Don’t miss this opportunity to discover the Three Signposts to Mindful Discipline, with the BEHAVE Online Parenting Course.
The big advantage of this online course is it means you can start anytime, as suits you, and enjoy the material when and where you want to. There are one or two video sections, of usually 12-15 minutes each, per week for a six week period.
And the extra good news is that when you sign up for the next week, you save over 50% of the usual fee. This investment, that can literally change your life, is now only (US) $37, if you act now.
Want to know more. Pop across to the webpage to enjoy a Preview section (no sign in required to view this).
Imagine – significantly lowering the stress level in your home, and racheting up the Happiness factor.
When things aren’t going smoothly that can seem like an impossible dream. Here’s my own story of how my vision of parenting fell apart and what happened next.
It took a near melt-down in my relationship with my then-teenage son for me to realize that being a ‘good parent’ wasn’t working. I was a qualified, experienced teacher. I thought I knew how to handle kids but my relationship with my then-teenage son was as scratchy as wire-wool on sunburnt skin. I kept trying to make him ‘be good’ but the more I insisted, the more he resisted.
I thought my parenting job was to change him, but he was a ‘stubborn child’.
But crisis forced me to think differently and do differently.
His challenging behaviour was clearly telling me my parenting style wasn’t working.
I began to realise – slowly! – that the only person I could change was myself!
But I felt overwhelmed.
How could I be anything other than what I was?
How could I do the work of being the parent my child needed to be (instead of the parent who tried to control)?
It seemed an impossible task.
Let me tell you my ‘AHA’ moment.
At that time (this is quite a few years ago!) they had discovered the wreck of the Titanic. I was listening to a radio interview where they said that if the Titanic had changed her course, just two or three degrees when she first hit chilly waters, she would have sailed safely into harbour.
Two or three degrees!
That would have felt like nothing on such a huge ship – but it would have made all the difference.
The lights went on for me.
I was doing a pretty good job as a parent. I just needed to make that 2 or 3 degree shift that would sail us back to warm waters.
It took me time. It took all of us patience. It wasn’t always easy. But we got there.
I didn’t know the term ‘Mindful Parent’ then, but I was taking the first steps on that journey.
The good news is that, to be the parent you’d love to be, it doesn’t take a 180 degree turn-around.
It’s the small shifts in the everyday interactions that are key.
And I’d love to share with you the key insights and practical tools I’ve discovered. The 2 or 3 degrees that can make all the difference in your relationships.
Why not grab a mug of coffee and take twelve minutes to watch this little video.
It’s a section from my ‘BEHAVE’ Online Parenting Course. I wish I’d known this when my kids were young.
My family experienced a lot of frustration and heartache while I slowly realised that trying to get my kid to behave wasn’t working. I’d love to save you the tears and the frustration that it cost me – not to mention any yelling, grumbling or nagging!
My AHA moment was many years ago. I’ve got a great relationship with my son, who now has children of his own – and I’ve made it my life’s work to discover what’s needed to create happier homes. My crisis became my opportunity.
It took me years to figure out what it TAKES to create a happy family.
That’s why I developed the ‘BEHAVE’ Online Parenting Course to give you the key insights and the practical tools I’ve discovered to create a more enjoyable and fulfilling family life, without having to endure the long and often painful journey I experienced. If I’d learnt these core principles when my kids were young, family life would have been so much easier, and happier, for us all.
I’m not saying you’ll have a ‘perfect’ family – life isn’t perfect, but it’s meant to be fun.
I’d love to hear YOUR questions and comments: what’s the parenting challenge you’re facing?
Parenting expert Val Mullally has new blog released on My Kidstime: 7 more Useful Tips to Build Self Esteem in Your Child In this blog Val reveals the second key to Self Esteem and what parents can do to develop children’s sense of Connection.
Make the most of your garden this summer and autumn. For simple, inexpensive ideas on creating fabulous fun for your children in your own back yard, see this blog by Parenting Expert Val Mullally.
Is your child happy playing? I mean really happy? When you watch your child’s playing do you sense an inner contentment?
Do you remember that fabulous fun in the garden – to stand on a log, arms outstretched, with the breeze tugging your clothes and ruffling your hair?
It’s crazy – it’s the simplest thing to re-experience that exhilarating childhood joy – and yet, as adults, we seldom do.
It was a blustery, sunny afternoon when I visited the Garden Outdoor Pre-school in Ruthstown, Ballyfoyle near Kilkenny, owned by Bridget Dowling, whose passion for creating environments for children to thrive is evident.
I was on a mini photo-shoot for a blog about young children and play, when I realized how peaceful I was feeling. I had arrived feeling happily expectant because of the good reports I had heard about this preschool, but I was surprised to notice the sense of stillness and relaxation that had settled upon me. It was environments like this, where we loved to play when we were kids.
