All posts in “Mindful Parenting”

Why Crying Over Spilled Milk Isn’t Such a Bad Thing

“It’s no use crying over spilled milk”

The meaning behind this saying expresses an important life lesson…In order to move forward in life we need not dwell on the past, continually getting upset about things that we cannot change.

For the purpose of this post I’ll ask you to play along and look at this statement a bit more literally.

Like me, I’m sure many of you have seen your little one cry over spilling their milk.  In fact this recently happened to me… The cup crashed to the floor and the tears began to flow. I immediately tried to soothe the little guys emotions while wiping up the mess by explaining that it was not a big deal. I said, “don’t cry, it’s ok, there’s no need to cry it’s just spilled milk.”

The little boy, who we’ll call Max, still crying, responded, “I can’t stop the tears.”

Well, this pulled right at my heart-strings and got me thinking, what message am I sending to him about the “ok-ness”of expressing emotions by telling him not to cry?

After pondering this question for a bit I came to the conclusion that by telling kids not to cry, even over the small stuff, we are telling them that crying is not ok.  This statement attaches a negative association to the act of crying ultimately labeling it as a “bad” thing.  It sends the message that big emotions need to be stuffed down and bottled up.  Little Max clearly needed to cry and so my next response was, ” let it out, cry as much as you need to.”

Spilled milk is no big deal to us adults but from a child’s perspective there are lots of things running around in their little brains. My milk is gone! The loud noise was scary! Mom’s gonna be mad!  With all these thoughts popping up it’s no wonder the tears start welling up.  The other thing to consider is that they could be crying over something totally unrelated to spilling their milk.  Maybe another child was mean to them at school, or maybe they simply feel sad.  We’ve all had those days…heck, on an off day I can get teary eyed over a commercial  on T.V or sad song on the radio.  It happens to all of us…

As a society we look down upon crying, people feel embarrassment and shame and try to choke back the tears.  Crying in public or in work setting? Forget about it!  That is considered to be unprofessional and totally inappropriate.

Recently I read an article in Elle called, Crying Game, that offered a new perspective. The author, Marisa Meltzer wrote about how she has not cried in years and in fact did not cry even when her bull-dog died when she was 16.  She goes on to talk about a shift in how people view crying and that everyone seems to be embracing a “good cry”.

One of the important parts of her article for me was learning that there is a sort of biological motivator behind crying.  She quotes William Frey II who has researched crying and is a professor of pharmaceutics and a faculty member in neurology, oral biology and neuroscience at the University of Minnesota, “People may feel better after crying because they’re removing chemicals that build up during emotional stress.  So it’s the secretion and excretion of tears that are important.”

Wow! Releasing chemicals that build up during emotional stress through  crying sounds like a pretty positive, not to mention natural way to deal with feelings in emotionally stressful situations. So why do we fight one of our bodies natural ways of dealing this stress? Seems silly to me…

Another piece of information that was eye-opening for me came from Ad Vingerhoets, a professor of medical and clinical psychology at Tilburg University in the Netherlands and author of Why Only Humans Weep: Unraveling the Mysteries of Tears. feel the least amount of shame around crying

This means that our feelings around crying and our frequency OF crying can actually affect our level of happiness.

As caretakers, parents and nurturers this is some insightful information.  I believe we need to hold space for kids to express their emotions in a way that is not only understanding but effective in the sense that kids learn how connect, understand and move through their emotions in a positive way. No more hiding or stuffing down emotions, let’s send the message that big emotions are OK and give children the tools they need to be emotionally intelligent, resilient human beings.

 

Top 4 Apps to You Put Down Your Phone and Create More Quality Time

In today’s day and age it is easy to get sucked into the black hole of the digital world. In fact I know all too well about the addictive nature of checking my iPhone and I recently came to terms with the fact that my iPhone usage was out of control.  I realized that at any slightly free moment throughout the day I would have the urge to check my phone.

This meant checking my phone while standing in line, stopped at red light (luckily not while driving, but there may be some of you out there, just sayin!), while eating, while working out and sadly to admit on occasion when a little one has been wanting to tell me something or show me something.

I’ll tell ya that last one is hard to admit, but it’s true, and I know many of you can relate.  No one wants to look back and feel regret and remorse because their iPhone took precedence over experiencing magical moments with their child.

