Posted by: rachel | July 20, 2009

“Man is not intended to see through the eyes of another, hear through another’s ears nor comprehend with another’s brain. Therefore, depend upon your own reason and judgment and adhere to the outcome of your own investigation”.

-‘Abdu’l-Bahá

Posted by: rachel | January 26, 2014

don’t hide

tao pool

I am thankful that the idea of an infallible parent is not a notion my husband and I uphold. It is simply an obstacle to our parenting, and being open about how “superheroes make mistakes too” has not taken away from our children’s respect for authority, and does not create any so-call ed “power struggles”. Our relationship is not one built on obedience to an unerring and supreme authority, but on acquiescing to wisdom, knowledge, common sense and teamwork. Our children go along with our suggestions trusting that we take our sacred duty of their healthy upbringing very seriously, because that is what we tell them, and because they see us working at it. They know we have a job to do, and I remind them of it, lovingly, when I feel they need to hear it. Resistance often ends with that reminder. Because they know. Read More…

Posted by: rachel | April 7, 2011

repeat like it’s the first time

It can be irritating to repeat oneself, no? We can be impatient and short, with typical phrases such as “i thought i told you to.”, “how many times must i tell you” or “you should know by now, what’s wrong with you”… We could dive deep into our personal human psychology to figure out why repeating particularly gets us. We could also quite easily seek motivation to be more gentle in our responses by taking the time to understand why kids might not remember or not “get” something the first time around. But I leave that up to you. Here i want to chat about a canny alternative to detrimental reactions i like to practice, and my thoughts on some consequences our kids might have to bear if we chose to drill them to learn the irritated way.

I am suggesting as a one-size-fits all alternative – to practice, to the best of one’s abilities, to always repeat like it’s the first time. It feels better for all parties. As Pam Leo says in her book Connection Parenting, a child doesn’t behave better by feeling worse.

Read More…

Posted by: rachel | January 2, 2011

why obey? the little voice in your heart

Not long ago, my daughter disobeyed a rule and knew that she was doing so. When i noticed, i decided to sit her on my lap and have a loving, serious chat. The rule she was breaking in this case wasn’t a big deal. What i wanted to talk about was why she would go ahead and do something that she knew she wasn’t allowed to do or that i didn’t approve of.

First i’d like to re-iterate the concept of obedience being a virtue. Just like patience for example, it needs to be learned, explained, valued, emphasized, practiced and most importantly seen in real life situations, acted out hopefully by the prime examples to children, their parents. (Finding opportunities to share of our own crises and victories with our children can be very beneficial to them as they get to see what it looks like to have these issues and hopefully gives them positive examples of how to deal with them.)

In an earlier post, i explained a virtue game to help demonstrate to children the idea of their hearts being like a mirror that reflects the light of God or the light of the the virtues. This idea comes back in my conversations with my children all the time because in the end what we do affects others, but even the more certain, it affects our own hearts –  making us more or less “radiant”. My 5-year-old son responds better to this kind of advice than any other kind i have tried. He cares about the radiance of his heart!

Obedience is a capacity that can be developed, a spiritual capacity that demands conscious effort just like all the other spiritual qualities (or virtues) that we can manifest, as all these virtues are intrinsic within the human soul. They just need to be mined, like gems, and polished. If obedience is intrinsic, then beyond the “pain” of effort it should feel harmonious with our true nature to obey the laws of life – the laws that ensure our mental, physical, and spiritual health and that assure unity and brotherhood in the community of mankind. Read More…

Posted by: rachel | September 6, 2010

who has time for hopes and dreams?

Hello readers! As a juggling homeschooling parent with passions and responsiblities, i often think of how we can squeeze everything into our day, into our lives, while not neglecting the objects of our love, especially our children. This post is not an attempt to give a clear-cut answer to this question, i am as much doing the dance as anyone. Maybe though, this post can help trigger some thought on how we’ve been approaching the challenge and help bring fresh ideas to any of you who struggle to get it all done.

