Monday, March 16, 2015

For my records and benefit of my "readers," I am pasting an article found on Aha! Parenting here.  

5 Secrets To Nurture Intimacy with Your Child

Intimacy is the glue that holds families together. It's what connects us over the years, and across the miles. It's what gets us through the hard times. It's the grease that smooths the rough interactions of everyday life, and the honey that makes it all worth it.
Intimacy is hard to define, but we all know when we're feeling it. Whether it's crying on your best friend's shoulder after a tragedy or snuggling in companionable silence with your spouse in front of the fire, intimacy is when we feel connected.
How we humans build connections with each other, how we deepen them, and how we repair them when they fray is both as simple as a warm smile and as mysterious as the way the ground lurches when we see a picture of someone we have loved and lost.
John Gottman, one of my favorite researchers, has distilled the creating of intimate relationships down to their practical essence. It turns out that the building blocks of connection are the small overtures we make to each other every day, and the way our loved ones respond. Gottman calls these bids, as in "bids for attention." We could also call them overtures, as in opening movements.
In happy relationships, whether between spouses, parents and children, friends, or coworkers, bids are made and responded to warmly. It almost doesn't matter what the bid is about; the process of reaching out and receiving a response builds the relationship. It also increases the trust level so that we are more likely to reach out to that person again, and the content of the bids deepens.
If we begin with "What a beautiful morning!" and receive an enthusiastic agreement, we may go further and ask our spouse for help in solving a problem that's bothering us. If, on the other hand, our comment is ignored, or greeted with sarcasm, we are unlikely to make ourselves vulnerable in any way, and the relationship loses a chance to deepen.
The same process is enacted with our children in hundreds of daily interactions. If we ask our middle schooler about the upcoming school dance and receive an engaged response, we might venture further and ask whether she's nervous. If, on the other hand, our comment is ignored, or her response is surly, most of us will back off.

So how can you create a more intimate family?

1. Start by paying attention to the "bids" that go on.

What is the tone in your family? Responsive and warm? Distracted and ignoring? Hostile and sarcastic? Does anyone get ignored? Does anyone usually ignore others?

2. Focus on responding positively to your family's bids to you.

It takes real self-discipline to tear yourself away from your screen to answer a child's question, but how you respond to her overture is crucial in building closeness. More important than what you initiate with her later, when you try to get her to tell you about what happened at school today. To support yourself, make it a practice to turn off your screens when you're with your child.

3. If you don't get the response you want to your overtures to your kids, step back and watch how you initiate.

Are you inviting a positive response?

4. If you make an overture and are greeted with something hurtful -- disdain, sarcasm, or blankness -- try not to respond with anger. Instead, show your vulnerability and hurt.

Say "Ouch!" and turn away (before you give in to the temptation to lash out.) Your son or daughter (or spouse!) will almost certainly feel badly about having hurt you, especially since you haven't aroused their ire by attacking back. Later, when you aren't hurt and angry, you can tell them how it made you feel to get that response. Try to talk only about your feelings, not about them being wrong.
Intimacy is a dance. It deepens or is eroded by every interaction we have. The good news is that every interaction you have is a chance to shift onto a positive track and deepen your connection to your loved ones.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

"Does this spark joy?" Decluttering book by 30 yr old Japanese woman

I enjoyed reading a long article in the Wall Street Journal about a 30 year old (!) Japanese woman named Marie Kondo whose manifesto about tidying up and decluttering "has become a global phenomenon."  Real briefly, here are two main lessons I've already gained from reviewing the article.  I'm also planning to look at the book itself from the library.

-How to know if you can get rid of something? "Her essential question is, 'Does this spark joy?'"

-The number two point that I liked is that in order to facilitate the "transition" away from an old possession, you may say "thank you" to the item for it's service to you.  It could help you get rid of stuff.  "Thank you for being my best navy sweater for all these years, now it's time for you to serve someone else in some other way.  I will find a good replacement."

-I drew a parallel to the Jewish idea of chesbon ha'nefesh, a spiritual accounting.  A person literally goes through with paper and pencil and evaluates their progress in about a dozen major areas of personal development.  Just like we can get rid of possessions which are no longer serving us, so too should we discard character traits that are no longer doing us any good!  May Hakadosh Baruch Hu help us reach our goals!

