How To Spring Clean With Kids

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With spring in the air this week I have been feeling the urge to de-clutter and tidy up, and remembered this post that I compiled last year with 25 tips for tidying up from my fellow Hand in Hand Parenting instructors. I know that I feel much more comfortable involving my daughter with the tidying, rather than just handing her a screen while I get on with it. Tidying-up can be fun, and actually is a chance to connect with our kids.

Since writing that post, I’ve learnt a bit more about what works for us when it comes to tidying-up together. So if you’d like to begin spring cleaning, then here are some tips for how to begin.

Set a timer. If your child is familiar with using the timer from having regular special times, then this helps a lot. Choose a time, (I like to do one hour) and tell your child you’re going to have tidying up time. Let them know how long it will be.

There may be some moans and groans. This doesn’t mean your child hates tidying, or that it’s going to be impossible to get them motivated. Like any human being, sometimes feelings get in the way of getting motivated. Our children start off as a blank state. They aren’t born hating tidying and cleaning. In fact many babies love to imitate their parents, cleaning with a cloth, or putting things away in the right place.

What sometimes happen is that children’s feelings get in the way. Or the demands of school, and busy schedules mean that they don’t have so much time to play, so the thought of being told what to do brings reluctance. What’s key is understanding how to make tidying-up play. We can use the 25 playful ways to encourage children, or set limits, and listen to any feelings of reluctance that come up. Either way, once the feelings are out of the way your child is much more likely to enjoy the process.

At first nothing much may get done. I know when my daughter is feeling particularly disconnected if my attempts to tidy-up result in her ‘untidying.’ If this happens then it’s important to understand that this is all part of the process. Perhaps the first time you do ‘tidying-up time,’ you end up chasing your giggling child while they deliberately try to make a mess and you get nothing done. Don’t be disheartened! You are building the connection your child needs to be able to think clearly and co-operate. Next time it may be a completely different story. (Read more in How Letting Our Children Make A Mess Builds Co-Operation).

Be flexible and keep our expectations reasonable. We were tidying up this morning, and then my daughter got distracted by the thought of making tissue paper flowers. I didn’t set a limit and encourage her to keep tidying. She was happy and playing independently so I used this as a good opportunity to just get on with the work. We need to keep our expectations age appropriate, so children might flit in and out of tidying, as they get distracted by toys etc. We can be flexible and just go with the flow.

What’s more important than how much physical work our children do, is that we help them make happy, connected memories of the process. So many of us grew up with chores being ‘hard work’ that we often had to do alone. We can bring joy, play and connection into the process. This is a much better teaching tool for them than being harsh, or demanding they tidy-up everything immediately. When we offer our children flexibility, they’ll also be much more willing to offer to help us spontaneously so it may mean that we notice the benefits of their learning about tidying at a later date.

Have tidying-up time regularly. What I noticed with my daughter, is that as we did regular tidying-up times, it became routine, and she began to realise that it could be a fun time, to be together, laugh, and make our home environment a little less cluttered. So having a short tidying up time each day, or longer times a couple times a week, makes it become a normal part of life.

I hope you find these tips useful. Happy Cleaning! For more ideas check out Children And Chores: Four Ways To Get Them To Help, and my podcast interview with Casey O’Roarty, all about listening and how it helps our children co-operate.

What works for you when you try to tidy-up with your kids around? I’d love to hear from you! 

The Lost Art Of Listening To Tears

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I’m sure we’ve all had the experience where we’re talking to someone and they’re just going on and on. We can’t seem to get a word in, and if we do manage, then the other person looks edgy and impatient, waiting for us to finish so they can start talking again. We really want to talk too, but eventually fall back into stoney silence. We can’t see the point of communicating with someone who doesn’t know how to listen.

Or perhaps we have a good friend who is confiding in us about their problems, but seems stuck in a loop, and can’t seem to get out of the anger, or frustration, or whatever it is that’s bothering them. We want to help, and we listen as best we can, but maybe they come back to us again, with more to vent, and we feel drained and exhausted, struggling to help them find a solution.

