When Parents Are at Odds

This morning, based solely on my facial expression from what I can tell, my daughter assessed my general state of mind and, determining something had to be done, came up to me and said, “Mama, you can figure this out.  You’re sad but I have so many happy feelings I can share with you that you will have to be happy and laugh. Besides, you can fix your stuff. I know you can!”

Then, she followed that a couple hours later with, “Papa can understand and so can you, so you both can be smart enough and care about it to fix whatever all has you so sad.”  – Her father is currently traveling on business. It’s actually a positive situation because it gives us a chance at gaining some perspective apart, while keeping things calm where she is. The drawback is she misses her Papa and he would very much like to have her there with him.

We’ve gone through such a massive and prolonged transition, so much more challenging than either of us could have fathomed, that when stuff happens that hits a deep nerve (even if it’s petty), we both seem to lose site of what matters too quickly. You’d think after 16 years of marriage, we’d be better at this…

Thing is, we are getting better, but the challenges are keeping up.  It’s an extremely difficult process.  It seems that there should be other ways.. that it should not be so ridiculous. Some of what we’re contending with runs so deep that the only way we can work through to the other side is to dig up the root and remove the entire plant. When you plant a tree, don’t water it enough, prevent it from sun and proper nutrients, and then force it to contend with wind and no support stake in sight… Well, you get the picture.  If the thing manages to survive, it’s going to be weak, rather humorous looking no doubt, and probably never bare fruit or do whatever it was intended to as a healthy plant.

Another analogy: Build a house without a foundation, on stilts no less… Then expect it to withstand repeated hurricanes.  Yeah, probably not huh.  And yet, how many of us either force our children into situations where they have no foundation, or a pathetic one.  Better yet, how many of us lack that foundation ourselves?

When you don’t have that solid foundation, you can’t give one to your kids either. So, if at some point when we, as an adult (parent), become aware of the ‘missing’, it’s paramount  the work be undertaken to build or provide for what is missing.  This is taking care of us so we can take care of our children.  Akin to oxygen on an airplane, and putting on your own mask first so you can actually be useful to others instead of dead, success means our children will grow without the same chunk(s) missing; they’ll grow whole.

Today, I chose to see her.  It took looking through the mud of hurt and confusion, and a lot of management of my own aggravation (none of which has a single thing to do with her),  but, I managed to find my goggles.

The article that follows is one that I’d like to encourage you to read first, then we can talk about it over the next couple of days.


Parents Who Fight May Harm Children’s
Future Emotional Development

How parents handle everyday marital conflicts has a significant effect on how secure their children feel, which, in turn, significantly affects their future emotional adjustment. This finding, from researchers at the universities of Notre Dame, Rochester (NY) and Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., was published in the January/February 2006 issue of the journal Child Development. It provides powerful new evidence regarding the impact of parental behavior on children’s future behavior.

“A useful analogy is to think about emotional security as a bridge between the child and the world,” explained lead researcher Mark Cummings, Ph.D., professor and Notre Dame Chair in Psychology of the Psychology Department of the University of Notre Dame in Indiana. “When the marital relationship is functioning well, it serves as a secure base, a structurally sound bridge to support the child’s exploration and relationships with others.”

“When destructive marital conflict erodes the bridge, children may lack confidence and become hesitant to move forward, or may move forward in a dysregulated way, unable to find appropriate footing within themselves or in interaction with others.” The researchers based their report on two separate long-term studies of marital conflict and children.

The first study involved 226 parents and their 9- to-18-year-old children. The researchers examined the effect of marital conflict over three years, finding that forms of destructive marital conflict, such as personal insults, defensiveness, marital withdrawal, sadness or fear, set in motion events that led to later emotional insecurity and maladjustment in children, including depression, anxiety, and behavior problems. This occurred even when the researchers controlled for any initial adjustment problems.

