Embrace Your Child as She IS

Last week, I was talking to one of my coaching clients and she seemed very unhappy with the way her daughter had turned out to be. I tried to understand what she meant by that and why she felt that way. Her daugher, who is eleven, is a straight-A student, well-behaved. She loves reading, she speaks three languages. She is well-adjusted and friendly, loves volunteering at her local church, playing piano and playing tennis. Finally, she is a very caring and inspiring older sister to her little brother.

Although the mom was proud of all the things her daughter had accomplished at such a young age, her daughter had missed the mark on something that my client considered extremelly important “lacrosse.” The mom had played lacrosse when she was a child until her undergraduate years, and had dreamed about having a daughter who followed her steps on that sport. Her daughter gave it a try, but wasn’t interested at all, she didn’t find it enjoyable, and she didn’t want to miss tennis or piano to go to lacrosse.

The mom was having a hard time letting go of the dream of what her ‘ideal daughter’ would be; and embracing the amazing daughter she had. Of course, the daughter was feeling unloved and unwanted by her mother, despite all the good things she was doing; and didn’t really understand what was going on. Obviously there’s something causing the mom to put so much importance on this particular sport, something that was ingrained in her thoughts and believes when she was growing up.

This story compelled me to invite you to let your children grow as the unique individuals they already are. Allow them to discover themselves, their likes and dislikes, their strengths and weaknesses. Your children are not you, and they should be able to have their own dreams and aspirations, and more often than not, those will be different from your own dreams and aspirations.

Appreciate the individuality of each child a blessing and pursue ways to expand on that. Be open minded, and don’t push your child into pursuits that they are not interested in. When you find yourself trying to impose your own agenda on your child, look inside yourself, think about what’s pushing you to make that decision, what part of your upbringing is creating this behavior. Believe in and love your kids for who they are. Allow them to be their true self and embrace them as they are.

“The best parents are the ones who let their kids know: ‘I believe in you,’ and don’t add the caveat, ‘but I’d like you to be thinner, smarter, etc.”

Lenore Skenazy

Let’s make sure our children know how much we love them, no conditions, no changes required!

~ Diana Blanco

 

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Diana Blanco, M.B.A., is a Certified Youth, Parenting and Family Coach; Positive Discipline Educator; Child Sleep Expert; and the founder of Smooth Parenting, a gentle parenting and positive discipline advocacy, education and coaching center for parents, childcare providers and educators.

Smooth Parenting provides private parent coaching as well as online and live parenting education; helping parents around the world develop gentle positive connections with their childrens, solve their discipline and power struggles, get a good night sleep and live a peaceful, smooth and happy family life. Her approach to parenting, discipline and child sleep education is gentle, individualized and effective. New York Family Magazine recently wrote “Blanco was everything she had seemed like on the phone—sweet, smart, and passionate about baby sleep, […] she reminded me of a gentler version of the SuperNanny“.

Diana is the author of  the book ‘Smooth Baby Sleep. 6 Simple Steps to Gently Help Your Child Sleep,’ a clear, easy to read and effective guide to gently help children sleep from birth to toddlerhood. She is also a contributing author of ‘Celebrating Moms and Motherhood.’

To read more articles by Diana and learn more about Smooth Parenting, parenting coaching, healthy child sleep, positive discipline and loving guidance, teleseminars, webinars and events, please visit www.SmoothParenting.com

Claim your FREE copy of our audio class ’7 Strategies to Gently Help Your Baby Sleep’ at http://www.SmoothParenting.com, and receive our complimentary weekly ezine ‘Smooth Parenting Secrets‘ full of simple, proven and easy-to-implement parenting tips that will help you take the guesswork out of baby sleep, potty training, discipline and many other parenting topics. Download yours here!

Follow us on Facebook at http://www.Facebook.com/SmoothParenting

now also in Spanish http://www.Facebook.com/SmoothParentingEnEspanol 

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My child doesn’t listen!

Do you repeat the same thing over and over again without response? Are you frustrated because your child doesn’t listen to you?

If your answer is ‘yes’, you’re not alone! Those are some of the most common complaints I hear from parents during my private consultations; and whenever I hear that, two questions always come to my mind:

1. What do we really mean by ‘listening’?

Is it a synonym of ‘obeying’? More often than not, when parents complain about their children not listening, what they really mean is that their children do not drop whatever it is they’re doing, right the second the parent asks them to do something.

Therefore, the issue is not so much about ‘listening’ as it is about ‘compliance and obedience.’ I believe in parenting with love and respect, and ‘obedience’ does not fit into this definition. The same way I wouldn’t expect my spouse or any other adult to blindly obey what I say, I don’t expect that from my daughters either. Obedience, in my book, is NOT the epitome of good parenting.

