Please Accept Me!

I’m not sure what the chances are, but, “Boy, do I ever like that Muffy Mead-Ferro” is what I hope will be going through your mind by the time you get to the end of this column. Ideally, you’ll be thinking how much you enjoyed my observations, what excellent points I made, and how wonderful it would be if only I could be at every party you ever throw from this day forward.

Because you see, one of my most compelling motivations in life is being accepted by others. I can’t help it; I’m a member of a species Aristotle referred to as “the social animal,” and it’s how I’m wired. For good reason, of course. Being accepted by others, also known as being popular, is an important survival mechanism for humans and many other species because group living provides protection from predators, sharing of labor and resources, and of course, it encourages reproduction.

Please Accept Me

And this explains why my daughter Belle, just nearing the end of fifth grade, is so focused on who does and doesn’t like her at school. And sometimes, it seems, on very little else. Just about to turn 11, she seems to have entered a phase where her familial relationships, while solid, are no longer the ones she cares about most. When we’re on a trip, she wants to buy little souvenirs for her friends. As the weekend approaches, she wants to make sure she has at least two social activities on her calendar. When we plan family activities, she often asks to have one of her friends along – otherwise she won’t enjoy herself all that much. And then there’s the phone. Oh my gosh, Belle’s an Olympic-caliber endurance athlete on the phone.

Based on what I’ve already said about human hard-wiring I can hardly blame her for being concerned about her social status. And yet I’m hoping she’ll rise above it, too. My biggest problem with the quest to be popular is that a lot of it seems to boil down to conformity, or at least that’s how I remember it. As I recall from Junior High School, most people who really stuck out as different weren’t popular. And one of the things that’s always been important to me in my children’s development has been an ability to think for themselves, and being in the habit of doing so. I don’t want them to make life choices in an effort to simply follow the herd. The herd tells you the right clothes to wear, the right music to like, and the right slang to use. The herd mentality might be useful for the purposes of migration but not for thinking of new ideas.

Besides, although I agree that much of our happiness comes from relationships with other people, the person who independently chooses their own path and thinks their own thoughts can end up being the most popular, and happiest, of all. The independent thinker is a leader, not a follower. And it’s the independent thinker who has the greatest capacity to change the world for the better.

I realize, however, that no amount of pontificating by me on this issue is going to change Belle’s focus on who, this month, is her BFF. So I’ll just have to hope that over the long haul she strikes a balance and finds that she only needs a few loyal friends, not fifty. That no matter what she does, some people won’t like her, and life will go on. And that if she makes her own road through life based on her own ideas and beliefs, she’ll tend to attract people with whom she’s truly compatible.

By Muffy Mead Ferro

I grew up on a cattle ranch in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. After spending nearly 20 years working as a copywriter in advertising, my first book, Confessions of a Slacker Mom, came out in spring of 2004 and made the San Francisco Chronicle’s best-seller list. My second book, Confessions of a Slacker Wife, was released in spring of 2005.

The One Chance I Give My Kids Before I Lose It

My son says he can see it in my eyes. They start to dilate with rage.

My girls say they can tell by the intensity of my footsteps coming down the hall to break up a scuffle.

I can tell because I can feel my face get hot, and I’m fighting the instinct to take every privilege known to their little lives away.

The One Chance I Give My Kids

It’s that moment when they’ve pushed the envelope too far, said too much, or frankly, have just caught me running on fumes.

In that moment, I give them one chance before things get real. {Real like getting grounded, folding mountains of laundry, losing screen time for a week, or worse . . . whatever evil is conjured up in my mind in the heat of my rage . . . one time it was cleaning the cupboards under the sink which was the very grossest}.

I especially like to give them this chance when they are back-talking, or having a bad attitude in general.

Here’s the chance:

“I’m going to let you try that again.”

Sometimes I follow it with:

“Because here’s where things are going to go {insert outline of impending consequences}.”

And then I let them try again, and I respond accordingly.

They can change what they said to me, adjust their behavior, fix whatever needs fixing {before I do the fixing}.

Why?

It gives them a chance to slow down, think it through, and make a change.  I’m not going to lie, it gives me a chance to slow down too.

It teaches cause and effect.

It teaches revision.

It allows them to practice better communication.

If they choose to commit to the path that’s getting them in trouble, they’ve been fully warned, and they’ve got no one but themselves to blame.

In general, I’ve found that the situations deescalate quickly. For all of us.

Let’s also be real, it gives them one more chance before I go nuclear. For them, that’s the best reason there is!

 

More on TodaysMama.com

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The 5-Minute A Day Fix For My Moody Tween

The One Sentence That Gets My Kids To Take Responsibility

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THIS Type Of Mom Is More Likely To Live To Age 95 Or Older

This Type of Mom Lives Longer

It’s OK to put your biological clock on snooze.

If you wait to have children a little later in life, you may increase your odds for surviving to an unusually old age.

A Boston University School of Medicine study published in the journal Menopause found that women who are able to have kids naturally later in life (after age 33) have a higher chance of living to extreme old age than those who had their last child before the age of 30.

