Parenting and Empathic Fathers

5 Reminders for All Great Dads

Brent_and_Daddy
I believe most of us try every day to be the best father in the whole world. And that’s great. But we also have days where everything goes wrong. For exact those days I’ve written my personal list of reminders. Hope those five points can help you too!

  • Love your children unconditionally. Yes, there a plenty of moments where they gonna mess up; where they drive you insane, and where your only safe place is the locked bathroom to get at least five minutes peace. Tantrums, scream fits, broken things and even lies. It’s all part of the package. But, there are still the most magnificent and wonderful people on this planet. So, forgive, reconnect, give the love you would have hoped for when you were a kid and screwed up. Why did I put it here as Number 1? Because it’s my personal reminder and the most important thing to me when it comes to parenting and fatherhood.
  • Spend as much time as possible with your kids. Since I’m a father myself I can confirm this: Time flies. It’s such a precious time. And your children are only little once. Before you blink twice they’ve grown up and go their ways. You’ll still be part of their life (hopefully), but it’s nothing compared with the first years. So, get down onto the floor, or in the sandpit, or into the woods and play. When you join their games be present and follow your kids’ rules.
  • Have a just-before-bedtime-talk with your kid(s). It’s a win-win for my son and me. This way I learn about what’s going on inside him and he sees how I talk about emotions and feelings, that I take responsibility for them and reflect on my actions and words.
  • Connect with nature. Going to the park is a good start. But I’m talking about a real connection. Go wild. Off road. No phone signal (yes, that’s the hardest bit). Take a tent, a fire kettle and a few things to ‘survive’. You’ll discover how little you need. Collect wood, make a fire, respect all creatures and life out there. I always find that spending time with my kids in the woods awakes the most powerful feelings inside me. I slow down, I feel a strong bond to my children and I feel somehow home. And it doesn’t cost me anything.
  • Take time for yourself. You’ve heard right. TIME FOR YOURSELF! Take a day or a weekend (it helps when you talk and plan together with your partner) and just focus on your needs and wishes. I’m dreaming of a weekend where I just go for a long bike ride (cycling I mean). A tent, a sleeping bag and my bike. Then, in the evening, somewhere in the countryside, I will make a fire, roast some bread and veggies and have a beer… Sounds awesome to me. Then coming back to my family, feeling fully recharged and energised. Oh yes, we all need a break from time to time.

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Pre-Birth Tensions

birthing poolIt’s so important: the time prior to a birth. Families and couples prepare themselves for the big moment. Ideally everything should be in place and ready for the moment when the baby decides it’s time to enter this world.

Ideally, indeed that’s a good word. We’re expecting our third child. Basically at any time now. Due date was yesterday. And, so far I had the feeling everything is fine, and with the experience of two lovely home births in the past I felt somehow prepared and relaxed.

A few weeks ago we started with first preparations. My boys and I inflated the birthing pool for the first time, our lovely midwife came around to talk things through, my wife and I have been listening to birth relaxation CDs, and we created a backup plan for the whereabouts of our kids when birth takes place. We even raided the kitchen cupboard and made some very delicious energy balls for the time of birth and after.

So, all good then?! Well, I must admit things have turned slightly against us and I get that panicky feeling of being stressed. Today my wife followed her nest-building-instinct: we started clearing and cleaning the house to make it more cosy. Since then everything went downhill:

The boys – running around full of tension, anger and temper. The birthing pool – decided to have a hole. The idea of peace and quiet – gone.

I could scream. Honestly, I was so looking forward to this special pre-birth time, when things quiet down and tensions fall off. The exact opposite is happening here. For about an hour I tried to repair the birthing pool with a combination of blu tac, a bike repair patch, sellor tape and swearing. At the same time my heavily pregnant wife chased after our youngest, who was on a mission to either destroy things or leaving messes in corners we just had tidied. Both results, repairing the pool and calming down the little one, were less than successful.

