Monday, January 28, 2013

Our Children & Their Successes/Failures (Not Mine!)

Lately, I have been struggling as a mom.  Stretched thin by having my husband out of town 2 weekends in a row and my approaching 3rd trimester, I haven't been presenting my best self.  And unfortunately, my best self is mostly shown in my public life rather than my private.  :(

I am a person who desperately wants peace in this world, to be a strong part of community building, and to reconcile with those around me.  Yet, I am most challenged in finding that peace within my home with my kids.  It is eating me up.

I realize too that my kids are also playing a role in this.  I swear we have still not recovered from our Christmas break as many of our routines and new activities only picked up last week.  My daughter seems to definitely thrive with routines.  Since we're still getting back into it, she has simple been up and down like a ping pong ball, so excitable and not shining in her 5 year old way.

Today was a much better day and it dawned on me that today I also experienced many more proud moments in my children.  I saw more improvement in them and felt more in control of our day.

But is that fair to them or even myself to claim a good day when my children make good choices?  Is this really going to benefit our mental health when this is how I gauge a good or bad day?  Perhaps I am putting too much pressure on my daughter and exasperating the situation.  If she has those days where she drives everyone crazy, maybe I shouldn't feel so responsible for her actions.  If she does well though, it's not my success but hers.  Certainly, I can feel proud of her.

I'm not sure I am making complete sense to any readers out there.  Reflecting on this tonight has helped me spiritually understand my recent struggles and to let go of my feelings of being a failure as a mom.  It is creating a new space for more peace to fill in and bring out my better self in my private life.

Do you connect with this identification of feeling like a success or failure based on the behaviors of your children?

With new found peace,

Jen Starks, Owner

Monday, January 21, 2013

18 Ways to Avoid Power Struggles

Power struggles create distance and hostility instead of closeness and trust. Distance and hostility create resentment, resistance, rebellion (or compliance with lowered self-confidence). Closeness and trust
create a safe learning environment. You have a positive influence only in an atmosphere of closeness
and trust where there is no fear of blame, shame or pain.

IT TAKES TWO TO CREATE A POWER STRUGGLE. I have never seen a power drunk child without a power drunk adult real close by. Adults need to remove themselves from the power struggle without winning or giving in. HOW?

The following suggestions teach children important life skills including self-discipline, responsibility, cooperation and problem-solving skills instead of "approval junkie" compliance or rebellion. They create a
win/win environment.

1. Create routines. Get children involved in the creation of routines (morning, chores, bedtime). Let them cut pictures from magazines (or take photos of them doing each task) to create a routine chart, which then becomes "the boss." (“What is next on our your routine

2. Make a "Wheel of Choice" together.  Draw a big circle and divide into wedges.  Brainstorm lots of solutions to problems. Let children draw or cut out pictures for each solution.  During
a conflict, invite children to pick something from the wheel that would solve their problem.

3. Put the problem on the family meeting agenda and let the kids brainstorm for a solution. 
Kids are more likely to cooperate when they are involved in the solutions.

4. Positive Time Out. Create a "nurturing" (not punitive) time out area with your children. Then
ask, "Would it help you to go to our time-out area?" If they say, "No," ask, "Would you like
me to go with you?" If they still refuse, model the value by saying, "Then I think I'll go." Follow-up (not always required) by helping children explore consequences through using the
following suggestion.

5. Ask what and how questions: What happened? How do you feel about what happened?
What ideas do you have to solve the problem? (This does not work at the time of conflict,
nor does it work unless you are truly curious about what your child has to say.)

6. Listen:  Stop talking and listen. Use reflective listening. Reflect back what you heard to see if
you are getting it. Use active listening. Try to understand not only what your child is saying,
but what she means. If you are right, the child will feel understood and will feel relief.

7. Decide what you will do. I will read a story after teeth are brushed. I will drive only when
seat belts are buckled. (I will pull over to the side of the road when children are fighting.)

8. Follow Through:  The key to this one and all of the following is KINDNESS AND FIRMNESS AT
THE SAME TIME. (Pull over to the side of the road without saying a word. Children learn
more from kind and firm actions than from words.)

9. Supervision, Distraction, and Redirection for Young Children. Children are often punished
for doing what they are developmentally programmed to explore. Tell children what they
can do instead of slapping hands for what they can't do.

10. Use ten words or less. One is best: Toys. Towels. Homework. (Sometimes these words need
to be repeated several times.) Avoid lectures.

11. Invite cooperation. Say, "I can't make you, but I really need your help."  (10 words)

12. No words: Use pantomime, charades, or notes. Take a child by the hand and gently take her
where she needs to be. As Rudolf Dreikurs used to say, "Shut your mouth and act."

13. Non-verbal signals. These should be planned in advance with the child. An empty plate
turned over at the dinner table as a reminder of chores that need to be completed before
dinner; a sheet over the television as a reminder that homework needs to be done first or
that things need to be picked up in the common areas of the house.

14. Limited choices: Do you want to do your homework before dinner or after dinner. Do you
want to hop like a bunny or slither like a snake while picking up your toys?

