API Reads Reflection: Getting better at what we care about

We all want to get better at the things we care about. Today’s reflection from API Reads is taken from a TED Talk video. This 11-minute video touches upon the topic of improvement by explaining it with the use of “learning” and “performance” zones:

We create social risks for one another, even in schools, which are supposed to be all about learning — and I’m not talking about standardized tests. I mean that every minute of every day, many students in elementary schools through colleges feel that if they make a mistake, others will think less of them.

No wonder they’re always stressed out and not taking the risks necessary for learning! 

But they learn that mistakes are undesirable inadvertently when teachers or parents are eager to hear just correct answers and reject mistakes, rather than welcome and examine them to learn from them. Or when we look for narrow responses rather than encourage more exploratory thinking that we can all learn from.

When all homework or student work has a number or a letter on it, and counts towards a final grade — rather than being used for practice, mistakes, feedback, and revision — we send the message that school is a performance zone.” (At the 7:44 minute mark, TED Talk)

Think about that: Is the goal that our children “perform” or that they learn?

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The Most Interesting Things in API Reads this February

I just finished reading the book What Children Learn from Their Parents’ Marriage by Judith P. Siegel. You’ve probably been seeing quotes from the book over the past month as I’ve been reading along.

I am so glad I picked up this book to read. I personally feel it is a must-have resource for every parent.

As attached parents, we focus so much energy on our children. After our focus on our children, we remember that word — “balance” — and try to make ourselves a priority, because we don’t want to burn out on the family. Our marriages may be last on the list, and if so, it begins to suffer.

With this book, the author shows you through research, vignettes, and her writing how you are only doing a disservice to your children when not giving your marriage the attention it needs. Just as the title states, your marriage is a blueprint for what type of relationships your children have when they reach the teen and young adult years:

  • If you are not going on dates, how are your children going to know what a date looks like?
  • If you are not providing affection to each other, how are your children going to feel comfortable in their own relationship to provide it?
  • If you are not talking respectfully and equally to each other, how are your children going to know they deserve this in their own relationships?

These are just a few questions answered in the book that helps you see your marriage in a different light.

I highly suggest reading this book even if you feel your marriage is good. You are, after all, setting the stage for how love feels, looks, and acts in a marriage or partnership.

Weekly Reflection: Voicing your opinion goes a long way

This week’s API Reads Weekly Reflection focuses on the importance of parents voicing their opinions to their partner in a competent way. As you read the quote, take time to reflect on what it means to you, how you can incorporate its meaning into your family, and how it encourages you:

“Children who watch both parents competently voice their opinions realize that both men and women have something important to contribute. Research studies show that when parents are able to disagree without becoming angry, the children are rarely affected in adverse ways. In fact, children from these homes do better in school and have higher self-esteem than do children whose parents’ negotiations of differences escalate into bickering and hostile fights. Children who watch their parents communicate effectively and respectfully are able to more successfully negotiate with peers and have an important headstart in knowing how to resolve differences productively in the intimate relationships they will develop when they grow older.” (Page 136 of 210 in eBook edition)

What Children Learn From Their Parents’ Marriage: It May Be Your Marriage, but It’s Your Child’s Blueprint for Intimacy” by Judith P. Siegel PhD

 

API Reads Monthly Top 5 for January

“API Reads Monthly Top 5,” is a new series from the API Reads program, where Attachment Parenting International will post our top 5 quotes from a compilation of resources currently being reviewed by the team.

Editor’s Note: Even though these quotes have stood out to the reviewers, the resource is still under review. Please use your discretion when reading these resources on your own. We cannot guarantee that there are no conflicts with API’s philosophy, mission, or principles until the resource has been completely reviewed. Be sure to check APedia (soon to be launched) at a later date to see the final summary from the reviewer.

Each of this month’s Top 5 quotes from from the ebook, What Children Learn From Their Parent’s Marriage: It May Be Your Marriage, But It’s Your Child’s Blueprint for Intimacy by Judith P. Siegel PhD.

