15 Things I’ve Learned And Know For Sure About Parenting
Our youngest daughter Kelly, has joined her 2 older sisters Kari and Kristen, and has graduated from college. Where did the time go? All 3 girls have left the nest, are self-sufficient and have created a life they love and adore. At this time, I have had time to reflect back on my last 26 years of parenting. Upon reflection, I realize that parenting has not only been about “what I did” it was also about “what I didn’t do.” I have created a list of the 15 things I have learned and know for sure in my life when it comes to parenting my children.
1. I GAVE BIRTH TO MY GREATEST TEACHERS! – Parenting is a journey. In this journey I am provided with great learning opportunities. When I didn’t like what I saw in my children I considered this; they were giving me a gift by reflecting a quality or disowned trait inside myself that could use some loving attention, compassion, self-forgiveness and healing. In other words, my children often reflected my own “shadows” sometimes in exaggerated ways. Many times, I would not recognize it in my own literal behavior and I would see it in more subtle ways inside myself. Take time for self-reflection and for loving the parts inside your own “inner child” today. My children are my mirror my reflection, my projection. If I am open and looking I can learn where my own inner work is.
2. THIS TOO SHALL PASS – So many behaviors I found challenging at times were mostly developmental stages that my children were passing through. When I learned about the stages it was much easier to either accept them, have compassion for them or at times lovingly re-direct them. Learn as much as you can about developmental stages. It will make your parenting days much easier knowing your children are supposed to be doing the things they do.
3. MY CHILDREN WILL GET THEIR NEEDS MET POSITIVELY OR NEGATIVELY – Learning what the needs are and assisting my children in getting them met daily made my days much more peaceful. The needs are to smile (play, fun, humor), to feel powerful, to explore, to feel connection, to feel important, to feel they have authentic attention, to feel they are loved. Most importantly to feel they belong in our family and in their world.
4. RELATIONSHIP AND CONNECTION TRUMP EVERYTHING! – My greatest influence as a parent is in the quality of relationship I have with my children. Cooperation and win-win naturally occur when I create a deep, authentic, connected relationship with them daily. I think about my daily deposits and withdrawals and I often ask myself,” How can I respond and stay connected in this relationship?” Many times I put myself on PAUSE, breathe and ask myself, “What would love do?” Then I think about loving next action steps. I like to remember this…Connection before Logistics!!!
5. HEALTHY COMMUNICATION BEGINS WITH FEELING ACKNOWLEDGERS – Listen because feelings matter! Seek first to understand! Tears are a gift that cleanse the soul! I have learned to connect on a heart level often when communicating with my children. I have learned to acknowledge, affirm, accept, empathize, and have compassion. Feeling Acknowledgers have created a deep, meaningful, communication opportunity. I have learned to remember what it was like for me at their ages and to connect to them by understanding how they might be feeling. I get out of my own way and point of view or what I think is best and just listen with the ears of my heart. When I do this they are able to come up with their own solutions or make peace with reality. I then get to sit back and experience the joy and watch as they become creative problem solvers.
6. A ONE-ON-ONE DATE – can heal, connect, mend, deepen and re-establish my relationship with my children. I have loved every single date with my daughters and I hope to “date” them the rest of my life!
7. ACCEPT WHO YOUR CHILD IS AND WHERE THEY ARE TODAY – Each of my daughters has their own temperament styles, interest, desires, and gifts to bring to the world. I celebrate each of them for uniquely for who they are. They are each successful in the “now” of everyday. This is one of my all-time favorite quotes: “Nothing you become will disappoint me. I have no preconception that I’d like to see you be or do. I have no desire to foresee you, only to discover you. You cannot disappoint me.” Mary Haskel
8. A MESSY ROOM IS NOT WORTH AN OUNCE OF MY ATTENTION – I decided a long time ago that when I went into my child’s room I would GO IN TO SEE HER…NOT HER ROOM. I learned that getting angry at my children for a messy room created power struggles and damaged the relationship. I learned that CHILDREN are messy and TEENS have messy rooms. I kept the relationship and connection at a level where yes we could create moments of tidiness through the use of Empowering Solutions. However, now that they are all at out of the house, their rooms always looks tidy…hmmmmm, kinda miss the mess 🙂 I actually was informed by one of my daughters that I would be surprised how tidy her room is now! I laughed and said, “Of course!” 🙂
9. BE PRESENT – Time flies away! I can’t believe all three daughters have graduated from college! I am so thrilled I created all the rituals and family celebrations!!! The movies in my head are endless of the fun, laughter, silliness, and challenges. Where did the time go?? We still have a lot of fun and I am enjoying them as adults now… and I am grateful for the memories I hold in my heart from when they were little girls. I have learned to enjoy each moment and to cherish my daughters at each age. For each age brings forward its own special gifts! And the gifts continue to unwrap themselves even now!
