Conscious Parenting

The Conscious Parent

Conscious what, conscious who?

I realize that I have been throwing around quotes on many of my social media platforms without true intent to give my followers the meaning behind what it is to be a "conscious parent". For me being conscious is being awakened. It's about taking away traditional ways of raising children, and really focusing in on the the "whole child", all while being more reflective when raising children than punitive. The "whole child" you ask? The whole child is what I like to use to describe everything your child encompasses. That's each child's unique emotional, spiritual, educational, environmental experiences that make them who they are. There are many times I have spoken to caregivers who raise children who they believe are 1 dimensional. I have learned through my profession and role as a mother that children have many layers to them, as we do adults. So taking in their unique prospective is essential for understanding what it is to be conscious.

Once you accept your children’s basic nature, you can contour your style to meet their temperament. To do so means letting go of your fantasies of yourself as a certain kind of parent and instead evolving into the parent you need to be for the particular child in front of you.
— Shefali Tsabary, The Conscious Parent

 

Conscious parents often times will focus in on the emotional connection between the parent/child versus the more authoritative (who is boss) approach between parent/child. This does not mean you throw away specific practices that have worked for you or practices that have been passed down that also work well for your family. This method of child rearing focuses on mind shifting to begin to solve what's really going on behind your child's behavior. We often times as parents like to think that are children are just like us, and although that can be true in some areas, children have their own state of being. Allow them to have a different perception than you. 

When you parent, it’s crucial you realize you aren’t raising a “mini me”, but a spirit throbbing with its own signature. For this reason, it’s important to separate who you are from who each of your children is. Children aren’t ours to possess or own in any way. When we know this in the depths of our soul, we tailor our raising of the them to their needs, rather than molding them to fit ours.
— Shefali Tsabary, The Conscious Parent

Conscious parenting assures that your child feels secure in the world and and in return you feel reliable and safe. By altering how we experience our primary relationships (parent/child) we can begin to shape perspectives, beliefs, self esteem, and outlook. In it is this that cultivates the environment your child needs to be the best them mentally, physically, and emotionally.

3 Conscious Tips:

  1.  Check your language- is it cruel, shows impatience, or non effective?
  2. Check your expectations- is your child developmentally ready to handle what is being asked? Could you meet your needs without asking your child for help?
  3. Check you self-regulation- Is your temperament calm, or are you parenting from a place of frustration? Did you set your limits with kindness, and is this approach best to prevent your child from being upset?
Parents, choose your words wisely, carefully, thoughtfully. In the same way that violence begets violence and anger begets anger, kindness and peace begets peace. Sow words of peace, words that build, words that show respect ad belief and support.
— L.R. Knost

This can be challenging, but always try to bring the focus back to building a strong bond between you and your children. When solving conflict it does not have to be about making your'e child feel bad, or inflicting pain. Most often conflict is able to be resolved through empathy and understanding. Once you begin to make that a consistent message with your children it will make effective changes in your household. Now I don't want you to use this reading as a way to say you can not set boundaries or to allow inappropriate behavior. This ideal will be a baseline on how you would do such. For instance, I had a hard time getting my oldest daughter Kennedy to understand that every time we go to a store she is not warranted gifts just because. It would always be this argument or tantrum why she couldn't get something. I begin to look at her need-she wants rewards, my want- I want her to earn it, work for it, solution- we sat down and discussed openly her frustrations and mine. Together we came up with a chore chart for her to earn money, as well as start a savings account to assure she "gets the things she has earned" and I "feel better that it just wasn't given to her". For my 2 year old this looks very different. So for her when she cries, or can't communicate her needs, as her parent I take the time to make sure she has had rest, food, and attention, but also making sure I stay calm and approach her in a manner that is supportive and loving. Our influence as parents is much stronger and long lasting when it is loving and intentional rather than fear based and short term.

People always say, “Choose your battles”, in parenting. Let’s choose peace, instead. After all, our children aren’t our enemies, and childhood shouldn’t be a battleground.
— L.R. Knost

So I will leave you with these 13 principles of Conscious Parenting by a speaker and author, Alfie Kohn. You are enough, and we together can raise consciously aware children, who will lead this nation far more than we have ever imagined.

