Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Making Sense of Discipline course

I just finished my first "real course" with the Neufeld Institute called "Making Sense of Discipline."  Wow.  I'm going to see if I can post here a few highlights or epiphanies.  I know it's an investment to take courses like these, but the information is so life/home-changing.  There's a perfect marriage of a bit of nerdiness on my part (always wanting to keep learning, always passionate about my life stage etc.) and then the challenges of raising these little mysteries in my care.

I saw this little ad and thought, "welp, I have a few weeks before school starts..."  It's the shortest online course I think they've ever offered which means we sort of crammed.  They offer official resources to prep for class time, and then there are supplemental resources.  There are also things linked into our forum comments and questions as they arise, so the support has been wonderful.  The actual class time was so well orchestrated with time for our questions as they arose and a beautiful fusion of information.

Also, we have access to whatever is generally up on the Neufeld Institute Campus which is a huge resource.  I watched/heard presentations I simply had curiosity about because "I could." :)  We do get three months of access so that's exciting.

I really appreciate that the two course facilitators are mothers with lots of example stories to guide the ideas and discussion.  It was never "just research" or "just theory."  It was very practiced.

Big information for me:

With the developmental understanding of how we grow, we can't "teach" or "sculpt" most desired behaviors.  We have to set up the conditions so the spirit of it can really grow, so that they can authentically mature.  We want to honor the spirit; whereas, today's discipline strategies generally focus on the "form."

85% of pediatricians or other experts are behind, still stuck in behaviorist paradigms.  (It reminds me of when you try to get diet advice from a general practitioner--they are overstretched and simply aren't caught up on the research.  They're usually 50 yrs behind in fact as regards calories etc.)

If we target behavior in a teaching/sculpting way (without the real maturation, the mixed feelings etc.) we're teaching them to be extremely deceitful and engender a kind of neurosis of "needing to be good."  They build walls and then orient towards peers who aren't in any capacity to guide and nurture them.  Lot's of ripple effect.

This in essence means that most of what we do for kids who are stuck (time outs, imposed consequences etc.) actually creates discipline problems.

Real discipline doesn't happen in the incident.  Incidents are to be managed safely; but real discipline is scripting, practicing, talking, bridging, matchmaking in the safety of good connection.

We have to be patient with the maturation process and focus on good intentions and a relationship where attachment is strong and where they want to be good (want to follow us).

There are hugely more specific things in the course, and there are many concepts to go into.  Still, I think it's better to have the background of having read his book (Hold onto Your Kids), seen a few presentations etc.  Otherwise, it gets too complicated and turns into me trying to teach something you can learn from him or other faculty.  They are infinitely more prepared to do this well.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Snippets of Parenting Wisdom

I mention Gordon Neufeld more and more these days because I'm learning so much from him and his faculty at Neufeld Institute.  (I'm thankful for Todd Sarner pointing the way!)  While I've invested loads of time taking classes or watching long presentations on youtube etc., sometimes we just don't have that time.

(Here are favorite long presentations...)

Children and Anxiety

Raising Children in a Digital World

But I found a resource called Kids in the House that features many of his takes on particular topics.  Each topic is about 2 minutes in length so if you're curious about his stance on an array of topics, this site is an easy way.  (His book and courses are still number one.)

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.

Gentle Parenting: Part One

There are parenting trends that come in and out of fashion, and "attachment parenting" is a phrase often misunderstood (and is actually copyrighted).  It carries amazing weight, for good or for ill, depending on the perspective.  It's so much greater than ideas about baby wearing or nursing (even though strong response to an infants' needs definitely falls into supporting a person's development as understood by Attachment Theory.)  Sweetness and I were not all that granola in some of these practices, but we are largely informed by our children's great attachment needs as they grow and hopefully turn out whole, resilient and emergent!

Rather than so-called "traditionalists," we consider ourselves more influenced by developmental insights and the aforementioned Attachment Theory.  So if we are in a camp, it's the Gentle Parenting camp.  I thought I might explore a little of how we found a home here.

Like many of our friends and family, we didn't have much reason to stray.  We turned out alright, as the conventional logic goes.  We're both the safe first-borns, the cautious people-pleasers.  Neither one of us enjoys rocking the boat.  But, we have to answer Dr. Phil's question of "How's that working for you?" honestly with a "not so well" when considering behavior modification (aka punishment and rewards).  At least if we're going to be honest.

Alfie Kohn, LR Knost, Kim John Payne, Todd Sarner and Gordon Neufeld are great at pointing out the obvious about the notion of punishment/rewards.  Implicit in the system is a need to escalate the response/punishment to continue to control behavior.  It wounds on both ends. Even more stunning is that it simply doesn't work.

To look at the positive side in terms of carrots/rewards, one need only peruse the research so carefully presented in Dan Pink's work on motivation.  I don't know if I agree with him that our society has changed completely, but it's obvious that intrinsic rather than extrinsic motivation is what drives us.  Sticker charts and candy rewards do NOT bring about greater achievement.  With the egregious challenges we face today, the world especially needs curious and passionate problem solvers, not standardized yes-men.

Children don't utilize time outs to think about what they've done.  Punishments don't prepare them for the real world any more than throwing money in the trash would prepare us for paying bills.  Punishments might impact behavior temporarily, but they don't address the underlying needs expressed by the behavior and uncomfortable emotions.  (All behavior is some kind of communication.)  Shame/punishment drives them into hiding, and they reemerge in dangerous ways--more severe rebellions and conditions like addiction and depression.  Typical punishment wounds the relationship/connection in ways that outweigh any good sought in temporary compliance.  It uses their attachment needs (not wants, NEEDS) against them.

Story time.  Little E is melting down this evening.  It's not too hard to see why: it's her bedtime, and she's in an exciting environment (a Church dinner) after an active, social day (at the end of a full week).  She just enjoyed a carb-rich (red or white foods, right?) dinner and an ice cream dessert.  So I could stop there, and we could agree that her behavior isn't just something to shame her for and that there are influences to be sensitive to and to accept.  Limits are still super important for her development and for the preservation of societal norms :), but they also create huge emotional response.

You might envision me as I struggle to pick her up and gently get her buckled into her car seat, and you might observe how hard I'm trying to be gentle even though she is far from it.  You might wonder if I will ever find her flip flops.  And then you look into her eyes with me, alligator-tear stained and weary, as I say, "you are having such a hard time.  Are you okay?"  You might sense that soothing her rather than shaming or threatening her is the order of the day.  And later, you'd see her wrap those little arms so tight around my neck and lay her head down on my shoulder before her bath, knowing that she's safe and will soon be tucked in not just in soft covers but also in grace and understanding.

Trust me: it's worth taking the time to understand the "why" behind behaviors and to be empathetic even when you need to be firm.  No lecture or punishment would really change much behavior here.  No great epiphanies, no turning this beat around.  But a little empathy goes a long way in her long-term security.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Stained Glass Windows

We had fun making "Stained Glass Windows" (another Artful Parent idea).

 You might imagine that I made a lot of these, but Zoë did three or four. :)  Like this one:

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Art/Crafts so far this week

 The Artful Parent has wonderful ideas!  Here's one!
 We enjoy salt dough and whipped up some 4th of July stars and Summery flowers.  Along with paint, glitter is almost a necessity.

 The Artful Parent is also responsible for these magnet sticks.
 Along with hearts, we did whatever sorts of things you can imagine with red, white and blue beads.  A diadem, bracelets, crosses...