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In Quotes: Talking is Teaching

August 22, 2014 by Alyssa Haywoode

“Talking, reading, and singing to your baby are the easiest ways to help them grow up smarter, happier and with a brighter future to look forward to. In fact 80 percent of a child’s brain is developed by the age of three, and your words are a very influential part of that development. Even before your child can talk back, your words help their brain grow.”

From talkreadsing.org, a project launched by former first lady and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton

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Posted in Cognitive development, Family engagement, Infants and toddlers, Quotes | Leave a Comment

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Slow down so you can hear.

“To listen fully means to pay close attention to
what is being said beneath the words….You listen not only
for what someone knows, but for who he or she is. Ears operate at the
speed of sound, which is far slower than the speed of light the eyes
take in. Generative listening is the art of developing deeper silences
in yourself, so you can slow your mind’s hearing to your ears’ natural
speed, and hear beneath the words to their meaning.” — Peter Senge

In our fast-paced life, we often take a secret pride in how busy we are, how good we are at multi-tasking, how fast we can move. We enjoy the rush of adrenaline. But that fast pace can make us impatient with ourselves, and with our children. Too often, we don’t take the extra moment to slow down and connect. We forget to appreciate and take joy in our kids–which is, after all, what makes parenting worth it. We fly through the day without really listening to what matters to him, or the questions she’s struggling to articulate.

I love the charge of adrenaline, and I move quickly. I joke that you shouldn’t need a PhD in psychology to learn to listen, but for me it was essential. By contrast, the famous Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh, author of Peace Is Every Step, has been described as a cross
between a snail, a cloud, and a piece of heavy machinery.  I doubt I will ever be compared to a snail given my preferred pace, but I do aspire to the
lightness of a cloud and the powerful presence of a piece of heavy
machinery.  This summer, I’ve been realizing that moving more slowly
might be a precondition for that lightness of touch and depth of
presence.

Will you join me in a powerful little experiment today? Try slowing down. 
Use your inner pause button to bring your deepest attention every time you interact with your family today.

You won’t be able to use this when your child is hurling her cup across the room, or running toward the street. But set the intention that whenever you can today, you’ll slow down and pause before you act.

Just stop, drop and breath. Notice the sensations in your body.  Don’t DO anything, except show up. Find that deeper silence within.

As you go through your day, you might ask yourself these questions. 

1. Does slowing down make everything in your life deeper, including how you listen to your child?


2. What do you need to do for yourself today so that you can slow down enough to really hear your child? 


3. How does your child’s behavior change when you slow down and really listen?

Keep a journal nearby to jot down your answers, or write a bit before you go to bed. You might find this experiment so illuminating you keep it up for a month or two. After that, who knows what might be different in your life?

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Throwback Thursday: The Still Face Experiment

August 21, 2014 by Alyssa Haywoode

(Warning: Parts of this video can be distressing to watch.)

Posted on YouTube in 2009, the “Still Face Experiment” video makes its point bluntly.

“Babies this young are extremely responsive to the emotions and the reactivity and the social interaction that they get from the world around them,” Edward Tronick explains in the video.

To illustrate this, Tronick, a UMass Boston psychology professor and child development expert, has a mother interact with her baby using a playful, happy voice.

The experiment? After a moment, the mom turns away from the baby, turns back, and holds her face still: no smiles, no conversation, just stone-faced eye contact. The baby tries but fails to reestablish the happy connection. The longer the baby struggles to engage the mom, the more distressed the baby becomes.

It’s excruciating to watch. But the video shows the power of warm, engaging, and responsive relationships between babies and adults. It also shows how harmful abuse and neglect can be for infants.

Last year in the Washington Post, Brigid Schulte wrote, “To even begin to understand just how profoundly child neglect — to say nothing of abuse — can shape every aspect of a child’s life, I dare anyone to try and watch the two-minute experiment that researchers call ‘The Still Face.’” Schulte adds: “I couldn’t.”

“What’s really striking about the still face experiment is that the infants don’t stop trying to get the parents’ attention back,” Tronick told the Post. “They’ll go through repeated cycles where they try to elicit attention, fail, turn away, sad and disengaged, then they turn back and try again.”

