Positive Parents And A Giveaway!

When I first became a mother I began reading a number of blogs and parenting pages that have guided and inspired me so much both as a parent and as a blogger myself. One of these blogs is Rebecca Eanes’ Positive Parents. I always learn something from her perspective on parenting and share many of her posts on my Twin Coach Facebook page.

Rebecca writes wonderfully about how to create connected, positive relationships with our children. She never comes across as being “better than” her readers and is always wise and thoughtful in her approach to some of our most challenging parenting moments. The manner in which she delivers this information is so relatable that even someone who isn’t familiar with a positive, empathetic approach can easily see how the methods she talks about can work for their family.

Some of the posts that I have loved most recently include:

Solutions For Siblings

happy parent and child

“Peaceful parenting is about having peaceful homes and peaceful relationships. Conflicts will always arise, and that is perfectly normal, but by setting boundaries around respect and teaching problem-solving skills, we can teach our kids how to find solutions, repair relationships, and come back to peace.”

The Right Way To Parent?

“There is certainly no shortage of articles telling us all what not to do as parents, yet few offer concrete advice on what we should do. As a parent, I know how frustrating it can be to have all of your tools yanked away because they’re all “wrong” and then being left feeling like you’re adrift on this big sea without a paddle. (No pun intended.) I was there once, too. I had this exact realization.

Okay, spanking is bad. Definitely bad. Now time outs are bad too. Wait, all punishments are bad. Oh, and consequences? Not a great idea. So what’s left?

Can you relate?

If you’re floating adrift out there, let me throw you a lifesaver. Well, its more like arm floaties and a map, but just stick with me. I’m going to give you some tools you can start using now to replace your time outs, threats, and taking away privileges, but I’m not going to give you concrete advice on what to do either.”

The Superior Parent Award Goes To…

Rebecca’s wonderful answer to the recent debate over the new book “Bringing Up Bebe” and whether French parents are better than American parents.

Positive Parents also has a terrific Facebook page, Positive Parenting: Toddlers And Beyond, where Rebecca not only shares her own posts but frequently posts other articles and pieces of wisdom that she feels will relate to her more than 17,000 (!) followers. She really is an amazing wealth of information and it’s a wonderful community of people she’s gathered. I’m a big fan of hers and I hope you will take a minute to check out her blog and Facebook page.

Now, for more good stuff.

Rebecca has just written her first ebook entitled The Newbie’s Guide To Positive Parenting. From Rebecca’s site:

“This 30-page PDF eBook will give you clarity and offer you tools and skills that will strengthen your relationship with your child while teaching values and instilling the self-discipline that will benefit your child for a lifetime. The Newbie’s Guide to Positive Parenting provides several scenarios so you can see positive parenting in action!”

The chapters include:

  • What is Positive Parenting?
  • How Positive Parenting is Different from Permissive Parenting
  • Changing Your Mindset
  • Teaching Tools
  • Consequences, Punishments, and Problem-Solving
  • Limit Enforcement versus Punishment
  • 10 Alternatives to Punishment
  • 10 Things That Are More Important Than Discipline

Rebecca has very nicely offered to give away a copy of her ebook, but even if you don’t win it, it is priced at a very affordable $4.99, so please pass on this information to your friends, share it on your Facebook page, pin away on Pinterest and let as many people as you can know that here is some excellent accesible information for helping parents, caregivers and educators better connect with the children they love.

Giveaway rules:

Just leave a comment below and let me know if you’d like to win a copy. If you feel comfortable sharing what your biggest challenge is when it comes to staying positive in parenting, please share…I believe we all learn from each other.

I will pick a random winner (thank you random.org) on Saturday, March 3rd at noon PST and announce the winner on my Facebook page. Please be sure to include a way to contact you when leaving your comment!

Triggers, Tantrums And Time Outs (Or, When Mom Is Losing It)

I’m beginning to realize that it is Mom who has the behavior problem and not my children. My children are just children. They have brains that are still developing, they are seeing and experiencing things for the first time, they have little to no practice handling frustration and disappointment. My children are guileless, curious and love unconditionally. Mom on the other hand? Mom has some issues.

