Tag Archives: modeling

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Making the Hardest Parts Easier: Transitions from Big to Small

Daylight savings has become more confusing since giving birth. For as long as I can remember, I’ve run on industrial time. 6 o’clock is 6 o’clock, even if they have moved it an hour.

With a baby, though, I run on horticultural time. We follow the sun and the stars. I’m not sure when 7 o’clock is, but I know when the sun comes up. Everything in my schedule has been suddenly moved forward an hour. I was an early riser at 6:15 a.m. but now I’m a normal riser at 7.

My partner’s work schedule has changed to accommodate this weird quirk of certain industrialized nations. As have all of our activities.

This transition is frustrating like they all are.

Generating Energy

We transition several times a day from sleep to wake, from calm to calamity, from place to place. These can be very draining on our child and on us.

In High-Performance Habits, author Brendon Burchard details five things that effective people do better than the rest of us. He cites a ton of research on why these habits are so useful and gives you practical advice on how to implement them in your own life.

Of note today is habit number two. Burchard finds that extraordinary people generate energy.

Instead of letting their energy be leeched throughout the day, top performers find a way to create and retain as much as energy as possible.

In a revelation that will surprise no one, this means transitioning smoothly because people feel the most drained by adjusting. Things like:

  • Waking up in the morning
  • Leaving for work and school
  • Coming home
  • Bedtime

sometimes ask more of us than we feel we can give.

Giving Your Brain Space

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What extremely effective people have learned is how to transition gracefully. Regardless of how smart, fast, and competent you are, your brain needs time to switch tasks. You need time to organize your thoughts, to release your feelings, to re-center.

Try to find spaces and ways during your day to help your brain and body understand that one part of your day has ended and another one starting.

Do this for yourself and your child. While it might look different for the two of you, it is something you both need.

If you can recharge yourself before your child, you’ll be able to parent from the place that you want to.

Here are a few ways to give yourself a break and generate energy before trying to get kiddo up to speed:

  • Resetting the Room: Before leaving the room to move onto the next portion of your day, make sure everything is in the place you’d like it to be. This helps keep your house tidy, lets your brain know you are finished with that activity, can be used to prime the space for the next time you enter it.

As James Clear says in Atomic Habits, “Whenever you organize a space for its intended purpose, you are priming it to make the next action easy…Want to draw more? Put your pencils, pens, notebooks, and drawing tools on top of your desk, within easy reach. Want to exercise? Set out your workout clothes, shoes, gym bag, and water bottle ahead of time.”

By resetting the room to what you’ll need it for next, you are making you’re a transition easier for your future self, too.

  • Meditate: You do not need to set an alarm or open up 10% Happier. You don’t need to clear your mind or sit on a meditation pillow. All you need to do is give yourself a quick break. You can pick how many breaths you are going to take or pick a cue in your environment to decide how long to meditate for.

You might take ten deep breaths (inhale through the nose for two seconds, hold for two seconds, exhale through the mouth for four seconds.) Or you might think, “I am going to sit here and meditate until I hear a whimper of frustration from my toddler.”

  • Visualization: Take a moment to close your eyes. Picture a big To-Do list that you have written (or if you have one, walk over to it!) Check off what you’ve just accomplished.

Now, visualize yourself transitioning smoothly. You help your children wrap up       this portion of the day. You are successfully accomplishing the next thing on your list. You and baby are both contended, smiling, doing what needs to get done.

  • Movement: A big part of what you are doing when trying to transition is to release the built-up tension brought on by focus and labor. Movement will help get rid of some of this. You can do some simple stretching or ten burpees. Whatever suits your desires and abilities.

Staying in the Green

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Once you feel rejuvenated and ready to roll, then you can help transition your child.

When children don’t transition well, they often end up in the red zone (having a tantrum) or the blue zone (shutting down). If we can keep them in the green zone, the go-zone, the ready to grow, contribute, and explore zone, then their days will get easier. This is a habit they can bring with them into adulthood.

