharing what I learn with all of you. I take notes, I do extra research, I add my own thoughts and ideas and hopefully provide some useful information for those who, like me, are working on being better parents. Really, helping people find ways to improve their parenting (which leads to happier, emotionally healthier children) is the reason I write this blog. Not because I make millions writing about this stuff. Actually, I make nothing. 

A few months ago I attended a workshop here in LA that was given by nationally-known early childhood consultant and speaker Jan Parish. Afterwards, I wrote two posts. One about encouraging a love of reading and the other about inspiring a love of writing. In both I gave obvious credit to Jan, plus links to her site. A lot of people wrote to me telling me how inspired they were by her work and I, myself, wrote that after attending Jan's workshop I noticed great changes in how I approached reading and writing with my kids. 

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

How Much Of Parenting Is As You Expected?

There's more than one reason they refer to it
as "expecting" - but how much of being a parent
is as we expected?
I've been thinking a lot about those days just before my children were born. I realize now how little I knew of what to expect once they arrived. I really didn't have anyone who told me what being a parent would mean. I had read all the books and taken classes, but there was something missing. 

In retrospect, I think it was the emotional component. There is a part of me that thinks that, perhaps, it's impossible to tell someone else what things will be like because we all bring different stories, perceptions, strengths and weaknesses to the table.

I recently wrote a post for one of my sisters-in-law who was about to become a mom of twins. I concentrated on a lot of practical things - getting help, getting rest, not needing two of everything and so on. I touched less on the emotional aspect of things. Perhaps that's because I was not sure there was anything new I could add to what has been written about the enormity of becoming a parent. But now another sister-in-law is about to have her first baby and I can't help thinking about this time in my own life and what I wish I had heard someone say to me. So maybe this is for my sister-in-law, and maybe it is also for me. It is definitely for you, if you needed to hear this, too. 

Dear soon-to-be mama (or papa),
Our daughter at 2 weeks old

I am so excited for you. This is such an amazing time; in just a few days your life will be totally different. You will be more tired than you ever have been, you will feel more love than you can ever possibly imagine, you will feel totally incompetent one minute and on top of the world the next. It is a crazy, beautiful time. Be kind to your partner; it's especially hard for new dads as we moms get quite territorial about the new love in our life. We think we know it all and know it best and can be impatient and bossy.

Remember that much of what you are feeling after birth is hormonal and it will normalize soon. If you feel depressed, tell people. If you need help, speak up. If you want to complain and even if you want to say you are miserable, tell someone. And when you want to brag about your beautiful baby and talk about how much you adore her and show picture after picture, I hope you have a person who will listen for as long as you want to talk.

My husband and our son, 2 weeks
into the parenting process
You will learn more about yourself through becoming a parent than from any form of therapy you have ever tried. You will be pushed to the brink, you will think you have failed, you will cry and second guess yourself. Yet, you will succeed brilliantly, you will figure it out, you will be the one your child turns to in times of trouble. You will cry at commercials, and world news will never look the same to you. 

You will suddenly have a new found understanding of why recycling and reducing your carbon footprint are so important. You will learn every line to every Raffi song ever written. You will hear yourself saying things your parents said and you will also do so much that is different. You will find your own way. You will heal old wounds. You will uncover ones you didn't know you had. 

You will have days when you question how you could ever think you had the stuff it takes to be a good mom. You will have days when you can't believe the gloriousness of your life compared to what it was before. Your marriage will change. Your body will change. Hopefully you will learn how to accept both in their new form.

You will be a brilliant mom. Trust your gut, don't let people push you into doing things that don't feel right to you. There are a million "experts" out there, but you are the only expert on your child. Listen to what people suggest, throw away what doesn't resonate for you and keep the rest. Do what works for you.

I believe our babies choose us and it is through those wise little souls trusting their lives to us that we all have the opportunity to become who we are meant to be. So remember, you are exactly the parent your baby needs.


Tuesday, July 12, 2011

I'm Guest Blogging At Rookie Moms!

Many of you may already know the terrific site, Rookie Moms. If you don't, it's a great resource for parents with young children. This week Rookie Moms is running a full week of posts dedicated to multiple moms. I am very honored to be one of the first bloggers to be featured for Rookie Moms' Twin Week. 