Mum (or Dad) said, ‘Go and play!’ and we disappeared into the backyard, finding whatever scraps and treasures we could for our adventures. We were police officers chasing rogues and robbers, princesses in palaces, pirates sailing the seven seas, or gangsters tearing through deserts.
Our imaginative play took us wherever we fancied.
We took these play opportunities for granted, but today, if we want our children to have the rich play experiences that we had, we probably need to deliberately construct gardens to ignite our children’s imaginations.
It’s time to stop thinking in terms of the neat, urban well-manicured garden. It’s time to a focus on creating ‘magical’ place for children to play.
Do you sometimes tell your children, ‘ Go and play’ but they aren’t interested, or they whine for you to come too. The good news is you can create a garden where your children will want to play, with only a little financial input, some effort, some imaginative recycling and a rethink of what you think your garden needs to be, (or a section of it at least!)
Read on to discover Easy To Implement Ideas for your ‘new look’, child-friendly garden.
✓ Let an area of grass revert to meadow.(You can trim it back in Autumn, if needed). Cut a simple path through it. Use sections of log to create stepping stones.
If you have enough room, create a simple labyrinth. It’s a deeply calming experience to wander the path. (Maybe it’s not by chance that the words ‘wander’ and ‘wonder’ sound the same!)
✓ Let sound be part of your garden too.Have bird feeders and a shallow bird bath to encourage feathered friends. Hang a wind chime.Create an ‘instrument wall’ with old pots, pans and other implements or the children to create their own orchestra.
✓ Recycle! Old pots and other implements can make a fabulous outdoor ‘kitchen’.
✓ Grow your own veg. Even small beds are an awesome experience for children to watch the miracle of growth. It’s amazing how children who don’t eat veg will eat what they’ve grow themselves!
✓ Make ‘Toy Telephones’ Remember using two clean, empty cans with string between them to talk and listen to each other? (You can see sets of ‘telephones’ hanging on the fence in this photo!)
✓ Have the sand toys ready for play by adding hooks on a nearby wall. (Important to have a sturdy cover to protect the sand from being polluted when not in use).
✓ Create a table and stools with sections of log.
✓ A wooden coat-hanger and cup-hooks attached to a pole make a weighing scale,or a captain’s wheel, or … !
Involve your children in creating the garden. They’ll love it even more when they have a sense of ownership.
Water play on a warm day is great fun, but always keep a watchful eye. Of course, you need to be watching for any health and safety hazards, but remember what they said that fairies don’t come out when grown ups are around. For your child to enjoy the ‘magic’ of the new garden, keep low profile, unless they invite you to join the play! If you’ve enjoyed this list you’ll probably also enjoy ‘How to Create a Child Friendly Garden’.
To discover more about the Koemba Parenting approach buy your copy of ‘Behave – What To Do When Your Child Won’t’, available on Amazon in Kindle and paperback. Please do upload your photos and stories here, or on the Koemba Facebook page, so we can all get excited about the garden makeovers you create.
New blog post today by Parenting Expert Val Mullally.
The wails of a toddler in distress ricochets off the walls. I glance at the mother, who yanks her crying toddler by the arm, ignoring her wails. The toddler drags behind her, screaming her protest.
The mother stops. Towering over the child she speaks sharply, wagging her finger in the child’s face. Then she marches on, with sobbing child in tow.
We’ve all had parenting moments we’re not proud of. But what can help us do differently? Here are some thoughts for stressed parents on what to do when your toddler acts out. We can handle a child’s challenging behaviour more helpfully when we have insights about how the human brain develops. If you are facing a toddler upset here are ten tips for responsive parenting to calm your child and recreate connection.
I hope you’ll keep reading, even if you have older children, because if we all knew what toddlers need to thrive we’d create environments for:
– happier, healthier children
– children who will be more successful as adults
– a happier, healthier generation.
Understanding A Toddler Upset:
✓ Your toddler’s brain is still “under construction”
This means the toddler cannot reason like an adult. She doesn’t have a concept of time. She doesn’t understand that you have deadlines to keep or chores to complete. Trying to explain your agenda to her when she’s demanding won’t help. Rather, focus on connecting with her.
✓ When your toddler’s upset, she’s emotionally flooded, so she can’t reason
The ‘fight or flight’ part of her brain has now been triggered. She’s not reasoning – so trying to logically explain things to her is only likely to increase her frustration – and yours. First she needs your connection and sympathetic understanding.
✓ The young child cannot self-regulate
In other words, she is physically not able to calm herself down. She might cry to a point of exhaustion and then stop – and that’s very different from the child being calmed. When a child’s experience is ignored until she ‘gives up’, her exhausted body is still overloaded with nasty cortisol! Leaving your baby to cry without giving comfort and attention is tantamount to leaving her in a closed room with toxic paint fumes.[i]
So let’s look at what a parent can do to calm an upset toddler.