Dealing with Anger

Dealing with anger
These ideas were gathered from a recent Mussar class with the NHBZ young families community,, and, as well as wise words from people like you and me :)  There is always more that could be said about this human trait, and much more that Jewish sources teach, so here are just some that it helped me to review.
·         Aizehu Gibor? Hakovesh es yitzroWho is heroic and strong?  One who controls their urges.  BE A HERO!!!
·         Set example.  If I want my kids to conquer their anger, I need to demonstrate that it is possible. 
·         Leave doors open to communication and love.  Anger will leave burn my bridges with my children.
·         Praise the good, don’t just say “it was good behavior, but that’s what is expected.” Celebrate good behavior.  Be understanding that kids are seeking autonomy and they have to push a little to find how to express it properly.
·         If I want to yell at kids for something bad they are doing, first give myself a “mommy time out” and come back to deal with the kids’ problem which made me angry later, without anger. 
·         Remember that Hashem can see us at all times and we would be ashamed of expressing anger and not dealing with it properly.
·         If we practice controlling our anger, the “control” muscle will get stronger.
·         Set yourself and your family up for success.  Don’t make yourself so busy you are too stressed out.
·         Imagine if you heard a recording of yourself speaking while angry.
·         The Alter Rebbe says: If we believe that what happened is G‑d’s will, we would not become angry at all.
o    Getting angry means you don’t have faith that what’s happening to you is really coming from G‑d. The person you’re angry at is just a messenger. Now, obviously, he or she still had free choice, and will be held accountable. But getting angry is not the answer. Rather than asking, “Why is this person doing this bad thing?” ask a bigger question: “What is G‑d trying to tell me in this moment?” What is my test?  How can I make a tikkun?
·       In human interactions, taking ourselves out of the picture, divesting ourselves of the contaminant of ego is empowering. Not only does it allow us to get a handle on angry and damaging responses, it also allows us to do real listening and get what the other person is really about.  "This is not about me."
·      The ego, the lesser self, is prideful, territorial, arrogant and totally absorbed in its desires and wants. Anger is a reaction of the ego to a perceived affront, a sense of diminution of its power. Frequent anger attacks or outbursts should be warning signals to the individual that the lesser part of themselves has taken up too much space and dominion over their person.
·      Anger is like a blast of frigid air that withers everything in its path. 
·      The Talmud teaches: "When a person gives in to anger, if he is wise, his wisdom leaves him. If he is a prophet, his power of prophecy leaves him; if greatness was decreed for him from Heaven, anger will cause him to be degraded."
·      "Remove anger from your heart and thus remove pain from your body" –King Solomon/Koheles (Ecclesiastes)The bearer of anger is ultimately the greatest loser on every score --spiritually, emotionally and physically.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Great Concepts from Waldorf Homeschooling philosophy

I am posting a summary of points from a recent post from a blogger I love to follow, Carrie from The Parenting Passageway... the principles ring so true to how I think and feel about early childhood home life and education.  From:

Some Waldorf schools will send out a letter to parents of prospective children ages 3-6 to explain the goals of a Waldorf Kindergarten:  to nurture a sense of wonder and curiosity, to instill confidence and discipline, and to encourage reverence for a world that is good.  Letters such as these also often mention children that thrive in a Waldorf preschool/kindergarten environment may share certain traits.  For example, this may include little to no media exposure, healthy sleep rhythm, the ability to follow and comply with teacher’s directions, being independent in the bathroom, etc.
 The goals of a Waldorf HOME kindergarten program, in my opinion:
To encourage connection to the family unit as a whole (and siblings to each other) and the belief that home and family are inherently good
To encourage reverence for something higher than themselves if that is within the spiritual  framework of the family, reverence for the nature outside his or her door, reverence for the neighborhood or block or piece of land the family lives on and for all the plants, animals, rocks and stones and people within this.
To see the home (their world)  as a predictable place where they make a contribution through work.
To continue to foster wonder.
To develop the twelve types of play and the twelve senses; protection of the senses
To be able to develop stillness and the ability to find quiet within him or herself
To be able to develop care of the self
To be able to develop the beginnings of social interactions with trusted and loved family members, friends and community members

