Walking Back the Cat
Walking back the cat is one of my favorite tools for helping children understand each other's motivations, and for supporting the development of spoken boundaries. It's the process of analyzing a sequence of steps in order to find out what set a negative situation in motion. Here's how I walked back the cat recently with two seven-year-old children in my homeschool pod.
I had a material on the rug and was waiting for a child to arrive so I could start the morning's first lesson…
A Full Life
Preface: This essay is about screen time limits, which are different for every family. But it's about much more than that, so if you are triggered by my family's limits, please ask yourself why before commenting.
"Half of my friends have their own iPhones," my 11-year-old son argued angrily. (Technically, only one friend has a cell phone, but such is the mind of the pre-adolescent.)
He continued: "My friend O can have as much screen time as he wants as long as he gets his school w…
When You Stop Being a Good Daughter
Have you ever felt pressured to suppress a child's big emotions because your parent, in-law, spouse, or school administrator (if you're a teacher) is uncomfortable with the little one's behavior?
If so, I'm going to share with you a mindset shift that will help you make respectful and empathetic choices even under pressure. This story is about motherhood, but the lesson applies to anyone who works with children.
The story starts like this...
This past winter I went to Los Angeles with my sev…
Laughing In Her Sleep
Ever since I can remember, my dreams have revolved around anger. I dream about standing up to the bullies in my life, loudly saying no, and asserting my needs.
Ever since I can remember, during waking hours I do the opposite. I’m the good girl, conditioned to fit in, play nice, and get along.
When I was two years old, a child psychologist told my mom that my crying spells were attempts at manipulation. Whenever I cried or got angry, she was to send me to my room. She eagerly followed his advic…
The Most Valuable Lesson
I would love to say that the first official day of our homeschool year started off peacefully, but that would be a big fat lie. I did everything right; we discussed a routine, prepared our environment, and set expectations for the week. And yet, when Monday rolled around and I reminded my son that it was time to practice writing (his biggest challenge), I was met with all kinds of resistance.
I expected his push-back. And he expected me to respond as I do most of the time: with empathy, trust…
Why We Hike
"Why do we have to do this hike?", complained my almost-eight-year-old son, his arms drooping by his sides. We had been hiking for almost two hours, had just conquered a half-mile 500-foot elevation gain, and still faced another mile uphill before reaching the summit. My husband, unable to stomach my son's complaints, put our younger daughter in the carrier and charged up the hill. I took a deep breath and silently asked myself, "Why do we make them hike?" Walking beside my son at his maddeni…
Why You NEED to Take a Day Off (Hint: It's not about self-care)
I just spent the afternoon listening to the legendary author and feminist Gloria Steinem. Among the topics she addressed was the issue of democratic heterosexual households. She argued that society has convinced us there are "male" qualities and "female" qualities. However, when we realize that the "qualities necessary to raise children - patience, nurturing, attention to detail, empathy" - are HUMAN qualities, we'll have taken the first step towards a democratic household.
Why don't many me…
The Entitlement Myth
A few weeks into his first-grade year, my formerly sweet and relatively cooperative son began acting sassy, cocky, and entitled. Requests for help were met with groans and eye-rolls. Limits were countered with sighs and "whatever"s. We gave him the benefit of a doubt: Surely he was just imitating his older classmates' rude behaviors. Or maybe this was a misguided attempt at being more independent. All my friends' children were acting the same way, so it was probably a developmental phase.…
An American friend and colleague who lives in Asia recently shared with me that her in-laws had moved out of her house. They had been very involved in raising her children, so I asked if she missed having the help. She texted back, "No. I'm forced to be the mom and it's what my kids want and what family is supposed to be."
As I sat staring at her words on my screen, the last seven years of my life - my entire parenthood journey - flashed before my eyes. I remembered how both times I had had…
The Good Struggle
This morning, let's talk about compassion (identifying our common struggles) and empathy (letting others know they're not alone).
Raise your hand if you want your child to show compassion and empathy for others. OK, that's pretty much everyone in the audience. Put your hands down. Now, raise your hand if you want your child to suffer. Anyone? Anyone? *crickets*
Most of us agree that it's painful to watch our child get hurt (physically or emotionally). So painful, in fact, that it triggers…
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