13 Conscious Parenting Principles:

  1. Be reflective
  2. Reconsider your request
  3. Stay focused on your long terms goals
  4. Put your relationship first
  5. Change how you see not just how you act
  6. RESPECT
  7. Be authentic
  8. Talk less, ask more
  9. Be mindful of your child's age
  10. Attribute to children the best possible motive consistent with the facts
  11. Don't stick to no's unnecessarily
  12. Don't be rigid
  13. Don't be in a hurry

 

Healthy parents, raise healthy children!

P.S. Listed below is a book I have read many of times, that many of my parenting approaches come from. Check your local library, amazon, or book store if you are looking for a great read!

Parenting Magic!

"Consistency" is a Major Key"

If there is one thing this move has taught me, it is that kids rely on consistency and structure.

Rewind.

Earlier this year my husband and I decided to buy an investment property. We lived in our first home for 7 years and it was just time. The buyer/seller market was phenomenal, I was employed with excellent credit, husband was close to finishing school, and most importantly my husband and I always discuss taking risk within the limitations of our family. It's very easy to get comfortable, but comfortable keeps you stagnant at times. So change for us was calling our name because giving our girls more for the future means planning for it.

It has always been important for me to provide my girls with a sense of stability. I want them to grow up in a community that feels like an extension of family.
— Me

Of course we had conversations about what that would look like for our children because you can't be a parent of two and not consider subjects like school districts, cost of child care, environmental safety, how will they adjust, and most importantly is it close to my mom, lol Either way I knew there would be challenges but I planned to face them head strong. Thank God for my title as an "early childhood mental health therapist" because it provides me with a stronger source of information on how to address childhood anxiety, childhood stress and concerns with adjustment.

Moving is often stressful for most adults, this warrants the same response for children. Moving to a new town or even a new neighborhood is stressful at any age, but a new study shows that frequent relocation's in childhood are related to poorer well-being in adulthood, especially among people who are more introverted or neurotic. Now I am not saying all parents should avoid change. Some change is good because it teaches kids concepts of adaptability as well as resiliency. It's when it becomes routine that kids little bodies can't adjust or feel safe (don't know what to expect). There can be both pros and cons to this argument. The ideal is that we do our best as parents to provide mental wellness to our children by doing what we ultimately feel is right.

My husband grew up a military kid, who moved around like a leaf in the wind. He became too comfortable with change and has a personality that blends in like a chameleon.
— Me

For my oldest daughter I knew it would be hard. It was the only house she knew. She felt safe and secure. She's had the same group of friends, had her routine down, and just felt comfortable about the way she was going through life. Once I poured the news to her in a positive manner, explaining that her room would be bigger, she will be closer to the activities she enjoys, and meeting new friends, all I saw was weeping. It was hard for her to understand that life could possibly start over, at least that's how she felt in that moment. I also shared this news to my very strong willed 2 year old. With the understanding that kids as young as her are able to understand concepts that are explained to them. And just as much as I wanted to prep my oldest, I equally prepped my youngest daughter as well.

Fast forward.

We sell our home. Our new home is scheduled to have 60 days of renovations and we decide to move with family. A family with children of their own, schedules of their own, routines, and limits. Now I am 3 weeks in and have developed 5 ways I was able to provide my children with consistency. That has decreased the stress of change, and create happier human beings (both parents and children).

Home is where the heart is, but giving my children something to build upon will keep the heart beating.
— Me

Major Keys:

1. Prepping- Have conversations with your children. Be open and also allow feedback. Validate for your child that it can be scary and sad. Allow them to air it out, and be honest. This also goes for super little ones. I explained to Karter we were moving, she helped pack her toys, she knows we have a new house, etc. Young children feel the stress of change too. Don't ignore a fussy toddler, pr snotty tween. Allow them to need you a little more. Little people's feelings are big for them, and can seem small to us.

2. Keep connections- When I knew for sure we were moving I made my older daughter collect all names and numbers of her friends. Thankfully we weren't moving out of state, so I explained to her she could plan a big sleepover, visit, etc. Moving doesn't warrant forgetting the children your child has connected with. Even if going out of town, I would use the benefits of technology, or even becoming Pen-Pals!

