Back to YOU

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You had a magnificent Summer. You did all (or almost all) of the super-fun stuff that you promised the kids you’d do. You took trips, you played hard, you went to the splash park and the beach and the fair, you arranged playdates, you hosted sleep-overs, you took them to camp, and you planned everything, you got everyone everywhere, you fed everyone, and you made sure that boredom didn’t crash the 12-week party. Let’s face it, you kicked Summer’s butt.

And maybe Summer kicked your butt a little bit too…

Maybe you were working extra hard to keep everything going according to plan this Summer. Maybe you were feeling stressed out about making sure your kids got everything they needed, went everywhere they needed to go, had as much stimulation as they love-yourselfneeded to have, and still rested as much as they needed and ate as much as they needed and washed as much as they needed, too. Maybe there were things you let slide, things you put on hold, things you shelved just because you were so focused on the thrill of the seasonal ride, keeping it all together, staying in the moment. Maybe you had a flash in your mind of how great it would be when you got back to that project or back to that idea or back to that new habit you were working on. Maybe you even had moments when you wanted a vacation from vacation. Maybe you were counting the days until school started back up and some of your load would be lightened. (It’s ok, I won’t tell on you…)

Nearly all of us conscientious, involved, interested, attentive, supportive, connected parents feel that way sometimes. The End of Summer is a common time for parents to feel worn thin and fraSelf-Love1zzled, simply from putting so much care and attention into what they’re doing for their kids. And when you add in the Back to School crunch and the destabilization and reorganization it causes each year — well, this can be one heck of harrying time for any mom or dad. Even those of us who homeschool aren’t free from the “Summer dizzies” or “shifting back to homeschool schedule upheaval” — we can get stressed out from either or the combination of them just like any other parent.Daisy macro

But after the dust settles just a little… After the focus that has been even more narrowly tuned to them for a period begins to soften… After you catch your breath a moment… You might have the opportunity to turn your gaze to yourself for a second. You might have an inkling, or a brief sensation, or even a strong feeling, or an overwhelming epiphany

eselfloveUnderneath all these things you’ve been doing and are doing and will do, underneath all the love you give and help you offer and empathy you share, underneath all the thankless and Herculean and Sisyphus-ian feats you pull off every single day of every year for the family that you love so dearly — underneath it all, there’s a YOU.

And YOU matter. You matter so much that your whole family could’t be and do what it wants and needs to do without you. You matter so much that your kids couldn’t survive or succeed or live happy lives making the world a better place if you didn’t do what you do. You even matter so much that people like me dedicate our lives to support you. And you do so much for others, for your family, that it matters how well you take care of YOU, too.

Lend Yourself To Others, But Give Yourself To Yourself.Now maybe you aren’t “burned out”. Maybe you aren’t “dying inside”. Maybe you aren’t “suffocating under the weight of it all”. But you deserve the time, energy, focus, (and yes, a little help if you can get it!) to do some things for yourSELF, too; to recharge, and restore, and revitalize; to put some of your big love into projects or ideas or goals that mean something to you, that you value — to feed your core.

You deserve that. And your family deserves you getting it, too. Because when you’re filled up, and/or moving on dreams that are meaningful to you, and/or nurturing who you are and how you want to grow and love and be, and/or just spending time with a deeply empathetic ally who’ll hear you out and help you find your own (perfectly YOU) way — then you’ve got waaaaay more to give than when you’re stifling your dreams, sitting on your goals, or not getting what you need!selflove

So that’s why I’m making you a special offer right now. The timing is right. The need is present. And you deserve it. And out of respect and honour for all that you do, and out of my own personal mission to be of assistance to as many families around the world as I am possibly able — out of the honest hope that I can give something back to the most important people on the planet (that’s YOU mindful parents, incase you’re wondering, you’re world-changers!) — I want to make it easy to give yourself something that is truly life-evolving.

Everyday-Self-Love-ImageWhether you’ve got parenting goals, professional goals, relationship goals, health goals, or projects you want to kick-start, or milestones you want to achieve — we can do it together!

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And for those of you who’ve never worked with a coach before, let me tell you, there’s no better way to get moving on things that mean something to you than to hire someone who’s job it is to support you in doing just that. It’s my actual occupation to help people — parents, professionals, college students — people just like you, to get where they most want to go; and to powerfully support them on their way. I love what I do, primarily, because I’ve seen how profoundly peoples’ lives can change from actively engaging in the process of coaching. We should all have at least one!

I specialize in connection parenting, life transformations, and project success. You can get coaching from me on any one, all, or none of them! I can coach you on anything you want or can imagine; because I don’t have to be an expert in whatever it is in order to help you — my skill lies is in assisting you to find the way(s) that mean the most to you, the ways that resonate resoundingly with who you are, the ways that thrill and fulfill you to the bone, so that you can succeed in doing what you want. You’re the expert — I’m just the best tool for this particular (and very important) job.tumblr_le9kgictkU1qbdhxao1_500_large

So go ahead. Take me up on it. Or buy it for your spouse if s/he could use it more. You and your family are worth it! And there’s never been a better time than right now.

