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