Successfully and Intentionally Raising Little Humans

I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve heard someone so confidently tell me they never yell at their children. Or the number of times I’ve seen child experts share their guidance that yelling reduces children’s self-esteem and therefore shouldn’t happen. Or that yelling isn’t a productive response.

Let me tell you something: as a mother of three boys ages 4 and under, yelling most definitely is a productive response. But there’s a time and place for it: yelling only happens when it’s an intentional choice I made that makes sense for the situation.

Here’s why.

I have a 4-year old, an almost 3-year old and a 1 year old. Did I mention they’re all boys? They’re extremely physical, all of whom are in seemingly perpetual motion. And when they’re not bouncing off the walls and furniture or pushing each other to “get there first,” they’re cackling at jokes only they seem to get and – it seems – finding ways to push me over the edge.

I recently had a neighbor tell me they can hear me yell, and one name seems to stand out more than others (the middle guy because second kids, man, right?).

And in that moment, I never felt so embarrassed or so confident ever before in my life. It was a completely unexpected and confusing response to hearing my neighbor say they can hear me. I mean, we were always taught to never air our dirty laundry – doesn’t disciplining your kids fall into that category? So, yeah, I was embarrassed, but…why wasn’t I more embarrassed?

It’s because I’m self-aware and I’m tuned in to each of my kids. I know what each of them need to thrive and I know how far they’re willing to push me to test their limits (and how far I know I can let them push those limits). I know how much sleep they each need so they’re not bears the next morning. I know how quickly I need to get breakfast for each of them when they wake up and I know what bedtime will look like if I let them stay up just 10 minutes longer. I know whether or not an extra book at bedtime is a good idea for them (honestly, it varies based on how their day was) and I know when they need a few extra minutes of individual attention during the day. I know when a fun “tubby time” event with everyone involved is a good idea and when they need to be separated. I know when one of them needs to just relax in the tub for a bit. I know when one of them needs to get some extra energy out and just run for a bit. I know each of their interests and I know how hard (or if I should even) push to get them to explore something new without writing it off immediately because it’s different.

I know me. And I know my kids. Because I’m self-aware enough to know where my limits are and my strengths are. And I’m aware enough of my surroundings – and especially my kids – to know when I need to push and when I need to let go.

For that reason, though my neighbors may sometimes hear me loudly guiding my kids (I’m going to start calling it that instead of “yelling”), I’m confident in the fact that I know when and why I raise my voice. It’s never a reaction; it’s a response. In fact, I’d say that 90% of the time, I loudly guide to just get their attention, to create a stop and notice moment for them, to bring them back to reality as I see one of them hanging the other over the back of the couch upside down while another one claims they’ll catch them while doing a backbend over the dog (ok, this is a bit extreme but you get the idea).

Sometimes, I have to raise my voice to get their attention because, after all, though they may be active little boys, they are also their own unique person.

They have their own thoughts, ideas and opinions.

They have their own (developing) sense of individualism.

They have their own preferences and desires and wishes and dreams.

I try to remember this when I get frustrated with how easy it seems to be for them to so easily tune me out in one moment only to bombard me with a stream of endless questions in the next.

I try to remember that we’re all unique individuals living in the same house under a specific set of rules. Our rules. The rules my husband and I created to do our best to raise good, kind humans. The rules we created to keep everyone safe and healthy. The rules we created based on what we believe is the right way to raise them, especially in this crazy, ever-changing world we live in.

They’re figuring out who they are – their likes and dislikes, what’s fun and not fun, what’s right and wrong – and they’re doing it with guidance from me. It can be exhausting. It can be exciting. It can be so much fun. And sometimes, I have to loudly guide to be sure they hear me and, more likely, to be sure no one gets hurt.

So, the next time (because we know there will be a next time) my neighbor tells me she can hear me yelling at my kids again, I’ll remember to say “thank you.” I’ll thank her for giving me a stop and notice moment to reflect on why I’ve been raising my voice. And I hope I’ll be in the same position to know each time was a response and not a reaction because, after all, I’m loudly guiding my boys to figure out who they are as individuals.

Take Action
To raise your tiny humans the best way you can, ensure you are self-aware. You know where your final straw is. You know what buttons are never ok to push. You know what rules make sense for your family because you’re not only aware of yourself and your limits, but you’re tuned in to your kid(s) and what each of them need to thrive.

A great way to start is to ask questions. Though I may loudly guide from time to time, I always follow it up with a question. “Can you explain to me why you thought that was a good idea?” or “Why did you do that?” are two of the more common ones in my house, but questions could be anything. Just keep them open. A yes/no question doesn’t allow for a discussion; get them talking and you’ll engage with them in a way you didn’t think possible the moment before.