There are a few things you can do before transitions to help make them smoother, and some you can do when the change actually occurs.

Before a Transition:

  • Routine: We’re a big fan of routines here at Alert Authentic Mindful. Giving yourself and your children a routine makes life easier. For transitions, a routine means they have a loose idea about the structure of their day in their heads. This makes change and uncertainty easier to bear.

 

  • Nightly prep: Tell your child what is going to happen before the day comes. You know what is going to happen with your day. Why not clue them in on it?

 

You don’t have to detail each five-minute increment. X will happen, followed by Y. Think where the transition points are. That’s what they need to be aware of, not which toys they’re going to play with.

During a Transition:

  • Warnings: Give your child some time to prepare for changes. Keep in mind their developmental level. You can set an alarm, show them a clock, or tell them the series of events. “Soon, mom will stand up and get her purse, then…” You can also give your child some choice: “Pick one more thing to do before we leave this house/room/playground.”

 

  • Movement: Just like you, your child has been building up tension in their body while they participated in an activity. This could be from socializing, focusing, or using self-control to act appropriately in a setting. Movement can help to release some of that tension and prepare them for the next thing. You can ask them to join you for your stretches or burpees. Consider doing a special parent-child yoga pose help them feel connected to you during this rough time.

 

  • Connection: The name of the game when talking about discipline for children is connection. If you want them to follow your lead, they must feel like you are on their team. In order to do this, use or come up with a connection ritual. This can be something very simple like a 10-second hug which helps to soothe fears and releases serotonin, dopamine, and oxytocin—chemicals that make us feel connected and happy. You can have a special kiss, a special dance, or a special song to feel in line with each other.

Mastering transitions will make your days significantly easier. Tweak any of these ideas to meet the specific needs of your family. Zander doesn’t need nightly prep—at 9 months old, he relies much more heavily on our routine. Some children actually do worse with a warning, seeing them as an opportunity to stop enjoying themselves right away and start complaining—in which case, maybe a quick sweep off the feet would do better.

Be aware of where sensitivities lie and hone your transition routine. With enough practice and forethought, going from one activity to the other over time will only become a problem when no one has had enough sleep.

 

 

 

Something I’ll Teach My Children

I’m a woo-free natural mama. I don’t believe in the pseudo-science surrounding a lot of the prescriptions. I try to do my research, but I don’t “f**king love science.” I am not interested in raising my children to create a better, more caring world. I don’t care about the environment.

I am handling motherhood in a certain way and my son is being raised in a certain way so that I can feel good, and so that he can be strong and get what he wants out of the world.

I happen to have been raised without using much over-the-counter medicine and didn’t go to the doctor often because of who my mother is (thanks!) She isn’t anti-Western medicine—and neither am I. There are just a lot of things that can be done before you take antibiotics.

I am not pro or anti vaccine. I am not for “informed choice”. I am happy to be a free rider on the herd immunity that our nation provides. Nobody likes a free-rider, but everyone wants to be one. Our son will be getting some vaccinations; but that isn’t my point.

Whatever my choice, I will not be make it because I have a fear or autism or the heavy metals or cancer. It is because I can.

My children will be unschooled. This isn’t because, as many seem to think, because unschooled children are bastions of liberal ideology.

I am unschooling because I want my children to enjoy learning. I want to be the person to give them those opportunities. I want to influence their ideas more than other people. I want to have more say in their peer group.

I am unschooling because I want my children to be competent and confident in making their own decisions, and never have their curiosity taken way from them. I want them to remain in a growth mindset. I want them to compete on their own terms.

I am not unschooling because I want my children to take better care of the animals and the environment.

I want emotionally healthy children who are amicable, cooperative, and giving. To this end, I am raising them in the gentle parenting style, as advised by people like Dr. Daniel Siegel, the inventor of the field of interpersonal neurobiology, and Dr. John Gottman, one of the lead researchers in family systems, because I want my children to be able to get ahead in life. It just so happens that these skills are the skills of winners. While takers usually end up somewhere in the middle of the race of life, the givers end up at the top and bottom. I want my children at the top.

