Create the family you want to have

Parent Affirmation Monday- passion- 9/17/2012

Written by, Kate Oliver, MSW, LCSW-C

English: Children dancing, International Peace...

English: Children dancing, International Peace Day 2009, Geneva. Français : Enfants dansant, Journée internationale de la Paix 2009, Genève. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

How many of you work really hard to make sure your children find something they are interested in where they can focus some creative energy? As parents we find ourselves encouraging our children to write, dance, draw, paint, create, enjoy a sport! But, of those of us who have worked so hard to help our children, how many are there who have lost our own drive to be creative and/or to focus our own energy on something that is joyful to us? Think of something that brought you joy when you were younger. When was the last time you did it?

I know when I was younger I was a dancer. You name a type of dance: tap, jazz, ballet, modern, contemporary, ballroom, I’ve done them all. Around the time I was a teenager, I knew that I did not have a body that you typically saw back then in the dance world, even though now there have been some changes. I knew it would not be a profession for me but I kept at it anyway. It made me happy. When my children came along, I stopped dancing, except for our home dance parties we had several times a week. So many times over the years since, I have remarked how I miss having the kind of creative energy in my life that dance brought. I had so many excuses for not dancing. I’m too old. I will never do it professionally. My children are the ones that get to take classes now. My turn is over.

For a while now, I have had a budding theory about why so many young adults return home after college (more than can be accounted for by the downturn in the economy). One theory I have is that they do not look forward to growing up because it just doesn’t look like it’s any fun! What do adults do? We work. Many adults walk around groggy, tired, resentful, sarcastic, and annoyed much of the time. Let’s work on bringing some of the fun back into adulthood.

I recently started dancing again. I’m the oldest in the class (including the teacher). I am sure no one has muscles that feel more sore than mine the next day. I will still never do it as a profession. But still, I have no idea why I stayed away so long. I love it. It connects me to my soul.

This week, I want to plant the seed for each of you to remember something that you loved to do as a child. Was it drawing? Painting? Soccer? Basketball? Was there something you were not allowed to do but always wanted to try? I want to plant the seed in your mind to start thinking about dusting off that activity as a possibility in the back of your mind. Think of a step you can take toward making that thought a reality. One of my favorite poets is Mary Oliver (no relation that I know of), who asks in her poem The Summer Day, “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

When you are thinking of what to do, think of what it will mean for your children to see you enjoying your life and giving yourself freedom to be healthy and creative. Think beyond the irritation or crying they may do about you going out for a bit to enjoy yourself and look at the larger picture of creating a model for them of an adulthood that includes joy and enthusiasm for life.

Our affirmation for this week is:

I find joy in life and take part in activities that feed my spirit.

So, please share with me, what is it that you plan to do? If it feels difficult to reach, just think of what you would like to do and feel free to share that. I would love to help you problem solve ways to reincorporate joy into your life.

September 17, 2012 Posted by | affirmations | , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Discipline vs. punishment

FCC program offers child care, career - FMWRC ...

FCC program offers child care, career – FMWRC – US Army – 100916 (Photo credit: familymwr)

written by Kate Oliver, MSW, LCSW-C

People might wonder why it is that I would wish to make a distinction between discipline and punishment since we often use the terms interchangeably.  However, I believe there is an important distintion to make.

Discipline is a word that originates from the word “disciple” which means one who accepts and teaches the learnings of another.  If you think about that word, and it’s origins, we can narrow it down to discipline being about teaching.

Punishment is different and mainly refers to inflicting consequences on another.

Deutsch: Historische Federzeichnung einer schu...

Deutsch: Historische Federzeichnung einer schulischen Körperstrafe. Handschriftlicher Begleittext in Original: Tyranis di Magistrum (Tyrannei des Lehrers). Randzeichnung im Buch Lob der Torheit von Erasmus von Rotterdam English: Schoolboy receiving bare bottom birching, from a medieval source (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There is a quote we use in attachment to teach parents about how children learn to see themselves in the world.  It is by Thomas Cooley, “I am who I think you think I am.”  This is the truth for children.  The full quote from Cooley is actually, “I am not who I think I am; I am not who you think I am; I am who I think you think I am.”  I find this to be so true for every child I have ever seen with the “I” being the child and the “you” being their parents.  Think about your own childhood.  Did you come to know yourself as a child by virtue of what you thought your parents thought of you?  Have you ever struggled with finding out who you are as you moved away from what your parents think of you and who you are, to be who you truely are?  The same is and will be true for your children.  They believe they are who you believe them to be.  What does this have to do with punishment vs. discipline?  It gives us a framework for making decisions about what to do when our children display behaviors we find undesireable (or desireable too).  In many ways, we are Gods to them.  They are your desciples.  What will you teach them?  Or, alternately, will you punish them for things you do not like?

