Monday, October 28, 2013

Let Them Have Fun

We went to a pumpkin patch over the weekend. Bounce houses, wagons, hay mazes, wooden cut outs of characters, hay rides, barrel trains, all sorts of fun.

Sadly, there were many kids not having fun; crying as their parents pulled them away from what they wanted to be doing in order to get them to do something else "really fun".

I think it's something we all have been caught up in before. We want
to make sure our kids get to do everything at whatever fun place we've taken them, and we lose sight of how much fun they already ARE having.

A challenge for everyone, myself included- next time we take the kids somewhere, don't focus on seeing/doing everything. Instead focus on enjoying the present moment with them.

Friday, October 25, 2013

I Don't Believe in "Bad Choices"

Children don't make "bad choices". They make choices we may not understand or with which we disagree. The best approach to these choices is curiosity and compassion.

"Why did you make that choice?"

"Can you tell me more about that?"
"Had you considered xyz?"

Use these opportunities to encourage connection and learning.

"I would have made this choice for these reasons."
"In the past when I have made this choice it led to this consequence."

Getting Myself Under Control

One of the hardest lessons I've learned as a parent- Having a happy house is not about controlling what the kids do, it is about controlling what I do; my thoughts and actions.

Last night we were driving and Bug (2y) was being LOUD. Screaming everything he said, singing at the top of his lungs, etc. In the past I might have yelled back "Be quiet!" or something like that. Honestly, I still fought 
the urge to do just that, but I've been there and seen the outcome of that action. Bug would get upset and start crying, or possibly think we were having a fun game of yelling and increase the volume. So instead I said, "Bug, your voice is loud. It is hurting my head." He said, "It's not hurting your head, Mama." and I replied, "Yes it is. It's going in my ears and hurting my head." He thought for a second and then said, "I don't want to hurt your head." "Thank you. If you stop being loud my head will stop hurting." and that was that.

Later, at home, Josh (9y) and I had finished reading in the living room and I was ready for bed. Josh was not, so I asked him to please respect that Bug and I were sleeping by being quiet, and off I went. Not 10 minutes later I heard a crash come from the living room. In the past I would have stormed out and gone ape-shit. I am an angry lady when I'm tired. I've been there, done that, and it never turns out well. Josh is very sensitive, and my outbursts have set our family progress toward peace back on more than one occasion. So instead I paused at the living room door, took a deep breath, and managed to just ask, "What happened?"

"I was cleaning up the living room and dropped Bug's trains. You worked hard all day cleaning up, and now its messy again, so I wanted to pick up for you."

Cue heartbreak. I was SO thankful I didn't come out yelling at him for trying to be helpful.

Now, is this what every moment looks like in our house? No.
Did we have to go through some seriously dark times to get to this point? Yes, oh yes.

The common theme in my experiences is that when I assign negative motives to the kids in my thoughts or react to them from a place of judgment or control, the outcome is almost always negative.

When I assume the kids have the best intentions in my thoughts and react to them from a place of respect and love, these are the times we're more likely to experience the types of outcomes shared above.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Anarchy Cleans the Table

Most people I talk with about our parenting style think that a household without parents who are "clear authority figures" who "lay down the law and keep the kids in line" would surely descend into anarchy.

Well, earlier Josh (9y) was in full-on experiment mode at the kitchen table. Modeling clay, glue, lighters, candles, melted wax, burned toast, balloons and other such mess all scattered about.
He finished, got up, and started walking down the hall.

Me-Are you done?

Josh- Yeah, I'm going to my room.

Me- Ummm, your mess is still all over the table.

He huffs back into the kitchen, muttering under his breath, then comes back up to me.

Josh- You know, you telling me to clean up my mess, you can't do that. You can't tell me what to do.

Me- I didn't tell you to clean your mess. I simply stated that it was still on the table, providing you with the opportunity to make the decision to be responsible for yourself.

Josh- Oh... *thoughtful sigh*

...and off he went to clean up the mess.

Josh- This wax is not coming off easily.

Me- Okay.

Josh- Do I have to clean it all?

Me- What would be the responsible thing to do?

Josh- I'm going to need something to scrape it with.

Me- Alright.

Josh- I'll use a butter knife.

Me- Okay.