So, as adults we need to model positive technology habits for our children.  If we are on our phones and tablets all the time, then guess what? they will be too.

What the issue really comes down to, is being able to set appropriate boundaries with ourselves. Even as adults we can veer off our intended path and lose sight of our own personal boundaries, values and expectations.  By being positive role models and setting limitations on our own technology usage, we then encourage that same behavior in our kids.

This is an opportunity for us to take a look in the mirror and ask, “Am I showing up as the type of parent, caretaker, nurturer, role-model that I want to be for my child?”.

I have a feeling that for many of you the answer to this question might bring up some negative feelings.  Possibly regret, guilt, anger, shame, etc?  Make sure to acknowledge your feelings and realize that negative feelings actually have a positive intention.  This intention is to call your attention to areas of your life that you need to change.   Who would have thought?  Negative feelings and emotions actually have a VERY useful purpose!

So, the next step is to take inspired action to create change and I’m going to give you the tools to do just that!

(On a side note, some of you may be thinking, “I don’t have a problem, my technology usage is totally under control”. If this is you, please take a look at this informative video to give you some real insight into the stats on our phone usage. Sneak peek – Over a lifetime you will spend on average about 4 years on your phone!  Shocking I know!)

Now, let’s get to the good stuff!  These 5 apps will help you let go of those negative emotions by helping you to set up appropriate boundaries with your devices so you can pass down healthy technology habits to your little ones!

1.  Moment – Helps you track how much you use your iPhone and iPad.  You can set daily limits and be notified when you go over your limit.  You can also set up the app to force you off of your phone once you are over your limit and you can track your family’s usage right from you own iPhone.   This comes in handy to for device-free dinner times! (This is the app I’m currently using.  It is eye opening when you see how much time you spend on your phone!)

2.  Checky – Free, simple app that will give you the stats on how many times a day you check your phone.

3.  QualityTime – (For Android Users)  This app is amazing because it tracks your phone usage based on where you are spending your time.  For instance, it tells you how much time you spend on individual apps and how many times you checked your phone.  This is a great feature as it gives you more accurate data to then make adjustments accordingly.

4.  BreakFree -(For Android Users) Another great app!  This app is very similar to QualityTime but in addition to tracking your individual usage you get an, “addiction score”.  Then you get tailored messages and lists of achievements to help you stay motivated in cutting down your usage.

If like me, you are ready to make a change and you are committed to the process leave your pledge or goal to cut your phone usage and create more quality time in comments below!

Here’s mine…

I Leanna Long, commit to cutting my phone usage to 75 minutes per day.  I will only check my phone only 3 times a day.  I will not use my phone in front of others, especially children. Lastly, I will not fill up my more than needed in between moments in life by looking at my phone.

I wish you all success!

 

 

 

 

                                              

 

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!

 

5 Ways to Stay (Semi) Sane Through the Holiday Season

The holiday season is already upon us! With so many errands to run, parties to host/attend, gifts to buy, presents to wrap, things to cook and Elf on the Shelf antics to manage no wonder people are stressed out.   The increase of to-do’s, as well as the internal pressure to make the holiday magical for our kids can be overwhelming.  It’s easy to get lost in making this the best Christmas ever, but remember there will be next year and the year after that so take into account the type of expectations you are placing on yourself.  Don’t raise the bar too high or it may be hard to out-do yourself next year.

Set up your holiday mindfully, so you can be truly present for those magical moments made up belly laughs, sparkly grins, and the look of amazement as children take in all the wonders of the season.

Here are my Top 5 Ways to Stay Semi Sane Through the Holiday Season:

1. Focus on creating quality time with the family instead of all the tasks on your to-do list.  Simply shifting your focus can lower stress levels and ignite the true spirit of the season!

2. Sometimes family traditions can feel more like obligations.  Don’t allow family traditions to overwhelm you, make the holidays magical by creating family traditions your family truly enjoys and let go of the ones you don’t.

3.  We all have those negative family patterns that trigger us and can make family time unbearable.  Shift away from those patterns by creating guidelines for what the family all can talk about.  Keep it positive!  Try only talking about dreams, love, or future excitement .

