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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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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Making Friends… with Oxytocin!

 OxtI bet you’ve heard rumors about it already. I bet word has already gotten upwind of you and drifted down to your eyes and ears about the effects of “that ‘love’ brain chemical”. Maybe in your prenatal class, in a prenatal mental haze, you remember hearing something about “a hormone involved in birth and nursing”. You might have even seen the latest fad of nasal spray and perfume designed to “increase trust” and “feelings of love and contentment” in whomever gets a nose-full.

There is a fair amount of hype going on at present in the weedy fields of developmental- and neuro-psychology, and parenting support circles around the globe concerning the neuro-transmitter Oxytocin. Some are calling it “the moral molecule”. Some say triggering it increases empathy, trust, and relational cohesion. Some say doses administered to certain people on the autism spectrum can increase their social cognition. Some champions even herald it as the biochemical end to all human warfare.

Me? I just think it’s an integral part of parenting our children the way our biology intends.

Oxytocin is one of the chemicals women’s brains release during labor. It helps make uterine contractions stronger — which is why chemists somewhere invented the synthetic drug, Pitocin, to administer to women struggling to have productive contractions.Oxt4 After the baby is born, Oxytocin is vitally involved in both milk-release and “the nursing buzz” that many women get when they breastfeed. It’s also the main neurotransmitter we are experiencing when we have those fuzzy, warm, connective moments with our babies, when it feels like the world dissolves and time stands still and you feel so much love for that little being that you could just die in the immensity of it all, and you never want to tear your gaze away…     <3 <3 <3

Hey. Hey! I’m still trying to tell you something here! Quit triggering Oxytocin with your baby memories and pay attention! ;)

Oxytocin is the primary harbinger of trust and love and cooperation in our brains. We feel it when we fall in love. We feel it when we experience love. We feel it in all the ways we express love — from simple thoughts of those who mean the most to us, from just being in proximity to each other, from gentle, meaningful touch, from hugs, kisses, and sex, and from getting married, sharing things that matter to us, having fun together, and expressing trust in one another.

Actually, there is a host of beneficial responses the brain has in the presence of Oxytocin:

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Oxytocin is, interestingly, also different for different brains. We don’t understand a lot about it yet, but what we do know is that different people in differing contexts experience Oxytocin in variable ways. The current thinking seems to be that for the individual, the way in which one has developed plays a role in how she processes Oxytocin, effecting even whether she has as many receptors in place for absorbing the neurochemical once it’s released.  Daniel A. Hughes, PhD, and Jonathan Baylin, PhD, in their important book, Brain-Based Parenting, put it this way:

So, if in your parental brain, the activities of parenting light up your nucleus accumbens through a chain effect involving both oxytocin and dopamine [the learning- and craving-focus neurotransmitter], then you are going to experience being a parent differently from someone’s brain who does not do this, or doesn’t do it as strongly as your brain does. Furthermore, the density of receptors for both oxytocin and dopamine in a parent’s brain depends, in part, on how that parent was parented, on the quality of care he or she received early in life. Good care promotes the “expression” of the genes for oxytocin and dopamine receptors, and this means that a child’s well-cared-for brain makes more of these receptors.
(p32)

If a person doesn’t get sound, secure, nurturing parenting, her brain doesn’t develop as many receptors for Oxytocin, and won’t process it the same way, and, therefore, may not have as much access to the feelings that it otherwise engenders. That is, she will likely feel less connection in social relationships, less joy in loving moments, and less empathy and care for her own children — and likely more stress and feelings of inadequacy in all of the above.

