help4yourfamily

Create the family you want to have

Caught in the Loop: Why People Repeat the Same Bad Choices Over and Over

train circle

train circle (Photo credit: bitmapr)

written by, Kate Oliver, LCSW-C

When I met Aaron, he was 10 years old and living with his parents who had adopted him after three failed placements.  Aaron’s parents were at a loss about what to do with him.  They were committed, loving parents who wanted to help him make better decisions; however, after living with them for over a year, Aaron continued to have bizarre behaviors that they did not understand.  In addition to continuing to steal from his parents any time he had the opportunity, his parents had just figured out that he had also been urinating into the vents in his room.  Aaron’s parents were at a loss as to how to help him change this behavior and they were terrified that it would continue to get worse.

Children who have experienced trauma can seem to continually engage in activities that can be baffling to parents.  I have had many a parent come in to my practice and describe a foster or adopted child who seems to seek attention in negative ways and to actually work to recreate the circumstances that were traumatizing to them in the first place.  From rooms that seem to get instantly messy immediately after cleaning them, to repetitive behaviors that pluck even the calmest parent’s nerves, these children can seem intent on turning their parents into a recreation of the child’s biological parent or earliest caregiver.  There is a name for this phenomenon.  It is called “traumatic reenactment.”  The best way to explain traumatic reenactment is to first understand how trauma works, and the ways we store it in the brain.

Think of your brain as a computer.  The files in your computer are stored in different areas.  There is a short term memory file that stores what you had for breakfast today and yesterday.  There is a long term memory file that stores the stories from your childhood.  There is the work file, the running “to do” list file, and many, many more.  Days that go as planned are pretty easy to file away.

But what happens on a day when something traumatic happens?  An easy definition of trauma is anything that impacts you in such a way that it causes you to feel as though your life is in serious danger, with the possibility of death, or that changes who you perceive yourself to be in a negative way.  To show how people typically store traumatic memories, let’s take the example of a car accident.  You do not wake up in the morning thinking this is probably going to be the day you are in a car accident.  If you really believed that, you would probably never get into the car.  But, there you are, driving down the road and someone sideswipes the car you are in.  No one is hurt, but there are a few moments of panic and your car is seriously damaged.  What do you do?  Well, of course, as an adult you make sure everyone in both cars is okay, call 911 to make sure no one is hurt, and then the insurance.  But what is happening with your memory filing system?  How are you filing this memory?  It sure does not go in the breakfast file!

What happens with trauma is that, until we file it, it acts like a virus on our computers.  If you have ever had a virus on your computer, you know what happens.  You go to get on the internet and think you are checking your email, only to find all kinds of unwanted images popping up on your computer.  Then, if and when you are able to get to your email, you may find out you sent a bunch of messages to people that were not even from you!  You never sent that!  This is how trauma works.  Until you file that traumatic memory you just got from the car accident, your brain is going to be working overtime to file it.  You will go to get in the car and up will pop the memory of the accident and maybe another accident you had a while back.  You will start to remember those terrifying moments when you were out of control and you did not know if you were going to live or die.

Healthy adults file traumatic memories as they verbally process the trauma.  Remember how you called the police?  You had to tell them what happened so they knew who to send.  You were processing the memory.  Remember when you had to call the insurance?  Same thing.  Did you sit in your car for a moment and do some sort of self-soothing like deep breathing to calm yourself down?  Maybe you got a hug or reassurance from someone.  Perhaps you reminded yourself that you have been in cars thousands of times and the vast majority of those times nothing bad happened.

If you did any of those things, you were processing and filing your memory.  Another part of filing trauma is finding a way to understand the event.  This includes thinking about whether you could have done something differently, how you got through it, and how you can avoid the same thing happening again.  Therapists call that mastering the situation.

