Saying goodbye to “Good job!”

Yellow PerilThis is another yellow car post, on a parenting theme.

This morning I came across this nice post about alternatives to ‘good job’-ing your kids over at Picklebums.

I know from personal experience that it is really hard to change an ingrained habit without having some idea of what your new habit should look like.  In this case it sounds all very good to reduce or remove value judgements when you encourage your kids, but if that’s all you’ve ever known, it can be daunting to figure out what you should be saying instead.

Posts and printables, like the Picklebum’s one, and great suggestions from books like How to Talk So Kids will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish, go a very long way to giving you some ideas that you can put into immediate effect.  They offer practical ways to make changes, not just explaining the whys of changing.

At first the new phrases may feel a bit awkward and false, but over time these alternatives begin to feel normal and ‘good job’ starts to feel like the foreign language.  Even if you are a few steps further along the track to saying goodbye to ‘good job’, sometimes visual reminders are a great helpmate.

Personally I will be printing it out and putting it up somewhere I can see it every day.



Yellow Car Syndrome – Parenting Edition

A few years back I wrote about the Yellow Car Syndrome over at one of my t’other blogs. Yes, plural.  As in, many.
In that instance it was about the subjects of a running book.  Today I want to revisit the theme, but on a parenting front.

Back in June I wrote about my meanderings through a change in parenting style from command and control to a more respectful and peaceful type.  It should have come as no surprise to me that I would begin to spot those ideas everywhere now that I have embraced them as my guide.  But it did.

A short digression.  I have taken up a sabbatical from BookFace.  I needed to.  The support groups are fabulous, but a serious time-stealer.  So I am currently in time-recovery mode.
My point is this… what do I do with my recovered time?  Amongst other things, I plan to read.  Books.  Blogs.  My university course textbook.  <<aargh>>

So today I picked up where I had long ago left off in my blogosphere of reading and started with a perennial favourite, but lately ignored, Zen Habits.  Never been to hear from Leo before?  You really should visit, there’s bound to be some pearls of wisdom you can pick up.

I made my way through a few of the recent posts until I hit on Parental Zen: How to Keep Your Cool as a Parent, and lo and behold, my Yellow Car Syndrome strikes again.

There, repeated for my pleasure, are many of the tenets that I am trying to put in to practice in my own home.  I love his first point, It’s not about you.

We parents tend to take kids’ bad behavior personally, as if what they’re doing is a personal attack on us or our belief systems, a personal offense. That’s why we get mad.

And there are plenty more, succinctly put points that had me nodding to myself all the way through.  And being a bit of a part-time geek-on-the-side, I particularly loved the Star Wars reference around guidance rather than dictatorship.

Imagine being Yoda (the mentor) instead of Darth Vader (the death-grip dictator).

If you were even a smidgen intrigued by the idea of a gentler, but still effective, style of parenting then this is a nice entry post for that.

Punitive Parenting

Shadow FamilyIt’s been interesting in my head lately.  I’ve been observing and thinking a lot about how I try to parent.  Emphasis on *try*, since I’m still a work in progress.

If you had asked me about raising kids, before I had kids, I would have definitely fallen into what I like to call the “command and control” style.  I’m sure you know what I mean by that – kids should do what they’re asked and the parents are the boss of them.

Frankly, and honestly, I would still have been very much a behaviorist parent even as recently as four years ago.  Supernanny would have seemed totally sensible and practical – and no doubt I would have expressed that to friends and family at the time.   Time outs, punitive restrictions and so forth, would have been considered just a part of life and the way to teach the kids what their behaviour should be.

Fast forward those four years and, thankfully, I have read a lot and learned a lot and – most importantly of all – I have thought and empathised A LOT.

Nowadays I find myself surprised and slightly uncomfortable when I hear parents talking about solutions to their kids’ behaviour in terms of punishing them.  I should be quite clear here, I am not passing judgement on those parents. I have been one of them myself, after all.  Actually I feel quite uncomfortable when I hear solutions put forward in that manner.

Please understand, I’m not a crunchy-type person.  Not that there’s anything wrong with that either.  I’m not a permissive-type parent.  I have standards of behaviour I expect my kids to learn and they aren’t the sort that allow my small people to dominate all and sundry.  I have, however, finally shed some really unhelpful ideas about children in general.

  1. Kids are inherently *naughty*.
  2. Kids do *naughty* things deliberately to get what they want. (Manipulation)
  3. Kids need externally-imposed consequences – aka punishment.

In the end I started to ask myself some hard questions – and more importantly think the consequences of my parenting choices through to their actual, logical, conclusion.

Did I want to control my kids’ behaviour so that my life was easier and I looked like I was a *good* parent to the outside world, or did I want to have a really close, respectful, relationship with my kids where they felt heard and appreciated?

