Cognitive Control

Cognitive Control

As parents, we strive to offer our children opportunities with the goal of helping them reach their full potential. We are drawn to the latest child rearing techniques, scour parenting articles, Google experts and purchase products promising all sorts of child advancements. We enroll in the best schools and programs promising to enrich our children’s lives. All of this is done with the altruistic goal to do everything in our power to help our children become successful adults. Despite all this effort, most agree there is no method of parenting proven to directly correlate to adult success. Parenting has no manual other that it requires unlimited energy, unconditional love and immeasurable patience.

image6However, there may be one simple skill we can help our kids learn that is a predictor of future success. Daniel Goleman, author of Emotional Intelligence sites something called cognitive control in his new book, A Force For Good. The interesting thing is “Cognitive control the power to stay focused and ignore distractions, to delay gratification now in pursuit of a future goal, and to put a damper on destructive emotions “ can be taught. Goleman, 2016. p.128.

Goleman sites a study called the “marshmallow test” done at Stanford University with four year olds. Children were told they could have one marshmallow now or wait several minutes and get two. The children who were able to wait, were tracked through high school and had higher college entrance exam scores than those who couldn’t wait. Research results also showed Cognitive control was a better predictor of adult financial success over IQ.

How wonderful! This information offers you a legitimate reason not to try to fulfill your children’s every need or request as soon as they ask. I can hear you taking a deep sigh of relief right now! You no longer have to feel guilty saying; “You need to wait.” Or tell your children “no” when they ask for something. Instead, require them to earn the money for what they desire. This would force them to set a goal and work hard to achieve it.

When you think about it, the concepts of success and dreams are always in the future for children. According to Malcom Gladwell in his book Outliers, it takes 10,000 hours of practice to be proficient at a skill. Obviously, those 10,000 hours of practice requires  determination and the ability to delay gratification in pursuit of a future reward.

 We all understand that accomplishing one’s goal requires discipline, focus and withstanding failure. Those who succeed, do so because they had the courage to pick themselves back up from defeat, re-focus their aspirations and self-motivate to try again.

These skills are easier to find when the goal or dream comes from one’s heart and soul. Allow your children the opportunity to dream their own dreams.Even if this means that they are different from your own for them. Guide them through the necessary steps and love them when they fail. Over time you will see that their discipline, drive and ambition for something they love will carry over to other areas of their life too.

Gladwell,M.Outliers. New York,NY: Little Brown and CO,2008.

Goleman,D. A Force For Good. New York. Random House, 2016.

Trusting Your Mother’s Intuition

Trusting Your Mother’s Intuition

“There is no instinct like that of the heart.”
– Lord Byron

Always Do Your Best

Mothers are instinctive philosophers!

The word intuition means “to perceive directly without reasoning.”

The biological and emotional connection you have with your child offers you an innate intuition stronger than you can experience with any other human being. Often, mothers know things about their child’s health or behavior long before a diagnosis is uncovered.

I encourage you to trust your intuition and cultivate it. Tuning into your senses and listening to your gut feelings will enable you to make decisions based from your personal truth and not from external pressures.

“Our intuition usually makes itself known to us in a flash, and often has a physical component – a flutter in our stomachs, sweaty palms, or a chill. When we use this information to help us navigate a situation, we always benefit.”
(Daily Om, 2010)

Tuning in to your intuition requires you to be still and silent long enough to hear its subtle cues. If you are always rushing, living in chaos and bombarded by noise, then you won’t be able to recognize the signs that may be obvious. It is my belief that it is through your intuition that God speaks to you. You just need to believe enough in yourself to listen. Through practice and positive experiences, you will begin to trust this gift within you. Once you begin to trust your intuition, it will offer you insight and discovery into your child that may otherwise have gone unnoticed.

