Service as an Antidote to Privilege

communityservice   How many of you live in a place like we do (Silicon Valley) where there is so much money floating around that kids realities are skewed to believing that things like expensive European vacations, multimillion dollar homes and every opportunity known to human kind lies at their finger tips?  It’s great that the world is their oyster in a lot of ways, but the price of privilege, as Dr. Madeline Levine calls it, can be very high.

I believe that involving kids in service of all kinds can counteract the price of privilege.  From having friends of diverse backgrounds who live in less privileged places, feeding the hungry, growing a garden, caring for animals in the shelter, hammering nails in a home for a family in need, cleaning up the beach, spending time with a child in the hospital or an elderly person who loves the company of kids, tutoring a child who goes to a less resourced school, having discussions about inequality and making a difference, there are all kinds of ways that we can support our children growing up in privilege to have more perspective, compassion and value for putting their privilege to work in order to make a difference in their world.

As parents, what we do in our own lives and with our own educations has perhaps the biggest impact on our children’s sense of perspective and values growing up in an environment of privilege.

   “Education either functions as an instrument which is used to facilitate integration of the younger generation into the logic of the present system and bring about conformity or it becomes the practice of freedom, the means by which men and women deal critically and creatively with reality and discover how to participate in the transformation of their world.”
Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed

I have a commitment to using my own education as a means to transform some aspect of the world and I intend to shape the experiences of my daughters to do the same!

My years of teaching in inner city schools taught me that there is so much need right in our own backyards, the understanding of which has been intensely magnified by having my own children who have been born into such privilege, that daily my own desire and commitment to shaping my children’s hearts and minds to give back and to transform this world with all that they are given increases and multiplies.

I’d love to hear from other parents raising children in privileged communities – how are you supporting your children to use their prvilege and educations to transform our world?

Special Time Can Take The Edge Off Sibling Rivalry!

Special-Time-timer    Do you find that your  angel children often act like devils when they start fighting over toys, your lap, the silliest things?  In Siblings Without Rivalry, the authors discuss the roots of the constant tension often present between siblings:  their need for individual connection and their desire to be known for their uniqueness.

When you sit and plan your week, one tool to start adding to your parenting toolkit is Special Time.  It’s designed to create and foster an intimate connection with each individual child.  All you need is 15-30 minutes, at least 3 times per week.  When you carve this time out, you simply tell your child “We’re going to have some Special Time” and you explain that during Special Time, your child gets to do whatever he/she wants to do and that you will simply give all your attention and do whatever he/she wants you to do.  This gives the child back the power he/she needs to feel confident and often loses throughout his/her day as a child living in an adult world.  You put away any distractions – no phone, no computer, no cooking, no side conversation with the sibling or partner.  You give ALL your loving, focused, undistracted, warm attention to your one child for this period of Special Time.  Set a timer for the time you have (15-30 minutes).  This helps the child know that Special Time is different from regular time and helps set clear expectations.

During Special Time, you let go of control or influence over this time and let your child lead the way.  You watch with your full, focused love and warmth as your child starts a game, runs and wants you to chase, pulls out the dolls or trucks, sings, dances, jumps, and you see how he/she wants you to participate.  You let go of control.  You can have limits around how this time is spent.  I do not allow screens or sugar during this time.  And just enjoy taking in the beauty and awesomeness that is your unique child.  And he/she feels this love and warmth and awe and takes it in fully.  This practice fills the emotional and neurological needs of your child so fully that when you’ve been doing it regularly, you will notice changes in his/her cooperation and sense of ease throughout your days together.  And if each child is receiving this Special Time regularly, you will see a decrease in sibling rivalry because their individual needs for connection and recognition will be met so fully!  YES!

If you have certain times of day that are most challenging, try inserting some space for Special Time before those times (the morning routine, a meal, bath, bed, when sibling comes home from school, etc.).  When the off track behaviors occur, that is your child’s brain signaling a need for connection, which is well met and nourished using Special Time.

You can start using Special Time with children of any age.  When they are babies or too young for verbal interaction, you can take a stance of observation instead of forced interaction or teaching.  Let the child’s curiosity and interest lead the way.  When a child is older and “Special Time” is not a fun or cool enough name, let the kid name it.  My daughter started calling it Birthday Time or Science Time and I’ve heard of teenagers calling it Hangout Time or perhaps it becomes centered around Baseball or Basketball or Nature.  Let it evolve and let your child have control over it.