Mom (and by mom, I am talking about me…not the collective “Mom”, although feel free to commiserate) has a tendency towards rigid behavior, a short fuse and a need for order. Mom gets overwhelmed easily by too many things requiring her attention at once. Mom has layers of insecurities about doing things “right” and being a “good mother”. Mom has lots of habits she has developed over the years that are really hard to break. But in an effort to be the type of mother I want to be and to not pass on these behavior patterns, I am working really hard to break the cycle.

angry_faceI am constantly battling the knee-jerk reactions I have to some of my children’s behaviors. We all have developed patterns of behavior over our lifetimes based on our own experiences. Some of the behaviors are habits, some are defense mechanisms, some we have because we were taught by others to respond in a particular way.

But when we know better, when we see that there is another way, I really believe it is our duty to find a way to do things better.

So it is not my children who need discipline. It is me. And I don’t say this to make myself feel bad, rather it is a reminder that I need to pay attention not just to my children, but to myself. I need practice in being consistent and in modeling what I want them to learn. I need to be able to forgive my behaviors and remember that even though I have more experience, I, too, am still learning.

Triggers: We all have them. Do you know yours?

Over time I have become more aware of some of my triggers, but I have noticed that just being aware of them doesn’t mean they disappear. Digging deeper has made me see that at the base of my trigger thoughts is the notion that people are not behaving properly and that I have every right to be angry with them. I’m making the effort to understand what triggers me so I can work on my reactions. I am working on letting go of justifying my anger. It’s a slow process, but I know it’s worth it. Here are some ideas of things that can help identify your triggers:

Look for instances that trigger your anger

Tips For You to Release Stress and Calm Down Again

And then see if you can identify the triggering thoughts. Examples of trigger thoughts could be “I should be able to handle this, but I can’t”, “My children don’t appreciate anything I do”, “I have to do everything and no one helps me” or “No one listens to what I am saying”.

Do not ignore your triggers

Paying attention to them helps you get out of auto pilot. I often ignore my triggers in the hopes that we will just get out of the store, get out of the house, leave the party and the triggering behavior will end. Sometimes that works, but usually not.

Keep a journal of the times you get triggered

Pay attention to details like how your body felt, if were you nervous, tense or otherwise feeling pressured by something else, what the effect was on others, how you felt afterwards, how angry you became etc.

Look for reoccurring themes

As you review the journal after recording this information for a week or so. Triggers often fall into one or a combination of several categories, including: other people doing or not doing what you expect them to do, situational events that get in your way, people taking advantage of you or being angry/disappointed with yourself.

Make a conscious effort

Once you have identified some of your triggers and have begun to understand the pattern, you can begin the work of learning to control your response to those triggers. Anger-triggering thoughts occur automatically and almost instantaneously, so it really requires some effort to be mindful of yourself and your interactions so you can choose a more appropriate response.

Tantrums: Children aren’t the only ones who have them.

Of course my children throw tantrums from time to time. My daughter does it more often than my son. But I am starting to feel as though I throw more tantrums than either of them! And lately, I have noticed that it has developed into a habit. Almost as if I am the 5-year old in the family and when things don’t go my way I lash out. How mortifying! And how confusing for my children.

Anatomy of a tantrum:

  • This morning my daughter woke up grumpy and refusing to go to school. She whined and yelled me for about 30 minutes which I patiently and empathetically handled but which set me on edge (trigger thoughts: “She’s not respecting me! I can’t solve her problem! I am running late because I have to deal with this!”).
  • Then, I kept getting phone calls from my visiting parents asking questions and interrupting me further (trigger thoughts which I ignored: “I have a schedule and everyone is interrupting it! I am being pulled in too many directions, why doesn’t my husband ever DO anything!”)
  • Then, just as we are finally about to leave, my son realizes I have packed him strawberry yogurt instead of banana and has a meltdown about how he is so tired of strawberry and I never give him what he wants. (Trigger thoughts coming loud and clear but I still ignore them: “We are going to be late for school! I don’t feel appreciated! I can’t solve his problem, I am doing a terrible job!”)
  • I finally get him to calm down and something happens between my children where our daughter makes a face, our son reacts because he’s still upset and she hits him with her lunch box and he starts wailing again.
  • I lose it completely, speak harshly and throw their lunch boxes across the kitchen. Now we are all crying. Fantastic.