Parents who seek to nurture their kids in the best possible way they can, to provide for them opportunities for healthy growth and spiritual development, desiring to raise children that will play their part in the building of a civilization of peace, are bombarded with advice, information, and resources and invest a lot of themselves in drawing out what’s useful to them and practicing it in their lives. They can really have their plates full with this endeavor alone. To add to the many voices with opinions out there, i believe to raise these little champions of justice requires to constantly grow and develop oneself, at the same time. The wisdom-mining serves both souls. Our own actions need to reflect the teachings we wish to enrich their lives with for the benefit of both.

Read More…

Posted by: rachel | June 14, 2010

spiritual(ity) by nature

an attempt at defining what it means to be spiritual…

I like to think of Wayne Dyer’s book “it’s not what you’ve got” and start stripping away the layers of material possessions. If you take away your iphone, your shoes, your clothes, your watch, your skateboard, until you have absolutely nothing left, YOU is what’s left. You are not what you’ve got. Lets go further and imagine you (unfortunately) have no legs. You would still be “you” without them. You say “my” legs because they are something you possess, they are not who you are. The same goes for our fingers, arms, hair, skin… Our physical state affects the way we mentally and spiritually grow, but our body is not, essentially, who we are. Our bodies serve us. The body is the horse and the spirit is the rider. Our brain, the central command center, is our computer that permits us to function in this world. But who is working at the computer? As the famous quote says, we are spiritual beings living a physical experience. I tell my children “Your brain might send the signal to your hand to catch the ball, but who tells the brain to do it? Who chooses?” I will often remind them of the individual, unique power that they have in their life that comes with free will, by asking that same question “who chooses?” “Me!!” they say. You drive your boat. Of course our lives are also entangled with everyone else’s, making who we are, our spiritual identity, somewhat independent and detached of this material world and yet unequivocally affected by it. Read More…

Posted by: rachel | January 5, 2010

positivity: a sweet perfume

There is a discussion I often have with my children, re-occuring in different forms as time goes. We use instances of disappointment that seem to drag on to look at a lesson I find of great value – the lesson of joy.

Not long ago, my 6 year-old daughter was very disappointed about a sudden change of plans, and after sharing and discussing her feelings, she kept on complaining for quite a while. We were on a long walk, so we had the opportunity for a long talk: life is about the journey, not the destination. I love these conversations. Did she only grasp the tip of the iceberg? I am not sure, but this particular circumstance was subsequently blessed with a smiling child. We trotted along knowing that it was important to try hard to be happy right now… to be happy as we work, as we walk, as we wait, as we play, because we never know what will happen next. So many things can disappoint us. Things change all the time, and we might not get what we want. We might not achieve our goal, for whatever reason. But why is it that we want what we want anyway? I think it is because ultimately we think it will bring us joy! No matter what happens, if we are happy trying to get there, we have attained our goal of feeling joy. Read More…

Posted by: rachel | January 5, 2010

spontaneous learning at home

Becky Jackson wrote this short article:

http://mothering.com/education/no-time-for-teaching#

and speaks of how she learned that her degree in education is not what makes her well qualified to help her children reach their potential.

Enjoy!

Posted by: rachel | November 15, 2009

mirror forth some light y’all

work for peaceThere is a game i’ve been using to introduce the concept of virtues to children. First we talk about the good qualities that people can adorn their characters with – love, generosity, patience, courtesy, gentleness, tolerance, assertiveness, creativity, joyfulness – to name a few. In the baha’í faith, we believe these virtues are like gems of inestimable value, hidden within the heart of man, and through education they can be brought to light and enable mankind to benefit therefrom.

I ask the children to imagine all these beautiful virtues or spiritual qualities into a great big ball of light. Or, if the children (or children’s parents) believe in God, I instead ask them to imagine that God is like the sun and that all these beautiful virtues are encompassed within the brilliance of the sun. I then give them each a little mirror which I have previously covered in a dark watercolor paint and let dry. I tell them that this mirror is like our heart. We then proceed to try to reflect the light of the sun, or the nearest light bulb… We notice together that nothing is being reflected, the mirrors are too dirty. I then bring them damp paper-towels and we wipe them clean and try again, explaining to them that polishing the mirror is like practicing our virtues.

