The Book: Have Happier Children – in 7 Days or Less!

It’s finally here! Now, you can turn around your day-to-day experiences with your child – from surly to excited, from listless to energetic, from moody to even-tempered.

With the e-book Have Happier Children – in 7 Days or Less!, you have access to solutions that encourage, enable and empower you to help your child be happier – in 7 days or less! :-) No exaggerations.

The solutions are easy, instantly applicable, practical, and free-of-cost – once you pay the $12.95 price of the book! :-)

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Have Happier Children - in 7 Days or Less!, Win at parenting - be a Carefree Parent!

I’m waiting to hear your experiences as you apply the solutions and begin to Have Happier Children :-)

Carefree Parenting has moved to a new home! Please visit http://carefreeparenting.com for all the articles, books and other material. See you soon. :-)


Parenting, Behavior and Discipline

Carefree Parenting has moved! Access all the goodness at http://carefreeparenting.com.

Read the latest posts on Parenting, Behavior and Discipline at the new website. You can also subscribe to ensure you get each post hot off the press.

Look forward to hearing from you. :-)

Carefree Parenting has moved to a new home! Please visit http://carefreeparenting.com for all the articles, books and other material. See you soon. :-)


Carefree Parenting has Moved to a New Home!

Dear friends,

Carefree Parenting has moved to a new home. The link is: http://carefreeparenting.com/. The move is to enable me to do more with Carefree Parenting, so you have a more enriched experience.

Please add the new website address to your list of favorites. If you had subscribed to Carefree Parenting earlier, you’ll have to do it once more, but I promise this will be the last time!

Keep visiting, and you’ll see many changes in the coming few weeks. Thank you for your support, and hope to see you at http://carefreeparenting.com/. :-)


Parenting: The Basics, Revisited in 2012 – Respond

Respond to the situation.

How well are you able to respond? How response-able are you? How good are you at responding to situations?

Not as good as you’d like to be, I’m sure. I know I’m not as good at responding to situations as I’d like to be.

And there’s a simple reason for this. Instead of responding, I start reacting. Instead of treating each situation as an individual incident, I treat it as an episode in an ongoing series.

Human beings are made this way. That’s how we learn things, how we distinguish patterns, how we form habits.

But if I want to enjoy a fulfilling relationship with my child, it would be worth it for me not to be a slave to my brain. I am more than my brain and habits, just as you are more than your brain and habits.

If I, as an adult, cannot respond instead of reacting, I have no right to expect my child to respond. I should be happy when she reacts – after all, that’s what I’m doing! So we both just keep reacting – to history, ancient history and patterns, till we are totally out of sync with the present, with reality. And we’ve thoroughly ruined our relationship.

Why? Because I’m not ‘grown up’ enough, adult enough, to respond instead of reacting!

I see my child come home with her lunch not eaten, and instead of enquiring why, I burst out: “Again! You haven’t had your lunch again! You should starve for a few days. Then you’ll know…”

If she’s in a good mood, she shuffles her feet and waits till the storm passes. “A few boys from my class broke some school property, so the entire class was hauled up during break. We were being scolded so we didn’t get a chance to eat. And I didn’t eat in the bus coming back because I’d rather eat fresh hot food at home than the food that’s been lying in my lunch bag all day.”

Sheepish silence from me. What can I say? I should have asked calmly why she hadn’t eaten. Then I’d have known the reason, and I could have responded (with a resounding: “Great! :-)  I too, would much rather that you had hot fresh food at home than the food that’s been lying in your lunch bag all day!”) instead of reacting as I did.

I’m sorry,” I mumble, “I didn’t know…”

If she’s in a bad mood, she stomps off, and then we’re both mad at each other. I feel I am the injured party, and she feels she has the right to be in a foul mood (“I’m starving because I couldn’t eat, and now my mom’s freaking out without knowing what she’s talking about!”).

What we agree upon is: “She just doesn’t understand…” :-)

Forget about whether or not I’m setting a good example for my daughter. Every time I react rather than respond, I create a barrier between us.

Every time you react instead of respond, you create a barrier between yourself and your child.