The other major factor in how Oxytocin expresses itself in an individual brain seems to have to do with the social environment in which the person finds himself. If he’s not with an in-group with which he can readily identify, or the event involving the group is one in which the subject feels stress and/or competition, then other neurochemicals can thwart, subvert, or derail the Oxytocin effect. Cortisol, the primary stress neurotransmitter can totally shut down Oxytocin release. Testosterone can also trump an Oxytocin cascade. Paul J Zak, author of The Moral Molecule describes a test he did at a colleague’s wedding measuring Oxytocin levels in the blood of various people at the wedding both before and immediately after the ceremony:

[The bride] Linda’s own level shot up by 28%. For the other people tested, the increase in oxytocin was in direct proportion to the likely intensity of their emotional engagement in the event. The mother of the bride? Up 24%. The father of the groom? Up 19%. The groom himself? Up 13%…and on down the line. But why, you may ask, would the groom’s increase be less than his father’s? Testosterone is one of several other hormones that can interfere with the release of oxytocin, and the groom’s testosterone level, according to our blood test, had surged 100%! As the guests admired Linda in her strapless bridal gown, he was the alpha male.
(The Wall Street Journal; 4.27.12; “The Trust Molecule”)

You may, of course, now be wondering why this matters to you. As a parent, we’re just trying to get through our days without losing it, right?! We’re just trying to get from point A to B with kids in tow and our wits about us and nothing catching on fire! We’re just trying to keep our sh!t together, and help our kids keep their sh!t together — and still keep liking each other. So why would it matter how any one of us is prepared to or how any particular scenario would effect the manner in which we release, receive, and process brain chemicals?!

Well — here’s the deal. In any relationship scenario, all humans are navigating a brain dance between attraction and repulsion. In attraction states of mind, we are drawn to approaching, open to being approached, and interacting in a socially conducive manner. In repulsion states of mind, the opposite is true, we seek to avoid, to be avoided, and to create aversion. We balance these two states on both a conscious and unconscious level. Our Amygdala, resting but always alert in our limbic systems, uses “neuroception” to perceive before we can consciously know we’re perceiving whether or not we are in danger. This is why, when startled, we leap before we know why. In terms of our relationships, we have the option to use our conscious knowledge of these mechanisms to keep our brains from tricking us into triggering defensive, or even o-ffensive, states of mind.

In terms of parenting, and borrowing from Hughes and Baylin again:

“The goal, then, is to stay in the open state of social engagement as much as possible… This is quite challenging for all parents because the process of interacting with children is inherently stressful, and inevitably, at times, triggers defensive feelings that are not consistent with the caring feelings we want to have. The social engagement system is only activated when we feel safe enough being near another person.”
(p16-17)

As it turns out, the Amygdala, a structure we don’t have much conscious control over, can tell if we’re in danger and either activate or inhibit our fight, flight, or fright reactions.

If the neuroception system does not detect any real threat, it activates our social approach system, engendering a sense of safety and promoting trust between people… When we are able to activate this basic “approach” system as a parent, the rest of the parenting process, including the ability to experience intense pleasure from being with our children, turns on and fosters the development of enduring bonds with our kids.
(p18; my italics)

The Amygdala inhabits a starring role in the play between how open and approachable we (and our kids) feel, and how closed and defensive we feel. But as the directors of our minds, we don’t hold a heckuva lot of sway over this lead character. The Amygdala is, however, a/effected by — you guessed it — Oxytocin:

The medial [that is, the central interior portion of the] amygdala… is involved in rapid, automatic switching between these two responses of approaching versus avoiding. One of the ways that this switching is orchestrated without the involvement of higher control process is through the release of oxytocin into the medial amygdala by pleasant experiences with other people, including “good touch” and warm, friendly voices. The amygdala has receptors for oxytocin and when these receptors are “occupied”, this has a quieting effect on the amygdala. In this way, oxytocin helps to inhibit the defensive, avoidant reaction system, enabling the social engagement system to stay on.
(p20; my italics)

And the Amygdala’s is not the only brain function readily malleable to the warming effects of Oxytocin:

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“All right already — wrap up all the neuro-babble, and tell us what the heck you’re getting at, Nathan!!” you may be saying…

There’s a few things, not of all of which are mentioned explicitly above, that I want you to be able to walk away with today:

