Step 10: Celebrating the Child

What an amazing journey we have begun together. Not only am I able to celebrate my children, reveling in the excitement of strengthening our connection each and every day, but I am able to celebrate the child inside of me! Today I stand firm in my belief that building a loving connection between my children and I means (re)building a connection with my younger self – healing my hurts, taking care of my bruises, and letting my inner child know that everything is okay. It has all ended in a big smile!

As I celebrate this evolution in parenting, I am celebrating a new way of communicating. This new language of feelings and needs does not only support a positive relationship with my children, it also spills over into other aspects of my life. At work, when it is time to engage in a difficult conversation, the same tools I can draw on to speak about challenging topics with my children can be harnessed to communicate more effectively in the workplace. When trouble brews among friends, listening with empathy is just as important as it is when listening to the children. When I am triggered by any experience – when I feel stressed out and at the brink of loosing my cool, I can look to a sensory tool to help get me “back online” making more capable of finding my way to a solution. This new method of communication is also passed on to my children who watch me re-adjust my language when things get tense. They are surprised when I meet their anger and frustration with play, and as the calm energy of our home envelops us more and more, I know in my heart that the children will take these new skills with them into their worlds even when I’m not there to suggest it.

As I celebrate this evolution in parenting, I am celebrating a new level of respect for my family. The dominant paradigm suggests that children should be seen and not heard, bossed around and controlled, and forced to do what adults want when adults want it. But today it is clear that this is ineffective if we are truly invested in helping our children become responsible, loving, empathetic and gracious adults. For that to happen, they need their own feelings to be respected, and their own needs to be taken seriously. They need me to hold a space for them to work through big emotions and they need to be given the space to creatively consider new solutions. I am convinced that each success means we are taking two steps towards our goals, and when I see the pride in the children’s faces after finding their own way through tricky feelings and conflicting needs, I know that we are on the right track.

Today I celebrate our growth as a family. I celebrate our connections and I celebrate our disconnections, because each disconnection is an opportunity to re-connect in new and wonderful ways. I celebrate our loving community in and outside of the home, and I celebrate the joy that my children have brought to my life. And most of all, I celebrate the playfulness that raising them has allowed me to explore through their laughter and through their tears each and every day.

Welcome from all of us to all of you and congratulations on taking this step right alongside me.

With love, light & healing,

Laura Mae.

Parenting Manifesto

Calling all like-minded parents!

Join me today as we commit to making Peaceful Parenting a reality.

A Peaceful Parenting Manifesto:

  1. I will go easy on myself: Peaceful Parenting is a process and no matter how committed we are, change will not happen over night. We all need time to settle into the new groove of Peaceful Parenting. So be good to yourself! Invest in self-care, remind yourself of how amazingly well you are doing, and never forget that if you are reading this, you have already taken your first step in becoming a Peaceful Parent.
  2. I will set aside judgment when communicating with my child: Peaceful communication cannot grow on a foundation of judgment and criticism. Your commitment to set aside judgment will open up the possibility for understanding your children’s reasoning and will provide insight into how you can help.
  3. I will approach my children with curiosity and wonder: This new lens through which to understand your child”s behaviours will help you continue to authentically connect with your child.
  4. I will not be afraid of my limiting beliefs: Finding out what triggers you is key. Committing to looking inside of our selves and figuring out why we do what we do will allow us to break through our fears and become a Peaceful Parent.
  5. I will set aside self-judgment: Letting go of that critical voice in our head – the one that provides harsh criticism of our parenting choices – is an important step in becoming a Peaceful Parent. Re-framing our “mistakes” into”learning opportunities” can help us move forward in more pro-active ways.
  6. I will strive to be “okay”: Aiming for perfection is impossible. No perfect parent exists. So let’s aim to be “okay” and let’s have a great time while we watch ourselves meet that goal again, and again, and again!
  7. I will make time for play: Play can be fast, simple, and the best tool for connecting with your children. Committing to play will help build communication and provide a “way out” when things get rough.
  8. I will clarify my family values: What we value as a family can be supported as a family. Take the time to work together and settle on your family’s top 5 family values. With those in hand, helping to realign behaviour to meet the needs of your family will be much easier to do.
  9. I will review my family values with the family regularly: This will allow younger children with a gentle reminder about agreed upon values – a reminder that is not always tied to their struggles with “Big Feelings.”
  10. I will surround myself with like-minded parents: Building a community of support is an important step in becoming a Peaceful Parent. Your community will be your resource when things get tough, your cheerleaders when you’re feeling down, and your support network when you’re ready to celebrate your successes.