Your child feels:

1. Untrustworthy (“You don’t trust me enough to handle the situation well…”)

2. Misunderstood (“There’s a good reason this happened, if only you’ll give me a chance to explain…”)

3. Hurt (“Why is your first reaction the most unflattering one, as if I can’t be expected to do anything right?”)

4. Irritated (“Can’t I even make a mistake?”)

5. Judged (“One right or wrong response is not the final word on the kind of person I am…”)

6. Stifled (“Why am I always expected to come up with the right answer? It’s not the end of the world if I’m not ‘perfect’…”)

7. Burdened (“You expect too much from me all the time…”)

8. Distanced (“You’re not on my side; you don’t cut me any slack. If you say I’m a child, then you must make allowances for the fact that I don’t know as much as you do, so I won’t respond the same way you would have under the same circumstances.”)

9. Invalidated – (“You don’t care about me as a person – my interests, my feelings, what I want. All you want is a carbon copy of yourself, or a ‘perfect’ child so you can look like the best parent in the world.”)

It’s hard to respond. We’re all in a hurry. We simply don’t have the time and mindspace to consider each incident in detail. Also, we’ve learnt to make assumptions about things and people. And we act (react, actually) based on those assumptions. And we end up pushing our children away from us.

It’s time to pause, take a deep breath, give your child the benefit of the doubt, and ask gently, “Why did you…?”

This leaves room for your child to answer your question, for conversation, for explanations (from your child! :-) ). And you continue to be connected, and to communicate with your child.

***

Over the past few days, I’ve shared with you what I believe are the 5 cornerstones of parenting today:

1. Ask – ask questions.

2. Be – be who you are.

3. Do – do things with your child.

4. Explain – explain what is going on.

5. Respond – respond to the situation.

 I’m sure applying these basics will put the excitement and connection back in your relationship with your child. I’d love to hear the ideas you came up with and how they helped you get out of a rut you might have been stuck in. Do share! :-)

Next: How to have Happier Children – in 7 Days or Less! :-) :-)

Carefree Parenting has moved to a new home! Please visit http://carefreeparenting.com for all the articles, books and other material. See you soon. :-)


Parenting: The Basics, Revisited in 2012 – Explain

Explain what is going on.

Explain why you said or did what you said or did. Don’t hold it up as an example for your child to emulate. That is a different thing altogether; and one which will take you farther away from your child instead of allowing you to grow closer.

A friend always offered water to anyone visiting his home. He was training his children to do the same. One Saturday evening, his son opened the door to a couple armed with flowers and a huge gift bag. The college friends his parents had been awaiting had finally arrived.

As the child greeted them and ushered them in, his parents came out of their room, and there were effusive greetings on both sides. The boy disappeared into the kitchen. As he brought 2 glasses of water on a tray, his father entered the kitchen and said, “No water for them.” The boy was taken aback. For months now, his dad had been training him and his sister to seat guests, and offer them water. And he was now saying, “No water.”!

His parents got tea underway and he helped put out and serve the snacks. He sat for a while making polite conversation and then made himself scarce. The doorbell signaled the arrival of his sister from her tennis class. She walked into their room and he said, “Dad said not to give them any water.”

“Huh?” she asked, planning what to change into after her shower.  “I’m sure there’s a reason.”

The evening wore on. The children ate dinner and went to bed while the guests were still around. At the breakfast table the next morning, the dad said, “You must’ve wondered when I asked you not to serve them water. You see, they live in the UK, and they have just arrived. They need a few days to adjust to the drinking water in India. Till they do so, drinking even filtered water might make them sick. That’s why I asked you not to offer them water.”

The boy was at peace. He understood what was going on.

There are so many times when we tell our children to behave a certain way. And then, we seem to behave in the opposite way ourselves! There is always a reason for it. Share that reason with your child. Let her see that there is a method to your madness, a specific cause for your saying or doing something a particular way.

When you explain what is going on, you are helping your child in numerous ways:

1. Growing up – In childhood, all the world is in black and white. “This is good; that is bad.” “Do this; don’t do that.” “Be this way; don’t be that way.” But as your child grows, he realizes that these rules don’t apply beyond a point.

Telling a 3-year old not to talk to strangers is fine. Saying the same thing to your 10-year old before sending her off to camp is weird. You don’t want your 10-year old to talk to strangers either. But the definition of the word ‘stranger’ has changed enormously in the 7 years between the ages of 3 and 10. These changes are gradual and ongoing, and your child will be able to learn and deal with them only if you keep explaining the exceptions to her; if you keep adding the shades of grey.

This introduces her to the real world, and prepares her for a real life, where most things are uncertain and unknown, though we like to pretend that we have great control over things. (“If you are ‘good’, then ‘good’ things will happen to you.” Yeah, right! :-) )

Real life consists of hundreds of thousands of exceptions. Explain each one to your child as you come across them together.

