Radical honesty – should you?

I found a blog entry in a parents’ conversation site that encourages parents to be “radically honest,” and I stopped, thinking: Can I really be completely honest with my child? Should I?

To be radically honest suits me fine. I came from a family in which no one talked about or shared their feelings. Bad feelings were to be ignored, gotten over quickly–an it’s been hard to get over THAT. To get to know my feelings, listen to them, learn from them. Only then could I go on with my choices. That leads me to think that practicing radical honesty with children might be a good idea.

Now I want to consider another side of it: Can young children really handle everything? Is it good for them to have a radically honest parent?

From the child’s point of view, it is not fair to burden him or her with things he/she cannot handle. A parent should always remember the young child is dependent emotionally on him or her. He is the child’s rock, anchor, and stability.

The small child is self-centered enough not to be able to worry about the parents’ well being. No matter what the parent goes through, this place in the child’s life should be guarded. That brings me to think that the child does not need to know everything, all the time.

So what is a parent to do?

This is a question for balance: Balancing the parent’s inner dialogue, the growing awareness of his/her life, the process of having better understanding of self, and with what he/she chooses to communicate. To commuicate, giving the child a clue of what the parent is going through, is important, as long as the emotional trust the child has in the parent for love and security is not in question.

You might ask: When will the child figure out that the parent cannot control everything? The answer to that is: It will happen; do not rush it. As long as the child needs to imagine you can provide this stability–you need to provide it. Life will present itself to kids soon enough.

I remember the day that awareness dawned on my own children: In the big earthquake of 1989 (CHECK!!!!!) I could not tell them I will make sure they are safe. They were old enough–9 and 11–to watch the news on TV and see the devastation on their own. Now was the time to shift to giving them their own tools for survival. [NEEDS A BIT OF EXPLANATION]

So, these are my thoughts for today about radical honesty. What are yours?

What does a mother want on Mothers’ Day?

Mother’s Day

Yesterday I had a wonderful experience:

I was in the elevator of this fancy Whole Food market, and two young man were chatting. I overheard one say to the other: “Next week is Mothers Day–what are you getting for your mom?” The other guy say he doesn’t know yet.

I was trying to let them have their private conversation, and I am not sure why one of them started to talk to me: “What do you want for Mothers Day, Ma’am?”

He was very polite. He was wearing a  huge straw sombrero, like he just came from a fun party. But his smile was honest, and I was honest with him. I told him what I like best for Mothers Day is time with my children. I do not want to be in restaurants, or get presents. I do want just to spend a day with my already grown children.

This young man smiled with relief: “Oh, yes, you are so right. Thank you for your advice. You are so right!” I could see I touched him in a deep way, that it made sense to him; that he, too, would like to spend time with his mom. Doing that would directly express his love and appreciation, without the need for a meal in a crowded restaurant or a gift that just stands in the way of a good hug.

Happy Mothers Day to you!

Co-sleeping – or not?

Just like breast-feeding, co-sleeping is now on the mind of many new parents. The bonding with the baby, the ease of night feedings, the possibility to sleep longer – if this is all so good, why are parents still have questions?

Here are my thoughts and observations:

Co sleeping, or “The Family bed” is a cultural issue. Those who were raise in such a way do know how it works, might feel more intuitive and comfortable to do that. They have a different point of view from those who read about it and consider it without personally being raised that way.

For me, this was never an option. My husband would not allow children to sleep in our bed, or even in our room. I felt his opinion is important to me, so my children slept in their crib, in their room, from day one. I remember being able to respond to their changes in breathing from my room, and know when they are to start crying to call me to be fed. For my husband this worked, so he could sleep through it. I was a stay home mom, and could nap with the baby during the day, which I did. he was working hard and long, and sleeping was important for him to be safe at work. Also, it was important for him to sleep with me, alone, together. I liked that.

So, I did not experience the separate rooms as something to interfere with bonding with my babies. At the same time, I can see how just turning to the side to nurse, instead of getting up to do that would have been great, too. I can see how sharing the bed can add touching, codling and relaxing time. I can see how my husband could have taken part in it.

