Friday, October 2, 2009

When a Parent's 'I Love You' Means 'Do as I Say'

I love Alfie Kohn. Here is an article he wrote about unconditional love....

If the following link isn't clickable, just copy and paste into your browser.

Lots of Love,
Linda Shannon
Riviera PlaySchool, a Redondo Beach preschool for attachment parents

Thursday, July 2, 2009

To bring up children without comparison

I wanted to share this quote from Jiddu Krishnamurti. If we could all just do this, the world would be such a better place! If you want to read more from Krishnamurti, I recommend "Think on These Things" -- he has much to say about education.

Lots of Love,

=== - Daily Quote ===

To bring up children without comparison is true education

One is everlastingly comparing oneself with another, with what one is, with what one should be, with someone who is more fortunate. This comparison really kills. Comparison is degrading, it perverts one's outlook. And on comparison one is brought up. All our education is based on it and so is our culture. So there is everlasting struggle to be something other than what one is. The understanding of what one is uncovers creativeness, but comparison breeds competitiveness, ruthlessness, ambition, which we think brings about progress. Progress has only led so far to more ruthless wars and misery than the world has ever known. To bring up children without comparison is true education.

Letters to a Young Friend - 18
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Lots of Love,
Linda Shannon
Riviera PlaySchool, a Redondo Beach preschool for attachment parents

Monday, May 25, 2009

conflicting needs VS conflicting people... hmmmm.....

This post was a response to a client. I am posting it here in case others can benefit!

My sister and I have a history of arguing as well. The funny thing is, the NVC conflict resolution approach works the same with adults as it does with children: both of you have a need, and the needs are what is in conflict (rather than you two, as people, being in conflict. Big difference!!) It is nothing personal -- it is simply two people trying to get their needs met! Figure out the needs, and you can usually resolve the conflict.

Lots of Love,
Linda Shannon
Riviera PlaySchool, a Redondo Beach preschool for attachment parents

Sunday, May 17, 2009

I Didn't Want a Marshmallow

Parents often have a hard time with children who "think they're the boss." The irony is, that none of us want a marshmallow, a follower; and most of us want a happy, self-satisfied, confident child! (...a leader, perhaps?) So maybe it is as easy as shifting our thinking! We can embrace it as AWESOME that our child knows what s/he wants! This is the type of child who will probably not follow the pack like a lemming out to sea! What our child needs is help learning ways to get those needs met; ways that don't conflict with another's ability to get their needs met! It is as simple as that!

Even before I was lucky enough to become pregnant with my son, I knew I didn't want to have a marshmallow. I wanted a child like myself: someone who knows what they want, and also what they don't want. Someone who will grab life by its tail and make things happen for himself. Someone who is not afraid to be themselves, stand up for themselves, even in the face of peer pressure (and fear of abandonment). In a word: someone who mainstream thinkers might call stubborn. Or, someone who will make their own way in life. Not just someone who would 'march to a different drummer,' but someone who would CREATE the drum they will march to.

And when I realized that, I also knew it would not be easy. Motherhood was going to make me stretch, I was sure. It was going to make me really question why I have the limits I have, and why I don't have others that might serve me if I did.

For example, I have a fetish for clean, uncluttered floors. This drives me to survey my son's room with dis-ease whenever he has been playing with gusto, elbow-deep in legos, cars, and plastic rescue men....

"Kian, please don't leave all of your toys around your room."
"Linda, it's my room, right?"


"I don't mind if the toys are all over my floor. And since it's my room, then that should be enough, right?"

"Well....Yes, Kian. you're right."

This as an example of my personal needs conflicting with someone's else's needs. If I impose my will here, then his need for freedom to control his belongings becomes encroached upon, and the lesson he learns is how to become a bully -- that if you are larger, then you can boss people around.

It is either his room or it isn't. I have been calling it his room since he was born, so in keeping with that I also want to follow through and allow him to make certain decisions about it. So my limit shifted. We made a mutual agreement. I keep the door closed, and I am not willing to deliver his clothing to his dresser if I cannot walk across his room. In turn, when the floor becomes too cluttered to move about easily, he cleans it up cheerfully, willingly, and voluntarily.

The other day, when a random adult picked Kian up without warning or permission, Kian was confident enough to say: "Put me down." He did not yell it, and he was not upset. When the adult returned him to the ground, Kian said "Don't ever pick me up again without asking. I don't like that. I wouldn't do that to you, so it's not OK to do it to me." He stated his needs calmly and clearly, and with confidence. I love that.

