All posts in “Communication”

How to De-stress Dinner Time and Tame Wild Eaters

(This blog was featured in Elephant Journal!  Click here to see the published version!)

Getting a child to eat can feel like playing tug of war.  Kids go through waves of being good eaters who munch down everything on their plates to barely touching foods that at one point were there favorites.  For many parents this can bring up fears and concerns about kids getting the appropriate amount of nutrition for healthy development.

Over the years I have seen how this type of motivating fear can lead parents to some not so helpful solutions.  In order to dissolve these fears and shed some light on this issue we are going to take a closer look at two opposing solutions.

For our first example we will take a look at what I like to call, “The Drive by Spooning”, where mom follows the kids around spoon in hand, shoving food in their mouths at every chance they get.  This approach ties into the fear that kids will starve and not get the proper nutrition needed for healthy development or that they will wake up in the middle of night as hungry little monsters crying out for food.

I highly recommend staying away from using this tactic as it has many downfalls and here’s why…

Kids need to learn healthy eating habits at an early age.  They are looking to their parents to guide them in the development of these habits but when a spoon is always flying around kids are not learning any boundaries around HOW to eat.  Let’s take a second to dive deeper here, healthy eating habits are not just about eating your fruits and veggies but about what I refer to as, “The How’s of Healthy Eating.”  Which are as follows:

1.  Eat meals around the same time each day

2.  Sit down to eat

2.  Eat slowly

3.  Chew thoroughly

4. Listen to when your body is full

5. Minimize snacking

6. Only eat when hungry

All too often it seems that kids are never truly hungry because they are snacking all day long.  kids need to understand what it feels like to be hungry.  Aside from all of it’s negative connotations, feeling hungry is NOT a bad thing. Our digestive systems needs to rest in between meals in order to function properly. The unfortunate truth is that with our snack obsessed society kids generally eat because things taste good not because they are actually hungry.  If you find that your little one won’t sit and eat when it’s time to, take a closer look at how much they are snacking.

Healthy eating habits need to be established at an early age because they are a good predictor of how kids will eat when they are older, possibly warding off potential eating disorders. Eating habits also affect cognitive functioning and obesity rates.  So, the next time the urge to pull a “drive by spooning” comes up remind yourself of the How’s of Healthy Eating and why they are SO important.

The next approach we’ll look at is the Stop, Start Timed Approach.  Here’s how it works, a timer is set for an hour and a half, the child has been primed to understand that if they get up they cannot eat, eating is done at the table. There is no walking around with food.  The child can get up from the table but is always encouraged to come back, because if the timer goes off, dinner is over and the food goes away.  During meal time family members share events of the day and enjoy quality conversations. (For more info on how to engage your family in quality conversation click here)

Now, at first look this may feel a bit too rigid but I for one am a big supporter of this strategy and here’s why…

For many families mealtime equals stress, the wild streak comes out.  Kids won’t listen or sit down and only eat a few bites of food.   The Stop, Start Timed Approach is a mindful approach that takes the stress out of mealtime.  Children know what the boundaries  are because the parent has outlined the expectations beforehand.  The How’s of Healthy Eating are built into this process and over time it becomes routine.

With the Stop, Start Timed Approach your little one is the ultimate decision maker on whether or not they eat.  This approach helps foster independence and also teaches good decision making skills.  If they go to bed hungry because of a bad choice one evening, I can almost guarantee you will see them sitting and eating at the table the next.

Now if you’re reading this and thinking this approach is simply too cut and dry or feeling that parental guilt well up in the pit of your stomach then here’s a small caveat to the process.  If the timer goes off and your little one complains that they are hungry give them two options, a fruit or vegetable, but stick to the rule that dinner is over.  Take baby steps and do what feels comfortable for you but make sure to be consistent in your actions and before you know it your wild eaters will be tamed and your mealtime will be STRESS-FREE!

Have any helpful suggestions to add?  Leave your comment below!

 

Chit-Chat- How the simple act of talking is highly underrated in parenting

(This article was featured in Elephant Journal!  Click here to read the published version!

Call it whatever you like; speak, chat, converse, babble, blather, yak or gab, the act of simply talking to our kids is highly underrated.  Especially, when we are around young children who haven’t developed language skills yet.

If you are a parent of a child anywhere from age 1-3 then you’ve probably dealt with the raggedy Anne doll body flop, as well as the world has come to an end, all out crying fit on at least a semi-regular basis.

