Top 5 Ways to Be More Present With Your Child

Today’s parenting culture often emphasizes cultivating the perfect human being for a future, robot-filled economy we don’t yet understand; modern parents are often rushing from activity to activity in an attempt to curate a one-day employable person who will enter a dog-eat-dog, competitive economy in which only the best will thrive.

The problem with this approach to parenting is that it’s based on fear, not love. None of us knows what the future holds and to live and parent towards a depressingly competitive future, sacrificing our present, does nothing to quell the anxiety - it simply manifests it. This future-oriented, fear-based mindset treats a child as an object to be crafted rather than as a human being who grows healthfully with nourishment, love and space to develop according to nature.

The irony is that letting go of this fear-based drive towards curated perfection actually liberates parents to enjoy the parenting ride - by releasing stress, pressure and adherence to external ideals. It helps parents to not be so hard on themselves and instead, be PRESENT with their children, seeing them as the people they are, loving them inherently, finding peace in the moment, which is enough.

Here are the top 5 ways you can be more present with your child, and let go of the endless striving towards perfection:

1.) Put away the screens, multitasking and other distractions and spend quality one on one time with your child, giving them all of your warmth and attention. Set a timer for anywhere between 15-60 minutes. Until that timer goes off, bathe your child in your pure attention, warmth and love. Let your child choose what he or she wants to do, and simply go with their flow, offering your observation, encouragement, warmth and love. You will feel connected to your child, and able to focus on them in nourishing ways, while also nourishing your own need for connection.

2.) Do chores, which help us become more present. When we focus our mental and physical energy on getting one thing done at a time, we help our minds stay in the here and now (rather than where they want to be when not being mindful - in the past or in the future). Our minds and bodies are very closely connected, and feed off of one another, so if we give them both something to focus on with a chore like washing dishes, doing laundry, cooking, pet care, sweeping, tidying, making the bed, organizing, the mind and body get to work together to be in the present moment. Having kids do chores from an early age is one of the best gifts we can give as parents. When we expect kids to complete chores and hold them accountable for doing so, we are helping them be more present while developing a strong work ethic. Even better is if we have family chore time where every member of the family works away together caring for their home space .

3.) Use your 5 senses to become mindful of the present moment. If you find your mind racing and yourself racing around with your kids, stop, breathe, and take a moment to notice what is actually happening in this moment – What do you see? What do you hear? What do you touch? What do you smell? What do you taste? Use the helpful mindfulness tools of your 5 senses to be with what is actually happening in this moment, and to let go of any thought about the past or the future, as those thoughts are not real and the emotions they generate are story telling in your mind. Get into THIS moment, and clear away space using the breath. Practicing this throughout your day, in the car, while cooking, with your kids, helps us build the muscle of mindfulness so we can be more present.

4.) Create more space in your schedules. Let go of relentless activity. Allow time to be, to rest, to create, to read, to connect, to be together, to be in nature, and to enjoy life. Constantly running causes stress, anxiety, resentment and a sense that nothing is ever good enough. Being present means we slow down enough to actually notice moments we’re in. When we’re running, we’re running past moments perhaps because of relentless, future-oriented thinking or perhaps because there are feelings we are afraid to feel, so we busy ourselves to avoid feeling pain, anxiety, and other uncomfortable states. Create more space so that the pace of activity allows one to connect with oneself- for reflection and being. And be brave enough to feel what is there. A good cry can be healing. The present moment has a way of dissolving fear in the awareness of each breath.

5.) Practice gratitude: start a gratitude journal where you note what you are grateful for each morning and each night before bedtime. Help your children develop gratitude as a way of thinking and being. Being of service to people whose lives are not as fortunate as our own can teach profound lessons in gratitude. Simplifying our environments and possessions can also teach an attitude of gratitude. Gratitude practices help us to be in the present moment, seeing what there is to be grateful for and focusing on that, rather than on what’s missing or still left to accomplish.

You Are Your Child’s Life Coach

Harvard now offers a new course to incoming freshmen, which is basically a life coaching 101 course. Since so many new students at the prestigious university have spent their high school years overwhelmed by activities and homework, barely sleeping to make the grade, the university wants them to identify their core values, learn how to make choices in their daily lives that align to their values, and start managing their time as college students in a way that will support them to live their adult lives with balance rather than overwhelm, which has become their norm from an early age.