Enjoy this sacred time with your children and the amazing results and benefits that it brings!

If you would like to learn more about this and other useful, practical, neuroscientifically-based parenting practices, check out my 6 week Parenting by Connection classes at UME Play Space in Menlo Park.  The next one starts May 1, 2014.  These classes will begin again in August and run throughout the school year.  For more information and to enroll, click here:  http://rayoflightcoaching.com/parenting-by-connection-six-week-class/

UME Play Space: Fun for the Whole Family!

UME    When I first had my second daughter, I was staying at home with her and often had full days of care for both she and her older sister who was about 3 years old.  As many Moms can relate, I often felt overwhelmed with sleep deprivation and their un-synced schedules for eating, play and naps.  I often was feeling stir crazy being in the house.

UME Play Space in Menlo Park became a haven for me during that first year of my transition to being a Mom of two kids.  It was perfect.  I could go there and be completely comfortable sitting on the floor breastfeeding when the baby needed it, while her older sister was happy as could be playing on the trampoline, shopping in the grocery store, cooking at the toy kitchens or making art in the studio.  I also could order myself a carmel macchiatto and organic snacks and lunch for everyone at a reasonable price.  We often spent many hours here until the baby had to nap – we all were so much happier than if we had stayed home.

I’ve attended great birthday parties at UME as well where parents organized supervised activites, brought in great food spreads, and where happy birthday was sung in the back room which was expertly decorated for the occasion.

Every day, UME offers a schedule of activities to people who come through its doors.  There can be storytime in the library, an art activity in the art room, structured play activities in the gymnastics space and outdoor activities on the back porch, all included for free in the price of admission.

In the winter time when neighborhood parks are not really an option, UME is an awesome space to bring kids aged 0-7.  It is a huge space where kids can run around, get their energy out jumping on the trampoline and engage their creative side doing art.  Plus the cafe served delicious, healthy food and great coffee, and there are plenty of plug outlets lining the wall near windows overlooking the play space so parents can get work done while their kids play.

UME is also now offering lots of summer camps for preschool through middle school aged kids.  They also offer an impressive list of parent education classes, including my Parenting by Connection 6 week class.  Visit their site to see all their parent ed, camp and activities offerings.  There seems to be something for everyone offered!

So the next time you’re looking to get out of the house and enjoy some fun for the entire family, check out UME Play Space in Menlo Park and have a blast!

http://www.u-meplace.com/

All Joy and No Fun Book Review

alljoyandnofuncover In All Joy and No Fun, The Paradox of Modern Parenthood, author Jennifer Senior takes readers through a history and analysis of how modern parenting has become the paradox that it is today. Rather than asking, as most parenting books do, about what effect parents have on their children, she spins the question to ask what affect children have on their parents.

This book is gracefully researched, argued and beautifully written with an entertaining style and powerful prose. I found myself deeply moved while humorously recognizing my own modern parenting journey throughout its vignettes.

“Concerted cultivation” is the term the author borrows to describe, analyze and name the origins of the current trend most parents are dealing with— overscheduled children. This modern tendency “places intense labor demands on busy parents, exhausts children and emphasizes the development of individualism, at times at the expense of the development of the notion of the family group.”

So why, Senior wants to know, do modern parents allow their children and parenting to create this level of stress and exhaustion for themselves and their entire families? Overcompensating behaviors are based in fear of something.  The parents showcased in this chapter, and all modern parents to a degree, have fears about the future that they are raising their kids to live in. Our generation of parents has seen so much change that it’s hard to imagine what kind of reality our children will face in 10 or 20 years. Most modern parents feel they are raising their kids to enter a reality they will barely understand: to compete with their peers across the globe for highly-skilled, high-tech jobs that will require them to attend top universities in order to be competitive.  So there is an external standard of how our kids should be raised in order to compete.

One of the most compelling lines in the entire book comes during the “Marriage” chapter when one father, who arrives home from his night shift so his wife can leave for her day shift job, says “I am my own standard” when he is raising his kids. The author asks what would happen if we eased the external standard of concerted cultivation and allowed ourselves to spend time with our children according to what we deem is enough, healthy and worthwhile for them?