  • Our brains can either help or hinder us in this whole parenting gig. If we’re working with our biology and with our children’s developing biology, our brains are built to help us work together, and feel great about it in the process. If we’re working against our biology, our brains can make it nearly impossible to do the delicate dance of parenting conscientiously.
  • Parenting effects brain development. The individual’s receptivity to Oxytocin has a lot to do with the conditions under which the brain was developed. Our brains wire Oxytocin reception (including those receptors used to quiet the Amygdala) based on feedback from the brain’s assessment of the environment and the care-givers. Safer-feeling surroundings, more nurturing parenting, and greater emotional assistance in times of duress, tell the brain to wire for greater Oxytocin reception, and thereby, better overall resilience. Since we want our kids to feel connected to us, and further, as they develop, to feel socially safe and open (and not paranoid and avoidant) — we want to help them grow a healthy Oxytocin reception system. This means using it — sending out those waves of love, showing them we trust them, helping them have those warm feelings of connection — and keeping their environs safe-feeling enough that their brains don’t have any reason to hold back from developing in an optimal manner.
  • We can use Oxytocin to assist us parenting:

    By soothing our babies’ and toddlers’ and young kids’ social systems with warmth, touch, nursing, rocking, connection, empathy, and emotional processing assistance when they are upset, we can help them turn off their defensive system and return to feelings of calm and trust and the mutual identification that primes them for feeling greater connection with us in the future. This can help us both feel more like working with each other in the moment, but also fosters a deepening sense of ongoing “co-operation” and “same-team-ness”, as I like to call it. 

    By soothing ourselves in times of personal turmoil — whether it’s feelings of inadequacy as a parent, feelings of disconnection from our children, or even non-parenting-related feelings of stress about money or work, etc. — using techniques like self-empathy, intentional optimism, and redirection; and/or restorative measures like meditating, mindful exercise, massage, sex, fun, laughter, etc.; we can use our own neurological systems to empower us to be better, more caring, more empathetic, more creative and resilient parents.

  • We can start from right where we are. We can’t go back and completely redevelop our brains, though there is much that we can do immediately. So far as we currently understand, we can’t naturally grow ourselves more Oxytocin receptors. We can, however, help rewire our habits around releasing Oxytocin and our sensitivity to it. We can practice getting calmer before parenting interactions, thinking positive thoughts, remembering happier, more connected parenting moments. And we can use what we know about our approach and avoidance systems to choose paths to being more open, accepting, and connective with our kids. We can also help them to grow healthy brains that are nurtured toward working happily with us, and feeling good about it while they do — just by using Oxytocin release!
  • And here’s how:
    1) Touch — hold your baby, skin-to-skin is best, smooth her skin, massage his limbs; pet your kids, hug them often (especially before potentially stressful events), and cuddle them for no reason, 30 seconds is generally enough for a hug to trigger Oxytocin release in both participants; then also snuggle them when they are upset and/or need a good cry, because you’re supporting healthy neuro-processing, even before they are calm enough to begin releasing Oxytocin again.
    2) Play — having fun together has too many benefits to list here, but the point for the moment is that it works double to release Oxytocin in the moment, and prime the developing brain for better reception in the future.
    3) Empathy — using it with our kids is Oxytocin triggering Oxytocin. When we employ empathy to understand each other, we create an Oxytocin circuit. This increases mutual empathy and paves the way for more empathetically-oriented brain wiring in both participants. In times of emotional upset and/or disagreement, use empathy to understand, express your felt empathy as understanding, and let the Oxytocin take hold of you both before proceeding.
    4) Create Safe Space — dedicate your household and your parenting to instinctual and emotional safety. Make it feel safe for your kids to trust you, to bring you their woes, and to rely on your stalwart connection. Make it feel safe (in all aspects) for your kids to be in the world, or at least the home-space, as they are, no matter how they are being at the moment, and regardless of who else is sharing the space. Make certain they know that they are significant in your eyes, that they belong, and that their needs will be met.
  • And if you feel like you need some Oxytocin yourself:
    1) Enjoy — pick anything/anyone you love and really pay close attention to what you love there. Take time to be there. If it’s a subject, study it. If it’s an object, hold it. Take someone you like to dinner or coffee and chat with sustained eye contact. Stare into your baby’s face. Get into whatever/whomever it is.  If all you have is your thoughts, they will do just fine, just use them to imagine the above. It only takes a minute or so for your brain-chemistry to join in, but the longer the better.
    2) Touch — get some! Go get a hug from someone you like (for 30 seconds at least!). Encourage your partner to snuggle you. Schedule a short massage. Give yourself a vigorous foot rub. Or any other self-pleasuring… It’s all for the sake of helping you be a better parent! ;) And so you feel better, yourself, for that matter.
    3) Sex — if you can, do. If you don’t have someone to do it with, as above, you can still release a healthy dose of Oxytocin taking care of yourself. Remember, this is to help you be the best human you can be!
    4) Media — use your social and entertainment media time to feel good. Pick movies and shows and books that make you laugh or feel sexy or remember the power of love. Go to all your social sites and have fun with distant friends and connections (though less at the expense of interacting with loved ones in proximity…). Don’t just get online to get pissed about how awful everything in the world is, balance your input wisely, for Oxytocin’s sake!
    5) Pet your pets — it’s as simple as that. Every time you spend a couple minutes giving rubs to your favorite furry friend, you give yourself a healthy shot of the good stuff.
    6) Tell loved ones that you love them — use the words, look deep into their eyes or at a picture while you have them on the phone, and say it loud and proud — I LOOOVE You.