2. Increasing his capacity to think – It is only when he learns that he needs to keep in mind many things that your child will be able to come up with appropriate responses; only then will he become response-able. Earlier, the rule was simple: guest, seat, offer water. Now, he needs to think about where this guest is from. That creates an acceptable variation in behavior: guest, seat, don’t offer water (if he knows they’ve just come to India from a foreign country).

Slowly, as more variables get added, he will learn to think of all the ifs-and-buts on his own. Is this someone who only drinks boiled water? Is this person recovering from a water-borne disease? Is it the dead of winter and the person is cold and sick, in which case, they’d prefer being offered a hot drink rather than water?…

But your child will think of other options, other factors, other responses only if you explain things to him.

3. Clear confusion – When you say one thing and seem to do another, your child is confused. This confusion will prevent her from following even the rules she ‘knows’. At every stage, if you can explain your reaction and behavior to her, she will be clear. She will appreciate that you are a person of integrity who follows your beliefs, even if they seem confusing to others at times. She will learn to be a thinking, considerate person, based on the example you set for her.

I have always been particular about speaking my mind to people. I won’t let them walk away with an ‘incorrect’ impression of me.

One day, I’d taken my daughter along with me to work. As we sat down to lunch, the client’s father, a gentleman in his 70s, joined us. He asked after my family, and when he learnt that I had only the one child, he told me, “That is why you women put on so much weight. (! :-) ) Women are made for child-bearing. Unless you have at least 4 children, there is no hope for you. Stop working. Go back home. Have a few more children…”

At 6, my daughter understood what he was saying. I’m blessed to have a tactful child, who barely paused in the act of eating as the old man spouted all this. Lunch got over and I got busy with the rest of my work.

I’d barely turned the key in the ignition to go back home when my daughter burst out, “That man was so rude! He was crazy – imagine saying things like that to you! Why didn’t you say anything back to him? Why were you quiet?”

She’s right. In most instances, I’d have taken issue with what he’d said, so it was inexplicable to her how I ‘took it’ lying down – all the junk the gentleman was pushing at me.

“He’s really old, and that is the way he’s been brought up. He’s never going to change the way he thinks. There would be no point in my saying anything. He would merely have felt hurt and insulted that I ‘talked back’ to him, so I let him say his piece. At no point did I nod or indicate any kind of agreement. He realized that I didn’t agree, but I’m sure he appreciated that I was courteous enough to hear him out.”

I continued: “The funniest thing is that his daughter-in-law (my client’s wife) has only 2 children, and he knows that, and knows that I know it too! It would have been the easiest thing in the world for me to raise the fact saying he hadn’t even been able to influence his own daughter-in-law so why was he trying to give me his take on women’s health, but his age and lack of education shielded him from any such reaction on my part.”

She wasn’t happy that I had let it pass, but she understood my point. Sometimes, we let things go out of consideration for others. In my book, such consideration doesn’t make me less honest. In someone else’s book, it might do so. Each person has to decide for himself and herself, given the specific situation.

4. Avoid misunderstandings – If you explain things to your child, you minimize the possibility of misunderstandings. This keeps your relationship strong. It keeps you talking to each other through all the storms, troubles and alarms. It keeps you communicating through the hormonal rushes, the hot flushes and the mid-life crises. Not a bad thing, eh? :-)

So simple! Explain what is going on.

Carefree Parenting has moved to a new home! Please visit http://carefreeparenting.com for all the articles, books and other material. See you soon. :-)


Parenting: The Basics, Revisited in 2012 – Do

Do things with your child.

I don’t mean that you don’t already do things with your child. I know you do. You help her read and do homework, you do chores together, you drive her to school sports activities parties…

But the things I’m talking about doing with your child are the things that your child wants to do – that you probably don’t want to do.

Like when your 2-year old wants to play ball, and all you have energy for is sinking into bed. Or when you have a deadline looming and your child is determined to lay out all her dolls and have an elaborate fashion show.

If I were faced with either of the above situations, I would beg to be excused. “I’m too tired / tense, so it wouldn’t be much good my playing with you right now, but I will definitely play with you …” (I’d mention a specific time).

And then, I’d make sure to do what I said I’d do.

Whenever your child asks you to do something with him, you may be willing and able to do it – or not, but know this: what your child will remember is how often you put him off. So you need to make a conscious decision each time your child asks you to do something – will this be yet another instance that he ‘remembers’, or will you both have a great time doing something together?

But maybe only your child has a great time doing the thing – you don’t!