The second study again examined the connection between marital conflict and emotional problems over a three-year period, this time in a different group of 232 parents and much younger children (kindergarteners). Researchers again found that marital conflict sets in motion events that led to later emotional insecurity and maladjustment. Again, researchers controlled for any initial adjustment problems, further supporting the conclusion that marital conflict was related with children’s emotional insecurity and adjustment problems. Both studies involved representative community samples and everyday conflict behaviors (for example, verbal hostility) about everyday sources of conflict between parents, such as childcare and household responsibilities. Because of this, the findings can likely be generalized to most American families.

Parents and even mental health professionals are likely unaware of the significance of marital conflict for the well-being of children, said Dr. Cumming, and few may know that children’s security is so closely tied to the quality of parental relationships. At the same time, however, other work from Dr. Cummings and his peers find that constructive marital conflict, in which parents express or engage in physical affection, problem solving, compromise or positive feelings, may increase children’s security. “Thus,” Dr. Cummings noted, “this study is a warning to strongly encourage parents to learn how to handle conflicts constructively for the sake of both their children and themselves.”

Summarized from Child Development, Vol. 77, Issue 1, Interparental Discord and Child Adjustment: Prospective Investigations of Emotional Security as an Explanatory Mechanism. By Cummings EM, Schermerhorn AC (both of the University of Notre Dame), Davies PT (University of Rochester), Goeke-Morey MC (Catholic University of America), and Cummings JS (University of Notre Dame). Copyright 2006 The Society for Research in Child Development, Inc. All rights reserved.

Andrea Browning
abrowning@srcd.org
Society for Research in Child Development
http://www.srcd.org

Such Damage

She fell right to sleep, my precious little one.  She aged so much today, too soon. I am responsible for it.

It’s quiet now, she is resting, all is done for the day. Now, my tears fall.

Deep, bitter, grief stricken… the silent depths of my soul weep.

I failed today, in so many ways. I failed to keep my home calm and loving, to keep the tension of the adult world at bay and out of my little one’s concerns.  She is 4. She is too young to cope with the stuff her adults are dealing with. It is wrong for us to not keep that protective barrier present and in force for her. It is selfish of us, and so damaging to her. Yet, avoiding these issues is just as damaging, and this child never sleeps. Coordinating her being asleep with me not being asleep, with her Papa being willing to have a conversation and not working, is akin to realigning the galaxy, just because.  However, this is no excuse, and I won’t hide behind it.  I completely failed to protect her; I did not manage to put my own emotions on hold long enough to deal with them with her father when it would not directly impact her.

To those who might read this tonight, I hope you will find courage for your own life in my failure. The confusion and anger that is present in my home at the moment, because of so many things that have mounted and accumulated, and because of two adults that were not grown quite whole, who are now struggling mightily to grow those parts that are missing.

Honesty is dangerous. It carries with it the very real situation of unpredictability, especially in the response to it. Yet, for me, it is necessary.  Perhaps I am naive, but in my head, honesty (complete in the case of an intimate companion, i.e. spouse) will always end in good. Somehow.

Perhaps I will change my mind at some point… But here, is where I am.

I asked my little one today if she had a happy family. Today she said no. I asked why. She said because of me (mama) and Papa. I breathed through my tears. She saw them.. So she pressed her heart up against mine and told me she had enough happy feelings that she would share them and maybe it would help.

He and I battled all morning, and most of yesterday. It feels like it’s an on going, right  under the surface waiting for the slightest provocation, persistent reality.  We do our best to maintain tempers and keep our words out of her hearing reach, but she knows. She feels the pain we feel, she senses the tension, and she knows when we are not friends.

She is perceptive, and for this I am grateful. She seems to have been born something of an old soul. This has it’s benefits, and it’s curse.  It’s my job to give her the environment in which she can build her foundation, so that she can manage this aspect of her being. It’s my job to give and insure her security and confidence at this point, as it comes from the relational foundation her father and I provide, and from our interactions with her.  It’s our job, at this point, to build her up, strong and whole. And while she is unbelievably strong, confident, and intelligent, our actions and inactions are destructive to her (and us).

We have to make a change; we are not preserving and protecting… You’d think, given I am fully aware of the damage potential, I’d cause it to cease immediately.  But you see, this involves more than just my mind and choices, this is beyond just me. I can control only me. And I must choose to remain in control of me, consistently. I have to self regulate. But it’s a very hard thing to do sometimes, especially when emotions are huge. Yet, this is when it is most crucial, because my little one is watching. She’s learning how to cope with, and manage, and work through the really big feelings by watching me do so (or not, as it were).