We have our own problems too, but can’t always find a good listener. Friends offer advice that we don’t want to take. We might wonder is our partner even really listening? The time to talk, and be really heard can be scarce in our busy lives.

In our attempts to communicate, whether consciously or unconsciously I think we are all searching for a kind of deep listening; to be fully heard by another human being. In an interview with Oprah Winfrey, Thich Nhat Hanh describes what he calls ‘deep listening,’ and how it has a healing effect. He describes the process of someone listening to help the person to vent their feelings. even if they’re not thinking straight or speaking with anger or bitterness, the point is not to interrupt and offer advice but simply to listen to help the person relieve their suffering. Ultimately Thich Nhat Hanh believes that this kind of listening, can heal the hurts that cause conflict, violence and war.

In our everyday conversation we don’t always listen like this, we tend to interrupt to tell our own stories, or to offer advice. Conversations tend to meander on a random path, with two people navigating, and with no particular destination in mind.

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Once upon a time we did know how to really listen. In many indigenous cultures there was a tradition of deeply listening to others, so that one person could follow their own train of thought without interruption. There was also an understanding of the powerful healing effects that this kind of listening can have.

Native American’s have healing circles, where a talking stick is passed around, so only those holding the stick are allowed to speak. Australian aborigines, have a concept of ‘dadirri,’ a kind of meditative listening that can help people to heal from trauma, by talking about the past in a safe space.

These traditions suggest, that we don’t so much need to learn how to listen, but unlearn all of the habits we’ve developed from our modern culture of rushing around, and not having the time to fully listen or be heard.

More than anything parents need this kind of listening. We are doing one of the most challenging jobs in the world, divided up into our nuclear families, with one or two adults responsible for all the work that we need to do to keep our household running smoothly. We rarely have the support of others that a more tribal society would offer.

Luckily as parents there are some modern days tools we can use to recover this ‘lost art’ of listening. Patty Wipfler was a busy overwhelmed mum when she met a younger acquaintance, who asked her what being a parent was like. Patty burst into tears. She explained that although she had always loved children, parenting was so much more exhausting and stressful than she thought it would be. She confessed that she was starting to lose her temper, being aggressive towards her children in a similar way to how she had been treated as a child. As Patty talked, and cried, the woman just listened.

Afterwards Patty went home, and found that she felt completely different. She had much more energy, and renewed patience to be with her children again. Later Patty went back to the woman and asked what she had done. The woman explained about the simple method of listening she had used, and how it can help us to release our feelings.

Crying is a healing process, that allows us to release stress and upset. Dr. William Frey, a biologist, compared the tears we shed from chopping onions with those shed for emotional reasons and found that emotional tears contained cortisol, the stress hormone, so that when we cry, we are literally releasing stress from our bodies.

Research has found that clients in therapy make better progress when they cry during their sessions. This is what many of us know intuitively about having a ‘good cry,’ that it clears our minds and makes life seem a little brighter, so that we can figure things out and find a solution to our challenges.

Patty Wipfler’s organisation Hand in Hand parenting is designed to help parents be the parents they want to be. The cornerstone of her ‘Parenting By Connection’ approach is the concept of listening partnerships, where two parents take turns with talking and listening with each other. Each parent learns listening techniques that allow them to uncover their natural ability to listen, and help their partner find and release their feelings.

The turns are timed so it is equal. We don’t have the feeling of being taken advantage of and we get to be listened to as well. We can get out of that vicious cycle of feeling drained by listening to others and desperately needing to talk ourselves. We don’t need to cry to get the benefits, as just talking gives us the chance to vent.

When I first started listening partnerships, I was amazed at the power of simply creating a safe space to really talk. If I was exhausted and felt like I desperately need a break from parenting I would find that 10 minutes of listening time would give me the energy to go bouncing back into the room, ready to play with my daughter again. I even gave up caffeine, because simply letting go of the emotional baggage of the day, was enough to fill me with a natural buzz.

The benefits don’t just come from being listened to. When we listen with focused attention, the effects on the brain are similar to meditation. Listening actually lowers the blood pressure, and we are able to become more tolerant of people’s emotional outbursts, knowing that just allowing them a listening ear to vent and get it out, can heal the hurt behind it.

