What to do when my kids are fighting?

Here’s 3 quick and effective strategies to use with sibling rivalry that I teach from Positive Discipline.

Fighting is an everyday occurrence in our house with 4 kids / teens! I’m amazed at how affected I am emotionally when my kids fight – it is often the time when I need to use all my mindfulness skills! And often when I am most stressed, tired or busy that it happens! (usually because my attention is elsewhere!).

These strategies have really helped me as a parent stay more mindful….and not get caught up in escalating the fight by coming in over the top of the kids! The strategies are not foolproof – but even if they only work 60% of the time they help to bring some more calm into our house which is great!

This video links in beautifully with my Dealing with BIG feelings video if you haven’t seen it yet? ….

 

The key thing I have learnt to do when my kids fight is to make sure everyone is safe and then negotiate with them what they will do to calm down (best agreed to before the fight happens!)….before we can even begin to talk about it!

What works at your house? What doesn’t work?

This is often a huge issue for the parents that come and see me for parent coaching or attend my workshops.

We discuss this issue a lot more in our online parenting class Resilient Families Thriving Kids – you can find out more and free trial some videos at www.mindfulparentingmindfulcoaching.com/onlineclasses or email me, Sara Phillips, Mum and Parent Coach on sara@mindfulparentingmindfulcoaching.com

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What do you & your child need?

Certainty = SafetyUncertainty=Excitement (1)
Recently I did something out of the ordinary – I went for a walk, in the sun, in the middle of a weekday…just because…..and it felt like a HOLIDAY! It felt glorious! I felt so grateful! Even though it was a walk I do often – it was at a different time of day ….
And it got me thinking how strong it is within us humans to need a balance of certainty & uncertainty! That we crave rhythm & routine (sameness) to feel safe – yet we also crave adventure & excitement (difference) – to experience FUN & to feel alive!
And our kids are the same! Too much out of rhythm & routine can make life difficult and lead to meltdowns – yet kids, even babies, love something new, a change, something exciting….even just a change from indoors to outdoors or one room to the next can make a huge difference!
And as parents we can get locked into our daily routine…and forget that we too also need excitement and adventure – even if it is just going for a walk in the middle of the day!
It is easy to get locked into certainty with our loved ones – to take them for granted and not even really see them!  We can forget that they are amazing people growing and changing constantly…. A little uncertainty can be great for relationships….. For example doing something as a family that is a little challenging, that releases adrenaline, can give us some good bonding moments and help us to appreciate each other.
Novelty is such a great way to enhance our awareness of the present moment and be more mindful– and when we are parenting our routine can feel boring or all the same…sometimes just driving home a different way, going to a new shop, finding some interesting flowers in your street, looking at your loved ones a new way can help to bring back some novelty and be mindful of what we have right here!
Alternatively when I feel really frazzled and like my head is spinning or the kids feel the same I know I need more routine in my life…more calm…
For many of the parents who I see for 1:1 parent coaching, either finding more routine (certainty) or finding more novelty / stimulation (uncertainty) will feature in the strategies we brainstorm.  We cover this in our online classes and workshops for parents www.mindfulparentingmindfulcoaching.com/onlineclasses 
So what are you going to do this week to find a little more certainty – if you need more routine…or to find a little more uncertainty if you need more adventure & FUN? 🙂 Sara

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How to find your inner calm & calm down your kids?

Being With Strong Emotion Pema Chodron's strategies

What do you do to stay calm or calm down?   I’d love to know what works for you…..

I had to use all the mindfulness skills available to me earlier this week to keep calm….and then when I erupted (oops!) – to recover quickly!  No-one can push our buttons like our kids can – and it is often when we are tired, stressed – or need to get to work on time….that we are pushed to our limits!   As Jane Nelson says in Positive Discipline we are aiming for a general direction NOT perfection…so no point beating ourselves up when we revert to old ways….and instead we need to keep practicing and keep noticing the times when we remember our new strategies…when we find a way to stay calm or calm down!

