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Teaching My Children to Live

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Teaching My Children to Live

I was eating dinner with my kids last night and we were literally eating the last of what I could find in the house to make. I was waiting for money to go to the grocery store and we had been waiting for what felt like an awfully long time. We talked of our temporary situation…more so, the temporary situation I put them in. I am constantly checking in with them about how they feel about my major life change and the decisions I’ve made. And every time, whether they mean it or not,  they seem completely unfazed and answer with cheerleading responses such as “you’ve got this Mom.” “I’m so glad you are doing what you love, Mom.” “It’s not a big deal, Mom” And with every little success I share with them, they act like I just discovered a new sugar cereal.


Our temporary situation is meant to be an upgrade and making the decision to upgrade was quite a risk. I resigned from my very stable school counseling job back in August and have been working to create a new career since. I had to take a couple of classes and study for an agonizing licensing board exam, but I am now a Licensed Professional Counselor in private practice. I am also a Master Instructor and practitioner of a very intense energy therapy which facilitates deep healing. And I’m beginning to slowly follow my passion for writing. Clearly very slowly, since I haven’t even written for this blog in many months! But life change will do that to you, throw you off track and go into overdrive trying to figure out what it is you’re doing. At least that’s what it does to me.

When I made the decision to leave my job and completely start over, I knew it was not a “smart” move. In fact, on paper, it seemed irresponsible. I have a mortgage, two dependent children, and no real end goal of where I wanted to be. Who leaves a secure job with a consistent income to follow a dream that materialized over night? Apparently, me.

I didn’t sleep for about a month as I plotted out my every move and how it would impact my children and myself. The flow chart of what if’s was well highlighted and new avenues of dead ends were developed nightly. I was filled with fear, but I knew underneath the fear, it was absolutely the right move. I distinctly remember questioning what it was that I wanted to teach my children during this time of transition. I wondered how my decisions would impact their view on life.

I know they watch me, trust me and see my strengths as infallible. Yet I also know they witness my weaknesses, frustrations and what it looks like when I sit in my fear. And I had to come to grips that it’s okay for them to see me as human, as long as they know and trust that I will rise above those weaknesses and make happen what I set out to do.

So what am I teaching my children?

~That trust is essential, especially trust in yourself and your own abilities.

~That life is full of choices and each of them offers us an opportunity to grow into ourselves.

~That you will always know how you are by listening to the way you feel.

~That progress comes from action. When you feel off, change it up. When you feel good, keep going.

~That the world supports you if you support yourself. Keep your intentions positive and when your perspective shifts to the negative, look at it, acknowledge it, and then prove it wrong.

~That nothing can take your power away, unless you hand it over.

~That if you can embrace your fear, you can also embrace your bravery.

In the moments I get stuck questioning myself, I must constantly reframe and look at my role as their teacher. Would I rather teach them to settle for what is comfortable in its discomfort or take the chance to be themselves in a life they personally create? And then I pray that we will all look back at this time of transition and appreciate the unwavering faith that keeps us going.

I have made mistakes, no doubt. But I have created more successes than I knew I could. And today, I am going to the grocery store and tonight, we will celebrate every one of those successes that have added up. I’ll take it.

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Paging Super Mom

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Paging Super Mom

These days my life is filled with moments of content, peace and continuous excitement. My thoughts are many, but flowing with ease.  Balance is a word no longer foreign in meaning. I am living in the skin I was born with and it feels comfortable and form fitting. In short, its quite nice.

Many days I hear myself saying “I have arrived.” Quiet whispers of joy and gratitude- filled with dreams I know are coming to life. I wait for birds to sing me a Welcome Home lullaby…But instead as I sit quietly in my moment of bliss, I hear “Mommmmm! Mommmm!” shouting from the other room.

“Mommmmm!”

Why? Why? I am now yelling in my head.

And then I hear “Whattt!??” in a tone coming out of my mouth I recognize as frustration and irritability. Ewww…I am really no better than them.

