Monday, March 4, 2019
All around the globe it seems parent issues are the same. Being a parent of a young child can be a challenge, especially if you are not equipped in advance (who is, anyway?). The question often comes down to what boundaries are best for you and your child, and how to deliver those boundaries.
What is a boundary? In this context, a boundary is a limit on some activity. So why would we want to put any limits on our children? If you were walking down the sidewalk with your child and she suddenly was going to jump out into the street, you would want to prevent that. That physical safety boundary for your own child is an important boundary that all parents want for their child.
Boundaries can give a child a sense of security, and sense of being guided and cared for by their parent, and can give an opportunity for self-discovery. I find myself at the boundaries.
To me, equally important are boundaries making other children safe, both physically and emotionally. As parents, I think it is our responsibility to help our child to be with others in as much of an atmosphere of safety as is possible. And if we want to bring boundaries in a way that sticks, we have to understand several features of the young child.
1. The primary way young children learn is by imitating. They copy the example of others. If we want a young child to change a behavior, we have to give the example of the new habit we want to (eventually) see.
2. To learn something, everyone has to do it for themselves. That means we have to lead our horses to water, so that they can drink for themselves.
3. The young child is a creature of habit. As adults, much of our time is spent in habitual activity, perhaps upwards of 40% of our waking time. The young child even more so.
4. How we speak to the child can either support an environment of trust, or become an obstacle to connection.
With the young child, as with all humans, trust develops based on experience, the experience of needs being fulfilled, particularly the needs for safety and connection. Human connection gives us the feeling of being loved and being understood.
Here's an example:
A child is playing with a toy and your child notices. She goes over to the child, grabs hold of the toy, and pulls. She knocks the other child down (you can never be sure about intention, so don't assume) and ends up with the toy.
In my experience with these types of interactions, a common response from the child’s parent is:
“It’s bad to take things from others.” Or, “That was not appropriate. How would you feel if he did that to you?”
This type of response is somewhere along the spectrum of punishment. Check for yourself. What your child did needs to be corrected, to correct we must scold at least. Perhaps a time-out or a spanking is in order?
When we meet our child’s behavior with any sort of feeling that what she did was wrong or bad, she can feel it even before we speak a word, even before our foot starts tapping and our pointer finger starts waggling. As soon as she senses our “attack,” she shuts down her higher neurological functioning and the reptile brain is in command. The options for a reptile brain response are fight, flight or freeze. Learning a new method is not one of the options when the reptile brain engages. When the reptile brain is engaged, there can be no connection with your child. They are in a defensive mode.
Here are some suggested options, some possible script lines for you:
“It’s his turn now. Your turn is next.”
“He doesn’t like toys to be taken from him.”
“I don’t like when things are taken without asking.”
The first step, though, is an inner step for you, the adult. It is to reframe the situation so feelings of wrongness and blame are not coming toward your child from you. To get there, you have to understand that your child has a habit of taking to get what she wants. There is nothing ‘wrong’ with that because it usually is successful, and we can also understand the habit arose out of a strategy to get what she wants. But the other child does not feel safe, and, in fact, is not safe.
How do we create an environment with healthy boundaries? We as adults can take actions that create an environment where there is more and more safety for the children with each other by working on the habit life of the young children.
Sometimes things unfold in a way we didn’t want, sometimes our child does something we don’t like. When we interact with our child in these situations without judging and blaming the child, with openness to creative solutions, then we weave a fabric of trust and connection between us and our child!
I think one of the secrets of parenting - or being a human being - is not to take things personally, not to frame the world into fault and blame and judgment. One can take up as a practice learning how to try on others’ perspectives, trying to see into what needs they are trying to meet. Then it is easier to stay calm and try to find an effective solution to the challenge at hand.
As adults, I think it is our job to help our child be able to interact with other children so that the other child feels safe with our child. It is our job to teach boundaries for safe social interaction!
Monday, November 19, 2018
As we approach the end of November, thoughts turn toward holiday times and family. For some reasons, this is the time of year when extended family meal gatherings and gift giving has become the norm.
What about the young children? How can we support their needs during this time of year?
I would like to offer seven suggestions about how to make this time of year, which can become hectic and full of stress, a more supportive experience for your young child, and for you.
1. Find ways to engage your child in preparing food, in cooking. Involve the child to the extent of their abilities in cutting and mixing, stirring and pouring. Being part of the process will also help them to become more adventurous eaters.
