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(21) Parents & Kids

10 Amazing Parenting Hacks


(KEY 3) Create Safety, Trust, & Belonging

 Accept Your Child’s Unique Personality and Learning Style

 The more we witness our emotional chain reactions and understand how they work, the easier it is to refrain. It becomes a way of life to stay awake, slow down, and notice.

 -Pema Chodron

 In addition to having a unique timetable for developing, children have their own unique personalities and ways of learning. Do you see your child as unique and accept her just the way she is?

It’s natural to have an easier time raising one child than another. Many factors weigh in here. If a child is very different from you, it might be challenging to accept your differences. For example, if you enjoy reading, gardening, and doing other quiet activities and your child loves to have friends over, listen to music, make jokes, and be the center of attention, you may need to work at appreciating his style of expressing himself. If you have a child just like you, which could be challenging in a different way-wherever you turn, you hear and see yourself.

In any case, looking with respect to your child’s needs will help you steer clear of dangerous labels such as demanding, challenging, needy, or timid. Labels get in the way of seeing your child and accepting him for the unique person he is.

As well as having a unique personality, your child has a particular set of requirements for optimum learning. Learning preferences show up early in life, and by observing closely you can discover the ways she learns best and make sure that her learning experiences are as successful as possible.

Some kids learn best by listening to information, others from pictures and charts. For many kids, talking about or teaching what they’re learning makes learning come alive, and still others do best when making models, drawing, or getting their whole body involved and acting things out. All of these learning styles can be understood and worked with.

Observe your child carefully, experiment with different ways of interacting with her, and find a comfort zone for working together. And when your child approaches school age, do be aware that there are many ways to learn in addition to those typically used in schools (which are often limited to reading textbooks, writing reports, and memorizing words on a spelling list). Get help, if you need it, to create a learning environment that supports your child in being a successful, lifelong learner.*

 * For more information on learning styles, see Hodson and Willis, Discover Your Child’s Learning Style

 To Sustain Emotional Safety, Seek Connection - First, Last, and Always

The feeling of satisfaction and contentment that comes from being connected to an accepting, caring adult is essential for children to thrive. Parents tell us it is challenging to make heartfelt connections with their kids when there are so many interactions in a day and days move by so swiftly. When they don’t take time to connect, they report that interactions often end in compromise, discord, and fuel for future arguments. Feelings of sadness, anger, discouragement, and hopelessness run high. These same parents tell us that they feel great relief when they do take time at the moment (at least some moments) to listen to and attempt to understand their kids, the situation, and themselves. The extra time they give to one stressful interaction results in more ease and less time spent down the road in similar challenging interactions. Most often, the quickest route to connection with your child is to listen respectfully to what he has to say, tuning into the feelings and needs he is trying to share in whatever way he happens to be expressing them in that moment. He is always trying to communicate only two things-how he feels and what he needs. Expressing honestly how you feel and what you need is also part of making a genuine connection. However, for optimum connection, listening to your child first is most helpful.

Look for listening opportunities. Some parents find long car drives make for easy talking and listening. Some make a point of scheduling one-on-one time with each child. When kids can count on opportunities to express themselves and to be heard, they are less likely to nag and whine and can relax, knowing you will make time to hear them.

 Let Go of Resentment

 When you go through rough patches and feelings get hurt, connection sometimes gets broken. It’s crucial to reestablish the loving tie between you and your child as soon as possible. When you reestablish connection, you inspire confidence in your child that he is okay, he can make mistakes and people will still love him, and he doesn’t have to be perfect o be loved. Each time you reconnect with your child during or after an argument you not only reestablish the trust and safety link, you strengthen it. When kids realize you will always seek to reconnect, interactions will get easier, you’ll spend much less time at odds with each other, and strategies for working out problems will become more evident, sooner. Young children tend to reconnect a lot faster than adults do. Take a tip from them: one minute your kids might feel sad and dejected, the next they are energized and excited. They may have outbursts of emotion; however, they get over them quickly and don’t hold grudges. They let go of the past with startling speed and bounce back with freshness and openness for whatever is next. This is a wonderful gift of consideration and trust that they are continually giving to you. Children are anxious to receive the same consideration from you. However, the habit of holding on to hurt is deeply ingrained in adults. This common habit prevents parents from seeing the more positive side of their children’s behavior and eventually prevents children from wanting to express it. Since holding a grudge is something that is learned somewhere between childhood and adulthood, the good news is, it can be unlearned.

