Archive for February 2011

Big lessons from little ones

February 28, 2011

slowing down, conscious parenting, savoring the moment, appreciating everything that children can teach us, living in the moment can all be learned from children. Children can be wise teachers. Carl Honore wrote about about being in the moment because of what his son taught him about bedtime routines and bedtime stories. Slowing down is an important lesson of parenting. Having patience is one of the most important things a parent can learn from their children. Parenting is about patience, love and forgiveness.Welcoming my firstborn into my world when I was 22 years old changed the course of my life and taught me more about life and love than I ever imagined.

Casey Anne and her three siblings put every human excrement imaginable on my narcissism and flushed it all down the toilet. She forced me to think about someone else besides me, and to put me second. Ironically, that became a habit. A decade later, I had to resurrect my needs from the toilet and take better care of me.

My children taught me how to be interrupted and still get something done — in addition to taking care of them. The hardest jobs are when you’re constantly interrupted — like secretaries, teachers, nurses and mothers.

Bob and I bought a house that had been neglected when the children were 4, 2 and 6 months old. The 35 windows were so gray with dirt that you couldn’t tell the weather outside. Every day for a month, I plopped them in front of Sesame Street and washed three windows until chaos erupted and I surrendered — another lesson from three children born in three-and-a-half years.

The most valuable lesson was patience, to slow down to their pace, to revel in the present moment. To appreciate humongous earth movers and construction sites; wild animals like squirrels, ants and robins; the wonder of a train station or airport.

Bob and I spent more than a decade giving the kids a nightly bath, reading a book, singing a song and tucking them in. It was like a meditation, and it worked, because they stayed in bed and went to sleep early. It bonded us for life.

In a lecture on Ted Talks,  journalist Carl Honore said that reading a bedtime story to his son taught him to slow down his hectic life. It inspired Honore to write a book “In Praise of Slowness,” a valuable lesson to most 21st century Americans.

Now in their 20s, my “children” continue to teach me different lessons about relationships, technology and  life. They’ve returned the favor — I was their most important teacher because humans learn more in the first four years than they do for the rest of their lives.

When my children were little, they patiently allowed me to make the same mistake, over and over, until I figured out to do something different. Nowadays, they could have more patience now with their ol’ Mom, but they haven’t had any children to teach them — yet.

What have your children taught you?

The kids go back to school Monday!

February 24, 2011

Dealing with stress, Part 2

For those of us in New England, the February vacation is almost over!

To get through the next three days and survive the stress of vacation [yes, vacations are stressful times!  here are a few suggestions.

1.Get outside with the kids. Sunshine, fresh air and trees are marvelous stress-relievers. It can be as simple as taking a walk in the woods, using some of that snow for entertainment, or walking in a city together.

2. Get a change of scenery. Get a library pass for a museum — any museum will do. Visit a train station and watch the trains come & go. Ride a public bus or subway. That’s an adventure for the kids. There’s always my favorite place — the library.

3. Get together with another family for a pot luck, games, and to play your musical instruments for each other. Great fun.

4. Trade child care with a friend so you can get out alone or with your spouse for some child-free time. Marriages that ignored will eventually crumble, like a building that is neglected falls into disrepair and become uninhabitable. Cultivate cheap thrills, like the suggestions in number one. Get out the x-country skis and snow shoes. Track animals in the woods. Trade sleepovers with another family so you can have the house together alone.

5. Cook something adventuresome that you normally don’t cook. Don’t worry about the mess.

Remember, this too, shall pass. They will grow up faster than you can believe.

Good parenting is sustainable and worth effort. Back to school is three days away!

How to deal with stress, part 1.

February 22, 2011

Some desperate evil person hacked my Gmail email and Facebook accounts yesterday. They  deleted all the data and closed both accounts.  ArGHHhhh($!@*$#%!

Despondent, I walked away from the computer and went cross-country skiing, the reverse route I usually take through the woods. I grunted going uphill. My dog came with me  — ever faithful, grounded in the present moment. I broke a sweat. I enjoyed the beauty of the woods, the snow and my good health to be able to ski.

Exercising and going into the woods are like happy drugs. I feel better. I have some perspective. I came up with some solutions for how to deal with the problem. I realized I had some redundancies in my data, and I need better systems to back up my contacts.

When children stress us out, taking a reverse time out is like a happy drug. It’s emotionally, mentally and physically intense to be a parent. If you’re doing it 24/7, the intensity is doubly intense.

Take regular breaks. Take a few hours off a week for “me time.” Set aside regular “date nights” to keep the marriage going — the most important investment in your family.