I am learning a lot as the parent of a "stubborn" child. There is a big difference between me as a child, and my child. While I was never confident enough to express myself freely, my son has no problem expressing himself and asking for the things he believes he needs. And he is extremely respectful of himself and his own belongings, as well as other people and their belongings. He is respectful because he is being raised with respect. He has empathy, because he is being raised with empathy.

Lots of Love,
Linda Shannon
Riviera PlaySchool, a Redondo Beach preschool for attachment parents

Friday, May 15, 2009

On Biting....

(This is from a response written to a mother's quest for advice on her 2 year old's need to bite.)

Childhood can be a stressful thing, not just for parents, but for the child also. The littlest things can stress a child out. Even picking a child up without warning can cause a child to internalize stress. And if your household is going through any changes, your daughter could be picking up on the energy. Or it could be something else. Whatever it is, biting is her way of releasing that energy. Redirect it. Create a biting basket filled with things he CAN bite (a plush toy, a rubber chew toy, biscuits, etc.) Then, after you have told her firmly but with love that it is not ok to bite mommy, because that hurts, REDIRECT her to the biting basket and ENCOURAGE HER TO BITE THOSE ITEMS!!!

"Your Two Year Old" is a great book that will give you the ages and stages and what to expect. It is so important to have age-appropriate responses to our children. (Impulse control, which is governed by the prefrontal cortex, is not fully developed until 27 years of age, actually, and NOT 3, by the way! so hang onto your panties!!!)

Lots of Love,
Linda Shannon
Riviera PlaySchool, a Redondo Beach preschool for attachment parents

Friday, April 24, 2009

Why Be Your Own Worst Critic...??

(This is from a personal note to someone, and I wanted to share it here with you, as well, since it could apply to so many.)

Just remember, if it resonates, then it is simply the mirror -- it is alive in you, too.

If you're like me, you are often your own worst critic. And there is no badge of honor in that, even though we have been brought up to believe it is so.

You deserve the same loving, non-judgemental "break" you are wanting your child to be given. So go ahead and give yourself one! It can only start with us, since we are their primary teachers. Let's ease up a little, and show them how it's done. Let's give ourselves some validation. We deserve it!

If you are reading this, you are among the top 10% of people in the world who are in some stage of waking up. You are a special person, and a special parent, who has chosen to bring really special children into the world. And you have chosen a harder path to take in raising them. This way is much more difficult and less "efficient" than the mainstream way which uses punishment and rewards as a way to control behavior. And it will pay off both in your own relationship with your children, and also in your gift to the world, because you will have helped create a really great human being.

Lots of Love,
Linda Shannon
Riviera PlaySchool, a Redondo Beach preschool for attachment parents

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Listening: How Our Children are Our Teachers

I have been putting my attention on listening lately.

I was thinking about a conflict the other day that involved my son and myself. I realized that 'conflict resolution,' per se, doesn't truly exist when the conflict is between the two of us. And that is because I have an agenda. You see, I think I know the better way, the better tactic, the "truth," and even before I let my son explain his thoughts and intentions, I am already formulating my response. I am already figuring out how to convey my views and my Wisdom so that he will 'get it' and then he will magically become a better person. So I go through the motions of listening to why he did such and such, but I am not really taking it in. I am not really considering it. I have hopped onto my mental 'habitrail' again, and disengaged from what is actually happening in the moment.

Which means I am actually NOT LISTENING at all! And when I realized I have been doing this, I was astonished. I thought I was exemplar at listening to my son's needs!

When I saw that I haven't been listening, I had to admit that I have also been assuming quite a bit. Ouch. Assuming can be dangerous. Assumptions can mean we're idling in neutral. Ouch again.

So, I had to admit that when I am in a conflict with my son, instead of really listening to him explain his thoughts and motives for "miss" behaving, I am really waiting for him to finish explaining so I can then lead him to my conclusion. (That I have a need for him to refrain from screaming, because screaming hurts my ears, for example.)

Wow. Really NOT LISTENING... to his needs.

So the good thing is that I realized I am missing a major benefit of conflicts when I do this: the opportunity to connect on a deeper level. Every conflict is another opportunity to strengthen our connection with people (our children included.) I would even go so far as to say that conflicts are the whole point of human life. Conflicts are where all of us really get to stretch as people. And if we ignore the part where we get to listen empathically -- where we get to really put ourselves into someone else's shoes -- then we are missing out on the part of life where we create connections with other people. Because it is during conflicts that the profound exchanges happen between people, and that is when we all get to define ourselves, and stretch and grow and come to really know and enjoy each other.

