Posts tagged Self-esteem

School and Learning and Life – Read This To Be Inspired

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In this moment, I am profoundly inspired by my awareness of the perfect individuality of every child.

On the eve of a new school year, I want to call out to all the parents who worry that their child will lose her “spark”, be stifled at school, or worse yet, not learn his math facts.

I invite you to fan the flame, encourage the learning of full self-expression drenched in kindness and consideration for others, and nurture the love of math for its own sake.

Here is the bottom line.

Your child has a profound spark, a fire within, that drives him or her to learn, to grow, and to live in positive, nurturing, connected relationship with others. He or she is always driving towards, leaning in, even when he or she seems to be pulling back, afraid, or shutting down. The fire is always there.

You have a profound ability to see your child’s spark – and a profound ability to see his or her failings, too.

Your unfaltering affection for your child, your deep, deep trust in his or her worthiness and glorious human strengths, your constant redirecting of everyone’s attention (including and especially your own) to the shining of those strengths, to the places where growth has occurred, and to the wise and vulnerable soul of your precious child, is key.

In some ways, this is a message for your child’s teachers, BUT, when your child comes home to YOUR unwavering awareness of the miracle of his or her being, and to your dedication to his or her potential for joy and kindness and learning and skill and meaning and the GIVING BACK of those human strengths for the good of others, THAT is where the spark is fanned, the fire is fed and the reaching for powerful human potential becomes firmly entrenched in your child’s way of being.

If I were in school right now, that would be a run-on sentence. But, read it again. It will empower you to be the support your child needs.

From the beginning, respect your child’s learning process. Every child is a perfect individual – there is no other alike. Revel in the glorious humanity of your child, harness strengths, make peace with their process, and help them see their own way of learning. 

When you can do this, successfully and consistently, yourself, you will empower your child to thrive in environments away from you, AND you will hone your own awareness of whether the school or schooling situation that you’ve chosen for your child is truly nurturing to him or her. If it is, you will celebrate in your heart. If it is not, you will know how to look for another – you will feel the alignment of the teacher or school with your own habit of glorying in your child’s being.

Last night I stayed up late reading one of the most inspiring books I know – it is called “Children Who Are Not Yet Peaceful” by Donna Bryant Goertz, and it will give you the inspiration, and tools and keys to see the profound beauty of your child’s individuality. If you’re faltering now, worrying about math facts or handwriting or bullying or whether your child will live up to someone else’s (or your own) standards of right learning this year, and if you’re losing your own focus on the miracle of humanity that your child is, I invite you to pick up this book, and stay up late, tearful and joyful, as you are re-awakened to your own appreciation for your child’s potential. If you’re in Calgary, you can call and order the book through Self-Connection Books (403-284-1486), or click here for the link to order on Amazon. I’d love to see this book in the hands of every human. Adults need this kind of care, too.

May your child’s school year start off with joy and fullness, and the knowledge of his or her own brilliance.

For practical ideas on how to support your child’s school experience, click here.

 

Why Girls Love Frilly Dresses (& Princess Training Camp 2015)

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Friends and clients have come to me many times over the years, bemoaning the fact that their girls, no matter how gender-neutral their parenting, no matter how enthusiastically trucks and trains are offered, still tend to love frilly dresses (and high heels, and lipstick) with a passion that confuses and worries their not-so-frilly mothers.

(And, to be sure, not all girls like frilly dresses at all. And not all not-so-frilly mothers worry.)

I’m not trying, in any way, to label or pigeonhole or stuff your girl in a box (or exclude your boy from said box). And, I won’t even begin to try and explore what’s going on genetically that makes girls and boys tend towards certain differences. (If the generalizations in this post apply to your boy, or don’t apply to your girl, please read on. There are profound human tendencies at play here, too.)

Instead, I want to share another perspective about frilly dresses, one which is noble and which speaks to all that is good about humanity.

Here’s why lots of girls love frilly dresses, and how you can understand and support your daughter if she does.