So, I was triggered over and over, didn’t take care of myself in order to notice my stress level was getting out of control, and then the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back came along and I had a tantrum. While the anger I feel is legitimate in that it is the reality of how I am feeling at a particular time, it doesn’t mean that choosing to act on those angry feelings is appropriate. So what do I do?

Time Outs. Not so good for kids, but they can be great for grownups.

screamingThe only person in our house who get time outs is me (and occasionally my husband). I don’t believe in them for children as research and personal experience has shown me that it is not an effective way to teach children right from wrong, nor does it fit in with the type of connected relationship I am trying to build with my children. For adults, however, I think giving ourselves time to calm down when we feel like we’re about to flip out is crucial. Young children aren’t capable of reflecting on their behavior during a time out, but I certainly am. My time outs, even if they are brief, allow me to do any combination of the following:

  • Take a few deep breaths to regulate myself and calm down.
  • Put a positive picture of my child (or children) in my mind.
  • Reflect on at least 3 wonderful things about my child, even if she is currently having an extreme meltdown.
  • Show my children that mom is aware of her feelings and her need to calm down before she gets angry.
  • If time allows, sit with the emotions I am experiencing and give myself a chance to process them.
  • Take time (even a moment or two) to be kind to myself and be aware of my own needs.
  • Be mindful of what I really want to model for my children.
  • Come up with better solutions to whatever problem has been causing me stress.
  • Remember that none of what is happening is an emergency. I don’t need to have all the answers.
  • Remember what my long term goal is: happy, confident children who feel loved unconditionally.

The key to time outs for grownups though, is to notice that you need them before it’s too late. Once you are already in a power struggle with your children and are angry they likely won’t let you step away to collect your thoughts. Then you add a new layer of stress as you try to lock yourself in the bathroom while simultaneously peeling screaming children off your leg. To be aware enough to catch my escalating stress level in time requires me to limit the multi tasking which sets me into auto pilot parenting mode and instead really pay attention to what is going on around me. I have to be willing to let go of my agenda to get things done at a certain time or in a certain way…only then can I be mindful of what is needed in the moment.

My agenda to get my kids to school on time sometimes has to take a back seat to my wanting to be a calm, respectful, caring parent. My agenda to get the kids to bed so I can have some time to myself has to take a back seat when my daughter needs extra reassurance as she’s tucked in or my son has “just one more” question about a book he’s trying to read. The best way for me to be able to release my grip on my agenda is to take that time out, breathe, remember what my long term goal is and work on remaining in the moment.

What about you? How do you keep your calm when parenting gets messy? I’m all ears for more suggestions!

You Mean Everyone Isn’t Parenting This Way?

Sometimes I wonder if I parent in a bubble. My children attend a very progressive, Reggio-inspired preschool where the director and teachers show an amazing amount of respect for the children. My friends all parent their children with some version of empathetic, connected, RIE, reflective, positive parenting. Because I write this blog, I am in contact daily with amazing educators, bloggers and parents who talk about things like why television is bad for young children, or that it’s possible to discipline children without shame, how there are no such thing as bad kids, and how taking care of ourselves is the key to not getting triggered by our kids.

usAnd all of you wonderful people who read and comment on this blog or on my Facebook and Twitter pages are so inspiring. It is you who make me feel that there are so many of us who are changing the parenting paradigm, that we are raising a generation of children who will grow up with compassion, a sense of gratitude, and fully knowing they are loved for who they are, no matter what.

And then I get a kick in the gut when something makes me realize that there is a huge percentage of the population that don’t agree with these ideas that seem so irrefutable to me.

I read a great article on Tuesday by Melissa of Confessions of a Dr. Mom about spanking:

“So, I realize that whether you spank or not is just one piece of the whole parenting puzzle. Not spanking does not make you a better or more effective parent. However, by taking it off the table when it comes to parenting strategies, I believe it helps us grow as parents and understand our children better, thus leaving room for building a stronger foundation of trust and respect with our children.

