Goddesses Confront – Sibling Rivalry Part 1

20 01 2013

The issue was a plastic drinking glass; the situation was breakfast and who would get to use the glass. Right off the bat the exchange was heated, with both girls placing their territorial stakes on the said glass. As each girl became more anchored into her respective “I’m right – you’re wrong” my concern over missing the school bus was steadily increasing. As a result I was quite motivated to end the squabble and regain peace and harmony, ASAP. It did cross my mind to just remove the evil glass from existence forever, which would make me the archenemy in the situation and solicit the wrath of both girls for days to come. My next flawed idea was to bribe the girls with a brand new glass as soon as I could make it to the dollar store.

Once I finally got passed my own habitual filters and paused long enough to take a breath, I managed to give way to what I knew with absolute certainty – these eruptions are never about what’s going on at the surface. So I really started to listen to the dialogue:

• It’s mine!
• You weren’t using it!
• You always take my stuff without asking me!
• You never share!
• Get your own!
• You’re so mean – I can’t believe it!
• Why do you say I’m mean, you always hurt my feelings!

In the midst of the generalizations, and blame I could hear the hurt, anger and fear from both girls. I knew there was an opportunity in this moment to get both girls to recognize what was going on within themselves and each other if I could redirect the attention from the object in question (blue plastic glass) and coach them around the emotions at play.

So with all the patience I could muster, here’s how it went down:

1. I acknowledged the girls’ feelings, and they became more open to listening to me.
2. I asked each of girls in turn to use their own words to share with their sister what they were experiencing.
3. I asked each to paraphrase what they had understood from what their sister had said and gave them each an opportunity to further clarify until they felt that the other “got it”.
4. Once both girls felt heard, I asked each to share what they would propose as a win-win solution using their ideas not mine.
5. Finally, I encouraged them to come up with as many ideas as possible until they were both satisfied.

Sounds like a lengthy process? To be honest it took me longer to get a grip on myself than what it took the girls to come up with some mutually acceptable solutions to their confrontation. We actually made it to the bus on time, I felt good about how the situation unfolded and the glass in question is still used from time to time without any drama! Lesson learned: we are Goddesses in the making!


Limits and Boundaries

11 01 2013

Do you ever feel as though you’re wearing a sign on your back that says “On demand”?

“I need my water bottle”, “Fill in the order form for the hot lunches”, “Did you wash my TaeKwon Do uniform?”  “I don’t understand this question, I need your help”, “I can’t find my library book – it’s due tomorrow”, “Review my evaluations, you need to sign them”, “There’s a message on the computer, I don’t know what it means”  “The TV’s frozen, can you fix it” ….and since when did please and thank-you become optional?  Interestingly, in my house, most of these declarations and demands seem to come when I’m either on the phone, having a conversation with my husband, carrying a load of laundry down the stairs, or in the washroom – sound familiar?

Typically my response to such demands used to be shoulders up, shorten breathe, increase the heart rate and respond within seconds.  I recognize that when it came to my kids, my own limits and boundaries were not well defined, especially when they were younger, and everything seemed so URGENT!!  Yet something inside of me knew that the real urgency would be in rushing Mommy to the ER because the nervous twitch in her eye took over her whole body!

Beyond the adverse physical effects of my chosen behaviour, I wasn’t exactly mirroring to my children how to set their own boundaries or create space for themselves either.  It took a while, but I started to do things a little differently and it’s been a slow but incremental change process.

I started to use hand gestures for time out, taking a few breathes before responding, and articulating my needs and giving timeframes for when I would be ready to take action.  I can see now as the girls are getting older, how critical it is to lead by example and be comfortable drawing the line in the sand for myself, not just at home but in all areas of my life.  Beyond simply recognizing the importance of this concept of establishing limits and boundaries, I behave and choose differently, which allows me to feel more confident and credible especially when I’m supporting my kids in establishing healthy boundaries for themselves.

Notice the conversation you have with your kids when they tell you about the friend who is smothering them all the time and insisting that your child do everything they want to do, when they want to do it and on their terms.  How does your child react when you simply tell him/her “Just say know no” ?

Here are some questions (tried, tested and true) that you may want to ask to heighten the awareness in your child around where their personal boundaries lie, and have them feeling more confident about defining their limits:

  • What makes you feel respected?
  • How do you know when you’ve had enough?
  • What are other options that would make you feel good?
  • When you say yes all the time, what are you also saying no to?
  • What do you really want to say?
  • How can you say it in a way that feels right?
  • Who else can help you?

Defining boundaries and clear limits creates space, space to make one’s own decisions, space to honor one’s feelings, space to allow independence to be nurtured and space for happiness to flourish. Are you drawing the line in the sand?


Inner Voice

7 01 2013

Happy New Year followers, parents, aspiring parents, nurturers, guardians and continuos learners!