Now, take a moment and imagine a day where there are no melt downs or tantrums, only smooth transitions from one activity to the next, along with rainbows butterfly’s and maybe even a unicorn! Well, that might be pushing it but it truly is possible to have breakdown free days.

Over my 10 years of nannying I discovered that the simple act of talking, chatting and gabbing away plays a big part in allowing transitions to run smoothly.  The more I talked the less resistance I got.

I’ve shared this simple secret with many parents and clients. The effortless nature of this technique makes parents watch in amazement as they see the magic of simply talking more unfold into calm, easy-going kids.

It works like this…

1.  Outline the happenings of the day.  “Bobby, after breakfast we are going to take your brother to school and then go to the museum…etc”

2.  Engage by asking questions“Bobby what are we going to do after breakfast?”

3.  Repeat, repeat, repeat!

So, how does this help?  Why does it work?

Well, when we actively engage our kiddos in conversations such as this, we are first calming their anxiety about what is happening throughout the day.  Think about it, a lot of things they experience throughout the day are completely new to them.  As adults, if someone took us to a place we were unfamiliar with and didn’t tell us where we were going or what we were doing we would probably get all raggedy Anne doll on them as well.

Engaging them in conversation by asking questions gets their little brains working.  It’s a great activity in using their memory as well as building sequencing skills.

By repeating this process throughout the day it helps the daily routine really sink in.  They begin to anticipate what is coming next, things become less abrupt and they ease into the flow of the day.

Overall, this process builds trust and allows our little ones to feel as if they are truly a part of things. Instead of feeling like everything around them is happening to them, they begin to feel their self-worth and see their value in this world.

Big picture, this creates a healthy foundation of open communication and strong family bonds for years to come.

Helpful Tip:

If there is a part of the day that is especially difficult for your little one, like leaving the park or getting into the car try using the 3 steps above on full blast beforehand.  See what happens…Who knows you might get that unicorn after-all! Or at least a tantrum free day and that’s pretty darn good in my book.

How did this technique work for you?  Unicorn or no unicorn share your experiences below!

 

How to Diffuse a Power Struggle AND Gain Back Control

Every parent has experienced it… Those extremely frustrating POWER STRUGGLES that ultimately leave you feeling dis-empowered and defeated.  These struggles happen at home and in public (extra frustrating) and are often over things like putting on shoes, leaving a public place, getting in the car seat or sitting on the potty to name a few!  As adults it is easy to feel like these are small “things”, but we need to keep in mind that to our little ones these are BIG things.

When these power struggles become a part of your daily routine it can feel as if your parental confidence is in the gutter and you feel you have no choice but to just give in.  Well, I’d think twice before taking this approach…

Power struggles change from small “things” to  much bigger “things” as kids get older.  An overall lack of listening and being respectful will begin to build and pretty soon you will be struggling with a bigger more argumentative child.  So it is VERY important to get these struggles under control while your little’s are still little.

So. how can you regain control and diffuse these situations??

When your little’s are still little – 

1.  When tantrums ensue:  Power struggles and tantrums ensue because things happen too abruptly.  So give a warning about what is happening next…”We are leaving the park in 5 minutes”.

2.  When transitions are tough:  Talk, talk, talk…I can’t say this enough. It is easy to just rush through your routine with your little one but this can cause anxiety for them.   Think about it everything is NEW to them.  How would you feel if someone carted you around all day to unfamiliar places, never telling you what was happening next?

Even though your little one may not be talking yet they are still listening and absorbing EVERYTHING around them. Talk about what your schedule is for the day, starting the night before…

“Tomorrow Ashley is going to school and daddy is going to work.  We are going to have breakfast, take her to school and then we are going to gymnastics, then lunch and after nap we are going to the doctor.”  Then continue to talk about it through at the day, “now we are…and then…”.  Try this for a week and see how the power struggles and tantrums start to disappear.

3. When there is no letting go:  Say “goodbye” to inanimate objects.  Say “goodbye” to the ball, say “goodbye” to the puppy dog, whatever it is this approach allows your child to process letting go of said “thing” and therefore diffuses a power struggle of letting go.

4.  When independence takes over:  Around 3 years old little ones begin to want to do things on their own.  You want them to be independent but this sets the ground for lots of power struggles. Being the mindful, intelligent parent that you are, you allow them feel as if they have the power to choose but ultimately you know you are in control.

