Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Holiday Madness or Holiday Magic?

The holidays often bring a kind of madness, running around like crazy, seeking the perfect gifts. Over-booking our schedules with holiday events. Seeing family members we rarely visit. Or getting stuck in traffic when you only wanted to get a few of the basic necessities at the grocery store. For kids' sakes, for our sakes.... how can we make the best of this time? A few of the obvious things, just in case a little reminder would help (I need this right about now) -
  • What are our priorities? What is really most important? 
  • Children often enjoy the little things.... so we really can keep it simple.
  • Making a list and checking it twice - helps us keep things straight.
  • Remember self care, always important, but even more so when we are doing so much!
  • The gifts are not nearly as important as the gift of time spent together.
  • See the holidays through a child's eyes - full of joy and wonder.
  • What are some of your own favorite childhood holiday memories? What made them so special?
My mother took time every year to get new dresses for our favorite dolls. I remember baking cookies together, and putting cookies out for Santa. When my own kids were little, we had the most fun finding little treasures for their stockings. And I loved the relaxed mornings, with a late breakfast, and an easy day. 

Wishing you all a wonder-full holiday.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Just right

How do we arrive at the place of knowing that what we are doing is "just right." I am reminded of the story of Goldilocks which most of us know well. She kept trying things and didn't settle in until it was "just right." At the same time, I know that sometimes we can over do... keep going and going until we are assured this is "just right," striving for perfection when, of course, this is impossible.

In addition to getting our selves into the "just right" frenzy, we also sometimes give children the idea that what they have done is not enough.The bed is not made to our liking. The clothes aren't folded the way we want. They haven't worked hard enough to finish their homework. Their efforts are not good enough. We want them to learn how to do things well, but we sometimes leave them feeling like they will never be able to do enough to please us. Is this really what we want them to feel?

Where is the balance? Where is "just right?" There are no simple answers. And in fact, people have been asking these very challenging, spiritual questions for hundreds of years. When things are truly "just right," there is a sense of ease and well-being. We can relax into the comfortable chair like Goldilocks. We can acknowledge and accept our good faith efforts. Maybe the most important thing to remember is to ask the question of our selves before we push too much on our selves or others. In this season that sometimes feels like "too much," let's remember to ask - "Where is the balance?" Let's remember to do just enough so that it feels "just right."

Sunday, November 14, 2010


We all have heroes - people we look up to. They may have done incredible things, have wonderful accomplishments. Or they may be people who live a life of integrity that we admire.

Children have heroes, too. Today, often these heroes are media celebrities from TV, sports, cartoons, movies, or video games. Some of these heroes present images we also appreciate, but too many do not reflect the values of honor and honesty that we want for our children.

Children also look up to us. They love us unconditionally. They believe we know the answers and know what is right. These are big, sometimes overwhelming expectations coming from these young ones. When we set limits for them and remind them about our values, we have a responsibility to reflect these values in our behaviors.

We just celebrated Veterans Day. Thank you to all those who have served our country, fighting for our right to live in this democratic, free land. Who are your heroes? What have they done to deserve your praise? How are you a hero in the eyes of a child?

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Transition time needed

Children need time to adjust when there are changes. Some of these changes are small ones like moving to the next activity, and some are big ones, like moving to a new neighborhood and school or even bigger, when their parents divorce.

Think about it - we need transition time too. And as adults, we often give ourselves time for the little things. We are already thinking about what we will be doing next, what we need to stop now so we can go on to the next thing. When we stop children from their current activity, they have been focusing on that and may be enjoying it. And then we come along and interrupt them and tell them they need to stop right now. How do we feel when this happens to us, when someone interrupts our activity, and doesn't give us time to finish?