When she was little, my daughter loved imagining stories with dozens of characters, each of whom she named. She described each character’s traits in detail, and if the name didn’t match the character sketch, it was changed. As a result, a 2-hour marathon session of ‘playing’ could result in a hundred-odd characters which were related to each other in some way, whose names and personalities were defined, but no story had been finalized – there was no sequence of events.

And every time we began the game, we played it from the beginning; or at least so close to the beginning, that we never really got the story off the ground. I love imagining games too, but it was a terrible strain trying to remember what the fifth daughter’s smallest doll was called, and how she looked! :-)

My daughter would accuse me of not being interested, of having a bad memory, and of not ‘playing’ properly. I told her I simply couldn’t remember so much detail, especially since some of it changed every now and then. And what was the point of going on about all these people (and animals – but there I still tremble to go! :-) ) when the story just didn’t move forward?

But she was adamant. “You don’t play properly. And if you don’t play properly, I’ll be very angry with you and when I grow up, I won’t let you come to my house to visit me.” I was being threatened by a 2.5-foot high piece! :-)

She loved the game and I didn’t. From my point of view, I was being the loving parent, sacrificing so much time and mind space towards utter banalities, indulging her, and she was threatening me because she didn’t appreciate what I was doing for her. Impasse.

This is a trap most parents tend to fall into. We do things ‘for’ our children, things we would rather not do if left to ourselves, and then we resent it when our kids don’t appreciate that we’re doing all this ‘for’ them.

Hmmm – time to introspect. I stepped away and told her I needed a few days of not playing the game to see what we could do to make things better.

I realized that my daughter didn’t care two hoots about my playing the game with her. What she really wanted was that I should ‘enjoy’ the game as much as she did. My playing the game was no good unless I got into the spirit of it. She didn’t want a martyr-type attitude from me – which is what she was getting.

I, on the other hand, wanted to put in the least possible effort towards playing the game to get the maximum parental mileage out of it: “My mom plays with me all the time! We have a great time!” And it wasn’t happening.

So which was more important to me?

I decided on a compromise. I told her I’d love to play the game “properly”, but I couldn’t play it as often as she wanted me to. So I could either play “not properly” 4 times a week, or “properly” twice a week. The ball was back in her court.

She chose (predictably) “properly” twice a week. And so, I put my best foot forward and really got into the spirit of the game. She was delighted, and I was thrilled too – because my ‘doing’ things with her was finally getting me the brownie points I wanted as a parent.  

The lessons I learnt about ‘doing’ things with your child?

1. Do what your child wants – This is his game. Let him set the rules (but not change them to his convenience if he’s losing! :-) ). Let him decide what kind of game it will be. Let him be in the driver’s seat. Don’t tell him how to play; it is his game – you’re just playing it.

2. Concentrate on enjoying yourself – Unless you are clearly enjoying yourself, your child doesn’t register your ‘doing’. Get into the spirit of the game. Just as eating requires that you chew every mouthful to get the maximum flavor, apply yourself to every move, concentrate on every roll of the die, deliberate on every swing of the bat… Discuss the game afterwards – this is a big one. Usually, you only discuss things afterwards if you’ve had ‘fun’ doing them. :-)

3. Ignore winning and losing – Do not play to win, but don’t play to lose either. The first is competitive, and remember, you’re ‘doing’ because you’re trying to make parenting easier on yourself and your child. The second smacks of ‘lying’, and though your child may appreciate your effort in the beginning, in the long run, the falsity of what you are doing will far outweigh any potential (if at all) benefits of such ‘playing’.

4. Go with the flow – As your child grows older and his interests change, the game may change rules, players, or it may be a completely different game. The little girl who only wanted to play with dolls may be fixated on chess now. And then it might be video games. Whatever it is, do it.

5. Let your child teach you – This is perhaps the most difficult thing for parents to do. I don’t know anything about dance, and my daughter lives, breathes, eats and sleeps dance (and a few other things). She’s always telling me about the new moves they learnt in class or exercises they do that will help me get fit or asking me to watch dance movies and videos with her.

So much of the joy we get is from sharing the things we love with the people we love. Even if it is not your ‘thing’, let your child tell you about how to animate a character, or play golf, or play a tune, or write a software program. When we refuse to participate, when we turn our face away, we deprive ourselves of shared joy and love; we extinguish the spark in our children.  

