Dear Parents and Caregivers,
I spend a lot of time in my Jackson Hole News & Guide columns suggesting that parents focus on who they want their kids to be as a foundation in raising their children. Columns titled “Think who, not what, you want your kids to be” or “Rather than wanting 'what’s best,' start with a vision” ask parents to get to the heart of who they want to be as parents and who they hope their kids become.
Knowing our “why” in our parenting worlds can help anchor us to a practice of showing up every day for our children in a way that helps them develop into the who: kind, capable, resilient, generous and contributing people. Why are you parenting? Why did you become a parent? What was your vision when you held your newborn in your arms?
Sometimes our current reality doesn’t match our vision. We are not always the parents we set out to be when our kids are not doing what we want. We become naggy, bossy, demanding, angry and my go-to: critical.
Often these default responses come because we don’t know what else to do (and they are often remnants from how we were parented). We can continue to “wing it” and hope that someday our kids will fall into line and behave according to our expectations, but ask yourself: do these strategies of nagging, bossing, time-outing, and punishing really work? Do they get the behavior to change for the long term and do they get you to your “why”: a strong mutually respectful relationship, a child who can think independently, take care of herself and be considerate of those around him, and a parent (you) who your child will later describe as encouraging, accepting, supportive, loving or fun?
Or, you can parent with a plan. Think about it -- we make plans for most things we do: getting a project done at work, meeting up with friends, cooking a meal, or going on a trip. And you may have plans that involve your kids: bedtime routines, getting out of the house or helping with chores.
Yet I’ve heard from so many parents that while they have established routines or charts, nothing is really working. Bedtime still takes an hour and ends in tears. Getting out of the house is still filled with nagging reminders, refusals to move forward and stressed parents. And kids still don’t contribute in the household even though chores have been established a long time ago.
Introduce Vicki Hoefle’s parenting roadmap. What is a parenting roadmap and how does it work? Find out by reading my column in this week’s Jackson Hole News & Guide.
Creating a roadmap to reach family goals
JACKSON HOLE NEWS & GUIDE:
School starts in about a month, and while I don’t mean to stop the summer fun, my next column doesn't come out until mid-September and I want to offer some tools.
At this point we don’t know what school will look like: fully in person, distance learning, or a hybrid of the two. This uncertainty can be unnerving and challenging for some.
The fears of going back to distance learning can be big. Figuring out how to work while also taking on the job of a full time teacher and behavior specialist was hard enough in the spring. The thoughts of doing this again for an undetermined amount of time can be daunting. Yet I encourage you to put any anxieties about what you can’t control on the back burner and stay in the present moment, focusing on what you can control.
Regardless of what school will look like in the fall, having routines and a plan in place is where you can have the most influence in making a smooth transition from summer back to school.
Parent educator Vicki Hoelfe created a tool she calls a parenting roadmap. The difference between a parenting roadmap and the routines and charts you may have created with your children is that the focus of the roadmap is on you, the parent, not the child. It’s about what we as parents ourselves can do, rather than trying to get the children to change. And while, yes, we do want some of our kids’ pesky behaviors to turn a corner, the way we will have the most influence is focusing on ourselves.
The great thing about roadmaps is that they can work for anything. You can apply them to any challenge you have or change you want to make: summer boredom, excessive screen time, helping around the house, being more fun as a parent, homework hassles and so on.
Using the example of morning routines, here’s how it works:
Identify where you want to be: I want to get out of the house on time in a calm manner with everyone owning their mornings, feeling good about each other, taking responsibility for themselves, and making small contributions to the greater functioning of the family.
Identify where you are now: I am stressed and rushed. I nag, remind and micromanage my kids. They dilly-dally, noodle and refuse to get dressed and do their jobs. There are sometimes tears, tantrums or bad attitudes. We are rushed and frequently late.
Identify the steps you will take to bridge the gap: Think about what needs to happen in order to get out of the house in a calm manner with smiles on your faces. First I need to consider my go-to responses of micromanaging, doing everything for my kids, nagging and scurrying them along. What would happen if I stepped back and let my kids figure the world out on their own? What are my own anxieties that keep me in that hot seat of barely containing myself when the kids go at their own paces? What are my beliefs about how a “good” family should function in the mornings and how is that impacting how I show up?
