Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Parenting from love not fear

This weekend, I decided to organize the books on my bookshelves. I absolutely love reading and once I fall in love with a book I find it hard to give it away, unless, of course, it is a gift for someone who would appreciate the book.

One thing I noticed as I was looking over the parenting books I own was that many of the parenting books I have read in the past have made me feel fearful--as if I, and every parent out there is “doing parenting all wrong”. Some popular books have even given me the feeling that I am definitely going downhill into the sea and drifting away into an ocean of parenting regret. If I dared not follow their way of parenting, I am doomed to raise a "hooligan" or even a future "juvenile delinquent"!

I know in my heart that every parent is the real expert on their kids and knows them better than anyone else. Tools and techniques as well as support is very, very helpful in this journey. But I've noticed that when I or the moms I consult with, parent out of fear, the result is more fear.

The opposite is also true: when I parent from love, my child can feel that love, even when the established consequences for her bad behavior are not pleasant for her. It’s not that she jumps for joy at the sight of her chores, or her homework: it just becomes less of a battle or a struggle.

When I choose to parent from love, in a calm and caring way, I have fewer regrets and many more successes. It requires me to be present, available and connected to my child even when my first reaction is to run in the other direction.

The bottom line is that not much good comes out of doing anything from a place of fear. I read somewhere a long time ago that the opposite of love is fear. If that is true indeed, where would you rather parent from?

Sunday, September 26, 2010

The Mompreneur Meltdown

Ever since I stepped into this incredible journey of entrepreneurship, I've been devouring everything in sight on marketing, publicity, increasing sales, social media, SEO. I've read the books on it, subscribed to on-line newsletters, and attended local networking meetings, listened to tapes, felt guilty about the tapes I didn't listen to. I am swimming in information. And, this past weekend, I realized, I was choking on it.

Before I knew it, I've gotten so wrapped up in all there is for me to do, that I can close my eyes and think of the infinite amount of tasks calling my name. They are all yelling at me trying to convince me that my success and my value depend on how well I do them all. And in case I decide to have some compassion for myself, I am reminded that I am way behind already. Yikes!

When I think I have maxed out, there’s another email, another invitation to a teleclass, another webinar promising to solve all my problems and bring me more clients, more money, more exposure. The pressure to keep up with the “flow” while running this business got to be too much.

In the middle of this craziness, I have forgotten to listen to my own heart, which is the reason why I do what I do. It’s the reason why I get emails from moms telling me how much they appreciated the encouragement, the kind words and the practical solutions my programs offered them. It’s not glamorous, I know. But it makes ME happy!

Recently I attended a networking meeting full with some amazingly wonderful business people. They were really energized, outspoken and excited. Although I admired their ambition, drive, and moxie I felt out of place focusing only on the mechanics of how to run and business and make the elusive “six-figure” income.

Is there a place for me if I want to let my heart be my compass? Is there a way to have balance between my goals and my priorities? How do I negotiate being available as a mom, spouse, friend, citizen of Life with so many demands on my time?

I came across this article called Be Really Good at Being You!. It spoke to me and the place I was at that eye-opening weekend:
Do you feel inadequate yet? Are you picturing the “supermom” next door that you always envy admire? Well, it is time to stop! You are amazing. You are the only you that will ever be, and YOU are here to find out why. Why do I always compare myself with others, when really I just need to be really good at being me? Everyone’s best is different. For some reason, women have a really hard time accepting that.
After my own meltdown , I became aware of how important it is to be clear on what my friend and business coach Lara Galloway calls “your conditions of satisfaction”. By establishing what your own values and priorities are, it becomes much easier to know when you (and what you do!) are not in alignment with your values, with your “true North”. It's a heck of a lot easier to get somewhere when you know where you are going!

How do you balance motherhood with all other aspects of your life?

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

You just don't get it!

Do you ever wonder what the world would be like if we were able to understand each other clearly and effectively? I know there is so much going on in the world today that understanding of those around us in general may not be something in the forefront of your thoughts... until there’s the proverbial misunderstanding. It’s then that we realize the value of effective communication.

I have always thought of myself as a good, effective communicator. At least, I spoke what was on my mind enough, so I felt I was communicating. I had resigned myself that a successful relationship with my beloved only required that I said what I meant and meant what I said. But when you join in with another human being, who comes with his own “software” for processing language, you learn how much you still need to learn about communication.

Most of us do our best to communicate what we want and need: from a 2 year old who’s frustrated by having to repeat his words over to his mom who doesn’t understand his developing language to the wife trying to explain to her partner how tired she really is.