Women who had their last child after the age of 33 were two times as likely to live to 95 or older, compared to those who had their last child by 29.

“If you physically delay having children, that’s not going to help with longevity,” Paola Sebastiani, a Boston University biostatistics professor and study co-author, told OZY. Instead, the findings suggest that the ability to give birth at older ages is an indication of slower aging.

Sebastiani and her team analyzed data from the Long Life Family Study, a survey of 551 families, many of whose members lived well into their senior years. They determined the ages at which 462 women had their last child and how long they ended up living.

The researchers discovered that not only did more mature mothers have a long life, but these older mothers were twice as likely to live to 95 or older than those mothers who had their last child by age 29.

The researchers believe that later in life moms might hold genetic variants that slow the aging process and lower the risk for age-related diseases that can affect fertility (like ovarian cancer or diabetes). Women with such variants might be able to bear children for a longer period of time, increasing their chances of passing these genes down to future generations.

Another of the study’s authors, Dr. Thomas Perls, said, “This possibility [of slow aging genetic variants] may be a clue as to why 85 percent of women live to 100 or more, while only 15 percent of men do.”

It’s all about genes and passing those good genes down to the next generation.

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The Day I Stopped Saying ”Hurry Up”

The Day I Stopped Saying ”Hurry Up” {A great parenting read!}

When you’re living a distracted life, every minute must be accounted for. You feel like you must be checking something off the list, staring at a screen, or rushing off to the next destination. And no matter how many ways you divide your time and attention, no matter how many duties you try and multi-task, there’s never enough time in a day to ever catch up.

That was my life for two frantic years. My thoughts and actions were controlled by electronic notifications, ring tones, and jam-packed agendas. And although every fiber of my inner drill sergeant wanted to be on time to every activity on my overcommitted schedule, I wasn’t.

You see, six years ago I was blessed with a laid-back, carefree, stop-and-smell-the roses type of child.

  • When I needed to be out the door, she was taking her sweet time picking out a purse and a glittery crown.
  • When I needed to be somewhere five minutes ago, she insisted on buckling her stuffed animal into a car seat.
  • When I needed to grab a quick lunch at Subway, she’d stop to speak to the elderly woman who looked like her grandma.
  • When I had thirty minutes to get in a run, she wanted me to stop the stroller and pet every dog we passed.
  • When I had a full agenda that started at 6 a.m., she asked to crack the eggs and stir them ever so gently.

My carefree child was a gift to my Type A, task-driven nature—but I didn’t see it. Oh no, when you live life distracted, you have tunnel vision—only looking ahead to what’s next on the agenda. And anything that cannot be checked off the list is a waste of time.

Whenever my child caused me to deviate from my master schedule, I thought to myself, “We don’t have time for this.” Consequently, the two words I most commonly spoke to my little lover of life were: “Hurry up.”

I started my sentences with it.
Hurry up, we’re gonna be late.

I ended sentences with it.
We’re going to miss everything if you don’t hurry up.

I started my day with it.
Hurry up and eat your breakfast.
Hurry up and get dressed.

I ended my day with it.
Hurry up and brush your teeth.
Hurry up and get in bed.

And although the words «hurry up» did little if nothing to increase my child’s speed, I said them anyway. Maybe even more than the words, “I love you.”

The truth hurts, but the truth heals … and brings me closer to the parent I want to be.

Then one fateful day, things changed. We’d just picked my older daughter up from kindergarten and were getting out of the car. Not going fast enough for her liking, my older daughter said to her little sister, “You are so slow.” And when she crossed her arms and let out an exasperated sigh, I saw myself—and it was a gut-wrenching sight.

I was a bully who pushed and pressured and hurried a small child who simply wanted to enjoy life.

My eyes were opened; I saw with clarity the damage my hurried existence was doing to both of my children.

Although my voice trembled, I looked into my small child’s eyes and said, “I am so sorry I have been making you hurry. I love that you take your time, and I want to be more like you.”

Both my daughters looked equally surprised by my painful admission, but my younger daughter’s face held the unmistakable glow of validation and acceptance.

“I promise to be more patient from now on,” I said as I hugged my curly-haired child who was now beaming at her mother’s newfound promise.

It was pretty easy to banish «hurry up» from my vocabulary. What was not so easy was acquiring the patience to wait on my leisurely child. To help us both, I began giving her a little more time to prepare if we had to go somewhere. And sometimes, even then, we were still late. Those were the times I assured myself that I will be late only for a few years, if that, while she is young.

When my daughter and I took walks or went to the store, I allowed her to set the pace. And when she stopped to admire something, I would push thoughts of my agenda out of my head and simply observe her. I witnessed expressions on her face that I’d never seen before. I studied dimples on her hands and the way her eyes crinkled up when she smiled. I saw the way other people responded to her stopping to take time to talk to them. I saw the way she spotted the interesting bugs and pretty flowers. She was a Noticer, and I quickly learned that The Noticers of the world are rare and beautiful gifts. That’s when I finally realized she was a gift to my frenzied soul.

