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. 

Cultivating a peaceful family: 5 effective ways to tend to one’s inner harmony

logo that hopefully doesnt change colorThere’s that saying you’ve probably heard — “If Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.” I first saw it, framed, in the kitchen of my high school friend and it made me slightly afraid of her mom. It seemed like it had been hung there as a warning.

But parents, let’s be honest: We wake up a little sleep deprived from a late-night session catching up on a project, and the tension during breakfast is going to be thick.

On such mornings, I recognize this possibility looming in our kitchen when I notice how my daughter is looking at me. Just the other day, I caught that look and said with spatula in hand, “OK, yeah, I admit that I am too tired to be reliably nice this morning. Sorry in advance.”

“Breathe, Mama,” she reminds me, “I won’t fight today when you braid my hair.”

Here’s the thing: Our children are keenly tuned in to us. They know very well how to read the signs that serve as the early warning system indicating the likelihood of an impending mom-meltdown. Over time, they have become skilled at rating the level of threat like rangers adjusting those Smokey the Bear fire danger signs in the national forests: “Today’s Mom-fire threat level is Green.” (Whew, we’re OK.)

Your Brain on Stress

Researchers in the field of neuroscience are making exciting discoveries these days about the ways the body and mind are intimately connected. This gives us more insight into how it is that what we think and what thoughts we rehearse over and over actually change our brains. As our biochemistry is so changed, this has the power to affect the expression of our genes.

These findings also give us insight to why it is that when stress starts generating pressure and heat inside of us, our best intentions get vaporized.

The physiological responses that kept our ancestors safe do not help us in modern situations when we are not required to jump out of the way of a charging animal. What we perceive today as the danger that switches on our stress response is much different. Nonetheless, the nervous system still responds by shutting off the thinking and planning part of the brain — the prefrontal cortex — in order to send blood to the body so we can fight or run away.

But that is not a helpful response when it’s getting late in the morning and someone whines about losing their shoe or the garbage truck is blocking the driveway. While it might sharpen our reflexes so that we can deftly speed through traffic to get the kids to school, it is likely why the road rage happens since the part of our brains that inhibit undignified behavior is offline. (“Mom, you said a bad word to that guy!”)

Stress makes it more likely we will yell at our kids in spite of our best intentions to be the Zen-Mommy who guides her children serenely through the morning routine as if her mind is naturally infused with calming lavender essential oil. No parent wants to be the source of stress or bad times in the family, no matter how much responsibility, worry, or fatigue we are grappling with. But the truth is: When we get triggered, it affects our children. When that happens, we feel regret and add a black mark to our list of our failures.

harmony-balanceCreating Stress Resilience

What if there is a way to naturally achieve resilience to stress and to be easily able to access our inner resources? The good news is, it is not that hard to achieve the Sugar Land Integrated Counseling and Wellness teaches you how to take steps to give your inner life the attention required. Your family life will improve in delicious ways if you do.

We show up to the parenting journey carrying the baggage of our own histories: the fears, traumas, limiting beliefs, self-doubt, and those less-than-elegant, knee-jerk reaction tendencies. When the time comes to settle down, we unpack all that and then go about our business of creating a family.

If physical clutter in the home produces stress, how about all the emotional clutter of past regrets, hurts, sorrows, and traumas that we stuffed into the overfilled drawers of our minds? Imagine what a relief it would be to have the inner spaciousness that would allow us to breathe before we speak, or to listen mindfully so we can perceive the heart of the matter instead of reacting to what triggers us.

Fortunately, there are now several highly effective self-help techniques that are great tools to eliminate the internal clutter and create more emotional freedom and space, including these 5 effective ways to tend to one’s inner harmony for a happier home:

