Single mummy, are you ready to date?

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Okay so this is a bit of a tangent from my usual parenting chats but I had a request for single mum dating advice so here you go!

If you’ve been out of the dating world for a while you may need to prep a bit before you take it on.

Here are some tips for getting out there again:

Get your mindset right:

  • Be who you want to attract — positive, passionate, enjoying life. When you are feeling positive about life, have hobbies or work that you love, fantastic friendships and enjoy your life without a partner then you will become the kind of person others are drawn to!
  • There are plenty of fish — abundance mindset. Every guy you meet is not the last man on earth! Remember that 90% of the people you meet will not be the right person for you. So if a date doesn’t go well don’t take it too personally — get out there and try again.
  • Open minded — look outside your usual ‘type’ and be open to any outcome — try to enjoy the process of dating. Even if it’s just one date — look for what was positive about it, so what if you didn’t find him attractive — was the coffee good?
  • Play the long game — According to Jeffrey Hall, a professor at the University of Kansas, friendship takes hours to cultivate. He found that it took 90 hours of hanging out for someone to become more than just a casual friend and that making a best friend took over 200 hours generally. So don’t rush things! If you fall in love in a week, it’s probably your hormones talking!
  • Build attraction rather than pushing for commitment too soon. Guys usually take longer than we want them too to make up their minds. (But don’t wait too long! If he’s not that into you, move on.)
  • Work through your baggage — don’t give up on love because it didn’t work out before. Those old relationships ended because they were broken. The guy ghosted because he was not the one for you. Perhaps you fought all the time because you had chemistry, that initial spark of attraction, but were not overly compatible. (Compatibility is what matters in the long run. The more similar you are the better according to new research)
  • Learn to identify red flags to keep yourself and your kids safe: love bombing is one. If a guy showers you with intense romance and statements of love in the first few weeks be wary. Healthy people don’t fall in love at first sight. Attraction — yes, but real love takes time. Many relationship experts recommend waiting two years before you get married because it takes a long time to get to know someone properly. If someone is moving too fast, move on.

When you are ready you can find guys anywhere:

Of course, you can go online to find a date and there are many sites of varying quality for this but really, guys can be found anywhere.

Join groups where there might be singles. Start a new sport where you play on a mixed team. Go out places with your friends. Get out of the house! You can even meet people at the supermarket.

One approach to meeting guys anywhere is the question/ compliment technique. When you spot an interesting looking man, ask for help, advice, or give a compliment. Smile, make eye contact, use open, friendly body language.

When you get a date be approachable and playful — use open body language, smile, tip your head slightly (we notice micro-expressions like this subconsciously — they tell us if people are a threat or not. Find out about more about body language if you think you might be making a first impression with people as stern or unfriendly). Be confident, know you are fantastic but try not to look down on your date if they aren’t what you were expecting. Don’t be defensive, interrogative or scary! Remember it’s a conversation to get to know a stranger, not an interview for a husband.

For more dating tips listen to podcasts or youtube videos from experts like Evan Marc Katz or Marni Battista from the Dating Den.

And (as it may happen) if your heart gets broken in the process check out my blog post on that to get some advice — It’s for teens but applies to any age.

That’s just a start, but hope it helps!

Until next time

Kelly xxx

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sorry not Sorry

michal-parzuchowski-260084-unsplashShould we make them say sorry? Photo by Michał Parzuchowski on Unsplash

I’ve had this dilemma for a while — should I force a “sorry” out of my kids when they do something wrong? Yes, I want to teach my children to say sorry, just like I teach them to say thank you, or excuse me. But there’s something about forcing an apology that just doesn’t seem right to me. And when they do say sorry, but they say it “sor-ry” with a roll of their eyes, not meaning a word of it, that’s even worse.

When I was teaching there were a number of kids that thought sorry was a magic word they could throw around to avoid getting told off. It meant nothing. They didn’t have any remorse for hitting their friend. They didn’t care that their victim was now crying and hurt. Sorry meant “I’m sorry I got caught. Can I just go now?”

When adults say sorry in that way we hate it. The media goes crazy when famous people  do it. Fake apologies are far more offensive than no apology.

I want to raise kids that are sincere when they say sorry and humble enough to know when they need to. So how do we teach them the skills of genuine apologies?

