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This isn’t some throwing a touchdown pass to win the game or a homerun in the bottom of the ninth issue, this is important.

Source: How to Play Princesses Like a Man –

When I found out the Gangster was five, I had to think about what that meant for me. It’s been twenty-five years since I helped my mom with daycare and the majority of the kids were boys. Was I interested in kids? How much responsibility is a kid when you’re dating their mom? Will the child accept us in their life? But I was in. I didn’t meet the Gangster until after six weeks of dates, talking, talking, and talking to her mom. I didn’t fully realize it then, but after we talked about it later, my Southern Belle was vetting me too, trying to answer the additional 100,000 questions concerning her child beyond her personal dating ones.

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In order to be relevant in your children’s lives from their early years onward, it’s important to change your parenting styles to match their temperaments as they grow.

Source: Change Your Parenting Style as Your Kids Grow, Expert Says

f parents could have their way, they would take control of their children’s lives forever. They want them to make the right decisions, get into the right schools, meet the right people, have the right (i.e. similar to their own) values. But what parents need to know is in order to stay relevant in their children’s lives, they need to relinquish some of that control they so greatly crave.

Why kids today are out of shape, disrespectful – and in charge

Dr. Leonard Sax has been a family physician and psychologist for 27 years, conducting workshops around the world for parents, teachers, social workers, counselors, school psychologists and juvenile justice professionals.

Source: Why kids today are out of shape, disrespectful – and in charge

The Associated Press: What exactly do you mean by a collapse of parenting?

Sax: I wrote about an office visit with a 10-year-old boy who is sitting and playing a game on his mobile phone, ignoring me and his mom as I’m talking with his mom about his stomachache. And his mom is describing his stomachache and the boy says, ‘Shut up, mom, you don’t know what you’re talking about.’ And he laughs.

That would have been very unusual in 1990 or 2000. It is now common: children, girls and boys, being disrespectful to parents, being disrespectful to one another, being disrespectful to themselves, verbally and otherwise. The mother did nothing, just looked a little embarrassed. The culture has changed in a profound way in a short period of time in ways that have really harmed kids.

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Be the Person Your Child Confides In | eHow.

Nothing is more precious to me than the discussions I have with my 19-year-old daughter.  I consider her frequent use of me as a sounding board my crowning achievement as a parent (yep, I’m taking full credit for this one).  After keeping so many secrets from my own mother, this element of our relationship has been a tremendous surprise and immensely flattering. Here’s what I believe has made it possible:

A Toddler’s Need for Boundaries – No Walk in the Park

A Toddler’s Need for Boundaries – No Walk in the Park.

“Seeking the ‘railings’ he needs to feel secure, a child will continue to test a caregiver until boundaries are clearly stated. Power struggles are a necessary part of the development of ‘self’ for the child; however, the outcome must be that the child knows that the adult is in charge. Children do not usually admit this, but they do not wish to be all powerful and the possibility that they might be is frightening indeed. Children raised without firm, consistent boundaries are insecure and world-weary. Burdened with too many decisions and too much power, they miss out on the joyful freedom every child deserves.”

Great advice from Janet Lansbury – Elevating Child Care

BEING YOURSELF — Part Two

The Simplicity of the Uncarved Block

Tai Chi teacher Chungliang Al Huang, in his book Embrace Tiger, Return to Mountain, gives us good words to ponder:

“There are many basic concepts in Tao that emerge in Tai Chi when you practice. One is the word pu, which means the original material, before it is trimmed and modified, fixed and polished. Sometimes we translate it as “uncarved block.” It is the raw material before it is carved into artistic form, the essence that exists before you change it. Learn the grain of the wood before you carve it. Pu is the basic substance of the real you, before it’s manicured or painted over. Expose your own basic essence before you clutter it up. Don’t let all the external things blind you so that you lose the uncarved block within.”

A wonderful book that explores this subject with humor and whimsy is The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff.

The simplest person, if he or she lives in that simplicity comfortably, without guile or apology, is respected by all. You don’t need complicated teachings or practices. If you can find who you are and be yourself, your children will naturally love and respect you regardless of your education, your job, your “standing” on the illusory scale of wealth, or your race and class. If you are truly yourself with dignity, you will be respected, whether you are rich, poor, or in between.