So, I urge parents to take it off the table once and for all. Start early by practicing positive reinforcement. Praise your child when she is engaging in sharing, using her words and getting to bed on time. Listen to your child when he is upset and crying. Validate his feelings even if you don’t understand. Then proceed with your parenting rules.”

Nothing there to argue with, right? Wrong. I was so saddened to see the comment section filled with not just disagreements, but hostility toward both Melissa and toward anyone who would suggest using spankings as a way to get children to be better behaved might not be the best idea. Of course, this article was written for a public newspaper blog. And the commenters are allowed to post anonymously, which more often than not leads to personal attacks and comments posted merely for shock value. But here are a few of the less crazy comments and, personally, these sadden me more than the overtly shocking ones:

“The overwhelming majority of kids who were spanked turned into fine upstanding adults as a result of it.”

“There comes a point in time when the kids tune the parent(s) out because their words mean nothing to them any longer, it becomes a broken record. Thats when another option comes into the picture and trust me, they have a hard time tuning you out when their rear is sore from the belt.”

“Gee, spanking didn’t kill me when I was a kid. I think that if parents spanked their children as a response to them throwing the contents of a supermarket shelf on the floor enmasse the bad behavior would immediately stop. Instead I see the parent begging, arguing or attempting to reason with the child throughout the entire shopping trip to stop their abberrant behavior which they continue to engage in despite the parents pleas…”

“My daughter […] is due next month and if needed we will spank her…Will depend on her maturity to understand why she is being spanked. I have observed that kids around two can comprehend why a spanking is being given. The need is based on the circumstances, but I see it as an escalation of misbehavior from where no other forms of discipline is working.”

That last one really gets me. What child of TWO can understand why the person they love and trust to protect them suddenly hurts them? What can a child of two (or really any age) be doing that warrants being hit? It makes me want to cry for that unborn baby.

In reading the 8 pages (so far) of comments I began to feel so discouraged. How is it possible for so many to ignore the research that shows the multi-layered detrimental effects of spanking? How is it possible for so many to forget the trauma they must surely have felt as a child when they were treated this way themselves? How is it possible for so many to not understand that obedience shouldn’t be the goal and that one must be respectful in order to be respected? Why is it that so many parents think that if a child doesn’t do as we say the minute we say it that this is a mark of insolence?

It eventually hit me that many of the pro-spanking comments left were ones made by parents who felt one of two things:

A. When children continually act out, parents are letting kids walk all over them and should, instead, take a hard line by showing them who’s boss.

B. The world is filled with over-indulged, obnoxious, entitled young people whose parents obviously were too wimpy to reign them in. Telling us to have respect for children and talking to children about the way they feel is just more of the same which will lead to more of the same. Kids need to respect their elders as they did when I was a kid!

One of my favorite bloggers, Teacher Tom, wrote a fantastic post last year called “Spoiled Brats” that addresses the concerns of parents who think this way:

Studio Portrait Of Mother Telling Off Teenage Daughter“It’s hard, I think, for some people to understand the world without a hierarchical framework: someone has to be the boss — if it’s not the parent, it’s the child. When I suggest paying attention to the words we use with children, avoiding the language of command, and instead choosing statements of fact which allow children to practice taking responsibility for their own actions, I understand how some people fear that it will become a slippery slope down which the whole carefully constructed family org chart will slide. I understand how it might seem that if you’re not bossing your child, she will take advantage, gain the upper hand, and assume the scepter. To believe this takes a view of human nature that I’ve not found to be true, but I understand it.

[…]The common wisdom, it seems, is that these behaviors come from not enough “tough love;” from parents who are afraid of their children, and are too namby-pamby to put their foot down, an approach popularized by such pop-psychology sensations as Dr. Phil. Sadly, this is not what psychologists who actually do research have found. So-called “spoiled” behaviors,” in fact, result from things like not enough proactive attention from parents, not expecting children to do things for themselves, and a lack of clear limits, not a dearth of bossy parents.

