What you need to know about Boundaries

What you need to know about Boundaries

There’s a misnomer that teenagers don’t respond well to boundaries. Yes, they may not like them and complain about them, but more than ever teenagers need to know where the edges are. I am a strong believer in giving teenagers freedom that they earn and demonstrate that they are ready for. If we micromanage their lives, they leave at 18 and unable to make healthy choices, given a new responsibility that they are not prepared for. Have them fall on their face while they are at home with you where they are safe and supported. At the same time, clear boundaries teach them self respect.  As they get older, these boundaries expand as they prove that they can handle the level of responsibility that accompanies the privileges they earn .

 

boundaries

 

A pickle lots of new age parents get into is letting their children run free. They want them to be independent and make all their own choices. These children will come to boss their parents around, because

 

…in the parent child dynamic someone needs to be alpha. If you’re not up for the task, your toddler or teenager will step up. But contrary to how it looks, they don’t like it. If your child is bossing you around, that means you are not being clear enough about your boundaries.

 

This could be how they address you and make requests all the way to where they can go and when. Kids aren’t born considering us. It’s our job to teach them with patience and kindness. And how can we coach them to consider us? Through practice!!! By telling and SHOWING! This is revolutionary folks. I have witnessed so little showing in my short little 35 years on the planet. We will go on and on with children about what they should do but we don’t show them in real time. Show them in gross detail what behavior and actions you’d like to see happen. It requires an extra minute but I guarantee you will love the results. Most of us learn by doing, not by being told what to do. Make it muscle memory.

Why People Pleasers become Passive Parents

Why People Pleasers become Passive Parents

We have a cultural epidemic of people pleasing. We think saying no is mean and equates saying “I don’t love you.” So those of us who are unfortunate enough to have inherited this personal trait grow up pleasing others and not being very honest about what we need, desire, and our own boundaries. We tend to get angry and repress it, which can lead to a whole entire slew of heathh issues. We can either internalize or externalize our victim energy, and take it out on others or take it out on ourselves. It’s general, overall disempowerment, and let me tell you folks, it’s not role model for a child.

People Pleaser becomes a parent and when it’s time to start coaching the child on all social skills that children are not born with (like being kind, considerate, respectful, polite,) the parent just wants the child to be “themselves,” which in reality turns out to be a bossy, rude, inconsiderate little person. Now if the child has the great fortune of having one parent who is not a people pleaser (let’s pray for this) you can tell because the child will behave in a considerate manner when said people pleaser parent is not around. The parent with boundaries has instructed the child on how to be considerate and kind.

 

But that’s not all there is to be said about people pleasing. It’s a huge undertaking for anyone, people pleaser or not, to learn to be loving and assertive at the same time.

 

Learning to keep your heart open and release defensiveness while you say no is as challenging as getting into a split at age 40 and post childbirth.

 

If you were doing that since you were small, it’d be no biggie. But training now would take focus, dedication, and practice. Kuddos to anyone reading this who do a split.

 

But what’s really on my mind is the belief that our needs and desires are a gift. We can share them with joy. I recently volunteered to be the bouncer at a fundraiser I helped organize. I’ve been practicing boundaries hard core this last year and I was thrilled to have the opportunity to lovingly confront adults who snuck in windows to get into our sold out benefit and lovingly escort them to the door. I get giddy at any opportunity I have to set boundaries with others. I had no idea I was so hungry for the relief that feeling good about saying no would offer me! It’s liberating. I suggest trying it.

How to overcome the Judgment that inhibits Empathy

How to overcome the Judgment that inhibits Empathy

It’s hard to give empathy when you’re holding judgment. This is a real sticking point. We can’t empathize with others until we empathize with ourselves for the pain we are feeling and really examine the thoughts that are underpinning these feelings. Then we can begin the process of releasing our unrealistic expectations of our children’s learning process. It may take up to 1,000 reminders for your child to finally pick up their dirty laundry.Do you really want to grit your teeth and raise your blood pressure through each of the 1000 moments you fling your hands up in the air with frustration?

