Life With Nine Kids

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

It's Ethan's Birthday

Ethan is 14 today!

Ethan is a quiet, happy kid who is sensitive and thoughtful…so very thoughtful. Ethan is kind and willing to lend a hand. He's sometimes absent minded when it comes to chores or 'the order of things' but he isn't easily sidetracked once he gets going. I've learned to think his absent mindedness is cute. One thing that's hard when you are a parent is realizing these kids won't always be the people they are right now. They'll grow, they'll change...they'll bloom into new people. So when Ethan does silly things like takes the trash bag from the kitchen out all the way to the curb because that's where the cans are, but doesn't bring the trash cans up even though the garbage man has clearly already been here, I try not to point out his flaw. I simply, later on, ask him to bring the trash cans up now -which is his normal routine and job anyway. He usually realizes on his own (’Duh, I should have done that earlier!'). I've learned getting frustrated at kids doesn't make them learn. Repetition and/or maturity help them to learn, nagging and complaining can turn into belittling and harm them socially and emotionally. I get the same result as if I nag or complain as if I just ignore the mistakes and just ask nonchalantly about it later. Thank you God for letting me learn this before my first set of teenagers are grown. I want to be a patient mom. There have been times that I nagged them all to near death -no more though.

So, Ethan is 14 and we went out to lunch for his birthday. We had a great time and I asked him what he knows in his 14 years and he said, "That I like turtles." And Sage replied, "Turtles are cool, they take their house with them."
I want Ethan to know he's a sweet and sensitive kid who is kind. I want him to know that I see that he tries really hard and I see it in everything he does. Ethan is so kind that he holds anger or upsets inside of him as long as he can until he's so upset he explodes into tears. I tell him he should try to not do that. He should speak his mind and not let himself get to the boil over point. I hope I'm able to help him with that. We don't want anyone taking advantage of him, and he will let people. As parents we have to teach him this about himself so that he can learn and watch out for it, especially as an adult.
He likes reading and drawing and he's an amazing independent worker. He gets his school work done eagerly. I love his writing! I ask the kids to keep journals and his is always a joy to read. He's got a great imagination and his writing keeps getting better and better, I wonder if he'd ever like to be a writer...
Ethan can do flips on the trampoline, which impresses me. He goes to bed early and wakes up early. He self regulates well, accept for the not speaking his mind part. He likes TV and video games but plays and then moves on to another thing. He loves science, dinosaurs, history, and animals. He loves our animals; he's attached to them in ways I often don't realize. If the dogs get out he worries about them, where I'm the one saying ...oh they'll come back the little jerks! Ethan and Sage chase down the dogs and bring ‘em on home. I appreciate it a lot.
Ethan is a hard worker; he's got his Dad and Grandpa in him for sure. Two amazing, hardworking, loyal, and wonderful men. Not unlike his Dad and Grandpa he'll sit back and watch others, smiling and laughing in enjoyment at his family. He's witty and fun and I love the looks he gives me when I'm being silly and weird. We have a lot of fun being weird at our house.

He gives to the kids and helps them a lot. He played for hours on the trampoline with Penelope (7), Sebastian (5) and Everett (3). He's still got that kid brain -the child-born ability to see the magic in everything and pretend for hours ...and play like a child. It's a blessing for him to be a homeschooler, he doesn't have to grow up. Not yet. Not too soon. He's a blessing to all of us.

I love you Ethan.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Seven Months

 Seven months have passed like a flash of lightning. Baby Bee snuggles in-between us during the night; she has open, soft, relaxed hands until she's hungry and she grabs for me tightly as she nurses into another deep slumber. At sunrise she batts her long eyelashes at us and we're pretty stunned how fast it goes. Another newborn grown and gone... and now a little curious, wide eyed sweetheart blooms before our watchful eyes.

 I left the bed for a moment one early morning, leaving a large gap between her and her daddy. In under a minute she had scooted up against her daddy to find security. It was precious.