3. Familiarity- During moving process. Allow your child to have things that are familiar. We are staying with family, so I made sure to pack bedding from their actual beds, favorite toys, and little reminders of home. This was really great for Karter (2). It was easier to put her down for bed, or adjust to playing in a foreign place when things felt familiar around her.

4. Routines/Schedules- Routines and schedules should be the same as much as possible. Predictability allows for a child to know what to expect next, which prevents meltdowns during a transition they are not use to. This was one of the most challenging concepts for me. My uncle who we are living with has a very passive parenting style, he also has children that are the same age as mine. I had to be very diligent about telling the girls to eat dinner, do homework, bedtime, etc when their cousins weren't doing the same thing. In the beginning it was a fuss "Why do they", but now it's to be expected. More importantly when moving again to our home we won't have to start over. Kids yearn for structure. Knowing how to operate makes them operate more efficiently.

5. More Love- if anything can fix it,  a calm and nurturing spirit can. Be patient. Allow and expect your child to have a reaction via negative or positive. Expect them to cry, act out, be a little more defiant. It's part of the adjustment process. It can be hard for kids to communicate exactly how they feel. Be understanding, and offer them more hugs and kisses that will release some of the anxiety of transitioning. Kids react the way parents do. When a child sees you flooded with emotion, they too will take on those feelings.

Change is unavoidable. Change is a part of life. And change makes us discover more. We as parents have to learn ways to provide a balance within the realms of our families that makes us feel comfortable. Children are one of the most resilient groups of people. The more we can plan for their success the more successful we can feel as parents.

Cheers to new Beginnings!

Supporting Self-Regulation

Close your eyes and picture this:

Your 2 year old is home, running around per usual. He/she notices that their sibling is playing with a toy that sparks their interest. Your 2 year old goes and snatches the toy screaming "this is mine!" As they proceed to run with the toy, they miss a step and fumble. Not only did they just lose the ball, but now they are hurting. All you hear is screams.....

Does this sound familiar? This seems like an everyday occurrence at my home. Accidents and emotional breakdowns happening left and right, with a toddler whose only response is to cry, and a tween that has a slight attitude problem. Well I am here to tell you that we can decrease breakdowns by understanding our role in developing your child's self-regulation skills.

What is Self-Regulation?

Before I write a novel, I will simplify all that self regulation encompasses. Self-regulation is the process that your child goes through that gives them the ability to control their behaviors and emotions. Children develop at different rates, this is also true for self-regulation. It is important to understand that self-regulation does not occur in isolation. Physical behaviors such as needing to be rocked, thumb sucking, swaddled, feeding, etc.; are all driven by getting an specific need met. These are early signs of self-regulation. Emotional regulation is a child's discovery of how to manage their emotions to socialize with peers and adults. This is exhibited by learning how to share, throwing tantrums, following the rules, and saying one's needs. Demanding "this is mine!". Self-regulation involves using tools to help work and process challenging moments. Those same tools require thoughtful planning by both parent and child.  

Basically...

Basically...

Why is this important?

Self-regulation is the foundation of early childhood development. It's the seed planted to assist adults with managing emotions, thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. If we give children the ability to learn strategies to stay calm in stressful situations. As they begin to grow into adults they will continue to use the same habits of using effective coping skills. Hence, self-regulation works as a bridge. During the preschool years children have to learn several new concepts. This includes but not limited to learning how to sit, listen, share, follow directions, and rules. This all happens simultaneously and continuously. Not to mention one day children are protected from the world by parents, the next day we are prepping them to face the world on their own (preschool). This idea can be overwhelming for little ones. The more we understand how we can guide our children to self-regulate, the more we can begin to feel comfortable about letting them go off into the world alone...

This week I will be sharing via social media, fun, simple self regulation strategies/games! I will leave you with a few simple ideas here on the site.

Allow your child to consume lots of water. Fueling with water is necessary to keep our nervous system to stay calm.

Lots of sleep. Kids can sleep up to 12-14 hours a day. And they absolutely need it! Lack of sleep makes for a challenging day!

Provide opportunities for free play/outdoor play. Let the energy out. Increase heart rate=more blood flow to the brain= brain power.

