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.

Non-Violent Communication Can Save Your Marriage!

nvc-tree-of-lifeDo you find yourself having yelling matches with your spouse, in front of or within earshot of your kids, frequently enough that you and your spouse know it’s time for a change?

Most of the time when couples yell in fights, it’s because either one or both of the people in the couple have strong feelings which arise because a deep-seated need is not being met.

For instance, let’s say that a woman asks her spouse daily that before he go watch television after dinner, he clean up the counter and dishes there after she has done the cooking.  The cooking partner has to ask several times, nagging, and the frustration builds up.   More often than not, the evening erupts into a yelling match over dishes.  But we all know it’s not about dishes.  What it is about is the fact that the irritated partner feels ignored, disrespected, unheard, dismissed, unloved, and has needs for cooperation, consideration and equality that are not being met.

This is how Non-Violent Communication (NVC) works:  first off, the person who wants to communicate her feelings starts off by identifying the moment/behavior/action of the person she is communicating with which most causes her to feel these strong feelings, in an objective way.  In this case, it’s the moment when her partner gets up from the table and goes to the couch instead of spending some time clearing and cleaning up after dinner.

In NVC, you start off a conversation with this identifying action.  You say, “When I see you get up from the table to watch television without clearing dishes or cleaning up…”  This wording has the feel of looking through a camera lens.  You simply communicate what you see, without judgment or hard criticism.

The next step is to clearly identify how this behavior/action makes you feel, and to be specific.  Rather than saying it makes you mad, say it makes me feel dismissed, ignored and disrespected – much stronger and more specific feelings which land with more clarity and emotional strength for the person listening.

Then you add to the statement of communication:  “When I see you get up from the table to watch television without clearing dishes or cleaning up, I feel ignored, disrespected and dismissed…”

Then you identify the underlying need that is not being met, and which is causing the strong feelings to erupt:  “When I see you get up from the table without clearing dishes or cleaning up, I feel ignored, disrespected and dismissed because I need cooperation, equality and consideration…”

The last part of the statement is a request.  After you explain what happened and how it makes you feel, what needs are underlying the strong feelings, you request if the person would be willing to act in a new way to correct course and prevent this hurt in future.

A final NVC statement would look like this:  “When you get up from the table and start watching television without clearing dishes or cleaning up, I feel ignored, disrespected and dismissed because I need cooperation, equality and consideration.  In future, would you be willing to help me to clear the table and clean the dishes and countertops before you turn on the television?”

This is very clear, it is not accusatory, it is not said while yelling.  It is straightforward, specific and proactive in what it communicates and requests gently a new action/behavior which is supportive and appropriate.

So the next time you and your spouse are veering towards a yelling match, stop, take a deep breath, and try this NVC methodology out:  describe the action objectively, state the feelings that arise when this action occurs, what the underlying unmet need is, and what if he or she would be willing to act differently in future so this hurt/feelings can be avoided.

You may be surprised at your spouse’s willingness to change when you approach him/her with calm, clarity, specificity, vulnerability, proactivity and gentleness.

Wishing you all the best as you consider using NVC to redesign your marital communication!

What’s Your Type?

nine personality types on blackboardThe Enneagram is a robust system of personality, self-awareness and personal growth. As parents, we are challenged daily to grow ourselves into our best selves so as to meet the developing needs of our children in a peaceful and loving manner. The Enneagram can offer a path out of ineffective parenting patterns such as reacting to children with shortness, yelling and using punishments.  Once you identify your core personality type, it can be studied, practiced and incorporated into one’s behaviors to show up for our children and the rest of our lives with more grace and effectiveness.

The Enneagram is different from more commonly known personality typing tools, like the Meyer’s Briggs, because it provides more than a static snapshot or box that people fit into in terms of their tendencies and behaviors.

The Enneagram is an ancient personality system which aims to capture the 9 personality types present in the human family. The types include The Reformer (1), The Giver (2), The Achiever (3), The Individualist (4), The Investigator (5), The Loyalist (6), The Enthusiast (7), The Challenger (8) and The Peacemaker (9). The names of the personality types come from the ways in which each type attempts to make its mark on the world, and respond to its need for love and recognition. Each type behaves in specific ways to gain approval and earn the love that we all seek as human beings, starting from a young age.

