Saturday, July 19, 2014

Sparkle Stories

We get so excited when the weekend comes: more Sparkle Stories.  When we have to drive more than a few minutes, do you know what the girls ask for?  Sparkle Stories.
Sparkle Stories
My girls are most interested in the various Martin and Sylvia stories/series given their age so we hear them the most.  It's very affordable to do a subscription for one more more series, and we currently do three.  Each story is somewhere between 15 and 20 minutes, and they are awesome.  The McCanns do a first rate job, and the storytelling appeals even to me as the adult listening.  Sometimes I think I enjoy them more.  I know I pick up insights into kids, inspiration for activities, recipes etc.  They even have a blog with a lot of that extra support.

I want to put this up here because I feel like sharing good things when we come across them.  But also I want to express appreciation to them for enriching our family life.  It's such a sweet part of those days.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

"Quicker" Online Parenting Resources

I love to read, but I know we have time limits!  Being with young ones leaves less time for books, but there's good information out there for less time-investment.

Free Video Series from Transformative Parenting (Todd Sarner)

Newsletters or entries Aha! Parenting (Dr. Laura Markham)

Parent blog Parenting Passageway (Carrie)

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Mirroring, Jennifer Kolari's CALM Technique

Have you ever heard of mirroring?  It's this technique (below) that we want to work on with the girls.  (The Affect Mirroring part is what is missing so far I think in what we've been doing.)

A lot of great insights in this talk in general about how parenting has swung in a crazy direction of being "wonky" since we woke up to being too harsh.

I think I'd like to read her book(s).  The one I'll do first is for younger kids called Connected Parenting.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Why do they misbehave?

I'm sure I don't have all the answers to why my sweet ones do what they do, but I've learned that it's important to really try to find out.  We see those memes floating around that say something like "they're not giving you a hard time, they're having a hard time."

The first idea that really went against the 80% of parenting advice that's behaviorist in nature came from the Soul of Discipline Course (and from Simplicity Parenting) is the idea of disorientation.  Kim John Payne says he has never met a disobedient child, only a disoriented one.  He likens children to ships pinging while navigating in the vast sea.  We know whom they bounce off, right?  

So why do our children feel lost?  There is a lot of life pressing in on them, for one thing, and it creates a kind of "soul fever."  That's where simplicity can make such a tremendous difference.  (I took the course to become a group leader/coach for Simplicity Parenting because it has meant so much to our family.)

Dr. Gordon Neufeld talks a great deal (as regards anxiety) about separation.  There are so many ways/levels for a child to feel separated--at least as many as the levels/ways to be attached.  That's intense, and their brains aren't prepared to make sense of it (especially at a young age).

Dr. Gabor Maté mentioned in a talk on stress and parenting that we misunderstand the phrase "acting out"--literally, when we act things out, it's because we don't have language for it.  If our children experience things they don't understand, they do end up "acting" them "out."

All behavior is a sort of communication.  What does it tell us about what's happening in their lives/brains?  (And how is our own inner response to that behavior revealing things to us about our own lives/childhoods/brains?)

Sunday, July 13, 2014

How am I the leader?

How am I in charge if I don't punish them?  How do they know I'm the boss?  Why would they want to follow me?  How am I supposed to be powerful and supportive that way?

Dr. Gordon Neufeld and Todd Sarner talk about being "the Alpha" so much in their presentation of strong parenting leadership.  It's a "Papa Bear" or "Mama Goose" presence, and it flows with/from the source of my unapologetic being.  My presence can be "big" or powerful simply from that confident energy.  

From my own experience, the more certain we are of how this helps (aka what the research shows through Attachment Theory etc.), the stronger our Alpha sensibility.  It's a deep, inner knowing of who we are as parents, and it's a kind of faith really.  We are the best answer to their needs.  We are the core answer to their difficulties.  

Being the strong Mama is directing the energy and attention in a very visual, guided way when they are struggling to follow/behave.  It doesn't mean I seek to control their every action or get into a battle with them to assert that control.  In fact, if I'm even considering such a squaring off, I've already lost.  It's not becoming the constant family entertainer--they need to embrace some boredom for deeper, creative play (and embrace some problems to work out solutions).  That's a balance I'm playing with these days.

As a quieter person, I sometimes wonder how to be "Alpha" enough.  Personally, I'm learning to reduce my thinking out loud as I reason through my decisions.  It's better to think for a moment and then come out with a clear, concise decision.  Here, I take Kim John Payne's advice about over-talking to heart as I consider reducing children's stress and their mental stages.  (Aside from Simplicity Parenting, he has a great course called Soul of Discipline: 0-9 years and will have a book out in 2015 I think.)  The Alpha concept was introduced to me through Todd's Transformative Parenting course and is based on Gordon Neufeld's ideas (as Todd was on his Neufeld Institute faculty back in the day).  It was a superb course.

Some questions arise of a different nature from some thinkers regarding control.  I think it is healthy, as Alfie Kohn does, to wonder why I have a need to control their behavior always (even if I'm sensitive to how I play my part).  It's not a bad idea to reflect and look at where we control for control's sake (and how that relates to our own childhood issues).

When does a parent need to be that guiding star for sure?  Most parents I know see the need to be the greater gravitational pull when it deals with safety, the basics of getting along in society and also in character points.  (While I might not insist on every point in every moment I could, it is important to help children with what seem like little things so they build attention and habits.)  Here it's not control: it's taking care.

