Educated by Preschoolers

The image shown below is floating around FB.  The obvious topic is gender based behavioral conditioning imposed by society’s stereotypes, and I imagine that is what the majority of the conversations surrounding the image/message will be about.

When I saw this, and read through the captions, I was able to simply go through the first three paragraphs, with what might be considered appropriate acknowledgement and compassion, but then when I reached the final paragraph, my perspective shifted greatly.

The final statement reads as follows: “What does it say about society when a group of adults could stand to take a lesson in humanity from a class of preschoolers?”

 

It says, if they listen with humility and are open to growth, that they are wise.

There is great value and worth in adults paying attention and restoring the gentleness and wisdom in acceptance and equal value in one another that children are often inherently given to (before they are conditioned by adults to think otherwise).  Young children are no less intelligent or inferior in any way to an adult. We can, if we open our eyes and our minds, learn great things from one another. Universally.

A significant aspect of the concept of truly admiring and acknowledging our children, while in their childhood, is to inherently and intuitively know that children are wise, and able to offer perspective that often reaches far beyond and is much more thorough than adults often find themselves capable of.  Why is this?  I think it comes from simplicity found within a child’s mind, untainted, unconditioned, unscarred.  My ultimate aspiration is to raise my daughter without conditioning her, tainting her, or influencing her to associate anything negative with that which is neutral.  I hope to help her develop her discernment. Her ability to see clearly and discern what is beneficial from what isn’t is already very apparent and is demonstrated in her actions, words, and body language.

A child who has not yet been influenced to think otherwise, will see every creature as valuable, equal of worth, and worthy of acknowledgement and consideration.  Children see differences because their minds are attuned to seeking out patterns.  However, those differences are simply differences, that serve to assist the mind in categorization and recognition, not bigotry.

Discipline & Being Non-Punitive

The term discipline, and how our society as a rule uses it, is about to drive me batty. Discipline, the way it’s used, means punishment. To me, discipline is a quality of inner self, of integrity.

Punishment is something that happens to someone.
It’s a quality. Something that has been fostered and developed. When a person has discipline they have the inner fortitude to make right choices, to do what needs to be done.   – Source –

The other night my daughter (just 4) was playing with pine cones in our family room. She had them flying through the air, one in each hand.
We were working on various projects in the room, and as usual, I was barefoot. So was she.

After playing for a few moments, one of the pine cones came crashing to the floor, spraying splintering pieces of wood in its wake. So, I spoke to my daughter in a command to not throw the pine cones onto the floor. I did not ask, did not explain, did not expound. I was busy and annoyed. She knew it.

…Not one of my better moments.

Three or so minutes later, another pine cone hit the floor and I initially snapped at her. This, however, not only demonstrates a complete lack of respect on my part, but it elicits a similarly disrespectful and rather dismissive response from my daughter. Thankfully, I caught myself mid sentence, stopped my mouth, took a deep breath and walked over to her and took her into my arms. We then had a conversation.

This time, I decided to remember how to be decent to her, remember to see the world through her eyes and mine, and remember that she is equally valued and equally considered in our home. In other words, instead of being controlling and speaking down to her (or what some might consider a proper authoritative tone), I spoke evenly and with respect.

I explained that I was upset that after I’d just asked her to not throw another pine cone on the floor, one hit dead center and left pieces everywhere. Then I corrected myself, and recalled that actually I had not asked anything but “told” her not to “throw pine cones”, when I should have said, “Please do not allow any more pine cones to hit the floor BECAUSE when they do, they split apart and send sharp pieces of wood flying all over the floor that one of us is then going to either step or sit on and end up with a pokey sticking out of our skin.” This she would have comprehended… This she would have heard. This, she would likely have granted. My demand and annoyance instead immediately caused her to shut off her willingness.

When I restated what would have been a better comment to have made to her initially, her defensiveness dropped and she made eye contact. I could see her shoulders raise, her chin relax (from being rather set just a moment before), and the stress reaction to fear of the big person (who was not behaving very well) disappear from her face.

A moment later, I set her down, knelt next to her, and asked (yes, asked) her to clean up the pieces. My words were, “Bugz, so that no one gets hurt with all these pieces on the floor, will you please pick up every single piece you can find and put them in the trash?”

She began, and, handing them to me (instead of the trash), we both cleaned up the floor together.

I could have thrown her into time out. I could have spanked her for what so many would consider deliberate defiance. I could have ridiculed her, demeaned her, squashed her for not doing what I wanted. I could have lorded over her, assumed my role as parent and thereby big person who is so much bigger that I can MAKE her do what I want, one way or another… Instead I chose to remember the value of not resorting to threat or condescension.

I chose to take a breath and pause. I chose to change my attitude and treat her with the same amount and sort of respect I would an adult who had my admiration. I communicated by explanation, honored my need by my own example (I got down on the floor and picked up the pieces with her), and reconnected by helping to renew and strengthen her sense of self, value, and ability.

Three days later, I have seen a pine cone on the floor (where it doesn’t belong), exactly once. I asked her to relocate it to where she’d like, but where it wouldn’t get stepped on and where we wouldn’t have to worry about the sharp pokey ends breaking off and getting left for our feet to find. She decided to grant my request. She picked it up, took it to the tree, placed it where she wished, with no fuss, no hesitation, and instead of dread or annoyance (having to do a chore), she exhibited interest and delight because she was in control of where it should go.

