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Incredible Years (Part 2)

Imagine who you want your kids to become. Be that.

~Unknown

Ever since I became a stay-at-home mom, I have made it my job to gain the resources and support to become the best damn mom I can be. I just completed the 7th week of the Incredible Years course. With only 3 weeks left in the class, allow me to give you an update on the tools I have added to my parenting tool belt. In a previous post, Incredible Years (Part 1), I talk about intentionally playing with my kids.

So, besides playing, what have I been up to? Here are 4 key parenting strategies I have been working on:

  1. Praise, encouragement and positive attention – This comes fairly naturally to me (as long as I’m in a good mood). Because of the class, I am trying to work on praising and encouraging even more. This works on adults too my friends. My class instructor mentioned something that continues to resonate with me, “What gets you more positive behavior? Praise and encouragement. What get’s you more negative behavior? Lack of praise and encouragement.” We often fail to recognize our children when they play quietly or do things without complaining. Those things deserve A LOT of praise because we want them to keep up the good work. We cannot praise and encourage our children too much, so dish it out parents!
  2. Tangible rewards, incentives and celebrations – Prior to the class, the only time we tried out rewards was for potty training, and it was fairly successful. Now, I have implemented a rewards system for other behaviors and I am seeing even better results than before. When getting started, I tried to have this process be led by my kids. We went to the store and they got to pick out their favorite stickers and a small notebook to put them in. I involved them in the process of choosing which behaviors would be rewarded. We award a sticker for a few specific behaviors (i.e. staying in bed at night, obeying the first time, etc). Once they get really good at those behaviors, we phase them out and start rewarding new behaviors. During the first round of the rewards program, they did really well and I felt they deserved an extra reward. I told them how great they had been doing and said they could cash in all their stickers for a trip to the pool, yippee! Another incentive we added was a kindness jarkindness jar. When one of the boys is nice to the other or they are playing really well together without fighting, they get to add a cotton-ball to the kindness jar. When it fills up they get a trip to the zoo or a museum. Who doesn’t love receiving a favorite reward for a job well done?
  3. Limit setting – For some reason this one is a challenge for me. It feels like I have to strike a delicate, somewhat perfect balance between me taking control and giving my child some control. The main “take away” lessons I’ve learned on setting limits are: don’t give too many commands, give clear realistic commands one at a time, and lastly, follow through with praise or consequences. Despite the challenge, I think the effort will be worth it. But in the mean time, I must dedicate my obsessive and anal self to careful and intentional limit setting for my wild and crazy boys…that won’t be hard at all!
  4. Ignoring – Did you know it’s OK to intentionally ignore your child at times? I let my children know in advance that I am not going to pay attention to them if they continue a certain misbehavior. So far I have ignored whining, arguing, and temper tantrums. Like many other strategies mentioned in this curriculum, ignoring is to be combined with praise for positive behaviors. The main reason I like this method is because you don’t give attention to certain negative behaviors and thereby inadvertently increase that negative attention-seeking behavior down the road.

I continue to be grateful to be a part of such a great parenting class. If you have a child between the ages of 2 and 8 years old, I highly encourage you to check out The Incredible Years Website and find out if there are classes offered in your area. Also, check out my page on Parenting and let me know if you recommend additional parenting resources.

Grady craftI’ll close with a few thoughts on play. The importance of daily one-on-one play has become very apparent to me as I continue with the Incredible Years curriculum. Playing with my boys has been lot of fun, I am bonding deeply with both of them, and they are expanding their creative minds. But, oh man, it’s easy to put play-time on the back burner. I have to remind myself that I have an extra 10 minutes in my day to play with my kids…10 minutes, that’s all it takes! I know it’s oh-so-good for many reasons, so I will continue to strive to play with my kids. Every. Single. Day.

We are never more fully alive, more completely ourselves, or more deeply engrossed in anything than when we are playing.

~Charles Schaefer

 

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When Being a Working Mom Crushes You

While perusing Facebook yesterday I ran across, Recline, don’t ‘Lean In’ (Why I hate Sheryl Sandberg), an article by Rosa Brooks criticizing Sheryl Sandberg’s book ‘Lean In’.

Now, I have NOT read Sandberg’s book so I can not speak about it’s content. But, as for the article, Brooks makes some great points. She says:

Work has expanded to require employees’ round-the-clock attention [and] being a good mom has also started requiring ubiquity…It’s hard enough managing one 24/7 job. No one can survive two of them.

This article reminded me of my time as a working mom. After my second son was born and I went back to full-time employment, my life soon became the most challenging, stressful, and unhappy time in my life. And while there were certainly some good things going on, the hardships far out-weighed any benefits my family and I were experiencing. Ah, my family. I think back and feel sad about how forgetful I was and how I neglected them. I was certainly putting my career first and was blinded by my need to do a good job and be perceived as a hard, competent worker. Brooks says it so well:

Rocks balancingIt’s little wonder that many of the gifted young female staffers who enter these workplaces hit a wall at some point, and come to the painful realization that work and family obligations aren’t always things you can simply “balance.” Often, these weights become too heavy. They can crush you.

