No, I'm not the marketer, but I have recently become a huge fan of Seth Godin, and I eagerly look to his daily emails for three reasons: inspiration, a kick in the pants, or a paradigm-shattering new perspective. Today, his post, The Coming Meltdown in Higher Education (as seen by a marketer) landed squarely in the third category. In this post, he explores five compelling reasons why higher education is headed for a crash. I think he presents a new and vital perspective that all parents need to seriously consider. I'm not going to regurgitate his post since you can click there now and read it, and that's just what I want you to do. Right now.
Go ahead … I'll wait.
Brilliant, isn't it? Here is why I think this is a GOOD thing. We can only hope that this pending melt-down in higher education will, in turn, affect elementary and high school education . When the goal is not simply to get the highest test scores to gain access to the (artificially) highest-ranked colleges, only then will we see some authentic shifts in educating our children. As it is, the entire education system has become like a house of cards, each step preparing for the next, all under the outdated pretense that education needs to churn out factory workers for jobs that no longer exist. For a great commentary on the evolution of our education system, listen to this!
I'm sharing this here on my blog because the educational future of my son is important to me, and as conscious parents, I think it's important to you, too. For those of you who choose to homeschool or are seeking alternatives to traditional education, this is just one more piece to support you in your choices. When we're going against the flow of mainstream society, we can never have too much support, right? Share this with your friends and family. Help them better understand why you're making the choices you're making, and why these choices serve society in the long run. Spread the word.
I'd love to hear what you think of this. Do you think we need to wait until the effects of the melt-down trickle down to elementary schools, or can we affect change from the bottom-up? How do we help shift the popular opinion that "It was good enough for me, so it's good enough for my kids"?
According to the latest numbers out from the Allmyfriends Research Institute, the terrible threes have gained ground over the terrible twos in parental frustration. This has certainly been the case in my home, which has been terrorized on and off over the past seven months by a highly energetic, willful, and sensitive child.
Through trial and more errors than I'd like to admit, I've discovered a number of practices that seem to help mitigate the challenges inherent in parenting a sensitive three-year-old. I think they'll be helpful for all parents, though especially so if your three-year-old is ten steps ahead of your every move, and also happens to be amplifying all of your inner frustration you thought you were so cleverly hiding.
Intuitive children bring their own set of challenges to the family dynamic, and if we aren't careful, we can slip into a lot of unproductive blaming, self-blaming, and diagnosing of our children. "Why is he so hyperactive? Should I have him tested for ADHD?" "Why is she such a control-freak? She's running the whole house!" "Why aren't I a better parent? I should have a handle on this. It shouldn't be this hard." Does any of this sound familiar?
Before you go calling the psychiatrist, here are ten things I've learned that help restore a bit of sanity to our home. When I practice them consistently, Lucas is a happy (though still energetic, willful and sensitive) boy, and I am a more happy and balanced mom. When I forget to practice them, he reminds me with some crazy behavior, and if I'm paying attention, I get back on track right away. If I'm not paying attention, it takes more crazy behavior until I get it.
Ten Tips on Parenting the Quirky, Intuitive Child
1. Get RhythmBalance your day's rhythms so your child has down time after up time, independent time after social time, time with you after time away from you, outside time after inside time. Get the picture? For example, too much stimulation from playing with other kids, attending preschool, or being out in crowds will build up stress in your child. If it isn't balanced with time and space to decompress, they'll let out that negative energy in unfortunate ways.
For us, this meant cutting back on play dates to ensure enough down time and independent time for him. Plus, on the days he's in preschool in the mornings, I've designated special together time in the afternoons in which we play games or do projects.
2. Balance brain chemistrySensitive kids are sensitive to everything, including sugar. Here's a great resource to learn more about sugar sensitivity in kids. Basically, sugar-sensitive people have a triple-whammy of low blood sugar, low serotonin, and low beta-endorphins. This sets up a cycle of craving more sugar, which throws the brain chemicals further off balance. What a bummer, huh? We noticed long ago that Lucas became a different boy in a very, very bad way when he ate the occasional fruit bar or raisins. All those "healthy" dried fruit snacks and bars you might be giving your kids are nothing but concentrated sugar, which is bad news for sensitive children.