My promise to slow down was made almost three years ago, at the same time I began my journey to let go of daily distraction and grasp what matters in life. Living at a slower pace still takes a concerted effort. But my younger daughter is my living reminder of why I must keep trying. In fact, the other day, she reminded me once again.

The two of us had taken a bike ride to a sno-cone shack while on vacation. After purchasing a cool treat for my daughter, she sat down at a picnic table delightedly admiring the icy tower she held in her hand.

Suddenly a look of worry came across her face. “Do I have to rush, Mama?”

I could have cried. Perhaps the scars of a hurried life don’t ever completely disappear, I thought sadly.

As my child looked up at me waiting to know if she could take her time, I knew I had a choice. I could sit there in sorrow thinking about the number of times I rushed my child through life … or I could celebrate the fact that today I’m trying to do thing differently.

I chose to live in today.

“You don’t have to rush. Just take your time,” I said gently. Her whole face instantly brightened and her shoulders relaxed.

And so we sat side-by-side talking about things that ukulele-playing-6-year-olds talk about. There were even moments when we sat in silence just smiling at each other and admiring the sights and sounds around us.

I thought my child was going to eat the whole darn thing—but when she got to the last bite, she held out a spoonful of ice crystals and sweet juice for me. «I saved the last bite for you, Mama,» my daughter said proudly.

As I let the icy goodness quench my thirst, I realized I just got the deal of a lifetime.

I gave my child a little time … and in return, she gave me her last bite and reminded me that things taste sweeter and love comes easier when you stop rushing through life.

Whether it’s …

  • Sno-cone eating
  • Flower picking
  • Seatbelt buckling
  • Egg cracking
  • Seashell finding
  • Ladybug watching
  • Sidewalk strolling

I will not say, «We don’t have time for this.» Because that is basically saying, «We don’t have time to live.»

Pausing to delight in the simple joys of everyday life is the only way to truly live.

(Trust me, I learned from the world’s leading expert on joyful living.)

Source: Rachel Macy Stafford

Rachel Macy Stafford is the New York Times bestselling author of Hands Free Mama and Hands Free Life. She is a certified special education teacher who helps people overcome distraction and perfection to live better and love more. For more inspiration and strategies to stop managing life and start living it, go to www.handsfreemama.com or The Hands Free Revolution on Facebook.

 

 

Dubsmash for Dads (and moms too)

Dubsmash as a coping mechanism for raising children? That’s right.

Let’s all agree that parenting is basically a repeat exercise in figuring out how to stay sane while caring for the needs and (often non-sensical) wants of the relentless and demanding small people we created, and as such, are responsible for.

It can be a vicious cycle, maintaining a sense of humor seems to be key in the process. But what do I know? I’m only 7.5 years into it, talk to me in 10.

All I know is that this dad, who used Dubsmash to record his way through the first year of his daughter’s life, he seems to be doing it right.

At this point in my parenting game, I’ve realized that it’s pretty much whatever helps you get through, right? For some people that might look like excessive social media usage or perhaps a few adult beverages once the children have gone to bed.

For other people it might be Dubsmash, and in this case, we all benefit from that.

My hat’s off to you, comrade!

10 Ways I’m a Different Mom to My Youngest Child {Sorry, I’m not Sorry}

10 Ways I'm a Different Mom To My Youngest

Dear youngest child . . . you’ve been the beneficiary of a much more chill mom. Some might call it laziness, I call it an increased ability to prioritize what’s really important.

Here’s what’s different:

I Don’t Stress Out As Much About Bad Behavior/Tantrums

With my first two, who were very close in age, I stressed out so much about their bad behavior. With every social impropriety my oldest executed I conjured up an image of my little toddler son growing up, unable to handle his temper, roving the streets with brass knuckles and a vendetta.

As a first time parent, I policed their behavior and had to be sure to demonstrate at a playdate that my kids were to be held accountable for every little misdeed.

Guess what? The oldest? He’s a teenager now, and a very sweet boy. He doesn’t own a pair of brass knuckles that I know of.

By the time I had my youngest I had a deep realization that kids just don’t get it right all of the time nor can they be expected to (nor do I have the energy to get my panties in a twist over it). Sure, I correct the behavior and try to help them right their wrongs, but the obsessive piece? It’s gone.  Difficulty sharing or a scuffle with another toddler does not amount to a future as a hardened criminal.

I Don’t Obsess About Kindergarten Choices (Public vs. Private vs. Charter vs. Homeschool vs. Online vs. Picketing at the Capitol)

I put so much thought and energy into figuring out what school would shape my first child and the impact that it would have on his life.

The more that time goes on, the more I’m convinced that the life skills they get from us at home like persistence, tackling hard things, learning how to be a self starter and motivating yourself .  . . those are more important than the gifted and talented programs and the extracurriculars. Those life skills are the things differentiate what kids grow up to become way more than the public vs. private debate.