I believe, as a coach for modern parents, that parents are their child's life coach and that children need this type of values, time alignment and choice-making life coaching way before they head off to college. In fact, the way that parents reflect upon and answer the same big life questions about their core values, align their time and responsibility commitments to those values and their levels of stress are what really teach a child of any age the same kinds of lessons this class at Harvard hopes to impart.

Here are 5 ideas to help you be your child's life coach, to support them in living a life of balance, alignment and meaning:

1.) Create a Family Mission Statement with your partner in which you detail the core values you hope to impart in raising your family. When making decisions related to discipline, activities, community building, schooling, hard choices and limit setting, use this Family Mission Statement as a guide to help support clarity and alignment.

2.) Slow down and take time for reflection. If you question the job you're in, find yourself in a constant state of stress, reacting more often than responding, it's time to step off the rat wheel and examine your own life thoroughly. Making the changes we need in our own lives to decrease stress, increase connection, and be in integrity with who we are and what we really want from life are the best ways we can support and serve our kids to become the types of adults who can do this as well.

3.) Engage in the activities and interests that you truly love, for the sake of doing them and to experience joy. When is the last time you played an instrument? Spoke the foreign language you love? Played a game with friends? Made a piece of art or a new invention for the fun of it? Took a cooking class? Learned something new that truly engages your curiosity and desire to experience being alive? If you've sacrificed these elements of your own life, it will be hard to model to your children that joy, curiosity and love of learning are essentials to a life well lived. Get out that class catalogue and sign up today for a learning experience that will help bring you totally alive.

4.) Spend time with people who are positive, living lives that align to your values, and prioritize the same values, interests and curiosities that you do. If you find yourself around people who you don't truly resonate with, it's time to do some social reflection and focusing. Get out your Family Mission Statement and spend time reflecting on the people, experiences, traditions and social activities which really resonate with who you are and the family you most want to raise.

5.) Have weekly Family Meetings where in addition to discussing appreciations, celebrations, scheduling, problem solving, you share about your Family Mission Statement and the activities, choices, friends, experiences that each of you are engaging in that reflect your family's desired culture. You can plan activities and discuss questions together to help build your family culture to be one that is balanced, aligned, positive and inspiring: life coaching at its best!

Kiran Gaind is a life, leadership and parenting coach who owns The Connected Family (http://www.theconnectedfamily.net). Please drop her a line to comment on this article, ask questions, and share your ideas for bringing the art of life coaching into your daily parenting role. She can be reached at kiran@theconnectedfamily.net or by phone at (415) 377-6791 to say hello and to schedule a completely complimentary Create Connection Conversation.

Top 7 Ways to Connect With Your Child in a Disconnected World

We love our children and value connection with them, but we lead busy lives inundated by modern technology.   We’re constantly connected to things outside of the home.   It's too easy to lose connection with your most valued relationships as you quickly answer "one more email,” text a friend, post a quick update on Facebook or zone out on a Netflix binge.  The great news is that there are many simple ways to reconnect and develop long lasting, loving connections with your children (and you don't have to give up your phone!).  Here are the top 7 ways to connect with your child in a disconnected world:

1.)   Play Physically

Chasing our kids around the house, giving them a chariot ride on a blanket, giving them a horsey or piggy back ride, playing their favorite sport full out with them:  all of these playful, physically active ways of engaging with our kids boosts them emotionally and deepens our connection with them.

2.)   Listen to Feelings

To help our children develop a healthy relationship to their feelings, listen to all of them, even when they’re crying and tantruming.   Let them know you are there, hold them, rock them, and let them emote.  Don’t try to fix or stop their feelings.  Accept them and be there to witness them.

3.)   Do Special Time Regularly

Your child’s limbic brain thrives off uninterrupted, warm, loving one-on-one special time with you.  Set a timer for 15-60 minutes and announce you will be doing Special Time (you can call it something cooler for the older tween and teen set).  Say “We’re going to do special time.  We can do anything you want to do!”  And then give them your undivided, warm, loving attention.  Enjoy noticing your child and how wonderful he or she is.  Avoid the urge to suggest or direct and follow your child’s lead.  This is a deeply nourishing and connecting practice for both parent and child and will become a cornerstone of your parenting for years to come.

4.)   Stay Connected to Yourself

Instead of using social media to numb out or tune out from yourself and your actual life, put the phones and screens away for 30 minutes per day to actively connect with yourself.  This can include meditation, journaling, painting, writing stories, yoga, a walk in nature.  Take some time everyday to let your thoughts and worries go, to purposefully get away from screens, and tune back into who you really are.  The more you do this, the more available you are to tune in to your kids.