Being yourself also means you allow others to be themselves. As it says in Embrace Tiger, Return to Mountain,

“When you look at nature, everything has its own motion: the tree and the rock and the running water — they somehow tie together without making a point to fit. When you watch the waves coming over the rocks, you see that the wave has wave-nature, the rock has rock-nature. They do not violate each other’s nature.”

We learn to allow our children to be who they are — not mere reflections of us or who we wish we were. We are not afraid to share ourselves and our history with our children, and show them what we have learned and what we still want to learn. We are not afraid to be wrong and apologize and to talk about the times when we have veered off course. Inside, we have determination to constantly learn and grow, and we know we learn a great deal from adversity and mistakes. When we can truly be ourselves all the time, we allow our children to learn right along with us.

In my parents’ day, anything that might have exposed a parent as vulnerable or not perfect was hidden away. So there was a duplicitous quality to their parenting. For example, many of them were closet alcoholics who were appalled when their children experimented with drugs.

The rebellion, when it came, was great. The hypocrisy of our parents’ lifestyle was suddenly repugnant to a whole generation of teenagers, who stood up together and said, “NO!” — as the children’s story goes, “The Emperor has no clothes!” All we really wanted was for our parents to be themselves. But we didn’t realize that was nearly impossible for most of them, for they had been conditioned — their minds had been scripted — in an entirely different world, where there was only one definition of “normal.” With the explosion of worldwide communications media, we discovered that there were many definitions, and that some of them were much healthier and more integrated than what we had been brought up with, and some came from age-old cultures that were about to be wiped off the earth forever by the materialism of our culture. We felt an urgency to learn how to find and be our true selves, and to apply that knowledge to our western cultures, which seemed riddled with fake values, with false faces, and no substance.

What is “Normal” Anyway?

Not long ago, in most communities, there was only one way to be “normal,” to fit in and conform. There is a Chinese story about a woman who always cut off the end of a ham, before she cooked it in her oven. Her daughter asked her why she did it, and she replied, “My mother always did it that way.” When they asked the grandmother, she said, “My mother always did it that way.” Finally, they asked great-grandmother. “I did it that way, “ she said, “because otherwise it wouldn’t fit in my little pot.”

When I was a young housewife, I folded the sheets precisely the way my mother had, and got upset when my husband didn’t fold them “right.” Finally I realized how silly it was; there was no reason for folding them that way, but my mother, and her mother, made it seem as if it had to be done in just this way. To this day, when I fold my sheets willy-nilly and stuff them in the closet so I can go do something more interesting, I smile to myself and I see my ancestors in my mind, shaking their collective heads, arms folded in consternation.

There is no such thing as some kind of “normal” behavior for any group of people that doesn’t change over time. It’s futile to try to be normal. It’s much more fun and fulfilling to be ourselves.

Share Your Journey

Being oneself is, obviously, not being a clone of one’s parents, friends, teachers, television personalities, or anyone else. It’s not conforming to anything. It isn’t requiring your children to fit into some preconceived notion of what children “at that age,” or in your neighborhood — or of your race or family history — should be.

Have the courage to find and be who you truly are, and to share yourself and your journey with your children. That doesn’t mean you don’t protect them from some parts of the adult world that may frighten or harmfully influence them. For example, it is not wise for parents to fight with each other in front of their children. The children don’t understand the complicated dynamics of marital relationships, and if you find yourselves yelling at one another, you should work with each other (or go to therapy if necessary) to find other, healthier ways to communicate — certainly for yourselves, but also to model for your children how to work through problems and differences in a healthy way; learn how to argue constructively. Don’t fight in front of the kids — but don’t, also, pretend that all is well if it isn’t.

If you are having difficulty communicating, you can explain to your children that there are some things that are just between their parents. You can reassure them of their safety and of your love for them. That is enough to keep it real without lying to them, scaring them, or involving them in problems and responsibilities that are not theirs. And, for goodness sake, make sure they understand that your problems are not their fault.