The weight is so heavy. Tonight I have crumbled beneath it.

_____

I grieve for her struggle with our tension.. the pressure and threat to her foundation and security that our inability to see what we need to see creates for her. That our inability to change what we need to change does to all of us…

All that I want to teach the world, and I cannot even protect my own daughter from the harm of my own behaviors, and those of my spouse. Tonight we are not partners.  And tonight neither of us deserve to be parents.

A while back I wrote a post concerning how the stress of the demands of work, and those of the house renovations were negatively affecting my kiddo.  It’s found here.  The situations we were dealing with when I wrote it were solved. But they are not the same as those present tonight. Then, we were dealing with me working too much on the house and not being available for her enough. I solved this by finding a teen that she enjoys the attention of to come and play with her while I work, and we found a couple people to work on the house with me, so that when they’re here, I can be with her. The desired end result is that I am more available to her, and better for her when I am with her (less distracted).  And since she is my first position, my first job, this is where the largest percentage of my energy belongs.  This is also where the most positive and genuine part of my mind and emotional being belongs… there for her.

Tonight I will read my post to me, if I can get through it. Perhaps after doing so, I will have the courage to end this day as I ended that one.

http://jlcollinsnh.com/2013/06/04/my-path-for-my-kid-the-first-10-years/

A New Path

Some of you will land here from my previous blog Respected & Wholly Loved Children, and some of you may come from the far reaches of the planet, having never heard of the ideas and concepts I will talk about on these pages.  Either way, welcome and I hope to hear your voices, often and clear.

I started the other blog a few years ago now to address a very concerning trend I was exposed to concerning Training Up a Child.  The book, series, and authors have an entire ministry dedicated to Christ and the control of children. The trouble is… what they teach is so damaging to the child (and the parent) that those stuck in it have to either find their courage eventually to accept and face this, or they remain in denial. Either way, the child suffers the most, but there is some hope for the children of those parents that do come out of the trance of Pearl based Christian Required Punishment and Fear Based Control Nonsense, to discover what genuine & unconditional love is, what true respect and reverence is, and what it means to honor our children and their childhood.

To those parents, and to the many who abhor the teachings and practices of so many that damage children and destroy their precious spirits, I hope you will join me in a quest of discovery, of continual blessing and pursuance of positive experiences, and together raise a generation of children who know what it is to be valued as children – that become valuing adults, who in turn view their world through one another’s eyes.

It’s simple and cliché, but… let’s make this world a better place.

Now.


Changing Directions

Today I awoke with a thought… I don’t see or do things the way the majority seems to. At first I reasoned it was just that the media’s ideal that I don’t seem to be able to align myself with. But then, 2.3 seconds later, it occurred to me that though perhaps influenced by said media, all the voices I hear and read online, all the commentary and opinions, suggestions and attempts at sorting through the mass of data are likely not entirely directed by some media god. And you know what? I don’t have much in common with those voices either, not the majority anyway.

So, I started to wonder if maybe there actually are people out there that think like me. Instead of the other way around.

I intend to find them.

To that end, I will be reconstructing this blog on a different platform, one that sets aside the original cause (go to the WHY page for more on that), and instead focuses on the apparently abnormal and unconventional thought patterns that fill my head. Let’s see where this goes…

The new site is at Childhood Revered, hope to see you there.

Little One.. You do nothing wrong.. You are never bad.

My heart aches with the weight of knowing tonight.

Words are not coming slow enough to write…
My mind is a windstorm, swirling without form.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Catch something
anything
hold it
until I understand

My family is struggling right now.
My little one is lost in the mess of the adults’ world and its expectations.

When silence is there not to soothe, but because the scream has no voice to give.
Yet, a serenity exists here.
A simple knowing, that goes to the depths of its complexity and returns.
Jamais vu. – What to do with it?


Little one, you are beautiful.

You are amazing in your transparent, curious, exquisite self.