For example:  Your little one doesn’t want to wear a shirt. You WANT your little one to wear a shirt.  You allow him to choose between two shirts.  You ask him a few times to pick one but he refuses.  So you pull out the, “I’m going to count 3 and then you pick”.

Now, this can play out one of two ways…you count to 3 and he doesn’t choose and the struggle goes on and on OR when  you get to 3, you say, “ok, pick a shirt or I’m going to pick for you.”  And that is that!  He may be upset for a minute but now you have put a boundary in place that he will remember.  “I better choose or mommy will choose for me.”

When your little’s are not so little – 

1.  When power struggles become a teaching moment: Look at power struggles as your opportunity as a parent to provide guidance.  Remain calm and confident.

2.  When your child tries to argue or yell:  Always take the higher road and do not engage in arguing but instead diffuse the situation by saying something like, “I’m not going to argue about this, I’ve asked you to do it already and I trust that you will.”

3.  When you want your child to do something right away:   Coming across as a drill sergeant will get you nowhere.   Stop, take a breath and tune into their world for a minute.  We all know how irritating it can be to have to stop something we are really involved in to do something else.  Give em a break once in a while….

4. When your child is acting out:  Try and dig deeper,  if your child is normally a good listener see what the underlying issue is that may be causing this behavior.  Did something happen at school?  How are they feeling?

5.  When nothing is working:  Try and re-think your approach.  What works for one child may not work for another.  Depending on temperament and what type of learner your child is you may need to switch things up.

At any age – 

Treat them with the same loving kindness you expect from them.  Use these times of struggle to center yourself, be mindful of your actions and re-connect with your kids.  You will begin to find that you are now experiencing more peace and balance instead of struggle.

Please share your experiences with diffusing a power struggle below!  Any tips to add?

How To Occasionally Forget You Have Kids and Why it’s So Important

I recently read a really smart article titled The Day We Forgot We Were Parents.  In this article a couple finds themselves at home alone for the first time in a LOOONG time.  They go about their day unplanned, being spontaneous in everything they do.  They find joy in the little things like, the quietness they experience at home, driving in their minivan without kids, eating at their favorite brunch spot that the kids don’t like, being able to casually window shop and connecting over uninterrupted conversation.

The reason I called this article SMART is because the author pointed out two important things that ALL parents should pay attention to in order to keep a happy, healthy relationship.  The first one is this idea of “parent-itis, the tendency for all things kids to consume us”.

Parent-itis can happen quickly.  It starts in infancy, when all things baby consume you both.  Lack of sleep, over-exhaustion, tending to all those diaperings and feedings take over.   Once you’ve made it through this stage it’s time to MAKE time for your relationship. Just as you need to care for yourself and practice self-love (more on that topic here) you need to recharge your relationship.

Before we move on I’m going to have to call out the mom’s here…in my experience over the years I have seen what I like to call, The Mommy Monster never move beyond this “totally consumed” stage.  It seems the maternal instinct kicks in and there is no longer room for their husband in the picture.  They become completely wrapped up with their kids and dad is left to fend for himself.  Often times his opinion or way of doing things is not welcomed.  I have even witnessed the dad being scorned as if he were one of the kids.

Leave room for your partner and your relationship and your whole family will be much happier including yourself! Imagine what it will feel like to have help and not bear the brunt of raising children.  Be thankful you have a partner in parenting and show them that they are appreciated.  Here is a great example of what being a Mommy Monster is like.

Now onto the 2nd important point. You are a UNIQUE person outside of being a mommy or daddy.  It is easy to get lost in the parenting role so much so that you can forget who you are outside of that.

Well guess what?  Your partner, spouse, significant other or whatever you call them,  did not fall in love with you as a mom or a dad they fell in love with you as a person.  You both need to connect with who you are outside of playing the mommy and daddy role.  When you do this you recharge yourself and your relationship and the snowball of good side-effect starts rolling.  Just as the author wrote after her day date, she felt, “more chill” about everything.

Let’s take a look at how you can bring more of that “chill’ into your life.

How to Occasionally Forget You Have Kids:

1.  Have a day date as often as possible just as the couple in the article did.  Remember there’s no talk about the kids allowed!   Try and be spontaneous in what you do and enjoy the small things.