Beginning immediately, until the end of the year, or until my roster is too full (I’ve only got so many hours in a day, too!), I am offering 4 coaching sessions with me via phone or Skype for just $199. That’s less than half of my regular coaching rate, and I can’t always offer such a thing and still stay in business, but I really want you to take this opportunity, and I don’t want anything to hold you back, so I’m doing this to make it as easy as possible for you.

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That’s the offer. I’m making it because YOU matter, and because I want to help you make the difference that you’re making everyday. If you’d like to find out more, or take this whole coaching thing for a little test drive, or just get to know me a little better and ask me a few questions — feel free to contact me via the contact page above; my website; or my email: nmmctague.cpcc@gmail.com. You can set up a complimentary consultation session with me — we’ll talk more about your situation, I’ll let you know how I can help, and we’ll get a feel for whether or not we’d like to work together. Even the consultation alone can be so helpful in clarifying where you’re headed, so don’t hesitate to get in touch with me and arrange it today!

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You do what you do out of such profound love for your family, but you can only do for them as well as you do for yourself in the long run. So be kind to yourself. Empower yourself. Give yourself something wonderful. You’ll not only be brighter and shinier and happier for your children, you’ll also be showing themself_esteem_quotes what it means to be self-nurturing, self-loving, self-assured. They’ll learn more from your taking good care of yourself than from all the words that you could ever say to them about taking good care of themselves…

And besides, YOU’RE WORTH IT.


4 Self-Sessions with me for just $199
. You’ll be so glad you did it. And so will they.

love-self

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Be well.

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P.S. If you know a parent for whom this offer would be ideal, please feel free to pass it along, and/or share it randomly with as many people in as many places as you like! We’re all in this together… ♥

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Growing Self-Fulfilling Humans

Bats2014zzkI won’t lie to you, friends — sometimes, and really just sometimes, I still question what we’re doing here. I sometimes still wonder — if we stay off the well-beaten paths of modern parenting, if we tenderly nurture our kids, without punishing them every time we turn around, and without praising every move that they make, and without focusing on making them tow the party line or thoughtlessly follow the other followers bleating at their sides — will they grow up knowing how to navigate in a world where so much of the experience is concerned with negotiating other people’s expectations of them? In my various social media exchanges, I regularly reshare the lovely quote from L.R. Knost: “As parents it’s not our job to toughen up our children to face a cruel and heartless world. It’s our job to raise children who will make the world a little less cruel and heartless.” But sometimes I still wonder — is that what we’re doing?!

Then, of course, and always, one of my girls does something like start her own anti-bullying group on Facebook, or bust out the empathy and start emotional processing with fellow kids on the playground, or sneak out and walk herself home from a sleep-over at 11:30pm through the snow on a subfreezing November night. Whenever I get close to doubting what we’re doing, I just have to look at the product. I just have to pay attention to the amazing humans growing up under our roof. I’ve got the most delicious pudding right here in front of me, and it is chock-full of proof.

It’s easy to see when they’re being kind and gentle to each other, and being understanding and empathetic to strangers they see, and being thoughtful and discerning in measuring the effect of their choices on themselves and others. It’s easy to see when they’re being nice, and cooperative, and pleasant. It takes a little more, and maybe you picked up on it already above, when their doing what’s best for them (and everyone else for that matter) punches the traditional view of what’s appropriate right in the face.

Echo7Last weekend, Echo was around the corner having a sleep-over with her bosom-buddy Salome. This was the third time that Echo has begun the evening going to bed at her friend’s house and then come home sometime in the night. The first two times, it was by design that she try out the sleep-over thing, see how it went, and then get picked up and brought home for the remainder. One of those first two times, she even went back over to Salome’s in the morning for pancakes. This time, however, she was determined to see the whole thing through. She brought her sleeping bag, her eye mask, her water bottle, a snuggly friend, a shirt of Mom’s, and a backpack of other essentials. She was staying.

Natalie and I were at home, enjoying our sudden alone time by doing pretty much exactly what we do every night — snuggling up, working on projects, and watching something online together. There’d been no family dinner, no bedtime routine, no stories read, no snuggling kids to sleep. We checked in by text a couple of times and everything was going perfectly for Echo. We were soft-eyed, relaxed, and planning to cozy up a couple more hours together before bed. The last update from Salome’s mom, Romy, was that Echo was lying still and quiet, and was so cute in her Hello Kitty eye mask.

Then at about 11:30, our back door parted slightly and Echo slipped in — and in my mind, I could see adult hands gently leaving her shoulders as they delivered her inside. She was clad in snow boots and a nightshirt, with the coat she uses hung from her head by the hood and held down with the backpack she had on as well. I was at her side and peering out of the window in the door within a single second. I looked to wave at what I assumed would be Salome’s dad, Suresh, in pajamas and down jacket exiting through the fence gate. But there was just snow and streetlight and stars out there. And Echo, warm and wide-eyed in here.

