The Reasons I am a Connective Parent

for bonI choose to be a connective parent because flexibility and self-direction are the two top competencies needed to succeed in the 21st Century.

I choose to empathize with my child because understanding another’s point of view is paramount in establishing good relationships.

I don’t engage in power struggles with my child because a win/lose model never wins.

I don’t use time out because I don’t think it’s right to isolate a child who is having a problem.

I don’t spank or hit because I don’t want to teach my child that using physical force is a way to get what you want.

I don’t take away privileges because I don’t think that intentionally provoking my child’s anger or resentment is the way to gain cooperation.

I don’t ground my child or take away access to what is important to him because it won’t seem fair or logical, and he will assume that I don’t understand him.

I choose to problem solve with my children instead of punish or dole out consequences because it is important for them to express their feelings and work through a problem to find it’s solution and make compromises with the needs and wishes of others.

I don’t fix my child’s problems because I want to instill in him my trust that he can solve his own problems—so he will always come to me with his problems knowing I will support him and not tell him what to do.

I don’t ask my child to solve my problems and make my life easier or more convenient because I take responsibility for my own problems and feelings.

I don’t take responsibility for my child’s feelings and desires but I do take full responsibility for everything I say and do because I want to model strong boundaries for my children.

I treat my children respectfully even when setting limits because that’s how I want them to treat others.

I step into my child’s shoes to understand her perspective because I always want her to know that I accept her unconditionally.

I consider myself my child’s authority figure and guide but not his boss or director.

I take my child’s unacceptable behavior as a sign that she is having a problem, not being a problem—so I look to what may be causing her problem.

I don’t blame or criticize my child because I don’t want him to react defensively.

I allow my children to argue with me and negotiate because I want them to have the benefit of developing their own opinions and good negotiating skills.

I choose relationship above and beyond all else because in the end that is what matters most.

 

These are only a few reasons for using a connective approach. Please add your own in the comments.

 

How to be a Less Distracted Parent

Everything about our lives today distract us from what is really important—connecting with our inner cores so we can better connect with others, especially our children. A less distracted parent is a better model for calmer more focused children. When parents are rushed and anxious,  children feel stressed and resistant.

Here are a few thoughts to get you grounded:

A less distracted life

1 – Be more, teach less. Don’t try to teach your children lessons all the time. That only leads to franticness and worry. Children learn best from modeling and in those precious moments when they feel connected to their parents, which happens during “just being” time.

2 – Accept the child you have. “If only…”, “Why me?”, and “He never…” can fill your days and keep you disconnected from your children—and your lives. Pay attention to who your child is and what she is attempting to say instead of wishing she were different.

3 – Practice mindfulness. You don’t have to sit and meditate to be in the moment. Simply focus on the dish you are washing, the floor you are vacuuming, each article of clothing you are folding, the words and emotions your child is expressing—right now—without jumping to conclusions.

4 – Pay attention even when what you hear is unpleasant. Your child is always attempting to tell you something but doesn’t have the maturity to say it in a way you can easily understand. His words and actions often need interpreting. Don’t take them literally.

5 – Practice “the pause”. Don’t react to teach your child a lesson. Stop, breathe, wait, and think. Your automatic reaction will be ineffective at best, damaging at worst. Breathe to give yourself a chance to drop back into your body. Then come back to it when you’re both calm.

6 – Establish unplugged zones and times of the day. Make sure the rules are established together and are agreed on by all. For instance, cellphone-free zones in the car, mealtime, family playtime, and at bedtime.

7 – Once you have tech devices in your home, don’t spend time fighting to get your children off them. Set time structures together and allow self-regulation. Encourage family time. Proficiency in the tech world is your children’s future.

8 – Under-schedule your children. Put value on hanging out and being bored. Creativity doesn’t arise when a child is scheduled and adult-directed.

9 – Less toys, more creativity. Stay away from talking toys and get ones that allow invention. When your child wants to buy something, ask what it is she wants to do and how she can make that happen.

10 – Accept yourself. Negative beliefs about yourself, “I’m not good enough,” “I can’t do this”, etc. come from messages you learned from your parents when their buttons got pushed. They are not true. You only thought they were.

11 – Accept your emotions as well as your child’s. Despite what you may have learned, emotions are ALWAYS okay. Don’t be tempted with feel-good-now solutions. Even when depressed and despondent, stay with it. Emotions teach and can be a call to action. Never blame them on your child.

12 – Positive self-talk. Get in the habit of staying present with something like, “I can deal with this”, “This too shall pass”, “It’s not the end of the world” or “I’m having a hard time right now.” The one constant of parenting is that everything changes.

