Kids and chores: five tips for painless participation

Kids and chores: five tips to get them to pitch in painlessly. (No punishment - no reward!)

First, a baseline: we are not a punishment-reward family.

I have never issued a time-out, withheld a reward on account of "bad behavior", or grounded a teenager. On the flip side, I have never given my kids an allowance, or rewarded them with screen time, money, or other special prizes for pitching in around the house. I am not proposing that this is the best way to do things or because I think I deserve a peaceful parenting gold star, but to simply provide a starting point for what comes below below.

While I didn't always expect my kids to participate in the running of our house, I do today.

Without punishment; without rewards.

The truth is, they didn't always pitch in.

When they were small, my kids (like most kids) were eager to jump in and sweep, mop, cook, and hang laundry. But their enthusiasm gradually faded as they grew older. By the time they were 10 and 6 I began to notice the imbalance. Though they were big enough to help out, they were gradually moving away from their constant-helper-at-my-side role and slipping off to read and play instead of cook or clean.

The drudgery of doing the work alone was wearing on me, and we were frequently buried in unfolded laundry and dirty dishes as Pete or I hurriedly cooked dinner and wondered how we'd get it all done. I realized it was ridiculous that the adults were doing everything with two capable kids at home, and decided that I needed more participation from them. But I was unsure how it would unfold.

Was punishment and reward necessary for participation? I was hoping not, but I didn't know what to expect.

I believe that punishment-and-reward strategies are destined to backfire. When they play into our decisions, cost-benefit analyses are made, and decisions become based on either securing a reward or avoiding a punishment, rather than making good choices or doing the right thing. And I didn't want that to muddy the waters of my family and home. 

And so cautiously, I began a "participation without coercion" experiment to see if my kids would jump in and help. They did! I was elated. 

Mowing lawns, cooking meals, cleaning the house: they were eager to help and readily jumped in day after day, voluntarily doing their part with the day-to-day work of running a house. 

Kids and chores: five tips to get them to pitch in painlessly. (No punishment - no reward!)

 

Until they weren't.

Until it got old and they were more keen on books or play than mopping the floor.

If I'm being honest I would admit to feeling frustrated. (Very!) It seemed the whole experiment was a failure. Like the only way to ensure participation was with a power-over strategy, which appealed to me exactly not at all. Ack. This was not the outcome I was banking on. So I paused, regrouped, restrategized.

It took us a while to find a new groove, but finally we did.

And while it looked slightly more coercive/less peaceful than I originally envisioned, the long game has been a benefit for my kids far beyond my expectations.

The upshot? There is still no punishment; no reward. It is also not an opt-in/opt-out arrangement. Instead, the expectation that this is what we do. It takes a family to run a family. And everyone needs to do their part.

And just as buckling your seatbelt in the car is not optional, the same goes for pitching in. Boom. Done. 

No need for rainbow sprinkles or sparkly confetti. It's just everyone quietly doing their part.

No drama, no fuss.

Do they always love it? Of course not. Is there occasional drama? Sure. We're human. But are they almost always willing to pitch in and pull their weight? Absolutely. I feel the same about my work in this family. We might not be excited for the opportunity to scrub the toilet, but we're grateful for a clean toilet once it's done. 

Kids and chores: five tips to get them to pitch in painlessly. (No punishment - no reward!)

Last night, Sage (now 15) was in charge of dinner. He groaned as he set to work chopping onions mincing garlic, and steaming cauliflower. But then, ever so subtly, there was a palpable shift. He was bright, focused, cheerful. "Are you having fun?" I asked. "Yeah," he replied (in a "well, duh, of course I am " sort of tone), placing a pan of homemade meatballs in the oven. And he meant it. He was having fun.

He just needed a little nudge. Like we all do now and again. 

The rest of the night he was upbeat. Because: he made our dinner. And I believe that participating in the work of the family, knowing how capable you are, and (bonus!) getting some props for a delicious dinner feels good to almost everyone.

Kids and chores: five tips to get them to pitch in painlessly. (No punishment - no reward!)

It's been five years since my first tentative steps into punishment-and-reward-free participation in chores, and here is what I have learned along the way.

Participating in housework makes kids better citizens of our home.

"Can everyone please line their boots up where they belong in the mudroom? I just mopped in there and it's already a mess."

Hearing words like this uttered from my children's mouths never ceases to delight me. Participating in housekeeping raises their awareness of how easily things can spin out of control. If you wash the dishes each day, you are less likely to leave leftovers on your plate when you clear them for someone else to wash. Without participating, children (like anyone) will live in a more self-centered world view that doesn't benefit them or those they love.