So, children need time, just like we do. When we pick them up from school, if they are busy in an activity, we can let them know, "In 5 more minutes, we're going to need to leave. So finish up what you are doing so you can be ready." Or we can ask them to show us what they are doing and ask if we can do anything to help them get ready to go. Or we can let them know that they can work on this more once we get home. There are many possibilities. But abruptly asking them to stop is tough for kids and can lead to a much longer temper tantrum that spills over into whatever we needed to do next.

Try to put yourself in the child's shoes. How would I feel if I were interrupted? What helps me get ready for the next activity? Our own internal clock is ticking as we notice the time and begin to finish up or put things away so we are ready for our internal deadline. By giving children's warnings and time to adjust, we are helping them learn to make smoother transitions.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Independence or Interdependence

Independence is an American value. We want our children to grow up and be self-reliant, responsible, capable, and independent. We hope they will have work they enjoy and a sense of satisfaction that they can contribute to society, as well. At the same time, we want them to be respectful, kind, cooperative, and be in relationships that are meaningful. Can we expect they will have it all?

A better word for what we want for our children may be interdependence. We want them to be competent and know how to take care of themselves, AND we want them to be compassionate and work together with others comfortably. We are social beings. We aren't meant to be totally self reliant and on our own. We need others, and we want children to share and learn that the world will not rotate around them, catering to their every need.

When infants are born, they have to tell us when they are hungry or bored and we need to respond for their survival's sake. As they get a little older, they learn to wait and we set limits. "I'll be there in just a minute." or "That's your brother's toy, so play with this one instead." By the time children are 3-4, they are learning to share - share toys, share responsibilities, share their parents' time. They don't get it all. And this is reasonable, because everyone on this planet must share in order for there to be enough to go around.

We would all be better served in our families and our nations if we did more to encourage interdependence. We need each other. We need limits. We can learn to live together with peace and compassion. Children will follow our lead.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Who Guides us?

Guiding children is a big responsibility. Who guides us? Where do we get the ideas and creativity to respond in the moment to yet another challenge? How do we maintain our energy?

Each of us has our own answers to these questions. And when my children were young, the answers often came after their bedtime. I had some of my own time... even if just for a few hours. The days could be quite exhausting.

As they got older, I could more easily carve out time for myself. I have several hobbies I enjoy. And I also found some books that helped to reenergize me. I have been a parent educator since my children were little. Going to classes and support groups with other parents helped a great deal too. I was often facilitating those groups, but I got alot from them as well. I'm not alone. I could identify with many of the stories and experiences that were shared. I also kept a journal that I would write in occasionally when I was feeling especially frustrated. It helped to see the issue in black and white. It got my feelings out of my head and relieved some of the tension.

Today, I still find reading, writing and sharing very helpful. I find that my "inner teacher" can speak to me during these times and give me ideas or a sense of gratitude and peace. We all have moments when we admit we are out of ideas. Walking, sharing with a friend. Having someone to just listen as I describe what's going on often miraculously helps me to find my own answers. We all need support. We are not supposed to go through life alone. It is okay to ask for help.... to ask...

Have a great day today.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Learning to share

The little one pushes and shoves. She hits her sister when she wants a toy. She screams when she wants to play, too. She is just two years old. Her four year old sister has always been more mellow, even seems patient, and at times long-suffering, putting up with her sibling's pushy-ness. She has lately been starting to scream in pain or fear or frustration sometimes even before the expected "attacks" of her sister. Life with these two, from morning to bedtime is overwhelming. Mom thinks, "what have I done wrong? Where did these two come from?" How can I ever get some peace?" There is always some kind of hassle to mediate. It never stops.

First, this scenario is very "normal" and typical for many households. The youngest doesn't have all her verbal and social skills yet, and the oldest has learned how to deal with these situations. What varies most from family to family is the adult reaction. Even though it seems impossible to manage in the moment, it is important to respond to both children calmly. Any time we bring our own charged reaction, we are modeling just what we want the girls to avoid. We want them to be more loving toward each other, we need to be loving ourselves. Loving doesn't mean that we allow people to walk all over us and do what they will. But our response can be kind and firm at the same time.