4.  Divide and conquer!  Don’t take the brunt of the holiday preparations on your shoulders.  Give up some control and get the family involved.  Get the kids cooking, get your partner wrapping, and get grandma caroling!

5.  Don’t “should” on your holiday!  There is a lot of pressure from the media showing idealized images of perfect families and perfect holidays. Don’t compare your family to how you think things “should” be.  Set realistic expectations and give yourself and your family a break.

Remember no one gets through the holiday’s without a little family tension, a broken ornament or a few tears. Just be grateful you are not having a holiday like Clark Griswold in National Lampoons Christmas Vacation.

How do you stay sane throughout the holidays?  Leave your suggestions below!

P.S.  If the Elf on the Shelf is not up your alley check out The Kindness Elves.  They are a new positive twist to the Elf on the Shelf.  Instead of focusing on who is naughty or nice the focus is on encouraging kind behavior. I have to say these Kindness Elves are definitely on my list of mindful ways to celebrate the holidays.

 

First Steps to a Toxin Free Life – Interview with Mindful Momma Tali Thomason

Awhile back I wrote my piece on Fear and Mindful Parenting when I realized I was becoming very overwhelmed with all the scary ingredients in the world among other things. One of the steps I made to feel less afraid and more educated was to interact more in the Mindful Mammas and Poppas group on Facebook. After all, I knew I wasn’t the first parent to be experiencing this and could get help from some veterans.

The first thing, like any project, is to make a plan and start with basics. We’ve begun eliminating toxic products in our home and replacing them with safer products for us and Arbor. One of the key people who has helped me is Leanna Long. She is the owner of Harmonious Households and I was able to ask her a few questions that I feel could benefit others as well.

What was the defining moment when you knew you had to make a change to the products you were using and foods you were eating?

About 5 years ago, at 27 years old I was going through some major health problems.  I felt dizzy, like room spinning dizzy quite often, I had intense heartburn all the time, along with extreme bloating, belching and brain fog.  Nothing I ate made me feel good, I couldn’t sleep, I was depleted of all energy and felt anxious and irritable.  I went to the doctor and saw specialists many times over the course of 2 years. Where they did a number of tests to see if I had a possible parasite, ulcer, IBS, diverculitis, Crohn’s disease and list goes on.  All tests came back negative.  The only thing came out of these 2 terrible years was a long list of ailments I did not have, an addiction to Xanax and the necessity to take almost 3x the normal dosage of Zantac twice a day.

After I had exhausted all avenues in Western medicine I knew I could not go on living this way and that I had to take things into my own hands.  I started seeing a naturopath and an Ayurvedic doctor who started me on the healing process. I got of the meds and due to help from the doctors and my own research I discovered I have a gluten intolerance. It was great to finally have an answer but I knew I had to change more than just my diet. I did some in depth research and learned more about how the toxins in our food, environment and beauty products affect our health and quality of life. Today I am happily living a toxin-free lifestyle and have made it my mission to share my knowledge with friends, family and clients.

You’ve shared your passion with others in your business Harmonious Households. What is the first change you recommend to families when it comes to getting the toxins out of their cleaning supplies?

The biggest hurdle when switching to toxic-free natural cleaners is the mental attachment to what we like, what we know works and what is convenient. In today’s busy world it can be tough getting around to cleaning, so when we do make time for it we don’t want to deal with something that might make the job tougher.  A great first step is to create a natural cleaner that is similar to your toxic cleaner.  For example I always loved the smell of Pin-Sol.  I know terrible right?! The toxic fumes in that product are enough to give anyone a headache, and a whole list of health problems but I absolutely loved the smell.  So I re-created a non-toxic all natural version that smells very similar and does a great job at cleaning.

Here’s my solution:

2 cups water

1 cup apple cider vinegar

5 drops tea tree oil

5 drops eucalyptus oil

Tea tree oil one of the strongest natural antiseptics.  It is also germicidal, anti-fungal and anti-bacterial.  Bonus! It kills mold and mildew and it gives you that clean scent!  Eucalyptus is a disinfectant, anti-viral, and anti-bacterial to name a few.  It is also known to support the respiratory system which is the exact opposite effect of what toxic cleaners do to your lungs.  Of course it smells great too!  Apple cider vinegar is a natural cleaning agent with many different uses.  It’s also an anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, anti-septic and anti-viral.  With also these “anti-bad stuff” properties you can feel safe knowing you are truly getting a deep clean.