Get exercise. Get your tots-to-teens to elevate their heart rates and break a sweat. Everyone will feel better and gain perspective. Research has shown that being with nature and exercise relieve stress and ease depression.

While I’m missing quite a bit of data, I still have my health and many people who care have contacted me today. Many are willing to give me the money if I really were stranded in London. What more could I ask for?

March towards more encouragement, less yelling

February 21, 2011

How do you learn a new habit?

1. Be aware that you want to change. Otherwise nothing happens.

2. Prepare to change. This phase can take a while. It’s call the pre-behavior change phase. Very clever name.

3. Set a time/date to start the change. 

4. Get help from others. Join a support group. Call someone every day to check in. Get online support. It’s more fun and you learn more with others.

5. Make a commitment to the new habit for three weeks. It takes at least three weeks to establish a new habit and three months for it to really sink in.

The only way I have ever learned new behavior and shed old habits is by this five-step process. Change takes an investment of time and energy. It’s often challenging. The more challenging it is to change, the more rewarding the end result will be.

Our marriage, children and family are the BEST investment we will ever make. Parenting is THE most important job most of us will ever do in our lifetimes, with the longest lasting consequences.

You can gain new habits in an online Raising Able Positive Parenting Plan workshop I’m offering March 2-April 13. We start with a teleconference at 8 pm EST on March 2, followed by six online workshop sessions, and end with a teleconference April 18 at 8 pm. Attending the teleconferences is optional. They will be recorded.

Online workshops operate the same as live workshops except they’re asynchronous — log in at your convenience. Each week, participants will be expected to:

  • Read about new habits,
  • Complete a family laboratory activity, and
  • Discuss the results on the discussion board.

The course is asynchronous — never in real time, always at your convenience online. 

Use March to march towards more encouragement, family meetings/dinner/chores, and natural and logical consequences, and — give up the yelling, threats, praise/reward/punishment, hitting, time outs, bribery and manipulation.

Your family atmosphere will improve. You will feel better with new habits, skills and a positive parenting plan. Sign up today here.

The benefits of a plan, structure and habits

February 14, 2011

Max, 7,  is on an IEP – special ed plan – at school and takes Ritalin. He is the epitome of a difficult child.

Since receiving coaching from me, Max’s mother reports, “We no longer have to use therapeutic holds.” We have worked together to provide a plan, structure and habits that give Max and his siblings clear expectations and related, reasonable and respectful measures when they make bad choices.

The Raising Able approach aligns with advice offered by Edward Hallowell, Ph.D. in his many outstanding books on ADD. Hallowell offers these suggestions on how to set up systems for children with ADD. Many of his suggestions come from the Raising Able playbook.

1. Make a plan, set up structures and develop habits [p. 65, “Delivered from Distraction” by Hallowell]. Start with family meetings and involve the children, tweens and teens with setting up the plan, structure and habits.

I am not a fan of charts, rewards, punishment and praise because they are difficult to maintain and set up outside  motivation. The goal is for youngsters start make better decisions and be self-motivated, versus being motivated by money and rewards. The former is harder, takes longer and lasts longer.

2. Provide immediate and related consequences. For example, when a child misbehaves at a restaurant, instead of threatening, “No Nintendo for a week unless you stop now,” say, “Either stop that now or we leave now.” Then follow through, without anger. Act, don’t yak [Sam Goldstein]. Prior to coaching, Max’s mother couldn’t take her family out in public.

Use family meetings to set up related, respectful and reasonable outcomes [Jane Nelsen, Ph.D.]. Consequences based on punishment and reward are doomed to fail.

3.  Exercise. [page 219 “Delivered from Distraction.”] Regular exercise for people of all ages has myriad mental and physical benefits. Families can have fun while exercising.

Our family fun ranged from the simple — playing SPUD in the yard after a family meeting to day-long excursions canoeing, skiing and going to the beach. The great outdoors provides a plethora of fun free activities. An additional bonus to exercising together is family bonding.

As you, can see, plans, structures and habits will benefit typical families and those where ADD is a factor. Learn more at two workshops this week I’m offering on Tuesday, Feb. 15 at Roudenbush Community Center in Westford, Mass and Thursday, Feb. 17 at Concord-Carlisle Community Education. Both start at 7 pm.

Encouragement is the fuel that powers children, tweens & teens

February 10, 2011

“A misbehaving child is a discouraged child,” and “A child needs encouragement like a plant needs water,” according to Rudolf Dreikurs, MD, an Austrian physician and child-whisperer.