Now, think about the child you have or have had in your home who has experienced trauma but did not have anyone to process it with and did not have anyone to soothe them, nor did they know how to self soothe, after all, who would they have learned soothing from?  The clinical term for the way this “virus” manifests is “traumatic reenactment.”  It goes like this.  A trauma occurs.  It is not filed appropriately because there is either no, or not enough, processing or soothing for the child.  The child tries to gain mastery (understanding) of the trauma by subconsciously putting themselves back into the same situation over and over again in an attempt to understand or “master” it.

Remember Aaron?  When Aaron lived with his birth parents he was repeatedly locked in his room for days at a time when his parents went on drug binges.  When his adoptive parents brought him in to see me he was lying and stealing constantly, then, they had recently discovered that when they sent him to his room for punishment, he had been urinating into the vents of their home.  What became clear was that this child had found a way to experience a traumatic reenactment with his adoptive parents.  He lied and stole, then got sent to his room for punishment.  While in his room, he had the emotional experience of feeling trapped again, just as he was trapped when he was very young.  In his mind, being sent to his room meant he was not allowed to come out even to go to the bathroom.  When he had to go, he did what he had before, went in the vents, so he did not have to be around a wet spot in his room.  His loving parents had responded in every way they could think of to change these behaviors, but it was not until they understood where the behaviors were coming from that they were able to adapt their responses to more accurately fix the underlying problems.

In therapy, Aaron processed the trauma, learned how to soothe himself and to be soothed by his parents.  It really did not take long for the vents to become dry again so his parents could focus on new ways to address other issues related to his early abuse and neglect.  For traumatized children, I strongly recommend counseling, with a therapist that specializes in trauma, as a resource to help them process traumatic memories to improve behaviors and help parents find a way to adapt parenting styles in ways that are most beneficial to the child.

January 15, 2013 Posted by | attachment disorder, child development, discipline, help for parents | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Monday is Parent Affirmation Day at Help 4 Your Family! 5/21/2012

an animated clock

an animated clock (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Written by, Kate Oliver, MSW, LCSW-C

Get ready to laugh and tell me I’m wrong!  I have heard many versions of this affirmation but the person I got it from is the mother of affirmations herself, Louise Hay.  This week’s affirmation is:

Everything is happening at just the right time.

I know you do not believe me but give me a minute to talk you through it.  I know it feels like things happen too slow, too fast, or at just the wrong time!  This affirmation requires a little faith that there is a plan for us.  Even if you are not a believer in a higher power, doesn’t it just make life simpler to believe that everything is happening at just the right time?  I use this affirmation when I am running late and, I’m happy to tell you that when I use it, and believe it, everything does happen at just the right time.  One time I used it recently was when I was running late to meet my daughter at school because I had promised I would eat lunch with her.  I hate running late.  I decided that I was going to obey traffic laws, and I just repeated to myself over and over that things happen at just the right time.  I was still five minutes late, but guess what?  The lunch before my daughter’s ran over by five minutes and I actually ended up entering the cafeteria at the same time she did.  I also had not stressed myself out on the way there, which would require me to calm myself down before I could be present for my daughter.

You can use this affirmation for big things too.  Birth, death, illness, and entering a romantic relationship, are all things that come to mind.  Before you think I am trivializing any of those transitions I just mentioned, I want you to know I have experienced all of them, just like you.  Carrying with me the belief that everything is happening at just the right time even if I don’t understand it, gets me through a lot and I will share a personal story to demonstrate how this affirmation has come true in my own life.

When I was a child, just about to turn nine, my older brother, who was just about to turn 12, died suddenly from an undiagnosed illness the summer before he would be entering middle school.  I would never wish this on anyone, and no- there is never a good time for this to happen, but there might be a right time.  Move forward in time to the night I met my husband for the first time.  I was at a party and one of my brother’s friends, who I had not seen since he died, walked into the party with another friend.  He actually was pretty shocked to see me and had a pretty strong reaction when he realized who I was.  We started talking and he introduced me to his friend- my future husband.  Had my brother lived and gone on to middle school, he and his friend would have probably drifted apart, since they were going to go to different schools.  His friend might not have had the same memories of me that caused him to come right too me to talk and introduce me to his friend.  My husband and I might not have had a strong immediate connection and who knows what might have happened?  I can’t imagine my life without the husband and children that I have.  I wouldn’t change a thing about them or about my life right now.  This is one way that I make sense of the death of my brother.  Everything happens at just the right time.