 Beatrice talks to all of her siblings when they enter the room. Her face lights up as she scans their familiar faces and she lets out a intentful wide mouthed "ahh-aah" sound as her arms flap like a baby bird. The kids all take the time to acknowledge her with their own brand of greetings and Baby Bee goes wild with happiness that her little tribe notices her. They always say hi to her, they always carry on about how cute she is. Watching her face light up and her brain make familiar connections as she learns we all live with her is one of many great joys we get from having her in our lives.
 Her personality is sweet and watchful, content but careful. She nods her head into my chest when she gets bashful. She sucks in her bottom lip when she's interested. She smiles when she's filled with joy. She squeaks and carries on when I walk by; she has a call for me and the squeaking gets louder and then sadder sounding the longer I take at responding. I usually am able to get her before she cries out, she's learned communication with me is working and I hear her. I love this little sweetie so much. It's such a blessing to get to do this all over again.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Preschoolers and Toddlers: Hitting & Anger

A mom close to me asked my advice on what they could do to get their three year old to stop hitting them. Below is my advice. I wrote so much on the topic that I decided to add a bit more to it and expanded it into a big ol' fat blog post!

Preschoolers and Hitting
  In my experience preschoolers hit when they feel like they have too little control over their own lives or a particular situation. They hit for other reasons too: being angry, bored, tired, lonely, hungry, unable to communicate (because they are literally learning an entire language they don't yet fluently speak). Preschoolers may hit because they are being just plain wild, playful, or immature. Many people don't realize young kids will hit when they are not feeling well, especially if they are teething. It seems all my 2-3 year old kiddos go through a really angry stage that often includes hitting when they are teething molars. They may also hit because they feel you have wronged them in some way. Some examples that could make them feel this way and spur aggressive behavior: not spending enough time with them, spanking them, fighting with others in front of them, and life changes such as a big move, divorce, or death of a loved one. Too much TV and any violent TV (even cartoon violence) can trigger a child's impulse to hit. Look for triggers for the hitting and try to determine and eliminate the source the best you can.

  Preschoolers may hit or act out in other ways because they are testing boundaries, which means they are actually testing the really fascinating concept of cause and effect. Look at the little stinker as a scientist -and you are the experiment! 

 Over reacting to a child hitting can make them hit more, but under reacting can make them hit more too! What are you to do? I don’t know. I do know maturity plays into this though; developmentally it’s normal for little kids to hit and some have more trouble with it than others. You have to test not reacting very much and reacting a little bit and see if you can find a balance and solution.
  It is HARD being three years old... and four, and five, and six, and seven, and twenty-seven…you get the point. Seriously though, in my experience it looks really darn hard to be a preschooler. 

Preschoolers: What do they see? How do they feel?
 Preschoolers are little people who have feelings and thoughts and are learning about the world around them at a rapid pace. They want to accomplish simple tasks themselves and it makes them feel good and accomplished. For many preschoolers being told what to do all day everyday is hard and frustrating. Not being able to say many words or explain yourself is frustrating. Not knowing what things are called is frustrating. Not being understood is frustrating. Most preschoolers hear the word 'no' or 'stop' more than any other word. That's frustrating! To top it off when you are that age and you are walking near or standing in line with adults all you see is butts and crotches at your face level. Imagine for one moment the view of a toddler and preschooler. Now imagine looking up towards the ceiling or sky all day long just see other people's faces. To top off all that your brain isn't fully developed to process why some things are the way they are.This is why I bet being a toddler/preschooler is probably much harder than anyone gives these young kids credit for.
3 things I’ve learned:
1. What you do as a parent will probably not make a difference overnight. It takes consistency and weeks, months, and sometimes a year for your efforts to show. This does not make you a parenting failure; this makes you in for the long haul. No one said this parenting gig was easy. It's totally NOT easy. Talking to your kid, teaching your kid, getting down to their level, and being there for them as they mature is what makes you a successful parent. There is not always a quick fix to behavior problems, so tell yourself to stay strong.