With a new year comes new awarenesses.  What I’ve been keenly aware of in the last little while is that there’s an important difference between the mind’s chatter and the inaudible whispers of our true inner voice and that children seem to get this without elaborate explanations!  In my kitchen I have a question posted on a small sticky that asks, “Are you honouring the Godforce?”  It’s been there for a few years and serves as a reminder to pause, take a breathe and  reflect on whether we’re choosing out of habituated response or from the true essence of our unique being. My daughters get this, without extensive words or convoluted explanations they have this pretty much figured out and know that beyond the voices in our heads that tell us we’re too slow…, unable too …, will be critized if… blah, blah, blah, there is the true inner voice that manifests itself as an impulse, intuition, without language and logic attached to it.  It’s that sensation of KNOWING what’s right for you and honouring yourself at each and every fork in the road.

As a parent, and daughter, I have experiences how the words we choose to engage with our children can inadvertently become the source for their mind’s negative chatter or the conduit to connect to the essence of who we/they are.  Through the years it has become increasingly clear to me that the times I’ve felt most connected to my children have been the moments with the least amount of words spoken.  It is in those moments of near silence that we create the space for ourselves and our children to take pause and connect from a different place.

So how do you guide your children to connect and stay connected to their true inner voice?  The voice that prompts:

  •            To trust or not?
  •            To show up or escape?
  •            To surrender or control?
  •            To let be or step in?
  •            To pay attention or ignore?
  •            To love or fear?
  •            To engage or hide?

How able are we to move beyond our own parental filters, haphazard responses, and habituated choices to create the space to allow the true Self to emerge and manifest with each choice?  Let 2013 be a year of discovery and connection for us and for our children!



17 12 2012

Defined as the ability to positively respond/adapt to and survive/cope with a stressful or traumatic situation, resilience is what I pray for in honour of all those who have experienced the loss of a child.  As we collectively pray for the healing of those whose hearts and spirits have been broken in light of recent tragedies let us also consider how we model resilience in our own lives.

  • Where do you find courage in the face of adversity?
  • What resources are available to you when you need help?
  • How willing are you to reach out and ask for assistance and move past the urge to isolate yourself?
  • What faith do you draw from when your trust is broken?
  • How do you stay focused on the greater purpose of your life’s journey while moving through despair?

Even in the most difficult of circumstance we have choices:  to accept the reality of what is or deny it.  In the acceptance of what is, lies the ability to claim our personal power, the power to continue to grow, love and nurture.

As parents we are teachers. Let us be mindful of the lessons we share as we live our lives and learn from the hurt and pain we experience.

Let’s manifest our resilience and stay in peace.

Negotiating – Is parenting mostly just informing our kids how many more minutes they have of something?

10 12 2012

I often wonder!

How much time do you spend negotiating with your kids?  I believe my household to be average with my husband being the more patient negotiator between the 2 of us.  Having been raised primarily to do as I was told and not question what my parents said, I have been significantly stretched in this area when it comes to my own children.  I often find myself questioning how to strike the balance between honoring my personal limits and acquiescing to what my children want.

Negotiating with my kids has always called to the surface my personal values, and beliefs and even more so with the holiday season upon us.  What comes to mind when you consider the following questions:

  • How do you negotiate the limits on your children’s Christmas gifts?
  • What’s the benchmark for how late your children can stay up for holiday gatherings?
  • How do you keep sugar levels at bay, and diets balanced and nutritious with the draw of extra sweets and holiday treats, as we’re putting on the extra pounds ourselves?
  • And my most challenging question, how do you preserve a healthy sense of altruism when children have so much more material wealth than ever before?

At the height of this year’s negotiating season, and before calling in the mediator, remember to breathe and consider how a coach approach can help you strike a win-win with your kids by following the RALI process:

  1. Establish Rapport – meet your children where they are;
  2. Build Awareness –  through questions and curiosity help your children define what’s driving their wants/needs/desires;
  3. Highlight past Learnings – have them recall a positive experience that may add a different perspective to the situation;
  4. Inspire action – based on their own learnings, empower and challenge  your children to take action on their own behalf and find alternate means of having their needs met.

Finally, I share for your consideration the following from the Twelve Exercises for Mindful Parenting by Myla and John Kabat-Zinn”Everyday Blessings – The Inner Work of Mindful Parenting”:

#5. Practice altruism, putting the needs of your children above your own whenever possible.  Then see if there isn’t some common ground, where your true needs can also be met.  You may be surprised at how much overlap is possible, especially if you are patient, and strive for balance.

Why are Finland’s schools successful?

3 12 2012

As I find myself still thinking about last week’s post and our most recent report cards, I share for additional contemplation on the topic of external referencing and self-worth, the following excerpt from an interesting article I received from a friend.  With such an interesting dichotomy in education systems, I wonder how Finnish parents apply the coach approach to parenting their children?  Enjoy and I welcome your thoughts!

Excerpt from: Why are Finland’s schools successful?

