The Good News and Giveaway!
At our local hot springs last weekend, I asked Col, Rose and their friend Kiva, what children need most.
“Love,” Col said. “Yup, love,” Kiva agreed. “Love!” Rose shouted and then tackled her brother.
Col, Rose and Kiva, zookeepers.
Okay. Well, whew. That’s the easy part, loving our children. It’s like how your fingernails grow without any forethought or panicked book-reading on how to actually grow fingernails; or how after childbirth, the secretive organ of your placenta slides crampingly out of you but you hardly notice* because you’ve just met this tiny person who’s been in the world for approximately 5 breaths, but is already the new sun that the planet of your love orbits.
(*that’s not exactly true about the placenta, is it? After all those hours of naked goddess bellowing unmedicated labor, once the baby was out, I was like, what? there’s more? can I get a freaking tylenol now?)
But really, if all our children needed was love, raising them would be easy.
Dr. Laura Markham. Her motto is “choose love.” But wait, there’s more.
I know many of you are fans of Dr. Laura Markham’s work and her website, Aha! Parenting, as I am, because these are the topics—what do children need besides love to become happy, self-disciplined, emotionally-healthy people?—that she addresses. And she does the brilliant work of showing (through science!) how rewards and punishment not only don’t work, but undermine motivation. Or how empathy is the shortest distant between a meltdown and a hug. Or how it’s way easier to create a paradigm of cooperation and connection than it is to follow one of those elaborate pentagon-level behavior sticker charts with sub-categories and check marks that get totaled at the end of the week like chips at the casino.
Dr. Markhams’s book, Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids: how to stop yelling and start connecting, is the daily coach that nudges me off the auto pilot of my own parenting, whispering into my ear: hey, psst, when your 5 year old daughter plants her hands on her hips and says, “you always choose Col’s book first. You’re mean! I won’t let you read!” (grabs book and throws it), it’s not really about the book.
But here’s what I am learning: (all reinforced by Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids)
1) Even though I feel like my heart is being stepped on, best to to save the lectures on how much I do for her. Rose will not be able to hear me when she’s in the throes of a difficult emotion.
2) Don’t take it personally. My daughter’s anger is not due to anything I’ve done wrong. This behavior is my child’s SOS for attention.
3) Empathize with Rose by showing her I’ve heard her, even if I’m just repeating her own words. “You’re feeling like I always choose Col’s book first. You don’t like that. That feels mean to you!”
4) Try and decipher Rose’s real need. Is she not feeling valued or noticed? Does she need some more physical and emotional connecting (snuggles on the couch, tickles in bed, hugs and reminders of how I love her)? Some more one-on-one time? Or a big enveloping hug to discharge some of her fear and sadness into tears that “wash the feelings away, like cleaning a wound?” And then repeat, daily.
And honestly, the more that empathy (which is just listening and affirming emotions, rather than problem-solving, or caving in on the begged for cookie or explaining how too much sugar rots your teeth) is employed, the fewer meltdowns you will have. This is the good news.
While reading Dr. Laura Markham’s new book, Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids, I can feel my empathy muscles strengthening, and the space of my own pause before reacting, lengthening. I notice that when a child and I are stepping into the arena, the place of locked wills, and I can feel the octave of my voice rising from a knot of anger in my chest, I remember to stop. This is my favorite of all Dr. Markham’s advice, “stop talking as soon as you notice yourself losing your temper.” Stopping allows me to avoid saying something I’ll regret (something that might start as “if you don’t stop throwing books…”), and helps me see my child as needing support and encouragement, rather than as the enemy I need to wrestle into submission.
Also, this book is super-digestible. It’s great for husband sound-bytes at 10pm in bed. Like this one, “you don’t yell at a plant that isn’t thriving, you water it.” Or, “All misbehavior is an SOS from your child, alerting you to unmet needs or tangled feelings.”
Dr. Laura Markham’s book is full of common scenarios (you know: biting siblings and refusals to leave the park and getting dressed in the morning strikes) and the blueprints for dealing with them, including, but not limited to:
* How to emotion-coach a child through a meltdown.
* 12 alternatives to punishment.
* How to stop yelling at your kids.
* Use connection to make bedtime easier.
This book is a gift, it should be regulation issue on every hospital maternity ward. It’s radical because it doesn’t rely on manipulating your child’s behavior but asks you to manage your own emotions and responses to create connection and cooperation; it’s simple because anyone (including busy, working parents, including people who’ve used time outs for years) can start enjoying a more peaceful relationship now; and it’s all 100% true.
Dr. Laura’s publisher is giving away one free copy of Peaceful Parents, Happy Kids to one of you. Leave a comment to be entered.
Also, Dr. Laura has offered to answer a parenting question, any parenting question, from one of you. If you have one, lay it on us in your comment (optional but wow, what an opportunity).
Giveaway closes Friday, February 1st.
Book winner:, commenter #8. Jen, “I’d love the book. Question: How do I get my 8 year old to stop saying “oh my gosh” in a sarcastic voice whenever I say something she doesn’t like.”
Jen, get me your address and I’ll pass it on to Dr. Laura Markham’s publisher.