Why I don’t say “bossy” at all.

There’s been a lot of talk this week about BanBossy, a venture headed by Sheryl Sandberg.  I agree: we shouldn’t be labeling girls “bossy”.  We shouldn’t be labeling any child, anything.

Labels perpetrate behaviors, and put fixed messages on children who are growing and changing.  A child who behaves a certain way for a day, or a week, or a month, is growing, experimenting, feeling out the world.  If someone labels that child “shy” or “picky eater” or “good girl” or  “bully”  or “great athlete”  the child has to deal with all the expectations that come along with that label, and they are heavy.  A child who is forging an identity may stick to the ones given without realizing.

And what about ‘bossy’?  Well, if bossy means, not listening to others, not cooperating, and always wanting to make decisions on your own– those aren’t qualities of a good leader.  So let’s ban bossy, all the other labels, and encourage our children to be empathetic, to learn about the world, and to be truthful to themselves and others.

 

Family Mission Statement and Talking About Sex…

So we worked on our family mission statement this weekend, and I read the Bruce Feiler chapter about talking to your kids about sex.

We’re enjoying taking the mission (he calls it branding) slowly… what do we stand for, really?  What are the most important things to all of us?  When my J. and I talked about this before, our kids were younger and not part of our conversation.  Now that we all have something to bring to the table, it feels more important, and better.

*EPIPHANY!*  At dinner this evening we were talking about the words that represented our family.  It was an okay conversation, but then I had an epiphany.  I asked my daughters, “How would you want to describe us to, let’s say, a friend from college who can’t go home for Thanksgiving.  How would you want to complete this… “Come to our house… it’s _______; for Thanksgiving we always ________; my mom ___________; my dad _____________.”  Then our talk really evolved.

As for the sex chapter– the basic premise is what I’ve always suggested. Here is a link to all the places sex appears on my website.

And now, I’m feeling like the Secrets of Happy Families blog posts are coming to an end.  I’ll check back in on them now and again.  I would really suggest, if you feel like you’ve had your fill of parenting books, or if you are looking for one, that this is healthy part of a parenting library.  Even if you feel your “parenting booked out” I would add this one to the shelf.

Branding Your Family

One of my favorite parenting sentence starters is, “In our family we…” and it’s usually followed by, something like:

  • Are gentle.
  • Use words to explain how we feel.
  • Think about others and ourselves.
  • Bathe / shower at least 3 times a week…

And more, some invented on the spot when necessary. Predictably, as my children get older, they take on some of these statements.

Me: “In our family, we use words to tell people when things bother us.”

Daughter: “That’s not true!  She just punched me!”

All of this speaks to the vision we have of our family, the reality, and knowing we need to strive for shared goals.  Those goals need to be realistic yet lofty, thought through by every member of the family, and keep everyone in mind without drastically compromising your sense of self.  This is what I have been calling your family mission.  It was the first part of your family map.

Enter Bruce Feiler and the chapter about “branding your family”.  Another great way to think about these same ideas.

We’ll be working on our family mission for the next couple of weeks.  I have been taking this book very slowly– letting it all seep in.   It adjusts and polishes many things I’ve been writing and thinking about for a long time.  It’s nice to have another perspective.  Thanks, Bruce!

P.S. Check back on the family meeting post to see how our family meetings are going as a result of our simple changes.

Family…

Dinner?  Breakfast?  Lunch?  Snack?  Dessert?

They are all options.  The goal?  Be together.  Talk.  Reminisce.  This (short) chapter talks about all the things you can do at family dinner– some challenging, all engaging.

At this point, I am thinking about Dan Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson– their work with memories and telling stories can be a lovely part of family talk time.  Childhood stories, kids asking questions about “When you were little…” and more. (Difficult memories involving your children should be saved for more private conversations where you can be snuggling or sitting close– a great way to heal and help children make sense of memories is to re-tell and talk about hard memories while creating a sense of comfort.)

So for all of you who are rushing home for dinner and creating more stress– be creative, find another meal that works for you and your family.

Checklists and Family Meetings.

First, I’d like to tell you to buy Bruce Feiler’s book.  (Disclaimer– I don’t know Bruce Feiler, though I just started following him on Twitter 😉  I think you should buy it because: that’s how authors get public credit for their writing, plus royalties (eventually), plus orders for second printings, and because based on the introduction + first chapter, I can tell this is a book you should have in your parenting library.

CHECKLISTS I have long been a promoter of simple checklists (that you don’t necessarily need to “check off” but that you can “check with your eyes”) and family meetings.  Chapter one has reminded me how empowering checklists are for the entire family (nagging almost gone– just “check the list”).  Our morning checklist (made easier now because everyone can read, but before we did pictures) is basic– socks,  shoes, know what coat, gloves, book, LUNCH, homework folder or drama notebook or not, hair, teeth brushed for real with toothpaste, face washed.  Roughly in order, posted at child’s-eye-level.  For us there is no actual place to “check off”.  And it works.  Who made the list?  We did it together, and I typed it up and printed it out.  We’ve experimented with writing our own, decorating, etc.  Typed works best for us– maybe because it looks official?

FAMILY MEETINGS Family meetings can be another important part of successful family life.  Our lives are filled with too much to manage (logistical and emotional) without some kind of weekly check-in.  This chapter explains some of the nuances of the meeting, including best questions to ask.  As the wife of an author, I can’t give the secrets of any book away, but I will say that I am 100% sure our family meetings will improve.  I looked at the first page in our binder I keep for family meetings– we’ve been having them since 2006!  I hadn’t quite realized it’s been that long.  We’ve gone through phases of having them once a month, once a week, but there are definitely times we’ve forgotten to have one at all.  And, we had been starting with gratitude (everyone goes around saying something they are grateful for about someone else at the table) but gratitude practice is not for a meeting– that’s something else.  I loved the book Cheaper by the Dozen (check out the vintage cover!) when I was younger, and understood even then the beauty of routine and efficiency– how it can actually make more room for enjoyment.