Walks... My older daughter when feeling emotional dysregulated just needs a walk for fresh air. As her body begins to increase with happy hormones that by physical activity, she presents as more calm.

Blowing bubbles is the same idea of practicing deep breathing. When you blow bubbles too quickly or too slow, it may cause for a disaster. But if you do it from the belly, at the right tempo, you get the perfect amount. Show kids how to deep breathe by using bubbles. Plus who doesn't like bubbles, lol.

Read books about feelings and that offer sensory stimulation. I love Todd Parr books, he does an amazing job displaying an array of feeling vocabulary. Usbourne children's books offers the use of sensory. "That's not my"...books use textures to stimulate your young reader. Sensory is linked with self-regulation. Offer sensory items to help keep your child regulated.

Music! Again this is linked with sensory play. Music is known to be something that allows you to stay relaxed. It is also an opportunity for your child to use both sides of their brain!

Kids Yoga! Yoga is a great way for kids to connect to their bodies, stay focused and calm themselves. Try adding 15 mins a day or after a meltdown!

Kids Yoga! Yoga is a great way for kids to connect to their bodies, stay focused and calm themselves. Try adding 15 mins a day or after a meltdown!


I would like to challenge you to allow your child during the next meltdown to do one of these as a way to redirect a challenging behavior. Take advantage of moments that provide you with an opportunity to teach. When you put your child in time out, offer bubbles; can't get a child to share, read a book about sharing. That 2 year old we discussed earlier was able to get up, come to mommy, and ask for a simple hug. The perfect coping strategy to help self regulate :-)








Guiding Your Child's Temperament

Temperament 

~a person's or animal's nature, especially as it permanently affects their behavior...

If there is one thing that I have begin to understand about my own style of parenting is that my personal attitude and/or biases have a personal effect on how I guide my children. I like to blame my horoscope to provide evidence to why some of my kid's behaviors affect me personally. I'm a fan of horoscopes, slightly because my mother's own biases, but mostly because they are so accurate. Maurice (my husband)  believes it's general information that fits the mold of all people. I like to think that our universe provides a reason for everything, so following my zodiac is a way to explain some of it. So for example, I am a Cancer, emotional at heart, very reactive, and quite tenacious. My eldest daughter is a Gemini, represented by 2 heads to show the prevalence of 2 personalities, so she is up and down. Very expressive, but can often times be very serious. And then there is my youngest daughter, an Aries, who is very determined and courageous, but can be very impatient.  

This was easily played out on the day of our family photo shoot. Here I am trying to work on the advancement of my family, and my children have the audacity to show their most challenging characteristics of their zodiac sign. Of course the OCD mommy in me, has been prepping my children for this day for the past few weeks. Making sure they knew what to expect, and just a little practice of smiling, lol. The day gets here and I wake up  super early due to excitement. Then I was quickly reminded that yesterday Karter didn't nap, and I witnessed Kennedy waking up on the wrong side of the bed (figuratively). I knew what type of day was ahead. It's funny because as a mother, I can innately tell when my children will have crummy days. So, as I run around with excitement, my girls decide to give me the blues. Kennedy dragging, not liking how her hair was done, upset because she couldn't have colored lip gloss. Karter refusing to eat breakfast, begging for a fruit snack instead, and with the energy of a 2 y/o (because she is 2). I wanted to scream. But I pressed forward to continue to make sure we would accomplish the task. As we begin to prep for pictures, I can tell Kennedy's body language screamed that she wasn't happy, all awhile Karter won't smile, and keeps playing a game of cat and mouse with her invisible friend. I keep pushing, but it was getting to be overwhelming. My husband is more worried about his shirt looking wrenkled and was at no assistance, lol, he was clearly excited.  So I started to get frustrated, I begin to address Kennedy, as she cried and ran upstairs. Karter begin to tantrum, and I just felt like I was going to lose my mind. Then in a moment of self reflection, because at my most challenging times, I have to self reflect to get re-centered. I  quickly reminded myself of my children's temperaments and how I needed to use that to get what I wanted.