The answer that worked for us? More protein with each meal, and limiting snacks to whole fruits and veggies (organic apples and carrot sticks, mostly). The sugar in apples, especially, hits the bloodstream steadily over time, avoiding the spikes that throw off the brain chemistry. Lucas has adjusted to the lack of crackers and carb-y snacks, and as a bonus, he has actually lost a little of the extra chub his was carrying.
3. MeditateThis is for you, not for them - although it wouldn't hurt them to know that you practice, and who knows? They're probably already doing some form of meditation already. I've written about this time and again, but it bears repeating: This is one of my most important practices for staying grounded and nonreactive when Lucas acts up. Go back and read those links and the related posts for a more in-depth exploration of why this helps.
Currently, I'm meditating at the beginning of his naptime or "quiet time", or as soon as I get home from taking him to preschool. I light a little candle, gather my cat Princess on my lap, and begin. She loves meditating, too, and her soft, purring body is very grounding for me. Grab your pet and give it a try!
4. Clean your own (energetic) messesSince sensitive kids notice and amplify the energies around them more intensely than others, it's going to affect them more when you're mad at your spouse, stressed about finances, or worried about world events. If you have a lot of negative talk going on in your mind - even if you aren't saying anything out loud - it's being transmitted like a radio signal right to your little receiver, who is too young to know what to do with it, other than act crazy. Be a good model and clean up your mental messes.
A good strategy for me is to write in my journal. I find it's a good place to vent and release a lot of negative energy without exploding on anyone else. Also, see #3. For you, it might be exercise, a walk in nature, painting, or playing music. Whatever it is that clears your negativity and restores you to the present moment is a great practice.
5. Accentuate the positiveSometimes, it's hard to keep sight of what we love most about our three-year-old little beasties. If complaining about the challenging behavior has become a habit, it can be very difficult to turn it around into something positive. Once again, sensitive children pick up on thoughts like, "YOU'RE BUGGING ME SO MUCH!" even if you're trying your best to speak in a soft, kind voice and use nice words. Try to focus on the aspects of your child that you adore, and keep those as dominant thoughts in your mind.
I recently started doing an exercise in my journal every day, called "Positive Aspects." The idea comes from the Abraham/Hicks books on the law of attraction. I quickly jot down ten positive aspects of Lucas; ten things I admire, love, respect about him. I also write positive aspects about my husband and for myself, too, just for good measure. It takes all of five minutes, and it really does help get my thoughts focused on the positive rather than the negative in all three of us. Like attracts like, so if I can start off with a few positive thoughts jotted in my journal, I'm more likely to have more positive thoughts throughout the day.
6. Establish routines and predictabilityYoung children thrive on predictability! They love to know what's happening when, and that's challenging for them if every day is a different story. Knowing that certain things always happen on certain days or at certain times of the day helps children feel grounded and secure. For intuitive children who can tend toward spaciness and inattentiveness, the grounding that comes with predictability is golden, and cuts way back on power struggles. You can create routines around meals, outings, bedtime, or any transition time in the day.
Predictability inhibits them from challenging every little decision you make. It becomes more about, "This is what we do," and less about "I'm telling you to do this thing right now." There is so much more to be said about this tip, and if you want an in-depth look at the beauty of routines, read Simplicity Parenting, by Kim John Payne.
One of our routines is around meals. First we wash hands, then we set the table, then we have a moment of silence, (which he LOVES, by the way) and then we eat together. I sing a little hand-washing song that sets the whole thing in motion. Getting him to the table with clean hands used to be terribly annoying and tedious. Now that we've had a consistent routine, it's much easier.
7. Use leverageSome of you may not like this one, and sadly, Alfie Kohn will now probably never be my friend, but based on the responses I received to my Carrot-Nose story, I expect I'll have at least a few of you in agreement. If there is a non-negotiable thing you want your child to do, (and you haven't already incorporated it into a predictable routine, or maybe you're working on turning it into a predictable routine) and your spirited child refuses, then what do you do? Maybe I'm the only one who's running into this little dilemma. You know that the more you insist, the deeper you dig yourself into the power struggle of no return. This is where leverage shows some promise. At the far end of the leverage continuum is fear, and we really want to avoid that if we can, but if all else fails, sometimes a call to the Carrot Nose can get things on track. A less therapy-inducing use of leverage might be to think about how your day is structured and position some highly motivating activities after some of the challenging ones.
