resolutions for training the silly, over-active, sneaky mind

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New Years Day soup lunch with the beloveds. Note: tablecloth! And white-out snow conditions outside!

It’s 10:30pm on New Year’s Eve, two hours after our children are usually nestled into bunk beds. We’re with friends, their living room turned dance floor packed with the bendy bodies of children and their parents. There are toddlers spinning and stomping, pre-schoolers believing the spotlight belongs solely to them, and the 7-10 year old crowd, all leggy grace and giggles.

Brothers, Lee and Danny, spin tunes from the inner machinations of their smartphones, noting to the children like professors of the class, Decades in Music Appreciation: The 80’s, “This song was huge when I was your age.” Out blasts Michael Jackson, Madonna, REM, and regrettably, Vanilla Ice. Although I might not have been shaking my ass (or slow-dancing to the occasional Journey ballad with Rose) if I wasn’t here with the kids, in the blurred factions of children and adults, it’s hard to say who’s having more fun.

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Though the passing into a new calendar year is an arbitrary transition, and as all great spiritual teachers (and most toddlers) remind us, each moment is brand new, I like taking this opportunity to assess where greater degrees of effort or acceptance are warranted in my life. A resolution is an intention, an intention is a powerful act of self-love. And as pointed out last night at the Durango Dharma Center, a resolution is for the purpose of training. Training these silly, over-active, sneaky minds of ours.

I seek to carry out this parenting gig consciously, with continual intention towards connection and peace, which includes a good measure of falling. (Paraphrasing a Zen monk: “There is standing up practice and falling down practice.”) Creating peace and connection in our family never comes from simply wishing and waiting. Rather, it comes from gentle and pointed effort, active forgiveness, and a willingness to regard my children as deserving the same respect and kindness I expect. (In fact I just read somewhere that the best way to ensure a respectful relationship with your teenager is to nurture a two-way connection of respect now).

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If Hugh Hefner drank hot chocolate and lived in  snow country. 

The funny thing is that this is not exactly intuitive. There were times that I would have downloaded an app into my brainstem and given a pint of flesh for a roadmap called “child compliance” to lead me through the thick trees of parenting, no matter the method. But, too many of these “methods” (wait – is yelling and excessive sighing a method?) gave me an existential hang over immediately afterwards. (Which is a good barometer: if you feel remorse after interacting with your child, this is an indicator that there are places that need gentle attention).

ny3All Col ever wanted for Christmas: a big ball of pine resin to burn.

There are myriad parenting books, coaches and classes. There are websites, support groups and inspirational Facebook quotes. There is the sacred act of taking a deep breath before responding to your children, remembering that all their misconduct is a function of them trying to get their normal, human needs met.

Dr Laura Markham, author of Peaceful Parents, Happy Kids, explains, “Troublesome behavior signals big feelings or unmet needs. If you don’t address the feelings and needs, they’ll just burst out later, causing other problem behavior.”

And really, this is good news. When all our efforts towards initiating complicated reward charts and tiered systems of punishments are put towards determining our children’s unmet needs, the road to peace becomes shorter. Your child will benefit more from the lasting power of being understood than the short term faux-fix of a time out.

Often the need is as simple as wanting to be heard and acknowledged. How many times do we breeze through our agendas, sweeping our children along without letting them know we understand their point of view. Maybe they’re sick of accompanying us on errands, or they’re involved in a book and don’t want to come to dinner. We might not be able to change the circumstances (dinner is ready; errands must be done), but we can empathize with their position, share how much we too hate to be interrupted when engrossed in a book, and perhaps brainstorm after dinner with our child on how to ease the transition. As we begin to identify our children’s needs, they will often learn they can bypass the “bad” behavior and simply state their needs, trusting they will be heard and efforts will be made towards true solutions.

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It’s after 11:00pm when we finally arrive home, full of New Years cheer. How grateful I am to be in the position of celebrating New Year’s Eve with my children (dancing with my 9-year old!), rather than nervously awaiting their return home from teenage festivities as will someday be the case. Col explains how the night went to Dan who was home teaching a bow-making class, “We jumped on the bed, we ate, and we rocked out.”

May your family peace and connection increase in this new year.