End result desired – achieved by the mama.
Education and empowerment – gained by the kiddo
.

In our house, my daughter does not comply out of fear of punishment. In fact, she doesn’t know what punishment is and compliance is reserved for safety and inescapable social situations. She chooses to grant requests, when she does, out of her own sense of purpose and reason. She knows she can choose to refuse our requests, and she knows we can choose to refuse hers. This works because, in our home (unlike so many I have seen), we do not choose to control her and do not fear being unable to retain control because control is not what makes our home function. In our home, we live together, support each other, and collaborate on life. All of us. We work together, we work independently, we share and cooperate, we value each other equally and we each know that it takes all of us, together. If today one of us is too tired, then we make up for it tomorrow. Is everything always even and fair? No. Does the Mama (or Papa) screw it all up sometimes? Yes. But humility, grace, and compassion fill in the gaps and keep things going.

Grace and compassion – not permissiveness. Our daughter knows when compliance is mandatory. In her 4 years here, she has demonstrated only a few times her reluctance when it’s clear to her that she “must”. At her young age, we have had to step in a few times and physically cause compliance to preserve her health, but as she’s grown, these instances have become fewer and fewer. In fact, at this point, about the only time I try to actually force compliance is when I am being impatient, demanding (as in no longer requesting her cooperation) or unwilling to see through her worldview. To date she has not once refused instant compliance when she hears threat of danger (or fear) in my voice (i.e., stop! – car coming!). It is rare that I must speak this way anyway, as she has been educated well enough and makes wise decisions appropriate for her age most of the time. But every once in while, a situation arises, and it is during these that the most compelling positive evidence for grace and compassion based parenting, instead of punitive and trained/controlled governing of little ones becomes so easily observed.

_________________________________________________________________What about you? What experiences have you had where you either caught yourself mid stream and changed your approach to a more respectful and considerate one, or where from the very beginning your way of existing with your little ones caused a successful outcome of an event that would result in punishment in a typical home? Share your experiences please, we can learn so much from each other.

Needing to

Tonight, I am compelled to write.

I don’t know what yet…

It’s been a long while that I’ve had the precious few moments I have now to write and share with you.  As such, I am exhausted now and so won’t edit this right away; please grant me grace. Much has happened in the past months, as my little one has grown extensively and on so many different levels and layers.  I am learning daily.

I have come across three (maybe 4) excellent resources for parents in the past season.  Some of these have simply been reassuring, while others seem to be uncanny in their timing of critical information as it relates to my present experiences, often brilliantly the very day it is most beneficial to receive the external perspective.  I’d like to share them with you and will do so at the end of this post. In the mean time, however, I’d like to share what our family is doing now, and some of the challenges and triumphs we’ve had of late.

My daughter awoke the morning of her 4th birthday to discover sand beneath her feet and a very large ocean 50 or so steps away.  We took her to Northern California for her birthday and first official family vacation.  We managed to land the RV on the coast after dark the night before her birthday, timing it wonderfully for her special day. She squealed with delight (as did her big “sister” who was with us) and ran on the beach for an hour non-stop.

What is it about seeing your child run free on the beach, playing in the sand and kelp, jumping over waves and off rocks, and stopping every two inches to explore and discover the many creatures and debris washed up on shore with each new movement of the ocean that just sets the spirit free?!  It’s surreal.  And much to the dismay of a few in my family, I am thoroughly convinced we belong on the coast (as in our residence) and I intend to make it so.

The joy and pure, simple delight I observed my daughter bask in while on the beach, and then wonder and curiosity (and courage) as she relished the giant Redwoods, moved me beyond words or even clear thought for a few days.  It was all I could do to just watch and admire as she grew and developed right in front of me.  Honoring her right where she was, as she was, and how came as naturally as breathing.  I will hold on to that sensation and experience and recall it when reality returns and she and I engage in the daily grind that sometimes generates some rather intense conflicts and challenges for us to overcome.

My daughter, all of 4 and a few weeks, is a formidable opponent.  I am thankful for this.  She speaks her mind, states her intentions, makes known her desires, and stands her ground.  She also has the compassion and empathy of a wise old woman, weathered and tendered from a lifetime of choosing to find the beauty and bestow the love that can be found and given.

I am starting to see another trait in her that, while it is not at all surprising, it is quite intriguing to me.  My little one has a sense of justice that rivals my own, and is very insistent on her need for it to be recognized and respected. It is a very effective method of me having to be genuine and fair consistently. And though at times this aspect of her being is aggravating from the adult perspective, when I stop and see through her eyes, our world takes a shape that allows me to re-evaluate my actions/thoughts and create a sense of peace and justice for her that I’d not otherwise have bothered to generate.

Lately, my daughter has been exhibiting some significant feelings.  In short, she’s demonstrating anger.  I assume it is related to the many transitions, and the seemingly endless list of tasks her father and I must accomplish while still making sure we are available to play (and inviting her to play as well).  She also wants a sibling, which is an interesting point of debate she and I have gone rounds over.