5.)   Make Eye Contact

It’s easy in the hustle bustle of our hectic days between drop offs, work, activities, pick ups, to not slow down enough to look people in the eye.  Children especially thrive off of the emotional connection that is fostered through eye contact.  Every chance you can, whenever you speak with your child, remember to make eye contact.  This helps build your connection and keep it strong.

6.)   Talk Thoughtfully About the Big Questions

Does your 4 year old already want to know where babies come from?  Is your 8 year old struggling to understand her grandparent’s death? As parents, these early curiosities related to life’s biggest and often toughest topics can seem too heavy and scary to address. Talk with your partner and decide what are the top 3 things you hope your child learns about this tough topic in their lifetime.  Then speak to those things.  Do you hope they know sex happens when two people love each other?  Then emphasize that people who love each other make babies (and you can reserve the sex-ed details for when they are older).  Do you want them to understand that even though someone dies, their influence lives on in the people they love?  Then talk about that to help bring peace and perspective.  The point is, don’t completely avoid these topics or assume kids can’t handle them or that they don’t want to hear from you.  They NEED to hear from you and base their own internal compass on yours.  Drop in to your own values and beliefs and teach from there, gently, and thoughtfully.  It will deepen your connection.

7.)    Tell Stories About Your Own Life

Kids want to know what it was like for you to do the things they are learning to do and figure out.  Tell as many stories as you can about your own upbringing and childhood.  Your kids should know who your grandparents were, where you went to school and how you got there, your favorite teacher, when you learned to ride a bike, when your first crush was and on who, who took you to your first dance, where you vacationed with your family, the books you loved as a child, how your friends were at various ages, their names, etc.  All these details help your child to feel close to you and to make choices in their own lives.

Kiran Gaind is a mom to two young girls and owns The Connected Family, a boutique life, leadership and parenting coaching practice for modern parents.  She teaches 6 Week Call-In Connected Parenting classes, offers private coaching packages, gives talks at schools and companies, provides webinars and writes a blog and email newsletter.  She is available for a free consultation (call 650-308-9425) to help you discover how connection can change your family and your life.

Change Direction With Connection

What parent doesn’t know how it feels to lose control with our kids?  When a child flings him/herself down on the floor in the middle of the grocery store, hits or bites a sibling or school mate, makes poor choices about their friends, their schoolwork, their health, talks back or rolls their eyes at anything we say, it can feel almost impossible to control our reactions.

Who ever told us we had control over our kids in the first place?

Think about it. When we’re coming from our egos, we have a personal stake in our kids’ behavior and how it reflects ON US.  But the reality is, they’re their own people, with their own ideas, their own independent needs, and the only people who can control them is themselves.

When we look at basic brain science of the limbic system where emotions are centered and the prefrontal cortex where reasoning and logic are centered, we start to understand why our kids’ behaviors can get so big.  And how little they have to do with us.

What the neuroscience teaches us is that a much more effective and relationship-building way to respond to our kids in their most challenging moments of big behaviors is to CONNECT with them, rather than to try to control them or their behavior.

So instead of thinking during a huge tantrum, “How can I get this to stop?  What can I say?  How I can dole out consequences to get him to stop?” Connection helps us change direction by encouraging us to ask, “How can I connect with him right now?  How will his limbic needs be met if I get down, get low, make eye contact, use a soft tone of voice and physical touch to let him know I’m here?”

And we start to shift the way it feels in our bodies to connect rather than control.  We can breathe, feel less tightness, less anger in ourselves as we connect compassionately and without expectation with our child.

Why is this so freaking hard to do for most of us?  Simply, we weren’t parented this way so most of us don’t know what it looks, feels or sounds like.  How we were parented often included yelling, punishing, shaming.  Those old experiences from our past get triggered during a heated moment with our kids.  So the first step is to be aware of that happening, the second step is to have someone to talk to about it and to offload or release those old hurts, and the third is to learn and practice new skills to connect.  Voila!  We’ve used connection to change direction!  And it benefits us as well as our kids.

This basic principle of relationship building with our kids actually applies to all relationships.  Whenever someone is “acting up,” big feelings are at the root.  Our spouse, a child in our classroom, a friend, a family member.  Try connecting rather than controlling in response and see what happens.  Asking someone how they feel or what they need can go a long way to understanding what’s actually happening and responding effectively to behaviors that challenge us to let go of control.

