Tag: self-compassion

Getting your kids ready to leave

Getting your child to leave a fun activity can be difficult.  Whether it’s at the pool or playground or if they’ve just met a new friend, kids approach play full-on.  Getting them ready to go, especially if it is something that they are entirely engrossed in, can be hard.  But approaching it with their needs in mind first, vs yours, can allow them to leave in good spirits.  Leaving can even be transformed into a fun activity that they will get excited about.

1. Speak In Their Language

The number one way I hear parents at a playground try to get their kids to leave is with a warning like “OK, Sarah, 5 more minutes and then we are leaving!”.  If your child is under age 5 or 6, then minutes are foreign to them.  They essentially live in the present, and can’t imagine the future – it’s all about the here and now. My 5 year old still asks me how long a minute is, and even when I say – it’s counting from 1 to 60, she still doesn’t and won’t get it.  Try something more like “Three more slides and then we are going to go to the mall” or even “Before we go, I bet you can’t slide 3 times before I count to 20″.  This gives them something they can understand, and even get involved in and have fun with.  It is goal oriented and clear and most important visual.

2. Set Up Expectations

Prepare your child with the idea of leaving early. Kids don’t like to be surprised with the announcement “We’re leaving now.”  They need to have fair warning and be given a specific next step to prepare them for leaving.  When children play, they are fully immersed (body, mind and emotions) and so breaking them out of that state can be a struggle.  You may have to remind the child a few times about them leaving soon, but if you give them a goal or clear next step, then they will emerge from their present and then be prepared to move into yours.

3. Plant The Seed Of Where Your Are Going

I often start getting the process going by talking up some exciting or fun things about where we are going to next. This  gets my child to begin imagining themselves there and takes attention away from their current play just long enough to start to entice them to move on.  ”I wonder if they will have those yellow melons today at the grocery store?”.  This will start getting them to imagine themselves at the grocery store searching for those yellow melons.  It adds a purpose and answers the question, “Why are we going to leave?”.  It’s also a distraction away from the current fun activity.  A more immediate solution to leave really fast is something like “Who can do the silliest walk back to the car?”.  It’s a fun challenge, which kids love, and allows them to show their imagination and creativity, both of which they are brimming with.

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Teach Self-Compassion over Self-Esteem

Childhood development experts used to believe that if we taught our kids to have good self-esteem, they would grow up to be more self-confident and resilient.  The problem with that is that boosting self esteem means that you are actually teaching them to compare themself to others, often in a competitive way.  Competition in children is widely discouraged in many leading alternative school systems such as Waldorf and Montessori.  Competitive behaviour and even competitive sports among young children actually can harm self-esteem and makes having compassion or empathy for others more difficult.  When a child tries to be a “winner”, there are also “losers”, and having a child feel that they have “lost” is extremely damaging. Where self-compassion is a way of relating to your self — especially when times are tough — self-esteem is a measure of yourself against others. In order to keep self-esteem high, you have to convince yourself you are better (or the best), either by denying your faults and pains or by putting others down, and usually both.

Constantly offering praise to your children has also been shown to cause more fragile emotional states and narccism.  Rather than praising your child, you should think about praising (or evaluating) what they have done, not themselves.  Saying “you are a great artist!” when a child makes a nice looking bit of artwork leaves them open to having their own self criticized the next time a picture doesn’t work out as well.  Rather, the approach should be, “I really like the colours you used in that painting”.  This separates the person from the action.  Children need unconditional love, and a strong attachment bond to feel secure and be resilient.  Conversely, “punishing” your child by separating them also creates long lasting resentment and can cause them to pull away from you into adolescence (e.g. using timeouts, a mass media and often harmful technique that has numerous negative and long-lasting effects).

Kristin Neff is an associate professor at the University of Texas at Austin. She is involved in psychological research on self-compassion and wrote “Self-Compassion” (William Morrow, 2011), released this April. This field of research now has  psychologists finding that self-compassion may be the most important life skill, imparting resilience, courage, energy and creativity.

But how do you create children with strong self-compassion?

1) Be kind to yourself

Modelling and imitation is the most important way your children learn from you.  Self-compassion is hard, but if you can understand your own emotions and use this in a positive way, then your children follow your example (see Gordon Neufeld’s book “You are your child’s first teacher”).

2) Teach kids the truth about life

Show children that everthing doesn’t always work out. Avoid sugar-coating the truth, and help them dwell a little longer on situations which aren’t going their way. Don’t be in a rush to “fix” everything.  Sometimes, it’s best to just recognize and talk about the emotions they are experiencing, rather than solving their current dilemna (“I see you are very frustrated this morning.  That’s hard isn’t it?”).

3) Ease into self-compassion slowly

Help children become more mindful of their own emotions.  Talk about what they are feeling and why before looking ahead to what to do about it.  This will help them recognize why they feel the way they do, and will foster more resilience in the future.

4) Judge the behaviour, not the child

Separate the action from the individual.  Don’t tell your child that they are great when they do a somersault, since when they can’t do a cartwheel, they will take it personally.

5) Model future behaviour, don’t punish the past

Compassionate discipline means understanding and listening to the child first. Without empathizing, you won’t understand truly where your child is coming from.

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