Modeling Emotions to Our Kids

emotions1I’m a mama who shares a lot with my kids. I’ve gone overboard at times. I’ve shared too much, not quite grasping that my emotions or mental “meaning-making” machine was just too much for my little ones. But overall, I’ve realized that my kiddos have a lot of emotional intelligence that I want to honor.

Being intentional about sharing our emotions with our kids requires balance, mindfulness, and a lot of awareness of our own internal landscape.

Many of us shield our more intense emotions when we think our kids can’t handle them—or we fear that expressing our emotions might do damage, or frighten them. And while we do need to be cautious about our expression with our kiddos, we can sometimes do more damage in our attempts to protect them.

Parents often shield their children from so much and, subsequently, children don’t build the understanding or skills to manage their own intense emotions. Because emotions—big ones—are natural. They’re going to happen. And it’s our response to them, and our ability to be with them, regulate them, and learn to trust the wisdom of them, that allows us to build a healthy sense of self and ultimately forge healthy relationships with others. For our kids to be able to cultivate these abilities, they need to feel the raw, poignant teaching, modeled to them by their parents, of feeling and regulating the spectrum of all that life brings.

There is research related to human beings, even at early ages, having strong emotions2instincts when it comes to innately knowing when others are being dishonest. Sometimes we don’t cognitively perceive dishonesty but we feel it—our bodies sense when others are hiding something and it does damage in our relationships. When children feel us having an emotion that we attempt to hide, they experience us as incongruent, not aligned, not trustworthy. And then they’re left holding that.

When children are offered the chance, however, to consistently witness the practice of feeling, expressing, and regulating emotions, in a healthy way, by a primary influence—namely, their parents—they learn to integrate learning at a deep, core level. Our little ones need to build understanding not simply through practicing what we tell them, but through witnessing explicit behaviors from adult caregivers. They require embodied learning that occurs through the interdependent “neural wiring” that occurs between parent-child dyads—they need to experience their parents navigating life’s intensity, with developed skill, to feel safe and secure in developing their own ability to navigate the same.

Now, does this mean we should share everything with our kids—all the details of our messy emotional lives? Of course not. There is plenty in our adult world to which our children need not have access. They don’t need to know “the story.” They simply need to understand how we’re managing the story.

Here are 10 tips for being an “Emotional Model” for your children:

  1. Be Honest.  Trust that your kids can feel you feeling, and stay present both with yourself and with them. When they feel your congruence, they will naturally settle in your presence.
  1. Learn about your own emotions. Learn where they come from, how they tend to “show up,” and what you BELIEVE they mean. When you understand the habits of your emotional responses, you will be more equipped to regulate them, and your children will learn through your modeling.
  1. Practice tracking the “underneath” side of emotions—you’re frustrated… what’s underneath that? What’s the “deeper thing at stake?” What’s the more vulnerable version of whatever you’re feeling? Slow your emotional response down and validate the truth of whatever is at the core. That’s where the intelligence of emotion resides and when you share what’s underneath, your children will learn to share their own vulnerable truth.
  1. Share the Felt Sense. When you say, “I’m so angry right now,” also share what that feels like. For example, you might say, “I feel like my chest is really tight and I’m not breathing very well.” When we notice the sensation that corresponds with our emotion, we are actually slowing down our reactive habits just like that! And when kids see you tracking the sensation that informs your feelings, they’ll learn to do the same, and there’s tremendous wisdom in our SENSATION. We often mistake “thoughts” for feelings, but sensation always leads us to our deeper truth.
  1. Check in with your kids when you share “big” emotions with them. How is it for them to experience your intensity? Stay curious and engaged and invite them to do the same. Make it safe for them to honestly share their emotions. And let them share in their own time, and in their own way.
  1. Share not just what you feel, but how you’re regulating what you feel. When our kids see us feeling, and practicing regulating those feelings—because it’s always a practice—they learn that our emotional habits are a constant work in progress. Just like keeping our bodies fit and healthy, it takes consistent, mindful work to keep our emotional responses aligned with who we want to be in the world and in our relationships.
  1. Know why you want to share with your kids—is it for your benefit or theirs? Being honest isn’t always to benefit someone else. Sometimes sharing emotions is about our egos, or it’s related to our inability to manage feelings internally. It’s a difficult edge to know if we’re sharing for us or them. And with our children, it’s incredibly important to check ourselves!
  1. Let kids share their emotions on their own terms. As a therapist mom, I know this one all too well. Having an agenda for how and what our children share is simply going to distance them. We can ask, we can do our best to provide the safety and attunement that our kids need to open up to us, but we need to trust their timing and willingness to do so.
  1. Share the powerful positive feelings too. Let the love fly! If you have big anger and potent sadness that you share, be sure you’re filling their emotional buckets with loads of immense love, unconstrained giggles, open adoration, care, gratefulness, and joy.
  1. When you over-share—do the repair. Whether you’ve shared too much of “the story” with your kids, or you let your emotions get out of control, consistently come back and do the necessary repair with your kids. Take ownership. Let them know where you got off track and how you’re going to practice doing it differently next time. Be gentle with yourself too… our kids need to see us offering ourselves compassion so that they can learn compassion for their own missteps.