So, this goes beyond spanking for me and really boils down to whether or not we have respect for our children. We cannot have respect for them if we also feel we have the right to hurt, shame or scare them into doing what we want them to do. It is my belief that it is connection, not combat that will get me what I want when it comes to my children. It seems to me that yelling, spanking, even time outs are simply a quick fix for a parent, caregiver or educator who is at the end of their rope. Yes, Children can sometimes behave in ways that push us to our limits. But that doesn’t mean we take the easy way out when that happens. If we want children who are respectful, gracious and kind, if we are truly committed to raising happy children who turn out to be happy adults, then we have to be willing to do the hard work that parenting requires.

So I am throwing this out to all of you who who want to parent in a connected, loving way. Is there really a paradigm shift happening? Am I just fooling myself because I live in hippie dippy Los Angeles and move in the circles I do? Is there something more that those of us who believe in raising children this way should be doing to make this shift expand? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Leave me a comment below and let’s talk about this!

Of Love, Gratitude And Cancer

Sometimes being a parent brings challenges you would never wish to tackle, but which end up teaching you more than any book ever could. We all hope we are raising our children to be resilient and brave in the face of adversity, yet none of us hope those qualities will ever be put to the test.

The 13-year old son of my friend and mentor, Sara Perets, was diagnosed with Stage 4 Hodgkin’s Lymphoma last Summer. With her permission, I am sharing her words here. Anyone who has been through a battle with cancer, in whatever form, can relate. But even for those of us lucky enough not to have been touched so closely, Sara’s message about love and gratitude is one I think we all can benefit from.


Dearest Community,

Mother-Hugging-ChildMany of you have asked, and I wanted to take this opportunity to share this letter regarding Freddie’s treatment.

Last week Freddie finished his radiation therapy. It was the last day of his 7 months of treatment. We are now in the phase of remission. It’s a funny place to be. Freddie is still a “cancer patient” but treatment has ended. We now wait and have tests in 3 months. In a strange sort of way I feel like I need a “you are cancer free” letter to put closure on this. I feel like there is so much to be processed now that this has started to come to an end and we find ourselves on a different journey, as after this experience we have forever changed as individuals, parents, and human beings and will never look at life the same way again.

What this all has taught me is about love. Love and gratitude.

7 months ago when I was sitting in the hospital after having been delivered the news that my child had stage 4 cancer. Unable to move or think or breathe, I could not imagine what this road was going to teach me or how I would be tested as a mother. I couldn’t imagine how I was going to live through it….all I knew was I had to be there for my son and carry him through this so that he could continue living the life he was meant to live. Freddie has seen me cry once during this. It was when he finished his last round of chemo. There was this pause with both of us and we looked at each other and both started to cry. It was a moment that had arrived and neither of us could believe it was finally there and that we were both standing. Especially Freddie, who proved to have an incredible spirit, light, and positivity that was inspiring beyond all comprehension and it’s these qualities that carried me through. Children are your greatest teachers and in this case Freddie was the master teacher.

During this time, I found a love for Freddie that surpassed all. While we spent hours in the hospital and I held him like a baby while he cried with pain, I watched him vomit for hours after chemo, I saw his appearance change beyond recognition, and I sometimes held him while he slept. I had a closeness with him as if he were a little guy again. During all of that I had to move past the thoughts of “whys”….why him, why me, why is this happening? It was love that helped me, it was love that carried me, it was love that stopped me from breaking down when Freddie needed me the most, and it was love that helped me smile when I was crumbling inside.

I always thought I was a grateful person. Grateful for my children, my family, and my life but what I found gratitude for is not only the love and appreciation I have for my children, but for humanity. I so hinged on the fence of anger and despair many times but a community came together for our family and literally kept me standing at times. There were moments I felt like my legs could go no further and what carried me were the people who showed immense love, support, and heart to our family. We experienced this support in many many forms and felt the love and vibes that were sent across land and ocean to lift us up in our hearts and spirits. I am eternally grateful for all of the countless people involved in helping us over the last few months…even if it were down to phone calls, texts, or emails, they would always come when most needed and I never felt alone.