It takes a family to run a family

This sentence is what I've been telling my kids for the past five years. The grown-ups can't do this alone. And more importantly, we shouldn't have to. When everyone pitches in it creates a more balanced family dynamic and models respect for every member of the team.

A job for everyone

Even the youngest child can help fold washcloths, put away silverware, or place napkins around the table. And when children help out they know that their contributions matter. They grow up knowing that the their work in the family has value. What a powerful lesson at any age! As my kids have gotten older their jobs have grown up with them. Instead of only setting the table they have moved into washing dishes after every meal and cooking for our family at least once a week (usually more). Sage once only mowed the lawn or shoveled snow, but today he also carries in the day's worth or firewood each morning. Etcetera.  

Self-reliance feels good 

I will be the first to admit that I haven't always nurtured self-reliance. I'm a softie, and when you ask for help I'm fairly sure to give it. But allowing my kids to be more self-reliant has been one of the best choices I have made, resulting in more capable, confident, independent kids. And when we stop to reflect that we're really raising future adults (versus present-day kids), that feels like the best choice I can make.

Kids and chores: five tips to get them to pitch in painlessly. (No punishment - no reward!)

Ready to get your kids to pitch in, but want to avoid punishment and reward? Here are five tips to get you there.

1. Start slow

Don't expect your kids to jump in and sweep floors, wash the laundry, and cook dinner every night just because you mentioned a desire for more participation. Begin with a single small daily task, then gradually add more over time. Expecting too much at once guarantees mutiny.

And reevaluate. As my kids have gotten older we've gradually gone from one small task per day to a full daily tasks list. We've added, but we've also subtracted. When a child is struggling with a task (because it's "gross", difficult, or boring, for example), switch things up. None of this is set in stone, and your flexibility will go miles toward making this easy for everyone.

2. Choose together

Rather than tell your kids what task you expect them to do each day, tell them you need everyone to pitch in, then let them decide how. Come up with a list (together) of all the work that needs doing. Then let them choose what they want to do most. While in the short-term this could result in a bit less benefit for you, in the long-run it's a win. Because your child will learn to participate with less resistance and more joy. This makes it easier on everyone going forward, and eases the flow of adding more responsibilities down the road.

3. Lower your standards

Let's be honest. Towels folded by a 4 year old will not look like towels folded by a 34 year old. The same applies to table settings, bed makings, and floor sweepings. Resist the urge to "fix" your child's work, and allow them to take pride in doing a job to the best of their abilities. If the messy towels freak you out every time you open the linen closet, consider it an opportunity to practice the art of allowing and your favorite deep breathing strategy. After they have done the task for a few of weeks, help them up their game by gently teaching them a few techniques. 

4. Raise the fun factor

Work ≠ drudgery. Do what it takes to make it fun for your everyone to participate. Crank some tunes, tell each other jokes, play air guitar with your mop. Planning something fun for after a big task is finished is another motivator. Reading a book after washing the dishes; going for a walk while the freshly mopped floors dry, that sort of thing. If this looks mildly like a reward, so be it. If we have a big housecleaning day, we often follow it with a homemade pizza night or a fun family outing. I don't set this up in a cause-and-effect context, but use it instead as encouragement. "Let's get this work done so that we can head out for a ski!" 

5. Remember the long game

Sometimes having kids help means a bit more work in the short term. Teaching them how to do a particular task, reminding them to complete their work, and breathing through your desire to have it done your way are all challenging in the moment. But the long game is that you are raising future adults who will notice when someone around them is carrying more than their share of the burden. And you're raising adults who land in their first apartment or house knowing how to cook, clean, take out the trash, and otherwise run a home. Keep this vision in mind when things get sticky along the way.

Kids and chores: five tips to get them to pitch in painlessly. (No punishment - no reward!)

Today I have kids who daily or weekly: wash the dishes, cook meals, do laundry, split and haul firewood, care for farm animals, and clean the house. At 11 and 15 they are nearly as strong (or stronger!) than me, and can carry their weight as well as I can.

They aren't "helping". They are participating. Because this is their home, too. And we all share the responsibility of keeping it humming along smoothly.

 

It's like I always said: it takes a family to run a family.

No punishment, no reward. Just the expectation that everyone will participate. Because, like buckling our seatbelts or chewing with our mouths closed, it's simply what we do.

Cue the confetti! (I'm kidding.)