13 – Stop yourself from catastrophizing. It’s easy to soar into the future in a nano-second when your children provoke fear and anger. Check yourself when you have thoughts like, “He’s going to be in jail by the time he’s fifteen.” “She’ll never have any friends.” “He’s never going to finish anything.” We convince ourselves of the worst.

14 – Learn to say no. Many mothers were brought up to believe that doing for others equals being a good person. Parenting is the toughest job there is. Especially for working parents, prioritize the needs of your family and yourself to stay focused and present.

15 – Care for yourself. You cannot be present when you wish you were elsewhere. You can’t fuel your child until you fuel yourself first. Find ways and times to do for you so you feel better when you are being a parent. Don’t buy into the old “selfish” bit.

 

Who Can We Blame?

memory of motherAs a follow-up to my recent blog about the amazing personal journey of Gayle Kirschenbaum and her mother that will be available to all of us in her upcoming movie, “Look at Us Now, Mother”, I wanted to post this personal question I got from a parent a long time ago.

Q. I am currently reading your book, “When Your Kids Push Your Buttons” and have a question on something I read. The section  called Parent-Blame didn’t sink in with me and I’m hoping you can clarify. It says, “Your parents did the best they could given the knowledge and circumstances they had at the time.” It sounds like we should hold blameless those parents who just don’t do right by their children. On a more personal level, what if my mother had thought to herself as she was parenting that there must be a better way to do this, but, dammit, I have 7 children and it’s just too hard, or, this is the way my mother raised me, so therefore, this is how I am going to raise my daughter. Does that mean she’s still blameless for everything she chose to do or not do? It’s like saying we have to forgive all the previous generations for how they parented, but our generation is to be more accountable – I am accountable. But shouldn’t my mother and her mother have taken responsibility for themselves? I didn’t have an opportunity to share my concerns with my mother as she passed away 8 years ago and had a debilitating mental illness since I was 16. It’s a fact that she did not do right by me and treated me differently than my siblings. But even my forgiving her doesn’t release her from the responsibility she had or hold her blameless.

The other line in this section I didn’t quite get was, “Their intentions were most likely different from the messages you received.” But, this isn’t necessarily true in every case, correct? How would I know for sure? I can try to assume that my mother loved me as much as my siblings, but when she said herself she wanted only boys (perhaps based on her own experience and the way she was treated as the youngest daughter w/an older sister and brother), it is hard not to think the messages I received were intentional on her part. What matters most to me now is to not repeat the mistakes my mother made and to acknowledge that her mistakes were because of her issues (i.e. her responsibility or her fault), and not because of me, or anything I said or did.

A. I don’t believe very many parents choose not to do right by their children. Like your mother, they parent the best they can “given the knowledge and circumstances they have at the time.” They may be aware that they are not doing what they want, but they usually don’t know what else to do. Still true of most parents I see. We often feel helpless at the power and control of our past patterns. Your mother learned from her past. I doubt if she and her mother had the opportunity to take classes or have therapy to change deeply set patterns of behavior. Do you blame any of your friends for saying and doing to their children what they wish they hadn’t? Of course not. Are they responsible for what they do? Absolutely. I see blame and responsibility as very different things. Absolutely your mother was responsible, but if she didn’t have the resources to help her understand a better way the way you do, blame will not help. Blaming her keeps you stuck and releases you of taking responsibility for yourself. “…given the knowledge and circumstances they had at the time” does not release her of responsibility but does offer information about the context in which her intentions were made. Her mental illness was one of the circumstances within which she parented you—terribly unfortunate for you. It caused you pain and suffering that can last a lifetime. She was responsible for the choices she made but within a context of very little control over what she was capable of. When she said she wanted only boys, you heard, “You’re no good.” As you said, her intention might have been based on her experience of being a girl and not wanting her children to experience the pain that she did. She likely did not intend for you to hear that you were no good. She was responsible for saying those words to you, but it’s likely, especially given her mental illness, that she didn’t understand that it would have any effect on you. This doesn’t mean you need to feel wonderful about the way you were parented. But it doesn’t help you to say she should have known better and stay stuck in blame. You may very likely need to go through blaming her to deal with the anger you feel—it’s hard to get to the anger without blame. Your perspective of how you were raised, the damage done, the pain felt, is very real and is your right. But inevitably, when we do the work, go through that blame to get the anger out, we come to the other side where there is no more blame, and not necessarily forgiveness—but acceptance.

Her Response: You’ve given me much to consider and mull over; and I can already sense a few light bulbs going off (as Oprah would say, some “Aha” moments). I think you captured my mother’s predicament so precisely. I have the sense she might even be speaking to me. I reread what I wrote and I can definitely sense some residual anger. It never occurred to me that I could come out on the other side without blame. The most I hoped for was for there to be no more anger. Your perspective has given me hope, and you have helped more than I can articulate now. Please feel free to reprint any of this. If it helps someone else, that would be great.