The Nordic country’s achievements in education have other nations doing their homework

by LynNell Hancock  Updated 11:43 PM Nov 02, 2012


The transformation of the Finns’ education system began some 40 years ago as the key propellant of the country’s economic recovery plan.

Educators had little idea it was so successful until 2000, when the first results from the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), a standardized test given to 15-year-olds in more than 40 global venues, revealed Finnish youth to be the best young readers in the world. Three years later, they led in math. By 2006, Finland was first out of 57 countries (and a few cities) in science.

In the 2009 PISA scores, the nation came in second in science, third in reading and sixth in math among nearly half a million students worldwide. “I’m still surprised,” said Arjariita Heikkinen, principal of a Helsinki comprehensive school. “I didn’t realize we were that good.”

In the United States, which has muddled along in the middle for the past decade, government officials have attempted to introduce marketplace competition into public schools. In recent years, a group of Wall Street financiers and philanthropists such as Bill Gates have put money behind private-sector ideas, such as vouchers, data-driven curriculum and charter schools, which have doubled in number in the past decade.

President Obama, too, has apparently bet on competition. His Race to the Top initiative invites states to compete for federal dollars using tests and other methods to measure teachers, a philosophy that would not fly in Finland. “I think, in fact, teachers would tear off their shirts,” said Timo Heikkinen, a Helsinki principal with 24 years of teaching experience. “If you only measure the statistics, you miss the human aspect.”


There are no mandated standardized tests in Finland, apart from one exam at the end of students’ senior year in high school. There are no rankings, no comparisons or competition between students, schools or regions.

Finland’s schools are publicly funded. The people in the government agencies running them, from national officials to local authorities, are educators, not business people, military leaders or career politicians. Every school has the same national goals and draws from the same pool of university-trained educators.

The result is that a Finnish child has a good shot at getting the same quality education no matter whether he or she lives in a rural village or a university town. The differences between weakest and strongest students are the smallest in the world, according to the most recent survey by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

“Equality is the most important word in Finnish education. All political parties on the right and left agree on this,” said Olli Luukkainen, president of Finland’s powerful teachers union.

Ninety-three percent of Finns graduate from academic or vocational high schools, 17.5 percentage points higher than the US, and 66 percent go on to higher education, the highest rate in the European Union. Yet Finland spends about 30 percent less per student than the US.

Still, there is a distinct absence of chest-thumping among the famously reticent Finns. They are eager to celebrate their recent world hockey championship, but PISA scores, not so much.

“We prepare children to learn how to learn, not how to take a test,” said Pasi Sahlberg, a former math and physics teacher who is now in Finland’s Ministry of Education and Culture. “We are not much interested in PISA. It’s not what we are about.” (…)

LynNell Hancock writes about education and teaches at the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism. This article originally appeared in the September 2011 edition of the SMITHSONIAN. You may find the complete article at: http://www.todayonline.com/CommentaryandAnalysis/Commentary/EDC121102-0000191/Why-are-Finlands-schools-successful

Self Worth

26 11 2012

How do we develop our children’s self-worth in a society that is so externally referenced?  How do we measure our own?

It is no secret that we live in a society that focuses heavily on the carrot and stick model for rewarding people.  We are constantly bombarded by promises of rewards and compensation for behaving or performing in a certain way.  For our children, it is not only there academic performance that gets measured and “graded”, even their “good” behaviour is subject to reward or compensation. 

I’m all for focusing on and highlighting positive actions.  At the same time, I wonder, how much praise is too much.  When our children are rewarded for keeping their desks in order, listening to the teacher, completing their homework, showing up to school on time, etc. what are they really learning?  Are they valuing the extrinsic reward or the feeling they get in doing what makes them feel good about themselves? I’ve seen more than one child upset and disappointed because :

  • their friend got a special compensation for raising their hand to ask a question but they didn’t;
  • even though their project was the best, they didn’t get the highest mark;
  • they didn’t get first place in the dance recital and they feel they are the strongest and hardest working dancer in the group.

As adults our performance and behaviours in our work environments, volunteer committees, professional organizations, academia, politics, religious groups, etc. earn us special titles, preferred parking spots, salary promotions, certifications, media publicity and other material or social status symbols.  Although we are subject to similar carrot and stick reward systems as our children, we also know the feeling of gratification we get from external rewards is not sustainable through material things alone.

As a parent, I’ve learned that I can coach my children to  nurture a healthy sense of self worth beyond external material barometers.  I know how I feel when I am in alignment with my values and in purpose with my goals and my children are capable of connecting to the same feelings within themselves.

The next time your child is upset by not having been “fairly rewarded” for their effort consider asking the following questions:

  •  How do you feel about what you did?
  • What makes you most proud of the choices you make?
  • When you feel good about yourself, what else is possible?
  • How do you know when you are doing your best?
  • Who else happens when you do your best?
  • How are you a better person when you respect/credit/acknowledge/are true to yourself?

I know that as I continue to learn to honour and build my self-worth through my choices, I model what is possible for my children too.

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