Needless to say I’m a fan of our neighborhood school. Walking to school alongside neighbors, not having to drive miles for playdates, and yes, often crowded classrooms and a lackluster teacher here and there. Such is life.

We’ve had some good teachers, we’ve had some bad teachers, and the kids are just fine.

What’s “Mom & Me” and “Gymboree”?

Let’s face it. If you’re a new mom, those classes are more for you than your child. I did them all with my oldest. With my youngest? Who’s got time for that? My older two don’t remember one minute of Gymboree, Soccer Buddies or Music and Me, as a matter of fact I could make the whole thing up and they’d never know the difference. I was the one that needed something to do.

By the time the youngest rolled in, what I needed to do was get a little extra sleep instead of busting a move to these time fillers.

Breastfeeding vs.  Bottle Feeding

My first two were breastfed exclusively. I couldn’t get them to take bottles. I loved it, and I was also bound by it. My 3rd had to make the move to formula because of allergies. I couldn’t cut enough food out of my diet to feed her in a way that wasn’t causing havoc on her digestive system.

I was devastated at first. I felt like a bad mother. I missed the connection of nursing. But guess what I found out? Bottles have their upside. And formula is a blessing for kids who need it. My 3rd was easier to leave with babysitters, loved her bottle, and has actually turned out to be my child who gets sick THE LEAST.

My view on breast is best? That’s changed to “whatever works best for you and your baby is best”.

What Happened To Baby Photos at 3, 6, 9, 12?

Kid #1 was a regular at Kiddie Kandids (are they still in business?). Kids #3 is lucky to get her annual school pictures.

Don’t you worry though – there’s not lack of photographic evidence of her existence. With the rise of Instagram and mobile phone photography she’s still got her mug saved {in high volume} for all of her posterity to see.

I Don’t Save Every Scrap of Paper

I was a certified hoarder with my first child. I won’t be surprised if I find an envelope someday with his fingernail clippings in it.

The difference in the volume of folders and boxes between my oldest and youngest is staggering.

I Quit Penalizing Kids With Runny Noses

A runny  nose was enough to justify quarantine at a playdate or to get you and your family banned from a family party. I can still see it happening with my younger, newer parent in-laws at family parties. And I get it, and I also laugh. There is a righteous disgust and judgement leveled for bringing the slightest version of a cold to a family function. We’re long over that stage.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want your Type B strain coming around for Sunday dinner, but we’ll all survive your kid with the runny nose.

We Stay Home . . . A Lot

We stay home A LOT more.

I used to be the mom with an outing every day, snacks and sippies in tow.

I remember the day my 5-year-old asked me {rather expectantly) what I had planned for them that day.  He was clearly waiting for me to roll out the fun bus. That’s when I realized I needed to cut way back on the constant outings. They needed to get cozy entertaining themselves a bit more. The reality was that the outings were a little more for me than them. It got us out, I met up with friends, they played with other kids. It’s not a bad thing. But it was too much.

By the time the youngest one rolled around, I had not only adjusted my mentality on outings, but I was also MUCH busier with the general run around of my older kids. The seasons pass to the zoo just didn’t make sense anymore.

Actually, at this stage of the game, there’s nothing I love more than just staying home.

I Don’t Stress Out (as much) About Schedules

Running multiple kids around requires flexibility and a rigid nap and sleep schedule doesn’t always work well with that.  By my 3rd, I ceased worrying whether bedtime was on time or if her cat nap in the car totally blew her nap time routine. We just needed to get through the day.

As a result, she’s been a more flexible sleeper and is even the first to put herself to bed when she gets tired.

I’m Not That Worried About What Teacher They Get

I used to have a sense that a lackluster teacher could make or break our educational trajectory. I’ve realized it doesn’t.  And even if there is difficulty, for the most part, they can get through it.

Some teachers are better than others and we’re not going to win every time. They are going to have to learn to deal and adjust.

The Bottom Line

Here’s the thing: The oldest, the youngest, the middle, they all seem to be surviving my parenting. But the longer I’m at this, the less neurotic I am about the things that don’t matter.

That’s a win for everyone.

 

3 Ways Smart Parents Help Their Kids Turn ‘Mistakes’ Into SUCCESS

Tips to turn your child's mistakes into success!

They can’t learn anything if they’re not allowed to try and try again.

“Wow, she’s a natural at soccer.”

 “He’s like a math prodigy!”

 “Did you see how well she plays the violin? And she’s only five.”

Growing up, I was in awe of kids and adults who displayed raw talent in sports, academics, music, and other areas. In fact, I thought such innate, effortless talent was the only path to success.

Don’t get me wrong — My mom attempted to influence me with the truism: If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.

Yet, to me, it seemed that the pathway to success shouldn’t include practicing by making mistakes. How wrong I was!

I consistently tried new things and then gave up if I didn’t flourish almost instantly. I didn’t learn until much later that making mistakes is not only a healthy part of learning, it can provide the greatest opportunities for success.