I could scream again. Well, no, I just decide to take a short break. Really, it doesn’t help now to get worked up about things I can’t change or control. Yes, the boys are tense, no wonder. For weeks and months they have been waiting quite patiently for this time. It must have been like an endless journey for them. So, all their anxieties, joy and excitement is bubbling up now. The pool, well, it’s not ideal but it will be alright. Stop worrying, Torsten!

I tell you what I do now. I’ll go down and make a cake. A nice almond-coconut cake. The boys can help me and things will be alright. After we had the cake we can carry on in building our nest. Not long to go until our little one will be here. Let’s take a deep breath and carry on. I see you on the other side… in a few days… or hours…

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Parenting and Empathic Fathers

The Third Child: Yes, I’m Ready to Go

31 Wochen (4)‘When is the baby coming? Today? Now? I want the baby to come now!’ – These words are being said by my nearly 4-year-old every day. Every day for the last three months. You see, there is a little pressure and some expectations on us – the parents – or, to be more precise, on my wife. Come on, bring the baby on!

We’re expecting our third child this May. If everything goes by plan, birth should take place at home again, as with the other two. I feel ready for it. More or less.

Looking back I realise how little time we took to get prepared for this birth and the arrival of our baby. I remember the long evenings prior to our first birth. We sat on the sofa and chatted about everything baby related: how life will change, how to fold cloth nappies and we even practised the baby sling with a dolly inside (well, that was actually for me who needed a bit of help there… yes, I did manage dolly in the sling after twenty or so minutes). Everything we did or said was with the focus on baby or birth.

Things shifted slightly three years later when our second child came along. Yes, we were more exhausted and the evenings often ended with us going to bed the same time as our toddler, just to catch up. Still, we had great moments where my wife and I could sit down, reflect, relax, think, talk, laugh, cry and enjoy ourselves. With that kind of confidence the second birth went very smoothly and peacefully.

But life geared up again. Both our boys are wonderful and curious explorers. Most of the time anyway. Our days start normally around 6.30-ish in the morning and the eldest should be in bed around 8.30pm – but, hey ho, life is not like that and quite often the evening routine gets delayed. After we re-established a certain order and tidiness throughout the house we fall into bed as well. And in between I just finished writing my first book.
So, all fine by me. But, and here comes my point, we just noticed how little time there is for us. Not only time as a couple but also time to get prepared again.

Well, we already went through two home births, babymoon, sleepless nights, toddler tantrums & co., why should we need more preparation? Good question. For me it’s about celebrating that very special, beautiful and unique moment when a child enters the world. It doesn’t matter how often I’ve seen or experienced it before. This new life deserves the same attention and care I’ve given to my other two.

And, it’s about my wife. She, who went through the last 34 weeks, struggling with sickness, fatigue, heartburn and the general exhaustion pregnancy brings. She, who gets up every morning to be with our very active boys, seems to have quite endless energy and patience to deal with all the difficulties and joys parenting can bring.

So, taking that time to get ready again is also an important way to say ‘Thank you’ to her. To show respect and empathy. Yes, there is less time available now, but I believe in these small but important moments of kindness. For me to get up a little earlier in the morning to prepare her some breakfast and tea in bed; to let her nap in the afternoon while the boys and I are somewhere outdoors, or to give her a nice and relaxing belly massage (even when I’m terribly tired) before we go to sleep – I know it’s no big deal but it does help her.

Belly MassageWe also try to involve our children in the whole pre-birth celebrations. They love to use the natural belly massage oil (the more the better) and when the younger one can’t wait for his turn to massage, he then has a go at my belly (bliss). Or the other day they both helped me by inflating the birthing pool. Of course the hosepipe had to be tested and this way they found out that they can use it as a mega cool telephone…

Yes, time is tight. But it’s really up to us to make the best of it. Tonight we have planned something very special. It all happened quite spontaneously with the support of friends: My wife and I go out!! The eldest will stay with friends and the youngest with our adopted Granny. So, from around 5pm till tomorrow morning we’ll have time to ourselves!