It is a very simple game, and helps introduce the sometimes cloudy and abstract notion of spiritual growth. We shortly discuss how cleaning the mirrors of our hearts is something everybody in the whole world works on their whole life, no matter how old they are or where they come from. Sometimes it can be really hard to clean certain spots, sometimes it can be really hard to wait our turn patiently, for example.  However, the more we practice our virtues and the harder we try, the cleaner our mirrors get, and the more brilliantly our hearts can shine and reflect the light of this one sun that shines for all alike. And just like a flower has to turn to the sun to grow, we need to actually face our mirrors to the sun – we need to have the desire to reflect this light in the first place. Our spiritual growth suddenly becomes something completely within our power and relative to our effort, not something that randomly or magically happens.

Got any favorite games that entice or teach virtuous living? Post it in the comments!

Posted by: rachel | October 18, 2009

breathe, and we shall have compost for our love garden

love serenadeBuddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh in his book “Anger – Wisdom for Cooling the Flames” has the approach of mindfulness – present moment awareness – for transforming the negative force of anger into a positive energy. Just like with emotion coaching, acknowledging the emotion is the first step and it is very important. Pretending the emotion is not there does not make it go away. If you acknowledge it and attend to it, you can literally transform the anger instead of just pushing it aside into an internal closet.

Thich Nhat Hanh suggests attending to your anger as you would a crying baby. When a baby cries, we pick him up, we try to soothe him, all the while trying to find the source of his anguish. This metaphor can help us shift our attitudes the moment we realize we are getting angry. We can turn to ourselves with compassion and cradle our emotion, so that it may be soothed. Read More…

Posted by: rachel | September 23, 2009

feeling shy?

hiding behind the treeSome years ago, my daughter seemed to be what some people call shy. At times I really worried and wondered what I was supposed to do about it. In a moment of crisis, my husband went to the library and brought back the book “the sensitive child” by Janet Poland and Judi Craig.  Thanks to this book I was able to get into my child’s head. I was enabled to understand about many different kinds of sensitivities and develop an empathy that I might not have developed due to my lackof understanding. I even got to understand many things about myself and close loved ones.

People had given me all sorts of random advice, one being to send her to daycare to force her out of her condition. If your child is not in daycare, surely you have heard other parents suggest this as a means for your child to learn to socialize. I didn’t believe this to be the solution, as we had many opportunities to hang out with children and adults of all ages. Besides, keeping her with me ensured that I was raising her which was very important to me. After reading the book I was determined to use a gentle approach. Read More…

Posted by: rachel | September 15, 2009

out with time-outs, in with time-ins

toutou chaosConnection Parenting” by Pam Leo is a book that promotes compassionate family life. This purchase was well worth it for me. The exercises included in every chapter permits one to introspect and consciously decide what it is that we want to pass on to our children, what we want to nurture within them and within our relationship. It helps us put down on paper what our obstacles and strengths are for achieving our parental goals.

Lets talk about discipline a little bit. When we mention discipline, we might be thinking punishment, often using these terms interchangibly as if they were the same thing. They are not. True parental discipline involves “teaching or training children to do what is right” Leo says. In disciplining our children, we ultimately wish to help them aquire self-mastery according to our family’s values and rules. Punishment, as in penalties or harsh treatment for wrong doing, does not necessarily teach our children right behavior, and might even model bullying. It certainly gets children focussing on what they did wrong, as opposed to learning about how to do it right. Read More…

Posted by: rachel | September 8, 2009

they love to write!

the light of unityMaria Montessori spoke of spontaneous writing. Children of preschool age, from one day to the next, spontaneously started writing. The children were so fired up about it that they wrote everywhere! On the walls, on the table, on anything the children could put their little hands on. Finally, they were presented with paper. Yay!