The questions flew like arrows from a castle besieged. What the hell was she doing here? How did she get home?! Where were the adults?! And even though she was in our arms, and had clearly made it — was she really safe?! I wanted to be mad. I wanted to tell her that it was wholly and totally inappropriate for her to clandestinely gather up her things, pack out, and sneak off into the frigid Montana night in a death-defying bid to get back home without adult assistance. I actually fleetingly imagined myself grabbing her shoulders and shaking her in clichéd parental desperation before grounding her for the rest of her life!

Then, I saw her. I don’t know how it happened. I don’t know by what grace I was delivered from my frightened, narrow parenting mind. But suddenly and without any skill or effort on my part, I was gifted a broader perspective just long enough to keep me from freaking out. This was not the defiant act of a witless waif with no boundaries or foresight. This wasn’t even the absurd acting out of a young mind tortured by overwhelming emotion. This was the measured and expertly executed choice of a human who knows what feels best to her and values herself enough to go and get it. This was the crowning achievement of a 7-year-old who knows that she matters.

I mean, the girl was determined to stick out the whole night at the sleep-over. She had a great time the entire evening, and then brushed teeth and went to bed with Salome and her sister Olive. She laid perfectly quiet in the still, warm room for two long hours trying to fall asleep. She recognized, after that interval, that she wasn’t going to be able to sleep because she was so emotionally uncomfortable. She thought about going to Romy and Suresh but didn’t want to wake them (and we hadn’t told her that she could…). She made a final decision, and then got up out of the bed. She gathered up all of her belongings from various corners of the room (forgetting only the water bottle) and packed them back into the pack she’d brought from home. She crept out of the bedroom, paused by the parents’ room and saw that they were, in fact asleep, and went downstairs. She tripped over the dog, but went on undaunted to the nearest exit, where she donned boots, coat, and the backpack she’d been carrying thus far. She tried the door, and it was locked, so she worked at twisting the deadbolt open, and then slid out into the night, silently closing the door on her way out. She strode out of the gate, along the snowy walk to the corner where she looked several times before crossing the street. She crossed again immediately to the opposite corner and broke into a run up the boulevard out of excitement to see us again. She paused at the alley, and then raced to our gate, fought momentarily with the latch on the inside of it and burst into the yard. Only when she got to the back steps did she slow down long enough to consider the possibility that we might be mad at her for all of this, but she pushed right through it, into our toasty, buttery home.

I had whole schools of feelings continue to swim through me in the aftermath. I mean, what if she had gotten frostbite, or had gotten lost, or (because I don’t even want to say it now…) “something” worse!? What if Romy and Suresh woke up in the night and (didn’t see our phone messages before they) went to check on the kids and ours was just gone? What if basically anything else would have happened?! Was she being reckless? Was she being callus? Was she too attached to us? Was she too sheltered? Was she too ignorant of the dangers?

We put her to bed that night and stayed up just a little longer discussing it. Then after we helped her get back over to Salome’s for cartoons and waffles the next morning, Echo came home again and we talked with her some more. Natalie chatted briefly with Romy about it. And we each continued to mull it over, both privately and between the two of us. Now, finally, most of the misgivings have subsided. It scared the hell out of me because so much could have gone so terribly wrong. But nothing did. In fact, everything went just right.

Natalie and I have even found ourselves quietly applauding Echo’s audaciously brave self-love. We were both in similar discomfort at sleep-overs when we were kids. We both longed for it to be over, even during the fun parts. We both had times when we would certainly have preferred to run home. But we didn’t. We were never that brave. We were never that much in charge of ourselves. We were never so empowered or dedicated to taking good care of ourselves. We didn’t even know that we mattered enough to think we could choose to do anything even remotely similar. We just ducked under the covers, secretly wept ourselves to sleep, or didn’t sleep at all, mired as we were in our lonely incapacity.

Echo said that one of the things that allowed her to make her choice to come home that night was that she trusted us not to get mad at her. (!) She knew that we’d support her doing what was right for her, even though it wasn’t perhaps the most socially-supported choice. She knows that she matters enough that doing what is right for herself is going to be best for everyone. She is becoming a self-fulfilling human. She says she’s able to lean into that because she trusts us, but I think it’s more likely because we trust her.

It takes a lot to resist totally freaking out when your 7-year-old comes stumbling in from the cold, dark night alone at 11:30pm. At the very least, it makes you question what you’re doing as a parent. It makes you wonder if you’ve gone too far toward trusting, toward empowering, toward communicating significance and belonging; too far toward teaching them that their needs matter; too far toward understanding that their feelings are real and palpable and worthy of attention; too far toward teaching self-love; too far toward hope. And at the same time, in exactly the same moment, it reminds you that everything matters; that everything is working out perfectly; that everything we’re doing to validate and nurture our children and their sense of self is adding up in all of our favors.