If you want more of the how-to, both in terms of Oxytocin release and using other brain mechanisms for better parenting, skim through the posts I linked to above. And these two.

80386-70981I love knowing that our brains are designed to help us be the best, most successful parents we can possibly be. I love knowing that although we can’t change everything about how our brains were grown, we can change how we relate to what our brains are capable of doing. And I love knowing that we can use our brains to help our children grow theirs to be even more capable than we are of both leading healthy happy lives, and being gentle, nurturing parents!

One day, one moment, one interaction at a time, using our helpful brains, and dear, sweet Oxytocin, we can expand our abilities to feel exceptionally loving, happy, and thriving in the experience of parenting. And at the same time, in those same moments and tiny interactions, we can help our kids grow more joyful, connective, and cooperative brains, too! What a nice package, eh?

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Be well, my fellow brain-arborists. I [Oxytocin] you!

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http://www.mindfulmamma.co.uk/2012/11/birth-oxytocin/Feeling as jazzed as I am about Oxytocin and burning (via Dopamine release) to know more? Check out the links below for an Oxytocin-primer:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=URpuKgKt9kg

http://psychcentral.com/lib/about-oxytocin/0001386

http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702304811304577365782995320366

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-moral-molecule/201311/the-top-10-ways-boost-good-feelings

http://www.medicaldaily.com/oxytocin-love-hormone-fuels-romance-how-your-brain-works-when-youre-love-269067

http://io9.com/5925206/10-reasons-why-oxytocin-is-the-most-amazing-molecule-in-the-world

http://www.mindfulmamma.co.uk/2012/11/birth-oxytocin/

http://www.amazon.com/Oxytocin-Parenting-Susan-Kuchinskas-ebook/dp/B0081T8AAO/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1413426886&sr=1-1&keywords=Oxytocin+Parenting

http://www.apa.org/monitor/feb08/oxytocin.aspx

http://www.wjh.harvard.edu/~zaki/bartzEtAl_2011_revOXT.pdf

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Friday Family Updates — It’s Fall Y’all!

FFeGreetings Fam-fans! I’m just stopping by with the first installment in the new series I’m calling Friday Family Updates. There’s a fair number of readers here, I know — our parents, family, friends, and followers — who use this blog as a way to keep up with what we’re doing, what life looks like from here, and how we’re pulling off our own version of Connection- and Empathy-Based Parenting. So I’m going to be giving our (quickish) family updates every Friday. Those of you who are less interested in the personal side of this blog may certainly tune these out and/or simply click on the “Parenting Ideas” category in the side bar to the right —–> in order to only see parenting-support-oriented posts. Huzzah!

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So, here’s a sample of what’s been up around these parts as of late:

1) The drawing above is a portrait Echo did of a special being in her life — Stella the giraffe.

