Tuesday, April 26, 2011

An Evening with Ruth Beaglehole - Saturday March 19, 2011

Ruth Beaglehole and Tangee
Introduction to Nonviolent Parenting: An Empathy-Based Approach to Raising Children

Every parent and every child has experienced deep feelings of frustration and anger. You are not alone! Raising children can be very challenging!

Nonviolent Parenting is an entirely new paradigm for the adult-child relationship. It is a move from our society's dominant paradigm of conditional parenting to nonviolent parenting. Conditional parenting is all around us; parents either punish or reward children for their behavior. If children are good, they get approval and a reward. If they are bad, attention is withdrawn and they are punished. This conditional parenting undermines a child's sense of self worth and self -dignity as a vital, alive, feeling human being.

Nonviolent parenting offers an optimal relationship and the conditions in which children can thrive and grow into healthy adults. By building a tight emotional bond of understanding, nurturing, support, trust, warmth and compassion, a child reaches a high level of emotional development. The tools of nonviolent parenting respect the science of early brain development and are grounded in the knowledge that to raise healthy children, adults must be in relationship with children through the giving of unconditional connection. Respecting the science of brain development fosters a deep respect of the life force of all living creatures. It teaches connection and support between adults and children in the most profound way possible. 

Ruth Beaglehole MA. is the founder and Executive Director of Echo Parenting and Education (formerly known as the Center for Nonviolent Education and Parenting), a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting parents and teachers to break the cycle of early family violence by learning the philosophy of nonviolent parenting. She has spent her life considering the needs of children, seeking support and nurturing for children as full human beings, using the principles of respect, healing and connection. Ruth's professional journey parallels her personal journey and has given her the empathy, courage and dedication that has fueled her groundbreaking work; creating a new paradigm of unconditional parenting that is the soul of Echo Parenting and Education.

She has been a preschool/parent educator for over 50 years. She is the author of "Mama, Listen! Raising a Child Without Violence – A Handbook for Teen Parents." She co – authored the Echo Center's Nonviolent Parenting Curriculum, co-author of "School Readiness Learning Module" of the North East Los Angeles School Readiness Center and the It Takes a Community Curriculum (ITC) for the Department of Mental Health, Los Angeles. She is an Early Childhood trainer in nonviolent child-raising and ITC for parents and professionals and an active member of the leadership group of Magnolia Place Initiative, supporting the implementation of ITC and Strengthening Families Five Protective Factors.

In this gathering, Ruth Beaglehole introduced to the FLVillagers, a philosophy of parenting based on:

1. Exploring ourselves and our children through a lens of empathy and understanding.

2. Teaching emotional intelligence by learning a language of feelings and needs.

3. Setting respectful, clear boundaries.

4. Exploring strategies and tools that will help you successfully create the parenting relationship you want with your child.

5. Discussion on two paradigms of parenting (conditional and nonviolent), attachments and brain development

Loving her children wasn't an easy process.  Ruth was a survivor of sexual abuse.  When she was pregnant, she had this overwhelming feeling to love her children in a way that she wasn't given the opportunity.  She wanted to break the cycle, emotionally connect and create a different experience for her children.  What was it going to be like to love her children in the most profound way that she could.  Her daughter was deaf so Ruth set out to learn how to communicate with her daughter.  For her, it was about learning the language to communicate with all of her children.  Back in the 60's, it wasn't really about women burning their bras, it was more about women telling their stories. 

One of out of 3 girls and one out of 5 boys are sexually abused before the age of 18.  It is stored as secrets.  One out of 10 end up with addictions.   We're in the job of people making.  It's ultimately about us.  What do we bring to this job?  What is our own projectory of healing?  At times we think about healing as going to a therapist but healing can also be about creating a coherent narrative.  We, as a human race, can all be in a state of healing each other and to really do this work well, it takes an incredible consciousness.  And this consciousness that we need is rooted in an incredibly important research-based practice.  It's really not about whether we had a good or bad childhood - to make sense of our own lives.  The ability to have a coherent narrative and understand a reflective practice of where we tend to freeze up when it comes to our inner healing and what has been our life's journey - the place we learn from is our upbringing.  That process of looking to have a coherent narrative is important because one of the core principles of giving to your children is to give them their own coherent narrative and in order to do this, we have to be able to give our own narrative.