We hear you.

We see.
Your Papa and I…

We know now.

And without a moment’s hesitation or reluctance,
I accept.

~~~

I will seek the solution until it comes.
I will resolve this for you.

Responding to Imminent Danger: Physical & Emotional Threat

In a separate post, I discussed the difference between the terms “listen” & “comply”.  Toward the end of my thoughts, I ventured into the ever present, “But what if there is a reason my kid HAS to do what I’ve said, like, oh say, to keep him from plunging 1000′ to his death!”.

Rather than addressing this very important aspect of compliance in the same vein as the value of respecting a request, communicating expected compliance, and discovering what it really is to “listen” all in one, very long winded dissertation… I figured I’d split them up a bit.

From the previous post… continuing –
…That said, there are instances when the adult cannot fully articulate the entire phrase, including something along the lines of “compliance is expected”.  These sort of instances might be when walking in the city and or parking lot and the child is suddenly in some sort of danger.  In times like this, the adult often cannot sputter out much more than a “STOP” or other imperative in time, and the child’s safety depends on compliance. I’ll discuss this in a separate post.   This is when the sound of the adult’s voice, and the tone that is used (that being of imminent danger – the adult is responding out of fear and the kid can hear it, the urgency and importance, in the adult’s voice) is all that is required for the child to comply.

If the parent has established this foundation (their interactions and expectations being worthy of the child’s trust) and level of respect with the child from the beginning (whether from birth or whenever the child comes under the protection and guidance of said adult), they are in a positive position to provide the consistency and stability necessary that in a situation of threat/safety, the child will interpret accordingly and, if they are developmentally capable, respond appropriately. This is giving the benefit of the doubt to the child and his/her intelligence.. but it’s one that the adult has developed from their end and so is reliable; the adult is comfortable and so is the child.  Given, however, humans do not always behave predictably, so I would encourage the parent to be within reach of physically sparing your child harm, in the event they don’t process your words as you need them to.

AND IF THEY DON’T (process correctly), after the danger has passed, please simply reiterate to them what happened in a flat and respecting tone, reiterate your command and the value of their response having matched, and move on (unless they want to talk about it).  Don’t rub it in, don’t demean or diminish. And don’t think this is your chance (while the body is on heightened alert) to teach a lesson… as it will be one delivered and received with an association of fear.

___________________________________________________________

When my little one was just learning to walk, I took her to the park one day.  At this point (she was not quite 10 months old), she knew many signs that we used to communicate to her.  She didn’t start signing much back until a few months later, but she understood them.  She also understood an expansive list of verbally communicated words.  (We so often do not give enough credit of comprehension to our littlest ones until something happens to forces us to realize just exactly how much they are absorbing and processing.) 

We were walking, hand in hand, just a few feet from our home over to the park (across the street).  I had stopped to grab the mail and releasing her palm for a moment, reached into the box to retrieve the letters.  In a matter of less than two seconds, she’d decided to explore at full speed and, after somehow traversing the curb (didn’t know she could do that yet), she proceeded into the cul-de-sac, dangerously close to the through street.

Now, mind you, I was within reach of grabbing her back and protecting her, but I decided to use my voice instead.  (I’m not sure I actually made a conscious decision either, but that’s what ended up as my response.) I instructed her to stop walking and stand still.  She turned to my face, stopped and stood still, reached out her hand and said, “Mama, come.” 

From that day on, my trust in her intelligence grew and grew, as has my trust in my own regard for her and the value of it.  So, again, while I wouldn’t recommend relying entirely on a little one to process your verbal instruction sufficiently to prevent harm, there is a really good chance they will if you have set up a foundation for them to draw upon, even unconsciously.

__________________________________________________

Why do you think we are sometimes compelled to scold or punish our kids when they do something (or don’t do something) that causes us to fear for their safety? What exactly is going on there in the adult’s mind and response systems?