I know there’s probably a few more questions here than answers. I know this may not be the tidy explanation of human development, or the tender musing on living with littles that you’ve become used to from me. I’m not pretending that I’m 100% sure what all of this means. I can’t even say that I’m 100% in support of Echo’s choice. And in truth, we did absolutely direct her to some other options short of wandering off alone into the wild Montana November midnight; though, we also didn’t punish her, we didn’t second guess her, and we didn’t tell her she was wrong to do what she had. Because, although I hope she never has to do that again, I’m glad that she’s powerful and self-loving enough to if it comes to it. And although I can’t be sure if everything we’re doing in raising them is absolutely best, I do know that (whether it’s because they can trust us, or because we trust them, or more likely, both) seeing that we can rely on these girls to trust themselves is the surest sign that we’re on the right track.Bats2014zm

Keep watching and considering and learning and loving, my dears. Keep trusting, being trustworthy, and having faith. The path is long, the way is dark, but we’re getting there

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Be well.

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Family Friday Updates even though it’s Saturday!

It’s been a fun and busy week around here. It seems like there’s a heckuva lot going on!

For starters, after an extremely mild early Autumn — I mean, we didn’t even get pounded by a blizzard on Halloween(!) — and extra boons from the garden all the way through October, Winter finally came to Missoula. Actually, Winter stole into town in the dead of night and gave us all a serious seasonal smackdown. We had cold driving rain, which turned slowly into chunky blobs of slush, then as the temperature continued to plummet tiny white crystal flakes were laid over the top in thick stacks. By the next day, the high was as low as the previous nights bottom temps, and the lows sunk into single digits. The so-called polar vortex hasn’t passed yet, and has kept temperatures in Montana and nearby states colder than Alaska — srsly brrrrrrrrr…

Not for the purpose of keeping warm, but alongside those efforts, Natalie has been up to her armpits in Fairy Food creation. Here’s some baguettes getting a nice toasty chalk-brushing on their way to the oven… Croissant and Campagne thrown in for free.
11.15.14hThe next several shots are from the process of making a head of Romaine. Each of the colored shapes below is separately cut and laid and molded into the conglomerate lettuce leaf…
11.15.14c Then that thick leaf is mooshed and rolled into a tube…11.15.14d And when the ends are lopped off, the tube is a row of lettuce leaves waiting to be sliced…11.15.14e Thin lettuce leaves cut from the tube…11.15.14f And wrapped around the Romaine heart… Viola!11.15.14gAnd don’t forget the tiny cupcakes — glazed with sprinkles on top!11.15.14b

Natalie has also been writing and illustrating for a new website-journal-community created by Carrie-Anne Moss called Annapurna Living:AnnapurnaImage

She’s one of only a dozen contributors, and though none of her pieces has been released as of this post, she’s been getting rave reviews from the editor and Carrie-Anne on everything she’s sent. The link below is to her profile on the site. Be on the look-out for her articles and images! http://www.annapurnaliving.com/natalie-christensen/

I’ve been doing some fun collaboration(s) as well. Ariadne Brill (you may remember her from the Community! page above) leading a bushel of other Positive Discipline coaches, mentors, and parent educators from around the world — including yours truly — has created a new PD-aligned quarterly parenting e-journal called COMPASS. Our inaugural issue has just come out and it looks beautiful (thanks Ariadne!!), and it’s stuffed with great ideas, advice, and information for gentle parents of all walks. Click on the image below to be taken to my sign-up page to receive your ¡free! copy. It’s a real gem and I’m proud to be a part of it!
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And continuing with the theme of stellar collaborations…

Bella sent us these updated images — from some Summer photo-shoots the girls all did together — that she’s been playing with using various filters and effects. I love them completely.
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In other news — Xi has been trying out a new online curriculum this week and is totally loving it and finding new heights of interesting things to explore. It covers all the subjects, and she says the tutorials are better than other ones she’s tried. The other thing is that it’s designed to carry her through the entire 6th grade, including all the various disciplines and requirements for the year. Plus, she’s so jazzed about it that she completed most of two weeks’ worth or work in just four days!

And the littlest one, that lightning bolt we call Echo…? Well, she is off to her first ever all-night sleep-over at her dear friend Salome’s house (she’s done two half-night sleep-overs there previously). Salome and her family are some of the ones who came and stayed with us in Santa Cruz last Winter; they’re the ones whose cute one-bedroom studio our whole family stuffed happily into while Gus was being remodeled; and we’ve been friends with them since Echo and Salome were 6-months old. Bonuses for Echo tonight include the younger sisters Olive (4) and Selah (1) who both think Echo is the cat’s meow, and a wholly different crowd for picking out a movie night selection.

So it turns out, Natalie and I are kidless for the whole evening. So… I’m already drunk! Just kidding!! :D We hardly know what to do with such a thing as a kidless evening! And we take such good care of ourselves so regularly that we probably aren’t even going to do anything different. Like Natalie says, “We like our nighttime routine so much it’ll be so nice to just get to do more of that…”. So I’m going to sign-off now and go be with her!

Hope you’re all healthy, busy as you want to be, and having just as much fun.

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Be well.

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Friday Family Updates: Flyin’ Solo

This week’s been kind of an odd one for us because I’m the only one home! We’re used to the coming and going of our older two girls as they flow back and forth between their two homes, but it’s fairly unusual for our micro-unit family to be split up for more than a few hours on any given day, and certainly strange to spend a whole week apart. But it does happen every now and again, and it’s always sort of weird.