2.  Connect with yourself and each other outside of the parent role.  Do things you did when you didn’t have children, let loose, have fun and CHILL OUT! Heck, while you’re at it let your little one’s see the real you and show them what makes YOU unique. Often times parents get so wrapped up in rules and routine they forget to have fun.

3.  Make time to have uninterrupted conversation.  Talking right before bed doesn’t count…this should be an extended period of time where the conversation is not being rushed because one of the kids needs something.  Having quality conversation with each other is vital in keeping a strong foundation through the years.

4. Have a special SECRET place.   Maybe you sneak into the tree house or into the closet for some alone time.  Whatever that may be:)  This will add some excitement back into your relationship and remind you both of a time when it was just the two of you.  So throw up your No Kids Allowed sign and have some fun.

Any other ideas?  Share your suggestions below!

 

photo credit: <a href=”https://www.flickr.com/photos/eyermonkey/2842941601/”>Auzigog</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/”>cc</a>

 

 

Innocence- Baby resting

5 Ways to Cultivate a Positive Self-image

Before we jump right into our children’s psyches, let’s run through a little psychology lesson so we can make sure we are all on the same page. After all, this psychology stuff can be confusing!

First off the subconscious/unconscious mind is a part of our consciousness that we are not consciously aware of.  It’s kind of like a broken record playing in the background of our heads, that repeats classics like, “you are not lovable,” “you are not valuable,” “you can’t do that,” “you aren’t pretty enough, smart enough, thin enough or good enough.”

Wow! That song could go on forever!

Now, this is not to say that our subconscious only supplies us with this negative way of thinking. It does many other awesome things like, helping us remember our phone number or where we live without having to consciously think about it but for the purpose of this post we are going to focus on where we get these negative thoughts and beliefs from.

We gain these subconscious thoughts from experiences we have in our lives.

These negative beliefs are solidified in childhood because as a child the conscious part of the mind, which includes critical thinking, reasoning, abstract thought and logic has not yet fully developed.  Which is why children believe in Santa Clause and the Tooth Fairy as much as they will believe they are a “bad kid,” if that’s what they are told.

Once a child’s brain develops more, they will be able to use their advanced thinking skills to determine that Santa Clause is not real but unlike Santa Clause “bad kids” are real and that label may stick in their subconscious mind for a long time.  Until…hopefully, like most of us they hit 30 and realize that these thoughts have been playing in the background of their mind their whole life, ultimately holding them back from fully acknowledging the many gifts they have to share with the world.

Of course these negative messages don’t necessarily come from parents. They come from experiences with friends at a young age or interactions with other adults. These rotten seeds of negative thought and self-talk are planted in childhood and then strengthened as we grow up through experiences with friends, our intimate relationships, our work environments and so on…

By building self-esteem and cultivating a positive self-image we can give our little seedlings strong, supportive roots to blossom into healthy, happy adults.

Top 5 tips for a positive self-image:

1.  Be mindful! Fully embrace the impact words and actions have. Think about how every experience and interaction children have is literally laying the blueprint for their beliefs about them self and the world around them.

2.  Highlight positive qualities often.  It’s easy to get stuck on the negative, especially when there are some negative behavior patterns but when we shift the focus to positive attributes kids want to live up to those behaviors even more.  This directly relates to the self-fulfilling prophecy theory.  Which states that there is a direct link between belief and behavior.  So, when we expect a child to act badly he will and conversely we will get same result when good behavior is expected.

3.  Create positive affirmations that to say together, before bed. Here’s an example mantra, “I am loved, I am safe, I am special, I am happy, I am grateful”.   Added bonus! Saying positive affirmations daily can help you add some self-love into your daily routine too.  Get creative and find what resonates with your family and it will become part of your nightly routine. Want more ideas for mantras?  Click here for a list of 100 positive affirmations.

4.  Either at dinner or before bed try sharing at least 5 things each family members is grateful for. People who practice gratitude have been shown to be more loving, forgiving, feel a greater sense of self-worth and are more hopeful about the future.  Who doesn’t want that?! For more info on the benefits of practicing gratitude check out this excellent article by Dr. Kristina Hibbert.

5.  When a child has negative experiences with friends or others it’s important to talk to them about these situations in a way that builds them back up.  Explain to them that it is sad when others make us feel bad but that it does not change how special or how loved they are.

The “big picture” goal is to stop those negative messages from being added to their internal playlist. We want to make the songs playing in the background of their minds as positive and uplifting as possible.