This can have a transformative effect on the way we parent. When our children behave in off-track ways, or have emotional upsets, it becomes much easier to take a listening approach rather than becoming triggered when we have enough listening time ourselves.

One day I was on the train with my daughter when she asked if I would count with her until we reach our station. We had been doing this a lot, but on this particular day I had a bad throat and cough. When I told her I couldn’t count because I needed to rest my voice she told me, ‘’I don’t like you, you’re not my mummy anymore!’’ A few minutes later the moment had blown over but as we got off the train I was wondering where this grumpy, hurt girl had sprung from.

Then I remembered the day before her friend Sally had come to play, and when my daughter wasn’t doing what Sally wanted she said, ‘’I don’t like you, you’re not my friend anymore!’’ At the time I hadn’t thought much of it, and a few minutes later they had been playing happily again, but it suddenly struck me, that this moment had upset my daughter and caused lasting hurt. So I said to her, ‘’You know when Sally says she doesn’t like you and you’re not her friend anymore, you know she still loves you.’’ I looked at my daughter’s face, and saw how sad she looked. We were in a busy train station, but I knelt down to her level, and looked at her, she immediately started to cry.

‘’You know she still loves you, and she’ll always love you.’’ She cried some more. I told her again, ‘’she doesn’t mean it. She just feels hurt and sad sometimes, and she can’t always cry.’’ I listened to my daughter cry, and I talked to her as well. I just kept kneeling down, rather than continuing to walk, so I could give her my full attention.

I knew that in moments like this, although she was crying, it was helping her to heal, there was nothing wrong in the present. I was just listening to her as she let go of her sadness, and reassuring her that deep down everything was okay.

She hugged me tight, as if to say thank you for listening. After that conversation she skipped through the train station with much more bounce in her step.

This is how we can listen to our children. In a process Hand in Hand parenting calls Staylistening, we can stay and be in the moment with them, knowing that our job isn’t to stop the tears, but create a safe space in which they can full feel.

It really struck me how deeply she had been hurt by a small offhand comment made by another hurt girl. Throughout life, all these tiny moments must gather up inside of people, and become immense anger or grief.

We can take a listening approach to our child’s behavioural difficulties, seeing every off-track moment as a sign that our child doesn’t feel good and needs to be listened to. It’s the ultimate unconditional love, that we accept our children, and deal lovingly with aggression, or other challenges. As we do so we break the cycle of passing hurt onto others. We are parenting towards a more peaceful world.

To learn more about the lost heart of listening check out my book Tears Heal 

This article was originally published in the autumn 2016 Issue of Juno Magazine

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Why Santa Claus Could Be Making Your Parenting Harder

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At this time of year life can get a little crazy. With stockings to fill and Christmas cards to write the attention we give our children can start to waver. And as we look down at our to-do list in horror we may find ourselves resorting to desperate measures to try and keep our child’s behaviour on track.

‘’Be good, or Santa Claus won’t come,’’ it can be tempting to say as your 3 year old runs off with the Christmas tree decorations, or starts whining because they don’t want to go to the supermarket. It can be as much to keep ourselves sane for a moment, than to teach our children about good behaviour. And why wouldn’t you say such things, you might ask. After all isn’t December the month where we can enjoy this handy trick to demand good behaviour out of our children?

This may be a bombshell to some of you, but Santa Claus could actually be making your parenting harder. Those threats, the bribes, the elf on the shelf staring down and watching your child’s every act, are not the ticket to a peaceful Christmas. They may actually be contributing to more whining, more meltdowns, more sibling squabbles, and generally a sense of unease. Here’s why.

It comes down to how your child’s brain works. Your child’s limbic system (the emotional part of the brain) is like a radar constantly scanning her environment to see who she can connect to. When she feels well connected to an adult around her, then the pre-frontal cortex (the part of the brain responsible for rational, reasonable behaviour) can function well. Then she can think well and behave well.

If your child feels disconnected, or if upset feelings are getting in the way of her feeling a warm connection with you even when you are right there with her, then her brain goes a bit haywire. The limbic system senses an emotional emergency, as it’s lost that deep sense of connection to another adult. Then the pre-frontal cortex can’t function well, so they can’t think through what is rational, reasonable behaviour for that moment.