Welcome to the team!

Step 9: The Power of Laughter

Peaceful Parent is a process. But it’s not just any process… it’s a Playful Process.

Becoming a Peaceful Parent means learning to approach the art of raising our children from a very different place: from a space of curiosity and wonder. In fact, developing the Peaceful Parent within you means learning to approach your child like your child approaches you. Much of what our children do is in an attempt to have fun, and what I want to propose, is that even as adults, we can incorporate humour and laughter in just about everything we do.

Take me, for example. My doctoral work was rather strange: I examined African American stand-up comedians who spoke about race in their comedy and argued that they are today’s anti-racist educators. I received my PhD in a Faculty of Education, and often times, when asked about my research focus, I used to begin by explaining away the value of this work. But today, Peaceful Parenting has taught me that my academic work was tapping into the heart of this new paradigm: Laughter brings connection, and connection will allow us to talk about things that we never ever thought was possible.

Children are naturally curious, and much of that curiosity is developed and harnessed through play, fun and laughter. So it just makes sense to find our playful spirit in order to create stronger, more long-lasting connections with the little ones in our lives. Playful parenting can help our children soar because they learn through their play about all sorts of important things: they learn about limits and developing friendships… they learn to negotiate with others and they learn to stand by their core values… they learn to communicate both verbally and non-verbally… and they learn when it’s time to laugh and when its’ time to be serious. What often appears to the adults around them as “mistakes” and “errors in judgment” or even “immaturity” is truly opportunity after opportunity after opportunity to learn and grow. That’s why approaching young people (and adults for that matter!) without judgment is so crucial.

For a Peaceful Parent, moving past a lens of judgment and towards one of curiosity means creating a space for connection with others in the world that might teach everyone of us a new thing or two. And play, humour, and laughter can become phenomenal stepping stones into the ever-flowing river of connections that awaits.

Just yesterday I realized how important play was in facilitating my connection with my children. After a long day at work and a late evening meeting, I came home to find the girls dressed in their pajamas and waiting for me before bed. So what did I do? I sat on them. As they laughed and squirmed to get out from under me, I just kept twisting and turning asking where they disappeared to. It was great fun, we were truly connected in that moment and, best of all, it was quick. In less than 5 minutes we were all giggling and happy – a family reunited after a long day at work and at school.

These moments of re-connection are key. And recognizing that they can be quick, easy, and loads of fun make them even better.

The Fun Tracker: Games the kids and I love to play

  • Sitting on one child and asking the other where her sister disappeared to.
  • Helping the girls get dressed but “forgetting” what part of their body their shirts and pants should be covering.
  • Walking right up to the girls and, while staring deeply into their eyes, screaming for them to come here so I can tell them something.
  • Narrating the instruction for their homework using silly voices.
  • Reading their favorite bedtime stories using different silly voices.
  • Telling them it’s time for their bedtime story and then beginning to read the words as loud as I can. When they tell me to quiet down, I switch to a whisper so they can barley hear me.
  • Beg the girls to whine just a little louder.. and just a little longer.. and keep fighting while they are at it!

With love, light & healing,

Laura Mae.

How can playful parenting give your child ‘wings’? In your experience, cite one example from your parenting now where you were playful with your child and what were the results. – See more at: http://jaiinstituteforparenting.com/courses/pompl1/week-9/#sthash.G361PQ7k.dpuf
How can playful parenting give your child ‘wings’? In your experience, cite one example from your parenting now where you were playful with your child and what were the results. – See more at: http://jaiinstituteforparenting.com/courses/pompl1/week-9/#sthash.G361PQ7k.dpuf

Step 8(b): Pre and Post-Peaceful Parenting – Working with Anger

The challenge posed by anger can feel insurmountable. We loose control only to be wracked with guilt (because of our actions) and shame (because we feel unworthy of being charged with helping a young child grow into a responsible adult). Creating our toolkit specifically for moments like these is key, because no matter how hard we try, we will get angry. And no matter how hard we work, at some point a little person will find themselves in the line of fire.