Humanity is deeply touched by beauty. Beauty matters, and beauty is powerful. Historically, beautiful art is loved and coveted. Beautiful flowers are honoured and enjoyed. Beautiful music brings us joy, and makes us cry. And a beautiful face might inspire art, music, or poetry – or might sink a thousand ships.

The sad thing is that in our culture today, beauty has acquired an ignoble connotation. It is profoundly undervalued. To us, today, beauty and sexuality are all mixed up, and the word, “beauty” is most often used when talking about a narrow range of physical, female appearance, and the occasional sunset over a beach. Beauty is often considered a silly, feminine thing, and is, therefore, not a priority.

(We are missing out.)

But, our children, and particularly our girls, haven’t had the appreciation for beauty squeezed out of them yet. Their sensitivity hasn’t developed, but they are drawn to what sparkles, what flows, what is colourful, and what represents beauty. And they want to wrap themselves up in it. They want to know that they can inspire that deep sense of appreciation that comes when we see something beautiful, that they can swirl beauty around them. They want to open the hearts of those around them with their own shine, and sparkle, because beauty brings out the smiles and kindness and happiness in humanity. Why wouldn’t they want to wield that love-filled power?

(We grown-up women are well aware that our culture considers beauty to be part of femininity, and that our culture considers all things feminine to be silly. And most of us don’t want to be thought to be silly. We are deeply disconnected from the diverse and radical power of beauty. In protest, against femininity and silliness, I grew up wearing black, dressing for success, and focusing on being professional, or sexy, rather than truly beautiful in my own unique way.)

Over time, children develop a more specific cultural understanding of what is beautiful, but in every culture, most girls tend to want to drape themselves in what their culture considers beautiful.

Unfortunately, our culture doesn’t give women, or girls, much to choose from. “Beauty” has been degraded to a sales pitch, and sexualized into something shameful.

So how do we support our girls?

We rejoice in real beauty. We re-sensitize ourselves to look for beauty in many places, we surround ourselves with it, point it out to our children, nurture it, and value it. We point out the curve of a back that makes us happy, we give attention to beauty in our homes, and we admire beauty joyously, in mother Earth, father Sky, plant, animal, human, or human-made, form.

We do not glorify the Disney princesses or try to look like them. Instead, we point out and cherish beauty in other forms, other ages, other cultures, and other times. We don’t discourage our daughters’ love of frilly dresses, instead we cultivate their eyes and hearts, show them real beauty in art, music, and nature, and enjoy it fully.

We will need to practice, those of us who have grown up in North America.

If you’re a woman, and like I was ten years ago, you just don’t get the relevance of beauty. You may be so worried that your daughter will be hurt by our cultural beliefs about feminine beauty that you run the other way – away from any reference to physical beauty at all. If you’re like I was, you’re angry, that you’ve been labeled, pigeonholed, or stuffed into a box, and you don’t want that for your daughter.

If that is you, I implore you, do not give up on beauty!

Instead, here are some things to do with beauty: Reframe it, rediscover it, honour it. Question it, create it, spread it all around. Explore with it, admire it, rejoice in it. Paint it, revel in it, and wonder at it.

As you live your beauty practice, you will feel a little corner of yourself, likely overlooked for many years, come alive again, and you will see your daughter open up in a different way.

We’d love to share Princess Training Camp with your girl. We’ll explore, create, and enjoy beauty, in a positive and inclusive way, and we’ll have a whole lot of fun!

Click here for all the details on Princess Training Camp 2015… and please share your thoughts on beauty below! I’d love to hear your experiences and perspective!

 

 

When Will I KNOW That Gentle Parenting Works?

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Most parents these days don’t want to be authoritarian, and they don’t want to be permissive.

Unfortunately, since most of us didn’t have a strong example of what The Other Way looks like – in practice – we sometimes flounder when all of our firm-but-gentleness and consistent respect are met by Resistance (despite our gentle requests!), Selfishness (despite our abundant sharing!), Anger (despite our best intentions!), Mean Words (even though We Don’t Call Names in Our Family!), Ingratitude (despite our giving, giving, and more giving) or a myriad of other Things Kids Do When They Are Growing Up.