Do my kids behave like that to make my life difficult and exercise their power (aka manipulation), or do they genuinely have no other way of showing me how they feel about things and how powerless they feel in certain situations?

And plenty more along those lines.

I read lots more peaceful parenting authors, and I came to view my kids in a very different light.  I’m still “the Mum” and my kids don’t get to run our lives, but they do get heard and listened to a lot more than they did before I started questioning MY behaviour.
I began to view them, properly, as smaller versions of me – in that they experience exactly the same sorts of feelings and responses to being treated well or poorly as I do.  Sometimes they just don’t have the internal filter system up and running that deals with negative experiences in the same way – so they *act up*.  Punishing them for feeling marginalised and unable to express that in a way an adult would is, to be honest, totally daft.  And I realised I was most certainly being daft.

I also realised that being shouted at, having anger directed at them for some indiscretion, or being shunned (time seat, anybody?) cannot feel good or be good for their self-worth.  Anybody dealt with an angry friend or partner, workmate or boss?   Anyone felt excluded by the “in” clique at school or work?  If you have, stop a moment and think how you felt during those incidents….

That’s how your kids will be feeling when you shout, growl or exclude them as *correction* for some sort of misdemeanour.  Probably a lot worse, because you are their Mum or Dad and they love you to bits.

I’ve rather come to think of it as parental bullying.
It can do only one thing – make the kids feel less valuable as people.
I appreciate that others may disagree, but this is where my observations have taken me.  It’s a hard mirror to look in – having had to do so myself.

And again, not perfect here by any means. The old ways are insidious and very hard to overwrite with the new.  For me it is going to be quite the journey, as I find the new skills get quickly bumped aside when I am tired, extremely stressed or haven’t been able to put myself first for a while.
But just like the old saw, I pick myself up and get back on to the horse.  I apologise to my kids and I try to start again.  It’s not an easy road, but it is the road I’ve consciously chosen to follow.  Four years ago and before I was unconsciously following a road that is dominant in our culture and ingrained in me.  I was simply running on default.
Now I feel more like me.  Like the parent I want to be and my kids deserve.

The one thing that struck me while I was thinking about all of this, and writing this post, was just how far my thoughts on parenting have moved in such a short period.  And I’m so very glad of it.

How about you?  Have you had any “Ah-ha!” moments in your parenting journey?


Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids

I purchased this lovely book last May and I’ve kept on picking it up, reading a chapter and then setting it down.

I blame the year of reading drudge trying to keep up with the book reviews for a sister blog.  At least, that’s what I tell myself.

But with the New Year has come renewed vim and vigour and this will be my first Off The Bookshelf book for 2014.  Lucky for me and my kids then, eh?

A while back I tried out the idea of a good behaviour star chart for me, awarded by the kids.  This fizzled out.  Mostly because I kept forgetting and partly because it was a bit depressing.  Did I mention that a good bit of the last half of last year was pretty stressful? No? Well it was.

But that was then, and now is now.

I’m loving the book.  I’ve finished the first section and am in to the second.  It all makes perfect sense and intuitively I know it’s right, and right for me.  I’m not so right for it, but then perfection is only something to strive for and not expect to achieve.  To that end, and to try and help me along my parenting growth path, I’ve decided that I need to set myself some new rules and see what sort of impact they have on improving my relationship with my kids.  (Which isn’t dreadful, I must hasten to mention!  But there’s always room for improvement – especially self-improvement.)

So we have some new House Rules (mostly for my benefit rather than the kids), and the really important ones are:

– special time each day with each child, one on one.  (30 minutes minimum)
– twelve hugs a day (at least!)

There are also a couple of technology related rules too.  I love technology and what it can do to aid learning, but sometimes it just sucks your brain out – adult and child – so there are now strict limitations on its use.

I’ve also re-introduced the sticker chart idea, but in a simplified form – if the kids think I’ve been a great (non-shouty) Mummy they can give me a sticker at the end of the day.  This now goes on the bottom of each page in my diary.  A really visible reminder of how I’m tracking in being less bossy, less controlling, more connected, and an improved role model.

The upshot of all these small changes is the wish to model better behaviour, continue to keep closely attached to my kids and foster a great foundation for a life-long relationship based on love, courtesy, caring and connection.  Step one is now underway, I’m hopeful that it will produce positive results and reduce a lot of tantrum and stroppy attitude issues that had begun to raise their heads in the latter part of last year.  And that was only in the adult!   😉

How about you? Any great, inspirational books on parenting you’d like to recommend?  Leave a comment if something has inspired you to be a better parent.

Down time

What happens when your mojo deserts you?
How do you recharge yourself and get back on the right track?