Postcard 9: go with the flow

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The very first time I took my kids on a month-long road trip (when they were just seven and three), the theme I made up for our trip was "go with the flow". I wanted them to embark with open, flexible attitudes, ready to roll with the inevitable bumps in the road before us. And I wanted that attitude for myself as well. So when things didn't go according to plan during our four weeks away – when we had to stay up past bedtime to get to our next destination, when we don't tick all the things off of everyone's bucket list, when we'd get caught in our heads of how we thought something was going to unfold – we'd remind ourselves: just "go with the flow".

We've adopted that attitude on this trip as well. Flat tire? Go with the flow. Paid twice what you wanted to for dinner? Go with the flow. No bedsheets at that Air B&B? Go with the flow. We set an intention to move through the inevitable bumps in the journey with good humor and a cool head; to collect the lessons we need for a better tomorrow without getting tied up in what went amiss; and let the rest go.

My most recent "go with the flow" moment was last week, when I had an agenda but my kids really needed a day off. I wanted to hike, explore, set off down a rough and winding trail! But as anyone who has hiked with hungry, overtired, rain-soaked children (literally or figuratively), I knew the rational limits. We would take the day off. I would go with the flow.

And so while we arrived at Connemara National Park with my head full of ideas of the trails I wanted to explore, I respected their need for down time. Instead of hiking we set off by car to see the park. It was the end of a very full week and a break was in order. We took it. (But no, we didn't stay in our B&B like some may have preferred, because everyone adapts.)

Instead we drove some breathtaking loop drives, popped out of the car to explore a little here and there, then went out for dinner and a little live music, something we haven't managed much of since arriving in Ireland due to budgets and bedtimes.

Go with the flow.

Everyone adapts; and everyone's needs are met.

The next day hiking was on the agenda. And others would go with the flow if needed. Balance. Give and take. Family.

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I think as parents we often get caught in our own vision or ideals of how we're like things to unfold. We've pre-written a lot of stories in our heads through the years, haven't we? But when we put down those stories and instead reach for balance – when we set our parental compass on honoring everyone's needs (including our own) and everyone takes part in the give and take – it's a nicer journey for us all. Wherever that road may lead.

Will you join me today? In making "go with the flow" your mantra?

Together, we can relax into what is, find a path that suits us all, and see what lies beyond that next horizon. 

 

 

Just fifteen minutes

I reread this post before I shard it this morning. And though I wrote it just two years ago, so much has changed in that short time. It's been months since she has asked me to cook with her in her mud kitchen. She is growing up, little by little at an ever accelerating rate.

Life is shifting. Our kids are growing.

And though reading these words from just two years ago left a bittersweet pang in my heart, I'm grateful that I said yes. Then, certainly. And now as well. 

Today they want to walk to the creek. And while there might not be so much imaginative play, there will still be play.

And I'll be there to join in

Love,
Rachel

Just fifteen minutes. Balancing self-care and presence.

Just fifteen minutes. Balancing self-care and presence.

Just fifteen minutes. Balancing self-care and presence.

Just fifteen minutes. Balancing self-care and presence.

Lunch was finished, the dishes were done.

I had sent the kids outside to burn off their copious energy in the snow.

I poured myself some tea and settled in to a little undisturbed knitting time. A rare treat.

A few rows in the door opened.

"Mama, will you come outside and play with me?"

I sat, silent, mulling over her request.

Because I was relishing my "me time". My selfish time. My tea and my yarn.

A small part of me wanted to be there. For her.

For me.

While she still wanted to play with her mama in the snow.

That part of me that was content to put down my needles and go out to play with her.

Right now.

While she is still small, for one more day.

 

But then there was the selfish me that wanted to stay right where I was.

Cozy, inside, and alone.

I really wanted that.

Shamefully so.

And it was a dirty truth, like somehow taking care of me is less acceptable than caring for her.

The martyrdom of motherhood.

 

I was torn between two truths, two selfs.

The loving, giving, mother-self and the dark and greedy "me-first" self.

(The one who cooks their favorite meals and the one who hides the chocolate.)

But that's rubbish, I decided. Neither was bad; both were authentic.

Both were vital.

So first I would knit. Just a few more rows.

She could wait.

Then I'd give her fifteen minutes.

 

Because even if I wasn't feeling it I could play for fifteen minutes.

I would finish my tea and then go outside.

For just fifteen minutes.

After that I could come back in and knit.

If I wanted to. Which I was certain I would.

Just fifteen minutes. An easy commitment.

Surely I could muster that.

 

And so I savored my tea and when it was done I knitted up an extra row, stalling just a little.