Here are three powerful and actionable strategies for improving your child’s view of mistakes and success:

1. Reframe your child’s perspective about mistakes

For most kids, making a mistake means “doing something wrong.” That outlook makes facing a challenge difficult.

World-renowned researcher of motivation Carol Dweck reveals that those who adopt that type of “fixed mindset” — a belief that intelligence, character, and creative ability are innate and immutable — cap their own potential by avoiding challenge.

On the contrary, those who believe that intelligence and abilities are assets we nurture and cultivate through hard work possess “growth mindsets.” For those kids, making a mistake is an opportunity to learn. Dweck’s studies are clear: Kids with a growth mindset take on more challenges, bounce back more quickly from setbacks, and thrive academically in comparison to those with fixed mindsets.

Fortunately, we can help our kids nurture growth mindsets. For example, the simple awareness that the brain is a muscle that we can develop helps us do just that. Giving a child space to work out problems and make mistakes without fear of judgment, shame or punishment is another way to cultivate his or her growth mindset.

2.  Change YOUR reactions to your child’s mistakes  

Most of us learned early in life to hide our mistakes, putting as much distance between us and our failure as possible. While society (and general human nature) are largely to blame for reinforcing such attitudes and behaviors, as parents, we now have the power to break that toxic way of thinking.

If children fear the consequences of accidently knocking over that plant in the living room, getting a low grade, or cutting their little sister’s bangs with their crafting scissors, we’re fostering in them a fear of making mistakes at all (including the critical ones they’ll need to make to grow into healthy, well-functioning adults).

While I am not proposing a life with no consequences (or toddler-staffed barbershops), I AM proposing that we examine our own reactions as parents and educators to our children’s mistakes. The vast majority of mistakes young children make are relatively harmless. They have fixable outcomes that children can learn from.

Making mistakes is part of “trying” … part of “practicing” … two things we encourage our children to do all the time. Only through our calm reactions to mistakes can we establish this mentality in our children, and only through consistent application can we make it stick. (Having a two toddlers at home myself, I know this takes practice.)

3. Help your child stop negative self-talk 

“Why didn’t I do better on that test? I’m so dumb! I wish I was smarter.”

It’s common to adopt a voice of self-criticism after making a mistake. But it’s time to teach our children to treat themselves as they treat their own best friends. Research shows self-compassion trumps self-criticism on the path toward reaching our goals.

Wait — isn’t this a form of self-indulgence? Shouldn’t we teach our kids accountability for their mistakes?

A pioneer in self-compassion, Dr. Kristin Neff says there are three common misconceptions about the nature of self-compassion:

  • First, self-compassion is not self-pity. Self-pity tends toward the self-absorbed end of the spectrum. It ignores the fact that many others have made the same mistake. It focuses on what happened rather than on what should happen next, and it emphasizes taking inspiration from shared experiences.
  • Second, self-compassion is not self-indulgence. Teaching your children self-compassion does not mean coddling them or teaching them to coddle themselves. Point out to your children that being truly compassionate with themselves necessarily involves setting themselves up for futures of growth and success. Self-indulgence is nearly always couched in short-term pleasure and, consequently, is usually less than compassionate.
  • Third, self-compassion is not the same as self-esteem. In a culture where we value standing out and being special, where average people need to believe they are above average, self-esteem hinges on determining one’s “value” through self-analysis. Self-compassion, on the contrary, is blind to value. You’re already “enough” as you are.

We must teach our children to feel compassion for themselves simply because they’re human. Practicing self-compassion allows our kids to observe, acknowledge, and learn from their mistakes without feeling shame, all without regard to external circumstances or skill levels.

Making mistakes is essential to success. 

If we can teach our children to view mistakes as opportunities, to embrace their mistakes, and to practice self-compassion, we give them powerful and exponentially rewarding gifts. They will inevitably find more success and genuinely make the world a better, kinder place.

Join Renee on a mission to teach children invaluable skills including resilience, self-compassion, how to take on anxiety, and much more at Gozen.com

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Do you kids get anxiety? Great tips in this post!

Use the Force to calm their fears.

My favorite movies of all time come from the original Star Wars trilogy. Growing up, I often played with Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader action figures, pretending I too was a Jedi Knight.

It’s not surprising that when I faced adversity in the 7th grade, I turned to the power of the Force.

Middle school hurt. Social intimidation, academic challenges, and parental pressures all set against the backdrop of swirling hormones and my personal penchant for worry.

Around age 12, my anxiety really took flight and started to knock the wind right out of me  literally.

The smallest challenges sparked internal firestorms of thoughts that manifested in stomachaches, crying, and often shortness of breath.

My parents tried to cleave me from the throes of panic with consistent love and reassurance, but to no avail. As I grew, so too did their feelings of helplessness. Not wanting them (or me) to suffer any further, I enacted a plan.

I asked myself what a Jedi would do in this situation. The answer was obvious: use the Force to build a protective shield.