This is when we start seeing misbehaviour. They may start whining or moaning, or doing all of the things they know deep down they shouldn’t do such as hitting a sibling, or refusing to do simple tasks like put on their shoes and coat.

This is when it can be tempting to use threats and bribes, and tell your child that Santa only comes to good children. It may appear to work in the short term as you child hurriedly dresses to go out the door with a terrified look on their face at the thought of not having Christmas presents.

But here’s what happens later. That sense of disconnection or those upset feelings your child was experiencing are still inside of them and will come out later. They’ll be a time when you child gets so overwhelmed by them that they won’t be able to hold them in any more no matter what you’ve threatened them with previously. Then will come a meltdown, or a full on sibling brawl that will be a combination all of the built up tension from each of the other little moments in which there have been threats or bribes.

Threats and bribes (of any kind, not just about Santa) are what I like to call the credit card system of parenting. Instant results. Instant success. But the downside is that overtime the cost you are paying is much higher. Your child is feeling bad for longer and as their emotional thermostat starts to rise it’s only going to be so long before a storm erupts.

Your child is good. Their inner nature is to be loving, and co-operative. They want to be good. It’s just that sometimes their hurt feelings get in the way. When we tell a child to ‘be good’ or shame them for their behaviour, we can add extra layers of hurt. We give children the wrong impression that our children are responsible for controlling their impulses and emotions. Actually brain science tell us that children can’t.

What we need to do as parents is actually to step in, and be there to help children with their behaviour and the emotions behind it. We need to reconnect with them. It can seem like a lot of work, compared to the quick fix of the Santa threats, but this is investment parenting, as opposed to the credit style kind. When we invest in connecting with our children, it’s us that get paid back in the future. We will have less meltdown, less sibling right, less non-co-operation when we start to think about investment rather than quick fixes.

So in the run up to Christmas here’s five simple things you can do when your child’s behaviour is going off-track and you’re feeling tempted to reach from some Christmas bribery.

1. Shift The Mood With Special Time – When your child is getting whiney and moany, add in some connection before the storm gets worse. Set a timer for 10 minutes and tell your child they can do anything they want together with you. As you play shower them with warm connection, lots of closeness and eye contact. As they soak up a warm sense of connection with you, they’ll be able to get their thinking back on track.

2. Try Some Giggles – When you are dealing with a child who is not co-operating try giggles. If you need to get out the door in the hurry, try dressing your toddler’s doll instead of them and then acting all confused by your mistake. Or try putting your child’s coat on instead of your own. This is what I call Giggle Parenting, a sure-fire way to laugh away disconnection. After a few giggles your child will feel better connected and more likely to co-operate with you. It’s scientifically proven!

3. Set Limits Quickly – When your child is acting off-track, and you sense they are getting whiney and moany, don’t wait for them to attack a sibling with a wooden block before you step in. Your children’s whines and moans are a sign that they need you to diffuse the situation. Stay close, and be ready to move in to set limits so that no-one gets hurt.

4. Stay With Your Child Through The Storms – At some point storms are going to happen. Your child is going to have a meltdown about something small and insignificant, just when you really need to have five minutes peace to wrap some presents. The most helpful thing you can do is be with your child. Stay close, offer warmth and empathy. And most importantly, don’t try to distract your child from their emotions, even if they seem about something small and petty. Crying is your child’s natural healing process, for letting go of all their upset feelings that have been getting in the way of feeling connected to you.

5. Get someone to listen to you – With Hand in Hand Parenting, we make sure parents get the emotional support they need to listen deeply to their children. As you make the shift away from threats and bribes you may find it brings up a lot of feelings in you, and that it’s hard to find the patience at first. That’s why we have a listening partnership scheme where parents can exchange time talking and listening so that they can de-stress and release tension too.

As your kids demand expensive presents, their behaviour is actually a call to you, calling for connection. This is what your child want more than anything this Christmas. Santa Claus, can’t compete with your ability to shower your children with love and connection. So lets make this Christmas about presence rather than presents.