When yelling, punishment and bullying my children failed, I started to read Dreikurs’ book, “Children, the Challenge,” published in 1960 with Vicki Soltz, RN.

It took months, even years, for me to experience how encouragement led to improved behavior and a more positive mother-child relationship.

Encouragement is preventative maintenance that is different from praise. Encouragement is like an apple; praise is like candy.

Apples — good for you, not too sweet, versatile, store well, natural, un-processed.

Candy — not so good for you, so sweet you can get a headache, a treat, gets stale, processed and usually laden with high fructose corn syrup and artificial preservatives and colorings.

A little praise every once in a while is okay. Daily overdoses of praise will give a child a headache, set up unrealistic expectations and teach her to perform for parents.

“Molly, I’m so proud of you for getting an A on that test!” Oh yeah, here’s another problem with praise. It can only be given after success. Encouragement is so potent that it can be given after failure.

“Alicia, You must be disappointed you didn’t make the travel soccer team. Do you want to sign up for a soccer camp or try another sport? You can also play town soccer.”

“Brian, these lemon squares are good. It doesn’t matter that you combined the topping and the crust. It’s hard to hurt homemade food. Can I have another one?”

“Alexa, you put away half of that mess you left in the family room. Good start. Do you need some help with the rest?”

Can you see that encouragement is specific and focused on the deed, not the doer. Praise is general and high-energy. Encouragement is low-key.

Some of my coaching clients report that their children cannot tolerate praise. They feel uncomfortable and mis-behave within 10 minutes after a sticky-sweet praise-ful overkill: “I’m so proud of you for finishing your homework before dinner.” Children and especially teens, don’t like to be seen as too good.

Children with ADD and ADHD can especially benefit from regular doses of encouragement, especially because encouragement acknowledges effort. Children with ADD/ADHD can also suffer from low self-esteem as a side-effect of their disorder.

Encouragement is a solid sustainable way to nurture a child’s self-esteem and promote the behavior you want to see in a youngster. It takes time and effort to learn and use. See my tip sheet on it.

I’ll be giving two workshops on Encouragement and ADD/ADHD Youngsters next week. Tuesday Feb. 15 at Roudenbush Community Center in Westford, Mass. and Thursday, Feb. 17 in Concord-Carlisle Adult Education. Both start at 7 pm and are in the Boston, Mass. area.

The how and why of encouragement is worth reviewing regularly and practicing daily. Hope to see you at a workshop.

By the way, “thank you” is a powerful form of encouragement. Just witnessing children is encouragement. Encouragement is just as potent when used on adults and in the workplace. It’s very versatile.

Parenting is all about relationship

February 7, 2011
Relationship, parenting about, teens, tweens, kids, children, preschoolers, toddlers, positive discipline make a huge difference in parenting. The way to have a happy relationship on vacation and at home is by mutual respect, family meetings, encouragement, and natural and logicla consequences.

It's had to capture the beauty of St. John Virgin Islands. This is our group hiking up Ram's Head.

My life changed drastically when I had three children in three-and-a-half years. Their needs overtook everything. I started on the steep path of learning how to set limits and establish a relationship with them — for life.

It has been the biggest challenge of my life  — that started out badly. I bullied them with  my superior size,  strength and anger. Yes, anger. Parenting brings out extreme emotions — from unconditional love to frustration and despair. The challenge is how to manage our own emotions and to learn positive ways to influence kids’ and teenagers’ behavior.

I’ve just returned from a week in St. John Virgin Islands [WOW!] with my husband and 13  fellow Sierra Club members. Our happiness depended on mutual respect and a sense of humor. From the start, the leader encouraged us to give her feedback about how the trip was going.  We had a great time hiking, kayaking, snorkeling, eating, and sharing our common love of nature. Mutual respect, communication, laughter and common interests made the week a smashing success.

Are the lines of communication open in your home? What activities and passions do your family share? Do you set aside time to regularly cook, eat, meet, play and work together? Do you know your priorities?

Is your relationship with your kids, tweens and teens based on 

  1. mutual respect, encouragement and open communication or 

  3. manipulation, bribery, praise, punishment and reward?

 If you influence your children’s behavior by number 2, vacations and daily life may be rife with strife. Your children may be focused on revenge, rebellion and resentment.

 It takes time, energy and attention to learn positive parenting skills. It’s much faster to manipulate, bribe, praise, punish and reward kids, and create a relationship doomed to fail.

Start this week with a family meeting (see free tip sheet and my book, Raising Able), which brings together every aspect of positive parenting and setting up a healthy relationship with your children for life — a critical investment.