The only plan we made is to go out for dinner – and then… let’s see. No plans, no pressure, no hurry. Just us. What a treat! Yes, we will talk about birth and the baby – of course! But we will also just enjoy ourselves – the couple, the lovers, the two of us. Recharging our emotional batteries for the weeks to come. I can’t wait. For both.

31 Wochen (1)


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Parenting and Empathic Fathers, Society

Why We Need Equal Support For Active Fathers

When I became a full time dad to my young sons, I felt very lucky. I was looking forward to doing this job, despite knowing how tired and exhausted my wife had often been when she was the main carer. I thrust myself into great outings, craft activities, even baking with my cake enthusiastic boys. I would say spending the last one and half years as a full time dad has been extremely rewarding and the changes I and others can see in me are only of a positive nature. However, there were times where I did ask myself whether I just had to live with the fact that my “colleagues” were now, almost exclusively women. Don’t get me wrong, I have made many wonderful female friends, but I also did miss male company here and there, especially being able to share my experiences with someone who was in the same boat.

file0001508134616Gideon Burrows, author of Men can do it too argues: “Today, to be a good dad should mean doing a fairer share of the baby work. Not just the high-profile nappy changes and the bedtime story reading, but an equal share of the slog and the career sacrifice mothers put up with.” The changes in UK paternity leave in 2011 were not met by a huge upheaval and change. Less than 1% of fathers take advantage of additional paternity leave of up to a total of 26 weeks. Reasons for this are complex. Some argue, they simply can’t afford to, others suggest they don’t want to opt out of the role of the man as the main breadwinner or because they are afraid their career might suffer, having lasting effects on their family’s financial situation. I know it is possible for many to reorganise their life to fit a family friendly career, although I do recognise this does require some support. New legislation provides that from April 2015 men and women can share parental leave in the first 12 months of their baby’s life, wanting to make it easier for new dads to take the time off.

I know there are other reasons fathers don’t take up the main care role. When talking to fathers as a coach or in my support workshops, I am confronted with fathers dismayed at how they feel treated by society as an at-home dad. We are doing ourselves a disservice – men, as well as women. The more men seen as full time carers, the more normal this would be and then fewer women would have to fight against the glass ceiling.

Our society is still very much expecting women to stay at home and regard men out and about with their children on a weekday as a novelty or worse as “cute”. Some just look at them with a mixture of pity and suspicion when dealing with the daily toddler struggles in a public domain or entering a playgroup. Yes, who would want this to happen to them? The more confident of men don’t blink an eyelid, while others just feel completely out of their comfort zone.

My wife struggled with suddenly being a mum; she went through a bout of postnatal depression and anxiety. However, there was support for her. She went to those lifesaving baby groups, where mums can sit and chat and by doing that offer the kind of counselling that is hard to come by – someone exactly in the same situation, struggling with the same issues, available regularly and at no cost. There is other support through the NHS, the La Leche League, the NCT etc. And this is brilliant, it’s a support cushion for a very demanding and extraordinary time in each woman’s life.

Equal parenting is the buzz word. No one would argue that the bond between father and child isn’t greatly enhanced by the father spending more time with his son or daughter. And by being more active around the house those household chores that seemed to have doubled since the birth, are more manageable when equally shared. But wait. What about the man’s new role? Is that just magically happening without any support necessary? It’s not exactly the same for men to go to these baby groups and feel the kind of support that women get. And yes, men suffer from postnatal depression too. However, professionals in this field are mostly women which is discomforting for some men.

Where is the emotional support in that big life changing time of a man? Suddenly it is not all so surprising that less men have the guts to commit themselves to caring for their children full time or at least equally share childcare. Where do men get the tools to become a brilliant father? Many men I talk to simply know they definitely don’t want to be like their own father. But how are they going to parent? Without a male role model to guide them, this isn’t such a comfortable place to be.