Many parents who call me up for coaching say things like, “He was fine until he turned…(3 1/2 or 5 or 12).” Most children, at some point, will experiment with behaviours that you don’t like. Some will start experimenting early, and challenge you all through the years. Others will throw you a wild curve ball somewhere along the way.

So then, when the curve ball comes, or frequently through the years, we worry that Gentle Parenting Doesn’t Work and we try some other stuff, stuff that may not feel good in our hearts.

I want to offer you some reassurance. Often when a parent of young adults hears that I am a parenting coach, and after we’ve chatted a bit about my take on parenting, they say, “Oh! You help parents be the kind of parent I was!” When this happens, I take the opportunity to do an informal interview of that parent. As you know, I also read a lot of books and look at lots of research about specific parenting styles. The interviews always back up what I know. They go something like this:

Me: Soooooo…..how was it? Raising your child? The teen years?

Parent of Young Adult (with a big smile and sparkling eyes): It was amazing! She/He was definitely (15 – with a vengeance), (a little distant around age 20), (a rebel without a cause for a while), but it was great. And it’s even better now. We have a great relationship and we (talk on the phone several times a week), (have dinner together every Sunday), (go on amazing trips around the world together), (have the same parenting styles, now I have grand-kids!), (are best friends), etc, etc, etc.

Whatever your personal hopes and dreams are for your relationship with your kid(s) as they grow up, I want to reassure you that gentle parenting works. It’s not always easy. You will be challenged, again, and again, and again, to choose kindness over punishment, to choose love over power struggle, to choose connection over proving your point, and to think for days about what is the right way to handle the particular curve ball that your child has thrown at you.

So, that’s the delayed gratification answer – you’ll know that gentle parenting works when your child is an adult. Probably not so great to hear if you’ve got a 3 year-old or a 5-year-old that is challenging you right now, so here’s a big slice of shorter-term encouragement….

You’ll get a lot of amazing moments along the way. You will be at the mall one day, and your 5-year-old will see a parent threaten, then punish their child, and will slip her hand into yours, look up at you, and say, sadly, “Mom, I’m so glad you don’t punish me.” Your 7-year-old will call you the Best (and some days the Worst) Mommy Ever – and you’ll know that his judging mind has kicked in, and he’s actually thought it through, compared you to his friends’ parents, and you’ve come out A-OK. Your 8-year old will confront her teacher in a meeting with you, her dad, and the principal, will state her values and ask for respectful treatment, and your heart will beam with pride and respect for her articulate and kind assertiveness. Your 10-year-old’s friend will confide in you, and tell you how much he likes having an adult actually listen to his ideas, and your own child will say, as they walk away, “Yeah. My dad’s awesome at listening.” Your 12-year-old will mobilize her class to earn $5000 for an orphanage in Tibet, then crawl into your bed that night after sending off the cheque and say, “How can I do more?”

And your child will be 3 1/2, and 5, and 9, and 12, and 14 (boys) and 15 (girls), with a vengeance. They will live out their developmental stages, and explore the strengths and weaknesses of their personalities in ways that are not pleasant for you, and you will doubt yourself. You will question your values. You will make mistakes – lots of them.

Parenting in keeping with your values is hard. And, I want to reassure that it will be worth it. You will cry. You will worry. You will wonder if you’re giving your child the skills they need to thrive. You will second-guess yourself. 

And, in spite of all your imperfections, your children will forgive you, understand you, and probably even grow wiser than you.

And one day down the road, you’ll be the parent I interview, and your eyes will sparkle, and you will tell me, that yes, gentle parenting works. 

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If you need support figuring out what your values are, and how to parent in ways that feel great to you, even when things aren’t working, contact me today! I love coaching, and I’d love to work with you, in person, by phone, or by Skype. <3 <3

And please, post below about one of those special moments along that way that gave you a big slice of hope. We’d love to hear!!