Rout this out. If you don’t your default response will come back to rear its ugly head.
Next ask if your kids know how to do all the things you are expecting of them. Are their clothes accessible? Do they know how to make toast or fix a bowl of cereal? Do they pack their backpacks, make and remember their lunch, put their dishes in the dishwasher, get themselves up with an alarm clock? If not, begin teaching them - one skill at a time.
Ask your kids how they would like their mornings to go and what is important to them. Do they want some snuggle time, play time, or time to finish their homework? If so, talk to them about adjusting what time the alarm is set. Help them create their own morning routine that works for them.
Then, here’s the hard part: step back. Allow time for training. Allow for mess ups and mishaps. Notice progress and improvement. Comment on all the great things they are doing rather than nagging about the opposite.
And be patient. Remember your goals of fostering a strong relationship and independent children through the hubbub of getting out of the house. My nagging and micromanaging only teaches my kids that they aren’t capable and that I will do everything for them. It certainly doesn’t bring us closer, and it certainly doesn't make the kids feel good about themselves. Learning new skills takes time, just as learning to change our responses will take time.
Having a roadmap that is written down and posted where you can see it serves as a reminder to you about how you will behave and what you will do to foster a healthy relationship while also fostering your children’s independence and capabilities.
If you are interested in creating a parenting roadmap but want some support, Rachel offers individual and group coaching sessions at rates that work for individual family budgets. You can find more here.
Antiracism is about more than being kind - Jackson Hole News & Guide
If we want a racially just society, and I sure hope we all do, we need to talk to our children and teens about racism and antiracism in an open and honest way. In the second of my two-part series on this subject, I suggest some specifics of what you can do at home to talk to your children about this complicated topic....
Read more here
Antiracist families start with open conversation - Jackson Hole News & Guide
Dear Parents and Caregivers,
My greatest wish is for children to grow up to feel and be accepted for who they are; to be healthy in all aspects of the word -- emotionally, mentally, physically, spiritually; to believe in themselves and feel good about who they are -- not because of what they have done -- but merely because they were born; and to be able to move through the world with a sense of agency and capability. My greatest hope is for families to thrive, to know how to navigate challenges and come out the other side, to care for and take care of one another and to find ways to contribute to their larger community.
That is why I’m in this work. Being a parent and raising children is hard. With the right support, though, I don’t think it needs to be that hard. So I work to support parents on their heartfelt journey of raising children in today’s fast paced and ever changing world.
While there are times I talk in universals about parenting, I realize that family diversity is enormous. Not only are there the obvious differences in families due to culture, race, geographic location, socio-economic status, religion, political beliefs, family composition (divorced, single parenting, gender, sexual orientation, grandparents, foster, adoptive) and more, there are also individual cultural differences between families who may appear more similar from the outside.
While all this may be true, it is also important to recognize that for some families realizing my greatest wish for children mentioned above (to feel accepted for who they are) might be easier than for others. It can be profoundly painful and even traumatic to be denied acceptance for who you are if society tells you you aren't acceptable based on the color of your skin or your sexual identity. When one group has the power, and an inordinate access to resources and privilege over another, it can be harder to be healthy in every sense of the word. And when a marginalized identity experiences discrimination it can be difficult to move through the world with a sense of agency and capability.
Similarly it can be hard for families to thrive and move through challenges when they don’t have access to necessary resources.
I apologize if my writing in universals has offended or excluded anyone. I work hard to take into account a diverse array of contexts, beliefs and situations, yet given the extreme diversity in individual family systems, I know I don’t always get it right. So I welcome your opinions. Your feedback. Your discourse.
I want to be clear about something else. It is important to note that racism isn’t about people and families being different. It’s about one racial group having power, dominance, access to resources, prejudice and privilege over another racial group based on an idea of perceived superiority.
If we want a racially just society, and I sure hope we all do, we need to talk to our children and teens about racism and antiracism in an open and honest way. Dive into my column in this week’s Jackson Hole News & Guide for the first in a two-part series on talking to your children about race.
Be well, go hug your kids, and take good care of yourselves and others.
