What Two Young Boys Taught Their Grandma About Anger

I gave SnuggleBuddies to my grandsons while they were visiting for Christmas to help them learn about feelings, but what happened next surprised me.  

snugglebuddies and children

You see, that Christmas morning, we had a situation, one that caused my dog to get very, very sick. My dog had gotten into some chocolate candy. 

My grandson tried to comfort our dog with the things that comfort them. Hank the elf, their SnuggleBuddies Red Bear and Orange Fox, blankets, and a balloon.

SnuggleBuddies Red Bear and Orange Fox with dog

When I found out that my husband had left the chocolates out where the dog got into them, I was furious.

Having to deal with a sick puppy is bad enough, but to make matters worse, I have a rare neuromuscular condition (Myasthenia Gravis) that greatly affects my activity and breathing, and extra activity lands me in bed and on my noninvasive ventilator.

I knew from past experience that a dog eating chocolate results in a very ill pooch with lots of cleaning up and a special diet.

I wanted to enjoy our visit with the kids and the holidays…but I was angry.

I knew my husband did not intend for this to happen, and I did not want to be in a bad mood for the evening while my family was visiting. But I was! 

That was when my daughter suggested the boys ask NayNay (me) if she wanted to “do her feelings”.

They were excited about that and ran to get their SnuggleBuddies to share with me.

young boy with snuggle buddy

Everyone listened and supported me as I went through my feelings.

I began to feel better, and it dawned on me that I was actually setting an example for my grandsons.

snugglebuddies and grandma

I also realized that had my grandsons and their SnuggleBuddies not been there, I wouldn’t have talked about or worked through my angry feelings that quickly.

I just love those things; they are so cuddly! I ordered myself a Red Bear. And don’t tell, but Red Bear has already helped my husband with some of his feelings too.

As a grandma, I love Generation Mindful. It makes me feel like I can really add to my grandson’s lives in a lasting way. They live 15 hours away, so I don’t see them in person often.  But it is so important to me that they know I SEE THEM!!!

Sometimes my grandsons call/facetime me to tell me their sad or mad feelings…and I think, I can do this! I can be there for them.

Despite any amount of distance or disability, I can listen.

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Generation Mindful creates tools, toys, and programs that nurture emotional intelligence through play and positive discipline. Join us and receive joy in your inbox each week.

Time-in Toolkit in action

Peacemakers Card Game in action

 

Types of Parenting Styles: Finding Yours and Why It Matters

happy child with adult

What’s your parenting style? It’s a common question, especially in online parenting quizzes or magazines. Parenting styles — not to be confused with parenting practices — are part of your child’s environment. And it’s a part that plays a big role in shaping who she becomes. 

Learning about different parenting styles isn’t just a new trend with cute labels. Researchers and developmental psychologists have found parenting styles affect a child’s home environment, but that’s just the start. They also influence her personality, physical health, emotional and mental health, and success throughout childhood. 

Not sure which style of parenting you follow? Read on to learn about the four parenting styles and how they affect a child’s life.

What Are Parenting Styles?

Parenting styles are psychological theories or ideologies behind the strategies parents employ while raising children. Parenting styles are not the strategies themselves. A parenting style is a combination of several elements including:

  • A parent’s actions towards the child
  • A parent’s attitude towards the child, e.g., warmth or affection
  • How much a parent demands of a child
  • How much a parent responds to a child
  • Methods for discipline, e.g., time-ins versus time-outs
  • Communication style, e.g., yelling or talking
  • Maturity of the parent
  • Self-control levels of the parent

A parenting style is more than just a label — it drives the child’s environment. Each parenting style has a unique impact on the child’s health, self-esteem, emotional intelligence, social development, and mental well-being. 

How It All Started: Origins of Parenting Styles

In the 1960s, psychologist Diana Baumrind studied family socialization, particularly the various methods to raise children and how it affects children’s behavior. Baumrind observed preschoolers and discovered three types of parents:

  • Authoritative
  • Authoritarian
  • Permissive

To expand on Baumrind’s findings, researchers later added a fourth parenting style: uninvolved. 

Authoritative Parenting

types of parenting styles: parent with two children outside in fall

Let’s first take a peek at what authoritative means. Although this word is sometimes used to mean dictatorial (or even bossy!), authoritative can also mean complete or based on accurate information. In authoritative parenting, a parent’s authority relies on concrete information — never the “because I said so” argument. 

An authoritative parent establishes firm yet clear rules and expects a child to follow these rules but not without question. An authoritative parent explains why the rules are in place and provides the support and guidance needed to follow the household rules.

If a child fails to follow a rule — which can happen more than we like! — an authoritative parent doesn’t jump to quick punishments. Instead, an authoritative parent teaches the child the right behaviors and supports him in making new, better decisions. A child experience consequences rather than punishments. In this way, children learn how and why the rules are important. 

To a child in an authoritative home, rules have meanings. They aren’t just arbitrary ultimatums. Rules help foster emotional self-control and independence.

Attachment parenting is a popular parenting philosophy, and many of the tools in attachment parent (such as babywearing) mesh well with an authoritative parenting style due to the emphasis placed on high responsiveness. 

An authoritative parent:

  • Is both demanding and responsive
  • Responds positively to children
  • Is warm 
  • Is assertive but not pushy
  • Offers feedback and constructive criticism 
  • Offers forgiveness for mistakes
  • Prefers positive discipline over punishment 
  • Uses reward systems as well as praise

If the above statements reflect your parenting style, you may be an authoritative parent.

How Authoritative Parenting Impacts Children

Although the authoritative style focuses on rules, authoritative parenting does have a positive effect on child development. Children who grow up in authoritative households are generally cooperative (in home and school) and responsible. They also demonstrate strong emotional regulation and good decision-making skills. 

This is because authoritative parents provide clear expectations and lead with confidence yet still attend to the emotional needs of the child.

Authoritative parenting also contributes to the overall physical well-being of a child. A 2015 study published in the Pediatric Dentistry journal found children of authoritative parents had the fewest dental cavities when compared to children parented under other styles. This could be attributed to the authoritative tendency to create rules while explaining their importance — like how brushing teeth before bed prevents cavities.

Authoritarian Parenting 

Not to be confused with authoritative parenting, the authoritarian parenting style is characterized by strict rules with harsh demands for compliance. Unlike authoritative parenting, authoritarians prioritize obedience above all else. Parents who use authoritarian parenting expect compliance without question. You might hear “because I said so” a lot in an authoritarian household.

An authoritarian parent:

  • Expects compliance without attention to a child’s emotional needs
  • Is demanding but not responsive
  • Is cold
  • Focuses on punishment over positive instruction
  • Has high expectations with little warmth

If a child in an authoritarian house fails to follow a rule, punishment is the response. Punishments, unlike positive discipline, lead to a child feeling bad without the proper tools to learn from past mistakes.

How Authoritarian Parenting Affects Children

Children who live in authoritative and authoritarian households both learn to follow the rules. The difference is that children in the authoritarian households tend to lack the emotional stability of children reared through authoritative practices.