Parents sometimes find themselves feeling more of a bond to one child than the other. It's not something most people feel comfortable talking about, but it happens. Here's the post I wrote about figuring out how to overcome the disconnection I felt from my daughter in the early days.

My post was originally titled One On One: The Cure For Disconnection, but Rookie Moms simplified it and just titled it Bonding With Each Child and it begins like this:
One of the fantasies that I had about being a mom of twins is how I would instantly love both my babies in exactly the same way. What surprised me the most when our twins were born is how very common it is for parents of multiples to feel more of a connection to one than the other. It is so rarely talked about that it causes a great deal of shame for those of us who experience it. This is not postpartum depression but rather an imbalance between how easily you connect to one twin over the other. This bond imbalance can fluctuate, shift from one child to the other and generally does not last - especially if the parent is proactive about it. This is an issue that I believe exists solely for those of us with multiples; a singleton mother may feel disconnected from her child at times, but she doesn't have the side-by-side comparison staring her in the face which adds to the already enormous guilt...
To read the full post, click on this link to take you to Rookie Moms. And if you can, leave me some comment love over there!

Thanks for reading!
The Twin Coach

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

What Is The Golden Rule In Parenting?

Reframing The Golden Rule in Parenthood: Treat your children as if they are *you* at the same age. 
By parenting them as you wish to have been parented yourself, you are healing your own 
(still wounded) inner child while preserving the authenticity of the little one right in front of you. Win-win. 
~ Lu Hanessian 

That's me, just around age 3
The Golden Rule. I remember exactly where I was when my father first told me "do unto others as you would have done unto you". I remember learning later in life that I should remember to treat my children as I would treat a friend - you would never yell at a friend that they should "sit down now!", would you? In therapy we are often told that triggers stem from unresolved issues we had as children. 

When triggered, our brain looks for a "match" for how we are feeling in the moment and we are instantly transported back to feeling like our 4-year old self. A couple of days ago, Katie from Practical Parenting left a comment on my blog and said that when she has a tough time dealing with her children's behavior she steps away, takes 5 deep breaths and puts a positive image of her child in her mind. Something started clicking for me. Yesterday I read the above quote by Lu Hanessian on Parent2ParentU's Facebook page and it all came together.

Our daughter, a few months before turning 4.
We look a bit alike, no?
I've written before about our daughter, so like me in so many ways, who triggers my anger so often. But why? I love her so deeply, I am constantly impressed by the complex things she already understands, She's incredibly creative, wonderfully generous and kind, she's confident and holds firm in her opinions which I tell myself will serve her well later in life and yet, she makes me completely batty sometimes. 

Last night she lost it at the dinner table and kept playing with her food and taunting her brother and not listening, not listening, not listening. I kept calm for what felt like ages and suddenly I couldn't hold it together anymore. In that moment I forgot that she is only 4, I forgot that she was over tired, I forgot that she may have had a day where she was told what to do all day long...more importantly, I seemed to be forgetting the person behind the behavior. 

I got past my own tantrum after a minute or two, apologized, explained, helped her calm down. She forgave me as her wise, little self always does. But later I was still thinking about it. I mulled over Lu's powerful words - if she were me, was that how I would want to be treated? This morning I read in Myla and Jon Kabat-Zinn's book Everyday Blessings: The Inner Work of Mindful Parenting the following paragraph:
"In some sense our children have to feel us holding on to them, no matter what repugnant (to our mind) spells come over them no matter what dark disguises they try on. This mindful holding on comes not out of a desire to control them, or to hold them back, or to cling to them out of our own neediness, but out of a commitment to be appropriately present for them no matter what, to let them know that they are not alone, that we have not lost sight of who they are or what they mean to us." 
One of my favorites and helpful
every time I pick it up.
These times when I get so frustrated and feel actual anger toward my children are moments when clearly I am not mindful. These are moments when I lose sight of the golden rule, I lose sight of who I am talking to and what they mean to me. I know this because as soon as I "snap out of it" and come to my senses I feel so horrible and so remorseful. Even now, as I think about last night I wonder how I can get so angry. 