More shouting “I was on my Ipod (for the past 2 hours and you didn’t notice) minding my own business and she just walked by and kicked me!”

“I did not!” She screeches. Then tears, then more yelling, then – silence.  Okay, the silence was mine. Maybe if I ignore them and act like I don’t hear them they will go away.

But they don’t go away. Now I hear heavy footsteps- heavy because they are pounding on the floor as they develop their 2 person frantic search party to see who can get to me first to tell their side of the story the loudest and most visibly upset.

My choice catch phrases start pouring out…”You need to figure this out, preferably in a way that doesn’t involve fists and feet. Don’t hit your brother. Don’t hit your sister. How does it feel when you spit those angry words out of your mouth? You might want to find another way to communicate how you are feeling. This isn’t working.”

Yet they continue their whiny rants.

The counselor in me searches for meaning, understanding, reason and peaceful resolution. The angry human in me wants to scream “Shut the hell up and go away!” and the mother in me is feeling guilt that I can’t fix their problems quickly enough to make sure no one is feeling pain. Especially me. Its so painful- and annoying-and maddening.

So as I stare at them- wondering who will come out of me, I page Super Mom, the combo of the three. Super Mom, the voice that shows respect, but the words that come out sensible and loving. She exudes wisdom and insight they can not deny or debate.  She speaks in matter of fact tones and does not raise her voice, but lowers it to show the seriousness and validity of the words. And when they attempt to interrupt, she quiets them in her, “No, you are here to listen and accept the help you’ve asked for” tone. Damn, that Super Mom is good.

And then I hear her clear her throat to begin…

“Seriously, how many times do I have to tell you to keep your hands and feet to yourself? I am NOT your referee. Figure it out. Until then, go to your rooms and leave me alone!!” she barks.

Hmmm…Super Mom? Sorry, she’s not available. She lost her patience at “Mommmm”. Please leave a message at the beep.

In reality, I am here to be their referee, their cheerleader and coach. I am here to be their counselor and their emotional punching bag, often at the same time. I am also here to tell them exactly what doesn’t work for them and offer suggestions for what does- even when they don’t ask for it.

If the expectation is to be Jack of All Trades- and it is- I will do it to the best of my ability, but they may not always like my ability, my humanness, my limits, but that is what I am able to offer. I am Super Mom, in her truest form.

Even when all else is flowing beautifully in my life, my role of mother keeps me grounded and rooted in reality. The reality that life is awesome, but there are moments of frustration and anger, of sadness and worry and setbacks. Lots of setbacks. But even within those setbacks comes opportunity to regroup and rebuild and understand the various parts of myself.  The calm, the loving and the imperfect.

And that Super Mom, is where it’s at.

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Learning How to Fall in Love With Yourself

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Learning How to Fall in Love With Yourself

I am addicted to salt baths. I realize that DCF could show up at my house now that have stated that and its misunderstood…but I really mean salt baths, not to be confused with bath salts. I mean really, how many disastrous drugs can kids come up with these days?

But I digress, which is why I take so many salt baths. They help me focus, reconnect with myself and always, always provide some sort of epiphany or inspiration while I’m meditatively soaking. And today’s inspiration needs to be shared.

One of the intentions I set for myself for 2014 is to fall deeply in love with myself.  I thought it sounded nice and fairly important, but honestly, I wasn’t even sure what that meant or how to do it. So I asked myself what it means to be in love and I think of all the people and places and things I love in my life.

What does it mean to be in love?  To me, it means to adore and admire the attributes a person or place holds.  Its a feeling of being drawn in to what they have to offer, wanting to spend time in their presence, enjoying their company and how I feel around them.  When I leave someone or somewhere I love, I feel more peaceful and content.  It literally nourishes my soul.

And I find it easy to make a commitment to someone I love. If they need something, I want to help them with whatever it is as a return favor for the joy they bring in my life. I want them to feel joy, happiness and contentment.  I also want to them to feel loved and appreciated, because seriously, what’s better than that? I will take steps and actions to add this to their life and I will do so easily and with a giving heart.  And the bonus, it feels awesome to me.

