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Create the family you want to have

Parent Affirmation Monday- Curious- 11/12/12

Written by, Kate Oliver, MSW, LCSW-C

Curious children gather around photographer To...

Curious children gather around photographer Toni Frissell, looking at her camera (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This weeks affirmation for parents focuses on the “c” in Daniel Hughes concept of PLACE Parenting, the attitude of curiosity. Curiosity in parenting is absolutely essential and often overlooked. By being curious, we can avoid a lot of misunderstandings with our children that are based on our own quick assumptions that we always know what they are thinking. I see so many issues in my office which arise that could have been avoided from the beginning had parents used a parenting strategy that incorporated curiosity. Being curious is especially important for my readers who have children with attachment disturbance as those children often see and understand the world quite differently than we adults expect them to.

When I suggest that parents get curious, what I mean is that when children are angry or upset, rather than assume that we know what they are angry or upset about, get curious. I remember a time when my nephew, who was five, was at my house playing with my girls. The play got a bit rough and I ended up fussing at him. He is not used to me fussing at him, and when I looked at him, I was surprised. While I anticipated he would be upset, or seem repentant, what I saw was him to see him glaring at me, chin down, eyes up, fists clenched, shoulders hunched, and breathing through his gritted teeth. My instant response was that he was angry with me for correcting him, but, rather than assuming, I got curious. I took a breath and using a light tone, (think Mr. Rogers) I asked him if there was something he was upset about. He replied that he was very angry. Rather than assuming he was angry with me, which would have been easy, since I was the one he was glaring and blinking rapidly at, I asked who he was angry with. His response surprised me again. He blurted out, “I’m angry with myself!” and burst into tears.

Imagine the difference in response from believing that your child is angry with you, to understanding that your child is angry with himself. Doesn’t the knowledge change the response? When we take an attitude of genuine curiosity with our children, the result is that we deepen our understanding of them, and our relationship with them.

Often, I have parents ask me to give them words to use with children. Here are some phrases that work well when coming from a curious place.

  • I’m not sure I understand where you are coming from, can you help me?
  • I’m curious about what has you upset?
  • I’m wondering what you think just happened?
  • What do you think about that?
  • How do you feel about that?
  • What do you think is going to happen next?
  • I wonder what you think I said that?

Please remember that the tone of curiosity is as important, if not more important than the words. After all the words, “What were you thinking?” can be said in many different ways. The tone of genuinely wanting to know where a child is coming from is essential in using this technique. I am sure if you begin to explore this your children will surprise you with their responses. I would love to hear about it if they do. Also remember, that we are incorporating the other parts of the PLACE attitude, like “accepting,” so that whatever your child’s response is, you accept that that is what they were thinking, rather than trying to talk them out of it. Here is response and a question you can ask with curiosity if your child says something that you have difficulty accepting. “It makes sense you are feeling that way if that is what you think happened. Is it possible, it could have been something else?” Make sure you give a moment between the acceptance and the question.

I am curious to find out how this goes for you. Really! Please feel free to share your findings from your own adventures in curiosity this week in the comments below, or via email: helpforyourfamily@gmail.com. This week’s affirmation is:

I no longer jump to conclusions. I am curious about all areas of my child’s emotional and physical well-being.

November 12, 2012 Posted by | affirmations, attachment disorder, discipline, help for parents, Parenting | , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Parent Affirmation Monday- Accepting- 11/5/2012

An icon illustrating a parent and child

An icon illustrating a parent and child (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Written by, Kate Oliver, MSW, LCSW-C

The third aspect of the PLACE parenting attitude, which I have been highlighting in our weekly affirmations is accepting. This element of PLACE parenting refers to the idea of accepting all feelings that your child has. This is important for all children but especially for traumatized or attachment disordered children. When used as part of parenting, it also significantly reduces the number of fruitless discussions we have with our children about whether they should feel that way or not. All parents get caught in these battles, often with good intentions, however the result is still the same in that children end up feeling as though they are not being validated. It goes like this:

Child: I hate my picture.