A table cleaned by sweet, beautiful anarchy.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The Boys Work It Out Themselves

I want to share an experience from yesterday. One of Josh's neighbor friends was over and they were in his room. Friend came out looking upset, paused at the door to leave, but then came to talk to me.

Friend- Josh has been playing his Wii all week and isn't playing with me.
Me- It looks like that upsets you.
Friend- Yeah......
Me- Did you come tell me because you want me to help you talk to him?
Friend- Yes.

So we went into Josh's room to get a conversation going.

Me- Friend, how about you tell Josh how you're feeling.
Friend- You've been playing Wii for a week now and not playing with your friends.
Me- Well, that sounds more like what Josh is doing. Can you tell him how you're feeling? Try starting your sentence with "I".
Friend- I want to play with you but I don't want to play Wii. I've been inside for 7 hours and I want to go outside. It makes me feel sad that you don't want to play with me.
Me- Josh did you hear what he said?
Josh- Yes.
Me- So how about you tell him how you're feeling.
Josh- Well, I want to play with you too, but I didn't get much sleep last night so I want to stay inside.
Me- Okay. Friend, if you got to pick what to do, what would you choose?
Friend- Going outside to play football.
Me- And Josh, if you got to pick what to do, what would you choose?
Josh- Staying inside. Maybe we could play legos.
Me- Alright, you both chose different things. You'll need to come to a compromise. Friend, what is your first counter-offer?

This went back and forth for a while, with many creative ideas thrown out there, but Friend insisted on being outside while Josh insisted on being inside. I had a feeling my being in the room was hindering their discussion.

Me- Well guys, you may just be at an impasse. You may want to consider playing separately today and trying again tomorrow. Either way, I think you've got the hang of this, so I'll leave you to finish up.

I went into the kitchen and 10 minutes later they came running out to tell me they came to an agreement. They were SO proud of themselves.

Josh- Mom! We're going outside!
Friend- Yeah! Josh wanted to play video games, and I wanted to play outside, so we came up with playing tag as video game characters.
Josh- Yeah, and we'll have powers.
Me- Alright! You two have fun!

Josh didn't grow up with a good example from us. He's only had one for the last year or so, and we're still learning ourselves. Friend comes from a family much like ours used to be. I am so incredibly proud of them for taking the format of respectful dialogue and resolving their issue themselves.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Date Night with Josh

Last night's time with Josh (9y) was wonderful. We sat out on the porch snuggled under blankets watching the rain. As we talked I told him I never really knew much about my parents' childhoods and asked if he had any questions about mine. We talked about all sorts of things; when my parents divorced, the things I got in trouble for, my first marriage to Josh's biological father at age 19, our divorce, his being adopted by Papa. We talked about how I didn't even start learning who I was or what my passions were until my mid twenties. We talked about what it is to know yourself. Big topics, deep thoughts. It was a really great night. I'm so glad I made the extra effort to make that connection with him. It is something I never experienced with my parents, and I think my young adult life would have been very different if I had.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Parents, It Is All On Us

I was listening to a podcast on Freedomain Radio earlier today, in which Stefan Molyneux said something to the effect of, "If there is a problem in the parent/child relationship it is always the parent's fault." and went on to defend that statement (I'll link the specific podcast in the comments).

Over the last three days Josh (9y) has been holed away in his room playing video games and watching 
tv. He doesn't have a limit on his screen time, and usually he doesn't spend much time each day watching tv or playing games. These last few days have been different though. He's turned down my invitations to do other activities with Bug and I; he's even declined coming out to eat meals with us.

Most of the day I'd been thinking to myself, "Well, I tried. I invited him out. If he wants to be alone all day that's his problem." Thankfully the podcast mentioned above got me looking at things from a different perspective. I called him out and asked him to talk for a minute. I told him I'd noticed he was spending a lot more time than usual in his room alone, that I was concerned and wanted to spend time with him each day.