1) Page 2 —

“The truth is, most children are aware of many ‘private’ exchanges their parents assume are beyond their comprehension — a small gesture of comfort, a hostile glance. While your children may not be talking to you about what they are learning, they are drawing conclusions about ‘what happens’ to people who are married.”

2) Page 7 —

“Even when a person is exposed to a different environment in adulthood, he or she continues to hold on to the beliefs, values, and expectations acquired in the childhood home.”

3) Page 36 —

“Sleep deprivation usually adds to the mother’s experience of being exhausted and overwhelmed. Because the baby’s demands are real and urgent, it is normal for her to put her own needs second. But learning how to prioritize and balance her husband’s need for her is complicated and stressful. Although most new fathers are thrilled with the addition to the family, they are not prepared to lose their intimacy with their partner. If the couple is not able to find time to be alone together, the relationship suffers in important ways.”

4) Page 42 —

“Children and teens who are overly involved with a parent have a harder time growing up. Problems persist into adulthood, and the grown children often repeat their parent’s reliance on self-interests, extended family, or work to bring them happiness.”

5) Page 42 —

“Establishing the priority of the marriage does not mean that all other commitments and loyalties are tossed aside, but it does mean that the partner’s needs are constantly kept in sight. Even when there are competing demands, the partner and the marriage are respected. If parents want their children to find happiness in life from a wife or a husband, they must look at the message they are sending by the example of their own marriage. A marriage that can be protected from the demands of other obligations is not taking away from the children; it is giving to them the expectation and hope that one day they, too, will have a loving partner.”

Weekly Reflection: Children become ready for intimacy through you

This is the second post for our weekly series from API Reads called “Weekly Reflection,” which features a quote from one of the resources in the API Reads program. We invite you to reflect on the quote throughout the week, and we hope the quote will prove to be thought-provoking, encouraging, and inspiring. Enjoy!

“When children are raised in loving, nurturing environments where parents clearly enjoy each other, they develop an appreciation and a desire for intimacy. Because they have grown up watching and experiencing the comfort and support that comes from intimacy, they are more ready to create it in their own lives.” (page 15 of e-book edition)

This was taken from the book “What Children Learn From Their Parents’ Marriage: It May Be Your Marriage, but It’s Your Child’s Blueprint for Intimacy” by Judith P. Siegel, PhD

Weekly Reflection: “For better or for worse” is determined by you for your child

api reads logoThis is the first post for a new weekly series from API Reads called “Weekly Reflection,” which will feature a quote from one of the resources in the API Reads program. We invite you to reflect on the quote throughout the week, and we hope the quote will prove to be thought-provoking, encouraging, and inspiring. Enjoy!

“Children also tune in to the emotional climate and the sense of well-being between family members. Children watch how you and your partner interact and handle situations together. They then draw conclusions about how married people treat each other, for better or for worse.” (Page 3 of e-book edition)

what-children-learn-from-their-parents-marriageThis was taken from the book “What Children Learn From Their Parents’ Marriage: It May Be Your Marriage, but It’s Your Child’s Blueprint for Intimacy” by Judith P. Siegel, PhD.

Teaching the way of gratitude

mindfulness-gratitude-childrenHave you discovered how very powerful giving thanks is for uplifting your mood, day and life? Coaches and spiritual teachers these days suggest that we keep a gratitude journal or set aside time to be grateful every day as a way to shift our focus toward a more positive frequency.

It’s not just another thing to try so we can feel better — in my experience, it really works.

Making a shift toward gratitude

The study of neuroplasticity confirms that when we intentionally and repeatedly focus on “taking in the good” — as neuropsychologist Rick Hanson PhD, suggests — we cause changes in our neurons that shift us away from the innate bias toward always looking for threat.

In other words, when we develop a conscious gratitude practice, over time we can actually change our negative mind chatter into a more settled way of being that is open to the possibility that good things just might indeed come our way. I like to think of it as quality elevator music that accompanies us as we intentionally choose to experience life on higher floors.

If you are like me, noticing what I already have that is good enough does not come naturally. I was raised to be constantly prepared for whatever problems were inevitably on their way to my door. I was taught to be constantly doing, preparing, and preventing with a kind of “storing up food for the harsh winter” mentality. But even though the experiences of the Great Depression were passed down to me in my DNA, I am determined that this fear-based way of living will stop with me.