After you’ve had a disagreement with a child, see how long it takes you to let go of your judgments and bad feelings. After the next distressing situation, see if you can let go a little faster. Keep it light, keep it fun, and watch your kids for pointers. The more you keep focused on everyone’s feelings and needs, the easier letting go becomes.


(22) Parents & Kids

Parenting in Public: The Mom's View


Listen for the Yes Behind Every No

Listening is an attitude of the heart, a genuine desire to be with another which both attracts and heals.

-J. Isham

What you do when your children resist or refuse to do what you tell them affects their sense of safety and trust. When your child digs in her heels and says No! do you see her action as a call to arms? Do you get angry and defensive and want to persuade her to change her mind by preaching to her or punishing her? No might be the most charged word in the parenting dictionary. Lots and lots of parent hours and energy are spent battling children who say No. No is an unacceptable response because parents are uncomfortable with each of the choices they think they have when they hear it. They think they have to either accept the No and change their position or refuse to accept the No and find a way for the child to change her position.

Parents can save themselves hours of hassle by understanding that there is a third way to hear No: this is to hear a Yes behind every No.Whenever your child says No to you, he is saying Yes to something else.

By taking time to find out what is more exciting, interesting, fun, or challenging than what you have in mind, you defuse a potentially volatile situation, make a heartfelt connection, and clearly demonstrate your interest and care.

In this example, the parent is able to hear the Yes behind her child’s No. Mom walks into her son’s room, where he is reading a book:

Mom: Since Dad’s away, I’d like to spend some extra time with you this weekend. Would you like to go to a movie with me tonight?

Son: No, I’m busy.

Mom: (Looking for the Yes behind the No) Looks as if you are really absorbed in that book.

Son: Yeah. It is really getting good.

Mom: (Realizing her son needs choice, relaxation, and alone time) Sounds like tonight you’d rather keep reading.

Son: Yeah! Maybe I can finish it.

Mom: (Not giving up on her need) I’m still interested in a movie or doing something else together on another night. How does that sound to you?

Son: Fine. How about Sunday night? I know I’ll be finished by then.

When we know ourselves to be connected to all others, acting compassionately is simply the natural thing to do.

-Rachel Naomi Remen

Imagine what would have happened if Mom had reacted when her son said, No, I’m busy, taking it as a rejection. She might have said, Well, you have time for other things, or What’s more important, a book or your mother? or I didn’t think it was much to ask of you. She would likely have lost connection with her son and also lost her chance for a movie date with him.

Next time your child says No!-notice your reactions. Then see if you can hear what need she is saying Yes to. Hear the Yes behind the No and you will both sustain the connection between you and be open to seeing the best way to meet your own needs.

 To Maintain Safety, Trust, and Belonging, Nurture Family Connections

If improved family communication is what you want, you need a place where family members regularly practice their skills. At the same time that improving daily interactions between you and your children nurtures your one-on-one relationships, holding family meetings serves needs to harmonize your family unit.

 Hold Family Meetings

Family meetings are hours set aside to plan family events, share concerns, identify feelings and needs, find ways to fulfill needs, celebrate personal victories, set household and individual goals, take stock, and strategize solutions to problems.

Be sure to make an agreement for your meetings that ensures safety and trust for everyone. Each member of the group can contribute what she or he needs to feel safe in these meetings. Keep the list at hand and read it at the beginning of each meeting. The following are some strategies for meeting safety needs that parents and kids have shared with us: the right to participate by just listening; no suggestions or advice given without first asking if the other person wants to hear it; assurance that there will be no name-alling, threats, criticism, blame, or loud voices.

In addition to physical safety, children need emotional safety to trust that the world is a welcoming place. Parents’ actions and reactions greatly affect whether a child feels emotionally safe or not. When parents learn to see from a child’s point of view, to strengthen the bond of parent-child connection whenever possible, and to create a forum for nourishing the family unit, children will feel relaxed and free to explore and enjoy their world.

Daily Practice

Notice your actions and reactions. Ask yourself, Does this contribute to emotional safety and trust? Notice how much you talk and how much you listen. Make time to listen.