2. If your family has a gift-giving tradition, figure out some things your children can make as gifts. As a grandparent, I can tell you that a gift made by a grandchild is so much more valuable to me than any store bought item. Children can make gifts for each other, gifts for the parent who isn’t home at the time the gift is being made, gifts for the postal delivery person, etc....And food gifts are a wonderful way to go. (See #1 above) And if you give gifts to your child, consider that less is more. Giving a pile of gifts makes each individual gift lose value in the bigger scheme of things. The best things in life aren't things!
3. Maintain your child’s daily routine during holiday times as much as is possible. When you feel the need to go to the mall, find someone to be at home with your child so they don’t have to experience the overstimulation, the frantic rushing, and what always ends up as staying there too late. All young children do better in every way when their mealtimes and sleep times come at consistent times in the day. And let’s not forget that home cooked meals are more nutritious than any type of fast food you can get while in the rush of shopping.
4. Consider how much training you want to give your child in becoming a member of consumer culture. Remember that young children learn by imitation, and habits that are learned at a young age are deeply imprinted and are hard to change. What about developing a family culture of making gifts. You know all those tools gathering dust in your garage, use them to make a wonderful wooden chest or shelf. And the sewing machine you got a few years ago, try it out! Make a simple quilt or doll clothes. Knitting a scarf or hat doesn’t take very long if you dust off those skills. Another idea is to develop a family tradition of attending a performance or concert together as a sort of gift to each other. Shared experiences at holiday times become especially warm memories.
5. Try not to use the screen to occupy your child while you are otherwise busy. Your child’s brain will thank you for it.
6. Remember that as an adult, your senses have developed filters to minimize overstimulation. Your child does not have those filters yet and their senses are more sensitive than yours. Try and be conscious of volume levels and how much overall stimulation is going on around your child.
7. One amazing way to connect with your child at any time of year is through stories. Tell stories to your child. Read stories to your child. And maybe start a holiday tradition of giving one special book to your child.
Bonus: I would like to offer one more holiday season tip, and this is for the adults. We adults need to have tools for maintaining calm and centered-ness when chaos and hectic-ness are all around. Rick Hanson is a teacher whom I deeply respect. His ideas and practices can help you get a sense for your own well being, and find ways to feel more safety, satisfaction and connection in your life. Watch this video for more info....
Sunday, October 14, 2018
Sorry that it’s been a while since my last post. Life has been very full and includes my return to kindergarten teaching. Since January, I have been a full-time kindergarten teacher again and it is such a joy! And I haven’t made the time for much writing since then.
On the other hand, the kindergarten children are giving me so much to write about. So, I look forward to future posts based on my current kindergarten experiences!
For now, I want to tell you about a free online teleconference to inspire parents and I am one of the speakers. Inspired Parent Summit II is a FREE, audio interview series and includes 20 parenting experts to help you!
This Tuesday, I am the featured guest. My friend and parent coach, Mary Wheatley’s is the host of the summit teleconference. Mary is hosting Inspired Parent Summit II and I invite you to listen in on this free, virtual event!
On Tuesday, Oct. 16, I will be speaking about the conflicts that arise with your young child and how both your and your child’s neurology is likely reacting. I also offer some possibilities for creative resolution.
Please click here to register! My interview will be available for replay for 72 hours. I hope you will make the time to listen. Feel free to tell your friends too!
It’s been said, “It takes a village.” Please join this amazing village of relevant parenting experts, at the helm of the conscious parent movement, to begin your experience of a richer, more fulfilling family life. Plus, my interview airs this Tuesday! Click here now.
Friday, April 6, 2018
What? Practical Love? Can love be practical? Let me explain.
The main thing is that we exercise a process of transforming wisdom we have gleaned into actions coming from loving intentions.
I think the universal question with raising young children, whether as a parent or teacher, is how to serve the true developmental and individual needs of the child, of each and every child.
To me this is practical love. We can pour out love toward the children, and provide what they truly need. There are various ways to consider basic needs. One list includes safety and connection (love). David Richo puts 5 A’s on his list. These are Attention, Acknowledgment, Affection, Appreciation, and Approval. When these needs are provided, the child feels that healthy sense of attachment that is so necessary for a young child. The parents in delivering these needs to the young child create a a fabric of trust which is named love.
With the young child, I keep in mind the following wisdom principles which I have gleaned from my life’s work. These four principles inform all I do with the young children, and I have written about them numerous times already.