None of this is to say that we don't still convey our feelings about things, or our limits and boundaries. It just means that we get more chances to REfine and DEfine what those feelings are. They don't have to become dusty old rote responses in our mental attics!

Lots of Love,
Linda Shannon
Riviera PlaySchool, a Redondo Beach preschool for attachment parents

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

"miss" behavior, not "misbehavior"

Every misbehavior is a symptom of a need that is unmet, or "missed."

In the words of Ruth Beaglehole, CNVEP, "Every behavior is a tragic attempt to meet an unmet need... tragic because the behavior in question will NOT result in the need being met."

It is our challenge, every time our child "miss" behaves, to determine what that unmet need is, and then help them to find a behavior that meets that need, rather than misses it!

Lots of Love,
Linda Shannon
Riviera PlaySchool, a Redondo Beach preschool for attachment parents

Thursday, April 9, 2009

What do Birds Know that We Don't?

As parents, we often want to save our child from every pain that comes by. We would gladly feel the pain ourselves rather than see our child struggle with it. (And without getting into it too deeply, this is probably because the crying or pain or struggle brings up things within ourselves that are unexamined or unresolved.)

For example, we naturally jiggle a child in our arms and against our hips to distract them from their crying. But what does it accomplish? Are we stopping them from crying for their benefit, or for ours?

Just yesterday I just had a wake-up call about my relationship with my 4 year old son. It began as I held another child for 40 minutes while he cried for no reason apparent to me, or to any of the other teachers. There was nothing obvious to "fix," so I did what I could: I simply held him and allowed him to cry. I didn't try to jiggle him out of it. I didn't try to joke with him, or cheer him up, or even reassure him about some fears I could imagine he might be having. I had absolutely no idea why he was crying, so I just let him cry. While he was crying, I periodically checked in with him: "Would you like to call your Mom?"


"Would you like to call your Dad?"


"Is there anything I can do to help you?"

"No. I'm sad. Hold me."

His little frame was filled with incredible resolve. I could feel him confidently conquering some big fears. And he obviously knew that he had the strength to do it on his own.

At one point I looked him in his teary eyes and said matter-of-factly "You're doing great." He nodded, and kept right on crying. During his process he was clearly reaching down inside and pulling out resources he had previously not yet discovered he possessed.

After about 20 minutes more he sobbed his final sob, and looked up. Something had caught his eye brightly enough to propel him out of my lap for some investigation. He quickly immersed himself in a starch and truck "snow" plan for 10 progressively sunny minutes while I sat nearby on the grass and watched invisibly. Suddenly he looked up, and said "Hey Linda, guess what?!"

"What, Joey?"

"I'm not sad anymore!"

His face was bright and triumphant. He had overcome something on his own, and in the process had developed another tool for his emotional tool chest... he had gained a skill that will carry him through life and allow him to stand on his own feet!

It hurts us so deeply to see our child in pain, in hardship. And it hurts our child even more when we shield him from that pain. It prevents him from filling his emotional toolchest!

Birds know this too: They must peck their way out of their own shell in order to survive in the world. In the process of pecking their way out, their cardiovascular system develops and strengthens enough to allow them to live outside of the shell that protected them pre-birth. And if they are helped out of the shell; if their mother were to remove some of the shell for them, they would not be capable of surviving outside of it.

It is all unfolding perfectly, and our children are more capable for having faced their own difficulties, with us standing by them, and allowing them to have their own process, and their own feelings and emotions.

Yes, yesterday was YET another wake up call for me, and it hurts a little. I have many children in my care, but my own son is 4 and a half. I know that I have not allowed him to cry in the way I allowed my little friend to cry yesterday. Sometimes I was too triggered by the crying, sometimes too tired, and other times too preoccupied to really hold him and let him cry at length. Maybe part of it was him: he doesn't seem to like to be held when he cries. But for whatever reason, I know I have not always been as present with my son as I was with Joey yesterday. And I am so glad that I am able to wake up now, before it is "too late."

Here's to Being Awake!

Lots of Love,
Linda Shannon
Riviera PlaySchool, a Redondo Beach preschool for attachment parents

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Fill Yourself Up! (The Oxygen Mask Rule)

Being a stay at home mom can be exhausting. A lot of that exhaustion comes from the demands not only others put on us, but the demands that we put on ourselves. And it is also tricky: we trick ourselves into thinking that because we are at home PHYSICALLY with our children all of the time, that we are PRESENT with them. And therefore we often take for granted the time we have together, and spend it in "parallel" mode, rather than really connecting with our children. So, ironically, some stay at home moms end up spending less 'quality' 1:1 time with their children than working moms do!