Her feelings are big, her actions are intense, and her ability to communicate clearly grows daily.  She senses things more than even I had realized, and she is in a stage of mimicry that is as precise as it is intelligent.  As a result, her father and I are reviewing our own behaviors and actions almost constantly now and working where work is required.

I hope to begin chronicling our daily experiences that might be useful to you all again soon.  I understand that the dialog and interplay relayed in story form seems to be the most appreciated and useful, so I will endeavor to allocate an appropriate amount of time to write.

And as I’ve said before, it is valuable to have your feedback as it encourages me to share, as well as provide invaluable perspective to me and to each other.  Thanks for taking the time to see the world through your little one’s eyes tonight.  May your day tomorrow be intentional, and may your child(ren) know you (the internal you) in a way that comforts them and renews their security and self-esteem.  Wholly respected and loved without condition… imagine what can happen in a single generation.

________________________________________________________________________

Peace for Parents

Aha! Parenting

Peaceful Parenting

Respecting Children: Gently Parenting a Wholly Loved & Honored Generation
Please feel free to join in the discussion

Refusing to Diminish: Holding High Our Children’s Value

From the naturalchild.org website
Emotions are Not Bad Behavior by Robin Grille
Excerpted from Heart to Heart Parenting



A Child’s Right to Receive Attention

One of the most commonly heard parental laments is about how children try to get attention. So many behaviors that adults don’t like are brushed off as “merely” attention-seeking devices. “Don’t worry about him,” we say, “he is just doing it to get attention.”

When children use oblique ways to get attention, such as causing a ruckus, exaggerating or feigning their hurts, picking on other children, showing off, being coquettish – they risk being ignored or put down, as nearby adults roll their eyes in exasperation. Sometimes, this also happens to children even when they directly and openly call for the attention they crave. Instead of scorning the child, why don’t we ask these questions: When a child is being manipulative, instead of direct, how did he learn to do this? How did he come to feel that he shouldn’t openly ask for a hug, an answer to his question, sympathy or just to be noticed or played with?

All children begin their lives with complete frankness about their needs. Babies and toddlers reveal their longings with no compunction: what you see is what you get. If a child reaches out for attention and for warmth and she gets it, her ability to be open and directly assertive is reinforced. By begrudging our children’s healthy attention-seeking behaviors, we unwittingly train them to be indirect. We leave them little room for much else, so they go for the attention they need and deserve through the back door.

We unwittingly train our children to be indirect.

Our society tends to consider children’s needs for attention as a bother. No wonder children become indirect attention seekers, some even going to great lengths to fall ill or get injured in order to be noticed. Children who have too often been denied attention can become insatiable, as if no amount of limelight ever fills their cup. Attention is life-giving, a basic need and a human right. Children deserve all the attention they want.When you wholeheartedly give a child the attention she asks for from the beginning, she soon has her fill. This is precisely what helps her to become more autonomous. As she grows, she asks for less of your attention (research shows that well-attached babies grow into children who are more independent), and when she does want attention, she asks directly, boldly and clearly.


Punished for Feeling

Time and time again children are heavily reprimanded for committing the offense of crying or being angry. Let’s get this straight: emotions are not bad behavior. Emotions don’t hurt anyone. Suppressing children’s emotions does, on the other hand, cause them harm: over time, if done repeatedly, it unbalances their brain chemistry, it stresses their immune and digestive systems, and it undermines their ability to relate to others.

Emotional censorship starts early. One of the most common things we say to a crying baby is “Shhh!” We say it soothingly, but why exactly do we shush them? Think of all the lullabies that start by telling our little babies to “hush”, and “don’t you cry”. Have you ever paused to wonder why, in trying to comfort our babies, we ask them to be quiet? It seems as if the first thing we want is for the crying to stop – instead of connecting with our baby until the reason for crying has gone.

Attention is a basic need and a human right.

Instead of berating your child for feeling her feelings, give her the space to feel, and comfort and support her if she needs it. Sometimes when our children cry, sob or yell in anger we feel overwhelmed, irritated or burdened. Our children don’t deserve the blame for this. When our child’s emotions press our buttons, we need to own the problem. We need to somehow honor our own need for support or rest without making our children responsible.


What Does Listening Mean?

The listening I am talking about here is not just about receiving and storing information, not just about remembering what your child said. I am talking about listening with your heart, not just with your ears. Real listening is all about feelings. All you need to be a good listener is a genuine interest in your child’s emotional world. When you truly want to hear, no special skill is needed. Your child senses your interest in the tone of your voice, in your body language and the look in your eyes. You know you have listened when you feel moved. You might feel compassion, protectiveness, you might feel some pain about your child’s hurts, pride or excitement about his achievements, or joy to meet his joy. Listening means letting yourself feel touched somehow, and being aware of the feelings that move through you.

Real listening is all about feelings.

________

What Listening is Not

Sometimes listening comes easy. You find yourself intently listening in stillness, without even having decided to, and there is a wonderful and natural flow between you and your child. But sometimes listening can be hard. Our children’s emotions spark off our own, and in discomfort we turn away, or we try to talk them out of their feelings. Whether it’s because we cannot bear to see our children in pain or because they are freely feeling something that we were never allowed to express – anger, joy, sadness, fear, passion – we block them out, we nip the connection in the bud.