I’d love to hear your responses, your thoughts, your FEELINGS! Hopefully, you’ll feel free to share!

For the Love of Your Life!

Angie

 

 

 

A Letter to My Son

Each year at this time, I write a letter to my son—a Birthday letter—that he won’t receive until he’s 18.  I write about things that happened throughout the year, things I witnessed in him, memorable things, the way that I feel about him.  And I send these letters to his grandma, who puts them in a special box that he’ll get when he turns of age.  My hope is that these yearly gifts will give him some sense, someday, of how much he’s been loved, always.  Of course, I can never write without crying my eyes out!
N-BdayThis year Nathaniel hits double digits… 10 years old.  A birthday I remember well myself, having the feeling that I was not a little kid anymore.  Really just a hop, skip and jump until I was a teenager!  And it just flies, right?

And here’s my son… this beautiful child that chose me as his Mama, chose this path, this family, this life.  And it is such an incredible blessing to witness his journey into all that he is becoming.

I consistently see kids who seem to be “holding” a lot these days.  It feels like kids have, in some ways, more emotional stressors impacting them on a daily basis, along with less internal resources to manage them.  It’s not as if kids are given more responsibility or more difficult tasks than they used to be given—less, in most cases!  But it seems as if the burden of adult emotions are falling onto our kids’ shoulders.  And that’s a heavy burden.  And I see this in my son.

Try as I might, I know that my kids see the pain of… well, life, in my eyes and in my behavior.  As skilled or resourced as I think I might be, they witness the pain of failed relationship, the ups and downs of balancing family and work, the feelings that I sometimes have that LIFE IS REALLY HARD SOMETIMES.  And honestly, he’s just seen some pretty crummy adult behavior that’s taught him we’re not always completely trustworthy.  And that fact breaks my heart.  While it may be a natural part of growing up, I think most parents would agree that these days, it seems that that process is on fast-forward.

Our kids act out sometimes.  And they can push us to our edge, for certain!  And when we can sit, and look beneath their behavior, to the underlying need—when we see that they are simply wanting, desperately, to be loved, we give them the gift of knowing their worth.  We give them the gift of trusting WHO THEY ARE.

So I sit, on this last day of my son being “a little kid,” and I want to simply N-Littlecherish him.  And I want for him to enter this new phase of “big kid-ness,” knowing that he’s being held in unconditional, unrelenting, forever LOVE.  I want him to know that he is PERFECT, just as he is—with every emotion and thought and natural quality that he embodies.  And he could not be more loved by a mother.

For the Love of Your Life!

Angie

When Trauma Brings Us Home

When a hurricane destroys entire cities, and people are left stranded, we rush to help them rebuild their homes and their sense of security.  When fires rage into homes and rob families of everything they have, we share our wealth—household goods, toys, clothing, money.  When someone is sick, we work to raise funds to pay for outrageous medical bills.