Researchers find children living under extreme parental control are more likely to develop low self-esteem as well as behavior problems. Low self-esteem can contribute to aggression and general feelings of anger and discontent. 

In the most extreme cases, children of authoritarian parents develop good lying skills to avoid strict punishments. Researchers from a 2012 University of New Hampshire study also found children raised in authoritarian houses are more likely to become delinquents with generally mistrusting personalities.

Permissive Parenting

While authoritative parenting focuses on high demand and high responsiveness, permissive parenting is characterized by high responsiveness with low demands. Although permissive parents are loving, they don’t set many rules, and if any rules are broken, there are few (if any) consequences. 

Permissive parenting communication often seems more friend-to-friend rather than parent-to-child. For example, a permissive parent may ask about grades or schoolwork but offer no consequences for poor grades. Poor behavior is justified by a “kids will be kids” attitude. 

A permissive parent:

  • Creates household rules but rarely enforces them
  • Doesn’t focus on consequences or punishments
  • Shies away from heavy interaction 
  • Is warm, loving, and responsive but not demanding
  • Acts like a friend rather than a parent 

If the above statements resonate, you may have permissive tendencies. 

How Permissive Parenting Affects Children

Because of a lenient parenting style, children who grow up in permissive households tend to struggle with authority — simply because indulgent parents don’t model the value of rules or the importance of self-control.

Children of permissive parents are likely to struggle with grades, according to researchers. Emotionally, these children may be at a higher risk for feelings of sadness. 

Permissive parenting also affects the health of a child. One study explored the link between permissive parenting and obesity. Children with permissive parents were more likely to consume low-nutrient-dense foods as well as struggle with obesity. There is also a direct correlation between lack of rules about oral health — such as brushing teeth before bed — and increased risk of dental decay. 

In the most extreme cases of permissive parenting, a child may develop egocentric tendencies and impulsive behaviors, according to a study published in Psychology of Addictive Behaviors.

Uninvolved Parenting

The fourth style of parenting, later added to address parents who didn’t fall into any of the initial three styles, is uninvolved.. Uninvolved parents, sometimes referred to as neglectful parents, don’t provide for children’s emotional needs. In extreme cases, an uninvolved parent may even fail to provide the basic needs of food, shelter, clothing, and education.

An uninvolved parent:

  • Is neither demanding nor responsive 
  • Declines communication, e.g., failing to ask questions about school or friendships 
  • Does not make rules
  • Does not provide instruction or punishment 
  • Is indifferent, neither warm nor cold

How Uninvolved Parenting Affects Children

Without any rules, support, or communication, children of uninvolved parents lack proper direction in life. This increases a child’s risk of illicit behavior, missed school days, and poor behavior. These children struggle to regulate their emotions and can be at a high risk for suicidal thoughts or tendencies. 

Impact of Different Parenting Styles

You’ve probably heard the phrase that children are like little sponges who soak up the world around them. Just like they learn to brush their hair by watching you brush your hair, they’re learning to simply be by watching you, too. As children are exposed to certain parenting styles, their personalities develop in response. 

For example, if you adopt an authoritative parenting style, your children are more likely to demonstrate kindness towards others, according to a 2006 study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. With kindness comes other positive personality traits like empathy and conscientiousness.

Dr. Thomas G. Power, a researcher studying the link between childhood obesity and parenting styles, determined that children fell under one of the following four categories:

  • Assertive and self-controlled (authoritative)
  • Discontented, distrustful, or even withdrawn (authoritarian)
  • Little to no self-control (permissive)
  • Desire to retreat from warmth and love (uninvolved)

If you notice any signs of discontentment or lack of self-control in your own children, it’s not too late to adapt your parenting style and use healthier parenting strategies.

The first step is to mindfully reflect on your parenting styles, your responsiveness, what you demand of your child, and how you interact with your child. Replacing any punitive parenting strategies with positive discipline and loving instruction can make your home more peaceful and have a lifelong effect on your child.

Which Parenting Style Is Most Effective?

types of parenting styles: child being held

When it comes to parenting styles, the term effective can be subjective, but this is a question many parents want answered. Learning which style is more effective is a good way to perform a quick analysis of your own style — to make sure you’re on track.

The tricky part is both authoritative and authoritarian styles have success with kids following rules. The difference is the effect each style has on a child.

A truly effective parenting style is one that helps a parent raise a well-adjusted, confident, happy child who has high emotional intelligence. To do so, an effective parenting style must:

  • Prioritize clear expectations of the child
  • Prioritize high demands of the parent coupled with a high responsiveness rate
  • Pave the way for open and loving communication
  • Place priority on positive discipline rather than punishment

Which Parenting Style Do You Follow?

Most parents find they don’t fit solidly into just one category. For instance, you may employ authoritative practices for the most part but struggle with leniency (a sign of permissive parenting) when children start to beg. 

To find out which parenting style you follow, it’s important to evaluate your demandingness and your responsiveness. 

Comparing Your Demands With Your Responsiveness

If you find yourself with high demands but are warm and responsive, you may follow an authoritative parenting style. If you find yourself with high demands but are colder and less responsive, you may employ authoritarian parenting strategies.

On the other hand, if you have low demands but are still warm, nurturing, and responsive, you may be a permissive parent. If a parent has low demands but is indifferent and completely unresponsive, this parent may be uninvolved. 

Where to Go From Here

Because the different types of parenting styles have a direct effect on a child’s emotional and physical well-being, it’s important to evaluate your own parenting style. For example, do you struggle to stick with the pre established consequences when your child begs? It’s not too late to give your parenting style a makeover if needed. 

Armed with knowledge and motivation, you can learn to incorporate a more positive parenting style by emphasizing your authority while still tending to your children’s needs. With dedication, you’ll find that you and your children have stronger bonds while their behavior improves.

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Generation Mindful creates tools, toys, and programs that nurture emotional intelligence through play and positive discipline. Join us and receive joy in your inbox each week.

When Your Kids Are Not Listening: From Yelling To Connection

With three children under age five and 1,440 minutes in a day, for years I felt like I spent most of those minutes in a day either yelling, lecturing, or bargaining with my children.   Like a broken record, my requests would echo as I stood by, silently praying that this time they would cooperate without me needing to yell. Can't they see me? Can't they hear me?! After years of this, my husband and I arrived at one simple conclusion -  our children do not listen. Having a now third child had us feeling extra exhausted, fed-up and like we were in a near-constant battle with a pair of three and five-year-old tiny humans that we loved so much. Was it too much to expect for them to listen without our needing to yell or to repeat ourselves what always felt like five times?
Mom with baby in brown carrier and a young child in a white jacket
The complete lack of listening that existed in our family was brought into 20/20 focus for me the morning I decided to tackle the grocery store with all three kids in tow instead of waiting for the weekend. Wearing our youngest, with another in the cart and our eldest holding onto the side of the cart, we walked in and I was feeling good. I’ve got this. It took all of about three minutes for things to head south.  My oldest son saw the sample station and darted off. I called after him to stop. He didn’t.  Picking up my pace to catch him, I nearly took out a display with my cart. Once at the food station, I tell him he can take just one sample and then we were all done. It was like he grew additional arms. He started shuffling cheese puffs into his mouth as I heard myself saying “No more cheese puffs. We're all done.”  My son persisted to shovel snacks into his mouth. Now feeling both ignored and out of control, I yelled, "Just STOP!" in a voice so loud and full of rage I nearly scared myself. By the time I was able to get my son away from the food tray, both he and my 5-month old son, who had fallen asleep in the sling, were crying and my middle child was throwing items from the snack aisle into our cart. I felt like I'd landed in a game of parenting Jumanji. Wrangling my middle child into the cart while attempting to console my youngest and to get my older child to stay by my side, I left the store without buying a thing, with a fire burning inside me so bright I felt like I might explode. When my husband came home that night, I crumbled. I felt angry, I felt guilty, but more than anything, I felt like a failure and I could not stop crying.

