How To “Un-See” Negative Behaviors in Children

NoseWhile standing in line at the USPS office today, I noticed a woman with a big nose come in. Then I noticed myself commenting to myself about her nose (thinking… Wow! What a big nose!). After a short go-round with my thoughts and judgements, I began to wonder why I was judging her nose? It is not like I have never seen a big nose before, in fact I have one of those schnaz’s myself, along with a couple of ears that were always too big for my head. Yet it was instantly clear that my big nose was better than her big nose.

So I began to wonder what it would take for me to see her nose (or mine for that matter) as just a “nose” without the judgment attached. And where does that judgement arise from?

After a bit of back and forth, I came to the conclusion that it was my culture that somehow defined big from little or normal along with many other judgements about physical appearances along the way. And, not to blame anyone, but in an effort to “be who I really want to be” (a person without judgement – who accepts people as people equally (and noses as just noses), I had to admit that I bought it – hook, line and sinker as we use to say. I bought the judgement and made it my own. I bought the lie that big nose’s are bad and normal size noses are good. Just like for many years, ashamed as I am now to admit, I “thought that tattoos are bad, earrings in one’s face are bad, in fact earings anywhere but in your ear are bad” etc. etc. etc.

The issue here, is not whether noses are good or bad, not about tattoos or body piercings, but how do we go about changing things once we decide that something no longer serves us and where we want to go with our lives. How to do a better job of parenting where we are not so consumed with judging our children’s behaviors, ourselves or others parenting styles. How do we break out of our old parenting paradigm that Bryan often talks about so that we can move into a truly love based parenting approach – which is not what tradition has taught us as THE BEST WAY to parent?

Big-Dipper_v2The Big Dipper Challenge: So here is a challenge. Look at the Big Dipper but don’t see the Big Dipper. Can you see simply stars. Not easy is it? Because of our upbringing, we “see” what is not there – a big dipper. And we believe it. Or perhaps we believe it and then see it. That is what changing our paradigm is all about. A paradigm is the way in which you see the world. The lens through which you view all people and things and all events. It is greatly reinforced by society, culture, upbringing etc. In order to change your paradigm you must be willing to challenge your beliefs. You must ask questions rather than taking for face value what has been said because many others have said it or believe it to be true. You must question in order to challenge your belief system, in order to lead to a change in your thinking, and then in your behavior. When this occurs then you will be changing your paradigm. It is in some ways really very simple. All we have to work with are 3 basic tools – thought, word, deed (or action). We can catch these patterns anywhere along the way, but the most effective way is to catch it at the thought level. That way we can choose to change it before we say it and long before we act it out. If we are mindful, we can see it at any one of the 3 expressions.

Take a look at the Big Dipper from the side view, which doesn’t at all resemble a dipper, and in fact the distance between those stars is big-dipper side viewenormous in terms of light years apart. Yet when we view them from our earthly perspective, and that is all it is – a perspective, (not right, not wrong, just is) projected on a two dimensional back drop of the dark sky, it is easy to “see” a dipper.

In terms of behaviors in our selves and our children, what we are really seeing are neural patterns firing often as habitual reactionary expressions of thought, word and actions on an unconscious level. For most of the time, this means we exhibit very little control, choice or free will as we would like to think. We must be willing to stop, look and listen not only every time we cross the street, but with every thought, word or action we take and ask, “will this thought, word or action serve me as I really want to be?”.

So how do we un-see our children’s negative behaviors? Bryan has a simple answer, look past the anger/behavior and see the fear. The judgement we place on the behavior is just one perspective – mostly tradition, culture and upbringing – like looking at the Big Dipper which isn’t really there. In other words, our paradigm. Oh, there’s something there of course. Just different. We have to see “past” things, or to be more accurate, we have to “look at” things mindfully, just as they are, non-judgementally with present moment awareness both at our own behaviors, thoughts and words and of our children’s. Dr. Daniel Siegel likes to say, “what you can look at disappears”. What disappears is the perspective, judgement, conclusion, feeling states such as fear etc. or other reaction you might experience. What you are left with the the ability to simple “respond” based on what works, might work, or any other new or novel approach that would not be considered in a typical habit reaction that allows us no time to intercede due to the speed of neural connections.

