L.O.V.E. Parenting: Parent Education for Progressive Families
Many parents who have chosen an alternative, progressive parenting path, one that is deeply rooted in honoring their child, get derailed as the babies get older. Issues like sharing, siblings, social-interplay, communication, autonomy, and discipline come into view and present challenges to the most well-meaning parents. As well, a second pregnancy, the birth of a sibling, and the early years of siblinghood often create challenges that can leave parents feeling overwhelmed and at their wits end. L.O.V.E. Parenting can help!
L.O.V.E. Parenting is confident that you can manifest a harmonious relationship with your children at every stage of the game. L.O.V.E. Parenting understands the challenges faced on a daily basis and addresses the uniqueness of each situation with insight and the commonalities with compassion.
L.O.V.E. Parenting techniques promote effective communication with respect for the whole family. A sampling of favorites include Set The Stage, the Family Unity Speech, Need-Want-Ask, and WEL-C: Witness, Empathy, Limit, Choice. L.O.V.E. Parenting helps families to parent with love and to L.O.V.E. Parenting; Listen, Open, Value, Enjoy.
Jessica Williams created L.O.V.E. Parenting with private coaching, classes and workshops in Los Angeles and worldwide with Skype. She teaches L.O.V.E. Parenting at The Sanctuary Birth & Family Wellness Center in West LA and at Birth & Beyond in Santa Monica. She is a featured weekly writer for Mothering Magazine's "All Things Mothering" online blog. Her birth and nursing articles are being published in The Mother Magazine, UK and The Complete Mother, USA. She is a contributor for the Nurture Center, CA. She has presented multiple workshops for the pediatric practice of Dr. Jay Gordon, Santa Monica. Jessica Williams lives in her native Los Angeles with her husband and their three children.
Jessica shared a host of parenting techniques that can be applied and suggested that we see how each technique resonates with our own parenting philosophies.
The following are a few of her signature techniques:
The first technique has to do with communicating with your partner or the partnership of the people that are supporting you as part of your family. This technique can be used with not only your child but with any adult that you're trying to communicate with (ie. your parents, your caregiver, etc). It is called Need-Want-Ask. At each moment, you can ask yourself, "What do I need?" and "What do I want in terms of what actions that will support my needs? And have I asked for it?". Sometimes we think that it's so clear with what we want at that moment that we tend to assume that others know what we need too.
For instance, here is a scenario:
The mom has been home with the baby, has been nursing all day, hasn't taken a shower, and has had one meal instead of three. She's tired, hungry and overwhelmed. And then the partner comes in after being at work all day and dealing with their stresses for the day. They're wanting to come home to wind down a little bit, maybe have a beer, check their emails, etc and it's so obvious to them what they are wanting. In that moment, when they are walking through that door what they would love to hear is perhaps: "Honey, I've prepared your favorite meal. The baby is taken care of. I appreciate all the hard work you do to provide for this family. You're so good looking and I've booked us a weekend getaway and my parents are coming in to take care of the baby". And what the mom is wanting to hear is "Honey, I see you. I see the job you're doing with being with the baby all day and I appreciate all that you do. You're so beautiful. Let me take the child and I've booked you a massage."
So you can see that it's kind of a combustion of both needs. Part of what can be effective in parenting is getting a little bit of that self care happening for yourself (this may look different for each person). That may look like needing an hour a day to get something you need taken care of. What is the piece at this juncture? If I had an hour to myself, am I wanting a massage, am I wanting to take a yoga class, am I wanting to work out? Or to go to a cafe to write a book or to socialize with a friend? And what would be the most restored for me? Am I needing restoration? Am I needing inspiration? Am I needing renewal?
Homework: Write down 3 categories: Renewal, Restoration and Inspiraton and then make a list of what would fall in to these 3 categories. Make yourself careless.
Some of the stresses that can be alleviated is time management. For example, a married couple is having another baby. The mom is pregnant and needing a hand with taking care of the older child. When the husband walks in, he's wanting to come home to a stress-free environment after being at work in a stressful environment all day. One solution is to have a kitchen timer timed at 15 minutes. So when the husband walks in, he gets the first 15 minutes off duty. Because if the mom was able to make it until 5:30, she can make it until 5:45pm. This gives the partner a chance to unwind for 15 minutes. When that timer goes off, then the wife has 15 minutes completely off duty. She can go shut the door and listen to relaxing music, meditate or whatever is going to give you that moment of solitude to restore or renew or inspire.