Well, I have paper at my house. And my children write all the time! It wasn’t so spontaneous, it has been a gradual thing, from writing a few letters to writing their names. Now they write cards, lists of all sorts, recipes and letters to their family and friends. My four-year-old son usually has a small, “far-out” description written at the bottom of practically all his drawings. Why do they like writing so much? Read More…

Posted by: rachel | September 2, 2009

the tools of “connection parenting”

through the cracksPam Leo’s book “Connection Parenting” promotes compassionate family life.  It is a wonderful read. The author advises to not read more than a chapter a day, and every chapter requires writing in a parenting journal. Leo encourages forming groups and using the book in a workshop setting. Although I imagine this could be very enriching, reading it and doing it on one’s own is also possible, and to me was very enlightening. I highly recommend it!

According to Leo, the two tools of connection parenting are connection and reconnection. The term connection and disconnection are used often in the book. By connection she means feeling loved and listened to and by disconnection she means feeling hurt and unheard. With connection parenting, the goal is to proactively meet the child’s need for connection. Read More…

Posted by: rachel | August 14, 2009

even superheroes make mistakes

scary monsterIf we were perfect, I don’t think life would be so interesting. Don’t get me wrong, I am certainly an idealist and I believe in working with constant effort towards making the world a better place, and that starts nowhere but with oneself. However, mistakes are a part of life because we are not perfect. It is important for children to know this. It certainly helps my daughter cope with frustrations of “errors” in her drawings or other endeavors when we talk about how one sets out to achieve something. The journey to achievement can be so colorful, and lead us to totally unexpected destinations. If they know mistakes are natural and can make friends with them, they will be better placed to learn from them. When a child makes a mess, when the lego structure doesn’t add up to the instructions, when the behavior wasn’t ideal… if one sees mistakes as an essential part of life and learning, these moments become opportunities to learn something, in this case how to clean up, troubleshoot, or reflect. Read More…

Posted by: rachel | August 11, 2009

montessori, unschooling and toys that make them think

blocksIt seems for new parents, the most common gifts they receive for their children are battery-powered plastic toys with lots of buttons and make lots of noise. For a toy to be educational, it does not need to have many functions. What’s important is for the child to be able to focus and grasp the clear purpose of the toy rather than simply press buttons and be entertained. Jane Healey, author of “Your Child’s Growing Mind” describes playing with these toys as promoting passive learning, kind of like watching television. One also aught to be careful when toys talk, Healey adds. They are most likely not properly representing the human voice and pronounciation, and could be a bad template for developing speech for the wee ones. Last but not least, most of these toys are made out of plastic, which is a synthetic material. Montessori, among others, emphasizes the importance of having toys made out of wood or natural materials, as it is more beautiful for the eyes and to the touch, making it more inviting for the child to play with. However, in this day, plastic is often inevitable and indeed some wonderful toys are made with it.

Read More…

Posted by: rachel | August 11, 2009

growth mindset vs. fixed mindset

This is a wonderful 3 minute video. I find it’s complements harmoniously my previous post “good job?

Posted by: rachel | August 10, 2009

finding your passion changes everything

Here is another video by creativity expert Sir Ken Robinson. This hour and 23 minutes long talk revolves around the themes discussed in his latest book The Element – How finding your passion changes everything. I believe Ken Robinson has the kind of vision that if applied could bring great and beautiful changes in our children, schools, and ultimately society at large. His talk and book is not only about children but adults as well, as it is never too late to find your passion.

To me it reverberates with the notion that it is our duty to work in our calling. If we strive for what we love doing, it’ll ultimately be what we do best or at least with the most joy. Therefore, the best way to use our talents and serve humanity is doing that which we are passionate about.

Watching his talk was definitely time well spent. Enjoy!

Posted by: rachel | August 7, 2009

oh! obedience!

don't what?Parents often ask when is it a good time to start “disciplining”, or more precisely, to start implementing consequences when their children do not obey them. I think it is important to remember that obedience and cooperation are virtues learned with time, just like gentleness, patience, tolerance, or generosity. You cannot force these beautiful qualities into a child’s being. We work on developing and polishing these virtues throughout our whole lives, how much more difficult it would be for a child, new to the world and its many facets, if we demanded of them to be masters of these virtues in a moment.