So, if its so easy to be in love with someone else, why does it seem like such a challenge to fall in love with myself? How is it that I deserve any less than what I give to someone else? Turns out, it doesn’t need to be.

I know exactly how to love another which means I can do the same for myself. I know the steps it takes to build a relationship and the commitment involved. I know how to support and show appreciation and I know just how awesome it feels to get it in return. So why not fall in love with myself and treat myself with the same respect and admiration I do for everyone else?

Welcome to my inner thought process….

We all know and have heard that we need to take care of ourselves before we can take care of anyone else.  We nod in understanding when we hear the words, but the part of us that we put on the back burner says…”yeah, ok, I’ll fit it in…maybe.”

Why don’t we prioritize ourselves the way we do our children, our partners, our jobs?  What makes us so less important than anyone else?  What would you tell your child if you saw them treating or neglecting themselves the way you do yourself??

If we nurture ourselves, we will be able to nurture others more efficiently. If we respect ourselves, we will know exactly what it means to feel respect and be more open to giving it out.  If we embrace our less than pretty side and accept it for what it is, we will be less inclined to judge the less than pretty side of others.

Falling in love with ourselves allows us to fully appreciate the value we bring to the table…to everyone’s table!

And so begins my love affair with myself. I have a date day with me coming up and I’m not even sure what it looks like yet, but I know its going to be filled with things I like to do and be, impressing myself the best ways I know how. And yes, a salt bath will surely be on the agenda….

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What Would Jeannie Do?

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What Would Jeannie Do?

Growing up I never imagined myself with children. I saw myself living in a high rise penthouse apartment in New York City using my expert arguing skills working as a lawyer and making tons of money while I waltzed through life with no responsibilities other than myself and whatever whim I had at the moment.  That dream changed when I fell in love for the first time.  I no longer saw my future as alone and independent, but with a companion to keep me company on my journey towards whatever dreams I’d conjure up next.  But still, no children in my future. I didn’t think I had it in me. No mothering instincts to speak of, no draw towards children, no inkling to take on any additional responsibility I didn’t know how to manage.

I remember the ride home from my mother in law’s house the day I invited in the idea of having a baby. I had just met a beautiful premie and held her in my arms gently and wondered what it would be like to hold my own. But I was terrified. I was clueless.  I had no idea how to be a mother.  I didn’t even feel comfortable around babies.  But being who I am, I made up my mind and was pregnant with my baby girl very shortly after that day. I spent my pregnancy listening to advice, reading books and then putting them down when it became overwhelming. I studied the mothers around me and watched what they did as though they carried the secrets of the universe in their interaction with their children. I prayed I’d figure it out. I did not want to screw it up.

I looked for models of what I wanted to be everywhere I went. I took memory shots of experiences I wanted to have and listened for words I wanted to use with my own child. I studied the behaviors of children I worked with and kept a mental journal of characteristics I hoped for in my own child and what I hoped I could steer them from.  I grieved the absence of my own mother and felt the void of experience I’d never learned from her. But I knew, somewhere, I’d find a match for me of who I wanted to learn from.

In retrospect, I couldn’t have been any luckier to have met my teacher.  Not only did she parent exactly the way I thought I’d want to, but she was beautiful, incredibly smart, insanely funny and had a heart like I had never seen. In so many ways, I wanted to be her. I loved the way she talked about her kids, the way she challenged herself regularly and her views on life nearly matched mine perfectly.  Being in her presence was calming, rejuvenating and inspiring. There was never a doubt that she was The One.

I feel so fortunate that her kids are a few years older and I have been able to watch her navigate through the trials of parenting at every stage up through high school graduation so far.  I have seen her dip into doubt and frustration and bounce back with an understanding that she is doing the best she can at every stage and that no “mistake” can ever overshadow the good that is consistent and true for their family.  I have seen her humanness and struggle in deciding what’s “right” and then make decisions she never thought she would. I have seen her build a suit of armor to protect her children and then take away the shield when she thought they could use the reality check of a quick jab, just enough to hurt, but not enough to harm.  And in case I ever needed proof to see if her “tactics” were effective, I have had the luxury of watching her children grow into amazing human beings I feel proud to know and simply like to be around.