“Listen to your intuition. It will tell you everything you need to know.”
– Anthony J. D’Angelo

Trusting Your Parental Intuition

“There is a universal, intelligent, life force that exists within everyone and everything. It resides within each one of use as a deep wisdom, an inner knowing. We can access this wonderful source of knowledge and wisdom through our intuition, an inner sense that tells us what feels right and true for us at any given moment.”
– Shakti Gawain

Teaching our Kids to tap into their intuition:

How can you as a parent teach your child to recognize and trust the message their bodies are trying to tell them through a gut feeling? The human body is amazingly capable of this challenge. We possess the flight or fight instinct when we sense danger with all kinds of bodily sensations. In order for a child to learn how to tune into bodily cues, she must have the opportunity to experience quiet time. Practicing stillness and listening are essential skills required to tap into our innate guidance system.

Encourage your child to identify bodily feelings and express them:

Validate what they are saying by repeating it back to them. Never deny what they are saying. How do you know what they are feeling?

Notice patterns of bodily feelings

Do they always experience a specific ailment when going to a specific place, doing a specific activity or seeing a specific person?

Help them to identify their feelings:

Kids need help in labeling how they feel. Pictures can also help by playing a game. How do you think this girl is feeling.

When thy get older and have more language….

You can train conscientious listening:

One way to practice tuning in to one’s intuition is to teach children to intuit the true meaning behind someone’s spoken words. According to Albert Mehrabian, author of Silent Messages, “A listener perceives 55 percent of the meaning of the spoken message through gestures and facial expressions; 38 percent is interpreted through tone of voice, speech rate, rhythm and emphasis; and words transmit approximately 7 percent of the message. In other words, nonverbal cues communicate the bulk of the message.” Therefore, it is quite helpful for children to practice observation of body language and listening skills.
A fun way to build listening skills is to practice through word games.

See my book for fun ideas.

“Intuition will tell the thinking mind where to look next.”
– Jonas Salk

 

Always Do Your Best

Always Do Your Best

“Let yourself be silently drawn by the stronger pull of what you really love.”  –Rumi

Always Do Your Best

The idea of always having to do your best may feel overwhelming. But before you begin to feel overwhelmed understand that doing your best means giving it 100% with the resources you have at the time. The demands of parenting, for all that it entails, with household responsibilities and job obligations, are going to drain you of physical and emotional energy. Accept this as truth and give yourself permission to be not perfect.

What you do with the energy resources you have on any given day is what is essential. The same question asked twenty times might not irritate you one day but drive you crazy the next. It is always the intention behind your actions that is  important. Whether it be cooking dinner, presenting at a meeting or reading bedtime stories, do it with the best intention that you are able to summon at the moment. That way, when you look back on your life, you can truly say that you did everything with your best effort.

Abigail’s mom may be able to coach soccer, be the Brownie troop leader, and work part time, whereas you may be overwhelmed by the responsibility of deciding what to make for dinner each night. Accepting your own limitations is the first step to living in synchrony with your natural rhythm and helping you manage your days without stress. German author Johann Von Goethe wrote, “The man with insight enough to admit his limitations comes nearest to perfection.”

Just as you need to accept your own limitations, it is also important to acknowledge your child’s individual style of living in this world. Some children can move quickly from activity to activity while others become overwhelmed when asked to do too many things in a short time frame. Some children absorb new information as if by osmosis; others need to labor over new ideas before they incorporate them into their understanding. The awareness of respecting your child’s unique strengths and weaknesses will allow you to honor her place in the world without comparing her to other children. You don’t want to be compared to Abigail’s mom, nor does your child want to be held up to the accomplishments of your best friend’s child.

By living with the awareness of always doing your best, you will offer your child a realistic role model of how one can live life taking on challenges without being tied to the outcome. She will see that sometimes Mom has a lot of energy and is very patient and sometimes she is very tired and yells a lot. She will learn to honor your humanness by witnessing your moods and mistakes.

Ultimately, not being the perfect parent will give your child permission to fail and not have to be “perfect” to please you. Without the pressure of being perfect or having to live up to high expectations, she will be more willing to take risks and challenges.  When she makes a mistake and is upset, remind her how much you still love her just like when you make mistakes she still loves you. This will help her understand that love isn’t dependent on an outcome. It is a permanent source within each of us that we can count on being there.

