Silent Messages

March 28, 2012

Sometimes parenting is easy, and sometimes it is frustrating and impossible. I’ve said many times that the highest highs and the lowest lows I’ve ever experienced have been in my parenting role. One thing I know for sure … just as I think I have it all figured out, I realize how much more I need to learn.

There is a Jewish Proverb that states, “A mother understands what a child does not say.” Have you ever had a feeling and followed that feeling until you found the problem? Tonight, I thought I was going into the kitchen just to get a Diet Coke only to realize I was following my heart. I found my 20-year-old quietly working on her computer. When I called out to her across the room, she yelled back without looking up, “Good night,” just like she always does. However, there was something in her tone that said, “I need to talk.” I walked over and asked, “Are you okay?” and she replied, “Yes.” When I asked why she wouldn’t look up at me, she slowly turned her face. With tears in her eyes, she said, “Because my face wouldn’t have matched my words.” Moms just know. After a long talk and many more tears, we came up with a plan to make things better.

I can’t fix her problems. I wish I could kiss her skinned heart and make it all better. However, one thing that I know for sure is that I haven’t outgrown the need of my parents; and I hope that my grown children never outgrow the need to “talk it out” with me. I want to be the best mom and grandmother that I can be, and that means I spend time listening and talking with my children and grandchildren.

I compiled these five simple parenting tips for a presentation I made this week, and it seems appropriate to share them here:

1.     Great parenting begins with a healthy parent. Take care of yourself so that you can take great care of your child. Be a great role model; model self-love.

2.     Children can read the heart, and they can spot a phony. Make sure your words match your eyes, and your actions match your words. Don’t lie to your children.

3.     Have high expectations of your child but make sure that you are not living vicariously through him. Help him pursue his dreams and build on his talents.

4.     Parent each child as an individual. Children will respond differently and what works for one child may not work for another. Change it up.

5.     Guard your words. Words hurt. Know when to walk away or take a break. Ask for forgiveness when you make a mistake. No one is perfect, and children need to see parents handle failure successfully.

Listen to your child’s silent messages. What is she NOT saying that she wants you to hear?

Written by Donna McClintock, COO with Children’s Choice Learning Center, Inc.

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March Madness

March 21, 2012

It’s that time of year – if you turn on your TV for very long, you are going to see a game of basketball. Dreams come true for some college seniors on the Cinderella team, and dreams are crushed for players who were confident they would go all the way to the championship. Their responses to winning or losing are largely determined by how they were parented.

It’s powerful to know that as a parent, I am responsible for equipping my child with the coping skills he will need throughout all of life … and I must begin early. There will be victories, and there will be losses. There will even be stretches of time when life is simple and mundane. The way I treat my child from the moment he is placed in my arms determines how well he adjusts to everything life slings his way.

If I respond to his cues in a timely manner when he is an infant, I teach him that he matters and that his feelings are important to me. He learns to trust or mistrust in infancy. If I bond with him and he bonds with me, he has the confidence for all other relationships. If I treat him with respect and expect respect from him, he will know how to handle himself when he’s in the spotlight.

Parenting matters. The goal of parenting is to equip your child with the skills he will need to build a great life. Sigmund Freud said, “The relationship between the mother and child is the prototype for all future relationships.”

A few of the talented players we are watching will probably go pro, and we hope that they are equipped with the skills they need to be successful. My nephew posted a quote today that I love: “Some people are so poor that all they have is money.” Our responsibility as parents is to ensure that our children have abundance in all areas of life. We want them to know how to give and how to receive love, kindness, peace, and tolerance.

March Madness will end, and life will go back to normal for every player and viewer. Make sure that you are preparing your player or viewer for whatever life might bring his way in a few years. There will be seasons of “madness” in all of our lives. How well your child handles these times will be determined by how you have equipped him.

Parenting matters.  Be the best parent/caregiver you can be. You make a difference for a lifetime.

Written by Donna McClintock, COO with Children’s Choice Learning Center, Inc.


Sunday Lesson

March 14, 2012

Mother and child watching birds thru windowAs our family was having lunch on Sunday, my six-year-old granddaughter told me about waking up early that morning and watching two birds outside her window. The light in her eyes was magical as she shared her experience … how the birds interacted, perched on the ledge then bumped each other off, and how it looked as if they were talking to each other. She felt like they were putting on a show just for her. “It was so cute, Dee Dee,” she said.

I have read a lot of research about the importance of nature to young children and realized, yet again, that I am STILL learning some of life’s most valuable lessons from children. I was reminded how important it is to STOP and smell the roses … or watch the birds.

So … I looked out my office window yesterday and saw an absolutely beautiful, sunny day with a gentle breeze blowing. I asked myself, “What would Ava do?” Of course, I knew the answer. I found a great table at a restaurant and had lunch … outside! I rarely eat lunch during the week and certainly do not take the time to enjoy it. However, because I had seen the world through the eyes of an enthusiastic, innocent, and loving child, I decided to stop and appreciate the beautiful day that was all around me.

Frank Lloyd Wright said, “The older I get, the more beautiful life becomes.” It surely does, but do we take the time to notice? Children see beauty all around them. It is the adults who often cover up that beauty by loading our children down with obligations, competitions, impossible schedules, and too much pressure. We could learn so many valuable lessons if we just watched HOW children experience their world when given the opportunity.

I challenge all of us—as parents, grandparents, educators, and friends of children—to ensure that we are giving them moments to connect with nature and to explore the beauty of the earth.  I also encourage each of us to take the time to stop and appreciate our world as children see it.

I came back from our Sunday lunch so refreshed. Thank you, Ava!

Written by Donna McClintock, COO with Children’s Choice Learning Centers, Inc.


Reality Shows

March 7, 2012

You CAN Make A DifferenceI don’t know if you have watched certain TV “reality” shows that feature children, such as Dance Moms or Toddlers and Tiaras. I typically watch anything at least once if there is a child in it just to keep up-to-date. It is very difficult for me to contain my anger, frustration, and sorrow about the adults in our society who justify some of the “realities” that our children are exposed to. It saddens me to watch the experiences these children are forced to participate in before they are old enough to have a voice strong enough to make a choice. I sometimes feel that same anger, frustration, and sorrow when shopping at our neighborhood stores—those moments when cameras are NOT rolling, and parents are just going about life. I cannot stand to see children disrespected, berated, or handled inappropriately.

I simply wanted to stop today and remind ALL of us as adults—whether you are a parent, grandparent, guardian, friend, aunt, uncle, cousin…the list could go on and on—that children are our greatest natural resource. How we treat our children determines the future of our society. We must stop hurting, destroying, abusing, mistreating, and neglecting our most precious natural resource. We must refuse to accept it as a society.

The news has been filled the past few weeks with stories on the price of and speculations about the availability of gasoline. And yet, our nation’s GREATEST natural resource is being harmed; and we as a society are becoming more and more desensitized to it. If you have a child in your life in ANY capacity, take the time this week to notice. Is this child loved, hugged, protected? Does this child have provision, shelter, and protection? If not, make a difference. You cannot save the world, but you CAN save one.

If each of us reaches out to make a difference, we can create a new reality for our children. Television shows do not last without good ratings. If we refuse to watch, perhaps a few less children will be exploited. If we teach a young mother what we have learned, perhaps we can save her from making a critical mistake. If we start a parent group, perhaps an otherwise uninformed parent will realize she is making an unhealthy choice or feels safe to reach out when overwhelmed. Ask yourself, “What can I do?”

Impact the REALITY of a child’s life in your world…it will SHOW.

Written by Donna McClintock, COO with Children’s Choice Learning Center, Inc.