The door opened.

"Are you coming, mama? Are you done with your tea?"

Her eyes were bright. She was waiting.

 

Just fifteen minutes.  I could do this.

Yes.

I was on my way.

 

Out, into the snow. The fresh air. The togetherness.

We cooked pine needles and bittersweet in her play kitchen.

I pushed her on the swing "all the way up to the sky".

We raced with the dog and then wandered down to the marsh and the creek.

We laughed. Held hands. Pushed each other down in the snow.

Connected.

At first I was going through the motions, thinking about my knitting and all the work that awaited me back inside. But soon I had lost track of time and lost myself in this pink sky and these blue eyes.

As I found joy in our play I never wondered if the fifteen minutes had passed so that I could go back inside.

Not once.

Immersed in the moment, I forgot completely about knitting, and tea, and time.

How long did we spend? An hour, maybe two. Even now I'm not sure.

We watched a coyote, an eagle pair, the sunset.

I watched her.

Growing taller before my eyes.

We crossed the creek at dusk, heading into the hills as the light faded.

And I marveled at how I had bought the best part of my day through a bargain with myself to give her fifteen minutes.

 

Do you have fifteen minutes to spare?

For a story, a walk, a game, a conversation – for connecting deeply with those you love.

What would you find in that sliver of time?

Presence.

Laughter.

Connection.

Peace.

Memories.

Time.

This child.

This day.

Just for choosing to be present, completely, with these precious ones we love.

Just fifteen minutes.

See where it takes you.

I'm certain you won't regret it.

And with that I'm off. I have a cup of tea and some knitting to attend to.

Because, yes. Caring for myself? That matters, too.

 

Originally posted in 2015.

 

Parent like someone is watching

Five words that could change everything: Parent like someone is watching. | Clean

You know the saying, "dance like nobody's watching"?

I have my own version.

Okay It's totally different.

But it's still worth remembering.

Mine conjurs an image that's a little less Woodstock and a little more Mr. Rogers.

It's one that I can lean on in my hardest days.

"Parent like someone is watching."

When things get real – like they so often do – just pretend you are not alone.

Simple, yes.

But more powerful than you might think.

Imagine that in the room with you is someone you respect.

Not anyone who would ever judge you, but someone who's attitude, opinion, and parenting is an inspiration.

Someone who helps you tap into your own patience and compassion.

Whether fictional or real, imagine them at the edge of the room.

Your sister. A friend. Or heck, Mr. Rogers himself.

Then parent like they're watching.

And watch as you find a hidden well of patience and kindness that you didn't even know was there.

Five words that could change everything: Parent like someone is watching. | Clean

Because here's the thing.

When I'm around like-minded friends or even strangers I can rock this.

I'm on my game.

I don't act like a bully or cave to constant distraction.

And when things go haywire I rise when I could dive.

Just knowing others are there gives me the strength I need to draw on.

I suppose that is community – in one form or another.

It's connection.

Support.

And yes, accountability.

To see ourselves more clearly through the eyes of another.

To feel like we are not alone.

 

The truth is, you are not alone.

We are all walking our own paths, but they are parallel.

We're each there doing our own work, just out of each other's line of sight.

And we have up days and down days.

Magical days and disasters.

We all struggle sometimes.

With patience.

Kindness.

Or presence.

Today I was briefly a jerk to my kids.

They both needed compassion and I was shorter and less tender than I could have been.

And then I realized that I might have acted differently if someone was watching.

Not because anyone else matters more than my child, but because I would have been more self-aware.

It was awakening.

Because my kids are more important than that.

And yours are, too.

Five words that could change everything: Parent like someone is watching. | Clean

 So today – wherever you are and whatever goes down – parent like someone is watching.

Someone you adore, respect, and love.

Someone who matters more than anything.

Parent like someone is watching.

Because someone is.

Yes. Of course.

Someone is.

Parent like your child is watching.

Because indeed. And of course.

They are.

 

Love,

Rachel

 

Originally posted in 2014.

Your superpower

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You have a superpower.

And every day you get a chance to use it.

It's the power to change the world.

By choosing play over pressure.

Peace over violence.

Kindness over power.

Compassion over neglect.

Forgiveness over blame.

Every. Single. Day.

As a parent you possess the power to change the world.

One day at a time,

one child at a time,

one interaction at a time.

And the world transforms.

But that does not mean you will be perfect.

You will falter.

You will yell.

You will curse.

You will break.

You will forget just for a moment how amazingly powerful you are and you will return to shame, anger, manipulation, and control.