Toddler Upset – Ten Tips On How To Calm Your Child:
1. Stay emotionally connected to your child
When she’s upset she’s trying to let you know she needs your support. At times when you child is most challenging tile is when she most probably most needs your love and support.
At these times the young child is emotionally overwhelmed and needs your support to calm her down.
2. Choose to be calm
Get down to her eye level and make eye contact (if she will) with a ‘soft gaze’.Your toddler physically can’t calm herself down when she’s upset – she can’t “self regulate”. Her immature nervous system relies on an adult to calm her. So if you choose to calm yourself, it will help to calm her. Your soft gaze will do far more to calm her than any amount of ‘reasoning’ words.
3. Remember her behaviour is about her – your response is about you
There’s already one immature person having a meltdown. Your job is to remain the calm, collected adult who, rather than reacting, chooses to respond helpfully.
4. Focus on your breathing
When you steady your breathing your steady your thoughts.Remind yourself this is your young child who is distressed and needing support.
If you have a key phrase that reminds you of the sort of parent you choose to be, say this to yourself: for example: ‘calm’, ‘being the adult’, ‘reassure’.
Your steady breathing will also help to steady your child’s breathing.
5. Send a ‘CONNECT’ message through your tone of voice/ body language and your facial expression
Your child senses your motivation far more strongly than she can hear the words you are using. (When you most want to say’ Listen to me’ is when she’s emotionally flooded and it’s impossible for her to listen! In upset times your child’s brain can’t make sense of your words. First she needs to connect with you.
She will learn how to deal with stressful times by what you model.
6. Focus on seeing the situation through her eyes, rather than trying to explain yours
See life from her perspective.
Reflect the same words/ energy / simple phrases that she does.
Focus your attention on connecting with her. It’s helpful to imagine ahead of time, before an upset, how you might respond in a similar scenario. Here’s how I would choose to respond:
Mother: ‘You want the toy.’
Child: ‘I want it!’
Mother: ‘You really want it.’
7. Don’t give her what she’s demanding – just acknowledge what she wants
Just because she “wants” the toy, doesn’t mean she has to have it. But you can still acknowledge her experience. (Think of when you say something like, “I’d love that Porsche.” Just because you express the wish, doesn’t mean you need it explained to you why you can’t have it! )
8. If she uses attacking words, like ‘Silly Mummy’ reflect the emotion below her words
For example, you might respond, ‘You’re cross with me.’
9. Give words for your child’s emotions
When we acknowledge emotions, over time your child will learn to ‘name, claim and tame’ her emotions. As we model this, our children will be more able to use reason to deal with emotional upsets – to ‘find words (left brain activation) for strong feelings (right brain activation) instead of moving into primitive discharge of these feelings. (as in tantrum).’[ii]
10. It’s okay for your child to cry
Don’t try to stop the tears, just be compassionately present and ready to connect when your child is ready to do so.When we cry when we’re upset, the tears are chemically different to the tears we cry when we’re peeling an onion. Our ‘upset tears’ contain stress hormones. So having a ‘good cry’ / ‘crying it all out’ makes sense.
When you see an upset toddler it’s helpful to remember that her brain and nervous system are still ‘under construction’. She is reliant on you as parent (or carer) to calm and regulate the strong emotions that are storming her young body. Her crying is trying to communicate to you that she’s especially needing your support right now. She needs you to ‘listen to her behaviour’ ; for more about this, see my blog “My toddler screams when her 4 year old sister ‘bugs’ her!”
Your young child is not out to make your life difficult – she’s doing the best she can.
The bottom line is babies and toddlers need caring, connected parents, particularly in times of emotional stress.
But how to be the calm, connected parent you want to be in times of stress? You can discover more with the three signpost to Mindful Parenting in my new Parenting book, ‘BEHAVE – What To Do When Your Child Won’t’. And if you’re a parent who is really keen to discover the practical tools to a more mindful way of Parenting, you’ll want to sign up now for start-when-good-for-you, return-as-often as-you-wish Online Parenting course.
I recommend Margot Sunderland’s book ‘What Every Parent Needs to Know’. It’s the type of book that you’ll frequently dip into, with chapters on issues such as sleep and bedtimes, behaviour issues, crying and separation. It’s filled with a wealth of knowledge and practical advice, based on scientific fact, about what children need to thrive.
[i] Sunderland Margot at Play Therapy conference in Dublin 2008
[ii] Sunderland Margot ‘The Science of Parenting ‘2006 Dorling Kindersley Limited. London, p. 231
You want your children to enjoy the sunshine and outdoor play. In this article, Val Mullally gives five practical tips on how to create a child-friendly garden.
You’ve probably ensured you have a child-safe’ garden – but is it a child-friendly garden? A child-friendly garden doesn’t need to be perfectly manicured. It’s a garden that calls to your child, “Come and play.”
