Monday, July 30, 2012

The Most Important Thing You Can Do as a Parent

Cook a healthy dinner? Nope.  Give time outs? Nope.  The single most important thing you can do as a parent is to wake up earlier than your children and meditate, exercise, or listen to some music.  If you do this, all the other things you want to do as a parent will fall into place.  Take some time for yourself.  I know, I know you've heard it a million times but I have a new way for you to think about it!  I recently read a children's book about self care.  The book is about a grandfather who teaches his grandson that he should picture a bucket of water on top of his head and to never let it get empty.  The boy imagines a bucket over his head and every time something good happens he gets drops of water in his bucket.  Every time something bad happens drops of water pour out of his bucket.  The lesson here is to take care of yourself!  So, how can you keep your bucket from getting empty?
Start each day with some self love and give yourself a full bucket to start your day.  Even if you look at a picture like this beautiful castle and let your mind drift to that will be filling your bucket. Finally, think about what you want to happen that day and how you're going to make it happen.  Make a plan.  If you don't want to take this time for yourself, think of the value you will be teaching your children!

**If you are interested in learning more about the children's book mentioned above...go to my Amazon Store (on my home page) and click on How full is My Bucket on the last page of items.  The book is $9.95 and also makes a great gift!

Saturday, July 28, 2012

What is Contentment Parenting?

We live in a society where we are rarely happy with contentment. We find ourselves in the habit of wanting our senses to always be pleased by sweetness instead of water. We find ourselves wanting a flat screen 3D, high definition t.v with impeccable audio (and of course 300 channels to choose from!) What happened to our phones being used only as a way to call one another? What happened to buying a simple coffee for .65 cents?
Today, we can find a cell phone application that will almost wipe our tush after we use the bathroom!! Have we gone too far over the top? What can we do to keep ourselves and our children grounded?

Perhaps the answer is in the word contentment? If we truly engage in the simple pleasures in life, than we need the fancy things far less often. Appreciating the nourishment that water gives us for example, will allow us to appreciate life's simple pleasures instead of being disappointed when we can't have the 'special treats'. When we choose to find more joy in the extravagant things over the simple things, we start habits of entitlement often leaving to let downs and frustration.
In addition, these habits don't teach our children to be flexible and resilient when life gives them obstacles.

Here are some simple pleasures I am learning to appreciate in my life today...

My husband's employment

What simple pleasures have you overlooked today?

Saturday, July 21, 2012

The IPP Strategy for Keeping Your Cool

We've all been there. You're brushing your daughter's hair and she yells "MOM! You're HURTING me!"

Being a parent requires so much patience and sometimes we just don't feel like we can take another minute of crying, whining, or arguing! But the truth can! Really. Parents often yell or walk away when faced with these challenging situations. We often rationalize our own behaviors by saying something to ourselves like, "well, at least I didn't get physically aggressive" or "well, I didn't do what my parents would have done" But, this kind of thinking can lead us down the wrong path. We need to expect more from ourselves as parents and teach our children that there are ways to handle situations which don't involve yelling or walking away. Once we make the commitment to change our ways we can make it happen...truly you can. Here's how.
Identify. Identify the problem and say it in your head. Here's an example. "The problem is she will not finish her homework."
Pivot. Ask yourself what another solution is to the problem. If the problem is that your child will not finish her homework, maybe the answer could be...
1. Setting a timer. Allow your child to continue to work until the timer goes off. Often this creates a different element in which the child becomes responsible on her own and eliminates you as the middle man (which is often necessary).
2. Taking a break. Sometimes our children need a break to get something to eat or re-energize.
3. Using humor. Using humor can often transform a stressful situation. Ask your child to "turn things around" by standing up and turning around and starting the homework over again (I guarantee kids think this is funny!)
Take Pride. Every time that you catch yourself using these techniques successfully allow yourself to feel good about it. Remind yourself what a good job you're doing and give yourself a little pat on the back!
Remember you are a good parent! Do you know how I know your a good parent? You are a good parent because you are reading this (which means you care!) Many parents do not want to take the time to evaluate their role in these situations and try to place the blame elsewhere. If you put these tricks in your back pocket you will be on the road to a more positive, patient, and cooperative relationship with your children!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Avoiding Conflicts: How to Listen to your Chidlren