It happens.

To all of us.

In our own way we each create own reasons for regret.

And then?

And then you have the chance to choose forgiveness again. This time for you.

Compassion. Understanding.

Second chances.

Unconditional love.

No one is perfect.

Not your partner, not your child, not your mother. And not you.

We're all stumbling along, learning as we go.

Doing our best.

We are all flawed.

It's part of the plan. It gives us good work to do with our time here on earth.

Allow yourself your imperfections.

Allow them to your child as well.

And yes, allow them even to that other mother you see on the street who's come undone and is yelling and pulling her little one roughly along.

She needs it most of all.

And then, remember your power.

Your superpower.

To shape the world, for good.

It takes courage to forge a new path.

To reach for peace when you were taught reach for power.

To reach for compassion when last time you faltered.

To reach for understanding even in frustration. Or exhaustion. Or anger.

You have the power to change the world. And also to change yourself.

And the harder that is for you, the more deeply I honor your work.

Onward, mama. Onward.

You carry the world in your arms.

It's your superpower.

Love,
Rachel

 

Originally posted in 2014.

Love big

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Hey, parents. Here's some unsolicited advice. (I know. Just what you wanted. But stick with me for a minute and I'll make it worth your while.) 

Enjoy you kids. Love them like mad. Accept them completely. Laugh until you can hardly breathe and have pillow fights with them and bake cookies at bedtime together. 

Do everything you can to connect with your kids right now.

Not when they're older or easier or when life is more fill-in-the-blank-here.

Do it today. Because today is all we've got. 

No, life won't ever be perfect, but when your foundation is that of mutual respect and appreciation it's hard to veer too far off course.

I wrote this last night and seriously within an hour there was drama over here. And yet. AND YET. With this solid base of We Truly Like Each Other to stand upon, the smoke soon cleared and everyone felt heard, honored, and held. 

No, liking your kids doesn't mean they won't drive you batty. They will. (And you – them.) But this baseline of respect and friendship helps you all come back to center in a hurry when things fall apart. Which they will. Often.

Love big.

Love big

And never apologize for being friends with your kids or for enjoying their company, you guys. Because that's like apologizing for having a beautiful harvest of tomatoes from your garden! ("Look at these beautiful vegetables we grew! I'm sorry.") 

Why waste time apologizing when you could be savoring that bounty?

Just love big, friends. That's all you need to do. Love. Big.

 

P.S. I'm pretty sure both sets of pictures above were taken approximately eight minutes apart. Seriously. It's like that.

Open-hearted parenting

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Do you long to become a more effective, joyful parent? One who both truly listens and is truly heard? These six simple steps can take you there. When undesirable behaviors occur:

1. Breathe
Your work as the adult is to stay centered and calm. Take a deep breath and stay quiet. Open your heart, and turn your attention toward your child.

2. Listen
Ask your child – as lovingly as you can – to explain the source of the conflict. Then truly listen to the answer. You might be surprised that many behaviors we think of as “naughty” are benign at their core. Let your child speak without interruption or correction.

3. See the need
At the heart of every behavior is a need. (Needs that are sometimes hard for adults to see.) Open up and look deeper than the behavior. Is your child expressing a need for fun, for exploration, or for learning? Or is their action driven by a feeling of fear, anger, embarrassment? Dig deeper and peel back the layers. Now we’re getting to the heart.

4. Validate
Validation shows your child that you listen and you care. Speak your understanding in simple words. (Example: “It makes you afraid to go to the doctor because you friend told you about her stitches and that was scary. It is scary to think of having stitches.”) Express empathy.

5. Speak your truth
Speak clearly and respectfully with your child about your needs without putting aside their needs or feelings. (“I understand that you wanted to feed the dog your hamburger. But I worked hard to cook our dinner and the dog has her own food. Please keep your food on your plate.”)

6. Find the yes
Inside of every “no” is a yes. ("No, you may not cut up library books, but here is an old magazine you can use instead." "Let's use our words instead of our hands to tell him to stop." "Let's give the dog a treat after we finish our own dinner.") As we transform our no's into yes's the sooner our children learn that everyone's needs can exist in harmony, and many frustrating behaviors will disappear.

By reaching for connection instead of correction the family dynamic transforms. Everyone benefits when there is less conflict and resistance; when there is more compassion and understanding.

Know that you won't always get it "right" but every effort makes an impact. Keep trying! There's not a perfect parent in all the world. 

I put the steps above in a handy little graphic below. Print it out and tape it on your fridge if you're inspired. 