“When it goes on long enough, you see infants lose postural control and actually collapse in the car seat,” Tronick continued. “Or they’ll start self-soothing behaviors, sucking the back of their hand or their thumbs. Then they really disengage from the parent and don’t look back.”

Tronick told the Post that when he “began doing these experiments in the 1980s, we just didn’t have any idea how powerful the connection with other people was for infants, and how, when you disconnected, how powerfully negative the effect was on the infant.”

Before the video ends, the mom reengages with the baby, and the two return to their upbeat interaction.

Writing in the Post, Schulte compares the baby’s reaction to those of abused and neglected children, noting, “Tronick and others have found that even abused and neglected children, once surrounded by loving support, too, begin to thrive and the brain can rewire in a positive, healthy way.”

In addition: “The report found that one of the biggest risk factors for child abuse and neglect is if the parent him or herself was abused or neglected. So Tronick and others are working to train professionals and educate and treat parents in an effort to break the cycle. And, one hopes, put an end to the wrenching effects of The Still Face.”

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Tracking Changes in My Parenting: A Before and After Look

Sometimes transformation can be hard to see when you are in the middle of making changes in your life.  There was a situation soon after I started down the Peaceful Parenting road when I realized, “Hey, this stuff’s really sinking in!” Today, I want to give you a “Before and After snapshot” of the major changes I have made in the past versus the ones I make today as a newly reformed Peaceful Parent.

The Situation

For whatever reason, my son (10) was carrying a half-empty gallon of paint from one room to another. With that gallon, he was also carrying another full gallon and a pint, haphazardly stacked upon one another.

I was on the computer finishing some schoolwork and looked up, just in time to see him running through the house with the three containers. As it turned out, the lid of the half-empty container of paint was not properly secured. Before I knew it, my son trips and falls, and black paint (yes, black) was all over the light-tan living room carpet.

The “Before” Photo

There was once a time when this would have been just the thing to send me off the deep end. The situation might have gone something like this:

Boy runs through, wielding paint. He trips and spills paint everywhere. I lose my cool and proceed to yell at him, saying things like, “Why can’t you be more careful” or “What the hell were you thinking?” I might have even smacked him in the back of the head to ‘knock some sense into him,’ just as my father had so lovingly done for me when I was a kid.

Next, I would start barking out commands. Get me this! Get me that! We need to get this cleaned up now! It’s going to ruin my carpet!

Then, he would start crying. I would tell him to quit whining and help get the mess cleaned up. Stress levels would rise to the point that I would tell him to leave and I would clean up the mess myself.

Side note: As I wrote this segment on paper, I realized it was the first time I had spelled out an all-too-common encounter between my children and me. Writing it down made me feel disgusting and ashamed; like a monster looking in the mirror for the first time. I even considered removing the section from this post.

However, in order to give an accurate account of the considerable improvements that have been made, the “before” is just as important and necessary as the “after.”

The “After” Photo

The “After” photo of this situation was so much better. It was less stressful. There was no violence, no manipulation, no guilt.

Here’s how it went down:

Boy runs through wielding paint. He trips and spills paint everywhere.

Then I tried something different. I used a new tool; one that is so ground-breaking, I suggest every parent in the world learns how to harness its power.

I took a deep breath.

That’s it.

A deep breath.

Suddenly—armed with a new parenting philosophy and a moment of thought—the situation was much easier to handle.

Internally, I was still freaking out and stressing about how to get the stain out. But externally, I was a warm summer breeze, barely disturbing a leaf on the trees (bonus points if your comments on this post have a cheesy rhyme like that one!)

I got up from my seat and helped him figure out how to clean it up. We quickly put the lid back on the can and contained the spill as fast as possible.

I could see he felt bad about it. There was no need for manipulation. No sighs of disappointment.

I gave him calm instruction to get paper towels, wet rags, etc. and we cleaned the main spill. Then, to get the stain out, we looked up a method online that used products we already had around the house.

He apologized of his own volition and I reassured him that it was ok; that accidents happen and that running in the house is probably not a great idea.

Conclusion

Just like in weight loss and home improvement projects, it is important to periodically take a “Before and After snapshot” of your parenting skills. They allow you to look back and see how far you’ve come and the changes you’ve made. They allow you to gauge your progress and note where more improvements can be made.

This has been a critical part of the transition process from my old authoritarian parenting ideologies to the new Peaceful Parenting philosophies.

