Posts tagged Trust the Child!
You know that feeling of panic that shows up when your child does certain things? It’s that feeling that shouts at you, “You need to nip that in the bud!!” or “Don’t let him get away with that!”
When your little one lies, you envision her in jail, the next Martha Stewart. When your three-year-old hits, you have visions of your child’s eighth-grade principal calling you to let you know she’s just expelled your little bully. When your little one is bossy or whiny or tattle-taling, or cries every time they get the tiniest bump, you worry that your child will grow up, lonely and miserable, with no friends at all.
That paragraph probably made you laugh, and realize how ridiculous these thoughts are, but for most parents, the feelings in the moment are very real, and those thoughts and feelings tend to cause us to overreact and then question our choices about how we responded to the behaviour.
Once you understand where the thoughts come from, it will be easier to figure out how to respond peacefully to your child’s behaviour. Read on.
There are two main causes of this feeling of panic.
First, if you’re like most parents, you are pretty committed to sharing certain key values with your child, especially the ones you have built your life and your identity on. When your child does something that is out of alignment with these key values, it can shake us to the core. “Oh my God!” our mind shouts at us, “If you can’t even teach THIS basic thing to your child, what kind of parent are you?” This hits us right in our self-image, and so we desperately feel like we need to do something drastic, STOP the behaviour, and make sure it never happens again.
We can also be triggered by behaviours that remind us of our own painful experiences, and make us want to protect our children from the same experience. If we were bossy and friendless in junior high school, or if we learned some other lesson the hard way, we don’t want our child to hurt like we did, so we feel a desperate desire to protect them from the pain and to teach them the lesson ourselves – before they get hurt.
I get that certain behaviours are just so serious for us, as adults, that when our children do these behaviours, it feels pretty important to send a clear message and make sure it NEVER happens again. But the key here is that these behaviours are serious FOR ADULTS. Your child is still exploring boundaries, experimenting with what is acceptable, discovering her personality, learning the difference between reality and fantasy, and/or learning how to manage big feelings and act on them in ways that are helpful, not hurtful.
And he or she will learn all of these things more easily if your emotional reaction isn’t clouding your delivery of the message around that certain behaviour.
When we respond to our three-year-old as if he is an ax murderer in the making, with an intense emotional response, with punishment, or by otherwise getting really, really attached to eliminating the behaviour RIGHT NOW, we miss the opportunity to address the actual developmental process that is happening for our child, and we miss out on a lot of joy.
In truth, (good news ahead!) everything that your child does now is NOT a harbinger of impending disaster, failure, and misery, in your child’s future!
Parents ask me all the time, “Is this normal? Am I the only one whose child (hits, whines, lies, etc)? My answer, 98% of the time, is “YES!” 98% of the time it is, really and truly, just a phase. In fact, it is a very important phase that the child needs to experience in order to become the honest, responsible, non-violent adult with friends that you hope they will become!
Remember that children need to do exactly what they are doing right now in order to learn exactly what they need to learn in order to take next steps towards becoming the person they are meant to be. And how you respond to the behaviour makes it easier or harder for them to learn it.
If you can respond peacefully, addressing the child’s emotional issue, underlying problem, or developmental question, instead of focusing on simply eliminating the anti-social behaviour, your child will move through the emotion, problem, or developmental stage that is causing the behaviour much more quickly.
When you come at it with the idea of “nipping it in the bud,” most often what you’re nipping in the bud is not the behaviour, it’s the child’s learning process. In fact, if your child has tried out a new behaviour, he or she is much more likely to repeat that behaviour if YOU give the behaviour power by responding to it with a big emotional charge.
So, the first step is to take a step back, figure out whether it’s a values thing or a protection thing, and compassionately recognize what’s going on for you. For example:
“Honesty is an important value for me. I want to teach that to my child. This behaviour triggers me.”
“Wow. I was really bossy growing up and it didn’t go well for me. I’m scared that if I don’t handle this, my child will lose friends like I did.”
The second step is to reassure yourself.
“Lisa Kathleen said that there’s a good chance that lots of children do this behaviour and outgrow it. My child is going to be okay. I need to develop a strategy to address this behaviour effectively so that I can help my child to learn another way to address his/her emotion/problem/developmental need.”
