Can Arguments Be a Thing of the Past?

When you share how you are feeling and what you are needing, wanting, or desiring you create an environment where genuine connection can take place. Feelings and needs are universal human experiences. It is much easier to connect with you when you tell me what you need and how you are feeling.

When we talk about judgments and strategies then arguing, fighting, and disagreeing are very likely. When we share feelings and needs, we deescalate any conflict or disagreement. We are acknowledging our own needs and how we feel. Reflecting back to one another helps dramatically. Curious and want to learn more? Fill out the form to the left to get started with a free parent coaching consultation.

To help get you started, here’s an abridged needs inventory. A fuller version from the Center for Nonviolent Communication is available here http://www.cnvc.org/Training/needs-inventory.

Needs

Connection, love, safety, exercise, food, shelter, peace, meaningful contribution, autonomy, peace, honesty, empathy, compassion, effectiveness, to know and be known, and play.

Feelings When Needs Are Not Met:

Sad, angry, frustrated, hopeless, afraid, disconnected, confused, insecure, envious, annoyed, anxious, exhausted, tense, embarrassed, ashamed, irritable, fatigued, worried, furious, helpless, wistful, discouraged, restless, fidgety, and impatient.

Feelings When Needs Are Met:

Happy,  hopeful, engaged, excited, joyful, confident, grateful, peaceful, refreshed, inspired, confident, affectionate, curious, excited, enthusiastic, serene, centered, content, enlivened, sympathetic, safe, appreciative, thankful, and satisfied.

by Kassandra Brown, Parent Coach

Parenting Advice: The Importance of Empathy for Your Kids’ Future

A study published through the National Institute of Health found that empathy correlated to higher rankings of clinical competence. In short, people felt better being treated by doctors with more empathy. Empathy is easiest to learn as a child. Doctors with a better bedside manner were able to connect with how their patients were feeling.

Doctors with a better bedside manner learned empathy as children.

I believe in the work I do.

So it’s particularly fun when I find independent research that confirms what I’m already seeing in my clients and myself. Empathy is important.

How can you help your children develop more empathy?

Try these three simple steps:

  1. Model it. Children emulate their parents. They copy us all the time in both good and bad behavior. Modeling empathy through reflective listening and compassionate attention teach your children the skills and help them value them.
  2. Attribute Positive Motivation. Assume the best about your child’s motivation. Look for how they are just trying to get some underlying need or motivation met through even the most anti-social behavior. Help them see themselves and others this way too.
  3. Get help. Work with me through parent coaching sessions to learn empathy with yourself and your children. Learning new skills is hard. Getting support makes it easier. Get started with a free consultation here.

I see parents and children interact with less struggle, more understanding, and more harmony after working with me. We learn skills like reflective listening and developing compassionate attention. We sleuth out underlying needs and motivations based on presenting behaviors. And above all we keep in mind that all people and all parts of a person are basically good. Compassion and empathy will allow that innate goodness to shine through in our actions.

by Kassandra Brown, Parent Coach

Meditation to Connect with the Land

This meditation feels especially powerful to me at sunrise. Sunset and moonrise are other auspicious times. Doing it at any time of the day is far better than never or rarely doing it because you can’t get outside at the ‘right’ time.

Steps for connecting with the Land.

  1. Walk out onto the land. Get your feet on natural soil – dirt, sand, or grass rather than concrete. If possible, take off your shoes and have direct body contact with the earth.
  2. Turn to face the rising sun. Alternatively, face anything meaningful to you. An interesting tree, rock, stream, mountain or view. Over time the object of your focus will take on and give back to you the energy of your practice.
  3. Greet the sun, wind, water, and earth. Feel each in turn on your skin. Say a few words, audibly or silently, welcoming them into your life.
  4. Imagine you have roots growing down through your feet into the soil. Imagine you are a plant, a tree, a flower and that you have roots connecting you to the soil. Imagine you have a stalk, a trunk, and leaves reaching upwards from your rooted connection with the earth upwards towards the sun. Feel yourself as a living being connecting to the earth and the sky.
  5. Ask for any blessings on projects, relationships, or work.
  6. Listen for any guidance from the earth. Intuition,, ideas, voices in your head, or hunches are all ways the voice of the land might speak to you. If nothing comes up in the moment, don’t worry. Sometimes insight doesn’t look or sound the way we expect.
  7. Thank the land, the elements, and yourself for taking the time to connect. If you’re feeling free and inspired you can add a bow or a dance to celebrate this time of connection.
  8. Leave respectfully and go about your day.
  9. Come back and do it again

This is one of my favorite daily practices and one I hope you’ll enjoy too. Please let me know what you do and how it goes!

