Listen

listenI’ve spoken before about my journey to change my parenting style and I’ve recommended books that have been great stepping stones on the journey.

Today I am recommending another one.

It is “Listen : Five Simple Tools to Meet Your Everyday Parenting Challenges” by Patty Wipfler and Tosha Schore.

Like many of the other books it is centred on respectful interactions.  And as the title would suggest, many of the tools revolve around listening.  Listening to our children, allowing them space to deal with their issues, and helping them address those issues as best we can.

What I love about this, is that it doesn’t insist on forcing the kids to stuff down their hurts, but rather focuses on helping them to unpack those hurts and emotions.  The analogy of a backpack really resonates with me… we can either help them get those hard emotions out of that backpack and have a lighter load, or we can insist they stuff more and more emotions in that sucker and have a much heavier load.

I know which option I’m on board for working towards.

The integration of listening and playing, along with one aspect that I had missed in earlier books – parenting Listening Partnerships – makes it the most rounded, succinct expression of the basic tools to help our kids (and ourselves).

I love it and can’t recommend it enough if you’re looking for tools to help you set limits without punishment or threats, deal with your kids’ big emotions (including outbursts), understand the underlying reasons your kids act out, get a grip on your own emotional reaction to your kids’ behaviour and generally have an all-round better relationship that’s not a power tug-o-war !

Yes, I gave it a 5 out of 5 on Goodreads, where I am not alone in doing so.

I’ll be adding it to the sidebar here for anyone wanting to get themselves a copy*.

And for those who would like to get to know the authors a bit better, they have a website that you can visit.
It’s called Hand in Hand Parenting.

Happy reading!


  • yes, it will be an affiliate link, but it costs you no extra to use it and helps us pay for the blog.  🙂

Happy New Year

Welcome to 2016 !

new-years-eve-1004535_1280

I hope that you and your family have had a nice holiday season.

Now that it is almost back to normal routine, I thought I’d share a few snippets that have caught my eye over the break.  The first is a wonderful quote from Jamie Martin from Simple Homeschool.  As home educating parents it’s very easy to slip into a sort of personal martyrdom over getting enough time for ourselves as people.  I know I fall in to this trap each year, and putting in place a plan to avoid it is one of my personal 2016 resolutions.

Math time will not be more important than Mommy time–each will have their proper place, and I will not sacrifice the essence of who I am on a self-made altar of perfectionism.

No longer will I take a back seat to the home educating of my kids.  We will be equal partners in this process where they will get a much better role model, and a much more resilient and relaxed Mum.  If you are an introvert who home educates, you might like the blog post this quote came from, 15 new year’s resolutions for the introverted homeschool mom.

My other parenting / educating resolutions come from a single blog post by Dr Laura Markham of Aha Parenting.  You might have noticed me posting about her writings before.  Well, this blog post on Preventative Maintenance is going to be a cornerstone for me this year.  I have been hit and miss with this in the past year and I think I’ve stored up quite a bit of work for myself as a result.

In essence my 2016 Parenting Goals are:

  1. Look after Myself
  2. Daily roughhousing
  3. Daily special time
  4. Empathic limit setting

Interestingly, the order I have chosen to write those in is probably the priority they need to take.  If I let myself get run down there is no mental or physical bounce that will allow me to roughhouse or be fully participative in our special time.  And without the stress-release of roughhousing and special time, the likelihood is a greater need for limit setting.  Without a rested Mum, the limit setting is unlikely to be empathic, so here we are… full circle.

In a very loving and kind way – 2016 is going to be about ME.

What’s 2016 going to be about for you?  I’d love to hear.

When are kids too young?

This article from Science Alert came wandering across my web view today.  It’s called “New study suggests we’re sending our kids to school too young“.

My initial reaction to reading the title was, ‘well, duh!’

The idea of sending my just-turned-five year old children off to school simply turned my guts when I thought about it.  I just couldn’t see how they would cope with a full school day at that age, either physically or mentally.  They were wiped out after the two hours at sessional daycare that they went to for a couple of days a week so that I could take care of my fitness needs.  And as I would hear from folk about their new-at-school kids needing to take the kiddie equivalent of mental health days (or possibly recover from exhaustion) it simply re-inforced in my mind that we had made the right choice for our kids.

The issue with this particular article is that it isn’t the first research to show that we start our kids far too young at school. There have been others, and it was a bit of a hot topic a couple of years ago too.  With even more interesting links and references to follow up, this article from the New Scientist is well worth reading through.  It’s called “Too much, too young: Should schooling start at age 7?

The sad and concerning thing is, that despite a lack of evidence supporting the current school starting age and more supporting the positive effects of a later start, governments around the world are pushing towards an even earlier start for our babies.  The official age that children must be in school in New Zealand is six, but the majority will have begun at five if they are going to go at all.  So here it is a cultural norm rather than a compulsion issue.  And unfortunately it seems very few folk are all that keen on questioning it.

And that makes me quite sad.

Experiment: Letting Go

I’ve decided to run an experiment here at the Patch.