In interactions with your child, ask yourself, am I going for connection? Or something else? Practice hearing the Yes behind the No. First, notice when your child says No. Notice your automatic reactions. Look for the need your child is saying Yes to in that moment.

Heart Rhythm Resonance

 A growing body of neurocardiological research finds that infants sense and resonate with the coherency or incoherency of the rhythms of an adult’s heart. Feelings of irritation, frustration, and anger lead to a disordered and incoherent pattern of heart rhythms in the body. Feelings of appreciation, enjoyment, compassion, and love lead to more ordered and coherent heart rhythm patterns. And, the heart rhythms of one person entrain the heart rhythms of another. Therefore, parents’ emotional responses, even though nonverbal, can determine their child’s own emotional responses and behaviors.4 A caregiver’s emotional state and the quality of nurturing and care an infant receives have a significant effect on brain development and other factors that determine whether a child will thrive or not.

1. Siegel and Hartzell, Parenting from the Inside Out.

2. Childre and Rozman, The HeartMath Solution.

3. Pearce, The Biology of Transcendence.

4. Siegel and Hartzell, Parenting from the Inside Out.



(23) Parents & Kids

Gender Neutral Parenting: Why We're Raising Our Son Neither Boy Or Girl


Key 4 • Inspire Giving

Giving makes the other person a giver also, and they both share in the joy of what they have brought to life. In the act of giving lies the expression of my aliveness.

-Eric Fromm

Co-operation, or operating together, implies that all parties have something to share. Even at very early ages, children have a surprisingly delightful ability to share with parents. By recognizing the gifts your children have to give and by developing the skills to gratefully receive them, you meet deep needs for contribution for you and your children that affect the core of self-worth for each of you.

 Giving Is a Fundamental Human Need

Your children have a need to contribute to your well-being and to the well-being of the family as a whole. As we see it, a primary parental role is to inspire giving-to help young people understand what they have to share and how they can share it in a way that it can be received. Of course, to inspire this give-and-take means to actively value a mutual exchange and actively find ways for children to contribute to the stream of giving. Handing kids a list of chores to do and telling them when they need to be completed doesn’t inspire giving-nor do threats, punishments, or rewards.

Giving comes naturally to human beings when it isn’t forced. In fact, giving may be the source of the greatest joy possible. Simple acts of heartfelt giving are continually taking place in a family: Parents get up night after night to comfort and feed their newborn infant. A child rushes home from school with a colorfully wrapped present she has made in preschool and excitedly places it on her dad’s favorite chair. Family members gather in the kitchen to make dinner together.

A bird doesn’t sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song.

-Maya Angelou

 You and Your Children Have Many Gifts to Give

Everyone, including children, possesses a wealth of ideas, talents, skills, and fruits of their interests that they can share. Some people give their singing, some give vegetables from their garden, some give cookies, some give poems or paintings. Even if all personal skills and talents were set aside, there are some things that we all can give: time, energy, attention, listening, or even a smile. Just sitting in the same room with someone who is ill can be helpful, so sharing time can be a gift. When a family member has a big job to do, lending a helping hand is a gift. When a friend is in distress, attention and listening can be a gift. When children are sad or scared, sometimes just holding them is the gift.

From the moment they are born, infants are bursting with their own kinds of gifts to give, including their warmth, their trusting gaze, and their smiles. Children of all ages continually offer their playful spirits, laughter, inquisitiveness, honesty, affection, and humor. If parents are able to recognize and receive these gifts, their children will grow up knowing what powerful givers they are and how happy they feel when what they have to give is received. If children have so many gifts to give, why is it common to hear parents complaining about how little their children do around the house? There are many roadblocks to kids contributing: Many don’t think they have anything to give. Parents often fail to recognize that contributions need to be made willingly. Parents often focus on the negative and don’t take time to acknowledge the positive contributions their children make. Many parents are fixed on their own agenda of what, when, and how kids should contribute.

