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Articles about Creative problem solving

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 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 →

7 reasons not to set limits with your child.

How many times have you heard someone say that you should be setting clear limits for your child, as if this was the solution to most of the difficult problems that parents face? Many parents believe that if they aren’t setting limits, or they aren’t working effectively, that they are somehow failing.

There are at least 7 reasons why setting limits may not be ideal for your family.

  1. You may have a spirited or determined child who reacts strongly to having limits imposed on them. Some children are strong-willed by nature. They resist their parent’s attempts to control or limit them. This can lead to a great deal of yelling and fighting between parent and child and lingering bad feeling and resentment. No-one knows your child as well as you do. You will intuitively know if a top-down, parent-in-authority approach is not working well in your family.
  2. You may not enjoy the role of rule-maker or authority. Even though many of us were brought up to think that this was an essential part of being a parent, you may have other goals. You may want to be a parent who doesn’t try and control children with limits, consequences and boundaries. You may want to focus on respect and co-operation and finding solutions in partnership with your children.
  3. You may want your children to learn effective problem solving skills. If parents step in and set limits and rules there are missed opportunities for involving children in a problem solving process. When children are introduced to problem solving early in life they gain skills that they can apply throughout their lives. To show your children that there is always a way to find a win-win solution in any conflict is a very precious gift to give them.
  4. Some children appear to comply with limits but then act out in other ways. They may take their frustration out on a sibling or friend, or even start to harm themselves. There are many ways that children react to having power exercised over them and some of these can take years to surface. The fact is that most children hate to be restricted and controlled by their parents. There is a high probability that they will respond by lying, hoarding, sneaking or “acting out” at some stage.
  5. You may think that you love and accept your child while you set limits, but does your child see it this way? Whether a child feels unaccepted or unloved will be a determined by their personality, sensitivity and how many of their behaviours are deemed unacceptable by their parents. Do you want to take the risk that your child ends up feeling unloved when there are other, more peaceful ways of dealing with the issue?
  6. You may question the way that you were brought up and the values behind mainstream parenting. You may even be questioning your own ideas about how children “should behave” and traditional ideas about what behaviour is “right” and “wrong”. You may want to have a more heart-centred and intuitive relationship with your children that allows space for your child to explore, make mistakes and learn from them in a safe and supportive environment.
  7. Perhaps you simply don’t know what else to do. You may have resorted to setting limits because of your own frustration, resentment and overwhelm. Maybe you were feeling controlled by your child and that your own needs were not being met. You may have fallen into the trap of accepting behaviour that you really couldn’t handle. The good news is, it isn’t true that you have to opt for either setting limits or being overly permissive. There is another way.

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My sons love superheros and I am worried about the violence.

Post on Facebook: “Hi everyone, my 7yo boys currently love anything superhero. They have limited daily screen time and I try to give them as much choice as possible in how they use this (interesting iPad apps, access to certain websites, DVDs) but I feel like I’m constantly battling with them at the moment as all they want are superhero apps and superhero YouTube clips which I am not comfortable with as they have little substance and too much violence and they become obsessive about them. We have a wonderful busy and stimulating life outside of this one part of each day which has become a battleground.”

This is a question that was asked recently in a Facebook group I am in. It leapt out at me, both because of the superhero theme and because of the reminders of my own past struggles and the learning that I gained from them.

This was my response:

“I’m going to to go out on a bit of a limb here as this is such an important issue that I have struggled with myself in the past. It seems from what you say that you value peace and harmony and would like those qualities to be at the forefront of your children’s lives. And yet you say that you are constantly battling with your boys over this issue. I know what that can look and feel like as I went through the same things with my own two boys. I battled with them over their super-keen interest in fighting, questing, gaming, superheros, fantasy, shooting, weapons and all those related subjects. And what that looked like in practice was me getting frustrated, angry, yelling, threatening, trying to control through harsh words and manipulation etc. What I eventually came to realize is that all of these are forms of violence. It was emotional violence that my children were painfully aware of, even when it looked and sounded pretty mild by any conventional standards. And they were both highly sensitive to my words, actions and attitudes. I realized that if I really wanted peace and harmony that I needed to
make these a priority in my relationship with them. I know that my way of relating to them has SO much more impact on their wellbeing than anything they watch on TV or any game they play. Continue Reading →

Don’t blame me!