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2) Our youngest (sniff, sniff), our little Echo (sniff sniff), got… (sniiiffffff)… MARRIED! And no, not to me and not to one of her sisters, as has happened often around here in years past…  FFaHer mother gave her away, as well as helping with her hair and other preparations. Xi helped Echo get dressed, did her make-up, was the flower girl in the procession, and the ring bearer and witness during the ceremony. Henry was also a witness. And, as is customary in these home marriages of ours (even when I have also been the betrothed…), I was the officiate.

In this case, Echo’s bride and groom was Stella.

FFbThe ceremony was very special. Echo and Stella looked amazing. The bouquet was a glorious testament to our garden this year. And the left-over birthday decorations made for perfect wedding decor as well.

3) Fall brought a close to our wonderful Summer farm share. But not before we got loaded up with the biggest haul of the year. Holy Brussels Sprout, Batman!FFh 4) Although the Autumn has been super-gentle with us so far this year, there have been a couple freezing nights already when we needed to cover the beans, cucumbers, tomatoes, and squashes so that they could live the couple more weeks to finish fruiting. So I got out the blankets and plastic drop-cloths and snuggled-up the various cold-fragile plants that I could. Thus, we’ve only lost a bean plant and two cucumbers to date — that’s pretty impressive for a home garden with no cold frames nor greenhouse in Montana in October, believe me!FFdAnd, yes, that is a new “topknot” hair cut I’m sporting above… Natalie’s handy work.

5) Echo’s been whittling in the warm Autumn slant of sunshine on one of the straw bales we got for tucking-in the garden for Winter. She’s spent hours carving various sticks while simultaneously listening to audio-stories and/or narrating her own pretends.FFc 6) Echo’s also been making paper-roll dolls. This is Dave. His family isn’t, but some of his planned friends’ families are nesting paper-roll dolls. Natalie helps Echo papier-mâché a cardboard paper-roll and after it’s dry, Echo goes to work drawing, coloring, and creating a character. Right now, there’s a crowd of them clumped around a table of Fairy Food in the living room…FFi7) Gus got some work done on his face. What’s that? You can’t tell? Precisely! That’s because Natalie and I did such a professional job that one barely notices the signs of our work. It took weeks! But during the last third of Summer and the beginning of Fall, we stripped, sanded, primed, and repainted the entire porch (trim, columns, ceiling, and floor included!). It looks even better than new. And we already wish we never had to do it again!!
FFg 8) Speaking of art and projects — and painting we’d rather be doing — Natalie has been creating new wonders with Fairy Food the last several weeks, making wall-hanging pieces involving different scenes of characters or objects in relation to different pieces of Fairy Food. I wish I could show you all of them!FFf 9) Other current projects include Nim’s new necklace. It’s one of a collection that Echo is knitting for our rotund, grey boy. In addition to this startlingly vibrant ruby one, he’s been seen wearing an orange, yellow, and white “candy corn” blend as well — just in time for Autumn!FFj And 10) — last but certainly not least — Halloween is just around the spooky… scary… corner… So, our girls (and Natalie included) have been gearing up for the seasonal celebration by getting costumes ready! Xi (with assistance) has been working on her Captain Jack Sparrow costume.FFk And Mom and Echo have been teamed-up working on Echo’s purple, T. Rex-inspired dinosaur costume. Aren’t they both amazing already!!?FFl I can’t wait to see them on Halloween night! We’ll be sure to share pictures… ;)

Well, that’s the haps around here at the moment. Hope you’re all enjoying your transitions into Autumn too!

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Be well.