All too often when we become parents we think we need to play a role, and often the role we try to fulfill isn’t synchronized with our own values and principles, and isn’t updated to the culture we live in now.

Being yourself means being available to your loved ones in whatever condition you happen to be — not hiding away when you are hurting or imperfect, and then showing yourself only at your best, pretending you never have those human moments of vulnerability, mistakes, wrongdoing, and regret. It entails working to make your inner and outer life fully integrated with each other, so your life is a relatively open book. This requires a commitment to honesty, which is sometimes very difficult. Temptations to lie, either overtly or by withholding, are constant. My spiritual teacher once said, “In ancient India, when you found someone lying, you were surprised and shocked. These days, when you find someone who is really honest you are surprised and shocked.” You can’t expect honesty and integrity from your kids if you aren’t that way yourself.

Sometimes we get into a bind because we have a lot of “shoulds” controlling our lives that my not match our deepest needs and wants at all. So we spend important moments of our lives doing things we think we should do or acting the way we think we should act, or judging ourselves against someone else’s standards. We forego our deepest needs; we silence ourselves through these judgments and thus convey to our children that it’s not okay to be who you are and, far worse, that you will never meet the standards set for you.

© 2015 Vimala McClure

THREE WAYS TO MAINTAIN CHILDRENS’ EMPOWERMENT WHEN USING “DISCIPLINE”

1. Discipline

How do we discipline our kids? There are plenty of violent prisoners in penitentiaries who were disciplined as children with spankings, beatings, screaming and neglect. Though I had my children take “time out” sometimes, now I question the popular use of that as a disciplinary technique because it links quiet time alone with punishment.

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When children, even toddlers, are given explanations for rules, allowed to voice an opinion, and even to disagree, they become more skilled at exercising their power, their social “muscles,” when they relate to others and learn to cope with problems by reasoning out the right responses. It may take more time to talk than to hit, but, in the long run, the lessons you are teaching will be more far-reaching and will develop a broader range of social skills in your child. Use reasoning to help your child understand the concepts of restitution and making amends, to understand that apologies don’t automatically excuse them from out-of-control behavior and that words can hurt as much as punches. Many research studies have concluded that the use of reasoning and discussion as disciplinary tools is one of the most effective ways to foster a child’s positive moral development.

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One inventive mother went to a nature store and purchased several small rocks with words carved on them such as: sisters, brothers, family, love, kindness, peace, truth, forgive, gentle, cooperation, and so on. When one of her children misbehaved, she chose one of the rocks and gave it to the child, explaining the word and what it meant in this particular situation. She repeated the word several times, having her child repeat it back and explained its definition. The child was the led to his room or a “safe place,” and asked to think about what that word meant to him for fifteen minutes. Then his mother would retrieve him and they would discuss the word. In this way, the child was not punished, but an “intervention” took place, which allowed the child to learn values and connect those values to his behavior.

2. Learned Powerlessness

There are many ways we unknowingly teach our children to be helpless rather than empowered. Helplessness is taught by:

  • Doing things for children ins teach of teaching them, in steps, how to do it themselves.
  • Explaining poor performance in school in terms of intelligence or inability, instead of effort or motivation.
  • Explaining the cause of difficulty as internal (“You’re not good at that”) rather than external (“You can try harder next time and do better”).

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Girls are socialized to be more vulnerable to criticism and tend to interpret it as permanent and pervasive rather than temporary and external. The are more likely to explain difficulty as their fault, due to their character defects, whereas boys are socialized to attribute difficulty more to outside circumstances or temporary lapses. So with your girls be especially conscious of explaining, when disciplining, that when they’ve done something wrong it does not mean there is something wrong with them. Explain that wrong behavior is something that is temporary, related only to the subject at hand and is something that can be changed. Remember also that we all need to feel we have some control over a situation and/or our feelings about it in order to develop resilience and resistance to adversity. Helplessness robs us of resilience.