As Alphie Kohn points out in his book ‘Unconditional Parenting’ that when parents are asked what their long term goals for their children are, they say they want their kids to be ethical, compassionate, independent, happy, accomplished, self-confident, etc. No parent says they want their children to grow up into obedient adults. I certainly do not want my daughters to grow up to be compliant women, I want them to question authority, to have their own opinions, to make their own decisions (and their own mistakes), to be creative… and to not mindlessly obey anybody (not even me!).

Most of what we see as disobedience in our children is either natural, curious, discovering, learning, developmentally appropriate behavior; a way of letting you know that one of their needs is not being met; or a reaction to a situation in which they do not feel comfortable or safe with, or have no control over.

Child not listening

The need for children’s obedience that many parents have is usually associated with parents’ fear that…

  • the child will grow up to be a rebellious, sociopath, anarchist monster. This terrible view of humane nature is not based on any empirical evidence.
  • they will be misunderstood by their peers and by family. After all, most people still believe a good child is an obedient child.
  • their child will have trouble at school with her teachers. Many teachers are still not open to the idea of having their students questioning their lessons.

Forcing children into blind obedience has terrible consequences. Children might not learn to think for themselves and will always value their parents’ (or other authoritative figure’s) voice over their own. They might not learn how to make their own decisions. They might be pushed around and manipulated by their peers.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not advocating permissive parenting, I am not arguing that children can be disrespectful and have no limits, I am not suggesting that children can do as they please whenever they want. I am proposing a way of parenting that is based on mutual respect, love and cooperation; and that will eliminate the power struggles between the parent and the child and will allow the child to turn into an independent, confident and mindful adult.

 

2. How well do we listen to our children?

As with many other issues in parenting, the way our children do something tends to be a direct reflection of how we do that same thing. What does this mean? It means that in order to get your child to listen, you first have to listen to her. If they feel listened to, they will be more inclined to listen to you. It is that simple and that complicated!

We are giving our children the best example of what listening is all about. We are modeling a certain way of listening and communicating for them. How do you listen when your child talks to you? How do you usually respond when your child talks to you or asks you to do something for her (read a book, tell a story, play on the floor, go see a bug…)? Is your common response any of these…?

  • Delay request (i.e. ‘Just a minute,’ ‘I can’t right now, I doing something else’)
  • Casual nod, but no eye-to-eye connection (i.e. ‘Umm’)
  • Uninterested response while you’re still looking at your cellphone (i.e. ‘I see’)
  • No response, just ignore and go on with what you’re doing
  • Repeated (and not very uplifting) lecture (i.e. ‘I told you many times not to…,’ ‘That happened because you….’)
  • Constant interruptions
  • Frequent commands
  • Response before they are done talking

Ignoring

As parents we often create communication problems with our children, because we don’t really listen to what they are saying. Whenever we don’t listen to our children, they notice. Not listening does not only mean that we are not hearing what they are saying, it also means that we are not plugged in with what they are trying to tell us. We make assumptions about what they are trying to say, we draw conclusions without making sure we understood the message. We talk too much or launch into lectures.

The best way I know to get children to listen is to listening to them first. Listening intently, listening with interest, listening making sure we ‘get’ what they are saying, listening making sure we understand what’s not being said, and listening making sure our children know they are loved, always and that we are listening.

Mom_Talk_vs_Baby_Talk_636x424_0

Parenting is a journey in which we have the opportunity to learn about ourselves, about our children and about human nature. Parenting is the best journey towards self-understanding, personal improvement, mindfulness and consciousness.

Let’s love the ride!

~ Diana Blanco

 

******************************

Diana Blanco, M.B.A., is a Certified Youth, Parenting and Family Coach; Positive Discipline Educator; Child Sleep Expert; and the founder of Smooth Parenting, a gentle parenting and positive discipline advocacy, education and coaching center for parents, childcare providers and educators.

Smooth Parenting provides private parent coaching as well as online and live parenting education; helping parents around the world develop gentle positive connections with their childrens, solve their discipline and power struggles, get a good night sleep and live a peaceful, smooth and happy family life. Her approach to parenting, discipline and child sleep education is gentle, individualized and effective. New York Family Magazine recently wrote “Blanco was everything she had seemed like on the phone—sweet, smart, and passionate about baby sleep, […] she reminded me of a gentler version of the SuperNanny“.