Anyone can be a profoundly good listener.

I remember the embarrassment many of us felt as students of counseling psychology as we awkwardly practiced our listening skills together in the classroom, how often we appeared to be listening, while inside we were miles away, disengaged from the person speaking to us. It was often funny, and always quite confronting, to ask ourselves and each other: Are you listening right now, or just nodding your head a lot while you wait for your turn to speak? Are you actually listening, or sitting in judgment? Are you really listening, or just taking mental notes and storing facts? Are you listening, or just thinking about how you can change me?

How often we tell ourselves we are listening intently when in fact our minds are wandering elsewhere. It is unlikely that consistently good listeners exist. For most of us, good listening is a skill that comes and goes with our fluctuating moods. All counselors, psychologists and anyone in the helping professions are imperfect (and sometimes lousy) listeners, and we should be honing our listening capacity for the rest of our lives. It is humbling to note that anyone can be a profoundly good listener without any training whatsoever, since all it takes is an open heart and an interest in the other person.


Blocking Empathy

It’s a fact of human relationships that our capacity for listening is elusive; we lose it, we regain it, we lose it again. Sometimes it is hard to see whether we are listening so that our children really feel heard. We kid ourselves. We think we are listening when really we are avoiding contact – and then we are bewildered by and surprised at our child’s frustration. It can be very useful to get a clear picture of what is listening and what is not. When our own fears, our shame, our jealousies or our emotional exhaustion get in the way, we tend to play some pretty clever games to deflect our children’s communications so that their feelings won’t touch us. One of the biggest reasons we avoid listening is because our children’s disappointments make us feel guilty. Our evasive tactics are called “empathy blockers”. Empathy blockers save us the trouble of listening, but they cost us our connection with each other.<

Our children’s disappointments make us feel guilty.

Sometimes we use empathy blockers inadvertently because we are anxiously trying to save our children from emotional pain. Ironically, the greatest salve for our children comes from being heard, not from us trying to change how they feel. For all of these reasons, we all use empathy blockers from time to time, quite automatically and unconsciously. You could say we are all quite skilled at blocking. Here are some of the most common examples used when children become emotional:

EMPATHY BLOCKER EXAMPLES

Downplaying Oh, don’t cry. I’m sure it’s not that bad! It’s not the end of the world.

Denial There is nothing wrong; nothing for you to be upset about. Everything is OK.

Reasoning Don’t cry. Can’t you see that the other child didn’t mean to hurt you?

The positive spin Look on the bright side. Can’t you see, this probably happened for a good reason?

Cheering up Don’t worry. Here, let me tell you something funny I heard the other day. Here, have an ice cream. That’ll cheer you up.

Advising/giving options Why don’t you try doing this, or that? I think you should just ignore that so-and-so.

The expectation You should have known better. Get over it. Don’t let it get to you.

Put down Don’t be silly. Don’t be ridiculous.

Diagnosing/labeling You are being over-sensitive.

Distracting/diverting Hey, have a look at the pretty puppet.

Stealing the thunder Now you know how I felt when the same thing happened to me.

As you can see, on the surface most empathy blockers are not malicious, they are not ostensibly attempts to shame the child, and sometimes they can even be well intentioned, but they do not help the child to feel heard and connected to you. It might seem surprising, even bewildering, to hear that when you try to cheer up a child who is upset, this can often backfire – she might even feel more distressed, even angry. This is because she feels that her feelings are not accepted when what she actually needs is support for feeling the way she does. If this is hard to understand, then think of the last time you felt deeply upset, offended or anxious and someone told you to lighten up. How did that make you feel?

Empathy blockers leave anyone on the receiving end feeling shut out and frustrated, and as if there must be something wrong with them for feeling the way they do. Our children just want to be heard. Take a few moments to check this out for yourself. Have you ever heard yourself use one, a few or perhaps even all of the above empathy blockers with your child? How did your child respond? Can you imagine what you could have done instead? Now, in case you’re tempted to become self-critical, remember: we all put up barriers to listening from time to time. Those of us who teach others about empathy blockers know them too well because we’ve used them so much ourselves.

By the way, not all of the responses in the table above are always inappropriate. There sometimes is a place for advice or a helpful opinion, but unless we take the time to hear our children’s feelings first, advice comes too soon and it alienates our child from us. Before jumping in with advice, we need to ask our children if they want it. The most important thing for us to get is that primarily, our children just want to be heard. First and foremost they want evidence that they are not alone, that someone sees how they feel and cares about them. This makes more of a difference than all the advice in the world.

Empathy blockers really muddy the connection between parents and children; they create detachment and distance, and they frustrate children’s attempts to reach out. The more we use empathy blockers, the less our children are inclined to come to us with their feelings, the less they want to tell us about their lives and the less they want to listen to us. When we are concerned that our children don’t listen to us, perhaps we need to take an honest look at how well we have listened to them.

Listening is at the heart of connection.