IMG_04231Why is this so important? Because as Bryan puts it…
“the way in which we parent stems from our paradigm. It is dominated by traditional thought at every level, engrained into our unconscious, our psyche, essentially defining who we are and how we relate. Go to a grocery store and ask your child to yell at you or mis-behave in some way. Some of you may not have to ask! And then rather than smacking the child, shaming, or yelling back, stop and breathe. Calm your inner self and observe those around you, feel their energy. You will be shocked by the negativity that is generated from the traditional paradigm. They don’t know you yet they will judge you harshly. This intensity of negativity permeates our society and our relationships. There is love here, but often we have to work to find it.”

What is the #1 thing parents can do today?

What is the #1 thing parents can do today, so their kids grow up to be happy, well-adjusted adults? ... This is a great question yet at the same time IMG_04231it is one that requires a very different answer. The answer to what is the #1 thing parents can do today, so their kids grow up to be happy, well-adjusted adults, is to stop trying to “do anything” so your child will be a happy, well-adjusted adult! The renowned philosopher and physician, Deepak Chopra informs us that, “We cannot prevent the future from happening, but we can influence the future from the present.”

In other words, stop trying to do anything so your child will be a certain way in the future but rather focusing on being patient, understanding, love-full, relationship focused, attuned, and nurturing in the present because those are the seeds that are sewn for tomorrow’s harvest. See your child today, in this moment only. Love in this moment only and do not let fears of the future dictate how you should interact with your child today.

How do I restore relationship with My Child?

QHow do I restore relationship with my 19 year old son no longer living in the home?”

AIt seems challenging to think of rebuilding a lost relationship, especially with ones child. We fail to remember that they are in fact, our child. For a number of years all of the security, nurturing and guidance known was derived from the parents. After spending that much time together you have literally become a part of one another. In this manner the relationship is never truly lost, the pathway always remains. Unfortunately, like an unused back country road it has become grown over and littered with breaks and cracks. Repair must start at the most basic level or simply slowing down and making the time to reach out with a simple phone call, kind gesture, or word of apology. We are constantly on the go. When we are not working we are cleaning, cooking, or engaged in some other activity. In between these things we ask how each other’s day has been, argue about the television channel, spend frivolous moments engaged in meaningless talk, and scold our children for their misbehaviors and laziness. Relationship starts with relating - as in, "Hey, I can relate to that!" In order to relate we must slow down and look at things from the other's perspective in order to truly relate. One good way is to think back to your own youth. If your growing up was anything like mine, compassion and relating should come easily.

Why Can’t I Change?

Q&A

Q: I have read your material, I have listened to your CDs and I have watched your videos. Yet, I still find myself parenting from the old traditional paradigm of power and authority rather than from love. Why is this so difficult?

A: This question is, in general an excellent one and stymies many parents. So consider this advice for us all. We don’t listen. And when we do listen we don’t really hear. And when we do hear, we don’t believe what we’re hearing. And when we do believe what we’re hearing we don’t practice it. Becoming mindful of this process, and where we get stuck, is the first step to breaking the cycle of “why not”.

So how do we change?

  1. We listen to the material.
  2. We hear the message as in… we understand, agree to move forward with, even if we don’t fully agree with the material – we work with the info, process it, ask questions, wrestle with it. Try to see the truth therein.
  3. We believe it, or we believe in it enough to be willing to try it out – to move ahead. We take a stand and say yes.
  4. We put it into practice. We try it out wholeheartedly as if our life depended on it, or at least our child’s life. And if all else fails, we fake it till we make it as they say.

The paradigm of love is not something to ‘believe in’. If that is the case for you, then you may be at the “don’t really hear” part. mom stressing end lying 350wWe don’t practice love because we ‘believe’ in it (although for some, that is a good start, but certainly not the end). Beliefs are often not practiced. We practice love because we feel it, because we realize we are it. Because when we look at our child, we see, we know, we feel the pain, the struggle, the heartbreak that they have experienced.