10. MY TONE, DELIVERY, ATTITUDE, and HOW I SAY THINGS MATTER – It matters how I say things, the words I choose, the tone I choose. I am modeling and teaching my children how to communicate with me and others. I am the role-model. If I want my children to speak to me kindly, with respect, and compassion I must be that for them first. The words and tone I choose when speaking with my children have the power to heal or to hurt, to create distance or to create closeness, to shut down their hearts or to open their hearts.
11. MODELING, MODELING, MODELING – “It’s not that modeling teaches; It’s the only thing that teaches.” as written by Albert Schweitzer. My children are always watching me and they will do what I do, not what I say. Parenting consciously has given me the opportunity to grow as a person. I do not believe it is enough to be a “good” parent. I have learned I want to be an “extraordinary” parent and learn all I can about parenting so I can be a positive role-model in my daughters lives. Do I make mistakes? Of course, and I have learned how to do “re-parative” parenting, learn from my mistakes, say I’m sorry and re-establish, re-connect, and deepen in my relationships with my children.
12. I ALLOW MY CHILDREN TO DO AS MUCH AS THEY CAN AND TO MAKE MISTAKES – I have learned to not to over-do, rescue, over-pamper, manipulate and try to control the outcomes. For in doing so I rob my children of great learning opportunities in life. After all, I really don’t know what their journey is “suppose” to be. I am here to unconditionally love, guide, support, and to be a conscious role-model for ALL behaviors.
13. STAY GROUNDED, CENTERED, AWARE, AND CONNECTED TO YOURSELF – Take good care of yourself so you can take care of others. I can’t give away something I don’t have first. I have learned to take care of myself Mentally, Physically, Emotionally, and Spiritually. When the girls were younger it was challenging to find time in the day to take care of myself. However, I would find small moments throughout the day where I could nurture myself knowing how important it was to re-charge myself.
14. BE A “LIFE-LEARNER” – Continue to be curious knowing “You don’t know, what you don’t know!” I continuously ask myself, “What do I not know about parenting, that I need to know, to take me to the next level?” This simple question has kept me growing as a mom and as a parenting instructor! Every time I learned something new, I would practice it with my children first and then I would have the opportunity to share it in our parenting classes! For example, one of the most exciting moments for me was when I learned about all the brain research a few years ago! I am enthusiastic about the brain research now and how it has supported our parenting program! I am grateful for all the information it provides to me and my family. I use this information every day in my life!
15. MOST IMPORTANTLY, I HAVE LEARNED THAT – “It is only 15 inches from your head to your heart and sometimes, this can be the longest journey of all!”
FROM MY HEART! Linda
Below The Tip Of The Iceberg
Parents often focus, assess, and react to a child based on his behaviors. The child’s behavior is like the part of the iceberg that floats above the water line. Solely focusing on the visible part of the iceberg gives limited and inaccurate information. Therefore, parents can become frustrated at trying to solve a behavioral challenge that has been inaccurately defined.
The iceberg below the water line is invisible. Needs, thoughts, and feelings exist below the surface and are the causes of our behaviors. The behaviors we see are only a representation of what is occurring for the child under the surface of the iceberg. When parents support, nurture, and effectively respond to children below the water line, then behavioral changes occur above the water line.
Let’s look at the following analogy:
Suppose you are driving down the road when unexpectedly you notice the temperature gauge on your car is operating in the very hot position. You decide to pull the car over to the side of the road and assess the situation yourself. As you are sitting in your car and deciding what to do, you notice that the temperature gauge is slowly moving back to the cool temperature position. Thinking all is well, you take off driving again, only to realize minutes later that the car temperature gauge is beginning to move back to the hot position one more time.
This time you decide to pull into a gas station and have the mechanic take a look. You show her the temperature gauge and tell her “It’s broken!” She smiles and says, “The temperature gauge is not broken, it’s just an indicator, a symptom that something is going on under the hood of your car. Let’s open up the hood and look inside and see what is causing the situation.” She looks, and says, “Your radiator is broken and overheating and this is causing your temperature gauge to move to hot.” So the temperature gauge is an instrument that tells us something is operating ineffectively under the hood of the car.
The high temperature of the gauge is a symptom. It gives us information about the condition of our car. Fixing the gauge will not fix the radiator. In order to effectively correct the situation we have to look under the hood of the car, and there, we will see the cause. Here, in this area, we can make a difference!