The kind of family that really may thrive in Waldorf education at home:
Limits media or no media
Understands the importance of rhythm in the day, week, month and year for the health of the child and feels this is freeing, not constricting
Feels that adults can hold loving authority for the small child and doesn’t feel conflicted about this
Understands the importance of regular sleep and mealtimes
Places a value on play and nature in all kinds of weather;  views natural objects as stimulation for play
Places a value on the child following the parent’s lead through imitation
Places a value on telling stories, singing, whole food  “slow” meals, gestures of  peacefulness and unhurriedness in household tasks and does not see household and land tasks as something to be hurried through and done but as the foundation of nurturing and love and care for the world
Is not overscheduled and values having a “slower” life
Has a rich emphasis on inner  spiritual development of the adults and the unfolding development of the child; doesn’t feel in a rush for the academic life of the child
Has an emphasis on observing children and the ability to love children fully and presently
Places a strong value on respect toward each other in the family; both from the children toward the adults and the adults toward the children and is able to modeling resolving conflict in a healthy way.

Garden update, August 2014

Monday, July 7, 2014

The Mountain Family book review

The book The Mountain Family was so engrossing that I could have sat and read over 300 pages without stopping, had I had the uninterrupted time. Still, it only took me two days of finding the time to read this memoir which is brimming over with incredible stories. 

The book was, all at once, ecstatic in discovery of truth, excruciating in life experiences, and perhaps even universally relate-able.  I haven't read anything like it before, but it strikes me as the same category as incredible stories of survival, growth, journey, etc.  The author's highs were so incredibly high, and her lows were bitter and heart-wrenchingly difficult. 

Sheryl Youngs describes her life, full of intellectual yearning, spiritual drive, and so many moves from one city/region/religion to the next, and dramas with her children and the conversion process, and I think it's the most dramatic, exciting, and inspirational book I've read in a while.  I highly recommend it!  

It also touches on topics of homeschooling, aliyah, and living off the land/farming.  The book contains an epilogue by Berger's oldest daughter and a section about the interesting work of her children in Northern Israel, farming and practicing the Torah laws of farming even while giving their kids a very thorough Yeshiva education.

Go read it and ENJOY!!

Book for sale by publisher

links to shorter excerpts of her story: From-Mountain-Mama-to-Yiddishe-Mama.html

Monday, June 16, 2014

Book review: Growing Up Duggar: "it's all about relationships"

Book Review of Growing Up Duggar: "It's All About Relationships"

The four oldest Duggar girls (part of a family of 19 children with conservative Christian values) tell about the way they were raised and their family's very strong and clear values in this narrative style book, told in a way that girls, teens, and moms can all appreciate.  The chapters of the book are concentrically arranged from learning to respect oneself all the way up through the circle of family, friends, country, and world.

You and Yourself-
Comparing your appearance to others leads down a long road of dissatisfaction.  It takes you away from focusing on appreciating how G-d made you, and doing something purposeful with your time. 
Craving approval from others gives them the power.  

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

NYT: Raising a Moral Child (model action vs. preach, nature vs. nurture, praise character vs. praise action vs. praise person)

Raising a Moral Child by Adam Grant (click to open in new window)

A great article by UPenn Professor and author of “Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success.”  Based on psychological studies about how to raise a child that displays the morals we like- generosity and caring, in particular.

1) Praising character teaches children how to see themselves.  Use nouns.  "Come be a helper and make salad with me."  "Don't be a cheater."  "We are generous people."
2) Modeling moral behavior is the most effective way to develop that value in children.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

parenting blog musings- great thoughts to ponder

YOU are the curriculum in whatever kind of school your child attends. 
Those that have studied early childhood know that children learn by imitation. This is stressed in every single Waldorf early childhood book I have read. Your young child learns by watching you! And not just watching by you, they “feel” you. They pick up on your moods, your stress, and your joy. Then, after they watch and feel you, they begin to play it all out. I’m sure you’ve overheard your child practicing something you’ve said in a tone you’ve used! This is how they learn.

Let's imagine a child is cranky for some reason or another and is complaining or disruptive. Mama is tired of his whining and sends him to his room for a time out.

Let's look at what it means to send a child to his or her room for being miserable. Misery is a feeling, an expression of emotion.

A miserable child is having some big strong emotions, like sadness and disappointment. Children do not know what to do with these big strong feelings, so they lash out and have meltdowns and have tantrums.  This is completely normal and to be expected.