By Kristin Allaben

Consider reading Your Mood Affects Others; Manage it.

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This article first appeared on Thrive Global on October, 21, 2020.

The Quarantine Diaries: Day 3

The quarantine is real. And it’s here. In an effort to flatten the curve, many are following orders to stay at home to prevent the spread of COVID-19.  

For so many people, the opportunity to work from home has allowed daily routines to continue almost as usual.

For others, they’re aware of the need to find ways to earn their paycheck while keeping themselves – and others – safe.

And then there’s the group of people who are still required to work and parent. In just the first few hours of the quarantine, I received texts saying it was going to be a long three weeks. I saw countless social media posts saying “this was a record yelling day” or “kids for sale” or “how are we going to survive three weeks of this!?”

I see you. I hear you. And this blog series is for you. It’s an opportunity to remember you’re not alone. It’s a chance to reflect on your own behaviors to determine how tomorrow could be better. It’s a chance to get a few ideas that might work for entertaining your kids (and a few of my thoughts on what did not work). We are in this together. Our collective mindfulness and genius will get us through it and maybe even make us better because of it.

So here we go.

First, some context so you know where I’m coming from. I’m a mom to three young boys: a 3 year old, a 2 year old and a 5 month old. Sometimes, our house is amazingly quiet in a “wow, look how nice they’re all playing!” kind of way. And sometimes, our house is very loud. The loud ranges from “wow, they are really physical” or “huh, I guess I should move that [breakable item] into storage” to “OH MY GOD STOP HITTING YOUR BROTHER WITH THAT BOOK!” or “THE LITTER BOX IS NOT AN INDOOR SANDBOX STOP PLAYING IN IT!”

Basically, my house sounds like most houses with kids.

My two oldest are in daycare 3 days a week. I’m home with the baby all the time. And I fit in my work as a Life Coach whenever I can. Fridays are what my oldest calls “home day” and my middle one calls “mommy days.” Fridays are the chance for them to decompress from their busy weeks. We spend the morning running errands and then play and read and watch TV over the remainder of the day. Weekends tend to include the occasional trip to visit family or friends, a fun activity or hosting play dates. And Mondays are just like Fridays.

That’s our old normal.

Now, we’re all at home. Together. For three weeks (minimum). Add to the mix a husband who is working from home during the busiest time of his year (he’s in tax) and take into account the fact the human food vacuums my children already are at their young ages and you can imagine the hilarity of our situation.

So let’s recap the first three days of quarantine.

Friday, Day 1: We didn’t go grocery shopping and Daddy was home. OH BOY. There was no physical break from each other because we were all in the house. There was no mental break or change of scenery because we didn’t leave the house. It was loud. There were tears. It was a rough day.

As my husband and I tucked the boys into bed, we agreed we’re going to need to define a new normal, create a new routine, to keep the house – and our relationships – intact over the next few weeks.

Circle Time

Saturday, Day 2: Better. Partly because we started the day with an intentional mindset, partly because it was just better than the day before. We started the day with a family breakfast and then my husband “went” to work. We didn’t see him until dinner. We had circle time, just like the big two do at school, where we read a few books and sang a few songs. We even got the baby involved which made it that much more fun.

We had gorgeous weather, so I took the boys outside for most of the day. It’s a little challenging running after the big two when you’re wearing the baby in a carrier, but we made it work. We played in the sandbox. We took out ALL the yard toys. We blew bubbles. We went on a rock hunt to get rocks out of the yard before we need to mow for the first time (more on this later). It was so nice out I let them play a little longer than I should have and we rapidly approached lunch time. That’s when I remembered that they’re still too young to go off schedule when it comes to food. The hangry was real. And it was loud. And it was messy. By the time I got lunch on the table (a mere 15 minutes later than usual), there were MOODS.

Nap time was too short and there were more tears and grumpy attitudes when the little two woke up. But all was made right with a snack (yogurt with sprinkles!) and back outside we went. We played for a while again and came inside for dinner, just in time.

And then I realized that my fun promises of taco night never included double checking we had taco seasoning. So while my husband and I laughed about the fake taco night we were having, the boys never knew the difference. They still built their own tacos on nachos (instead of shells) and preferred to mix everything in with some rice. We unintentionally made rice bowls. It worked.

Sunday, Day 3: A glimpse of the old normal. Family breakfast. Play time. Music and dancing. Reading. Legos. All the legos. Even getting introduced to an old movie with Daddy (Space Jam. It’s on Netflix, people! And I’m so glad I was able to give a thorough summary of the movie to my boys, including remember the aliens were the Monstars, but have trouble remembering if I moved a load of laundry from the washing machine to the dryer before I went to bed).