We all crave people in our lives that understand us, that get us? No matter how old we are we want to be understood by the people that matter to us. Our children are no exception. They are learning new lessons every day: they are learning to write, they are learning to ride a bike, they are learning to walk in the world as the little people they are. I know that as they navigate all these new experiences, they also want to know that we get how they get frustrated, how they try so hard and how the world doesn’t always make sense to them.

I have been blessed with friends and family that do their best to support me when the world shuffles and tosses me around a little bit (you know who you are!). I want that same experience for our daughter, because she too deserves to have people in her life that understand her and that she feels safe coming to. Understanding and support, whether for my husband, for a friend or my child, means not jumping to conclusions or thinking that I have all the answers or that I truly know what is going on at all times. What a relief!

We develop close connections with our children and our family when we support and understand them even when we’d prefer that they did things our way. It’s a great opportunity to show our unconditional love and make them feel that their feelings and thoughts matter to us too. We can show that we “see them”!

When we encourage and understand someone, including our children, we inspire them to be themselves. And in the end, honoring exactly who they are is the best way to show someone you love them.

How do you keep the communication open in your family?

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Be still and know.. It's good to smile!

What happens when you find wet towels moldy and smelly under your child’s bed? What do you do when your child refuses to do the chore that had been previously agreed upon? What is your reaction when your child tells you that you are the worst mother in the world? What if he decides to tell you that it’s a good thing you are not a parent to anyone else because you are just horrible? ( You guessed it: I have heard some of these myself!)

You know what I do: I take a deep breath and force myself to smile. I know it seems like an absurd way to handle the challenges of parenting but it works for me. According to Gretchen Rubin author of the new book, The Happiness ProjectFacial expressions don’t merely reflect emotions, they also affect emotions. In “facial feedback,” studies show, the mere act of smiling makes people happier—even when they smile mechanically, as I’m doing, or when they’re asked not to “smile” but rather to contract specific facial muscles”.

I don’t have to remind you of the challenge of raising children consciously, intentionally and Screamfree: it’s truly a labor of love all the way through.

But, no matter how difficult the situation may be or how tired you are of dealing with the never-ending behavior from your child, one thing is true: Only one of you can be having a meltdown at a time!

As we chose to walk this journey of parenthood with the utmost respect for ourselves and our children it becomes crucial that we remember to take a deep breath (or a hundred if necessary!), walk away if possible and keep in mind that no good comes from retaliation or reaction. You can’t be in charge in you can’t be in control of yourself!

Smile.. Your kids are watching!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Redefine Girly: A New Way to Parent Young Girls

Guest post by Melissa Wardy

I am rather certain that raising kids has never been easy. First there were saber tooth tigers, then troublesome things like plagues and famine. Take into account marauding armies and the carving out of a New World…there is a lot these days that parents take for granted.

Today there is a new kind of danger we have to protect our kids from: the corporate marketer. Marketers are relentless in their efforts to build life-long consumers of our children, and they aim hypersexual and gender stereotyped advertising directly at our kids to do it.

I believe the sexualization of childhood will soon be seen as the children’s rights issue of our time. Sexualization affects both boys and girls, infant through high school. Sexualization affects all races, economic classes, and geographies. It robs children of their right to childhood, to hit psychological developmental milestones fairly, and it affects their self-esteem and body image.

Parents hand their children toys that don’t look like children, but instead reflect a sexily dressed woman’s body frame that is literally unachievable to 99% of adult women, yet we shake our heads when we hear that 5 and 6 year olds are beginning to say they are fat and need to diet. Our society encourages girls to play with coquettish princesses and scantily-clad fairies, only to slut-shame these same girls in later years.

The commercial sexualization of childhood has gotten to the point that parents have to go out of their way and many times spend twice as much money to keep their home free and clear of clothing, toys, and media that sexualize and marginalize their children. In mainstream, suburban American shopping there is a chasm running through childhood – one side is pink and the other is blue.

When my daughter was born and I would spend the day holding her and dream about catching lightening bugs, teaching her to ride a bike and kick a soccer ball, reading “Little House On The Prairie”, and flying kites. A childhood fit for a Norman Rockwell piece for the Saturday Evening Post.

When my tiny girl was a few weeks old, I needed to restock on diapers or pacifiers or some such thing and went shopping at our local big box store. I came home mystified. My eyes were glazed over from pink pegboard and walls of plastic dolls that looks like sex workers and tulle and tiaras and slogans on every shirt that read “I love being the Princess” and “Daddy’s Princess” and “Sweet as Candy” and “Angel” and “Sassy, sometimes Sweet”. The excess of tiaras and rhinestones had done me in.

