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The Power of Empathizing

As parents, we tend to feel uncomfortable with our childrens’ emotions when they’re not happy. We just want them to stop, stop crying, stop complaining, stop feeling unhappy. It’s a natural tendency but handling it by saying “Just stop.” or “Shake it off.” doesn’t actually help our children feel better, let alone stop. (Certainly there are times when a firm command is necessary, use your mama instinct, you know when that is).

Here are some examples:

Child gets a boo-boo, we can say: “Man! That hurts! That really hurts.”
Child gets hurt by sibling: “That hurts, you don’t want your brother to hit you, you want him to use words.”
Child accidentally breaks toy/rips paper coloring on: “You really love that toy, you don’t want it broken. That’s a special toy to you.” or “You worked so hard on that picture, you don’t like it getting ripped.”

In all of these situations your child will most likely still cry but the important thing is that you’ve:
1) acknowledged that he’s feeling something (pain. sadness, hurt, etc.)
2) helped him process it by naming the feeling

Eventually though, as your child hears these types of responses from you, he will begin to process his emotions better. Certainly, we need to give direction and correction in these situations but a child will not learn or listen if she’s unable to process her emotions. So start here and then offer the direction/correction, once you’ve helped your child articulate her feelings.

You’ve go this, mamas!

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Stop Telling Your Kids Things That Aren’t True


“Get your shoes on now, or I won’t take you to the store next time.”
“If you’re not going to play on the swing set then we won’t come back to the park anymore.”
“Come now or I’m leaving!”

We’ve all done it, made a threat that we had no intention of keeping but let’s stop. It may get a quick response but it’s not helpful in the long run.

When we communicate with our children by expressing how we feel about a given situation and we clearly articulate what we want, we set a powerful and healthy example.

Consider these:
“I am beginning to feel stressed that we will get home too late for naps. Please get your shoes on now so we can get to the store.”
“I don’t like coming to the park if you don’t want play on the swing set, so either play on the set or we will go home now and do something else.”
“Either come now or I will walk you by the hand to the car.” or “I feel frustrated when I need to repeat myself. Come now, it is time to go.”

We have so many every day opportunities to teach our children how to express their needs and desires. When we can demonstrate by naming our feelings we teach them the cornerstone for healthy communication: awareness.

So give it a shot, you’ve got this mamas!

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What everyday accidents can teach our children

 

I was in a rush the other night to get dishes done and things prepped for the morning so that I could get to some things I wanted to do. As I buzzed through the kitchen, making good progress I heard a water noise from the dining room. When I turned I saw that my kindergartner had accidentally spilled a large glass of water.

My very first thought was: “Really?! Now?” and then I said calmly: “Accidents happen, it’s ok.” Alan was calm and not upset by it all. Then I added: “Run, grab a towel from the hall towel hamper and wipe it up, please.” He ran off and came right back and cleaned it all up (thankfully it was water!)

First let me just say: that type of calm response was not something I always did. It took me years of practice to make that my default response to such situations.

Secondly, the thing I saw from this brief and peaceful interaction was that the message I gave was more than just: “Accidents happen” (which is certainly important to learn in life). What I realized in that moment when he ran off to get the towel was twofold:

  1. when we remove impatience and yelling from a difficult moment, a kid has a chance to learn something
  2. when an accident happens the child learns that he or she is responsible for the solution (in most cases) not mom

Had I lost my cool and yelled, then most likely, I would have stormed over and cleaned it up myself thereby communicating: “When you make a mess, just get away from it and I’ll just clean it up myself!”

(now there’s definitely a place for taking over the clean up, I’ve sent kids away from toilet play because that was just not an area I wanted them in!)

But because there was calm, there was space to think and respond constructively.

So next time a kid spills or breaks something try reminding him or her that accidents do happen and find a way for them to help make it better in whatever way they can.

Now, I’ll never love the daily spills or breaks, but this mindset about them does make them less awful…just slightly!

You’ve got this, mamas!

>>COMMENT BELOW and tell us, what accidents drive you crazy?<<

 

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FINAL POST If you’re going to do one thing, you can’t do another

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Dear mamas, ladies, friends,

Thank you for your support these past 5 months. It’s been an honor and a joy to share some things I’ve learned and I hope they’ve been of help to you.