 

TO BLAME: To think or declare that someone is responsible for a fault or wrong.

Most of us blame without giving it a moment’s consideration. We blame others for hurting us. We blame our child for making a huge mess and ruining our day. We blame our parents for criticising or neglecting us. We blame our partner for not loving us in the way that we want. We blame the guy who ran over our cat and we blame Hitler for starting the Second World War. We are so used to blaming and being blamed that we think it is an inescapable part of human life. If that is what you wish to keep thinking, then read no further. Because I am on a mission to end blame. I want a world without blame, for myself and for all of us.

Never having to say Sorry
I want to be free of my deeply ingrained habit of accepting blame. I want to live without fear of doing or saying the wrong thing. I want to be free of the pain of believing that someone else’s suffering is my fault. I want an end to wallowing in self-judgement and to live without needing to say “I’m sorry.” I have been making myself wrong and apologising my whole life and I’ve had enough. I want to give myself a chance to love and give and shine without the fear of blame.

Refusing to accept blame does not mean that I take no responsibility. In fact I am willing to take 100% responsibility for my own actions, words, thoughts and feelings. But I am no longer willing to take responsibility for anybody else’s. That means that you can go on believing that I ruined your life (or whatever) and I can be quite clear that I am not, and never were, to blame for how you feel. 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 →

Are you worried that your child is addicted to video games?

When you think about the amount of time that your child spends playing video games do the words “obsession” and “addiction” come to mind? Do you fear for your child’s physical and mental health? Is this an issue that keeps you awake at night? This is THE hot topic among parents that I talk to. It generates a huge amount of stress for parents and conflict in families. It’s a big topic and one that is beyond the scope of one post so I am going to focus on one key issue; the fear of gaming addiction.

At the heart of this fear of addiction is the belief that there is something about gaming itself that has the capacity to overwhelm free will and draw a child into a pattern of behaviour that is genuinely harmful. This belief places the child in the role of victim and assumes that the game (or gaming in general) is inherently dangerous. This belief fits comfortably with dominant beliefs in our society about the dangers of other addictive activities and substances. We either fear the activity or substance or we fear that we have an inherent weakness (such as a genetic predisposition) that makes us susceptible to it’s dangers. Either way, if you are believing that something is inherently harmful the most common reaction is to try and control and limit it. Placing time limits on video gaming is considered a responsible practice by many parents for this reason. Some parents take the next step and ban gaming altogether.

What if gaming was not the problem, but rather part of the solution?

What if limiting gaming actually increases the likelihood of compulsive gaming and its negative side effects? Continue Reading →

Daily tooth brushing and peaceful parenting: can they coexist?

“It is my responsibility to make sure that my son cleans his teeth every day,” I used to believe this very firmly. So do many parents I know. It seems like a reasonable belief until you have a child (or two!) that refuses to brush their teeth despite repeated requests. No amount of explanation as to why this is an important thing to do would change his mind. In these circumstances this belief can generate a lot of conflict, anxiety and stress – and it did.

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What about setting limits?

Of all the issues that come up for parents one of the most difficult and confusing is the one of when to say Yes and when to say No. And yet it’s the issue that comes up most often. No wonder so many parents are stressed.

The reason it comes up so often is that children have wants – and lots of them. They want to explore their world, to stay at the park, to have ice cream, to watch that movie on TV and for you to buy them the latest toy or game. It can go on and on. Working out what to say in response to all that wanting can be difficult. It is an ongoing challenge for me to speak the simple words Yes and No with clarity, honesty and integrity. I am still experimenting and learning every day and I want to share what I have discovered so far.

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