2. Sometimes behavior problems are not really problems. The word "problem" implies something is wrong or dysfunctional with the child. More often than not they are actually developmentally normal milestones kids have to go through. Kids are all different and their challenges and hardships will be different. Different or "problem" doesn't equal abnormal. Everybody (adults and kids) have things they need to work on at various times in their lives.

3. Spanking doesn't work. In the long-term spanking just teaches that the person who can hit the hardest wins. If you can't control the impulse to hit then you simply cannot expect to teach your child to control theirs. Hitting kids is the one sure fire way to teach them that they have no control over their life and that makes people regardless of age feel out of control and angry. Studies show over and over again that spanking is not good for kids and in the long run does damage. There is compelling research that shows it alters brain development. Spanking can slow cognitive development (thinking, understanding, learning, and memory) and increase the risk of mental health disorders. Those are some of the reasons why the American Academy of Pediatrics and The American Psychological Association both oppose striking a child or adolescent for any reason. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) does not endorse spanking under any circumstance. It's a form of punishment that becomes less effective with repeated use, according to the AAP; it also makes discipline more difficult as the child outgrows it. 
 Can you imagine spanking a child for teething molars or coming down with a cold? They may not be feeling well when they aren't listening, hitting, or saying "no" to you. And you could hit them for them actually being hurt and/or not feeling well and never even know it. How horrible!

At Our House:
 When our kids have hit us (Sebastian has even kicked and scratched us as a 3-4 year old and was one of the most frustrated/angry kids we have ever had) we have repeatedly taken them aside and explained to them that we do not hit them. If they are anger-hitting we wait until they are calm and we are sure they are listening. We don't force them to listen; we wait for an opportunity that looks like they will listen. At times Sebastian has put his hands over his ears to ignore us and we don't let that upset us or insist he take his hands off, we simply wait until he is ready to listen.

We Will Say Things Like:
-I do not hit you, I love you, let's be nice to each other, I'm angry too, but I don't want to hurt my family. (This works with Everett very well, it took a couple weeks for him to start understanding it though)
-Mommy and Daddy do not hit each other, what would it look like if Daddy hit Mommy? Mommy would be scared and the police would come, because it's not okay to hit people. (You can substitute any names you want) This may or may not be too abstract for a 3 year old, but caution should be used so as not scare kids into thinking police are bad or scary. For Sebastian it wasn't too abstract at 3, for Everett I'm unsure but he seems to listen to my talking. I use this because I think the relation between grown-ups not hitting each other is important to make.

Waiting for Anger to Pass before Teaching Begins:
  When kids are angry or frustrated (or even in an ornery mood) it doesn't do a lot of good to try to talk to them until they are calm. Think about yourself: Do you want to listen to common sense and be reasonable at the height of your anger? Nope.

  When a person gets angry the body is flooded with chemicals, an adrenaline rush is experienced as blood rushes to the arms and legs in a classic flight or fight reaction. When in this state breathing gets heavier, the rational mind is disengaged, the eyes dilate and most of the time all reasoning goes totally out the window. It's like being drunk, you are held accountable and are responsible for your own actions but you are at real risk of not caring to control your actions, and you are at real risk of not making reasonable decisions. So once calmer and willing to talk, even if it's a half hour later or more, what I do is I repeat a couple or few times "I do not hit you, I love you and hitting really hurts me..." 