Here’s a story about one parent who took time to recognize and receive the gift his son was offering him. Dad was rushing to get himself and his six-year-old son, Josh, dressed and out the door so he could get Josh to school and get himself to work on time. When, instead of putting on his socks, Josh started jumping up and down with excitement and began telling his dad a joke he had just made up, Dad immediately felt irritated and was about to say, Come on, we don’t have time for jokes. We have to go, NOW! but caught himself before he took this route. He knew that if he delivered this message it would only create more stress for both of them. He stopped, took a breath, and said, Josh, I see how excited you are to tell me your joke, and I want to hear it. I love laughing with you, and I’d like it if you could tell me the joke when I can be relaxed enough to really listen and enjoy it, like in the car. Would you get dressed fast and then tell the joke in the car? Josh was able to do this. And while this approach doesn’t always work out as smoothly as in this example, taking time to receive a child’s gift instead of pushing him aside always works in the long run.


(24) Parents & Kids

Parenting in the modern world: Kyle Seaman at TEDxMontreal


Receive Your Child’s Gifts

 The greatest gift we can give to our children is not just to share our riches with them, but to reveal their riches to themselves.

-Swahili proverb

Willingness to receive is an additional gift parents have to give to their kids. Receiving a gift with heartfelt acknowledgement and genuine appreciation generates a flow of goodwill between giver and receiver. The need to contribute to the well-being of others is somewhat like a muscle; you use it or risk losing it. Without exercise a muscle sags and eventually atrophies. And when failing to have gifts recognized and received, a child becomes discouraged and loses her desire to give. By noticing and receiving your children’s spontaneous actions as gifts, you save your kids from believing that gifts refer only to items bought in stores. In a society that often equates wealth with money; young people often see themselves as useless and powerless to give to others as long as they don’t have lots of money to buy things. When you acknowledge the gifts your children give freely, they will grow up seeing themselves as powerful givers. As a natural outcome of having their gifts received, they are more likely to recognize and appreciate the steady stream of gifts you give them. Some ways you can let your children know that you receive their gifts are to share how you feel about receiving what is being offered and to share what need of yours was met by receiving the gift. When you gave me that big smile this morning as you went out the door to school, I felt very happy. I love those quick moments of connection.

Explore for Yourself

Think of ways you give from the heart. Make a list of ways or things you can give others (that don’t cost money).

Make a list of things you receive from others (that don’t cost money).

Explore Together: Celebrating Gifts

Invite everyone in your family to write or draw about the gifts each has to give. You can help each other think of these gifts. The gifts can all be listed on one page or you can put one gift on each page and illustrate it. Compile the pages in a three-ring binder and give it a title such as Family

Book of Gifts. Add to it as new gifts come to mind. Let the book serve as a source of gratitude and a reminder that each member of the family has the power to contribute.

Explore Together: Notes of Appreciation

Fill out notes before a dinner, fold them, and place them on your child’s napkin.

 Give Your Gifts Freely

The best things in life are free. They don’t cost money; however, and more importantly, they are freely given-no strings attached. Giving freely, without any expectation of getting anything back or any sense of obligation, guilt, or fear, primes the pump for others to give freely to you. And the result in such willing exchanges is that the giver and the receiver both feel great joy and genuine connection.

This joy in giving is greatly diminished if you expect something in return. The flow of heartfelt connection is also absent if there is a sense of obligation that you must give, ought to give, or should give. If you find yourself feeling resentful, it is likely there are some strings attached to your giving. Maybe you are overcommitted and need to cut back on the number of things you do. Maybe you think you should be doing things you could ask or hire someone else to do. Maybe your standards for how things should be done keep you busier than you need to be.

Explore for Yourself

Think of a specific time you gave to someone just because you wanted to.

What did you give?

What needs did this meet for the other person?

What needs did this meet for you?

How did you feel when giving just because you wanted to?

 Explore for Yourself

 Think of a specific time you gave to someone because you thought you should.

 What did you give?

What needs did this meet for the other person?

What needs did this meet for you?

How did you feel when giving because you thought you should?

Giving connects two people, the giver and the receiver, and this connection gives birth to a new sense of belonging.

-Deepak Chopra

 Explore Together: Giving from the Heart

 Family members take turns sharing about times during the day that they gave freely to others or to themselves. Discuss the needs met for the person who received the gift as well as the needs met for the giver. Draw a picture of the giving event and share the pictures with each other.

Notice all the different ways to give.

Notice how you feel when you give just because you want to give.