Also, what connections might be drawn between parents who respond immediately to infant’s cries, and a baby/toddler/young one responding immediately to the parent’s communiations?

For additional reading on this topic, please visit Dangerous Situations

Listen to Me!

What does it mean to listen?

Main Entry:
listen
Definition: hear and pay attention
Synonyms: accept, admit, adopt, attend, audit, auscult, auscultate, be all ears, be attentive, catch, concentrate, eavesdrop, entertain, get, get a load of, give an audience to, give attention, give heed to, hang on words, hark, harken, hear out, hear tell, hearken, lend an ear, mind, monitor, obey, observe, overhear, pick up on, prick up ears, receive, take advice, take into consideration, take notice, take under advisement, tune in, tune in on, welcome
Notes: to listen  is to try to hear ; to hear is simply to perceive with the ear

1. to give attention with the ear; attend closely for the purpose of hearing; give ear.
2. to pay attention; heed; obey (often followed by to ): Children don’t always listen to their parents.
3. to wait attentively for a sound (usually followed by for ): to listen for sounds of their return.
4. Informal . to convey a particular impression to the hearer; sound: The new recording doesn’t listen as well as the old one.
5. Archaic . to give ear to; hear.

Now, what does it mean to comply?

Main Entry:
comply
Definition: abide by, follow agreement or instructions
Synonyms: accede, accord, acquiesce, adhere to, agree to, cave in, come around, conform to, consent to, cry uncle, defer, discharge, ditto*, don’t make waves, don’t rock the boat, fit in, fold, fulfill, give in, give out, give up, go along with, go with the flow, keep, knuckle to, knuckle under, mind, obey, observe, perform, play ball, play the game, put out, quit, respect, roll over and play dead, satisfy, shape up, stay in line, straighten up, submit, throw in towel, toss it in, yes one, yield
Antonyms: decline, deny, disobey, oppose, rebuff, refuse, reject, resist

com·ply

verb (used without object), -plied, -ply·ing.

1. to act or be in accordance with wishes, requests, demands, requirements, conditions, etc.; agree (sometimes followed by with ): They asked him to leave and he complied. She has complied with the requirements.
2. Obsolete . to be courteous or conciliatory.

Related forms
un·com·ply·ing, adjective

Synonyms
1.  acquiesce, yield, conform, obey, consent, assent.
Antonyms
1.  refuse, resist.

Next time you hear yourself telling your child to “listen to me”… think about this.
Then, think about whether you are asking (not demanding) for compliance, and if so whether it’s fair and reasonable, or you simply exercising your “I’m bigger” factor. 

When is compliance actually necessary? 

What examples might you have to share when, in your home, compliance is compulsory? 
What examples might you have where compliance is a request and one that is just as acceptable for your child to deny as it is for you (parent)?

Natural Consequences… Keeping them that way

From… Why We Don’t Punish & What Discipline Is

Rachel says,
“We do a lot of natural consequences-based discipline. Sometimes I remind of the natural consequence that might happen and other times I just let it happen. If the pinecone pieces weren’t bothering me (though I totally understand why they were bothering you), I might let my daughter step or trip over them to internalize the issue with leaving pinecones on the floor.”

Agreed.  In many cases, I will also do just that – let her step on one and internalize the value in them not being left in a place that can aggravate.  Let me tell you about an incident that happened just the other day that went ok, but I wonder if any of you have ideas on how I could improve.. Read on, you’ll see why I ask.

_________________________________________________________

The other day my daughter decided she wanted a glass of juice.  So, after successfully pouring it all by herself (a significant feat), she sat down on the steps to indulge.  But then something got her attention, and off she went, with the glass of juice left quite dead center of the step.

Just as she was leaving, I gently mentioned she might want to move it to a safer place.  She said, “nah, it will be fine.”

A few minutes later (the cup still on the step) the door bell rang (mail) and the dog went crazy as usual.  Guess which path was the most direct to the door for said dog.  😉

My little one was very upset that her glass of juice was then found splashed all over the floor, and she turned that anger toward the dog. Pretty natural response, if you ask me.. but not a welcome one in our house because 1) it was her responsibility to not leave the cup in harm’s way, and 2) we sort of rather attach an expectation on our dog that we might a 6 month old.  So, I stopped my kiddo from yelling at the dog by stepping in between her and the dog, and squatting to be eye level with her.