For one thing, I feel as though a portion of body is turned off, or missing, or so numb to the touch that it may as well be gone. I don’t have my normal outlets (or inlets) for loving, so I feel like there’s a big part of the normally used part of me that is dormant, or distant, or (not to put too fine a point on it) utterly unsatisfied. Nevertheless, I’m making due, and have a few fun adventures of my own in the process.

Natalie and Echo are in Boulder, Colorado visiting some long-time friends. Echo is particularly happy to have some time with the little guy in the background below. That’s Noah and his mom Shanti. 11.7.14a Me, although I’ve felt like a sail with no ship for the last several days, I’m making good use of the time doing things that I probably would have stayed home instead of, had the family been here. So, I got to go to a drum and journey gathering, I stayed out super late a couple of nights, went to karaoke, did the entire First Friday Art Walk, hung out with a number of my “we should really get together soon” friends, shook my booty to a popular local bar band, and went for a couple “before it’s frozen out” hikes, in addition to my more mundane daily tasks.

Below is a shot I took from a place I found and named “The Laughing Ravine” that carries the sounds of laughs and screams and shouts of joy from a playground (or two) down below all the way up the 1,000 foot hill and over. The ravine which is also a watershed for spring run-off, acted like a tributary, feeding the “Mirth Woods”, the mountain top, and the sky, above. I marveled at the power of such energy gliding up the side of the hill at least once or twice each day, 5 days a week, most weeks of the year…11.7.14bThis view is from the top of Mount Sentinel over-looking the heart of the Five Valleys where Missoula nestles, getting ready for a long Winter’s nap. If you look closely, you can see a sliver of each of the two rivers at opposite ends of town.11.7.14cXi is due back tonight, Natalie and Echo the day after. And while I wait for the “pins and needles! pins and needles!” to subside, and the feeling to come back into the sleeping parts of me, I’ll be cleaning, and wrapping up some last minute garden tasks before the snow and serious cold hit, possibly Monday. Please send Natalie and Echo safe driving mojo as they wend their way back, 13 hours, from Colorado!

And that’s the haps in our world at present. Hope you’re all enjoying your current opportunities, too!

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Be well.

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Digging a Little Deeper than “Misbehavior”

emotionalstructurepostersmallSo — there’s this dirty little parenting myth that started decades ago and that lingers still in the rarely mentioned corners of the current social parenting contract corrupting the ears of those who listen, and driving opposition into the hearts of families everywhere. I make it sound sinister, because — well, it is. No one set out to make it so. No one started the parenting shift toward managing positive and negative behaviors as a strategy for instilling character and making our children become good people in order to hurt anyone. No one made Behaviorism the predominant psychological model underpinning all of Western Society’s parenting in order to be mean. We’ve just wound up justifying being mean in order to make our kids good people.

Over time, and according to the predominant mythos, we’ve adopted the habit — the behavioral trait, if you will — of dealing with our kids on the level of behaviors almost exclusively. We’re constantly mowing down behaviors we don’t like (only to have others crop up in their stead), and desperately watering and nurturing and pruning to cultivate the behaviors we do like. Culturally, especially in America, we’re obsessed with “halting misbehavior in it’s tracks!” and just as vehemently if not more so with “catching them being good”, in order of course to make them do whatever that good behavior was more. We’ve been coaxed into believing that if we do these things — if we make them do more good actions and not do as many bad actions — that our children will then in due course (and with due diligence on our parts) become good people. They’ll choose to do the good things we’ve made or bribed them into doing because we’ve made it habitual for them to do so (especially if there’s a reward or punishment around to be the parent in our stead…). They may hate us for it, but they’ll be good people with a strong sense of discipline the myth assures us.

Now, honestly, it would be one thing if this were a viable method. If it worked (particularly, if it was, as the myth portends, the only thing that worked), then it’d be worth considering as an approach to at least ponder from time to time, to pepper in, if you will. But it doesn’t even do what it set out to do. The scientifically proven method that works so well on so many other species, that even works quite well with adult humans, when applied to human children over time fails utterly at both instilling the behaviors it sets out to instill and inhibiting those behaviors it sets out to inhibit. It furthermore creates resistance to, both, the preferred behaviors and to the system by which the behaviors are manipulated; it also creates a preference for the prohibited behaviors or others of their kind. If you need convincing go to the man who burned down the Behaviorism tower, himself, Alfie Kohn. His quintessential books, Punished by Rewards, and Unconditional Parenting, collect and elucidate the reams of psychological research uncovering the inability of the Behavioristic approach to control our children’s actions — especially in the long run, and especially if there isn’t a reward-and-punisher standing over them.