Woman standing in front of the window upset

This shopping incident was not an isolated incident but more of an example of the THEY DO NOT LISTEN TO ME feeling I'd been dealing with what felt like all day every day.  Playtime, Mealtime. Bedtime. Cleanup-time. It never stopped.  I was tired of yelling because frankly, yelling didn't feel good, it was exhausting and it wasn't helping my kids learn to listen.  I felt broken, or like maybe our kids were broken? I wasn't sure, but I knew something had to change. Our family couldn’t continue like this.

Baby with open mouth crawling on the floor

Tired of feeling like I was living inside a boxing match, I was motivated to find a solution, and this is when a friend of mine recommended a positive parenting course that she'd just taken. I clicked through to read about it, and saw that the class had a 100% money-back guarantee. "Good," I thought, "So when I fail this thing, I can get my money back." I read a little further and the phrase "tools you can start to use day one" caught my attention in the course description. "Parenting tools", what a concept. Just reading the words had me feeling just a tiny bit hopeful because frankly when I looked down at the toolbelt I was apparently supposed to have been wearing, I wasn't seeing much. I remember thinking, "What the heck, things can't get much worse." and so my husband and I signed up for the class that night. We got the kids to bed, crawled into bed ourselves with our laptop, and five minutes later we were watching the first class together. About ten minutes into the 75-minute class, the instructor shared the idea that "parenting makes our own lives a-parent". At first, this idea left my husband and me scratching our heads, but by the time we'd completed the first handout/exercise, we were beginning to understand what the instructor was saying, namely, that this parenting thing has as much to do with us, the adults in the room, as it does our kids.  Class one had two big takeaways for us:
  • "What are our parenting triggers?" It turns out that my husband and I share the same trigger --- yep, you might be able to guess it --- it's "not listening". This completely knocks us "off our center" as the instructor called it, leaving us triggered and reacting instead of responding. Every. Time.
  • "How do we react when we are triggered?" It turns out that my husband and I react to feeling not listened to in a similar way as well --- we yell. And when our children resist our yelling? We yell louder. This typically ends with one or both of us overpowering our kids, them cry, and us feeling guilty. 
As I dug a little further into my feelings, I realized that my trigger of “not listening” stemmed from a deeper seed - that of control (or lack thereof in this case). When my children don't listen, I felt like I have no control, and it turns out that this is a hard pill for my type-A personality to swallow. When this happens, I revert to doing things that were modeled for me growing up, aka I yell. It turns out that tension and stress were hijacking the more logical parts of my brain I needed if I wanted to respond instead of react to my kids when they were not listening to me. I sat with this for a week and began to feel more and more hopeful. It occurred to me that instead of changing my kids, I could work on changing myself --- and that if my husband and I could become more aware of ourselves, change might actually be possible. This awareness was like a crack in the door. I could see some light making its way in and I wanted to open that door wide open.

Seedling growing from the cracks of the Earth

Over the next few weeks, I began to realize that parenting is fluid. The way we show up and the tools we use depend greatly on who we are that day and who our children are that day, too. The idea of parenting as a relationship, something we share with our children instead of something we do to them, was introduced to my husband and I in class, and this was rocking my world. I realized that my more controlling, "do what I say" approach to parenting had taught my kids to meet my demands of them with their own defense mechanisms in place, resulting in the locking of the horns feeling we had been dealing with for months/years.  But if I could shift from control to connection, so could my children. If I could feel powerful in noticing, naming and taming my emotions, so too could my children.  By about week five out of the six-week class, I found myself coming at motherhood from an entirely new place. Rather than asking, “How can I get my children to listen to me?,” I began to ask, “How am I feeling? How is my child feeling?" and "Why?" and this shift in my thinking changed everything. Instead of feeling defensive when my child got upset or didn't listen, I found myself staying curious, asking questions, and using the tools we talked about in class. When I realized that it was not my job to stop the hard moments from happening but rather, to manage my emotions and to guide my children when they do --- and everything changed. 

Two boys playing by a window

Since graduating from the class, my husband and I have made connection rather than control our goal.  We're making an effort to accept our children for who they are - complete with all of their strengths and all their struggles, and in doing so, we are finding it easier to accept ourselves as well. We're working on noticing and at times canceling the goals we've created for our children, the ones robbing us of our power to respond instead of react, and our joy. We are setting boundaries without using the words "should" or "need to". And we now look for the unmet need under any misbehavior we see, and we remind ourselves to "connect before we correct".  Parenting in a way that I myself was not parented isn't always easy. Sometimes it feels unnatural and it definitely takes practice, but starting day one, we could both feel and see the difference this approach was having. Not only in our children, but in the way it left us feeling at the end of the day.  More than anything, I've learned that my family - me, my kids, my husband - we are not broken. We are learning and growing every day, and though life still happens and I still feel stressed and overwhelmed on nearly a daily basis, that's okay. We have found our joy again, and that is everything I'd hoped for. ** This article was written by a Generation Mindful mom member who wishes to remain anonymous. Do you have a story about mindfulness and/or connection to tell? Visit here for details and submit an article to our editor for consideration.

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Generation Mindful creates tools, toys, and programs that nurture emotional intelligence through play and positive discipline. Join us and receive joy in your inbox each week.