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The Power of Saying What You Want

dont-do-itIn the Positive Discipline parenting course (in which Natalie and I were trained and certified as instructors last Spring…), there are a slew of different experiential activities  that instructors may share with parents in order to help underscore or increase the impact of various points in the course. This is, in fact, one of the wonderful hallmarks of Positive Discipline courses.  Several of the ones we encountered continue to stand out for me, not the least of which were two quick ones relating to how we talk to our children. I’ve written about the importance of how we speak to our children from a couple of different perspectives in the past, but I’ve been wanting to reiterate and home in on the aspect of positive speech, or what we sometimes call Law of Attraction Speak with Kids; and the PD experientials perfectly exemplify the crux of my thesis today. So, in brief…

The first one simply involves the instructor asking all the parents to stand and do as she asks them to do. Then she requests everyone to make the “ok” sign with one hand, and she demonstrates making a closed circle with her index finger and thumb with the other three fingers sticking up above, and holds it up for the others to see. Everyone complies. Then she says, “Now put the circle (made by finger and thumb) on your chin,” as she actually puts her circle on the tip of her nose. And immediately you can feel the disconnect in the air, as a room full of grown-ups try to instantaneously decipher this sudden mystery. Some struggle against all neurological odds to still… put… the… circle… on the chin. Many assume she must have said the wrong thing and simply comply with what they see her doing, regardless of the specifics of the request. And another sizable group is utterly paralyzed — they’re hoping someone clarifies their confusion before they have to commit to nose or chin, they’re holding “ok” signs bobbing up and down in front of their faces, dedicated to not getting it “wrong”. The instructor laughs and lets everyone off the hook, saying, “See how hard it is to ‘do what I say and not what I do’?”.

The second activity is similar, but an even better example of what I what to discuss today. The instructor lets everyone know that she is going to guide the parents through the next activity and they are simply to do as she requests. Then she begins to instruct them to do certain things with their bodies (standing, moving an arm, turning, siting back down, etc.) exclusively through “don’t” requests. “Don’t remain sitting.” “Don’t keep your left arm by your side.” “Don’t face me.” “Don’t keep standing.” And, of course, relative chaos ensues. No one can figure out exactly what she wants them to do or not do. They bumble around trying to guess what is intended while also trying to avoid what isn’t. Some of them, myself included, struggle with the overwhelming urge to disobey the prohibitions and/or do something other than what seems intended because the instructions don’t guide toward anything specific, they just guide away from the other thing (thus leaving lots of options besides what the instructor intends).

After the activities, the PD instructor always asks the parents, “What did you feel invited to feel or do when…?”. And even though I have long been a proponent of using positive requests (particularly with children), I can easily say that I never had such a clear sense of what it’s like to experience the opposite until going through these activities. Personally, I felt invited to rebel! I immediately wanted to do everything she said not to do. And I didn’t want to do what she was hinting at through her prohibitions. I wasn’t convinced of something new in this case, although I could see the faces of the parents/future instructors next to me who were; but I was, however, firmly convinced of something I had only guessed before. That is, our kids do/will have an easier time doing what we ask of them if a) we aren’t doing/don’t do the opposite, and b) we ask them to do what we want them to do (rather than asking them to stop doing what we don’t want).

Hopefully you can get a sense of what these experiential moments were like, and if not, feel free to experiment with these activities yourself. The truth is, we’re almost all built the same way in terms of how we receive information, what information gets precedence, and how we respond to instruction. Sure, the nuances of what actions we wind up choosing in such situations are a bit more idiosyncratic; we don’t all have as strong of a desire to rebel or do our own thing as, say, I do. But what most of us feel invited to do/feel in such situations is pretty much universal. Prohibition doesn’t feel cooperative, it doesn’t feel encouraging, it doesn’t even feel guiding. Aaaannd almost every human under 4-feet tall feels inspired by the idea of exactly what’s prohibited.

Go ahead — try and disagree!

You’ve seen them — if not in your house then everywhere else in the entire world — parent says, “Don’t play with that!” and the kid immediately tries to go back and get the thing, or begins to wail.

Or parent says, “Don’t go in the street!” and the kid immediately runs into the street, racing around the defensive-line parent.

Or parent says, “Stop shouting!” and the kid immediately goes back to eye-ball-splitting screams.

Or, “Stop throwing that at your sister!” and the kid immediately throws it another time, and more vehemently!

Or the parent says, “Don’t hit…” and the grinning kid immediately smacks the parent in the face again!