I can not count how many times in the past 10 years of my parenting life that I have asked myself “What would Jeannie do?”  And each time, my inner Jeannie gives brilliant advice whether she knows it or not.

It will never stop amazing me how many incredible teachers we have in our lives when we ask for them.  When we step back and look at who influences us, who inspires and helps us develop into who we’ve always wanted to be, there is such a sense of gratitude and awe that accompanies that knowledge.  I can think of nothing better.

I hope to be half the teacher for others that Jeannie has been for me. In this month of thankfulness and gratitude, I give thanks to all my teachers that have helped guide me along the way, with special appreciation for my parenting guru and her parents who influenced her the way she influenced me.

Who is your parenting model who influences you the most…and when is the last time you thanked them?

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5 Ways To Teach Our Kids How to Use Their Voice

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5 Ways To Teach Our Kids How to Use Their Voice

Remember the last time you walked away from an interaction with someone where you didn’t respond with what you were really thinking?  The one where you had 27 brilliant rebuttals or hard core responses you wish you said, but clammed up out of fear of how your words would be received and what repercussions there might be for speaking your truth. Of course you do, we’ve all been there.

And then we tell our kids to “Use Your Words” when they hit or are verbally aggressive at times and overreact because they don’t know how to communicate their emotions in calm, rational ways that get their point across respectfully. Its not a double standard. Oh wait, yes it is. (I can not apologize for the sarcasm, its how I speak my truth)

Yet, we want our children to speak for themselves and learn the value of self advocacy. In my professional view, its one of those life skills that not only helps you in ANY career you choose, but also in any relationship or friendship or interaction with another human being…and occasionally pets. (I am 99% sure they understand everything we say). But I am not kidding, its that important.

Learning to speak your truth and use your voice could not be any more valuable.  Shoving down your emotions starts with a disagreement with your parent or your friend or your sibling or your teacher or the kid bullying you at school and ends with stifled interaction and communication with your boss or your colleague or your spouse and a self esteem that feels it can not get out of its own way. It becomes a patterned behavior and response when we fear that if we speak our truth we will not be supported or worse off, rejected. And most of the time we play out the scenarios in our head and fear the worst without ever having lived it. We reject ourselves before we are rejected and silence ourselves without ever hearing the sound of our voice.

So how can we stop that pattern with our children?

1- Help them to identify what they want as an end result.  How do they want to feel at the end of the conversation?  What is the intent? Its important to know what they want to feel so they will be able to tell when they have met their goal and end the conversation and embrace the success.

2-Give them the words to use.  Do a mock conversation with whomever they feel they need to speak to. Help them play it out to make the unknown a known and they can feel prepared.  All those “I wish I said this” can be played out in advance to give them a better shot at saying them.

3-Reframe any negativity. If the conversation feels remotely confrontational (and most people avoid confrontation), help them see it as a positive more so than a negative.  For example, if they have to speak to someone who they feel is treating them unfairly, explain to them that by speaking up they are teaching that person how their actions and words affect other people, something they may not know, and in turn will help them rethink how they speak to other people, thus protecting future “victims.”  Annnnd they will feel awesome once they say what’s on their mind.

4-Help them see any fear around it as simply a thought, not a reality.  There is no real way to know how a conversation/interaction is going to go without assuming….and we all know what assuming does.

But more typically, the anticipation is far, far worse than the actual event.  Help them play out the worst case scenario so they can see that nothing is truly too life altering if it doesn’t go the way they’d like.

5- Tell them stories of situations in your own life that they can relate to so they see that they are not alone and that life goes on.  Its so helpful for all of us to speak to someone who we feel gets us and our fears when we are having them and when its the strong parent you look up to, even more so.  Sometimes the most comfort comes when we hear survivor stories of those who’ve been in similar shoes.