With love and faith in you,
Dear Parents and Caregivers,
Just today, even after being on lockdown for close to two months I said to my family all of whom were working away on their Zoom calls and virtual school in the same room as I, “this is so strange”. You think I would have accepted it by now. For the most part I have, but still the fact that we wear masks and gloves into the grocery store, maintain distance from those we encounter, and actually try not to even encounter others is never something I would have imagined. Nor would I have imagined a global closure, massive loss of life and social and economic devastation. While I wouldn’t have imagined the necessity, I would have imagined the way neighbors, communities, scientists and global leaders have come together to do the best they can to support the vulnerable, the sick, the dying, and those who are taking care of them.
It all can feel very surreal. We are living in a new world, and as such we are being forced to look at who we are in a different way. And this can be unnerving.
As Julio Vincent Gambuto writes in his essay “The Gaslighting of America Has Begun,” “And now, here we are, alone in our houses, surrounded by loss, many in great despair, being asked to look inward. There is no brand, no leader, no voice that can help us now. We have to help ourselves. This is the moment in the movie that the truth comes out — the truth of who we are and who we most want to be. Armed with that truth, [we] head into the next act with a better understanding of [ourselves] and a revived purpose in the world.”
This idea is what this week’s column in Jackson Hole News & Guide is about (scroll down to see the uncut version) — as it applies to being a parent. My message to parents is always, who do you want to be? As we are forced inside our homes, can we focus more on the internal, and use that as a guidepost as we approach any interaction we have with our children and teens?
Armed with the truth of who we want to be and who we hope our kids become — kind, compassionate, generous, responsible, aware (insert your words here) — we can use this as an anchor to remind us that we have the power to respond to our children in ways that help us uphold those truths.
Be well, take good care of yourselves, go hug your kids, and continue to ask, “who do I want to be as a parent?”
With love and faith in you,
Many of the ideas for this column were generated from conversations with Vicki Hoefle — thank you Vicki!
Lockdown asks us to focus on the internal
(The longer, uncut version. You can find the edited version at Jackson Hole News & Guide)
Be. Do. Have. This is something parent educator Vicki Hoefle said recently.
Who do you want to be? What do you need to do in order to be that person? After the being and the doing, you will end up with a result - something you have. It is not the other way. It is always who do you need to be and what do you need to do in order to get what you want to have.
Whether we are working from home, still working outside the home, or have tragically lost our jobs, many people have been experiencing a bit of an identity crisis during the quarantining-home with the kids 24/7- social distancing part of the COVID-19 pandemic. Who are we now that our world has been turned upside down?
Our identity, who we are, is often formed through internalizing the values of one’s parents or culture. It develops indirectly from how the world around us — parents, peers, employers, society in general — responds to us. It is a complicated topic and by no means am I an expert. While I only focus on one aspect of identity here, it is important to recognize that there are also cultural, racial and gender identities. While these have significant impact, especially for those that are marginalized, a larger discussion on identity is outside the scope of this column.
For some of us our identities are crumbling because they were built on a certain sense of security, predictability and dependability that have given us a feeling of safety. Right now the world doesn't feel super safe and the future is uncertain, and the fear this brings up can change our identity, for example, from that of a competent person in the work world to what New York Times columnist Emily Flake describes as a “panicked bird”. Adding to that, our identities are formed in relation to others, which we now have very little of, leaving us at a loss for who we are.
The identities for many are also changing because they have lost jobs and loved ones. Who am I if I am not the one who provides for my family? Who am I if not the one who provides for my family? Who am I if not a spouse, daughter, dear friend? Who am I or if I cannot save the lives of so many around me?
As adults we may define ourselves in several ways: parent, friend, athlete, or by our jobs. Often our self worth is tied into how well we do the roles with which we identify. Our society places a great deal of value on being productive. We go to work, we do a good job, and we get rewarded in the form of a paycheck and sometimes acknowledgement. This becomes part of our identity.
Valuing productivity and achievement has been programmed into us by a consumerist society. The thought that “I’m not anything if I'm not productive” is prevalent. Our value, sense of self worth, and often our identity comes from this. We both brag and lament about being busy.