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Breaking The Cycle: A Shift from Punitive to Positive Parenting

girl carrying a large stuffed lion down a dirt road

I doodled as I daydreamed about it in class. I bragged about it to my friends on the playground. My eight-year-old self was over the moon about our upcoming family trip to Grant’s Farm that weekend. I had never yet been there, and I was excited. Like really excited. Saturday morning finally came, and I was ready. Perfect outfit, check. A quick bowl of Frosted Flakes, check. The first one in the car, beating my brother, check.  But then the morning took a terrible turn. The twenty-minute car ride was a disaster. Arguing with my brother had inspired an even bigger, messier argument between my mom and dad. By the time we parked, everyone was in a mood and I was crying. “Quit crying or we will leave,” my dad said.  My dad's threat brought on more, not less, of my waterworks plus a dash of hysteria at the thought of leaving before we even got there. “That’s it. We are leaving!”  And after a swat to my backside, we left. Bruised emotions and a sore tush were the only trip tokens that came home with us that day.  I remember feeling small. So small that I could fit inside my own pocket.

girl covering her face with both hands

My parents were of a generation that frequented corporal punishment. It was the way they were raised, and their parents before them too.  So it’s of little surprise that when I became a parent myself, my impulse was to spank, yell or lecture. Not knowing the long-term effects of this type of punishment, I repeated the experiences of my past, perpetuating the cycle. Then one day, after an encounter with my own son that resulted in a swat to his backside, I stood there looking at him and I saw instead the reflection of my eight-year-old self. This shook me to the core. I started studying all things positive parenting, and soon learned that unknowingly, with a swat of my hand, I was actually affecting my child’s brain; both neurologically and developmentally. His brain had eyes and those eyes saw me as a threat!  And although I could achieve the short-term goal of getting my children to obey in that moment, I realized that I was not nurturing the lifelong skills of managing emotions and connecting with others. Relying on fear to achieve obedience had both physical and emotional effects. I had never been taught how to manage my big emotions, and I noticed that my children were lacking the skills to manage theirs too. It’s difficult to teach what you were never taught and do not know yourself.  As I began to re-parent myself, I realized that “educational violence” was not a family tradition that I wanted to continue. I wanted to break the cycle of generations past. “I love you but I hit you” was no longer the message I wanted to send my children. This is when I found Generation Mindful.

I always thought being spanked didn't have an affect on me. And then I became a parent.

GEN:M planted seeds for me to water and cultivate. I started to focus on connection to better regulate myself and to co-regulate with my children. As I gained more emotional freedom, I broke down personal barriers and repaired relationships. We are not the sum of our behaviors; a message often sent to my younger self with corporal punishment. I now see that when misbehavior rears its ugly (but inevitable) head, there is an unmet need lurking nearby. Misbehavior is an unmet need and instead of removing our love and attention, we can choose to connect. One heart. One moment. One home at a time. We are the change. ** This article was written by a Generation Mindful mom member who wishes to remain anonymous. Do you have a story about mindfulness and/or connection to tell? Visit here for details and submit an article to our editor for consideration.

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Generation Mindful creates tools, toys, and programs that nurture emotional intelligence through play and positive discipline. Join us and receive joy in your inbox each week.

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6 Meaningful Christmas Gifts for 2019

girl offering a wrapped gift

You know the drill. Your kiddo sees a toy. They want to have it. They need to have it. You secretly oblige in anticipation of Christmas. Morning comes. They tear through the wrapping paper so that shards of confetti fills the room. As paper flies everywhere, you see the smile on their faces. It’s exactly what they hoped for (insert excited shrieks)! And then weeks pass, maybe even just days, and that new toy they had to have is of no interest to them at all. Rather than storing unwanted toys in the closet this year, give the children on your list meaningful memories instead. Here are six connection-based gift ideas for ages two and up that we love for the holidays and all year long.

Big Life Journal (Ages 7+)

Big Life Journal for Kids helps children develop strong growth mindset skills through inspiring stories, colorful illustrations and engaging guided activities. Children discover how to believe in themselves and face challenges with confidence. They learn that mistakes are opportunities to grow and that they can achieve anything when they're persistent!

Big Life Journal

Why we love it: If you are a parent, grandparent, sibling, relative or friend, you can participate by being a child's  Journal Buddy. Spend quality time sharing, growing and connecting. Some of our inside favs include a gratitude scavenger hunt and the “Follow Your Heart” poem. And they have a special teen edition too!  

Silly Street Board Game (Age 4+)

Silly Street makes character builder games and toys that support cognitive learning and life skills. Silly Street Board Game helps to build qualities of confidence, creativity, empathy, adaptability, and grit.

Silly Street Board Game

Why we love it: This fun family game is pure silliness, just as the name implies. We love creating the board (yes, it’s a fun puzzle). Each card instructs you and your co-players to do fun, goofy tasks. This game gets the family thinking and moving. Be prepared for a good belly laugh!  

GoZen! (Age 5 to 15)

Feeling good is a skill! GoZen! uses animated videos to teach skills of resilience and well-being. Imaginative games, workbooks, cartoons, and quizzes help enrich this unique experience.  Why we love it: This innovative and interactive tool helps break down life’s big skills into bite-sized pieces for kids. It talks about sometimes complex things like feelings, stress and more in ways children understand! The animated characters help children learn to better understand what is going on inside of them using all of their senses and can be used with or without an adult.

Barefoot Books Mind and Body Set (Ages 4+)

This gift set includes two empowering practices that can be shared with children and adults alike. Yoga Pretzels includes 50 yoga activities and Mindful Kids includes 50 mindfulness practices that encourage kindness, focus and calming skills. These fun, powerful tools help build strength from the inside out to support all-around wellness.

Barefoot Books: Yoga Pretzels and Mindful KIds

Why we love it: Yoga pretzels is a great way to get moving (and laughing) with your favorite kiddo. The partner poses and movements are a fun way to build connection as well as inner strength and confidence.  We love Mindful Kids for its whimsical illustrations and easy to follow practices for cultivating focus, love, and stillness --- helpful for silencing the mind before bedtime. Some of our inside favorites are Sharp Eyes, Mountain Rising and Open Ears.  

Kids Cook Real Food (Age 2 - 13+)

This family-friendly cooking opportunity is a multimedia online course designed to help adults (yes you mom, dad, grandma, grandpa, aunts, uncles, etc) teach children how to cook. The courses are set up for a span of ages, from tots to teens, by offering beginner, intermediate and advanced level meals.

mom teaching her daughter to cook

Why we love it: This is such an amazing opportunity to spend time with your child and co-create meals from the heart. The recipes use real food from scratch, without the processed stuff. The Recipe Book is packed with recipes the whole family can enjoy. Food allergy? No problem. The course provides many substitutions for special diets. The focus of the course is less about the recipes and more about spending time together to learn, create and connect.

Generation Mindful’s Time-In-Toolkit and SnuggleBuddies

Ok, since connection is our jam, we would be a bit remiss if we didn't mention two favorites from our own community -- the Time-In-Toolkit and SnuggleBuddies. The Time-In-ToolKit is a step-by-step guide for nurturing social and emotional skills in children through mindfulness, child-led play, and positive discipline. This ToolKit includes PeaceMakers mindfulness cards and other playful activities that make learning about emotions fun, moving families and classrooms away from time-outs to Time-Ins! Generation Mindful Time-In-Toolkit The SunggleBuddies plush toy collection helps children name and share their feelings in daily playful ways, decreasing meltdowns and helping children feel safe. There are 7 different animals to choose from. Each plush comes with four mood emojis in a back pocket and a laminated feelings poster, calendar/journal. Generation Mindful SnuggleBuddies Why we love it The Toolkit’s superpower is in its Calming Corner, a space you create with your child (you too grandparents)! Together, you have the opportunity to design the space, choose calming tools and toys and further connection through naming and taming big emotions. Bonus, siblings love it too. We love the SnuggleBuddies because they are cuddly, relatable and engaging. The emojis make it easy for even young kids to share what they are feeling inside. The SnuggleBuddies are also great for military families and/or any family who has members living in different households/countries etc. PRO TIP: Grab a SnuggleBuddies and facetime your loved ones! This plush will get your child thinking and talking about their day. ----------------

Generation Mindful creates tools, toys, and programs that nurturing emotional intelligence playfully. Join 100,000 members and receive joy in your inbox each week including four free gifts when you join.