* Incidentally, the kids and I just had another late night dancing to Carute Roma, Durango’s own gypsy band. The kids think staying out late dancing is our new thing, and why not? Anyone need a few, enthusiastic groupies?

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I find I need support for doing anything that flows counter to the mainstream (I rely on my friend Melanie for quarterly homeschooling pep-talks; my artist-friend Jo gives me the much-appreciated straight talk on living the poorly-compensated, highly-fulfilling artist’s life; Julia, Sue and Jennifer and I console each other regularly over trying to raise kids on a nineteenth century farm diet; I have a whole community of people I meditate with (falling down practice) every Monday night; and I tend to hang out with people who never tell me to look on the bright side when I’m feeling down).

Perhaps you too need support in creating more peace and connection in your home. Some resources: (all of which I’ve directly benefitted from).

Websites and coaches

Dr Laura Markham’s website Aha! Parenting

Nathan Mc Tague for life/parent-coaching

Kathleen Hennessy – Peaceworks coaching for parents

Books

Peaceful Parent, Happy Child by Dr. Laura Markham

Nonviolent Communication by Marshall Rosenberg

Unconditional Parenting by Alfie Kohn

Kids are Worth It by Barbara Coloroso

How to talk so kids will listen and listen so kids will talk – Faber and Mazlish 

Simplicity Parenting by Kim John Payne

Positive Discipline by Jane Nelson

With love,

Rachel

 

 

21 thoughts on “resolutions for training the silly, over-active, sneaky mind”

  1. I want to parent like you when I grow up. Oh, wait! My kids are nearly grown (18 and 20)! Oh, well, I wish I parented like you a few years ago.

    1. It’s never too late! 18- and 20-year olds still need parenting. Also, you get to parent yourself now! You can ask yourself: what are the needs/feelings behind this behavior?

      1. Oh, Rachel! What a good idea! I have been in dire need of something, and your suggestion to parent oneself made a big light bulb go off directly above my head! I ran right out to my library with my list, but they didn’t have any of your recommendations. I choose to believe that indicates a lot of Snohomish County people are boning up, working hard on their parenting homework. :-) I did check out a book called Building Resilience in Children and Teens: Giving Kids Roots and Wings, by Kenneth R. Ginsburg, MD, and Martha M. Jablow. Has anyone read this one already? If so, what are your thoughts? Thanks very much!

        1. H Susan S and everyone out there,
          another wonderful book I love is called ” Raising Our Children, Raising Ourselves” by Naomi Aldort, she is great and raised 3 boys so I feel like she deserves some cred right there!

  2. Oh thank you for this!! We do so many non-mainstream things here too, and it’s hard to find support for it in my immediate surroundings. Sometimes I feel quite on the defense about it, to be honest! That is a nice, extensive resource list you compliled – I don’t feel so crazy now ;-)
    -Jaime

  3. If you are looking for one more parenting book, something I even cringe at saying, the only one I haven’t thrown out is “Everyday Blessings” by Jon and Myla Kabat-Zinn.

    The New Years Eve sounded perfect.

  4. Thank you Rachel for sharing your fun evening with us. Coincidentally, our family had a dance party into the night as well! So freeing! Thank you also for the book recommendations. I am going to download a couple of them to listen to while I make soup for the Grill! That way I can listen to them over and over with the hopes that it finally sinks in! I’m striving for that peaceful feeling and know I’ll be a better parent the closer I get. Happy New Year!

  5. Who knows… maybe as teenagers and beyond they will still want to celebrate New Years with you… our 19 year old and 20 year old both came home with their wife and fiance for the night:)
    Our 16 and 14 year old and three younger ones too.
    Thank you for all the great links – some of those I have read but others I have not.

  6. Mama’s,
    We should never cringe at supporting each other by recommending parenting books and resources, I think being parents is a huge responsibility, as big or bigger than most things on this planet to be honest, and while I have an academic degree in Peace and Conflict Studies from the United Nations University for Peace, it did not especially prepare me for the task at hand, “raising myself to be a good parent”, I have a 6 mos old and a 2.5 yr old and every day I feel that being a parent and maintaining a strong relationship with my husband is the biggest job I have ever had. I really appreciate this blog and all the comments! Keep it up!

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