When trauma happens—human beings want to help.  Helping gives us a sense of meaning.  It not only connects us to one another, it provides us with a sense that “we matter,” we can do good, we can make a difference, we can help.  We are empathic creatures, by nature, and when our communities are suffering, our natural response is to “feel” together.

However…  when children die at the hands of murderers, there is no offering of material wealth, service, or activism that will mend the shattered lives that are left in the wake of unimaginable loss and heartache.

We are left to simply mourn with those who have lost the ones most dear to their hearts.  And this, I suppose, is as it should be.  Because this loss is simply too great for any one person, any family, or even any community, to hold on it’s own.  This is a tragedy that calls upon all of us to be a conduit for healing.

SandyHookMemorial

Right now, many people who are reeling from this tragedy, even those in distant states, are finding it difficult to focus on everyday tasks.  Not only are we traumatized and scared, many people are experiencing guilt when going about normal daily life, when interacting with children, because we know that so many lives are in a state of debilitating grief.

There is a cumulative feeling, for many, of helplessness and, for others, a sense of meaningless, as a result.  Questions arise such as, “how can I focus on cleaning my house when there are people grieving their lost children?”  And bigger questions, such as, “How can I bring a child into this kind of world?”  Some people, triggered into remembering their own traumatic histories, feel that they cannot go about their normal lives.

I want to offer some thoughts on a way to help process through grief and guilt, as well as the desire to help hold this massive collective suffering.  Many of us right now are caught in mental and emotional anguish—our brains are spinning in a never-ending loop of despair and confusion.  And without understanding, which ultimately we will never have, we are stuck.

That’s trauma.  And even when trauma is vicarious, it can wreak havoc.

Let me provide some explanation for how this system works:  Imagine a person who has severe trauma in their history, perhaps sexual abuse as a child.  And this trauma is never “repaired.”  The individual is left trying, as all humans do, to understand—to make sense out of what happened.  And because it is so difficult to make sense out of such horrific events, our brains do something called “looping”—where our psyche keeps tracing the same pattern through our nervous system, trying to find  a way out, a way to stop the cycle, a way to stop hurting…  and ultimately, until trauma is provided a pathway through the person’s psychological body and physical body, it remains “stuck.” And when trauma is stuck, it continues to damage us from the inside out.

The same is true in the greater collective.  We will all spend massive amounts of time and energy trying to understand the minute details of what happened and why, because we have a human need to make sense out of it all.  But when there is simply no sense to be made, we will be stuck “looping” in the greater collective and this trauma will become “stuck” as part of our cultural makeup.  And giving this kind of universal space to something so intolerable is like giving more power to that which has the potential to destroy us at the heart.

So I want to ask all of you to dig into your greatest emotional and physical resources and not allow this particular trauma to become part of our collective psychological makeup.  Because I can assure you, that will not serve the greater whole.  What also will not serve, in my opinion, is to close yourself to what has happened.  I know that it is difficult to allow yourself to be vulnerable to this tragedy, but shutting yourself off from knowing anything also creates a certain “stuck-ness” in the system, as trauma then isn’t allowed to “move.”  I’m not recommending listening to all of the details.  I’m saying, open your heart to the suffering that has occurred, in the service of supporting healing.

We, as a nation, need this to move.  We need to feel it, together.  We need to hold it.  We need to process it, allow it to wreck us at times, to dig into our hearts and drop us to our knees.  And as time allows, we need to move it through our collective system so that we can help to heal one another.

I’d like to offer some ideas for how, over time, each of us can help to heal this trauma:

Use your bodyUse your presenceUse your heart.

  • Feel the feelings—not consistently, and pay attention so that you don’t become overwhelmed.  But listen to your body.  When you read articles, listen to the news, or talk with friends, notice how much you’re actually “taking in,” and also how much you are becoming numb.  If you’re getting spacey or feeling numb, step away, turn off the TV, practice some self-care.