So I built one–an impenetrable emotional force shield. If I were anxious about an exam, I pushed the worry deep inside until I couldn’t feel it. If I didn’t get asked to a dance, I wasn’t hurt because it bounced off my shield and I felt nothing. By my first year of high school I had perfected the practice and became a full-fledged emotional stoic. When my parents asked how I was doing, I would say, “Fine. Fine. Nothing new.”

I believed my own words until the plan started to fall apart, and in the end was nothing short of an epic fail.

Instead of wielding the Force, I numbed it, particularly the dark side. Here’s the thing: numbing my dark emotions had unforeseen consequences; it also numbed the light. 

Research confirms that in squashing worry, sadness, anger, and fear, we also push out joy, gratitude, meaning, and purpose. In choosing not to feel, I became a veritable robot with a ticking time bomb inside.

That bomb went off at age 25. Mired in a messy relationship, I hit rock bottom. Panic attacks, anxiety, and fear were un-tethered and came roaring back. I sought therapy, and with this blessing the trajectory of my life changed. I learned to focus inward, and for the first time in years I allowed all of my feelings — light and dark — to surface without judgment. In doing so, I finally unearthed the true secret of the Jedi: mindfulness.

You see, Luke Skywalker is a beacon of strength and a guardian of peace and justice not because he always feels happy and good. In fact, like all of us, Luke experiences fear, anger, worry, and even moments of hate. And though these emotions can be overwhelming, through his Jedi training, Luke learns to sit with his discomfort. He allows his emotions to surface and pass.

In practicing mindfulness, Luke’s emotions are stripped of their designations. Instead of “dark” and “light” or “good” and “bad,” emotions simply become what they were always meant to be: communication tools.

By the time Luke reaches the final battle with his father, Darth Vader, in Return of the Jedi, he is a master of mindfulness. When anger or worry spark within him, he closes his eyes and feels his emotion, allows it to surface, listens to the message it brings, and then makes a decision on how to proceed based on that information.

My first attempt at Jedi training was based on an unsophisticated understanding of the Force. With a different perspective and years of mindfulness practice, I feel confident in passing on some more effective Jedi lessons to our children.

If you have an anxious child (and especially if they love Star Wars), try these 4 Jedi mind(fulness) techniques:

1. Define the “Force”.


Giphy

In the Star Wars’ movies, it becomes clear very quickly that the Force is an awesome power that everyone wants. But what exactly IS the Force?

When I work with kids, I provide them with my interpretation. The Force is the power we get from any emotion whether it comes from the light side or the dark side. From love, joy, and surprise to anger, sadness, and worry, nothing is “good” or “bad.” These emotions are only messengers, and all are part of the Force.

Very plainly, the Force = the power of emotions.

Try this: Ask your child if he or she would like to go through Jedi training. Tell them that their mission will be to decode the secret messages being sent by the Force (e.g., their worried thoughts, their angry feelings).

 

2. Wave hello to the dark side.


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If your child feels anxious, the way around the discomfort is straight through it. We must teach our children not to deny, avoid, or squash parts of their emotional experience. Long-term avoidance of emotions can actually spark and perpetuate depression, anxiety, and substance abuse. When we choose not to face our worry, we are left much like Darth Vader, enslaved by our pain.

The alternative to avoidance is acknowledgement. I understand helping your child acknowledge his or her anxious feelings instead of shutting them down is not an easy choice. Sometimes it’s easier to just say, “Don’t worry so much. Please trust me, it’ll be fine.”

As a parent myself, I completely understand this path. Sometimes we don’t have the emotional fortitude to support a child’s chronic worry, especially when it seems our love and reassurance are not having a positive effect. Anxious emotions are often big emotions that can be uncomfortable for the entire family.

All that said, when you parent an anxious child, you seek one thing above almost anything else for your child: inner peace. Toward this goal, acknowledgement is the stepping stone.

Try this: Next time your children worry, tell them they are a Jedi Knight, and Jedis acknowledge the Force (an emotion) when they feel it. They can wave hello to their worry and say, “Hey, worry. I see you’re back. I’m a Jedi. I understand you’re trying to tell me something.”

 

3. Lean into the Dark Side


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Leaning into the dark side takes training because, at first, it can feel messy and uncomfortable. Leaning in means allowing your child the space to physically feel where the Force or worry is flowing on the inside. Allowing discomfort to pass gets us a step closer to decoding the message from our emotion.

Anxiety activates the sympathetic nervous system, and as such, feelings of worry are often felt in such places as the stomach, chest, and throat. Breathing with visualization can calm the nervous system and begin to kick a child’s logical brain back into gear.

Try this: Obi-Wan instructs Luke to close his eyes and, “Stretch out with your feelings”; Yoda says, “Allow the force to flow through you.” When your son or daughter worries, have them close their eyes and ask them where they are feeling the worry or the Force flowing inside of their body.

Now, ask your children to breathe into the place in their body where they feel the Force. While they take a deep breath, ask them to imagine what the Force actually looks like. What color is it? What consistency is it? Maybe it looks like a dark cloud. Once they have the visual, ask them to breathe the Force out.

To support your child during this process, you can use phrases like, “I am here, and you are completely safe, my young Jedi. This feeling will pass.”