How about the changes to the kitchen pantry? What are the first three ingredients we should eliminate from our diets?

This is a tough one because there are quite a few nasty ingredients food companies add to foods that are targeted specifically towards kids.  If I had to choose only three I’d go with:

  1. Monosodium Glutamate (MSG) which is a neurotoxin that stimulates taste buds causing us to want to eat more and more. Ingesting this ingredient also comes with a host of side effect such as, headache, chest pain and heart palpitations. MSG can be found in popular kids’ foods like Cheetos or Pringle’s.

These last two encompass a lot of different ingredients. I might be cheating here but they are really important to know about because they effect behavior along with having many other nasty side effects.

  1. Artificial flavors/artificial sweeteners: (Aspartame, saccharin, sucralose) anything with the word artificial in it is not good for you or your kids. Side effects include, allergic and behavioral reactions, headache, dizziness, memory loss, carcinogen in animals.
  2. Preservatives, TBHQ- side effects: tinnitus, nausea, vomiting, worsens symptoms of ADHD, Sulfites- side effects: allergic reactions, especially for asthmatics. There are many more I’d like to add but for the sake of sticking to the question I’ll leave it at that. If your readers would like a full list, they can sign up for my newsletter and get a free Toxic Ingredient Grocery Guide at Harmonious Households.

When I’ve switched to all natural products for my home cleaning and personal hygiene they don’t always feel like they work as well. For example, my shampoo doesn’t lather like I expect. Even though I’ve been told that shampoos don’t need to lather to work it’s what I grew up with. Are these expected experiences linked to toxins?

Tali, I think it’s important to expect some differences when switching to non-toxic products. Like you said some things may not “feel” like they work as well but we have to remind ourselves that they do work just as well or even better when you think about it.  If you can shift your perspective from missing the way your shampoo lathered up, to loving the fact that you are putting clean, healthy products on/in your body and protecting your family from potential health hazards then you’ll quickly forget about all that lather.

Are there certain brands that are easier for people who are transitioning from the products they grew up with to the toxin free versions?

I always recommend making toxin-free cleaners at home as opposed to buying supposed “all natural” brands in the store because you know exactly what is in the product since you made it yourself.  Big companies can be sneaky by labeling their product as “all natural” when there are still some toxic ingredients in there like petrochemicals or things they replace the more well-known toxic ingredients with.

Beauty products can be a bit tougher to make at home and the attachment to these products can be harder to let go of.  Just as with replacing a cleaning product, decide what it is about a product.  It might be the smell or how it tingles your scalp.  Once you know what it is that you like try and replace it with a similar product that is toxin-free.  One brand I’d recommend is Dr. Bonner’s Organic Castile Soap. This line of products has so many different uses. I use the peppermint soap as a body wash, it tingles the body and even lathers up!

If you are looking for a great smelling natural deodorant I recommend LaVanilla deodorant.  Smells great and it’s very conditioning for the sensitive skin in the armpit.

I’ve often found that natural lotions can feel watery and leave my skin feeling dry.  After a lot of trial and error I’ve been very happy with Everyone Lotion.

If my readers want to hire you for a home and lifestyle makeover how can they reach you?

Thanks Tali.  They can reach me at harmonioushouseholds@gmail.com, find me on Facebook, follow me on Google+  or they can go directly to the Services Tab to get more details on the Healthy Home Makeover service I provide where I help families jump-start their way to a toxic-free lifestyle.

 

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!

 

Fight Parental Overwhelm – How self-care can be the cure

“It’s important to make someone happy, and it’s important to start with yourself” – Author unknown

In early motherhood it is a natural occurrence that your personal needs come second to your baby’s.  I mean who has time to mix in self-care when you barely even have time to sleep, let alone brush your hair and take a shower. But after you move through the sleepless night phase it’s time to change things up.  Let’s flip the script and really dive into the importance of putting your needs FIRST.

