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Author: FLORA

I am a post-career SAHM (Stay-at-home mom), living in Bozeman Montana. I share stories and ideas from parenting with a Montessori and Positive Discipline inspired perspective. Also, I LOVE DIY projects and finding great ways to use thrift store or hand-made toys for my little ones.
Learn more about why I say I'm "Just" a stay-at-home mom.

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Stop Trying to be Perfect

Recently I attended a Circle of Security workshop for parents, and I read the book “Raising a ...

My Top 3 Favorite Positive Discipline Tools

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Parenting is a lot like learning to drive in Montana winter weather. In the most heart-pounding moments, you are told to go against your natural instincts.

As a Californian, when I moved to Mt, I told my husband I was really scared of driving in the snow. My husband gave me 3 small but challenging tips:

  1. Just drive slow and steady. Ok. I can do that.
  2. IF you have to break, don’t let your reflexes slam down the pedal. Resist your nature and pump the breaks instead.   Getting a little bit harder to picture doing in the heat of a scary moment.
  3. If you happen to have a deer jump out faster than you can break, it’s better to hit the dear than to swerve and likely roll your car. What?! That does not seem right? That would go against every bone in my body.

The same is true in parenting. In the most heart-pounding moments, it’s often more effective to go a bit against your natural insticts. But it is definitely worth it! When I notice my child isn’t listening, my instint is often to repeat myself or speak louder and louder until I’m yelling, and eventually maybe even resort to some threat/intimidation tactics to GET HIM TO DO what I have TOLD him to do!   Not usually as affective as getting down to the child’s eye level and connection before correction,  asking instead of telling, or deciding to stop trying to MAKE them do something, and instead deciding what you will do and following through. I’ll tell you a bit more about all of these parenting tools in a moment.

These are 3 of my favorite parenting tools and they come from Positive Discipline, created by Jane Nelsen and Lynn Lott. Even though they are challenging often in the heat of parenting moments, they are the most effective long-term.

  1. Connect before you correct.

Picture this challenging moment: I’m walking to the car with at 5pm with a 1 year old. I lift him towards the car seat and am met with a bone curdling scream in my ear a hip thrust forward and kicking legs. One of his legs kicks me in the side of my stomache. I am frustrated!

I’m tired from a long day, I just want to get home to eat dinner and enjoy the help of my husband, who should be home from work when we get there. This is NOT what I want to be dealing with.

Everything in me wants to scold him and tell him his behavior is unacceptable! I want to say, “You WILL get your bottom in that chair because there is no other option.”

Instead, I pause to connect before I correct.

I pull him away from the car seat, back onto my hip so I can put a hand on his back as I speak softly. I say something like “whoa, whoa, whoa. Hold on a moment. I can tell you don’t want to go home. You were having so much fun in our music class weren’t you? That was such a fun time!  It’s hard to leave places that are so fun, huh?”  With each word and stroke of his back, I feel his body relax incrementally, appreciating the validation.

Then, I continue with correction.  “But wait. Let’s look. Look at the other kids getting into their cars. The class is done. No one is staying here. We are all headed home to see mommy’s and daddy’s and have dinner. And we get to come back next week for music again.  Let’s go home and see daddy!” He nods and I lift him towards the car seat with no resistance at all. We buckle up and head on our way.   Really only 2 minutes were lost in the time it took to connect before correction of his behavior. And it was well worth it.

Jane Nelsen says, “Children learn best when they feel connection. Extensive research shows that we cannot influence children in a positive way until we create a connection with them. It is a brain (and heart) thing. Sometimes we have to stop dealing with the misbehavior and first heal the relationship.”

  1. Asking instead of telling.

A “Telling” parent says:

“Go brush your teeth. Get your coat. Stop fighting with your brother.”

An “Asking” parent addresses those same situations with curiosity questions:

“What do you need to do so your teeth don’t feel scuzzy? What are you taking so you won’t be cold outside?  How can you and your brother solve this problem?”

It’s a major shift in how we teach our children.  Teaching doesn’t have to involve the adult doing all the thinking.  *In fact, it’s WAY better if the adult isn’t doing the majority of the thinking.  Curiosity questions are a way to use dialogue to get the child’s brain to have to think about the answer.  It’s much less likely to trigger the child tuning you out, or resisting with “No”.