I am still searching for the answer to this. It's like a switch that flips. I am able to stay calm, present and understanding for a certain amount of time and then I lose it and I become like a furious five-year old. I know that a strong reaction to behavior in others is often really just a rejection of that same behavior in yourself. Is it possible that my little girl, feisty and strong-willed, has behaviors that I am not comfortable with in myself? Is it possible that when she exhibits her moodiness I shut down because I see that as unloveable in myself? That feels real to me. And that feels so terribly sad.
"And isn't it true for all of us that when we are feeling lost, sad, and often quite toadlike, it helps enormously to feel that the people closest to us are still our allies, are still able to see and love our essential self?" ~ Everyday Blessings
To not accept this part of my daughter, to not accept it in myself, is to say that it is not OK to be moody, temperamental or crabby. To not be allowed the full range of one's emotions feels like dying a little inside. And so I continue to work on my practice of remaining mindful, forgiving myself just as I forgive my children. Do unto others as I would have them do unto me.

Thanks for reading!
The Twin Coach 

I love to hear your comments! Please leave them below and let me know your thoughts. After you do that, come join me on Facebook and Twitter!

Friday, July 1, 2011

20 Tips To Keep Your Children Safe

The world can be a scary place for some
children. Learn everything you can
about keeping yours safe.
Growing up, many of us probably put ourselves (or were put) into situations where something bad could have happened to us. Hopefully you came out unscathed. Unfortunately, many people were not so lucky. No matter how loving a parent, or how smart you may think you are, there are times when we don't listen to our instincts. How do we teach our children to protect themselves while still giving them a sense of autonomy and freedom?

A couple of weeks ago I went to hear a presentation by Pattie Fitzgerald of Safely Ever After. Pattie is a mother and widely recognized and respected children’s advocate. She has made it her mission to empower families through her innovative and non-fearful safety programs for parents and children.

A False Sense Of Security
Pattie began by lecture by reminding us that what was going to protect our family is not where we live, but what we know.
  • 90% of childhood sexual abuse occurs by someone the child knows - not by a stranger.
  • Childhood sexual abuse occurs among all socioeconomic and educational levels, and across all racial and cultural groups.
  • More than 80% of sexual abuse happens in a one adult/one child situation. Think carefully before leaving your child alone with one adult, especially with coaches, counselors, etc. Drop in unexpectedly on occasion.
  • Sex offenders look for opportunities to groom a child with manipulative ploys of attention, flattery, gifts etc. A parent's job is to watch for signs of "grooming" and to stop it before abuse occurs. 89% of offenders gain access through "grooming techniques".
  • The most vulnerable age is between 9 and 12. This is an age when children become more secretive and parents tend to back off to give the child some autonomy. Children at this age also start a different reasoning process where they think they'll be blamed for the abuse.
Predator Myths And Realities
  • Myth: Only strangers or registered sex offenders abuse children
  • Myth: It's never the older brother next door, the babysitter's son, the older cousin.
  • Myth: Predators are "weird/scary" looking
In reality, when predators are caught, they are often the people about whom people say, "We trusted him. He was a great guy. He was so nice to everyone". Predators target people who want to fit in. But the possibility of getting caught is the number one deterrent. If your child communicates with you, if you are paying attention, if your child is the type who would say "you shouldn't touch me like that" - your child is less likely to be victimized.