I know some of you are already cringing at the thought, thinking “what?? that’s selfish!” but ultimately everyone wins when you put yourself first. For some reason we have all been taught to think that putting yourself first is selfish. This is simply NOT true, it is actually  very mindful because when you are fulfilled you have more love to share with those around you. Just think about the in-flight safety instructions, who do they say to give oxygen to first? Yes, the answer is YOU.

This idea translates to every aspect of your life. If you are putting work first or your relationship first and not taking of your personal needs then those other aspects of your will suffer because you are running on empty.

The equation is simple: self-care + self-love = an abundance of love to share with those around you. Otherwise, you’re just hanging out in the negative.

Self-love means setting boundaries so that you can take the time you need for yourself. This can be on a large or small scale.  Meaning that there will most definitely be times when you need to let other’s needs in your family come first but that in general you continue to take the time to do the things that make you feel happy and whole as a person.  Think about this as inner management, you have to manage, organize and clean up the clutter  inside before you can take care of what’s on the outside.

Over the years I have been inside many different family units.  I gained a unique perspective from observing the inner workings of each family.   I learned many things along the  way but one major component stuck out for me, which was that many women feel it is their duty as a mother to put their children first.  I saw first hand how this affected their relationships with their husbands and also gave the children a great sense of entitlement. Often times I saw a sense of defeat in the dads.  It was as if they did not feel that they had special place in their own home.  The environment revolved around mother and child, this ultimately  left the dads floundering on the outside of the family unit.

Now of course, every family is different but the lesson here is in the importance of nurturing your relationships so that you can effectively share your love with everyone.

By putting yourself first and your partner second, your little’s will then receive more love all around and you will have a happier, more connected family unit.

6 Ways to Add More YOU Into Your Daily Life:

1. Write down a list of things that make you feel good.  Maybe dancing, singing, being silly etc. whatever it is try to do at least one of those things a day.

2. Think about your strengths as a mom and build on them. Whether your strength lies in being a stay at-home mom or working mom, think about how you most effectively operate so that you can maximize quality time with your children.

3.  Remember it’s ok to have help! If you allow all the pressures of raising your children to fall on your shoulders it will ultimately become a load you can no longer bear.  Find a babysitter leave the kids with

4.  Get at least 20 mins of ME time in everyday. Try taking a bath, reading, maybe doing yoga. Whatever it is you enjoy turn it into a daily ritual.

5.  Try and turn menial tasks into expression of your love for your family. This is especially important for those moms who feel they don’t spend enough quality time with their family. Transform things like folding laundry, doing dishes, cooking, into a more meaningful task.  While you’re at it get your family members involved so it’s a group activity and get more quality time in.

6.  Let go of the guilt and the idea that putting your needs first is selfish!  Remember when you let your light shine, your children will shine even brighter.

How do you get in your self-care?  Please share any rituals you have that help you nurture yourself!

 

 

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.

 

Yoga for Children – Benefits are Endless

The practice of yoga is holistic in that it is designed to bring balance to the physical, mental, spiritual and emotional components that influence our overall well-being.

This trans-formative practice has the ability to impact mood, self-awareness, self-acceptance, cognition, stress levels and overall mental health because it provides a calming effect to the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA) and sympathetic nervous system (SNS).  The HPA axis and the SNS are triggered from psychological or physical stressors and when continually fired can lead to host of negative psychological and behavioral effects.

Ok, but what the heck does that mean?? Let’s break it down into terms we can all understand…

In today’s society most of us (including our children) are running around in fight or flight mode without taking time to slow down.  Our lives move a mile a minute and so do our thoughts.  This “energizer bunny” type of lifestyle leads to anxiety, stress and a whole lotta unhappy people. So, what can we do about this?  Just except that we have to live this way?  I think not!

Yoga and meditation are mindful practices that allow us to break down this pattern.

In order to bring more happiness, love, connection, mindfulness and community into our world we need to start nurturing ourselves from the inside out and begin to teach our children the same.  If we can first empower ourselves with the knowledge that through practicing yoga and meditation we can be in control of our thoughts and emotions, imagine what that can do for our children!

Having children who understand how to slow down the racing thoughts, lessen the intensity of emotions, calm their bodies, truly love themselves and are able to be mindful and present in each moment would be truly profound. The benefits behind getting children involved in a yoga practice are only beginning to fully be understood, but from what has been discovered so far it seems the positive implications are endless.