We know how to get through a work day. It’s often rational, logical and orderly. We know what we have to do to get the job done. We either are given instructions or we give them, and for the most part everyone does what they are told.
Yet often we don't know how to translate our identity as a worker into that of being a parent.
I speculate we have both internal and external identities. The external is what we do, what is visible to others, or a role we play: father, dancer, engineer. The internal is who we are: kind, responsible, generous. It often seems that the do (the external) comes before the be (the internal). In other words, we often focus primarily on our external identities. And this may be because those identities are what our culture and society prime us to prioritize through monetary reward, notoriety or media and marketing schemes that manipulate us into feeling that we have to look, act, behave and feel a certain way.
And sometimes we see this in how we raise our kids. Often parents focus on the external: what sports or musical instruments will our kids play, what grades will they get, will they go to college, and if so where, or what jobs will they have? The pressure we feel for our kids to achieve originates from, is often driven by, and exemplifies the external.
So how does this apply to parenting during the lockdown necessitated by COVID -19?
During this time of social isolation, being at home with our kids 24/7, changing how we typically show up for work (if we still have a job), managing our feelings of uncertainty, losing loved ones and caring for the sick has pushed us beyond our comfort zones and challenged the ways we think about ourselves. It has exposed our vulnerabilities and forced us to learn new skills. As Emily Flake writes in her article “Big Pandemic Feelings”, “this quarantine feels like a time of reckoning, forcing us to look at ourselves as we really are.”
Exactly. It’s time we focus on the internal.
Now that many find themselves newly at home full time with their children due to unemployment or working from home, some families are having a hard time functioning well. Parents are overwhelmed, anxious, and have no idea how to manage this new world where we suddenly are faced with finding a new identity. The order and predictability of our work worlds where people know what to do and do what they are told doesn’t translate into being a parent with unpredictable children and teens who have a will of their own and an intense and innate -- and completely normal — drive to be their own independent people. (Remember they are in the stage where they are forming their own identities themselves).
To some extent we are trying to fit the same productivity equation that works in our jobs into raising our children. Yet our kids don’t comply. They don’t know the rules, and even if they did there’s a good chance they won’t willingly follow them. Suddenly we find ourselves in a new world with new rules where no one has given us the instruction manual.
Our prowess at work does not translate to prowess in the messy world of raising children. The confidence we find in doing our neat and tidy jobs is not something we feel at home with a tantruming toddler, defiant middle-aged child, or a teen engaging in risky behaviors. We become undone. Our identities which have been so tied up in the external are suddenly coming crashing down now that we are being forced to focus more on the internal.
So while our external identities are crumbling for a myriad of reasons, I invite us all to consider spending more time focusing on the internal. Who do I want to be?
Our priorities may be shifting. What is the most important?
All we can do is let go. Allow ourselves to temporarily crumble and quickly reconstruct ourselves into something new. Our identity doesn't have to come from the kudos of the outside world. It can come from the internal.
As I always say, it all goes back to our values. What is most important to us in this life? Who do we want to be? How do we want our kids to describe us when they are 30 years old? And who do we hope our kids become? Note — not the what, the who — the character.
If we can start from knowing who we want to be as parents and have a good idea of who we hope our kids become as adults, most often we can see our way through to the other side of every interaction with them. If we can step back and find neutral before running in hot to a challenging situation and remember that the relationship with our children is most important (and teaching skills is a close second), then perhaps we can scale back our reactivity and preempt an eminent power struggle. If we approach our children with calm we are more often than not going to get better results. And if we don't get the results we hope for, we have to check that our expectations are realistic, work with our children toward a compromise, or realize that our children need time and practice in learning a new skill.
Some are saying this time is only about survival. Yet how long can we withstand that mentality and what will be the aftermath? For much of the nation, and perhaps soon for all, schools will be closed for the remainder of the school year — that’s until mid June for some. Living on a survival mentality for that long is not sustainable.
If this seems confusing or hard, that’s OK. I know that living at home with children and trying to work with no outside support — made even more difficult in situations of poverty, single-parenting, and other struggles — is an extremely challenging situation. In no way am I trying to minimize that. Just as our kids need support in learning new skills, sometimes so do we. I know I do.