In addition to providing a current view of how a person is behaving, the Enneagram system is built upon the idea that personalities, and people, evolve over time. The more a person knows about him/herself and his/her behaviors, takes conscious action to untangle misconceived ideas about love and belonging, and becomes fully self-accepting, self-realized and effective in the world, the more each type evolves to become their highest self.

I came across the Enneagram many years ago when I was having challenges in a relationship and at work, with people who often seemed to speak a different language than I did in their behaviors and assumptions.

At that time, my father had just passed away and I had just begun the arduous journey of becoming an inner city public high school teacher. I was under stress and was typed as an Enneagram 4 — the Individualist. I was withdrawn, focused on how different I was from others, and often assumed that no one else saw the same issues and problems that I saw in the same ways.

I came to realize when I began my coaching program two years ago, that I had been mis-typed. Each Enneagram personality not only has a type that we evolve to, but also a type that we go to under stress. I am actually an Enneagram Type 1, the Reformer. The Reformer is concerned with doing the right thing, serving people, and is very values and ethics-based with decision-making.

All personality types have wonderful qualities, but they also have patterns which can create problems, especially around self-criticism and perfectionism.

It is my self-development work to evolve to a Type 7, The Enthusiast, to overcome my patterns and assumptions about people and how to go about gaining love. In fact, when one evolves to their highest self/type using the Enneagram system as a tool, life no longer is about approval and seeking love from the outside, but rather about being true to oneself, living from a place of deep authenticity, integration, peace and flow.

 

Minimalist Parenting

determination-little-pineWhen I first heard the title of Christine Koh and Ahsa Dornfest’s new book, Minimalist Parenting, I felt a wave of calm and relief come over my body.

Finally, I thought, a parenting book which cuts to the chase and addresses the root of so many modern parents’ anxiety, worry and over-parenting issues, giving us the tools to manage our time based on our values and true priorities in life and family. I expected the authors would give us an opportunity to think clearly about the kinds of families we are building, and offer tools and skills to make our vision for family life a reality.

Minimalist Parenting’s main message is about living joyfully while staying true to your values:

At the heart of Minimalist Parenting is formal permission to step off the modern parenting treadmill, and to have fun while you’re doing it. You’re not blowing your children’s shot at success – just the opposite. Living a joyous life that’s in line with your values (instead of some manufactured version of “successful” modern parenthood) will give your kids room to grow into the strong, unique people they are meant to be…More importantly, this way of being will provide a model that shows your kids how to trust their instincts as they move toward independence and adulthood. Finally, Minimalist Parenting will allow you to claim space in your own wonderful life. This is your journey as much as it is theirs….As you embrace Minimalist Parenting, the roller coaster of family life goes from anxiety provoking to fun. You’ll still experience the white-knuckle drops, the ups and downs, and a few blind turns. But you’ll be strapped in with direction and confidence, and you’ll enjoy the crazy ride.

Doesn’t that just make you breathe a huge sigh of relief and start gathering your sanity again?

I most enjoyed the section in the book that helped me to identify my “time style” and offered time management exercises. One of the authors described how she and her husband didn’t discuss their different time styles until they were married for ten years! My husband and I have only been married 4.5 years. In that time, we’ve had two kids, a move to a new house, a job change and a new business. We definitely haven’t had the chance to analyze our time style differences. This book is helping us to do that now.

For example, if you were to have an ideal day off, how planned ahead would it be, how full of activity would it be and how many people would you want to see? In answering these three questions, the book offers three dimensions to consider in determining your time style — planned-ness, filled-ness and peopled-ness. For many couples, each partner’s time style would be completely opposite, affecting the success of different family scheduling practices. In our family, my husband and I differ on all three dimensions of time style as defined above. I tend to pack our schedule with activities that are planned in advance and are social in nature, because given a perfect day off, that is how I would spend it. My husband would be spontaneous, chill out and maybe see a friend at one point in the day. And our kids move more slowly than I do, too. So when I go into uber-planned, activity-filled, social mode, I am inadvertently tiring out the whole family and our older child has tantrums. This book helps me to see how considering the entire family’s time style will help me to make a more reasonable weekly schedule for our entire family.