In our competitive society it is quite difficult to allow oneself the freedom to evaluate your performance based on effort. From a very young age, children seek positive reinforcement from their parents and adults in their world. As a parent, I encourage you to encourage your child with a full heart for all she dreams to do, and praise her always for her effort.

There is a distinct difference between the concepts of praise and encouragement. Praise occurs after the act has been completed. It originates in our ego because it has a judgment assigned to it. We only offer the praise if we think the action was worthy of it. Encouragement, on the other hand, occurs prior to the start of the action. Its purpose is to inspire and motivate from love and is not dependent on the outcome or result.

Back in the 1980s, parents were told to use positive reinforcement to build his or her child’s self esteem. It was the new approach proclaiming that through positive reinforcement, parents could motivate children to stretch their abilities, take risks and become successful. This was supposed to enhance the development of the child’s self esteem.

As a new parent, I was more than willing to offer praise for every little action my son attempted. I remember saying things like “good walking,” “good eating,” and “good listening.” Parents of the 1980s used these non-stop compliments to encourage their children to perform even the most basic skills. The problem in rewarding activities that don’t require much effort is that it doesn’t encourage a child to stretch her limits. If a child is looking for external rewards as a motivator for her actions, then what happens when there is no one there to watch?

In retrospect, the results of praising every little action our children attempted or accomplished, was that we created a generation of self assured, oversized egos who often expressed a sense of entitlement. What is entitlement? According to author Maya Angelou, “It is a consciousness of I deserve. It is feeling we have the right to rewards, special privileges, or recognition based on personal merit, achievement, or simply because of who we are. It’s having a sense of superiority, as in, ‘I have so much experience, you should listen to me.’ ” These children had no problem with possessing positive self-esteem. In fact, they thought they were good at everything and became easily frustrated when a task required too much effort.

They often blamed their failures on external reasons like, “The teacher was so stupid and couldn’t explain anything.” “It was the other guys’ fault that I smashed into the curb because he stopped short.” Parents raising children from the perspective that their child was amazing, were often willing to support the child’s theory of external blame, taking on the school, Little League coach or whomever else got in the way of their child’s success. Unfortunately, the parent didn’t look within him or herself to see that the child’s way of interacting within the world, and others, was at least in part created from their parenting style.

The lesson learned is that praise needs to be earned and given in conjunction with the effort extended rather than from the outcome of that effort. A child with a reading disability may have to struggle to get through her homework, needing an enormous amount of encouragement and praise; whereas, another child may breeze through the same assignment in half the time with little required effort. Both may end up with the same grade, but the child who had to struggle needs more encouragement and deserves more praise.

Use the notion of doing one’s best as a measure for your children’s actions. Whether they did or did not accomplish their goal, ask them if they tried to do their best. If they say yes, believe them. Then be proud and pleased with their efforts even if you are disappointed in the outcome. Remind them that doing their best is all that counts. Be authentic in accepting their performance. If they did their best, even when you are not pleased with the end product, their best is all they can do!  This is extremely challenging as a parent because, truthfully, most of us want our children to excel. We allow our own egos to define our expectations of them.

Taking responsibility for one’s actions requires one to admit failure. It is the acceptance that not all that we do is going to be good.   This is true for everyone. Accept the fact that both you and your child will make mistakes. However, teach her that being able to apologize and recover from those mistakes is what is important. Acknowledging your personal mistakes will offer your child the freedom to make her own. Most importantly, this process will teach one of the most essential of all human traits: the ability to forgive.

Lost Mittens?

Lost Mittens?

mittensUnless your little one’s mittens are attached to a string, chances are by the end of the season you’ll end up with at least one pair missing its mate. The ideas below also work well for mismatched socks too.

Bean Bag Mittens or Socks: Sensory fun, gross motor (throwing/ catching)

 

What you will need:

Any type of beans

Glue gun

 

Plug your glue gun in to heat up.

Fill the mitten or sock with the beans leaving ½ inch to the top of the mitten or sock.

Glue the top together securely so none of the beans escape. (Over glue so that none of the beans can escape in order for it to not be a choking hazard).

Texture Mittens or Socks: Sensory fun, color recognition, matching, language

What you will need:

A variety of fabric scraps of varying textures. Sandpaper and bubble wrap is also good.