For more inspiration to the land, I suggest you watch the movie Dirt. Here’s a link to the youtube video of the trailer http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n8_dN5YWnyc. If it doesn’t work, just type “dirt the movie trailer” into the youtube search box. Enjoy!

by Kassandra Brown, Parent Coach

Decoding the Message of the Saboteur

I recently wrote a list of wants and needs. It was a great deal of fun and a bit scary to admit to myself and share it with others.

Here’s the next step. Right down your commentary. What does your inner critic say? What would the saboteur have you believe?

Some of my negative commentary –

  • I want too much and this means that I’ll be disappointed.
  • I want the wrong things and this means that others will reject me, leave me, and call me names.
  • I’m not capable of getting what I want and this means that I shouldn’t even bother thinking about it.
  • I’m not capable of enjoying what I want if I get it and this means that I’ll always be dissatisfied and critical.
  • If I do get what I want, I’ll just keep thinking of other things that I want. So why bother?

My feeling after writing this list? Ugh. When I wrote my wants and needs list I felt great. A little nervous but energized and alive. Writing this list I feel heavy, depressed (as though there is a weight on me), and sort of hopeless like I just want to go read a good romance novel, eat sugary snacks, and take a nap. I see that “I’ll be disappointed no matter what so why bother?” as an underlying theme in this commentary.

When I step in to soft, deep inquiry I hear more phrases:
– There’s no point in trying for what I want.
– Don’t even go there.
– I’ll be disappointed (and disappointing) no matter what happens.

Wow! Something shifted for me as I wrote “I’ll be disappointed (and disappointing) no matter what happens.”  I had the thought “Then what am I so worried about?” If I’m going to be disappointed (or if some part of me is going to be unsatisfied) no matter what I do, then that’s a relief. I no longer have to try to figure out just the right thing to do so that I’ll finally be satisfied, feel like enough, or think “yes this is it!”. And if I’m going to disappoint someone else (or everyone in some way) no matter what I do then, similarly, I can relax.

There is no magic behavior or magic phrasing I can use to have everyone around me like me, love me, appreciate me (or like, love, and appreciate themselves or the situation). Knowing that I am going to disappoint and be disappointed, I can get on with living my life the best way I know how without the preoccupation of trying to create situations where I  feel perfectly satisfied or completely avoid others disappointment.

These insights came through my compassionate presence using tools from The Work of Byron Katie. I can help you have real and lasting shifts around your negative self-talk and core judgments as well!

by Kassandra Brown, Parent Coach

Watch Out! You’ll Hurt Yourself!

Both of my children were able to my satisfaction to use a knife to cut when they were two years old. Some people found this freaky and were very concerned. My mother was one of these people but when she took a closer look she realized a few things that made her feel better.

  1. My children had seen me use knives from their place in the sling or wrap almost since birth. I wore my kids in the kitchen and they got to see what was going on. They had an intuitive sense of what a knife was for.
  2. When kids are small, they don’t have the power to slice off their own fingers. A slip while cutting meant a knick on the finger not the loss of a limb.
  3. The knives I gave them had rounded ends. No sharp points for stabbing.
  4. The added sense of competence and confidence my girls had by being able to cut their own bananas and cheese or to help me make dinner by cutting mushrooms and carrots was tangible.

In the beginning I’d hold their hands or they’d hold mine while we cut something. I’d watch them and help them get their fingers out of the way. I didn’t just turn them loose with the tool and watch them flail. I helped them learn how to use it. You may or may not agree with me that kids are able to learn good knife skills at a very young age, but I hope you will agree with me on this point.

If we don’t let children practice and fail and try again and succeed, they will not learn new skills.

If we let them play and practice and learn with us, then they have a greater chance of being interested in us, our activities and our lives. In the long run, this leads to more connection and ease of communication. And that’s good news for everyone.

by Kassandra Brown, Parent Coach

Healthy Relationship Tips: 19 Ways To Increase Feelings of Closeness, Tolerance, and Love

A friend recently sent me article from Psychology Today on ways to maintain connection in romantic partnership. These also work to resurrect seemingly dead relationships and can work to create bonding where none has ever existed. I’m excerpting a short list of bonding behaviors below. The top list is non-sexual and can be used with great success with children. The bottom list should only be used between consenting adults. I encourage you to read through to the end for a link to the original article. Happy loving!

Great ways to bond with babies, children, and adults

  • smiling, with eye contact
  • skin-to-skin contact
  • gazing into each other’s eyes
  • listening intently, and restating what you hear
  • forgiving or overlooking an error or thoughtless remark, past or present
  • preparing your child or partner something to eat
  • synchronized breathing
  • cradling, or gently rocking, your partner’s head and torso (works well on a couch, or with lots of pillows)
  • holding, or spooning, each other in stillness
  • stroking with intent to comfort
  • massaging with intent to comfort, especially feet, shoulders and head
  • hugging with intent to comfort
  • lying with your ear over your partner’s heart and listening to the heart beat
  • making time together at bedtime a priority

Bonding Activities For Consenting Adults Only

  • kissing with lips and tongues
  • wordless sounds of contentment and pleasure
  • touching and sucking of nipples/breasts
  • gently placing your palm over your lover’s genitals with intent to comfort rather than arouse
  • gentle intercourse with intent to comfort rather than arouse

Start with doing three things on the list for one minute each each day. Schedule it in and come back to it after you’ve gotten lazy and let them slide! Then enjoy how these behaviors snowball and create more of themselves and more loving feelings in your life.