In case you have not figured it out, I am all for discipline, not so much for punishment.  As you will see in the other posts I have written and will keep writing, I do not believe that to teach children new behaviors we mush punish them.  In fact, I think punishment tends to do the opposite by taking the focus off of the behavior and onto their relatonship with you and the conflict you are experiencing with each other.

So, what is the big deal and how will it look different day to day?  Well, in the end, it may not look that different, the discipline framework I am referring to is more a question of the intent of you as a parent.  When we come to our children as loving teachers, the same intervention can have a different feel to the child.  For example, both a disciplinarian and a punisher might decide not to allow their child to go out the weekend after they break a curfew.  However, the disciplinarian would say something like, “Sure, you can go out until 11pm after I have learned to trust you to come in by 10 reliably.  Guess we’ll have to see whether you can do that next week.  Tonight, I want you with me so I don’t have to worry about your safety like last time.”  A punisher says something more like, “You were late last week.  You know the rules, if you break curfew you’re in for a week.”  The tone of discipline is on loving the child and expecting them to do their best for them and for you while punishment is more about, “I’m in charge and you’re in trouble.”

Lots of times discipline looks more forgiving and tolerant of a child’s choices and people can make the mistake that it is overly permissive.  Please let me clarify that discipline allows more for natural consequences with the understanding that children can learn best by age appropriate experiences.  An example of this would be allowing for a bad grade then remarking about how difficult it must be for your child to see themselves earn a grade that is beneath them.  You could also remark on how you are surprised by the grade since you know they are a good student (I am who I think you think I am).  Not only is discipline easier for us as parents (let’s face it- when your kids are punished so are you), in my view of it, we are teaching our children to love themselves and expecting that they will love and respect us in return.  By expecting and giving love and respect as part of our ongoing give and take relationship with our children, we teach them that who they are is important and worthwhile while building the foundations of positive self-esteem that will last a lifetime.

April 9, 2012 Posted by | discipline, help for parents | , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

4 Rules parents can live by

Happy Children Playing Kids

Happy Children Playing Kids (Photo credit:

About 15 years ago I went to a talk given by Joan Borysenko.  During her talk, she said she was quoting from someone whose name she could not remember- I’ve tried to look it up since but I can’t figure out who said it either.  What she said is that there are four rules for life: 1. Show up, 2. Pay attention, 3. Give what you have to give, 4. Don’t be connected to the results.  I heard these words when I was still in college, before I became a therapist and a mother and they have resonated with me ever since, especially as a parent.  I believe that if we all incorporate some of the wisdom of these words into our daily lives as parents then we will all be happier, and we will have happier children.

1. Show up.  Turn off your cell phone and the television.  If you can ever volunteer at school, do it- even if it is only one time a year.  Be present with your child in the moment as much as possible.

2.  Pay attention.  Pay attention to what your child is trying to tell you.  Is your child asking you to read a book or watch a television show they really liked?  Maybe there is something in the book they really want to discuss with you.  Is your child telling you something about himself or herself that you have not been willing to hear?  Notice, this step does not say, “Pay attention and judge.” or “Pay attention and fix what you think is wrong.”  It says “Pay attention.”  Meditation is a good tool to help us(and our children) learn to be in the present moment.

3.  Give what you have to give.  Another way I think of this rule is “set boundaries.”  Again, notice it does not say “give of yourself until there is nothing left.”  I think we as parents can sometimes have a hard time with deciding what it is we have to give, whether it be money, time or attention to our children.  To me, giving what I have to give means giving something freely to my children or someone else so long as I will not feel resentful or remourseful later that I gave it.  This is a hard one but so important to model for our children.

4.  Don’t be connected to the results.  I would add that you cannot control them anyway and it is time for us all to stop pretending that we do.  Sorry folks, but in parenting there are so many aspects of a child’s life that are so far out of our control that we never had a chance anyway.  Oh sure we can pretend things are all our fault when they go right or wrong, but any parent with a child that was traumatized, or who grows up to be addicted to something will tell you that was never in their plan for their child.  Sure you can monitor what your child is doing but do they ever get into a vehicle with you or someone else?  Do you have a television, radio or computer in your home? Well, if you answered yes to any of these, you no longer control the results.  Accidents happen, good people can be hurt, children can conduct secret lives right under our noses with no small thanks to technology.  We can have the best of intentions and still things can go wrong.

Depressed yet?  Please allow me to help with that.  There are some things we can control.  We can control our own actions.  We can become aware of the ways in which we interact with our children and with others around us.  We can be a safe, loving, soft place to fall for our children.  We can model health and wellness for them in such a way that it would be difficult for them to ignore how wonderful it looks so they will be attracted to doing the same for themselves. Adding a spiritual practice is a good idea also if you believe in that kind of thing.  A spiritual practice reminds us that our relationship with our children is just one important relationship and their relationship to their higher power is another (and is none of our business). Doing all of those things brings us right back to the first four steps I mentioned and allows us to live them with grace and dignity for ourselves and for our children.

April 3, 2012 Posted by | help for parents | , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments


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