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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>

 

 

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.

 

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.