Though much colder than the last few days, we were lucky to get outside again. I was even able to escape with the baby and dog for a quick walk to stretch the dog’s legs. Just like every Sunday, the day flew by.

Does this sound like your first few days? Here’s what I learned:

My 5 Lessons from Days 1-3

  1. Get outside. Even if it’s for just a few minutes, the fresh air does you a lot of good. It resets you and helps your kids burn off energy. It’s also a great change of environment, which helps alter how you feel, usually for the better.
  2. Define your new normal. “Normal” is not in anyone’s vocabulary right now. So take some time to identify what needs to happen now, especially if you’re a parent working at home over the next few weeks. With everyone at home, there’s no real chance to focus 100% on work or parenting. It’s going to be a combination of the two and you’ll likely find that you will need to shift things on a regular basis. Sometimes work will win out. Sometimes parenting will. Be flexible and resilient. And cut yourself some slack. You’re in a new situation trying to get a lot done. Watch the irritation and aggravation that may surface as you confront what you want to happen compared to what can actually happen. Remember to breath, relax and roll with what happens.
  3. Create a routine. Once you figure out what has to happen, create a routine. Maybe the morning is for school work and the afternoon is for play. Maybe the morning is when you focus on your work and your kids are asked to entertain themselves. Maybe you work at night after they’ve gone to bed. (I’ve included our new schedule below for anyone looking for an idea, especially for parents with young kids.) Figure out what works for you and your family. Creating a routine helps the entire family feel grounded. And in a period of constant change, feeling grounded can help calm parents and kids.
  4. Communication with your partner. My husband and I realized in the first 48 hours that the next few weeks are going to be different. We can become victimized to it and let it stress us and test us, or we can realize that we will need to find ways to stay calmer and less confrontational when things start to stress us. Determine up front how you will talk to and with your partner, how you will express frustration and how you will share when you are at your wits end, so the other one can support, encourage and rescue. It is in this that the two of you will handle the challenges. Be on the same side. See each other as a loving ally.
  5. Be positive. Your kids are picking up everything you’re throwing down. If you’re giving off vibes of panic, frustration, uncertainty, etc., your kids will start to do the same. Be aware of your own emotions and response to it before it starts to impact your behavior, your kids’ behavior and the relationships between everyone in your house. We all have to build our own mindfulness practice – the things we do to stay calm when we feel like screaming. Having a go-to move (i.e. breathing, reading, telling a joke, having a favorite snack, taking 10 minutes) can be enough of an interruption so you can find your inner calm and come back to your situation positive and supportive. It’s when you do this that you can effectively share and guide your kids in how to navigate a constantly changing world.

As we embark on the next few weeks of drastic change, it’s important to remember that life will be very different. In the coming weeks, I’ll share with you some activities that have worked well with my boys, as well as some things that did not go over well. I encourage you to share any ideas you have or things you’ve done (with or without success), as well!

Our Fun & Games

Here are a few things we tried over the first three days (and things we’ve done in the past) that work well with our boys.

Rock Hunting

Outside Fun

  • Rock / Acorn / Stick Hunting – Give your kids a bucket and challenge them to pick up as many rocks / acorns / sticks they can find. Not only does this entertain them and give them a purpose, but it also helps you get your yard ready for the first time you need to mow. This worked wonders – my boys were enthralled, and our yard looks much better than before. PRO TIP: if you promise a prize for the one with the most in their bucket, be prepared to deliver!
  • Nature Walk – Talk a walk and help your kids see things in their own backyard they may not have noticed before. Point out the size and shapes of rocks. Point out the different types of trees. Help them see things like squirrels nests or dead branches or the early signs of spring. TIP: For older kids, encourage them to create a story about what they find. For example, if you find a large branch in the yard, create a story prompt and have your kids continue the story. “This isn’t just a branch. No, this was once part of a ship from a long time ago, a ship that carried hundreds of pounds of [insert object here]! How do you think it ended up here…?” (and let them finish the story)
  • Racing – This is obvious: set up a race. You can do the obvious race (running). You can do wheelbarrow races. You can do crab walk races. You can see who can kick the ball the farthest/fastest when you kick balls at the same time. Get creative.

Inside Activities

  • Kinetic Sand / Playdough – Let them do what they will with it, or give them some guidance on what they can create. Make it part of a story. Ask them to create their favorite food. Have them build something they’d like to see one day. Consider letting them use some cookie cutters, as well.
  • Science Experiments – There are a slew of science experiments you can find online. To start, we did “Dancing Raisins” (raisins into a glass cup of seltzer water; watch them rise and fall as a result of the bubbles) and melting cardboard (dip cardboard into water and watch it slowly dissolve; did this with regular paper, tissues and paper towel, too).
  • Baking – I’m a baker so baking has become one of my favorite things to do with my boys. Chocolate chip cookies are our go-to, but we’ve also done pancakes, waffles, banana bread and sugar cookies. PRO TIP: If you make sugar cookie dough with the kids, and use cookie cutters to make the cookies later, you’ve created two activities for the day. You an add a third activity with cookie decorating (frosting and sprinkles are the easy options; depending on age, you can also add a variety of candies).