This was girlhood? This was how I was supposed to raise my daughter? And why was everything pink? I couldn’t understand it, and thought perhaps my post pregnancy hormones had made me time travel. You know, to 1950.

I wasn’t about to raise my girl to wish upon a star and wait for her prince. I’d rather teach her to get into a rocket ship and reach that star for herself. I wanted that message on infant girl clothing, but couldn’t find it. At least, I couldn’t find it on the “girl side” of the aisle. Then I had one of those a-ha moments and I filled page after page with ideas and drawings and plans…..for what would become Pigtail Pals.

I don’t see childhood as having a boy side and a girl side, not in the first several years. I see childhood as a time for brightly colored, unstructured play fueled by powerful imaginations and the understanding all young children seem to have that the world is their oyster.

I have worked diligently to keep our home media literate, gender neutral with toys, and full of playthings that are open ended. My husband and I try to keep gender stereotypes and sexualization out of our home.  I certainly will not be teaching my daughter, who was named after Amelia Earhart, to sit quietly and be pretty. I flatly refuse to teach her that her beauty is her worth.

I believe girls deserve better. I believe we need to change the way we think about our girls. I think girls should be allowed to dream in every color. I think girls should have the freedom to imagine growing up to be a doctor, a race car driver, a pilot, or an astronaut. Today’s girls are being raised by a generation of women that is the most well educated, most well traveled, most liberated to ever have walked the earth. But you wouldn’t know it after an afternoon of shopping.

I raise my girl to be smart, daring, and adventurous. I don’t think those things belong on the “boy side” of the aisle. I simply think they belong right in the middle of childhood.

Melissa Wardy is a mother of two who owns and operates Pigtail Pals – Redefine Girly, an online store and media literacy blog that aims to change the way we look at girlhood. Our empowering products show girls they may be smart, daring, and adventurous.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

It takes a village....

When Hillary wrote It Takes A Village there was a collective nodding of heads across the country. Somehow we all know deep down that as terrific as we may be at parenting, there are huge benefits to allowing our children to be parented by others as well. Bringing other adults into the fold is good for the children, and good for the parent. Allowing others to help is especially good for the Mom, who even in the most egalitarian of households takes on the lions’ share of work in terms of parenting.

So why is it so hard to admit, Mamas, that we can use and have a right to help and support? What holds us back from asking for what we need? How would life be different for us if we learned to lean on others – even just a teeny bit?

The Mom Unto Herself

The moms I work with in my coaching practice, as well as many of my own friends and family, are remarkably consistent in their behaviors and mindset around going it alone. Several of the variations on this theme are:
  1. The SuperMommy complex. We believe we can wake before dawn, meditate, exercise, spend the day taking care of the children and/or working inside or outside the home, blog, tweet, eat well, be insightful, have quality time and get everyone to bed at a reasonable hour. We believe we can do this without developing fatigue, loss of libido or depression. Seriously, Moms, IT’S TOO MUCH. We are only human, after all.
  2. The lack of a reliable mirror. Mommying happens pretty much in a vacuum; very rarely do we hear “Great job!” or a “We’d like to publish your thoughts on that!” when we rise to a formidable parenting challenge. Instead, we do our thing solo and without recognition. Over time this leads to negative feelings about our accomplishments, and the sense that we aren’t doing anything worthwhile. So we do more and more, in an attempt to counterbalance these feelings of worthlessness.
  3. Deep down, we feel guilty about “just being Mom”. There are many of us who came to mommying after spending time in corporate America or logging long hours in the non-profit world. We know how to work hard, and we are used to it. When we become mamas, we substitute one challenging job for another. We take on whatever comes our way, believing that it’s a privilege to stay home with the children and we should be able to handle whatever comes our way.
Do you recognize yourself or your friends in the above descriptions? It seems to be somewhat of an epidemic!

Asking for What We Need

As women, we are conditioned to make nice and be agreeable; it’s much more socially acceptable to go along with the crowd than to stand up and be forceful. As a result, we have forgotten how to ask for what we want. We behave according to “shoulds” and “have tos”, which are externally generated thoughts and opinions, rather than slowing down and quietly asking ourselves, “What do I want?”

When we DO ask ourselves what we want in a heartfelt way, the answer that comes is authentic, wholesome and healing. It points out which needs aren’t being met, and opens us up to finding new ways to meet those needs. It’s the first step to finding our way to healthy parenting that’s healthy for the mommies as well as the kids.