The third step is to respond thoughtfully and unemotionally to the behaviour.
“You really wanted another cookie, so you told me you didn’t have one yet. You really want it to be true that you didn’t have a cookie already!”
“You really want Suzy to be the little girl in your game! You want to be the mommy in your game!”
“Honesty is important so we can all trust each other’s words.”
“People don’t like being told what to do all the time. People like being invited to do something.”
If you do this, instead of “nipping it in the bud”, you will give your child what he or she needs to blossom and grow. <3
Need some help figuring out what’s going on developmentally for your child, or how to shift your energy around your child’s trigger behaviours? Give me a call to ask about coaching! I’d love to help! 403-607-1463
In my last blog post we talked about how to help your child learn better by keeping learning styles in mind. In this blog post we’ll talk about an even more important step – how to inspire your child to design their own learning situation, to ask for what they need, and to set themselves up to learn what, and how they want to.
Here’s what I mean.
A little while ago, my daughter, age 9, was complaining about learning division at school. She’d been shown a new way to do long division, and as she continued in her complaint, she said, “But I didn’t get it, because he didn’t make us do it ourselves!” Then she asked me to help her with it, and told me how to help her. She had identified that she would have learned the division better if she’d been walked through actively doing it herself, but more importantly, she took charge of the situation, and showed me how to teach her.
A few days later, she was trying to show me how to crochet something, and I grinned at her and said, “I don’t get it – you need to make me do it myself!” She laughed, provided me with my own crochet hook, and walked me through it, while I did it myself. (I crocheted a beautiful flower, by the way, all by myself, under her tutelage!) See the picture – but please note that it looks better in real life.
So, backing up a bit – my daughter decided, from her exposure at school, that long division was worth learning, she knew how she would learn it best, she assigned me the task of teaching her, then told me how. How would this have been different if I had heard her complaint, then decided that she should learn long division, on my terms, in my way?
To do this key step of inspiring your child to design their own learning situation, to ask for what they need, and to set themselves up to learn what, and how they want to, it’s important to earn your child’s trust, so that he or she feels safe learning from you along the way. Here’s how I’ve earned my daughter’s trust over the years – and why she has often said to me (though she loves her teachers!), “Mommy, I wish YOU were my teacher.”
1) I notice what fascinates her, and offer her more of that. When I respect her interest, I encourage her to trust and follow her own inner direction, not to stifle all of her questions and curiousities.
2) I ask, before showing or telling her something. I ask, “Would you like a lesson on this?” or “I have some interesting information about that. Would you like me to tell you?” If she says “no” (maybe 25% of the time) I SHUT UP! If it’s really important, I will likely ask again later, or sometimes, I’ll say, “This is really important. Can I please share it with you?” Because she trusts me, usually she says yes. And, when she wants to learn something new, she often comes to me and says, “Mom, can you help me with this?”
3) I do not pretend to know everything. When she asks about something I don’t know, I connect her with other resources, and, for as long as she’s been old enough, I’ve shown her how to find those resources herself.
4) I respect her different way of learning, and don’t expect her to move to the next step or into a different style until she asks or accepts my offer. When she has many experiences learning at her pace, in her style, she comes to know how she learns, and learns how to set up situations that work for her. I love to learn by jumping in right away. She likes to learn by watching for a long time first, then tentatively stepping in. I give her the space to do it her way.
5) Over and over again, I let go of my agenda for her learning, and instead, I do my best to discover and support her agenda.
I hope this blog post helps you to observe and support your child to discover their own passions and pursue them with gusto! Check out my other blog post on this topic HERE.
If you’re also looking for the schooling environment that will best meet your child’s learning needs, I’d also love to invite you to my next Alternative and Traditional Schooling Options in Calgary class, or to purchase the audio and workbook version of the class.
I’d love to see you there!
It’s fairly common knowledge these days that people have different learning styles, but the conversation about different teaching styles isn’t as common. I’m going to share about why teaching style matters – whether in a school or a home setting – and how you can adjust your “teaching” interactions with your child to be more effective and connecting.
Here’s the bottom line: How we teach may matter more than what we teach.
And here’s why – when we teach effectively, we engage the person who is learning in such a way that they can learn effectively. Since everyone learns differently, this isn’t always easy.