  1. Meditation — Research is finally catching up to the wisdom traditions that have long known the value of sitting quietly. Owing to the brain’s capacity to form new neural pathways, called neuroplasticity, scientists have found measurable differences in the brains of meditators. Higher brain functioning in the prefrontal cortex is enhanced, cortical tissue is made thicker — that’s really good — and parts of the brain that engender calm also become larger and more active. The good news for busy people is that according to the research, it is better to practice just a little each day versus half an hour every once in a while. Even taking just 1 minute every day to calm your physiology by taking mindful, slow breaths is going to help you. A dedicated meditation practice has the power to help you release burdens and create real calm.
  2. Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) and Tapas Acupressure Technique (TAT) — Also known as Meridian Tapping, EFT is a form of counseling intervention. It is a powerful way you can dramatically reduce your suffering quickly. It consists of tapping with your fingers on specific acupuncture points on the head and torso. Research has shown that EFT causes lasting improvements by alleviating trauma physiology. Tapping has even been shown to cause immediate changes to blood chemistry, which is truly remarkable.  There are many resources on line to help you learn how to do EFT. TAT also engages the energy system of the body to release strong feelings, negative beliefs, and trauma. Unlike EFT, TAT does not require you to talk about what is bothering you.
  3. Yoga — It’s not just exercise. According to trauma researcher Bessel Van der Kolk, PhD, when practiced regularly, yoga can profoundly help heal trauma and stress, especially when practiced along with mindfulness meditation.
  4. The Forgiveness Challenge/Opportunity — Psychologist Jack Kornfield, PhD, describes how, when he was training to become a Buddhist monk, his teacher gave him the practice of spending 5 minutes forgiving someone, 2 times a day for 6 months. In my experience, this has been helpful to effectively get through all the emotions that an episode of forgiving requires. This powerful practice liberates one from the need to keep inventory of past betrayals and disappointments.

When we do the inner work of unburdening ourselves, we can show up for our families in a whole new way with more resilience to face the traffic and noise of daily life and better able to “be the peace” that makes home a safe haven where our children can thrive.

Modeling empathy to promote peace

logo that hopefully doesnt change colorI believe empathy is one of the most important aspects in promoting peace.  Children who are taught to be empathetic and who witness empathy will, in turn, show more empathy to others.

I attempt to teach empathy to my children through positive discipline, responding sensitively to their needs and emotions, and being present for them. I do my best to create a safe space for their emotions and to be a model of peaceful interactions with others.

Nowadays in my family, modeling empathy often occurs when helping my 4-year-old son wait while his sister has the toy he wants. I empathize with his emotions of frustration while also explaining that she would be sad if he took the toy from her.

When my 2-year-old daughter pouts, “I wasn’t ready to go to bed,” I choose to show her compassion. I acknowledge that she’s sad and say something like, “I know it’s hard to stop playing and go to bed, especially when your brothers are still awake, but now it’s time for us to cuddle together, and I’ll sing to you.”

With my 6-year-old son, we talk about how his strong emotions like anger are OK but that we need to work together to find appropriate outlets for those feelings.

Mommy Daddy Child BeachBeing sensitive to my children’s emotions works in helping them have more peaceful interactions with others. When my oldest son was 2, I remember hearing him putting his stuffed animals to sleep, speaking very gently to them and being present with them as I was with him. Now, at age 6, I see him express concerns for others when they get injured. Even my youngest child, only 2, will ask if I’m OK when I get hurt.

For my children today, opportunities for empathy happen most often in interactions with classmates, neighbors, and each other. But someday when they’re grown, I believe it will translate into their relationships with coworkers, spouses, their own children, and others they encounter in their lives. This is how practicing Attachment Parenting and being sensitive, responsive, and empathetic to our children can help create peace outside of the family and in the greater community.

Speaking peace

logo that hopefully doesnt change colorEditor’s Note:  This post was originally published on 2/9/2015.  Written by Lysa Parker & Barbara Nicholson, API cofounders and coauthors of Attached at the Heart  — this article captures the essence of Attachment Parenting, and this year’s AP Month 2016 theme, “Nurturing Peace: Parenting for World Harmony.”

We often reflect on whether or not API has made a difference in our efforts toward peace. API isn’t about promoting just parenting strategies: We have a broader long-term vision we have often described as “peaceful parenting for a peaceful world.”

We are living in a time in history that is both grave and great.

I heard a commentator say once that “stumbling into peace is better than rushing to war.” That is not a strategic plan for peace, and we know that governments and nations are less likely to make that a priority. It is the citizens, each and every one of us, who will create lasting change.

We know that, like punishment, war provides temporary results. So, as our world goes through its painful transformations, we continue to do the work of peace each and every day in our homes. We tend to want to have a quick fix, but the most lasting and effective peace will take generations.