I asked her to tell me why she was yelling at the dog.  The flubbering of annoyed and irritated explanations followed, something along the lines of “that dog doesn’t see my stuff, she goes nuts, it’s just the mail lady..my juuuuiiizzz…. I don’t like you (dog) anymore… MAAAHHHMMM I want more juice.”

Mom responds, “I think we should get this cleaned up and then talk to London (dog) about being so upset with her.  She didn’t spill it because she was trying to make you feel yucky, it was just there and she is sort of like a tornado coming through when the door rings.”

Kid responds, “She (dog) shouldn’t have…” on and on with the should-nots.

Mom’s annoyed.  Takes breath.  Tells kid, not exactly gently, “Please go get the paper towels from the kitchen so we can clean this up.”

Kid does.. not happily.  “Mom, I want more juice!”

Mom retorts, “So, get some!…after this is cleaned up.”

Kid sinks.  Shoulders at knees.. eyes down… completely defeated.

Mom sighs – kid sinks further.

Mom’s still annoyed.. not regulating well.. not seeing world through any eyes but her own and they’re rather jaded at this point. “Bugz, I want to help you clean this up.”  (Notice how I worded that… it’s typical in our house, but this time I didn’t say it with much in the way of respect or gentleness in my voice.)

Kid’s thought process… Mom said I can have more juice after the mess is cleaned.  Mom didn’t say I was expected to DO the cleaning.. I just want my juice back…

Mom is getting impatient while kid processes.  Mom’s thinking – never going to let her have juice in a non spill proof cup again!!  Mom’s also thinking of all the stuff that she isn’t getting accomplished as a result of the mess requiring her attention now….

Mom has forgotten (that would be me – the mom) a whole slew of stuff, particularly the value of relating, the value of being a mama who chooses to mentor with grace, and most importantly, the seeing the world through my eyes and my kid’s part.

So, what did I do?  I chose to keep my eyes from rolling, keep my breath from sounding like a steam engine in wait, and keep my mouth shut and stop being annoyed because masking it does no good at my house.  And then I cleaned.

Bugz didn’t help me clean up much, but she watched me.  She waited until it was all clean before asking (this time, she asked) for help getting more juice.  She was worn out, emotionally spent.  I was too.

It took me a few minutes after getting everything cleaned up, and settling my little one (with her juice – in a spill proof cup, I might add, and no I didn’t have to deny her a cup/glass of her choosing.. she’d let that go by then, she was actually thirsty) into an activity, before I was able to realize that she and I were so worn out because of the power struggle I caused.  I know, I know…  I know it’s unnecessary, it’s harmful.. these dumb battles over control. I also know what and how to not only avoid them but prevent and/or stop them all together if they get started.  I know…

I know how damaging these stupid little struggles over power can be to all involved,  especially the little one(s).  Yet, I failed in this instance to retain my own self control in effort to make it possible for my little one to retain hers, for the purpose of preventing a power struggle from beginning in the first place (which was exactly what I was trying to stop my kid from instigating or making use of with our dog).  I can make the excuse that I was tired and just rather impatient that day, and it would be valid.. and worth validating to some extent for my own purposes (and likely hers), but that’s not good enough.  It can’t stop with the explanation or an excuse. If it stops there, if I stop there, nothing is resolved and nothing is made better, and my daughter learns that while mom expects daughter to hold herself accountable (she may be barely 4 years old, but she demonstrates a clear understanding of the concept in most cases), the same expectation isn’t there for mom.

Double standards don’t work.  Kids ALWAYS see through them.. as they should.  Furthermore, forcing a kid to tolerate and cope with a parent(s) that uses double standards teaches them how to become adults that play by the same rules.

So, eventually, after watching her for a few minutes (out of sight), I decided that this time the best option was to just continue to keep quiet and give each of us some space.  It wasn’t ideal..wasn’t what I hope from myself.. but I think that in the very least my kid may have learned something useful about physics and Murphy’s Law.

I learned a lot about me, about her, about my reactions, and about choices I have and the subsequent positive change that can come depending on what I choose.

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