In the chapter “Adolescence,” Senior relays an important study by Steinberg who found that “…adolescence is especially tough on parents who don’t have an outside interest, whether it be work or a hobby, to absorb their interests as their child is pulling away [into the autonomy of adolescence].” In his sample of parents, this was true whether the parent was an involved parent or a disengaged one, a helicopter or a remote-controlled drone. “The critical protective variable was not, as some might expect, whether or not an individual invested a great deal in parenting,” he wrote. “It was the absence of non-parental investment.” Mothers who’d made the choice to stay home were especially vulnerable to a decline in mental health. But so were parents without hobbies, and so were parents who didn’t find fulfillment in their jobs and viewed them more as a source of pay than a source of pride. “It was as if the child, by leaving center stage, redirected the spotlight onto the parents’ own life, exposing what was fulfilling about it and what was not.”

Reading this summarized most of the questions that I myself have felt in the early years of parenting in deciding whether to continue working, to stay at home, to take classes, to remain involved in my creative passions, cultivate friendships, pursue my passions through business.

I leave you with these two points to consider:

1. Are you parenting your children to your own standard? If you find yourself exhausted and depleted running from activity to activity, perhaps it’s time to stop and decide for yourself how to best parent your own child. Giving them time during their day and week to just be, with unstructured time to connect with you, will help them no matter where their life leads. It may seem tough and, sure, there are many things to be afraid of in our fast-paced, changing world. But ultimately, burning you and your child out will not bring that glorious future any more quickly or more efficiently. If overscheduling is an issue for you, your kids and your family, you could start by letting go of at least one thing on the frenetic schedule.

2. What are you doing today to invest in your own life? It can be a job, a hobby, a passionate interest or an activity. The point is it that it is YOURS. It’s something that you do FOR YOU. The kids are going to leave their daily lives and homes in several years to go away for school or work. When they do, it may be unbearably difficult to parents that haven’t taken time to invest in themselves. Besides, kids benefit greatly by seeing their parents engage passionately and with fulfillment in their own lives. In fact, as this book suggests, it is the biggest factor in our kids’ learning to create a life they love, and one that means something to them and the greater world around them.

Connect Before You Correct!

barin-img     Brain science has a lot to teach parents about why their kids exhibit “off track   behavior” and what the most effective responses to these behaviors are.

The limbic brain is what I call in my Parenting by Connection classes the “downstairs,” or foundation, of a child’s developing brain.  This limbic system thrives on secure, attached connection with a caregiver.  Throughout a child’s development, this part of the brain knows to scan its environment for close connection so that its primarily emotional needs can be met.  Once the limbic system’s needs are met, the prefontal cortex, or the “upstairs,” more complex part of the brain that is the center of logic and decision-making, can develop optimally as well.  The prefontal cortex, a.k.a. executive center of the brain, is not fully developed in humans on average until the age of 25!  No wonder teens act as they do :-).

When a child’s behavior goes off track (tantrum, whining, talking back, acting out, poor decision-making), it is a signal that the needs of the limbic brain are not being adequately met.  If a child is younger than 5 years old, the prefontal cortex development has not reached a point where during this off track behavior, the child can process logic or reasoning.  And the functioning of the prefontal cortex, or logic center, is dependent upon the optimal functioning of the limbic brain.  So a parent yelling or using words towards a child who is having a tantrum is not productive or effective to support the child in learning what he or she needs to learn in that moment.

As a rule, parents of young children should remember the saying “Connect Before You Correct” in responding to their child(ren)’s off track behavior.  If you want to be effective during those most challenging moments of a tantrum or slammed door, try a new approach.  Get down, get low, hold your child as they are crying, writhing or saying something rude to you.  I know it may make you feel like you are “rewarding bad behavior.”  Let that idea go for now.  It is not based in brain science!

Get down to the eye level of your child, look him or her in the eye, hold them close.  Let the emotional wave they are experiencing complete itself.  Once the tears or emotional storm has passed, and there is a calm after that storm, you can discuss how you felt and make a request for different behavior in future.  This is not the time for harsh criticism, punishment or isolation.  Your child’s brain is doing what all children’s brains do.

It is up to parents to understand what’s happening in their child’s brain and to respond appropriately.  No child intentially tantrums or cries just to make a parent angry.  There is a need that is not being met and their entire system is functioning to get that need met.  Slow down, get close, and take the time to be an anchor for your child as he or she develops and you will be happy with the results:  more cooperation, more trust, more closeness and more empathy in your relationship!

Date Night In

datenightin    So often as couples with kids we hear the general wisdom that we have to have “date nights” to keep our marriages exciting, to protect against the inevitable marital strain of constant child care and sleeplessness.

To this advice I respond, how bout once the kids are in bed you stay in and connect on a depper level?  Run a bath, pop the cork on your favorite bottle, sit and eat dinner together, be together, sharing about your day?