 

 

 

 

What Most Parents Don’t Know That Can Change Everything

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This is the key that can change everything: “Create the environment that inspires the child to concentrate.” This means creating the physical, mental, emotional, and social environments which, more than anything, DO NOT IMPEDE the child’s natural tendencies to learn and explore.  (This is Montessori’s most all-encompassing principle.)

For a small child, this first means “baby-proofing”, so that the child can move freely and safely about in the home as much as possible. It means creating the baby’s environment so that when she first pulls herself towards one of the few fascinating household objects you have carefully placed in her environment, she hears, “Yes, that’s for you to explore!” rather than “Don’t touch that!”

The 0-6 year-old, in the sensitive period for order, is reassured by a regular schedule, and an ordered environment. Forming his view of the world, he is thrilled by the knowledge that the bucket belongs HERE, hats are for wearing outside, and we eat breakfast after getting dressed.

For both young children and adolescents, creating the environment means providing a clean, uncluttered place to work, as much as possible, and providing real and meaningful materials that fascinate the child and inspire challenging yet achievable work.

As elementary-aged children develop interests in science or history, it means providing opportunities to acquire books, meet experts, explore rivers, see plays, or listen to music that is related to the interest.

It means thinking of yourself more as a support person than a director of your child, from the earliest days. Your child will always, from birth, let you know what he or she needs to learn if you observe first, rather than instruct. Your role is to create the environment that supports your child’s natural development.

In creating an environment that supports fascination and concentration, you allow the child the maximum opportunity to be calm, confident, cooperative, and joyful – all of which combine to inspire a child that enjoys the process of becoming self-disciplined.

Good frustration comes as you overcome challenges as you learn something new. Bad frustration happens when learning is impeded.

Children raised this way “obey with joy” (most of the time), because a child who is allowed to do her work, and to follow her internal drive to learn, may have lots of “good” frustration, which comes from learning something new and difficult.

But, the child has very little “bad” frustration, which impedes learning. A great majority of “bad” frustration is brought on by well-meaning “helpful” adults, who tie shoes, clean up messes, wipe noses, tell the 6-12 year-old what to do with the dollar they find on the street, or otherwise interrupt the child’s efforts to act in the world.

If we listen closely, we can recognize the child’s actions as saying, “Help me to do it by myself.” (~Maria Montessori)

So, that’s it – so simple!  Most parents don’t realize the importance of intentionally structuring the child’s environment to inspire concentration. When you do, it can change everything.

If you want help creating the environment that will inspire your child to concentrate, become more peaceful, and build self-esteem, confidence, and self-worth, call me to see if coaching might be a fit for you.  I’d love to support you in supporting your child…403-607-1463.

 

Sometimes You’re in Your Child’s Way

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The fastest way to get out of your child’s way and increase your child’s ability to learn new things is to pay close attention to another Montessori principle: “Never substitute your own activity for the child’s.”

Montessori described “sensitive periods” for the acquisition of new skills or understanding. These specific time periods are the ideal time for a child to learn a skill – the child is fascinated by the skill, and learns it most quickly and easily.

To understand the power of sensitive periods, think about how easily most small children learn language, and compare their skills to the language skills of many adults who have spoken a second language for many, many years, but still have not perfected grammar or pronunciation.

Some examples of general sensitive periods are: the 0-6 year-old is in sensitive periods for order, movement and language, and the 6-12 year-old moves through sensitive periods for imagination, working with other people, and morality.

As the child passes through each sensitive period, the adult must observe, give basic lessons in advance when possible, and then – and this is the most important part – stay out of the way and allow the child to explore, make mistakes, and deeply concentrate on each new skill.

Each time we substitute our activity for the child’s, we are intervening into the work of the child. Each time we take the child’s shoelaces into our own hands as she attempts to tie them herself, we take away the child’s opportunity to explore and pursue that skill in that specific moment. If we keep in mind that the sensitive period for a skill exists for only a limited time, we will naturally tend to avoid the interruption as much as possible.