3. Reasoning

Tai Chi’s “listening power” can be used to reason with your kids at any age. In this practice, you stay with them and feed back to them in your own words what you hear them saying about something they have just done, felt, or experienced, from their point of view. Stay with them long enough to be able to act like a mirror, helping them reason their way to the conclusion that delineates right from wrong. You can help them “be their own boss,” and evaluate their own feelings and actions. You can help them see how consequences are tied to actions, and how, if they have done something wrong, they can make amends with dignity. At first you may sometimes have to take the role of teacher and guide them firmly through this process. When you do this, try to refrain from filling in silent spaces with lectures. When your feedback is wrong, they will let you know. Be patient and ask them with sincerity to explain again what they mean.

Dr. Suzette Hadin Elgin says that “Talking to a child, especially after the age of five or six, is essentially the same as talking to an adult you outrank.” They understand much more than they are given credit for. She also says, “You have to let a child choose and introduce the conversational topic. You must support that topic every few sentences. And, hardest of all, you have to listen while the child talks, with your heart, your head, and with full courteous attention.” 

When you ask your child to do a chore, be sure you include all the information he needs. For example, instead of saying, “Jack, take out the trash,” you could say, “Jack, please take out the trash right now because the garbage truck is coming at noon.” Tone is important. Try as hard as you can to use a respectful, relaxed tone that assumes your child wants to help. Along with your tone, smiling eye contact or a touch can help communicate your positive intention. If you mess u-p, apologize. Say, “I didn’t mean to sound harsh” (angry, impatient, and so on). “I’m kind of stressed out right now and could really use the help.” Be sure to thank the child when the task has been completed. At dinnertime, you could say, with an eye-contact smile, “Jack, it was a great help to have the garbage taken out on time. Thanks a lot.”

Try to be alert to whether your child is hearing what you are saying the way you want her to. If you feel a negative reaction, you can say, “I’m not sure I said that right. Let me try again.” Or, “Did I say that in a way that didn’t feel good to you?” Again, communicating respectfully with your kids help them learn respectful communication and empowers them to take responsibility for themselves and the way they communicate. You are laying a solid foundation for their future relationships, so it is definitely worth the time.

© 2015 Vimala McClure

SEVEN IMPORTANT ASPECTS OF EMPOWERMENT

1. Communicate With Your Children, Not At Them

Practicing Empowerment gives us the ability to recognize that each child is entirely unique, with his own personality, needs, and thresholds. So parenting has to be tailored to the individual. This means there are very few rules that everyone must follow, and the few rules there are will be subject to change from time to time, with the child’s involvement. New rules may be put in place and old ones deactivated. Because there is open communication, the children understand that a rule for a toddler may not apply to a seven-year-old. Things are explained, not just declared. When a child feels he has been respected enough to be a part of the rule-making process, he has a stake in the household and is more likely to follow the rules.

Martial arts expert Dawn Callan, in Awakening the Warrior Within, talks about empowerment in our culture:

“Our entire education, beginning with our parents (even those with the best intentions), and including our schools and religious systems, has taught us who we ought to be, so that we fit the accepted mold, rather than supporting us to break the mold and be ourselves. We have been taught to be controlled rather than to have our own power.”

We want to try, as much as possible, to encourage and allow our children to express and use their power appropriately, without overpowering or disempowering others in the process. We want to work in partnership with our children and teach them to be in partnership with others. If we are to do this, we have to learn to do it ourselves.

Babies and toddlers rely on their parents’ and caregivers’ reactions to learn how to respond to uncertain situations. They observe their caregivers and learn about their environment through indirect experience. If a child leaves toddlerhood without trust in his caregivers and a healthy sense of his individuality and his personal power, problems can arise later on in adjusting to social situations.

2. Privacy

Privacy is an important part of Empowerment. Each child needs things his or her own that no one else, not even Mom or Dad, is allowed access to without permission. Knocking on doors and requesting permission to enter respects privacy. Manners such as “please” and “thank you,” “may I,” “good morning,” etc., practiced consistently by parents and taught with love from infancy, help reinforce dignity and respect for oneself and for others, an important part of Empowerment.

3. Choice Making

Previously I discussed choice making, another crucial aspect of Empowerment. Use every opportunity you can to help teach your children, 1) that there are many choices in any situation; 2) which choices lead to health and happiness, feeling of self-respect and dignity; 3) that they do not have the right to make choices for others; and 4) the consequences of choices can be far reaching.