What makes a good apology?

Associate Professor John Potter, an expert in Dispute Resolution and Conflict Management talks about five Rs of apologising — recognition, regret, responsibility, remedy and realignment.

  1. Recognition — we need to get learn to recognise the right time to apologise. When someone is still very angry, that’s not the right time. Allow them to cool off and then try to talk. But, after the cool down time, the sooner the apology is made the better.
  2. Regret — apologies need to be heart felt or they will be seen as fake. If you don’t mean it, don’t say it. Focus on the victim and what they need to hear, rather than what you want to say. “I’m sorry you feel that way” is not the way to go. “I’m really sorry I hurt your feelings” is much more effective.
  3. Responsibility — this is as simple as saying “I was wrong”. It’s learning to take ownership of your actions and not blame anyone or anything else.
  4. Remedy — what am I going to do about it? Is there some way to make up for what happened? Or a way to ensure it won’t happen again?
  5. Realignment — sometimes a problem needs to be talked about together to resolve it.

A good apology starts with a focus on the victim and ends with genuine remorse. It’s clear and doesn’t use too many words. And, Potter says, one of the worst things you can do is repeat an apology.

You want to get it right that first time and then let it go. — John Potter

So now we know what a good apology looks like, how do we teach that to our children? In his Ted Talk, Defence Lawyer Jahan Kalantar shares a very simple approach.

diana-feil-226014-unsplashStand and Think is a great alternative to Timeout. Photo by Diana Feil on Unsplash

3 simple steps to a great apology 

Kalantar says that a good apology shows you understand what you did wrong. It’s not a “Sorry, can I go now?” like the students in my class sometimes used. It’s genuine. But it can also be simple.

He uses a three part sentence: why, because, and

  1. Why — The reason for the apology.  “I’m sorry I called you a name.”
  2. Because — recognising why it was wrong. “Because it hurt your feelings. I was wrong to say that.”
  3. And — the next step  “And I won’t do it again.”

Simple and easy enough even for preschoolers to learn. With young children I prefer to teach this apology format teamed up with a technique called “Stand and Think” (It can be used with older children too.)

Stand and Think is instead of Time out. It’s better because you can use it ANYWHERE and it helps children learn to think about their actions and reflect on what they can do next time. It goes like this:

  • Child does something you are not happy about.
  • Ask them to stand near you somewhere and have a think. Say “Stand here until you are ready to talk about what you did.” (There is no time limit- it can be seconds or minutes)
  • When they are ready ask them “What did you do that meant you had to stand and think?” If they can’t tell you, remind them.
  • “Why is that not okay?” (you may need to help- keep it simple “Sarah got hurt”)
  • “What could you have done instead?”
  • “What can you do to make it better?”
  •  “Go do that now.” If they say they want to apologise then help them learn how. Wait till the affected person is calm, then prompt the child with “I’m sorry I…..because…..And….”

Grab a print off of the free Standandthink PDF so you’ve got the process at hand when you need it.

Until next time!

Kelly xxx

 

 

 

Help your teen recover from a broken heart

matt-nelson-479709-unsplash.jpgDealing with dating can be tough. Photo by Matt Nelson on Unsplash

When our teens get into dating it can be pretty scary for us as parents. Suddenly our babies are in the adult world of love! Negotiating all those emotional, physical (Ahh!) and social aspects that come with relationships. But, considering most teenagers don’t end up marrying their first love, what do we do when they, inevitably, break up?

Psychologist Dr Guy Winch in his Ted talk  and interview on the Elite Man Podcast talks about the best ways to deal with lost love.

Heart break, Winch says, shares all of the same traits as other types of loss and grief: not being able to sleep, obsessive thoughts that distract you, lowered immunity and even clinical depression. Loosing a girlfriend or boyfriend has a huge impact. Your teen might not only loose their relationship but also loose a big part of their social life, friends, activities, and even their identity. Break ups can affect people for months. But as parents, there are things we can do — based on the latest research in this area — to help our teens heal their broken hearts.

