23 March 2011

Positive Parenting

It still surprises me in this day and age when I hear parents advocating corporal punishment as not only an option, but as THE way to train your kids. In a recent conversation I had at a social gathering, a parent of older children (late teens) was advocating these means as the ultimate form of parenting. Now, don’t get me wrong, from the sound of it on the surface, her kids seem to have turned out just fine – ivy league candidates even, but at what cost to their individual psyche?

I found myself speaking up for more peaceful approaches and at first feeling like I was seen as that parent who somehow doesn’t “parent” because I don’t hit my kids, or pull their ear, or give them time outs even. What kind of parent am I if I am not teaching my child to obey. These kids, she insisted, are the ones that have difficulty in a job setting later in life. Well, I suppose if you want them to work as an administrative assistant all their lives and not assert themselves to become leaders in their chosen profession, that not teaching them to submit might be an issue.

At school I find sometimes a similar mentality of you must “listen to the teacher” or else find yourself in time-out. I recently had a teacher tell me that I should teach my child to do what adults say, which is something I am not willing to teach her across the board. How many of us have succumbed to adults whose methods are less than reasonable or even abusive. I do not want my child to learn that she must obey adults at any cost, but I do want her to learn to function as a productive member of a community, realize the logic behind rules – or if the rules aren’t logical work productively to change them for the better of everyone. I do not want her to stunt her growth by getting in line with others ideas of how she “should” be, but I do want her to learn to cooperate in a setting where there are lots of individuals all needing the same freedom to fulfill their best self. I do not want her to follow someone else’s lead all the time, but learn to work cooperatively with others – to follow sometimes and lead sometimes and be her own person, standing up to others when it doesn’t jive with her values, yet doing so in a kind and respectful manner to others. These are the traits that will make her the best being she can be throughout her life and allow her the freedom to resist peer pressure as a teen and to excel as an adult and ultimately to self-actualize fully without constraints.

I have been truly blessed to be a part of a community where mindful peaceful parenting prevails and there is a collective of parents who understand that raising our kids to be self-assured productive beings involves some give and take and allowing them to express their feelings and independence and trying to work through the rough spots with humility and grace. Parents are not always right. Nobody is. We do not need to be in control 100 percent of the time. We need to let our kids lead sometimes if they are going to learn to be leaders. Does this make parenting harder – sometimes and certainly at the early stages, but in the long term it develops strong parent-child bond and a relationship that makes parenting easier over the course of time. It is not a given that we will lose our kids as teenagers if we have built our relationship on mutual respect. Terrible twos and rebellious teens come from a place of asserting independence if they have not had an opportunity to do so over the course of time. Building that ability into the nurturing of our children provides for an ongoing outlet for their positive growth to become functional productive kids in their own rite.

Now, thankfully, this conversation took a turn towards interest in a more positive approach – not so much from the parent who had already done her thing and raised her kids with an iron fist – but thankfully from the parents of the younger kids who seemed genuinely interested in alternatives to what we learned from our parents as kids or what some mainstream parenting handbooks tell us – using behavioral manipulation, rewards and punishments, time outs to get our kids to obey – which ultimately lead to power struggles and miserable kids and parents spinning in confusion and emotion. There is a better way! It also helped that I have lived this way with the support of a larger community (I LOVE Takoma Park!!) and seen how it can benefit families and create self-assured happy kids. It helped that I am not making this up, there are many books and lots of families who have used similar methods allowing their children varying degrees of “permissiveness” or freedom to express their needs, feelings, and individuality. For those who have asked for some resources here are a few of many:

Some of the gurus of alternative methods include Alfie Kohn and Rudolf Dreikurs – these are not new, but rather have been around for decades. Some titles include -

Beyond Discipline – From Compliance to Community by Alfie Kohn (or any other publication by this author including Unconditional Parenting)

Children: The Challenge by Rudolf Dreikurs (and anything by him including title below)

The New Approach to Discipline – Logical Consequences – A practical guide to instilling Good Behavior in your child – from toddler to adolescent by Dreikurs (note: this is actually not a “new” approach as it was copyrighted in 1968:) It is a tried and tested apporach that has been utilized in modern parenting publications - see positive discipline below)

Other newer publications that build on the same themes:

Respectful Parents, Respectful Kids (a handbook for non-violent communication)

Raising Our Children, Raising Ourselves by Naomi Aldort (This is my personal FAVORITE!)