There are endless opportunities for discussion of these topics. Television shows and/or news stories are filled with them. Point out what came before an act of violence or self-destruction, and ask kids what other choices that person may have had. Underscore the idea that we always have choices and can make nonviolent, life-enhancing choices in every situation.

4. Empower Your Children to Make Healthy Choices

Dealing with food gives us plenty of opportunities to learn about choice. When my kids were little, I would let them have a sugary treat, and then later, when they got grouchy and mean, I’d point out the connection. Then I would give them a protein snack (even just a spoonful of cottage cheese) and their dispositions would radically improve. I’d point out that it was the protein making them feel better.

Eventually, they became aware thane of their options when feeling grouchy was to have some cottage cheese, nut butter or other protein, and they would feel better. They also knew they might feel jittery and bad if they chose sweets. My son, of his own volition, stopped eating chocolate altogether because he hated the “hyper” way it made him feel. He knew this wasn’t the case for everybody; it wasn’t a value judgment.The choice was purely his, from his own experience. I helped him discover the connection, and he took it from there.

5. Share Your Own Choice-Making Process

Be sure to share your own choice-making dilemmas with your kids. As they get older, ask for their opinion. Let them know clearly that you are making your own decision, but you are interested in what they think — that way they won’t feel responsible for your decisions. Then tell them what you decided and how you came to it. Show them how you get more information when you feel you don’t have enough to make a good decision. Always maintain your dignity in the role of parent, and your own personal power. It is a huge mistake to turn that power over to your kids. They want you to have already figured out some of this! They need a strong model to show them how to make appropriate choices and to point out the consequences to them.

6. Empower Your Children to Care for Others

Have the older children help take care of the younger ones. I’ll never forget how common it was in India to see a nine-year-old with a baby on his hip, and how rare it is in Western cultures for siblings to “mother” one another. This can be taught in many ways, and changed as the children grow older. An older child can massage a baby. It helps them bond and helps the older child realize this new being is a real person, a brother or sister, to be loved and protected. They can imitate your techniques, but keep it simple, with easy rubbing motions. They love getting massage oil on their hands and feeling grown-up in the way they care for the baby.

Older children can push the baby in a stroller, pull a wagon with a toddler in it, (with supervision, of course), help pick out baby items at the supermarket, or help feed the little ones. As a baby grows, the sibling bond becomes stronger, the baby is more fun to play with, and they become both friends and rivals.

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7. Teach and Model Empathy

I suggest having fairly strict rules in place about hitting, such as “in our family we never hit each other.” This statement of rules should always be given with “sinking power” — first ground yourself, relax, get powerful from your very core, and deliver the directive, eye to eye, in a way that says it is non-negotiable. This can be a powerful message that sets the stage for nonviolent conflict resolution later on.

Teaching children to respond with empathy to a younger child’s distress helps them learn to behave more selflessly later on. You can extend this outside the home, and have children help in charitable activities that have a direct and positive impact on those in need, such as visiting the elderly, making deliveries for a food bank, and raising money for charitable causes. Research has shown that children who learn to care about others and are involved, even in small ways, in helping others in need, are at a lower risk of developing depression later.

Children who learn to be empathic (to feel another’s pain and want to help them) — and learn to stand up for what they believe — perform better in adult life in their work and social lives. On the other hand, kids who are raised being disciplined by physical violence, force, humiliation, embarrassment, or withdrawal of love grow up having great difficulty feeling compassion for others. Every man who batters his wife has a skewed view of his actions; he usually believes she deserves it and it is “for her own good” (this also goes for parents who beat their kids). It is minimized in his mind because when he saw it done as a child, or when he was a victim of violence, he was told it was not abuse, it was discipline — or else he was lied to — “Mommy fell and broke her arm.” Most abusers don’t even realize their behavior is antisocial or wrong because overpowering and disempowering control was so normal in the homes of their childhood.