The Parenting From The Heart program focuses on effectively solving behavioral challenges Below the Tip of the Iceberg. This approach will allow your child’s self-esteem and self-worth to soar! Your child will continue to thrive and flourish into a healthy adult.
Ten Parenting Tips From The Heart
1. Become a “Professional Parent.” People spend a lot of time educating themselves in school for their professions, hobbies, and other interests. However, there is little time spent, and education considered, when it comes to training for the most important job in our lives. Why not spend the time, and energy on becoming the very best parent you can be?
A “Professional Parent” is a parent who is committed to constantly learning new, effective, and healthy approaches that will enhance her relationships with her children. A “Professional Parent” is open, willing, and interested in taking parenting classes, reading informational and inspirational books about parenting, and attending workshops.
2. Take care of yourself. Feeling run down, tired, and at your wits end, offers little service to yourself and your children. Think of the last time you really did something to take care of yourself that was nurturing, relaxing, and fun. Afterwards, didn’t you interact with your children in a loving, patient, peaceful way? After taking good care of yourself there is a strong likelihood that you will feel loving, understanding, centered and aware when handling situations with your children.
3. Modeling is everything! Albert Schweitzer once said, “It’s not that modeling teaches, it’s the only thing that teaches.” Do you want your children to be intrinsically motivated, to be self-reliant, to have positive values, to eat healthy food, to be centered, and joyful? These are only taught by modeling. Be the person you want your children to be. Focus on improving what you model to your children by focusing on your own attitudes, your values, your eating habits, and by making self-honoring choices in your own life. Remember, you are your children’s greatest teacher and role-model!
4. Don’t sweat the small stuff and it’s all small stuff. This is a title to an excellent book. The principles are timeless and meaningful. Parents get stressed out worrying if things will turn out “just right” for their children. We cannot love and worry at the same time. Love and fear based energies do not coexist in the same energy field. Ask yourself, “Am I being motivated through love or fear?”
Barbara Colorossa, the author of Kids Are Worth It! says to ask yourself the three following questions when considering what to do in various situations.
“Is it morally threatening?”
“Is it life threatening?”
“Is it unhealthy?”
It is important that children feel they are powerful creators. We can have faith in them to know what they are to do, how they are to be, and what they are to have.
Common needless stresses include: how their hair looks, how their clothes look, taking a bath everyday, what their bedrooms look like, and more. What a great opportunity to re-examine your fixed positions! When you’re willing to “let go” you create the opportunity for giving more responsibility to your child. Also, you create a closer relationship!
5. Ask yourself; “What is my child trying to communicate to me?” Finding yourself in a behavioral challenge gives you the opportunity as a parent to become a detective and to uncover the meaning behind your child’s behaviors. A child who is demanding more and more of your attention is probably not feeling connected to you in a way that is satisfying to their own personal need. Your opportunity is to find out how to create a stronger connection.
6. Children spell love “TIME.” When you are having fun and doing activities that your child loves they feel a strong connection to you. A one on one date is a fun and exciting way to connect on a deep heart felt level with your child. A date allows you the time to talk to your child without the outside interruptions of life. It creates an opportunity for a meaningful, heart to heart conversation to unfold. This is not a time for “hidden agendas” about behavior. It is a time for sincerely enjoying each others company.
7. Be a mindful, conscious parent. Parenting from knee-jerk reactions, passed down family mindsets, or society’s opinions can be limiting, archaic, and stop the flow of creativity when parenting our children. The parenting opportunity is to be conscious about everything you say and do when interacting with your children. Setting your intention often can assist you in this area. For example, before you drive your children to school in the morning set your intention. Say to yourself, “My intention is to experience peace, gratitude, love, joy, and connection with my children as I drive them to school this morning.” Before eating a family meal set your intention. Say to yourself, “My intention is to be patient, kind, understanding and present with my children at the dinner table.”
Setting your intention before these activities during the day will assist you in setting up a presence and awareness inside of yourself. This will give you the opportunity to respond to your children instead of reacting to your children. Therefore, creating a stronger relationship!
8. Parenting is not a quick fix. There are parenting techniques that seem to solve challenges with children very quickly. One example of a quick fix is to give orders and commands instead of giving information. No one really likes to be ordered around. This is the fastest yet least effective parenting technique used today. Giving information provides your child with the opportunity to make a decision and then to respond to the decision she made.
Below are a few examples that give information:
“The weatherman said it will be raining today.”
“The dog is hungry.”
“Your shoes are untied.”
“The gas gauge is low.”
This is an effective parenting style that allows your child to decide what to do with the information given. This teaches your child how to think instead of what to think.