Raising Happiness – 10 Simple Steps for more joyful kids and happier parents by Christine Carter (a new publication that has steps to transform your home dynamic)

And last, but certainly not least is the whole line of books about Positive Discipline (handbooks built on the Dreikurs approach which cover different ages and settings) - there is one for pre-schoolers, teens, for teachers to use in the classroom, etc. They are practical and simple to implement and are a great balance between parental control and kid's ability to make choices.

These are a bunch of tools for your tool-box. As always I will say - there is a method out there that resonates with the parent you want to be - the first step is mindfully deciding what kind of parent it is that you want to be and seeking out the tools to implement it. Read, choose, and be happy with your choices. Chidren grow up fast and now is our opportunity to be a productive part of that growth. Happy Parenting!!

15 February 2010

Ghost Village

Sometimes I feel as though my village has failed me. Then I think “What village?” We as a society have moved so far beyond the village model it is impossible to think that there is any real support network. Not only have we moved beyond it, we have dismantled it purposely little by little. My research is theoretical at best, but look at the history of our communities. Should we go back as far as cavemen? Who perhaps lived a similar existence as we do now? Small family groups living each to a cave, fighting for their every morsel, attacking anyone who dare come near their territory or threatened their survival. Just as I write this I think maybe we have come full circle. We now live in our little shoe-boxes making a home for ourselves, sometimes taking it to an entirely over-the-top level of collecting toys and gadgets and shiny cars. We pull up to in the trophies we have hunted and gathered and attack anyone who tries to steal our parking spots. Our elected representatives argue for policy that will safeguard our right to continue our extravagant lifestyles. But, I digress…. This was not meant to be a political post. But you get my drift from this on-the-spot realization that as a society we have slowly returned to caveman societal structure, which is really only magnified by modern amenities that render the help of friends and neighbors un-necessary.

So, eventually perhaps the cave-people realized it might be just easier to make friends with their neighbors and hunt together, cook together, raise our children together. Perhaps this is where social interaction began to be positively rewarded when beings smiled at each-other feeling the burden lifted from their shoulders to do it all alone while they also had to guard against the outside world. Now take a deep breath and Ohm for a minute and then look at the tribal structure of several families living together, perhaps in separate structures but in a circle amongst a community that hunts and cooks together, sharing their catch and caring for each other’s children. Aunts, Uncles, Grandparents, cousins of many ages surround each other with knowledge, experience and without even having a name for it, support. No one had to ask for help, it was just intrinsic in the tribal structure. That is what we have lost. Perhaps our young might have longed for it and attempted to re-create it in the hippy era of communal living and some have succeeded in maintaining it, but it is not the mainstream norm. Somewhere along the timeline striving for independence and prosperity somehow became an honored existence. “Single Family” homes are the norm, most of which are built in subdivisions outside the city with little need to rely on neighbors for other than social interaction, if that. The “me” generation made it a way of life and perfected the self-gratification equals prosperity=success mentality. We have arrived. But are we there? Are we happy?

We long for more: More connectivity; more time to spend with those we love.
We long for less: less burden to do it all on our own; less stress to join the rat race in order to pay our bills and save the astronomical figures it will take to educate our children so they can join the same rat race to educate their children, who they will rarely actually interact with on any quality level because they are too busy providing for them.
Our economy is trying to tell us something folks. We shouldn’t be bailing out the banks and insurance companies and certainly not the makers of our shiny trophies, we should be looking at the way we live and simplifying it to a more manageable level. Ok, so that might border on political – but the social structure we have designed takes a well-oiled machine and lots of fuel to up-hold and the cogs are getting rusty and the oil, well that’s a political conversation for another day!

21 January 2010

Time Warp

Yup. It happened again. Time flew. One minute we were enjoying the throws of summer and all it had to offer and now, here we are in the depths of winter. It musn't be too deep, though, because the crocuses are popping up their heads in my front yard. Unlike the groundhog, however, they do not have the sense or ability to go back down into the ground for another several weeks. My head, apparently, has been buried in the rhythms of motherhood / life - sometimes grooving, sometimes cacophony in my ears. It has been anywhere but my blog. So sorry, folks. I'll be back like your favorite tv shows shortly. Right after I get my holiday cards done :)

24 June 2009

What’s in your Purse?