8 steps that help fix a broken heart

1) Understand what’s happening in a heartbroken brain. Brain studies have shown that heartbreak is like withdrawal from drugs. You become obsessed: obsessed with the person you love or obsessed with figuring out what went wrong. When you obsess, play memories of them over and over in your head, look at photos, and try to contact them, you’re getting your ‘fix’. That’s what makes it so difficult to stop doing those things, even when you want to.

Biological anthropologist, Helen Fisher did a study on heartbreak where she looked at people’s brains in a functional MRI (fMRI).

“We put people in the machine, and the results really amazed me,” she says. “We found that when they looked at a picture of the person they love, the hypothalamus was pumping out dopamine” 

Down in the base of your brain, the area responsible for your instincts and drives such as hunger, thirst, and lust is the hypothalamus — and it’s this dopamine that makes us feel all gooey when we fall in love. It gives us feelings of elation, mood swings, cravings, and obsessive thinking. Everything feels amazing and special! But when we break up… we fall into dopamine withdrawal.

Helping your teen understand this is a good place to start.

Don’t downplay their feelings. Just because they are young or may not understand love like we do doesn’t mean they weren’t in love. Heartbreak has the same reaction in their brains as in ours and it hurts just as badly, so whether they were really “in love” or not is irrelevant. Encourage them to watch Winch’s Ted talk and chat with them about it.

2) Cut off social media Cold Turkey (even if just for 2 months). Now this is a hard one especially for teenagers, but encourage them to block their ex on Snapchat and unfriend them on Facebook, even if it’s just for a short time. Call it a “No-Contact” month. Don’t push it. It’s not an easy thing to do. But you can suggest it and tell them it’s a really powerful way to get over someone faster. They can even let their ex know that they are going to try a no-contact-month if that helps.

andrik-langfield-348253-unsplash Text bombing their ex just isn’t helpful. Photo by Andrik Langfield on Unsplash

3) Get rid of the reminders. As much as possible encourage your teen to remove or hide all the reminders of their ex. They can make a box or file if they want to with photos etc., but getting them away and out of sight will make recovery much easier. Of course if they are at school with their ex then there will be reminders that they can’t get rid of, but they can be limited.

“When you start to fall for someone, everything about them is special,” says Fisher. “The house they live in, the street they live on, it’s all special to you. They’re dopamine triggers.” Reminders after the break up trigger the same dopamine reaction, and that just makes it that much harder to move on.

4) Make a list of why they weren’t perfect. Idealising your ex and how amazing they were is a really common reaction to heartbreak. Everything about them becomes SO perfect: their smile, the way they talked, that birthday when they were so thoughtful… 

Winch suggests making a list — writing down all of the ways that the ex was the wrong one for you. Encourage your teen to think of all the things that they didn’t like about their ex. Did they do anything that was rude or hurtful. Did they have personality traits or habits that weren’t great.

It’s not about being mean and hateful to the other person, but its acknowledging that no one is perfect and giving a bit of balance. Winch recommends keeping the list on their phone so they can read it whenever they find themselves remembering the “perfect” things. 

designecologist-557571-unsplashIdealising an ex is a common reaction after a breakup. Photo by DESIGNECOLOGIST on Unsplash

5) Get a sense of closure We can waste a lot of energy going over and over the question “what went wrong?” but it just holds us in our heartbreak. Winch says we either need to accept the reason the ex gave or make one up to get closure.

It ended because she wasn’t emotionally available (Not because your teen wasn’t good enough.) It ended because he wasn’t mature enough for a long term relationship (Not because they’re not pretty enough.)

6) Fill in the voids. All of them. Moving on involves finding ways to replace the gaps that the ex left. Going out with friends, or meeting new people, starting a new hobby, exercising, having fun. Support your teen in getting outside and getting active with friends. (Try really hard to drag them away from technology. They need real connections in the real world right now.)

7) Don’t try to be friends. It’s not easy to get over an ex if you are still trying to be friends. Teens usually say they want to stay friends, and they might have to if they are in the same social circles or same classes at school, but it does drag the heartbreak out longer in general. So if it’s possible, encourage that “no-contact” month.

8) Distract your brain. Because your teen now understands what’s happening in their lovesick brain, they can control it a bit. When they feel themselves obsessing, or going over old memories of their ex, encourage them instead to redirect their focus. Even if it’s just doing math equations in their head, like working out the 11 times tables into the hundreds. Or they could play a challenging puzzle or word game on their phone. They could memorise something.