When Partners Disagree: Tools For Parenting On The Same Page

girl with her head in her hands as her parents disagree

Seven o’clock rolls around. In our household, that means bedtime ritual begins. Jammies. Brush teeth. Our favorite book. And then…. drift off to sweet dreams and counting sheep? Ha! Not for us. Picking out jammies becomes a game of cat and mouse. My husband chases our son. I’m chasing my husband.  Brushing teeth becomes an Olympic event and, from the snail's pace at which we complete this task, we’re not taking home the Gold anytime soon. And then, at last, a book. We sit, we snuggle, and we read. And then we read again. And then the “one mores” begin. “Just one more time. Just one more book. Just one more minute!” Before I know it, one more minute has turned into an hour. Emotions are high, tears are brimming, and yes, there is yelling.  My husband thinks we need to be more firm. “Let’s put him in time-out or take away something he likes, like reading time,” he suggests. “What about respecting our son’s needs/emotions?” I counter. And just like that, my husband and I are locked in a power struggle too. With such different ideas about how best to manage our son’s champion sleep fighting tendencies, is there any hope for us to parent from the same page?

Our ideals and parenting philosophies

parents holding hands with their toddler while walking down a path

According to Dr. John Gottman, when two people have children, a cross-cultural experience occurs. Each parent brings forth a different set of beliefs based upon how they were raised. William Doherty, in The Intentional Family: Simple Rituals to Strengthen Family Ties, mentions that when a new family system is set into motion, partners have the opportunity to re-evaluate beliefs and values to create a chosen culture within their tribe. The more intentional that culture is, the more the tribe thrives. “We all come into relationships with our belief systems from our upbringings,” says Burnaby, BC, clinical counselor Allison Bates. “But it doesn’t always mean it’s the best way to raise your family.”  Given this divide, is it realistic for me to hope that my husband and I will one day be able to meet in the middle, parenting together with a shared set of clear, firm boundaries while still validating our child’s emotions?

What happens when hardwired beliefs and values clash in our parenting styles?

I think my partner is too harsh, where my partner thinks I’m too soft. My partner prefers a strict routine, where I prefer spontaneity. My partner is not comfortable with big emotions, whereas I raise the roof on making space for feelings.  Given this divide, is finding common ground hopeless?

woman and man sitting on the couch facing away from each other

I’ve read enough to know that the way we co-parent can greatly impact our family dynamics.  Children are concrete learners who thrive on consistency, boundaries, and rituals. Inconsistencies in parenting practices can send mixed signals, leading to confusion and more acting out. In more extreme cases, “uncoordinated child-rearing,“ as I’m seeing our recent reality called in the literature, can also create anxiety and/or depression in the child. Color me motivated. I was going to figure this out.

The Science Behind Consistency

In my digging for a solution, I found this little nugget of wisdom, and shared it with my husband: According to Parent Coach Nicole Schwarz, “When parents are on the opposite ends of the parenting spectrum, kids may show more big feelings with one parent and not the other – often the parent they feel “safer” with.” Apparently, when children do not feel safe or when they feel that their environment is unpredictable, they resort to brainstem behaviors of fight, flight or freeze, resulting in more power struggles and misbehaviors. This grabbed our attention. And then, just in case there was any doubt about our motivations to figure this co-parenting thing out, we read this: “Although parenting disagreements are bound to arise, prolonged dissonance among partners can echo throughout the rest of the relationship, leading to arguments beyond parenting differences alone. In some cases, relationships collapse.” There was no question, we were committed to finding a solution.

Finding Middle Ground

mom and dad kissing daughter's cheeks

We started by putting these six tips into motion:

1. Create emotional and physical safety

Research shows that our brains have a greater sensitivity to negative input; a built-in protection mechanism intended to keep us safe from harm. Creating a shift of energy that promotes a safe environment allows both partners to feel heard and validated, providing an opening for compromise. With clear minds and hearts, the sharing of ideas can occur. Ask open-ended questions and then pause to hear what your partner has to say. According to the Gottman Institute, completing and talking about the following statements as a couple can help evoke safety and connection, a great first step to co-parenting: 
  • I feel that you are a good parent because ____.
  • I feel that my role as a parent is to ___.
  • It’s most important to me for our child to be ___.
  • My goal in raising our child is ___.

2. Listen

Although it can be challenging, it helps to commit to actively listening -- to really hear one another, even when you disagree with what the other person is saying.  This tip helped me shift my goal from convincing my husband to see things my way, to actually listening to what he had to share without feeling that my differing views were under attack. Instead, I validated his emotions, just as I was hoping we could do as a couple for our child.  It helped for me to remember that his reality is very real to him, just as my perspective is real and valid to me. And although I may not have agreed with what he was saying, in listening to him, I was learning. Every opportunity is a growing opportunity. In embracing this mindset, we are brought closer to one another instead of further apart. I realized that the ultimate goal was not for me to win the argument but to find our middle ground. This shift in our thinking proved vital. We made it our mission to co-parent in a way that respects our shared values and beliefs.

3. Create a shared vision

So we sat down and we defined our long-term goals for our family. We discussed the desired rules and boundaries and why we felt that they were important. Talking through these sharing prompts helped us recognize how our different parenting styles aligned with our sometimes differing goals:
  • My parents were ___ and I feel that was ___.
  • To me, discipline means ___.
  • What are our parenting strengths (individually/collectively)?
  • The approach to parenting that I most align with is ____ because ____.

4. Prioritize

Here, we took the larger, shared vision we had for our family and focused on addressing the reoccurring, high-stress situations we were dealing with, like bedtime. Together, we became curious as to why certain behaviors were arising from our son. Daniel Siegel, clinical professor of psychiatry at the UCLA School of Medicine and executive director of the Mindsight Institute, invites co-parents to ask these questions:
  • Why did our child act this way (What was happening internally/emotionally)?
  •  What lesson do we want to teach?
  •  How can we best teach it?
Answering these questions actually helped us find our common ground.

5. Embrace differences

We began to realize that this was not a clear case of right and wrong and that, as a couple, we didn’t have to have the same strengths to be effective co-parents. And slowly, our parenting power struggles at bedtime lessened, so too did our child’s.

6. Be a united front

It is highly unlikely that you will agree with every disciplinary action your partner makes. As long as you are not concerned with abuse or neglect, be a united front in the presence of your children. Undermining your co-partner in front of your children diminishes both of your authority and sends the message that there is a way around parenting decisions. Discuss your feelings in private and re-visit as a united pair.