When you are feeling resourced—in other words, grounded, stable, “in” your body—MOVE.  Find a way to allow some of the feelings you’ve been holding to move through you.  Express the feelings you’re carrying in your body in some way.  For some people, this could be a physical practice, such as dance, creative movement, exercise, running, strength training, Yoga.  For others, it might be cooking a meal, cleaning house, walking the dog.  Whatever you’re drawn to do, practice focusing on moving your body in response to these particular emotions, allowing them to move you and, in essence, find a way to move out of you.

  • Be present to the people with whom you’re interacting, to your own emotional state and response, to the tasks, relationships, moments at hand.  Breathe into the awareness of knowing of others grief, feeling the grief with them, helping to hold the massive sense of loss and, with gratitude, step into your life and relationships with presence.
  • LOVE.  As simple and powerful as it is…  we need to keep coming back to love—from our anger, from our hurt, from our sadness, from our fears.  Love will help us heal.  Love is where we will find one another.  Love will bring us home.

My thoughts, prayers, sadness, heart, and body are with those who are suffering greatly now.  I wish for you to feel held in your grief, so that you can mourn this incredible loss in the safety of arms and hearts reaching out and holding you.

 

BIRTHING BEAUTIFUL BODIES

A Guide to Creating Your Most Beautiful and Powerful Body

As a Foundation for Life—Yours and Your Baby’s

 (The following is excerpted from my soon-to-be-released ebook on Postpartum Training with Your New Baby–Title, TBA.  I look forward to reading your feedback and integrating our dialogue into the remainder of the book!)

Introduction

New Baby, New Body

Since the moment your child took her first breath, your life changed in a way for which you could never have prepared yourself. And yet, in that moment there was a shift at the core of your being—a shift that connected you to every mothering creature that has ever walked this earth—a shift that gave you the power and the strength to be a part of giving and sustaining life. This tiny being who you have been growing inside your womb has transformed you into the most powerful YOU that has ever existed. This is, beyond any doubt, the most incredible thing you have ever and, will ever, do. This has been your opportunity to be an instrument of creation.

You did not only birth your baby into this world—you birthed a new version of yourself as MOTHER.

You have undoubtedly come to know yourself as more powerful, more vulnerable, more amazing, and with a much more expansive heart than you ever imagined.  And as most new moms probably agree, your priorities have shifted.   Having washboard abs and a tight ass are no longer your driving motivation, if they ever were!  They’re illustrious goals, of course, yet, especially now, they don’t define a life well lived nor do they connect us to anything greater than our egos, unless we consciously connect them.

For most new moms, one of the most common goals is simply getting back into shape while creating time to get to know these new little humans that are so completely and utterly dependent on us and with whom we could indulge every moment of our lives—at least for a time.

A New Perspective

There is a difference between having the simple egoic ambition of a 20-year-old who wants to get back to a size 4 and creating a strong, healthy life. And there is a difference between rushing through a 20 minute aerobic workout while little peewee naps, feeling rushed and guilty and maybe even a little miffed about sacrificing our bodies; and welcoming our chubby cherubs into a daily practice of rebuilding our bodies strong and healthy.

Meeting this challenge with emotional strength provides momentum and energy that spirals from within, out to each person around us, to our children, our families, to our communities and ultimately to the world. Meeting it with fear and a desire to simply “arrive” at the other side does something altogether different—possibly even damaging to ourselves and to our babies.

Now is the time you’ve chosen to take a look at your body—the safe haven where your child has become, and to ask some very important questions. How important is the tight ass now, as you consider this tiny angel? Is this life, this body, really yours, or could it be better utilized in the service of another that has been gifted to you? And how best can you serve? By dropping your little one off in front of a Baby Einstein with a pacifier in his mouth while you get 20 minutes on the Stairmaster or by sharing true connection time and providing a foundation of health and relationship—since this is the ONLY foundation your child will have. YOU.