When her research subjects redirected their focus “the hypothalamus calmed down and stopped pumping out the dopamine that was making them feel lovestruck,” says Fisher. 

Heartbreak is not an easy thing for adults to deal with let alone teenagers. We might be secretly glad they are single again (there’s always that scary — what if someone gets pregnant scenario!) but they need our support, compassion and patience — it might take longer for them to get over it than we think it should, and that’s okay.

It may seem bad right now, but, with your support, it can be a positive life lesson. They can learn some new skills, be resilient, and discover that they are capable of handling difficult emotions. 

“Through putting people who’ve been rejected or dumped into the fMRI, we’ve discovered something promising,” Fisher says, “which is that the attachment eventually reduces. Time does heal the brain.”

Until next time,

Kelly xxx

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How to deal with your screaming clingy child at kindy drop off

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I arrive with a crying 4 year old attached to my leg — stressed, exhausted and feeling like I’m the worst parent in the world. Everyone else’s children are already at kindy. Not crying. Not clinging to a leg.

“She doesn’t want to come,” I say to a teacher, desperately hoping she has a magic pill that makes my child turn into one of the other happily playing, well-adjusted children around me.

“Yes. We could hear her screaming in the parking lot.” She gives me a look. I feel like she’s just handed me my parenting grade and it’s an F.

Hmm. Can I crawl into a hole about now?

Your crying, clingy child is just being normal 

I know now (I wish someone had told me then!) that I’m not the only parent who has experienced this. Separation anxiety is incredibly normal and healthy in children even up to the age of 7. Our children are attached to us. They rely on us. So for them to get upset when we leave is very normal. But at the time it felt terrible. It felt like I was causing my child emotional harm.

But, in fact, if we deal with it well it can do the opposite.

Instead of causing them harm, separation anxiety can help kids. It can develop resilience, self-esteem and coping skills. Times of separation give them a chance to practice dealing with stress and anxiety. It teaches them “I can cope with this!”

That screaming, crying child attached to our ankles is learning that they are a person who can handle what life throws at them. That you trust them to cope.

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But why do some kids seem to cope so much better with separation?

Both of my youngest children hated leaving my side (my eight year old still has a little bit of trouble). The screaming lessened to complaining as they got older but they definitely struggled a lot with separation anxiety. Once, my Lula hid under a desk crying at kindy for over 30 minutes after I left.

I almost gave up on preschool a number of times. They weren’t even going that often. Three half-days a week maximum! I persevered because I needed time out, I wanted them to have social interactions and make friends, and because they always loved it afterwards. When I picked them up they never wanted to leave! So why all the fuss at the start?

My kids are older now and I’ve learnt a few things about them. One of those is that both of my youngest daughters are in the 15-20% of the population who are considered highly sensitive. It’s not a negative thing. It’s just a normal personality trait.

Highly sensitive people feel their emotions very strongly. They have a bit more difficulty dealing with change and loud busy environments. And they are very affected by things others might not be bothered by. Movies are difficult for us. Even the slightest scary or violent scene — even in G rated movies — can start my girls screaming “Turn it off!”

Highly sensitive children are very sensitive to others’ feelings and can be very observant. They’ll be the one that notices when you’re sad and gives you a hug. They get really upset by kids being mean to each other. My daughter, Little, talked for months about some boys at kindy that called another child names. She was highly offended. Highly sensitive children are the ones that grow up to defend the weak and point out the injustices in the world. They are the ones that notice beauty in things and think deeply. They are pretty amazing people.

If your child is the one screaming, clingy and crying perhaps they are just a bit more sensitive. 

And that’s a good thing! It’s not something wrong with your child. You can stop worrying! They are not broken. They are incredible people who feel their feelings strongly and are super aware of the world around them.

So what can we do to help our kids settle in better?