So for all us moms trying and failing to do it all, our challenge is to slow down, take stock of what feels like it’s too much, and ask for help. In granting ourselves this small act of kindness, we appreciate ourselves for what we are, and demonstrate self-love and self-respect. Modelling these two traits for our kids is perhaps the most valuable lesson of all.

Where are you feeling overwhelmed, and like a hand would be extra appreciated right now? How can you invite others into your family dynamic in a way that supports you and benefits the children? What might open up for you, once you make way for some support with parenting?

Amy Kessel is a certified professional life coach and the owner of Mamamorphosis: Think Outside the LunchBox. She helps moms reclaim themselves as women, which in turn enables them to create passion-filled and purpose-led lives. Her private and group coaching, as well as her dynamic workshops, attract women at all stages of mommyhood, who have the same burning question: What's Next for Me?

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Happy New Year to Me!

I have been blessed with approximately 1,350,636,432.53 seconds so far. Today, as I celebrate my birthday, I have an opportunity to reflect on what I want the next 1,350,636,432.53 seconds to be like!

I have to admit: this year has been very, very challenging in many different ways. One thing has become even more clear to me: focusing on our strengths, on what is working and on our many blessings, allows for the tough times to be more "endurable". Challenges don't go away because we are grateful; they just become meaningful in the context of gratitude!

Focusing on me, and me alone, continues to be "my growing edge". Writing this blog was just as uncomfortable as it was eye-opening. I questioned the wisdom of talking about me, my birthday and my reasons for gratitude. But, I guess, the beauty of moving forward in my 40's is that I become more and more willing to show up in the world just as I am, warts and all!

As my own, personal "new year" gets underway, I decided to celebrate by writing down the notes from my gratitude journal, written on my special day. I am deeply grateful to and for:
  • My mom and dad, who with all their seeming "flaws" have taught me so much about love, about trust in Life, about who I ultimate can become.
  • My husband, friend and companion. His gentle nature, patience and unconditional love for me have sustained me against fear, cynicism, hopelessness and arrogance. He continues to be the soft place where God touches my heart in good times and tough times.
  • My daughter, who at 8 years old has taught me more than anything or anybody in my entire life! Her determination, strength, resolve and confidence, have allowed me to discover the same qualities in me. Loving her has taught me that by opening our hearts, we become the spot where love flows through first, thus blessing us in the process.
  • My playgroup tribe sisters, four women who know me in ways that I was afraid to show anyone before. For the last 8 years, these women have become as much part of me as my own family. They have honored the secret code of this circle of women who are willing to see me through anything, in sickness and in health, for richer and for poorer, for champagne or for beer!
  • My body, that despite the foolishness of younger years, continues to bring me unmeasurable joys: the pleasure of my child's kiss, the taste of a ripe mango, the sound of Pink Martini or the comfort of a friend's hug.
  • My deep and abiding connection with God, expressed in so many forms: the laugh of a baby, a beautiful sunset, the taste of watermelon or the smell of clean laundry!
  • The availability of all sorts of books and my ability to read them. The gift of literacy is one I could never, ever take for granted!
  • The amazing sight of a clear blue sky in Seattle. When the clouds part, there's no other place on Earth that can take your breath away like the Pacific Northwest.. at least for me!
  • My Ipod! I absolutely love the way I can relax, learn, meditate, work out or simply dance my head off at the touch of a button!
  • All the new and amazing people that my coaching career has brought to me! My classmates, my online friends. In this journey of following my heart as a parent coach and ScreamFree consultant, I have been touched by the wisdom,kindness and support of some amazing and generous women: Lara, Wendy, Lynne, Dori, Michele Borba, Marjie, Amy, Karen and Susan. The list is long.. so please forgive me if this late at night, I missed adding your name here... A big, heartfelt, soul-full thank you for the many ways you have touched my life!
  • For the opportunity to live in a country, the United States of America, that although a "work in progress", has given me the chance to be what I was born to be!
So I take a deep breath and decide to click "publish" before I change my mind.

Happy New Year to Me!

Soulfully yours,

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Done yelling & bribing! There's a better way:ScreamFree Moms!