Children have big emotions. They squeal with joy, cry in frustration, stamp their feet, interrupt and whine in the most annoying way.  Our initial impulse is probably to push it away, make it go away, or at least put it out of earshot. (this is probably a protective impulse of sorts!)

And the more we ignore it, or discount it, the more likely it is to resurface with new found intensity in a completely unrelated moment. For our emotions go somewhere. They go in deeper and get stronger and heavier to carry around.

When we name it and acknowledge it, the child will usually moves through it, like this, "you're feeling sad about not going out to play, you want to be with the other children. you are angry at me for saying no."

Right there we help the child be in his body, be fully present and grounded and aware that he is feeling something strong and it is sadness and anger. If we share a story of our own about being young that helps too sometimes. No need to process the feelings or get into to them deeply or talk about them beyond naming them and acknowledging the child in the moment.

If we send them off to be alone because we are feeling uncomfortable with their feelings, then we have some work to do on ourselves. Sending them off when they are in distress is a form of abandonment.

This is a great example of  where inner work helps us grow and understand our children by understanding ourselves. Then we can respond with calm action rather than react all over the place and make a big mess of it, make our children fearful and teach them to stuff their feelings.

When my children's behavior arouses feelings in me, that is a sign that I have something to look at and release from my own experience of childhood in order to really see my children and respond healthily. We all have it. It is part of being human. When we ignore it and get angry and frustrated with our children's behavior it is very difficult to guide them. We need to take care of ourselves first. Then we can be grounded to really see, hear and feel them and guide them through the big emotions and challenges of life.

When we send our children to their rooms because we don't like their behavior, we are missing a chance to look beneath that behavior at what the child is trying to tell us, what does the child need in this moment? Usually it has to do with connection. A separation only drives it all deeper and makes it harder for the child to grow and learn how to get their needs met in healthy ways. And then we feel bad about ourselves.

Rather than have bad feelings, let go of them, remember we are all learning. Our children are our teachers.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Games for education- from Dr. Laura/

Games are so important to a child's development. We have a coffee table in the family room. Even if the television is on or we only have a few minutes, there are easy ways to play.Here are some of the games that have been great teaching tools without my kids even knowing it:
Play Cards
1. Go Fish- this card game helps kids sort and it helps them think ahead, or strategize. This kind of critical thinking is what many schools sorely lack.  Schools often ask kids rote memorization questions, but critical thinking is the muscle that when flexed causes big learning.

2. Uno- I started with my son when he was 3.  We had an actual Uno deck of cards with the color coordinated cards.  You can also play Crazy Eights with a deck of cards.  Just like Uno but eights are wild cards.  Kids learn card suits with this game, which is a good skill to have.
3. Kings in the Corner- this game spreads across the table, showing kids the order of cards.  It is pattern practice as well.  The cards must be laid out black, red, black, red, and from Kings down to Aces.  Even young children 3 and over can grasp this. Their later teachers will be impressed they are already familiar with pattern formations too.
4. Old Maid- deal all of the cards.  Each person picks a card from the opponent to their left and discards pairs until one person is left with the Old Maid. With the set we have, Ursula from the little mermaid is the old maid.  Young children may have a hard time holding all their cards so have them place them on a table with something to block them from view. The rest of the game is easy enough and it will excite kids about cards, strategy, and help practice good sportsmanship.
Other Games:
5. Work on a puzzle together- some families I know always have a puzzle out on the coffee table.

6. Blow bubbles

7. Invest in a magnetic erase board like the Magna Doodle- tons of fun and you aren't using any paper.  I used this toy with the kids so often I even wrote an article- Ode to the Magna Doodle.  Starting about 18 months you can play one of baby's first games with it- I call the game day/night. Black out the screen and say "Night." With one swipe erase and say "Daytime!" Kids even that little will chuckle- it's so cute.  Soon thereafter kids understood light and dark- as soon as they're old enough to walk, they can help sort laundry after this game. We have the daytime (lights) pile and the nighttime (darks) pile to this day.
8. Hangman- another great game on a magnetic erase board like a Magna Doodle. Very young children can play hangman with 2 and 3 letter words. Older children can play for longer words and phrases. Turn the table and let your child make up the word. When they're young, they may misspell the word, "but there has to be a vowel!" It's great practice and they'll get it soon enough
9. Yahtzee- Today you don't have to buy the full game. You can print the score sheet off the Internet and grab 5 dice.  Bunco is also very close to, and less complicated, than Yahtzee.  Dice games like these help with early Math.
10. Scrabble- great about 5 or 6 on. Encourage one app for your older child- Words With Friends and play with them.
11. Memory- Starting at 3 years old, this is sure to be a favorite. There are inexpensive memory games targeted to boys, girls, or gender neutral.
12. Play Monkey in the Middle with a third person- throw the ball over one person's head. If she catches it, she doesn't have to be the monkey anymore.
13. Dots and Boxes- my 4-year-old loves this game. The person to close the square gets to put his or her initials, which claims the square once it's time to tally up the boxes. You can play with older kids too by adding more squares.  It's great for teaching kids to think strategically. (show image)