From Inner Critic to Inner Mentor

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innermentor

How many modern parents identify their own inner critics as the main cause of overwhelm, stress, guilt and worry? I can't tell you the number of parents I talk with who tell me that the biggest obstacle to their having a life filled with joy and fun is their own inner critic constantly riding them about what they should be doing, how they aren't quite hitting the highest standards, telling them to work harder and harder to keep up with perfection, achievement and success, externally-defined, in order to "make it" and to be sure their children will succeed as well. What if I told you there is a way to decrease the volume on this inner critic voice? What would it feel like instead to hear, identify, understand and transform the inner voice of criticism, perfectionism, worry and fear to a more empowered, centered, grounded voice of wisdom, guidance, inspiration and hope? One area of work I do with parents as a life and leadership coach is to support them in transforming their inner critic into their inner mentor, whose purpose is not to protect using fear and shame, but to guide and inspire with visions of their own true life calling and purpose.

I coach clients with visualizations, meditations and journaling exercises which lead to a stronger, more grounded relationship to their inner mentor. This inner mentor is us in the future, reaching back, helping us understand and live up to our true visions of the life we most want to lead.

When we can mentor ourselves to live the life we know we are meant to live, rather than beat ourselves up with the ways we are not measuring up to an external standard, we show up for our kids as mentors rather than as critics. This work on ourselves completes the parenting circle, beautifully.

Click here to schedule your free From Inner Critic to Inner Mentor Strategy Session today!

https://www.timetrade.com/book/SV9V6

6 Tips For No Drama Discipline

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Any parent can tell you that disciplining their child is not easy and no parent does it perfectly.  In my Connected Parenting classes and with my own children, we spend a lot of time understanding and addressing our own triggers that get flared from our kids' behaviors.  As parents, we have a lot of unresolved feelings and issues from our own childhoods that get kicked up every time our kids misbehave.  If we could develop the self-awareness to notice when we're triggered and deal with our own feelings first, we wouldn't react so much to our children, yelling when the tips listed below would work much more effectively. Dr. Daniel Siegel is a neuroscientist from UCLA who has written several books about parenting with the neuroscientific needs of our kids (and ourselves) in mind.  In his newest book No Drama Discipline, he and Tina Bryson, Ph.D. remind parents that discipline is about teaching, not punishment, and give several beautiful illustrations of the most effective ways that parents can address our children's behaviors and emotional needs.  Here are 6 important tips from their book:

1. BE CALM

When a parent is wound up, stressed, with unresolved prior emotions already under the surface, kids and their typical horse play can trigger loud and scary yelling and reactions which get parents and their kids NOWHERE.  Most parents have had incidents where their kids are doing something they're not supposed to do like jumping on the bed and we don't say anything, we don't say anything, it goes on, until something breaks or gets knocked over and we SCREAM at our kids about how wild and irresponsible they are.  The truth is we need to set limits calmly before the behavior gets out of hand and understand that yelling and screaming at our kids is REALLY scary and unsettling for them.  It really breaks trust for them.  Parents need to take some deep breaths and remain calm.  Respond immediately by setting a calm limit when kids start doing something they know breaks the rules.  Don't give in to avoid a confrontation/tantrum and don't wait for the broken lamp and screaming.  State the limit, hold it calmly, and handle it proactively so that kids understand WHY you have a limit (to prevent things from getting broken, including the bed).  Reacting in anger, with yelling and screaming is not discipline, it's simply unresolved rage being projected onto your innocent child and it DOESN'T WORK anyway.

2. WHAT DO YOU WANT THEM TO LEARN?

Thinking about the ultimate lesson you want your kid(s) to learn can help guide your interactions with them.  You most likely want them to learn that they can't have everything they want all the time, bigger ethical qualities like care, responsibility.  Framing those lessons in your mind prior to disciplining (remember it means teaching) them can help guide your words, your tone of voice and help you to remain calm.

3. CONNECT EMOTIONALLY

Because of the limbic functioning of the brain, when kids are acting out, they are actually looking for a connection to be re-established.  If parents understand this, they can respond to off track behaviors by connecting first to help the child regulate his or her emotions.  A parent can get down and get low, put their arm around their child, look them in the eye, speak in a calm and nurturing tone, and prioritize establishing that warm connection.  Once that connection has been made or re-established, a child can calmly function and listen.