Tips:

  1. Understand that temperament is biology. There is nothing you can do about it. It's nature's gift to us to show our individuality. There is nothing you can do to change it, so don't try to.  Your child's temperament is not a reflection of you. It's a reflection of their own uniqueness.

  2. Understand your temperament and how it is different from your child's. Use that to understand how to respond to make things more effective or more challenging. Ask yourself if my child is already over emotional, if I scream, I'm sure that is going to make them cry. We are able to tailor our responses from our children, even other adults. Be aware of how your personalities clash and/or compatible.

  3. Just respect it- it is what it is. And don't compare it to another child, as if one is better than the other. No one's temperament is better than the other just because it appears to be more tolerable. There is no competition when it comes to temperament.

  4. Always model what you want to see from your children. If I always go off when frustrated, it's natural for children to learn that same behavior. This is challenging because we are human. But we are our child's first teacher. You have to literally live in the light you want your child to follow.

  5. Avoid any situations that you know are a hazard. Some children are sensory sensitive. High stimulation, too much noise, lots of people, can be anxiety provoking. Find a way to prepare for the moments you know will be tough.

  6. Focus on the present moment. Key in to what is happening now. Don't project things in the future, and don't live in the past. Work on what's in the moment so that you always address things with a fresh perspective.

  7. Try to find a way to appreciate both negative and positive attributes of your child. Being emotional is not a bad thing. Always feed your child positivity, or find a way to refrain it. I also tell Kennedy when she is upset, that it's okay for her to be experiencing an emotion, but what happens if we stay in that emotion for too long? Never label your child as bad. Those thoughts stick in your child's brain, and children begin to believe what it is people they trust is telling them. Once you label a child bad, it can lead them to doing bad things, because they already have the title.

  8. And lastly SELF CARE- find a way to always recenter yourself by spending time apart from your child to be self reflective, and take a break.

We will never get it 100% right. But today I finished my first photo shoot with my crazy family. I don't care that it took 4 hours, I got it done, and that's all that matters. By understanding that my girls are human, and I am human. We cried, laughed, got frustrated, and ran around...but we ended happily. 

A few outtakes before I get the finished product :-)


Effective "Chart" Making

BEhavior Charts, reward charts, chore charts, potty charts just to name a few....

It's great that parents come up with many different ways to get our kids to comply with our rules. One way we do this is by creating a chart that is a visual reminder for kiddos to stay on task, or be motivated to do whatever it is we are requesting. Little Johnny goes to his room and the first thing he notices is his chart, and boom "magic" he does what is displayed and gets his sticker or candy, right? Wrong!! 

Online forums will tell you to make a list of all required task or chores you want done, and all day the child is to follow to your expectation to get the reward. Well this is not totally wrong, but can be totally unrealistic. How challenging is it to be perfect all day as a 5 year old? Even I as an adult cannot stay on task, or follow all orders requested by my boss daily. Sometimes as parents I believe we forget how young our child's mind can be, and how immature the brain functions. We expect for them to comply, 99% of the time, with little room for error. This can be a major set up for the child to fail, and increase stress on the parent. Well I am here to tell you we all have had it wrong. Allow me to share some effective tips when creating any type of chart that will increase the behavior you are seeking, all while making your child motivated to do so. 

Daddy Wells using a "chart" to go over letters and numbers. Charts work...learn how

Daddy Wells using a "chart" to go over letters and numbers. Charts work...learn how

Chart Making Tips

1. ONE behavior at a time-This is the most effective tool of them all! Very challenging because most parents lump a lot of behaviors together. As parents we place every negative behavior on a chart, and tell Johnny if he doesn't do all those negative behaviors he can get a reward. For a child this can be overwhelming. It's just too much, and so when they fail at one they are not encouraged to do the others. I would start by thinking about your child's most challenging behavior, the behavior that is primary to the others or drives the others. For instance when Kennedy was in preschool she would bite and hit. For me biting was more "bad" then hitting. The goal is to focus on one, fizzle the chart out, and work on another. The child is empowered to complete the next task because they feel good about completing the first. If you're really effective, the most challenging behavior, if tackled, will diminish the others.