And we do this because it's a vicious circle! We are exhausted by feeling compelled to over-do everything else to make up for the 'luxury' of staying at home. And then guilt drives us to do without in lieu of being with our child. It is insidious, how, little by little we give up doing things for ourselves, because we believe that we should be spending more time with out child. Until finally we realize that we are doing nothing for our own pure enjoyment anymore. Everything is a compromise, or hinged on that love we have for our child. We end up having no 1:1 time with ourselves, and instead we snatch stolen moments at the computer while we yell to the other room "just a moment honey..." and as we yell it, we feel a twinge of guilt that we aren't fully present with our child... and also a twinge of resentment that we are, yet again, not able to be fully present with our own stuff! We start to lose our lovely multifaceted selves, and become simply, "mom." As lovely as the word is, it is not sufficient to express fully the beautiful essence of who we are... We would never willingly describe ourselves with a single adjective, just as we would never intend to limit our child to being simply "a son."

So the question is, what about YOU? Remember the oxygen mask rule: when flying, we are instructed to, in case of a loss in air quality, put the mask on ourselves before helping our child. The same goes for life: take care of yourself well, so you can have enough to share with your child and your family. Hire a sitter or swap with a friend so you can each have some mommy time, and fill yourself back up so there more MOMMY to go around!!!!

And beware, moms -- sometimes we feel guilty when we want to hire a caregiver because we feel we are depriving our child of us... but actually, we are giving them a gift: we are giving them time to be with themselves, and with someone who is dedicated to paying full attention to them. And because we are able to replenish ourselves during that time, the net sum is that we are actually giving them MORE of ourselves, not less!

Lots of Love,
Linda Shannon
Riviera PlaySchool, a Redondo Beach preschool for attachment parents

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

mentoring versus modeling (living versus acting)

We want the best for our children. As parents, we want them to develop relationships and form connections with others. We want our children to come down from their egocentric mountain and join society as productive, empathetic citizens, (and with their own unique gifts intact.) That's why we often worry so much about behavior.

I often hear parents say that they need to "model" a certain behavior. I then see them "act out" the behavior they want to see replicated, and then prod their child to duplicate it. Or I see them direct their child to behave a certain way "Say hello!" "Say goodbye!" "Say thank you!" What this does is teach your child to disengage from their own inner compass, and instead focus on YOU for their cues. You become their compass. So the question then becomes, at what point are they expected to wean themselves from you and begin to develop their own compass, and collect their cues organically from the world around them?

Why not, instead, take a step back, and make them reach for the information -- like baby birds stretching their necks for a worm. No fear, moms and dads... they WILL reach for your information! Children are HUNGRY for information, and soak up whatever they can. And children naturally want to please their parents, so they will emulate whatever we do. (Hey, guess what? We finally got our wish! We have become queen and king of the mountain!)

Just as children are learning all the time (as John Holt writes)
parents are teaching all the time. We are always mentoring, whether we are conscious of it or not.

Why would anyone want to model, when you can mentor, and BE authentic?

It's like magic, and so simple: we simply have to "BE what we want our children to become!" (Joseph Chilton Pearce)

Lots of Love,
Linda Shannon
Riviera PlaySchool, a Redondo Beach preschool for attachment parents

Monday, March 16, 2009

Taking a Step Back

We all know that our children are not reflections of us, but every once in a while we get tricked into that lie again! It sneaks in, and we spring into RE-action, rather than mindful response. That way of "reactive" thinking is a trap that often leads us to seek approval from the random parents around us. It can throw us into a tizzy of self-judgment: Oh my gosh my child is screaming (at me)! What is that father/store clerk/woman thinking about us/me?! Instead of, "Oh my gosh my child is screaming... what does my child need that I can give him?" The irony is that those random parents who we are trying to please in that hot moment of crisis don't actually matter to us as much as our children do, nor are they even in line with our own core values!

That self-judgment is probably the most difficult thing to overcome in being parent. It seems we are never enough: we never do enough for our children, we don't do it well enough, we don't love them enough, we aren't patient enough with them, we aren't energetic enough for them, we aren't sweet enough for them. The JUDGE inside us tells us in so many ways how we simply aren't enough for our children.