If something is re-occurring on the schedule, it will happen. Meaning once you both have made a commitment to put it on the schedule with 15 minutes for your partner and 15 minutes for yourself, you will begin to alleviate the pressures of coming home to a stressful environment or feeling like you're doing everything. Or maybe that first 15 minutes the partner is off duty when he/she walks in and then it's family time. Then perhaps on Saturday for those 5 days that you gave your partner 15 minutes, it would then add up to an hour and 15 minutes that you can use for yourself. You can make your own schedule with this and see what you both are needing.
For instance, with Jessica's husband they were able to work out a schedule where for one hour a day, her husband would be on duty with their 3 kids. So on Thursdays from 5-6, Jessica would leave the house and drive a couple of blocks away to a cafe and was able to write a rock and roll memoir. Her life before her children, she was able to make music and was in a band but of course after having 3 children, her life being in a band changed but at least with this hour she was able to write about her experiences with being in a band.
So make a list to see what it would be like to have that hour. And if your husband or wife can't do this, then start getting that support system with either a mom, a nanny or what Tangee is creating here with the Family Love Village by creating a new paradigm and going back to the days of old which we would all live here and work together. Even if it means we now have to work a little harder to create the community structure, it exists. You come to these gatherings, deepen your connection and you call upon each other so that you can help one another out.
Time management and money management - make your choice and make sure it's on the schedule reoccurring. That way you and your partner know it's coming and during a day to day life, it becomes more easeful. Self care is the first step. Then you're Need-Want-Ask. "What do I need? I need a little support." "So what do I want? I need a date with my friend. Have I asked for it? Have I emailed all my friends and made a date". Then put it on the schedule. And if it's on the schedule, it will be more than likely that you will be able to get your needs met.
What Jessica feels so passionate about is the Mama Trade and showing up for each other for support. For example, here's another scenario:
Four families get together every Tuesday (for the ones that aren't working) and Thursday. And on Tuesdays, two mamas are with the 4 kids - bonding and having adult conversations. Then the 2 other moms are out for 2 hours, getting their needs met (running errands, or having restoration or inspiration) and then on Thursdays the other two moms are bonding/talking with the 4 kids while the first 2 moms are getting their needs met. That way twice a week, your kids are having playdates/peer interaction, once a week you have to yourself and once a week you're hanging out and doing what you'd be doing anyways with a friend.
By doing this little bit of tweaking into a system, you are building some support for yourself. Another example could be, Sunday 5-7pm the parents have their time and the kids know this. The parents value each other, they're best friends, they are in love with each other. You guys are parents and will be together for 50 or so years and that's a long relationship. So the question is "How do we make this boat float? How do we make this ship sail for the long view of life together and what do we need to put into place to support that vision?"
|(l to r): Renee, Cindy (Andrik's nanny) and Mary|
To summarize, part of the first thing is the notion of self care, notion of Need-Want-Ask, notion of putting on a reoccurring schedule, and this notion of identifying what helps and what makes it fun and feel better. For example, maybe putting out an email or list of any other single moms or any other adopted moms or where the homeschooled families with 8 year old girls that are into doing things without media. Or how about all attachment parenting lists and/or homeschool lists. Whatever it may be that you're interested in. It's about finding your support - it's like starting a business but in this sense, it's for your family and you're parenting.
SETTING LIMITS AND HAVING TO SAY NO:
The next topic is on having to deal with your child's frustrations and anger. The old paradigm in the 50's was about power over, shaming and blaming, punishment and rewards. "Don't speak unless spoken to"! Now you have a new generation of new progressive families that honor their child and value them and is an equal part of the family but then you still need to have certain aspects of the 50's. For instance when you go into a restaurant, you still need restaurant manners (can't climb on the table or throw food, etc).
But if your child begins to have certain behaviors, for instance, at a restaurant, you start to have this panicky feeling. You don't want to shame them or yell at them or hit them but you end up feeling very flustered or leaving early. What ends up happening is that parents start to avoid going to restaurants altogether. Or for example, "We don't have people over because our daughter doesn't share her toys" or "we don't go to gas stations with our child in the car because he gets antsy", etc. You start to avoid doing certain things as a family so as not to be put in those types of situations where your child will start behaving in a way that will make you feel uncomfortable. So what ends up happening is without learning how to move through the distress, you'll start to notice that you're world will start shrinking.