  1. Acknowledge their feelings, but don’t let them control your behaviour. “You’re sad because you want me to stay. I’ll be back in two hours. I can’t wait to hear what you did today.” You are the adult. You control what happens, not them. Kids will try to keep you there and control you by crying, screaming, begging, and clinging. However, they actually feel safer when we are in control.
  2. Make it normal. “I know you have a hard time with goodbyes. I love that you’re such a cuddly boy. I can’t wait to see you again when I pick you up.” (Smile and quick hug)
  3. Leave quickly and confidently, ignore their pleas to keep you there and trust that they will be okay.
  4. Don’t sneak away. Always say “Bye, see you soon!” Sneaking away can make kids more clingy next time.

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There are four stages your child will move through

So that you can be confident that they are okay, there are four stages of separation anxiety for you to be aware of. If your child is happy when you pick them up, then you know they have moved through these stages.

  • Protest stage — screaming, crying, and complaining to try and keep you there.
  • Despair — usually after you leave. They might drop to the floor, hide, or cry.
  • Adjustment — they calm down.
  • Emotional detachment — they get engaged in a game, toy or talking with someone.

When I picked up my girls they were happy to see me. They would race around telling and showing me what they have been up to. They were fine. No emotional damage done.

By trusting our children to move through these stages, we allow them to learn to cope with stress well and to head towards becoming the resilient, confident adults we want them to eventually be. We get an A in parenting! Well done us!

So next time they make a fuss, cling and cry, have a quiet smile to yourself. Here’s a chance for your wonderful child to learn and grow. Acknowledge their feelings, say goodbye and then get out of there fast!

Until next time!

Kelly

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Being a “High Value” parent

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As a newly solo parent, I’ve been thinking a fair bit about co-parenting and how to make the most of shared care. I came across a podcast about being a “High Value” person and, as it does, my brain started turning over how this idea can be applied to parenting.

I think co-parenting is one of those tricky things that you never really plan on doing. I certainly didn’t. But now that we’re here I want to get it right for my kids.

My parents were divorced and always did an amazing job of respectfully co-parenting. To us kids they seemed to be generous in their flexibility with each other, cooperative and kind. They had firm boundaries around who did what when, but during hard times especially (like in the teen years!) they worked together to do what was best for us wherever they could.

I wonder if it was those three things: co-operation, kindness and generosity — which my parents showed each other — that led to their success in co-parenting.

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The three qualities of “High Value” people

The podcast I listened to argued that co-operation, kindness and generosity are the three qualities that make you a “High Value” person. Someone who is great to have around. A great friend, work mate, and partner.

High value people draw in other high value people too. They attract them, because who doesn’t want to have cooperative, kind and generous friends? And I’m not talking about generous with money or things here. High value people might be generous in that way too, but when you generously give people the attention, acceptance and approval that everyone needs and wants (like I talked about last week) that’s even more valuable than gifts or money.

When I was a life-line counsellor I realised how valuable it is to people to have someone give you their undivided attention and really listen. Generously giving people your time and undivided attention is super valuable. How often do you get someone’s undivided attention now? It’s one of the biggest things people complain about isn’t it. I’m always coming across articles about how we need to unplug from our noisy, distracting, busy world. With our phones dinging for our attention, work being demanding, family life being too busy, the super addictive properties of Facebook and Instagram…. we all know we are competing with so many things! Undivided attention isn’t an easy thing to give.

As a Life-Line counsellor, I sat in a tiny sealed-off room with no noise and no distractions. When I was on the phone with someone it was like they were the only person in the world. And people loved it. I couldn’t tell you how many times a person told me how much it meant to them to just have those 20 minutes of someone fully listening. 20 minutes! That was all we gave them. And, usually, that was all they needed. We didn’t even do any official “counselling”, just listened. How easy is that?

And if you are kind and generous with your time, you’ll pretty quickly find other people act the same towards you.

Being a high value person also makes you a high value parent

Co-operative. Kind. Generous.

Co-operating with them and their other parent whenever you can.

Generously giving your kids the three A’s: Acceptance, Attention and Approval.

And, like we quote often in our family, “if you can choose, then choose to be kind.”

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The alternative: Low Value parenting

I quite like the idea of High Value parenting (and co-parenting). And, to me, the alternative just doesn’t sit well. Low value parenting seems like the best way to end up spiralling down into a pretty negative place. Low value behaviours can be tempting at times but they are generally short-term fixes to problems. Blaming is one low value behaviour that is tricky to avoid. When things go wrong — the kids are being hard work, or you’re running late for their dance class again — it’s so easy to blame the other parent or our children. I’ve been here. If only they’d stop mucking around! I told them 10 minutes ago to put their shoes on! Seriously hard when you’re stressed out.

