Underused Parenting Tools: Part 1 of 2
New Ways to Think About Parenting (Part 1 of 2)
After leading parenting classes for almost a decade, and being a parent for almost two decades, I find myself looking for new, innovative, interesting and often OVERLOOKED parenting tools. We focus so much on making that child do that homework. We are tight-lipped, terse, and serious, and too often we grab the common tools of yelling, repeating ourselves, reminding and nagging. Sigh.
Tool 7 is going to be a primer of new, fresh, practical and effective parenting tools. These tools are often, nay, almost always OVERLOOKED and are therefore UNDERUSED. As in all the tools in your toolkit, you will want to read, re-read, think, try one now, save one for later. To repeat myself (which I am doing intentionally because that is how we learn) you will have read, listened to, or watched a few of these before. Every time you bump into an Underused Parenting Tool you will be in a different spot in your journey. Even if you think you’ve heard it before, expect to glean something new, eye opening and effective.
These tools are not as efficient as yelling or punishing and have no negative side effects. Sure, if you over use any one of them at the expense of common sense, they could steer you wrong. But consider that we are currently nagging, reminding, controlling, punishing and yelling -- and these things are scientifically proven to be detrimental to our health (theirs and ours).
To keep it manageable, I am covering only six of the 12 tools and in a few weeks we will go over the other six. Tools become much less effective if they are too long, arduous and boring. Remember that when you are talking to your kids!
Let me know any triumphs or lessons. I love to hear about how you interact with the material, the good, the bad, and the ugly. This tool expires February 26, so explore the tools you already have in your back pocket while you can!
Laughing: Seriously – what could be better then laughing?! We underestimate the power, stress-release and bonding that goes with a good giggle together. Share jokes, funny YouTube videos, crazy moments from your day and laugh together. Be sure to tell and re-tell hilarious family stories. Remember, sometimes the most embarrassing things we do turn into the best family folklore. My family often looks at each other and says dramatically, “It’s ruined...foreeeevvvveerrrrr!” Why? Read The Blooper Reel.
Decluttering: If we decluttered our houses and our calendar, think how many parenting problems would solve themselves. The magical art of tidying up is truly magical in a family setting. Declutter the kids room and -- badaboobadabing --they can clean it up themselves in under 15 minutes (they won’t all the time, but they CAN!). Declutter our calendar and when (NOT if) it takes our four year old forever to walk to the car, we can handle it, we can enjoy it, we can embrace it. I know none of us has time, however, meditation can help purge your brain and emotions of negative spirals. Headspace is what I use and I think it slowly, tortoise-like, has altered my brain. Not in an instant and not in an earth-shattering way, but noticeably and meaningfully. Next time you are in a parenting pickle, give your brain a rest and clean out your closet. Throw out all the yucky hangers, take out the half-torn dry cleaning bags, and pitch all the clothes that are stained and don’t fit or make you feel bad about yourself. I can practically GUARANTEE a new, interesting and innovative parenting solution will bubble up from the process.
Nutrition: Sugar, fat, caffeine, salt, over eating, and under eating all impact our moods, thoughts and energy. Our moods, thoughts and energy all impact our parenting. DUH! This Michael Pollan quote sums it up quite nicely: “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.” Remember, your kid’s relationship to food is heavily influenced by your relationship to food. Read Food, Family and Fixing It for a quick refresher. Please don’t try to be perfect. Nutrition is a great way to keep your family’s moods, thoughts and energy level on track, predictable and hopefully, more positive.
Worry About Yourself: Stop whatever you are doing and please watch this video: Worry About Yourself. I will wait. What did you see? If you have bigger kids, you will be kicking yourself that you were not more patient as they struggled and enjoyed struggling to take care of themselves. If you have little kids, you probably got a back spasm from re-watching what just happened this very morning! How wise is that child who knows that Dad should “drive," and she was just fine back there with her own project, worrying about herself. Seriously, how often are we half-dressed and un-kept and yelling at our tween to tuck in his shirt? Or we may not be at our ideal weight and we hear ourselves advising our child to monitor her food intake. Try the Worry About Yourself tool; it’s sobering and effective. Feel free to show the video to your kids, and you may also be using the Underused Parenting Tool of laughing, free of charge!
Working Out: I am passionate about working out as a parenting tool. Let me know if you think a 20-minute walking podcast with parenting tips would be of interest – I’m thinking about making one! The research on exercise and how it impacts our brains, our moods, and the quality of our sleep is so giant and amazing and so, so, SO overlooked. If I were Queen of the World, I would tolerate no complaining unless someone has a workout routine. And you guys, do not think I mean join a gym, workout for an hour and bench-press 200 pounds. No, I mean walk 20 minutes a day, download free exercise videos, ride your bike to work, do 10 minutes of abs one day, 15 minutes of arms the next and finish off with a stretch on the third day. Watch your anger melt away, your creativity blossom, your self-pity vanish and your resolve grow. Please e-mail me for specific suggestions; I have a million of them. I’m serious!
Routines: Neuroscience tells us that our brains don’t like to work hard. We often do the same thing we did yesterday. It is cognitively tiring to try something new, so we don’t. That means that whatever routines/habits we create in our family are what we will do, because it’s easiest for our brains. We all like to be on autopilot, kids included. Start slowly, build your routines methodically, and expect to see better results, less nagging, and diminished resistance to chores because "we don’t feel liiiiiikkkeee it." The FlyLady is my inspiration. Check her out! Think: Gas up the car every Thursday, laundry every Sunday, wipe the kitchen table down (has to be cleared to really do the job) every morning. You get the gist!
The Remaining Six: After a brief break for Tools 8 and 9, I'll return to the remaining six Underused Parenting Tools in Tool 10. For you overachievers out there, I have linked up a blog post for each remaining one. Please click and read if the spirit moves you.
Training: The Circle of Encouragement
Pre-Frontal Cortex: CEO in da House!
Menu-Planning: Wait, What?! I Have to Make Dinner Again!
Mountain Pose: Mountain Pose
Sleep: Eeeek, you guys have to wait until my next Nifty Tip comes out February 10!