For us, this might look like playing a game of Candyland together AFTER he brushes his teeth in the morning or whatever it is I need him to do. It's not exactly a bribe. I'm not telling him I'll play Candyland IF he brushes his teeth. We already have the game time planned. There are just certain things that need to be taken care of before we settle in to play, and since he's eager to play, he gets right to them. I think leverage is a good word for this.
8. Assign choresYou might be thinking, "Right. I can barely get my three-year-old to pee in the toilet, and now you want me to assign chores?" Yes, I do, and here's why. This age is so much about control and will. Giving them a meaningful place to exercise that control is almost heady for them. They love being in charge of a job as long as it's a task that's appropriate for their abilities and not too frustrating. Things like getting themselves dressed, making their bed, setting the table, and cleaning up toys are all very doable at this age. This ties in really well with #6 - Routines and predictability, so they know exactly when and how a chore is to be done, without too much interference from you.
To introduce a chore, first show them how to do it and let them watch you a few times. Then do the chore together until they really have it down to your satisfaction. (This is not a time to indulge your inner perfectionist. Three-year-old bed-making looks different than grown-up bed-making, and that's okay for now.) Finally, relinquish control and let them take over.
Lucas' routine for morning chores is drawn in pictures on a little poster in his room: 1. (picture of a made bed), 2. (pictures of underwear, pants, shirt, and socks) 3. (picture of the sink, soap and a towel). After some practice, he now makes his bed, gets dressed, and washes his hands before breakfast … all on his own. The poster is a fun visual reminder for him. If he forgets something, I just say "poster" and he knows what to do.
9. Stay neutralStaying neutral is about not letting our buttons get pushed. Our intuitive children know exactly where we've installed each of those buttons, and they are experts at pushing them. It's interesting for them to get big reactions from us. Like a puppeteer pulling the puppet strings, they can get us to hop and scream quite easily if we are off our game. What control! What fun! If, on the other hand, we can stay in a space of neutrality, we give them less power to play around with, and the game loses its charm.
For me, practicing #3 and #4 make it much more likely that I will be able to stay neutral. It has to be deeper than my tone of voice. Lucas can tell if I'm faking calm, and it just motivates him to try harder. True groundedness and non-reactivity is like anti-venom to crazy behavior.
10. Have a sense of humorThere isn't much to be said about this. You all know what funny is, and most of the time, it's probably your quirky child. You just need to stay in the right frame of mind to appreciate it and enjoy it. Yes, this parenting gig is an often overwhelming responsibility. Yes, we probably take it way too seriously most of the time. Let's give ourselves permission to lighten up and laugh a little more.
I hope you've found these tips helpful. They are a work in progress for me. I'd love to hear what you think of them, or if you have more to add.
In summary …
Ten Tips on Parenting the Quirky Child (Nutshell Version)
- Get rhythm
- Balance brain chemistry
- Clean your own (energetic) messes
- Accentuate the positive
- Establish routines and predictability
- Use leverage
- Assign chores
- Stay neutral
- Have a sense of humor
comments (10) Labels: AbrahamHicks , Alfie Kohn , crystal children , crystal kids , indigo children , intuitive/sensitive kids , meditation , Parenting , preschooler behavior , Simplicity Parenting , sugar sensitivity
Parenting challenges are rarely about our kids. I'll write that again, in case you glossed over it. Parenting challenges are rarely about our kids. They are mostly, if not all, about our own insecurities and beliefs about the way things ought to be.
My recent challenges with Lucas reached a resolution last night over dinner with my mom. He wasn't even around for it. He was asleep. As I shared my frustrations, I found myself going deeper into the underlying reasons for my current reactivity. Things like my own stress about our finances, family life not looking the way I'd imagined it, and my lack of clarity about where I was heading professionally were all gathering in the shape of a giant, pointing finger telling me I'm not good enough.