Check out what happened when researchers did a study that focused on the perceptions of yoga among 3rd graders in a low-income neighborhood.

In 2010 a yoga/meditation program that was designed to be a preventative measure in reducing stress and improving behavior for students who were at risk for learning problems was implemented. The 24 students did weekly 45 minute yoga sessions during their normal school day and 4 days a week their classroom teacher led a 15 minute yoga session in the classroom.  The program was made up of background music, specific yoga poses, mental imagery, and a creative activity that brought it all together into a learning experience that the students could take away.

After the program was completed the students were given a crayon and asked to draw a picture of the yoga program. They were then asked questions about their pictures.  Three themes emerged: (1) participants felt calm and focused, (2) had a sense of control over their behavior, and (3) had a positive self-concept.

These  outcomes were also very apparent in the self-report the kids gave about the program.  When one student was asked about his drawing he said, “Inside your body it feels like it’s calmed down, it’s smooth”.  Another student, said, “It helps me, like when I get mad it helps me calm down.”  He talked about how he used what he had learned at home when his brother would pick on him, and when asked how often he used it he said, “I use it all the time.”

Students also reported how it helped them concentrate in school.  One student said, “When I concentrate on like the laying down part, it helps my brain and stuff, it helps me relax so I can get all the hyperness out of me, so I can be good at studying.”

On top of that students reported feeling, “free”, “in my own world”, “happy” and “makes me feel good”.

One student even said, “It changed me from bad to good. I started from bad and went all the way up to good from yoga.” And that yoga, “gives you power, and you can be strong…you can be strong in the whole wide world by using your power.”

Overall, the participants described yoga as an escape from their otherwise stressful lives and would often try to and get parents or other family members to practice with them at home (Case-Smith, Sines, Klatt, 2010).

These self-report statements are not only profound, they are powerful and this POWER needs to shared!

As a children’s yoga teacher I have learned many things, but the one lesson that sticks out is; teaching yoga to children is truly the definition of “Namaste“.  Meaning hat, “the teacher in me honors the teacher in you”.  There is so much we can learn from children. Be present, allow space for silliness, laughter and the simple joys of childhood and let the worry over following directions or having perfect alignment fall away.  These are the moments you will remember for a lifetime and so will your kiddos!

The most important thing we can do is get children engaged in these practices so they become intrinsically motivated to continue their practice as they grow up.  Yoga is a life-enhancing gift that can change the way the next generation not only feels about themselves, but how they interact with each other and the world around them.

Get your family involved in the mindful revolution!

How do you add mindfulness into your home life?  Please share your thoughts!

Case-Smith, J., Sines, J., Klatt, M. (2010): Perceptions of children who participated in a school-based yoga program.  Journal of Occupational Therapy, Schools, & Early Intervention, 3.3, 226-238. 

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!

 

 

The Power of Positive Reinforcement

If you watched Mike and Bob Bryan the famous twins who won Wimbledon last year then you’d know they give off a positive, caring vibe towards each other on the court.  Having over 62 professional titles the Bryan brothers are no doubt talented.  Part of this may be due to the fact that their parents Kathy and Wayne never allowed the boys to play each other in tournaments.   When they met in junior tournaments they had the boys alternate, forfeiting to each other to cut down on sibling rivalry and unhealthy competitive behavior. Instead Kathy and Wayne focused on building each child’s strengths through the power of positive reinforcement.   In fact Wayne went on to write a book called, “How to Raise a Champion in Athletics, Arts and Academics.”

The theory behind positive reinforcement called Operant Conditioning was first developed by B.F. Skinner in 1938. He conducted an experiment where he placed rats into boxes with levers which released food when the rat accidentally ran into it.  Quickly the rats learned to go directly to the lever when placed in the box.  The consequence/reward of receiving the food when the rat pressed the lever, guaranteed that the rat would repeat this behavior every time it was put into the box (McLeod, 2007).

Just as Kathy and Wayne used this strategy to guide their boys into success, positive reinforcement can be used to change your child’s behavior in both minor and major ways.