For me what worked this week was:

  • breathing,
  • focusing on my feet,
  • saying to myself this too will pass,
  • looking outside to the view…
  • then doing some LOUD breathing out…
  • then when I did erupt (unfortunately!) keeping it to ‘I’ statements –  limiting the  blame and shame….
  • and afterwards giving both kids huge hugs,
  • apologising for my reaction,
  • talking about what we can do the next morning to prevent the same scenario from happening again….
  • and for me to identify that I need more self-care / me-time so that I have more reserves for handling BIG issues as they come up!

I am passionate about the need for all parents to understand emotions – how they work? how our brains process them? how kids develop emotional intelligence? How we can use mindfulness to find our inner calm and to help our kids to calm down too?

Here is a video I made for our recent How To Talk So Kids Will Listen group on how to deal with Big Feelings.

I’m so excited to have a *NEW* short online course ‘Understanding Emotions’ – you can work through it at your own pace, when it is convenient for you – there are slides , videos & reflective questions to encourage deep learning!  I highly recommend it,  you can free trial some of the videos here  http://mindfulparentingmindfulcoachingonline.thinkific.com/courses/understandingemotions

I’d love your feedback!

Understanding emotions

 

Free Resource: If you would like FREE mindfulness prompts like the one above with strategies on how to deal with a STRONG feeling (yours or your kids) – please sign up at www.mindfulparentingmindfulcoaching.com or for recommended mindful parenting resources go to www.mindfulparentingmindfulcoaching.com/resources

 

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My Mindfulness Journey…

rock cairn shutterstock

I had someone ask me the other day ‘when did you start learning about mindfulness?’ And my answer was ‘Early 2011 when I started an MBSR course (Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction) with Nique Murch, an Openground Facilitator’.

But that question (like all good questions) got me thinking and really there have been a lot more twists and turns in my mindfulness journey, is it the same for you?

I’ll just write about a few key moments:

  1. My Mum & Dad had an informal yoga group in our loungeroom, every Tuesday night (which I disliked as a kid!) but when I turned 15 I was allowed to join in – I had a love/ hate relationship with yoga / breathing meditation at that age – at times I felt more relaxed, at other times I felt pressure to do it the right way and I was all tense!

2. The next key time was at Uni, feeling homesick & in hindsight, depressed – I found a flier advertising a meditation group- I don’t think I would have gone to it, except for the fact that I’d seen Mum & Dad meditate, so it must be OK to give it a go and I was keen to try anything to sleep better and be a bit more relaxed in the day!  I wish I could remember the group leader’s name as she had a profound impact on me, each week she would introduce us to a new meditation technique, often using visualisation strategies – some I still use today!

3. A few years later I was invited to join some ‘way out there’ women in Kununurra WA for a meditation evening once a week – they introduced me to reiki, past life regression, and lots of passing healers or meditation teachers who wanted to share their techniques!  My favourite thing to do was find a beautiful large red rock by a waterfall and meditate!

4. When I became pregnant with my first child (and every child after) – I was so lucky to be able to do pregnancy yoga – which involved a lot of relaxation, meditation & visualisation exercises and afterwards I did Mums & Bubs Yoga – I am sure Julia, my yoga teacher, was one of the main influences why I just had to have a 3rd pregnancy / baby!  (And boy did I need some relaxation with twins!!)   The thing that kept me sane in each new born baby phase was to put on a yoga nidra cd (body scan) every afternoon, and every afternoon I would fall asleep – but wake up at the end of the cd & feel refreshed ready to go again for the afternoon!   Having used the same cd when I was pregnant it felt like every time I put it on, the baby would sleep / be really calm too!

At this time a parenting counsellor shared with me that if I could focus in on just one thing for one child – they would feel content and I could slow down too and enjoy they moment!  I learnt to relish baby toes / smiles or a giggle & a laugh or doing a craft activity.

5. As kids grew and life got busier I remember not doing the yoga nidra cd so much – and then one day I walked into an old church in Ross Tasmania, and just found tears welling in my eyes at the solid peaceful silence from 200 years of silent contemplation.   I then knew I had to bring more meditation & spirituality back into my life and began meditating every afternoon when my kids napped or had quiet time!