You have the opportunity right now to put a stop to what has happened in this world to our children—the tragic foundations that they’ve been given that have contributed to millions becoming addicted to food, to drugs, to self-destructive behaviors; the multiplying epidemics of obesity and addictions that are occurring simply because our children are trying to find something that makes them feel grounded—something that might calm their anxiety when they’ve lost the connection with healthy relationships to their caregivers—something that is supposed to be Mama!

Wired for Bonding with Mama

It has always been true that children are naturally calmed by their mothers. They are literally “linked” to our nervous systems.  Yet when Mommy is too busy, babies will find other ways to self-soothe, which may not set them up for emotionally strong foundations.  Many children reach out, only to find that mama is off on a shopping spree or at the spa because she needs her alone time.  And I want you to know, I’m not at all downplaying the necessity of mothers’ very real needs for self-care.  Those things are essential!  Sadly, however, those things are taking precedence far too often these days, leaving our little ones in the care of other people—or other “things”—that don’t honor their innate needs to feel completely attached to their primary caregivers

A Paradigm Shift

In our current society, it has become difficult for women to feel empowered by owning the responsibility of mothering as a serious and long-term commitment.  For many, this path can seem “less than” in our current collective mindset.  Yet to deny the challenge of this incredible journey is to miss the opportunity that taking on the challenge will provide. We often try to take away all discomfort and pain, to make life a little more palatable, and we deny the risks in doing so—both in carrying and birthing our children, and also in parenting them.

Many mothers reject the challenge and opportunity that parenting can provide in exchange for a few nips here, tucks there, and the all-important “me” time while the nanny watches baby and mom spends a few days recovering in a spa.  I absolutely espouse taking time to oneself and doing things that enhance our sense of self—but let’s consider the implications of denying a natural journey to your best body beyond motherhood, both to Mom and baby.

I’m not recommending that you sit on the floor with your baby 24/7 playing Pat-A-Cake! I’m saying that maybe it’s not all about getting that body back. Maybe life with baby is about building your body anew—with strength and passion that you’ve never before embodied.

My Challenge to You

Clearly I’m an advocate for getting our bodies to pre-pregnancy form but at what expense? Because if my best body comes at the expense of my child’s emotional or psychological development, which for many is exactly the case, then I’ve done an enormous disservice to my child and to the rest of the world who could benefit from the gifts that a well-developed, securely attached being could bring. And from a purely self-centered perspective, I’m not making my own life any easier for the next 20-60 years either!

I know women who’ve stopped breastfeeding early—or not done it at all—simply because they couldn’t wait to go under the knife, attempting to eliminate any sign of the incredible process their bodies have just gone through. And yet if we deny the journey back to strength, we also deny our own power in making that journey—as true strength is found …you got it—in the journey!

I often think that new moms attempt to regain the pre-baby body out of fear that they’ve lost some stature or attractiveness in the world. And yet mothers have unequaled power (and attractiveness and sexuality) that, if we were willing to own, would far outweigh anything that lipo or collagen injections could ever provide!

Not Just Another Fitness Guide

“Fitness books” all seem to espouse the new trick or trend yet rarely do they reach deep into the reality of what is the benefit of consistently building your body strong? What is it that separates those who live passively, avoiding anything out of the comfort zone from those who transform lives? It is strength in body, character, spirit, and being-ness that propels this thing we call life and it is among the greatest of gifts that we can pass down to our children.

A Mother’s Strength

Strength is something that is earned, fought for, worked for, trained, disciplined, gathered, sometimes lost and regained… it is self-created and self-maintained. And there are proven methods that can inspire, teach, and guide those seeking to find their most abundant resources of strength in life. While this book is far from being a “follow up” to my husband, Shawn’s book, Strength For Life, certainly his work and writing have inspired and taught me and I will share pieces of his guiding expertise here that have become a founding aspect of both Shawn and my developing relationship with our son and daughter, as well as our ongoing pursuit of living into every moment of our lives with strength and integrity.