During this pandemic we are realizing all sorts of capabilities we didn't know we had. We are capable of holding the space while we and our children move through disappointment, hardship, boredom, isolation, confusion and overwhelm. We are capable of resilience, flexibility and compassion. We are capable of sacrifice in order to protect the health of the greater community. We are capable.
And here’s the thing. Believing in one's abilities makes most things easier, including parenting during a pandemic. I believe that you have the strength and the courage to be the parents you wanted to be when you held your newborn in your arms and looked into her eyes. Our identities may be changing in ways that are unnerving to us right now. But who we want to be as parents can remain constant.
Be. Do. Have. Believe in who you can be.
Many of the ideas for this column were generated from conversations with Vicki Hoefle — thank you Vicki!
Dear Parents and Caregivers,
Apologies for the frequent emails, but I felt like I needed to address the title of my latest column.
Due to a miscommunication between my truly amazing and much appreciated editor, the title of the printed version of my column reads "How to parent in the time of coronavirus" rather than "Parenting in the time of coronavirus" (the online version reads the latter).
It may be semantics, but I never want to tell people how to parent, nor do I think it's my job. There are too many variables, individual circumstances, family structures, and family values. There are also a variety of ways to approach raising children. You know your family best. You know what works for your kids. It is not my job to tell you what to do.
I see my job as that of being a guide. I provide research and evidence based information. I offer tips and suggestions based on that information. I listen to what is going on in individual homes and respond to those individual family dynamics. When writing for a broad audience it is impossible to respond to all individual dynamics, values and beliefs, and while I attempt to be as inclusive as possible, by nature of a short column I have to generalize.
I apologize if the title offended anyone, and I welcome discourse if you feel compelled.
I also want to acknowledge that social distancing and keeping especially older teens home is difficult. I will write about that in upcoming posts. My columns are currently on a 6-week schedule for Jackson Hole News & Guide. If you would like to receive my blogs that go out between columns, you can subscribe to my mailing list or find them on Facebook or my website.
Take care, go hug your kids, and be well,
Parenting in the time of coronavirus - Jackson Hole News & Guide
Dear Parents and Caregivers,
Most of us are in the midst of week two of school closures. Whether your kids are on "spring break" this week (whatever that means since everyone is home anyway!) or are in school, the reality of social distancing and isolation is setting in. How is your family faring? What is really going on inside your home?
Collectively we run the gamut: a sigh of relief at a slower pace to pulling our hair out as we try to manage kids at home with seemingly little to do -- not to mention the fear, anxiety and distress this is causing to many of us for a variety of reasons -- loss of jobs, income, security, and even loved ones.
I invite you to reach out. Send me an email or message me on Facebook. Share with me your successes and your challenges. Tell me what you need and what would help. I realize written tips may fall on deaf ears if the chaos, meltdowns, and frustrations are constant and unbearable. Hearing the stories from the trenches allows me to be more equipped to know how to help families -- and allows me to share stories of what is working too.
Know that above all else, strong relationships matter. Having a strong relationship with a caring adult is a protective factor for children feeling stress, experiencing trauma, or even weathering the instability of today's times.
If you are finding this time at home with your children and teens extremely challenging, I am offering virtual coaching sessions at rates that work with families' individual budgets during this time. Don't hesitate to reach out. Now is the time to seek help if you are struggling with challenged family dynamics.
Until then, check out my latest column "Parenting in the time of coronavirus" in Jackson Hole News & Guide giving you ideas of how to survive, and at times even thrive, while our kids are learning from home.
You can find other resources below as well including a podcast recorded with Nate McClennen on "Learning at Home" and two Facebook videos (links below) shot with Vicki Hoefle on Parenting in the time of the coronavirus.
Check out these new resources:
Go hug your kids, take good care of each other and be well,
School closures, social distancing, and the threat of a global pandemic weigh heavily on families. Collectively we may be out of work, scrambling for childcare, losing income, worried about loved ones, learning how to work from home (with needy kids), becoming school teachers, and trying to stay sane. It's a lot!
I am a firm believer in what the scientists and policy makers say about social distancing and "flattening the curve". That includes preventing kids from gathering with each other.