If we, as a whole society, want fathers to take an active role in raising their children, then we need to support them on their journey. Right now.

This article has been originally published by me in JUNO magazine, No 38, Winter issue 2014

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Creative Stuff, Parenting and Empathic Fathers

The Relaxed Parent Or How To Survive Cold Winter Days

ice ornamentDo you know those days when it’s never gets really light? The sun can’t make it through the thick soup of clouds and mist and you wonder all day whether it’s still early morning or already early evening. This and a disgusting combination of icy rain, hail or sleet. You crave for some energy- and Vitamin-D-giving sunlight and it doesn’t matter how many oranges, lemons or pineapples you eat, you feel just low. Well, that’s how life treated me last week.

I normally enjoy winter and the cold season. It’s great because I love watching the leaves turning yellow, red, orange and brown. It’s nice to get the woollen winter coat and my flat cap out again, and there is nothing more magical than seeing icy, glittery cob webs and frosty sparkle flowers on a winter’s morning. And, snow! Of course, snow. Well, the last time we had snow was in … nope, can’t remember. (Oh yes, we had half an inch for exactly three hours; then it melted… that was three weeks ago!)

So, the nice winter days are awesome. Bring them on, now. I wouldn’t mind. Then I could just grab the kids and we could spend all afternoon outside making snowmen or having snowball fights. But the other side of the cold season, the dark and miserable one, can go away. Because I’ve noticed how this darkness effects my children as well (yes, I have no idea how parents and children in Finland or Sweden survive their long winters).

Sometimes it can turn a bit funny, especially when my 3-year-old informs me at breakfast “Oh, it’s time for bed. Dark outside!”. But at other times they just pick up on the weather and become grumpy and miserable. So do I.

That bad mood expresses itself in tantrums (yep, that’s me included), boredom, arguments or the kids decide to burn their energy by strangling each other (gosh, did I say that?). Or they demand permanent entertainment, e.g. reading books (no, not only a couple of books, a dozen at least). Many parents might think ‘well, just turn the telly on. That’s what it’s for. Right?’ Nope. Wrong. Firstly we don’t have one (yes, you’ve heard right: we do not own a television. And yes, we are fine). And secondly I don’t wanna kill my kids’ creativity and my own sanity by turning them into fast-food-entertainment-junkies, who then believe they must buy every single commercialised product they would see on TV. Forget it.

So, in order to stay calm and relaxed about such grim winter days, I came up with a list of things you and your children can enjoy. Personally I printed my list and I keep it visible as my personal back-up plan when I feel the need for pulling a little joker from my sleeve.

Here we are:

-Time for rough-and-tumble. Especially over the winter months we burn far less energy and calories than in summer. So, turn your lounge into a roughhousing go-wild-area. Take cushions, pillows, mattresses, duvets, blankets and soft fluffy stuff to cover the floor and remove all sharp, hard or dangerous objects. Then invite your kids for a good and fair session of roughhousing. Make rules beforehand (e.g. “We don’t hurt each other” or “Stop means STOP!” and don’t overpower your kids. Let them ‘win’ or at least let them be in charge. This way their physical energy gets burned, while their glass of emotional needs will be filled up. Need more inspiration? I can warmly recommend Larry Cohen’s book ‘The Art of Roughhousing’. My boys love to roughhouse (and me, too. I always feel ten years younger after)

-Invent a new evening meal: Who cares for cookery books? Especially when your kids aren’t able to read yet. So, create something new in your kitchen by raiding the cupboard and fridge. See what your kids come up with and invent a brand new recipe. Let your children help. They can chop veggies or beat some eggs. As you don’t stick to any measurements, it really doesn’t matter whether it’s too sticky, runny or hard. Again, maybe agree on some rules (“Yes, only one teaspoon of salt.”) The result could be more than inspiring. It actually could be quite yummy. If it’s not edible (never happened here… ok, well, maybe once or twice), your kids might get hooked in trying it again. Wow, lessons for life.