Or the parent exclaims from 30-yards away, “You better stop right there! Don’t you run from me!” and squealing with glee, the kid immediately runs off in the opposite direction…

keep-calm-and-don-t-do-things-that-you-shouldn-t-do-because-that-s-bad

Even if you rule your roost with an iron claw, you can’t get around this truism of human nature. Even if you have a “zero-tolerance for disobedience” policy set firmly in place, you can’t stop kids from wanting to do exactly what they are told not to do. And in any case, you can’t make it easier for your kids to do what you want them to do by making it harder for them to comply. Period.

There’s a bottom line, here, that I don’t want to step over, though it’s not the bottom line for the moment… That is — kids are designed, by their neural development and their psychological identification with their caregivers to do as we lead them to do. That’s just part of human biology. In the present case, however, this tendency shows up in two seemingly defiant ways.

First, when we tell our kids not to do something they may hear the “not” but what they hear a lot more of is the thing we’re asking them not to do. And like a light switched on inside their heads, suddenly the idea of the thing is put into their thoughts — “RUN FROM ME” shows up on a neon marquee, and “don’t” barely shows up at all. They are driven to be guided by us, far more than they are driven to be dissuaded by us. (Feel free to read that again if necessary…)

Secondly, we have been taught to use negation a hell of a lot. “Don’t do this,” “Don’t do that,” “Quit so-and-so-ing…” “Stop whatever you’re doing…” “Never yadda-yadda again…” — it’s almost all that most of us parents ever hear ourselves saying. We wear out our “No“‘s to the point of making them almost completely invisible. And we wind up shrinking their significance compared to the rest of the sentences they’re in even further. When we keep using negation and prohibition, we both undermine their power, and thwart our kids’ natural proclivity for doing as we lead them to do — a double-whammy that most parents continually have to slog through, simply because they created a disconnect in their kids understanding of parental leadership. Then the parents and kids are stuck in a cycle of prohibition, non-compliance, escalation, discomfort, and disconnect, which then leads to more antagonism and more vehement prohibition(s), escalation(s) and disconnect(s).

The bottom-most-line here is this: if we want our kids to do what we say, then we have to start saying (and doing) what we want them to do; and stop trying to tell them what to do by telling them what not to do. No matter what we want them to do, we want to become practiced at guiding them to do it by asking them to do it! In this manner, we work with our kids’ biology, and with their drive to follow us, and with the human brain’s propensity for processing information before/instead of negation.

It feels a little funny in your mouth at first, and can be a bit of Zen mind trick to make habitual. Our programming, and our culture, work pretty hard to keep us in the illusionary protected state of prohibition. We’re taught to think that the only way to say “No” is with “No”. But we can just as easily, and more successfully say “No” by saying “Yes” to the opposite. It sounds silly, but just try it and see how differently your kids react — or better yet, get someone else to try it on you and see what you’re invited to feel and do!

il_340x270.390979874_87rm

Need some help getting started? Here’s a list of common positive requests that we have and/or currently use:

On the Playground:
“Keep yourself safe!”
“Stay friendly!” or “Keep it friendly!” or “How do we keep it friendly?”
“Play gently with the little ones!” or “How do we play when there are little kids nearby/involved?”
“Let’s take turns!” or “Let’s let everyone have a turn!” or “How can make it so everyone has a turn?” or “Let’s let him have a turn now.” or “Can you find someone to share that with/give that to/ let have a turn with it?”
“She was playing with that. Please give it back to her.” or “Was she finished with that?”
“He’s still having a turn; let’s wait/play/go over here.” or “What do you want to do while you’re waiting for a turn?”
“Hey how about throwing the sand in this direction?”
“Let’s go up the stairs and down the slide for now…”
“Let’s stay together…”
“You want to run over there? Ok, I’ll wait for you here. Come back when I call you, ok?”
“Can you listen to her request please.” or “Let’s play in a way that feels good to everyone.”
“He’s not liking that, can you help find another way…?”
“It’s time to go, do we have everything?” and/or “It’s time to go, what do you want to play on the way (to the car or to the next thing…)?”