Parent: What do you mean? That picture looks great! I love it. I really like the colors you used.

Child: I hate it. It’s awful! (buries head down)

While arguing with a child about how great their picture is (and, let’s be honest, sometimes there is room for improvement), understandable because we want our children to feel good about themselves, there is an alternative. Here is what acceptance looks like:

Child: I hate my picture.

Parent: What is it that you don’t like about it?

Child: All of it. I don’t like the way it turned out. I think it’s horrible.

Parent (empathic): It’s tough when pictures don’t work out the way you want them to.

While there is nothing wrong with encouraging your child to take a second look at a picture to help them see the parts that can be good, often this is best done and most accepted by children after their feelings have been listened to. Just think about the last argument you had with a significant other to see if you felt the issue was resolved without them seeing your side of things, whether they agreed or not. Over time, what happens with children who feel as though they are constantly being talked out of their own feelings, and begin to question whether the things they think are true or not. Fast forward to adulthood and you see adults in relationships that in their hearts they know are not good or healthy but which they continue to maintain, etc. because not listening to their inner voices has become routine. Additionally, by accepting that you child is questioning whether perhaps they could improve their picture, you are encouraging them to try harder to be satisfied for themselves. This encourages internal motivation to do and be better, rather than encourages complacency.

All this is what makes the acceptance of a child’s feelings so, so important. And, just to make you feel better, here is the second part of the conversation that you get to have after acceptance:

Parent: I wonder if there are any parts of the picture you do like.

Child: Only the color I used.

Parent: Hey, that’s what I was thinking I liked. That is a good color. What do you think you want to do next?

This conversation can go in many different directions from here, but all of them are good, right?

Here is our affirmation for this week:

I accept all feelings that I or the people I love have. All feelings are valid.

I would love to start a conversation about some of the feelings we parents find it harder to accept about how to get to the point of acceptance.  Please feel free to share any struggles or achievements you have had with this issue.

Below, I have also linked to a post I read last week, “The Great Invalidator,” which speaks to the word “but” and the ways in which it invalidates a child’s feelings and thought processes, another article about acceptance, written in a different way.

November 5, 2012 Posted by | affirmations, child development, discipline, help for parents | , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Parent Affirmation Monday- 10/29/2012- Love

English: In the End ...

English: In the End … (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Written by, Kate Oliver, MSW, LCSW-C

This week we are focusing on the second of the parenting characteristics detailed in the PLACE attitude, loving. While it may seem simple to say we must always strive to parent with love, as parents we know that can be hard at times. I find the matter to be simplified if I focus on the true intent behind my interactions with my children, without being side-tracked by the other details.

Take chores as an example, yes, I do want my children to help with the dishes but what is behind that desire? Sometimes the desire we are most connected to when we ask is the desire not to do the dishes ourselves, but we also know that there are times we ask our children to do a chore that we could easily do in less time, with less effort for the child, and less effort for us. So why bother to ask children to do chores at all? Of course we do it because we want them to grow up to be contributing members of society and to any relationship with others. Why do we care about that? Because we love them and want our children to be happy and proud of themselves as they grow into adults. Boiled down to its most essential qualities, our direction toward our children comes, for most parents, from a place of love because we care about them and their happiness.

There are ways to phrase requests or instructions that help our children to know that we are coming from a place of love. One of these ways I detailed in my post, End the Hassle! Tell Kids What They Deserve, in which I describe how to tell kids they deserve a clean room, safety, a healthy body, less stress about school (i.e.- do your homework), etc. Some other statements that put love first with your children:

I love you too much to argue with you about this.

I love you more than I care about what you accidentally broke/spilled/ruined.

I don’t want you to feel any worse than you are going to feel about talking to me this way, let’s both cool off in a separate room…

I love you.

You are special to me.

I was thinking about you today.

I think you get the picture. This weeks affirmation is:

I am loving and loveable and I honor my love for my children by showing them with my words and actions.