 Once, because I did eventually give in and spank Sebastian to see if it would work and because I was at my wits end (even though I've always been very against spanking) I had to mutter the words to him: "I will NEVER spank you again. It's not okay to hit and hitting hurts and I was wrong." Things got a lot better between him and I after that and we found a way to communicate. I figured out eventually he was frustrated a lot during the day because I wasn't listening to him enough and some anger was triggered when that would happen, so I started getting down to his level (literally I'd bend down to his level) whenever I talked to him or he talked to me. I did that for a year. It helped a lot. I'll tell you what though, I felt like a giant ass for spanking him, and I told my husband I felt that way too. Seriously, they are little kids with small developing brains! Don't hit them! I was trying to get him to control and regulate himself and I was doing the exact opposite. Watch this video to see why. It's the same video I posted in my last post.
Walking Away:  
 Walking away helps kids understand you are not going to stick around and be abused. Being firm and using few words I walk away. I usually say ‘I’m not going to be around you when you hit/hurt me.’ Leaving to another room or starting another activity by yourself may show your child you will not tolerate hitting and they may change their tune when they see they are left alone. Be prepared for more hitting if they need more attention though. If they are looking for attention I think this would make the hitting worse.
THE LIST: I will tell my child the things I do for them and how they need me, how I need them, and how I don't want to hurt them or for them to hurt me. 
This could be too abstract depending on age but it has worked for me. I've had really great results with this strategy. Sometimes I talk sad and emotion filled so they can see I'm sad. I'll say some things like:
  • I make you food
  • I wash your clothes
  • I play with you
  • I held you when you were a baby and kissed you
  • I help you when you get hurt / get band-aids for you
  • I hold you when you are sick
  • I helped you fix your broken toy
  • I found your lost toy
  • I sing sings with you
  • I read to you
  • I take you to the park
  • I really, really love you and have so much fun with you
  • You make me happy and you are fun to be around
  • You are funny and sweet when you are being nice and I like that the best
 And then I start following it up with "...and when you hit me it makes me feel really sad and I'm not having fun or feeling good when you do that, can we be nice to each other please?" And sometimes I'll ask if I can have a hug to make me feel better. This is such a good strategy and can be altered for all ages 3 and over really, and for lots of problems including when a child is being disrespectful or rude/mean because you are stating your worth and asking for respect because you care for them and love them. I have used this time and time again with good results. Sometimes they smile or think I’m silly, those times I don’t react. I just go with it. Sometimes comic relief is all that’s needed to break up a bad mood.

Teach Them Words:
  It takes a little time but teaching words helps a ton. I taught Everett to tell me when he is angry. Every time he got angry I would say to him "I can see you are angry, you're SO angry, I'm sorry you feel like this, it doesn't feel good to be angry."

 I'd also offer hugs and really try and relate to him. I'd tell him it's okay to feel angry but let's try to work on feeling better. Sometimes sympathy helps; when we sympathize with their feelings they feel validated. I think we all like to feel this way. Sebastian will sometimes not be ready for sympathy when he is angry, but I try anyway. Everett responds really, really well.

A success story about teaching Everett to use words:
 Everett and I were at the chiropractor. I was seeing a doctor I don’t see very often and Everett was starting to act agitated. I saw some warning signs in him that he was slowly getting angry. He walked around the room agitated and making small huffing noises before trying to pull my shoes and socks off as I lay on the examination table. I of course told him to stop but his anger escalated to hitting. He began hitting my legs; I asked him to stop very calmly several times and told him he was hurting me.  I was trying NOT to over react. As he landed one more punch to my leg the doctor was very upset and raised her voice at him. She exclaimed, “STOP hitting your mom RIGHT NOW!” He looked very unhappy and stopped. Now I could tell he was getting ready to burst into tears or burst into a rage. Then he said it, the words I had been teaching him for weeks. He folded his arms and he grumbled, “I am angry, I AM ANGRY.” I used my soft mom voice and thanked him for using words, I told him I was sorry he was angry and asked him if he could come hold my hand to make him feel better. At first he said no, but I calmly persisted that holding his hand would help him calm down and help get the anger out. He relaxed his tense shoulders and walked over and gently grabbed my hand. I was so proud of him. And the best part is I could feel his stiff body soften and the anger melt from him.