 

4. Put the Light Saber Down


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Our range of feelings (light and dark) creates our emotional consciousness and gives power to the Force. Within this consciousness lie encoded messages. The problem is we usually miss the communication being sent by our emotions such as anger and worry because we are too busy reacting. Swift reactions cover up messages.

Darth Vader tries to provoke these reactions in his son, Luke. Vader says, “So you have a twin sister? If you will not turn to the dark side, then perhaps she will.” Luke feels very angry and even as a full Jedi Knight trained in the art of mindfulness, he does not pause to acknowledge or lean in to his anger. Instead, he reacts right away and begins to battle his father.

When Luke regains his composure, he realizes that his anger is communicating that he wants to love and protect his family, including his father. Luke then decides the best way to teach his father about the light side is to show him compassion. So he turns his light saber off and tosses it aside.

Now, this last step may seem way too esoteric for your child to grasp, but I’ve worked with children for years. Even at a very young age, they are incredibly sophisticated. If we communicate in their language, they get it.

Try this: Let’s teach kids their worry is trying to send them a message, but the message is encoded. As a Jedi, the way to get to the secret message is to be mindful when we feel worried. This means understanding worry has a purpose, acknowledging it, leaning into it, and then making a logical decision on how to proceed.

 

On this quest toward training the next generation of Jedi, may the Force be with all of us.

This article is meant to provide some practical steps to help your anxious child and to highlight the idea we can use different (and fun!) ways to teach our children the art of resilience. For more engaging anxiety relief techniques for your child, join Renee at gozen.com.

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10 Things I Did As A New Parent That I Would NEVER Do Again

Here are a few things I wouldn't do as a new parent if I had the chance to start all over again.

Remember: never second-guess yourself.

As a first time parent there are always things you do because you’re a nervous newbie who’s learning on the go. Or in other words, new parenting is basically trial-by-fire and sometimes it can be explosive, especially those breastfed baby poops.

Here are a few things I wouldn’t do as a new parent if I had the chance to start all over again.

  1. Throwing big birthday parties

Since my former husband and I started celebrating our daughter’s birthday with a big celebration, it means the expectations are set high. To pull back and say, “Oh, let’s just havefamily over for cake” right now would be an epic fail because expectations have fallen into place. This does NOT mean that I can’t say, “Hey daughter, parties are expensive. Let’s scale down this year,” but it does make it harder.

Truthfully, I have one child and I don’t mind celebrating her birthday in style, especially for the first birthday (which is really a party for the parents, but maybe I would’ve gone more low-key after that until kindergarten). Once you set the bar high with anything in life, it’s hard to lower it; it’s key in all aspects of parenthood to set realistic expectations for our children.

  1. Not hiring a non-family member babysitter sooner

As a single mom, I have a babysitter that I can rely on now; however, when my daughter was first born it took me a long time (years) to find a stable babysitter who could stay with us for the long-term. I had one wonderful babysitter, but she had to leave for a full-time position, and after that I didn’t rush to find someone new, mostly due to financial reasons.

I should’ve gotten on top of that pronto, because even if you’re broke you have to pay for good family care backup. Obviously a family member will be more trusted than a stranger, but you can’t always tell your family what to do with your kid (because the person may not listen), and at the time, I had issues with my former mother-in-law.

Plus, my parents are older and don’t have the same energy they once did. Having someone to call as a “just in case” is a smart idea. There were many opportunities I missed because I had no reliable help and couldn’t leave my daughter alone.

  1. Buying too many clothes

In the beginning I went a little crazy with my daughter, and honestly, there were items left hanging with tags and bows, never worn. Now I under-buy and have to make purchases mid-season because I underestimated. Did my daughter need that many bows? Um, no, unless she planned on growing up to be a Christmas present.

Be careful to not go too crazy buying clothing, especially if you have a girl; they tear through clothes. Borrow from friends. Hand-me-downs rock. And don’t worry about it being a “hand-me-down.”

  1. Worrying about small accidents

Toddlers and infants fall. Repeatedly. Guess what? They survive. But it drove me crazy watching my daughter toddle around and — smack! — hit her head on something. I felt like a bad parent, when it was just a developmental stage and had nothing to do with me as a person. What parent can prevent all falls?

As long as it’s not a huge fall, your kid will survive. It’s hard when you’re a new parent, and it’s the first time you’ve had to worry about padding a coffee table and suddenly every area of your house looks like a danger zone.

  1. Staying with the same pediatrician

I ended up switching pediatricians at the end of her first year of life, but I wished I had switched sooner. I felt skeptical of some of her first doctor’s advice and bedside manner, and I should’ve acted quicker.

Was he a stable doctor? Yes. Did he have good advice? Sure. Was he the right doctor for our family? No, and I should’ve trusted my instincts sooner. He wasn’t harmful but I doubted myself too much. Don’t doubt yourself! If a doctor doesn’t seem right to you or doesn’t work with your personality, switch ASAP.