Even if it is hard to believe right now, try this affirmation out.  Say it many, many times to yourself.  Remind yourself that you don’t have to know the “why” of things happening, but that they are happening at just the right time.

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May 21, 2012 Posted by | affirmations | , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

When your inner critic hurts your relationship with your children

Written by Kate Oliver, LCSW-C

We all have an inner critic.  Some of us have several.  You know, that voice in your head that just feels like it is part of you?  It’s the one that tells you that you did it wrong again, you are not working hard enough to fix your child’s problem, and reminds you of all the times you tried and failed to get items knocked off your “to do” list.  If you are not fully familiar with your inner critic, the next time you are upset about something, take a moment to listen to your thought process.  What are the thoughts floating through your head at that moment?  Our inner critic can be harsh…and sneaky.  We don’t even know it’s there, it feels so much a part of us.

I’ve heard our inner critic (or critics) referred to as “the committee.”

Committee

Committee (Photo credit: Editor B)

I love this because it is so true.  Think about the act of going to the grocery store and passing through the cookie aisle.  The committee gets activated!  You hear one part of your committee saying, “Get the cookies you like, you deserve it!”  Another part of your committee chimes in, “Yeah, your butt loves those cookies so much it will hold onto them all the way through summer.”  Then the internal negotiator pipes up, “Maybe there is a new, healthy cookie out that you could try.  Or, if you get the individual packs, you won’t eat the whole thing in two days and you can enjoy your cookies over the next few days, a little at a time.”  Of course then the critic chimes in, “Fat chance…get it?  Fat chance?  Haha.”  And so on.  Even after making a temporary decision to leave the aisle, or put the cookies into the cart, your mind wanders back as you continue through the store, either feeling like you should take the cookies out of the cart, or wondering if you will pass by other cookies and if you will be able to pass them over too.  Is it just me?  I don’t think so, maybe for you it’s not cookies, maybe it’s picking the right birthday card for a friend, or what job to take, the email you are sending to a friend, etc.

When the committee gets involved, we can all empathize with the wish someone stated to me once when he said he wanted to put them on a bus and send them away for the weekend.  Since that is not possible, what is the alternative?  I have one that may surprise you.  Think about loving them.  That’s right, envelop each part of your committee with love and thank it for working so hard on your behalf.  Right now I imagine there are quite a few people reading this who will argue that there is a part of them that is just plain wrong, that it is a part they would like to eliminate completely and that the focus should be on eliminating the “bad” parts.  If you are saying that, here is my question to you…how is that working for you?  I’m guessing that has not been so successful or you would not still be reading this post.   I might suggest that telling them to go away hasn’t been working so well so far.

If you want to try something new, take a moment to reflect on what it is each member of your committee is trying to say to you.  Try to listen to one at a time.  Are they trying to convey important information about your health, safety, or emotional well-being?  Is your committee chiming in about ways to keep yourself or your family safe?  Is it reminding you of something you need to know right now?  I promise you that even the most seemingly destructive parts of you are trying to help you in some way.   When you figure out the message, imagine yourself giving that part of you a hug and thanking it for it’s input, like you would a friend that just told you something that was really hard to say.  Make sure it knows you got the message and that you will take it into consideration.  Often times these parts of us, our committee, can be like any other team meeting where, if people feel like their important message is not being heard they just repeat it over and over again, saying it louder and louder, until people finally take notice.  Your committee may be doing this now.

Remember, listening to your committee does not mean that you will do exactly what they say, but, just like your children, if you take time to really listen to them, and they feel heard, they are more likely to listen when you tell them no, feel good when you agree, and feel less and less like they need to yell to be heard.