The  hardest part for some parents will be to not do it for their children.  When our protective instincts come out, we pump up our chests and want to fix it for them with our experience, but allowing them to do it on their own actually is a far more empowering opportunity for growth.  And isn’t allowing them to grow the best way to advocate for them? I vote yes.

And if you are wondering if they are old enough to handle it on their own? If they can speak up to you and use their voice, then they are old enough to handle it on their own.

Wanna hear the super bonus of all? The more you teach them and encourage them to use their voice, the more confident and comfortable you feel doing the same in your own life. Two lessons in one. What’s better than that?

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Rain, Rain Go Away (Or Put on Your Boots and Go Out and Play)

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Rain, Rain Go Away (Or Put on Your Boots and Go Out and Play)

Once upon a time, on a seasonably warm and rainy Sunday afternoon, I sat in my living room reading my latest book club book feeling incredibly proud that I might actually have something to contribute to the next discussion.  It had been months, maybe a year actually, since I had read a book to completion for book club.  As I read, I listened to my children reluctantly doing their household chores, becoming distracted every time a new thought entered their minds.  From my lazy perch, I kept reminding them to stay on task.

And then I heard it, the creak of the door to the mudroom and then the slam of the door leading to the garage. My son had escaped.  I sent my daughter to go find him, as it was pouring rain outside.  As she opened the door I heard her yell my son’s name in her usual annoyed tone.  Then silence for a while and giggling laughter passing beneath the window I sat near.  Ugh! Now I would have to get up and question what on earth they were doing in the rain.  Didn’t they care that I just wanted to sit and relax?

I searched and found them hanging out in the little clubhouse of their swing set. I imagined how wet they were and was annoyed with having to go through the lecture of knowing better than to be outside in the rain.  To my surprise, they came running with full rain gear on and umbrella in use. Not wet at all.  They excitedly began sharing tales of the big puddles they found in the yard that went up to their waists and then laughing at their own exaggerations.  I looked at them knowing it was now my duty to tell them to get inside, dry themselves off and get back to work.  And then the question came…why? Why couldn’t they play outside in the rain, get dirty, jump in puddles, go on an adventure in their own yard?  I had no good reason.

It wasn’t like they had never played in the rain before either. It had just typically been during a time I didn’t have earmarked for getting their chores done and not being allowed to have any fun until that happened.  Unlike Cinderella, there was no fancy ball to look forward to, maybe dessert after lunch if they were lucky.  It was just my own expectations, getting in their way.

When I told them they could continue their adventures, you would have thought they were about to go to the ball!  They ran inside to pack a backpack full of snacks and supplies they would need as they headed out into the wild.  I even held my breath when I heard them planning on choosing one stuffed animal each for the journey.  Wet stuffed animals…great.  But really, why did I care?  It was their adventure to take, their stuffed animal to share it with, their time to just be kids.  It was my job to allow them the opportunity and provide the towels at the end. I relished in the moments of their planning session as they happily sang out what they would need in the “big storm” and smiled as my daughter announced that I was the “best mommy ever.”  I am always the “best mommy ever” when I allow them to do or eat the things they know I don’t support.  If only they knew how hard of job it is to be the mediocre and sometimes mean mom that they are used to.

I sat and listened to them with the back door open, laughing and giving advice to each other of how to survive the storm.  Their giggles were musical and infectious.  And when they came to the door, knocked politely and asked in their adorable little voices, “Mommy, why don’t you get off your lazy tushie and join us.” Lazy tushie?! It was true.  So I put down my book and lame excuses and joined them.  That’s right, I then rose to the “Coolest Mommy Ever”. 

Had I held on to my expectations of them so fiercely, which is not uncommon, we would have had a very different experience.  They would have spent the day cleaning their playroom, putting away laundry and helping with all the household chores and I would have been happy with the accomplishments. Yet, they would have missed out on the opportunity to pack together for the big storm and spend six hours (yes, six hours!) outside playing in the rain and enjoying their own company.  The house will get cleaned later…maybe. And that’s okay.