So, looking back, what changes have you made in your parenting that would be worthy of a “Before & After snapshot”?

After unwittingly failing as a parent for over a decade, Daniel Wagner, father of four, was hit with some eye-opening facts and philosophical arguments that were impossible to ignore. From that point forward, he has been doing everything in his power to spread the word about Peaceful Parenting; offering perspective from both sides of the parenting debate and helping parents avoid making the same mistakes. To learn more, head over to the Parent of Progress website and pick up a free copy of his new eBook: “Mindset Shift: Are You Making These Parenting Mistakes?”

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Am I Doing TOO MUCH For My Child? The Balance Between Loving, Nurturing, and Enabling Your Child

As a teacher, I see parents carrying their children’s backpacks to the bus stop all too frequently. I also witness more parents driving their kids to school because the child “woke up too late” and the parents do not want them to experience the natural consequences of missing the bus. Why are parents doing so much for their children nowadays? Is it because they have a hard time saying “no” when their child asks them for something? Is it simply easier to do it themselves versus nag their child to get it done? Or do parents feel like they have failed if they don’t provide things that would make their child happy?  Most importantly, if you notice yourself doing too much for your child, what steps can you take to change that?

Don’t do for your kids what they can do for themselves.   Loving your kids does not mean doing everything for them—some of the greatest learning experiences and feelings of pride come from doing things yourself. Allowing a child to figure out how to do something independently gives them a feeling of self-confidence. This achievement can lead to the realization that they are capable of doing other things successfully as well. Now, a child may not complete the task correctly on the first, second, or even third try.  By being a source of encouragement and coaching your child forward, you can teach them how to become resilient and persevere through failure.

Allow children to experience the natural consequences of their actions.  I’ve seen parents involved in every aspect of their child’s schoolwork, from helping with homework and different projects to making sure each is done correctly. Parents take control of organizing their child’s binder from start-to-finish, then they go through the child’s backpack and make sure everything is ready for the next day. These are all great intentions and useful up to a certain point in elementary school. There comes a time, however, when a child needs to assume responsibility, make choices and suffer the natural consequences for their actions (or lack thereof).

Let’s say a child forgets to complete a homework assignment or loses it. The parent has a choice in how to respond.  If the parent “rescues” the child by completing the assignment or by making excuses for the child, this takes away from any opportunities the child has to learn from mistakes and to become an independent decision maker.  If the parent steps back and allows natural consequences to occur instead, it can provide a great learning opportunity and life lesson.

Remind them only once.  You probably don’t like to spend your time being a nag, and your child probably doesn’t like hearing you constantly nag. So what’s the solution? Clearly state to a child what it is you would like done and the deadline for completion. If you see that the child delays starting the task, provide one friendly reminder to him/her and include the consequence for not completing the request.

Don’t make excuses for your child and allow him/her to accept responsibility.  It is important for children to make up their own minds and accept responsibility. If they are seeking constant feedback and reassurance from others, they will have a difficult time finding their own strength and sense of self-confidence.

One big mistake I’ve seen parents make is excusing their child for not completing homework or something else. Saying, “We didn’t remember to remind them” or “It was a long night last night and my child was very tired” are enabling factors that children pick up on. It is important to realize that these “excuses” make kids believe the parents are responsible for the child’s work. This is simply not true!

As a child gets older, the stakes get higher and responsibilities grow. Forgetting a homework assignment may result in getting a zero, but being irresponsible at other tasks in the “real world” such as being late to work, driving on the road, or handling machinery could result in more serious repercussions. Teaching a child accountability early on in life is paramount to creating a responsible adult.

Douglas Haddad, M.S., C.N., Ph.D. (aka “Dr. Doug”) is a public school teacher in Connecticut and has worked with children in a variety of capacities as a coach, mentor, tutor, nutritionist, and inspirational speaker. He is the Learning Disabilities expert for About.com, the author of the child guidance book Save Your Kids…Now! and co-author of a health and wellness book Top Ten Tips For Tip Top Shape. He regularly speaks, writes, and blogs about self-empowering topics for parents and children including his Success Strategies for Regaining Control Over Your Life…NOW! and his Happiness Formula for Achieving Anything. Visit his website at www.douglashaddad.com.

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