Remember, the more you say the affirmation, the truer it becomes for you. If you find yourself slipping, remind yourself that is how you used to talk to your kids before you figured out this way of talking. Forgive yourself, because you probably learned how to talk to yourself and your children the other way from your parents, who learned it from their parents, and so on. Congratulate yourself on trying something new. Good luck!

October 29, 2012 Posted by | affirmations, help for parents, parent support/ self improvement, Parenting | , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Parent Affirmation Monday- playful- 10/22/2012

Silly Furry Saturday!

Silly Furry Saturday! (Photo credit: Buntekuh)

Written by, Kate Oliver, MSW, LCSW-C

Last week, I wrote about the PLACE Parenting attitude, as taught by Dr. Dan Hughes. For the next few weeks, I want to focus on each of the different parts of the PLACE attitude.

Our first attribute of this attitude is playful. I have to admit that as a parent, this is actually the most difficult part for me, which is actually pretty funny considering I started my career as a therapist as a “play therapist.” However, while my husband is pretty good at finding a silly answer to my children when they are grumbling about something, I’m too busy trying to figure out how to “fix” what I think is going wrong. Well, last week, I had a little breakthrough and I thought I might share it with you to show you what I mean about being playful.

My oldest daughter likes shopping for clothes almost as much as she liked getting a root canal last year. Actually, I heard less grumbling during the root canal. I’ve bought enough clothes that have disappeared into her drawers never to be seen again, or just to be outright rejected to know that I’m not spending money on clothes she has not picked. As a result, she and I have had a building issue about clothes shopping such that I myself have imagined the welcome relief of giving a cat a bath rather than taking her shopping. Long story short, what we were doing was not working despite my trying to process each interaction that went poorly when it came to clothes shopping. Recently, I decided to get playful.

If you haven’t heard of the gangnam style of dancing, you might want to check it out on Youtube (the dance starts around 30 seconds in). Let me give a brief descriptor: the gangnam dance is a sort of galloping style where sometimes you put one hand over your head like you are going to rope cattle at a rodeo. I downloaded the song on itunes and put it on my cell phone. Before leaving to go get winter pants with my darling eldest, I pulled her aside and said to her that I wanted things to go well. I put my arm around her and smiled while I told her that I had a plan for what to do if she got snippy or sassy with me. I proceeded to turn on the song and, to her horror, starting dancing/galloping around the living room. We both laughed pretty hard, but I ended by suggesting that if she found it so funny, she might like to see it in public as well.

And so it happened. Right there in JCPenny’s, going up the escalator my normally sweet, but now snarly girl said something  about me being fat- I’ve already forgotten what it was but it wasn’t nice. I took a breath, asked her in a serious tone if she knew what I had to do now, then, again, to her horror, I turned on that song. Right. There. In. JCPenny. (So sorry if you were there and happened to see that! It was necessary.) We both ended up laughing- I probably laughed hardest. And, we moved on. I didn’t hiss at her in the dressing room to get back at her. I didn’t feel the need to “make her pay” further. She apologized, sincerely almost as soon as the words came out of her mouth, but you know I still had to dance anyway.

When you can, if you can, be playful with your children. Find a way to make them, or at least yourself, smile. Show them how to rise above a nasty comment with a laugh and a grin. Show them how we, as adults, are able to stop taking ourselves so darn seriously all the time! With that being said, here is the affirmation this week:

I find ways to be funny and playful with my children. I welcome moments of unexpected silliness.

October 22, 2012 Posted by | affirmations, help for parents, parent support/ self improvement, Parenting | , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Parent Affirmation Monday- work- 10/8/2012

gratitude and rust

gratitude and rust (Photo credit: shannonkringen)

written by, Kate Oliver, MSW, LCSW-C

Whether you have a job outside of your home or not, we all have aspects of our work that we don’t necessarily look forward to. However, when you think about it, there is always a reason we chose the work we do. Perhaps it pays the bills, meets a logistical need, keeps you closer to your family, or maybe your job right now, is to look for another job to meet your needs. Regardless, there are sometimes days when it feels difficult to see anything but the parts of your job that don’t feel so good. On these days, I encourage you to use this affirmation:

I love my work for all of the blessings it brings to my life.

