Behavior is an Iceberg

August 11, 2014 at 7:48 am (Attachment Parenting, General, Positive Discipline)

What you see is only a small part of what’s really there.

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Like an iceberg, the bulk of behavior’s “mass” is found below the surface; it is what gives rise to the part that is visible.  Behavior is triggered from feelings, which stem from the more deeply rooted needs of a person. These are not needs like, “I need candy/ I need a new toy/ I need to play video games.” Basic human needs consist of things like autonomy, safety, security, trust, empathy, understanding, adequate sleep and nutrition, a sense of belonging and inclusion, competency, respect, and love.

When a child’s basic needs are met, he feels satisfied, connected, secure, confident. The behavior looks “good.”

If a child’s needs are not met, he may feel insecure, afraid, angry, or detached. The behavior that shows, then, looks to be what we might call “unacceptable” as the child reaches out to try to satisfy these unmet needs. This occurs subconsciously, of course; a child is not able to articulate: “You know mom and dad, I have not felt included in the family since the new baby arrived, nor have I felt respected when I speak, so I’m going to be whiny and belligerent for a while.” His needs are valid; his feelings are valid. But he is misguided in his attempts to rectify them.

What we must do as parents is, in the face of misbehavior, remember that 90% of what is going on is below the surface. We must look deep to ensure the child is getting everything he needs, for behavior builds from there.

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Don’t Seek the Right Answers, Seek the Right Answers for Your Child

June 10, 2014 at 11:10 am (Attachment Parenting)

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My husband is an expert carp angler. This is unusual in the fly fishing community. Targeting carp, as opposed to the traditionally “pretty” fish like trout or salmon, is a relatively new sport, though its popularity is gaining. With years of proficiency under his belt, my husband often gives presentations to fly fishing groups, clubs, and communities on the techniques involved in catching a carp on the fly. Invariably, at every presentation, someone asks him, “What is the best fly for catching carp?” And his response is always the same: “There is no best fly for all carp, but there will be a best fly for your carp.” Meaning: it depends on where you’re fishing. The conditions of the surrounding environment will dictate what kind of fly best imitates what the carp there are eating, so the best thing you can do is to know your forage.

I told him I’m totally going to use that line in my presentations. Because when I speak to parents or teach classes, I inevitably get asked a similar question. “What should I do?”

People attend parenting conferences or take positive discipline classes because they’re often in a place in their parenting in which they need some help. They’re in a tough stage with their child, they’re seeing behavior that challenges them, they’re frustrated with a recurring situation at home, or they’re eager to pick up some new parenting techniques. But the underlying question among parents in the room is always, “What is the right answer for how we should respond to behavior?”

And my response is: There is no right answer for all children, but there is a right answer for your child.

Meaning: There is no universal fix. There is no tool or technique that will fit all children perfectly. Your best answer is going to depend on your child, your family, and the relationship you have with one another. The conditions of the surrounding environment–personality, temperament, learning style, level of confidence, likes, dislikes, natural skills, inherent challenges, and relationships with others–will indicate what your child needs most to thrive. So the best thing you can do is to know your child.

Understand that your answers will be necessarily different from those of other parents. They’re fishing in different conditions.

Know your child, and you will find your answer.

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One Principle to Simplify Your Parenting

June 2, 2014 at 12:42 pm (Attachment Parenting)

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With all of the tools, techniques, strategies, and “fixes” out there, parenting tends to get complicated. It is certainly easy to fill your parenting toolbox (not to mention your email inbox and social media news feeds) with the latest parenting “how-to”s, “to-do”s and “to-try”s.  Every hour of every day I see a new parenting post in my Facebook feed. I’ve seen pin boards with hundreds of posts about discipline, timeout strategies, reward charts, and tutorials on how to get kids to clean their rooms, eat their food, do their chores, brush their teeth, stay in bed, do their homework…

Here’s the thing. Sometimes parenting can use a good de-cluttering just like a house can. There is much that can get in the way of living parenting  in a peaceful, breathable environment. Clutter free. So when raising children starts to feel like too much to do to “get it right,” here is the one thing to keep in mind that will simplify everything:

Focus less on what you do and more on who you are to your child.