The question is, how do we navigate this type of behavior when their having big feelings? The first thing as a conscious parent is to be aware that your child's response has to do with big feelings. At some point, children will become very vocal ("I hate you", "You're a mean mommy or daddy", etc) or they might use their bodies to express themselves by hitting, biting, pushing, etc. Or perhaps you have an older child and a 2nd baby that you're trying to put down to sleep and the older one is trying to wake the baby up, etc.
Part of where L.O.V.E. Parenting comes in is how do we get the behavior that we need in a different method? Here are a few techniques:
1) SET THE STAGE - (in an upbeat manner) where you tell them what is going to occur and what you expect of them. For instance, if you need to take your child to the doctor's office, you can say "We're going to the Dr's office. And what I need is quiet voices and then we're going to wait. And then we're going to go inside his office and the Dr's going to check your ears and eyes. " What you are doing here is basically walking them through what will happen. Being compassionate during this is helpful too. Even empathizing with them that it may be a long wait or perhaps even boring while waiting for the Dr to call us in. But by setting the stage for them of what is going to happen, you have given a little frame of reference for your child. They get a context of what will be happening. It may not be the whole story of what will happen but it's the frame.
Another level of setting the stage (depending on your energy level and how you're feeling) is setting the stage with excitement and depth. For instance, you're going to the restaurant. If you're feeling energetic and excited, then you can go even further with setting the stage and actually create a story.
"Honey, we're going to a restaurant tonight. There was this man who had a dream to start his own restaurant and he created a menu of yummy entrees and desserts. And then there is a busboy who has a dream to be an architect but his job for the time being is to give us water and set down the water and refill the water, and set down the water. And then there's this beautiful waitress who wants to become an actress and she goes to auditions during the day and is a waitress by night. And she has to be upbeat and polite when serving us...."
You set this whole stage of "The Restaurant". And then your child gets a little vibe that they're stepping into another world. Because for children, they are in their own little worlds and are selfish in the sense that they are hungry, or tired or they want this or that. So instead of blaming and shaming them or feeling embarrassed yourself, you can create this world around the restaurant. This is again to be done before you go to the restaurant. It can be done at home, in a casual setting when everyone has been fed and well-rested so that when you set the stage about "The Restaurant", it's easeful and relaxing.
|Siren and Mama and Daddy in the back (Mari and Robert)|
2) Another way to set the stage is by giving your child the script. For example:
"So if you were at the restaurant and you were upset and got out of your chair and said "I don't wanna stay here!" (and say it as if mocking how the child would say it). Then you could ask him/her "Now would that be helpful or not helpful?" Then the child could answer "Not helpful". And then if you draw on the piece of paper and then you start ripping the paper angrily, would that be helpful or not helpful?" "Not helpful." "And if you got upset about your water and set it down really hard, would that float the boat or sink the ship?" "Sink the ship." This is a great way of letting off your own steam of how frustrating it is when those things do happen. Yet you can make it fun and they can laugh at it and then it gives them an opportunity to see how that would well...basically, suck.
3) You can also feed them with what wouldn't be helpful and feed them with what would be helpful. So by the time they get to the restaurant they are more aware of their behavior. Once you give them the whole restaurant story, you can ask them:
"So given that you know about the busboy, the waiter, the cook, and the waitress, what would be helpful when we get to the restaurant". If they are old enough, they could tell you what they can do. For example, they can say, "We sat down, then we ordered and then we had small talk", etc.
Quick Review: What is setting the stage? Giving your child the narrative of what your expectations might be in a way that they might be able to participate in the process. You start doing this as part of your family culture - even if you think your child isn't cognitive. It just becomes part of what you do with your child that way they begin to learn this way of communicating. Even if your child is for example, 18 months old, you can still set the stage. It would just be a more simpler story that you can tell or even act out. But you must have a level of fluidity and just flow with what may happen.
Ikedo Martial Arts Metaphor:
Jessica likes to use a metaphor with a martial arts move from Ikedo. She used an example of a person coming towards you with their sword. The first slice, Jessica doesn't move. She absorbs all of the impact from the hit of the sword. The second time her opponent tries to slice, she moves her body this time so that the sword misses her body. The notion that your child can have their full expression but rather than "I'm going to block right against it", it would be "I'm going to move out of the way and witness them". I see you and your feelings but I'm not going to absorb all of it and I'm not going to necessarily change my course of action in response to your negative reaction to what I've told you.