Diana is the author of  the book ‘Smooth Baby Sleep. 6 Simple Steps to Gently Help Your Child Sleep,’ a clear, easy to read and effective guide to gently help children sleep from birth to toddlerhood. She is also a contributing author of ‘Celebrating Moms and Motherhood.’

To read more articles by Diana and learn more about Smooth Parenting, parenting coaching, healthy child sleep, positive discipline and loving guidance, teleseminars, webinars and events, please visit www.SmoothParenting.com

Claim your FREE copy of our audio class ’7 Strategies to Gently Help Your Baby Sleep’ at http://www.SmoothParenting.com, and receive our complimentary weekly ezine ‘Smooth Parenting Secrets‘ full of simple, proven and easy-to-implement parenting tips that will help you take the guesswork out of baby sleep, potty training, discipline and many other parenting topics. Download yours here!

Follow us on Facebook at http://www.Facebook.com/SmoothParenting

now also in Spanish http://www.Facebook.com/SmoothParentingEnEspanol 

Embrace Your Child as She IS

Last week, I was talking to one of my coaching clients and she seemed very unhappy with the way her daughter had turned out to be. I tried to understand what she meant by that and why she felt that way. Her daugher, who is eleven, is a straight-A student, well-behaved. She loves reading, she speaks three languages. She is well-adjusted and friendly, loves volunteering at her local church, playing piano and playing tennis. Finally, she is a very caring and inspiring older sister to her little brother.

Although the mom was proud of all the things her daughter had accomplished at such a young age, her daughter had missed the mark on something that my client considered extremelly important “lacrosse.” The mom had played lacrosse when she was a child until her undergraduate years, and had dreamed about having a daughter who followed her steps on that sport. Her daughter gave it a try, but wasn’t interested at all, she didn’t find it enjoyable, and she didn’t want to miss tennis or piano to go to lacrosse.

The mom was having a hard time letting go of the dream of what her ‘ideal daughter’ would be; and embracing the amazing daughter she had. Of course, the daughter was feeling unloved and unwanted by her mother, despite all the good things she was doing; and didn’t really understand what was going on. Obviously there’s something causing the mom to put so much importance on this particular sport, something that was ingrained in her thoughts and believes when she was growing up.

This story compelled me to invite you to let your children grow as the unique individuals they already are. Allow them to discover themselves, their likes and dislikes, their strengths and weaknesses. Your children are not you, and they should be able to have their own dreams and aspirations, and more often than not, those will be different from your own dreams and aspirations.

Appreciate the individuality of each child a blessing and pursue ways to expand on that. Be open minded, and don’t push your child into pursuits that they are not interested in. When you find yourself trying to impose your own agenda on your child, look inside yourself, think about what’s pushing you to make that decision, what part of your upbringing is creating this behavior. Believe in and love your kids for who they are. Allow them to be their true self and embrace them as they are.

“The best parents are the ones who let their kids know: ‘I believe in you,’ and don’t add the caveat, ‘but I’d like you to be thinner, smarter, etc.”

Lenore Skenazy

Why do parents resort to extreme discipline?

Children need boundaries, rules and discipline. Children need know limits and to have a structure in their lives. Having said that, how do you discipline your kids?

When I talk about discipline I’m not talking about punitive actions, I’m talking about teaching our children consequences and raising them to become healthy, happy, succesful and contributing members of our society.

Every child is different and we must adjust our parenting and disciplining techniques to each of them. However, there are major lines that I belive we should never cross as parents. You all know where I stand on spanking and/or physical punishments. You can read my previous post about it here.

I’ve been puzzled by all the news about extreme parenting and discipline measures that have come up over the last couple of months:

1) Amy Chua, the tiger mom, shares with pride how she forced her daughter to practice piano for the whole night, refusing to give her water or bathroom breaks; how she make her 3-year-old daughter stand outside in 20-degree weather to get her to improve her piano skills; and how she calls her daughters ‘garbage’, worthless’ and ‘barbarian’ among other things. To me this is borderline abuse.

2) Jessica Beagley, the hot sauce mom, used to make her child swallow and hold tabasco in his mouth; and take cold showers when the child lied or got bad reports from school. She actually thought she was doing good parenting with her son, and yet he was still misbehaving. My stomach turned upside down watching her video footage on Dr. Phil.

Hot saucing is becoming more prevalent, and in fact, a non-scientific ballot on ABCNEWS.com, 35% of voters said they feel hot saucing is an acceptable form of discipline. I beg to disagree! Tabasco, is NOT a harmless substance and it IS FDA approved. However, it can cause chemical burns, especially in young children who have more delicate skin.

Cold showers were used as a form of torture and as a way to obtain confessions. Cold showers  can actually cause shock, make children faint and provoke hypothermia.