It is not a belief to be called upon in a moment of stressful behavior, although once again, it does help if we are notHeart New feeling it, to be able to take a moment, to step back, to breathe and to feel not only our own stress and pain in that moment – which for many of us may be the very first time we are “really feeling it”, but to be able to connect with our child’s pain (or spouses, or friend or parent). Once we connect and feel, love is no longer a belief – and it is no longer a choice, it just is. And that dear parent, is where the real work – and the fun – begins. We don’t choose love to change our child, we do it to change everything.

Only One Day to Celebrate Love? You Gotta Be Kidding!

Heart ValentineIt is funny, no actually sad, that we only have one day a year to celebrate love – Valentines Day. We have numerous days for celebrating war-ing events and for those lost in war – 4th of July, Memorial Day, Veteran’s Day, D-Day etc. There have probably been more people lost to lack of love than have ever been lost in war – and the casualties of war have been noted by many - the numbers are staggering. But to those lost to love, or rather lack of it, are hardly ever thought of. 50% of the children who age out of foster care for example end up in prison (last stat I read), and the lives of those of us who have lived with a conditional love that demands we live up to other’s expectations to get their “love” is no more true love than a treat given to a dog for a reward in training.

Pat O’Brien’s now famous prayer  for foster and adopted children "that you may love me the most when I deserve it the least, because that is when I need it the most” paves the way for a love like no other – unconditional – that love which we cannot earn, and that love which we cannot loose. Who among us loves their children like that, our precious spouses or for that matter even ourselves? We are all so often lost to love though in truth it may be closer to us than we are to ourselves.Sticker-Free-Red

So let’s use Valentine’s Day as a reminder, not to treasure love for a day, but to remind us that love is everyday – and we would do well to remember that – and hence celebrate it as one major day a year in case we have forgotten that it is that which makes our hearts beat and our breath flow in and out. As my friend Swami Beyondananda so famously said, “We are not here to earn God's love, we're here to spend it! So spend it wisely, spend it foolishly, but keep spending it and never stop.

Why Oxytocin Matters to You

Black-Man-Pointing-at-YouOxytocin is a naturally occurring hormone in the brain. It is a learned response from birth and most likely beginning in utero. When the infant is upset the parent soothes the infant thereby teaching the oxytocin response. In time we learn to have the response during simple interactions like making eye contact, simple touching, sharing a hug or a laugh. Though it is natural, it must be taught. Children and adults who've experienced a lot of early stress and trauma typically have not learned to release it effectively or sufficiently, thereby finding themselves not as easily calmed or excited about sustained relationship as they might otherwise be. In the media and in the press it is referred to as the "love hormone." Though this is true, it really doesn't speak to why it's important. As both a hormone and a neurotransmitter, Family-Happy-4-peopleoxytocin has an even more impressive moniker, it is "the anti-stress" hormone. It is the essential hormone that permits us to enjoy life, be healthy, thrive, connect, feel calm, be in relationship, smile in response to a smile, or not frown in response to a frown.

Honestly, I've become obsessed with it. I think about it every day. I've created awebsite dedicated to it entirely (www.oxytocincentral.com). You could even say that I am in love with it. When I talk about it I get butterflies in my tummy. I go to sleep thinking about it and wake up seeking it. Let me put it simply and succinctly - Oxytocin makes love and relationship possible. Oxytocin makes love and relationship possible. Oxytocin makes love and relationship possible. If you want to improve your relationship with your child you must...Click to read more

Parent: Heal Thyself

We have had some questions about "how to give proper attention to self" so to eliminate the drama of trying to get it from others. (See Facebook post Jan 12 2015).

Drama is what happens when I attempt to get the attention I need from others that I am unable to give to myself. Drama is what happens when my child tries to get the attention they need from others when they are unable to give it to themselves. How could we respond to this? How do you?