I’m guessing that like most folk I harbour the idea that if left to their own devices the kids would turn in to the world’s biggest couch potatoes, staring in a glazed-over way at the TV.  In our house it would be staring at YouTube gaming videos, Minecraft primarily.

I’m going to challenge that idea in myself and give my kids the chance to show me whether that over-arching belief is a fair one or not.  It’s close to the end of year, the kids have done really well and are tracking along in their skills just fine.  Now is probably the best time to give it a try since year end normally brings a bit of slowing down in energy and enthusiasm anyway.

This is my very small attempt to see if I can get the reassurance I want that we could move to a lifestyle even closer to that of being an unschooling family.  I haven’t set a time limit for this, because I know that deschooling – even from our mild amount of schooly stuff may be required.  I’m as interested to see just how uncomfortable I become if it takes more than a few days for them to be unglued from a screen and actively pursuing something I would consider to be a good spend of their time.  Can you see just how ingrained it is in me, despite intellectually understanding the benefits of the kids learning what they are truly interested in ?!  It’s probably going to really mess with my head.

I’ll try to report back on it next Thursday and see how the first week of my experiment goes.  If I haven’t freaked out and gone back on it beforehand.  Wish me luck!

 

Playing with the kids

Today’s post is really a recommended reading.

It’s about play and it’s importance to our children.  I love this article by Genevieve Simperingham, it encapsulates so much of what I wish for my kids.  It’s called, very simply, The Power of Play.

I’m also very slowly working my way through Lawrence Cohen’s book “Playful Parenting” which has a load of excellent insights into how to engage with your children on a playful level.   I’m loving the ideas for connection and allowing them to get what they need in this way.

The hardest part is breaking pre-existing habits of interacting with our kids.  And taking a playful approach if it’s not your natural style, takes a lot of focus, concentration and hard work.
But it’s definitely worth it.

I’d love to hear about any similar books or articles, so please leave a comment with your reading recommendations about playful parenting and the importance of children’s play.

Life skills for kids – a timely reminder

Over at my personal blog I’ve talked about starting out on the KonMari method of decluttering and organisation.  Interestingly enough I started this morning off by thinking about moving through the untouched bookshelves today.  The Universe clearly approves as when I sat down with my coffee and the interwebs for my morning perusal of everyone else’s lives, what should come across my screen but a link to a post about the method.

What has this to do with homeschooling?  Well the post was by a home educating parent supporting her kids to learn how to look after their environment and possessions.

I often find that things poke my conscience in roundabout ways, and this one not only reminded me of my earlier morning thoughts of clearing out things we no longer love, but also of my overarching ideas around allowing the kids more autonomy as they grow.  It certainly is a completely 360º approach to kids’ stuff than I’ve come across from most other parents.  Elsewhere the sneak-it-out and hide-it-out-of-the-house method seems highly popular, as does the authoritarian method where the parent decides what goes and too bad for the kid as “we’re doing it’s for their own good”, that I’ve heard of from others.

Personally I’ve struggled with both of those ‘normal’ behaviours ever since I read another opinion on treating kids possessions the same way you would an adult’s – i.e. you wouldn’t give your grown friends gifts and then go round to their messy homes and start chucking out stuff you gave them, all the while saying “You have too much stuff, this is for your own good!  And think about all those people who have nothing in this world.”

Yet, like most parents, my eyes roll up in to the back of my head when I look at the bombsite that the kids get their rooms in to.  Clutter does my head in, there’s no denying it.  I am a person who requires space and clear surfaces in order to feel relatively relaxed in my home, not that I get them, or am great at looking after my own space.  So it’s a constant tension for me – a relatively clean kid’s room vs their autonomy.  Then along comes observations like this that challenge me to remember that some things in life are a process and not available for immediate gratification.

We have to accept our responsibility for things getting to this point and know that there is no quick fix for getting back out. Shifting the family culture is a long term goal best met through supporting their own choices (mistakes included) and leading by example.

Reading this blog post by Memoirs of a Childhood, I’ve realised that perhaps I need to button down that need for immediate success in cleanliness and strive for seeing the beginnings of self-control and self-determination in my kids.  Maybe I need to shift my focus from my (desperate, at times) need to be able to see the floor all through the house, to one where I help and support my kids with taking ownership of their own space.

Anyway, that’s a bit semi-philosophical this morning.  To finish up, here’s the link to the blog post that sparked it all off.

KonMari with Kids by Memoirs of a Childhood.

 

Teaching vs Learning

knowledge ahead

One of my favourite blogs, Happiness is Here, posted a great reminder about staying out of the way of the kids while they’re learning.  Which is pretty much all of the time!
I needed to hear this and now have some habits that require work to break.

If you have a tendency to teach your kids or help them a lot, then this might be good for you to read too.

Without further ado, head here to read Supporting Learning Without Taking Over.

Book Review: Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids by Dr Laura Markham

PPHKI’ve had this book in paperback form for a couple of years now and was making only a little headway with it as I picked it up, then put it down, then picked it up again.  Then our holiday to Fiji rolled around and I really didn’t want to lug half a case of books with me, so I splurged on a digital copy as well.  It goes by the title “Calm Parent, Happy Kids” in the Kindle version.