When children don’t obey, and we think that “they should know by now”, we tend to take it as a personal offense that our child is not obeying the rules. We see the disobedience as power struggles. Research shows that children in fact need rules to feel safe, and they will push the limits to find out what these limits are, but this is not meant to be an insult to the parent. Of course you can have exceptions, and no one knows your child better then you. But in a general case, we can relax in the face of our momentarily hurt sentiments and simply counsel our children over and over again, until they get it. Applying logical consequences to actions makes a lot of sense to a child and will yield better results at obeying rules with less negative repercussions than any time-out technique. Rules that are set around really dangerous things demand more vigorous consequences. Yet, yelling or hitting a child will just make him scared of the parent, and he will obey not because he understands the severity of what he’s done, but because he is afraid of the parent’s wrath. This will definitely backfire once the child is old enough to not be afraid anymore.

One thing I find that makes a big difference in how my children cooperate is instead of shouting across the house or the yard to get my children’s attention to do or stop doing something, I go to my child. I drop down on my knees to be at their level, that we may discuss and look each other in the eyes. I will proceed to talk tenderly, clearly, and firmly. I try to not lecture, stay away from condescending, and stick to being clear. Sometimes i start with a hug, so that the vibe is a loving one to begin with. When your children obey out of love and understanding, you scored big-time.

Posted by: rachel | August 7, 2009

the importance of saying yes

dirt!

Let us scratch the surface 🙂 Suppose your child wants to sleep with the hall light on, or doesn’t want his food mixing on his plate, or doesn’t want you to buy the ice cream with nuts. These are quite trivial requests for parents, and granting such wishes can have long-term consequences on our children, says John Gottman, author of “Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child“. The earlier it is, the better it is for a child to learn to express his choices and preferences. How positive it is to help very young children develop a sense of responsibility by allowing them choices in their everyday life. Surely you do not need to answer to all of the countless little requests that your child might voice in a day, but a parent who constantly limits these choices gives their children the message that their desires do not matter. So many of our children’s requests are effortless for us to carry out. Seeing them through, the child gets a very different message : “What I want matters. How i feel makes a difference. I’m the kind of kid that enjoys this“. We give our children the chance to develop their sense of self, to find out what they like and what they don’t like, and to form their identity. We also show that their desires and opinions have value and this builds on their self-esteem and sense of dignity. Read More…

emoRaising an Emotionally Intelligent Child, by John Gottman, has been a glorious read for me. I love practicing it, i love how it feels, i love what effects it has on our family life. To begin, here are the main 5 steps of emotion coaching:

1. Being aware of the child’s emotion;

2. Recognizing the emotion as an opportunity for intimacy and teaching;

3. Listening empathetically and validating the child’s feelings;

4. Helping the child verbally label emotions; and

5. Setting limits while helping the child problem solve.

The steps to number 5 are: 1) limit setting; 2) identifying goals; 3) thinking of possible solutions; 4) evaluationg proposed solutions based on your family’s values; and 5) helping your child choose a solution.

With practice, all these steps become automatic.

One of the things that i found brilliant while reading this book is realizing some patterns that we fall into as parents without realizing what we are teaching to our children. Now, I see it everywhere. Parents tell their children “don’t feel sad”, or “you don’t need to be afraid, it’s just a clown”, or better yet “it’s ok. here, you want a cookie?” If every time a child displays a negative emotion, we respond by telling him what he aught to be feeling, or by trying to distract him from his unpleasant emotion, the message the child registers is: “I shouldn’t be feeling like this. Mommy/daddy knows how i should feel.” The child goes on to stop trusting his own heart. Read More…

Posted by: rachel | July 29, 2009

Ken Robinson says schools kill creativity

Do you know TED.com? There is a section on their webiste, http://www.ted.com/talks, with amazing talks given by amazing people, all roughly 20 minutes each.