  1. Trust your instincts, let your kids trust their instincts
  2. BELIEVE YOUR CHILD. If you discount their "uh oh" feelings you are essentially telling your child "I don't have your back".Only 1 - 4% of reported cases are fabricated and there are 39 million reported survivors of abuse in the United States alone. 
  3. Build self-confidence
  4. Don't teach "stranger-danger". Use the phrase "tricky people". These are people who try to trick you into breaking the rules. As we already learned, 90% of abusers are not strangers!
  5. It's not what people look like, it's what they say or want to do that you need to be wary of
  6. Teach children to recognize "thumbs up" and "thumbs down" people and situations. This is terminology they understand and it covers people you know, don't know and know just a little. 
  7. Know how kids communicate: they may tell parts of what happened or mention it in a roundabout way that they don't want to be around a certain adult. Pay attention to their cues. Sometimes a child will pretend it happened to someone else to test your reaction. 
  8. If your child does disclose, respond in a gentle fashion. Tell them how brave they are that you're glad they're telling.
  9. Talk to your kids about their daily activities. Encourage them to share the "ups and downs" of their day.
  10. Be very clear about who is allowed to bathe and dress your child. Just because your nanny is allowed to do it doesn't mean her husband should, too. 
  11. Open, honest communication is the best sexual abuse prevention tip. Start early discussing personal body issues with clear language and continue the dialogue as they grow up.
Empowering your children makes them
feel strong, smart and brave!
What Kids Should Know At Every Age (from Safely Ever After)
  1. I am The Boss Of My Body! Mom and dad are the boss when it comes to staying healthy and clean, but in all other circumstances, your child is the boss. Children as young as age 3 - 5 should know the correct names for body parts, the difference between "safe" and "unsafe" touches and understand the concept of "No-Go-Tell". For children age 6 - 10 you can tell them that they they have the right to say NO to any uncomfortable touches, no matter who it is, even to an adult or older kid. Also, they need to know it is not their fault if someone tries to touch a private part of their body and they have the right to express or receive physical affection on their terms (By the way, parents, this means you need to stop forcing your kids to hug Grandma Betty if they don't want to. More on that later). Children ages 11 and older can be told that it is OK to say STOP to anyone's touches anywhere on their body. And affection between adults and children does not include touching or kissing private parts, undressing together or sharing bodies in a "yucky" or uncomfortable manner. 
  2. The "Helping" Rule. Children age 3 -5 need to know that they should not help anyone who asks them to find a lost pet, give them direction, or carry packages to their home or car without mom/dad/caretaker present. Also, safe grownups don't ask kids for help when you're by yourself - they're supposed to ask OTHER grownups. Children age 6 - 10 must also know that before assisting anyone, check first with the adult in charge of your safety. If you can't check first, the answer is NO. Children this age also need to understand the difference between helping with chores in the home vs. helping someone out in the world when you're on your own. Additionally, they should not enter someone's home to help them unless their parents say it's OK. Tell your children age 11 and older that they must be wary of people who ask you for help when you're alone or with your friends in public places. Employ the "check first rule" whenever possible. And remind them not to be tricked by offers of money or gifts in exchange for assistance.
  3. Predators know what is most enticing
    to your children. Teach yours to check first.
  4. Candy, Gifts, Treats. Teach your children age 3 - 5 to say no to anyone who wants to give them candy, gifts or treats unless their parent is with them and says it's OK first. Children age 6 - 10 can be told that it is not OK for someone to offer them a treat in exchange for keeping a secret. By age 11 and older can be told that they should tell their parents about anyone who wants to give them an expensive gift or treat without their knowledge. They should also understand that bribing a child with the promise of a gift or treat is wrong, and may even be illegal. Remind them it's not their fault and it's important to tell right away.
  5. Trusting Your Instinct/your inner voice/"the uh-oh feeling". Children by age 3 - 5 can be told to listen to their inner voice or that feeling you get in your tummy when something feels wrong or "yucky". They should know to tell mom or dad about any "uh oh" feelings they have, no matter when it happens. With children age 6 - 10 you can tell them to get away quickly from anyone who makes them feel weird, yucky or uncomfortable. And remind them that they don't have to be polite to anyone who gives them that "uh oh" feeling. Children age 11 and older should be told to pay attention to their feelings, especially if someone tries to get them to do something they know is wrong or makes them feel badly. Remind them that their own inner alarm is their best safety system.
  6. Secrets. With children age 3 - 5 tell them that there are no secrets from mom or dad. Remind them that safe grownups don't tell kids to keep secrets from their parents and that there is a difference between a "secret" and a "surprise". Tell children age 6 - 10 that they won't get in trouble for telling their parents about any kind of secret that an adult has told them to keep. Remind them to tell mom and dad right away and not to hold on to "yucky" secrets, especially ones about their body. Tell them that safe adults don't tell kids to keep secrets from their parents.
  7. Out And About. For children age 3 - 5 tell them that if they are lost, Freeze and Yell or ask a Mom with Kids for help. Remind them to never go outside to the parking lot to look for their parents and teach them your address and a parent's cell phone number. Children age 6 - 10 should ask a mom with kids, or the cash register person for help. Remind them not to wander around or leave the area to search for their parents. Tell them not to enter restrooms alone or with someone they don't know and not to use shortcuts through alleys or play in unfamiliar areas. For kids age 11 and older you can tell them not to be tricked into getting into a car with someone you don't know because they seem nice or because they offer you something enticing like payment for doing work. Also, if they want to change their plans, go somewhere else, or enter a car even with an adult they know, they have to call and check in first with their parents to let them know. If they can't check first, the answer is NO.
  8. Check First. Children age 3 - 5 need to be told that they should always ask mom, dad or caretaker before they go anywhere or take anything even from someone they know, Also, if they're finished playing in one ares and want to do something else, check first. Age 6 - 10 you must have permission before getting into a car or entering someone's home. Check first, even f it's a neighbor or someone that you know. If you don't have permission first, don't do it. For kids 9 years old and up - use a family code word. For children age 11 and older teach them to always let their parents know where they're going and when they'll be back. Additionally, they should know that if they are changing plans, to let their parents know first.
  9. Tricky People. For kids age 3 - 5 replace stranger-danger concept with "tricky people". Remind them that it's not what someone looks like, it's what they want you to do. Teach them that "tricky people" may ask kids to do "thumbs down" things. For kids age 6 -10 you can teach them that a tricky person may be someone they know, don't know, or know just a little. They should learn that they can recognize a tricky person by their behaviors and actions - by what they say and do. For children age 11 and older remind them that they don't have to be polite to anyone who tries to trick you into doing something feels bad and to be alert for tricks that sound "too good to be true".
  10. Getting Help. For children age 3 - 5 teach them that they should always tell mom or dad if they feel scared, uncomfortable or have an "uh oh" feeling about someone. And if they are afraid to tell their parents, they should tell a teacher. Teach children age 6 - 10 to tell their parents about anyone who's made them feel yucky or touched them in an uncomfortable way. Remind them that if they can't tell their parents, then tell a teacher and if that doesn't work, keep telling a grownup until you get help. For children age 11 and older you can tell them to tell a parent, a teacher, a guidance counselor or other trusted adult if they need help. If they're not comfortable talking to a parent, consider other safe grownups who will help you, like a friend's mom. Above all, keep telling until you get help.
Watch your child for cues and clues about
they feel. Don't force their affection.
Photo credit: Milk Photo
Give Grandma Betty a Hug!