You know why it doesn’t work? Because we humans are funny. We’re simpler and more complex than Behaviorism pretends. As it turns out, there’s a whole lot that goes into why we choose, or subconsciously move toward, certain actions and not others. Whether we are going to be rewarded or punished (if we’re caught) doesn’t always enter into the equation when humans are embroiled in their amazing interactions with each other. Most of the time we’re acting because of something we think or feel that motivates us — often in spite of almost all the consequences, as we tend to pay way more attention to the outcomes that agree with what we’re motivated toward. Good feelings — which biochemically tend to also invoke good thoughts, resulting in more good feelings, and so on, — inspire actions that most of us like. Less comfortable feelings, especially those ones we’d pretty much all call “bad”, make us biochemically uncomfortable in our minds and bodies; and one of the most common ways of discharging this discomfort is in destructive, disharmonious, uncooperative, even violent action. And if strong emotion is involved, particularly with kids, then there is a loss of higher brain function, and a diminished ability to make “good choices”, to feel empathy, to act compassionately, to even be self-aware, or able to control impulses, or calm down.

This is one reason it’s unfair to expect a child who is feeling awful to do anything other than “misbehave”. They are almost incapable of choosing another course because their feelings are interrupting their brain’s ability to control itself. They are out of their minds. They plead temporary insanity! Give ‘em a break judge! ;)

If we really want to effect how our children are behaving, we have to get down underneath the actions themselves, and take a good look at the feelings involved. If it helps, think of their actions as physical code for their feelings. Usually if the feelings are uncomfortable, if the kid is acting out because she feels so rotten, it’s because she has a need that is going unmet. It’s a further “complexity” in human psychology, but a simple truth, that those “uncomfortable feelings” I describe above, that lead to what we might generally call “disagreeable actions”, most commonly spring from needs that are lingering, causing unsafe, disconnective, unworthy, untrusting feelings or the like which then spring into other feelings of anger and rage and antagonism in order to protect the brain from fear.

It goes like this: unmet needs lead to uncomfortable feelings and out of those come disagreeable actions. And the opposite is how we respond: if we don’t like the actions, then we attempt to assist with the feelings informing the actions, and afterward (because co-processing feelings should always come first) if necessary, address any underlying unmet needs involved with the uncomfortable feelings (recognizing that sometimes just letting out some uncomfortable feelings and/or getting the connection that comes from doing the process together is enough and no other needs have to be addressed right then). In my opinion, all of parenting is distilled into managing the two directions of this flow.

As Jane Nelsen of the Positive Discipline movement boils it down, “When children feel better, they do better.” I’d go further to say, when children feel better, they think better, they function better, and they’re more capable. At the level of neurochemistry, we empower our children to be “on their best behavior”, simply by being connected to them and helping them get their needs met.

As it turns outs, when we shrug off the Behavioristic shroud obscuring everything our children do, when we take a look underneath their actions, connect with them through empathizing with their feelings, and help them meet their underlying needs, then we get a chance to know what’s below all that, we get to know the truth — namely, that our children always already are good people. They’re like all of us — when our needs are met, and we feel good, we shine. If we give our kids the chance to act from a place of feeling good and connected and supported and with their needs met, then they will surprise us with the kind, compassionate, empathetic choices they will naturally make.

We don’t have to wonder how to make them be good, we just have to give them the chance to be the good people they already are. Yes, we’ll have to show them the ropes — teach them action codes that display feeling good in a socially conducive manner, as well as, how to get their needs met without destroying anything — and it takes time for them to develop their behavioral-linguitic abilities, and the synaptic integrity to manage their emotions and still make good choices under duress. But the goodness (and by that we all really just mean the capacity for human tenderness, social concourse, and cooperation), no matter what it takes to develop it, is always there. If we help them get their needs met, and process their emotions in healthy ways, then their goodness will blossom. And when they’re doing things that we don’t like, it’s just a sign that they need our help to keep the garden healthy.

We don’t have to be stuck spinning our wheels in the behavior-mowing game. We can get passed all that kind of maintenance. And when we do, when we nurture the soil, when we meet the garden’s needs, then the goodness comes flowering out; and we can sit back and enjoy the roses!

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Now, maybe you’ve never gardened this way and you think I’m making it up… Maybe like an industrial farmer, you’re skeptical of this kind of “permaculture”, or you’re not sure how to get started. Feel free to contact me if you want to discuss it more, or if you want help converting your garden. I can show you the best tools and how to dig under those weedy actions, as well as how to build up the soil so it produces the good flora that you’d rather see. Don’t hesitate to get in touch — I’m here to help! <3

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Be well.

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Friday Family Updates: Happy Hallowdays!