– Make up a story. No, not from a book, it all starts with your own imagination. Make yourself comfortable on the sofa and snuggle up together with your children. You start telling a story by introducing a couple of characters and a scene of action. (Keep it simple. It could start like this: One beautiful morning a farmer called Joe opened the door to his barn. In the barn lived a cow, a horse, and some pigs…) Then at a crucial point (well, it doesn’t matter so much if there’s a crucial point, but hey ho let’s assume we need one: Joe opened the barn door and then he suddenly saw… Pause) ask one of your children to take over and to carry on with the story line. Depending on age and abilities, the story could be ‘passed on’ from one to another. This can go on for hours… or days. (Until Joe very sleepily and tired went to bed)

– Have a good sort-through: Gosh, how much stuff do we need actually? The answer is always the same: less than we think. But cleaning or decluttering aren’t fun. Well, you would think so. The thing is, you can make them fun. Yep, it doesn’t help much when you shout with a grumpy face “For goodness sake, clean your bedroom now or I’ll scream my head off.” Have you ever tried to turn the ugly cleaning into a little party? Get the vacuum cleaner out, turn the music up and invite your kids to a dance. The dishcloth becomes a magic towel and everyone home joins in the who-can-pick-up-the-most-books-and-toys-and-puts-them-away-in-three-minutes-race. Everyone is a winner. Make a pile of toys and things you and no-one else in your home need. Take the stuff to the charity shop or give it away.
After the cleaning party you settle on the sofa with a nice mug of tea or coffee. Awesome.

-Last one: No snow but frosty cold nights? Make an ice ornament. What you need is a plastic plate or an old Frisbee disk. Collect some natural objects (leaves, sticks, feathers) and let your kids arrange them on that plate or disk. Add some water and leave overnight. Next morning you’ll be surprised! Promised!

So, I hope I got you inspired. Give it a try and tell me what works for you. Share it here or on the facebook site. Need more input? Have a read here. And here.

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Guest Posts, Parenting and Empathic Fathers, Relationships

Sex And Parenting: Can The Two Of Them Get It On?

AnthonyIn my series about inspirational fathers, I would like to introduce to you Anthony Eldrigde-Rogers. Anthony lives with his partner and their three unschooled children in Italy and he’s interested in many, many exiting things: He has been involved in photography, film making, commercials production, pop videos, producing, directing….marketing PR, environmental projects….writing screenplays…then there was farming fruit and having a restaurant…to name but a few. He has always been interested in people, how people live and make sense of their lives. Now Anthony is working as a Recovery and Wellness Coach…. he trains coaches, and is writing a book (soon to be published), plus various plants for retreats and… you see, the list is long!

I so much love Anthony and his family’s blog which you can find here: www.unschoolingthekids.com

Now, I invite you to read Anthony’s post on sex and parenting and on how creative you can be to find the time for both. Enjoy!

Sex And Parenting: Can The Two Of Them Get It On?

First off a quick warning. I am going to mention s*x in this blog…..you have been warned.

Homeschooling, unschooling, home education. Whatever we call it usually means that children are around a lot. From dawn to dusk. I love it and so does my partner but…….it raises a challenge for the intimate part of our relationship. Before we had children….yes I can remember it well, we had freedom.

You know, get up late, stay in bed all day. Walk around naked all though the house and generally enjoy an open sensuous life.

We don’t do that anymore but not all has been lost. Now, apart from the intense adjustment that twins bring, having a baby is well a game changer. Post birth, about 12 month in and post breast feeding and before the next one came along there was a brief period where things slightly adjusted. But of course it has never been the same again.

I remember when they were all babies and we talked about schooling. Lurking in the back of my mind was the idea that when school started we might have the chance to kick back for a couple hours a day from time to time (us being self employed and all that) and revisit pre baby adult life.