What does your work have to do with your parenting? The way that we tackle any tasks we are not necessarily looking forward to teaches our children how to handle these moments as well. Do we look at hard work with gratitude because of all the good it affords us in our lives, or do we grumble and moan while letting it stack up until the tough parts seem too big to handle? Either way, whether we like it or not, we are modeling for our children how to get the more difficult aspects of life handled. And, either way, the job gets done eventually (we hope) so why not do it remembering the best parts of why we do what we do for work?

October 8, 2012 Posted by | affirmations | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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

Parent Affirmation Monday- self-care 9/3/2012

Reading a book

Reading a book (Photo credit: Ed Yourdon)

Written by, Kate Oliver, MSW, LCSW-C

If you are like most parents I see in my practice and you read the title and know this week is about self-care, you might be thinking about skipping this weeks affirmation. Don’t! It might be the most important affirmation of all. We have all heard the warning on the airplane where we are instructed that should the pressure drop and the air masks come down from the ceiling we need to put the masks on ourselves first. Have you ever thought why that might be the instruction? Well, think about it. If you, like most parents, would have the impulse to help your child first and put the mask on them, then you run out of time to put the mask on yourself, there you are passed out and unable to help your child. You are not able to make sure they keep the mask on, stay calm and exit should there be an emergency landing.  Your children end up taking care of you when you do not take care of yourself.

Let’s give an example on a more practical level, because really, how often are you going to need to put an air mask on your child in an airplane? Hopefully never. But what about this? Think about a time when your house was messy. I hope for you this is harder to do than it was for me. Are there days when you felt capable of cleaning your messy home, or at least part of it and you tackled the job? I bet there have also been days when you could not stand to look at it and the thought of cleaning it just made you feel overwhelmed and awful. What is the difference? Was your house messier on the bad day or was it just that your internal state was different? The same is true with our children. When we feel depleted we feel less able to tackle the issues with them as they come along. Rather than handling a bump in the road like forgotten homework or lost shoes or a ornery child the way we would like, we lose it and go into fight or flight mode, constantly reacting without giving real-time or attention to workable solutions that feel good to you and help your child.

Besides minimizing it’s importance, another thing that keeps parents from self-care is the faulty belief that it costs money or takes too much time. Nothing could be further from the truth. Sure, if you can get a day at the spa or go play golf with your friends, that’s great but you do not have to spend a lot of time and money on self-care. The idea is to be aware that you are doing it when you are taking care of yourself and to enhance the moment with gratitude for how smart you were to fit it in.

Some quick and easy ideas for self-care: You know how you put a note in your child’s lunch sometimes just to be nice? Get a post-it note, write- “You are amazing” put it in your gym bag or your treadmill and get a smile the next time you open your bag to do something for yourself. You know how you get your kids a special snack at the grocery store? Grab yourself that lotion you wanted to try. Every night before bed, use it. By the way, I know several men who put lotion on their feet at night and sleep with socks on who have very happy significant others because there are no more scratchy feet. It takes less than one minute. You are worth 30 seconds right? Instead of grabbing a bag of chips or a cigarette, treat yourself to a few nice deep breaths. Put a poem or inspirational quote by your desk at work and say it to yourself.  You know how you think of things to entertain your kids when you take them places? Remember to put a book in the car for you to read- maybe one of those meditation a day books. I particularly enjoy Melody Beattie’s Language of Letting Go Meditation Series of books. You can sit in your car while you wait for the kids to get out of school, or for those few minutes your infant or toddler is sleeping in the car before you wake them up and read a page of inspiration and reflection. Poof! Self-care.

This weeks affirmation is:

I give myself permission to take care of me. I know that when I do, I am a better parent.

P.S.- It’s good to be back from vacation. I missed you all! Later this week, I’m going to send out a request that I think will help us all with self care.

September 3, 2012 Posted by | affirmations | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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