(25) Parents & Kids

Worlds Strictest Parents


The hardest battle is to be nobody but world that is doing its best, night and day, to make you like everybody else.

- E. E. Cummings

Learn from Your Child’s Gift of Liveliness

In some ways your children are as much guides for your life as you are for theirs. It is our belief that kids come into parents’ lives to be a source of inspiration and a reminder of how lively and engaging life can be. For children the world is a giant laboratory, and they are very serious explorers of it. Watch, experiment with them, and learn from them because they can help you remember how to be deeply in love with life.

Children play and explore, laugh and wonder right out loud. They provide a constant invitation for us to join them. Accept their invitation and cross the line into their world. Take as much spirit and willingness with you as you want them to bring to your world. Let them be your eyes and ears. Imagine how it must feel to walk through sand for the first time, to balance on two wheels and zoom through space, to pluck petals from a daisy and sense the flower slightly tugging back, to hear an airplane or the wind or a crow caw for the first time. Their awe can be yours. They are willing and waiting to share it with you.

Your teens can remind you how painful and awkward you once felt in social situations, just the way they are feeling now. They can help you remember how bored you were by homework and how excited and scared you were when you went on your first date. Your willingness to allow your teens to remind you of what it was like to be a teen is your link with their life as they are now living it, and with their heart.

Contributing to the well-being of others is a fundamental need, even for children. When parents recognize and receive the gifts children have to give, they inspire the child’s natural desire to give. Children are always giving of themselves-their liveliness, their laughter, and their love. Parents are invited to receive this precious gift and learn from it.

Daily Practice

Notice and acknowledge the gifts your child is offering.

Find ways for your child to experience herself or himself as a powerful giver.

Notice when you are giving if the giving is free or if there are strings attached.

Children need to be enjoyed and valued, not managed.

- Daniel J. Siegel

Key 5 • Use a Language of Respect

Key Concepts

• Remember your intention.

• Notice the flow of communication.

• Make clear observations—free of evaluations.

• Connect with feelings and needs.

• Make do-able requests.

• Listen with empathy.

How many times have you said something to your child and then wished you could have erased those words?

How often have you said, I didn’t mean to say that! or I don’t know where that came from!

How many times have you experienced some instant recognition?

That sounded just like my mother when she got mad!

Language matters! Words can incite and fuel conflict. They also have the power to engender respect and understanding and inspire co-operation.

The good news is that you can greatly enhance your ability to connect with your kids if you learn and practice language that does not judge, criticize, blame, or demand but instead keeps a respectful focus on needs.

This key focuses in particular on the specific components of Nonviolent Communication (NVC). Learning these skills will serve you in a couple of ways: You will be able to transform judgments, blame, criticism, and demands into respectful, compassionate ways of thinking andseeing. You will also be guided in how to respectfully listen to others and how to honestly and respectfully express yourself.

This language of respect is called by many names, including Nonviolent Communication, compassionate communication, effective communication, and the language of the heart. It is also called Giraffe Language for learning and for fun. The giraffe was chosen as a symbol because of its large heart (twenty-six pounds!) and because of its long neck, which allows for a broad perspective. In contrast, the way of thinking and speaking that judges, blames, criticizes, finds fault, and makes demands is referred to as Jackal Language. Bear in mind that these metaphors are meant to be convenient and fun terms that refer to two kinds of thinking, not labels to support a belief that there are two kinds of people. Anyone can be susceptible to Jackal thinking, listening, and talking. As well, anyone can begin now to learn a new language of connection and respect. (For more about Giraffe and Jackal, see the information in Part III, Topic: Giraffe & Jackal Culture.

The objective of Nonviolent Communication is not to change people and their behavior in order to get our way: it is to establish relationships based on honesty and empathy which will eventually fulfill everyone’s needs.

-Marshall B. Rosenberg

Remember Your Intention

Words matter. However, intention is still 90 percent of communication. Without a clear and conscious intention to connect, even the most skillfully crafted expression can be heard as hollow or manipulative. Remember that the sole intention of Giraffe Language is to make a heartfelt connection with oneself and with others-and to respect and care for everyone’s needs.

Use these questions to check your intentions in any interaction:

Do I want to connect right now?

Or do I want to be right and get my way?

If you want to be right and get your way, you aren’t yet ready to make a connection with another person. 



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