That’s it. When you’re feeling overwhelmed with behavior and the multitude of strategies out there to counteract or manage those behaviors, try to declutter your parenting toolbox. Be who your child needs you to be. That means…

Focus less on discipline tools, and more on communication. Does your child know that mistakes are OK?

Focus less on management, and more on relationship. Are you a person your child wants to come to?

Focus less on scheduling activities, and more on everyday presence. Are you grateful your child is in your life (and does he know that)?

Focus less on finding fault, and more on understanding. Do you know who your child is?

Focus less on fixing, and more on accepting. Can you accept your child for who she is rather than who you want her to be?

Sometimes the “clutter” of parenting can get overwhelming and it’s a good thing to downsize. Minimize. Simplify. Let the worry of putting all the best parenting tools to use at just the right times slide off your shoulders. Then kick it to the curb. Successful parenting isn’t complicated because its not an implementation of a carefully planned discipline or management approach. It’s about starting with the essential elements of the relationship and allowing that to lead.

Focus less on what you do and more on who you are to your child.

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Sit in the Dark; No Silver Lining

April 25, 2014 at 9:00 am (Attachment Parenting)

I love this presentation of Brene Brown speaking about empathy that was turned into an animated clip. Take a look…

She speaks about a topic that is so important for everyone, of all ages, but I especially love it as it applies to parenting. I know as a mom, I often want to “silver lining” things for my kids. They are struggling and having a hard time, and I want to help them feel better. I want to turn an unhappy situation around. My first instinct is to go for a response that minimizes the negatives and emphasizes the positives. It’s like I want to make my kids forget about what’s upsetting them so we can get back to being happy. To brush it under the rug.

But Brene makes an excellent point in that rarely can a response make something better. What makes something better is connection.

Instead of silver lining things to help my kids feel better, I need to meet them where they are with those heavy feelings. I need to sit in the dark with them. I need to be present and not try to sweep their feelings under the rug just because they are unpleasant, but reach out and connect so that they know what they are feeling is normal. Only then will the weight of those feelings be lifted.

Here’s the difference between silver lining and sit-in-the-dark responses:

My friend was mean to me today. He didn’t want to play with me and just left me to play all by myself!
Silver lining: Well you still have your other friends to play with.
Sit in the dark: Oh, I know you were looking forward to playing with your friend today. You felt hurt when he didn’t want to play.

I am losing this game AGAIN! I ALWAYS lose at games!
Silver lining: That’s not true; you do great at games! We’ll play another one and I’m sure you’ll win the next time.
Sit in the dark: It’s so hard to lose a game. You feel really angry. I bet you wish you could win all the time!

I am trying to build a blanket fort but it keeps falling over! One part won’t stay when I let go, and the other part isn’t tall enough. I can’t get it right!
Silver Lining: What do you mean? This is a great fort! Look, you have a little cave you can hide in!
Sit in the dark: Oh that sounds frustrating! It’s not working out as easily as you hoped? I wonder if there’s something you could do to help make it more stable.

I’m trying to do this magic trick, but it’s not magic at all! It doesn’t even float in the air like the picture shows! 
Silver lining: But now you have a cool magic wand to play with. You can use it as a prop with your dress-up set!
Sit in the dark: Yeah, the picture makes it look different doesn’t it? That must be disappointing. You wish the wand would float all by itself so you could see real magic.

Sitting in the dark with our children means understanding that their feelings are real. It means not minimizing them or trying to wash them away, but validating, embracing, It means teaching kids how to feel them. We may not necessarily agree with a child’s feelings but we must communicate that we accept them. This is the essence of connection.

We must listen not with the intent to respond but with the intent to understand. ~Steven Covey

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A Quote to Inspire You This Week

April 7, 2014 at 6:28 am (Attachment Parenting)

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Connection is the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgement;
and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship.

~Brene Brown

This week, let’s strive to deepen the connection with our children and be conscious of the ways in which we make sure they feel seen, heard and valued.

Feelings are ok, mistakes are fixable, and there’s nothing our children can do to push us away or make themselves un-lovable. We won’t judge their behavior as right or wrong, good or bad, but see it for what it is–communication.

Let’s embrace the imperfect and show our children they are worth holding close to our hearts, no matter what. Let’s nourish them with the strength of our relationship.

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