Monday, July 6, 2015

Split Screen Parenting

Returning to childhood in thought and empathy enough to do good parenting is exhausting. Connecting with yourself  so you  can connect with your child is exhausting. Keeping the adult parts of your life going so you still have a little bit of a life, be it work, or volunteerism or some little passion or concern that delights and preserves some sense of self is exhausting.

Caring for children and teens on so many levels is just exhausting. Looking back and seeing all the ways I was pulled and needs I supplied that weren't my own and responsibilities I fulfilled because they were 'have to's' I wonder how I did it all.

The fact is you're pretty much in drone mode when you are parenting. Happy drone mode, but robotic nonetheless. Mindful parenting is a goal, but the reality is from dawn to dusk it's go, go, go.....

How does one do all that needs to be done, be relational, be mindful,  How do you carry a load as cumbersome as parenting and keep your focus in a split screen  world?

Laughter and delight....

If there is one tracking system you need as a parent, it's the laughter and delight journal. Making those two elements part of your goals will keep you centered where you need to be to give the best you can. Sound counterintuitive? Do you associate laughter and delight with times of relaxation and recreation? Exactly!

If the measure of accomplishment is paying attention to that which holds wonder and lightheartedness, it will keep you out of the channels of despair and frustration. Little things will be just that, little things. Big things will seem more doable.

Try it for one day and see where you are on the weight of parenting. Keep a simple log of your daily activities and what brought a smile to your eyes and heart and what made you laugh. It may seem an unlikely suggestion to add one more detail for attending, but if it's the right detail, like a delight and laughter record, then it can make all items seem better focused.

With a split screen, or picture in picture, it isn't the CNN report, it's the rom com in the little window, that lifts and moves our hearts....the same with parenting.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Teaching Children to Tell the Truth

There you are, facing off a four year old, or a teenager. The stakes are high. They've been caught doing something 'wrong' . You find yourself filled with a need to be powerful , to be in charge, to be the parent and so you utter the fateful words. "Are you lying" and the kid looks back at you unblinkingly and says, "No"!

And no one wins. Everyone , at that moment, loses just about everything.

It doesn't have to be that way. Let me answer the question how you can construct conversations around moments like that so that it's a win-win and truth and love are the operative ingredients?

There you are face to face. First thing...change your body position. Sit. Beckon the child or teen closer to you. Physically move yourself out of a power position and into a conciliatory position.

When they are close, say to them"We have a problem on our hands.  I think you did ....whatever...and I think you think that if you admit it you're going to get in trouble. I want to let  you know that whatever your answer is you won't get in trouble. There will be no consequences if you tell the truth."

Magically the child says, 'Oh! how wonderful for me! I can tell my parents any and everything!" and deep conversation happens. Not quite. Especially if you are a long ways into childrearing.

But start at eighteen months or two years and make telling the truth fun and a relief and a way to build a deeper relationship and have more love from Mom and Dad and there's an inroad.

Telling the truth fun?! Yes....if a family's idea of fun is being close together relationally.  Telling the truth is a trust issue at first. It is the biggest building block for trust. Later on it becomes a moral issue. Why? Because where trust is broken, usually there is some moral ground lost.

Let's back the scenario up. Youngster...18 months or two years old....
Question:--- "Did you take the truck into you room at naptime when I said we need to keep it in the playroom (living room, family room?). Child looks uncertain....
Adult"Why it's important for me to know is because I can take better care of you if I know" That is something the child wants at that age.
(Possibly) nods head 'yes!'.
Adult- "Do you know why I wanted to know?"
Child shakes head in the negative...
Adult-"It's my job to help you learn to sleep. If you have your truck in your bed and are playing with it, then you can't sleep well."
You have taken the focus off the issue of the weight of the truth and put in on the process of telling the truth.  Start with the process, not the weight....

Think on are training a child that it is SAFE to tell the truth....That is what you want to build.....
I know, I know... a million questions and I'm not going to cover remedial truth telling right now...ask your questions in the comments section...
Next time I'll cover remedial truth telling.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Undeterred Self Care

There are those times when, as a parent with babes, toddlers, children or youth of any age, you just feel like throwing in the towel.

Maybe there have been too many high demand days in a row, maybe you are in the middle of a stage of development (either yours personally or your child's) that you don't understand. It could be it's just one of those times when the responsibilities are pressing in, or perhaps your child is kicking it into high gear taking their stress out  on you.

Whatever the reason, it's important to find ways to keep the exterior as smooth and unflustered as you can summon and a way to vent or off load or move beyond whatever interior stresses you are feeling.

Making a go to list of positive, non self destructive activities and another list of people resources for getting help with the kids is an essential tool to making it through the long haul.

Take fifteen minutes when you are unruffled and imagine what would help. For me, it was always reading magazines at the library or swimming early in the morning before the kids were up, or Friday morning breakfast after the kids were in school,at this restaurant that had super slow service. If you are working full time outside the home, it might take an evening.

This kind of resourcefulness is difficult to pull off on the spur of the moment. Plan ahead. Then, you don't need to try to think of what will help when you are already stressed out.

You being able to make it through is the key to your child's well being. It's part of taking care of you first. They use the 'put the mask on yourself first' illustration a lot in parenting education, but making a plan to do it is the first step.

Keep it light. Keep it fun. Going to therapy or classes is a good idea for enrichment and self improvement, but self care is nurturing in different ways that distract you from the stresses or encourage parts of you that haven't been encouraged. Go to a movie. Put the kids to bed early and read for an evening. Hire a babysitter and go down to the basement and crank up some dance music. Do what pleases and brings a smile to your face. As a very wise person once told me, when you do your self care, make sure it isn't something that adds to your problems.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Leading From Behind

So, parenting is difficult, but there are ways to make it easier on yourself. For one thing, in this compendium of tips I give that is about parenting in low gear, using metaphors, keeping things simple, changing your expectations and just doing love, I add another...lead from behind.