If, on the other hand, being at the top and being happy and fulfilled meant being ruthless and violent, then I would raise my children to be ruthless and violent.

While some might find this a dim view on why to raise my children in the way that I do, I find that ultimately, pragmatism towards one’s values carries you further than ephemeral ideas and reaching for the ideal. It is close to home that I want my son to be successful. It is much further away that I want Earth to be loved and respected so that it is a beautiful paradise for seven generations down the line.

The more abstract and idea, the less you get feedback from it in your environment. The less you get positive feedback, the harder it is to remain steadfast in your approach.

I will tell my children that we did all of these things because it is what felt good to us, and we thought it was the best way to make them strong and to want to continue a relationship with us in the future. I will make it clear that there is no shame in approaching things from a selfish angle, and the closer to home you make your goals, the more likely you are to achieve them. These are a few among the many great lessons I choose to model—and later, discuss—with my children.

How To Get Your Partner to Parent the Same

I can’t get my husband to stop barking at the children.”

“My partner won’t listen to me or read any of the books I have asked him to.”

“My boyfriend keeps telling my son that he’s a ‘big boy now’ and I think it is hurting his confidence. How can I stop him?”

Frequently on parenting groups, we see these sorts of complaints and questions. A mother has decided on principles of interaction with her children, and the father is unwilling to follow the same path. The mother is distraught. Very often, distraught enough to be considering leaving her partner.

So, the question is, how do you get your partner on board with your parenting style?

My gut reaction—everyone’s gut reaction—is to say model the appropriate behavior. We learn better as children with modeling, and we learn better as adults with modeling. But in saying this, we leave out an important element of why people follow modeled behavior so well. They see the exact steps to take, and they see that it works.

If I wanted to learn how to make a cake, and someone modeled for me how to make a pie, I might be grateful for their effort, but I would not then follow their instructions. It was not what I wanted, so using their guidance for my ends is useless.

This is why mother’s will often say they already model and it doesn’t seem to be working. Why, oh why does he not see what I’m doing? How is he not compelled to do the same?

One option is that you have different values about what you want for your children.

More likely, you have different values about how you want to feel about how you treat your children.

I believe both parents, in most relationships, have their children’s best interest at heart. But I believe mother’s often want their relationship to be like a friendship. They want their relationship to be sweet and caring and empathetic. They are often liable to ignore the results that they are getting out of their interactions with their children, and how they are effecting their behavior. They are dedicated to certain principles and feelings, sometimes at the cost of what is actually best for the child in the long run.

If your partner sees you being a “gentle parent” towards your child, but your child is often out-of-control—both his own and yours—he is extremely unlikely to be convinced that this gentle parenting approach is for him, or really even for his child. He will not want to parent that way, and he may even begin to try to act as a counterbalance to permissiveness and lack of leadership, being harsher than he would otherwise.

And, perhaps, you seeing his harshness in response to your gentleness makes you double down and be even softer.

If I want to bake a cake and you hand me a book on how to make a pie, I am not going to read that book. It isn’t useful to me.

Feeling that we have the answers, feeling morally upright and indignant, is very appealing. Especially when you know that you’re on the right track. A half truth can sometimes be worse than a whole lie because reality will confirm that you’re doing something right.

I wholly agree that anyone who is interested in gentle parenting is gleaning some very important truths about the best way to raise children; with secure attachment, with emotional coaching, with loving care and openness. But they’re often missing leadership, another big part of the equation.

Before you try to model harder that your method is right, have a discussion about what values it is you are trying to raise your children with. From there, you can discuss why it is that he feels that your approach is lacking in accomplishing those goals.

Chances are, you will find that you both have the same values around what you want for your children. This is for two reasons. One if affiliative mating; we tend to date and breed with those who are like us.