It is sad when blocked empathy diminishes our sense of closeness with each other, and particularly worrisome when our children feel lost or in some kind of trouble but don’t turn to us for help. Our children’s trust in us is a function of how safe they feel to open up to us without feeling manipulated, expected of, judged, put down or criticized. Listening is at the heart of connection, and if we can’t listen well, we cease to be an influence in our children’s lives.

Excerpted from Heart to Heart Parenting with permission of the author. It is available in Australia through ABC Bookstores. The USA edition will be available in May 2011 and can be pre-ordered now at Amazon.Robin Grille is a Sydney-based psychologist and author of Parenting for a Peaceful World. He has a private practice in individual psychotherapy and relationship counseling, and can be contacted by email at robingrille (at) gmail (dot) com . More Articles by Robin Grille

Spanking is Not God’s Will

This means not allowing your child to go down the wrong road that could lead to a premature death.  This has absolutely nothing to do with actual crying as Dobson and many other Christian advocates of spanking believe!  Children need limits.  We wouldn’t let a toddler run out in the street to be run over by a car.  But instead of spanking the toddler, we should firmly tell the toddler that the street is dangerous, and then show the toddler the safe way to cross the street holding onto Mommy or Daddy hands.  Does hitting a toddler really teach him or her why the street is dangerous and how to be safe?  No!  It teaches them that danger makes Mommy and Daddy hurt me.   That Jesus wants me to be hurt when I’m in danger.  Remember, young children cannot make abstract connections like adults can.

 

Please take a moment to read the rest of the article found here, as well as the three that precede it in the series.

Refusing to Diminish: Holding High Our Children’s Value

From the naturalchild.org website
Emotions are Not Bad Behavior by Robin Grille
Excerpted from Heart to Heart Parenting



A Child’s Right to Receive Attention

One of the most commonly heard parental laments is about how children try to get attention. So many behaviors that adults don’t like are brushed off as “merely” attention-seeking devices. “Don’t worry about him,” we say, “he is just doing it to get attention.”

When children use oblique ways to get attention, such as causing a ruckus, exaggerating or feigning their hurts, picking on other children, showing off, being coquettish – they risk being ignored or put down, as nearby adults roll their eyes in exasperation. Sometimes, this also happens to children even when they directly and openly call for the attention they crave. Instead of scorning the child, why don’t we ask these questions: When a child is being manipulative, instead of direct, how did he learn to do this? How did he come to feel that he shouldn’t openly ask for a hug, an answer to his question, sympathy or just to be noticed or played with?

All children begin their lives with complete frankness about their needs. Babies and toddlers reveal their longings with no compunction: what you see is what you get. If a child reaches out for attention and for warmth and she gets it, her ability to be open and directly assertive is reinforced. By begrudging our children’s healthy attention-seeking behaviors, we unwittingly train them to be indirect. We leave them little room for much else, so they go for the attention they need and deserve through the back door.

We unwittingly train our children to be indirect.

Our society tends to consider children’s needs for attention as a bother. No wonder children become indirect attention seekers, some even going to great lengths to fall ill or get injured in order to be noticed. Children who have too often been denied attention can become insatiable, as if no amount of limelight ever fills their cup. Attention is life-giving, a basic need and a human right. Children deserve all the attention they want.When you wholeheartedly give a child the attention she asks for from the beginning, she soon has her fill. This is precisely what helps her to become more autonomous. As she grows, she asks for less of your attention (research shows that well-attached babies grow into children who are more independent), and when she does want attention, she asks directly, boldly and clearly.

 


Punished for Feeling

Time and time again children are heavily reprimanded for committing the offence of crying or being angry. Let’s get this straight: emotions are not bad behavior. Emotions don’t hurt anyone. Suppressing children’s emotions does, on the other hand, cause them harm: over time, if done repeatedly, it unbalances their brain chemistry, it stresses their immune and digestive systems, and it undermines their ability to relate to others.

Emotional censorship starts early. One of the most common things we say to a crying baby is “Shhh!” We say it soothingly, but why exactly do we shush them? Think of all the lullabies that start by telling our little babies to “hush”, and “don’t you cry”. Have you ever paused to wonder why, in trying to comfort our babies, we ask them to be quiet? It seems as if the first thing we want is for the crying to stop – instead of connecting with our baby until the reason for crying has gone.

Attention is a basic need and a human right.

Instead of berating your child for feeling her feelings, give her the space to feel, and comfort and support her if she needs it. Sometimes when our children cry, sob or yell in anger we feel overwhelmed, irritated or burdened. Our children don’t deserve the blame for this. When our child’s emotions press our buttons, we need to own the problem. We need to somehow honor our own need for support or rest without making our children responsible.

 


What Does Listening Mean?

The listening I am talking about here is not just about receiving and storing information, not just about remembering what your child said. I am talking about listening with your heart, not just with your ears. Real listening is all about feelings. All you need to be a good listener is a genuine interest in your child’s emotional world. When you truly want to hear, no special skill is needed. Your child senses your interest in the tone of your voice, in your body language and the look in your eyes. You know you have listened when you feel moved. You might feel compassion, protectiveness, you might feel some pain about your child’s hurts, pride or excitement about his achievements, or joy to meet his joy. Listening means letting yourself feel touched somehow, and being aware of the feelings that move through you.

Real listening is all about feelings.