 

Mindful Parenting requires immense patience and self reflection, but the benefit is a child who is ready to go out into the world with an unshakable sense of self.

 

They don’t doubt they can do anything they dream of. They’re able to take risks because they are patient with themselves. They can fall on their face time after time, continuing to practice a new skill, because they believe that learning is a process. You don’t learn everything instantly.

So how do we do this? By noticing our thoughts and questioning them. Four radical questions that can change your life.

Just beginning to notice your thoughts requires effort. We often think we are our thoughts- or rather, that our thoughts are us. We’ve never been taught to notice and question them. What are we hearing and believing is true without a second guess?

 

My child SHOULD pick up his clothes. I’ve told him a thousand times.

He SHOULDN’T hit his sister. It’s unkind.

He is such a pain the butt!

She is so slow and useless!

She is driving me nuts!
Is it true?

 

 

How to Avoid Sinking Your Ship: Begin with the Brain State

How to Avoid Sinking Your Ship: Begin with the Brain State

Each emotional brain state has a corresponding response that supports the child developing brain connections. When children are in brain stem (fight or flight), they can’t hear you. That’s when you want to start talking to them, but they literally can’t hear you, and therefore can’t cooperate. Their only available tools are fight or flight. What they need is someone to witness them, take deep breaths, and notice their movements so they can get present in their own body and know that they are safe. Safety and presence are what creates the connections needed to get to the higher brain states where they have access to more resources. From here they can learn new skills and notice the consequences of their actions. This can be a big challenge for parents to notice Brain Stem and refrain from coaching at this time.

 

brain_state_model2

 

Learning to identify what brain state your child, husband/wife, co-worker, client is in is immensely helpful in creating connection and building trust. If you want people to be honest with you, embrace them where they are and let go of where you’d like them to be. Coach your child and suggest how they could do it differently when they are in the higher centers of their brain.

 

(I want to credit Becky Bailey’s work here. I’ve learned so much from Conscious Discipline.)

 

Once a child has left brain stem and is in the limbic system, then you can empathize. “You were really hoping for ice cream right now. It’s so disappointing to not have ice cream. Let’s breath. You can handle this.” Empathy continues until the child has fully calmed down. This is a real challenge folks. The number one mistake parents make here is empathizing too little. You empathize until you see the child calm down and fully relax and be present. Now they feel safe and heard; some would call it validated.

 

But remember, Jumping ahead sinks the ship. Give empathy until the child is fully calm.

 

sinking ship

 

Once you learn about the different emotional brain centers, jumping ahead to coaching while the child is still in brain stem is a sure way to sink the ship. If you’ve given empathy to your child, it doesn’t mean they’re ready to hear you yet. I wait until they take some deep breaths and look calm and grounded and have entered their “executive state” or PreFrontal Lobe.  Sometimes humans need 30 minutes of empathy before they are ready to work through a problem. It simply depends on how triggered they are.

 

Now is the deep and fun work of coaching! This is the time to notice the choices the child made and together practice the skills you would like the child to learn. “Honey, I noticed you threw yourself on the ground when I said No to your request for ice cream. Let’s practice a different way to respond.”

 

Practice Makes Progress

 

How can children learn when they aren’t given opportunities to practice? When they’re in their executive state practice, practice, practice. Identify challenging moments in your dynamic (whether its transitions, grocery store shopping, leaving the park, going to bed, brushing teeth, etc) and role play how you want it to happen. Switch roles and allow your child to be the parent in the role play. This is the most effective technique I have witnessed and experienced for creating the desired behavior.

Healthy Brain development requires a Present Parent. And forgiveness.

Healthy Brain development requires a Present Parent. And forgiveness.