“There are two lasting bequests we can give our children. One is roots. The other is wings.” ~Hodding Carter, Jr.

Have any tips to add ? Please share your thoughts!

 

Setting Boundaries – 10 Ways to Create Peace at Home

Setting boundaries is one of the key elements in having a peaceful home.  The earlier you start setting those boundaries the better.

In the beginning your baby’s needs, (i.e. when they are hungry, tired or need a diaper change), determine your schedule and every second of your life.  Slowly moving toward a feeding/napping routine for your child can be the start of setting these boundaries.  By being consistent in your actions and setting limits, you can begin to shape your child’s expectations and understanding of how you will interact with them.

Think about the behaviors you are reinforcing, are they positive or negative? (Want even more info on positive reinforcement?  check out, The Power of Positive Reinforcement.)

Are you reinforcing undesirable behavior?

A good example of this pattern, that I often see with  coaching clients, is the challenge of getting a child to sleep through the night.  There is no doubt that this can be a painful, tiring process. Any parent that hears his or her child crying wants to soothe their baby. The trick is to do this in a way that doesn’t result in creating expectations for your child that are dependent on actions you do not want to continue to carry out – like missing sleep!

Consistently going into the room and giving your child a bottle, picking them up or rocking them back to sleep, (of course depending on age) creates a strong expectation for your child that when they cry you will come and fulfill their needs. Action (child crying) + reaction (parent fulfilling need) = reward (reinforcement of behavior).

It’s so important to teach your little one how to self soothe. This is the building blocks for a child to grow into a self-sufficient, respectful, caring individual with a strong sense of emotional awareness.

Setting boundaries is truly providing bumper pads for your child’s entire life. Often, parents feel it’s easier to just give in at the moment than deal with the crying o whining. Try and remember the bigger picture. Think about what kind of teenager you are creating. Encourage them to use their words to communicate their needs.

The key to setting boundaries

The key to setting boundaries is to stop being reactive in the moment and to start being mindful of how you are speaking. It’s important to be first be calm then be firm and direct. No drill sergeant’s allowed. Be authoritative in your parenting, listen to your children and allow for discussion. Be consistent and fair in your actions while placing limitsconsequences and expectations on their behavior.

In doing this your children will intrinsically understand where the boundaries are and there will no longer be a  constant battle to be in control of your own home.  Once again you will be able to breathe, finding overall, you have more meaningful interactions with each other.

Harmonious Households Top 10 Tips for setting boundaries:

1.  Work with your spouse/significant other as a united front.

2.  Stop and take a breath before reacting. Be mindful of your response.

3.  Come down to your child’s level (literally).

4.  Be consistent; don’t be a pushover.

5.  Be firm and direct, not angry or emotional.

6.  Starting in toddlerhood offer choices, For example, “You can put on your shoes, or I’ll put them on for you, you choose”.

7.  Put a time limit on things. Counting to 3 works like a charm!

8.  Allow for discussion as your children get older, don’t act as if, “It’s my way or the highway.”

9.  Remember that children may push boundaries but that they thrive in an environment that has boundaries.

10.  Most importantly, remind yourself that your little one’s will not hate you because you set boundaries.  Let go of that guilt!

NOT setting boundaries causes more harm than setting them.

What tips have I left out?  Please comment below to add yours to the list!

– If setting boundaries is something you are new to as a parent, coaching can be very helpful.  Often as parents it can be difficult to get out of old patterns and implement changes.  That’s where coaching comes in! If you feel stuck in a parenting rut, check out the About Family Coaching page for more details.

 

Jump Aboard the Health Food Train

Feeding your little monsters can be extremely frustrating especially when you have picky eaters who only want to eat unhealthy carb-filled snacks and meals. You may often times find yourself wanting to implement a healthier diet but fighting that battle seems tougher than winning it.  As a whole our society has been brainwashed by the food industry into thinking that foods are healthy that are not.

Of course we would assume that products that display packaging saying “low-fat”, “no-sugar”, “all-natural”, are good for not only ourselves to be ingesting but great for kids.  Well truth is that hidden behind many of these labels are the most unhealthy ingredients of all.