Around Prohibited Items (with the added caveat that all prohibited items that can be safely explored with parental guidance, should be at least once or twice):
“I’ve helped you check that out already/before, do you want to see it/check it out once more?”
“Let’s leave that here/there please.” or “Let’s find something better for play.”
“It’d be better to find something else to play with. How about this (holding up surrogate item)?”
“Let’s go this way please.” or “Stay with me please.”
“Is it safe to…?” or “Keep yourself safe.” or “Are you feeling safe?” or “What’s the safe way to explore/do this?”
“I’d prefer if we… (anything else).”

With Others:
“Keep me safe!” or “Keep her safe…” or “Are you keeping him safe?”
Instead of “Don’t hit!” — “Let’s pet him very softly… (showing gentle pets).” or “Can you show her how gentle you can be?” or “Gentle touches please.” or “Can you play softly?” or “She doesn’t seem to like that. Can you do something she likes?” or “… Can you find another way to play?”
Instead of “Stop shouting!” — “Can we keep everyone’s ears safe, please!” or “Can you play in a more quiet way, please.” or “Can you find your volume switch? (kids say, “Yeah?”) Ok, now let’s turn them (getting quieter…) waaaaay… down… (whispering) low.”
Instead of “Stop messing with your sister/brother!” — “Hey, I notice that you’re really needing some kind of interaction with her/him. Can you find away of connecting/playing that s/he likes better?” or “Will you ask her how she’d like to be treated right now?” or “C’mere — let me give you some loving for a minute, then maybe you two can find a more fun way to play together…” or “Do you need to wrestle?! I’ll get you!!” or “Hey, you know, I bet she’d like it better if you…”

For General Requests and Corrections:
“Please wait until you’ve finished chewing before you talk.”
“Stay at the table until we’re all finished with dinner, please.”
“Can you please grab that sweatshirt you left on the couch and take it…”
“I’d prefer if you walked/sat/whispered/began ______, please.”
“Let’s all get our shoes and coats on (beginning to model it as you make the request)…”
“Let’s keep everyone safe and pick these toys up from the living room floor.” (Again, with younger ones in particular, model or join in as you make the request; with older kids, asking and co-planning are usually enough.)
“Generally, it works better if you/we…”
“I’d like to see you ________ instead.” or “Let’s _________ instead.”
“Is now a good time for you to… (do that thing we discussed earlier)?”
“How about you/we ________?”
“I’d really like it/love it for you to _______.”
“Would you prefer to _______ or _______?”
“We have to _________ now. Would you like to _______ or _______?” (e.g. — “We have to leave now. Would you prefer to walk or fly?” or “We have to go now. Do you want to wear these boots or these shoes?”
“Oh wow, that doesn’t seem safe. Can you ________ instead?”
“What’s your favorite part of… (the thing/s we have to do)? Do you want to be in charge of that part?” or “Do you want to do that first?”

Obviously, it’s not an exhaustive list, but it’s close! I got worn out trying to think of more, anyway… Feel free to hit me up with your specific ones in the comment section. I’ll give you my best positive spin on any prohibitive requests you currently use. Though, I warn you, I may also suggest that you reconsider your request(s) — that’s fair game in the sport of “Co-Operation” as well. ;)

As I mentioned, it’s a weird head-trip to begin this sort of rewiring of our normal guidance protocol(s), especially if we’re heavily entrenched in regular “‘No’-slinging”. But it can be done! Take it from someone who was raised on a whopping diet of prohibitions and who is, himself, one the most practiced naysayers around; you can change how you request and prohibit things from your children. And when you do, you also get more cooperation for your efforts! Sounds like a win-win to me.

Again, if you want help finding your positive request voice — give me a holler. I’m here to help. <3

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Be well.

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Bats in Montana (The Lost Month part 3)

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Greetings Fam-fans! I know most of us have at least someone headed or already “back to school”, and the seasons are already shifting away from the long languid days of sun and play, but I’m here today to wax photographic once … Continue reading

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