What’s the difference between “child-safe” and “child-friendly”?
Safety is obviously important for your child’s sake – and creating a safe secure environment leaves your child free to play without unnecessary adult interference. What child wants a grown up saying – “Don’t do this/ don’t do that’” when they’re immersed in play! A child-friendly garden is always child-safe. i.e. no uncovered areas of water of any depth, no sharp corners that could cause harm. And a child-friendly garden takes into account the age and developmental needs of the child. A child-friendly garden will evolve as children grow. While some child-safe gardens will have little that attracts the child or holds interest for long, the child-friendly garden is a child-safe space that begs to be explored.
What is a ‘Child-Friendly’ Garden?
A child-friendly garden is something so much more than just a safe space! It’s a space that lures the child; where nature waits to be explored. Where the child becomes immersed in the realm of curiosity and imagination. It’s a space that calms.
No matter how pretty, children don’t want a flat garden that is immediately available to the eye on first encounter. Children need somewhere the imagination can wander. A place where stories can come to life.
A child-friendly garden is a place where there’s a sense of ‘magic’ – of mystery and wonder. A place where you can disappear into your own world of imagination – or wonder and curiosity, watching swaying leaves in sunlight, a bright ladybird on a leaf, or a bumblebee industriously collecting pollen. A place where you can create your own stories with your dolls or toy cars, where you can build a house for the hedgehog or fairy, or have a picnic or a tea party with invited guests (whether teddy bears, the child next door or mummy and daddy).
Children love gardens that are rich in natural textures, where there are leaves that will blow in the wind, where the land has hillocks and undulations, and sunlight dapples through the trees.
A garden where the child can lose herself in her imagination, where anything could be possible.
It’s a garden where there aren’t such perfect flower beds that she can’t tumble and roll on the lawn. It’s ideally not one level surface. It’s interesting to the senses!
A place that is attractive to all the senses – touch, smell, sight, taste, and hearing are all enticingly engaged. The warmth of the sun on grass and stones, the coolness of water and dappled shade, the sounds of wind-chimes and running water, the feel and smell of leaves, flowers and fruit, unexpected corners with new delights – these are all elements of a child-friendly garden.
Young children can have endless hours of imaginative play in a garden like this.
Five Tips to Create a Child-Friendly Garden Your Child Will Love:
1. Provide props to encourage play.
For example, props for your children to create a picnic, or to make a ‘tent’. Sometimes children will ask for the props they need – but wise adults will also be sensitive to when something extra is needed. Maybe it’s a bottle of bubbles to blow, or a temporary ‘clothes line’ and pegs for a morning of washing dolly’s clothes, or an old sheet to make a tent.
Farms, zoos and many adventures can be created with a few simple props.
2. Provide natural play materials.
Natural materials like water, sand, mud, stones sticks and plants provide a rich sensory experience for children. Different weights, textures temperatures, smells, ways fo being used. Water play is a much-loved activity – but be aware of any safety hazards. A sand area is also great. Earth, mud, stones, wood, and water are all part of garden play.
3. Create a safe (and enticing) garden – and give them freedom in that space.
Think back to your own favourite activities as a child. They were probably those times when you were free to create your own imaginative world, without an adult breathing down your neck. Young children need a child-safe garden with secure boundaries – and then give them space to create their own play, unless they’re inviting you to ‘join the party’.
4. Expensive play equipment isn’t needed.
Many parents buy elaborate climbing frames and other playground equipment – but when you walk through a neighbourhood notice how many of these are hardly used. Rather create space that can be used in many different ways. The large pieces of equipment that are likely to give endless hours of pleasure are a good swing and a trampoline. (If you have young children, create a low boundary in front and behind the swing, so that younger ones won’t walk into the path of the swing).
5. Create a simple veggie patch
Children are far more likely to eat the healthy stuff when they’ve grown and harvested the food themselves! And there’s so much to learn – not only about the plants, but about the soil, worms and insects, watering, waiting for things to grow, tidying up after yourself, working together.
Why do ‘Child-Friendly’ Gardens Matter?
A garden is ideally a place where you can just ‘be’.
A place where imaginations can bloom, where the senses can feast and muscles and brains can relax or be challenged in interesting ways.
Even older children can experience a garden like this as a sanctuary – a place to be still and unwind.
Where to Find Inspiration for A Child-Friendly Garden?
Pinterest is a great resource to discover how to create a child-friendly garden. Click this link to see my Pinterest board “Magical Gardens for Children”
Flower Shows are places where you can find inspiring ideas to bring the “magic” into your garden. Annual events like The Bloom Festival (Ireland’s answer to Chelsea Flower Show) are a fabulous outing and great places to get ideas on what makes a garden a place to nurture a child’s soul.