 Later thinking about it I figured out the main trigger; he heard me say that maybe I should have his back looked at because he fell really hard the previous day. He heard that and obviously didn’t want to be seen that day, plus he was tired. I was pretty annoyed at the doctor afterwards and when I was telling Ricky about the incident I followed it up with, “So BOOM doctor, take that! My kid is AWESOME and so am I for teaching him how to use words to express himself so I could help him!” I know the doc meant well and didn’t want him hurting me, but I didn’t receive her “help” as helpful. He’s only three years old. And actually he had only been three years old for one month! This brings me to the next part:

Holding Hands
 I always taught my younger kids that holding hands is a relaxing thing and it works for winding them down. It started rather sweetly and innocently when they were weaning as a way to connect and stay close when they fell asleep instead of nursing. It has time and time again turned into a way for me to reconnect with them when they are tired, angry, or otherwise upset. In the story above it obviously helped Everett.
Teach Hitting Alternatives: 
 If they still need to display a physical reaction offer that instead of hitting maybe they try to hit a pillow to express anger, frustration, or pent up energy. Or, offer the idea to stomp their feet. I do this with Everett, I show him to clinch his fists and jump up and down and say “I’m SO ANGRY” over and over. It’s better than hitting. And if they take to this idea and then do this on their own you can know they are angry before hitting and even meltdowns might begin.

The Boy Thing
  My girls were pretty easy preschoolers, in general they were classic little girly-girls. My boys have been classic stereotypical boys. They run and bounce off the walls and turn everything into a toy gun. They carry sticks everywhere and fight monsters and bad guys. Our boys have extreme "boy" personalities and we have A LOT of contact challenges. Teaching personal boundaries is a constant lesson that actually takes years.

 We have two really nice teenage boys now but it took a lot of consistent patience, reminding, and us understanding about the way their brains worked when they were younger. As we are still learning! They literally bounced off the walls and wrestled almost all of the time. Sage was the hitter mostly; Ethan was the high energy one bouncing off the walls. Ethan was able to burn off energy in the basement or outdoors and so did often. Sage took constant reminding about why we should not hit others.  

 Sebastian and Everett have been even wilder than Sage and Ethan, which I didn't know was even possible. I swear God gave me both those boys because he knew I wouldn't beat them. The techniques I outlined above have helped. There are times I’m totally at the end of my rope and I think they are “bad” kids. But I knew at the end of the day they really are just kids. There is no one size fits all personality, and I was dealt some really hard wonderful, tough, FUN personalities. 
Not Easy...
Typing all of this out made me totally realize we have a lot of strategies for dealing with our kids/boys. It all sounds kind of easy in print. (Don't all parenting tips?!) I'm thinking after re-reading this that we're doing a pretty good job and we have clear concise ways of dealing with the kids without hitting them, and that's great! But in reality, while we do have good positive strategies, they don't work the first time or maybe even the hundredth time. I don't know how long it took for me to teach Everett to say he's angry. He just started doing it one day. Repetition is key with kids. Everett has a pretty good hold on his anger now and we can talk it out quickly, but there's always something else around the corner. He loves dumping stuff. Toys, books, crackers, the magnets off the fridge, whatever. He cries his head off when I don't let him pour his own cereal and milk. He's a busy kid and he gets bored easily. Just the other day the stinker poked holes with a long nail in the new mini bounce house they got for Christmas, and a few days before that he hammered the front of the brand new refrigerator and told me he was just fixing it. He's entered the 'color on the wall' stage too. (He's not as bad at that as Sebastian was, whoa that kid LOVED walls. Why? I do not know.) Kids mature, they do! They will mature and grow and learn and be on the road to new things eventually. I've learned you can work with them or against them. Either way they are going to make you totally nuts.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Kids: Punishment, Shame, and Spanking

I read this: Don't Shame Children In Pursuit Of Discipline
And it's really, really good. And then a couple days later I read this: Why Aren’t We Rude to Grown-ups the Way We Are Rude to Kids? And it's really great.
Not terribly long ago I watched this: Violence - a family tradition: Robbyn Peters Bennett and it changed my life.