Being argumentative or combative is another low value behaviour. And also a tricky one, especially in the co-parenting situation where, obviously, things haven’t been going well between you and the other parent.

Other low value behaviours include being passive, begging, people pleasing, or being competitive.  Competitive parenting and comparing ourselves to other parents, as easy as it is to do, just puts us on the slippery slope to depression.

So let’s all do our best to drop those low value behaviours that hold us back and keep us miserable! Let’s aim to be cooperative, kind and generous. To be those High Value people and High Value parents our kids need — whether we are parenting together, alone or co-parenting!

Until next time!

Kelly

 

 

Catching tiny moments — How busy parents can build fantastic relationships with our children

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I am a solo parent, a homeschooler and a freelance writer. Even though I’m with my kids a lot, some days it feels like I’m just rushing around doing tasks and not really “with” my kids at all.

There’s housework to be done, I’ve got clients to deal with, and when you’re homeschooling there’s that teacher/student dynamic that can often be more about getting your child to produce or do something (“Have you done all of those math questions yet?” “Make sure you check your spelling!”) rather than about building relationship with them.

Why the big exciting stuff is great but the tiny things matter more

My girls and I have just come home from four days away together. It was fantastic! We went to see one of our favourite musicals (and spent hours singing all the songs together). We played at TimeZone, had sushi, rode on the escalators (a bit of a novelty for my small-town kids) and went to the museum. The four days together built amazing memories and closeness, but times like this are rare.

It took me six months to save for this trip away. It’s certainly not a regular thing for us. So I can’t rely on these big special moments to be our only relationship building times.

We often put a lot of emphasis on the big stuff in our lives — the overseas trips, the birthday parties, the adventures — when the small everyday things are what actually matter the most. I think we get confused by the quality over quantity argument with parenting and think that quality means doing a lot of big amazing things with our kids. It’s a lot of pressure!

Most days my girls and I are not actually doing much at all — just the usual housework, schoolwork, eating, sleeping standard routine. But this is where the real relationship building is happening!

John Gottman, a psychologist and researcher and author of “Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child” talks about an idea called Emotional Bids. Everyone makes emotional bids all the time. It’s why we post to Facebook and Instagram. We’re asking people to respond to us, to show us some attention and approval. If we tell someone about the marathon we ran last week we want them to celebrate with us. If we text our friend to say we’re sick we’re hoping they will show us some love and sympathy, send us a “get well soon!” message back. Emotional bids are made to get three things.

Everyone wants these three things: Attention, acceptance and approval.

You’re kids most definitely want them from you. And most of what they do — asking you to watch them on the swing, tugging on your sleeve, calling your name over and over, drawing you a picture at kindy, even doing something naughty —  is just them trying to get attention, acceptance and approval.

I made a mistake with this the other day with my daughter Lula. She picked an outfit to wear that she thought was pretty (she’s 12 and discovering her own style). She did look nice — she had on a lovely skirt and off-the-shoulder top — but I thought it was a bit dressed up to wear in the middle of the day and told her to change. Her reaction was explosive! “You always think I’m wearing the wrong thing! I can never get it right!” That’s when I realised I’d missed a huge opportunity to offer her my approval. She looks up to me and thinks I dress well (so sweet). And here I was telling her she’d missed the mark.

I had rejected her emotional bid. When we reject or turn away from bids it says “you’re not worth it” or “you’re not okay”.

When our kids say “Look at this mum! I made a lego car” and we respond with “cool” and then quickly turn our attention back to our phones we are rejecting their bids.

Now, I know, kids make a lot of bids. They always want us to look, pay them attention, come play or ask questions. We can’t respond to them all!

The studies Gottman did around emotional bids were on marriage relationships. He showed that couples who responded to a high number of bids (above 80%) stayed together, while those who ignored each other’s emotional bids most of the time split up. So the aim for us as parents then is not to exhaust ourselves responding to every single bid our kids make for attention, but just to try and catch as many as we possibly can.