  • Does it seems like your 8 year-old’s mouth has gotten out of control and she always has to have the last word?
  • Are you in the middle of a battle between your child and your partner that ends up in more and more disrespectful behavior?
  • Does it seems like you have tried every book, every class and every tool and still can't get your kids to cooperate?
As a mom of a very active and challenging 8 year old, I know firsthand that many skillful moms like you are doing the best they can to raise
their children in a loving, conscious and intentional way. Moms like you, take very serious the challenge of being effective in loving their
children, caring for their partner, managing a household, balancing work and keeping it all together.
And I know that things don’t always work out the way we want.
When your work is caring for your children (among so many other things) you simply can’t turn your kids “off” until you are not stressed, tired, or overwhelmed. As we move forward on the journey of motherhood, we sometimes find ourselves needing some support, some practical tools to keep on “keeping”
I also know that pretending that we can handle it all alone all the time, with the constant pressures to do it just “right” can not only stressful but simply unrealistic and unfair.
Whether we are aware of it or not, stress affects everything we do especially our parenting.I feel very blessed by the opportunity to raise my beautiful, sweet and sometimes “testy” 8 year old:she has helped me grow my heart in ways I never thought possible. She puts a smile on my face most days and she teaches me a great deal about life. I have to admit though, that she also challenges me to keep cool and calm at times when she is not. I have learned with time and tons of practice, that how I respond (not react) to her can really make a difference on how I experience my journey as a parent.
I have also learned this to be true for the moms I work with:
Change the way you respond to your children and the way your children respond to you changes!.

Do you know what the biggest enemy of your parenting efforts is? It is not the TV, the Internet, or even drugs.
Our biggest enemy is our own emotional, unchecked reactions. When I say “I lost it with my kids” the “it” in that sentence is our adulthood. We don’t respond to our kids: we have a huge reaction! Then we wonder why our children have so little respect for us. Isn’t it time to do it different?
It’s time to become

Scream Free!!!

This course will give you the tools you need to shift from CHAOS to CALM!

As a parent coach, trained in Early Childhood and Special Needs, I have learned many tools and strategies to help the families I have worked with focus on what they need to do to have the family lives they dream of. But the experience of mothering challenged me to translate those techniques into practical, concrete strategies that truly work. I had the privilege to test these strategies to find what worked for me so I could build a robust plan for keeping myself focus, calm and connected.
It's time for your parenting to go from SURVIVING to THRIVING!

ScreamFree Moms Teleseminar participant said :" I really liked Sandra. Her personality is very comforting, positive and assuring!"
The Details

We’ll go through 4 weeks together where I’ll share simple and practical ways to really learn how to make meaningful changes to get your parenting back on track.
Each week will include a very short video, pdf course materials, and a password protected Yahoo Group for you to connect with others, get support and share your experience.
Everything is designed to fit into a busy lifestyle! Most of us do not have the time to join lengthy audio classes, watch hours of video or read through pages of text.
We will cover:
Tools to immediately start effecting change at home
How to keep yourself cool and connected
Scripts to use when you are overwhelmed
Effective ways to prevent stress build up and identify your unique stress patterns and triggers.
How to “”switch on your calm response, no matter how stressful the situation you are in.
Gain control of the strongest weapon you naturally have against parental stress: YOU
The course begins September 20 and ends October 11th.
Each Saturday you’ll receive the short, video, pdf weekly course materials, and details to call in for the audio class.
Every Monday evening at 7pm PST/10:00pmEST we’ll get together for the audio class where you can call in by phone.
By Wednesday you’ll get a link to access the recording if you couldn’t make the call. I highly encourage you to participate live but I understand that some times that may not work. I ask that you find some time to listen to the recording.

I know you’re afraid of signing up for this class because you can't imagine how a book and talking on the phone can change the way you parent. You may feel it is too good to be true. You may even wonder if you have time to take the class! But you know what? It’s going to be okay. I’ve been where you are now, and I know the way out of here. So let's walk side-by-side, click on the button that says Buy Now, and in just a moment you’ll be on the road to the solution that makes it all okay.Click the button and let’s get you out of this mess, okay?.

Are you ready to become a Scream Free Mom?
You do need to register soon so I can get you on my class list. There are a limited number of spots so make sure to register early.
*Registration will be open from now until September 20th or until the course is full.

Book Options

NOTE: Your order will show on your credit card statement as Living Out Loud (
If you have any questions, feel free to contact me here.
P.S. If you are feeling so overwhelmed that you’re not sure if this will help, I want you to know there are ways…simple, easy, doable steps that will make huge shifts in how you deal with your kids and how you view parenting all together. I’d hate to see you hesitate getting the support you need because of the very thing (stress) that this course will help resolve.
I hope you give it a chance!