These 5 tips are based on the 5 Hand in Hand Parenting tools. For more info about how to put these tools into practise check out my book Tears Heal: How to listen to our children

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How A Walk In The Forest Can Be Therapy For Kids

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I didn’t enjoy family walks as a child. There seemed to be nothing more boring than walking in a straight line for hours on end. I’m sure I spent a lot of the time moaning and whining, and being left behind as my parents were caught in a power struggle with me refusing to move.

I’m pretty sure it was these memories that made me reluctant to inflict the same thing on my own daughter. And yet all around me parents were happily going off on hikes with their children. We live in a small village surrounded by hills and forest, and on the weekends the place is filled with families happily hiking.

I can remember when my daughter was 2 years old we went for a lovely walk along a coastal path in Scotland. There were three older children who all had great fun taking care of her along the way, and she walked almost non-stop for about 4 hours! That gave me an indication of how long kids can walk if they feel in the mood for it!

As I’ve learnt more about children’s emotions, I’ve learnt that hiking can not only be fun for kids, it can also be like therapy. Here’s why:

It was something that Ariadne Brill of Positive Parenting Connection said that made me realise what was going on when my daughter complained about walking. She told me how she began to realise that the movement of walking was causing emotions to rise to the surface in her kids and then they began telling her about them.

When our children start moaning about how tired they are, and how they don’t want to walk any further, and how they hate walking, we can take their words at face value, perhaps they really are overtired.

But often, what’s happening is something called the The Broken Cookie Phenomenon. When children’s feelings bubble up, and they can’t think straight. The part of their brain responsible for rational thinking and language, literally doesn’t function well when children (and adults!) are upset. This means they may not be able to articulate the real reason they are upset in the moment, and so they’ll tend to pin it on the nearest thing: i.e the walking.

When my daughter started Kindergarten she really liked to have lazy afternoons at home. But after a while I began to think that although she needed less stimulus in the afternoon she might need some physical exercise. She’s always been a night owl and took a long time to wind down for sleep. I was having to wake her each morning. I really wanted her to wake naturally so her body could get all the sleep she needed.

After reading this article about sleep from Dr. Laura Markham I thought an afternoon walk might tire her out.

My daughter didn’t like the idea of a walk but somehow we got into a roleplay with her doll Kira, and her mum Avinda. Kira kept complaining that she didn’t want to go for a walk, while Avinda told her she would have to as it would help her sleep. Somehow we managed to get out of the house with my daughter projecting her reluctance onto career instead.

After a few minutes of walking though, my daughter began crying. I staylistened to her, stopping walking, and getting down on her level. I acknowledged her feelings, and told her we’d try to go a little further, and that I was sure she could do it. After a few minutes of crying, she asked for me to pretend Kira didn’t want to walk. We had a lot of fun and laughter (The Hand in Hand Parenting tool of playlistening) with Kira landing on the ground and refusing to go any further.

We ended up walking up a hill and down again at which point my daughter said, ”this walk has given me more energy!”

The next time we went hiking my daughter also cried and was reluctant for the first 20 minutes. I just kept listening to her, and sure enough, after the tears were over she was filled with energy and happy and enthusiastic about her hike.

These days when I suggest a hike my daughter is happy and excited. I think she’s gone through the process enough times to realise that if any upset feelings come up she will get through it with my empathy and listening, and end up having a great time. We always bring along her dolls and pack a few snacks.

We are the best judge of our children. We can learn their limits and energy levels. And we can also learn to see through their lethargic moments, and use a ‘listening hike’ as a way to help their bodies and minds feel better.

If you’re looking for some playful ways to help children with their feelings about walking check out 15 Playful Ways To Get Children To Walk

And if you’d like to learn more about The Broken-Cookie Phenomenon and how children need our listening to process their emotions check out my book Tears Heal: How to listen to our children

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The Cry It Out Debate Has Ended: Here’s Why

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This week I came across a debate on facebook about ‘cry it out’. Someone had posted this article,  in which one mum honestly describes her version of cry-it-out and why she did it. The mum also questions some of the research about cry-it-out, because they have an obviously anti-cry-it-out bias, and that articles presenting the science don’t talk about the studies’ limitations.