It takes a bit of effort but if we turn towards them, make eye contact, smile, nod, and be present (even for a short time) we’ll pick up emotional bids without even trying.

Our kids need our attention, approval and acceptance in a few different ways.

Touch — “hug me mummy”

Touch is lacking in our society. People need to be touched. Some kids don’t like full tight hugs but they will still need some form of touch. It might be sitting side by side, just touching arms, holding hands, or a little stroke of their hair.

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Attention — “Look at me mummy!”

It builds relationship when you share an experience. When your child says “Look at the train!” it’s because they want you to enjoy what they are enjoying. They want to share it with you. They want you to know what they find interesting, exciting, or even upsetting. Even if you don’t feel the same interest as they do (not everyone can get excited about trains) if you acknowledge their interest you’re telling them they are important to you. “Wow, it’s a cargo train! I know you love those.”

Learning together -“But why?”

I don’t know about you but I have incredibly curious kids. They seem to be constantly wanting to know about everything. “Why?” is a common question in our household and sometimes I’m just too tired to answer.

I’ve found a little trick though! When I still want to encourage their bid to learn with me but I’m too tired to answer it myself I say, “Why do you think it might be like that?” If they say they don’t know I either say “Why don’t you find out and then tell me what you learn,” or “If you did know what do you think it would be?” They come up with some amazing theories! Whether they are right isn’t really important, they’ll find out over time, but the learning and thinking together is another way to build relationship.

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Playing together – “Play with me!”

Recently, Lula and I realised my 8 year old was making a lot of “play with me” bids that both of us were ignoring. (When you’re over the age of ten playing can be pretty boring!) We decided that we needed to make more of an effort to respond to Little’s emotional bids and give her some attention. We set aside 30 minutes a day to play whatever Little wants to play. The first day she picked a board-game called Blokus (which is great because it’s easier then using my dusty imagination to play My Little Ponies!) It made a huge difference for her because she felt she was worth spending time with. That half hour had a huge pay off for our relationship.

It’s still something I’m working on. I definitely need to catch more of those tiny moments when my kids are asking for my attention, acceptance and approval. It takes practice to become more aware of those bids. To stop and turn towards them. Emotional bids can be so easy to miss! But if it makes my relationship with my lovely girls stronger then it’s 100% worth the effort.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this too. What ways do your kids make emotional bids? If you are following my series on communication and emotional intelligence I’ll be posting one more next week. If you haven’t already, check out the last two posts on this topic too. Tuned in: How tuning in to your kids’ emotions will help them control their feelings better.

Non-violent communication for mums (and dads too obviously!)

Looking forward to next week and hearing how you went with your parenting journey

Kelly xxx

References (I recommend these awesome sites if you want to learn more about this topic and other communication tips)

https://theartofcharm.com/blog/

https://www.gottman.com/blog/

Tuned in: How tuning in to your kids’ emotions will help them control their feelings better.

patrick-fore-358120-unsplashSo, I was just at the supermarket and, before I even stepped out of my car, I witnessed a common supermarket interaction between a mum and her child. This beautiful young mummy — obviously in a bit of a hurry as we often are — was struggling to convince her little girl to move.

Some days kids love supermarkets, all the bright colours, the music, maybe getting to pick a treat….and then some days I swear they think they’re allergic to it.

My kids are older (8, 12 and 26 now) so luckily I don’t get supermarket battles anymore but Oh! I haven’t forgotten what they were like! So I totally sympathised with this young mum.

“Come on!” she (sort of) calmly insisted.

“I’m scared!!” the little girl screamed.

“Of what!? The supermarket?”

(Now, I am certainly not judging this mummy for what she said next. I have said the same in frustration to my own children a number of times. When you have little ones you are so busy and just SO tired. I get it.)

“Oh for goodness sake! Whatever!” and she picked her little girl up, still saying she was scared, still crying, and charged into the supermarket.

It made me think… how else could that interaction have gone? What would it have looked like if just for a second instead of saying “whatever” she tuned in to her emotions?

Would it have made the rest of the supermarket trip a bit easier for both of them? Mum less stressed because she doesn’t have a crying child on her hip? Her wee girl less scared because she’s not being forced into a place she clearly doesn’t want to go?