We want children to occupy the higher centers of their brains (like the PreFrontal Cortex) where they have unlimitted access to their brilliance. The need to develop the necessary brain connections to help them move to the higher states of the brain. These connections are formed through presence, eye contact, touch and kindness. When children feel scared or unsafe, they can not access these higher states. They are stuck in the lower centers where they have access to less resources.

toddlers-brains

The great challenge here is that it requires us to be present. Presence is the lack of judgement. It is watching your child dump their lunch on the floor and keeping your calm. It is witnessing them make poor choices and remaining grounded and untriggered. The biggest catch here is that you birthed a beautiful being, and this little piece of you is running around with its own agenda. It’s so easy to project all of your own personal judgements onto your child, when it’s simply not appropriate.

Take a deep breath. We all do it. It’s part of this human experience. We have children so we can learn to forgive ourselves, to be kinder to ourselves, to love ourselves more deeply. So here we go, trying to be kinder to ourselves so we can help our children develop the brain connections and self esteem they need to be unlimited.

 

So big newsflash: you’re not perfect, and you’ll never be. You’re just like everybody else. Whew! What a relief! Now that you’re done being super mom or super dad, it’s time to take a deep dive into uncovering what limiting beliefs you’re carrying that are limiting you.They’re hiding right below the surface like little jewels, waiting for you to treasure them.

presence

 

As you shift your core beliefs, you re-wire your own brain to help you occupy the higher states of your brain. From here, you can be the parent you’ve always dreamed of. You’ll open your mouth and brilliance will fall out! Well, it doesn’t happen that quick. It takes at least 24 hours. Well, that’s optomistic really. But the truth is I can arrogantly say that the majority of the time I’m very happy with what comes out of my mouth when I interact with children, but that’s not what blows me away. I have so much more self respect and self worth than I did when I embarked on this journey. I am lovingly assertive and cooperatve. I am becoming the person I have always wanted to be, and being a proud parent is a really awesome perk.

The Power of Language and How it Healed Me

The Power of Language and How it Healed Me

In short, we’re wired with old beliefs about the parent child dynamic that we need to confront and question before we can respond to our children with “presence” as they dump their food on the floor, punch their sibling, or do that thing that we told them not to for the hundredth time. This creates a strong toss up for me of what to present first- the language and skills or the deep dive into our stories and beliefs about ourselves the world. Right now I’m recalling how implementing the language helped me shift into presence. I found myself responding to children with so much compassion because thats what the language framed for me. When I was kinder to children- more understanding, assuming their positive intent, giving them space to make “mistakes” and learn, I found myself being kinder to me and offering that same sweetness to myself. Here’s the biggest myth we have about learning- that we should learn and master something immediately. Often our greatest passion is something we don’t have a natural talent for.

So I’m sharing the language of Mindful Parenting with you with the hopes that this language can help you heal and help you discover more sweetness for you as you stumble gracefully through the ups and downs of life.

Mindful Parenting Phrases

Is it true?

[question all your stressful thoughts]

You were hoping for ………..

[empathy first! ]

You didn’t know what else to do so you….

You can handle this. Let’s breathe

[Even when you don’t think they can handle this, they can]

I see your angry hands and angry shoulders….

[Help them get out of brain stem and back into their bodies]

It’s time to…..

[Assertive commands when there isn’t a choice]

You have two choices……….. Which is best for you?

[offering choices provides children with the structure that creates ease]

I can choose for you if you can’t choose.

I’m going to show you what to do….

[Tell and Show! We learn by doing. Set them up for success!]

How important is this to you? It’s a litte/a lot important to me…

It’s important to me… How important is this to you?

[negotiating is an art… help them feel considered]

Jedi Magic- go on a noticing rampage of the behavior you want to encourage!

[Even if they’re sitting still- I notice you’re being gentle.]

Note to self: What you focus on you get more of. Focus on what you want to have happen. We tell children who they are. Are you going to tell you child they’re a pain in the you know what OR that they’re powerful, kind, considerate, and can handle any challenge, even when they think they can’t.

Assume positive intent!

[This one needs a long blog post. It’s coming! It’s a very radical concept and it will break your brain. Prepare yourself!]

