Thursday, April 29, 2010

Your mission if you choose to accept it

This post is going to be really short but very powerful. Your mission, if you choose to accept   it, is to get a piece of paper and a pen (a journal, a notebook, a pad, a napkin... it doesn't matter what!) and write a list of what is beautiful, inspiring, loving, funny and unique about your child. I know that I often get caught up on the daily challenges and forget what an amazing human being my daughter truly is. I sometimes forget what a privilege it is for both of us to grow up together!
In the interest of authenticity and transparency, I will go first.

So here is my list (so far)
  • She has the deepest, shoe-button brown eyes you've ever seen!
  • She cares for everything and everyone in a way that makes me feel so proud
  • She is genuinely curious
  • She could tell jokes as soon as she could talk
  • She knows the strength of a girl
  • She thinks having brown skin is totally cool
  • She has hair that turns a beautiful auburn in the Summer sun
  • She has an artistic sense I totally envy
  • She's everything I wasn't allowed to be
Now, you try. You'll be surprised by the tears that start forming in your eyes as you re-discover the majesty of this life you brought forth and nourish everyday. Because you get it. You are a mom!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Bringing More Meaning Through Crisis

It’s a day that I and my family will never forget: The day mommy was taken to the hospital on an ambulance! After 2 days in critical care, I found myself needing intensive medical care and facing the decision of terminating my reproductive years at age 42 via a hysterectomy.  I found myself stunned, angry and a little confused.

As I plan for surgery in a few weeks, I took time to mourn the impending loss of my fertility and for a short while I was a bit angry. After shifting my focus to all that I had to be grateful for, I decided that if I allow my anger to rob me of my inner peace, I will impact those I love, and even myself in ways that did not serve me.
It has taken almost 2 weeks for me to get back in the rhythm of things and even know how to transition from that experience to writing again. I have learned in the process that every single challenge in my life is a chance to either turn away from what I know to be true, or to stand strong in who I am and move forward.  I knew that I was given an opportunity once again, to get in touch with my deepest joy and inner drive: to do God’s work by extending myself to other moms on this journey I like to lovingly call “the wacky world of motherhood”.

After a crisis like this, I was reminded of how fragile life is, how vulnerable and mortal we all are. How our days are borrowed and not a minute is promised to any of us. Now when I take a breath, when I taste a piece of apple or sip a cup of hot tea, or kiss my husband or daughter good-bye, I realize that these are all precious gifts. All this business of doing the business of life that seemed so critical, the phone calls, the errands, the endless to-do lists, are once again less important than connecting with those I love and those I serve through my work.  I have decided to be mindful of every single moment. I know…… that is such a cliché, such a platitude until you are the one on the Emergency Room!

I invite you to take no day for granted. Truly embrace every moment by celebrating it and being fully present in it. That will definitely guarantee more meaning to our lives WITHOUT having to go through a crisis to be reminded!

What can you do today to celebrate and be present with your loved ones?

Monday, April 5, 2010

5 ideas to tame back talk

In the previous articles I shared some thoughts about what constitutes back talk and how we as parents have a decisive influence on how our children learn respect for themselves and for the world around them. Children imitate behaviors from peers and from family members and sometimes enjoy using that as a tool to get a reaction from us, good or bad!

It was interesting that I had more conversations with friends and clients these past weeks about back talking than any other parenting concern!
Sometimes the use of seemingly disrespectful tones and attitudes is a reflection of their inability to ask for what they need: to be listened to and/or treated respectfully. Our children are negotiating the world around them and don’t always have the appropriate tools to do that.

Here are some ideas for you to consider if you find yourself angry on a regular basis and wondering if you are raising a juvenile delinquent:

1.    Teaching your child proper manners is a way to start at an early age to show them what behavior, tone and language is expected of them. Showing your child that it is courteous to say “thank you” when someone gives them a gift or that it is polite to wait until you are off the phone instead of pulling on your shirt or yelling at you.

2.    One step you can take to start changing the back talking situation is by setting clear limits and boundaries as well as consequences for transgressions.  Let your child know clearly and lovingly what behavior is not acceptable and make those your “family rules”. In our home, we have the rule that if you “hit you sit”, making it clear to even the smallest child that there are clear and definite consequences if she decides to use her fists instead of her words. Kids need to know what is expected of them but they also need to know that the rules apply consistently!

3.    When you are correcting your child’s disrespectful behavior, make sure to watch your own tone and body language: it’s much easier to be respectful and polite when our kid hasn’t pushed our buttons! Use a firm but respectful tone and tell your child what you want from him instead of what you don’t want. It is most helpful to say: “I see you using your fighting words. I need you to lower your voice and use respectful words” instead of “you better watch that mouth or I’ll wash it with soap”.

4.    Make sure to take the time to be a detective and find all the times when your child IS using his manners and choosing to act respectfully. The more you do that the more they learn that you “see” them in their wholeness as a person, not just as the brat that you are always nagging at. You encourage more of the behavior you want by focusing on what is already working!

5.    If you notice that your child’s behavior and backtalk seems to be aggravated by the company of certain friends or after watching certain TV shows or listening to certain music, you may have to make some hard choices about what your child listens to, watches and the people they are allowed to hang out with.

Trust your mommy instincts: if you feel hurt and angry, check in with yourself first. You have what you need to decide if the situation is or is not backtalk. I trust you!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Back talk first aid!

Determining what constitutes back talk is just as challenging as diagnosing when it occurs. I know sometimes when our daughter is simply getting frustrated because I am not listening or I am trying to do the proverbial “multitasking”, I can interpret her attempts to communicate as back talk. How do I assess the difference when I am tired, sick or simply overwhelmed? I know that at 8 years old, our daughter is still learning all the intricacies of communicating effectively and getting her point across. It’s also important that I create space for her to question what I asked of her, not as an act of defiance as much as a matter of learning. When our children ask “why” we have a great opportunity to teach them how to become and adult, how we navigate the world of decisions and demands.

By giving our children the benefit of the doubt, we can choose to respond to their question without feeling like it’s a personal attack on our authority. Sometimes a question is just that: a request for information. Determine the context, the tone and your own personal “hot buttons” before deciding if your child’s comment is indeed back talk. You can save everyone a lot of aggravation by responding and not reacting!

Remember, for effective parenting, only one of you can be having a meltdown at a time!