Don’t get me wrong, I used to be a microwave queen, canned veggies, fast food type of girl.  Until I personally experienced the repercussions of eating this way. This nutritionally deficient, no doubt GMO filled diet left me feeling totally depleted of energy, dizzy, having constant, sleep/life disrupting indigestion for over two years.  During this time I spent a lot of time at my doctor’s office, in fact we became good friends.  He suggested that maybe I have an ulcer, then it was possibly a parasite or maybe even Crohns Disease.  The list of possible diagnoses went on and on and so did the tests, all to turn up negative.  I was given drugs that only masked my symptoms which I gained a tolerance to only to have to up my dosage.

After seeing specialists and depleting all possible causes of the symptoms (according to Western medicine that is), I was experiencing, I began to feel hopeless.  It was as if people thought my health problems were all in my head and that was something I just could not accept.  So, I decided to take things into my own hands and start my own research.  I began talking with Naturopathic and Ayurvedic doctors and this is when I started to learn about the negative effects of gluten.

Totally removing something from your diet is not easy, especially when it is a staple as bread products are in most American diets.  There is also an emotional and social attachment to it is as well. I knew what I needed to do but it is even harder to let go of all the attachments to gluten without something stating that you cannot eat it.  So after a little more research I discovered that there was a blood test to determine gluten intolerance.  I quickly made an appointment with my doctor friend and after a week I finally got a positive test result.

Funny, I doubt there will be any other time in my life where I actually hope to get a positive test result stating there is something wrong with me.  Needless to say after about 6 months of being gluten-free and re-balancing my system (by taking Betaine HCL because the drugs they had me on depleted my stomach acid) I was back to feeling like myself.

Now this is not to say that everyone who eats a gluten filled diet will end up with a gluten allergy.  In fact the research on what causes a gluten intolerance or allergy is limited but like Hippocrates said, “let thy food by thy medicine”.  There is great wisdom behind this… If we are filling ourselves and our children with nutritionally deficient food then we are not treating our bodies as we should be.

Nourishing your body from the inside out and modeling that for your children is a sure-fire way to improve health and overall well-being. Making an effort to move towards a less processed more veggie filled diet is a mindful decision that will instill healthy eating habits, ensure your children are getting proper nutrition and motivate your children to make healthy decisions as they grow up.

Here are my top 6 tips on getting your children to cut the carbs and up the greens:

1.  Don’t force veggies and fruit on your kids.  We all remember something our parents forced us to eat and most likely we still don’t like that food.  Let your children think it’s their idea by getting them involved with grocery shopping and cooking.

2.  Try to stick to a 5 ingredient limit for packaged foods.  Just think, “the more ingredients, the more processed the food”.

3.  Try to replace pretzels, bars and all those fun shaped kids crackers with a fruit or veggie of your kids’ choice at least once a day.

4.  Don’t assume you can trust what the label says.  Remember, “all-natural”, “low-fat” and “sugar-free” don’t necessarily mean Healthy.  Arm yourself with the knowledge to make informed decision on what you buy.  Here’s a great article on 11 Food Label Lies.

5.  We all know eating totally organic can be expensive.  Try sticking to the Dirty Dozen, Clean 15 rule to save some money.  This is a list of fruits and veggies that should be organic and ones that don’t have to be…check out the link above for more information.

6.  Check out these great documentaries on healthy eating:  Food Matters, Forks Over Knives, Vegucated, Hungry for a Change, Food Inc., Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead.

HH Family Activity: Make it a movie night! Choose a documentary to watch with you kids and have a discussion afterwards.  Come up with ideas about how to improve your families nutrition and get everyone on board with the health food train!

HH Family Activity:  Make grocery shopping a hands on learning experience for your little’s.  Talk with them about them different fruits and veggies, let them hold them and pick out what they want to try.  Ask them if they want to help make a salad and I bet you will get a resounding “yes!”.

 

Happy Eating!

 

 

 

3 mindful ways to add quality to your conversations

Running through the same every day routine with little ones can become monotonous.  You wake up, wake the kids up (or the other way around:) you get everyone ready, make breakfast and rush out the door.   Then, the  same every day routine kicks in after school…pick the kids up, drive home, make dinner, bath-time and then off to bed.

Well, the key to making this everyday routine not so bland is to spice up how you interact with your family.  Although the routine remains the same, conversation with your children are where you can add some pizzazz to make those mundane moments feel more exciting.

Think about it!  The same questions and most always get the same responses.  Some of the best examples of these lack luster questions are, “how was your day?” or, “how was school?”, “did you have fun on the playground?” which usually gets the same old one word response (what I like to call robot talk), “good”, “fine”, “yes”, “no”, “uh-huh”.