What if your co-parent is not interested in same page parenting?

woman crying in her hands

Despite having the best of intentions, ultimately, we cannot force change on someone who does not want to change. When both partners continue to hold different ends of the tug of war rope, asking for help from an outside party can be useful. Parenting coaches, couple’s counseling and/or online parenting courses can help co-parents reach compromise.  

To Sum It Upfamily of 4 walking

So, how did we fare? Well, somewhere along the way, my husband and I put down our weapons, leaned into a few shared goals, and slowly, we started to find some common ground. 

As for our little champion sleep fighter? Well, he's still a champ, but as our rituals became more consistent, and my husband and I more united, our son has shifted too. 

And though I'm fairly certain my husband and I will never parent from the exact same page, I feel hopeful, because "same" is not my goal anymore.

Together is.

_____________

Generation Mindful creates tools, toys, and programs that nurture emotional intelligence through playing positive discipline. Join us and receive joy in your inbox each week.

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Mindful Parenting and How It Affects Children

You probably know that your heart works hard pumping oxygen-rich blood throughout your body, but have you ever wondered how this process works? During the cardiac cycle, your heart first relaxes and allows the oxygen-rich blood to come to itself first. Then — only after it has received oxygenated blood — your heart sends out the life-giving blood to the rest of your body. Pretty cool, right? You might think this seems selfish — for your heart to serve itself first. But your heart can’t help the rest of your body if it’s not beating. You can’t pour from an empty cup. Mindful parenting isn’t just about your child. It’s about you too. It’s about filling your cup and being regulated so that you can tend to your child fully. Mindful parenting is a tool to help you avoid feeling burnt out or overwhelmed. Parenthood is filled with situations that try your patience on a daily basis. Believe me, I know. Cue the spilled milk just minutes after I mopped. If you’ve ever been frustrated or burnt out by these scenes, you’re not alone. While you can’t avoid unpleasant situations altogether, you can choose to respond — rather than react — to the situation. And that is exactly where mindful parenting comes into the picture. Not only does mindful parenting help you during tense situations, it improves the mental and emotional lives of young children too.

The History of Mindfulness

Mindfulness may be a trending concept right now, but it actually has a rich history dating back at least 2,500 years. Mindfulness as a practice has been recorded within Buddhist and Hindu religions. While it may have roots in Eastern cultures, it’s not tied to any one culture or religion. Mindfulness is a practice. In 1979, professor Jon Kabat-Zinn paved the way for the inclusion of mindfulness in mainstream America. Kabat-Zinn studied the effects of mindfulness on stress reduction and, since then, the practice of mindfulness has gained a bigger presence in America.

So What Is Mindfulness?

At its most basic meaning, mindfulness refers to your ability to consciously be present in each moment. This means you are aware of your own feelings and thoughts as well as your external surroundings.  In a word, mindfulness is awareness. Mindful parenting means bringing this level of awareness into your parenting style. Mindful parenting isn’t thinking positively or sending good vibes. In contrast, mindful parenting is being aware of each moment, each feeling, each aspect of your environment with a measure of neutrality. You experience what is without adding judgment to the situation.  What does that mean? It means if your child unrolls the entire roll of toilet paper and flushes it down the drain, you’re responding to just this one experience. It means you don’t draw emotional responses from a similar action your child did three days ago.  Embracing each moment and feeling allows you to respond rather than react to your child.

What Does Mindful Parenting Look Like in Action?

Person holding sad face in front of their face

Mindful parenting enables you to respond to your child’s emotional and physical well-being because you are aware of how your child is feeling. Once you are aware of the current situation, you are more likely to:
  • Accept the situation for what it is not what you hoped it would be
  • Understand your child’s behaviors
  • Respond with compassion (remember, you already accepted your emotions)
All mindful parents focus on each moment, but this may manifest in several ways. 

Listening to Your Child Mindfully

Truly listening to your child can be a difficult task, especially if you’re pressed for time or if the story is long. However, infusing mindfulness into your listening skills can help you receive your child’s message. From a child’s viewpoint, being heard is a form of connection to her parents.  When listening to your child, keep these tips in mind:
  • Limit distractions (e.g., cell phone, TV, etc).
  • Look your child in the eye so you can focus on her face (e.g., observe each of her facial expressions).
  • Take note of the surrounding environment (e.g., Is it hot? Are there lingering smells in the air? Is there background noise?).

Accepting Your Child’s Emotions

One of the key elements of mindfulness is to accept each feeling or thought as it is. The thought is neither good nor bad — it just is. This idea can take many forms throughout your parenting journey, but acceptance becomes especially important when it comes to big emotions.  For instance, if your child is upset over missing a play date, it’s possible to accept your child’s feelings as they are. You cannot control her feelings, but you can recognize her feelings or emotions as they are. This directly leads to incorporating mindfulness into parenting through teaching emotional awareness.

Teaching Emotional Awareness

Emotional awareness is the idea that you (or your child) can name each feeling you have. You might say something like, “Mommy is upset the carpet is ruined.” This labels the feeling. Emotional awareness is an important skill to learn because it directly impacts self-regulation.

Using Mindfulness to Model Self-Regulation

When you are aware of your emotions — such as anger of a carpet stained by paint — it’s easier to control your responses. Without self-regulation, it’s more likely that you may snap and let your emotions dictate your actions and reactions.

Using Mindfulness to Model Compassion

Even if you’re upset with your child or frustrated by another tantrum, mindfulness helps you respond with compassion to your child. Because you are aware of the moment, aware of your feelings in a neutral manner and have listened to your child, you are more likely to understand your child and demonstrate empathy.  Empathy leads to compassion, and when you are in the realm of compassion, you can deliver positive, loving, nurturing instruction. With compassion in play, you can transform something like a stained carpet into a teaching opportunity.

Benefits of Mindful Parenting

Mindfulness is well-known for its positive effect on mental and emotional health. Regularly practicing mindfulness has been known to reduce stress and improve emotional regulation in individuals with social anxiety disorder, according to a 2010 study published in the journal Emotion. Another study reveals mindfulness also reduces stress hormone levels and perceived stress in expecting mothers. Here’s the best part: mindful parenting doesn’t just improve the mental health of parents. Mindful parenting improves the well-being of the child and strengthens the parent-child bond. Mindful parenting positively impacts the daily life of parents and children in other ways too, including:
  • Improved communication between you and your child
  • Improved decision-making skills 
  • Less anxiety 
  • Increased self-control (e.g., the ability to delay gratification such as a cookie or marshmallow)
  • Reduced negative feelings (e.g., anxiety, depression, anger, aggression)
  • Improved problem solving skills
  • Decreased feelings of distraction or hyperness 

The Link Between Mindful Parenting and Positive Parenting

Mindful parenting isn’t a parenting style by itself, but mindfulness practices can be incorporated into the positive parenting style. A positive parent is both firm and respectful while demonstrating high responsiveness to the child.  If you practice positive parenting, you might set rules — like putting in effort at school — but you mindfully support your child as he reaches for that goal.  You can rely on mindfulness to thoughtfully set household rules, to listen to your child when he seeks help, and to address problems as they arise. Mindfulness can be a tool incorporated into the positive parenting philosophy.