Those of us involved with API do so because we want to be a part of something bigger than ourselves and to have an anchor in our own lives to help us transform, to undo our own negative internal programming, to learn to live — and speak — peacefully.

1286508_dandelion_weed_or_wonderIn a real sense, we are pioneers in creating a new paradigm in parenting and living.

It isn’t easy, and as we learn, we will make mistakes. But from those mistakes come wisdom. We can’t let our mistakes immobilize us, but let us look at those times as opportunities to understand ourselves. Our support group community provides us with a net of safety to share, to be validated and supported.

API Support Groups are a foundational community for practicing peace, with our children and each other. These communities provide the opportunity to practice and engage in the language of peace: Nonviolent Communication (NVC).

This language style has and continues to teach me so much. I wish I had known about NVC when my children were small. Still NVC benefits me as an adult, both in talking to my grown children and other adults. NVC creator Marshall Rosenberg gave all of us a gift of skills that teaches us to:

  • See the need behind the behavior
  • Give us the vocabulary for our feelings and needs
  • Teaches us to use “power with” rather than “power over” our children
  • See each other’s humanness at the need level
  • Move away from punishments
  • Bring about peaceful change that begins with working on our own mindsets

Gordon Neufeld of the Neufeld Institute and Gabor Mate have also made major contributions to our understanding and skills to parent peacefully. They have taught us to look past our child’s behavior to find the unmet needs and strengthen parent-child connections.

That’s a radical departure from our culture where we feel we have to punish for every misdeed.

What we say and how we say it can make the difference between building relationships or breaking them down. We have to learn this new language of peace to accompany our actions toward peace, beginning in our own families. It is the essential component toward creating a peaceful world.

The key to world peace and harmony

logo that hopefully doesnt change colorWhat is the key to promoting peace and harmony in our world?

In view of all the recent unrest and violence in our country and around the world, it’s a timely and imperative question.

It’s a question I often reflect on. As the mother of two young children, I’ve come to the realization that my role as a parent is not merely to raise my kids to be healthy, happy and successful adults — it’s much bigger than that: it is to raise kids who one day will become adult members of our society. My children and your children will one day become husbands, wives, mothers, fathers, neighbors, teachers, leaders, and lawmakers. With that realization, I feel an immense sense of responsibility.

I believe parenting practices — what parents model as an acceptable and appropriate behavior — has great consequences and implications that cascade beyond the home.

Let’s think about what it means for our children and how it shapes them when:

…a caregiver hits or spanks a child in response to a conflict or unwanted behavior. What messages is the child receiving in regards to managing anger, conflict resolution, and inflicting pain — both physical and emotional — on another being?

…we sleep-train a child — letting them cry themselves to sleep, ignoring their natural need to be soothed and comforted. How may it impact a sibling who is observing Mommy or Daddy not attending to the distressed young child? He may be learning it is acceptable to dismiss one’s need for soothing and compassion.

…the parent-child relationship is based on mutual respect, trust, and collaboration rather than control, manipulation, and fear. How does teaching collaboration and navigating together to reach resolutions prepare a child for future relationships? What does a child learn about handling disagreements when the parent is in the role of the unquestionable authority figure, as in “because I said so!” or “because I’m the boss!”?

…a child joins his mom as a volunteer at a soup kitchen to help others who are less fortunate, or he witnesses his dad stopping at the side of the road to help a stranded stranger.

It means that when we show empathy, we teach empathy; and when we show compassion, we teach compassion.

The child who has been nurtured with empathy and compassion is the child and adult who will extend his hand to another person, not swing his hand. He will be the one who lifts others, not belittles. He will grow to be the adult in society who promotes peace and harmony, not discord, because these are the values and tools imparted in him by his first and most significant role models: his parents.

Echoing in my mind is an incident that took place a few months ago: I clumsily hit the blow dryer against my left eyebrow bone. The sharp pain was agonizing. I clutched my bruise and knelt down to the floor uttering a few groans. My 8-year-old son was nearby. He came over, knelt down, and gently moved my hands and kissed my bruise. “Is it better now, Mommy?” he asked. While trying to hold back my groans, I replied: “A little. Thanks, my love.” He gave me a hug, then inspected the bruise, and said: “Maybe you can do some Reiki on it later.” I was in awe. My eyes were moist — no longer from the pain, but from experiencing the sensitivity and compassion he displayed: He sensed my pain and responded to it with tender sincerity.

