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.

Meditation for Children

Meditation for Children

Meditation PictureMeditation does require practice. Although the physiological and mental benefits have been scientifically proven, most of us can hardly find the time or patience to commit to a consistent meditation practice. Just because we have a difficult time with it as adults, doesn’t mean that children won’t be open to it. Unlike adults, whose thoughts tend to be logical with a sense of purpose, children are naturally captivated by their own imaginative thoughts.

There are many benefits that meditation offers children. Besides offering them the opportunity to relax, meditation teaches them to be more attentive. It offers them the opportunity to explore their imagination without limitation. It also offers them the opportunity to practice a behavior or work through feelings in their heads prior to having to act them out in the real world. For example, Sarah practices how to feel and let go of her fear of dogs through a meditation so when she interacts with one in real life she is able to cope better with her feelings of anxiety.

To begin, explain to your child that meditation is a big word that can be done in a variety of ways. Tell her it means closing her eyes, breathing calmly and letting her mind wonder to a place she wants it to go. To demonstrate how her mind can take her places, you can have her sit comfortably and close her eyes. Ask her to describe her bedroom to you. After she is finished, explain to her that even though she isn’t in her bedroom, her mind can take her there. That is a little what meditation is like. It can take you to any place you want to be.

The next step is that it’s important to be comfortable. She can pick whether she wants to be sitting or lying down. I suggest that you initially find a special place in your home that will offer both of you the opportunity to be comfortable and experience quiet without interruption for an extended period of time. You wouldn’t want to set up in the family room if big brother is due home with his friends to play Xbox after school.

As she becomes more comfortable with the practice, make sure you explain that she can meditate anywhere. Let her know that if she is feeling stressed or anxious, she can simply close her eyes and take a few deep breaths to help calm herself. She can do this at school, before a soccer game, or waiting in a line. This will give her a great sense of control against the stresses that continually bombard children from the harshness of the “real world.”

There are several books about teaching children how to meditate as well as numerous articles online. Kerry Lee Maclean has written two adorable books for the younger child about meditation. One is called Moody Cow Meditates and the other is Peaceful Piggy Meditation.  Another book for slightly older children is one by Gail Silver called Anh’s Anger.

Most importantly, I encourage you to be consistent and find the time to practice on a regular basis. Just as one needs repetition to become good at any skill, so it is with meditation.  If you don’t participate in a regular meditation practice, then let your child be your guide. If she is enjoying it, or asks to do it with you and appears to be benefiting from it, then I would encourage you to set aside time on a regular basis to do it with her. Who knows, through the process, she may lead you to a place you need to go. Namaste!


Starting a Yoga Practice with Children

Starting a Yoga Practice with Children

kid-yoga-5d6e8961f35ef766c48716c3ec1c27a1e066554e-s6-c30Yoga for children offers intriguing names such as “tree pose,” “three-legged dog,” “inchworm” and “warrior one.” The tree pose is done by standing on one leg. Place the free foot alongside the middle of your inner thigh with your knee turned out to the side. Hands can begin at the center of the chest pressed together in prayer fashion. Once your child is stable, have her raise her hands overhead. Explain to her that her arms are like the tree when it grows upwards towards the sky. She will try this simple yoga pose because of the name. It is something she is familiar with and allows her to use her imagination. Ask her to count how long she can balance by counting her breaths. It is helpful for her to have a visual marker. Tell her to try to gently stare at one thing and that will help her to balance and keep still. Make sure she tries this on each leg and ask her if one side was easier than the other. This is often the case.

Try not to make this a competition between children but more of a challenge for each child to try to hold the pose as long as they want. If they wobble, tell them that is exactly what a tree does. A tree is meant to be flexible with the wind so it can move from side to side. You can even pretend to try and blow them over by blowing on them.

A downward dog pose is another favorite for children because of the name. Have your child place both hands and feet on the floor. The feet are hips’ distance apart and the hands are placed shoulder-distance apart. The hands are placed out in front enough to give an angle or slight pike to the body. If you demonstrate your child most likely will be able to copy you in a couple of tries.