There are lots of ways to categorize broad learning styles. Some of the more commonly described learning styles are visual, auditory, and kinesthetic, but it goes much further. People are more likely to learn concretely, or abstractly. They are more likely to learn socially, or in a solitary way. Some people learn by flatlining for a long time, then leaping into a high-level skill, while others learn by taking many small steps towards the new skill. An individual’s learning style is much like a personality style – it is complex, and can be defined, understood, or categorized in many different ways. Much more important than the categorization is the recognition of the individual who is learning, and the support of that person’s preferred process.
So, how do you support your child’s learning style?
First, observe, observe, observe. Your child has been learning since birth. How did he or she learn to walk? To talk? Did she start speaking by naming everything within sight, or was she silent until she spoke in complete sentences? Did he hold your hand, balancing carefully with each step, or did he propel himself up and off and into everything within reach?
Next, offer different options and see how your child responds. Think about how you learn best, how your spouse learns best, and what you’ve observed about your child’s process, and start with these. If your spouse listens to books on tape and then effortlessly spouts off information that has seemed to magically seep into her brain, try playing auditory games rather than using flash cards with your child who is learning math facts. If your child learned to talk all at once, after listening for a year, consider that he or she may learn to read this way, too, and read aloud while giving your child the opportunity to see the words. If you learn best in a conversation, asking questions, in order to really understand something difficult, then take your child to Heritage Park and give her the opportunity to grill the young man in suspenders who knows more about Canadian history than anyone you’ve ever met.
Now, here’s the most important step, one that I’ll go into more detail about in my next blog post – inspire your child to design their own learning situation, to ask for what they need, and to set themselves up to learn what, and how they want to. This is key! More important than teaching your child something of your choosing, in a way that is roughly suited to their learning style, is giving them the tools to manage their own learning.
If you successfully manage the first two steps, you will help your child feel comfortable in his or her own learning style. When you get this third step figured out, you set your child up for a lifetime of adventure and inspiration. Keep your eye open for my next blog post!
In the meanwhile, to learn more about the schooling options in Calgary, and the teaching styles of different schools, including Montessori, Waldorf, Reggio Emilia, public, private, charter, and more, check out my class: Traditional & Alternative Schooling Options in Calgary.
And please share below what you’ve learned about your child’s learning style! It may help someone else who’s trying to understand their own child better.
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.
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.
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!!
It seems like a big and scary goal – The Parent I Want to Be.
At the same time, I can’t really settle for anything less – it matters way too much, and so much love lies in the balance.
So, every year, and multiple times during the year, I re-evaluate. I tweak. I adjust. I take stock of what I’ve learned. I take a deep breath. And I start again, doing my best, with all the information, ability, and heart, that I can draw on, right now, today.
What I love about the New Year is that I am inspired to reset goals, to re-imagine my vision. This year we’re doing something extra special.
I was inspired by the gorgeous family mission statement in the photo.
Each year, my daughter and I have made individual vision posters for the New Year. It has been inspiring and amazing to share that with her, but this year – she’s 8 – I felt it was time to take our joint values and create something really special.
We started with a question, “What do you want our family to be like?” We got out our big whiteboard, and our little whiteboard. We started by brainstorming on our big whiteboard, until neither of us had any more ideas. Then we went through and chose the phrases and ideas that we both felt strongly about, and that included some of the less powerful ideas. We kept these, and erased the others, then began to transfer the ideas to the little whiteboard, to order them by size, to position them, to group them. Lastly, we cleaned off the big whiteboard, and transferred them all back, carefully arranging them as we went.
Then we went out to buy that green painting tape and special acrylic paint markers for writing on walls, and next we’ll paint the most central wall in our home with our Family Vision. I’ll be sure to sub in the photo when it’s complete! In the meanwhile, here’s our whiteboard.
I can’t wait to paint this on the wall!
Creating the vision of the family you want to have, and more importantly, CO-creating that with the rest of your family members, is a key step towards manifesting the reality of your vision. I was amazed at how aligned my daughter and I are in our vision for our family. She designed the final poster, telling me where each idea should fit, and how big to write each word, and most of the time, it was perfect.
As we move into 2014, we will have this solid, beautiful, physical reminder of how we want to be with each other, what our shared values are, and what matters most.