15. Put them in the same boat. When children fight, ask both to go to separate rooms or to the
same room until they can find a solution. An alternative is to put the problem on the agenda.
Don't try to figure out who started it, even if you think you know.

16. Use your sense of humor: Here comes the tickle monster to get little children who don't pick
up their toys. This creates closeness and trust and can be followed by one of the above.

17. Spend special time. Schedule regular time with each child. In addition, while tucking children
in bed, ask, "What was the saddest thing that happened today; and what was the happiest
thing that happened today? After listening to each, share your saddest and happiest times of
the day.

18. BONUS:  HUGS! HUGS! HUGS! A hug is often enough to change the behavior—theirs and
yours. Try a hug to create a connection before correction—then focus on solutions.

This handout comes from the Positive Discipline Association and can be accessed at:

Here's to more peaceful parenting!

Jen Starks, Owner 

Monday, January 7, 2013

A Doula's Guide to Preparing For Birth

Today we have a guest blogger, Leslee Boldman, writing her personal recommendations on how to prepare for childbirth. It applies to any birth setting, and I think you will find it especially helpful if it is your first birth. Leslee is a doula in Tallahassee, FL and you can learn more about her and her practice at Bold Birth Doula Services. Thanks Leslee!

Five Things that Should Be on Every Pregnant Woman’s To-Do List

There are a lot of things that go on the to-do list while you’re pregnant. Between the time you find out you're pregnant and the time you give birth, things slowly get crossed off the list one by one.  Here are five important things every pregnant woman should have on their to-do list in preparation for birth:

Read Books on Pregnancy and Childbirth
As with every other topic worth talking about, there are a million books on pregnancy and childbirth. If you’re looking for a book to read during pregnancy to follow with your baby’s growth, check out Simkin's "Pregnancy, Childbirth, and the Newborn" or Kitzinger’s “The Complete Book of Pregnancy and Childbirth.”  Three of my favorite books that together give a nice round view of childbirth options are Goer’s "Thinking Woman's Guide to a Better Birth," Gaskin’s "Ina May's Guide to Childbirth," and Harper’s "Gentle Birth Choices." Another book that I regularly refer to is “The Birth Partner;” it’s a good read for both you and your partner (and anyone else you’d like to be there when your baby is born) -- pack this one in your hospital bag as a quick reference.  

Sign up for Classes
There are so many types of classes available these days, look around until you find something that suits your envisioned birth.  This is an ideal time to solicit advice from friends and family who’ve had the birth experience you’re looking for.  Ask them about the classes they took (and care providers they used) to see what helped them prepare for the birth they wanted.  For instance, if you are interested in having a natural childbirth, talk with friends who had a natural childbirth to see what classes they took and what doctors/midwives they felt supported by during their birth experience.  If you will be breastfeeding, take a breastfeeding course to give yourself a good foundation.

Build a Support Team
A key to a successful, positive birth experience is to surround yourself with a great support team.  Make sure that everyone who will be there when your baby is born is on the same page as you and will fully support you every step of the way.  If you are worried about a particular relative, talk to them beforehand to let them know exactly how to best help you as part of your birth team.  Hiring a doula is a great idea, and I’m not just saying this because I am a birth doula -- I believe in the power of doula support so much that I knew I needed one on my birth team, too. A doula who has been trained in providing emotional and physical support can be invaluable to a laboring woman and her loved ones.  A common concern is that a doula would take the role of main support person but this isn’t true.  A doula is there for you and your support system during labor, standing alongside your partner and whoever else you’ve chosen to have with you during the big event.  

Write a Birth Plan
There are as many ways to write a birth plan as there are mamas-to-be.  I tend to think of birth plans in a different way from the ones you commonly find online.  I prefer to think of a birth plan as a preparation tool for the mama-to-be and her support team as opposed to a strict set of rules for your care providers to follow while you’re in labor.  As you work on your birth plan, you gather knowledge about all types of experiences with the goal of writing down information for your support team about the specific type of birth you hope to have.  It would benefit both you and your support team to also address how you would like to handle unexpected situations that may arise.  By doing this ahead of time, you will be better equipped to make decisions if you encounter an unforeseen obstacle while you are in labor.  

Pack the Hospital Bag
I received two great pieces of advice about packing for the hospital that I like to share with mamas-to-be that are planning for a hospital birth.  First, bring your own pillows as the hospital never seems to have enough to go around.  Think about how many pillows you need to stay comfortable during the last few weeks of your pregnancy and plan for the hospital to only provide two of that number.  Second, pack two separate hospital bags: one for labor and birth that comes in with you when you arrive at the hospital, and a second that can stay in the car until you settle in after your baby arrives that contains everything you need for the hospital stay.  

Enjoy this time before your baby arrives.  Spoiler alert: parenthood is awesome!

BIO: Leslee Boldman is a DONA certified doula, Co-President of the Tallahassee Doula Co-Op, and owner of Bold Birth Doula Services ( She has been a birth doula since 2005, serving women and their families through the birth process. Her favorite part of being a doula is witnessing the birth of a new family. She and her husband, Dan, started a family of their own in July 2010 with birth of their daughter Sarah, assisted in labor by fellow doula Lindsey Morrow.