Here is a general response, but I will also try to share more specific articles soon that will offer more help:

  • We have a few articles on our free article page that can help, and this email is also a good start - ,
  • The essential message here is just like flying an airplane - put your oxygen mask on first so that you can be there - full strength, full vigor and vitality, to help your child. This
    I'm afraid you have what is known as "children"

    I'm afraid you have what is known as "children"

    will enable you to do the BEST job in parenting, and model a behavior to your child which encourages them to take really good care of themselves.

  • Elements of self care include: Oxytocin, Rest, Nutrition, Exercise or movement, entertainment, being/receiving affectionate kisses, hugs (good long ones are ideal, touching (all help build oxytocin) and making sure your family relationships reflect the values that you want your children to embody. You are your child's most precious possession of sorts. Keep it in great shape! Put yourself at the top of your priority list. Does this help?

The Practice of Parenting

Parenting is more than technique. It is really a skill set. And to do it well it must become a practice. The practice disposes us to allow something to take place. Take for example the gardener. The gardener does not actually grow anything. Gardeners practice certain skills that facilitate growth (or kill the growth). But growth itself is beyond the gardener's direct ability to control. Growth itself is up to the plant to make use of the elements needed.

There are other practices as well that predispose us to experience it that which we desire or seek, such as spiritual practice. The practice itself does not make things happen or guarantee any result. It is merely putting our best effort forward to allow the highest and grandest results. A fool with a tool is still a fool. Don't be fooled. All the parenting tools in the world won't give you the results you want. It is with wisdom and love that we proceed with our best effort of guidance - always intent on nurturing the relationship that will allow for the greatest and grandest result in the life of our child as they see it - not as we see it.

Our parenting practice should not add baggage to our children that would slow them down and add barriers that they will eventually need to discard, some with great effort. Our practice should allow them the freedom to live the life they choose. If we choose love and act with wisdom in our parenting practice, our children may choose the same route, and pass that legacy on to their families. Love and wisdom do not control, do not dominate but offer guidance that can be accepted or rejected without judgment. We would do well to offer the same gift to ourselves. Practice does not make perfect as is sometimes said. Although without practice, little is accomplished. So let our practice begin.

The Problem with Teens

The problem is that we usually go into raising teens with so much anxiety about their future that we actually forget about raising them in the present. There is no stage more important in all of development for securing a relationship with your child than in the teen years. Yet, most of us lose the relationship with our child during this time. Our anxiety and fears turn us into demanding, threatening, and controlling dictators rather than into the compassionate, understanding, and flexible guides that are needed, and oftentimes required. It's funny to think that if we really wanted to understand the essence of teen parenting all we really need to do is reflect back on our own needs during that stage and time. Not compare your child to you at that age but rather ask yourself, "When I was a teen what did I need most from my parents?"

Because society places so much emphasis on the teen years and due to the fact that it is the stage before adulthood, we typically enter it with all sorts of parental fears and hopes. It's the final stage before we unconsciously determine whether or not we have successfully taught our child everything they need to know about the world. Well guess what? We haven't. The very act of determining whether or not you have equipped your child with all the lessons he'll need throughout life is a distortion. In fact, the teen years is much like a college education, it's not till after you get the piece of paper that you are actually really going to learn.

I Cannot Control My Children’s Reactions

QWhat do I do if I offer time-in and my child reacts to it angrily and shouts no? What happens if the challenging behavior takes the form of pushing parents away, how do we achieve a time-in or other love based parenting approaches especially when children react so negatively?"

As always you do what you can, not what you can't. What do I do when my spouse has a meltdown and she doesn't want to be hugged, touched, talked to and just wants to be LEFT ALONE? I step back - even though I want to 'help', and say, "ok honey. I can do that. I will be here when you need or want me. I will be right here (wherever here is...). The key is - when you get a negative reaction, the underlying fear has been stimulated. That is a message not to be dismissed or judged. It is to be heeded, accepted and learned from. We don't punish fear, but try to calm the distress. We cannot control our children - a great illusion shattered - but we can influence them.