It’s all I can do to not read more– but I’m pacing myself.  A chapter every few days.  If I can hold out!

UPDATE:  Our family meetings have changed exponentially.  We’ve shifted the focus to “we” and it creates a lot of space for people to be more accountable for themselves.  We can also refer back to goals we’ve set for the week by referencing our meeting– again, a shared experience.

Bruce Feiler, your book is in my hands and I am taking it seriously.

One of the things I want to do most with my askyourfriendkira world is help filter all the “parenting noise” as a friend of mine once put it.  I love reading, and I respect people who take on “parenting” since it is massively intense and constant.   I’ve also realized that parenting doesn’t exist in a vacuum– it’s hard to write about “parenting” without including everything else– my site’s sub-sub-title is a “family lifestyle reference site”.  Wordy, but for good reason.

So, how excited am I that Bruce Feiler, an author who I like (NYTimes, etc.) has written a book called The Secrets of Happy Families.  Instead of going to “parenting” experts– he connected with people who are experts of the components of family life. I’m excited– but mostly because he is addressing ALL OF IT… “I have tried to write the book I have most wanted to read as a spouse, parenting, uncle, sibling, and adult child.”  So, Bruce, you had me at the Introduction, and I’m ready to read.

Over the next couple of weeks, I’m going to blog more frequently about the book and what I’ve gleaned.  I’ll let you know what our family is already doing (hint: we have family meetings, though not every week, and we have a morning checklist for the kids so they are responsible for their everyday world) and what we work in as a result of my reading.

It’s time to start MEDITATING…

Are you looking for something that will send a grounding confidence through your life?  You might want to start meditating.  Sometimes parenting support is about what to say and how to say it, but sometimes it’s about strengthening yourself.  And so we’re going to dive right in– you can start really simply.

  • Get a small cushion and find a quietish place to sit—it helps if your spine is “active” which means not relaxing and not hyper-extending.
  • Decide how you want to hold your hands—open on your knees is traditionally a receiving gesture.  Palms on your knees is traditionally grounding.  See what feels best.
  • You can use a meditation app (this is my favorite, it has lovely bells you can customize) or a timer or just glance at the clock—time may disappear for some when meditating, but I find for busy people, especially parents, it’s nice to know when you start and stop.
  • Close your eyes, and just listen to yourself breathe.  In and out.  If your mind wanders, bring it back to noticing your breath.  If you would rather focus on a word or short saying, you can choose one that is meaningful to you— peace / love / I am peace / I bring love / etc.  You can do a bit of both.

That’s it.  Congratulate yourself when you are finished– you just carved a few minutes out of a very very busy day.  I’d suggest starting with 1-5 minutes as many days as you can.

How did that feel? Questions about meditating?  Parenting?  The combination?  Post comments and questions here on my Facebook page!

 

 

Thanksgiving, Already? Yes!

And of all of a sudden, the holidays are upon us!  How did that happen?  Well, November 1 was a Thursday, which means Thanksgiving is the earliest it could possibly be.  I love this time of year– lots of cooking and another year of traditions taking shape.  When you’re not in your own home, it can be hard to find the balance between giving your child(ten) what they need, and being flexible with family.  One secret?  Be playful and creative when you’re feeling pressure from family– your kids pick up on everything, so they will reflect what you are feeling.  Kids are a good “honest feeling barometer”.

Some holiday thoughts…

TRAVELING

  • Always keep an extra outfit in the plane (for you and your child)
  • Baby wipes solve a lot of problems, even when your kids are older
  • Little snacks, and new little toys, tape, books, paper, are good things to carry.
  • Take a white noise machine with you (this is my favorite one)
  • Let your family know what you need, within reason, from them.  Do what you need, within reason, for you.  Try to stay present, in the moment.  Staying with family always brings up issues around parenting, relatives expectations of your children, and scheduling challenges.  Keep your absolutes friendly and firm, and look to yourself for places you can stretch and try something new.

Having trouble with your holiday schedule?  Spending a lot of time going back and forth? Consider spending each holiday with the same host, or switching year-to-year.  Going to two places for each holiday can be overwhelming after a while.

If you use part of Thanksgiving to plan gift giving around other holidays, consider suggesting a present exchange, especially if people may be a bit stressed about finances.  In a world of excess, this can be a great moment to advocate for, “less is more”.  Fewer presents, less spending, less stuff, less stress, and more time for love.

Specific questions around holidays?  Ask me on Facebook!  I’m also asking you to share your #thanksgivingtraditions #ayfk on Twitter… I’m excited to share them with everyone!

Talking With Your Children About Awful Things

There are times when we have to talk with our children about the most awful things.  When your child reads something in the paper, or hears about something from a friend, you may have to have a conversation you weren’t prepared for.  You can do it. Keep in mind these basic guidelines…

  • wait for the questions
  • clarify the question being asked– many times our prior knowledge and fears make us think something more complicated is being asked
  • answer as simply as possible
  • you are allowed to say I don’t know
  • your basic responsibility is to reassure your children how much you do to keep them safe, including helping them learn how to keep themselves safe.

If you have specific concerns about your child and his or her anxiety, please call your pediatrician for a referral.

In essence, having this conversation is showing your child how you think about the world and deal with what feel like unspeakable acts.