After reading this book I can sum it up in one sentence - it’s all about unconditional love we need to show to our children at times they need it the most. It’s that emotional connection to them we cherish, that we need to foster to make it last for a lifetime. In the book I discovered also practical tools I needed to transform my parenting in a positive way.
Book highlights and notes
Parenting isn’t about what our child does, but about how we respond.
Your child will delight and exasperate you, thrill and annoy you. By accident, really, your child will ask you to grow, too. If you can notice when you’re triggered and restore yourself to equilibrium before you take action, if you can soothe your own anxiety, if you can reflect on your own experience and make peace with it, you can raise happy, emotionally healthy children who are successful in every sense.
Usually, in parenting and in life, the best response to upsetting emotions is to reflect, not react. In other words, don’t take action while you’re triggered.
My favorite is that children don’t need perfection from their parents. All we need to do is to avoid harming them, and to offer them the “ordinary devotion” that has always been required of parents.
Our children have an uncanny ability to show us our wounded places, to draw out our fears and angers. Better than the best Zen master or therapist, our children give us the perfect opportunity to grow and heal.
Our children don’t need perfection from us. What they need is a parent who embraces growth, makes amends, and opens her heart when it wants to harden.
“He’s acting like a child because he IS a child. . . . My child needs my love most when he least ‘deserves’ it. . . . He’s asking for my help with his legitimate needs and feelings.”
room. If you can’t control yourself and end up resorting to physical force, apologize to your child, tell him hitting is never okay, and get yourself some help.
Avoid threats. Threats made while you’re angry will always be unreasonable. Since threats are effective only if you’re willing to follow through on them, they undermine your authority and make it less likely that your child will follow the rules next time.
Choose your battles. Every negative interaction with your child uses up valuable relationship capital. Focus on what matters, such as the way your child treats other humans. In the larger scheme of things, her jacket on the floor may drive you crazy, but it probably isn’t worth putting your relationship bank account in the red.
And you can’t help your child while you’re shouting.
The most useful mantra: Don’t take it personally.
But the truth is, that rewarding bond is our payoff for all the hard work.
But orienting around a peer is a risk factor for children.
So instead of thinking about independence as having to do with our child’s separation from us, let’s view independence as our child’s ability to feel confident and competent interacting with the world and managing his life, as we gradually reduce our role from direct intervention to sideline availability to telephone backup to moral support.
Kids naturally turn to the peer group for companionship and to media for clues about social “norms.” The danger is when they don’t feel firmly anchored to their parents as their North Star and begin to orient around their peer group or media values.
So as hard as it is with the pressures of jobs and daily life, if we want a better relationship with our children, we have to free up the time—daily—to make closeness happen.
Because so much of our time with our children is about managing the tasks of daily life, it’s important to be sure that your routines are filled with fun, giggling, and warmth, rather than just moving your child through the schedule. Play is one of the most reliable ways to smooth the tensions and build trust with your child.
In fact, to a young child, any time your attention is focused elsewhere is a separation.
The most obvious sign that your relationship with your child needs some repair work is defiance. Children will always have priorities that differ from ours, but they want to feel good about their relationship with us, so they actually want to cooperate. When they don’t, it’s usually a signal of disconnection. So defiance isn’t a discipline problem, it’s a relationship problem.
She may seem to have hardened her heart to you, but your sweet little girl is in there, waiting to be reconnected with you.
Prepare the night before. Pack backpacks and briefcases, make lunches, lay out clothes, prepare the coffeepot, plan breakfast. Involve children the night before, too, so they choose their clothing and find that toy car.
Luckily, when we make connection our priority, everything else gets a little bit easier.
Brilliant listeners hear beyond the words.
“It’s bath time. Do you want to go now or in five minutes? Okay, five minutes with no fuss? Let’s shake on it.”
No matter how ugly your child is acting, what he or she wants more than anything in the world is to reconnect with you.
In other words, the ability of a human being to manage his emotions in a healthy way will determine the quality of his life—maybe even more fundamentally than his IQ.
It means you hold him while he cries and offer him what we all need when we’re in distress: a compassionate witness.
When young children feel abandoned, it triggers anxiety that may temporarily stop the tantrum, but it creates deep insecurity.