Jedi Magic At Work: Independence Day for My Son

Jedi Magic At Work: Independence Day for My Son

On July 4th I found myself negotiating with Asher about going to a friends house. He said he didn’t want to leave home, and his friend also wanted to stay home. I was hoping he would play with his friend so I could work on my computer. After some negotiating we hit a stalemate. A few minutes later he walked up to me and said, “It’s really important to me that we stay home today.” That phrase is magic. A few minutes later we are in the car on our way to his friend’s house. How did this happen you ask?

It’s the magic phrase- “This is important to me.” I started asking children to use this phrase over 10 years ago as a way to communicate that they really valued something, and I use it in return. So if we are trying to figure out how to work through a conflict of interests, which as parents we often find our needs competing with our children’s, its helpful to know how much flex space there is on someone else’s end. But this fourth of July Asher taught me something new about this phrase. I could tell when he said it it was a silent request for empathy. He just wanted me to acknowledge that it was important to him and that I am holding his needs in consideration. After he said it I reflected back to him: “Yes, I hear that it’s important to you to stay home today. Tell me about that.” And he did. And then he was ready to hear me. I shared my idea of going to his friends house and simply connecting to find out what everyone wanted and needed. He gladly hopped in the car once he felt considered. Often we humans dog for our needs and get attached to a particular outcome, and as parents its incredibly helpful to hear the need beyond the strategy, knowing that what our children want most is to be heard and considered. We are often not all that attached to a particular strategy, even though we may think and say we are.

Now sprinkle a little Jedi Magic on this day and you have our first Independence Day. We got in the car and I continued to reflect to Asher how wonderful it was to hear him say what was important to him without me prompting him. If he whines or complains about something I will often prompt him and coach him on how to say what he wants/needs with power. I’m telling him he is powerful and that he knows how to ask for what he wants, and clearly does it easily. I am telling this child who he is, and what we focus on we get more of, so there you have it. Jedi Magic. The day goes on and Asher continues to act in ways that are pleasantly surprising for him and myself. He insists on carrying the heavy cart in the grocery store, carrying out the heavy bags to the car, and even shutting my door like a gentlemen, not because I asked him to, but because I told him he was powerful, and he likes that story of himself. I told him that this was surely Asher’s Independence Day. He’s 7 years old and it really shows. (You can do this at any age.) He was excited by the idea and again I was reinforcing this behavior of consideration that I enjoy in my family!

When we got home I shared this news with the family and we had a celebration and I retold the events of the day, continuing to reinforce how helpful, cooperative, and independent Asher is. Children want attention and connection in whatever form you dish it out. If you pick them apart and focus on their flaws, you get more of it. If you pivot and notice what skills you want them to develop, and give them opportunities to develop those skills with patience and compassion, you will be pleasantly surprised. This all doesn’t mean that I won’t ever remind Asher again that he’s powerful. But I can see the impact of my responses and it helps affirm that how I’m relating to him is supportive.

Positive vs. Conscious Discipline

Positive vs. Conscious Discipline
Positive Discipline (PD) has gained quite a lot of ground in my town of Asheville, N.C. and I have finally gotten around to learning more about it. I have been blown away by how similar it is to Conscious Discipline (CD), but have noticed some alarming differences.

asherwithsignUsing your calm voice, encouraging as opposed to discouraging,  using choices, and releasing the desire to control our children and instead empowering them: these are a few of the many tools that are in common between CD and PD.