Peaceful Parenting can help. Not only does it assist in regulating your children’s behaviour, but your own behaviour is also regulated using the same techniques that you will master to help support your child.

The biggest shift for me when dealing with anger has been the incorporation of self-empathy when building my connection with the children. Before being introduced to Peaceful Parenting, our family had been going through a lot of turmoil. Watching their father’s illness progress was only one of many experiences that sent very big feelings racing through each of us. I have now come to learn that, when left unchecked, these big emotions can easily transform into anger.

Before my introduction to Peaceful Parenting, I didn’t realize that anger was a compound emotion. I didn’t realize that even the most frustrating of my children’s behaviours were simply signals of their unmet needs. And I certainly didn’t realize that it was okay to feel frustrated and angry myself because the children were not the only people in the household whose needs were not being met. Understanding behaviour through a lens of feelings and needs has saved this family. And as we continue to explore where our anger is coming from, we are learning just as much about our selves as we are learning about each other.

Peaceful Parenting has also taught me about the importance of supporting the children by assuming the best – not the worst – in all our experiences together. For example, when the children’s behaviour would trigger me and I would begin to feel my blood boiling, I used to assume that the children were being naughty on purpose. I understood that they might be sad and frustrated or even disappointed and angry themselves at losing their father so soon in their young lives. And yet, even with my finger on the pulse of those feelings, I did not have the language and understanding of the effectiveness of communicating through feelings and needs, and without that my response to their “naugtiness” was fairly limited. Within the scope of the dominant paradigm of parenting, the bad behaviour had to be punished. I choose what I believed were “good punishments” – taking away videogames or toys, or sending the children to their room for a time out so that they could calm down and re-think their behaviour. But all of this was really not getting to the root of the problem.

Learning more about the Peaceful Parenting paradigm has allowed me to burst through the limitations that the dominant paradigm of parenting – a paradigm based primarily on controlling children’s behaviour. First, I realized that I had to check in with my self and take notice of how and why I was being triggered. Once I recognized that first piece, I was able to adjust my inner dialogue: it’s not that the kids are being naughty. Something else is going on, and the fun of parenting is getting our detective hats on to investigate what they are feeling and what they need. Then, parenting became exciting! Peaceful Parenting has provided loads of creative ways to get to understand our own and our children’s feelings and needs. And with this growing vocabulary, parenting in a whole new way is not only possible, but happening in our home right now!

With love, light & healing,

Laura Mae.

Step 8(a) – Shame, Guilt and the Art of Vulnerability

Being vulnerable is not easily achieved. In fact, for many, this state of being is actively avoided.

Being vulnerable leaves us open, unable (and, at times, unwilling) to ready ourselves for the onslaught of criticism that may or may not come.

I have come to learn that the worst criticism, however, rarely comes from outside. Instead, the layers and layers of stories told in our own heads often serve to do the most damage. Nowhere is this more true than when we consider our role as caregiver to a young person.

But where have these ideas come from? How did we weave them so neatly into the fabric that makes up our lives? For many, much of our fear of being vulnerable rests in internalized notions of shame and guilt. To overcome those provides ongoing opportunities to practice the art of being vulnerable.

A Story of Shame

Although people often consider shame and guilt as interchangeable, I have come to learn that they are not. Feelings of shame are accompanied with a clear leveling of blame against the self not for what one has done, but just for being you. More simply put, feelings of shame are most easily dramatized by stories of feeling as if you are a mistake. Feeling ashamed, then, means leveling intense criticism against ourselves simply for being-in-the-world. It has been argued that these feelings of shame underlie all major issues and, consequently, have created the most challenging obstacles for people to tackle in order to practice the art of vulnerability.