The book also takes the reader on a journey of decluttering the home, decluttering finances, understanding the value of educational opportunities both inside and outside of school, simplifying extracurriculars, streamlining meal planning and aligning celebrations and vacations to prioritized family values.

The Minimalist Parenting website offers a free online MinCamp, which may be a great way to start your journey. Another idea is to work through the book with parents from your moms group, school community or neighborhood, book-group style.

Becoming a Second Time Parent

Are you conteIMG_5127mplating the important question of whether to bring another child into your family? I went through the transition to second-time motherhood one year ago this month. Being a mom to two girls under 4 for the past 12 months has been amazing and challenging.

I always thought if I had two kids I would have them very close together, as I am a twin. I finally felt ready to think about another child when my older daughter turned 2 and I turned 39. The clock was ticking louder than ever. So we started trying and it took a little longer the second time, but we conceived after about 4 months. We were glad they would be three years apart—good spacing for many reasons.

Being seasoned parents, we wanted to be really prepared for No. 2. First, we moved from San Francisco to Palo Alto for access to great schools as well as proximity to work and a good community of friends with kids. Our new house was a block from a park.

We also made many other changes to streamline our life as a family. For example, my husband started putting the older one to bed, and I prepared to spend many hours during the night nursing and comforting. I also spent lots of precious alone time with our older daughter—which would never return again after the arrival of her sibling—and prepared her for the huge change and even bigger blessing that was going to arrive with the new baby in her life.

Even with all of this preparation, many of the realities of bringing baby home and truly transforming into a family of four were challenging: Now I had the baby in tow with me everywhere. I constantly barked at my older daughter to keep it down and not wake the baby. I was so exhausted from sleep deprivation that I had a short fuse. I also missed spending time with my older daughter. And she missed it, too, and felt sad when I snapped at her. The baby was beautiful, but she just lay there, ate and slept. It was tough on so many levels. It took a good nine months for me to get my bearings.

Now that the baby is 10.5 months, we have figured a lot of this out and enjoy our current state as a family of four. If you’re considering your own No. 2, here are some tips to keep in mind:

  • Accept that until the baby is 4 months old, you will be doing a lot of parallel parenting. Dad will be with the older sibling, and you will be with the baby. It will feel like you have a split-up family, and you will feel even more like you have no relationship with your spouse. This is temporary and necessary. Dig in, and do what you have to do to get through those first several months.
  • Create some special time with your older child so that they will receive one-on-one time with each parent during the week—even just 10 minutes. The older child needs to connect with each parent, especially the mom who is ALWAYS with the baby. When the baby goes down for a nap or if someone can take the baby for a little while, take the older child out. It can be to eat a snack, read a book, go to the park or do Special Time. The last one is a technique taught by Hand in Hand Parenting: Set a timer for any amount of time between 10 and 60 minutes, tell your child, “we can do ANYTHING you want to do” and let him or her lead the special time session. You give all your attention (no phones or other distractions) and just play along with what the child wants to do. It will fill his or her need for attention like nothing else and help him or her with the difficult feelings of sharing you with the new baby.

  • If you haven’t already put your older child in preschool, do so and consider extending how much time he or she is in school so that this child is entertained, well cared for and stimulated during the difficult months when you have to give your all to the new baby.
  • Get as much help as you possibly can. If you don’t have help from a family member or friend, bring a babysitter or nanny into your household mix as early as you can. There will be times when you want a sitter to be with the baby so you can spend time with your older child. You may need time to do some self-care, as you will be exhausted. Or maybe you will want help with cleaning. Whatever you need, this is the time to be liberal with getting help with all kinds of tasks and duties as it will take several months for you to get into a rhythm with two kids. It can get expensive in the spending department, but remind yourself that it is temporary and an investment in your emotional well-being to have help around your home.
  • Join or create a second-time moms group. DayOne has a wonderful class that meets for 4-week sessions on Tuesday mornings. It’s a place where new second-time moms come to talk about what is really going on, commiserate and generate ideas for support. I created a Second Time Moms playgroup for kids born spring–summer 2012 through PAMP. It has been nice to meet with moms who were all going through the same things at around the same time and to get out of the house and get some fresh air.