  1. Decide what you will do, & Follow-Through.

Instead of trying to MAKE a child do something. There are times you can Just decide what you will do and follow through.

“If you throw that toy, I will put it away”, “I am going in the other room until you are done screaming”, “When your shoes are on, then I am happy to take you to the park.”

Connect before you Correct, Asking instead of Telling and Deciding what YOU will do & following through.   These are all parenting tools that I believe are challenging to our natural instincts, but will help you get through the storms of parenting with the outcomes you really want.

Have you sold out if your child goes to pre-school?

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musclenerd-selloutLadies and gentleman, the day has come that I am reaching out for some regular help with my little man (now 1 1/2).  I always knew I would consider pre-school at SOME point for Chunky Monkey.  But, I wasn’t sure when.  I guess in my mind I thought it would likely be around age 3 1/2 or 4.  But then, life never goes quite as you had imagined, does it? It SURE hasn’t for me.

I learned through a friend about a Montessori teacher in Bozeman who wants to open a small 5-child pre-school specifically for kids around 2. It’s 3 hours in the morning for 3 days a week.  It just seems too good to pass up.  He will have some great time to learn and socialize, while I will have time to…. Well, I’m not sure exactly what I will do. But I have no doubt I will find a way to fill the time. Hopefully it will mean I can blog post more often! Maybe I can take a yoga class to help my achy back that gets all outta wack from holding this 28 lb kid! Also, I hope to put the word out more in my community to teach some more parenting workshops.

There is a part of me that wonders if I am selling out on being “Just” a SAHM.  But I am also trying to stay flexible in my expectations and not do anything just because I think I “should” (a constant battle as a SAHM).

If you have done something similar, drop a line to share your thoughts.  It’s great to share in this journey with others.

Hugs, Hugs, Hugs!

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This is a Tool Card, created by Jane Nelsen and Adrian Garsia.

This is a Tool Card, created by Jane Nelsen and Adrian Garsia.

In a recent 3-part parenting workshop where I shared Positive Discipline parenting tools, this was one of the biggest hits!

The tool is simple – use hugs in difficult moments. Here is 1 mom’s report after our first class where she learned about how to offer your child a hug when they are throwing a tantrum (see the details on the card to the left):

“I have to admit I really thought the idea was kinda silly and unlikely to work with my son. But I tried it the next time he threw a tantrum, and…. it worked! I simply got down to his level and opened my arms and said, ‘I need a hug’. He had the most surprised look on his face and was stopped in his tracks. He came and gave me a hug and we both left the situation smiling.  It was awesome!”

Sometimes you don’t even have to use words. When your child is having a meltdown about not getting his way, you can simply offer comfort by getting down to his level and stretching out your arms. Be sure that you don’t change the limit you just set because that could send the wrong message. The intent here is that you can still offer your child empathy, even when you have set a limit. Empathy is always the gateway to bringing a child from where he is (emotionally), to where you want him to be.  (Learn more about this idea by reading “Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child” by John Gottman).

A day of slow parenting

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Have you heard of this new movement called “Slow Parenting”.  I was first introduced to the idea a month ago when a mom wrote an article on opting for a “Slow Parenting” summer.  The idea was intriguing.  The main concept is to slow down in this very busy planned world we all live in.  It’s an opposition to overscheduling and overstressing a child with too many “enrichment” classes/activities.

Just 2 weeks ago, the Boston Globe posted an article about slow parenting, and it sums up this counter-cultural approach so well:

“I encourage parents to take some time to just watch their children, whether they are playing, doing homework, or eating a snack,” [John Duffy, a clinical psychologist and author of The Available Parent] says. “Take a moment to drink them in. Remember and remind yourself how remarkable your children are. That pause alone, even if momentary, can drive a shift in the pace”…

“These days when everyone is so busy, we need to be intentional about making space for family time…” Family time, says Contey [cofounder of Slow Family Living] is different for all of us. “You might say, ‘we’re all here on Thursday mornings, so let’s make a leisurely pancake breakfast’; or one night a week take a walk in the dark before bed. Something like that can feel really special and the kids will remember it as they get older”…

So, I focused on this idea yesterday and slow parenting was fantastic!image1 image2

We went to 1 outing in the morning for 1/2 an hour and besides that we just  went at Chunky Monkey’s pace, enjoying things big and small around our house.  He played with some “typical” play things, like play dough and finger paint.  But the best part was probably when he was just exploring our house without any agenda (and I was along for the ride!).

