Monthly Archives: May 2013

Get Back on That Horse!

Living life is akin to riding a horse. One day you trot along quite serenely, the view is woman_riding_horse1lovely, the air refreshing and the pace is invigorating. You and your horse travel in rhythm. Out of nowhere a sudden noise spooks the horse that is carrying you and in an instant your torso is thrown willy nilly into space and your heart leaps out of your chest while your stomach hurls up into your throat. Gravity is not your friend today.

Luckily, you have been raised to be resilient and expected to dust yourself off and get on your feet when life’€™s events throws you down. You have learned that the horse will settle, the journey will continue and you will be able to ride again.

Letting our kids struggle is usually one of the toughest parts of being a parent or a teacher. It can be agonizing to see them disappointed, heartbroken and in pain. But, isn’t that part of being a human? No one is exempt from adverse life experiences.

So how do we raise and educate resilient kids so that they can become resilient adults?

Build strong relationships with a child. Be open and present when they come to you with their stories, worries and complaints. Relationships are built over the long term and it is often those small little gestures of closing a computer or a book, or stopping to look to just hear a child that make a big difference in their self -esteem. Sometimes just knowing that someone in our life ‘€œgets us’€ is enough to comfort us through the challenging times.  Genuine human connection can get us through the darkest times. At the same time, don’€™t forget to practice what we preach and let kids see us reach out to others when we are struggling.

Practice and model how to make peace with mistakes. Failing is a sign that we need to correct our course, make changes and try again. Mistakes make us humble (if we let them) and they remind us of our own vulnerability. When we choose to allow children to see us make peace with our own mistakes we demonstrate that mistakes do not render us unlovable or immobile. We can move forward even with our imperfections.

Teach and model flexible thinking. Entertaining negative thoughts is human nature, but flexible notice their damaging thoughts, recognize them as counter- productive and replace them with more balanced thoughts. Assumptions, blame, pity are destructive when taken too seriously. They do nothing to help us move forward. When we can determine what aspects of a problem or situation are within our ability to change and which aspects are out of our control, we can do what needs to be done and allow the rest to be what it is. Kids need help to learn the skill of flexible thinking from an adult who practices it themselves.

Practice and model optimistic thinking. People who look at events with an optimistic attitude seek the kernels of good that are hidden in the darkest events. They genuinely believe that adversity can be overcome. Optimists believe something good will come out of something bad if they look for it. Optimistic people have a “can do attitude.

Think about it: What attitude are you modeling? Is the child learning anger, hostility, resentment, fear and blame, or hope, persistence, faith, optimism and collaboration?


Mission Control: We Have a Problem

I cringe as I catch myself. Yep. I have done it again. I have scurried along at a break- necked speed and as I move I utter commandments at rapid fire speed to those I love the most.

On occasion, I have been accused of being over controlling and €œintense.€ Ouch. That is not the description I am looking for when, from my perspective, I am doing everything possible to make sure that my house and my family are well kept and organized.

Perhaps the worst part of the accusation is there is truth in it. Sometimes I have an out of body experience (not literally) and I hear myself: €œDid you take your vitamins? Do you have a water bottle? You know how important hydration is! Why do I need to remind you to put your shoes IN the closet? Did you feed the dogs? Is your homework done? €

Oh the list could go on and on.

Most of the time, I really like my husband, so when he gives me the look which translates to, ‘€œYou are doing it again’€ I try not to be offended. When I go into OVER CONTROL mode, I tend to lose any sense of humour, I am edgy, emotional and I spend much of my energy trying to manage everyone else’€™s life plus my own. It doesn’t help that the more I remind, nag, and cajole the less my kids hear me. I morph into Charlie Brown’€™s teacher: Blah Blah Blah.

It gets bad. I get really wound up about stuff that lies around the house, chores that are not done, appointments that surprise me and errands that multiply like rabbits. I snap when someone at home needs me, I am insulted if my kids don’€™t respond promptly and I am exhausted before the day begins.

I don’€™t do it for malicious reasons. In fact, I thought I was doing it because NO ONE EVER listens to me at home. However, some journaling, reflection and chats with my husband tells me that my over control phases probably have a lot more to do with my on fear and anxiety than they do with being a responsible mother.

To be fair, it is certainly true that my control thermometer is quite accurately reflective of the degree of teamwork and help I am getting in the household. At times, my family needs to tune up their contribution to maintaining health and organization of our household. But, I notice that the more my own personal, private, life feels out of control the more I feel that I NEED to control the external environment and everyone in it.

I know that I am not alone. I take comfort in the fact that there are many woman and men out there who can relate. However, I really don’t like myself when I am a control freak. It is exhausting. And it never accomplishes what I need. I end up feeling crappy, bitchy, unlovable and…unheard.

I don’€™t have any magic answers. I am still too new in my understanding. But, I am at least open to receiving the look, and knowing that it is intended to help me recognize my actions so that I can put the monster to sleep before it exhausts me.