I certainly felt crushed, and I felt like I harmed my family and our precious relationships with each other in the process. As it turns out, my attempts to be competent at both work and home became a battle I couldn’t win. Eventually I lost my desire to work and gained a huge desire to give staying at home a try. I became gradually more excited to create space for myself to actually get to know my kids, actually pay attention to my own needs and those of my family (including my poor neglected husband). Check out a previous post Why I stay at home to learn a bit more about when I hit my breaking point and quit my job to hang out with preschoolers 24/7.

Whether it’s one more meeting, one more memo, one more conference, one more play date, one more soccer game or one more flute lesson for the kids, sometimes we need to say, “Enough!”

I took it a few steps further than Brooks suggests. I chose to say ‘Enough!’ to working outside of the home all together. It has been a great choice. I have no regrets.

I realize that Rosa Brooks wrote her article not to encourage working moms to quit their jobs, but to encourage them to find balance between the workplace and family life. Many working moms have found a balance that works for them. If both parents are working, I think it’s largely important that tasks be shared between both caregivers or if you’re a single parent that you get help from your family or community. As I observe most of my mommy friends, it seems that working and stay-at-home moms alike do the bulk of housework and child-rearing. As nurturers we take on caring for everybody and often we neglect caring for ourselves. It is so important for moms everywhere to voice their needs and prioritize self-care. But of course that is easier said than done.

Although many working moms do strike necessary balance, in some cases, I think that balance can only be found by leaving the job that is crushing you. Leaving that job to find a less stressful job perhaps, or leaving to stay at home if financially possible. After observing the benefits my family has reaped over the past seven months I have been home, I realize that this choice was crucial for us and frankly…I can’t afford to go back to work. 

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Happy Post Challenge: Children

happy-post-challenge-logoI am taking on the challenge to share some happy encounters with children. This is easy because my own adorable children make me SO happy (most of the time) and I can’t pass on the opportunity to show them off. Here they are!

With their big, happy smiles

2011-11-24 11.23.54bathLoving life

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Enjoying the best kind of toys…non-toys, if you will

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bag on head

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Dressing up (it’s the best!)

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2012-10-31 19.10.55And, of course, being a bit mischievous

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2011-05-14 11.18.52Lastly, here is a wonderfully repetitive performance of “99 Boxes of Juice on the Wall”. Though the videography is low quality, I greatly appreciate this video (I realize this could be solely due to me being a proud and biased mom). My favorite parts happen around 1:05 and 2:03. Enjoy!

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Building Secular Communities

You obviously REALLY value community.

Today, a friend and I were talking about our personal shifts from a religious community to a secular one. We discussed how our core values remained the same from the time we were religious, through the times of doubt, and afterward when we realized we no longer believed in a god. One thing she said stuck out to me, “You obviously REALLY value community, that’s probably why you stuck it out so long with the whole church thing”. Huh… interesting. I always thought I was so loyal to god, that the idea I was holding onto the community aspect of my religion never really occurred to me.

But I think she hit the nail on the head.

I clung to the good aspects of community that I got through church (regular fellowship, free childcare, bringing food to people when sick, singing/learning together, free childcare, deep/authentic conversations, and free childcare). Speaking of free childcare, not long before giving up on god completely, my family and I went to church on a day my husband had to run the sound system during the service. He went to do his thing, I dropped the kids off at the nursery and yeah, I definitely went to a coffee shop for an hour of bliss by myself… I love me some free childcare (as long as it’s trustworthy childcare…that’s a whole other conversation).

Alright, back to community, not only did I cling to the good aspects of community, I desperately feared the possibility of losing some of the people I held so dear.

Churches and religions “do” community very well.  But they certainly don’t own the rights to building and maintaining community. I am fortunate to have a Secular Families group in my town. While it has been a slow and steady process to build community, it is happening for my family in our post-church era and I’m so grateful.

Having fun at our Secular Families meetup

Having fun at our Secular Families meetup

In addition to this group I have decided to get involved at a local gym, my son’s Cooperative Preschool, and my local Ultimate Frisbee community. There is much community to be had in local activities and groups outside of the “church scene”. And boy am I glad for that since community is at the top of my values list!

Now, to find a non-performing, non-intimidating singing group…

Why I stay at home

Yesterday I happened upon a blog post called I’m jealous of SAHMs (stay at home moms). Being that I currently stay at home with my kids, this post caught my attention and after reading, I felt compelled to share my own thoughts on the topic.

I never in my wildest dreams thought I would be a stay at home mom
  1. Growing up I was never really good with kids. I didn’t know how to change a diaper until I had my own kids and I certainly never felt I could relate to anyone under the age of 12. When asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, I actually felt guilty that I didn’t want to work with children, that was the noble answer most people gave. Why didn’t I want to help kids? Turns out I enjoy communicating with adults and teenagers, but not so much the young’uns. I no longer feel guilty about this because I realize we all come out differently, with our own temperament, interests, desires, strengths, etc.
  2. I am pretty independent and enjoy following my own passions. Getting married was a big adjustment for me, let alone having two needy children to look after. In hind-sight, perhaps I am a bit too selfish to have had my own children, but it’s a bit late for that! And for the record, I do find it all worthwhile even though I have to temporarily give up some personal freedom.
So, how is it that I ended up staying home with my boys?