Here’s the link to the whole article: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/cupids-poisoned-arrow/200909/the-lazy-way-stay-in-love

Post by Kassandra Brown, Parent Coach

Peaceful Parenting Practice: Meditation for Connection

As parents, we want to create a sense of peacefulness within our children and peace in our homes. When things get tough, here is a way to reconnect.

  1. Hold your child. If they are too big to sit on your lap, sit beside each other. If they are too upset to allow touch, imagine holding them on your lap. Touch is really helpful here. The more the better.
  2. Notice anything you can. The rise and fall of her body with her breath. The feel of her resting in your arms. Where do you feel her warmth? Her weight? What are the sensations in your body where your two bodies are touching?
  3. Imagine what it feels like to her body, her skin, where you are touching. Does it feel the same to her? Feel her heart beat. Feel in through your body and imagine the feelings in hers.
  4. Imagine her heart and yours. The actual beating hearts. Allow yourself to know that you both have hearts. Hers is just like yours, only smaller. No less real. No less vital. Then imagine other things. Her pancreas, her stomach, her legs. Your pancreas, your stomach, your legs. Allow your imagination to connect you to her. You are very much the same. Your bodies are almost identical. The both have hidden parts doing things largely unknown to your minds.
  5. Allow yourself to imagine her brain. Acknowledge that whatever she is doing (even the most whiny, fussy, awful behavior) is rooted in trying to create safety, peace, and happiness in her world.
  6. There is something she feels she needs. You might or might not be able to give it to her. That doesn’t make either one of you wrong. It’s not that you have to meet her need or she has to give it up. You staying with her and staying connected especially when she is having a rough time allows her to learn that her longing is OK, she is OK, you – her parent, the role model for her Universe – still love her, and you are still with her.
  7. Continue sitting with her and holding each other until you feel ready to get up. Ideally, do something you both enjoy doing together to remind you of the joy you each take and give in knowing each other.

Post by Kassandra Brown, Parent Coach

Boundaries With Kids

What are boundaries? What is their purpose? What does it take to make them clear to all the people involved? How do you know when it’s time to change the boundaries? Who is responsible for keeping the boundaries once they’ve been made clear and agreed to? What happens when boundaries are crossed or ignored?

I thought I knew about good boundaries, then my husband and I had an interaction last month that has me calling into question all these things. I made an offer and stated a boundary. The offer was accepted, but both my husband and I ignored the boundary. Then instead of connection and relaxation our interaction lead to some tense conversation and disconnected feelings that night, followed-up by more conversation with much less tension and a better feeling of connection the next morning. We’ve since used this misunderstanding as a way to increase our clarity with each other and be more respectful of our boundaries. Still the situation has me calling into question the issue of boundaries in general.

We are often admonished as parents to set good boundaries with our children. Not so permissive that they run wild. Not so strict that they can’t develop any personality at all. But what are boundaries really? And how do we set them? And how do we maintain them in the face of changing circumstances?

What are boundaries?

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Personal boundaries are guidelines, rules or limits that a person creates to identify for him- or herself what are reasonable, safe and permissible ways for other people to behave around him or her and how he or she will respond when someone steps outside those limits.[1]
‘Personal boundaries define you as an individual. They are statements of what you will or won’t do, what you like and don’t like…how close someone can get to you’

I like this definition for us as individual adults. But what does it mean to set boundaries for our children? Are we just letting them know what is and is not OK for them to do around us or are we educating them in the wider world of what’s OK and not OK to do around anyone? A lot of the first and some of the second, in my opinion.

What is the purpose of Boundaries?

Boundaries are meant to provide the container that holds the energy. They are the cup that holds the water. They are the riverbank that holds the river and keeps it flowing rather than flooding out all over the place. They are meant to enhance the interaction and connection through allowing all involved to feel safe and able to ‘let go’ because they know it won’t go too far (too far being past each person’s particular boundaries).

Boundaries are specific to the people involved and the circumstances. “No yelling” is a rule at dinner, a guideline walking through town, and completely irrelevant when we’re playing in the pond. In our house, “no yelling” is a circumstantial boundary. “Pens are only for drawing on paper, not people.” is a rule for grandmother, a guideline for dad, and not true at all for me unless we’re just out of the bath. So this one is both person dependent and circumstantial. When we start to look at why, when, and how boundaries are made, upheld, and broken we can start to get a more compassionate sense of why are children have a hard time with boundaries and why they test them.