If it is confusing when I say to listen to your committee then listen to yourself, since your committee is part of you, that is understandable.  What I mean is, your committee members are all aspects of who you are.  At your core is you.  The you who knows what you really need, the you who is connected to all the love you feel for yourself and others, the you that does not need to judge anyone else, and is the same you that is connected to a higher, spiritual purpose.  Some people call it their higher self.  We all have this, it is the part that tells us we can do this, forgives us our imperfections, and that finds creative ways to solve any issues.  Take a few moments each day to connect with your committee, then to connect with your core, or higher self.  If you worry about fitting this into your daily routine, remember, thinking is free and can be done anywhere.  Even people with young children can take a few minutes a day to sit when the kids are in bed or are eerily quiet in the next room to check in with their inner dialogue.  The process of getting to know yourself and find peace within does not happen in one day, rather, it happens in increments over time.  It takes a lifetime, which is okay, because you have that long to do it.

A word of caution, your committee may try to tell you that doing this is too difficult and to stop or you won’t like what happens next!  Should you hear that warning from your committee, I would urge you to find a therapist to help you navigate the murky waters of your inner workings.  Over time you will find that the process of getting to know yourself can be like finding a long, lost friend that you have been missing desperately for a long time.

Doing this exercise is especially important for parents because, I hate to tell you, our inner dialogue shows to our children whether we like it or not and becomes their inner dialogue.  The best thing we can do for them is to clean up our inner space and be infinitely loving to ourselves so that our children may follow our example.

There are guides for this type of work as well. Self-Therapy: A Step-By-Step Guide to Creating Wholeness and Healing Your Inner Child Using IFS, A New, Cutting-Edge Psychotherapy, 2nd Edition by Jay Earley (Jan 27, 2012) is one such book.  It is available on Amazon and if you click on the Amazon widget link at the top right of this screen you can find out more about it.  Please read my disclaimer page.

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May 9, 2012 Posted by | help for parents, parent support/ self improvement | , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Monday is parenting affirmation day at Help 4 Your Family!

From now on, Monday is going to be parent affirmation day at Help 4 Your Family.  Sometimes I  will share affirmations I have created and used, other times I will quote affirmations from teachers I have come to trust.

For this Monday, May 7, 2012 your parenting affirmation is:

My children give me constant opportunities to learn and grow.

Now, you know this one makes you smile, even when you are tired. I would suggest that, to make this part of your self-talk, you repeat it many times throughout the day.  Say it to yourself in the mirror, and mention it to your friends in conversations.

If you have a parenting affirmation that you would like to share, please feel free to let me know.  Maybe you will see it some other Monday 🙂

All the best to your family,

Kate

May 7, 2012 Posted by | affirmations | , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Talking with Robert Holden

Robert Holden Ph.D

Robert Holden Ph.D (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Written by, Kate Oliver, LCSW-C

On Thursday of this week I decided to try calling into one of my favorite radio shows, Robert Holden’s Shift Happens.  It comes on at 1pm EST.  Every Thursday is the day I stay home from the office and try to get enough done around my house so that my family and I can have a weekend free from running errands and picking up the house.  I always listen to Hay House Radio using my phone app as I clean.  If you don’t know about Hay House Radio, it is a station dedicated completely to positive radio programming.  I love listening to Dr. Holden because he is always gentle and kind to everyone he speaks to and has a wonderful way of helping people to look at things in a different way.

I’ve had an unusual amount of anxiety lately, really since I started this blog.  While I have taught other mental health professionals and parents in educational seminars, I’ve never publicly shared my writing until now and I have been feeling, well…vulnerable.  So, I called into the show, anticipating a busy signal.  How surprised was I when the phone rang and someone asked me what my reason was for calling before putting me back on hold?  Umm, pretty surprised.  I am so grateful for the time I had on hold so that I could gather my thoughts.  Then, just after the commercial break, I heard Dr. Holden announcing…me!  What a wonderful, effortless surprise :).