1. All learning, all development of new skills and capacities, at any age, is based on the will. What is the will but that inner force that moves us, consciously or not, toward goals? We all have a will nature, but in the young child we see a being who is primarily will oriented. Their thinking life is not awake yet.
2. The principle by which the young child learns is imitation. All ‘teaching’ for young children needs to be based on the principle of example and imitation.
3. The neurology of the young child is very different than that of an adult. If we look to the pre-frontal cortex, the home of all “executive functioning,” we see that it is still developing into the late 20’s of one’s life. In the young child it is merely a seed!
4. The experience of self that we, as adults, take for granted, is also just in seed form and is little developed in the young child.
These 4 principles must inform all that we do in relation to young child. To me, that is how we make love practical. Love is not a power that requires another to obey. “Spare the rod, spoil the child,” is not effective. And it teaches the child to use force to get what he wants. (Remember the principle of imitation?)
Equally ineffective is a sentimental loving that engages the young child in decision-making, and ends up putting the child in charge.
Practical love says to listen to the needs of the child. Listen through hearing what he wants, into his core of true need. Try, “It looks like you had fun visiting that kindergarten,” instead of, “Honey, which kindergarten school do you want to attend?” Or, “Are you ready to move into kindergarten and out of pre-school.?” Or, “Should we put our extra money into savings or splurge on a big trip?”
Observe your child, listen to what he says without asking a lot of questions. Then as best you can, intuit what to do.
Sometimes the children may not be happy with our decisions that affect them. Sometimes life dishes up challenges for adults too. Resilience is developed by moving through moments of not getting what is wanted, and by moving through sadness and even anger. Many of us parents and teachers want the children to be happy all the time. So we do whatever is necessary to get them to that happy place. Perhaps the adults think - ‘if the child is not happy, he won’t like me anymore.’
This is not a practical way to live life for an adult. This is not practical love of an adult for the young child.
Please consider these principles, and see if you can incorporate them into your life with young children. This is a path of practical love. Not sentimental not superficial. This is deep love that leads to actions based on insight.
Think about it. Consider if you want to make these thoughts guide your actions.
Let me know what you think.
Tuesday, February 20, 2018
Recently I have heard adults saying, “I don’t punish my child. I give consequences.” When I ask what is meant by that, I hear ‘If they don’t do what I tell them, they don’t get the ice cream I said we would get,’ or ‘they don’t get to go to the park,’ or, or, or...
Let’s start off with some clarity and honesty here - ‘consequences’ is another way to say ‘punishment.’ When you take away something from the child based on the child's behavior, that is a form of punishment.
The ancient principle is: Someone does something ‘wrong’ and therefore must receive punishment so they don’t do it again. Punishment takes many forms but all are based on this principle of retribution.
1. When you have the attitude a child did something ‘bad’ and ‘wrong,’ even if you don’t speak a word to the child, it is punishment.
2. When you scold a child and use words like ‘shouldn’t have,’ ‘bad,’ ‘wrong,’ and ‘not appropriate,’ it is punishment.
3. When you withhold something a child wants based on the child's not doing what you want, it is punishment.
4. When you put a child on ‘time out’ it is punishment.
5. When you hit a child it is punishment
Okay, often adults observe young children behave in ways the adult does not like, and the adult wants the child to act or speak differently. This is a given, it will happen. I think the adult goes astray when any of the above 5 types of punishment are taken up. And I’ll tell you why.
When we use any form of punishment, we are teaching the young child to punish others when he doesn’t get what he wants. Young children learn by imitating our example.
When we use any of the forms of punishment, the child experiences it as an attack. We are a danger for the child in those moments. When someone experiences danger, the ancient part of the brain, the survival system AKA the Reptile Brain, takes over. Learning does not take place in this part of our neurology. This is the irony; we want the child to learn to do something different, and yet we force the child to use a part of the neurology that does not learn. Learning takes place in the more advanced parts of the brain, particularly the Limbic System.
The young child wants what he wants, just like you and me. He tries to get what he wants and needs by various strategies. Repeated use of those strategies becomes the child’s habit. Why? Because those strategies are discovered to be successful. The strategies are successful in relation to us, their adults!
Let’s reframe this. Instead of thinking the child is ‘bad and ‘wrong’ and that what he did he ‘shouldn’t have’ because it is ‘not appropriate,’ try to look at what he did as a strategy and these strategies often become habit. Then we can try to offer different habits that are more in line with what we want.