That did work a bit until we stopped sending the kids to school! Then it collapsed.

But it matters. I believe that the adult carers, usually parents or a couple in an intimate relationship, should be the prime focus of family life as this is in the best interest of the children. Mum and Dad happy and singing off the same (ok, similar) hymn sheet means more harmony, balance and good feeling. Equals better for les enfants terrible.

If the wellbeing of the primary relationship is based in part on intimacy, sensuous engagement and good old in the sack lust then it needs to be kindled and kept burning in the grate of desire.
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In our house the windows of opportunity are slim and often ill timed. Sure we can get cracking on these things after the kids are asleep but in reality by 10pm I and my beloved are often basket cases. Can hardly string a word to a word to a word. And we long ago learnt to never, ever ever try to have a serious emotional conversation about anything important that we might disagree about after 4.00pm. Disaster. All the gremlins come out for a party.

So that leaves when? Er, early morning? Well our son has been getting up before us for several years now and even if we could set a ‘love’ alarm early enough can we get past the anxiety that he will get up a bit earlier and find us rolling around? So we lock the door right? True but you cannot put a lock on your psyche so a mere knock at the door might come at any time and he might have been standing there for a few minutes before hand!

And this is assuming we got past needing a coffee first thing (yup, I confess I have a major coffee habit first thing. And I know I am a wellness coach so should be on it and I am really). And then what about actually summoning up the actual desire? That can take a while. I am not a robot you know. Can’t just flick a switch and game on!

So late at night is a challenge and so is early am. That leaves the day. When the kids are around all day more or less. And as the girls schedule is different to our sons then only occasionally are they both out. It seems like once a decade.

We resorted some time ago to using hotels. When we just couldn’t find the space at home we would find a babysitter and go to a hotel. Not for the night necessarily. Sometimes we ended driving home at 12pm to relieve said baby sitter.

BED PICThose trips were and are gorgeous. Not only do we get the chance to slow down and chill and just have a bit of quiet but we get to have a conversation for as long as we want without getting interrupted! Yay! That’s adult gold.

So we plan more of them.

We work at it. We have to. Oxytocin rules. Intimacy makes for positive hormones which makes for closeness and good feeling. We adults need this as part of our natural health. We meet parents from time to time who seem to wear the “Oh we have never had a night alone in 12 years since the kids came” badge of honour. Usually, if we share that we do hotels they look righteously envious and irritated with us all at the same time.

But there is a deeper point here I want to end on.

Children learn by watching and sensing what adults actually do and they are masters of intuition. You can’t bullshit them. They glean and code how relationships work from the ones they see. If they see adults making time for each other. Committing to that, smiling, hand holding, being intimate. Looking like you do when you have had a heavenly hour or two just lying in bed and around with your lover. They feel it and know it for what it is. Love between two people in a relationship. If they don’t get it from us where will they get it from? A book? Er um well our son can’t read quite yet. Anyway you can’t read it into your life.

As I grew up I never realised until I was about 12 that adults actually touched each other affectionately. I was astounded! It made my adult to adult explorations rather difficult as it felt weird for a few years. Now I am affection nut. You name it I will hug it. I sometimes kiss things around the house ( to amuse the kids ) but actually quite enjoy it.

So intimacy requited matters. It binds and bonds and shows all without words but with behaviours and actions.

Anthony Eldridge-Rogers is a Recovery to Wellness Coach

He writes for www.unschoolingthekids.com as well as www.recoveryandwellnessblog.com


 

 