I know most people hate public speaking.  I actually love it.  I know I have good, worthwhile information to share and I love being with people as we all gain knowledge together.  When I am in front of an audience, I can see people responding and adjust accordingly.  But with this blogging thing, it’s like I’m putting my baby out into the world and it’s difficult for me to see how people are responding.   When speaking in front of an in-person audience, I also know who is there (no one I know personally) and it is easy for me, in a professional setting, to shrug off criticism.  I know what I am saying some people will respond to and some will not.  Remember, I work with children with difficulties with attachment.  I probably hear a few times a week that I am wearing the wrong clothes, have a weird look on my face, don’t have the right games in my office, and that I am just plain wrong.  I usually find it pretty amusing since I know that criticism is more reflective of where my client is and if we stick with it, we will get to the other side to figure out where the defensiveness is coming from.

While speaking to Dr. Holden, I realized it was not so much the people I don’t know reading my blog, but more the people I do know.  It’s funny the things we worry about.  Mostly I was worried about people I know personally changing their opinions of me, or my blog causing conflict with people I love.  Everyone else, if you like it, wonderful!  If you don’t, I sincerely wish you luck in finding a site that better suits your needs.

The most surprising part of the call for me was toward the end when Dr. Holden suggested that if I am worried about critique from people I know and am most connected to, the concern I focused on in my call (no perfectionist tendencies here), that I must begin to be the most loving, least critical person I can be.  I had a little inner battle about that one.  “No, wait!” my insides wanted to cry, “I’m not critical of others!  In fact, I am one of the least critical people I know!  I pride myself on being non-judgemental!”  But then, after the call it clicked.  I am loving and non-judgemental to many, many people with one major exception.  You know the exception, right?  Yup, it’s me.  I have a tendency to save my major criticisms for me.  Don’t we all?  I mean, when we are yelling at our children, isn’t part of it that we are berating ourselves for our perceived lack?  Our inability to get them to eat what we want them to eat, the anger over the clutter or mess in our homes taking over that we can’t seem to keep under control, or feeling like we do not know how to address an undesireable behavior?  It is on the days when we are harshest to ourselves that we are the most harsh with our children.  I realized from that call, (thank you Dr. Holden) that I need to be less critical to everyone.

Let this be a reminder to us that we all, even the experts, need reminders to be gentle, kind and loving to ourselves.  Thank you to all of the people who have contacted me since hearing me on the call.  It has warmed my heart and I welcome building continuing relationships with you.  I hope that I can also take part in helping to you be kinder and gentler to yourselves as you continue your own journey as parents, no matter the age of your children.

You can listen to the show here: http://www.hayhouseradio.com/listenagain.php?latest=true&archive_link_type=link_mp3&archive_id=9401&show_id=180&episode_id=8697

This archive is available for only the next few days for free then it will go into the permanent archives and will cost money.

If I remember correctly, my call was the second after the break at the half way mark.  You can buy Dr. Holden’s book Shift Happens, on Amazon by clicking on the Amazon widget on the top right of this page.  I do not receive any financial compensation for this post or for any referrals to Hay House, or Dr. Holden however I do receive a nominal fee for purchases from Amazon if you click on the link on this page.  I only recommend products I believe in strongly.

May 5, 2012 Posted by | help for parents, parent support/ self improvement | , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

I’ve been tagged and I’m dedicating this post to assholes

Asshole 7"

Asshole 7″ (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Well, I’ve been tagged by Rebecca from Mom meets Blog.  What does that mean?  It’s some kind of game in the blogosphere, and I’m a child therapist so I know games are good. Here are the rules of this game:

  • Answer the question the “tagger” listed for you in their post
  • Create 11 new questions for the people you tag to answer
  • Choose 11 people to tag and link to them in the post
  • Let each blogger know that you have tagged them

Rebecca was kind enough to allow me to choose a question.  I figured since she listed me as the fifth blog she tagged, I would answer question number 5.  It’s a good one.  “Was there a teacher who had a particularly strong influence in your life?”  Why, yes, quite a few as a matter of fact.