________

What Listening is Not

Sometimes listening comes easy. You find yourself intently listening in stillness, without even having decided to, and there is a wonderful and natural flow between you and your child. But sometimes listening can be hard. Our children’s emotions spark off our own, and in discomfort we turn away, or we try to talk them out of their feelings. Whether it’s because we cannot bear to see our children in pain or because they are freely feeling something that we were never allowed to express – anger, joy, sadness, fear, passion – we block them out, we nip the connection in the bud.

Anyone can be a profoundly good listener.

I remember the embarrassment many of us felt as students of counseling psychology as we awkwardly practiced our listening skills together in the classroom, how often we appeared to be listening, while inside we were miles away, disengaged from the person speaking to us. It was often funny, and always quite confronting, to ask ourselves and each other: Are you listening right now, or just nodding your head a lot while you wait for your turn to speak? Are you actually listening, or sitting in judgment? Are you really listening, or just taking mental notes and storing facts? Are you listening, or just thinking about how you can change me?

How often we tell ourselves we are listening intently when in fact our minds are wandering elsewhere. It is unlikely that consistently good listeners exist. For most of us, good listening is a skill that comes and goes with our fluctuating moods. All counselors, psychologists and anyone in the helping professions are imperfect (and sometimes lousy) listeners, and we should be honing our listening capacity for the rest of our lives. It is humbling to note that anyone can be a profoundly good listener without any training whatsoever, since all it takes is an open heart and an interest in the other person.


Blocking Empathy

It’s a fact of human relationships that our capacity for listening is elusive; we lose it, we regain it, we lose it again. Sometimes it is hard to see whether we are listening so that our children really feel heard. We kid ourselves. We think we are listening when really we are avoiding contact – and then we are bewildered by and surprised at our child’s frustration. It can be very useful to get a clear picture of what is listening and what is not. When our own fears, our shame, our jealousies or our emotional exhaustion get in the way, we tend to play some pretty clever games to deflect our children’s communications so that their feelings won’t touch us. One of the biggest reasons we avoid listening is because our children’s disappointments make us feel guilty. Our evasive tactics are called “empathy blockers”. Empathy blockers save us the trouble of listening, but they cost us our connection with each other.<

Our children’s disappointments make us feel guilty.

Sometimes we use empathy blockers inadvertently because we are anxiously trying to save our children from emotional pain. Ironically, the greatest salve for our children comes from being heard, not from us trying to change how they feel. For all of these reasons, we all use empathy blockers from time to time, quite automatically and unconsciously. You could say we are all quite skilled at blocking. Here are some of the most common examples used when children become emotional:

EMPATHY BLOCKER EXAMPLES

Downplaying Oh, don’t cry. I’m sure it’s not that bad! It’s not the end of the world.

Denial There is nothing wrong; nothing for you to be upset about. Everything is OK.

Reasoning Don’t cry. Can’t you see that the other child didn’t mean to hurt you?

The positive spin Look on the bright side. Can’t you see, this probably happened for a good reason?

Cheering up Don’t worry. Here, let me tell you something funny I heard the other day. Here, have an ice cream. That’ll cheer you up.

Advising/giving options Why don’t you try doing this, or that? I think you should just ignore that so-and-so.

The expectation You should have known better. Get over it. Don’t let it get to you.

Put down Don’t be silly. Don’t be ridiculous.

Diagnosing/labeling You are being over-sensitive.

Distracting/diverting Hey, have a look at the pretty puppet.

Stealing the thunder Now you know how I felt when the same thing happened to me.

As you can see, on the surface most empathy blockers are not malicious, they are not ostensibly attempts to shame the child, and sometimes they can even be well intentioned, but they do not help the child to feel heard and connected to you. It might seem surprising, even bewildering, to hear that when you try to cheer up a child who is upset, this can often backfire – she might even feel more distressed, even angry. This is because she feels that her feelings are not accepted when what she actually needs is support for feeling the way she does. If this is hard to understand, then think of the last time you felt deeply upset, offended or anxious and someone told you to lighten up. How did that make you feel?

Empathy blockers leave anyone on the receiving end feeling shut out and frustrated, and as if there must be something wrong with them for feeling the way they do. Our children just want to be heard. Take a few moments to check this out for yourself. Have you ever heard yourself use one, a few or perhaps even all of the above empathy blockers with your child? How did your child respond? Can you imagine what you could have done instead? Now, in case you’re tempted to become self-critical, remember: we all put up barriers to listening from time to time. Those of us who teach others about empathy blockers know them too well because we’ve used them so much ourselves.

By the way, not all of the responses in the table above are always inappropriate. There sometimes is a place for advice or a helpful opinion, but unless we take the time to hear our children’s feelings first, advice comes too soon and it alienates our child from us. Before jumping in with advice, we need to ask our children if they want it. The most important thing for us to get is that primarily, our children just want to be heard. First and foremost they want evidence that they are not alone, that someone sees how they feel and cares about them. This makes more of a difference than all the advice in the world.

Empathy blockers really muddy the connection between parents and children; they create detachment and distance, and they frustrate children’s attempts to reach out. The more we use empathy blockers, the less our children are inclined to come to us with their feelings, the less they want to tell us about their lives and the less they want to listen to us. When we are concerned that our children don’t listen to us, perhaps we need to take an honest look at how well we have listened to them.