After much soul-searching and reflection I have decided to end this chapter for now. Maybe I will be back soon or maybe in a decade or two, after things slow down a little.

As you know, we have a little handful of littles (ages 5, 4, and 1) and God-willing, we’ll be blessed with more. I’ve felt a tremendous pull in caring for them, our home, myself, and my marriage (even with a tremendously helpful and supportive husband). It’s no easy thing to try and balance it all, as you know! I recently had the insight that perhaps in this particular season, where littles make schedules unpredictable, interrupt conversations/tasks regularly, and need so much attention, I would be better able to tend to myself and my marriage if I would focus on the littles and the home during the day, so I could have more energy for self-care and quality conversations with my husband that weren’t punctuated by statements of exhaustion. I know that’s very “old-school” but I think maybe we mamas are better off simplifying and enjoying what we have in this season of growing a family, rather then in adding more and more on our plates.

If there’s one last lesson I’ve learned that I’d like to share, it’s this: Don’t wait for the foundation to crumble before you get help or change course. I am making this decision fully aware of the ways this has pulled on me and the costs involved, but I’m not drowning at all (and that has nothing to do with any great organization or super-powers).

We all know we can swim for a descent amount of time and even do a pretty good job at it,  but eventually we will grow tired. Don’t wait until you can’t see the shore anymore to turn around. Assess regularly and be willing to let go of something, even very good, so you can do what you are committed to do. It is in fulfilling our primary, and therefore, foundational obligations that we have the emotional, mental, spiritual, and even physical abilities to do more/other things when the time is right.

However first, we must get our core down. For me, right now, that means tending to my own personal care, making time throughout the week (not just one evening) to have quality time with my husband, being present to my children, having energy for them and managing my home well, making a beautiful home I enjoy being in.

You’ve got this, mamas!

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What I learned by taking the baby to work

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I took the baby to work briefly and learned something about how I talk to myself and the effect that has.

Our thoughts determine our lives.

Thought  lead to feelings

Feelings lead to words

Words lead to actions

Actions lead to results

If you don’t like something, start by changing your thoughts. It all starts in the mind.

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An easy (and free) way to process stress NOW

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We all have it.

Stress is just part of life. But we don’t have to be consumed by it. Listen for an easy way to process stress. You can do it now and it’s free!

  • Write down your “I feel” statement
  • Examples:
    • I feel stressed
    • I feel like the laundry will never get done
    • I feel tired
    • I feel tired of making dinner
  • Whatever, it is. Just write it down.
  • This actually makes your brain process the stress, instead of letting it run wild in your head. Naming it, gives it a place to go.

You’ve got this, mamas! You can do it!

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Weekend Edition: Why the path of least resistance is often good + how you can make mealtime a little better

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Just a two minute podcast where I discuss:

  • How, at certain times of day, taking the path of least resistance is better than attempting more
  • Expect a lot from your kids but know when to demand that. There are better times and bad times too!
  • Eat a little something–maybe a little cheese, a banana, your salad–something quick and easy shortly before you serve dinner to help abate your appetite as you inevitably get up repeatedly.

That’s all! Enjoy the weekend!

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What a push at the playground taught me

 

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Recently we had a back to school picnic at a park with a bunch of families and teachers. It was a great time and we really enjoyed meeting other parents and their kids.

Alan, age 5, made a b-line for the playground and was happy there for several minutes when he came back to me and said: “Mama, another kid pushed me, she wanted to go down the slide and we were waiting in line. She shouldn’t have pushed me.”

I tried to empathize, telling him that must have been hard and then advised: “When another kid pushes you, you can say: “Don’t push me. I don’t like that.” To which he replied: “But, mama, that could hurt her feelings.”

I was touched by is concern but also wanted to make sure he learned the importance of standing up for himself. I gently explained to him the importance of politely but firmly correcting and also when it’s time to get mom and dad for an issue.

My takeaway from this was to think a little more proactively about the different circumstances my kids will face as they start school (our school starts the day after Labor Day) as well as in other areas and to have them prepare for that.