My strongest memory of feeling ashamed was in elementary school. Each year we would be allowed to try out for a place in the orchestra and each year I could see myself dazzling audiences with my violin playing. I would line up with all my other classmates, knowing in my heart that this year would be the year. My family was very musical and when we were together we sang, harmonized, and taught each other a mixture of musical numbers. Our repertoire ranged from popular music to old time jazz… from musicals to classical music. It really didn’t matter what it was, the Lindo family would harmonize it and sing loud and proud. I felt confident about my musical ability from a very early age, and I knew that if I was just given a shot, I could master the violin. But year after year, as I climbed up the portable stairs to find out if my name was on the list, I was met with great disappointment. And that disappointment was internalized as a deep sense of shame. It began with feeling upset that my musical abilities were not recognized. But by the time I arrived home, the feelings would shift, and I felt ashamed. I was certainly the problem. I was not good enough, smart enough, confident enough, musical enough, special enough… I was not worthy of my treasured violin. When people would tell me I was a great singer, I would deflect their praise, knowing in my heart that I was not worthy.

Reflecting upon this today, I believe that my story of shame runs much deeper than treasuring a violin. Music was and remains one of my favored modes of expressions. Being on stage is cathartic. I see the stage as a place not only to share my passion, but also to work through my challenges. The communication with the audience has been something that heals and supports me even during the most challenging times. I understand now that my feelings of shame are deeply intertwined with needing to find my instrument – the instrument that would allow me to express myself and work through my feelings with the intensity that playing music has brought me today. And while I found my voice, becoming a singer rather than a violinist, when I close my eyes it is easy to imagine myself enraptured by the sounds of my violin… swaying to the music I have created and sharing my unbridled creativity with the world.

A Story of Guilt

While feelings of guilt may feel very similar to our feelings of shame, there remains a core difference: when we feel guilty, we are focused on our behaviour. What is problematic is what we have done, not who we are. The focus on behaviour is crucial in making a distinction between feelings of guilt and feelings of shame.

Many children struggle with feelings of guilt. My own childhood was no different. One of my earliest memories of feeling guilty was when I got caught sneaking into my sibling’s bedrooms to find something fun to play with. With my mother working shift work, and being the youngest of four, I often felt bored and lonely. My siblings were always busy with their friends and playing in my own room got boring very fast. So when I was at a loss for something to do, I would sneak into their room to find something to entertain me. In my sister’s room I could find all sorts of dolls tucked away because she was a little too old to play with them, but not old enough to remember how much joy they brought her over the years. In my eldest brother’s room I found snacks and treats he stored away for times when he had his friends over. And in my middle brother’s room were toy cars and action figures that would certainly make awesome playmates for my own barbie collection. But each find came with a price: guilt.  I rarely got caught sneaking in, but on my way out, trying to leave the room just as I found it (minus a toy or a cookie!) I could feel the guilt set in. I felt guilty for sneaking in and I felt guilty for snagging a new toy. I felt guilty for acting in a way that I was sure would be considered “inappropriate” and “bad.” But if I could sneak back in and put back what I found (except for the snacks, of course) I always felt some of the guilt slip away… until the next rainy day, that is.

As we think of moments in our lives when we felt guilt and shame, it is no wonder that being vulnerable poses such a challenge. How can we learn to be open when our own inner dialogue remains so overly critical and unforgiving? And yet, allowing ourselves the room to be vulnerable is what builds a strong connection with others.

Recognizing our feelings of shame and guilt and taking the necessary steps to unpack these big feelings is crucial if we want to create solid connections with others.

With love, light & healing,

Laura Mae.

Step 7 – Stories of Setting Limits Peacefully

How can we set limits with our children that peacefully stick? While there might not be a “magic formula,” I do know that anything is possible. With a clear intention to hold a non-judgmental space for all those who struggle to set limits, have their values heard, and to speak directly about their feelings and needs, I hope that these stories will help us to begin an authentic dialogue about setting limits for the children we love.