Truly, we use those judgmental words when something happens that we don’t like. That is the central truth of the situation. I don’t like hitting, I don’t like food to be thrown, I don’t like the dog’s ear to be pulled (the dog doesn’t like it either), and so on. Let’s bring to the child’s attention something that is the truth of the situation - do I like what just happened?
Then we can try to offer a different action for the child to imitate. With our actions and words. Over and over for days in a row until the child begins to try out the new strategy we have offered. There is no sense getting frustrated or impatient because it has taken many days and still no change, Changing habits takes time (for us too).
What are the consequences of consequences?
1. Damage to your connection with your child. It is hard to trust and feel safe with sometimes dangerous Y...O...U.
2. Your child adopting the technique of punishing to get what he wants. Imitation is how the young child learns.
3. Perpetuating the Blaming/Fault-finding/Shaming system that permeates our world. Imitation is how the young child learns.
When we understand the actual consequences of our own actions, we can begin to reframe the way we think and offer the young child a new behavior in the modality in which they can best learn. We offer the example for imitation based on the understanding that the child is simply attempting to fulfill wants and needs.
Thursday, December 7, 2017
I often think about what our young children need. And I sometimes consider the world that they are growing up in, and I can get sad or even depressed sometimes.
What young children truly need is a feeling that their world is safe and good. “I am safe. I am protected. I feel the warmth of love from those around me.”
That is what is needed so they can be relaxed in their environment of home, of kindergarten, of family. When they feel that safe, warm, relaxed feeling many things become possible. Growth requires warmth (just think, you put the leftovers in the cold refrigerator so nothing grows on them), and relaxing into true creative play requires feeling safe. Play is an essential activity for a growing brain.
Yet we adults know that our world is a messy and sometimes scary place where sometimes good does not prevail. We know that sometimes people are not safe, and some places are not so safe. We worry about the situation for peoples in various parts of the world. We notice that our earth is not being protected and respected. We may think governments are sliding back from past progress in various areas, that things are getting worse.
Being compassionate and empathetic can lead us down, and down, into melancholia.
Our children are listening, and watching, and sensing what we are feeling. "Little pitchers have big ears." So how do we not share our despair and sadness about the state of the world with them. What can we do to uplift ourselves and radiate some joy.
It is about our inner practices. We each have to find ways to connect with the good, to overcome the sadness and to find gratitude for what we have and what is around us.
I was playing music (a great antidote for despair) and suddenly really became aware of the words of a song I was working on. I realized this song is a powerful mantra for gratitude, for joy and for connecting with the future arc of the children’s lives. So this holiday season, I offer it for you as well.
This song was first made famous by Louis Armstrong. Armstrong was a unique performer - he had an unusual voice which he used to improvise songs and he excelled at scat singing. His improvisational trumpet playing was a new element in the music of his time. He stands out as a very individualistic musician. One-of-a-kind!
The song was first recorded in 1967 by Louis Armstrong and became a huge hit, It has since been performed by many musicians and has maintained its popularity 50 years later. What a Wonderful World was written by Bob Thiele (as George Douglas) and George David Weiss.
I see trees of green, red roses too
I see them bloom for me and you
And I think to myself what a wonderful world.
I see skies of blue and clouds of white
The bright blessed day, the dark sacred night
And I think to myself what a wonderful world.
The colors of the rainbow so pretty in the sky
Are also on the faces of people going by
I see friends shaking hands saying how do you do
They're really saying I love you.
I hear babies crying, I watch them grow
They'll learn much more than I'll never know
And I think to myself what a wonderful world,
Yes I think to myself what a wonderful world.
Monday, November 20, 2017
This is a rewrite of a post from a couple of years ago that I think is just right for now, the end of November, 2017. Halloween has passed, and I am guessing many people are gearing up for a coming holiday season. Many family traditions involve celebrations and holidays in the winter months. Thanksgiving comes at the end of November. This year Diwali was in October. Many families celebrate St. Nicholas on December 6. In 2017, Hanukkah starts the evening of December 12, the same day many families celebrate the Virgin of Guadelupe. Yule is celebrated on the Solstice, December 21. Many families celebrate Christmas December 25, and the four weeks of Advent that lead up to it. Kwanzaa starts December 26.