Perhaps a story can paint the picture. It was the evening of my first big fundraising event since being named Development Director at my job of 6 years. Prior to the event, I had been working tirelessly for months and it was taking a toll on me, my family, and my entire existence. I was spreading myself thin, working every night after my boys went to bed. Things between my husband and I were tense to say the least. Well, tonight was the big night, the culmination of all the hard work. Turns out it was a success, it was a beautiful event and we increased revenue by 50% from the previous year, hooray! Well, I came home that night and I didn’t feel excited, I didn’t feel like shouting hooray. I felt depressed and I wondered, is all of this worth it?

My life as a working mom wasn’t always this stressful but I’m honestly glad it became this stressful. In reaching this breaking point I came to the conclusion that no, this was not success for me. I hadn’t been a good mom, a good wife, or my best self in a while. I realized that I had been choosing my job and I needed to choose what was best for my family. For the first time, I really wanted to stay at home with my boys. I wanted to spend more time with them and become the best damn mom I could be to them. Four months after the big event, I took a leap of faith and quit my job.

How do I feel about all of this 6 months later?

I realize that staying home is not a viable option for everyone and some people don’t have the desire. But for me, I ask myself, why should I stress myself out with work AND home life, not see my children as much as I would like, and make next to no money after childcare expenses? I still have stress as a stay at home mom…obviously. The budget is tighter, the kids drive me crazy at times, and I can’t leave my day job and go home. On the flip side, I am getting to know my kids really well, they have greatly appreciated my consistent presence, and I now have the time and capacity to become a good mom, a good wife, and my best self.

Here’s a short video of my boys doing their favorite thing, “fighting”. While this doesn’t show anything special, it is a glimpse into my everyday as a stay at home mom… and I have to take the opportunity to show off my adorable boys 🙂

This was Day 12 of the Zero to Hero Challenge. Learn more here.

 

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The Incredible Years (Part 1)

Transitioning from being a religious parent to a secular parent has been interesting. I used to “rely on god” to provide me strength in my parenting and somehow I did feel better believing that I was being guided by a higher power in raising my children. The reality is I was failing to address some of the issues I was having by simply putting a band-aid on the problem (by praying and trusting in something that wasn’t there) so I could feel better. But, I don’t want to beat up on my former self, I simply wish to learn from my mistakes so I can be a better parent today. The reality is, whether you’re religious or not, parenting is the hardest job you can ever have. Scary Mommy says it so well:

Now, as a freethinking, secular parent, I aim to have a more scientific approach by educating myself about evidence-based parenting methods and building a toolkit of resources and support systems. I hope to glean information from multiple sources and do my best to choose what’s right for my kids, myself, and my family as a whole.

My starting point…

We will be going through the book The Incredible Years by Carolyn Webster-Stratton, PhD

We will be going through the book The Incredible Years by Carolyn Webster-Stratton, PhD

Today I began attending a support group for parents of children ages 2 to 8, it’s called The Incredible Years. Apparently, with all its tears, guilt, anger, laughter, joy and love, these early years are remembered by most as pretty incredible. The group meets for 10 weeks and is focused on helping parents sort out issues they face with young children in order to set the stage for sensitive, nurturing and competent parenting.  Today I was thrilled to sit with other parents, knowing we are all in the same boat… we don’t know what the hell we’re doing as parents!

Play, Play, Play

Playing with my 2 year-old, Drew

Playing with my 2 year-old, Drew

One of the things we were challenged to do in the upcoming week is to play with our kids for 10-15 minutes per day. This regular play is meant to cultivate bonding, positivity and fun, laying the foundation for a solid relationship now and in the future. Sometimes I get so caught up in life that I forget to sit down and play with my kids. And I almost never take the time to sit down individually with each of them because that has it’s own challenges. So, today, I sat down with each of them individually and played, and it was A LOT of fun! We built towers, knocked down towers, and played with play dough. I really enjoyed taking the time to listen and talk with each of my kids individually. All the people who talk up the importance of play… they are on to something! I look forward to more special time with my kids as we build this habit of playing together often.

Wish me well on starting this journey to build my parenting toolkit and support system. If you have any resources to share please put them in the comments! Until next time, I leave you with some wise words from an English poet:

Before I got married I had six theories about raising children; now, I have six children and no theories.
John Wilmot

This was Day 6 of the Zero to Hero Challenge. Learn more here.

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That’s a selfie, son

My 4-year-old uses my tablet from time to time to play games or watch Netflix. He also likes to high-jack my camera and take many pictures of anything and everything. Here he is, sitting on the bottom bunk, discovering the “selfie“. I love that no-one taught him anything about taking a picture of himself, yet he poses like a selfie-taking professional. Whether or not this will transfer into his social networking life in the future is yet to be seen. Check out a few of the selfies he captured below.

The Kissy Face Selfie

The Kissy Face Selfie

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The Scared/Surprised Selfie

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The Debonair Selfie

Your Turn

Do you have a favorite selfie to share?