3) Daney21, the eBay mom. She decided to take the toys away from her boys after they chipped the bathtub. That’s not the bad part of the story, she make them put the toys in a bag and pose as they were crying and complaining to take a picture. She then, posted the picture on eBay next to her entry to sell those toys; and she mocked her sons in the description of the sale. This mom thought public humiliation was the appropriate response to her sons misbehavior…

4) Annette Gerhardt and Geraldo Santiago, who thought leaving their 6-year-old daughter in the police precinct was a good disciplining technique. They admitted that they wanted their child to think that they were abandoning her at the police station forever.

5) Ronda Holder, the ‘go beg on the street’ mom. She thought making her son suffer public humiliation was a good parenting technique. She made him stand on a street corner holding a sign displaying his low 1.22 GPA and begging for change.

The list goes on and on, and on. What’s really happening? Are parents getting more out of control? Why do they think these parenting techniques are appropriate? Are some parents becoming their own children’s bullies?

I believe that all these situations constituted either child abuse or child endangerment. We all get angry, feel stressed and sometimes don’t know what to do with our kids. We all do! However causing emotional and/or physical pain to our children should never be the course of action, no matter what the lesson we are trying to teach them is.

As parents, we need to remember that part of our job is to guarantee the safety and wellbeing of our kids. We cannot let ourselves become the bully we fear they’ll encounter in school, by acting like this. It is not ok to privately or publicly humiliate our children, it is not ok to cause them physical harm, it is not ok to make them feel unloved, it is just not ok!

When it comes to disciplining, these are some tips to keep in mind:

  • Maintain your cool and composure. If you need to take a break (time-out), do so. But do not depart from the good behavior you want your kids to emulate.
  • Teach them by doing. If it’s not ok to lie, don’t lie to them; if it’s not ok to hit, don’t hit them; if it’s good to have a balanced diet, eat a balanced diet with them…
  • You’re not the disciplinarian, their actions are. Their actions are the ones creating consequences. Help them understand that they are disciplining themselves, not you.
  • Don’t become the ‘bad guy’. We cannot become ‘the bad guy’ in our kids’ lives. As I mentioned in my previous post, they need to feel unconditionally loved, even when they’re misbehaving.
  • There’s nothing wrong with them, their behavior is the problem. Make sure your children understand that they are not bad or naughty, but that their behavior can be improved.
  • Don’t hold grudges. Once the action has passed, once your child has been disciplined and learned the lesson, let it go! Forgive and move on. Do not stay mad at your child for long, avoid dirty looks or bad answers.
  • Choose consequences that match the behavior.

When it comes to raising our children, we need to always have present in our mind, that we love them and that they need to feel that love. If you ever feel that you’re getting out of control, that you need to physically or psychologically harm your children to teach them a lesson, that you don’t know what else to do, that you are about to snap… seek help! Help in the form of a friend, a spouse, a relative, a childcare professional, a parenting coach… Don’t let yourself go to the extreme when it comes to disciplining your children.

Be the Best Parent You Can Be… Chinese or Western

We started this year with a very controversial parenting article published by the Wall Street Journal, and authored by Amy Chua, titled “Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior“. I am sure that you’ve probably already read it, but if you haven’t I’d invite you to do so. Not because I agree with her parenting philosophy (I don’t!), but because it’s thought-provoking and forces you to think about what you want and don’t want to do as a parent, what your goals and dreams for your children are, and how your parenting decisions affect your children’s lives.

There’s been a myriad of responses to this polemic article around the world. I also thought about writing  a long response to it; not only sharing my opinion on the subject, but also bringing up numerous studies that prove that such an extreme, strict and harsh approach to parenting is extremely risky, as it generally doesn’t ‘produce’ happier, more accomplished children (especially when they live in a country like this, with a more progressive culture).

However I stopped and thought about Amy Chua’s children, who don’t deserve to be in the center of this diatribe, witnessing their mom being criticized day in and day out. I also thought about Amy Chua. I am sure she means well, I’m sure she loves her daughters to death; and I’m sure that in her mind she’s doing what’s best for her children. I beg to differ completely with her approach, but I don’t think she’s ill intentioned.

I would only share with Ms. Chua, one of my favorite and recent quotes from Maya Angelou about what love is all about:

“I am grateful to have been loved and to be loved now and to be able to love, because that liberates. Love liberates. It doesn’t just hold—that’s ego. Love liberates. It doesn’t bind. Love says, ‘I love you. I love you if you’re in China. I love you if you’re across town. I love you if you’re in Harlem. I love you. I would like to be near you. I’d like to have your arms around me. I’d like to hear your voice in my ear. But that’s not possible now, so I love you. Go.'”