In attachment, one person is the Alpha (even if it changes they way we take turns taking care of each other, as in marriage), like it or not.  If it's not me, it's my child.  When our children are in that roll, there are all kinds of troubles.  

Here's an intro for a class I might take from the Neufeld Institute:

Saturday, July 12, 2014

How do I correct them "gently" without condoning bad behavior?

"If I don't come down hard on them and use fear, they will probably walk all over me.  I don't want to be one of those enabling parents, you know?  I don't want to create "entitlement monsters" (love that phrase that Kim John Payne used in a lecture once)."

Believe me--those have been our thoughts.  We care very much about raising conscious, conscientious kids.  (I am feeling less guilty about realizing that we also want to raise happy children.)  I want them to respect all life and live/experience true peace.

What are your family values?  This is an important part of the Simplicity Parenting work.  When I ask parents this question, I get blank looks sometimes.  It feels disarming not to immediately and easily connect with this root, and I paused for a long time considering it myself.  It's worth pondering this question.  Could you say "kindness?"  "Resilience?"  "Integrity?"  What kind of people are we striving to be, and what do we want for our children?  What made us want to have children in the beginning?  Really sit there long enough to find your compass.

Then we might wonder if we become an enabler of qualities that hinder these values.  It's a good question.

First to note is how kids learn: via imitation.  I influence more how my girls value the wide world by how I value it.  I offer peace whenever possible and lean on it.  They learn much more from how I am than by what I say.  This is good news!  It means I can be proactive rather than reactive, and it means I can work more on the plank in my own eye.

Second to note is that actual correction/teaching only happens in the safety of connection.  Children need to be free to rest in our love.  Let's look at lying.  When one of my children lies to me, I can share later how honesty helps people to be safe and at peace.  I can even share with her all the trouble that lies can bring (calmly so she can actually process the conversation, away from all fear of rejection, later after any incident that might have occurred). Erupting at a lie and putting her in fear-mode short circuits any capacity she might actually have of understanding.  It ruins any prefrontal cortex activity that might be developing and instead triggers the reptilian, emotional brain.  Fight, flight or freeze.

(It also helps to know that lying or experimenting in that way is a common part of our mental development rather than just assuming we're simply wicked for going there.  Still, if I don't want to encourage my girls to hide things and lie about their own feelings and actions, I have to make room for their transformations with unconditional love and acceptance.)

Here are a few words from Gordon Neufeld:

Just because we don't explode, doesn't mean we link up arm in arm with vice.  Strong leadership and presence doesn't have to be angry or adversarial.  It's constant and unconditional.  It's love.

I may or may not address the meritocracy issue of deserving punishment.  That's a hard one to tackle depending on one's vantage point as regards faith or religion.  I could say plenty from my own worldview, but I hate to steer too far from general experience.  Let me know if I should expand upon this theme sometime.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Gentle Parenting: Part Two

If I were to field questions and concerns about Gentle Parenting, they might involve the sense that we contribute to moral decline by not responding in a severe enough fashion.  Every generation has these "new" observations about how some perceived license is killing true liberty.  Socrates (5th Century BC) and Plato both complained of this moral decay.  Every generation thinks the next is taking us to hell in a hand basket, as LR Knost and Alfie Kohn point out.

As we consider traditional discipline understood as punishment, I probably don't need to talk about physical versions in that even those who spank should now understand that the research is conclusive and shows it to be harmful.  Still, there are "experts" who teach it; and there are still more of us who practice it.  As Knost points out, not that long ago we also thought it was okay to for husbands to keep their wives in line by slapping them around.  As late as 1987, Sean Connery was telling Barbara Walters all about it.  Why are even more defenseless people with even greater needs (aka children) more deserving of violent response?  The calm premeditated crimes warrant harsher criminal justice than do the crimes of passion (Knost's observation) so why would we teach parents to calmly spank their children for their own good?

90% of parents admit to spanking their children, according to Knost.  If 90% of us spank, surely it's because we are on a default setting where we just haven't thought enough about it?  As Aldort, Siegel and Markham point out, we need to deal with our own personal past/issues so that we don't enact/force that pain on our own children.

Enough of the negative.  How can I support my child with Positive Parenting?  Here's how it effects us (via Jennifer Kolari):

But consider the words "authority" and "discipline" for a moment.  Those are indeed very important aspects of my roll as a parent, and they feature strongly in helping our kids thrive.  Jack Petrash reminds that "authority" comes from the very same root as "author."  It harkens to a creative leadership where the parent steers the ship of story, writing the way there.  Guiding.  "Discipline" is about discipleship.  It's about leading in a way that others want to follow you.  If I want my child to develop self-control, I need to model that by, ya know, having some--staying calm.  Check out the research on mirror neurons and young children--especially fascinating!

And as regards attachment, they are wired to follow us--they need to.  (Otherwise, they will follow their peers instead.  The blind leading the blind, a society devoid of true elders--sound familiar?)  Nothing I've said here is all that original, and I've asked myself how so many of us can still be causing harm rather than guiding with effective discipline for so many years of our human history.  Like all areas of science, we keep learning.  There are many dots that weren't connected until fairly recently.

Some questions I hear and have felt along the way:

But don't we deserve punishment?  Don't you follow some moral code or Bible or?

How am I the leader/in charge if I don't punish them?  How do they know I'm the boss?  Why would they want to follow me?  How am I supposed to be powerful and supportive that way?

How do I correct them "gently" without condoning bad behavior?

Give me a for instance?  How should we respond to such-and-such scenario?

We'll come to those soon.