If you are a parent or ever deal with kids on any level I strongly recommend reading/ watching the above links. They are not that long. As a mother of eight, my oldest 17, all of those links spoke volumes to me.

The last link, a TEDx talk video, brought about full circle change in me that I had been working towards for years. It literally drained every ounce of leftover anger/frustration/impatience towards children from my body. This one video after 17 years of parenting: something REALLY just clicked. I thought I understood so many things about child development, but this really refined my understanding of what spanking really does to kids. The term I learned in this video is self-regulation. I apply it to everything my kids do now. (Too much television/screen time can harm children’s ability to self-regulate too, so I’m familiar with this concept).

 Self-regulate. Self-regulate. Self-regulate. Self-regulate! It's my favorite word. I "get" that word! I am constantly working on helping my children self-regulate now. It's my parenting mantra.

 I write about toddler and preschool challenges as a parent, particularly I've written about Sebastian because he has been the most anger filled, hard to manage, stubborn kid we've ever had. (Sage being a close second) Sebastian screams when embarrassed or upset, he hides, he thrashes, he's strong and proud, and chock full of some kind of Superman-toddler-preschool testosterone levels. Layla is the other child I've written about in detail: stubborn, moody, gloomy, and a master at debate.
I have not written much about Everett but the child is a nut. I need to write what he's up to for his (and our) amusement later in life. His name means wild boar; and my God is he ever. He's fearless, too.

I cannot change these children's personalities, they belong to them, but I can do my best to not beat them down literally or figuratively over their own personalities. I've noticed as parents we want to curb bad behavior so that we don't have "bad" kids, and that works to a certain extent, manners for example are important. But when the problem goes beyond just behavior and good manners and these kids actually have difficult personalities it's a game changer. You can't change someone's personality, it's imprinted into them. People can change themselves, but we can do very little to literally change another person.

As parents most of us barely remember what it was truly like to be a kid, and over the years of parenting (observing myself and others) I have come to the conclusion that we have to try harder --and that the trying harder thing most likely never ends.

 Every day, every month, every year I try hard in different ways and for different reasons. I try hard to do better and in the process I find better ways to talk to the kids, teach the kids, and discipline the kids without punishing or shaming them. I was not always this way; I've learned there is a better way though.

 The ONE thing I must remind myself so very often not to do is to NOT shame them, talk harshly, or judge them --even in small ways. I try to let the kids be the people they are instead of attempting to make my life easier and rush them into the people they will be one day. Ricky's really good at it. The man is gifted with so much patience it makes me drop my jaw. I have to work on it. My mood changes often, and as a fiery Aries personality my frustration and patient levels fluctuate too. My mouth is also quick to fly open; sometimes even when I'm trying hard to be patient and/or kind with the kids I'm actually being super condescending.

What has helped immensely is that I've come to realize that the stages children go through as they grow are important and purposeful. I realize that while it's interesting and easy to watch and marvel at a six month old going from sitting to crawling to standing --very important developmental milestones mind you, it's so much harder and less cute to watch kids go through some other stages. Like forgetting to brush their teeth, or forgetting putting a liner in the trash after they take it out. It's hard dealing with kids' mood swings. But, kids and teens have mood swings just like adults do! It's not cute when kids and teens juggle responsibility poorly and seem forgetful or unfocused. It's hard when toddlers: break stuff, spill things, have mood swings, have melt downs, and make bad decisions, but it's even harder when a 10, 13, 16 year old does those same things. However, it's all stuff even grown-ups do on some level or another (and learn a lot from too). It's part of human development. I get too caught up in my own life to realize it sometimes though.