— Dr. Maya Angelou

All this public dialogue about parenting and numerous conversations with my clients, inspired me to start a new moment, a new project for myself, that I would love to share with you. This project is a journey to become the best parents we can be …

“The Smooth Parenting Project”

My goal is that by the of this year, we will be closer to that vision we had for ourselves as parents; that our journey raising children is a happy, fulfilling, peaceful, positive and smooth one; and that our children grow up to be amazing, happy, exemplary adults. I will share more with you about this project really soon. Until then, I leave you with this…

“My father didn’t tell me how to live, he lived, and let me watch him do it.”

– Clarence Budinton Kelland

Parenting: The Importance of Bonding with Your Baby

We spend nine months (some less than that) physically connected to our mothers via the umbilical cord. Without this connection we wouldn’t even be here. When we are born and that connection disappears, a new, more meaningful one emerges. It is an emotional and psychological connection.

How important is that connection, that bonding?

‘Essential’. The bond that babies have with their mothers and fathers impacts and reflects in their whole life. This idea is so vast that most of us can’t wrap our minds around the fact that the way we connect with our children during those first years has a tremendous impact in their happiness, character, health, self-esteem, academic performance, relationships and growth.

Healthy bonding helps the parts of your baby’s brain responsible for interaction, communication and relationships to grow and develop. Babies who have a deep and loving bond with their mothers have a much better foundation in life than those who don’t. It has been found that the lack of bonding in infants can have a life-lasting effect on a child. Infants who don’t bond are more likely to become anxious and insecure. Bonding creates trust, love, self-confidence and a sense of belonging.

Children with positive and strong bonding with their parents tend to:

  • be more independent (not less),
  • have higher self-esteem,
  • develop better relationships,
  • be more emotionally balanced,
  • enjoy being with others,
  • rebound from disappointment, loss and failure, and
  • communicate more effectively

Contrary to popular belief, the more responsive you are to a baby’s needs, the less ‘spoiled’ he will be growing up. Being responsive does not mean picking up your baby every time he fusses; holding him all day long; or becoming someone you are not or doing things you don’t want to do. It just means understanding your baby’s needs, your baby’s cues and respond to those.

You can develop a healthy, positive bond with your baby even if you decide to go back to work, to hire a nanny, to take some ‘me time’, not to breastfeed, not to co-sleep, not to carry your baby… There are no set rules!

Here are some ideas on how you can develop a positive, loving and healthy bond with your child:

  • Love your baby, unconditionally. Accept your child completely and without restrictions, conditions or stipulations. Make sure that there is no spoken (or unspoken) message making your child feel or think that he has to be something other than what he is in order to be loved. Without unconditional love there can’t be healthy and positive bonding.
  • Know your baby. Each baby is different and the more you know your baby, the better you are going to meet his needs and the easier that bond will be established. Keep a journal and make notes on how your baby communicates with you, and how he responds when you communicate with him. You will soon know how to respond to your baby’s needs.
  • Touch your baby. This can mean kangaroo care when he’s a newborn; daily massages after bath time; cuddling while reading a book; or hugging him. The goal would be for your baby to grow, knowing that your arms are a safe place to fall back on and that they will always be there for him, to support him, but not constrict him.
  • Be present. Whatever you do, make sure you are present in the moment with your child, take time to connect with him, sense his love and let him feel your love.  You don’t need to do anything extravagant to show your baby you love him and you care. Get on the ground and play with him, make silly faces, dance, have fun with him, talk and listen to him… Let go the idea of being ridiculous, embarrassed, or perfect and just enjoy every second you spend with your child.

Every moment you spend with your baby can help create a strong, positive and healthy bond that will last a lifetime.

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Diana Gonzalez Blanco, B.B.A., M.B.A., is a Certified Youth, Parenting and Family Coach; a Baby and Toddler Sleep Expert; and founder of Smooth Parenting. Smooth Parenting is a baby & toddler sleep training consultancy and parenting coaching firm, that helps families around the world get a good night sleep and a peaceful, smooth and happy family life. Diana has an impressive track record of helping families teach their babies to sleep. Her approach to sleep training and parenting is gentle, progressive, effective, holds the wellbeing of the child first, and follows the guidelines provided by the American Association of Pediatrics.

For more baby sleep and parenting tips, sign up for Smooth Parenting’s FREE newsletter at http://www.SmoothParenting.com; and follow them on Facebook at http://www.Facebook.com/SmoothParenting