But even more than this, it is because we generally all want the same things for our children. We want them to be emotionally healthy, able to pursue the things they want in life, for them to value their relationship with us, to be resilient, healthy. While which things you value most may differ, it is likely that the fundamental desires you have are the same.

A discussion can lead to gaining mutual respect for each other’s positions. You may even find that you give up your efforts to convert him to your ways, because you can see that there is a balance between the two of you. Perhaps being a great leader and setting boundaries isn’t your strong suit, and you can learn something from your partner. He is likely bringing something of value to the table. Maybe be will better be able to see where you’re coming from, too. Don’t go into the discussion hoping to “win” it, though.

Another possibility is that you guys can talk about what kinds of things would make a more gentle approach more appealing to him. Once you understand that you’re valuing the same things—that you don’t want to raise an impulsive, inconsiderate, unproductive person, but instead think that these ideas will lead to a strong, confident, cooperative adult—you can begin to talk about how to get where you’re both going.

It might be that your child doesn’t take directions well, and until your partner starts to see results in this area, he is not that interested. Realize that this is fair. Children aren’t meant to be slaves who simply follow orders, but they are meant to cooperate, to be led, and at a certain point, start to gain emotional control. When they can’t have emotional control, you are that calm for them.

Once you start to build the skills necessary to lead your child, maybe your husband will ask more questions about how to be authoritative. Then you modeling will be instructive for him.

But until then, until you show him how to bake a cake when what he wants is a cake, your modeling will do no good.

Who Are You Trying to Raise?

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You are living by certain values regardless of whether or not you know it. You can live by your own or you can live unwittingly at the whims of other people’s. If you are feeling tossed and turned about by different people’s opinions on parenting, it means that you have not clearly laid out what it is that you value.

You have to get clear on your values. Real clear. You have to figure out what you want, exactly, for yourself and your child, and then you can decide who is worth listening to.

If you feel like you have conflicted values because you want a free-spirited child but you also want a child who will, please, just listen, then you are thinking in the wrong terms.

Start thinking about what you want out of a person. You want a pro-social, cooperative person, who is capable of expressing themselves. If you met someone like this, you would not be shocked by their seemingly contradictory traits. Because there is nothing contradictory about them.

In fact, being assertive and being pro-social are linked together, as long as they’re coupled with the ability to read social cues. This is for adults and children.

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Once you understand what it is that you want to encourage in your children—likely, those traits that you value in other people—and realize that there is nothing contradictory about them, it is much easier to come up with methods of discipline and rules for your family. It’s easier to be the parent you want to be because you’re standing on solid ground.

Relationships are what humans are, because it is what we do. More than anything else, more than even tool-makers, we are the relationship-makers.

Together, you and your child are building an image in his mind of what relationships should look like.

How do you want your child to view relationships?

In the future, do you want your child to be baffled by the fact that they don’t win every argument, that their pouting doesn’t get them what they want, that other people’s feelings have to come into the equation? Do you want your child to see relationships as one way streets?

In the future, do you want your child to think that hearing a “no” means that they aren’t loved?

Do you want them to be scared of other people’s emotions?

No.

You want them to consider others. You want them to understand that other people’s emotional experiences are valid—even if they don’t feel the same way, even if they don’t understand it.

That all starts now.

Showing your children your emotions, calmly, and discussing them with them, is showing them that others have feelings that they must consider.

It is showing them that emotions are nothing to be afraid of.

It is modeling emotional regulation for them.

It is allowing them to reflect on how they influence the world.

When you hide your emotions, you are showing your child that they don’t have an effect on the world. That others emotions don’t come into the equation when navigating a situation.

That doesn’t mean you should lose your cool. It only means that from the beginning, you can teach your children that it takes two. It takes two people’s desires and wants and opinions and effort to make a healthful relationship.

Or three people.

Or four.

However big your family is.

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We don’t want our children to be sociopaths. We want them to be loving, caring people who understand that compromise is often necessary and that conflict does not always mean getting our way—even though sometimes, it does!

We want them to understand that other people have different boundaries than they do, and that they must be respectful of them.