Each time we punish a child for lying, rather than asking “How did it feel in your heart when you told your friend that?” we take away the child’s opportunity to explore their internal moral barometer by distracting with frustration and anger towards us.

So – to help your child learn more, get out of the way!  Give your child time and space to explore, make mistakes, make a mess, figure it out, and concentrate on whatever he or she is trying to do. Do your best NOT to interrupt, and NOT to do it for them.

Please share your thoughts below!  I love to hear your feedback:).

How Praise Hurts

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One of the toughest conversations for most parents to get their heads around is the idea that praise might actually be a negative thing.

Yup, you heard that right.  Praise can hurt.

Now, I know it seems a bit crazy to say, but suspend disbelief for a moment and see if this makes sense to you.

A child who is given external praise is more likely to end up externally motivated, and less able to tap in to his or her own ideas about what is good and bad, right and wrong, excellently or poorly done.  

Here’s why.

Praise, especially from a person that a child is deeply attached to, is a reward for behaviour – like offering candy for playing nicely with another child.  What we know is that research consistently shows that when people are rewarded for behaviours, the reward becomes MORE interesting and important to the person, and the behaviour rewarded for becomes less interesting and important to the child.  Oops!!!  

Read that again!

What this means is that when we reward a child for reading, they start to find the pizza party MORE attractive than they otherwise would have, and they start to find the reading LESS attractive than they otherwise would have.  

Praise, like rewards, muddles our thinking and moves us away from our intrinsic motivations and desires.  We start to focus on getting more praise, rather than on exploring our own possibilities.  

One huge issue with praise is the opportunity cost – when you choose praise, conversations are shorter (for a number of reasons I won’t go into here), and you lose the opportunity to find out what’s really going on for your child.  

Most parents tell me that the most important thing for them is to build a relationship with their child that is open and honest.  They want their child to come to them when they need to talk, or need help.  

Research shows that praise sets up expectations from the child’s perspective, and a desire to keep in the praiser’s good graces. “Mom thinks I’m great. What if she finds out I messed up? She might not love me anymore.” or “Dad always says I’m so smart. What’s he going to think when he finds out I failed my math test?”  Children who are given lots of praise tend to lie more, hide their mistakes more, and be more afraid to try new things.  

Think of two conversations:

Mom: Wow!  Nice picture, honey!  Good job!  You are a great artist!
Child: (Drops picture on table, goes to produce another one to get more of that yummy praise.)

OR

Mom: You look really pleased with this picture.  You’ve used red and blue and green.
Child: Yeah!  Look!  I made swirls!  That’s wind.
Mom: Cool.  Why did you choose red?
Child: It’s fall time.  That’s leaves flying around.  But it didn’t really turn out like I wanted.  You can’t tell they’re leaves!  

The conversation grows deeper when the praise is removed.  

So, parents say, now I’m not praising.  I just stand there like a doorknob when my child does something great?  How’s that work?

The goal is to reflect your child’s experience, rather than superimposing your own experience, judgment, and opinion on your child.  There are several ways to do this.  In the example above, the mom noticed her child’s expression and reflected that back.  Then she described what she saw (the colours in the picture), then she asked about the child’s process.  This non-evaluative conversation opens the door to the child’s own experience of the work she’s done.  

Along the same vein, celebrate WITH your child (again, reflecting your child’s experience, NOT celebrating with or without them).  “You look happy!  You tied your own shoe!!!  How exciting!” 

Most of all, talk about the child’s experience, rather than skill level. “You LOVE bike riding!” or “You are having fun!” Research also shows that when we’re always focused on whether or not we’re GOOD at something, we don’t ENJOY things as much. When parents constantly focus on how good their child is at things, the child begins to feel burdened with the need to achieve in order to earn love and approval. 

Really happy people achieve because it feels good, because they care about those around them and because they want to contribute in the world, and explore their own potential.  
I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences around praise!  Please share below.
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