This leaves no room for any actual conversation.  In fact it puts up a communication barrier because it begins to feel like pulling teeth to get any more information out of them.  You and your kiddos are left feeling disconnected from each others’ lives and often times this communication gap just widens as kids get older.

Conversation is defined as: The spoken exchange of thoughts, opinions and feelings.  There is clearly none of that going on in the robot chat described above.  The following tips will help you lay the ground work for your family to begin communicating in a way that lends itself less to robot talk and more to real, quality conversations.

How to have more quality conversations:

1.  Ask Caring Questions that let your children know you truly care about who they are and how they feel.

a.  Instead of asking, “how was your day?”  try, “how did you feel today?”.  This gets them in touch with their feelings.  Emotional awareness is a great skill to have and the earlier they can understand their different emotions the better chance they have of being in control them.  You may need to give them some examples so ask if they felt lonely? excited? proud? happy? or sad?

b.  Instead of asking, “did you play outside today?” be specific about things.  Take something you know that matters to them and if that happens to be the monkey bars ask, “how did you do on the monkey bars today?” Being specific let’s them know you are paying attention to things that matter in their world and therefore they feel they matter.

2.  Gratitude Sharing – Before or after dinner have each person share something that they are thankful for that happened that day.  Practicing gratitude has been shown to increase levels of happiness, energy, empathy, optimism and overall well-being AND opens the family dynamic up to allow for REAL conversations.

3. Discuss Your Family Values – This is often something that parents assume is subconsciously understood by what they model as parents and expectations they set for their children.   The truth is that displaying the significance of your value system in this way does have an impact on your children but it is also super important  to have a discussion about what your values are as well.

Family Activity: Have each member of your family write down something that they feel is an important value to have.  Then create a Family Values Board and a few times a week have everyone share an example of how they carried out one of those values in their daily lives.

It may feel somewhat awkward to have these types of conversation in the beginning but that is totally normal.  As a society we interact with each other on a surface level.  Having truly meaningful and mindful interactions is something we have to cultivate and there is no better place to start than at home with our loved ones.

How do  you develop quality interactions in your home?  Please share your tips below!

 

 

Toddlerhood – Impacting your Child’s Neurological Development

It’s no doubt that those toddler years can be down right, make you wanna pull your hair out frustrating!  When a child throws a tantrum we often feel confused, embarrassed, frustrated and fed up, thinking or sometimes even saying, “what on earth is the matter?”  and “this is just ridiculous! I can’t deal with this right now!”.  Every parent has had those moments,  these thoughts and feelings are totally ok and normal.   What can help in these intense moments is to first off have an understanding of what your toddler is going through physiologically, biologically and neurologically.  This knowledge can arm you with better ways of handling these outbursts.

Most parents have a  basic understanding of the different developmental stages their child is going through i.e. sitting up, crawling, walking, teething etc. But many people are unaware of what is going on neurologically during these first few years that allows these major milestones in development to occur.

From the early embryonic stage until around 2 years of age new neurons and synapses are being formed at an astonishing rate ( i.e. 40,000 synapses formed per second).  That’s a lot of synapses!  This ultimately leaves the child with many more neurons and synapses than are actually needed which causes the brain to begin Synaptic Pruning.  In synaptic pruning the extra synapses are eliminated allowing for more efficiency in the neural network.  Meaning that once those extra synapses or “roadblocks” are pruned the child can move on to the next milestone in development.

This process starts around 2 years of age and lasts until the child is about 10 years old.   The imperative piece in understanding these neurological changes is the knowledge that as a parent you can  impact this process.  A child’s synapses are either strengthened or pruned based on what their sensory, motor, emotional and intellectual experiences are. Therefore, as a parent if you are continually reinforcing positive, challenging, supportive and loving experiences at home then those synapses will be strengthened and preserved during the pruning process.   Just as optimism and positive thinking has been shown to reduce stress, improve health and create peace of mind for yourself, this same positive attitude can influence your child’s growth and development.  In the video below Dr. Masaru Emoto, a researcher and alternative healer, demonstrates the power of  positive and negative thinking on rice granules and points out how this can affect children…

Now that you are armed with this knowledge be mindful of your interactions with your children and remember that as their parent you have the power to guide them into being happy, healthy, loving humans.