Is It Too Late to Be a Mindful Parent?

mindful parenting: mother looking up

If you find yourself wishing you were more mindful, there’s good news — you can be! Mindfulness is a practice, which means you have the opportunity to practice this new skill every day. Mindful parenting practices can be incorporated into your daily habits.  You can:
  • Practice deep breathing exercises. Take a deep breath and count to 10 before you respond to a situation. Teach your child the benefits of deep breathing during tense or frustrating situations. Not only does deep breathing lower your stress hormone, it also gives you time to think before you react.
  • Engage all of your senses. Take note of the details in your surroundings. What fragrances do you smell? What do you hear? Your senses help ground you in the present moment.
  • Offer ways for your child to practice mindfulness. Part of mindful parenting means teaching your child the basics of mindfulness too. Tools like a calming corner can help your child practice mindfulness techniques. Practicing mindfulness improves emotional awareness and boosts self-regulation skills.
  • Practice mindfulness meditations. Start your day with a daily meditation — or end it with a reflection. Meditations allow you to dedicate time towards thinking and being. Meditations don’t have to take long either. Many mindfulness meditations for parents are designed with busy schedules in mind. Even a 5-10 minute meditation can go a long way in recharging yourself. You can also encourage your child to do a guided meditation for kids.

What’s Next?

Parenting in the present moment is a journey with ups and downs. Mindful parenting can help you enjoy and be present to the imperfectly perfect little moments of life that fill each day. It can also help you cope with big emotions when you feel stressed or overwhelmed. Prioritizing mindfulness training can help improve your parenting skills while helping your kids thrive. When we take the reins of our feelings with mindfulness, we — and our children — learn to manage our emotions in positive ways, paving the way for self-love, self-awareness, and peace. ------------- Generation Mindful creates tools, toys, and programs that nurture emotional intelligence through play and positive discipline. Join us and receive joy in your inbox each week.

5 Ways To Nurture Emotional Intelligence For Kids

emotional intelligence children playing laughing outside

Emotional intelligence (EI) is a hot topic these days and the focus of more than a few parenting books and articles. Whether you have children or work with them, there are only so many hours in the day, which can make it challenging to process all of the latest findings on EI, much less apply them to everyday life. This single topic happens to be my passion so allow me to bottom line some of the more compelling findings for you, along with 5 ways you can pull these findings into everyday life to help children grow their emotional intelligence. EI Research Let’s start with the findings:

EI Application

Okay, so now with hours of reading reports and journals aside (you’re welcome), you can direct your attention to the best part of EI --- the practical applications. How can we as adults, parents, educators, grandparents and more, nurture emotional intelligence in children? And more than that, how can we make this learning fun?

5 Ways You Can Nurture Emotional Intelligence in Children:

1. Unstructured playtime. 

Ugh wait, I said “fun” and then lead the list with this?!  Well yes, but hear me out. When children are given ample unstructured playtime, particularly when that playtime happens alongside siblings and/or friends, they are faced with countless opportunities to practice the four components of EI -- social skills, self-awareness, awareness of others and the ability to care for themselves.

Four components of emotional intelligence

During unstructured playtime, children also have the opportunity to practice conflict resolution and problem solving, both higher-level functions of the brain. Unstructured free play changes the neurons in the part of the brain responsible for these developmental skills.  This means that playing “house” or building a tiny world with blocks is more than just loads of fun—it helps kids form vital connections in their brain, connections that lead to not only classically smarter kids, but more mindful, empathetic and compassionate children as well. Dr. Stuart Brown, founder of the National Institute of Play, discusses the science of play in building emotional intelligence in children here

2. Playing games. 

In the words of parenting expert Dr. Daniel Siegel, you’ve got to “name it to tame it.”  Playing board games and card games designed to encourage children to share their ideas and feelings is a great way to foster EI.  Spending a few minutes each morning or at the end of each day playing a game like PeaceMakers can make practicing social and emotional skills fun -- like hiding kale in your smoothies to eat more greens kind of fun.   Playing games gives children the opportunity to practice taking turns, cooperating, expressing themselves and more. In the words of someone far wiser than I, "Play is the highest form of research." (Thank you, Einstein.)

3. Talk about feelings in everyday life. 

When reading a book or watching a movie, pause now and then to talk about the main character’s feelings. Ask children what they think a character might be feeling and why. Encourage them to imagine what it might feel like to be in the character’s shoes. The RULER method is an effective tool for identifying emotions in oneself and others. Take a look at how this model could be used during read-alouds.  

RULER Method

Recognize: Recognize the emotion. How is the character feeling? How do you know they are feeling that way? Understand: Understand why they are feeling that way. What happened that made the character feel that way? When is a time that you have felt that way? Label: Choose a word(s) that best describes the feeling. Think happy, sad, mad, calm, scared, excited and so on….  What word do you think best describes what the character is feeling? Express: Discuss how one can one appropriately express how they are feeling. How did the character act when feeling ___? How do you act when feeling ___? Regulate: Discuss how to maintain feelings (if it is desirable) or shift feelings (if undesirable). What could you do when you feel ___? What could you do to help a friend when they feel ___? For more great info on using this method for read-alongs and sharing personal stories, read here.

4. Model emotional intelligence. 

Kids develop a strong awareness of feelings early on and they can often feel the energies of others, meaning they know when you are feeling angry and tense and they know when you are open and playful, often just with your body language alone.

mother and daughter

Sharing your emotions with your children is an effective way to model EI. Call out the emotion, name it and explain why you think you might be feeling this way.  For example, if you’re feeling frustrated you might say, “I'm feeling frustrated! I asked for the shoes to be picked up and I still see the shoes on the floor. I feel like no one is listening.”  Notice the words “I am feeling … I feel like.” These simple phrases send the message that your feelings are your own. This teaches empowering lessons that no one can make us happy/sad/mad/frustrated. Those vibrations are within us and we have the power to change our thoughts, our emotions, and our actions.  When we put our feelings on others by saying things like, “Why doesn't anyone ever listen around here?! You make me so frustrated.” we send discouraging messages that other people have more power over our emotional state than we do.  Noticing your mood states, naming them aloud and working to tame them, models EI for your children … not only noticing and expressing big feelings but regulating behaviors as well. So, if the mood in your home feels totally different on a playful Saturday afternoon versus a hectic morning before school, take a few moments to point out this difference to help grow your child’s EI (and yours too).

5. Encourage introspection and self-expression. 

Carol Dweck, psychologist at Stanford University and author of the book Mindset, has taught us the importance of cultivating a growth mindset in children as opposed to a fixed mindset.  According to Dweck, when we praise effort and teach children that their brains can grow, we foster a growth mindset. Conversely, when we praise the outcomes of our children, we nurture a fixed mindset, making it more likely for children to wilt in the face of challenges in fear of not having certain desired abilities.  What does this mean for us as parents? The next time your child shows you a Play-doh creation or painting they've just completed, ask them to share their thoughts and feelings about their creation with you and praise the effort. 