The human brain isn't fully mature until 25 years old. Learning this several years ago changed the way I parented, but it continues to change the way I parent. I realized that I had done tons of research on what newborns, babies, toddlers and preschoolers needed, but not adolescents and teens. I hope I'm becoming a better mom every day to my teens. (When they read this 10 or 15 years from now I hope they see that I really am trying to be a good mom to them too, I love them with the intensity that I love the babies.)
Feature links:

A funny thing is happening now that we have teens: we have to be more accountable for our parenting. Mutual respect is always important in any relationship (parents rarely realize this) but now respect is more important than ever. If I want to achieve a healthy relationship with my teens I have to nourish a healthy non-violent relationship with them. (Remember violence can be emotional or verbal in nature not just physical.)  Why do I have to be more aware of what I'm saying or how I'm saying it to my older kids? Well, because they aren't little anymore. They have: higher thought processes, better vocabulary, and more refined personality traits. They have a more refined desire to stand up for themselves, and more hormones too. This makes me wonder how many times they would have stood up for themselves if they could have when they were younger. When they were young they wouldn't resent me long if I yelled or acted poorly or judged them harshly (or spanked them!) -but they are sure as heck more likely to now.

In hindsight it's sad to think about my young children without a voice just because I'm bigger, meaner, and stronger than them. Funny... I chuckle typing that though because our four littlest kids say 'no' to us plenty right now. It's extremely frustrating. I'm trying to listen to what they are saying though, instead of just reacting to them.  It seems like a lot of people don't understand the give and take, patience, sacrifice, and commitment of relationships. I know there was a time when I most definitely did not. It's not modeled to us very much. I view our society as pretty self-centered.

I'm amazed at the things I learn when I listen to my kids, really listen, instead of react. Sometimes kids do things and they don't even know why. The other day Sebastian snapped part of a Styrofoam cooler lid in half. I looked at him and he looked at me... I wanted to ask him why the 'F' he'd do such a thing. But I didn't have to ask. He's five. I looked at him blankly as the realization of what he did spread across his face. The impulse to test the lid was too great to control at that moment, but once it snapped and the impulse was fulfilled the reality set in. Everett does things like that too, except with him (a three year old) he doesn't have the high thought process of 'Mom and Dad needed this." It's more of a 'that was cool I'm totally going to do it 50 more times and defend my actions by yelling at you (or crying) when you take my fun away.'
Layla, age 9, and I have had intense power struggles (we always have) and at my husband’s suggestion I stopped engaging in them. Oh I tried in bits and pieces here and there to stop engaging in them a long time ago, but I completely stopped engaging in them more recently. I retrained my reactions to soften and I told myself to stop taking everything so dang personal. This was serious now, I had to act like an in control grown up, and actually act like the person I wanted her to be. If I couldn’t control my frustrations how could I expect her to learn too control hers? Explaining my hurt feelings and talking without reacting got my point across so much better than reacting in anger or frustration. Sometimes it seemed to fall on deaf ears though. My husband says her and I are SO much alike we crash heads in anger and want to tear each other apart. (She and I are both fire signs!)

 I learned, or rather forced myself, to talk to her and explain my side of things without expecting anything in return. This is an exercise in being very unselfish. So many times in relationships we do things with selfish intentions but so often we don't even realize it. I ask myself when I apologize to my spouse or child for a wrong doing: Am I apologizing because I want to make them feel better? Or, do I want to make myself feel better? So they can utter the word 'it's ok' therefore freeing me from my guilt or bad feelings? I have to think about this and be aware of this, and by being aware of that I have become a vastly more compassionate and unselfish person.
Back to Layla: I started having no expectations when I shared my feelings with her. She needs to hear what I have to say and then do with it what she wishes. And things have gotten better. The amount of time she stays angry has lessened. I also noticed when I don't act condescending to her she is a whole different person towards me. Hum…respect is given when it's earned? Interesting concept, eh? I just happened to have a kid that demanded more of it than usual. I’m humbled.

If you are still with me here and reading this blog post I'm guessing it's because you are looking to be a better caregiver to kids and probably the topics in the title interest you. So go watch and read those links at the top. They are simply fascinating. If you only click one thing watch the video. It changed my whole life and it's just amazing. It's a wake up call. Parenting: we're doing it wrong.