Category: Mothering

Conscious Discipline

Conscious discipline. It is something I think about and struggle with daily, while trying to meet the needs of four very different children–and my husband’s, and my own. So it was like wandering through a cool, nourishing summer rainstorm to discover these ten simple principles of conscious discipline on my friend Kristin’s blog. (You will have to scroll down past the beautiful black and white photographs to find the link within the text). Kristin is the director of a preschool to which I long to send my children; except that we’re separated by several time zones. In fact, to my knowledge we’ve met only once in our lives, as children, and reuinted these many years later via the wonders of Facebook and Blogland.
I’ve tried to distill these ten rules of conscious discipline even further for my own purposes, and fit them all onto one handy reminder sheet which I intend to study whenever perplexed or frustrated. Here they are, for you.
1. Tell your children what to do. Rather than what not to do.
Principle: You get what you focus on.

2. When you’re upset, you need to give your children information they can use.
Not: “Why would you do that?” (Seriously, could you answer that? I know I couldn’t. Yet, it’s an oddly tempting opening line when upset).
Instead: “Let’s start by doing this …” “Let’s think about this …”

3. The only person you can change is yourself.
Therefore, you need to ask yourself questions that will bring about creative, cooperative solutions.
Not: “How can I make my child stay in bed?” (manipulation or coercion)
Instead: “How can I help my child be more likely to choose to stay in bed?”

4. Two heads are better than one.
Ask your children to work with you to solve their problems.

5. Spend time with your children. Establish family rituals. Be in relationship.
“I don’t care” = I don’t feel cared for.

6. Encouragement empowers.
In wonderful times. In tough times.
“I believe in you.”

7. Take back your power.
Not: “You’re driving me nuts.” (Who’s in charge of your feelings?)
Instead: “I’m going to take a deep breath and calm myself down. Then I will talk to you.”

8. Become the person you want your children to be.
Take a deep breath

9. Do not save your children from the consequences of their actions.
Principle: Psychological pain is a signal to make changes in your life.
Don’t lecture: “I told you so …”
Empathize. “I know that was really important to you …”

10. Conflict is an opportunity to teach.
Don’t punish children for not knowing how to resolve conflict.
Teach them: assertiveness.
“I don’t like it when you …”
(I would like to add that “taking a deep breath” is a really fabulous skill to teach your children. In fact, Albus uses this technique, and the other day was teaching it to his younger sister, who was in the midst of a tantrum. Breathe in through your nose, out through your mouth, taking your time; repeat for at least ten breaths. You can do this facing your child, showing them how to breathe, too. Albus does it the other way round–in through his mouth and out through his nose; whatever works!)


A couple more images from our today: Pie for breakfast! Now that’s a happy-making prospect. Thanks to Nina and Matthew, friends and neighbours, for giving us this delicious gift. I’m thinking … hmmm, pie for supper, too?
And talk about how a parent can help her child choose to stay in bed … well, late-night sewing projects are not a means to that end. Last night, after brushing her teeth and putting on her pajamas, Apple-Apple felt inspired to work on a dressing gown for the girls’ doll. This meant she did not get as much reading-in-bed time; she did not cope well with the consequences of this lesson in time-management. But she did wake extra early to continue working on the project, till done.

What Is That, Mommy? That’s Art.

Here’s an article I stumbled across online that offers a tiny window into the wastelands of CanLit obscurity. It rang rather horribly true. I’ve spent this summer deliberately not writing. Not writing poetry, not writing stories, not writing anything except the occasional blurb-like blog entry. Instead, I’ve been going, doing, cooking, eating, drinking, biking, talking, dozing, rising, reading. At first, I thought I’d go crazy without an outlet for my imagination; oddly, it’s been the opposite, which is frightening me ever so slightly as I prepare to return to a more regular writing life, afforded by children returning to school, and regular babysitting hours funded by dwindling grant monies.

My heart is querying: why? And I’m querying: heart, can you bear to return to that sheaf of rejected poems? Can you bear to begin again another new project? Can you bear to travel to those dark and lonely places?

It’s occurred to me that were I to remove the ambition of being a writer from my psyche, mine would be a full and fulfilling life. With that hole of doubt and hope plastered over, life looks simple–not simplistic. A clean wall on which to hang new photographs, less mirrors.

This post isn’t a question. It’s the hum of an observation.