With Ruth's story, she was able to later on see that where she froze was in her own fear and pain.  She didn't talk about it and she hated her perpetrator but she never did the work internally to really heal herself.  It was all about him and he was going to pay for it rather than heal herself.  To men, this journey can be incredibly difficult because we struggle with a sexist paradigm and for most men there's one emotion they get to feel and that is anger.  The layers of sexism that is put upon us, the fear of your son crying because of the fear of the messages of homophobia or "big boys don't cry" attitude.  Ruth believes the future lies in the way we raise our boys - to raise really gentle, sensitive boys is so important.  She suggested reading "Parenting From the Inside Out" by Dr. Dan Siegel. 

Dominant paradigm - we all experience it.  For example, you're at the cashier and your baby is crying and others wonder when you're going to shut your child up.  Other examples of the dominant paradigm are: "I'm going to leave you here",  "Children are born manipulative", "If you keep holding that baby, you're going to spoil him".  Judgemental, disconnecting ideas about children and parenting.  Even what is considered positive discipline: time outs, rewards, bribes, praise, countdown (1, 2, 3), and taking away toys is considered dominant parenting.  These are all about disconnection.  These are not building the emotional intelligence of our children. 

One example that Ruth likes to share is from Marshall Rosenberg's method:

Jackal - Power over, judgement, (i.e. "I'm the parent, you're job is to respect me"), which is all fear-based. The Jackal's point of view is "If we could just give our children just a little bit of fear then they'll listen".  This is the voice of criticism and judgement.  Ruth used my husband, Dalmacio as an example since he was late arriving to the presentation because he was getting batteries for the tape recorder to record the presentation.   "Why were you late?  Do you realize how disrespectful that was to make me wait?  Why are you smiling?  Wipe that smile off your face!"

We're not about power over strategies of discipline.  We are emotional coaches and emotional coaching comes from a place of connection

Giraffe - giraffes have the biggest hearts of animals (26 lbs) and is used as a metaphor with emotional coaching.  It's about connection and empathy.  It's about moving from evaluation to observation.  It's another language and it's a struggle to learn this language.  Nonviolent Communication lays out the grammar.  The grammar is observation, feelings, needs and requests.  To emotionally stay connected with our children - EVEN within the most challenging moments.  And it's a practice for ourselves to regulate ourselves and to stay present for our children. 

Praise vs. Celebration

We have an epidemic with the word "Good" - i.e.  good job, good boy, good girl, good sitting, good eating, good climbing up the stairs, etc.  What we're doing is making our children become addicted to intrinsic rewards.  They become addicted to that praise.  Reward cycle and praise.  Instead of rewards, move towards a celebration through an observation.  "You climbed up the stairs".  Try to imagine what the experience means for the child rather than taking it away and making it through us, through our filter.  And when we say "good job" what we're really saying is "I like that" and it becomes conditional parenting.  If you do what I like, I praise you.  If you don't do what I like, there could be silence or things taken away. 

Study the neurobiology of your baby.  Every time you give an empathetic statement, hold him gently, touch him gently.  Every experience your child ever has gets wired into the brain. If were silent or angry towards them, this gets wired into the brain.  And it ultimately gets translated into "This world is scary and nobody tells me what is going on," or "Things are scary in this world and it can't be trusted".  And just the same, if we are gentle and empathetic, it can be translated into "My feelings get acknowledged" or "Oh I can trust this world." As parents, we are actually sculpting our children's brains.  Neuroplasticity - This information has been getting more recognition within the last 15 years.  If our own brains didnt get connected and wired with connection, empathy and warmth, everytime we tell our story and every time we weep through some trauma, it can get inbread through connection.  It's not just a brain, it's an amazimg bunch of neurons and synapses and are always reforming and connecting.  And so the experience we have, we can fix that part of the brain.  For instance, post partum depression, it's so important for those neurons in the brain to have connection and to get the support to heal.  Everytime we have a connection, we are recreating the neurons.  The synapses that aren't used, get pruned away and we want to make sure we're not pruning away the synapses needed for connection.  We are sculpting our children's brains through our empathy, our touch, and our tenderness.