One thing these Festivals have in common is that they celebrate light in a time of year in the Northern Hemisphere when the days are shorter and shorter. These celebrations have gatherings of families and friends, sharing food together and in some traditions gifts are exchanged.
What does your young child really need this holiday season?
Let’s start out with what your child does not need.
She doesn’t need the new Smartwatch.
Your toddler can thrive without iPad Multimedia Learning Tablet
He and she both will be healthier without a Game Boy or Disney Princess Doll.
He can do without a Drone Camera (even if you really want it).
It is not toys and gifts that your child needs. Your child most need you to truly connect with her. There are some things that Only You can offer to your child. It isn’t stuff that is the real need - it is the fabric of a connected life. Connected to family and family traditions, to nature and the seasons, and connected to herself. The example of connecting the adults offer is the style of connecting imitated by the child. It is up to you to show the path to connecting in the holiday season.
It is you that your child most needs. You, the parent available, present and connecting. You are your child’s guide in this life on earth, and you are her example of how to live. To me, holidays are an opportunity to develop and nurture traditions of connecting with each other. And I’d like to share some specific suggestions.
What are the foods that are important to you as part of your family holiday? Do you have the same foods every year on that holiday? That is something that makes memories and helps your child have direct experiences of the cycle of the year.
When I think of foods, I try to think how the child can engage in the preparation of those foods. Can he help cut up the vegetables? Can she pour in the ingredients for the sauces? Can you knead the dough together? Be a creative cook and create ways for your young child to help prepare the food. Food preparation is a social gesture of service. Encourage your child in this way. One tip though - plan for the extra time that these young helpers will add to your prep time.
Another aspect of food is that you can make food together for other people as gifts. Grandma would love some pumpkin bread you made for her. Uncle Joe would be grateful for a batch of chocolate chip cookies. And don’t forget the mail delivery person and your health care professionals. A gift of food is a gift of love!
There are many other types of simple gifts you can make together with your children, the internet is littered with ideas for them. You can help your child to create gifts for siblings and other relatives. It is a wonderful sea change when you can shift your family culture from gift-getting to gift-giving! And you have created this opportunity for spending time together engaged on behalf of another person. Incredible!
What about singing together? My fondest elementary school memory is the weeks leading up to Winter Break each year. The school would open a half hour early for those who wanted, and the halls were full of teachers and children singing together songs from various religions and traditions. You can create this on a smaller scale and sing at home, maybe after dinner each evening, or in the car. “Of course,” you say. “That’s a great idea but I can’t sing.” The secret is, your child is NOT a critic. She will be a joyous participant in song with you and you will even discover it is FUN.
How about arranging for some friends and families to get together and walk around a neighborhood knocking on doors and offering songs? Caroling is great fun and you can even meet your neighbors. The possibilities are infinite.
Maybe you can have a special family outing to a special performance. Perhaps there is an annual artistic or musical performance in your area that you can make part of your family annual tradition, and each year make sure to return as a family in your fancy outing clothes. In my area, El Teatro Campesino presents theatrical productions and every other year they offer a version of the story of ‘Our Lady of Guadalupe’ they call “La Virgen del Tepeyac.” For my younger daughters, and now my granddaughter, it is our family tradition to head down to San Juan Bautista and enjoy the pageant (it’s really an amazing show) of the meeting of the indigenous Central American culture with the Spanish colonialists.
If giving gifts is important to you, I suggest a limit on the amount. Wisely choose the one gift that is just right for the child, and one that she will enjoy and treasure. Gifts made by you are extra special.
A gift that is something for the child to do, or make, is a great way to go. How about a tool box or sewing kit and some supplies to go along with it. And then be sure to make something yourself with your supplies and tools, and your child will learn by imitating you (because imitation is how the young child learns).
What about one special book as a gift? You can create your own tradition and each year, for a birthday or a holiday gift, choose one book that you think will mean something for your child. And then after he receives the book, read it to him again and again.
Oh...don’t forget to limit your own use of electronic devices so they are not an obstacle to connecting with your child. Have some electronic free time, and make the time to use your smart phone when your child is asleep, or otherwise engaged and you are elsewhere. Be smarter than your smart phone.
The best present for your child is your presence. True connecting with your young child takes some active will on your part to overcome the habits our consumer culture has created. It’s worth the effort.
This year again as a holiday offering, all my books are available at 15% off through December 31. Click here for details.
Happy Holidays to you all, whatever holidays you enjoy!