6. Again kids grew older, and I started work – it was hard to do a lunchtime meditation although sometimes I could manage it – the stress was getting to me when Sarah Napthali’s Buddhism For Mothers Of School Age Children – saved me – and then her pocket book Buddhism For Busy Parents became my daily go to for a paragraph of how to live mindfully.

7. At the start of 2011, I was aware of how much of my beautiful, peaceful holiday I had spent habitually worrying, planning, even when there was nothing to worry or plan about!  Luckily I just passed a noticeboard one day to see the MBSR course advertised – perfect timing!  This course transformed my life as we committed to 45 minutes daily mindfulness practice over 8 weeks- and a whole day silent retreat  and I could really feel the difference – my whole outlook on life had changed and I began to change how I was with other people, especially my kids!

8. In 2012 I was trained as a facilitator in Bringing Up Great Kids & Positive Discipline & both emphasised Dan Siegels work in how it was important to teach parents about how children & adults brains worked & how there were mindfulness strategies children & adults could use to calm down.  I have been teaching this to parents in Alice Springs & now Port Macquarie ever since as well as whenever I remember using the strategies at home.

And so the journey continues, I still say to everyone, I am a practicing student of mindfulness because I don’t think you ever reach the stage where you are mindful all the time or have stopped learning!!   I am lucky now to have a peaceful verandah, overlooking gum trees, to mediate on in the mornings, out of earshot of the kids for a bit and I hate starting the day without it!  I’m heading out on retreat again in September to Alice Springs (can’t wait!) and I love listening to podcasts to continue my learning – my favourites at the moment are Jack Kornfield & Tara Brach.

So I’m keen to hear, what is your mindfulness journey?  What would you like your mindfulness journey to be from this day forth – because mindfulness is always about starting afresh with right now!

Conflicting desires for our children…and being mindful of them…

Following on from my last blog I’ve been thinking a lot about the conflicting desires we have for our children… I was particularly fascinated with a comment made on the ‘Life at 9’ series on ABC iview about the fact that we want our children to be persistent… But we also want our children to be flexible, too much of one and too little of the other is not healthy. Too true! As an adult I am still uncertain when to persist and when to let go or try another angle!

So what are some other conflicting desires for our children? Here’s some I can think of…
Independence vs keeping them safe & protected
Socialising and achieving in the outside world vs having quiet time at home/ with the family
Learning to deal with conflict, work as a team and negotiate vs peace and no fights at home, ever!
Protecting our kids from disappointment and the realities of life vs learning how to deal with strong emotions and growing resilience
Exposing our kids to many different activities, especially those we like! vs allowing them to follow their own passions / talents
Wanting our kids to be confident in all settings vs allowing them to be introverted / shy / nervous
Wanting kids to develop their own sense of self vs wanting them to do it our way/ follow our rules!!

Mmm I’m sure there are many others… No wonder this parenting game can feel like challenging tightrope walking!

Mindfulness & Children

My Favourite way of explaining the brain to children but also to parents! Thank you Dan Siegel!

Mostly I am so flat out with life and trying to be more mindful myself that I must admit I don’t do enough teaching of mindfulness to my 4 children….not as much as I would like to anyway!   Jon Kabat Zinn in his book ‘Parenting Mindfully’ believes it is enough for children to see their parent become more mindful – here’s hoping…

There have been a few easy strategies though that have really worked….and writing this blog renews my motivation to keep going!

1. The Mindful Minute: When we have just walked up to the top of a beautiful lookout as I am trying to appreciate the view often there will be a moan, whinge, tease  or complaint!   Asking everyone just for 1 minute of silence to see how many things they can hear or see or how many shades of green or blue can they see, gives me one minute to appreciate the view, at least two kids will get into it and find new things they weren’t aware of and whoever was in a bad mood gets a minute to calm down…..there’s always a shift in the atmosphere — we seem to all feel better for it afterwards, even if  there was rolling of eyes at the start!

2. Cultivating Gratitude: At the start of some meals just asking everyone to pause and talk about where the food came from, who cooked it, shopped for it, grew it, transported it OR to ask that everyone eats there first mouthful mindfully OR go around the table and say one thing you are grateful for….again there might be some reluctant participants but there is always a softening of the mood around the table, a re-connecting and the meal is more enjoyable!!