The youngest needs to be taught to use words and ask before grabbing. "Be gentle with sister. Ask sister - 'toy, please.'" And the oldest needs to be taught about sharing. If she doesn't want to share a very special toy or the thing she is working on right this minute, she can find something to offer her sister in trade. Children need many, many demonstrations and reminders before it clicks and they learn to say or do the acceptable behavior before the inappropriate one immerges.

Sharing doesn't come easy for most children, and to be honest, for us adults either. We have some special things that we don't want to share either. There will be many opportunities to practice and model this and other social behaviors. Our children are born with a huge reservoir of potential. The skills they learn are at least partly dependent upon the skills we demonstrate. What are they seeing us do or hearing us say?

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Learning takes time!

I'm a slow learner. I get very accustomed to the way I do things. And even when it is no longer working, I want to continue with the familiar, the "comfortable" even when it gets uncomfortable. Just like a child, it seems I need to fall down numerous times before I figure out what to do differently.

For the last several years, I have been very slowly working on changing my old eating patterns. They definitely were no longer working for me, and instead worked against me. I had an old belief that certain foods provided "comfort" and the reality is that any comfort I got was very short lived and as soon as I finished, I wanted more. I could not sustain that good feeling. I am learning to eat differently, and it has been a very slow process for me. I now avoid certain foods that seem to trigger me to want more. I don't eat after dinner. I rarely get fast food. I don't drink sodas. I'm not trying to prescribe what any of you should eat, but these are the ways I have changed, and I am definitely a slow learner.

Children are too. And yet we often expect them to remember what we have told them many times in order to avoid the behaviors that get them in trouble with us. In the moment, they are responding in their familiar ways. They forget, even though we could ask, "What's the rule about ____?" and they could recite it. In the moment, they are focused on other things entirely.

We need to be patient with them AND patient with us. As I continue to learn to eat differently, I sometimes forget. Rather than give myself a hard time about it, I am thankful that I have a forgiving attitude. "Okay Glo, you just did that. Now, this very next moment, you get to start fresh." I love the 12-step phrase about "one day at a time."  Kids need the same kind of understanding from us. Learning takes lots of repetition. And most of the time, children need to learn for themselves, through their own consequences to fully get it. One of my adult sons when rafting last weekend. I suggested he cover his very fair skin with sunscreen and some kind of light pants. He did not, and he has a horrible burn. I bet he will do things differently next time. Learning takes time and trial and error. And then along the way, the A-ha moment when we finally get it!

For today, I choose patience, for myself and in my interactions with others.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Happy Fathers Day

Fathers Day is an opportunity to express our gratitude to those men in our lives who provided for us when we were growing up.  We can also thank the men we know now who are important in the lives of children - fathers, grandfathers, uncles, friends, coaches, teachers. Boys and girls need positive male role models.

We thank them for their commitment to caring and their dedication to providing emotional and physical support.  Being a positive role model to a child is one of the most important things anyone can do.
Thank you for -
    Tossing the ball back and forth
    Being strong arms that give hugs
    Attending school events
    Reading all four books at bedtime
    Applying bandaids on an “bo-bo”
    Cheering from the sidelines at a sports event
    Getting up to watch a midnight meteor shower

Fathers Day is a special day of remembrance and appreciation.  We don’t have to wait for this special day.  Say thank you to a father today.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Virtual games vs real games

Summer vacation from school is here for many. What are your plans?

Children need free time to physically move their bodies and just play. Many kids today are pretty tightly scheduled. And too many children aren't being encouraged to play actively, getting outside - climbing, running, jumping, gardening, and soaking up the sun. Way too many children today are sitting in front of televisions and computer screens. There can be value in TV programming and educational computer games. But sadly most children are not engaging in these learning media activities. And too many American children are newly joining the rolls of the obese, with all of the health problems associated with this disorder.