I recently took a meditation class where the teacher, Claudia, explained about people with a name she pronounced ( ash-o-les).  When she said it, I thought she was talking about her wise, spiritual teachers.  The actual spelling of this word is assholes.  In fact though, Claudia said that assholes have been some of her best teachers.  Well, the same is true for me!  They are, indeed some of our best teachers if we allow them to be.  In figuring out how to live life with, around, and in spite of, assholes, we learn so much about ourselves, including our weakness, strength, resilience and even courage.  I have had several teachers in my life who, I have to say, sometimes I thought were real assholes (and sometimes they really were).  I won’t name them here- they don’t really need it.  Most of them were wounded and were assholes because they carried the belief that whatever they were doing was self-protective.

Now, on to another great teacher for me who is most definately not an asshole.  Well, not to me anyway.  My mom thought he was a real asshole for a long time.  She’s long since worked it out, but who can blame her?  After all, she and my dad divorced back in the early 80’s after he came out of the closet.  The non-asshole is, you guessed it, my father.  Stay with me, I’m going to bring this right back to the beginning.  My father is one of my greatest teachers because, among other things, he decided to be true to himself.  Back in the 80’s, being gay was not considered to be too awesome.  In fact, things were pretty hush, hush.  My dad’s coming out caused quite a ruckus.  He lost his marriage (and almost his children), and he came close to losing the private practice (he is a physician) that he started when his partners nearly voted him out.  He has told me, in the many conversations we have had since about this time in his life, that he felt he no longer had a choice once he came to the late understanding that he is gay.  In coming out, my father modeled for me how to stick with the strength of my convictions even though sometimes people are going to think you are an asshole.

I offer this to you, readers, as a lesson as well.  Sometimes in life, we need to be okay with other people thinking we are assholes.  It can save lives, literally.  We can also learn that sometimes, when we think someone is being an asshole, they are just trying in the best way they know how, to protect themselves, or even save their own lives- even if it does not look that way from the outside.  The people who think you are an asshole sometimes could be your kids, your parents, your boss or co-workers.  They could all think you are an asshole when you don’t do what they want you to do.  The trick is to figure out if you are doing what you are doing for the greater good and whether this is actually self-protection (or protecting your children) or not.  I’m so glad my dad was able to weather that storm.  His decision to be true to himself gave me so many gifts.  I am also grateful and for all the other lessons he has taught me- like, that being honest is really the best policy, and how to maintain long-term, healthy relationships (he and his husband have been together for more than 30 years).  Thanks Dad.

Now, on to the next part of the game…tagging others.

  1. Gorillaparenting
  2. Queen of Familosity
  3. Anger Management Chicago
  4. 400 days til 40
  5. Mommyman
  6. Science of Mom
  7. One Inch of Grace
  8. Let Life In Practices
  9. Boundaries of the Soul
  10. Unhappy Mommy
  11. Danielle’s Story

There are so many great blogs to choose from! If I didn’t choose yours, or you don’t have a blog, feel free to just answer one of the following questions below.  I pose the same questions (pick one or more) to the chosen blogs.

  1. What is advice you would give to new parents?
  2. How is your life different now than you imagined it would be ten years ago?
  3. Have you ever had a good lesson that came in strange wrapping paper?
  4. What is something you said you would never do that you now do routinely?
  5. What books are you reading and what do you think about them?
  6. What path did you take to do the job you are doing now?
  7. If you could change something about your life, what would it be?
  8. What is the best thing that has happened to you in the past year?
  9. What do you think will be different about your life in ten years?
  10. What is your favorite blog post ever, and why (you can include your own)?
  11. What is something about you people might not guess from your blog?

May 2, 2012 Posted by | blog awards and recognition | , , , , , , | 8 Comments

The Perils of Perfectionism in Parenting

Photo taken by me as an example of a stay at h...