If you want to unlock the door to communication with your child, the most important thing to do is to listen to them.  How do you feel when you go to a work meeting and you leave feeling like no one REALLY heard what you said? Frustrating, right? How do you feel when you write a To Do list for your husband and it doesn't even get read? I'm willing to bet you feel angry, let down, and confused.  This is how our children feel when they're unable to express their feelings or ask for what they need.
The number one cause of disruptive behavior among children is the feeling that they are not being heard (which is often just a case of being misunderstood).  For example, Charlie is learning to tie his shoes (this is an important goal to him) and every time he tries to do it himself his mom hurries him out the door and gets mad at him because he's taking too long.  This is a very common example of how kids and adults aren't on the same page causing friction for everyone.

If we set up a good communication system with our children, then we will build a solid foundation for the future.  If we TRULY take the time to listen to our children then we will find out what is really important to them and how to help them be confident, happy, and even understand our rules-leading to more cooperation.  In addition, if we take the time to listen to our children they will take the time to listen to us.

Here are a few ways to show your children you're listening...

1.  Get down on their level.  Kneel or sit on the floor  until your eyes are level with their eyes.  This will show them that you aren't just an authoritative figure (meanie) but that you truly care.

2.  Repeat their message Say things like, "I think what you're saying is that you don't think your teacher is fair.  Is that correct?"

3.  Take time and be present.  Put down your phone, resist cleaning the bathroom, and be engaged in THEIR world.  Children can tell when your mind is elsewhere!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Quality Time with Our Children

I called my friend the other day to chit chat and she told me that she couldn't talk at the moment because she had promised her son that she would play choo choo with him.  This made me wonder, how many people prioritze quality time with their children? I admit, there have many times that I've taken that call when I should have been playing with my daughter.
Here's the thing.  We spend most of your time cleaning the house so our children have a clean home, working so we can pay the bills to keep a nice home for our children, paying bills so the electric is on, and cooking so our children have healthy food to eat.  It can seem to us that we are spending all our time helping our children but young children are not capable of understanding the big picture.  Instead, they only understand the quality time we spend with them.  If you're clever you can combine some of these tasks with spending time with your children such as making the grocery store fun and having them participate or allow them to "help" clean (even if they are making it more challenging) but whatever you do...don't forget to spend quality time with them....water the plants.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Reinvented Mom

Yes, I am a single mom.  I hesitate to use that term because it sounds as though I am completely on my own and the truth is my husband and I have shared custody and he is paying child support so I am not raising the children on my own....but I'm not really sure what else to call myself.  I guess I could call myself a happier mom or a reinvented mom.  Of course I am "Toni" before I am "Mom" so really I don't want any label. 
My husband and I separated at the end of April.  The road has been challenging but fortunately my kids are young enough that they don't understand anything and can't take things personally (Jacklyn will be one next week and Sienna is almost 3 and a half).  I have been blessed with a wonderful support system-great friends, family, a great therapist, and a wonderful church.  I don't hesitate to use these resources when I need them because I know there will come a day when I cam give back to them in their time of need.
The hardest part for me about the separation was setting up the support payments through the state (not because he didn't pay-because I want control over my finances) and agreeing on a schedule for the kids custody.  Also, since I'm a stay at home mom, it can get pretty lonely and challenging when I have the children for 3 or 4 days straight without a break and also taking over the finances that my husband was taking care of since we've been married. Oh, and those damn drop off's and pick ups can really be challenging!! 
Well, I'm learning to navigate through those obstacles by using my resources.  My neighbor is a mommy's helper who is home for the summer and comes over to help me and my friends and family have been a great help as well.  I basically have the goal of being happy 70% of the time and let myself off the hook when I'm dwelling on issues too much.  It has only been 2 and a half months so I'm still in a big transition period.
At first it was so hard when the girls weren't here and I couldn't kiss their heads while they were sleeping at night but I've learned to really appreciate the moments I spend with them that perhaps I was taking advantage of before.
Life is different, for sure, but everyone has "crap" (it just looks different!)  I can either dwell on the crap and feel sorry for myself or I can reinvent my life and take responsibility for the crap I bring to the table (and I do bring crap to the table!)  So, don't feel sorry for me.  I am doing good and learning a new way of life which on most days I find exciting.  I will keep you posted on how things are going!