This week we pick up pretty much right where we left off last week. Echo was practicing for her bridging ceremony in Girl Scouts — going from being a Daisy to a Brownie. Here, you can see her lighting candles in the ceremony, with her leader nearby, and three older Girl Scouts in the foreground who came to help with the bridging rites.
10.31.14.1 Below, you can see Echo walking over the actual bridge to her fellow scout and the older girls waiting for her on the other side. The girls in blue on the bench will do this same ceremony when it’s their turn to bridge.
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The leader congratulates Echo before pinning her new brown vest. They put the pin on up-side-down and after Echo has performed “three good turns” she is allowed to turn it over the right way. She’s done way more than that, already, I’m sure…
10.31.14.3Echo also got to take part in a wilderness skills workshop through Girl Scouts this week. They learned about first aid, fire-starting, outdoor cooking, tracking, orienteering, and more. As anyone who knows her would guess, she was in heaven! 10.31.14e The Fall Soccer Season came to a close, going on record as the mildest soccer season Missoula’s seen — well, ever, as far as I in my limited experience know. None of us had to freeze or stand in (much) rain. The coach got the kids trophies, although, I don’t think anyone really knows which teams ranked in what order. Echo made a card that listed things she enjoyed about soccer (friends, skully [the mascot], etc.) as well as thanks to the coach. Natalie and I shook our heads over pizza, and soda, and cupcakes, and analyzed the various bits of nostalgia-in-the-making in between tales of our own post-season banquets growing up. 10.31.14c Speaking of nostalgia in the making…10.31.14bNatalie’s been in the Fairy Food shop. After weeks of new and in some cases “experimental” explorations, she’s now tooling away at some traditional favorites.10.31.14a 10.31.14d It was also pumpkin-gutting time this week! And this year, Xi, as you can see, is wielding her own knife. In years past, she, like Echo (and Bella before them), has drawn faces on the surface of the pumpkin and then either watched as Natalie carved and/or held onto the adult carving hand as it sawed. Little bumps like this in the “rhythm of things” remind me of little knot or limb bumps in cross-section views of the growth-rings of very old trees. Suddenly they are just there and then things are that way for a long time maybe forever after.

Xi was Captain Jack Sparrow this year. As the only Designer we trust, Natalie did all the costumes, props, bobbles, details, and special effects. I did the pencil-work for Jack’s beard and eyes — what can I say, I’m an actor not a costume creator… I couldn’t even figure out what I was going to wear until the evening of Halloween! 10.31.14f Echo, on the other hand, knew last year what she was going to be this year. This helped Natalie quite a bit, because when Echo was still sure about it, Natalie was able to start construction last month. She built the head and tail out of plastic, cardboard, paper mache, interior house and acrylic craft paint, glue-on eyelashes, egg cartons, hot glue, and an old bicycle helmet. Then she stitched the two yellow belly halves onto a purple fleece Echo already had, and Echo assembled the rest from her existing wardrobe.10.31.14g Natalie and Xi collected the parts and styled Captain Jack, together. We all contributed bits — from the boots her Mom sent along for her this week, and the scarf I loaned her, to the plastic jewelry she lifted from the dress-up bin, and the wig she borrowed from a left-over costume bit I bought but never used last year — but Xi and Natalie were the ones who put it all together and made it amazing.

Of course, Henry’s costume was amazing too this year. He got all dressed up as… Butter.10.31.14h Natalie and I got to be Darrell and Darrell, who were very excited!10.31.14i The purple dinosaur was partial to pumpkin.10.31.14j Captain Jack was in his Cannibal King attire.10.31.14k Darrell and Darrell — well, they scared nearly everybody they came across… But they were just friendly as all get-out. And polite too. But not too bright…10.31.14l The motley crew hit downtown before trick-or-treating, stopping through their favorite café and marauding a bit before moving on.10.31.14m We couldn’t show you the carnage of the tricking and the treating that ensued in the next couple hours. It was too dark, and the lions were too quick. But we could show you the spoils of the hunt, and one of the happy hunters. Just a lit-tle bit scary…10.31.14nAs we strolled along behind them, and they ran along with their pack of neighborhood chums, and screams and shouts and laughter drifted on the moonlit air — I couldn’t help but count more tiny wisps and gleams and twirls of nostalgia trailing along between and behind us. I couldn’t tell exactly all whose memories we were making, but I could feel them collecting like the bright wrappers mounting in the kids’ pendulous candy bags. At the end of our spree, Natalie ran ahead so Darrell — no, not Darrell Jr., but his brother, Darrell Dwayne — could man the door at Gus (that’s our house…) for the kids’ final stop. I watched and sighed and smiled. It was like I was getting the pleasure of both the moment and the future moment when we’ll look back and remember how great this one is/was.

Talk about sweets! ;)

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Be well all. And don’t actually eat all that candy…

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The Long and Winding Road…

1426175_com_labyrinthmOne of the themes this week in the various social media parenting groups to which I belong has been “process”. Several times, I’ve found myself encouraging parents to remember that growing up, learning how to negotiate life, figuring out all the tropes of familial and societal living — in a word, “maturation” — is a long and intricately involved undertaking. So often we can too easily convince ourselves that our kid is taking too long with this or that behavior, or is (dangerously!) regressing, or just might not be developmentally “all right”, and we become hypersensitive and even more impatient, opening the door for greater and greater anxiety to creep in and undermine our parenting, and our kids’ development. The end result — it almost always takes even more time because we’ve muddied the system, tweaked our kids understanding of, or motivation for, the task, and/or awoken resistance in them to our overbearing impatience.

Name any developmental tidbit, and somewhere there’s a parent waiting through the nail-biting moments, days, or weeks for it to show up. Of course, the most usual form of “waiting” that we parents do is actually more precisely termed “hassling”, “rushing”, “pushing”, and/or some even more demonstrative impatience. If some other kid has beaten our kid to it, or our kid has reverted to something we thought was long passed, or we just can’t stand that particular thing another second — we’re likely to be worse than any 2-year-old at waiting for it without making trouble! And don’t worry if you feel like I’m pointing a finger at you — every single parent I’ve ever known has been there at least a couple times.