The issue of my intermittent and debilitating lack of confidence came up, and my mother began to shake her head, as happens often among my friends. She said, "I just don't get it, Lex. You have so much going for you, so much to offer. Why on earth do you question that?" As I got myself all worked up into tears, I launched into the story of my nomadic childhood. Of course, my mom is well aware of our history, but I thought she might be missing the point of how it all affected me. I was constantly moving, changing schools, changing friends, sometimes two and three times a year, early on. Other than my mom, there were no consistent adults in my life who knew me, loved me, and understood me. Elementary school teachers were a blur. I remember three of them. There were at least eleven. There were no best friends (until Lina, which really made things worse and is a whole other story). I was not a member of any groups, teams, or clubs.
"How could I be expected to develop commitment and confidence under those circumstances? How could I possibly ever feel like I had a place I belonged?" I cried to my mom.
She's of the school of thought that you just let it go. You get off the merry go round. You unplug. I told her it was easier said than done. She disagreed.
I think she may have been right.
This story of moving so much has surfaced and resurfaced a lot lately, and frankly, it's becoming a drag. I'm just reminding myself of why I think I'm insecure. How does this help me be a better person? How does it help me be a better mom who doesn't constantly judge myself so harshly and then react to Lucas in negative ways? It doesn't.
So can I just drop the story, as my mom suggests? I mean, it happened. I can't just pretend it was different. It occurred to me that instead of trying to drop it, I could tweak it. I'd been focusing on the part of the story that says, "See? This was the problem!" That wasn't the whole story, though. Here's the tweaked, but also true, version:
I moved a lot as a kid. This taught me to be resilient and to adapt quickly to new situations. I became an expert at starting up fresh, and to this day, I have phenomenal starter energy. I learned how to adjust to change and make new friends easily. I'm now a great networker, and I love meeting new people and bringing them together in new ways.
This childhood also gave me the opportunity to develop my inner world. Without the distractions of clubs, teams, and a busy social life, I spent a lot of time alone with my own thoughts and creativity. I loved to read and imagine and create, and I had plenty of time for all of it. I loved my time to myself! I had the freedom to develop my intuitive gifts, though I didn't realize that's what I was doing at the time. These aspects of my childhood remind me that being apart and alone are vital to who I am. They nurture my creativity and help me gain a perspective that is different from the crowds. They help me find my own voice.
The next time I start to feel isolated, less than, left out, or stuck, and I feel like blaming my nomadic childhood, I can remember this version of the story instead. I can choose to feel empowered by the wonderful opportunity I've been given to become exactly who I am.
What stories are you telling yourself? Are they helping or getting in the way?
Wanted: Precisely one parenting book titled something to the effect of, How to Effectively Parent Your Strong-Willed, Quirky 3 ½-Year-Old Without Resorting to Punishment, Threats, Bribery, or Drugs, While at the Same Time, Insuring that You Won't be Unleashing a Free-Wheeling Monster-Boy into Society a Few Short Years From Now.
I Googled it, but couldn't find a match. If I figure out the answer, (and a shorter title) I'll most certainly write it myself.
It's time for true confessions here at Taking the Lid off the Sun. With the exception of a brief hiatus of about two months that ended a couple of weeks ago, Lucas has been on my last nerve since SEPTEMBER! I wrote about some of those parenting struggles last fall, and thought I'd discovered the answer after the holidays. Some of his current behavior falls under the category of general willfulness and contrariness, along with far more energy than I know how to handle, which I know is very normal for this age, though no less aggravating. Other behaviors seem more quirky and disturbing. Confident in his knowledge that I find them quirky and disturbing, he focuses a lot of time and attention on those, in particular. Would you like some examples?
- Teasing his playmates …
He asks a playmate if he'd like a particular toy. When playmate says yes, he pulls it away and refuses to relinquish it. Or he sits close to his playmate on the sofa and the playmate says, "Don't sit so close." Lucas moves so close he's almost on top of him. He seems to take pleasure in watching them get upset. (That's the disturbing part for me.)
- … and one of our cats
He has singled out one of our cats as "the enemy," and is constantly hassling him: tapping him, chasing him, and putting stuff on him. The other day, Lucas deliberately knocked a planted orchid onto the carpet and had the audacity to blame Hakuna, even though I was standing right there and watched him do it. If you want to see some older footage of him bugging our sweet cat with some James Brown moves, watch this. His little toddler voice is saying, "Kuna don't bite you." Meaning, "Hakuna, don't bite me."