You can tell a lot about someone by what is in their purse. Not the planned contents like wallet, cell phone, and keys but the things that gather there along the way surreptitiously. Recently I was entering a government building here in our Nation’s Capital and as protocol slipped my bag into the x-ray machine. On the other side the guard retrieved it and rifled through it looking for something he found suspicious. After rummaging through plastic toads, receipts and coupons, barrettes and a plastic heart ring, a small bag of oyster crackers left over from a bowl of New England clam chowder, a ticket stub to the only Show I’ve been to in years, eye-drops and allergy meds, crayons and a super-ball, loose change and dinner mints, and more, the guard declared, “There’s too much shit in your purse”.

Yup. That pretty much sums it up. There is too much shit in my purse, proverbial and otherwise. My life is cluttered. Cluttered with a routine that is hard to keep up with and an activity schedule that leaves us spinning. Cluttered with stuff – toys that rarely get played with yet always seem to end up in the middle of the floor and clothes that keep arising from the good-will bag for a second chance. Cluttered with a To-do list that is becoming comical and no “honey”-to-do them. Cluttered with the things that interrupt any progress on the to-do list like: the dog jumping the fence and and all that it entails to spring him from the pound; the refrigerator/freezer deciding to quit on Memorial Day weekend and the subsequent struggle to get magic chef to honor their warranty; a rock cracking the windshield and negotiating insurance and replacement, etc, etc, etc. It’s enough to make a girl go mad! So, empty your purses Ladies!! Right now, dump them and simplify, simplify, simplify. We’ll feel better for it.

P.S. When I posted the guard’s comment on my facebook page I got such a resounding response from women friend’s who giggled in recognition, I just had to blog about this. One even suggested I start a Facebook Group. So, dump your purse, itemize and post your contents on “Too much Shit in your Purse” on Facebook Groups!

14 May 2009

Go, You Mudhens!

When I played softball in High School, most of our team had around a .600 batting average, so the old adage “you hit (or throw) like a girl” was actually a big compliment! We were good… and we had a lot of fun. Our coach was one of the player’s Dads, Mr McEvoy and would chuckle to himself as we danced around in the outfield to the tunes playing out of the dorm windows. That was a long time ago. Tonight I met up with the S.O.M.E. Mudhens, a local co-ed team that has lasted over the last few decades. I started playing with them just before their 10th year anniversary – a fun group with lots of good energy. Grad school took me away to NYC and when I moved back it took me a while to meet up with them again – this time for the 20th anniversary. Tom Taylor, the coach, used to joke with me that I only came back for the 10 year patch. Well, here I am again after having moved to the islands and come back and been rearing my child and ran into them again only to be recruited just before, you guessed it, the 30th anniversary! The team still has the same good energy, just a little less of it with age, but the same good spirit anyway. My glove was a bit moldy and my legs even rustier, but it was fun to be out in the field again as my 3 year old cheered me on from behind home plate. I even managed a few hits. My legs screamed in shock as I rounded the bases. I used to be frustrated when they stuck me in Right field (because I really could play and catching was my specialty), but tonight I was pretty comfortable there especially since the short fielder was pretty close at hand. He fielded a few as I watched on. But all in all, it was great to be back in the game – even though now I really do hit “like a girl” and as for throwing… I didn’t even get a chance to! But the adrenaline was flowing and the sounds of the bat hitting ball and the thrill of the plays was enough to make me go back for more. Thanks, You MudHens!

11 May 2009

Who's the Boss?

My current boss is the most challenging boss I have ever had. Although I once had a boss that actually threw temper tantrums and hurled office materials across the room, she was tame compared to my current boss. From the start to finish of the day she is non-stop demands. She’ll assign me a project and then change her mind completely and want me to work on something else entirely. She is constantly harassing me and moving up deadlines to suit her demanding needs. Even when I think I have exceeded her expectations, she will completely take my efforts for granted with very little gratitude or affirmation of my achievements. She gives me guilt trips when I take time off and complains if I take breaks. If I can’t meet her high expectations, watch out – her wrath ensues. But at the end of the day, she looks up at me with her big hazel eyes, gives me a hug and a kiss and says “I love you, Mommy” and it all seems worth it. Happy Mother’s Day to all the Moms out there with the most demanding bosses they’ve ever had!