Find more peaceful parenting tips for children and teens here:http://lusaorganics.typepad.com/clean/non-violent-parenting/

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Peaceful parenting tips for teens

Ten ways to peacefully parent your teenager | Clean. www.lusaorganics.typepad.com

When learning the ropes of parenting babies, toddlers, or young children advice abounds.

I feel fortunate enough to have stumbled into the attachment parenting and peaceful parenting communities when my kids were still small. It was from these wells of information that I was able to draw out ideas and strategies that worked for our family.

But what happens when our kids become teenagers?

Many of us may be left feeling like we need some new parenting tools. And – unfortunately – resources for gently parenting our teens is scarce.

The only words on parenting teenagers that regularially pop up in my social media feed read something like this:

"I'm your parent, not your friend. I will stalk you, flip out on you, lecture you, drive you insane, be your worst nightmare, and hunt you down when needed – because I love you."

And I do understand where this sentiment is coming from.

It's our inner mama bear, protecting our cubs the only way we know how. It's our instinct. We are here to keep our children safe, even when things get ugly. Even if we're protecting them from themselves.

I think they call that "tough love".

Ten ways to peacefully parent your teenager | Clean. www.lusaorganics.typepad.com

If so, let's call another option "gentle love".

My meme (if I made one) would read more like this:

"I am your parent and I am also your friend. I will listen to you, respect you, encourage you, empower you, accept you, and be your safe place in a confusing world. Because I love you. Unconditionally."

As we teeter on the brink of teendom over here I have been reflecting on what has changed since we began this journey some thirteen years ago. (And surprisingly, how very much has stayed the same.)

If anything I feel us circling back to the beginning once more.

Emotions are tender and riding close to the surface again, and I am reminded that my job is not to control my child's expression but control my reaction to it.

And also – importantly – to lead with consistent, unwavering, unconditional love.

Ten ways to peacefully parent your teenager | Clean. www.lusaorganics.typepad.com

Do you remember how you held space for your toddler, gently guiding them as the ventured out into the world for the first time? It turns out 13 and 3 have more in common than you might expect.

  • When your child was small you stayed close enough for them to know you were there, but not so close as to limit their opportunity to explore and learn.
  • When your child was small you gave them a confident, reassuring look when they pushed themselves, tackling new skills or facing their fears. That look said to your little one, "I believe in you and I'm right here. You've got this."
  • When your child was small you let them struggle and work to master a goal. You let them stumble and fall, then get up and try again. You let them succeed by the power of their own efforts.
  • When your child was small held them close when they were afraid and gave them space when they needed to go it alone.
  • When your child was small you let them know you were here for them – any hour of the day or night.

And at the same time you also knew that there would be days when s**t was going to get real.

You knew that your child was learning and growing and that her life was changing so quickly that she wouldn't always be able to hold it together.

You knew that she was sometimes overwhelmed by the world, by her smallness, and by the dizzying ride of growing up.

The teen years? They're like this, too. And then some.

Ten ways to peacefully parent your teenager | Clean. www.lusaorganics.typepad.com

And just like when she was small your child still needs you by her side – gently and lovingly guiding her through.

As I look ahead to the coming decade-plus of parenting teens before me, I wrote down this list.

Ten ideas to remind me that peaceful parenting has no expiration date.

Ten reminders to parent as lovingly, gently, and effectively as I can while my child navigates these muddy waters between young child and confident adult. 

Does every parenting strategy work for every family? Of course not. But this is my starting place as our teen years unfold.

If I re-write this post ten years from now there will certainly be points to add. But I can't imagine any of the ideas here being tossed aside.

Ten ways to peacefully parent your teenager | Clean. www.lusaorganics.typepad.com

I think if I asked my children what they needed and they could find the words, this is what they would say.

Ten Ways to Peacefully Parent your Teenager

Respect me.

How you speak to me today will become my inner voice tomorrow.

And as much as you need me to respect you (something I struggle with a lot these days), I need you to show me that I also deserve respect. Even when I screw up.

Because your respect of me translates into the self respect I will carry with me into adulthood.

Help me see that I am worthy of it.

See me as a person who deserves as much respect as you easily give adults.

And when I disrespect you, remind me of how I can do better. Remind me by showing me – by giving me – the respect I so deeply crave.

Empower me.

I need to make a real, meaningful contribution. Because I'm old enough to notice if my efforts don't matter and those feeling are reflected in my self-worth.

So give me work to do. Yes, I will grumble, but I'll stand taller when I see what I am capable of. And I'm capable of so much more than you may think.