3. In times of pain or distress: helping children to focus on a different body part e.g. can you feel your toes, wiggle your toes, I’m going to squeeze your fingers….can be easier than asking them to breathe….I found this also eased my own distress and then I could begin to breathe deeper and model that for them.   There are also some beautiful visualisation meditations for children that I used for helping kids to go to sleep and if they are familiar with them then they can be perfect for using when your child is sick or in pain

4. Mindful Massage:  When my kids were young a friend recommended buying massage tools and encouraging your kids to ‘drive’ them over your back!  Another Mum used to lie on the floor and encourage her boys to drive their matchbox cars over her back!!   My kids still LOVE a massage and love giving one to….and BOTH can be very mindful – as the giver or the receiver…it’s a great way to reconnect without words!

5. Mindful Hug: Hugging until relaxed….hugging a loved one just a little bit longer & being really mindful about it- you can feel the tension drop away!

6. The BIG ONE- Dealing with BIG EMOTIONS!:  I have found this the hardest – but also the most essential.  For me the biggest thing to learn (&still learning as we enter the teen years) is how to sit with your child’s BIG emotions and not try to fix them or dismiss or minimise them but validate the emotions and importantly name them.   Then we needed to cultivate in our house the idea of ‘positive timeout’ (you can read more about it on http://www.positivediscipline.com ) where you are not ‘punished’ or sent away for feeling ANGER & FRUSTRATION but instead shown how to find ways to calm yourself down BEFORE communicating about the problem!   We still have a long way to go in our house with this one – when the anger & frustration is directed at me I find it VERY hard not to buy into it…..but I felt like we got somewhere when my eldest at 13 said ‘Mum I’ve learnt that the best thing to do when I’m feeling angry is to go for a bike ride, then I feel better’   It has really helped to talk to my children about how the emotional brain works (fight, flight or freeze response & the brain in the hand model – see the youtube clip above by Dan Siegel) and how we can calm it down but I haven’t done it for awhile so this is inspiring me to bring it up again as it is such an important part of life….if only I had learnt how to handle emotion when I was a child / teen rather than as a new Mum at 27!!!!

It is great writing this as it gives me heart that perhaps I have introduced more mindfulness into our house than I first thought and also it’s strengthened my commitment to persist!  My favourite books on the subject are Dan Siegel ‘ The Whole Brain Child’ http://www.drdansiegel.com/ and Goldie Hawn ’10 Mindful Minutes’.   The best program within schools that I can find is MINDUP  http://thehawnfoundation.org/mindup/ – Goldie Hawn is the passionate founder and they have just had a series of workshops in Australia.  How amazing would that be if in every school, in every class, kids were being taught 10 minutes of mindfulness!!!  The results they have got so far in the states seem amazing!!

 

Mindful Parenting

Positive Disscipline Connection_blog

Really this whole blog is about how I’m trying to be more mindful in my life and particularly as a parent…..it’s an incredibly challenging thing to do….especially as the chaos of family life escalates in that pre-dinner craziness!   Still I like with mindfulness that there is no right or wrong, you just keep coming back to it, pulling your attention back to the present moment. 
I’ve been practising mindfulness daily now since 2011 and slowly I can see that I am more able to think before I speak, more able to make good choices when really angry, more able to laugh and see the funny side….yet at times, almost every day it seems that I am yet again mindless and unaware and caught up in my thoughts and feelings, what a life long challenge!

What I am really excited about is that since 2012 I have been facilitating parenting programs (In Alice Springs and now on the Mid North Coast of NSW).    These programs teach parents how to be mindful, particularly in stressful situations and explain the importance of being able to stop, pause, reflect on what the present moment needs and regulate our own emotions before we launch into responding to our children or to the stressful situation

I have found that all parents from all backgrounds like learning about this and come back the next week with stories about how they put it into place! Wouldn’t it be great if we could all access these skills and prevent harm from happening to children the world over!
One of those programs is Positive Discipline http://www.positivedsicipline.com and another is Bringing Up Great Kids (Check out their great FREE Mindful Parenting booklet on http://www.childhood.org.au/training/bringing-up-great-kids-resources-parenting-program )

I love that saying that we teach what we most need to learn and that certainly is the case for me! Each time I teach a workshop or write this blog it helps me to stay more mindful with my children! I am facilitating some Introduction to Positive Discipline Workshops in August, with the emphasis being on mindfulness. More information is at http://www.saraphillipsnsw.com. Hope to see some of you there!