So often we have a plan in mind that must get done, we must keep ourselves and our children on track and we do it for the good of our family.  As we should! We would drive ourselves nuts if we were to let it all go.  But when the expectations don’t fit the mold of the day or the week or even the shape of our child, it may be time to reevaluate why it’s so important to us.

If we let the rain become our obstacle, or our own unwavering expectations, we may miss out on the experiences that highlight the joy in our lives and the opportunity to appreciate what is staring us in the face, or asking us ever so nicely to “come play with me.”   And the bonus, I now have one more perfectly crafted picture to add to my mental scrapbook and I just had to wear rain boots to get it.

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What to Do with Anger in the Home

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What to Do with Anger in the Home

Anger. Such a useful and destructive emotion at the same time.  We all feel it, express it and have been the victims of its wrath at some point.

So when the lovely and super smart ladies of BonBon Break magazine asked if I’d write them something for this week’s Happy, Healthy Family focus, I immediately thought of how to manage anger in the home.  I really like this piece and am constantly trying to take my own advice…same days are easier than others.  But am happy to pass it on to you.

Here’s a sneak preview….

Do you ever yell at your kids? I mean really, YELL?

If yes, welcome to the club.

 

Most parents at one time or another hit the point of frustration and let the words come flying out at loud decibels that even make our pets jump to attention.  I know for me, when I reach this point, I have already exhausted the multiple calm requests for change, which have all been seemingly ignored.  And then when I hear my kids yell at each other, I am frustrated and disappointed with their response.  And so the cycle is born.

In my house, when my kids have angry outbursts that make me uncomfortable, you will often hear me say, “It’s okay to be angry, but its not okay to respond that way.”  House rule. They never like this rule, but they respect it and are typically sent to their room to calm down so they can regroup and try again.

It’s important for us and our kids to express our anger. It’s a normal reaction to our frustration and appropriate to feel, but how we choose to communicate it greatly impacts if we get the outcome we want or if we just create more anger within ourselves and damage to those in our path along the way.

For suggestions on how to help kids (and ourselves) respond to anger, continue reading on BonBon Break.

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Q&A My Perspective: Are You “Over Parenting” Your Child?

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Q&A My Perspective: Are You “Over Parenting” Your Child?

QUESTION

I am a single mom of a 4 1/2 yr old boy who is handsome, insanely smart, small for his age and wears glasses. I also am guilty of overprotecting or overparenting, whatever they call it these days.  Yesterday I took him to a kids museum and he was playing with some cars and then he came over to me with this face…almost crying. When I asked what was wrong he said “that kid called me Lucy”. Now I have no idea what was said…the kid was probably talking to his sister Lucy for all I know but it stood out to me because my son always thinks everything is about him. I can be talking to someone about anything and he hears and thinks it has something to do with him. I know kids his age are still learning that they are not the center of the universe but I feel like this could potentially be a serious problem if his feelings are going to get hurt every time someone doesn’t react the way he believes they should or if he is going to take everything so personal.  I do not have any friends with children his age so really his only socialization is at preschool but he is there like 45 hours a week so I would think that would help, but it seems he has a very hard time and backs away from more out-going children. He wants to be the boss but is intimated very easily. Any thoughts on how I can help? He is going to be starting Kindergarten in August and I really want school to be a good experience for him.

MY PERSPECTIVE

Just a heads up, I’m going to start generalizing here, so bear with me.  He is an only child, which means he doesn’t have to share the spotlight when it comes to your attention or relating to other children in the home.  And if he’s not regularly socializing with friends his age in casual environments, his primary interactions with other children are in a controlled environment (preschool) where rules are clearly established.  Rules and structure are great for kids because they keep things safe and orderly, but they often sterilize social interactions where most kids learn the ebb and flow of communication.