How are families to survive? In this blog I share a few resources with you. Next week I'll send out my upcoming column in Jackson Hole News & Guide giving you ideas of how to survive, and at times even thrive, while our kids are learning from home.
If you are finding this time at home with your children and teens extremely challenging, I am offering virtual coaching sessions at rates that work with your budget. Don't hesitate to reach out. Now is not the time to be struggling with challenged family dynamics. I can help!
In the meantime check out two new resources:
As a partially reformed perfectionist it can be easy for me to see tasks done by myself or others that aren’t quite up to snuff. Whose snuff is a question that begs an answer – mine or that of the imaginary person looking over my shoulder and judging me? I grew up thinking I had to be perfect in order to be liked. If I’m not careful that thought can still haunt me. This is problematic not only in how it shows up in my life but also in how I sometimes see others, namely my kids.
There are times when I can be just as hard on my children as I am on myself. Do I honestly think my kids will not be liked if they are not perfect? Because I answer no to this, I have to answer the same for myself. So I’ve let go and allowed mistakes and mess to creep in.
Exploring the idea so well discussed by Brené Brown that we are all doing the best we can in any given situation has allowed me to soften and brings in more compassion for myself and my children. Read this week’s column in Jackson Hole News&Guide to ponder whether you can take the stance that your kids are doing the best they can with what they have in any given situation – and that actually we all are!
What's the Duct Tape for?
When I talk about Vicki Hoefle's book "Duct Tape Parenting" to my friends, I often do so with a little giggle, explaining that the duct tape is for our (the parents’) mouths. This is funny in so many ways, especially when envisioning it in practice, but there is so much truth to this idea: when we parents keep quiet, a world of possibilities can open up to our children.
The idea is simple, yet often requires super-human strength to carry through. Is it really possible for us to not butt in, micromanage, judge, suggest, or otherwise interfere with our children as they move through the world from ages 1 to 21?
I don’t know about you, but the idea of leaving my children to their own devices in certain areas can give me the willies. What if they mess up, don’t get it right, or their actions have a poor reflection on me?
Yet think about it this way: What if they discover who they want to be without fear of my judgment? What if they learn through experiencing the outside world what works and doesn’t work for themselves and in relation to others? What if their creativity and ingenuity teaches them that they can solve problems on their own? What if they fall down and learn they have the courage to get back up again? What if they learn how to take care of their responsibilities so they feel capable when they leave our homes? What if…?
Duct tape is exactly what our kids need in a world where parents are bribing their children’s way into college and where anxiety and depression are on the rise for our teens. What our children need when they leave our homes is to know how to navigate all that life throws their way, and it is hard to learn this if we are micromanaging, telling our kids what to do and how to do it, warning them about all the pitfalls, and paving the way for them.
Of course the duct tape isn’t out 24-7. We are there to love, encourage, support, and teach our kids. We are there to connect with our children, have fun, and create a solid relationship. We are there to invite them in to begin navigating and exploring what life has to offer. And importantly we step in if things are morally or physically dangerous, because even though we use duct tape, we are there to maintain boundaries.
The balance between knowing where to step in and where to hold our tongues in everyday moments is what can be the challenge, but if you believe in the premise and can calm your fears and strong emotions, your gut will show you the way.
And a community helps! Dive in to our weekly facebook videos. Post comments. Ask questions. Explore ideas. Support one another. And tell us what you are looking for.
Vicki and I are thrilled to reinvigorate Duct Tape Parenting, and we are here for you.
Read more about Vicki Hoefle's work:
How Does Less is More Parenting Differ from Permissive Parenting?
Studies show the times when most people feel loved have nothing to do with receiving gifts. In fact, it's "micro-moments of positivity, like a kind word, cuddling with a child or receiving compassion [that] make people feel most loved." So while you enjoy exchanging gifts with loved ones this holiday season, also remember to express your love in other ways too.
Read this week's column in Jackson Hole News & Guide for ideas on how to express generosity and love in ways that are meaningful, and the brain science that backs this up.
Wishing you and your family a holiday season filled with magic, connection, love and laughter!
Rachel Wigglesworth has an M.Ed. in Parent and Family Education and is excited to explore the world of raising children with you!