And yes it does get more challenging as our child grows.  For instance, at the age of 2 years old, when they start to say "No", "Mine" and doesn't want to leave the house, etc.  But it's a matter of seeing through a lens of empathy and understanding with our children and how we communicate to our children.

95% of communication is nonverbal so we have to be very aware of our facial expressions, our body language, gestures, and the tone of our voice in which we communicate.  It is important to communicate what needs to be said in an empathetic manner because your child will learn about expressing themselves through you.  For instance, if you're tired - you can explain to your child in a gentle way "I'm tired and need to take care of myself" vs. being frustrated and taking it out on your child.
Smilin' Dana

Spring & Milo, Eddy, Taryn and Evita fully engaged

Taryn, Evita & Alfonso

Jen, Todd (the owners of the Yogi Tree) and their daughter Joanna

My hubby, Dalmacio's sweet smile

So now that we've discussed Emotional Intelligence, Sculpting the Brain, and Celebration Instead of Praise - the next topic is on Limits and Opening.

Every human being spends every minute of the day trying to meet our core basic human needs.  Children don't know the strategies so they look to us to help guide them with their strategies.  As our children get older, we have to struggle to move from looking at behavior as good or bad, nice or not nice, respectful or not respectful - to looking at a behavior as a strategy to meet needs.  So when we see our child kicking and crying on the floor (which Ruth doesn't label this as a temper tantrum), we look at this as the cortisone flooding of the brain.  Not as defiant or naughty behavior - it is more about "That is my child trying to get her needs met and she's not getting her need met".  We can redirect them into other strategies that can meet needs.  Opening is the connection and empathy.  And ultimately we want our children to feel safe. 

Limit with an Opening

A successful strategy is thinking beforehand.  For instance, you have to go grocery shopping, ask yourself if you need to take them to the store.  And if you do, then create a Limit with an Opening.  Scaffold them to be successful.  Examples of strategies is about prethinking, preplanning, making books ahead of time before going to the store or the restaurant or dropping your child off to the babysitters rather than getting yourself in the middle of it and then you get frustrated because now you're tired and hungry (which, by the way, this is the worst way to parent is when you're hungry).  It's about where am I at? Where do I need to be instead of blaming my child for their behavior?

How about when your child breaks things?  With a 2 year old, it takes some work.  The higher brain is the problem solving, analytical brain.  A 2 year old isn't in that part of the brain yet and they are very impulsive and curious.  For example, when a child is eating at the kitchen table, they normally tend to want to throw their plate - this is them learning about gravity.  Although parents may not want their child to do this, the child is not at the age where she knows that this could possibly break.  So instead of getting frustrated with your child, you could give them bean bags to throw.

Children need alot of opportunities to explore and be physical.  So for instance, if your child likes to climb on the chair or on the table - it may be really important to say "developmentally my child is really into climbing".  So if it's not ok to climb on the refrigerator then give them things that they can climb on.  Finding a limit yet at the same time finding something that they can do.

As for hitting - toddlers do not intentionally hit (it's not violent)  - meaning, they're not in their higher brain.  At this age, it's very impulsive.  One solution to this issue is instead of getting upset at our child for hitting another child is to redirect.  For instance, you can say "Let's be gentle with each other".  Then observe what she is trying do.  So if you're child is wanting a toy that another child is playing with, it's about modeling the language: "I'm going to hold you", or "I'm going to help you to get you another toy".  If she doesn't want the other toy, then you could say, "If you want to play with that toy, then we could wait to see if your friend is done with the toy."  If it becomes too challenging and none of the above seems to be working then suggesting to take a walk (changing the environment for the child) can also help your child to regulate. 