Trace the shape of your mitten onto the piece of fabric you want to use so that it fills the palm’s surface. If you are using socks, lay them on the fabric to trace the foot.

Use your glue gun to attach the fabric to the palm side of the mitten.

You can turn this sensory fun into a matching game if you use the same fabric on different mittens.

*Note: At the end of the season, mittens will be inexpensive at discount stores. Pick up a few pairs to create the above toys.

Who Are You Now?

Who Are You Now?

lilly pondOsho Rajneesh an Indian mystic wrote, ”The moment a child is born the mother is also born. She never existed before- the woman existed, but the mother-never.” For many mothers, this new identity, as parent, quickly absorbs the women who existed long before she ever gave birth.  Motherhood demands you place your own needs well behind those of your child and if you have more than one child this pattern can go on for several years.  Taking care of yourself is critical to being an effective parent. This includes respecting your own needs, honoring your limitations and being honest about your dreams and goals.

Honoring your true self is an essential first step in creating a strong foundation from which to develop your parenting skills. A parent who has a strong sense of identity, separate from her child, a clear understanding of her personal values and a realistic vision of what she wants her life to include will have a better chance of being a happy parent. Living in alignment with your true self allows you to be able to enjoy the life long task of parenting you have signed on to.

This concept of integrity to self will allow you to parent without resentment. Believe me, it is easy to resent the sick child keeping you up all night. Or be angry with the child who needs to be at a sport’s game, forcing you to cancel your dinner reservations to the new restaurant you were excited about going to. Give yourself permission to be human! Not loving the mommy role 100% of the time is ok. It’s reality.

Somewhere along the line the idea came to be, that in order to be a great mother, we have to be a martyr and sacrifice our needs.  Not only that, but we can’t even complain about our negativity for fear of being seen as an unloving parent.  It’s as if some of us believe that the more we give up and suffer, the better chance our children will have to succeed.  Unfortunately, this places a great deal of stress on us and enormous pressure on our children to fulfill all of our expectations in order to validate our efforts!

No matter where you are on your parenting journey, I suggest taking a few self-reflective moments to go over in your mind, or perhaps write down in a journal, what you need to support the woman you were before you became a mother.

There is no judgment because we are all unique and need different things. For most of us it’s time alone to do whatever comforts us; reading a book at Starbucks, shopping, a walk in the woods or getting a pedicure.

If you are craving space but don’t have childcare, maybe you can do a weekly trade off with a close friend who more than likely is feeling the same frustration and stress as you. If you start this when your child is young and are consistent with the routine, your child will grow to look forward to seeing her friends and being in a different environment, probably just as much as you look forward to having your time alone.

It’s also important to nurture your relationship with your husband.  I often wonder how many divorced couples would be married today if they never had children. Becoming parents redefines both of you within your roles as a couple and places a lot of new stress on the relationship. This is particularly true as your roles before children change. More than likely rendering you at home whereas you may have been an equal provider prior to children.

Most likely, you also have different expectations than your partner as to what your parenting role entails. Often we unconsciously bring our long held beliefs ,rooted in our own upbringing, to our parenting roles. Because you were raised in different families, these ideas can be quite different between the two of you. If your frustrations or disappointments aren’t expressed, resentment starts to grow.  Believe me, if you are angry with your partner because you feel like you are doing it all alone now, try being a single mother!

It’s definitely easier to take time to communicate your needs, frustrations, disappointments and dreams consistently with your partner now rather than later. Make a habit to set aside time when you are not doing chores or interacting with your child. You wouldn’t expect your child to thrive with little or no attention, so don’t place that unrealistic expectation on your relationship.

Now at the stage of life where I am the mother of two adult sons, I can tell you that I did experience the monotony of the tedious, exhausting days that felt endless at the time. But sitting here looking back, I can also tell you that the years go by so quickly.  Believe it or not, there will be a time when your role as a mother will not define your days and you will need to know who you are and what you want to do with the rest of your life. If you never loose yourself along the way of your parenting journey in the first place, it will be all that much easier to continue on your path of becoming all that you dream to be.