It really is my choice to enjoy life!

I’ve had a long break from writing this blog….but it hasn’t been far from my thoughts so here goes again….maybe this will help me to internalise some of my more mindful thoughts and learning!

I’ve just had a bit of a revelation, after moving house, moving states, busily unpacking, setting up house, applying for work etc and feeling REALLY stressed and overwrought… that I can choose to enjoy my life right now OR choose to be caught up in the obligations, expectations and pressure that  I place on myself (more than anyone else does)!  This revelation came after a friend in the desert texted ‘ you must be enjoying the beach!’ And I realised no….I wasn’t enjoying my new lush coastal surroundings…..instead my head was caught up in a whirl of jobs to be done, stresses to endure!  I started to question WHY wasn’t I enjoying this new life and it came to me ( so simple! but so hard to realise!) that I really CAN choose to take some time out each day to enjoy the beach….to clear my thoughts, to nurture myself, to find inner joy…..and most of the jobs still get done!!   Most of the stresses and pressures were self created – I don’t need to be a slave to my thoughts/unrealistic expectations…I can take a break from them….they’ll still be there when I want to face them!  It is as easy and as hard as that!   And as I began to open up more to allowing myself to take time out…..I realised that it had been a long time since I had cherished myself and that Buddhist saying ‘that to cherish others you must first cherish yourself’ rang true as I began to enjoy hanging out with the kids again.    It felt transforming to realise it was all a matter of choosing to change my thinking….yet all week I have still struggled to make that choice!   The guilt / worry / concern about what others will think and if I am being selfish or self indulgent means that it is very easy to put pressure on to DO more….rather than taking some time to BE!   I’ll keep you posted as to how that learning goes……how to cherish yourself in order to cherish others?

Mind Full Of Pain

I was in a lot of pain recently, waiting for the pain relief to kick in when I realised I was fighting it with my mind ( ‘oh no what if I can’t…..I don’t want to feel like this…..this is so unfair…..why me?…..will this make it go away? ‘ Etc).   Suddenly I remembered mindfulness so I allowed myself to label the pain ‘I am in pain’ and to sit with it, accept it and it was amazing to feel the shift, to really feel the space around the pain widen and expand, to feel that there was more to the situation than just the pain, to feel that it was impermanent and that it would be OK!   Of course I couldn’t be so zen about it all of the time….my mind would kick in and resist but just to have a few moments of peace, of going back into thinking ‘it is as it is’ made it more manageable!

 

I also remembered something a friend once told me re: childbirth which was the pain will always ebb and flow so that you can follow the peaks and troughs….manage the peak of pain and then allow yourself to relax in the trough….and keep this cycle of manage and relax!   This worked really well in my daughter’s birth but also this morning too….watching for the peak, relaxing when it ebbed even though the pain is continuous….

 

Fortunately I didn’t have to wait long for the pain relief to work so my suffering was short….and I am not sure I could do any of this in severe pain…..but it was good to see some of those mindfulness strategies at work?   Are there other strategies that you have used?

More Mindful At Work

I’ve been very lucky to have supervision at work with Sue G. who also teaches / practices mindfulness.  Together we have come up with some great ideas on how to be a little more mindful at work:

  • Mindfulness Bell clock on the computer (download for free and create your own timing).  This is a great little reminder to breathe and scan your body for tension
  • Take your shoes off, feel the carpet with your feet, walk to printer feeling the floor beneath you
  • 10 minute meditation at lunchtime
  • Breathe in your tea / coffee and do a quick body scan

I’m amazed at how UNAWARE I can still be of my body / tension at work but at least these strategies are helping me tune in occasionally!!   I’d love to know some other strategies…