These days what couples occupy themselves with once the work day and kid day are done is getting on their lap tops or sitting in front of the television and chugging away with endless screen time.

What if one or two nights a week, you discipline yourselves to not turn on any screens – not even Game of Thrones or House of Cards! – and instead (once the drought is under control :-) ) run a bath or just sit on the couch, facing one another, spending some good time making eye contact, making out, and talking about what is really going on for each other.

Remember the good ole days when just sitting together and making out was nearly magical?  How long does it take to start making out and just enjoying that?  Somebody’s gotta get the ball rolling, how bout trying it tonight?

And then it doesn’t have to turn into some giant dramatic night of fancy sex, either.  If it does, congratulations – cha ching!  But if that’s not in the cards, how bout just sitting together and taking turns really sharing how you’ve been feeling, what’s been on your mind… and not about the kids! In your own lives, in your own work, with your own friends, in your own creative spaces.  Just taking some time to go there and really share something deeper with each other.

The best, longest lasting, happiest marriages have intimacy in tact – and surprisingly, that is not exclusively about sex.  It’s about emotional closeness and TAKING THE TIME to actually connect, share, know each other deeply, and be there for each other in a connected way.

So the next time you’re feeling a bit frustrated by the state of your marriage and the impact kids have had on it, try simplifying by staying in, connecting, talking and see how much better you feel!

Really Listening: One Simple Tool to Try Today!

As a clove-aliveoach, I often reflect on what listening really is, how simple it is, and unfortunately, how rare true, present listening really is.  If you stop and think about your last interaction with your spouse, was each of you listening?

I define real listening as putting aside your own agenda to be present, hear and understand another person and to be able to engage in that person’s world without projecting your own thoughts, feelings, fears, experiences.  In our fast-paced lives with so many juggled tasks and responsibilities, true listening can be hard to come by.  But its benefits are beyond measure.

I teach parents how to truly listen to one another in my Parenting by Connection classes and we are always amazed by the vulnerable sharing and truth that surfaces in true listening’s gentle presence.

For couples, one simple practice can improve listening tremendously and it is used commonly in couples counseling and workshops.  Try it and see if it helps to bring you and your spouse closer together and to help you feel more heard and present.

Each spouse gets a turn, start with 5 minutes.  Set a timer.  The person who is speaking is the only one who gets to speak during that 5 minutes of time.  The listener must clear his or her mind of thought and simply listen to the spouse who is speaking.  When the timer goes off, the listening spouse must explain to the speaking spouse what they heard them share.  The spouse who spoke gets to respond to the listener to let them know if their most salient points were heard and communicated back accurately and if there were any main takeaways that were missed.  Then the partners switch.

It’s that simple!  Try it and I guarantee you will feel more heard, more connected and more able to start joining together to improve your marriage rather than working at odds against each other.

Here’s to feeling like a team and to deepening your marriage each day.

Weekly Family Meetings

family-meeting    In the hustle bustle of modern family living, it’s easy to literally forget to talk to the people we love.  It’s common for mothers and fathers to go days, weeks, months without sitting down to really share what is going on in their lives, discuss important matters, and connect in a deep way.  Children are often being shuttled around and rarely get the chance to have the issues, experiences and ideas they are living with heard in the family unit as well.

A practice which can help to create more communication, closeness and a sense of smooth operating for families is the weekly family meeting.  My neighbor does this with her family each Sunday evening from 5-6pm.  She has a large piece of paper taped to the fridge with “Family Meeting Topics” written at the top of it where throughout the week when an issue, topic or need arises for anyone in the family, they can jot it down so it is sure to be discussed on Sunday evening.

At the meeting, each family member is given a certain amount of time (5-10 minutes) with a timer to speak what is on their mind, share how they are feeling, make requests of other family members that are specific and address needs which have arised.  One week, Sally may ask Jonah to be sure to put the toilet seat down so that when she wakes up groggy in the morning, she doesn’t nearly fall in.  Dad may ask the kids to be sure to clean up their toys before he gets home so he doesn’t have one more long task to complete at the end of a long day.  Mom may ask Dad to be sure he picks up groceries this week because she has a Moms Night Out.  Those are the practical requests.