I’d love to know what you do.  Right now I’m in a slump and I could do with some ideas and a cheerleader or two who has been here.  I understand that by the time the end of the year rolls around everyone is starting to feel the need to slow down, take a break and get back some of their energy.  I guess that this might be partly my problem.  But I think there’s a little more to my missing mojo.

This year has been host to the most time that I have had to solo parent two children* without a really good support network to let me have time off.  I don’t think a month has gone by when Mr Oh Waily hasn’t been away for at least a week of it, if not more.   As well as this, up until the end of October I was regularly running three times a week when I was hit with an injury.  Since then there has been minimal exercise carried out, a once a week weights & core routine with a PT has been it.

Adding to these external issues, is my lack of continuous forward planning.  Despite having some great tools, courtesy of Jo’s My Organised Chaos course, I have failed in recent weeks to set aside time each week for planning and getting things set out.  I have also found myself wandering away from my original Montessori leanings and focusing more on the “schoolish” formal teaching for Miss Oh Waily.

So in a nutshell here are my issues:

  1. Tired, run-down parent.
  2. Lack of implementation of planning time.
  3. Excess focus on Miss Oh Waily’s formal learning**.
  4. Not enough focus on Master Oh Waily’s learning^.

My intended solutions (so far):

  1. Start exercising again.^^  This will bring the biggest reward.
  2. Set aside a specific time each week to plan for the next week.
  3. Re-read Tim Seldin’s How to Raise an Amazing Child to remind myself of why I want this for my kids.
  4. Read the ebook Montessori At Home that I have just purchased to reinvigorate my activity creations.
  5. Find a babysitter so I can get some time off to be me and not Mum for a little while.

Now it’s down to implementation.  Any other suggestions that work for you?

* My hat goes off to those solo parents who do this all year round.  You have my complete admiration.

**  It’s a thing about her turning 5, I’m sure of it.  A little switch has gone off in my brain telling me I need to be “schooling” her now.  😦

^ He is learning by osmosis mostly at the moment.

^^  I plan to try out my achilles heel when we return from visiting family after Christmas.  If it holds up I will start back on my running.  If it shows signs of being uncooperative I will look into going swimming as an alternative.


Coffee Youtube-128Today’s post is a very short one.  Perhaps attributable to a NaBloPoMo hangover?

Anyway, I just wanted to say that I’ve created a new page here called “videos”.  Yes, I’m showing my age.  Perhaps I should have called it YouTube or Media or some other funky, techy name.  But I am what I am.  And Videos it is.

Currently it is only inhabited by three actual links to YouTube, but I do promise that more will be forthcoming.  I just want to make sure that I don’t double up and that what I put on the page is actually worth listening to.

So sit back with a cup of tea or coffee and enjoy.  I hope you find them thought provoking, funny and interesting.

Conscience prodders

As I’ve written on our About page, we’re pretty eclectic in our approach to homeschooling.  There are many aspects of a variety of philosophies and approaches that appeal.   Naturally homeschooling is something of an extension to parenting and it is not a simple matter of divorcing your parenting style from your homeschooling style.

So every now and then, when I read something new or, like today, listen to a different perspective on how things can be my conscience gets a bit of a pricking.  It makes me question my assumptions and my choices.  This is totally uncomfortable and unpleasant.  In a good way.

Once pricked, I spend time assessing why I feel uncomfortable and thinking about what it is that is doing all that prodding.  Sometimes it is a no-brainer and I take on board the ideas I have read or heard.  Other times I partially agree, but can’t quite see how it would work in real life (in my home).  And then there are times where I may think an idea has merit but I can’t (yet) overcome my existing prejudices or set way of thinking and experiencing to embrace it.

Today I watched an interview (sort of) with Radical Unschooler, Dayna Martin.  It made me uncomfortable and prodded me in all sorts of places and ways.   I’m not really an unschooler, despite wishing to follow my children’s interests in order that the learning experience is self-motivated and fulfilling for them.  I want them to be intrinsically motivated to learn.  That was one of my initial motivations for choosing this lifestyle.

But like many people, I am taking a path that is new to me, and opposite to the way I was brought up and schooled.  It takes quite a bit of work on myself to stay even slightly near my parenting & schooling style goals.   Some days I feel something akin to a human metronome, swaying from my traditional upbringing and the prevailing bog standard parenting culture over to something closer to the attachment parenting/humanist world view that, when I stop and think about the sort of parent (and person) I want to be, is my preference.

I just wish that I could find someone to read or follow who has chosen a different path from their own upbringing, and doesn’t make the change sound like one day they woke up and were miraculously the sort of parent and teacher they wanted to be.

How about you?  Do you follow the conventional wisdom, or do you question it?  Are you your parent reincarnated, or have you consciously morphed into another type of parent?  (And was it easy, hard or still a work in progress?)