Come to find out, he doesn't like spending time around Bug (2y). Understandable. Bug has a big personality and usually commands everyone's attention. Josh wants to spend time with JUST me, so that I won't be distracted by his brother. It isn't easy to get one-on-one time in a house with no bed-times and Papa traveling M-F. After Bug goes to sleep I usually talk to Papa on the phone, but tonight I chatted with him earlier instead so that after Bug falls asleep I can give Josh the undivided attention he deserves.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Reflections From Parents For Liberty Conference

Late Friday night we drove to Austin, TX. Unbeknown to us, Austin City Limits, a huge music festival, was going on this weekend so we didn't get any sleep at our hotel. People were coming in and out all night, slamming doors. Then we spent most of Saturday attempting to absorb all the amazing speakers at the Parents For Liberty conference, left Austin at 7pm, drove through torrential rain, picked ...up the kids from Grandma's, and got home around midnight. Yet still my body decided to wake up at 8am. I'm going to attempt to share some reflections from the show, but I am grossly overtired so please excuse any lapses in brain function.

The first reflection I want to share is inspired by John Bush (Rise Up Radio Show, The Center for Natural Living) who spoke, among other great points on parenting, about the value of modeling behavior for our children, particularly not settling arguments with your partner in an uncivil manner in front of the kids. He joked that if anyone in the crowd never fought with their partner to come see him and share their wisdom.

Coincidentally, Papa and I were talking on the drive down about how in 6 years together we've had only one fight we remember. I think one reason for this is that we spend so much time apart, as Papa travels so much for work. Obviously less time together lends itself to less opportunities for fighting in and of itself. But more than that, it places a higher value on our time together. When I only have 36 hours a week with my husband, I want to make the most of them, and so I drop petty arguments. I turn off my computer and put away my phone. I try to pack as much love and respect and closeness as I can into that time period.

I think we should also apply this value to the time we have with our children. The days, even the hours, seem long. I know. But any parent of grown children will tell you, the time flies and then they're out on their own. Too many parents never even get to see that. We're guaranteed nothing. Let's pack as much love, respect, and closeness as we can into every day we have with our children, and all those we love.
My next reflection from the Parents For Liberty conference is inspired by Antonio Buehler. I won't do his presentation the injustice of trying to summarize it. There will be a dvd release later so you can see his entire speech. I will simply share two questions he posed to the audience.

"What is education?"

Cue crickets. Eventually some answers were thrown out there.

"What is education to the government?"

"Control!" "Conformity!" "Homogenization!" among other things.

Which brings me to my thought. It is not enough to know what we DO NOT want for our children. We have to know what we DO want for them. It is easy to criticize that with which we disagree, but we have to be just as passionate, MORE passionate actually, about that with which we do agree.

It is not enough to reject a broken system. We must create something better. We need to have a clear vision about what that better thing is and be able to articulate it. And so I pose the question to you. What is education? What is it to be educated?
Part 3
I was so very fortunate to hear Dr. Lawrence Reed speak this weekend on the subject of courage. I'm not sure if it is a direct quote or paraphrased, but I wrote down in my program, "Courage gives boldness and consistency to other virtues." Again, I won't do his presentation the injustice of trying to summarize it here and encourage you to check out Parents For Liberty if you're interested in a dvd....

We had the opportunity for questions and I asked him, "How do we instill courage in our children?" He answered, in so many words, that we model courage for them. I asked an obvious question and received an obvious answer.

I wish I would have instead asked, "How do we keep from suppressing or extinguishing our children's innate courage?" I would really love to hear his thoughts.

I know I personally have mistaken courage for defiance in the past. I have punished Josh for standing up to me, for calling me out when I was being hypocritical. In the past I have belittled and discouraged him from being courageous. How do I fix that? Well, to start, I recognize my behavior as wrong. I work everyday to take him seriously and treat him respectfully. I admit to my mistakes and apologize. Modeling courage is important, yes, but I think we also have to recognize courage when it is directed at us.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Review of Parents For Liberty Education Conference

My husband and I headed to the first Parents For Liberty conference after a late night drive to Austin from Dallas and a horrible night's sleep in our hotel room. Despite our excitement for the event, getting out of bed was difficult that morning. Thankfully the event location was easy to find, right off the highway, and had signs directing us to parking and the entrance. We were greeted at will-call by Justin, Jessica and their family with smiles and hugs. Their excitement was infectious; the atmosphere very welcoming. Coffee and breakfast were provided, which was infinitely superior to the free breakfast offered at the hotel. We entered the event room to find an intimate setting with round tables set just feet from the stage. At each setting was placed a copy of "Are We Good Enough for Liberty?" and "Great Myths of The Great Depression", graciously provided by FEE, as well as a program and pen for taking notes. We mingled with the other guests, perused the materials, and settled in to our seats, ready for the presentations to begin. I admit, I was a bit worried about my ability to focus through the entire day considering what little sleep I got the night before. That worry was quickly put to rest as Max Borders, author of Superwealth, began the series of invigorating and enlightening presentations.