For parents who pay attention, the elementary school years—when children are still very connected to parents—are the perfect time to help children master the world of emotions.
This giving of empathy is also a gift to you, because children who feel your empathy are much more cooperative in accepting your guidance. Translation: It makes parenting a lot easier!
You already know. Every time you say, “I know how you feel” or “Looks like you had a hard day,” you’re being empathic. Every time you rise above your own feelings to see things from your child’s point of view, that’s empathy.
When he expresses his feelings about something, you’ll want to listen and acknowledge, rather than jumping in with solutions.
But we could also think of misbehavior as acting out a big emotion that the child can’t express in words. So all “misbehavior” is a signal to us as parents that our child needs our help with an emotion he can’t process, one that’s driving him to misbehave.
If your child gets angry, stay connected. Never send a child away to “calm down” by himself. That just gives him the message that he’s all alone in learning to manage his big, scary feelings.
Here are some ideas to get you started:
Note:Game ideas for different situations Wrestle, pillow-fight, let your child try to push you over. All kids need a safe way to express their anger at their parents. Of course, let your child win, until he asks you to try harder.
Teaching Emotional Intelligence with Young Siblings
Note:Link for solving siblings conflicts If you want a cooperative, ethical, self-disciplined child whom you can trust to do the right thing, even as she becomes a teenager, you should never punish.
The only reason kids give up what they want, to do what you want, is that they trust you and wouldn’t want to disappoint you.
When we set limits in an empathic, loving way, we help our child feel safe.
We all know that children need love most when they least deserve it.
Either way, the answer is to babyproof and supervise your child, rather than to punish transgressions.
Given this, we want to minimize our baby’s frustration when we set limits.
Let her say no whenever you can do so without compromise to safety, health, or other people’s rights.
We help our children create positive life habits by working with them, over and over, to brush their teeth, hang up their jacket, and put their toys away. That’s just part of the parents’ job description, best accepted with grace, like doing the laundry.
That’s why the single best thing you can do for your preschooler is to prioritize reconnecting with her when you’re reunited at the end of the day.
A 2012 study reviewed the previous two decades of research and confirmed Gershoff’s findings, reporting that kids who are spanked have less gray matter in their brains and are more likely to exhibit depression, anxiety, drug use, and aggression.
The unfortunate result of yelling is a child who is less likely to want to please you and is more open to the influences of the peer group and the larger culture.
If you’re using time-outs to deal with your child’s outbursts and meltdowns, your answer is time-in. With time-in, we see our child’s “bad” behavior as a cry for our help. We step in to reconnect and help our child with the emotion or need that’s driving his behavior.
And yes, if her behavior was inappropriate, you’ll want to discuss it after she’s calmed down. “We feel better now, after a nice snuggle. . . . You were mad before, weren’t you? You threw your cup. . . . That’s dangerous; cups are not for throwing. . . . When you’re upset, you can say, ‘Mommy, I need help!’ and I will help you.”
Does that mean you can never step in to help your child learn lessons from the events in her life? Of course not. If you’re having daily conversations with your child about her life, you’ll find constant opportunities to ask questions that invite her to reflect and learn. Just remember to focus on problem solving rather than blame.
You can’t really make anyone do anything. Your child complies with your requests because of the strong relationship of trust and affection between you.
So how do you set effective limits?
Note:how to set effective limits I’m not suggesting you put up with rudeness, just that you see it as a red flag to do some repair work on the relationship.
Every child who has a sibling needs daily private time to bond with each parent.
Next time your child refuses your guidance and you find yourself about to blurt out a threat, try one of these responses instead.
Note:Alternatives to consequences Make it a game. “You don’t want to get in your car seat? This is your pilot speaking. This rocket ship is ready for blastoff. Please buckle up! Ten . . . nine . . . eight . . . seven . . . six . . .”
If we’re in a rut of threats and consequences, retraining ourselves can be tough. The key is to eliminate the word consequences from your vocabulary and replace it with problem solving. You’ll be amazed at the difference.
Young children usually prefer this to a coerced apology, which feels humiliating rather than empowering.
If you apologize to her, she’ll learn from your example how to apologize to you and to others.