- Obsessing about boobies …
This has been a long-standing preoccupation for Lucas, dating back to before he was two, when he associated the bras in Victoria's Secret with his first crush: one of my friends. "Bras … Shauna!!!" Now, when he feels like making noise but has nothing in particular to say, he usually chants, "Boobies, boobies, boobies, I love boobies, boobies, boobies," ad nauseum. He changes song lyrics to include boobies in each verse. When one of my friends comes over and (discretely, mind you) nurses her younger child, Lucas crawls right up next to her and stares at her with a sly grin, saying, "You got your boobies out. Can I touch your boobies, boobies, boobies?" I mean, really! Luckily my friend isn't bothered by it, but - call me a prude - it bugs the heck out of me. Especially when it triggers this next one …
- …and penises
I know all little boys discover the pleasures of the penis early on. But Lucas seems to associate it with seeing boobies, and this just doesn't strike me as normal for this age. Is it? Are they actually capable of having sexual thoughts at three and a half?! The last time this same friend was over and began nursing, he actually began to, um … diddle, while staring at her bosom and smiling. I told him that touching himself was perfectly fine, but it was a private thing, so could he please go to his room or else stop? At which point, he ran away from me, took off his pants and began to flash her in earnest, laughing maniacally and screaming, "Look at my penis! Look at my penis!! Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha!!" I couldn't think of what to do other than tell him that if he did that as a grown up, the police would arrest him and put him in jail. He doesn't even know what jail is, but somehow it made an impression. He stopped and put his clothes back on. A few days later, he randomly told another friend of mine, "If you are a grownup and you show your penis … uh (realizing he had the wrong part) … if you show your vagina to other people, the police will give you a ticket and put you in the jail."
I'm sure I could have handled this better.
- Screaming bloody murder
I have said this before: I haven't ever given in to his demands when he resorts to throwing fits. We all know that's a parenting no-no. Nonetheless, he still regularly relies on this strategy. These days, when he doesn't get his way, or when we ask him to do something he doesn't want to do, he first shouts, "NO!" and does this insulting little raspberry thing with his lips, "Ppph!" very loudly and sharply … and then he begins to scream. It's the kind of breathtaking and extended screaming that would have certainly summoned Children's Services if our neighbors didn't know us better. Like I said, it never works to get him his way, but it does manage to bug the crap out of us, and in that way, I guess he gains some power.
Trust or Control?A part of my awareness keeps urging me to just surrender to all of this. Just accept him as he is, in all aspects. Accept the booby songs and the penis obsession, the screaming and teasing, the crashing, bashing and destructive play, and trust that it's just a really annoying phase and that's all. Trust that it's not an indicator of a lifetime of offensive behavior.
I'm not to that place of trust yet. I keep thinking there has to be something I could be doing differently in my parenting. That's the core of it, isn't it? What are we really able to control as parents, and what is just the luck of the draw? How much can we manipulate their environment, reactions, and character, and how much is simply out of our hands?
I've tried time-out, time-in, pausing to breathe and regroup, hugging during fits, structure and rhythm, predictability, balancing rigorous play with quiet play, independence and togetherness. I've removed the sugar and quick-to-convert carbs from his diet and upped his protein. I've agonized over the merits of sending him to preschool or keeping him home. Just how many variables do I want to be responsible for? The more I adjust them, the more personally I take it when the outcome is not what I intended.
My ultimate fear is that if I relinquish the control; if I don't do my best to pick the RIGHT variables, he may not have the chance to become the boy and the man I hope him to be. That's the truth. I can call it being a conscious parent, but is it, really? Or is it selfishness, pride, ego instead?
I obviously don't know, and I'm not yet willing surrender enough to find out. Perhaps some of you have some helpful perspectives to share.
In the meantime, it is with humility that I leave you with today's gem of a solution to Lucas' defiance:
The Carrot-Nose Solution
In one of my least shining parenting moments, I discovered that picking up the phone and pretending to call the Carrot Nose was a sure-fire way to gain instant compliance during an impasse.
Lucas cuts his fit short, pleading, "I'm cooperating! I'm cooperating! Don't call the Carrot Nose! Hang up!"
What's one of your least-stellar parenting moments?