Perhaps the most important thing about being a parent is to know that we are mentoring all of the time. As Joseph Chilton Pearce says, "We must be the person who we want our child to become." So if we want our child to love themselves as they deserve to be loved, and to respect themselves with the respect they deserve, and to be OK with being "less than perfect," then we have to offer that same regard to ourselves first. Ease up on yourself when you are less than "perfect." (What is, IS perfect, because it IS!)

You have all of the answers your family needs. When in doubt, tune into your your inner compass. You are the guiding light of the house; "mother (father) knows best." Your child chose you for the answers you have for her. Your child chose you for the parent you are right now -- not some perfect parent you will become someday. So the great news is that you get to relax and trust yourself! You ARE enough!

Our children are here to teach us as much as we are here to provide guidance to them. Who else in your life has the ability to take you deep within yourself on a journey of self-discovery and re-ignite that fire within?

Parenting from balance is as simple as taking a step back, and responding to life. How refreshing and so much easier it is to relax into your own family groove, than to keep a stiff upper lip and stay in that grueling race with the Jones'es!

Lots of Love,
Linda Shannon
Riviera PlaySchool, a Redondo Beach preschool for attachment parents

Sunday, March 15, 2009

"People are people no matter how small"

"People are people no matter how small" is as close to a school motto as we have at Riviera PlaySchool; and it's fitting that it is quoted from Dr. Seuss's character Horton.

The cornerstone of our program is Non-Violence. Ghandi and Krishnamurti both base their work upon this, as do many western advocates including Marshall Rosenberg, Martin Luther King, Ruth Beaglehole, Naomi Aldort, Joseph Chilton Pearce, Bev Bos, Alfie Kohn, and many others. Like many of these incredible icons, Riviera PlaySchool takes Non Violence beyond the verbal. A Non-Violent milieu is one in which the environment is not limited or limiting. In a truly Non Violent environment, children are never cajoled into joining an activity; they are never shamed into compliance ("come on... everyone else is doing it... everyone is waiting for you!") Most importantly, in a non-violent environment, children are helped, very patiently, toward resolving their own conflicts. Children raised in a Non Violent environment become intrinsically motivated adults who succeed because it feels good to do so, and treat others with respect and kindness because they want to, not because they fear reprisal if they fail to do so.

Like the Center for Nonviolent Education and Parenting, Riviera PlaySchool does not use the word nonviolent in reaction to violence but "as a word that honors the connection with a child that respects the core dignity of the child as a full and complete human being. Therefore, the right relationship to have with a child is one that is built on respect and kindness towards the core feelings and needs of the child. Nonviolence honors and respects the value, dignity and life force of the child."

Lots of Love,
Linda Shannon
Riviera PlaySchool, a Redondo Beach preschool for attachment parents

a note about consistency

Hello Parents,

I have been thinking about this lately, and wanted to share with you my thoughts. Society tells us that parents need to be CONSISTENT in order to be effective and responsible. If we aren't consistent, then we will send a message to our child that they can "get away with it," and then all hell will break loose! We will have a child who is out of control; a monster, who manipulates everything to their own end.

This need to be "consistent" is a fear-based reaction. We all know that life changes from moment to moment. What is absolutely not "ok" one moment, is often perfectly fine the next. How artificial to be stuck in a myriad of rules created just to teach a lesson to our child. And if you examine the rules themselves, are they really timeless? Will any of them teach our children something about being a better person in the world?

The only consistency any parent needs is to always connect with their inner self and respond, rather than react, from peace. The next time you need to answer your child, touch base with your inner compass, and then answer. Are you coming from fear, from reaction, from rote response (just because your mother did it that way?) Ask yourself whether one more book, for example, will harm your child, or show him that you really love spending time reading to him. Or will that cookie before dinner really kill her appetite? (Or, by making dessert the final "course" of a meal, are we really just elevating it to a special rank, and creating more allure around it, more "pull" toward it?)

As Scott Noelle says, "Perhaps most important is that Attraction Parenting is an inside-out approach. It doesn't tell parents what to do, but it helps parents connect with their authentic Inner Guidance. When parents feel connected, centered, and grounded, their children tend to move into a similar state of mind, and this leads to greater emotional stability and fewer difficult behaviors. The power of attraction eliminates the "need" for conventional, control-oriented, fear-based parenting. If you've resorted to coercive parenting tactics out of sheer frustration, the practice of Attraction Parenting will restore your faith in human nature. You will come to know with certainty that children are innately good, and their goodness can be fostered joyfully through unconditional love and creative partnership."

Lots of Love,
Linda Shannon
Riviera PlaySchool, a Redondo Beach preschool for attachment parents