But here’s a question: what if the gifts I’ve interpreted as belonging to “writer,” actually belong to some other vocation?
I know I’m good at: expressing emotions, witnessing moments, sitting quietly, focussing deeply, finding humour, sharing beauty in imagery and language, listening, reflection, taking responsibility, organizing, planning, assessing situations and staying flexible.

I know sometimes I’m: too introspective, overly analytical, reticent, impatient. Sometimes my expectations (for myself and for others) are way too high. I eat cheese almost every night before bed. My favourite dream hasn’t change since childhood, and it involves riding a wild horse.

Enough with the sequitors and non-. I will leave this post as … to be continued. Ain’t life interesting?

Stillness Like a Voice

**written at the “new” cottage, The Treehouse, Seeley’s Bay, Ontario**
Afternoon. Too beautiful to sit indoors. Shadows of leaves, the bay water, wind, Fooey watching videos, CJ asleep, big kids and Kev trying out a round of pitch-and-putt golf. I spent yesterday and this morning reading, all in a big sustained gulp, The Girls, by Lori Lansens, a book found here in the cottage. Couldn’t resist (despite bringing along two library books, now untouched). This was not deep literary fiction, though well-crafted and appealing. Lightish. I appreciated the small, quiet observations, such as how the most extraordinary situations don’t seem bizarre while they’re happening, it’s only afterward that one has to cope with them and reflect upon them and place them, name them–not just experience them–that the reverberations are felt. The narrator wonders whether perhaps we never get over our losses. It is funny how we’ve accustomed ourselves by that phrase to believe that human beings “get over” things, as if we could ascend a loss and then descend on the other side, walk so far we couldn’t see or remember it anymore. It’s more like the effects are embedded within us. Not that we’re doomed to spend our lives sad and ruined, just that life doesn’t permit us to be the same.
Is reading a distraction, or does it pull me into a different kind of now?
I worry often that I’m not present enough. And then wonder what presence really means.
Wondering–what will make me happy, satisfied, content, or is that mining false gold even to seek such ephemerals? Wondering–what will I choose to do with my days? Is it enough to cook, clean, preserve, parent? What more, exactly, am I craving? I want to fill these days absolutely to overflowing with meaningful actions; and feel a simultaneous and contradictory pull to let my days fill themselves naturally.
I used to think that writing was a way of seeking and perhaps finding permanence; certainly it’s been for me a form of solitary meditation. I’ve begun to think, however, that it leaves something out: the body. And I wonder–is doing, experiencing, being present oddly more permanent? I think about the families I got to know through doula’ing, and how my life and theirs are, for that speck of time, embedded with each other’s–because we were present and together at a significant moment of transition and becoming. My part was small, and it wasn’t my story, but I bore witness. Bearing witness … that may be where my talents lie.
Writing is one way to bear witness: the private distillation of experiences, physical and emotional, into words. It can feel intimate, but it’s also crushingly lonely. Reading may be another way, opening oneself to a larger world, to different stories. Also solitary. The appeal of the doula experience, upon reflection, is the shared human interaction; yes, it’s a way bear witness, but in a physical, corporeal way. It happens and then it’s over. You can’t write about it afterward (I can’t, anyway, not descriptively). The fact of it happening is enough, more than enough.
Come to think of it, that’s a lot like parenting.
Okay, that handwritten scrawl of a self-indulgent text required way too much editing. Writing directly to blog is much more efficient. And I didn’t come around, at the end, to any satisfying conclusions. Sorry folks. Above, an inundation of photos. Sorry, again. Guess I really really really missed blogging.

Climb. Stand. Eat.

Why eat off your tray while sitting in your high chair when you can eat off your tray while standing on the arm of your high chair? You’ll scream your lungs out if someone tells you not to, too.
It’s funny, but almost as soon as I entertained the notion of babysitting this coming year, the opportunity evaporated; and I don’t think I’ll seek out others. If it happens, it happens, and it feels like perhaps life is pointing elsewhere instead. Really, I operate within this ephemeral combinaton of action and acceptance. Chasing the most vital dreams, opening myself to the unexpected, trying to embrace where I’m actually at. Can I confess that it feels harder, now, to be mothering an adventurous 14-month-old, than it felt when Albus and Apple-Apple were similarly aged, and I was still in my twenties? I gave myself over to that role wholly; but am experiencing more ambivalence now, itching to re-emerge into my own individual self; but don’t want to cheat this sweet young man of whatever intensity of mothering he needs.
Interesting times.
The laundry calls. As do the “little kids.”
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