  1. Keeping everything too tidy and clean

It’s good for kids to get messy. Of course, both myself and my daughter’s father are neat freaks and so is my child, but I wished I had encouraged her to make a mess more often. It’s freeing, and a little outdoor germs and mud never hurt anyone but your carpets.

  1. Not letting my daughter self-wean

I decided to wean my daughter for a medical reason at thirteen months old. There was nothing I could’ve done to change that decision. I feel very good about how I raised her as an infant and toddler and what I currently do with her today, but I would’ve been happier if I let her self-wean.

I felt strongly that she should decide when nursing was over, but my health dictated that we wean right away. It wasn’t terribly sudden or handled improperly but the process happened more quickly than I would’ve liked. Thankfully, my daughter handled it pretty well and didn’t seem distraught.

  1. Introducing vegetables too late

My former husband and I did a modified version of baby-led weaning with our child, so she’s turned out to be a great eater. But I introduced raw veggies late, so she only prefers raw carrots. Introducing them at four years old is harder than introducing at two years old or sooner.

She will eat them cooked (broccoli, carrots, peas) but to all parents: introduce as many new foods as soon as your child can handle chewing them. The later you wait to introduce them, the harder it is. I’m thankful we gave her a great variety of foods and flavors, but perhaps I just thought that raw veggies were more of an adult food. Either way, don’t forget to add them to your little one’s plate.

  1. Worrying about comments from in-laws

I wish I had cared less about other’s comments about my parenting, but in particular, ex-in-laws. It was wasted energy to worry about such things. If you have a family member or friend you never see eye-to-eye with, you most likely won’t see eye-to-eye with this person on parenting, so drop the small fights, pick battles wisely, and ignore unnecessary rude comments.

Keep doing what you’re doing. Don’t let yourself get down, because you aren’t on this earth to please everyone and the most important person that should be happy is your child and you (and spouse if you’ve got one). Someone will always have something to say about your parenting.

  1. Not keeping my mouth shut

Did grandma buy another stuffed toy? Just say thank you and zip your lips, and don’t complain to grandma. It’s useless; she will do it again, and again, and again. Instead, just re-gift or return the gifts for something you need. Someone will always get you useless baby stuff. Just trust me.

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12 Hilariously Epic Lies Parents Have Actually Told Their Children

"My six-year-old STILL believes I actually have eyes in the back of my head."

Hey. We’ve all done it.

If you’re a parent, then you’ve likely lied to your kids; maybe you even tell them little lies every single day. Sometimes it’s just easier to lie to children than to explain the truth to them, and sometimes these little lies make our lives, as their parents, a little more bearable.

Here are some of the most laughable lies that have been told to clueless children.

1. I’m always watching you.

“I told my kids I put hidden cameras all over the house so I can always see what they’re doing or what’s happened when I’m away.”

2. I drink at all hours of the day.

“Our toddler is only aware of four beverages: milk, water, tea and beer. When I’m drinking something other than these, like a soda that I know is bad for me, and she happens to see me and call me out on it, I just tell her it’s beer. Even if it’s 10 AM. Eventually this may become an issue.”

3. You can only stay here if you behave.

“I tell my kids that most restaurants have a policy that misbehaving children have to leave immediately. They’ve always been really well behaved at restaurants because I remind them of this often.”

4. It’s time to leave.

“When I want to leave a store before my son is ready, I tell him they’re closing and we need to leave so they can lock the doors. Occasionally, I get the store clerk to play along.”

5. You need to keep your voice down, or else…

“Recently, my four-year-old, Molly, was throwing an epic screaming tantrum in the parking lot. She was standing very close to a metal grate in the pavement. So I told her she had better quiet down or the Trolls would come up and eat her. Everyone knows that Trolls love deliciously loud children. She snapped her mouth shut and jumped in the car, wide-eyed with fright.”

6. Some lies stick with you forever.

“My six-year-old STILL believes I actually have eyes in the back of my head.”

7. Watch what you say.

“I told my much younger brother that it’s illegal to swear before you turn 16. He believed it for a few years.”

8. You have to learn how to use the potty sometime.

“I told my kid that snakes poop in the potty. (Not sure what the motivation is for that one!)”

9. Your toys have minds of their own.

“I tell my kids that I have no idea what happened to certain toys (that I got rid of).”

10. Bad things will happen if you don’t listen.

“Every time something bad happens in a Disney movie, I tell my kids that it’s because they didn’t listen to their parents. Nemo was kidnapped because he didn’t listen to his dad about staying close by. Ariel’s dad got turned into a slug because she didn’t listen. Merida’s mom was turned into a bear because she didn’t listen. You get the idea!”

11. You don’t want to know what happens if you don’t stop running around.

“If you stub your toe more than ten times, the skin won’t grow back. It definitely made my daughter stop running around barefoot as much.”

12. You’ll be comfortable soon enough.

“My usually-honest-to-a-fault parents used to drag my sister and I on long hikes. I remember being told there was an air-conditioned gift shop at the top of one particular mountain. They LIED.”

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