This summer, let's make greater efforts to give children healthy choices in their activities. We also need to be good role models. We need to get out and walk. We too need to practice pushing away from our computers (funny to write this as I sit at mine!)and use physically activity to deal with the illnesses and stresses that we are experiencing in growing numbers. Our bodies were meant to move. Shall we?

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Offering a Do-over

When a mistake has been made, can we suggest a "do-over?" A "do-over" is about offering another chance to do the right thing. There are many times when another chance is a far better solution than a negative consequence.

Your child has collapsed into a puddle when asked to help with setting the table. You can join him down there and suggest we need dishes so we can eat dinner. "What can you do to help us get ready for dinner? Let's try again." Sometimes all children need is a chance to feel they are part of the process, and not just a servant. "I'll get the forks and cups."

Sometimes children will ask for a "do-over" when it's not appropriate. She just pummeled her little brother. It would be insincere to ignore this behavior or ask that she just say, "Sorry..." and go on as if nothing happened. First she needs to help him recover with some kindness and loving attention. If he is willing, maybe they can try again to interact in a more positive way. Or maybe he needs a break from her in order to feel safe.

We can also ask for a "do-over" when we have reacted to a situation with unnecessary anger. "I'm sorry. I was feeling overwhelmed and I over reacted. Can we try again?"

In the long run, we want children to learn to do the right thing. To offer help. To be a kind friend or sibling. To finish what they have started. A "do-over" can help them practice making the right choice.

Friday, April 2, 2010

It's how we say it!!

I sometimes feel like I will always be working on communicating in ways that encourage cooperation. I will always be a "work in progress" that is kind and understanding sometimes and forgets sometimes. Especially when I am tired or overwhelmed or stressed, I speak without thinking. And I am not always proud of what I say. In class the other day, we were discussing how to talk with children in ways that open up the doors of understanding and cooperation instead of shutting them down. Some examples are:

You've just asked her to stop what she is doing and clean up her toys. She doesn't want to and says, "You hurt my feelings." How do we respond to this four year old's attempt to draw us in and let her avoid her chore? When she says this, it seems to me she really means, "You are asking me to do something I don't want to do. I am having fun right now and it makes me sad to stop." So we can say something like, "I'm sorry you are feeling sad about stopping your play. But, it is time for dinner, so we need to work together to set the table. You can go back to playing that after we finish dinner."

He is balancing on a chair, reaching for something on the top shelf. We could say from across the room, "Get down from there right now!!" or we can adjust our words a little and go right over to him and move him to safety saying, "I'm worried you might fall. Let me hold you while you reach for that."

After a long day, you come in and find things left out all over the floor. There are clothes that need to be washed and things littering the table and counters. The TV is loud, and the kids are watching contentedly. You could complain, "Get that TV off. This place is a mess!" Or you could go over to them, getting their attention and say calmly, "Hey guys, I would like to sit down and watch some TV too, but there are many things that need to be done. I'm tired after a long day, and I could really use some help. Take a break from the TV and put these dirty clothes in the hamper. And please take your toys into your room."

As I type these examples in the calm of the evening, it seems easy. Why can't we remember these things in the heat of the moment. Like so many things, we have many opportunities for practice, and we need it! We keep trying over and over to get it right. We want to communicate our appreciation and acceptance of others. In family life, we really can find ways to express our appreciation and work together. How we say it, how we communicate DOES make a difference.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

New beginnings

My husband is experiencing a renewed appreciation for life as he adjusts to life with a stent in an artery in his heart. We are learning to eat differently. I am trying to make similar food changes, and this is not easy! One day at a time.

And all around us, there are other kinds of new beginnings. Bulbs and flowering trees are blooming. Everything is green (which is a very temporary things in Northern Calif where the rain stops in April and doesn't start up again until next fall).

We also have some new babies in the family and among friends. What joys these little ones can bring. Reminds us of our own sons when they were newborns and young ones. Boy, that was long ago!