How do you control the CONTROL FREAK in you?





Try the Shoe on the other Foot

We all want our kids to be successful in school. I think that I can safely assume that. I bet most of us would love to help out in that success in any way possible. I have to tell you though, that in 22 years of teaching there has been a phenomenon that never fails to boggle my mind. It is the undermining force behind many disputes, destroyer of relationships and yet it is so simply avoidable.

Allow me to illustrate with an example: Imagine that your child has been diagnosed with a learning disability or learning difference. You are a keen parent, so you dive into the research, find excellent resources and fill your brain with knowledge. A passion is ignited. You ARE a good parent. You WILL help your child to succeed.

At this point, as a Special Educator, I want to personally thank you for taking the imitative and being so engaged in your child’s education and well being!

But, this is where things can go VERY WRONG!

In your enthusiasm for making life better for your child you decide that you will share your new knowledge with your child’€™s teacher. Your intentions are good. You gather the best of the research, books, articles – whatever you think will help and you smile proudly as you hand the materials over to the teacher and say, œI just want to share these with you. I have learned so much and I am hoping we can have a meeting and decide how we will be implementing these ideas into Johhny’€™s education.

The teacher’s response is not as full of gratitude as you might expect. She does not show the level of inspiration that you were hoping. In fact, she responds defensively.  You leave the school wondering what went wrong?

Now let’€™s just take one more scenario.

You arrive at home after a long, exhausting day at work. The kids are arguing about who ate the last cookie only stopping to ask €œWhaaaat’€™s for dinner?

The breakfast dishes have not made their way to the dishwasher, and the dog has sifted through the garbage bag that was left on the floor. Toys are strewn everywhere and you feel compelled to hide in the bathroom for some reprieve! A knock on the door reveals your child’€™s teacher standing there, smiling warmly. Upon welcoming him in, he digs a package of papers neatly stapled together along with a book. The title jumps out at you, ‘€œHelpful Parenting Tips.’

The hairs on your back begin to bristle, the blood in your veins seems to quicken its upward journey to your head – can he be serious? What is he trying to tell me? Does he think I am unfit? What did I ever do to bring this on? Does the school think I am failing as a parent?

No. No. The kind teacher just wants to be helpful.

Think about it. Do we sometimes treat people (teachers) the way we would NEVER want to be treated? In spite of the best of intentions, we can seriously undermine critically important relationships by trying to be helpful.

What are some other ways that a parent can constructively support their child’€™s education (and teacher) without unintentionally insulting them?

Picture Perfect…I Think NOT!

familyWe have a family portrait that reveals the strong bonds between each of our five members. This photograph shows the world our smiling faces and exudes love and warmth. We get a lot of compliments on that picture!

But oh, how a picture can lie!

As I look up at our laughing faces, I smile, because I remember the realities surrounding that photo session. First, there was the scramble to find the ‘€œright’€ clothes. This ended in heaps of sweaters strewn over the bedroom floors. Then there was the hair catastrophes! €œI cannot get a picture taken like THIS!€ screamed a teen girl at no one in particular. Sisters yelling at a brother to get out of the bathroom and a brother (with autism) trying to self regulate through the upheaval.

To add flavor to the moment, we thought it was a great idea to include the family dog; a large Golden Retriever whose fur we were covered with by the time we got to the studio. The decision about what to do with the dog led to a spousal dispute which ended with a slammed van door, some inappropriate words and a dog keeing an angry husband company while he cooled off.

I could go on …but I am quite sure you recognize the scene. Or, perhaps, I am the only one who has wanted to throw the camera at the photographer as soon as he smugly says, ‘€œIs everyone ready to have fun?’

Hell, NO! I just want to crawl into a hole and be ALONE.

It the end, we did have fun. We laughed at the craziness and we giggled at the fact that the dog had enjoyed the entire bag of treats while she waited in the van for her turn to shine.

Let’€™s face it. Family love is crazy love. Sometimes there are glimpeses of complete serene, emotional warmth (most often when I watch the kids sleep). But, most often love is the choice to just keep on keeping on. Genuine love has little to do with emotions. It is a commitment to keep loving someone even when you don’t particularly like the person.

I think it is safe to say that we should not be judging others’ lives by their pictures or the ‘€œoutside’€ face they wear. We all have challenges in our relationships and comparing our own lives with someone else can lead to misguided perceptions.

Love is a choice. Love is allowing yourself to be vulnerable and to put the needs of another before your own. Love is cleaning wet sheets for the third time in one night. Love is answering the same question for the 16th time. Love is waiting in the car so you don’t say anything you will regret. Love is deciding that it is time to let go of the anger and just laugh at the mess.

It IS NOT a picture perfect portrait of a perfectly loving family. 

But, it is a portrait of a family making the daily choices to love each other…even when we don’t really like each other!

😀   silly family