Kiran Gaind is a PAMP staff writer and owner of Ray of Light Coaching, a boutique life coaching practice for modern moms. Drop her a line at Kiran@rayoflightcoaching.com.

Family Time Management

runfamilylikeabizWhen surveyed on topics they would most like to see in the newsletter, PAMP members responded that their number one interest was time management.

Why is time management a top concern for PAMP members, and what can be done to address it?

The Wall Street Journal recently ran an article about running your family like a business. The article discusses several modern families from around the country who borrow from the skills used every day in businesses and organizations. They use these skills to motivate their kids, and to streamline daily family activities that are aligned with clear, articulated and commonly understood values, goals and priorities.

How many PAMP member parents have taken the time to sit down and create a vision for their family – the way a CEO of a business or a manager of a corporate team might – prior to delving into the work of motivating and producing? This is the first step for any modern parent struggling with time management issues. Try sitting down to create a Family Mission Statement, and ask yourself: What do you hope your kids learn in your family? What values do you want to emphasize?

Second, see how it impacts the choices you make for family activities. Be sure to notice if your daily activities/actions reinforce and align to who you are as defined in your Family Mission Statement, or if they detract.

For instance, what if you review your Family Mission Statement and realize that signing your child up for one more class (that another family is doing and you think you have to keep up with) just doesn’t allow you to meet your value of being together as a family on the weekends? Or your value of unplugging and spending more time in nature? In this way, you can continue to use the Family Mission Statement as a tool in your time management thought process.

Very often, modern families are under pressure to keep up with the way other people are parenting their kids, to live up to a very high standard of perfection that our society currently holds for parenting, and to berate themselves up for not living up to this standard.

What if you completely let go of the way that others parent their children – the neighbors, the President of the PTA, your sister-in-law – and just decided today that you know exactly what you want to teach your children? How would it feel to just let go of external driving and pressure? How would your kids respond? What would happen to your sense of “time management?”

Finally, if you’ve created a Family Mission Statement and are looking for more “nuts and bolts” help with time management and organization, read the book Getting Things Done by David Allen. Also, look for a local workshop that can support streamlining daily behaviors to maximize your time. Try seeking out a local coach who specifically works with families on organizational management of the home. And check the Parents Place for organizational workshops for parents held in Palo Alto.

Taking a business approach toward family time management may help to create more quality time and less stress in your family life.


The Wholehearted Parenting Manifesto

healings-hands-heart

As parents, we are often looking for the perfect answers about what our children most need from us. By the time many of us arrive at parenthood, we’ve often achieved success in our careers and feel as if we should be able to transfer that success to each of our interactions with our children. But we soon discover that there is no certainty in parenting. Instead, it is a humbling and ever-evolving experience that, in the words of Dr. Brené Brown, is “by far [our] boldest and most daring adventure.”

Brown, a research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work, has spent the past ten years studying vulnerability, courage, authenticity and shame. She spent the first five years of her decade-long study focusing on shame and empathy and is now using that work to explore a concept that she calls wholeheartedness. In her latest book, Daring Greatly, Brown applies this concept to parenting and explains how embracing our vulnerability as parents can help us to connect with our children and show them how deeply they are loved, just as they are.

In a recent article for The Huffington Post, Brown describes an Oprah interview with Toni Morrison as having a longstanding impact on her daily parenting practice.

Morrison asked one provocative and penetrating question of parents: “When your child walks into the room, does your face light up?” Or like hers, do your words and facial expression often focus on what needs fixing—hair, clothes, dirt, laces, phrasing, politeness, grade—first?