I am so grateful I was able to see Freddie experience this sense of community as well. It truly moved him and he commented many times about it. One aspect that moved me the most was watching the friendship between Freddie and his best friend Max. What a brave and remarkable boy to volunteer to sit with Freddie every night that he had chemo in the hospital. Freddie unfortunately saw many of his friends not able to cope with his illness, which is fine and expected, but from that he was able to experience true friendship. I know that it wasn’t easy for Max to see his best friend going through it and I know how scared he was to sit there and quietly be with Freddie while he underwent his grueling treatment but the depth of their friendship grew and both of them have had the chance to experience the love of friendship that I believe will last a lifetime. I was moved by witnessing this and so grateful for that boy Max whose bravery outshone many in the name of love and friendship.

As Freddie and I sat for hours in the hospital we bonded over watching (and becoming slightly obsessed over) Battlestar Galactica, the Kardashian wedding, what Code Blue, red, pink, silver, green, and orange were, and discussing movie plots in depth. We talked about countries Freddie wanted to travel to and places he wanted to see. We giggled over hospital food and medical students. All of these things are what got us through when times were challenging and they are memories we think fondly of. It is so interesting as this comes to an end how hard it is for me to leave the hospital and know we won’t be back as frequently. The nurses were my life line, our angels, and became our friends. All of them were amazing and not once did I ever see one of them not liking their job or not having a smile for Freddie. I was truly inspired by their dedication and honor at what they do. They are the angels on this earth.

As we move away from this all, I still think of all the families we met that are still in it. The one thing I learned about cancer is that is does not discriminate age, gender, or race. We are forever changed by watching the countless people getting treated with this horrible disease. Babies, toddlers, children, mothers, fathers…all going through and strangely tied to one another through cancer. There are smiles or maybe glances as you begin to tell what treatment they have or what stage they are in. As a mom with a child with cancer you get unimaginable looks as others can’t image what it must be like to watch your child suffer. There was a point in the treatment when we knew everything would be OK and we were just getting through the process but there were others that we knew were not so “lucky” as we watched them fight for their lives and I watched the faces of those moms as they watched their children fight for their lives. My fight, my struggles were insignificant to theirs and that was the greatest lesson of gratitude I learned.

There are many things I never talked about with anyone as they were too difficult to even mutter and too painful to recount. The war you fight with cancer is a long and brutal one and I don’t feel like I should even begin to tell anyone I know what it is like because I don’t really know. I didn’t have to feel what Freddie did. I wanted to tell him it was OK and comfort him but at the end of the day those words were empty because I didn’t have any have a clue what it was like. Many others that did know came to the rescue and connected to Fred. Many who inspired him and gave him hope for when it would all be over and connected with him because they had been there. I love you all that did that for him and I will be eternally grateful.

Even those of you I have never met in person but showed Freddie such love to help get him through this. This email is not for naming all the countless people, and extraordinary people, because if you received this you know you had a huge part in healing the spirit of a sick boy. When you see remnants of the child before he became ill turn into a smile or joy through a gift, letter or phone call, all of that care, love and support meant the world to us. We made incredible friendships through this process and I am eternally grateful. As I said, I once again believe in the human heart and how people come together for goodness. You all know who you are, thank you.

livestrong

The first week of this process I was given a Lance Armstrong LIVESTRONG arm band to wear by a friend, the same one she wore everyday as her husband went through his cancer process. Live Strong. I often pondered about the meaning. Did it mean I needed to live strong throughout this or that it would inspire strength while having chemo? It came to me yesterday. It means to live strong every day after you kick cancer’s ass. What we have seen, experienced, and gone through with all the love, gratitude, and lessons we have learned will make us live strong for the future.

As we were leaving the hospital today we stopped to say an emotional good bye to one of the nurses.” Freddie and I were both filled with this bitter sweet feeling of relief and sadness. She said to us: “Sometimes the end is harder than the beginning.” I feel the overpowering emotion starting to come out of Freddie, he has been through a lot. It is now time for us all to heal.