Empower me also by handing over decisions to me. Decisions about my life, my future, my choices.

Help me find my power.

Just listen.

You have a lot you want to tell me. A lot you want me to understand.

But mostly I just need you to listen.

Listen without judgement to my fears, my feelings, my stories, and to the things I can't bring myself to say. Your presence tells me that you care and that you're here for me – always.

And when you listen to the everyday stuff I know you're also here to listen to the big, scary, hard-to-talk-about stuff.

Love me unconditionally.

There are times when I will act in a way that makes me seem unworthy of your love.

Love me anyway.

I need that message more than anything.

And if you seem like you want to spend time with me, all the better! Knowing that you love me and you like me would be a huge win right now. (Even if I don't tell you.)

Because right now I'm pushing limits in all directions. Stay clear on the truth that even when I screw up I am still worthy of your love. I need to know this now more than ever before.

Trust me.

Your trust in me is a strong and powerful message. When you show me trust I learn to trust myself. My inner voice. My heart.

That means I'll make good choices. Better choices. And I'll also gain confidence. (Which I very much need right now.)

Acknowledge how I've earned your trust whenever you can. I need to hear those words from you.

Ten ways to peacefully parent your teenager | Clean. www.lusaorganics.typepad.com

Connect when you could correct.

Yeah, I screwed up. (I bet you did when you were young, too.)

But when you punish me or shame me or put me down – when you focus only on how I messed up and let your down again – I only learn how to hide my mistakes from you. The next time I stumble I'll make sure you don't know.

The truth is, I don't need more correction right now. What I need more connection.

Validate my journey and help me see that I'm going to be okay. Hold this space with me. Make time for me. Laugh and talk and be with me.

I need you.

Tell me what I'm doing right.

My life is full of messages of what I'm doing wrong these days. From grades or friends to self-image and dating, I know well where I fall short.

Instead of focusing more on my flaws, I could use a little help with seeing my strengths right now.

I could really use the message that despite all the ways things are falling apart there are still places where I shine.

Help me see to see my own light.

Encourage me.

My dreams and yours won't look the same. They're not supposed to.

Even if you think my dreams or passions are impractical or foolish or crazy, feed my fire. Please.

Encourage me. The world provides enough discouragement without you adding to the mix.

I'm trying on adulthood and wondering where life can take me. I need you on my side, cheering me on.

Ten ways to peacefully parent your teenager | Clean. www.lusaorganics.typepad.com

Accept me.

Despite our differences, I need to know that you accept me. All of me. The way I dress, the people I like, the music I enjoy, my vision for the future – everything.

Being a teenager is hard enough without feeling like I'm being judged at home. Find reasons to love who I am, even when it's not what you were expecting.

Acceptance matters to me. So, so much.

Be my safe-place.

The world has enough bullies without me finding one at home.

I need our home to be a safe place.

So let me express my feelings – as big or uncomfortable as they may be. Let me be vulnerable, angry, afraid, and confused with you. Let me stumble and fall and get up again as you offer me your hand. Just like you did when I was small.

Be my safe place and my anchor in these stormy emotional seas.

  Ten ways to peacefully parent your teenager | Clean. www.lusaorganics.typepad.com

With these ten points to guide us we can stay close to our teens and be available for them during this time of their great unfolding.

It may be messy, it may be emotional, but they'll know they can count us us to keep loving them, liking them, and being the arms they can fall into when everything falls apart.

 : : :

You might also enjoy my More Peaceful Parenting series. While I wrote it for young children, I'm finding it still applies as we move into the teen years.

I'd love to hear what you would add to the list! Especially those who have already navigated the teen years and stayed deeply connected through it all.

  Ten ways to peacefully parent your teenager | Clean. www.lusaorganics.typepad.com

 

Originally published in 2015.

The news, our children, and saving the world

The way we raise our children. {Clean. The LuSa Organics Blog}

Once upon a time I was an NPR news junkie.

I'd listen in my car, at my desk, in the kitchen.

And then I had a baby.

And I kept listening.

And then my baby became a very bright, active, verbal toddler.

And I kept listening.

And then one day I turned on the radio as I so often did, with my two-year old in the room, quietly eating lunch at the table.

As I pushed the power button on the stereo one gruesome sentence from the war in Iraq hung in the air like black smoke around my child and me.

My finger quickly pushed the power button again, but that sentence remained. Hanging there.

I never turned the radio on again.

: : :

I realized in that moment that one important job I have as a parent is to protect my child from things too big and too dark for him to comprehend.