Behavior charts are a great example of using positive reinforcement to change your child’s behavior.  Typically behavior charts are best recommended for use at age 3 but I’ve used charts with children at 2 1/2 with great success.  You can use a chart for any behavior that you would like to change or one you’d like to encourage.  In my coaching practice I have recommended the use of charts for things like sleeping through the night, not having a melt down when mommy leaves and of course potty charts and chore charts. This system works just as the reward of food worked with the rats, except in this case the reward is the sticker and of course we’re talking about our precious little’s and not rats:)

A few HH tips on behavior charts:

1.  Be creative together – have your child help make the chart and actively talk with them about using it.  Example:  “This is your potty chart, when you go potty you get a sticker”, “Now Tommy tell mommy how you get a sticker for your chart?”.

2.  Make it special – You may already have some stickers lying around the house but for the reward to feel special it’s important to truly make it feel that way.  Plan an outing to pick out “special stickers” for your child’s chart.  Make sure that those stickers are only used for the chart.  This will give your child more motivation in wanting to earn their “special sticker”.

3.  Be consistent– Take the time to allow your child to choose a sticker right after they have displayed the positive behavior.  If you wait the reward will not have the same effect.

4.  Don’t get chart happy – Having success using this approach can lead to the idea that this will work great for everything.  Too many charts at one time is no good.  This desensitized the reward and reduces their motivation because the child is getting too many rewards at one time.  Stick to one chart at a time or at the utmost two.

5.  Praise and communication – These two components are key in changing a negative behavior pattern.  As adults it is easy to subconsciously get caught in the idea that your child is too young to understand certain concepts so we just don’t talk about it.  Well the truth is kids are smarter than we think.  Engaging in active conversation with them by making statements and asking questions get’s them to feel more comfortable about situations and transitions.  Praise is always necessary in guiding them to continue on the path to more positive behaviors.

6.  Be patient –  It can take 3 weeks to change a behavior pattern so be patient, follow these tips, add in some coaching support to get you through the tough times and you will be sure to see positive results.

Below is an example of a Happy Day Chart used with a client.

The little guy (2 and 1/2-year-old), got a sticker for not crying when his mommy went to work and the nanny came.  On first use of the chart along with actively talking with him about the transition, he no longer cried in the mornings.

Example:

 

McLeod, S. A. (2007). Skinner – Operant Conditioning. Retrieved from http://www.simplypsychology.org/operant-conditioning.html

 

Developmental Milestones

As a new parent it can be both a happy and sad moment when you see your baby hit a new milestone.  On one hand you feel proud of your baby for their accomplishment but sadness that they are growing up too fast.  You may also feel somewhat frustrated when you have seen them crawl or walk on occasion but in general they tend to default to the easier option.  This same frustration can also translate to things like wanting your child to hold their own bottle or potty training.

The thing to keep in mind is that although, there is a general age range in which your child should be hitting these milestones every child is different and they will transition when they are ready.

As the parent this may make you feel useless, you want to help or feel that you are encouraging your child in some way.  Well, the truth is that how quickly your child conquers a milestone like walking is based on their own confidence and motivation.  As their parent all you can really do is increase their confidence by praising them and ensuring they have a safe accessible environment to practice their new-found skill.

Here are a few HH tips on how to feel valuable in aiding your child’s developmental milestones.

1.  Do some Feng Shui – Look around your house, are there obstacles on the floor that are making it hard for your child to crawl or walk?

2.  Declutter  – Clutter equals stress.  A baby will feel overwhelmed if there are too many toys on the floor or in their room.  Chose at most 2-3 toys for your baby to play with at one time.

3.  Organize! Organize! Organizer! –  Once you’ve decluttered start organizing.  An organized home creates a peaceful home.  Put things in accessible easy places that will help your home run smoother..i.e. extra socks by the door, diapers and wipes on each floor. (Check out Harmonious Households Organized Living and Pre-baby Home Consultation services).

4.  Land your helicopter– Helicopter parenting is not good for you or your child.  You may want to be involved with every little aspect of your baby’s life but this can be smothering to your child. Being overly anxious and encouraging them too much can actually cause them to regress in their development.   Take a second to relax and have a few deep breaths.  Enjoy what your child is doing now and trust that in their own time they will move on to the next milestone.

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.