Each family member also is invited to share anything that is happening in their world that has strong feelings attached.  For instance, Sally shares that a friend she really counts on has started to flake on her and she is feeling nervous and sad.  Jonah explains that he has his heart set on making the baseball team but has been disappointed at his own performance at tryouts.  The rest of the family listens wholeheartedly, without trying to fix anything, just to hear what their sister, brother or parent is going through and to offer compassionate awareness.  If the family member wants feedback or input, he or she will ask.  Mom and Dad also share what is really going on for them emotionally:  a difficult encounter with a boss, a friend who is sick with cancer, concerns over an aging parent’s health.  This way, part of the family culture is being created in openness, vulnerability, trust, truth and authenticity.

If you find yourself wishing your family felt more like a unit with close ties than it does currently, and your youngest child is verbal, this could be a structure to start incorporating into your family’s weekly life.  It’s a ritual that has meaning, fosters closeness and opens up the family unit to work together, be aware of one another and accept each others’ experiences wholeheartedly.  And it can be a lot of fun!

Balancing it All: Top 5 Ways to Become Minimalist

Family holding hands  In today’s intense work and parenting times, many of us find ourselves hurriedly running around in the car from appointment to activity, returning home to clutter and chaos.  There is hardly a chance to breathe, much less feel balanced.

There is a movement gaining momentum which encourages us, even parents, to become minimalist.  In a minimalist lifestyle, clutter is gone, stress is reduced, and people actively behave in their daily lives, and create in their environments, balance through simplicity.

So today I share with you top 5 ways to turn your chaotic lifestyle around to become minimalist, even if you are a dual working parent household:

1.)  Get rid of stuff:

If you go through the scattered toys, clothes closets, junk drawers, all the stuff in your house and get rid of anything you have not used in the last 6 months, you will be surprised at how different your environment will feel and look.  And what’s more, if you bring those extra things that are doing nothing but cluttering your space to a charity that serves poor families, your clutter becomes someone else’s treasure.  Nothing better than a win-win!

2.)  Cut out extra activities:

Sure, your neighbor’s kid is going to be a world chess champion, and the Nobel Prize winner’s daughter at school is probably going to get into Harvard one day.  Does that mean you have to sign your kids up for 6 different activities, signing yourself up to become an unpaid chauffeur?  Not necessary.  Let your kids be who THEY are.  It’s not about comparing them or keeping up with perceived greatness.  Your kids will make their own progress just fine.  The important thing is that you and your family spend quality time together.  What if in the afternoons when you normally would be running around from activity to activity, you and your kids laugh and play and connect?  What if you spend that time NOT STRESSED and your kids experience your presence?  Don’t we all know that that is what matters most to our kids’ growth and development?  Go through your weekly schedule and for now, pick one or two things that your kids really excel at or love and stick with those.  Everything else, cut them out and stay home or find simpler, free ways to spend your time, TOGETHER.  Your kids, your life, your spouse, everyone around you will thank you for taking this step because it will make you all happier.

3.)  Let go of your To Do List:

If  you’re like most modern moms, your To Do List is like an angry boss who never relents.  Your To Do list controls your entire existence.  Really?  Is this why we had families and work so hard everyday?  What would it feel like to just let the To Do List go for a while and replace it instead with one or two major things per day that you need to get done?  Are the To Do List police going to come after you?  I don’t think so.  It is a CHOICE to live a lifestyle that creates stress and overwhelm.  And while we choose that because we think somehow it makes us a better mom or a more efficient person, in the end, the anxiety and stress caused by it bring us down and get in our way.  So for the next month, burn your To Do List.  Seriously.  Just let it go.  And let yourself experience some freedom from anxiety, worry and stress.  What you gain in centeredness, groundedness and a feeling of freedom will serve you better in the long run than chasing after a finished To Do List, which is impossible to attain.  When we die, our inboxes will be full.  So what?

4.)  Spend More Time in Nature:

Research shows that people who spend time in nature are happier and experience a feeling of balance in their lives.  The natural sounds, beauty, energy and lessons available to us when we are in nature have an impact on our inner rhythms, our sense of time, and our connectedness with all that lives.  When we spend too much time around technology, we are robbing ourselves of these opportunities.  Remember that technology and gadgets, the latest app, all of that “cutting edge” stuff is really produced for companies to get rich off of us.  What if we let go of the time we spend using technology and replace it with time spent in nature?  The local park counts.  Sure, if you have a chance to go take a real, longer hike in the woods, great.  But just choosing the park and outdoor play over technology will make a huge difference in yours and your child’s life.  Every chance you get, when you see yourself opening the laptop, your kids turning to the video games, whatever form screens are taking over your family, close them, turn them OFF.  Open the door and go outside.  Even for 15 minutes, time spent in fresh air will serve all of you better now and in the long run.