Listening is at the heart of connection.

It is sad when blocked empathy diminishes our sense of closeness with each other, and particularly worrisome when our children feel lost or in some kind of trouble but don’t turn to us for help. Our children’s trust in us is a function of how safe they feel to open up to us without feeling manipulated, expected of, judged, put down or criticized. Listening is at the heart of connection, and if we can’t listen well, we cease to be an influence in our children’s lives.

Excerpted from Heart to Heart Parenting with permission of the author. It is available in Australia through ABC Bookstores. The USA edition will be available in May 2011 and can be pre-ordered now at Amazon.Robin Grille is a Sydney-based psychologist and author of Parenting for a Peaceful World. He has a private practice in individual psychotherapy and relationship counseling, and can be contacted by email at robingrille (at) gmail (dot) com . More Articles by Robin Grille

Go to Your Room

Effects of Emotional Abuse

Reposted from here – Please, take a moment to read and visit the originating site.

Many of us who have every good intention toward our children may find the need to re-evaluate the environment their children are developing in.  With grace and patience for oneself and others, honestly reflect on what is written here and in your own home.

The ultimate goal here is to give our children an environment that honors, respects, and builds up.  To never diminish. To love and cherish, without condition.  And to do so wholly and in action, not simply intent.


HOW DOES EMOTIONAL ABUSE HURT?


The effects of emotional abuse are often silent. Verbal and psychological wounds leave a child forever changed. Emotional abuse is often overlooked, unnoticed or confused with other causes.

Emotional child abuse attacks a child’s self-concept. The child comes to see him or herself as unworthy of love and affection.

The wounds of maltreatment, in children who are shamed, I can’t believe you embarrassed me like this!,” humiliated, “You idiot!,” terrorized, “You’re really gonna get it now!” or rejected, “Go to your room!” are as equally significant, although seemingly invisible and harder to recognize or quantify than the wounds of the worst physical and sexual abuse.

An infant who is being deprived of emotional nurturing, connection and bonding through close contact, even though physically well cared for, can fail to thrive.

Less severe forms of early emotional deprivation still can produce drastic effects of emotional abuse such as babies who grow into anxious andinsecure children who are slow to develop and who may fail to develop a strong sense of self-esteem.

Other types of abuse are usually noticed because marks or other physical evidence is left, however, signs of emotional abuse can be very hard to define.

In some instances, the effects of emotional abuse are so subtle that an emotionally mistreated child may show no outward signs of abuse. For this reason, emotional abuse is the most difficult form of child maltreatment to identify and stop.

This type of abuse leaves hidden scars that manifest themselves in numerous ways.

Insecurity, poor self-esteem, destructive behavior, angry acts such as fire setting or cruelty to animals, withdrawal, poor development of basic skills, alcohol or drug abuse, suicide and difficulty forming relationships can all be possible results of emotional abuse.


BEHAVIORAL EFFECTS


Emotional child abuse can result in other more serious psychological and/or behavioral problems. These include depression, lack of attachment or emotional bond to a parent or guardian, low cognitive ability and educational achievement and poor social skills.

One study which followed emotionally abused children in infancy and then again during their preschool years consistently found them to be “angry, uncooperative and unattached to their primary caregiver.” These children more often also lacked creativity, persistence and enthusiasm.

The effects of emotional abuse in children who experience rejection demonstrate that they are more likely than accepted children to exhibit hostility, aggressive or passive-aggressive behavior, to be extremely dependent, to have negative opinions of themselves and their abilities, to be emotionally unstable or unresponsive, and to have a negative perception of the world around them.

Parental verbal aggression (e.g., yelling, insulting) or symbolic aggression (e.g., slamming a door, giving the silent treatment) toward children can have serious consequences.

Children who witness abuse in relationships or emotional spousal abuse demonstrate higher rates of physical aggressiveness, delinquency and interpersonal problems than other children. Children whose parents are additionally physically abusive are even more likely to experience such difficulties.

Children who see or hear their mothers being abused
are victims of emotional abuse.

Growing up in such an environment is terrifying and severely affects a child’s psychological and social development. Male children may learn to model violent behavior while female children may learn that being abused is a normal part of relationships. This contributes to the intergenerational cycle of violence.

The consequences of emotional child abuse can be serious and long-term. Emotionally abused children may experience a lifelong pattern of depression, estrangement, anxiety, low self-esteem, inappropriate or troubled relationships, or a lack of empathy.

As teenagers, they find it difficult to trust, participate in and achieve happiness in relationships, and resolve the complex feelings left over from their childhoods. As adults, they may have trouble recognizing and appreciating the needs and feelings of their own children and emotionally abuse them as well.


Effects of Emotional Abuse: Return to Emotional Abuse Info
Effects of Emotional Abuse: Return to Home

Becoming as Wise as Your Baby

At babywisemom.com (a site with content I detest),
it was said:

“Despite the flaws of the book, I highly recommend it, especially if you are sleep training. It will give you the courage to continue forward.”
S O U R C E


One might ask, why is courage needed, if it is a positive and beneficial method of working with our littlest humans.  Furthermore, why would pediatricians be warning against this process, along with “On Becoming Babywise”, if it were so effective and beneficial?