You’ve spent your life showing and teaching him things. Let him experience what it feels like to be in your shoes, and let yourself be the one taught. Go ahead and let him teach you about the things that excite him. Learn actively, eagerly from him. If you pay attention, it will open up a whole new world of communication and connection with him. :-) 

Do write back and share your experience as you try out these parenting basics – I’m sure you’ll find you’ve put the zing back into your life with your child. Happy carefree parenting! :-)

Carefree Parenting has moved to a new home! Please visit http://carefreeparenting.com for all the articles, books and other material. See you soon. :-)


Parenting: The Basics, Revisited in 2012 – Be

Be who you are.

I can almost see you wrinkle your forehead in perplexity. “Be who you are?” What could I possibly mean by that? I mean, who else could you be but yourself?

But there are so many times when you don’t let yourself be who you are. Here’s what I mean:

1. You hide your real emotions – Maybe you are feeling upset because of something your child did or did not do (forget to wish you for an important date, ignore your request that she keep quiet because you are unwell, say hurtful things to get back at you for not being ‘nice’…). Do you hide that you are upset? When your child asks you if you’re okay, do you manufacture and flash a false smile at her to signify you’re alright?

Or do you tell her you’re not feeling so good and need a little time and space to recover? (This is very different from telling her: “I’m upset because you misbehaved with me.” When you say this, you are telling her that she is responsible for how you are feeling. She will learn not to be responsible for her own feelings. You are also trying to influence her behavior, which will encourage her to manipulate others and be manipulated by them.  But letting her know that you are feeling not-so-good is neither manipulative nor false.)

2. You are afraid that you will not live up to the image of the ideal parent – If you have an image in your head of how an ideal parent should behave, you try to be as close to that image in real life as possible. But you are not that image – and so, you end up being who you are not.

You may believe you are not attractive, not attentive, not loving, not educated, not rich, not talented, not smart – in short, you may believe that in some way or other you are not a ‘good’ parent. To reduce the pain of not being ‘good enough’, you deny your natural instincts, ruthlessly suppress your nature and personality, and set out to be the image of what you believe is the ‘perfect’ parent.

A friend of mine had an obsessive-compulsive mother. If a single t-shirt in her closet was out of place in the pile, the mom would pull out everything from the closet. No, I’m not exaggerating. At the end of a few minutes, the closet would be empty, and everything in it would be strewn all over the floor. My friend would then be asked to rearrange every single article of clothing back into the closet, making sure to get it right with no folds or creases, no clothes folded ‘out of line’, and all folded clothes arranged in perfectly ordered piles.

When she told me this, I smiled and remarked that she must have spent a lot of her childhood (re)arranging closets. She said she’d sworn then that her kids could be as messy as they liked and she wouldn’t utter one word of reproach. I stayed with her a few years ago. Her son was then a boisterous 7, and I was impressed to see how clean his room was. As he showed me his new toy and replaced it before going out to play, my friend called out to him: “Come and put your car back properly in the pile of toys. The way you’ve done it now, the box is tilting off the pile.” :-)

I reminded her of her childhood decision (it had almost been in the nature of a vow) to let her kids be messy. “Oh! I’m nothing like my mom. When my son sits on the bed and the sheets get creased, I don’t throw down the bedclothes and ask him to make the bed again. He keeps sitting or reading or playing. All I ask is that when he gets up, he should straighten the bedclothes. But I have to ask him to keep the closet neat, or how will he find his toys?” There wasn’t any point telling her that the difference she was trying to point out was so negligible as to hardly exist.

Over the weekend that I stayed with her, I watched her seesaw between letting her child ‘be messy’ (!) and straighten up obsessively after him. As for the boy, he was afraid to move a muscle in his own house lest he disarrange something. What a terrible way to live!

So – whenever you next catch yourself living up to some ‘good’ or ‘approved of’ or ‘ideal’ notion, do yourself and your child a favor. Drop it. Flawed as you are (and we are all flawed :-) ), you are of infinitely greater value just as you are, than pretending to be someone you are not. Your pretence will increase your anxiety and confusion, bewilder your child, and encourage her to be who she is not. Why perpetuate the misery?

Set yourself – and your child – free. Free to be who you are. This is the only way you will ever have a real and meaningful relationship with your child.

You may be convinced that you are not ‘good’, but the truth is that you are ‘good enough’. And that’s enough. Now all you need to do is believe it and carry on from there.

***

As Ingrid Bergman said, “Be yourself. The world worships the original.”

Carefree Parenting has moved to a new home! Please visit http://carefreeparenting.com for all the articles, books and other material. See you soon. :-)


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