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Nurturing trust and openness with your teenager.

I vaguely remember what it was like being a teenager. It was a long time ago but some things stick with me. Feeling self-conscious. Overseas trips. Being taught stuff. Kissing boys. Learning how to sail and sew. Acne. Such richness of experience!

I also remember not wanting to “get into trouble” with my parents. I was scared of their judgement, anger and disapproval.

As a young child I tried to be a “good girl” and I mostly succeeded. I did my best to meet my parents’ expectations and I tried to anticipate what they wanted. Do as you are told was the basic “rule” that I perceived and internalized. I can’t remember the details of what was said or done when I was little. But I do remember flare-ups of anger, yelling and threats that scared me. Sometimes there was spanking. I have no idea how often but I don’t think it was common. My parents were blameless. We were all blameless. And inevitably, patterns of thinking and reacting were established in my mind.

I don’t know why I was so sensitive to judgement, anger and threats. I never had a thick skin. I took it all in, and it felt awful. Deep down, I believed that it was my fault; that if I said the right thing and behaved the right way I could avoid those flare-ups coming at me. Self-talk started to appear inside my head to remind me that I wasn’t good enough, that I should try harder, that I was to blame. I developed a keen sense of what would trigger my parents judgement and anger and I did my best to avoid it. This logic seemed to work for a while.

By my teens my desire to explore and have new experiences overrode my desire to play it safe. That’s when I started to hide parts of my life from my parents out of fear of their reaction. The highly charged topic of sexual relationships, with all their physical and emotional challenges, was something that I didn’t want to talk to my parents about at all. I used to sneak out of my bedroom window at night and walk through dark Sydney suburbs to meet a boy. My secret nocturnal life eventually led me to sex and fun, then to heartache and then to other relationships.

I was fortunate. I never came to any harm and I never experienced an unwanted pregnancy. I guess if it had come to that I would have talked to my parents out of necessity. As it was, I went my own way and kept quiet about my fears, questions and insecurities.

Perhaps you can relate to some of this? Did you ever react to your parents in fear and hide or pull back from them? Did you try your best to comply with their rules and expectations? Or did you rebel and fight back? Did you ever sneak or hide your explorations of food, porn, drugs, relationships, sex or something else? Did you have problems that you felt you couldn’t share with your parents?

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How to help your angry child

This article is for parents that have a child that gets very angry.

Maybe your child also hits, or swears, or blames you when they are upset. Maybe they have wild, screaming meltdowns.

This article is for you if want to support your child to get past their angry outburst without it becoming a battle between you.

You know your child is suffering and you want to help them rather than just make them feel worse about themselves.

Warning: This article isn’t going to provide a quick fix. But it might change your life in unexpected ways.

You’ve probably tried everything you can think of, but it just keeps happening

I know. I’ve been there.

I have two sons and they both feel things deeply. They have both been through periods of their lives where they experienced explosive anger.

This has sometimes been abrupt outbursts of rage. There was intense screaming and crying. Often there was physical lashing out, hitting and blaming their upset on someone close; usually me.

These outbursts were triggered by something, but it was not always possible to work out what that was. Even if the trigger seemed clear, there may not have been a way to avoid it.

From the start, I was clear about what I didn’t want to do.

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What is Joyful Parenting?

You are a person who cares deeply about your children and who wants to support them everyday in a way that is loving, gentle and playful. You don’t want to be an authority figure who is obeyed or a stressed-out parent who yells all the time. You want to be a calm, open and available person that your child can trust with absolutely anything, knowing that they won’t be judged or lectured.

You don’t want parenting to be all hard work. You want to have fun with your children and delight in your life together. You want to learn and grow into a more relaxed and confident person, just as you hope your child does.

You are looking for ideas that are both practical and grounded in spiritual truth. You don’t want expert advice, but you are open to learning from the experience of others.

You are the sort of person who might be interested in Joyful Parenting.

What makes Joyful Parenting unique?

There are three core elements that work together to make Joyful Parenting a unique approach to raising children.

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How to solve problems with your children without threats, bribes or limits.

Can you guess what most of the parents I hear from say they want?

They want to solve a problem they are having with their child!

Maybe you are in the same boat. Something is driving you crazy and you’re at the end of your tether.

You’re a mum or dad that has a commitment to peaceful parenting and you don’t use harsh punishments like smacking or shaming. But in times of stress things come out of your mouth that shock you. You are suddenly aware that you sound just like your mother or father.

You find yourself resorting to threats even though you don’t want to follow through with them. In desperation you offer bribes but the “price” keeps going up! Setting limits and making rules seem to be a breeze for other parents but you end up in constant battles that go nowhere. These old tactics just aren’t working.