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My Little One’s Portrait

To all the parents out there, veteran and new, courage to continue forward in a process that isolates a child and forces the mind to develop self coping mechanisms in a timeline that is premature, and in the only environment that is supposed to be completely safe (home, mama, papa), is not courage,
it is stupid and cruel.

The courage to never abandon, never neglect, never delay,
and never isolate is what your child actually needs from you.

Courage to be conveniently not stuck with dealing with an infant or baby behaving as such is not courage, it is selfishness.

The Pearls’, Ezzo’s, Weissbluth’s, Lessin’s, Lindvall, and countless others think they’ve found themselves a kingdom of heaven in their methods of not having to deal with the inconveniences of childhood.  They propagate their selfishness and pride rampantly, and hide it under the guise of God and Godly Ways. They teach behaviorism, religiosity, arrogance, subjugation, and shame. What good they impart is the only way they continue their “ministries”, because were the legitimate truth and goodness stripped (it is, but done so in a manner that is deceptive and very covert), no one would pay them an ounce of attention. They hook people with their “good”, reel in with their “Godly this and that”, and then sink every single one of their followers through coercion, guilt, and fear (fear of not raising a good child, fear of disappointing the community, fear of falling short of a God that suddenly measures and gives only warranted approval, according to their interpretation and preachings).


If you are trying to follow these methods, yet find yourself at all struggling or questioning, please pause for a moment. Review your instinct, and shut out all the voices. Forget the methods, the science, the motives.. Just stop and listen to what is there to be heard. Look into your little one’s eyes, listen to their breath, search their thoughts, see their body as it communicates so very much… Observe and reflect, and find your compassion. They deserve nothing less than your all, because, they exist.

 

Children are not machines to be operated, drones to be cut out of a mold, or soldiers to be beaten into unquestioning submission. Children are precious, most valuable, worthy of honor and respect. Love them.

Lead them by example and mentorship. Do not damage, do not diminish.

Children, when revered for their very existence respond in turn. They will see your honesty, see your imperfections, see your wisdom and maturity, and feel your love without condition. They will taste your selflessness, your sacrifice, your pride in them.  They will grow strong, capable, stable.  They are born with the opportunity and the right to be whole. Do not break them.


Quoted from below, “It was not like having a baby in the family at all, but rather just like having another child in the family. What a blessing.”

This statement sickens me. Someone, please respond with a legitimate, unselfish explanation of what the trouble with having a baby in the family is exactly.  Isn’t becoming pregnant and giving birth to a baby likely going to result in the family adding a baby to its midst?

“Our first child was a demand fed baby and it was a nightmare. He was more demanding for a long time as a child.”

Oh my little ones… to think you are valued high enough that you are fed when your body triggers your mind to alert your caregiver to feed…

Dear mother,
Dear father,

The next time your stomach indicates hunger, ignore it.  Simply learn to control your hunger pangs will you! How inconvenient. (Unless, of course, they occur on schedule, my schedule that is.)  If by chance you have decided to modify your needs to suit mine, I will feed you what I determine is appropriate.  If you are not satisfied, consider this a chance to build your character – self control after all is a highly valued asset.

I dare you to implement upon yourself, under the control of someone you cannot manipulate, your own  control techniques that you force upon your children.




The paragraph below is from –
Gary Ezzo, Anne Marie Ezzo, Babywise and Growing Kid’s God’s Way

From Dr. Heldzinger: We started implementing the principles in Baby Wise with our 4th baby (unfortunately we did not learn them before.) What a difference it made to our family. Our first child was a demand fed baby and it was a nightmare. He was more demanding for a long time as a child. With the third we implemented parent-controlled feeding out of our own and with the 4th we used the Ezzo method. It was not like having a baby in the family at all, but rather just like having another child in the family. What a blessing.We subsequently implemented the principles in Growing Kids God’s Way and Reflections of Moral Innocence in our family. My 3 teenagers and 1 child are loved by others and are committed Christians. In fact they have their own ministry, sharing the Word of God. I have seen over 150,000 patients as a family physician and have used these principles to counsel parents with great success (by God’s grace). These are common sense principles, not rocket science. I believe our society has lost their common sense. These principles work! These parent-contolled feeding principles improves people’s lifestyles and makes having a baby in the family an enjoyable experience. My wife breastfed our youngest until he was 3 years old, and he never tugged and begged to be breastfed. He always knew we would feed him when the time was right. I have seen a patient with 4 year old out of control twin boys, for example, and counsel all my patients to follow the methods of calm discipline with firm boundaries and set consequences. When the parents implement these principles, they have great success. I highly recommend the Ezzo’s ministry and all their series to people who want to raise morally responsible, enjoyable youth. Gary and Anne Marie Ezzo changed our marriage (from being child-centered to spouse-centered). We likely could have been divorced if we did not learn what we learned.Growing Kids God’s Way changed our lives. Only in Eternity will the results of their ministry truly be known. Thank you so much Pastor Gary and Anne Marie. My wife and I appreciate your ministry so much.

The sorrow I feel is palpable.

Angie

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There is more on this subject worth review – found here