Let's say a two year old is trying to get dressed. It's not an at home day. It's a go, go, go day. Or it's an errand day, or a work day for you and there's only so much time, or the end of the day.

Well, heck...let's expand a little bit. Let's say there's a child who wants to do something all on their own, or flip it, a teen that doesn't want to do something alone but is trying to get you to do most of whatever with them.

Where do you stand, emotionally, as you are in the engagement of a child, tween or teen working at something?

Behind. Stand behind them emotionally. In your view is the day ahead, or an easier way, or someone who is pressing you from your own life. That would make you think in terms of what lies ahead. You, as an adult can see the task finished, or the results of not finishing it. That perspective is not helpful for the situation as you move through the process of accomplishment , of whatever, with your baby, child, tween, or teen.

Leading from behind means you are in, what can be for adults, the frustrating position of watching your baby,child,tween, or teen, getting something wrong before a person gets it right. When they are babies, we think it's cute when they get something wrong. Not so much, past the age of one.

The two year old is going to put their foot in the wrong leg of the pants,inevitably. Leading them from behind is letting them get it wrong before they get it right. The child is going to be very certain the plan will work, the tween is going to be a little uncertain, the teen might not want to do it at all. Someday I'll be giving some tips about what to do when you are in a hurry. But most of the time, the fastest way to move through something is to let the child, the tween, the teen do it their way.

What they are doing is called mastery. Watching the two year old and giving a bit of side coaching if they're getting frustrated, hearing out a tween's plans and asking reflective questions, and for teens, holding the big picture when they can't and helping them break it down into smaller steps is leading from behind.

 First step is to just take a look, observe yourself and ask the question, am I standing in front of my child, tween or teen pulling them along, or am I standing behind them and guiding and encouraging?
And remember, parenting can be enjoyable. That's the point of all this.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The Basic Four

Any day with infants, toddlers, preschoolers, children, tweeners and teens is consumed with a myriad of situations.

When you look carefully, all of the experiences coming your way in interactions with your children, issues in their lives, falls into one of four categories:

Tears and Tantrums
Self Discipline                      and
Self Care

Parenting can made a little simpler by assigning the situation to one of those four categories.

Homework issues, friend connections and trials, practices, chores, moanies, screen time debates...whatever the issue, stop yourself and ask, "To which category is the underlying issue related?"

Start there. Then explore the possibilities for resolution.

Try it. It might help.

Monday, October 13, 2014

One with the Root Beer, the Manuscript

Today I accomplished what I have hoped for since about a decade ago. I put together the entirety of the one page philosophy of the One With the Root Beer Parenting Program

It shows the four focuses ( which I use because who the heck uses the word foci?) of parenting and I am excited to get the rest of the book done.

So, what can I share today? Hot tip of the day is to make sure you understand that while this is a very intense time zone of your life, it will not last forever. Kids move out in very short order and while your relationship continues, you will not be 'in charge' of very much. So how ever joyful or painful, delightful or burdensome today has been for you with your children, it is , indeed, transitory.

That means, find something to cherish about it. Look at them when they are asleep. Throw them a curve ball by telling them you love them in the middle of the raging anger at you. Rejoice that you can do underdog while they are swinging or give them a pass on vegetables because they have been honest enough to tell you what they like or don't like.

When bedtime comes and you can hardly wait for your 'down time' or doing chores unfettered by someone moving at a slow or more distracted pace, take a minute and remember the importance of helping them slip into slumber.

You will be grateful you did in about ten years!

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Unconditional Love

The irony is I am putting together a rather formulaic, choose your own parenting adventure, kind of manuscript and curriculum for parents of all ages of kids.

The guiding principle of it all, however, rests in the very erratic nature of children's growth. Their emotions make any development roll out unpredictably and with uncertainty.

Therefore, I wish to remind everyone that the key ingredient in any parenting situation is unconditional love.

Yesterday morning I saw a mom in a restaurant who alternated quickly between loving affirmations for her , what appeared to be, seven year old girl, and teeth clenching edicts meant to intimidate and control.

See, that just isn't going to make it. Offering your child unconditional love means you are always going to be the steady one. Before you take the guilt train, yes, there are going to be two or three days in each season of parenting where you have a less than stellar moment that amounts to 'because I said so.'. If you have poured your heart in the majority of situations, in reminding yourself you are the grown up, and beyond any technique, love your child the most when they deserve it the least, you will have it in the bank to be able to apologize and reset the situation.

I'm not talking about hitting or verbally abusing your child, I'm talking about those moments when you use a snappish tone, short circuit directions or have a minute when you realize you are about to lose it and take a breath.

Offering unconditional love on a daily, minute by minute process means you have trained yourself to remain steady and delighted in your child. THAT is what shapes them. If they feel your delight, they will go towards your instruction like a moth to the flame. If they feel your respect, they will work hard to get over their lack of desire to do what you are asking or suggesting and turn their little train of willfulness towards the station master.

Give them what you wish you were given as a parent. Would you be a better parent if someone came in and chastised you for not being fast enough at learning the tricks of the trade or understanding some aspect of their development? Well, so too will they be slowed unless they feel your love for them. They do not know any more about being a human being than you do about being a parent.

Find their love language and make that the biggest part of your day with them.

Take notes and see what works. Repeat, with Joy and ....Love....