Boundaries are guardians.

What does it take to make them clear to all the people involved?

  • Making a clear statement and having it reflected back to me (or reflecting it back to the other person) then both of us agreeing that’s what we want and that’s what we’re going to do.
  • Putting agreements in writing for longer term more stable boundaries which all read and sign.
  • Talking about boundaries to get clear on what they really mean, what are the underlying fears, beliefs, and assumptions? Looking at boundary setting not as ‘something to get done in order to get to something better’ but allowing boundary setting to be part of establishing trust, communication, and flow. Giving it the time and energy to make the boundaries things we all feel good about. Clear understanding is part of feeling good.

I have resisted doing all of this thinking I would appear too bossy, too controlling, too vulnerable, or not spontaneous enough. Since I believe I have a tendency to be too bossy, too controlling and not spontaneous enough while also fearing people will hurt me if I am vulnerable, I have avoided setting clear boundaries.  I’m starting to see that setting truly clear boundaries might allow me to relax some of that tension I’m always holding. That would be a good thing.

How do you know when it’s time to change the boundaries?

This can be a hard one for me. How do I know when it’s time to change my boundaries? I think getting clearer on their purpose, being able to really talk about boundaries, and just generally getting good boundary skills into my life habits will make it much easier to know when I want to change my boundaries. After all, if it hasn’t been clearly set, it may be even harder to clearly change.

Another skill for both setting and changing boundaries is developing more tolerance for annoying or upsetting someone else. If my primary need is to keep everyone’s feathers from being ruffled, it will be hard for me to figure out what I want and what I want to ask for. I tend to really want people to like me. Yet asking for what I want may set off strong feelings in the other person or group. Being able to sit with those strong feelings without getting defensive is another important skill for boundary setting.

It’s also important to look at your personal level of resources. Sometimes it’s totally easy and clear for me to say “yes” or  “no”, sometimes it’s not. When I am tired, sick, grumpy, sad or in other ways exhibiting signs of being depleted, it’s much harder for me to have an authentic heart-open boundary. That’s when I’m more likely to acquiesce to something I don’t feel I’m really agreeing to or don’t really want. Definitely not the time to change boundaries.

So for me, it’s a good idea to make the agreements to change boundaries when everyone has had enough sleep, is healthy, looking in each other’s eyes and in other ways showing signs of being clear headed and open hearted enough that what we each are saying is truly what we want and mean.

Who is responsible for keeping the boundaries once they’ve been clearly stated and agreed to?

All the people who agreed to keep the boundary are responsible for keeping it. As everyone has explicitly agreed, it becomes the responsibility of all involved to notice and gently redirect the energy if it is coming close to crossing the boundary. This is true of adult interactions and would be a delightful way to maintain boundaries with our children. Instead of the boundary being arbitrarily placed by one parent with no consent from the other or the children, all involved have committed to a standard of behavior and an “out” if that behavior can no longer be maintained. This sets up a teamwork approach to behavior rather than a top-down hierarchy where the kid is trying to get away with anything they can, one parent is trying to control them, and the other parent is oblivious to the whole thing.

What happens when boundaries are crossed or ignored?

There are two ways I want to look at this – the ideal and my habitual reaction.

The habitual – I feel sad, hurt, and angry to varying degrees. I think the other person should not have done what they did. I forget to take self-responsibility and tend to blame and focus on the ‘other’. I am much less likely to be open and vulnerable again, unless the situation resolves in a way that establishes 1) we both see and accept responsibility for our parts in crossing the boundary 2) we both see and commit to other behaviors in the future that will respect both of our boundaries and 3) we take actions to heal any damages (as opposed to saying ‘sorry’ and leaving it at that). When those three conditions are met, then the whole situation tends to land in me as a good thing, a learning opportunity and tends to increase my trust in myself, the other person, and the relationship. When those conditions are not met, I tend to pull back from that person, that relationship, and to try not to put myself in similar situations again (or I start fighting with myself. Open. Don’t open. I should open. I don’t want to. I do want to. etc etc).

The ideal – How do I ideally imagine responding when a boundary is crossed or ignored? Ideally, I’d like to have more awareness when boundaries are being approached so that it doesn’t feel so abrupt and disruptive to suddenly notice “we’ve gone too far”.  Instead we can gently redirect the energy before the boundary is crossed. My ideal is to be clear enough and all in agreement about the boundaries enough that we don’t cross them, that they aren’t ignored. But if they are, a key for me is coming together gently, remembering each other’s vulnerability and remembering the good intentions that may have gotten overrun in the moment. Ideally, I would be gentle with both (all) of us involved rather than blaming or withdrawing.

by Kassandra Brown, Parent Coach