This can get tricky for parents when your child hears the word "No" and you are setting the limits and trying to stick with what you said. There are times though that you may need to change your direction when you have already said "No". If you're using your true mother's intuition and father's intuition and you're seeing a red flag of true distress from your child, this would be a time that you can decide if you want to change your mind. For instance, "You know I'm hearing that this is a different level of discontent and I'm hearing your distress. I'm going to pause and call this friend and break our commitment. And even though we are a family that upholds our commitments, I'm going to make an exception because I'm seeing the true distress that you are having and that we cannot do this plan."
|Casper cruisin' around and visiting Tamra|
But generally if there is a commitment that your family has made and there isn't a red flag of true distress coming form your child, you can set boundaries with the notion of "We made a commitment, we spent money for this class and we will follow through", etc. If your child gets upset with the "No", witness with your child what they are feeling with empathy. "I hear you and I understand that this may not be your first choice AND we made a commitment to these people. The other families are expecting us and I've made a good plan for you (we're not in abusive situation). We have snacks and there will be art projects with other kids. We've made this plan and we are going". It's not like, "get in the car whether you like it or not" type of attitude. It's about coming from a place of empathy and making it light. "I hear it's not your first choice. I've had that happen to me where I made plans and said I was going to make it but I didn't feel like it at first."
This helps to get through the discomfort instead of coercing them to do it. Because you don't know if perhaps they are scared or nervous about going somewhere. But you get through it the first time and then perhaps revisit the question of whether your child truly wants to do this plan again - so that you're not making it an arbitrary plan for your child. You do the first follow through and make sure you, as the parent, are not being in total reaction to when they hear you say "No". To summarize, the above steps:
1. I hear your "No"
2. Get out of the way (Ikido metaphor),
3. Witness what they are feeling and then explain that you as a family will do the follow through with the commitment.
4. Then after the first follow through, then we can revisit and ask "Are we a family that should make this plan again or should we make another plan?" This technique is not coming from a place of forcing them to do something they don't want to do, it's teaching them to get through the discomfort.
There's always a difference between the generations. The progressive families believe in attachment parenting that elder generations are shocked that your family does (i.e. "What do you mean you're not vaccinating", or "What do you mean you're still breastfeeding and co-sleeping and not putting your child through school", etc)?
The same way it behooves you to navigate with your partner and/or childcare giver for the longterm, it behooves you to partner for the longterm with your parents and in-laws. Assume the generous thoughts and assume that you might end up changing your mind (i.e. you may choose to co-sleep with your first baby but not for the second one, you may not do extended breastfeeding for your first child but then want to for your second child, etc).
You want to say to yourself: I'm going to assume you're coming from a place of love and I'm going to see that vibrating first because you, as the parent, are on the leading edge position. You can make your energy bigger and invite your parents and in-laws to love your child on the same level with you.
You could also explain to your child too that there are different rules when your with mommy and daddy and different rules with grandma and grandpa. You may have to meditate on this one to see if it's really a big deal to you for instance, if they drink soda once in a great while when they're at Grandma's and Grandpa's. Get a reality check for your own heart what's going to create the most peace and harmony and ask yourself "How can I invite them in?" If you invite them into your parenting philosophy, you're inviting them to do what you want them to do. You actually do want your parents and aunts and uncles to be part of your child's life. And it's only natural that you might get a little tight and upset when they do things differently than you. But if you can get through that and create the space. You circument and make it about what they have to offer and invite them to participate in that way. So when they say "Don't touch" - instead of saying "Oh we don't say it that way" (which could rub them the wrong way and could be pretty hard on them and could make them feel like "Fine take care of your own kids"), you want to ask yourself: "How am I going to get the most out of this situation?"
You can say something like "Thank you mom for having us in your house. I love how neat and clean it is. I'm not sure if you remember how it was when I was 2 years old so do you have any extra sheets that we can put down on your carpet?" Rather than the whole time worrying that your kid has dirty hands and is touching the grandparents neat stuff.
So instead of the grandparents getting upset and saying "No don't touch" and instead of telling them to not say that. You can go over to your child and proactively parent him/her in front of your parents the way you want to say it. You can also set the stage with your parents. Start with love. "I love you both and am so glad that you're a part of our lives. And so grateful that we get to spend time together. (This is considered soft selling it). I know it may sound kinda strange or wacky but we're trying this thing where we say it in a way that let's him have a choice. So we say "Heaters are really hot. Do you think it's a good choice to touch the heater?" And let him see that were trying to empower him to make his own decisions in the world. I know it sounds a little out there but if you can try it out with me and indulge with me on this?"