Something I really love that is new to me from PD is the concept of the Parent and Adult ego, and how much time parents spend in the Parent Ego and nag, remind, correct our children.  They suggest spending less time in the parent ego and more time in the adult ego where we can connect, have fun, and meet their need for attention and significance.  As a parent I’ve always thought my job is to teach my child, and this approach questions that.

pdHow does one accomplish this while they are the parent and need to teach and train our children? By empowering your children by letting them know what’s expected of them and allowing them to feel the effects of natural consequences when they choose differently. There are lots of ground rules with implementing this strategy, such as letting your children know you are no longer going to remind them to wear a coat to school when it’s cold out. If they forget to grab it, and you don’t remind them, they will experience the natural consequences of forgetting it and be way more likely to remember it next time.

define-consequences1This concept basically eliminates the need to remind and rescue our children. It frees us from nagging and allows us to spend more time connecting.  If they forget their lunch box, let them know after you rescue them once that you won’t do it again, and allow them to remember it in the morning. Give them the proper training to know what to do, and let them know after a certain number of reminders that you know they can do this on their own and you trust that they’ll make the best choice. After training your child sufficiently on how to get ready for school, empower them to do it themselves.  When getting ready for school in the morning say “When you’ve made your bed, brushed your teeth, gotten dressed and grabbed your book bag you can join us at the table for breakfast.” You told them once, now if they don’t get ready in time for the school bus arrival, let them experience the consequences of not having breakfast. It won’t kill them and it will teach them self accountability.

temper-tantrumWhen a child experiences a “manipulative” tantrum, as PD calls it, and is throwing a fit because you said no to a request, PD suggests to just walk away from them. Similarly during power struggles just walk away and lock yourself in your room if necessary. This is very alarming to me and I hope that parents question this logic when they hear it. It’s especially alarming because it’s lumped in with other amazing advice so it would be easy to trust an “expert” who claims that they know what’s best for children. The goal of this strategy of disengagement is to let the child know that you will not tolerate this behavior. It’s very successful because children quickly get the message that you are not going to interact with them when they employ these strategies and they will absolutely stop the behavior, so it’s equally deceiving and seems like a good idea if it works, right?

brain-power_620x349My concern with this approach is that when a child is in the brain stem emotional state, (even when it is “manipulative,”) it is a crucial moment for brain development. The child engaged in a power struggle or tantrum of any sort is in the lower centers of their emotional brain state. To walk away in this moment is a loss of an opportunity to create the brain connections children need to move to the higher centers of the brain. One of the questions I’m left with is what are the negative consequences? Do these actions create a catscan of a child who is deprived, who doesn’t feel safe in the world and who questions if anyone is really there to support them? I’m not sure how big of an impact this has on children. toddlers-brainsI know for myself I really notice who is present for me when the chips are down. If you’re not there when I need you most, especially if you walk away from me, it’s hard to trust you. What we do know from brain research is that children need to feel safe and connected to their parents for healthy brain development, and it’s my guess that the most essential moments that they need your presence is when they are screaming out the loudest.

In my opinion walking away during a tantrum is saying to the child- “You and your feelings of anger and frustration are not appropriate and I am not here for you. My love and affection is only available when you behave in a way I approve of.”

In contrast, we can help our children move to the higher centers of their brains through presence and empathy. This does not mean that I give the child what they want. I empathize with what is alive for the child. This is teaching the child healthy ways to deal with feelings of anger or powerlessness, or the need to be heard and seen.

If my son throws himself on the gempathyround because he wants ice cream and I say “No, not right now,” once I’ve breathed with him and assisted him in getting back into his body, I might empathize and say “Wow, it sounds like ice cream is really important to you. You were really hoping for some ice cream. Use your big voice and try asking me calmly for what you want. You can say- Mom, I really want ice cream now. It’s very important to me.” From there I might say “Sweetheart I hear it’s so important to you to have ice cream. Let’s talk about when we can have ice cream and what flavor you’re thinking about.”  Empathy is the balm that heals, and is an essential foundation to healthy brain development.

My suggestion to parents reading some of the awesome PD material that is out there is to explore substituting “empathize” whenever you hear the instructions to “ignore” and see how that feels to you. I do highly recommend PD with the above consideration.  I don’t know the origin of this trend but I am sad to see parenting strategies repackaged again and again, making it difficult for families to wade through all of the different parenting advice. I will continue to read and research different strategies and share with you what I discover.