Special Time is your most important tool to stay connected and help your child express his emotions.
Ninety percent of your interactions with your child should be about connecting, so he can accept the 10 percent that are about correcting.
Want more help on what to say when you’re setting limits?
Note:Setting limits script links If we think of raising children with mastery as helping them grow wings, then this is the pinnacle of parenting for the long term by coaching, not controlling.
to read, or get along with other kids, or make transitions, or control their temper, or remember their backpacks. Every child needs extra support from us in some area at some time. That’s the scaffolding part of helping your child develop mastery, and this chapter will show you how to give that help to your child. But many of the challenges our children face
The hard work that creates mastery requires a passion that can only spring from within the child, a joy in each step of the practice and exploration.
Never interrupt a happily engaged baby.
So of course we give our child help when he needs it, but we give the minimal amount required for him to take the next step himself.
They may very much want to, but their brain development isn’t sufficient for them to control their own impulses, even to meet a goal that is important to them.
The cookie experiment is useful because it shows us whether the child has developed his rational frontal cortex sufficiently to regulate his emotions, anxiety, and impulses. This huge accomplishment is an indicator of the child’s emerging self-mastery, which allows him, in turn, to master the world.
As you’ve probably noticed, mastery often results from parents summoning up the patience to step back and let the child “do it myself,” even when it takes twice as long.
Facing our fears is essential to solving our problems and to gaining the emotional confidence that’s essential to mastery.
Children are motivated toward mastery when they experience the pleasure of pursuing an interest and overcoming the inevitable challenges of mastering it.
As Peggy O’Mara of Mothering Magazine says, “The way we talk to our child will become their inner voice.”
Appreciate the value of struggle as a learning experience. There is nothing negative about struggle. That’s how we develop mastery muscles and the confidence to tackle the next hurdle.
It’s also well established that giving kids rewards robs them of the inherent pleasure of their achievements.
So, ironically, when praise is overdone, it makes the behavior it rewards less likely to happen!
Researchers have repeatedly found that if we tell a child how smart he is to have figured out the puzzle, he’ll shy away from harder puzzles.
Still wondering about the difference between praise and appreciation? Children, like the rest of us, need to feel noticed and appreciated. Your child needs to hear your authentic feelings; the danger is when she gets the message that she’s good enough only if she does things your way.
HOW TO AVOID HELICOPTER PARENTING
Note:Actions to avoid helicopter parentinv These calls from our heart are what lead us to those passions that make life meaningful, and they’re available to us even beginning in childhood, if we take the time to explore our inner worlds.
Notice that overnurturing isn’t on the list? That’s because there’s no such thing as too much connection, support, and love. Helicoptering comes from fear. Nurturing comes from love.
The truth is, we always have more responsibility than we’d like to admit. And the more responsibility you take, the less defensive your child feels, so the more responsibility she’s likely to take in her own mind and, eventually, aloud. (You’re modeling, remember?)
Research indicates that kids who help around the house are also more likely to offer help in other situations than kids who simply participate in their own self-care.
Work with him. Remember that your goal isn’t getting this job done; it’s raising a child who will take pleasure in contributing and taking responsibility. Make the job fun.
Rather than simply giving orders, ask your child to do the thinking.
“What do you need to do to get ready for bed?”
Never label your child as “irresponsible,” even in your own mind, because the way we see our kids is always a self-fulfilling prophecy.
But when we say, “Be careful!” to our child, we’re not giving the message that we care, even though that’s what we feel. We’re giving the message that the world is an unsafe place and we don’t have confidence in our child to navigate it. Could you say, instead, “Have fun!”? Could you just move closer to the climbing gym to spot him and say, “Wow, I see you climbing so high!”?
“He’s acting like a kid because he IS a kid.”
Every time your worry surfaces, repeat these steps. Our minds tend to follow certain tracks repeatedly, like grooves on an old vinyl record. Each time you interrupt a worry and send your subconscious a picture of a happier outcome, you’re carving a new path for your mind—a path of happiness instead of anxiety. Soon you’ll find yourself in a whole new landscape, one in which you can see your child ahead of you on the road, leaping joyfully.
Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending. —Maria Robinson
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