In that moment, I was awash with joy and pride, and I thought, this is the kind of adult I aspire to release to this world: one that possesses empathy and compassion for others.

In that ordinary yet profound moment, I appreciated that all of the patience, compassion, responding with sensitivity, and positive discipline I have practiced raising my children. It all paid off in an extraordinary way.

The path to promoting peace and harmony may be simpler and more fundamental than we perceive it to be. It can be more effectively accomplished with the action of planting the seeds, rather than trimming the trees.

heart-and-keyParents, we are the key: Peace and harmony start with us! 

We are the peacemakers and peacebreakers of the world. If we want a more peaceful world for our children and the next generations, we ought to exemplify one for them. If as parents, we model sensitivity, empathy and harmony, our children will carry themselves through life, and react in the same manner when they encounter conflicts and adversities — for these are the tools we have been giving them.

Let’s plant those seeds and watch them grow and spread — one family, one community, one country at a time.

Nurturing peace, in our parenting and for our world

“Raising children with secure attachments and empathic hearts is essential to the future of mankind.” ~  GreatNonprofits               

Is world peace possible?

When we talk about the potential for Attachment Parenting (AP) to change the world, we are referring to a ripple effect: Our children growing up to be compassionate and empathic, becoming parents who foster secure attachments with their children, whose children then grow up to repeat the cycle of peaceful living both in and out of the home.

Just as what our society experienced with La Leche League International’s breastfeeding revolution, begun more than 50 years ago, we at Attachment Parenting International (API) hope to be looking at a different kind of society in coming generations — one where disconnection is discouraged and healthy, securely attached relationships are valued above competition and shame.

API is working every day to better support and educate parents on establishing and maintaining secure parent-child attachments. And parents are striving every day to put API’s Eight Principles of Parenting to practice in their relationships with their children.Peace cover

Many parents understand the challenge of adopting the new mindset needed to fully grasp how Attachment Parenting works. This parenting approach requires looking at the world, your child, your role as a parent and the way you live through a different lens — one that not everyone is able to see. API’s core ethos is a frame of mind that we promote as a practice: respect, empathy, compassion and reflection in thought, speech and action toward yourself and others.

We believe that parents who practice these habits of mind will tend to practice parenting in ways that resemble API’s Eight Principles of Parenting. Likewise, we believe that parents who practice the behaviors included in API’s Eight Principles of Parenting are capable and more likely to practice API’s ethos.

Once you “get” API’s ethos, Attachment Parenting can become much easier, much more “natural.” I liken it to stepping into an alternate reality of sorts. You’re able to view the world, your community, your home, your and others’ relationships in a whole new way and you can then make life choices from a point of compassion, trust, empathy and peace.

Our society tends to shy away from the concept of peace. To many, the idea of world peace is seen to be purely idealistic. We know it as the standard answer of pageant girls competing for Miss America. We also know that there are numerous ways touted to be the answer for world peace, from literacy to racial equality to democracy to certain religions. In reality, for world peace to be attainable, it must take a combination of factors from all levels of society. To many people, that may seem impossible.

Yet peace is what all of our souls crave. It is a sense of contentment, safety and security. It is a joy that doesn’t follow emotional highs and lows, that doesn’t fade when the excitement of instant gratification falls away. Peace allows us to feel centered and to find our balance quickly when we lose our equilibrium. Peace gives us a sense of purpose and control of our life’s direction. When living in peace, people have space in their lives to focus on bettering not only their lives but those around them.

But peace can be elusive. Many people simply do not know how to get to a place of peace in their lives.

For parents who come to API seeking support and education about Attachment Parenting, we offer a way. Secure attachment, promoted through API’s Eight Principles of Parenting, can help families find peace. A person whose attachment needs are met is able to think beyond the basic, day-to-day physical and mental survival and the “need” of trying to keep up with the hectic pace of society, in order to experience greater personal well-being and family enjoyment.