02 May 2009

Our Spring Moose

I have decided that holiday decorations aren’t just for winter anymore! Really, does a moose go into hibernation in the Spring? Certainly not. I did get around to finally taking down the wreaths and lights, but I just couldn’t bring myself to take down the moose. Besides, my dog has befriended her. I still never understand the folks who get their holiday decorations up too early and then take them down the week after Christmas! I have always thought of decorations as a celebration of Winter – they go up after Thanksgiving and stay up until the last snow. Until now. Now I’ve decided to let them linger even longer. My mantel is still adorned with Nutcrackers and holiday cards. My 3 year old protested the removal of her newest heroes after seeing the ballet and falling in love with the sugar plum fairy scene. And besides, how many times do I get pictures of all the people we love and think about throughout the year – if you sent me a photo, chances are it is still on my mantle and we are still enjoying it. Maybe we’ll just wait and take them down one by one next year when we get their updated replacements!

19 April 2009

Who's on First?

Today we spent the evening at the emergency room, which I realized too late was more for my child’s amusement than was medically necessary. Fortunately, it was a waste of time and money. Anyway, when we got home she wanted to play “Doctor” so she handed me a green plastic work glove and said “Mommy, you be the Doctor”. I said “Ok” and donned the glove.

She was the patient (and the Director) and went to the waiting room to “exercise” until I called her. (Don’t ask me why, it’s her show…).
So, I called her and began the same inquiry you hear at the Doctor’s office or ER:

Doctor (Mommy): So, what brings you here today?

Patient (3 yr old): The bus.

Mommy (Doctor), completely breaking character: Laughs hysterically, then tries to rein herself in and resume her role….: “Ok, so why did you take the bus here today?”

Impatient Patient: (she replies as if that was a silly question) “Because I DON’T have a CAR!”

I felt like I was in a vaudeville routine! I love being a Mommy!

08 April 2009

The Motherhood Tri-athalon

Motherhood is like running a Tri-athalon – every day. An abundance of energy exudes from little bodies like there is not enough body mass to actually soak it up. Mommy’s larger than before body, on the other hand soaks it up quite readily until it is feeling quite parched for more. Yet the kids keep on running and are ready for the next event!

Today my 3 year old and I ran a marathon of activities. We started in the morning with a drive to Haines Point to enjoy the cherry blossoms with a bunch of Moms and about a dozen kids. We did Arts and Crafts, ran, flew a kite (or the kite flew itself – it was quite windy), romped around on the playground, played with the dog, and romped and ran some more. A few hours later, it seemed a good time to go home for a nap (more for Mommy than child). But, she had other plans. She wanted to stop off at the Horse Stables. “Ok, Just for a few minutes”, Mommy said. We pulled in and went to visit the horses.

It was over 3 hours later when we emerged from horse patting, piggy-back riding, exploring the trails with our big red dog, collecting rocks for our rock garden, exploring the nature center’s turtles (where we ran into a neighbor and friend to play with for the following activities), dancing on the stage, making raccoon footprints in the sand, gazing at bees in the indoor hive, examining a leaf in a microscope, gazing at stars in the planetarium, and yet another trip to pet the horses. Only then did I finally convince my daughter to return to the car to head home for dinner. I strapped her in her car seat and gave her a snack for the ride home. On the lap around the car from her door to mine, I took a deep breath and enjoyed the moment of silence... Ahhhhh. As I got back in the car and put the key in the ignition I heard my daughter ask from the back seat, “Mommy, what are we going to do today?”

28 February 2009

Boosting Immunity Soup

This link provides a great and simple recipe for boosting immunity as winter seems to trudge on....

My winter boosting soup might include: A good night (and days!) sleep; laying on the beach for a week; a hike in the woods; lots of water and good healthy food!

Here's what Dr. Mao recommends: