Friday, June 18, 2010

The real meaning of unconditional love!

Being a parent teaches us the real meaning of unconditional love. When our children misbehave, it's important that we let them know that we disapprove of their behavior but not of them as people. Loving parents all around the world struggle with not calling their kids "bad" when they get out of line and/or withholding love when the child is "naughty".

It's not easy to remain open-hearted when our children push our buttons. But as a child of loving parents who didn't know any other way of disciplining that focusing on making me earn their approval and their love I have made it my mission to support parents in learning how to discipline from the heart, respecting and keeping their children's dignity and self-confidence intact. It's simple but not easy!

Disclaimer: Remaining open and loving in the midst of our children's questionable behavior DOES NOT mean letting them do whatever they want, whenever they want in any way they want. What it does mean is that we set up rules and boundaries, having clear consequences and remaining cool and calm while enforcing them.

I had this interesting conversation with our daughter a couple of years ago, and it reflects my intention to let her know that she's worthy of our love, independent of what she does. What a gift to our children if we let them know that they get the best of us simply because they are our children!

My 8 year-old:What? No matter what I do, no matter how bad I am, you still love me and get good stuff anyway?

Me: That's my agreement with you. That's what you deserve.

My 8 year-old: You still love me even if I don't get as many points in jump rope as Mary? Or if I am not as good in spelling as Kimmy?

Me: That's exactly right!

My 8 year-old: Well that's kind of dumb... what difference does it make if do good or bad?

Me: Well, that's your choice. You get to decide if you are going to behave good or bad. But you also get to experience the consequences of what you do.

My 8 year-old: I don't like that.. what do I get for being good? Nothing?

Me: You are always good. You may choose not to behave appropriately. But you don't get anything more for behaving good. What does happen is that you end up having more freedom, more choices as you show more responsibility.

My 8 year-old: Hmmmmm... That's just weird.

Me: Yeap... I know. I know.

She walked away with a big smile on her face. I will never forget the look on her face. I know without any doubt that it is possible to guide our children, to educate them and to help them become what they are capable of being and at the same time, respect them as human beings. Again, it's very, very simple. But, boy oh boy, it sure is not easy!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Divide and conquer?

What do you do  when the way you want to support/discipline your child contradicts  the way your partner or spouse feels about the situation?  How do you keep a “united front” while being fair to your kid? How do you discuss the matter without making your child feel that she/he can “divide and conquer”?

As a mom of a strong-willed “tween” my life is full of opportunities for me to prepare relevant material for my audionblogs and written articles . What do I mean by that? Just the other day, I came face to face with the enemy#1  of the proverbial “united front”: I totally, utterly and completely disagreed with my husband on how to handle a situation with our daughter. It wasn’t anything particularly  complicated and in my opinion it wasn’t necessarily something that either one of us is probably going to remember in a few years. Well, it’s now on paper, out on cyberspace, so I guess it is NOT going to be completely forgotten!

Wondering what my daughter’s request was? All she wanted was to sleep on the guest bedroom as a fun thing to do and my beloved husband was concerned she would make it a mess.  It doesn’t seem like  a big issue when you look at it for what it was: a simple request from an 8-year-old trying to spice things up.

I used to believe that no matter what, my husband and I had to be on the same page on every single opinion, decision and action we took with our daughter. Isn’t that what we hear time and time again? But the truth is that each one of us is potentially parenting in a moment of anxiety, frustration and anger, most likely from the place we were parented. For many of us, that means we will be reacting instead of responding to our kids. In this particular case, my buttons were not pushed. I didn’t feel that our child was trying to “get away with something”. I didn’t feel she was trying to “outsmart” me and get her way. My husband on the other hand, was triggered and did feel that if we let her go ahead and do what she wanted, we were indeed raising a juvenile delinquent.

At that moment when my husband was feeling anxious and upset, he subscribed to the same “parenting myth” that many of the families I work with subscribed to: It is our job as parents to get our children to think, feel, and especially, behave the right way. It’s our job to get our children to be good and to obey us. Isn’t that what all those books tell us we ultimate want?

I have discovered throughout this amazing path of parenting, that our kids share our DNA but they truly don’t have to share our thoughts, our feelings or even our beliefs. I know, the first thing I hear from parents  when I tell them this is “Doesn’t that sound a bit too permissive, out of control and irresponsible?” My answer always is “Do you remember the first time you realized that your child had a mind of her own? Well, part of growing up means that our kids  will make different choices than me want them to make. They will have their biggest tantrum in front of your dissaproving in-laws. They will scream at the top of their lungs at the restaurant while everyone watches you. They will wait until the last minute to do their homework. The truth is you can’t make ANYONE do anything and that includes your kids. What you do have the power to do is to keep your cool and make sure that appropriate consequences are in place to respond (not react) when your child makes a decision that is in fact, in detriment of their growth or the well-being of their family.

We don’t want to kill their decision making spirit, right? We want to teach them that for every action there’s a ‘reaction’ and that what they choose has an effect on the world.  We want them to prepare them for the “real world”.

Going back to my family story, when our daughter in defiance told my husband  that it wasn’t fair for him to tell her she couldn’t sleep in the guess bedroom  as long as she kept it clean, his anxiety, his worry, his own need to control got triggered. I disagreed with him but instead of siding with my daughter (which I very much wanted to do) I decided to take a deep breath and call a time out. I told her that her daddy and I couldn’t agree on whether we wanted to let her sleep in the guest bedroom or not.. I also shared with her that even though I didn’t see anything wrong with it and her daddy did, my opinion was by no means more valid than daddy’s. So, since we couldn’t agree, we were just going to take a little while to think about it and get back with her the next day.

And within an hour or two, my sweet husband told her that after taking some time to think about it, he realized that as long as it was understood that the expectation was that she’d stay there for a couple of days and was to keep the room clean, he was truly OK with her wishes. He had time to “cool” off and see our decision as harmless. He really was joining me in making his decision from a  cool, calm and connected place.

See, here’s the thing: we both want the best for our daughter and we will not always see things the same way. As long as neither one of us is acting from the place where our buttons have been pushed and we are offering a knee-jerk reaction, we don’t have to worry so much about being a “united, single-minded front”. We are two different people who love this child very much.

So the story goes. Do I have this technique of keeping cool totally under my belt? It’s a work in progress. But I have seen the beauty and the power of it, for all the relationships in my life!

How do you deal with your differences of opinions, philosophies and techniques with the people in your life? Your mother-in-law? Your mother? Your best friend? Your partner/husband? As always, I’d love to hear your opinions!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Getting ready for summer

By Ellen R. Delap, CPO®

soulfulparent, busy moms, tweens, help, summer

We all love those lazy days of summer. But some times that is not what works best. Having an orderly approach to the fun can give you even more relaxation!

Keep the routine

Our first inclination is let to everyone stay up to all hours, eat ice cream for breakfast and have no routine at all. Summer is a great time for new routines. Start with a little later bedtime, but definitely have a bedtime for you and your kids. Getting a great night’s sleep is the best way to make every day a great one. Add in some new twists to responsibilities around the house and some new fun to the day. Have your kids water the plants, mow the lawn and clear the garage. Everyone benefits from having projects and consistency.

Make learning a year round activity

Summer is the time to delve into deep and lengthy learning with lots of hands on activity. Get on google and check out the local resources for library story time, free zoo day and free admission to the local children’s museum. Plan a weekly theme for exploration, such as turtle week, bug week, water week or art week. Having a fun and inexpensive theme keeps you and your family creative and resourceful.

Get your goodies organized

There are lots of ways to get organized for all the summer activities. For every different activity, get your goodies together in a bag. For swimming, organize it all together in a waterproof one. Gather up sunscreen, bug spray, swim toys and sun hats in order to get out the door quickly. For a trip to the library, have a bag that keeps all the borrowed books together. As you plan for travel, stock the car with games, wet wipes, Benadryl and snacks for a family friendly travel.

Having a plan can make all the difference for your summer. You and your kids will thrive not just survive! Getting ready for summer is just making a plan and working your plan.

For more tools and techniques on organizing, visit, tweet Ellen on twitter @TexasOrganizer or join her Facebook Business Page Happy organizing!

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Getting Ready for Summer with Kids!!!

I am starting The Soulful Parent's June Birthday Celebration with some great guest bloggers who I love and respect very much! As Summer is upon us, I will be focusing on how to keep cool during the hottest time of the year...both for the weather AND for our relationships with our children, now that they are home! - Sandra


Getting Ready for Summer with Kids
By Susan Heid- The Confident Mom

It’s the time of year that busy moms everywhere are either pulling their hair out or rejoicing! SCHOOLS OUT – now what? As you begin to think about your summer, I have a few tips and suggestions that you might find helpful as you put together a plan for summer.

Even though school is out and in most homes there is little urgency to be anywhere at a certain time or accomplishing anything in a particular order, it is amazing how good it is for children to still expect some kind of routine. Instead of having chaotic mayhem, sit down and come up with a regular morning, afternoon and evening routine that you can pretty much stick to, however loosely that may look for your family. I know for our family, having an expectation that certain things, like eating breakfast, brushing teeth, taking medicine, making beds and getting dressed are done by a certain time helps everyone out. I am not nagging or reminding and it helps us all have a more pleasant morning. The same routines can be set up for afternoons and evenings. When your children are comfortable with routines and the expectations that come with them, it eases anxiety and frustration for everyone.

Avoid the Summer Back Slide
Okay, schools out and now school work gets a backseat to fun! Do you know research has shown that students lose 2 months of math learning over the summer? YIKES! I know that unless you are intentional in providing a space and place to encourage your child to continue learning over the summer, they will back slide. Usually we have picked a subject to concentrate on over the summer – reading, spelling, handwriting, math skills, letter writing – just to name a few. This year is Math. I have discovered a new way to incorporate math learning in a engaging and fun way for my kids - TenMarks Education.

They have a great personalized summer program mapped to your child’s needs and it is done completely online – with video lessons, hints if they get stuck and incentives to complete the work. My son has already started working on this great program and he loves it! Watch the video here for more information on how it works. It is only $39 for the entire summer. That is a little more than $10 per month and the best part is I don’t have to take the time to put together any program; I just encourage and watch my child succeed!

I don’t know about you, but with older kids it seems like it gets harder and harder to come up with new and fun ideas to pass the long summer days away. I have gathered a few new ideas to share with you that we will be trying this summer as well as a few true and tried favorites! We are going to do some solar printing! I found this great little kit that comes with supplies so that you can make cards and more just by using items you have around the house and placing them outside on the solar paper! This will be fun. Solar Print Kit I am sure I will have to buy some plain paper too; this will surely be a hit for us all! I even think my husband will love it and a great camping activity too.

Our family is always looking for new and creative games and I stumbled upon this one Mad Libs Card Game. If you are not familiar with Mad Libs – CHECK THEM OUT! They are a great source of fun, learning entertainment and I guarantee a lot of belly laughs and if you are not careful you may even pee your pants. They also come in a booklet format that we take to the beach, use on airplanes and car rides. Vacation Mad Libs. I can guarantee we will get a lot of use out of ours this summer on our RV trip to Yellowstone.

I can’t wait to try this Homemade Sidewalk Paint too. We live in a cul de sac so have lots of sidewalk and a big area to paint away. You make the paint out of water, corn starch and food coloring. This environmentally friendly sidewalk paint takes the place of traditional sidewalk chalk. It’s also very, very inexpensive! You can make standard shades of red, green, yellow, and blue; or, mix and match to create other shades. Here is the recipe.

If you are traveling at all this summer I have a few tips that will surely save your sanity.

Pack clothing for younger kids in zip loc bags. Pack everything you need for an outfit in a bag and then everything is in one place and you can either give the child the bag of clothing or have your partner help get them dressed. No one is looking around for a clean pair of underwear or that hair ribbon that matches the shirt!

For car or airplane rides, pack snacks in smaller “snack” size bags rather than just bringing a long the larger purchased sized item. This elevates messes as you distribute snacks, you have less over eating since there is portion control and it makes it easier to pack too!

Have surprised! When we are traveling and when space accommodates it I have went to the dollar store and bought a few new items for my kids. Some times I even wrap them up so they can anticipate the surprise. They don’t get these items in advance of our trip and now they always look forward to finding out what they got – yes even my 17 year old still loves this tradition!

Listen to stories on CD if you are traveling by car or download them to an MP3 player for your child if you are taking a plane. You can get a ton of great stories at your local library. I have found I even enjoy listening to the stories – and when we take a break we end up talking about what has transpired while we have listened. It is a great way to engage everyone in one activity.

Summer is such a great time of year and has the potential to create such great, lasting memories for you and your family. I know for me, some of my most vivid memories are from summer vacations or activities we did as a family. I hope you have a few new ideas to incorporate into your summer plans and it is certainly one full of great memories!</b>

Susan Heid is the amazing mom and coach behind the The Confident Mom – Reviving the Art of Home & Family Management with practical tools so you can re-energize your role as a mom & develop your God-given potential! She is a proud mother of 3 awesome kids – ages 17, 13 and 9, married to her very own prince charming. She loves coffee, cloudy days, and does think the “bluest skies you’ve ever seen are in Seattle.”