Parenting and Empathic Fathers, Society

Have Confident Kids Without (Over)Praising Them

praise
Imagine you just had good sex with your partner. You hopefully feel relaxed and peaceful now; you might try to keep the good atmosphere. Suddenly your partner rolls over to you, he or she sticks a gold star on your cheek and says “Well done. Good lad!” Yes, that would feel very odd. You laugh out loud or check your partner’s forehead (is she in a delirium?) Agreed, this example is quite unlikely to be true, but nevertheless it’s something we use every day when judging our children’s performances in school, during activities or at home.
Alfie Kohn writes in his book Unconditional Parenting (a very good read), that ‘in our culture’s workplaces, classrooms, and families, there are two basic strategies by which people with more power try to get  people with less power to obey. One way is to punish non-compliance. The other is to reward compliance.’That’s how it works, unfortunately. Bribery, punishment and rewards are ground pillars of our society. So no wonder that parents use them as well. How often do we hear phrases like ‘clean up your bedroom or you won’t watch TV’ or ‘if you do your homework now, then you’ll get a sticker’?

Research confirms how ineffective rewards are when it comes to improving the quality of someone’s work or learning. Children and adults alike are less successful at many tasks when they’re offered a reward for doing them.

So why on earth are we using rewards? Is it the way we were conditioned as children? Always dependent on praise and positive judgements from our parents, teachers, friends – and later on in life, partners and bosses. And what happens to us when we don’t get that praise? How do we feel then?

That’s exactly the issue. We focus on a job or task to finish and think ‘Hey, I really like what I  do here and it looks great’. Then we look for approval from someone. If then no-one says to us ‘Well done’ or ‘Good job !’, we might feel empty, less worth or even rejected. Well, that’s how I often felt when I didn’t get my daily dosage of praise.

The more people are rewarded for doing something, the more likely they are to lose interest in whatever they had to do to get the reward. It’s hard, sometimes I still fall into the trap of trying to please people in order to be praised.

‘Good Job/Well done can interfere with how well a job actually gets done. Researches keep finding that individuals who are praised for doing well at a creative task often stumble at the next task. Why? Partly because the praise creates pressure to keep up the good work that gets in the way of doing so. Partly because people’s interest in what they’re doing may have declined (because now the main goal is just to get more praise)’ (Kohn).

So what is it I want for my children? Do I want my sons to engage in reading because they’re curious about how a story continues or do I make them read because I promised them some chocolate as reward?

What alternatives can I use?

Well, being empathic and using our creativity can help you a lot:

  • When your child achieves something (let’s say he/she paints a picture you really like and you see how proud they are), try not to judge or praise. Instead describe what you see (‘Today you have used a lot of red and purple and there’s that huge rainbow’). But don’t overload your child. Just give something to your child, he/she can reflect about. This way they’ll appreciate their work even more because you have showed true interest
  • Your child does something ‘for you’ (clearing the table or doing the washing up). Respond with a ‘Thank you’ instead of praise. Or you could say ‘I saw you already cleared the table. This helped me finishing our evening chores and so we have more time for reading/playing together’. Do you see the difference? You’re stating a fact, rather than giving a judgement.
  • Ask your child whether she/he enjoyed a certain activity. Let’s stick with the drawing example: ‘I saw you drawing that big picture earlier on. Was that fun for you?’
  • Join in. Children (and not children only) feel appreciated when we show a real interest and join their activity. So, get the pencils and paper out and start drawing yourself.

‘As a result of praise, children become less able or willing to take pride in their own accomplishments – or to decide what is an accomplishment. In extreme cases, they turn into praise junkies who, even as adults, continue to rely on other people for validation (…) Rewards and punishments can never help someone to develop a commitment to a task or an action’ (Kohn).

praise 2But that’s exactly what I want for my kids: that they can show commitment, passion and curiosity. I want them to explore, to discover and to learn without the fear of failing or not succeeding. Yes, they will make mistakes and yes, they will learn from those. They don’t need my or anyone else’s judgements to get better at things. They need people’s authentic feedback, to help them review and change and try something else. I’ll guide and support them as good as I can, but in the interest of their self-esteem and their confidence, I choose not to (over)praise. I want them to become gentle and caring members of society, without being dependent of others’ approval or expectations.

Read further: Alfie Kohn Unconditional Parenting

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