Where to begin? Watching my children grieve has come up in numerous ways as I have been contemplating my social and emotional coaching journey. To lose someone so close to you at an age when you need their support for all of your basic needs is something that impacts upon your choices every day. It also provides a particularly challenging lens with which to read the world. “How can I believe that the adults in my life positioned to protect me will be here when I woke up one morning and you were gone?” Thoughts like these have become concrete obstacles to my daughter’s progress and, in fact, serve to provide me with a number of “moments of opportunities” or “teachable moments” not only for the girls, but also for me as a parent and as a personal coach. Attempting to set limits has not been an easy task, however, what it has been is a vehicle to build our connection, discuss our fears, and dream big about where we will go from this place, right here and right now.

What has not worked? Trying to control the kids behaviour has not worked for any of us. Much of the “techniques” I have used have come from really great sources: times outs, rewards and punishments for select behaviour are all very common examples of behaviour modification techniques that have come in (and out!) our home. At one point I even developed my own version. It was called “The Yoda Bucket” and it was made up of a list of 5 “good” behaviours and 5 “bad” behaviours, each dropped into a bucket with a picture of Yoda on it. I explained to the girls that Yoda always taught that “The force is with you” and that they had the power to change their behaviour. When either girl displayed any behaviour from the list, the item was dropped in the Yoda bucket. At the end of the week, we sat together, tallying up the “good” and the “bad” behaviours. If more bad cards outweighed the good, some privilege was taken away (e.g., no television or video games). If more good cards outweighed the bad, they could get something back that had previously been taken away. While totally well-meaning and well-intentioned, the plan backfired. I soon realized that what I truly valued above all else was an intrinsic commitment to the new behaviours and patterns. I did not want the girls to do things to get things. I wanted the girls to want to treat each other well because they wanted to treat each other well and be treated well too. But to do that, I needed to introduce them to a new vocabulary of feelings and needs. I also had to adjust my internal dialogue to ensure that I was truly allowing them a space to change that was both accepting of where they were at while simultaneously being open (and excited!) at the prospect of anything happening.

What has worked? Much of what has worked when I have tried to set limits with the kids has been a direct result of being present with them in their grief, pain, anger, and sadness. Often times the most challenging aspect has been working through my own emotional responses to events in our lives in order to ready myself to really hold a space for the kids to feel whatever they need to feel in that moment. Taking the time to stop, breathe, check in with myself and then approach the children has been crucial. Sharing my feelings with the girls  – no matter how contradictory or heavy these may be – has also helped. It’s as if these moments have made me look more human to them, and as the “Perfect Mother” image dissipates, the children and I can speak more frankly about what we feel and what we will try next to make things better. Also, being flexible continues to help me when trying to set limits. Sometimes we set our limits together like clockwork, and at other times, our clock is broken. But in both cases our intention is the same: to always start from a place of love. To emphasize this family value, we began including it in our prayers at night which prompted us to discuss what that actually means to each of us in the family. That dialogue is ongoing, and it’s one that helps to bring us together each and every day.

Consequently, the best example of successfully setting a limit with the children is much bigger than a single success story. Instead, the adventure we have been on, our growing closeness and ability to communicate through the language of feelings and needs, and, at the end of the day, our desire to be together whether it is in play, serious conversation, or in contemplative silence indicates to me that setting limits peacefully is working. I remember growing up and feeling angry when “I didn’t get what I wanted” or feeling slighted when my needs were not getting met. But today, as I spend time trying to facilitate conversations around why select behaviours like hitting or screaming are unacceptable in our home leaves my heart feeling more settled. Being direct in our discussions has truly been a blessing. When the children began fighting with each other instead of brushing their teeth before bed, I called them both down to come and speak with me. We sat on the couch, my arms around each, and asked them to tell me what had happened to prompt their fight. As each explained their side of the story, I realized that it really was possible to listen through the words directly into the feelings each child was experiencing. And as I probed for more details, I could hear that both were scared that they would get in trouble. I guessed that our old relationship which resulted in me taking something they loved away or sending them to their room for a time out remained deeply embedded in their young minds, and wanting to avoid feeling like they were horrible people who could not get anything right, they hoped to deflect blame for their fighting off of themselves and directly onto their sibling. They were scared and worried, and they needed to feel like they were both part of a co-operative and communal space that we could all call home. I asked them to think about the words we spoke each night when we prayed, and had them explain to me what some of the family values were in our house. The girls had difficulty answering. I realized then that I, too, had a part to play in the children’s lack of security when trying to live peacefully in the home. If we were not all clear on what we valued as a family, then setting limits and, more specifically, ensuring that the children realized that certain behaviours were unacceptable in our family that was non-negotiable would never work. So I shifted our conversation to focus our attention more directly on talking about what feelings we wanted to feel in the house. The kids got excited and before I knew it they were working together to share the feelings that our family wanted to feel with me. I then asked them to think about the types of behaviours that would get us to those feelings. That also worked, and it was clear that the children – despite their age difference – were becoming much more clear about the behaviours that were valued in our home. Then I asked them if the behaviour upstairs while brushing their teeth would help us get to the feelings that we had agreed on being the most important to our family. Both girls said no, and before I could ask another question they turned to each other and began suggesting ways to do things differently. After a group hug, the girls walked upstairs hand-in-hand. Teeth brushing was no longer accompanied with sounds of frustrated children, but instead the girls were smiling and giggling as they got ready for bed.