I’m not writing this post to assess the validity of the research. But I always feel a little sad and frustrated by the fact that we are still having a debate about whether cry-it-out is okay.

See, what the majority of parents don’t know is that the cry-it-out debate has ended. It actually ended over 30 years ago when psychologist Aletha Solter, and parent educator Patty Wipfler started sharing about the importance of listening to tears.

What they found, and what thousands of parents have since found is that babies cry for two reasons; one to get their needs met and also to release stress and upset. The stress hormone cortisol is released through tears. When a baby cries for a need we should of course meet that need as quickly as possible, but when they cry to heal and recover from stress and upset, we shouldn’t try to stop those tears. Dr. Deborah Macnamara says it best, ”crying is not the hurt, but the process of becoming unhurt.” If all our baby’s needs are met, and we are sure they are in good health, and not in pain, then we don’t need to do anything to ‘fix’ the crying, we can simply listen. When we go through this process of listening, holding our babies and staying close, then they  naturally sleep well.

This week a parent asked me if there was any science to show that babies who are listened to sleep better. There isn’t any direct science. And for good reason. Until recently the healing power of tears has been almost hidden in our society. When we were young there was almost no awareness of it at all. And so when we cried, our parents had no idea that there were times we simply needed to be listened to. We would have been rocked or ‘shhhed’ or bounced, or fed when we weren’t hungry, or pretty much anything our parents could think to do to stop the crying.

Our entire society is built upon not listening to feelings. The message to just stop the crying is deeply ingrained in every parent, and it takes a lot of self-awareness to begin to see it. That’s why scientists haven’t yet researched what happens when we listen to tears in babies. Until now the message has only been heard on the periphery of our society.

And this is why we are still stuck in a debate about cry-it-out. Society as a whole has been missing this vital piece of information that babies need to cry in the loving arms of a caregiver to sleep well. We have been trying to get our children to sleep by going against their nature to cry to heal. It’s no wonder that so many of us have struggled!

It’s testament to how distorted our society’s attitude to feelings is that leaving a baby alone to cry-it-out is considered a necessary option, because the idea of staying with a baby’s feelings, is not.

It was really hard for me to process this information when I first heard it. Was it really okay just to stay listen to my daughter cry without doing anything to stop the tears? It took me a long time to untangle my natural instinct to love and nurture my daughter from my ‘instinct’ to stop her from crying, when she didn’t have a need. Each step of the way I talked, and read and thought about what I was doing, so I was sure I was making the right choice.

The reason it’s hard to listen to tears is because it activates our own memories of hurt from our childhood. Memories, often unconscious of how our parents didn’t want to listen, they just wanted to stop us from expressing how we felt.

Through Hand in Hand Parenting, I’ve heard so many stories from parents who have helped their baby’s and children sleep better by listening to tears, play, connection, and giggles. Listening really does work.

We need to move on from the debate about ‘cry-it-out,’ and instead focus on listening. We need to tell our own childhood stories, and heal from them, so that we can then look honestly at our own reactions and impulses to stop tears. Not only will we as a society then have more sleep, we’ll be an emotionally healthier society too.

Further Resources

My story of how I helped my daughter sleep through the night

The Hand in Hand Parenting website has articles and anecdotes about helping with sleep.

Hand in Hand Parenting’s online self-study course, Helping Young Children Sleep.

My book Tears Heal How to listen to our children : has everything you need to know about listening to tears, and it includes a chapter on sleep.

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What To Do When Your Child Just Wants To Watch TV

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Your child is asking to watch TV, over and over again. It seems like the only thing on his mind. What do you do? If you say yes, he’ll want to watch for hours. If you say no, he’ll collapse into a storming tantrum.

If your child seems on the verge of tears every time you set a limit on TV then it’s probably actually a good time to say no.

When children feel good they can think flexibly, they can accept your ‘no’s and go off and find something else to do. If their desire to watch TV is accompanied by desperation then it’s probably a sign that there’s something they need much for than TV and that’s connection with you.

