Understanding limit pushing

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“Respecting children means understanding their stage of development, not reacting to their age-appropriate behavior as if they are our peers.”

As parents we have GOT to come to terms with this crazy idea that has been put into our heads that our kids are out to get us–that they are misbehaving just to make our lives miserable.  It’s just not true. They are not that calculated and conniving, but they ARE trying to get your attention.  Consider instead that they may need your help, support, and loving guidance.

http://www.janetlansbury.com/2013/10/the-real-reasons-toddlers-push-limits/

Daydreaming—a portal to insight

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I have long contended that this infatuation with schedules and timed events has led to the increase in “problematic” behaviors in children. With adults putting so much pressure on children to produce something tangible or fretting over ‘educational’ pursuits, they are overlooking a huge piece of the development puzzle—down time.  Research continues to shed light on this issue, uncovering a real need for our minds to wander and what better way to give space for this then to drop the push to constantly go, go, go.

http://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2013/10/teach-kids-to-daydream/280615/

 

 

Beautiful words on being with Children

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I can’t find the time to put all my thoughts and feelings into eloquent statements and flowing paragraphs full of insight and wisdom, so I defer to those who can and who do so PERFECTLY!
Please read this blog post about living with children and the importance of standing up to the oppression our society is still embracing!

http://theorganicsister.com/problem-with-kids/

The Sunshine that Caused a Poop Storm

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Below is little episode I wish to share.  I promise not to make all my posts about my four year old’s rants. Buuuut this is really more about me then it is her. During times when my kids’ reactions seem over the top or uncalled for in my grown- up opinion is precisely when I need to remind myself to stay calm, to trust and to be gentle. I’m building a relationship not trying to win battles. Now, don’t think I don’t beat my head into a wall every once in a while or sit in the rocking chair on my front porch calculating my escape. That happens too. However, as difficult and as confusing as my little offspring can be, I see all our interactions as a mixture of wild and slow and lovely dance moves creating the ultimate partnership in this party called life.

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S was drawing a picture with her new glitter pens when all of a sudden she started crying and fussing at me.  “You messed my picture up!” Since I was in the kitchen making our breakfast and she was 6 feet away at the dining room table, I was a bit confused.  So I asked her to explain. She then proceeded to cry and carry on that I distracted her because I was talking to D and I should never talk and that this was the worst day of her life and that I was mean. This goes on. I went to her to see what had happened and to offer my help if she’d take it, but she continued to blame me. It was my fault her picture was ruined. She had “the perfect plan for her picture and I messed it up.”

Now, as she cries, she begins taking her pajama top off. I realize that when I spoke to her brother, she turned to look at us and apparently brushed her picture with the sleeve of her top.  This caused the glitter pen gel goop to smear, instantly crashing all her hopes and dreams! Ohhhh, life IS over.

As I listened to her unfairly unload on me and watch as she tried to fix her picture, I continued to make her breakfast (a little faster now) then I walked over with a toothpick hoping to straighten up the edges on the rays of sunshine she was creating. This seemed to help a little. She watched and took in what I was doing. Calmly, caringly offering some help to “undo” what I had obviously, in her mind, done.  Then, I walked to get her breakfast. A few times during this episode, I confirmed her feelings by saying, “You are really frustrated.” Or “You had an idea in your mind about how you wanted your picture to look and it got changed.”  Neither of these statements alone calmed her down, as a matter of fact, after each one she got louder, but eventually she “heard” me.  After about 5-10 minutes of what some would view as ridiculous crying and overreaction, she then asked for another toothpick, sniffled, thanked me for the breakfast, sniffled some more and said, “I think I can fix it. I’ll do it this way. Sunshines don’t really have all these colors anyway.”  Well, Sunshine, yes they do.

Radical Honesty

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Radical honesty. Ever heard of it? Me neither until I found this fascinating drama on Netflix, Lie to Me. Tim Roth is the lead guy. He plays an entrepreneurial psychologist whose firm is hired by various entities to determine who and possibly why someone is lying.  Roth’s character, Dr. Lightman, believes that if you are human, you lie. He has learned how to recognize and interpret microexpressions- tiny movements your face and body make which tell the truth even when your words do not.  There’s an awesome cast and each episode tops the other and actually makes me sit still for close to 45 minutes at a time. Not an easy task.

