Friday, January 15, 2010

Taking a Step Back

(another re-post from last year -- this is a good time to refresh and reflect!)

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

a note about consistency

(Ths is a repeat post from last year. It's a good time to repeat!! XOXO Linda)

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

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Emotion Coaching: The Key to Raising Emotionally Intelligent Kids

I am posting this excerpt because it is a really accessible way to understand many of the concepts that NVC also embraces, with the added step of clarifying the difference between "Authoritarian Parent," Authoritative Parent," and "Permissive Parent," and the importance of rule setting.

It is taken from a wonderful book called "Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child" by John Gottman

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
Chapter 1
author: John Gottman

Emotion Coaching: The Key to Raising Emotionally Intelligent Kids

In the last decade or so, science has discovered a tremendous amount about the role emotions play in our lives. Researchers have found that even more than IQ, your emotional awareness and ability to handle feelings will determine your success and happiness in all walks of life, including family relationships. For parents, this quality of "emotional intelligence" -- as many now call it -- means being aware of your children's feelings, and being able to empathize, soothe, and guide them. For children, who learn most lessons about emotion from their parents, it includes the ability to control impulses, delay gratification, motivate themselves, read other people's social cues, and cope with life's ups and downs.

"Family life is our first school for emotional learning," writes Daniel Goleman, psychologist and author of Emotional Intelligence, a book that describes in rich detail the scientific research that has led to our growing understanding of this field. "In this intimate cauldron we learn how to feel about ourselves and how others will react to our feelings; how to think about these feelings and what choices we have in reacting; how to read and express hopes and fears. This emotional schooling operates not just through the things parents say and do directly to children, but also in the models they offer for handling their own feelings and those that pass between husband and wife. Some parents are gifted emotional teachers, others atrocious."

Our results tell a simple, yet compelling story. We have found that most parents fall into one of two broad categories: those who give their children guidance about the world of emotion and those who don't.

I call the parents who get involved with their children's feelings "Emotion Coaches." Much like athletic coaches, they teach their children strategies to deal with life's ups and downs. They don't object to their children's displays of anger, sadness, or fear. Nor do they ignore them. Instead, they accept negative emotions as a fact of life and they use emotional moments as opportunities for teaching their kids important life lessons and building closer relationships with them.

Taken alone, warm, positive parenting does not teach emotional intelligence. In fact, it's common for parents to be loving and attentive, yet incapable of dealing effectively with their children's negative emotions. Among these parents who fail to teach their kids emotional intelligence, I have identified three types:

1. Dismissing parents, who disregard, ignore, or trivialize children's negative emotions;

2. Disapproving parents, who are critical of their children's displays of negative feelings and may reprimand or punish them for emotional expression; and

3. Laissez-Faire parents, who accept their children's emotions and empathize with them, but fail to offer guidance or set limits on their children's behavior.

To give you an idea of how differently Emotion-Coaching parents and their three noncoaching counterparts respond to their children, imagine Diane, whose little boy protested going to daycare, in each of these roles.

If she was a Dismissing parent, she might tell him that his reluctance to go to daycare is "silly"; that there's no reason to feel sad about leaving the house. Then she might try to distract him from his sad thoughts, perhaps bribing him with a cookie or talking about fun activities his teacher has planned.

As a Disapproving parent, Diane might scold Joshua for his refusal to cooperate, telling him she's tired of his bratty behavior, and threatening to spank him.

As a Laissez-Faire parent, Diane might embrace Joshua in all his anger and sadness, empathize with him, tell him it's perfectly natural for him to want to stay home. But then she'd be at a loss for what to do next. She wouldn't want to scold, spank, or bribe her son, but staying home wouldn't be an option, either. Perhaps in the end, she'd cut a deal: I'll play a game with you for ten minutes -- then it's out the door with no crying. Until tomorrow morning, that is.

So what would the Emotion Coach do differently? She might start out like the Laissez-Faire parent, empathizing with Joshua, and letting him know that she understands his sadness. But she would go further, providing Joshua with guidance for what to do with his uncomfortable feelings. Perhaps the conversation would go something like this:

Diane: Let's put on your jacket, Joshua. It's time to go.

Joshua: No! I don't want to go to daycare.

Diane: You don't want to go? Why not?

Joshua: Because I want to stay here with you.

Diane: You do?

Joshua: Yeah I want to stay home.

Diane: Gosh, I think I know just how you feel. Some mornings I wish you and I could just curl up in a chair and look at books together instead of rushing out the door. But you know what? I made an important promise to the people at my office that I'd be there by nine o'clock and I can't break that promise.

Joshua (starting to cry): But why not? It's not fair. I don't want to go.

Diane: Come here, Josh. (Taking him onto her lap.) I'm sorry, honey, but we can't stay home. I'll bet that makes you feel disappointed doesn't it?

Joshua (nodding): Yeah.

Diane: And kind of sad?

Joshua: Yeah.

Diane: I feel kind of sad, too. (She lets him cry for a while and continues to hug him, letting him have his tears.) I know what we can do. Let's think about tomorrow, when we don't have to go to work and daycare. We'll be able to spend the whole day together. Can you think of anything special you'd like to do tomorrow?