The three-legged dog pose is similar to downward dog but one leg is lifted in the air. Once again, the hands are used on the floor for balance and support.

The warrior one pose is similar to a lunge but the back foot is flat and turned at a 45-degree angle. Arms are stretched straight overhead by the ears. These are just a few yoga poses that require balance and stillness. There are many others that you can learn by taking a class yourself or watching a DVD. Most cable stations offer yoga classes that will give you a good visual of the poses.

At the end of most yoga classes one practices savasana. Teachers will often describe savasana as the most important part of the yoga practice. It offers practicing stillness and relaxation by having you lay completely flat, arms by your side, utilizing slow and relaxed breath. This is called the corpse pose.

You can have your child practice savasana by calling it a different name. I call it the Mummy Game. Tell her she is going to be like a mummy frozen in time, laying very still until you unfreeze her. Make sure she is comfortable. You can place a small pillow under her knees and a light blanket on top of her if she desires.  If she seems to fidget, you can have her hold something in each hand. I suggest a smooth crystal like aquamarine or aventurine. These stones will help her to relax. You can call them her relaxing magic jewels. After all, mummies often were buried with jewels. I will talk more about crystals and their healing powers in blogs to come.

While she is in this pose you can play quiet music, tell a short story, offer a guided meditation or take her through a body awareness exercise. If you are using music, pick out a piece that is not too long to start, maybe only two minutes in length, and increase the time as she gets more comfortable with the game. I suggest you try music instead of telling her a story since this will offer you the opportunity to relax and experience the benefits of being still, too. I can guarantee that two minutes of being still while doing nothing will give you more of a recharge than a Venti espresso at Starbucks.

Being still together will offer your child a role model. It will also offer you awareness of what it is like to step out of the busyness of life for a few moments, which is what you want your child to experience. It also demonstrates to your child that she has your undivided attention. This is often a rare commodity in hectic schedules.

If you choose to tell her a short story or guided meditation, make sure it is one that will challenge her imagination but offer a relaxing experience. For example, you might say, “Imagine you are lying on a soft blanket in the middle of a field.  The grass feels soft and warm against your back. The sun is out and it begins to warm up your toes. Now your legs are starting to feel tingly and warm, too. Next, your tummy feels warm and full, like you just finished eating your favorite meal. Now the sun is moving over your chest, warming your heart and smiling at you. Now it is warming your arms and fingers until your whole body is perfectly warm and content in the light of the sun. The sky is a bright blue and you are watching the clouds float by above you. First there is a cloud that floats by in the shape of an elephant. You watch it pass overhead until it melts back into the blue sky. Next, there is one in the shape of a bird that flies right overhead. Oh look, now I see one coming in the shape of a large heart. I think it wants me to tell you that I love you.” This is just an example of a guided meditation that also allows her to practice awareness of individual body parts.

Enjoy Your Quality Time Together!

Are You Hyper – Parenting?

Living in the moment and being present in your body, with no negative thoughts to distract you, are ideas you may only attach to your yoga class that you squeezed in between dropping the children off to school, answering your emails and shopping for groceries.  For so many of us, our mindset is that we always have to be doing something or else we are wasting time. This frenetic pace of life flows to our children whom we constantly feel the need to entertain. Children are born knowing how to be present in the moment. Everyday, infants are toted along with their older sibling into my classroom and plunked down on the floor. I have observed babies left in these buckets for an entire one-and-a-halfhour class. Often they are turned towards the wall and they still are content to just be. What is this telling us? Maybe it suggests that the need for stimulation is accumulative.

From the time they wake up, our children are externally stimulated by TV, computers, electronic devices, toys and scheduled activities. Rarely are our children left to entertain themselves for extended periods of time. David Elkind wrote in his book Power Of Play, “Parents, anxious for their children to succeed in an increasingly global economy, regard play as a luxury that the contemporary child cannot afford.” Our children are so programmed by structured activities and electronics that they no longer know how to entertain themselves through imagination and play.