© 2015 Vimala McClure

PARENTING WITH PRINCIPLE THREE: EMPOWER — Part Five

Principle Three in Pregnancy

Working with Principle Three begins as soon as you get pregnant. You will need constant access to you own power to make the hundreds of choices you must make.  My mother was utterly disempowered by social norms when she had her babies, and who knows how that affected my relationship with my mother, my own empowerment, and my mother’s ability to “parent” healthily. An empowered woman is strong, centered, and confident in her choices. She seeks out support and help when she needs it, and her birth experience is informed by her empowerment.

In an ideal world, people wouldn’t have children until they have solidly connected with own power. It’s difficult enough even then! Imagine a teenager, who is barely coming into awareness of this aspect of her being, suddenly having to be a role model for a child, having to know the right use of power as a parent. It’s nearly impossible. How can we expect kids to lead healthy, meaningful lives? It is a lifelong challenge, an endless spiritual path.

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I encourage you to use your pregnancy, whether it is your first or fifth, as an exciting opportunity to exercise the right use of power. Notice all the decisions you need to make, connect them with your parenting mission statement, and make them on the basis of what your inner sense tells you is right. Don’t allow the so-called experts to run your life. Consider their advice, but consider yourself with ultimate authority. Doctors and researchers are not gods. Their warnings are often recanted years after they give them. Be willing to surrender the results of your decisions to the universal forces; God, the Tao, whatever you choose to call that which guides you. Trust that force, and trust yourself. Let your inner sense tell you what is right and back it up with power from your very core. If you don’t know what to do, get all the information you can on all sides of the issue, let it sit for a while, ask for guidance, and then go with what feels right.

Principle Three with Babies

When my first child was born, the prevailing norm was that circumcision was a must, a given. But it didn’t feel right to me. So I did a lot of research about the reasons for it and its history, and found different points of view. I learned about exactly what is done and was able to watch a video. Finally my husband and I made our own decision: we would not, as vegetarians and spiritual beings, inflict pain on animals, so why would we do that to our newborn baby? We decided that when he was old enough to make that decision for himself, he was free to have it done, without disapproval from us.

When we made the decision, it was an act of empowerment for us and for our infant: your body is not mine, it is yours. You get to decide if it is changed in any way, when you are old enough to do so. He is now in his thirties and it has never been an issue for him. When he had his own baby boy, he chose not to have him circumcised, for the same reasons.

So often, we project our own “what-ifs” on our babies and, to spare them the possible embarrassment of being different, we make a decision like this for them. Something like circumcision teaches the newborn child he is not the owner of his body and that , at any moment, his power over his own body can be painfully taken away by strangers without his permission, his understanding, or any preparation. New research proves that circumcision, especially in developed countries, has no medical value or health benefits for babies, and the American Academy of Pediatrics has said it is an unnecessary procedure from a medical standpoint.

I’m using this as an example only — I realize many people have their own good reasons for choosing this ritual. I use this example to encourage you to engage, in whatever way you can, your child’s own power — his permission, his selfhood — in the process. Empowering your children begins at birth.

baby massage

In teaching infant massage, early on I incorporated the practice of “asking permission” from the baby. Many parents can’t understand this until they try it. The parent engages with her baby eye-to-eye; she places her hands on her baby’s body, then  rubs her hands together in front of baby, shows him her open palms, and asks, “May I massage you now?” Parents learn their babies’ nonverbal cues which tell them whether or not their infant is ready to be massaged. As they practice this over and over, parent and baby are synchronized and it becomes easier, even in ways other than massage, to really listen and understand what their infant is saying.

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How to Talk to Your Daughter About Her Body | Sarah Koppelkam.

How to talk to your daughter about her body, step one: Don’t talk to your daughter about her body, except to teach her how it works. Don’t say anything if she’s lost weight. Don’t say anything if she’s gained weight.If you think your daughter’s body looks amazing, don’t say that. Here are some things you can say instead:”You look so healthy!” is a great one. Or how about, “You’re looking so strong.” “I can see how happy you are — you’re glowing.”

Don’t comment on other women’s bodies either. Nope. Not a single comment, not a nice one or a mean one. Teach her about kindness towards others, but also kindness towards yourself.