He sat on the stairs for a really long time, practicing turning around and moving up and down.  I was right there for safety, but normally I would have missed all of this because I just want him to go up or down and get where we are going.  He wandered in and out of our closet, bringing out various pairs of mom/dad’s shoes for me to “put on” him (I use that term loosely).  And he went in small areas of the room to “hide” from me and giggled hysterically each time I found him.  I hung on every giggle wishing I could somehow mentally record the sound and never forget it.

It was SO much fun! I found myself really actually present with him.  And I realized there are many moments in a day where I am just trying to have him be busy so I can talk to a friend, on a play date.

I also enjoyed the opportunity to fully take in the little man he is becoming.  I really got to observe how his large motor coordination is developing and marveled at the things his eyes and hands were eager to explore.

If you take a day, or a season, to really focus on slow parenting, I’d love to hear about it.:-)

How to help a 1-year-old having a tantrum

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validating feelingsI absolutely love Positive Discipline! Click here to visit Positive Discipline If you haven’t checked out any of their books or website – do it now! They have the best advice (in my opinion) for how to help behaviors in a  way that is kind AND firm at the same time.

Positive.Discipline.validate_feelings

Positive Discipline Tool Card about Validating Feelings

Today, I want to share some ideas on how to help a 1-year-old when they are starting to cry or scream about something they don’t like (using Positive Discipline’s “Validate Feelings” tool card.  I don’t know about your child, but mine cries often over very small things.  If he could talk, he would likely be saying things like, “I don’t want to sit there”, “I hate putting my coat on”, “I don’t want to get in the car”, “I’m not sitting in this high chair”!

Since he can’t talk, he screams or cries.  Recently I read something that totally helped me understand this better.  Crying is most of the time a form of communication for children 1-2 years old.  It doesn’t mean you have to stop what you are asking them to do (unless it’s a cry about physical pain), or give in to their plea for a cookie, etc .  Just try to translate what the cry really means into words.  So, if he is crying, I stop myself from responding “don’t cry about this,”, because that would be like saying, “Stop telling me you are frustrated with this.”

Instead, seek to hear their cry as a way to communicate frustration and then respond accordingly with empathy and firmness:

“Oh boy. You are frustrated that we are getting shoes on right now. You do not like putting shoes on. I hear that (while child is crying screaming). It’ ok to be frustrated.  Take a minute to just be frustrated about that. I’m here.  I’ll give you a hug. I don’t like doing things sometimes too.”  Meanwhile, I pause the putting-on-shoes process to just connect with a  hug, cuddle and soft voice, hoping my calmness can wear off on my child. Usually this works to calm his cries screams within 1-2minutes.

In a moment of screaming 1-2 minutes can feel like FOREVER, but it’s really worth the wait.  It’s not that long at all when you think of the lifelong benefit you are giving your child, helping him to feel their feelings are valid and helping them understand and manage their emotions.

Empathy has the power to really take the sting out of most difficult situations.  It doesn’t make it perfect. The child isn’t going to smile and say, “Ok. I am completely happy now about getting my shoes on”.  BUT, they are more likely to be able to move past the emotion to a level of calmness where you can distract them with something else to focus on and move forward.  Once that initial flare-up has died down, I then say something like, “Here. Could you hold my keys and be a helper?” (while then putting the shoes on).

Hope you see great results!  

**Disclaimer: Remember, this is not a 1-time fix.  This is a tool to use over and over again throughout the tantrums years for better results towards helping your child understand and manage their emotions.  Expect to repeat these steps 5-20+ times a day (depending on the day!);-)  Would love to help you trouble-shoot if you aren’t seeing it help your 1-year-old’s tantrums.