So the cute, curly brown headed assistant is the one who has vowed to practice radical honesty. It is different from plain ole honesty in that he doesn’t pussy foot around topics deemed sensitive.  He doesn’t labor over his words in order to keep other’s self esteem in tact or a paycheck coming in. He doesn’t mince words when asked a direct question. It’s amusing and liberating to watch. Sure, he steps on toes, makes people gasp or recoil in surprise, but he also makes people smile. Radical honesty doesn’t have to be brutal. It got me wondering…What would our world look like if all adults practiced radical honesty? How would our relationships change? How much better off would our emotional state be if we could say what we think, express how we feel, and allow the same of others without fear of retribution or loss? Or are some things really better left unsaid?

Well, I happen to have two radical honesty practitioners in my house and I have worked with, babysat, and interacted with hundreds of others throughout my life, but I never had a name for what they do so well until now. Generally speaking, this group of individuals is pretty darn happy. Maybe they are onto something.  Children, up to a certain age, are ruled by their feelings.  They feel like doing something, they do it. They feel like saying something, they say it. How much relief would you have if you could just say what’s on your mind?  If someone asked you how you felt about a given situation and they truly meant, “Give it to me. I want to hear how you feel.”  Wow. Think about the discussions that could open up. Think of all the pent up feelings, happy and sad, relieved. Think about how much more we would understand and appreciate each other or, on the contrary, stop wasting our time trying to get others to appreciate us. Think about how your work place, schools, and government would change. It begs the question, why do we condone a social system that dampens our ability to truly speak our mind; one that seems more concerned about appearances than real honesty? And why do we have laws that actually work against our feelings? Oprah Winfrey got sued for 12 million dollars for saying she wouldn’t eat another burger, people! Yeah, yeah, I get the slander thing and defamation of character, which aim to keep mean spirited and ill intended people in check, but she was stating her feelings after learning about the deplorable conditions of the mass meat industry. Good grief.

In our home, my little radical honesty practitioners keep it real. The oldest, a sensitive, intuitive kid is more aware of the social dos and don’ts now that’s he’s 9. Baby girl, age 4, not so much. Here’s an example of her radical honesty at work. We have a new kitten. He’s awesome. We all love him very much. He is entertaining, super cute and snuggly, but he’s also a little rough. He’s drawn blood…On all four of us.  S was playing with him the other day and he grabbed a hold of her arm. He was biting and jumping, being rambunctious like boy kitties are and he hurt her, but mostly, he made her mad and she started telling him off. I don’t like you Zen. You are a dumb, dumb, cat. You are a chicken, idiot, stupid. You are not cute. You are not fun and you can’t live with us anymore. I’m going to put you outside and you can’t come back in, ever. This went on for a few minutes as she cried in my lap while I stroked her hair and listened. She’s done this before, a few times actually. To her brother, to a much bigger neighbor kid who knocked her down on the trampoline, and to me and her Dad. When she gets going, we don’t interfere. We just let her get it out. It’s like an emotional burp. The words release built up pressure and makes her feel a whole lot better. Now, if you aren’t accustomed to this or if you think kids should not spout out “bad” words when they are angry or upset or confused is wrong, than you shouldn’t visit our home or invite us over. If you remove yourself from an event we show up to, I’ll shoot you a “gotcha glance” and know you don’t want the “bad” influence. But before you black ball us, you should know that after a few minutes, sometimes longer depending on the offender and offense, she is fine and ready to put the incident behind her and have fun again. She may even apologize for saying “those words” without any encouragement from me and explain to the offender why she got upset. How’s that for problem solving?  I am glad she doesn’t know cuss words.

I know kids embarrass us parents or make us uncomfortable with the things they say or don’t say. They aren’t good at maneuvering all the social codes we’ve put into place. A code that is full of tiptoeing, putting on airs and happy faces, white lies, and nonverbal cues. It’s confusing enough to most adults so you can understand how wacky it makes a kid feel and they shouldn’t be expected to bear the pressure of it all. As parents, we should give them a safe place to express their feelings, to be open and honest without fear of rejection or punishment.  If my kids are unhappy or frustrated, scared or concerned, I feel compelled to listen first then guide. And if they need to vent by stringing a list of words and random thoughts together in a Clark Griswold Christmas bonus breakdown fashion, then so be it. Next time I’ll be sure to have the video camera ready.  In the meantime, I’ll make a pact with you, my momma friends. If your kids say something to me or my kids that might embarrass or make you uncomfortable, or if they fail to say thank you or please or excuse me, don’t sweat it. I understand. I believe that they’ll find their way and eventually learn to speak our language, but a part of me kinda hopes they don’t.