14. Pictionary- write simple 3 letter words like "pig" "lip" for 3 year olds to read and then draw.  For older kids write out more complicated words and phrases.
15. Play Sorry. At four years old my kids have been able to play this game. With the four pieces having to make it around the board before someone wins, it's helped them learn to problem solve as well as early reading.  The Sorry cards are straight forward "move forward 3 places."  They see the number and then start to recognize words like "forward."
16. Say patterns out loud. A, B, A, B, See if your child knows A to be next in the pattern.  You may also do with numbers. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, _.  As they get older try, banana, apple, orange, banana, apple, ___?  My daughter begs to play this game whenever we're in the car.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

key points from The Case for Make Believe by Susan Linn

The Case for Make Believe by Susan Linn

Boy, I’d be proud if I could say I wrote these amazingly strong messages about the value of play for children!  I am very glad I read this book so carefully.  It was fascinating and highly instructive!  I hope you find these topics as compelling as I do if you are taking care of kids!  And some of these bits of wisdom can be applied to adults as well.  I hope the highlights I listed below inspire thought and action and that you go check this book out from the library!

Notes from The Case for Make Believe by Susan Linn
·         Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood- aim is to mitigate the harmful effects of commercial culture on children
·         We need to prevent ourselves from raising a generation of children who are bored or anxious unless they are in front of a screen
·         2007 study found that children are active, not passive learners, acquiring knowledge by exploring their environment = play
·         Play flourishes in environment that is simultaneously safe and open to sponteous activity (Winnicott)
·         Just playing = “water to learn about the physical world and nature of materials” and other things that look like play but are very educational to the child
·         Using puppets in therapy to communicate with children:  each puppet can represent a different person or point of view, which can be a protected way to express unacceptable thoughts of feelings.
·         When children pretend to be attached by imaginary things, it gives them a chance to gain a sense of themselves as competent and to learn to cope with fear in smaller doses.
·         A review of 1000 studies over 30 years, a review concluded that “viewing entertainment vfiolence can lead to increases in agreesive attitudes and behavior, particularly in children.”
·         “From the safety of ‘Once Upon a Time…’ dairy tales allow children enough distance to grapple safely with the most passionate of human emotions- grief, envy, fear, rage and joy.”
·         Violent punishments in fairy tales can be a springboard for talking about social justice issues with older children
·         Playing make-believe with children gives adults an opportunity to share new ideas and information, including those that counter prevailing sterotypes.
·         Phenomenons that coincide: Kids Growing Up Sooner AND Adults Staying Younger Longer!  (Children are taking longer to achieve real independence after college.)
·         “Developmental psychologists believe that children develop at their own rates, but that there’s no real shortcut through development stages.”
·         Middle Childhood (ages 6-12) is being eroded- First they are bombarded with toy marketing, then all the tech toys when younger, and then when older they are getting into inappropriate things sooner.
·         “The longer parents delay, the longer babies have a chance to develop the capacity to make things happen, to solve problems, to create their own amusements- to generate creative play.”
·         The skills children learn in play- critical thinking, initiative, curiosity, problem solving, and creativity, as well as more ephemeral qualities of self-reflection and empathy- are essential to thriving in and protecting a democratic society.”
·         …”These are in contrast to the values children learn from a commercially dominated media: unthinking brand loyalty, impulse buying, the notion that self-worth is defined by ownership, and a belief that consumption is the solution to all ills.”
·         Since the 1980s attention to the concern about “latchkey kids” we have come to the point where parents don’t think they have what it takes to raise kids without frequent use of screens.”