I always think of the bus as the best means of social education for kids.  Many parents don’t want their kids on the bus because of the lack of control, the unruliness of kids and the influences they are exposed to.  In fact, most of my kids’ “best” negative lessons come from their bus rides and I am so thankful for that. There’s no other way to set up the environment where kids have been theoretically on their best behavior all day and then unravel when they don’t have to hold it together anymore on the bus.  They are unleashed animals and express themselves in ways they may not get to anywhere else.  And because they are unmanaged by the bus driver who is trying to focus on safely getting them back into our arms, they have the freedom to express themselves without fear of adult repercussion which leads to them handling it completely on their own.

Of course the only reason why I like this is because my kids sing like canaries when calling out other kids (and eachother’s) negative behavior on the bus. It then gives me the opportunity to talk to them about how they handled it, other ways to think of it and what they will do if the same behavior presents itself again.

I am not suggesting you throw your kid on a bus and let him figure it out, but I am suggesting that you help create more opportunities for him to be exposed to free play without social structure and continuous monitoring and then talk about it with him afterwards.  The more he experiences these interactions on his own and handles it on his own, the more likely his confidence will build on how communication works and how he feels about it.  We are there to wipe their tears when they cry, show them the alternative and give them super huge hugs when they figure it out.  The more they experience, the more opportunity they have to practice and the greater the possibility of them figuring it out in positive and rewarding ways.

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Q&A My Perspective: How much control should we give our kids?

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Q&A My Perspective: How much control should we give our kids?

QUESTION

 

I have 2 boys, ages 9 and 6. The youngest one is who I am asking about. He
is incredibly head strong and difficult to get to do things that he
doesn’t want to do. His brother is quite the opposite. I have found that
letting him have more control helps, but how much is too much? Do I let
him choose when to go to bed? Where is that magical line between letting
him have some control and mass chaos? He is also very temperamental so it
is easy to enter into a battle with him!

 

 

MY PERSPECTIVE

As I was venting over the frustration of one of my head strong children to my friend one day, she said “They say that the traits that irritate you while they are young are the traits that will best serve them in adult life.”  I love a good dose of optimism, but when my kid is annoying me, I am not thinking about how it benefits them…at all.

However, it’s true.  Most of us want our kids to think for themselves, to speak for themselves, and to make well thought out decisions based on how they feel. We give them responsibility so they learn how to be confident, independent thinkers, who can survive without us, but we also must teach them limits and boundaries so they know where they stand.

Teaching those boundaries is just as critical as letting them choose their successes and mistakes.  We have seemed to quickly turn into a society that has forgotten that one of the most valuable lessons we can teach our kids is to respect authority and the limits that go with respecting that authority.  In an effort to have law abiding citizens, our kids need to learn that rules are meant to protect us and serve us, not be flexible to our whims and desires.  In our homes, we, the parents are the authority and our limits are non negotiable, they are the law.

Bedtime is a law created to benefit their health.  The human body needs a certain amount of hours of sleep to function at its optimum level.  Our job as parents is to keep our kids healthy, so a bed time is chosen to allow them the opportunity to sleep for as long as their bodies need.  We can not force them to sleep, but we can give them a bedtime which is consistent and non negotiable ensuring their health and wellbeing. (and ours- post bedtime is ME time in our house and my ME time is equally important for their health and wellbeing) If they choose not to sleep, they will live with the consequences of lack of sleep.  And yes, that sucks for us too, but they figure it out. When they’re tired, they’ll sleep.  I have one of those and it can be torture. The only thing that helps is my consistency and non negotiable rules…and a ridiculous amount of patience.

Since so much of parenting is trial and error, the answer of how much control do we let them have versus mass chaos will come with experience.  For example, if you let your child dictate how and when they do their homework, but you learn that they aren’t getting it done “their way,” you establish rules and guidelines of how and when homework must be done.  For example, homework is done before TV or computer use, etc. If it’s not done within your rules, then relative consequences go into effect and remain consistent until the behavior is changed.