Photo taken by me as an example of a stay at home dad and kids. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Written by, Kate Oliver, MSW, LCSW-C

Quite a few recent books have alluded to just how fed up parents are with people expecting them to be the perfect parent.  Scary Mommy, by Jill Smokler, was just released this week and details confessions of real parents who feel all the feelings that go along with parenting that we often do not talk about such as, anger, isolation, depression, fear, and embarrassment.  In this age where so much of what we do is recorded and we see so many recorded images of parents on reality television, it also seems like everyone is judging everyone else’s performance all the time.  When we do this, we can wind up in a seemingly endless cycle of judging others and ourselves constantly without any relief in sight.   In fact, there are several studies that have come out in the past few years stating that parents are significantly less happy than non-parents.  I believe part of this is our unrealistic, perfectionistic tendencies during which the thought patterns can begin to get quite vicious.

My profession has not been much help in making parents feel much better either, I’m sorry to say.  Not only do most of our books focus on what you can do for your children, rather than how to help you feel better so that you can be a better parent, we are constantly telling you how to improve communication with your child, have educationally enriching activities, spend quality time with your children and encouraging you to take constant care of their emotional needs.  While all that stuff is nice and worthwhile in many ways, I think too much of it also takes away the important quality of being genuine with our children, you know, like the genuine feelings expressed in the popular picture book for adults “Go the F@$k to Sleep,” by Adam Mansbach.  If you don’t know that book, take a moment to look it up on youtube and you can listen to Lawrence Fishburne read it to you- when your kids are not in the room.  Really, isn’t that how most of us feel when our children are coming down six and seven times to say goodnight and asking to be tucked in even though we already tucked them in?

Here is what I think many parents are wanting and it is something we hear all the time about everything but being perfect parents… everything in moderation!  Yes, even lovey, touchy stuff.  It’s actually good for the kids to understand that their parents feel- gasp!- genuine emotions.  If you are fakey, fakey all the time and pretend things are nice, they know it’s BS anyway and later they call you on it- I’ve seen it too many times to have any doubt about this.  And you know, many times when our kids call us on stuff they are right.  Has your child ever said anything to you like my daughter when she said, “Mom, that’s what you say when you’re not really listening?”  She was right.  I had no idea what she just said.  That’s the daughter my husband and I joke that someone must have told her in the end she will get paid per spoken word because she sure does act like it.  You bet I zone out the chatter sometimes and maybe even miss important things.  As one of my favorite professors in my Master’s program said, one of the great thing about people is that if you miss something important they said the first time around, they are pretty certain to repeat it.  I know this is true for my daughter too.  Now, don’t get me wrong, remember- everything in moderation, so it is also important to take time to turn on our listening ears for our children every day, but I also want to be realistic that it feels quite impossible to be in the moment and listening to one child while the other is asking you to make them a peanut butter sandwich.

Another reason genuine = good with our children is that they, like us, are humans too!  They are often not perfect and they need a good example of how to recover from imperfection.  I give my kids lots of opportunities to witness imperfection without even trying that hard.  I’m a real natural 🙂  I burn things, forget stuff, and plan poorly sometimes.  Most parents do.  It’s the ones that admit it and give children an example of how to recover via apology, forgiveness of self and others, humor, etc. that have happy, not entitled (another by-product of over-perfect parenting), healthy children with a good sense of who they are and who their parents are.

Dare to be perfectly imperfect!  Your kids will thank you for it.

April 12, 2012 Posted by | discipline, help for parents, resources/ book reviews | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Parenting with affirmations

what are word for?

what are word for? (Photo credit: Darwin Bell)

Written by, Kate Oliver, MSW, LCSW-C

My children are learning new and wonderful things every day.

I am loving and supportive to my children.

My children are loving toward me.