I want to hold on to the excitement of new beginnings. I want to remember that each day offers opportunities for new possibilities. I want to have what the Buddhists call "beginners mind" with my daily life and not get caught up in "same old same old". I promise at least for today, to start fresh tomorrow. I promise to find moments of joy and wonder. I also want to have acceptance for all of the people I will encounter. Each day is a miracle, a time to be thankful for all that we have and all that we can create and do.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Counting our blessings

Well, I don't want to sound too much like Pollyanna, but I am counting my blessings. There are many things going on right now that are very difficult, sad, and scary. Haiti struggles to recover. Chile is still shaking with aftershocks. The "haves" in all corners of the world have way more than their share, and the "have nots" don't have enough. And compared to many, I am one of the "haves." I have a warm house, plenty of food, the mobility to get around easily, and along with many other things, I also have computer to reach out into the world to connect with family and friends, to learn and to see what's going on.

My husband very recently went through a health crisis that came out of nowhere for us. And the blessing is that medical intervention was available for us. He is recovering and doing well. These kinds of experiences make us look at our lives differently and ask questions like - What is really important in our lives? What do we value? Where do we put our time and energy?

I am aware even with the title to this blog entry that many people have very few blessings to count. This is not fair. It is what it is, but I am recommitting as I write this to be sure to work at just taking "enough". Sometimes children are the ones who teach us to care for others. And we also need to model for them. Because what we actually do and how we actually spend our time says a lot about what is really important to us.

So just for today, even as I do the work that I must do, I am also going to show my love and respect to my family and friends. I am going to do at least a few things to take care of myself. I'm going to plan healthy meals for us. I'm going to get some exercise. I'm going to tell people I love them. And I'm going to take time to play. I'm going to enjoy the bright green buds that are coming out everywhere, a sign that spring is in the air and we will soon be blanketed with wildflowers. Blessings to you all!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

It's a joint effort

We are not meant to slog through it all alone. We have family and friends to help us.

This includes the children. In many cultures, children "work" right along side their parents. They learn the ways of their group through direct exposure to daily tasks. When they are young, they play with the tools and practice. As they get to be about school aged they are right in there doing what is expected.

Most of us live with many conveniences we take for granted. We have dishwashers and washing machines. We have vacuum cleaners and cleansers. We can buy prepared foods that we just need to microwave to heat up. It's not surprising that children may think that no help is needed. And we adults sometimes find it easier to just do "it" ourselves rather than ask the kids to help. But there are many things needed to keep a household running smoothly, and many ways that children can be included in this. Even before children are school aged, we can let them know that this requires a joint effort.

This joint effort also applies to development. We offer support to help children develop to their full potential physically, cognitively, emotionally, and socially. But once they are out in the world, at school or with friends, they are learning many things outside of our protective hold. They will become unique individuals. "It takes a village" to raise a child. And soon they are having more and more say about what they want and who they will become. Then, our job is to trust and let go.

For daily reminders, consider purchasing Guiding Their Way - Day by Day (upper left).

Friday, January 1, 2010

Happy New Year

The new year just began here 30 minutes ago. I can't believe how quickly time passes. It is hard to believe that 10 years ago we were worried about Y2K and what the effect would be on computers, etc. Nothing, not even a whisper. And here we are, life chugs along. Justifiable economic fears, wars rage on, children and families struggle. That's just some of the bad news.

And at the same time, many people are incredibly generous. They go out of their way to be supportive and helpful to others. I saw "The Blind Side" (and quite a few other movies) and then the 20/20 interviews with the real people. I was so impressed with their willingness to support a boy from an entirely different way of life. What would the world be like if we all reached out to others like this?

Well, the new year is upon us. How can we demonstrate our generosity to others? What can we do to show children that we are ALL brothers and sisters? How can we unite to solve the problems that plague our planet? What does tomorrow hold? There is no time like the present!

Blessings and peace to all! Glo