Here’s a few areas I thought of for us where we could do some role play to help communication go more smoothly:

  • Baby George (almost 2) loves to get into their things. Rehearse with the older ones how to gently stop him and call mom for help
  • There’s a disagreement about a toy–who will get it. Practice working that out, having them practice saying: “May I have that when you’re done?”
  • Another kid pushes them at school, the park, or play date. Practice saying: “Don’t push me. It’s hurtful. Please use your words, not your hands.”
  • Mom says “No” to their request. Practice handling that in a respectful way. “I feel mad that you said “no”. I’m going to go to another room to calm down or find something else to do.”

This isn’t rocket science and it shouldn’t be complicated. Just try to take a moment here or there (you can be folding laundry or making dinner) and doing a quick rehearsal. Kids don’t have a very long attention span anyway so no need to try and carve out 10 minutes for this. Just weave it in occasionally throughout the week and you’ll notice that they’ll start to handle difficult emotions/situations better because they have practiced for them.

You know what to do. You’ve got this, mamas!

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The Game of Motherhood: Making Peace with the Process

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Had a blast interviewing Dwija Borobia from House Unseen. She is so fun! In this 30 minute interview you’ll hear about:

  • How to cultivate family work like a team and reduce the fight-back from kids
  • The importance of checking your intention and adjusting course as needed
  • Why you will get more easily annoyed if your parenting goal is to mitigate your own frustration
  • What to do with all the mess

Just loved doing this interview and had some great personal insight. Here are my top take-aways:

  • Be more aware of my individual children’s love language and accept that, figuring out ways to communicate that help each one of them.
  • Stop the mindset of thinking I have to get past the messiness so I can do something “bigger/more important”. THIS is the most important. THIS moment. THIS mess. THIS tantrum, etc, etc.
  • Doing better is mostly a mindset change, not as much an external/behavior change. In other words, I don’t NEED to DO more. I need to THINK better about what I’m already doing.
  • You can do the same thing and get the same results but if your intention is self-serving or fear-based, your relationship will suffer.

Listen and share with another mom. You’ll laugh as much as I did!

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Rules of the House: Why You Need a Few Known Rules to Keep Communication Strong

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On Wednesdays I like switch it up a little and either share a piece I’ve recently read or an interview. Today’s piece comes from Dr. Ray Guarendi who’s one of my favorite “shrink types” as he just assumes you as the parent know what you’re doing. In his book: Discipline That Lasts a Lifetime, he has this to say to a reader who is having difficulty agreeing with his spouse on discipline:

“No two parents will ever raise a child identically. No two personalities (and hence factors such as reactivity, tolerance level, and consistency) are the same. Further, parenting involves on-the-spot judgement as well as an overall philosophy. It is far too encompassing for complete accord. […] A more immediate path to reduced disciplinary discord is through house rules. These are simple expectations backed by simple consequences. For maximum success, a house rule needs several features.

First, and foremost, parents must agree on it.[…]

Second, a house rule involves a recurrent (weekly, daily, hourly, minutely) trouble spot: back talk, sibling quibbling, chore shirking, temper tempests. It is best used for the most irritating stuff.

Third, house rules are automatic. They result when the rule is broken, without nagging. […]

Finally, try to keep your rules to a manageable number. […]

“House rules provide the common ground upon which you and your spouse can stand. With agreed-upon consequences in place, neither of you has to judge what to do each and every time the kids act up. Besides making expectations more clear for the kids, rules make discipline less open-ended for parents.”

Here are a few house rules that what work for us right now though I know this will change regularly as they grow.

Disrespectful tone: Child has to repeat request/question with respectful tone. He/she refuses or uses tone again then goes straight to room.

Hitting another sibling or parent: Child goes straight to room. “When you have been in there for X minutes and/or have calmed yourself down, I will show you how to make your request without hitting.” After time-out is served and child has calmed down, he/she apologizes before re-joining play/activity.

Screaming: fold a basket of laundry. I usually give them a hand as this can be a little overwhelming still for them at their age but after one basket, they watch their screaming a lot more closely.

That’s just a few we’ve been pretty consistent with recently. I need to write these down so I remember to use the same thing regularly so they remember the consequence better.

Question: What are some of your house rules?

Challenge: Choose one offence to make a house rule for and write it down and put it somewhere visible.

If you found this helpful, please share with another mom.