Women possess a special, and in many ways more definable strength than men in regard to entering into parenthood. The mere physical force of growing and birthing a child is unmatched by our male counterparts and can initiate a shift in the power differential between male and female partners after a birth; due to the fact that women can move into an instinctual place of power, often for the first time in their lives.

Through cellular memory, muscle memory, and living, conscious memory, the body-mind retains the connection to this newfound strength as a resource from which to enter fully into not only this new role, but into all of life. If consciously nurtured through mindful strength training, the growing awareness of strength in the body ultimately provides greater mental and emotional confidence.

My Gift to You

My hope is that the following words may be helpful for those women who have gone through, or are looking at the possibility of going through the physical and emotional transformations of birthing a child; and who are looking for both support and guidance in integrating exercise and a strong, healthy body and mind into the most important transition into Life as Mommy. The following pages will provide you with inspiration, education, and support for your journey into living the next phase of your life from the strongest, most centered place you can now imagine.

A Deeper Look at Strengthening our Bodies

It is my intention as well to bring at least a small amount of interest to the amazing potential of helping moms and babies develop a healthy relationship from the very beginning, helping each to develop aspects of the nervous system responsible for bonding and attachment as well as emotional self-regulation, providing a healthy foundation for life.

Nathaniel and Lilly, eight and four years old, respectively, ask on most days since they were each able to talk, if it’s time to train yet each morning. They play on our gym equipment; do their version of squats, curls, pull-ups and other exercises; know very well how to count reps, bring out our yoga mats and join us for weekly Sunday yoga sessions, and know that the commitment to keeping our bodies and minds strong and healthy is a foundation for all of our lives. The time that I have spent with our children in our home gym as well as outside; running, hiking, biking and playing has been among the healthiest and most rewarding for both our minds and bodies. This time has provided the surest foundation for a life of continual physical and mental well being for my children as well as the greatest potential for a healthy relationship with their parents and with others.

Our Bodies as a Foundation for Emotional Health

I am well aware through the work that I do that learning, thought, creativity and intelligence are not mere processes of the brain but involve the body as a whole. It is through the movements of our bodies that our thinking brains achieve their greatest potential. From our earliest moments, our bodies play a fundamental role in helping us form a mental construct of the world and are an integral part of all of our intellectual processes. It is through our movements that our neural pathways are laid down and strengthened, which become, in essence, the foundation for learning and ultimately, it is through our bodies that our intelligence is expressed and realized.

When physical movement on all planes is integrated into an infant’s early environment, especially when coupled with the attunement that only a truly present parent can provide, the body becomes a primary instrument for learning. Through gathering information from sensory stimuli, contact, proprioception and thought discovery, the growing body informs the infant about the world, about their relationship to others, and about themselves.

If there is a possibility that through training with your child, you could potentially enhance not only your relationship to him or her, but could also enhance his or her capacity for connectedness, intelligence, and living fully in this world—if you could honestly connect to that possibility as an underlying goal of your practice, would you feel your motivation for commitment more inspired?

Certainly we all want the most advantageous beginnings for our children but it is rare that we consider the effects of so many of their environmental situations as having so profound an impact as what I’m suggesting here. We often keep our children away from various stimuli, such as the loads of pervasive media—a very intelligent choice—yet don’t often grasp the opposing beneficial situations that could enhance their social, emotional, and physiological development. The following chapters will give explicit detail regarding the benefits that all children can acquire from early introductions to physical movement, strengthening the body, pushing limits, rhythm, contact, and most importantly, from bonding time with mommy.

Building a Beautifully Regulated Brain!

One of the most significant benefits of strength training with your baby is that through the practice, each of you can gain a greater capacity for regulating your emotional states. Chapter two will cover the intricacies of how increasing your ability to tolerate physical intensity can aid in your ability to regulate emotional intensity as well. New moms are often overwhelmed with an abundance of emotional states, which seem to leap beyond our zone of what was “normal” before the new little bundle entered in. From the most joyous, love filled states; to experiences of wanting to scream with confusion and angst, to exhaustion and turmoil in balancing this new role, back to excitement and energy and, for some, feeling fully alive for the first time; emotions of a new mom run the gamut! Where life was most often between the 60-80 degree comfort zone (picture a thermometer) new emotions are now flying at random between the low 20s and up into the 100s, with little to no warning.