As for being temperamental, it goes with the personality territory of the strong willed child.  It’s so important for kids to learn how to express how they are feeling, but its also important for them to learn how to manage those feelings appropriately.  When kids express their anger aggressively, we need to teach them it is okay to be angry and frustrated, but it is not okay to express their anger in negative and aggressive ways.  And when they do, relative consequences apply.

So the magical line is where ever we draw it.  We establish rules and laws for a reason and most of them are designed to support and protect them.  Until they are officially their own protector, those rules and laws are ones they are required to live by while we care for them. We allow them flexibility to grow within our laws and rules, not outside of them.

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Why I am The Boss of You

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Why I am The Boss of You

Since I just suggested last week that its good to not hold the reigns too tight on our children, it seemed appropriate to re-post when it absolutely is.

My daughter’s 9 and she’s pretty awesome. Although, I am biased, I realize this…but she is.  Except for the time she was about to go outside to play in her travel soccer team shirt and school approved pants and I said, “You can’t wear that out to play,” and she gave me her nastiest, angry look and snarled, “You’re not the boss of me. You can’t tell me what to do.”

At that point, I started to laugh and said, “Oh yes, yes I am. I am the boss of you right now because I work hard to pay for the clothes you are wearing and potentially ruining outside to play and I will be the same boss who will have to buy you new clothes to replace the ones you ruin, which I’m not okay with so it’s not happening.  You have designated play clothes and those are the clothes you will wear if you’d like to go outside to play.” At this point, she stormed off to change, disgusted with me and my rules and the control she wished I didn’t have over her life and her choices.  Bummer.

But I am the boss right now and I don’t apologize for that.  It’s my house, and my stuff and I work hard to pay for it.  And although I am a firm believer in allowing kids to make decisions for themselves and offering them options, I am not okay with allowing their decisions to control my life in ways I have influence over.  In this case, replacing things that will get ruined unnecessarily. And yes, my kids play hard, so their stuff gets ruined. I love that.

I work with big kids. Teenagers. They know everything and can do whatever they want.  Some of them skip school and their parents say, “I can’t control them and make them go to school.” No, no you can’t, but you can control their surroundings and the stuff they think they own in your house.  They watch your television, use your computer, use your wireless router for their phone, use your toilet paper (thank goodness) and eat the food you bought with your money.  It’s yours.  They have the luxury of using it.  Except maybe the toilet paper, taking that away would probably be wrong.  But, you are still the boss in your household when it comes to your stuff.

We need consequences to determine which of our behaviors work for us and which ones don’t.  The more positive the outcome, the more likely we will continue that behavior.  The more negative the consequences, the bigger the deterrent to continue. We need to feel the pinch of discomfort in order to encourage us to change.

Life is full of consequences and when better to learn that than when the consequences aren’t that bad.  You forget your homework, you get a bad grade. Not life altering, but potentially motivating.  You eat candy without permission, you lose it for a week. There’s always more candy. You say something mean to someone, they don’t want to hang out with you anymore. You apologize and hope for the best.  You tell off your mother, you have no social life for two weeks. Two weeks will feel long, but you’ll leave your house again, and maybe even think before you speak.  Or…You kill someone, you go to jail and are shunned from society.  Probably locked up for a long, long time.  You meet new friends in jail, you say something mean to them, they cut your ear off when you least expect it. Consequences. They are real.

So, the bottom line. I will not allow my daughter to wear her soccer shirt out to play in order to keep her out of prison and keep her cute little ears.  This time, she changed her clothes, she had a great time outside and the next time, she’ll think twice about what she wears…hopefully. And although I want her to make her own decisions, I want to best guide and influence her how to make those decisions work for her while she is still under my roof, and for me.

So I will continue to let her know that I am the boss of her and I will pay her a good salary of unrivaled love, unlimited respect and valuable life knowledge.  And that includes helping her see the consequences of her actions and how they impact her and those around her.  And soon enough, she will live the entrepreneurial life she desires when she becomes her own boss. And if I play my cards right, maybe she’ll even invite me to take your mom to work day.

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