Often, the parenting culture we live in focuses on being perfect. We have to have the perfect thing to say, and our children have to grow into creations who are academically and socially perfect, play the perfect sport or instrument and also one day go to the perfect college. All of that perfection is somehow supposed to be a reflection of ours. It’s all supposed to mean that they are worthy, and by default, so are we, as their parents.

In order to remind herself that parenting is about practice, not perfection, Brown wrote “The Wholehearted Parenting Manifesto”:

Above all else, I want you to know that you are loved and lovable. You will learn this from my words and actions—the lessons on love are in how I treat you and how I treat myself.

I want you to engage with the world from a place of worthiness. You will learn that you are worthy of love, belonging, and joy every time you see me practice self-compassion and embrace my own imperfections.

We will practice courage in our family by showing up, letting ourselves be seen, and honoring vulnerability. We will share our stories of struggle and strength. There will always be room in our home for both.

We will teach you compassion by practicing compassion with ourselves first; then with each other. We will set and respect boundaries; we will honor hard work, hope, and perseverance. Rest and play will be family values, as well as family practices.

You will learn accountability and respect by watching me make mistakes and make amends, and by watching how I ask for what I need and talk about how I feel.

I want you to know joy, so together we will practice gratitude.

I want you to feel joy, so together we will learn how to be vulnerable.

When uncertainty and scarcity visit, you will be able to draw from the spirit that is a part of our everyday life.

Together we will cry and face fear and grief. I will want to take away your pain, but instead I will sit with you and teach you how to feel it.

We will laugh and sing and dance and create. We will always have permission to be ourselves with each other. No matter what, you will always belong here.

As you begin your Wholehearted journey, the greatest gift that I can give to you is to live and love with my whole heart and to dare greatly.

I will not teach or love or show you anything perfectly, but I will let you see me, and I will always hold sacred the gift of seeing you. Truly, deeply, seeing you.

Brown’s manifesto is so refreshing for modern parents because it gives us permission to breathe a sigh of relief as if we are letting hot air out of a very tense and over-full balloon and to let ourselves be the imperfect human beings we are. It allows us to raise imperfect, human children, too. The point is not to be perfect but to be present, loving and accepting with whole hearts that love what is strong as well as what is vulnerable.

Brown’s most important message to both parents and non-parents is that being vulnerable is the most courageous thing we can do to improve our relationships and our lives. Our culture perceives vulnerability as weakness, yet her research has found that the opposite is true. It takes real courage to open our hearts and let people see what isn’t perfect. When we show our imperfection as parents, our children learn that we are human, that we are courageous and that we love ourselves with both our strengths and weaknesses.

So how can you use Brown’s manifesto as a touchstone in your own parenting? Here are some examples:

  • Try noticing the look on your face when your children are near. Does your face light up, or is it tense and worried? Try to smile through anxiety and worry, and see how it feels. Over time, see how this one simple shift affects your children’s mood as well as your own and the culture in your household.
  • When your children seem to be in states of vulnerability, such as sadness, anger, disappointment and fear, instead of negating their feelings or forcing some replacement experience onto them, try staying with the vulnerability and accepting it. Hold your son or daughter, and let your child know you are there and want to listen. This minor shift can have a profound impact on your relationship and on how safe your children feel in opening up when life is tough.
  • Lastly, the most important variable in our ability to parent wholeheartedly is our relationship to our own whole hearts, to our own vulnerability. How well do you embrace your own feelings of vulnerability? Are you often looking for ways to change your inner experience of these states by distracting yourself or forcing yourself to feel something else? If so, it will be hard to be open to your child’s vulnerability. We must start with ourselves and work from there.

The great thing about Brown’s work is that she doesn’t take herself, her work or vulnerability overly seriously. She takes all of it in human stride, laughs whenever possible and is one of the most authentic people you will ever have the pleasure of listening to.

Kiran Gaind is a certified integral coach for modern parents and owner of Ray of Light Coaching, based in Palo Alto. You can drop her a line at kiran@rayoflightcoaching.com and visit her website.