If we can instill the habit of giving thanks, we prepare our children for a life of pleasant contentment. 

Ever since my daughter was very small, we have made it a practice to express gratitude. In that kind of “Do as I say, not as I do” way, it’s easier for me to notice how she says things and to offer a course-correct toward a more positive view.

To my delight, out of the blue, she will sometimes spontaneously list all the things she loves about our house, our neighborhood, our view, the store that offers the stuff we need, the birds flying by, and on and on. It just bursts out of her! In those moments, I get to switch channels from brooding over my to-do list to instead witnessing her enthusiasm. It makes me give thanks that I must be doing something right after all.

A good way to create a readiness to be grateful is to establish the habit of giving thanks. Giving thanks together, in whatever way suits your family, makes everyone slow down and take a mindful moment.

A fitting place to do this is at mealtimes, because they happen at the same time each day and everyone is sitting down together. Even a sandwich on the hiking trail can serve as another opportunity to pause and recognize the gift of nourishment. Food comes from somewhere and it ends up on the table because of the effort of people — so that’s something to appreciate.

In our house, we like to make up songs. If they catch on, we keep them. Below is one of our gratitude prayers before we eat. It is a little song we sing at the table to bless and enliven the food we are about to eat. It also gives the less-than-favorite vegetables a little more status, I hope. Imagine it going with a pleasant sort of Irish music tune.

Thank You for My Food
Thank you for my food, thank you for my food,
Made by Mother Earth and warmed by Father Sun.
Thank you to the seed that grew in the soil,
And blessings to the farmers who made food from their toil.
Thank you for my carrots, thank you for my tacos, thank you for my…
Thank you for my food.

Sometimes my child will add a line to thank the cook, which I accept with a gracious bow.

Sharing gratitude on a nightly basis

Before my children go to sleep at night, I have 3 questions that I ask them:

  1. What did you learn today?
  2. What was your favorite part of the day?
  3. What are you grateful for?

These questions have become a ritual for us as we have been doing it for years. We continue to do so even as we navigate the middle school days for my youngest and now are moving into the high school years for my oldest. I know we all look forward to this time of connection as it opens up a conversation that goes beyond the simple responses to those questions.

I have been surprised to find that the topic about gratitude is often the one that is discussed the most. There is an appreciation for all of us when we take the time to offer our thanks for something that happened during the day. My girls’ answers may be about a material item they received or a favorite food that they were able to eat — especially if it is a dessert — and I have found that is a practice for me to listen to their responses without judgement.

hands-heart-grainsIt is a gift for each of us to pay attention to one another in a way that offers a willingness to receive whatever the other person has to offer. I am thankful for this opportunity to connect with my kids and for us to grow in our understanding that often it is the simple things in life that we are most grateful for.

Sometimes my girls give me the same answer for all 3 questions, and I am fine with this as I recognize that maybe being tired overcomes the desire to engage in conversation. I trust that they are offering what they can in the moment and that on a different day I may hear much more when they are ready to share. It is also possible that one event was the highlight of their day and the one thing that does answer all 3 of the questions. When I realize this, I am excited that they were able to engage in an activity that was filled with joy.

The time just before we fall asleep is one of my favorite moments of the day. I know that this can be a magical time when both girls are willing to open up with me and express what they are thinking or how they are feeling, which they might not do during any other time of the day. Every once and awhile, I have tried to get them to answer the questions over dinner only to be confronted with the comment that the day is not yet complete so I will just have to wait until later in the evening.

Over the years, I have grown to realize that this simple time with my kids is one of the best ways to engage in peaceful parenting as it reminds us what we are thankful for and encourages a dialogue that may not have taken place. I am amazed at all the events that they encounter in a day without me. I trust that they are navigating each experience with grace even when it is not so easy. I know that they will talk to me when needed.

As we move into a season where many families are expressing gratitude, I am reminded of how lovely it is for me and my kids to share our thanksgivings on a nightly basis. 

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