Now, I’m sure you can relate to this mum. I think we all can as parents. Even perfect parents (who are they anyway!) can’t be calm and tuned in all the time. We all say “whatever”. We all have things that just have to be done. Life is busy!

But perhaps it doesn’t have to take that long.

Emotion labelling to calm people down QUICK! 

I’ve been studying emotional intelligence for quite a while but recently I’ve come across a very interesting idea. Douglas E. Noll, a professional mediator and coach teaches emotion labelling to prisoners and adults. He uses it as a very effective way of calming angry people down and it has been shown to work even in extremely difficult situations such as street fights where knives have been pulled.

The interesting thing about his idea is that it usually takes around 90 seconds. Now, if I had had a tool that calmed my kids’ tantrums down in 90 seconds when they were preschoolers I’d have been a happy mummy! Some of my darling daughter Lula’s full blown tantys could last 45 minutes!

Noll says it’s as simple as tuning in. You pretty much ignore what they are saying and tune in to what they are feeling.

Ignore the words, listen for feelings 

In the supermarket kids case she was making it easy on her mum and telling her straight out — “I’m scared!” It didn’t make much sense. What on earth is scary about a supermarket? But Noll says simply repeating back to the person their feelings — “you’re scared” — is enough to start calming them down.

So what might have happened if our lovely supermarket mummy had said that? Perhaps she would have told her why she was scared. “There is a funny noise! It’s scary.”

Noll says to just carry on tuning in to those feelings. “You’re frightened of the funny noise.”

“Yeah,” says our little girl. “It’s all loud and beepy!”

“Your scared of the loud beeps” says our lovely mum.

By now our little girl might have calmed down. Perhaps she would ask to hold mum’s hand.

It seems weird. I know. I was very skeptical when I heard it. It’s too simple. Why on earth would telling someone how they feel calm them down?

But all the research has been showing it works. Noll says that when people are angry or having strong emotions, like fear, they are not operating out of the logical part of their brain. They can’t see how they are feeling.

This is especially true for little children who just don’t have the vocabulary or emotional intelligence to understand what’s going on for them. When you tell them “you’re scared” it changes something in their brains. They not only feel understood, accepted and seen (which after all is what everyone wants!) they start to understand their feelings better.

Noll says to keep labelling your child’s emotions until you get a nod, “yeah”, or some other calmed-down kind of response (or until 90 seconds is up, whichever comes first).

Don’t ask what they feel or try to solve it. Just keep guessing at their feelings until you get it right. He says with kids it usually only takes around 30 seconds of emotion labelling to work.

jordan-whitt-145327-unsplash Using feelings words helps you control your emotions

The more people are able to describe their feelings the more they are able to control and manage them. Research has found that people with larger “feeling” vocabularies stay calmer.

One really interesting study on this topic was done with people and spiders. (Ugh! Glad it was them not me!) The participants had to walk closer and closer to a spider they were afraid of. The people who described their fears really well, using a lot of feelings words, were able to get much closer to the spider and stay much calmer than those who didn’t describe their feelings. They managed their fear better.

Feelings words help us manage ourselves — control our fear, anger, nervousness…

So how does this help us as parents? 

Two ways.

One — when we tune in to our child’s feelings they calm down quicker and we can get on with what we need to do. They feel better. We feel less stressed. Win-win.

Two — when we tell our child how they are feeling we are adding to their bank of feelings words. The more feelings words they have the better they will be able to manage their own emotions in the long run. (Less tantrums! Yay!)

I’m heading into the teen stage again with my daughter, Lula (I’ve already parented a teenage girl so I know what I’m in for!) and it is certainly a time full of strong emotions!

Hopefully, I can tune in (although I’m sure “whatever!” is still bound to pop out of my mouth at some point!) and help her learn to manage her strong emotions as she heads into adulthood.

If you want to learn more about communicating better with your kids check out my post on non-violent communication for mums. I’ll be talking about this topic (communication and emotions) for the next few weeks so keep posted for more.

Enjoy tuning in this week!

Sending you lots of love because we’re all on this crazy parenting journey together!

Kelly xxx

Here’s a link to the abstract of the Spider study if you are interested, and check out Douglas E. Noll’s book about how to de-escalate anger in 90 seconds if you want to learn more.