For new babies as well, the emotional roller coaster can be a new and wonderful experience, one that deserves a mother’s attuned response to be guided gently into the raw, delicate nervous system of her child. Through consciously and actively engaging with your child’s developing nervous system in a safe and fun environment, where you both benefit from strengthening yourselves on multiple levels, this practice can provide a solid foundation for a life of health, happiness, and strength. And through modeling the regulation of both physical and emotional energy as it intensifies throughout your body-mind, you will demonstrate to your child an inner strength and stability in remaining present to intensity, which will greatly serve both of you for life.

With everything you do and say, and even think—every aspect of your character and your presence in this world—you are providing a blueprint for your child for life. And your opportunity for a look into this ever present “mirror” will be the most honest, and often excruciatingly powerful one that you can ever experience.

Sometimes I go back to the 3:30 wake up call of waters rushing from my body and the proclamation of lives forever altered. I truly wonder at the girl I was—as if I could never again inhabit that mental or emotional stage of life. And I am eternally thankful for the gift that mothering has given to me. I consider (what seems now as) the mere 22 hours of pain that my body endured and how it transformed me into the Strong Mother. And close to nine years later, after the birth of my second child, I find myself craving the pain of transcendence yet again—not in some sadomasochistic way but in a way that I know all learning to take place.

Transformation takes conscious choice and it often takes pain. Real pain. It takes acceptance of what is and often, what is …is despair and fear and almost always ego. Yet on the other side of the ego, there is non-attachment and ultimately a greater hope. I’ve heard many a mother proclaim that through becoming Mama, they became whole. Our children give us wholeness just as they receive it back from us, if we have it to give. I have been blessed with children so that I might give back to them, and to others, the strength that mothering has helped me to find. I hope that this book can help you find your greatest Strength.

 

 Thanks For Reading!

Love & Logic Experiment: Giving Choices

I did a little experiment tonight.  After about half an hour of pure relaxation—casual dinner on the deck, listening to the kids giggling stories (these moments when I feel undeniably blessed!)—when it came to cleaning up and getting ready for bed, the kids became a little whiney and argumentative about a few small things I asked them to do—helping clear the table and put a couple of toys away before heading upstairs for books.  And I realized, as I was thinking, “Oh, things felt really nice a few minutes ago.  What am I forgetting here?  How could I do this in a more effective way?” …that one of the Love & Logic principles that I sometimes forget and clearly need to practice is the “Giving Lots of Choices” principle.

The Power of Choices

When we give kids choices—no matter how insignificant they feel to us—they provide our little ones with a sense of self-agency, of control of their lives, and of self-efficacy.

So I took a moment to acknowledge that I had a choice in how I guide this exchange, ultimately setting us all up for either success or failure, and changed my approach, to see what the impact might be.

I thought up a choice for my kids, rehearsed it in my head a few times and reminded myself that over-talking my kids, arguing, and pressuring are always a recipe for failure (and a common mistake from the therapist Mom!).  And I said, “Hey you guys, would you rather put away two of your toys or three?”   That’s it—amidst whining, that was the one sentence I used—and I’ll add, calmly… with a smile on my face!

You might be thinking, well that’s a funny one, right?  Clearly they don’t want to put their toys away so why would they choose more?  Easy answer for any kid!

Oddly, something very different than what one might expect happened when they were offered this option.  And I got a curious response.  Lilly, who’s four, immediately yelled, “two!”  And Nathaniel, my eight-year-old, gave it a little thought and said, “Three.”  Then of course Lilly, who loves to be just like her big brother, changed her mind and said, “I’ll put three away too!”  Then they immediately hustled off to complete their responsibilities—with a playful attitude to boot!