This softens things and allows the family to see how you do things. To summarize: Come at it with love, give a compliment, invite them to do what you want them to and then give them an example of how you want to parent your child.
As a parent, you want to give your children skills to navigate through life and create an emotionally, physically, spiritually, safe, and vibrant life for themselves but the one thing you can't teach teach them is how to fall in love. We can teach them love and to be loved but we can't escape the harm whether it's peer pressure or domineering in-laws. So you teach them to walk through the world and give them these L.O.V.E. parenting tools.
The last technique Jessica shared with us is called WEL-C: (Witness, Empathy, Limit, Choice):
Witness - I see you, I hear you:
"I see that you do not want to share that toy with your sister or friend and you're wanting to get that toy from them".
Empathy - Come from a place of understanding with empathy:
"I really understand that feeling where I didn't want to stop what I was doing. I've been there myself."
Limit - Set a limit:
"You may not grab that toy out of her hand" or "In this family we don't hit".
Choice - Give your child a choice:
"You can put down that toy and give it to her or you can find another toy to play with " OR "You can grab another toy to see if she wants to trade with you" OR "We can put a timer on and you can both play with it each for 5 minutes".
"You can hang with us in a way that keeps all the bodies and emotions safe or you can take some time to reset yourself if that's feeling too hard to be next to her without hitting her".
ADDITIONAL CONCEPT - SAME AMOUNT OF LOVE:
This may help the longterm of the Family Love Village's sustainability and that is when you step into this community together (whether it be this village or a co-op group or a playgroup or your homeschool group, etc), there is the notion that if you can practice these L.O.V.E. Parenting tools with each other and each other's kids that within that moment that your kids know that you're going to advocate for each kid in the room the same amount of love. Meaning - I'm going to love that child as much as your child in that moment in the room.
For instance, if your child gets upset that you're holding another child. You can witness "I see that you're upset that I'm holding Tangee's baby and I love you so much". Empathy: I've felt like that too. Limit: I'm going to hold Tangee's baby because we're in community together. Or you can sit right here and help me comfort Tangee's baby or you can take a moment if that's too hard for you."
But it's a real clear notion that what they get from you is that "my mommy has love to give". A good example is tonight, Jessica's daughters didn't want her to go tonight to the Family Love Village gathering and wanted her to stay home with them. She witnessed their need "I hear you". Empathy: "I miss you too and love you so much and love spending time together." Then they understood that "Oh they are wanting to learn from you?" And now because her children get the idea that whenever their mom leaves to teach a workshop, they get excited now because they are curious to know what other parents have learned from her.
It's the notion that I'm going to love these kids and my arms are this big and I can hold 6 kids with me. And of course my kids know who I'm going home with. And then they see that my mom's got love and she's going to honor each kid. Which helps them when their on their own in the playroom and there's one pillow to play with and they figure out a way to play with it together. Play is the work of childhood, toys are the tools. Just the same way, you come into my house and use my plates and my furniture, the toys belong to the house (of course if there's that one special toy, your child can put it away) but letting them know that the toys are part of the furniture of the house and we all use it.
At the end, Jessica had us close our eyes and walked us through a guided meditation, envisioning us with our children. Hearing them and witnessing them and also continuing to set the course as you sail the ship and they are on that ship with you. Navigating, seeing the sights, feeling the wind, pointing out things in the horizon that you didn't see and you point things out to them. Picture your own ancestors, your own unique lineage, your grandparents, great grandparents, what they struggled through and how they thrived and then think of yourself aligned with your partner or the two beings that gave birth to your child. Think of you and your partner and your unqiue lineages to give birth to your child or the other children that came to you. Breathe that in and giving thanks striving to keep yourself with that alignment so that you can bond to your children and clearly hear their discontent and their joy. Witness them and hold them up energetically and allow them to navigate the world on their own with your guidance.
It was a beautiful ending to a beautiful gathering. Unfortunately we didn't get a chance to eat with Jessica afterwards for the potluck but it was for a very good reason: she had set the stage with her children and had given them a timeframe that she would be home to be with them and had honored their family time together!! What a wonderful way to role model her techniques to us!
It was such a joy to have Jessica with our village that evening. So much that we intend to have her back for a more in-depth workshop. To learn more about Jessica Williams and her amazing work, go to L.O.V.E. Parenting.