Our New Schedule

I’ve seen a few suggested schedules for parents floating around social media over the last 24 hours, but here’s the schedule I’ve found works well for us. Feel free to use as a starting point or use entirely!

By Kristin Allaben

Consider reading Hiring a Parenting Coach Doesn’t Mean You’re Failing

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Parents: Are You Helping or Hurting?

I love to laugh, so much so that I find I’m regularly sharing memes and funny articles through just about every channel with friends and family. One such recent find was a brief article in The Onion (for those of you who aren’t familiar, The Onion is an online-only satire publication).

The article, titled “Study Finds Every Style Of Parenting Produces Disturbed, Miserable Adults,” actually made me laugh out loud. It calls attention to the fact that regardless of your upbringing, people are generally just miserable. They find the bad, they ruminate, and then move on to find something else that’s not great. I can’t tell you how many times I’ll ask someone how they’re doing and the answer is a sarcastic, “Living the dream!”

But the article? Yup, it’s funny. I shared it with a few friends and my husband. It seemed even funnier to me now that we have three little boys to “raise right” (did I mention we welcomed our third son earlier this month?).

But then I started thinking: this is exactly what I coach.

We all hear about the overbearing parents that never let their kids make mistakes to learn on their own. We hear about the parents who are seemingly MIA in correcting or guiding behaviors, resulting in children who are undisciplined and, quite frankly, hard to be around. And we have special names for those parents, too (check out our full list of parenting styles we’ve identified through our years of coaching).

And the extreme parenting styles are easy to make fun of because they are the extremes.

But what about the parenting styles in the middle? How do you figure out what’s the right one for you and your family?

My guidance as a coach is to think of your parenting style as either productive or unproductive. There’s no good or bad, right or wrong. It’s about what works for you in this moment to raise happy, healthy and responsible humans.

Take Action
What parenting style(s) do you exhibit most? Do you think it’s productive or unproductive?

If you feel like you’re struggling to find the right mix of parenting styles to help raise your children in a productive way, consider exploring our Get Your Kids Ready for Life program. With our unique coaching approach, you’ll develop a greater awareness of what works and doesn’t work in your parenting, and work toward creating confident, productive and happy child(ren) in today’s world.

Contact us to get started.

By Kristin Allaben

Consider reading Hiring a Parenting Coach Doesn’t Mean You’re Failing

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Parents: Give Presence, not Presents

By Kristin Allaben

“Children learn more from what you are than what you teach.” –W.E.B. Dubois

I grew up with two parents who taught me a lot about hard work and being humble (I realize I’m one of the lucky ones). These lessons came from their being present; they did not come from giving my sisters and me presents. We weren’t given gifts for every little thing we did. We weren’t rewarded and regaled when we did what we were supposed to do, like working hard, owning our decisions and being our best selves.

Sure, there are certainly situations where gifts as a means to reward or celebrate make sense, like getting an A on a big project or test you know your kid(s) worked hard for, or winning a championship game, or getting into the top choice college. But these types of events are not every day occurrences; they are significant events or milestones.

And that’s the difference that, in my mind, helps separate giving presence from giving presents, of being there every day to support, guide and encourage as opposed to giving gifts.

Today’s world often makes parents feel pressured into constantly delivering surprises, gifts and presents to our kids. Ads for seemingly every product shows us that great parents are the ones who always give their kids exactly what they want. Just look at the market that has developed for 1st birthday parties and what we spend on Christmas!

I decided a long time ago to be a “presence parent” to help my kids sort through great events and challenges, to support and love them, to help them realize that their success is in their ability to find their own way, make their own impact and become their truest self. None of that requires physical gifts.

Be present. Be interested. Not only will giving presence vs. presents create great memories and a encourage a stronger relationship with your kids that evolves as they grow up, it will also teach them that gifts are rewards to be cherished, not something to expect in order to inspire action.

Sometimes, the best gift you can give them is to be with them and be fully present in that moment.

Important Questions from a Coach

  1. How can you increase your presence and decrease your presents?
  2. What are the benefits of spending more meaningful time with your kids?
  3. What would the impact of spending more time with your kids be? Would you reduce the number of “things” you give them?

 

Consider reading Overcoming Mom Guilt: Being mindful and aware

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