The thought-provoking, mind-stretching presentations each ended with a question and answer session, and were balanced with timely breaks for meals and personal discussions. The speakers were seated in the audience as well, and very approachable during breaks. I was so pleased to talk more with John Bush about his presentation, as well as meet Dr. Mary Ruwart who signed my copy of Healing Our World. By the time featured speaker Michael Strong took the stage, I could hardly believe the day had passed so quickly and energies were still so high. Keynote speaker Dr. Larry Reed spoke on courage, leaving me with renewed conviction in how to conduct my life and also in how to raise my children. The event ended with heartfelt thanks from Justin and a song sung by Jessica which left the audience in tears.

We left having forged new friendships and with contacts and continuing conversations with the speakers. My only regret is that we couldn't stay longer. My sincerest thanks to the Arman family for creating Parents For Liberty and for putting together this event which brought an amazing line-up of speakers together with an audience of truly fabulous people. Each and every speaker was inspiring; the event provided us with an energy to go out and make great things happen.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Bug Learns the Alphabet Song

Bug (2y) knows the names of all the letters. Not because we've ever drilled him, or gone out of our way to teach him, simply from playing and being exposed.

We've almost never sang the alphabet song to him. It just doesn't come up. The very few times I have, I don't even sing it to the typical tune.

We were putting together an alphabet puzzle last week and he asked me to "count the letters" (wh
ich means name them). I decided to sing the song while I pointed to each letter. He enjoyed it, and asked for me to do it again. For about 30 minutes he wanted me to sing the song to him. Then he gave it a try for maybe another 30 minutes. Within the hour he had the song mastered and now sings it whenever the mood strikes him.

It goes to show, when kids are ready to learn something, when they WANT to learn something, they can pick it up very quickly. Much more quickly than if I had tried to get him to learn it on my timetable instead of his.

Monday, October 7, 2013

No Forced Sharing = Genuine Generosity

We do not ask the kids to share, and yet they are very generous. A couple examples from Josh just this past week.

Sunday Josh went to a friend's birthday party. Call me a meanie, but I don't buy the kids' friends birthday presents just because. I encourage them to make a card or something meaningful, or think of a gift their friend would like BEFORE we go to the store to be bombarded with options
.... Josh made his friend a card, and gave him $8 of his own money since he was turning 8. He also chose to get him a small Angry Bird plush toy, again with his own money.

Later in the week while we were shopping, Josh got a Hershey's bar. He was munching it on the way to the car, talking about how he loved the little rectangles. I was starting to think maybe I should have gotten a treat as well, when he said, "Hey Mom, you want one?" and popped off a little piece as smoothly as if he were on a Mentos commercial. "Yes, thank you! That's very sweet," I replied. "Double sweet," he said, "because I'm being sweet, and the candy is sweet. Want another?" And there he went with the Mentos move again. Little heart breaker.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Forgotten Thoughts at Jason's Deli

Our goal as parents is not to create good people of our children, but instead to recognize they are already good people and to treat them thusly.

Last night we went out to eat for dinner. It started something like this-

Me- I can't forgot, I mean REMEMBER, *blah blah blah* *more things which make no sense*

Josh (9y)- Mom, what are you even saying? You've been making no sense all night.

Me- Arg! I know. I'm losing my mind. Seriously, Honey, what is wrong with me?

Papa- You're being held mentally hostage by "raising a toddler". It's temporary.

Me- You sure? What if my mental capacities never come back?

Papa- They will, just give it time.

Dinner is served, and everyone starts eating.

Bug (2y)- Dad, how is yours?

Papa- Very good, how is yours?

Bug- Mine's tasty. Joshy, how is yours?

Josh- Deeelicious!

Bug- Mom, how is yours?

Mom- Very good, thank you. (to Papa) And that right there makes it all worth it.

Papa- Yep. The way we're raising them is a lot of work, I know, but it's paying off.