I know that I am a better parent when I am accountable to my children for my behaviour and my choices. I know that I am a better parent when I have reminders of the positive language I want to use when things get tough and I just want to Say Mean Stuff. I know that I am a better parent when I have reminders that we are on track, and a compass to keep me going in the right direction.
There are lots of ways to do this – a framed poster on a single page, a book you write together, a poem, a set of stairs, a painted wall, or something else you choose.
Do you have a vision or mission statement for your family, or for yourself, as a parent? If so, please do share some of the key concepts below! The Big Picture Parenting Class starts by helping you define your vision, clarify the values that matter most to you in your parenting, and express those ideas in ways that inspire you. Come join us! Details for Big Picture Parenting Class of 2014 HERE.
When I first read about the Montessori method, I was a young teenager, still in high school, and still very close to my own experience of grade school. Through my reading, I at once became very disillusioned with the schooling that I was experiencing, and very motivated.
Montessori’s work had described for me WHY I wasn’t motivated by my school experience, and had also brought my own inner desire to learn to my consciousness. I was indignant, angry even, at the schooling I had experienced so far. I felt as if I had lost a part of myself. It was as if I was being coerced to do something that I might have done on my own. I remember feeling strongly that I COULD be trusted with my own learning, but that I was not trusted by the schooling system I was engaged in. I became very driven to pursue my own interests, follow my heart, and intentionally explore life in a way that felt new to me. It was, simply, a reconnection with my heart, a reminder of something it seemed I’d been encouraged to forget.
Our cultural bias is towards the idea that children (people?) will only learn if they are made to do so. But, our babies learn to roll over, sit up, crawl, walk, feed themselves, talk, and run, with very little adult intervention. At some point, we make the assumption that THIS new skill, THIS kind of learning, is different, and that the child won’t do it without coercion, rewards, punishments, direct instruction, and assigned work. As a result, we get adults who don’t know how to follow their interests, who are disillusioned, focused on money, security, or promotion, in careers they don’t even like. A Gallup survey from 2011 showed that 71% of workers are “not engaged” or “actively disengaged” from their work.
Our misunderstanding of the child’s natural motivation skews our perspective, and our mistrust in the child’s inner desire to learn, grow, explore, and expand, clouds our adult vision. This is especially the case if we, ourselves, have become disillusioned by our own work, or by our culture, or by human nature.
What if, instead, with our attitude and with a sparkle in our eye, we set the child free to explore, to follow his or her heart? What if we told the stories of human discovery, built on the child’s interests, and searched for ways to support the child’s natural pursuit of knowledge, skill, and understanding? What if we truly, deeply, thoughtfully, answered our children’s questions, and shared our own questions, with them?
What if we, with our stories, by sharing our own curiousities, and with great gentleness and respect for the child’s own direction, brought each child to the edge of human knowledge – that place where human beings still have questions, still propose theories, still debate, research, explore, and wonder?
What if we got out of the child’s way and LET them learn, rather than trying to MAKE them learn?
What if we believed in the human desire to contribute, to build, to solve problems, and to make oneself useful to others? What if we confidently believed that if we shared our human story and what is yet to be done, if we coloured the story with hopefulness, and if we empowered our children to question and to act, that each child would rise up to the potential of our species?
What if we trusted the child?
Your child may be attending a Montessori school, homeschooling, or attending some other kind of school. We know that PARENTS’ attitudes toward learning and education have the most powerful effect on a child’s experience of school and learning. Regardless of the schooling that you have chosen for your child YOUR perspective, matters – profoundly – to your child. Your ability to create a framework IN WHICH the child’s “formal” (or not-so-formal:) ) education occurs is absolutely key.
In today’s world, children are prone to disillusionment, distraction, and lack of motivation. What you do, HOW you share your perspective with them, is powerful stuff. I hope this newsletter has given you some key areas to consider, and some key messages for you to share!
Montessori’s work with newborns through teenagers will show you HOW to demonstrate your trust in your child’s innate desire to learn, and how to support your child’s (physical, mental, emotional, social and spiritual) needs as they change. My upcoming course, The Happiness of the Child: Montessori Information Series will walk you through some specific aspects of Montessori’s philosophy and methodology that will encourage, empower, and inspire you. You can register or find out more here.