But here’s the thing — whatever it is, whenever it is occurring, whether we want it to hurry up and stop or hurry up and start — our best bet is to let it go.

“Um — what?!” you say… “What kind of Zen mumbo-jumbo is this?!” you may ask… “If I ‘let it go‘ then how’s it ever going to happen?!” you say… Well, the truth is — as soon as we begin to get impatient with development, or some habitual actions our kids choose, or some old “unsavory” behavior they are re-exhibiting, we’ve lost our ability to beneficially influence the process. We’ve made ourselves antagonists to the system, and whatever is going on — because usually we don’t really know what all is going on — can easily be exacerbated by our disconnecting from our kids. Just the simple reaction of being pissed and pulling away can complicate the operation such that it sets us all even further back, making the rest of the cycle or development take even longer. I know you can mine for your own examples of times you pulled away in a sticky, emotional moment, and your kid went extraballistic. That’s a perfect micro-example of what I’m hoping to underscore here.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that we should never show any signs of impatience to our kids. The plain fact is, we get impatient, so in service of our authenticity, we would do well to own up to that, say it, deal with it in ourselves, and not make it the kid’s problem or fault. And after that — or in between episodes of it, as the case is likely to be — it’s our job to get back on the proverbial team with our children and support them as they move forward (even if by “forward” they move in tight spirals). Only by being on the same team with them, only by supporting them (with our actual support!), and only by soothing our own and their brains (by lowering anxiety levels and connecting and sharing Oxytocin) can we facilitate their process(es).

The point is not to stop in your impatience, not to rest in your opposition, not to steep in your anxiety. When it shows up, you call it out (remembering self-empathy helps you process your emotions more easily), you shake it off (remembering that “these things just take time”), and you get your ass back in the game with your kid! Our job as developmentally-respectful, nurturing, connecting, empathetic parents, in this instance, is to help them get through it without causing more friction in the system. Whether that means just hugging more, or giving them more room to figure out it for themselves, or offering them more information, or simply offering them more time — we want to make the operation smoother, easier, faster; and the best way to do that is with our support, not our resistance.

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So when the 2-year-old who’s been perfectly toilet-freindly for months suddenly starts not making it there in time first thing in the morning…

Or when the 4-year-old still can’t seem to let you talk to another living soul without suddenly needing every single bit of your attention…

Or when the 7-year-old occasionally prefers not to brush her own teeth…

Or when the 14-month-old still isn’t walking unassisted…

Or when the night-nurser who has for months been hovering at only one or two sessions per night suddenly reverts back to several wakings every night…

Or even when we’re just waiting for them to put on shoes… or join us leaving the park… or hurry up and fall asleep…

Until he learns to say, “Please” and “Thank You”…

Until she figures out how to share and still feel safe and significant…

Until he stops tweaking your other nipple while he nurses…

Until she stops needing to hold your ear as she drifts off to sleep….

Until whatever we’re waiting for/helping them to figure out and move forward…

Our best bet is to take the long view; to remember it’s all just tiny operations in a full, broad, continually-developing process; to remember that “This too shall pass.”. Who knows where these little undulations and personal eddies come from in the river of being? We’re all just making our ways as best as we can, and what we could all use is just a little more understanding and just a little more space to do the dance in the way(s) the music calls to us, and to still be held while we do so.

Our kids will make their ways too, just as we all are — in exactly the manner(s) that best suits each of them. If we want to make that as easy as we can on all parties involved, then we’d do well to remember that the road is long and the journey never complete. And we might as well enjoy the ride!

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Good journey to us all, in our own times and ways.

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Be well.

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Friday Family Updates — Color, Color, Everywhere!

This week!

1) We presented at the state-wide teacher’s convention (MEA/MFT) — the same convention at which we had a Feeleez booth last year (but did not present). We had a room full of teachers who soaked up every second of our 2.5-hour-crammed-into-50-minute workshop. And much to their additional pleasure, we also gave a free Feeleez poster to everyone. The shot below is from last year.
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2) Bella sent me this awesome shot of her hair one day (cat make-up is the norm…). Made my day…
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3) The leaves are in full color here. The streets all have vaulted ceilings of burnished copper, ruby, and gold. And occasionally, micro-storms of leaves break loose and rain down and scatter the ground in rainbows.
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Our friend Romy, who lives in the same neighborhood, took this excellent example of the said rainbows. See — I wasn’t just being poetic!
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4)Echo’s got a leaf-pile-fort going already. Here she is getting ready to go inside with reading light, books, and a snack.
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5) Echo is also going through her “Bridging Ceremony” in Girl Scouts tonight. She’s moving up from being a Daisy to a Brownie. She’s getting ready and practicing her oath at this moment:
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6) Xi and Echo have been learning Photoshop and Illustrator from Natalie. Here’s an image Xi made and uploaded to her homeschool blog.holloween

So that’s what we’re up to. Hope you’re days are filled with colorful fun too!

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Be well.

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