Time to relax and just be present in the moment has become obsolete in the hurried world into which we have thrust our children. I know many mothers who have expressed that their second or third child rarely naps in her crib since she is constantly on the move being toted along to the activities of older siblings.

Alvin Rosenfeld, author of the book The Over- scheduled Child, coined the term “hyper-parenting” for this type of behavior. He wrote, “The term ‘hyper-parent’ means that by controlling all our children’s activities, they will become successful. Actually, it’s more than a term, it’s a way of life.” Unfortunately, this pace is not only unhealthy for the child but causes stress for mothers too.

Some of this overstimulation frenzy comes from the misnomer that parents are responsible for the development of their children’s brains. This idea has placed enormous responsibility onto parents who feel they are directly depriving their children of intellect later in life if they do not tap into critical periods of learning by providing educational toys and an abundance of stimulating opportunities during the early years. It comes from the heart’s desire for wanting the most for our children, but quickly becomes an obsession based on external pressures.

This belief that we have the power to affect our children’s brain growth was initiated from research performed on rats back in the 1960s and 1970s. It concluded that rats living in enriched environments developed larger brains than those being raised in isolation. People then made the assumption, that this would hold true for children too. However, it is extremely rare for children to be raised in isolation and deprived of any stimulation. It was since concluded that rats raised within their natural environments had the biggest brains of all. The American Academy of Pediatrics says that over scheduling for children can lead to increased stress, anxiety and physical ailments.

Offering your child opportunities to practice stillness is a gift she will carry with her throughout her life. It will also offer you some benefits as well. One thing you can do together is to practice being still through fun activities.  If you are thinking that this will be impossible, try cuddling your child on your lap. Have you ever noticed just how long a child will be still and quiet when embraced, hugged or touched?


Stillness Games

You can practice stillness with your children in fun, creative ways. You may be saying to yourself, “It’s hard enough to get my active six-year-old to sit still long enough to eat!” However, stillness can actually be fun to practice.  Stillness of your body requires body awareness, concentration and discipline. Children are capable even if only for a few seconds. Believing they are capable is the first step in encouraging them to play. The idea is not to say, ”Now we are going to practice being still so we can learn to be more peaceful.” The idea is to make a game out of the practice without your child knowing they’re practicing.


Stop and Go with Music

My one-to-two-year-olds are quite capable of doing this game. You probably played a form of it yourself as a child but not with the intention of practicing stillness. It is a game that also teaches listening skills, body awareness and body control. To begin, turn on some music and tell your child that when the music stops they are going to be still and quiet. You can add an instrument to make this more fun. In my class, we use wrist bells. You can use a pot and cooking spoon or any other noise music making instrument you might have around the house.

For older children, you can incorporate their whole body by playing “freeze dancing.” You can pick different types of songs that will encourage different types of dancing styles such as rock and roll, salsa or classical. Tell them to dance to the music until you turn it off. When the music is silent, the idea is to freeze in a certain pose. You can extend the length of time the music is off as the children get better and better at being still.


“Boss” Your Body

I also like to use the term “boss” your body for young children. It is important for children to understand that they are in control of their own bodies. Here is a fun game you can do anywhere. Have your child sit on the floor with knees bent in front of her. Have her run in place really fast until you say, “stop.”  Bring the awareness of her ability to control her body by saying, “You can really “boss” your feet. This is important because when I say ‘stop,’ if you are running towards the street, you are going to know how. That is so awesome!”

Allow your child to choose a part of the body to move and then allow her to dictate to you when to stop moving. For example, she might pick flapping her arms like a bird or hopping on one leg. This will offer her the experience of being in control and demonstrate that she can control all of her body parts equally. Body awareness is important when she knows she can control her hands if an older sibling grabs something away from her. You can end the game by being silly saying, “I can’t control my hands” and then begin to tickle her.

Being still together will offer your child a role model. It will also offer you awareness of what it is like to step out of the busyness of life for a few moments, which is what you want your child to experience. It also demonstrates to your child that she has your undivided attention. This is often a rare commodity in hectic schedules.

My Friday Blog will continue on this theme with the topic of;

How to Introduce simple yoga poses to young children