Child with multi-colored hand paint

Let’s see these concepts in action, shall we?  Your child comes to you and excitedly exclaims, “Look at my painting mom!” Replying with a pat answer like, “Awesome!” or “That’s so pretty!” or praising the outcome with, “You’re such an amazing painter. You are my little artist.” are examples of a fixed mindset response.  A growth mindset response looks like,  “Wow! You used so many different colors. Can you tell me about your picture?” or, “Thank you for showing me this! What is your favorite part?” or, “You look so happy. Did you have fun making this? Was it easy to do, hard to do?” etc.  The list of possible questions is endless. Using a growth mindset approach allows children the valuable experience of self-reflection and sharing with you as their attentive and supportive audience. This opportunity to talk might even create an opening for them to share about something completely unrelated that is weighing on their mind.

Releasing Perfect

By practicing the many components of emotional intelligence with children on a daily basis, we teach children that emotions aren’t something to shy away from or be scared of.  Teaching EI can feel like a heavy responsibility as we ourselves are working to do the same. Let go of thinking that you need to be "perfect" in regulating your emotions in order to teach EI. Instead, embrace your humanness and shift your focus to being present with your children.  If you find yourself reacting to something or another and/or raising your voice to your children more than you would like, then use the experience to release perfect and model what is like to make mistakes, make amends and ask for do-overs.  Be honest with your child as you express your emotions by saying something like, "I'm sorry I just yelled, I'm feeling really overwhelmed." In these moments, feel good knowing that not only are you practicing and thereby modeling self-awareness, but you are teaching your child about forgiveness and the all-important life lesson that our mistakes can help us learn and grow. 

"Our mistakes can help us learn and grow."

And there are few more important lessons in life than this.

_____________

Generation Mindful creates tools, toys, and programs that nurture emotional intelligence through playing positive discipline. Join us and receive joy in your inbox each week.

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What Co-Regulation Looks Like

parenting skills and coregulation

What co-regulation looks like

A young child is so frustrated and overwhelmed that she just hit her big sister.

As the adult responsible for managing this moment, can we comfort and protect one child while disciplining and guiding the other? And can we do this without shaming or hurting the child who did the hurting? The answer to both questions is yes, but how?
  • We do this with tools and support.
  • We do this when we model the skills we want to teach.
  • We do this via co-regulation.
Homeschooling mom of two, Angela, shows us what this looks like in the short video below when one hits the other. Here's what happened in Angela's own words: "My daughter Lila spent a long time trying to make a baking hat out of paper. She became frustrated with the results and abandoned it, deciding she was ready to start baking instead. But she clearly wasn’t over her big feelings — pushing her sister who was washing hands first, and yelling at both of us." It wasn’t really about washing hands. It was about her frustration and disappointment from before. I gently but firmly reminded her that I understood that she was frustrated about the hat but that I could not let her hurt her sister’s body. Giant meltdown. Lila began screaming and hanging on to my body while simultaneously pushing me away. I’ve learned that when Lila is upset, she wants to be close but she doesn’t want to be held. So I moved away a bit and sat on a step-stool, suggested a calming strategy, and told her I would be available when she was ready. She continued to cry for a couple of minutes longer, then bravely began to count — it is so brave to decide to change your own feelings right in the middle of some tough ones! You can hear her voice gradually get calmer as she counted. Lila counted all the way to 30, then lifted her finger to “blow out a candle”: I asked if she was ready for a hug, and she climbed into my lap to accept the connection. All of this is the result of our work with Generation Mindful’s Time-In Toolkit, which I couldn’t recommend more." - Angela (@AngelaMomtessori) This is co-regulation. Instead of:
  • dismissing (going away or putting the child away/in time-out)
  • threatening, (yelling, hitting, shaming)
  • or rescuing (moving in to solve the frustration instead of allowing her child her experience)
...Angela is teaching her child how to gain control over her body and to manage her emotions. Regulation is a Skill Regulation involves one person staying present for another through a challenging experience such that the stressed individual experiences greater self-awareness. Much like math, science, and reading, self-regulation is a skill to be learned. For children to learn these skills, they must be taught.  Self-regulation is taught through co-regulation. 

Co-regulation before Self Regulation

Co-regulate to Self Regulate Co-regulation takes two. You and your little one. On the same team.  As humans, we are not born with the tools to self regulate. Notice a newborn’s cries as it seeks its mother for comfort. Or the toddler who is whining or throwing a tantrum in the middle of the store. These are signs that they need help to build the skills of regulation.  How is this done?
  • Build a relationship with your child through connection. Get eye level (or below) and be with them in their state of emotion. Parenting is not something you do to your child but rather a relationship you build. Hear and validate your child’s emotions. A younger toddler will likely need help putting words to their experience. You can help by naming what you see and then offering calming strategies as needed.
  • Provide a warm environment where all feelings and emotions are allowed and sacred. Structure the environment to make regulation playful and manageable. The use of a Calming Corner helps create a safe space for children to feel and regulate.
  • Model the awareness and regulation you want to teach. Co-regulation involves seeing and being seen. Hold awareness of your own internal climate and demonstrate naming and taming your emotions. Our children learn most by what they see (even more than by what we say)!
As your child becomes more comfortable understanding the sensations in their body and labeling them, she will be better equipped to develop skills of independently choosing calming strategies … tools to maintain pleasant feelings and to work through unpleasant ones. 

My Feelings Chart

Letting Go Of Perfect. We, all of us, make mistakes. Luckily, perfection is not a requirement for regulation.   When we let go of being perfect, we make it safe to make mistakes … both for ourselves and our child.  (I'll take present over perfect all day long.) So, if we as parents stumble from time to time (or even flat out face plant), it is okay! Co-regulation stretches beyond teaching the skills of how to regulate --it’s also teaching skills for when we miss the mark on regulating.  Take Angela’s experience, for example. Say she had not been able to regulate herself amid Lila’s big emotions. Say she was not able to keep her cool for the sake of co-regulation … What would the story have looked like then? Perhaps, if that were the case, she would have used that experience as another teaching moment to model making mistakes, making amends and offering a do-over.  When we are unable to self regulate amid our child’s own dysregulation, we can choose to open a dialogue. “I felt frustrated and I yelled. That wasn’t my highest self. I am sorry. Have you ever felt frustrated or mad? Next time I feel frustrated, I will work on taking some deep breaths. What calming strategies do you want to try when you feel frustrated? … Can we have a do-over?” So the next time you hear whining or the sounds of anger, frustration, sadness, or overwhelm, pause and see that your child is not giving you a hard time but rather having a hard time. Lean in and give co-regulation a chance.  Pause. Breathe. Allow for the feelings. Hold to your boundaries. Connect before you correct. With tools and support, we really can love our way through the hard moments. Regulation is a skill, so let's teach it.

_____________

Generation Mindful creates tools, toys, and programs that nurture emotional intelligence through playing positive discipline. Join us and receive joy in your inbox each week.

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Peacemakers Card Game in action