So, if you were NOT raised in bed with your parents, here are some things for you to think about:

  • This is not a pre-requisite for bonding. It is just one way to express it.
  • Like any other parenting decision, this has to fit EVERYONE’S needs. So: do not do it “for the sake of the baby” only. Make sure you enjoy it, and so is everyone else in this bad. I know for sure it would not have been good for my husband, but some other man might like it. And on this note: make sure you and your spouse talked about how, when where and how you are going to communicate about your intimate times. Co-sleeping is not an excuse to demote the partner in your life. Some observations have indicated that many man feel rejected from their wife’s attention after a baby arrives, and that might be because mother is getting now a lot of physical touching, as she holds the baby a lot, and she does not go to her husband for that anymore…
  • Be aware you are going to have a wining process ahead of you. You do not have to decide right away how long this co-sleeping is going to take place, but your baby will never decide it likes better to sleep anywhere else. In some cultures children have access to their parents bed until they are in their late teen. Are you ready for that? The longer your child share your bed – the harder moving him/her to another bed is going to be.
  • Do not feel pressured to do co-sleeping if all this is stressing you out. It is better to listen to your intuition than be politically correct (I feel the same about breast feeding…) The best thing you can do for your child is be a happy and fulfilled mom!

If you have more questions, or experiences to share _ please ask and share! We can all learn.

Parent: teach your child about charity

I am very fortunate to live in a neighborhood with a small-town feeling within the large suburb of Silicon valley. And one of the things that makes us such a neighborhood is the parties we have s few times a year.
Last weekend I discovered a small organization that I would like to tell all the world about: Animal Beacons of Light.
On a quarter-page size flyer it says:
”Animal Beacons of Light gives people specific, tangible ways to share their love, care and nurturing with children of all ages. Donations of new and gently-used soft stuffed animals are freshened, energized with love, joy and Reiki and gifted to recipients around the world. We operate through the generosity of others, whether their donations come in the form of money, time, energy or stuffed animals.”
What a wonderful cause, and what a great way to model to your child how charity works!
A word of advice: Do not rush to donate your child’s animals without his or her consent. You do not want your child to feel his or her parents care for someone else more than they care for them. You can start by talking to your children, and get an extra animal to donate when you get one for them. Charity should not hurt the giver, and a child that is attached to a toy  is not in a position to give it to anyone.

NurtureShock: To praise or not to praise?

In the first chapter of this book, the issue of praising is examined. The authors found that since the 1969 publication of The Psychology of Self Esteem, by Nathaniel Branden, legislators of all levels became fully committed to the idea and created methods and programs to increase self-esteem. Follow-up research connected self-esteem with everything from dependency on social welfare to teen pregnancy, and declared that these problems would be “cured” by increased self-esteem. No wonder parents started to praise their children “early and often.”

But what happens to those children when they first experience failure or difficulty? Studying this question brought a whole new understanding to the role of praise. To summarize the summary of the NurtureShock authors: Not all praise is the same.

  • Praise that is general, like “you are smart, Kiddo!” are not perceived as sincere, and make the child think he/she can rely on his/her innate talent, without making any effort. The requirement for effort actually confirms to them they are not really smart.
  • Praise which is specific is valuable: The child will work hard to get more such praise.
  • Teach children that results come from effort, and that “smartness” is like a muscle that needs to be exercised.
  • Too much praise distorts motivation. Children who were overpraised lose sight of the intrinsic joy in learning. They become risk-takers and lack autonomy. They do not persist at their tasks, and at college level they tend to drop out of classes rather than get a mediocre grade.
  • Highly praising parents feel they are supportive of their child. The child, on the other hand, senses the parents’ high expectations.
  • Overly praised children do work hard–but are ready to tear down others. It is the impression of being smart that moves them.
  • Praise is perceived by children as a sign of failure (someone feels I need a boost, so something is wrong with me) but criticizing is perceived as a sign the teacher (or parent) thinks I am smart (he/she feels I can deal with it)!

The authors are specific about praise: The observations are about children ages 7 years and over. It is believed that younger children take praise at face value. I am not sure how much I agree with that. I wish there were more studies to support this point.