Once we get clear on our values—that we want our children to be emotionally healthy and cooperative and that sometimes means not being happy in the moment—it is easy to see how limit setting and emotional validation are not mutually exclusive, but mutually supportive.

Teaching our children these basic values—cooperation and reciprocation—is one of the best gifts we can give them because they’re universally appreciated and useful in every area of life. Teaching our children this important value—that we don’t cave on our boundaries because someone else has big emotions, is a tremendous benefit that will carry them through many difficult times. Be the adult you want them to be.

Monkey See, Monkey Do

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When we take an evolutionary look at ourselves, it becomes easier to forgive ourselves for our follies and foibles. It makes it possible to keep in mind what our default settings are, and once we are aware of something, we can often do something to stop, change or leverage it.

I have talked before about how in our evolutionary past, it was much easier to raise children because there was a fixed number of possibilities in their world, and how that is no longer the case. I’m here to give everyone another out concerning the difficulty of parenting: you were never taught how to parent.

Modeling is one of the most important things that we do for our children. Monkey see, monkey do; not monkey hear, monkey do. Modeling is also how we learn most skills. A cursory thought will make it clear that watching other people perform tasks well helps you learn quicker than reading about them.

If our brains are made primarily to reflect the models that we see, both to construct an image of the world we live in and to grow into it, I want to ask you one thing: What models did you have for parenting?

I am not saying your parents were bad parents. Either they were wonderful, or you’re here making sure you don’t repeat what you feel are their mistakes. Or both.

The point is, even if you had excellent parents, how many times did you see children being raised? If you include yourself, once. On the right tail of this bell curve would be someone growing up in a day care, and in the middle someone with a few siblings.

In the past, you saw parenting modeled again and again. Because society was largely out in the open, not behind closed doors in the absolute nuclear family, we had a lot more information at our disposal.

Now, we don’t know what’s normal. Is my baby sleeping too much? Are they supposed to be this gassy? Are this many tantrums okay? Shouldn’t he be developmental milestone-ing by now?

There is a huge amount of anxiety that would be reduced if we just spent time around families as we were growing up. If we had a large variety of responses modeled for us. But we don’t.

Parenting obviously isn’t one-size-fits-all. There are customs passed down, cultural norms, and variation. Did you see some women breastfeed their baby on both boobs during one a feeding? Only one breast? In the cradle hold, football hold, side lying? Did you see some women burp their baby by patting their backs, by gently rocking them up and down, by sitting them bent over your knees, by laying them across your lap? How hard should you hit babies back if you’re burping him? What counts as shaking?

Did you ever see the colic hold?

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How do you take care of a penis? Is your intact boys penis supposed to balloon with pee like that? (Yes.)

Infant care in particular is daunting because people want to present their babies perfectly. As well as internal motivation, the fear of child protective services looms large for many people. Dread around germs also daunts most of us, and sometimes rationally so because we are in such close quarters with so many in our cities.

These are all concerns that would virtually never materialize in an evolutionary environment, and as such, your anxiety would be reduced. With reduced anxiety, it would be easier to remain unruffled.

We lack tribes, which would not only give us a greater sense of community, but more information on the task at hand. In light of this, I suggest spending a lot of time around other moms with an open dialogue about how you handle different issues. Instead of reading it online, you might actually see it modeled. This is an essential part of learning for us.

The world gives to the givers and takes from the takers. Be a giver. If there are younger women in your neighborhood who are interested in having children of their own, be open and honest with them about what your struggles are, and show them how you approach common baby problems: sleep, diaper rash, pottying, etc.

We have lost a lot when we lost our communities: modeling, predictability, and togetherness. We know that we should show, not tell, to our children. The flip side is also true. See if you can be shown, not told, what to do.

Journal Questions:

  1. What is a quality that I need to model for my child more?
  2. What examples did I see of parenting before I became a parent? What was useful? What was not?

Practice

  1. Get together with one mother that you know and ask her to show you how to do something that you’re struggling with.