API is doing its part in promoting world peace. We truly believe in our mission to educate and support all parents in raising secure, joyful and empathic children in order to strengthen families and create a more compassionate world. And we truly believe in parents’ ability to do just that — to raise their children to be secure, full of joy, with the ability to empathize with and show compassion to others.

In the latest issue of The Attached Family, we explore “Nurturing Peace,” both in ourselves and our children, with features on:

  • lisa reaganConscious Living with Lisa Reagan, a member of API’s Resource Advisory Council, editor of Kindred and cofounder of Families for Conscious Living – through whom we learn about the inspiration for this issue’s cover, “the Blue Marble,” and how each of us are involved in public policy everyday of our lives just by living the choices we make…such how we choose to take parental leave after the birth of our baby
  • IMAG0486.JPGHow to talk to our children about world tragedies, why its important for our children’s development to protect them from adult concerns and what our children actually hear when parents mention starving children in Africa to try to convince their children to finish the food on their plates — by Tamara Brennan, executive director of the Sexto Sol Center
  • merynThe Dynamic of Disappearing Dads with Meryn Callander, author of Why Dads Leave – through whom we learn the generational result of disconnected parenting of boys, and how wives and partners can better support new fathers in healing their emotional wounds to be able to bond with their baby and fulfill their role in the family.
  • jane stevensACEs with Jane Stevens, founder of ACES Too High and ACEs Connection Network – through whom we learn what ACEs are, how they are just as prevalent among families in poverty as well as middle class, and how resilience-building practices such as Attachment Parenting can both heal and protect people from the consequences of ACEs.

We hope that this issue of The Attached Family will inspire your efforts to nurture peace within yourself, your family, your community and, yes, even the world.

Using NVC in the Family

By Barbara Nicholson, cofounder of Attachment Parenting International (API) and coauthor of Attached at the Heart

barbara nicholsonNVC-language-for-lifeOver the last several years, I have been reading Dr. Marshall Rosenberg’s classic book, Nonviolent Communication, and sharing some of his pearls of wisdom with my adult sons. Oh, how I wish I had this book when they were very young! And how I wish I had the wisdom to model this kind of communication for my children as we were dealing with sibling rivalry and other normal challenges of family life.

When we’re all together eating, playing games, or watching TV, my husband and I are amazed at how the “old tapes” can get played: The same dynamics that you think adults outgrow can rear over such insignificant comments! Four adult children with four very unique temperaments, talents and interests make for interesting combinations, to say the least. But no matter what the issue, it’s affirming to see how well the Nonviolent Communication (NVC) tools work!

There were several times when a simple misunderstanding could have escalated into a full-blown argument; however, reminding ourselves of what the core issue was — the feeling that was felt, the need that was identified — diffused the situation into an opportunity to really see the big picture. So often we don’t want to take the time to dig a little deeper, thinking that it’s too time consuming, yet arguments can linger over the rest of the day, creating a pall over what should be a loving day of connection and respite from our busy lives.

In my ideal world, not only would parents model these communication tools for their children, but teachers would be taught these methods in all training programs. What a gift for a teacher to be able to help her students who are having an argument on the playground to identify their feelings and unmet needs, to see that we have a universal vocabulary of feelings that are web of strength, not a weapon of name calling and division.

If this became our language of connection, we might even be able to change the way we communicate in business and government, changing our whole society in such a way that mediation becomes more the norm than the exception.

When I see my sons using NVC tools, even though it might be a little stiff and even though I usually have to initiate the conversation, I see the potential that all families have to greatly improve their quality of family life. It’s even a great tool to use with grandparents and other family members, especially over the holidays or other events when we’re in close quarters for extended periods of time. It’s a reminder to be a good listener, take the time to go a little deeper in our understanding of each other and truly bring some peace into the home.

Many communities now have NVC practice groups, and I encourage all API Support Groups to look into inviting an NVC-trained group leader to visit and perhaps lead a practice session at a meeting. It is a simple technique that we can use in every relationship, increasing our vocabularies at the same time! As Dr. Rosenberg states, this is a whole new language and essential to creating a more peaceful society. Of course, that — peace — is what we all want in our homes and communities.

Content Protected Using Blog Protector By: PcDrome.

© 2008-2022 Attachment Parenting International All Rights Reserved -- Copyright notice by Blog Copyright