2. Positive Reinforcement-When you label the chart, use a title or word of the behavior you "want" to see. This is like the red button in the elevator. You're told not to press the red button and somehow it makes you want to touch it more. Stating what you would like to see, makes it easy for the child to follow. Example: When I tell Karter "no throwing", she immediately throws. But if I say "calm hands", she shows me her calm hands. This takes practice. Before creating the chart think about the behavior you want to see "more" of. Begin using it in your everyday conversation so your child understands what it is you're asking of them. So for a kid who doesn't listen, I would place "listening ears" on the top of the chart. "No hitting" change to "gentle hands", kids who scream "soft voice". Again this encourages them to succeed because they know exactly what mommy/daddy is expecting. It feels positive and promising.

3.  Small and Simple-Make the steps incredibly small and simple. I really like to allow my kids to feel like they can do it. Great to help build your child's self esteem! It can be tough to follow a rule all day. Notice the times your child negative behavior increases or is most present. So if your child screams more in the afternoon, simplify your chart only focusing on the 3 hour period in the afternoon and reward with a sticker every half hour. I love to do this for homework time at my house. Kennedy loves to complain after school about homework, even though she knows she has to do it. Her chart is labeled "Positive homework vibes"- the behavior I want to see. I created a chart that marks off 4p-6p, 30 min increments. Every 30m that Kennedy displays "positive homework vibes" she places a check mark. The more specific the better. Again be realistic, once the child has mastered a few hours you can continue to increase, and increase, until it is no longer needed.

NOTE: if your child can earn 6 stickers/checks/etc during the allotted time, I would not expect for them to get all 6 to get the reward. You know your child best. If your child is very defiant, start small allowing them to earn 2 stickers. This increases there motivation to want to strive for more.  Rule of thumb is to cut in half, and increase the challenge as you see them increase the behavior. This is the same for weekly rewards. Kids need to have a since of pride,"Mom I can do it, so I want to do it more" (hopefully).

4. Daily and Weekly-Make daily and weekly rewards. This is pretty self explanatory. Children NEED instant gratification. No way can a child wait until Friday for an accomplishment produced Monday. Similar to a dog, when he does the trick/goes to the potty we reward right after to encourage them to do it again. Daily rewards can be simple and no cost at all. Ex. Stay up 15 minutes past bedtime, read an extra story at bedtime, extra electronic time, etc. Most importantly allow your child to help you come up with rewards. Nothing is more painful then rewarding your child with something they don't like. This is the easiest way to lose the child's interest. Should you go out and purchase expensive toys, NOT AT ALL!  The point is to increase something they already enjoy. Weekly rewards can be low cost. Be creative and practical. 

IDEA: Together me and Kennedy made a list of fun inexpensive rewards she would like. Ex: Special play dates, pick her favorite meal for dinner, $1 Target section greatness, etc. We placed in a box, and she had the ability to pick out a reward weekly. Super fun craft idea as well (have the child design the box to their liking)!

5. No Double Consequences-Do not mix rewards with punishment. If your child does not do the task, they simply don't get the reward. Double consequences is never a good idea. Again this gives the child little motivation to start over. I love positive reinforcement. Kids know when they are bad, they rarely are praised for being good. Everyday is a new day to start over. Never allow the frustration from the previous day impact the child's ability the next.

6. Fizzle Out-Lastly! Gradually decrease rewards with social acceptance. Children are creatures of habit. After a few weeks/months of heavy rewards for a specific behavior soon it will become part of their routine. Just be aware of how much your child is motivated by the reward, and make sure it's more focused on accomplishing the behavior. Praise them heavily, continue to make a big deal out of it when they do it, but don't offer a reward. You can then begin your new behavior/task you want to work on.

Final Thoughts

We are all motivated by something. Adults work hard to get rewards out of life. This is the same for children. Some parents argue kids should do what's told simply because they don't have a choice. This is all well and good, but it's just not true. They do have a choice, and if they choose "no" each time, you are then left frustrated, and non effective. We are raising children in a different generation. Advertisements are heavy, and the need for gratification has increased. Allow this to work in your favor. In the end it will save you from lots of stressful moments. And at the end of the day, you're the one who really won!

FYI: All resources below we're found on Pinterest! Click my Pinterest link to see some of my favorite charts to use!