When we humans get upset, we sometimes express our feelings freely. We have a good laugh, or a good cry, in the presence of someone who loves us, and this healthy, natural, physiological response results in us feeling better.

At other times our feelings get a bit clogged up and buried. And then we tend to gravitate towards things that will help us feel numb; TV, ice cream or a cup of coffee.

So, if your child is asking for TV, with an edgy, neediness, you can intuit that they are on the brink of a tantrum, and actually that saying no is a gift that will help them feel (and behave!) better. As they cry, stay close and over hugs when needed. This allows your childr to soak up your love and connection, so they can restore their natural well-being.

But what if your child seems relaxed and in a good mood when they ask for TV? How do you decide when to say yes and when to say no? This is a very personal and individual judgement for each family to make. And although I have some advice I don’t have any definitive answers.

Here’s something I’ve been trying recently when my daughter’s watching TV, and that’s to snuggle down with her for 10-15 minutes and call it our TV Special Time. What I’ve noticed is that often she tends to voluntarily stop watching TV sometime after our special time has finished. It’s like me watching with her gives her the message that I’m available and present. That I’m not disconnected and on my own screen, but close and connected.

If you regularly give special time in your house, and your child is always asking for TV you might want to say yes for the first 8 times. This lets your child know that you respect their interests, that you are a willing to take a journey with them into their world. And that added connection you give them might just help them regulate their own screentime.

For more information about the Hand in Hand Parenting approach to setting limits sing up to follow my blog in the top right hand corner of this page, or check out my book Tears Heal: How to listen to our children

 

How The Way You Parent Can Change The World

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Parents! The future of humanity is in your hands. No pressure though!

When we look around us at the state of the world it can seem pretty depressing. The endless stream of negative news can make us give up hope on the future.

Much of what is wrong with the state of the world comes from negative emotions. Fear, hate, and greed, have created a world where the resources of the many are sucked dry to benefit the few. If you examine the emotional lives of the people in power it isn’t hard to see that a lot of them aren’t leading from a place of deep compassion for their fellow human beings. The big changes that are needed to create a more peaceful world just aren’t happening.

But perhaps one day they will. It was reading this blog post by Wendy Andrews that reminded me that the single post important step to creating a more peaceful world is to parent with love and compassion.

With Hand in Hand Parenting I learnt that children are naturally good, loving and co-operative and when their behaviour gets challenging, it’s because they are experiencing challenging emotions. So when we look at politicians whose behaviour is questionable, (mentioning no names!!) it’s highly likely that they are acting out hurt feelings from their childhood. This is not to make excuses for the behaviour of certain leaders, but to simply show that if we want to change the world we have to radically change the way we parent. Simply repeating the way the previous generation parented won’t work. In the UK 1 in 4 people will experience a mental health problem each year. That’s a lot of hurt people who aren’t able to live their lives to the full.

I believe that the single most powerful thing we can do to heal the next generation is to listen to tears. This is the one thing glaringly missing from most of our childhoods. That our parents ignored, or avoided, distracted, or shamed or punished us, from crying. That we have done the same many times, because it seems like an instinct to repeat the parenting we experienced.

We need to listen to our children’s tears, and their laughter too! We need to undo our cultural conditioning to stop or avoid these tears. We also need to be honest with ourselves about our own feelings, and how they interfere with us being the parents we want to be. When we do this we can build a stronger, more compassionate generation, who aren’t weighed down with emotional baggage.

And as I was out walking I remembered the Native American story of the Rainbow Warriors that says that “when the earth is ravaged and the animals are dying, a new tribe of people shall come unto the earth from many colors, classes, creeds and who by their actions and deeds shall make the earth green again. They will be known as the Warriors of the Rainbow.”

I like to think that when we parent peacefully we are building this tribe of warriors who see beyond colour and class, and join together.

As Mother Teresa said, ”What can you do to promote world peace? Go home and love your family.” And remember when you do so to listen to tears.

For more information read my blog post, The Healing Power Of Tears, and Patty Wipfler’s article, Inoculating your Child Against Racism. You can learn more about listening to tears in my book Tears Heal: How to listen to our children

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