9. View your child as successful in the present moment. Children receive many signals that they are not successful, and that they won’t be successful until they jump through the right hoops. This is a very discouraging and disempowering feeling for children. There can be an over focus on grades, sports, clubs, and friends that becomes overwhelming, all in the name of becoming a success one day.
View and treat your children as a success right now! Tell them how much you enjoy their company, their wisdom, and their enthusiasm for life. Let them know that you are learning many things from them daily. Be present! Laugh with them! Children are naturally playful, funny, spontaneous and joyful. Children are truly wonderful creators right now! They teach us so much about how to really live life!
10. Making parenting mistakes is okay. Parenting will continue bringing you opportunities for learning even if you missed one in the past. Dwelling on and beating yourself up over past challenges that you don’t feel you handled well will only keep you stuck in your process. You are here to learn and grow with your children. Each mistake is an opportunity to grow and to make different, healthy, loving, effective choices next time.
Remember: Parenting is fun! If you are going to laugh about something six months from now you might as well laugh about it now!
Taking Care Of Yourself
Taking the time to nurture yourself is vital to being an effective parent. When you take the time to take care of yourself first, you then have the energy to assist your children and others.
The airplane safety instructions tell us to put on our oxygen masks before placing a mask on our children. This is a healthy practice that we can extend to our daily lives on the ground as well! Psychologists now know that parents, who make time for themselves every day, are happier people and better parents, who raise happier children.
When a parent feels relaxed and less stressed, children feel calmer as well! Treat yourself to your own personal “down time,” whatever that might be for you. It will help you to better handle the most highly charged of situations with your children and you’ll become a great role model for them in the process. For some, this “care and feeding of the soul” will be a walk in nature, while for others it will be enjoying a hobby.
A well-respected medical doctor told us that he believes two-thirds of all illnesses are stress related. Make it your parenting goal to do the things that help you get centered and assist you in being a happier, peaceful parent. What a wonderful thing to model to your children! Modeling this to your children will ensure that they take care of themselves throughout their lives as well!
Where did families live 100 years ago? That’s right, on a farm. What did kids spend time doing on the farm? Chores! Parents of today, many times, are exhausted because they are overdoing for their children. Our job as a parent is to be unemployed by the time our children turn 18! We want our children to be capable, confident, and self-efficient as they go out into the world.
The word response-ability means the ability to respond. The ability to respond means that you choose your response. Learning to be responsible takes time. Your child learns to be responsible as you begin to “let go” over the years. When you give age appropriate responsibilities to your child, she feels valuable, powerful, and experiences a sense of contribution in the family. Remember to make it fun and exciting as though it is a “Rites of Passage” when giving your child a new house chore or self-care item.
It is important to spend time instructing and teaching your child about how to do the new responsibility. Remember to teach and to practice the skills needed for each responsibility before completely letting go. This way you will know that you are setting your child up for success. Therefore, you will not be tempted to take back the responsibility you gave. Sometimes this can take a few weeks. Once your child shows she can follow through on her own, let her know it is now her job. Turn it over completely to her. Do not take it back! Allow her to experience the ownership of following through as well as not following through with her new responsibility.
Young children can learn how to make meals, do their laundry, clean around the house, make their beds, do the dishes, and the list goes on. Your child will acquire higher self-esteem when she can do more for herself. Finally, remember to continually ask yourself each month, “What is one thing I am doing for my child now that she could be doing for herself?”
Brainstorming Creatively / Solving Family Challenges
Whenever a problem arises in our life, we often think that there are only one or two answers to a challenge. Under stress, problem solving is very limited and uncreative.
The more creative you are, the more options you can use to solve your situation. Highly effective teams work well, not because they don’t have problems, but because they have the confidence of knowing that the problem is an opportunity.
Begin solving personal and family problems using this creative technique. After a lot of practice, your children will be effective in solving their challenges for life!
Here are the guidelines for creative brainstorming:
1. Define the problem. Become clear on the situation and reduce the situation to a short sentence. Ensure everyone agrees on the problem.
2. Use a whiteboard and write down all possible ideas.
3. All ideas must be written down with no judgment-goofy, pure fantasy, or the obvious wrong answer-may be the path to a creative answer. Go for quantity not quality.
4. If one person has a problem, the person with the problem crosses off the responses that don’t work for him. If it’s a team problem, go around the circle and have each person cross off an absolute “no”.
5. Finally, you will be left with possible solutions to your challenge. Decide on a solution and pick a back up just in case the first one doesn’t work. If you’re not excited about any of the answers, start all over again-you may be able to come up with more ideas the second time around.