It’s important to note that our household successes continue to grow, but that does not mean that all of our challenges have been overcome. The next day at bedtime the girls feel back into their pattern of fighting when sent upstairs to brush their teeth for bed. I was frustrated but after checking in with myself I realized that a lot of my inner dialogue revolved around my failure to create a “perfect” home and that “perfection” was also reflected back to me from the girls if I could find a way to force them to say sorry to each other. But a forced sorry never really does anything, and this adventure in parenting is not about perfection. As I calmed my own fears and drew upon the positive affirmations that I had been working on to better support the development of a more peaceful home I remembered that sometimes we have to repeat the lessons and find ways to re-state our values. And that’s okay. In fact, each time there’s a breakdown in our communication we also have an opportunity to do things differently. We can practice our language of feelings and needs and we can learn to communicate in ways that more inline with our core values. It’s been a very long time of living out patterns that have not worked for us, and it will take some time to substitute our old ways with new and improved methods of working in community in the home. But if we keep our mind on the pulse of our new value system I am certain that everything will end in a big smile.

With love, light & healing,

Laura Mae.

 

Step 6(c): The Temper Tantrum Dilemma (Paradigmatic Review)

The Situation

It is a lovely day. Sun is shining. Birds are chirping. And the girls are excited to get to the park. Jackets on, shoelaces tied, and we are off! Let the games begin!!

To the swings they run, laughing and giggling as they imagine themselves taking off high into the clouds. “I can touch the sky!” they scream as they ask to be pushed higher and higher. When a school friend from my youngest daughter’s classroom arrives, the fun keeps getting better. “Let’s go ride the toy snail!” the friend shouts, pointing to the snail. With only room for 2 of the 3 children to ride at a time, I sit and watch, observing the negotiations.

“I want to ride up front,” their friend continues. “Who is riding with me?” My youngest daughter, excited at the prospect of riding with her friend screams: “I will!” from high on a rickety bridge leading to a tall, swirling slide. But she was too late. Her older sister, also excited at the opportunity to ride the toy snail with their friend, runs towards the snail. By the time my youngest daughter arrives, both girls are already clambering up the snail. There is no room for the little one who, from high atop a rickety bridge, yelled to the world that the backseat of the snail was hers. Her sister was already there.

A story Deconstructed (a) Dominant Paradigm

I was angry. There’s really no reason for my eldest daughter to monopolize the time of her sister’s little friend. She heard her sister call out that she wanted to ride the snail so she should have expected exactly what she got: A very frustrated younger sister screaming “Get off! I called it!!”

“Hey!” I should at my eldest daughter. My anger is visible in my furrowed brow and the terse edge in my voice. “Get over here right now!” My eldest daughter knows I’m talking to her and rushes over, only hesitating once as she looks back at her seat on the toy snail, knowing if she moves her sister will take her place.

When she arrives I have my criticism ready for her: “You knew that your sister wanted to play with her friend so why would you take her spot on the toy snail? These kids are smaller than you and you should know better. If this behaviour doesn’t change, we are leaving the playground and there will be no fun at the park for the rest of the week. Do you understanding me? Am I clear?”

As the joy of the park dissipates, my eldest daughter replies sullenly, “Yes.”