The talk i am linking to is Ken Robinson says schools kill creativity. Sir Ken Robinson, expert on creativity and author of “The Element: How finding your passion changes everything“, raises some very interesting points…. enjoy!

The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything,raises some very interesting points… enjoy!
Posted by: rachel | July 29, 2009

Patience in the Gap

poutHow often have you reflected in retrospect on a situation and thought of how you could have done things differently? Pam Leo, author of “Connection Parenting, calls this the gap. She says as parents, we are always in this gap, the gap between what we know, and what we actually put into practice. So by patience in the gap, i mean being patient and gentle with oneself on the learning path of parenting. We are all in this same boat.

Parallel to this, the title of this post has to do with being patient with ourselves and our children when we find ourselves in this gap, realtime. It is easy to think or feel that we must get our child out of his sad, angry, or frustrated mood as fast as possible. I know that’s often how i feel if my children are whiny, or acting up in public, or as i would prefer to say: showing negative emotions in public. People look at you in an annoyed or curious way, often to see what you are going to do. The pressure’s on! With this sense of urgency, we tend to react instead of acting, and we are then found in the above mentioned scenario of “i could have dealt with this differently” and possibly with regrets. We save ourselves and our children a lot of heartache if we take the time to clear our heads and be patient in this “gap” between knowing and doing. If needed, remove yourself and your children from the view of others for privacy. Raising your children and dealing with emotions is certainly not a show, and it clearly puts unneeded stress in an already potentially stressful situation if we feel like it is a “how-good-of-a-mommy-are-you” test. We can be patient with ourselves, breathe, and take the time to reflect – deciding what to do instead of reacting and then looking back thinking of what we feel we should have done. While being patient in this gap, we can tap into our knowledge so that we may consciously and calmly act from it.

Posted by: rachel | July 26, 2009

animal school – an analogy

This video struck me as a good analogy of how the regular school system works right now.

click on the video to watch it at http://www.raisingsmallsouls.com/

For homeschoolers, this isn’t really an issue. But what about those who aren’t homeschooling? How can a working parent find time to nurture the special talents of a child? What are your strategies to cope with a cookie-cutter system and your unique child?

Posted by: rachel | July 22, 2009

good job?

pollockingWe know that encouraging children is essential. It helps them to strive for independence. It creates in them a desire to achieve excellence. It teaches them to feel good about their accomplishments, and shows them the right direction according to your family values.  But how do we go about “encouraging” our children?

Alfie Kohn wrote an interesting article called “Five Reasons to Stop Saying “Good Job!” about the detrimental effects of the overly used phrase. From the moment I finished reading the article, I was determined to stop using “good job” as a form of encouragement – something i had until then assumed to be harmless. Thankfully, my first child was quite young when i read the article and so the habit wasn’t deeply ingrained.

It seems that people are very liberal with their use of “good job” – at least in my surroundings they are. Even electronic toys toss it around like it’s nothing!  Friends have met my daughter’s enthusiasm of going high on the swing as I pushed her, with an automatic reply of “Good job!” Same response to her joy for having lost a tooth, yet both cases required no effort on her part. Lets look at the other side. One of my daughter’s friends thrives on good job. Her mother uses it regularly, and if she attains that level of praise she is happy. She happens to always want to compete with my daughter. Once i asked: “Can you guys just play for fun? What happens when someone wins?” She proceeded to answer: “Then you say good job!” To attain this prize, she will try her hardest to win, often unfairly. This might be an extreme example, but it helped me understand a little more how seeking this praise can influence a child’s actions and intentions. Read More…

Posted by: rachel | July 20, 2009

learning to read

readingMy daughter started reading at age 3, by 4 she was reading Dick and Jane, and since 5 she has been reading fluently. Friends ask me what i did. As is my mantra in our homeschooling style, i made sure everything was carried out in a spirit of fun and didn’t force anything on her.  As soon as i sensed it was no more fun, we ended the game.

Here is a list of things i did with her, more or less in chronological order. Read More…

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