I would not invite those stories into his dreams.

And there was an unexpected benefit that came with this change. I was better for turning off the loop of bad news that I had been marinading in for so many years.

The shadows I had invited into my own world also lessened when I stopped steeping in so much tragic news. My worrying reduced. My anxiety reduced. My light shined a bit brighter.

I saw fewer monsters in shadowy corners than I had in all of my life.

Because you see, I am extremely empathetic and sensitive. (Some might say "to a fault" but I won't go that far. Because often our curse is also our gift.) Hearing bad news can send me into a spiral I can't lift out of for hours or even days. It did then, it does now.

I am not desensitized to the news. I never will be. I never could be.

In fact, I don't want to be. But that means I must be mindful to what I invite in.

And while I have since organized my life to seek my news mindfully, sometimes the tragic stories slip in that I just can't shake off.

It's been that way this week.

The news crept into my life and I laid awake at night, worrying and imagining the incomprehensible horror and pain that seems to touch every corner of the world.

Sometimes it seems like it's everywhere, doesn't it?

And after spending two days mired once more in anxiety and sadness, I chose to snap myself out of it. Because fixating on what is wrong doesn't help anyone.

So I shifted my focus.

Because there is goodness all around us.

(And yes, there are terrible stories too.)

But I believe the good exponentially outweighs the bad. And I will focus on all that is right and good. Around the world and right here in my own backyard.

The mist in the hills, the flowers on the roadsides, the food on our table.

And the children.

These children.

The ones entrusted to me to love and nurture and guide.

Because I can not end the suffering that exists in this world. I can not save everyone.

But as a person who loves a child I do have the power to nurture children who become healthy, kind, gentle, patient, strong adults. 

I can do that. And that's the most measurable positive change for this world that I could ever imagine creating.

 : : :

So today I am recommitting myself to being the parent I want to be.

The healthy, kind, gentle, patient, strong adult that I am.

While I can not end all suffering, I do have the power to nurture goodness in the world. 

"There is no single effort more radical in its potential for saving the world than a transformation of the way we raise our children." ~ Marianne Williamson

Yes. I can do that. And so can you.

Starting now.

Want more parenting inspiration? My "More Peaceful Parenting" series is here.

 

Originally published in 2013.

 

These five words could change everything

Five words that could change everything: Parent like someone is watching. | Clean

You know the saying, "dance like nobody's watching"?

I have my own version.

Okay It's totally different.

But it's still worth remembering.

Mine conjurs an image that's a little less Woodstock and a little more Mr. Rogers.

It's one that I can lean on in my hardest days.

"Parent like someone is watching."

When things get real – like they so often do – just pretend you are not alone.

Simple, yes.

But more powerful than you might think.

Imagine that in the room with you is someone you respect.

Not anyone who would ever judge you, but someone who's attitude, opinion, and parenting is an inspiration.

Someone who helps you tap into your own patience and compassion.

Whether fictional or real, imagine them at the edge of the room.

Your sister. A friend. Or heck, Mr. Rogers himself.

Then parent like they're watching.

And watch as you find a hidden well of patience and kindness that you didn't even know was there.

Five words that could change everything: Parent like someone is watching. | Clean

Because here's the thing.

When I'm around like-minded friends or even strangers I can rock this.

I'm on my game.

I don't act like a bully or cave to constant distraction.

And when things go haywire I rise when I could dive.

Just knowing others are there gives me the strength I need to draw on.

I suppose that is community – in one form or another.

It's connection.

Support.

And yes, accountability.

To see ourselves more clearly through the eyes of another.

To feel like we are not alone.

 

The truth is, you are not alone.

We are all walking our own paths, but they are parallel.

We're each there doing our own work, just out of each other's line of sight.

And we have up days and down days.

Magical days and disasters.

We all struggle sometimes.

With patience.

Kindness.

Or presence.

Today I was briefly a jerk to my kids.

They both needed compassion and I was shorter and less tender than I could have been.

And then I realized that I might have acted differently if someone was watching.

Not because anyone else matters more than my child, but because I would have been more self-aware.

It was awakening.

Because my kids are more important than that.

And yours are, too.

Five words that could change everything: Parent like someone is watching. | Clean

 So today – wherever you are and whatever goes down – parent like someone is watching.

Someone you adore, respect, and love.

Someone who matters more than anything.

Parent like someone is watching.

Because someone is.

Yes. Of course.

Someone is.

Parent like your child is watching.

Because indeed. And of course.

They are.

 

Love,

Rachel

 

Originally published in 2014.