Here’s a little exercise that can help you think about what you want to prioritize as a parent.
First, engage in some time travel. Imagine yourself in the future, when your kids are grown. (If you want, you can have it turn out that you don’t look any older than you do now and that you’re driving a convertible sports car instead of a stinky minivan.) From that vantage point, look back at the way you raised your children. How will you feel about the parenting decisions you’ve made? The experiences you’ve given your kids.
For me personally, I’m constantly learning new things that make me say, “I wish I’d known that earlier.” I expect I’ll probably write a book in the future about what the parenting expert wishes she’d done differently, given the perspective of time (and emerging research.)
But if you were to ask me now to predict what I will one day say are the most important things my husband I did as parents that made the biggest difference in how well our three boys turned out—in my imagined future, it so happens that my kids are fantastic humans who have a very young-looking mother—here’s what I’d say.
So that’s an example of my list. What would be on yours?
Notice that this exercise asks you to think about what you’re doing well. You could make a similar list about what you wish you’d done differently. (Watch for a future article in which I outline some of the regrets I imagine I’ll be living with in the future. There will be plenty of those, I’m sure—although I always remind parents, as I do in this article, that even our parenting mistakes can be beneficial for our kids.)
The point in all of this is simply to remain aware and intentional about what we’re doing as parents. We might see changes we want to make, but we’ll also realize that there’s plenty we’re doing that we’ll look back on some day and smile, and even be proud of.
Here’s a new post on Mom.me. It begins like this:
I know what you’re thinking: “File this one under ‘You can’t be serious.’”
But I am serious.
Nobody likes a tantrum: not your little one, and certainly not you. But even though we don’t enjoy our kids’ tantrums, there are plenty of reasons to be grateful for the times when they get the most upset.
For example . . .
I know lots of loving parents who use time outs as their primary discipline technique. I’m not saying that time outs are completely unhelpful; more that I don’t think they’re the best alternative we have when it comes to discipline—the goal of which, remember, is to teach.
Reasons I’m Not a Fan of Time-Outs:
#1. What we know about the brain.
Because I know that brain connections are formed from repeated experiences, I don’t want my kids’ repeated experience to be isolation, which they may view as rejection, when they’ve made a mistake.
What I DO want them to repeatedly experience is doing things the right way. So, instead of a time out, I’ll often Continue Reading »
When your kids misbehave, your immediate reaction may be to offer consequences with both guns blazing.
You hit your sister? That’s a time out.
You broke the book shelf while climbing to reach the matches? You just lost your playdate this afternoon.
Your kids act, and you react.
If you’ve heard me speak, or if you’ve read other pieces I’ve written about discipline, you know I’m a big believer in setting and enforcing boundaries. At times, giving consequences may be the best response in order to teach lessons about appropriate behavior and observing boundaries.
But here I want to make the case for stepping in before things escalate, before you have to start thinking about consequences. I’m talking about proactive parenting, as opposed to reactive parenting.
When we parent proactively, we watch for times when we can tell that misbehavior and/or a meltdown are in our kid’s near future, and we step in and try to guide them around that potential landmine. Sometimes you can even Continue Reading »
[Two weeks from today (Oct 4), my new book with Dan Siegel, The Whole-Brain Child, comes out! Below you’ll find the third in a four-part series where I post excerpts from the book. I hope you enjoy it.]
You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf.
–John Kabit Zinn
Here’s a conversation I recently had with my 7-year-old when he wasn’t at his logical best.
My son: I can’t go to sleep. I’m mad that you never leave me a note in the middle of the night.
Me: I didn’t know you wanted me to.
My son: You never do anything nice for me, you do things at night for Luke, and I’m mad because my birthday isn’t for ten more months, and I hate homework.
Sound familiar? An encounter like this can be frustrating, especially when you’re beginning to feel that your child is finally old enough to actually be reasonable and discuss things logically. All of a sudden, though, you’re interacting with a being who becomes over-the-top upset about something completely ridiculous and illogical, and it seems that absolutely no amount of reasoning on your part will help.
This is one of those times when knowing a little bit about the brain can help us parent in more effective (and more empathic) ways.
You probably already know that your brain is divided into two hemispheres. The left side of your brain is logical and verbal, while the right side is emotional and nonverbal. That means that if we were ruled only by the left side of our brain, it would be as if we were living in an emotional drought, not paying attention to our feelings at all. Or, in contrast, if we were completely “right-brained,” we’d be all about emotion and ignore the logical parts of ourselves. Instead of an emotional drought, we’d be drowning in an emotional tsunami.
Clearly, we function best when the two hemispheres of our brain work together, so that our logic and our emotions are both valued as important parts of ourselves and we are emotionally balanced. Then we can give words to our emotional experiences, and make sense of them logically.
Now, let’s apply that information to the interaction above. My son was experiencing an emotional tidal wave. When this occurs, one of the worst things I can do is jump right in trying to defend myself (“I do nice things for you!”), or to argue with him about his faulty logic (“That’s just not true, and your birthday is actually only nine months away”). My verbal, logical response hits an unreceptive brick wall and creates a gulf between us: he feels like I’m dismissing his feelings and that I don’t understand; I feel frustrated that he’s being so ridiculous and impossible. It’s a lose-lose approach.
So I have to come to an important recognition: Logic will do no good in a case like this until a child’s right brain is responded to.
How do we do that? I suggest that we use the “Connect and Redirect” method. Continue Reading »
In this video, Tina responds to a question about time-outs.