I wanted to emphasize that first point about being the boss of their bodies. We should never force children to be affectionate to everyone. By doing so, we are telling them that they're not really the boss of their own bodies. There are may reasons a child may not want a kiss or hug from a relative. My grandfather used to lick his lips before he gave kisses. It wasn't inappropriate, it was just gross! Instead of telling your child what to do, simply ask him or her, "Do you want to give Grandma Betty a hug?" If the child still feels uncomfortable, show them that you have their back. If the person in question is pressuring you, or doesn't agree with letting children make this decision, try saying, "We've been working really hard with the kids teaching them the 'I'm the boss of my own own body' rules. Can you help me with this?" This way you are bringing the other adult into the fold, the child doesn't sense any aggravation between you which could lead him or her to decide not to say no next time. 

Safely Ever After
There was so much more information that Pattie gave us including details on boundaries, red flags and common lures, but I feel as though this post has gotten really long. If there is interest, I will do a follow up post with more information, but I highly, highly recommend contacting Pattie at Safely Ever After to have her speak at your school, your group, even your home. As street smart as I am, I came away from Pattie's lecture realizing how much I really didn't know and how much I really hadn't spoken to my children about!

How about you? Do you already speak to your kids about keeping themselves safe? Do you have any tips to share? Was any of this particularly eye opening to you? I love your comment, let me know your thoughts!

Thanks for reading!
The Twin Coach

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