How do you end the struggles, find peaceful solutions and not feel like your children are walking all over you?

I’ve got the answer, even though it’s probably very different to what you’ve come across before. You might think its too way-out-there at first. It’s a process that has worked for me time and time again to tackle every sort of problem that I’ve had with my children.

This approach is something I’ve been teaching my friends and clients for years but I haven’t written a blog post about it ……. until today.

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What dolphins taught me about harmonious family life.

Swimming with Spinner dolphins

I recently had the privilege of swimming with wild dolphins off the Kona coast of the Big Island, Hawaii with dolphin researcher and advocate Roberta Goodman. It taught me a lot about family harmony and living in flow.

I’m not very familiar with dolphins. I’ve seen Bottlenose dolphins playing in the surf in Australia but I’ve never seen a captive dolphin show or been up close in the water. Hawaiian spinner dolphins are much smaller than Bottlenose dolphins and travel in larger pods. They hunt at night in the deep waters off the Kona coast and they come into shallow water during the day to play, sleep and socialize. This brings them into close contact with humans who use these crystal clear waters to fish, surf, dive, sail and swim. These wild dolphins don’t avoid human contact. Long stretches of coastal water are empty of people and yet dolphins linger in the area where boats are gathered and snorkelers are in the water eager to see them. Barbara has been swimming with these dolphins for 20 years and she confirmed that these dolphins seek out and seem to enjoy their interactions with the people who come to meet them.

My son and I were lucky enough to have beautiful calm weather for our morning of dolphin watching. We were with a small group of two guides and 5 visitors. The captain of the boat kept watch for dolphins and dropped us in the water just ahead of where they would swim past. The first few times we were in the water the dolphin pod swam past at their “travelling” speed. We had a short and delightful view as we swam hard to keep pace but we soon dropped behind them. There were a few other boats in the area and other snorkelers in the water waiting for a chance to see the dolphins swim past as they cruised up and down the coast. The dolphins obliged by slowing down and cruising around the gathered observers allowing us to swim alongside them for longer. They started playing with us, swimming up behind us and then zipping past very close. A few times we saw individuals leave the pod and leap up out of the water in a magnificent spin and then slip back into the flow of the dolphin group.

Dolphin consciousness

I lost all sense of time as I watched these delightful creatures. There was so much to take in!  The flow of the pod as they moved through the water was effortless and graceful. They truly moved as one, like a school of fish or a flock of wild birds. And yet, there were also bursts of individual expression as one or more dolphins swerved out of the group to do their own thing. It was clear to me after even this small time observing them that these dolphins experience both a collective consciousness as well as an individual consciousness. Continue Reading →

5 shifts I made to transform my marriage

My husband and I have shared 16 years of intense, passionate and challenging marriage. Things had been the same way between us for a long time. Then just in the last few months our relationship has changed dramatically. The change is so wonderful I can hardly believe it. The intermittent episodes of strain and disharmony have fallen away. Painful patterns have dissolved. There is more intimacy, deep connection and fun than we have ever experienced before. It’s like a whole new relationship with someone deeply familiar.

What brought about this transformation?

I can only tell my side of the story. It’s a story very much connected to my spiritual awakening. I have experienced five shifts in myself that are now being reflected in my marriage. It still feels a bit weird and I want to pin it down for myself. Somehow writing stuff down makes it seem more real. And maybe something of my experience will resonate with you and help you to find more trust, delight and joy in your relationship too. Continue Reading →

How to live well and prosper: life skills that adults and children can learn together.

I am absorbed in an adventure. It is a wild, challenging, unruly adventure that takes place every day in my own home. It is an adventure in learning.

When my family of four embarked on our home education journey over ten years ago my attention was largely focused on the sort of learning that is emphasized by schools and mainstream culture. I was curious and sometimes worried about how my two boys were going to learn to read, write, calculate with numbers and absorb the vast canon of knowledge that is considered fundamental to the task of “getting on in the world.” These matters still occupy some of our time. We enjoy exploring new skills and learning facts about the world. And yet, I think about this sort of learning less and less as time goes on.

The type of learning that fascinates me now is the kind that I am engaged in at much the same level as my children. We are learning alongside each other every day. And what we are learning is far more important to us than the skills and facts of the school model. The focus of our learning is our own wellbeing and purpose in life. It is about discovering the joy of living a unique, precious human life to the very fullest.

The most important thing that we are learning about is ourselves.

We are exploring what excites and delights us most of all:
What do we desire more of in our lives?
What sparks our curiosity and urge to explore?
What can we do today that will give us enjoyment and satisfaction?
What comes easily for us?
What are the gifts that we bring to this life and to those around us? Continue Reading →