I spent most of my reading time during the holiday working my way through this book.  It does take a bit of work because there’s lots to get to grips with.  I know most of the advice may be old hat to many folks, but if you’re new or relatively new to peaceful parenting there’s plenty to ponder over.

Dr Markham also has a great site called Aha! Parenting if you want to get snippets of advice rather than read an entire book.

However, it is a well put together and thought out book that is well worth the time and effort to read.

The sections cover regulating yourself, fostering connection and coaching, not controlling.  Within each section there are further chapters devoted to specific aspects of the bigger, overarching theme.

I enjoyed it immensely and found a lot of ideas that I could put into practice.

For me the idea of self-care was a big one and has been a theme over the past little while.  This book re-inforced for me how important getting balance in my life is.  As the quote goes, “if mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy”.  So a primary focus for the remainder of this year is getting some balance each and every day.  The kids now know that I’m taking ‘me time’ most days.  It’s nothing earth-shattering at the moment, simply some time out to do something nice for myself like read a couple of chapters of my latest book or indulge in a hot bath.  These are small things, but they allow some personal space in a day filled with “Mum, can we…”, “Mum, could you do…”, “Mum, look at this…”, “Mum, come and play a game…”

There’s loads more great pieces of advice that we already do or try to do.  I will, no doubt, expand on some of those over the next little while.  In the meantime I will leave you with the recommendation of finding a copy of this book if you are interested in transitioning to a peaceful parenting style, it will give you both the whys and some useful hows.  It’s a great book to add to a parenting library and I’d give it a solid 5 stars.  So good, in fact, that I have pre-purchased the digital version of her newly released book – Peaceful Parenting, Happy Siblings.
I’m now looking forward to getting my teeth into that when it’s released in June!  In the meantime you can get your hands on a paperback copy.

Happy reading!


 

Family Meetings

PDOver this past Christmas and New Year I spent some of my quiet time reading Positive Discipline by Jane Nelsen. I was looking for more ideas on how to positively interact with the small Oh Wailys. I found a few new ideas and met some old favourites.

While the book is a bit of a mish-mash of home and classroom ideas, there is plenty to take away from one environment that would work in the other.  The key idea for me, though, was the Family Meeting.

Not long after I finished the book we decided to give it a try and see how it would work, or not, for us.  At the first meeting we wrote the ‘minutes’ down on sheets of paper and it dragged on for what seemed like an interminably long time – especially for the kids.  There was a lot of explaining about what we were going to be doing at the meetings, and setting up expectations around listening and taking turns speaking.  Then, finally, actually trying to have a meeting.  It was all a bit dry, in hindsight.

We persisted and by the third meeting, which was just myself and the kids as Mr Oh Waily was away for work, I had taken up the further idea of having a permanent record of our meetings.  I had the perfect book for the task that had sat in my stationery drawer since my last pre-kid trip to Singapore way back in 2006, an A4 blank ring bound journal.  It had been waiting for a good use and now I had one for it.

We struggled through the next few meetings, trying to get a rhythm and working on the fidgety bugs that seem to infect the kids after a fairly short while.  Now we are two months on from those first tentative steps and I have to say that our meetings flow really well, for the most part, and the kids are both participative and able to concentrate for most of the meeting now.  We have dealt with a number of problems (one of the key uses of the family meeting) that have occurred during the preceding week, and everyone has been able to have a say in possible solutions.  The kids are learning to problem solve and to come to a consensus – as that is the only allowable outcome of the problem solving.  You just keep it on the agenda if consensus cannot be reached.

It seems to have reached a point where we rarely have actual problems to solve, so the focus of the latest few meetings has been firmly on the positive sections – compliments and planning fun activities for us all to do during the next week.  We have also dealt with our chores issues through the meeting, with a fair amount of success.  It is an ongoing work in progress, but at least it is not left to fester with anyone for long periods of time.

I think we will have reached another point in the process when we come home from our holiday in April.  It will be time to add in a new aspect or two of the meetings – expressing gratitude and maybe coming up with a family motto – just to spice it up a little and keep it interesting.  I can see that the meetings will become a more positive aspect in our lives as it becomes another family tradition, just like pancake day has.  It is something that binds us together and adds memories.

I definitely recommend getting a copy of Positive Discipline and checking out some of her ideas.  There are moments of repetition, and slightly banging on the same points, but overall it was a useful read and the Family Meeting idea made the reading all worthwhile.   Check out your local library for a copy first to make sure it gels with you and your family.

And as some wise friends said – keep it short, don’t make it a parent-lecture-opportunity, or a hidden parent-control-method and actually make sure the kids are involved and listened to.  Otherwise it will turn out to be the opposite of what I personally hoped for – a proactive, cohesion building tool for the family.

Motivation

I love this photograph of Miss Oh Waily that I took on our visit to Tikitapu, just outside of Rotorua.
I also happen to love the quote from Lao Tzu.  What could be better than combining the two?
This is now my desktop wallpaper.  Every time I open up the laptop, there she is with a reminder and motivation for me to focus on three really important aspects of our character.