As a huge fan of Louise Hay, the mother of the self-help movement, I have come to find the wonderful healing work that can be done via the use of affirmations.  Ms. Hay would tell you that every statement is an affirmation.  Typically we think of affirmations being statements we say to help us to feel better.  I am loving and loveable is a common affirmation people try to say over and over to help change internal beliefs.  But people can also say other, unhealthy or damaging affirmations, without even realizing they are doing so.  I hear affirmations all the time like this, for example: everything I do turns out wrong, and it seems like everyone I love leaves me.  I know it may seem simplistic to say that affirmations can change things but take a moment to see if you can remember words that may have changed your life.  Hurtful words, loving words, thoughtful words, all may have played a part in helping you to form who you are.

I remember overhearing my mother say once that my sister was a smart as I was pretty.  These words carried a lot of meaning for my twelve year old self.  From them I deduced that my mother thought I was pretty (nice), but not that smart (ouch).  While I know she would never have wanted me to feel like I was not smart and she has told me many times since that I am smart, I know that those words were powerful and impacted how I felt about myself.  As parents our words are formative for our children.  In the same way we can use affirmations to help us feel better about ourselves and to retrain our brains and our internal belief systems, we can use them to help our children form their own internal beliefs and set of understandings about how to feel better when life is hard.

One good introduction to affirmations for children is Louise Hay’s children’s book, I Think, I Am.  In it, Hay uses child friendly language to teach children the power of affirmations.  I have been using affirmations in my parenting for well over a year now, and can tell you it has made a huge difference in my children’s day to day happiness (mine as well).  One thing that I think keeps people away from using affirmations is that they believe all affirmations have to be said in this nicey, nicey tone that feels syrupy and sweet.  In my time using affirmations with my children, I can tell you this is absolutely not so!

My then  six year old daughter, used to have reactions ranging from grumpy and reluctant to downright nasty upon waking up each morning.  I actually got pretty irritated with going in to her room each morning to wake her up with a nice song only to be greeted with a moan that I needed to stop singing and demands for me to help her get dressed.  However, I was determined to stay positive toward her and to try to set limits.  One day, I got fed up with it and said quite firmly something along the lines of, “You know, the things you say right when you get up set the tone for your day.  Do you want to wake up saying how rotten things are all the time or would you like to start your day showing love for all you have?”  Here comes the affirmation, which I then stated out loud.  “I am chosing to start my day happy and to be around people who are being kind to me.” Then I walked out of her room.  I can assure you that I did not sound remotely close to sweet and syrupy.  I also stated that I was going to take care of myself by leaving the room because I did not want to start my day feeling angry and sour.  I believe my tone and questions are what caused my daughter to sit up and took notice.  Within a few minutes she had dressed herself and come downstairs to tell me she did want to start her day right.  Since then she has mentioned this desire several times.  Sometimes in the morning when I wake her up now she still mentions that today she is going to have a happy day and I can tell you that morning wake ups have completely changed for her making our entire morning smoother for everyone.

Perhaps this sounds too simplistic.  I know it’s not always so easy because I know you might tell me how your child would follow you out of the room and around the house demanding that you do such and such or this or that.  Affirmations are not magical.  They do not immediately change the people around you just by you saying them, however, they do help you to change your inner world and your outer world is forced to change as well.  Be what I call a “broken record” with your affirmations.  As your child follows you around giving you a hard time, continue to state them out loud.  It can be the same one over and over again- you know, the same way you have to say “no” twenty times before they get it.

Now that you have read this, I would strongly encourage you to take a moment now to think about the affirmations you are saying to and about your own children.  Would you like to change them?  If so, write down what you would like to change them to.  Need help finding an affirmation?  Give me a try.  I’ve gotten pretty good at this 🙂

For more information about affirmations, I would strongly recommend you read Louise Hay’s classic book, You Can Heal Your Life.  It has been around for a while but it is actually a timeless work.  No time to read?  I bought it off itunes and listened to it while walking and I highly recommend this way as well.  You can easily find this book by clicking on the Amazon widget link at the top right of this page.  Please read my disclaimer page first.

Cover of "YOU CAN HEAL YOUR LIFE"

Cover of YOU CAN HEAL YOUR LIFE

April 11, 2012 Posted by | affirmations, help for parents | , , , , , , | 12 Comments

   

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