4. DO NOT ISOLATE IN ORDER TO PUNISH

The way our brains function is to need connection for self regulation and in order to think well.  When children go off track in their behaviors, isolation actually is the polar opposite response to what the brain is actually needing to function optimally.  It does not teach the lessons intended.  When we connect with our children in difficult moments, we teach them to work with us and trust us as they work through their own lessons to be learned.  We anchor them and provide support rather than isolate them to use shame as a weapon.

5. TEACH EMPATHY

Rather than forcing a child to apologize in a half hearted way that obviously lacks true desire or feeling, parents can ask their children how their actions made another person feel by asking them how they would feel if someone did that to them.  Then we are creating internal understanding and motivation on the part of the child to improve his or her behavior rather than forcing external compliance.

6. BE THE CHANGE YOU WANT TO SEE... THEN LET THEM BE

If you want to see your most valued qualities in your child, like discipline, kindness, creativity, compassion, etc., be those qualities in your interactions and every day living.  This is how your children will learn them best.  Once you are using these tips to connect, teach, draw on their empathy, create compassion, and demonstrate excellence through your own living example, it's time to let your children be who THEY are.  Let go, allow space for them to be their unique selves.  They are not mirror images or "mini me's" of you.  They are individuals wanting their own unique expression in this world.

Health and Wellness Habits for a Better Marriage

Couple doing push-ups in home gym

How often do you and your partner plan your week of workouts, wellness and healthcare needs like meals, massages, walks, meditation completely separately from one another?  It's great to have individual space and needs met, but imagine of instead of going this alone, we planned, worked out with and generally practiced wellness TOGETHER with our spouse, side by side.  Wouldn't it cut out about half the work and ensure that each of you made it to your workouts 50% more often? In this post, I want to provide some ideas for structuring a couples' wellness plan that is sustainable and actionable.

Mornings:

Try to get up before the kids and practice yoga and meditation together.  Take turns figuring out your routines or picking out videos you'd like to use.  I suggest at least 15 minutes of yoga and 15 minutes of meditation.  After your couples' practice, take turns getting up and caring for the kids, taking showers, eating breakfast.  As a family, plan for 2o minutes to practice a kid friendly yoga stretch and mindfulness meditation for a total of about 15-20 minutes so the kids also start their day off feeling confident, relaxed and connected to themselves.

At breakfast, try adding in a smoothie or fresh juice that the whole family will like.  Many parents report that kids will eat veggies when they're whipped into a fun smoothie that looks and smells great and is fun to eat!  My kids are even bigger fans of green juice than I am!  It is soo healthy and soo yummy.

Afternoons:

If you work near each other, how bout meeting to take a walk or have lunch and catch up with no kids scrambling around you?  Most couples find that even one hour per week of no-kid conversation can really strengthen their bond.

Evenings:

After the kids are in bed, you can do a workout video together one night, the next night, take a bath and exchange couples' massage to wind down from your day.  Alternating exercise nights with wellness nights can be a great rhythm to get into.

You can make soups in the winter which are nourishing and comforting.  If you are trying to eat mostly paleo, plan to make the same meal you eat for your kids.  They love to eat just like you and will be setting up some great life habits.

Family Game Night and Game Gift Ideas!

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Have you ever felt yourself in a rut when it comes to spending time with your kids?  How about incorporating a family game night into your weekly routine to turn the blahs into belly laughs and get the connections going? In our family, with a 2.5 and 5.5 year old, we have recently gotten into playing Snakes and Ladders and Ludo.  Our girls can play matching games together with ease.  There are many classic as well as new games which will have kids of any age bonding and rolling with laughter in no time.

Many of us did not have this habit or tradition growing up, so it may at first not come to you as a natural idea, but once you get going and really get into different games together, all of you will be looking forward to game night as a highlight of your week!

Try remembering what if any were your favorite games growing up.  I remember long summer afternoons playing Go Fish, Spoons, Yahtzee and more physical games like Kick Ball and Capture the Flag.  Have you tried introducing your favorite childhood games to your kids?  There's no time like today to get started!

Many parents these days wonder if video games and app-based games count.  I encourage families to let go of the technological aspect of gaming for a while and focus on face-to-face, traditional games to build the bond.  Once you're in a regular weekly game night habit, you can look to things like Wii or apps to add variety, but it's not necessary to rely on tech-based games to create positive family traditions.

For an extensive list of games that are new, old school, top notch and organized by children's ages, please click the link below.  Games make the best Holiday and birthday gifts - the gifts that keep on giving!

http://www.modernparentsmessykids.com/gift-guide-2013-top-picks-for-family-game-night