A concern one of the FLVillagers had was just recently having a baby and helping the older sibling to adjust.   Ruth suggested a book written by Gabor Mate and Gordon Neufeld called "Hold On To Your Kids - Why Parents Need To Matter More Than Peers" - an attachment theory for older children.  One of the ways to create connection for parents and their children is to avoid too many playdates.  Create sacred family time together.  Especially for older children because they are more into their peers.  And peers become the most important people in your child's life so it's important to be present, nurture, care and spend family time together.  The consciousness is how do we keep the attachment alive as our children get older.  It's about connecting emotionally and that doesn't include doing homework together - homework doesn't replace connection time.

Nonviolence - what it means to really respect the life force of another human being, animal and/or plant life.  At birth, most people love their children deeply, and love is essential to infant brain development, determining whether or not a child will thrive later in life. Yet, this love gets compromised by a lot of things; stress, fear, poverty, racism, unresolved problems or a parent’s own unresolved childhood trauma. Nonviolence helps the adult to manage all that disconnects them from feeling, thinking and experiencing the child. It supports the adult. It teaches them to step back and celebrate their child when anger, anxiety and withdrawl threaten their connection. It gives parents tools to break their own cycle of violence and projections from their childhoods, and this is a very, very profound thing. It teaches the language of emotional literacy. A dialogue that immerses the adult in emotional connection to child; feelings, needs and modeling behavior for children. It makes space for the emotional process of a child in the adult’s life. It stresses the understanding of child development, encourages a clear whole picture of the child with the ultimate goal of staying connected. It builds a structure of family values that emphasize safety, support and values with limits that do not constrict the child, but support learning and development.

Just from experience, I can honestly say that I'm grateful for learning these tools that Ruth shared with us.  Dalmacio and I took a private group 6-week course a couple of months ago and received such wonderful tools to continue supporting our beliefs in conscious parenting.  Some tools we were already aware of since we were already on this path and some tools were new to us.  For instance, writing/drawing books for your child to help introduce a situation that they will soon experience that might seem challenging or scary.  Me and Dalmacio's first book to write was called "Andrik and the Other Caregiver".  This was a book I wrote about how there are times when his nanny, Cindy takes time off of work and when we go to the Family Love Village gatherings, that he is safe and can have fun with the other kids and the other caregivers in the kids room (a.k.a. the Sprout Lounge).  Along with Dalmacio's cute and eye-catching illustrations, Andrik was really able to understand this concept.  That very day that we wrote the book, he was completely fine in the Sprout Lounge and only cried once for me to have "mommy's mook" for comfort because one of the other kids was a little bit rough (of course without meaning to be - it was just an impulsive reaction). 

Other books that we have written are "Andrik and the Doctor's Visit" when he fractured his elbow and "Andrik and the Dentist's Visit" for his first dentist appointment.  Although the doctor's visit book didn't go over too well because it was already after the fact that he had to go to the emergency and was traumatized by the whole experience but the book about his first visit to the dentist went over sooo well!  I incorporated his favorite thing (machines like cranes, excavators, hardware tools and compared them to the machines and tools in a dentist's office).  Of course, you don't have to be an elaborate writer or artist to create these books.  Just keeping it simple and drawing stick figures still gets the point across and really helps to set the environment for your children when they actually go to experience the things that might normally be "challenging" or scary. 

I hope all the above information gave all of you readers some wonderful insight and tips to help move you forward with staying connected with your children. The Echo Parenting and Education believes that if children are raised with care; we are teaching children to care for themselves, others, and the wider community. Thus, their simple slogan:

Raising Children With Care, Raising Children To Care

To find our more information about their programs and/or booking a private group class, check out their website.

The potluck afterwards

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