Nevertheless, NurtureShock gives a lot for us parents to think about!

Parenting: nurture or nature?

A while ago, I mentioned the book Nurtureshock, by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman. This book has so many points to ponder, I would like to share some of them with you over my next few blog entries.
The introduction starts with expressing the feeling that all parenting books feel like “paint by number” recipes: If this, do that, and if that, do this. Do you share this experience? Do you feel that parenting authorities are forcing things on you that are not “intuitive” to you? Did you get to the point of tossing all the books aside, and deciding you are better off just doing what “feels natural” to you?
Nurtureshock says that the “throw out all the books” phase is actually a comforting point in the lives of parents. But there is a  problem: When facts are checked, even a simple strategy of boosting the child’s self image, like telling him/her how smart he/she is, turns out to backfire. Children that were “instinctively nurtured” with such compliments were found, over time, to have less confidence and not perform to the level they potentially could have, as compared with children who did not get such messages.
So, what is a parent to do? On one hand, neuroscientists have found a center in our brain that gives us the impulse to nurture; but on the other, how BEST to do that is left up to us. And we apparently don’t have the tools to make the right choices.
What the authors uncovered is that how we nurture is a mix of intelligent informed reactions, many of which are polluted by wishful thinking, moralistic biases, fads, personal history, and old unproven psychology.
This is very uncomfortable for parents to think about. Parents have reasons to be who they are, and they do have the right to reject any parenting guru that wants them  to “parent by numbers.” But common sense can be restored by carefully reviewing scientific observations of kids, setting aside ideologies. This can help parents regain their confidence and commitment to raise their children THEIR WAY.

parents need to be clear about their goals!

My friend Mike lanza wrote this in his web site Playborhood.com:
My Goal

I want my kids to play outside with other neighborhood kids every day.
I want them to create their own games and rules.
I want them to play big, complex games with large groups of kids, and simpler games one-on-one with a best friend.
I want them to decide for themselves what to play, where, and with whom.
I want them to settle their own disputes with their friends.
I want them to create their own private clubs with secret rules.
I want them to make lasting physical artifacts that show the world that this is their place.
I want them to laugh and run and think.
Every day.

That’s what I had. It’s my standard for a good childhood. It’s my goal for my kids.

What is your goal?

Parenting: one-size-fit-all II

After years of seeing different fads, I came to the conclusion that there is no one right way to raise a child, and discipline is just one aspect of it. In the US, like in some other places, we are trying to move away from spanking and other physical punishments, which are common in traditional society around the world (and in the US). So what are the alternatives?

I would like to share with you my observations and my personal experience. I found that the parent needs to choose something that fits the child, but also something that fits the parent. I would never do anything that would make me uncomfortable, even if all the children’s books say I should.

It is not just about my comfort zone, because it is about the child, and not me. I might wish it would be easy, or that it would not hurt, or that it will all be lovie-dovie, but it isn’t. I need to choose what will teach my child, and will represent me–my thoughts, feelings, and values.

I have to choose a path I will be happy to defend 20 years from now, something that might not feel loving to my child right now, but when he/she will be a grown-up, he/she will say “thank you” for making this choice, for insisting, for setting the limit, for protecting me from myself, for showing me what it means to be strong.

There is a limit as to how other parents’ experience can help. If you do not know the person, his or her experience might not resonate with you. Whatever they suggest probably worked for them, but if it does not click with you–that does not make them wrong. It is just advice that does not fit you. Just keep looking, exploring; the right inspiration will manifest quickly enough.

Parenting is not one-size-fit-all

In the business of parenting, most of the advice is similar: It’s about staying calm, being consistent, not spanking or punishing, and how we need to replace it all with “time out.” Isn’t “time out” punishment? And–whose problem are we solving anyway? The parent’s? The child’s? I also questioned this: Is there really a “one size fits all” solution to the challenge of discipline? We are all mothers and we all love our children, but do we want to raise them to be the same person?

We all come from different cultures, with different stories, and we have different sensibilities and sensitivities.