A Sense of Purpose

So what happened?  What occurred in these little Body-Minds that motivated the choice for even more effort?  Think about it this way:  There’s a big difference between having the choice to be more or less productive and being told, simply, to be productive.  One provides an internal sense of purpose.  And kids, just like adults, thrive when they feel a sense of purpose!  When we offer kids the option for making their own choices, we give them the opportunity to think (an activity many kids don’t practice near enough!) and learn about the natural consequences of their choices—an indelible learning opportunity!

Now I’d guess that if given similar choices as adults, representing our capability and desire levels, choice might not prove as much of an internal motivator for many.  Why do you suppose this is?

I have a theory…  it has to do with the amount and the types of choices we were given as children, and the impact on our developing brains and levels of motivation.    If we weren’t given a lot of choice, we don’t correlate it with a sense of empowerment or self-agency.  Simply put, we don’t generally relate choice to “the good feeling.”   And that’s a sad truth!  Because if we’re not owning our own choices, then who is?

Here’s a thought…  if we want to increase our own sense of purpose, becoming ignited like a child in the midst of an exciting opportunity, we might need to develop a practice of “rewiring” our basic hardwired response to the idea of someone else simply telling us to FIND OUR PURPOSE, or to do any number of random tasks.

If we’re lacking internal motivation, at some point, we have an opportunity to shift the circumstances.  However, just becoming aware of the desire to shift doesn’t necessarily create automatic change, right?

We need to start small.

Creating choice, and responding to choice via true, authentic, body responses and thought content—literally “sinking into” our truest wants; and practicing this in small ways over and over again is certainly one way to get familiar with how choice impacts our BodyMinds.  And becoming intimate with our internal choices, desires, truths, is bound to have profound impacts in our relationships!  Consider how much more enticing it is to share time with someone who exudes passion about what they’re up to, rather than the person who simply follows the herd.

“We are our choices.”  ~ Jean-Paul Sartre

Knowing what we want, and stepping fully into choosing can be the one thing that sets us apart from those who go through life with a victim mentality—the idea that their lives are being controlled by others and they’re being forced to come along for the ride.

I see brilliance in my kids, as I hope most parents see in their own kids.  I know that for that brilliance to come alive and have an impact in the world, my kids have to have a sense that they’re the ones driving the boat of their unique paths.  And I want to support that development!

Some of the important things to consider when I offer choices to my kids are also some of the basic Love & Logic principles:

  1. Give choices that fit into your core value system.  Don’t offer a choice and then be upset about the option your kids chose!
  2. Offering choices when things are on track, prior to any power struggle, is going to provide the most effective, long-term benefits.
  3. Choices are CHOICES.  Not THREATS.  Be careful not to threaten under the guise of choice!  For example, “You can either clean your room or spend the rest of the day in it!”  Is not an effective choice.  “Would you rather clean your room or pay your sister to do it?”  Is.

The more effective choices, and the more opportunities we provide our children to learn from THEIR choices, the happier and more productive they will be.  And in the process, we might learn how to navigate through our own abilities to step fully into what we want.  What great modeling we can provide our kids when we do!

“There are moments when one has to choose between living one’s own life, fully, entirely, completely—or dragging out some false, shallow, degrading existence that the world in its hypocrisy demands. You have that moment now. Choose!”  

~ Oscar Wilde

For the Love of Your Life!

Angie

Artistic Mamas

For the past two years, I’ve had the opportunity to be a part of a group of Mothers and women bringing together their creative efforts in sharing unique and vulnerable styles of art and expression–Artistic Mamas.  This creative effort was literally Birthed by a courageous and awake Mama, Jacquie Van Horne, who had a vision…  a vision to gather the bold spirit of powerful mothers and dedicate an evening to our embodied expression.

Mother’s do hold a place in the world for powerful expression of all that we hold–both in our arms and in our hearts. To offer a space for Mama’s to gather, support, hold space, and share the stories which have been woven through communities and histories, providing the foundation for our children to bloom; this has a been a gift to many mothers in the Denver Metro area by the Artistic Mamas Organization.  I believe it is a gift that continues to give!