“Yes what?” I ask. She knows better than to add fuel to this fire with the disrespectful reply to my directives.

“Yes mom.”

She quietly walks away from me, eyes on the ground, the sounds of the other two young girls laughter seeming entirely out of place. The energy around us is certainly not playful, and as my eldest daughter creates a distance between us, she only looks up once, glancing at her sister and her sister’s friend riding the toy snail. In no time my eldest daughter has created a quiet space for herself, alone, under the slides.

The park just doesn’t feel like the park anymore.

 

A story Deconstructed (b) Nonviolent/ Peace of Mind Paradigm

As the rising voices of the children arguing begins, I can feel my shoulders growing stiff.

“Hey!” I shout, and then I catch myself.

Laura Mae, what are you feeling right now? Well, I’m feeling angry too – we came to the park to have a good time… to get out of the house for a bit and enjoy ourselves at the park. And now because we have 3 kids here instead of 2, the day is absolutely ruined! I’m going to have to start yelling and screaming to keep everyone in check.

I am hearing you say that you are frustrated and that you feel like the time you set aside to bond with the children is being co-opted by feeling like you now have to manage 3 children. Does that sound about right? Well.. not entirely. I mean, I enjoy hearing the kids play together and I love the sound of their laughter and giggles. But I am uncomfortable with the competition I feel my children have with each other when a new child comes into the mix. Sometimes I just find it easier to be just us – managing their behaviour can be challenging enough as it is. Adding a friend that is my youngest daughter’s class in the mix without someone being around to play with my eldest daughter just seems so unfair.

I think I’m starting to understand this a little better. I’m hearing you say that you feel unhappy for your daughters because today, there is only 1 extra friend so someone might be left out as they try to negotiate playing on the rides available at the park. Yeah! I mean, if the numbers were even, than they may naturally divide themselves evenly so that everyone can play together. But with odd numbers, someone is bound to feel left out. And that’s when the feelings of having to compete for the new friend’s attention starts.

Wait a second! That’s it!! When I heard my youngest call out that she wanted to play with her friend on the toy snail, I was frustrated because I wanted my eldest daughter to acknowledge her sister’s request just as I had. When I say my eldest daughter run to the toy snail, getting there before her sister, I felt so badly for my youngest. I could feel her disappointment. Usually it’s her big sister who has friends over or bumps into friends at the park. She must be so happy to finally have a chance to see one of her little buddies outside of the classroom!  But maybe my eldest was just as excited as her little sister and just wanted to have someone to play with.

A rush of calm swept over me. I called again to my eldest daughter, this time caller her by name and asking her if she would come chat with me for a second.

When my daughter arrived I crouched down, holding her hands and looking directly in her eyes. “Baby,” I began, “I’m guessing you’re pretty excited that you and your sister have a new friend to play with at the park today. Am I right?” She nodded yes. “Did you know that this was one of the first times that your sister has had a friend come play with her at the park?” She thought for a moment before replying, “Yeah… I think you’re right!” “Well, I’m also guessing that it might be kind of exciting for you to see another little one at the park. And while I want you to have a chance to play with her, I also don’t want your sister to feel like she doesn’t get a chance to play with her too. Did you hear your sister shout that she wanted to ride on the toy snail?” She nodded yes. “I wonder what she may have felt when, by the time she got there, you were already trying to get on the ride with her little friend.”

“She probably felt kind of sad,” my daughter answered thoughtfully.

“So what do you think we should do about it?”

“Don’t worry – I have an idea!”

Before I had a chance to get more details from her, my eldest daughter had clambered up on the back of the snail ride, turning a 2-seater into a 3-seater game!

“Gosh, these kids are awesome,” I thought to myself. We were all smiling from ear to ear.

What does it mean?

If we work through the judgements and recognize how they have impacted upon the way we choose to communicate with our children, plenty of space is made to teach our kids all the lessons we hope for. The dominant paradigm might get you there quickly, but what you loose far outweighs the gains.

Sop let’s commit to be present. Let’s commit to be peaceful. And let’s commit to hold a space of love and understanding for our children and for ourselves.

With love, light, and healing,

Laura Mae.