5.)  Tell stories and connect:

Some parents may wonder what they will do with time created by cutting out all the things that stress them out and have their family running around like chickens with their heads cut off.  No gymnastics class?  What will I do with that time?  No TV?!  How will I possibly entertain my kids?  Well, here is an idea.  What if with the time created by letting go of the chaos, you spent some time telling stories and connecting with your family?  Research is showing that the more kids understand about their parents’, grandparents’ and family’s lives, the more they can recount stories about where you grew up, who your friends were, what milestones you reached, what you learned along your journey, etc., the more grounded their sense of self is in life.  Sure, it takes a bit of time and energy, but connecting with your family is always time well spent.  And this is authentic time together, not created by buzzing lights and plastic levers.  This is just people being together, sharing what their lives have been, and satisfying natural curiosity that kids have to know their histories, their parents, and their own lives more deeply.  Enjoy those special, meaningful and fun moments!

Some of these ideas may seem impossible from where you currently are in your time management and family lifestyle.  But they are completely within your reach.    Everyone can benefit from slowing down, deepening into themselves, embracing simplicity, and relying on nature and connection to teach them what matters most in life.  You will not be sorry!

 

Tantrum Taming 101

Toddler throwing a tantrum      Is your toddler starting to tantrum at the most inopportune moments?  Have you been feeling that your once angelic baby is turning into some kind of demon?

I remember lamenting my child’s transition to toddlerhood until I found a few amazing parenting tools which now make me feel secure and confident in preventing as well as responding to the inevitable tantrum.

First off, it’s important to remember what is happening in a child’s brain when a tantrum occurs.  The lymbic system, or ground floor of the brain, is its most foundational and primitive part.  The prefrontal cortex, or Director/Thinker of the brain, develops after this more foundational limbic portion, and is dependent for optimal development upon the limbic brain’s needs being met.

What is the biggest need of a child’s limbic, or emotional, brain?  CONNECTION.  When a child feels connected to his or her caregiver, chances are, tantrums will not occur as often or with as much force.  A tantrum is, afterall, just a child’s reaction to a loss of connection, in many ways an attempt to re-establish a strong sense of connection.

What does that mean for parents and caregivers?  Put simply, if you want to prevent or respond appropriately to tantrums, it is all about establishing, maintaining and nurturing a strong connection with your child.

One of the practices I teach in my Parenting by Connection classes, and practice nearly daily with my children, is called Special Time.  I use my phone timer and set it for 10-40 minutes.  I put the phone on a high shelf, out of sight.  We commit to no technology or distractions during this time.  Then I ask my child, “We can do anything (no screens, no sweets) you want to do – what would you like to do for Special Time?”  Then I follow her lead.  She is the one coming up with all the play ideas, and I ask her to tell me what she would like for me to do.  While this Special Time and play is happening, I give her my full attention, warmth, and use this as  a sacred space and time to be completely present, in awe of and loving my child.  If you practice this regularly with your child, and especially before difficult transitions or times of day (like morning routine, meal times, bed times, etc), you will notice more cooperation, ease and emotional regulation with your child.

If after you start using this tool you notice a time when tantrums start happening more and more, I suggest you consider the tantrums to be an indicator that your child needs more connection.  When tantrums do occur, it is best to get low and get close, so that the connection that the limbic brain is searching for is met.  Once the connection is reestablished, Staylisten through big feelings by being sure your child is safe, holding her and allowing her to emote.  While this is not considered to be the easiest way to respond to a tantrum, research and experience shows that it is the most effective for children of any age.  Their brain’s need for connection is maintained and their emotions run their course.  The child returns to clarity and calm once the emotional storm is allowed to pass in safety and security.

Old school methods of responding to tantrums with time outs, punishments, commands to stop crying are increasingly being refuted with brain and emotional research.  When a child tantrums, he or she needs to release the tensions created by connections not remaining strong.  Telling a child to stop it, isolating him in time out or punishing him sends the message that 1)emotions are wrong 2) he can deal with his life and feelings alone and 3)he should be ashamed of what he feels.  Our methods of responding to our children’s biggest feelings really do teach them what those emotions mean and how we value them.

So the next time a tantrum presents itself, try to remember these tips.  A tantrum and is an opportunity to practice understanding, patience, compassion and ultimately, to reestablish and nurture your parent-child connection.