Our family has benefited enormously from our “brainstorming sessions.” Years ago, scooters were a popular novelty in our neighborhood, and our daughters wanted them, too. Most parents were buying each of their children their very own scooter, at the time; we decided that it was not in our family budget. One scooter would have to suffice for all three girls. Our friends thought we were nuts. “Oh, you’re in for a lot of problems,” they warned us. Secretly, we wondered if they were right and if we should have spent the extra money to save our sanity. Still, we held firm.
Our family gathered around the kitchen table and the girls used the oversized whiteboard and different colored dry-erase pens to brainstorm how they would share one scooter among the three of them. They were great. They laid out rules to follow-when each would have a chance to ride the scooter; how much time each would have with it; and how far from home they could travel before they’d need to come back to allow their sisters a turn. In fact, they even drew a map of the neighborhood on the whiteboard to indicate the family’s “scooter routes.” We didn’t interfere with their brainstorming. After all, we weren’t going to be using the scooter-they were. Reaching a consensus was a test of their teamwork. And they passed-with flying colors.
Our family philosophy is that a solution has to be “win-win” for everyone or it’s “no deal.” The problem can sit on the table for five minutes or five days-the solution needs to be agreeable to all or it’s back to the drawing board (or, in our case, the whiteboard).
We advise parents to be sensitive to the dynamics of the problem-solving process. Sometimes, a child may not be able to express her feelings and will simply go along with whatever the others propose. If you think your child is giving up her needs, you can say: “Is this really a win for you? Or are you just saying okay to get the process over with? Maybe you need to let the others know this is a ‘no-deal’ for you. We’ll have everybody come back in an hour and work on this some more.” The goal is to see that each child feels invested in the solution. It’s essential if they’re going to follow-through on what has been agreed upon.
By structuring family brainstorming sessions where all take part, you’ll be showing your kids that you’re not a parent who acts unilaterally, imposing your own authority on them willy-nilly. You’ll also be teaching them that it’s important to listen to all points of view in order to reach a solution that works for everyone. They’ll appreciate your efforts to provide them with an open forum where each idea can be considered. Even the most dubious solution should initially be greeted by parents with a bright “Thanks for sharing that.” No answer should be dismissed out of hand. The last thing you want to do is inhibit your kids from sharing their thoughts and ideas with you.
Sometimes when the brainstorming reaches a standstill, and we find we need to get our engines going, we’ll blurt out something silly just to get the conversation moving. If kids feel the bar is too high to reach, they’ll become intimidated and clam up. However, if they feel that you’re brave enough to risk saying the most outrageous thing, they’ll loosen up and be more comfortable in making their own contributions. Start problem-solving with your kids when they’re young and you’ll be amazed at how natural the process is for them as they get older. It’s a quality that will serve them well as they become adults!
Children need to feel special, important, valued, cherished, loved and close to their parents. One way to meet all of their needs is to take each child separately, on a “special date.” Both you and your child are free from disruptions during this time. This gives you the opportunity to learn a lot about what’s going on in your child’s life. Put your “special date” on the calendar and watch as your child’s excitement grows!
GUIDELINES FOR A SUCCESSFUL DATE:
• Pick a date and put it on the calendar together (do not cancel)
• Give limits and boundaries on how much money is spent, where you are willing to go, and how long the date will last, if necessary
• No siblings, spouses, or friends are allowed
• No hidden agendas about speaking to them about a problem
• Be present and enjoy each others company
IDEAS FOR DATES:
• Go out to breakfast before school
• Rescue them from a gross school lunch
• Go for an ice cream
• Roller blade or bike to the park and bring a picnic lunch
• Go on a hike at a nearby mountain
• See a movie on the opening night
Dates are a great way to re-establish the relationship with your child. Dates will continue to bring love, joy, and connection to your relationship. A healthy relationship is the best gift you and your child can continue to give to each other forever! Finally, think creatively and once in a while surprise them with an unannounced date!
The Family Goal Jar
A great team building activity for your family is to create a “Family Goal Jar.”
First, find some kind of fun or fancy container that can hold money.
Second, brainstorm as a family what you would like to save up for. Place a picture or a photo of your goal on or near the jar to help remind everyone of the goal.
Third, decide how much money will be needed as a family to reach your goal. Have someone count the money once a week.
Fourth, brainstorm ways to earn extra money, for example; lemonade stands, garage sales, allowances, recycling, extra jobs around the house, jobs for your neighbors, or have a family talent show.
Finally, anyone can put money in at anytime. For example when we find money in the washer we throw it into the Goal Jar. This idea helps build cooperation with your kids and also teaches them valuable concepts about creating money and how to achieve their goals.