Happy New Year!! 2012 will be about engaging

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Now that the glitter and fake snow have settled and the kids are swept up in play with all their Christmas goodies, I have decided to steal a few moments to reflect on this past year and make some mental and physical notes for the New Year to come.  Inspired by a blog post I recently read by Dr. Laura Markham, my resolutions will be less about me and more about us.

I doubt I’m unique in my typical resolution making, which goes something like this:  I make a few “doable” goals, write them down (because that makes me take them more seriously), then I share my goals with a few people (because that makes me accountable and then I take them even more seriously), I get off to a smashing start, then a few months into the year those doable goals morph into “just one more thing to add to my already long list of things to do and I’m in control and I can do what I want!” So, instead of making a list of things to check off as “done”, I’ll create a list of things I’d like to continue to do or want to do more of throughout the year that benefit our family unit and enhance my relationship with my kids, husband, friends and family. My thoughts are still developing and I’m sure my plans and ideas will evolve with the year, but below are two areas that will certainly top the list.

Something to continue:  Think positively

It’s insane how well this works and to make it more enticing, it’s free! No drugs necessary, no therapy, no laundry list of material goods to purchase; just you and your thoughts.  Maintaining this mindset is very important to me and even more important since I became a parent. Our kids reflect us, the good and the bad, whether we like it or not.  Now, do I have times when I don’t feel positive? Sure. I’m not a robot. However, I am joyful a heck of a lot of time and it’s because I choose to be.  I have experienced enough pain and sorrow to qualify for a seat in the negative chair, but I don’t want it.  I want to embrace graciousness and joy, focusing on what I do have.  We have struggles like most American families today, but my reactions to those struggles and the positive attitude I choose to have are the most expensive gifts I can ever give my children. Like a genuine belly laugh, positive energy is contagious.  So, in 2012, take control of your thoughts (which you have absolute total control over and can’t blame anyone else for).  Stop focusing on what you don’t have and focus more on what you do have. Immerse yourself in things that make you happy, surround yourself with people who bring you joy, and share with your community the upbeat vibe you know you have.

Something to work on:  Come to terms with screens

In this digital age where a phone is no longer a phone, but a toy, web browser, and messaging center all in one, where conversations center on apps and video games, the latest Netflix movies, or your neighbors’ cousin’s Facebook status; it’s not out of the realm of possibilities that we spend more time looking at screens then we do the faces of the people we love and adore.   Lately, I have been feeling conflicted and uncomfortable about all the time we each spend individually on our screens so I did some soul searching and I came to several conclusions:

1.)  I need to rethink what a “healthy” family looks like. Somewhere along the line, through a combination of influences from movies and books and witnessing other families in action growing up, I have picked up this idyllic image of a healthy family.  In my mind, as our day winds down, our family would all eat dinner together at a table that is beautifully decorated (or at least with some fresh flowers or herbs from the garden), discuss issues that are important to us or society in general, then we’d break away to play games  or read books or make stuff together. Not in a high brow, drink tea with your pinky up way, but in a fun, easy going, life is grand kind of way.

2.) I have a guilty conscience.  I spend as much time (or more) than the kids interacting with all my screens.  Granted, I plan our outings, research for educational opportunities, and communicate with our friends and family that way, but still. I know I choose to do something screen related more often than I *should*.  Hubby may have us all beat though, because that’s what he does all day long for work, which is why I feel a twinge of irritation ( I said a twinge) if he chooses to watch a movie solo at night when we could all be together.  I also have memories of feeling like I wasn’t interesting enough to eat dinner with when I was a child because my Dad would make his plate at dinner and take it straight into the living room to watch television as he ate leaving my brothers, my mom and me behind at the table.  Husband doesn’t do anything close to this, but my personal experience as a child fuels my concern and I feel protective. I do not want my children to feel like we are choosing a screen over interacting with them.

However, 2012 will be more about enjoying screen time together, appreciating what our various devices do offer us, yet remembering to shut them down every once in a while.  Screen time can offer a way to decompress, a new age way to enjoy some alone time if you will.  Because husband works from home and we home school, we do have an unbelievable amount of lovely, quality face time throughout the day. So when night falls and everyone begins to settle in, I will remember that a screen will not undo all the togetherness we’ve had for the day.

What are your parenting goals for the New Year?