Joshua: Have pancakes and watch cartoons?

Diane: Sure, that would be great. Anything else?

Joshua: Can we take my wagon to the park?

Diane: I think so.

Joshua: Can Kyle come, too?

Diane: Maybe. We'll have to ask his mom. But right now it's time to get going, okay?

Joshua: Okay.

At first glance, the Emotion-Coaching parent may seem much like the Dismissing parent because both directed Joshua to think about something other than staying home. But there is an important distinction. As an Emotion Coach, Diane acknowledged her son's sadness, helped him to name it, allowed him to experience his feelings, and stayed with him while he cried.
She didn't try to distract his attention away from his feelings. Nor did she scold him for feeling sad, as the Disapproving mother did. She let him know that she respects his feelings and thinks his wishes are valid.

Unlike the Laissez-Faire mother, the Emotion-Coaching parent set limits. She took a few extra minutes to deal with Joshua's feelings, but she let him know that she wasn't going to be late for work and break her promise to her co-workers. Joshua was disappointed but it was a feeling both he and Diane could deal with. And once Joshua had a chance to identify, experience, and accept the emotion, Diane showed him it was possible to move beyond his sad feelings and look forward to fun the next day.

This response is all part of the process of Emotion Coaching that my research colleagues and I uncovered in our studies of successful parent-child interactions. The process typically happens in five steps. The parents:
1. become aware of the child's emotion;
2. recognize the emotion as an opportunity for intimacy and teaching;
3. listen empathetically, validating the child's feelings;
4. help the child find words to label the emotion he is having; and
5. set limits while exploring strategies to solve the problem at hand.

The Effects of Emotion Coaching
What difference does it make when children have Emotion-Coaching parents? By observing and analyzing in detail the words, actions, and emotional responses of families over time, as we have done in our studies, we have discovered a truly significant contrast. Children whose parents consistently practice Emotion Coaching have better physical health and score higher academically than children whose parents don't offer such guidance. These kids get along better with friends, have fewer behavior problems, and are less prone to acts of violence. Over all, children who are Emotion-Coached experience fewer negative feelings and more positive feelings. In short, they're more healthy emotionally.

But here's the result I find most surprising: When mothers and fathers use a coaching style of parenting, their children become more resilient. The kids who are Emotion-Coached still get sad, angry, or scared under difficult circumstances, but they are better able to soothe themselves, bounce back from distress, and carry on with productive activities. In other words, they are more emotionally intelligent.
Indeed, our research shows that Emotion Coaching can even protect kids from the proven harmful effects of an increasingly common crisis for American families -- marital conflict and divorce.

With more than half of all marriages now ending in divorce, millions of children are at risk for problems many social scientists have linked to family dissolution. These problems include school failure, rejection by other children, depression, health challenges, and antisocial behavior. Such problems can also affect children from unhappy, conflict-ridden homes even when their parents don't divorce. Our own research shows that when a couple constantly fights, their conflict gets in the way of their child's ability to form friendships. We also found that marital conflict affects a child's schoolwork and increases the child's susceptibility to illness. We now know that a major result of the epidemic of ailing and dissolving marriages in our society is an increase in deviant and violent behavior among children and teenagers.

But when the Emotion-Coaching parents in our studies experienced marital conflict, or were separated or divorced, something different happened. With the exception of the fact that these kids were generally "sadder" than the other children in our study, Emotion Coaching seemed to shield them from the deleterious effects suffered by so many who have this experience. Previously proven effects of divorce and marital conflict, such as academic failure, aggression, and problems with peers, did not show up in the Emotion-Coached kids; all of which suggests that Emotion Coaching offers children the first proven buffer against the emotional trauma of divorce.

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

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

“A human nurtured instead of shamed, and loved instead of driven by fear, develops a different brain and therefore a different mind.

Interview with Joseph Chilton Pearce
by Brent Cameron
Common ground: Archive : March 2005 © Copyright 1982-2006 Common Ground Publishing Corp. All rights reserved.

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Brent: Joe, as you look back over 50 years and four books on child development, I am wondering where you are at today. What are you thinking and feeling now? Perhaps as a starting place I can quote from the last page of your latest book, The Biology of Transcendence. “A human nurtured instead of shamed, and loved instead of driven by fear, develops a different brain and therefore a different mind. He will not act against the well-being of another nor against his larger body, the living Earth.”

Joseph Chilton Pearce: I stand by that. The word transcendence means the ability to go beyond limitation and constraint and that’s what the biological system is designed to do, provided nurturing and a safe base are given. Over the past 50 years researchers showed us more about the real development of children than we’ve ever known in history. Ironically in North America our education system is specifically going point for point against every single research discovery made.

Read the whole (amazing) interview here:

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

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Goodness shows itself in behaviour

Goodness shows itself in behaviour and action and in relationship. Generally our daily behaviour is based on either the following of certain patterns - mechanical and therefore superficial - or according to very carefully thought-out motive, based on reward or punishment. So our behaviour, consciously or unconsciously, is calculated. This is not good behaviour. When one realizes this, not merely intellectually or by putting words together, then out of this total negation comes true behaviour. - Letters to the Schools vol I J. Krishnamurti

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