Flexibility

There is nothing more frustrating and exhausting than a child who is inflexible. I have a four-year old. I know we can all have our moments of inflexibility, but preschoolers can take it to a whole new level of insanity and make life extra hard. Consider yourself lucky if you only had to deal with the terrible twos or the tantrum threes.

When behaviors continue past a certain point you wonder what in the world is going on. Fear takes over and you decide its finally time to get some professional help. Once you have a better understanding of your child’s lagging skills you can more confidently make a plan and pray the craziness will soon come to an end.

The kids definition of flexible in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary is “possible or easy to bend” or “easily changed.” When you have a strong-willed child every interaction can feel impossible because the child completely refuses to bend. I wish I knew what it was like to easily switch from one activity to another with him, but transitions are hard every single time.

Something drastic finally needed to be done, so I decided no more outings. Every outing ended in a meltdown, which was his way of telling me the world was too big right now, I just needed to pay attention and meet him where he was at. When I stopped putting him in the same situations that kept triggering meltdowns I could see his body start to calm after a few days. He began to enjoy the safety of home as he had more time to relax and less reason to get upset. Surprisingly he also started to initiate play with us and even alone, which was a new skill for him. It’s amazing how fast the brain can change and grow when it is not always recovering from a state of stress.

After a full week of practicing strategies at home to help teach him how to be more flexible and seeing such great progress, I was ready to attempt to take him out in the world again. I decided on a quick run to Target. There was nothing important on my list so I was ready to walk out if I needed to. I told him my expectations from the start and he was warned that we would leave if there was a problem.

Right away he noticed the colorful candies on display. Some shiny red packages caught his eye and he said he wanted to look at them. As I walked on by I told him we would come back and look at those in a little bit. He was too tempted by the shiny packages and slowly walked away from me and towards the display. I motioned with my finger for him to come back and surprisingly he did. I was impressed that he actually came back and said, “Thank-you for being a listener.” He smiled and said, “You mean thank-you for being FLEXIBLE?” I just stopped and stared at him with big eyes. It was the first time he ever used the word flexible. I began to think everything was finally starting to sink in.

This whole week made me think about the children’s book Leo the Late Bloomer by Robert Kraus. The story is about a little lion who can’t seem to do all the things his friends are doing. The father can’t stop worrying about it, but the mother is not too concerned. Of course in his own sweet time he does bloom and learn to do everything his father feared he wouldn’t. Leo proclaims, “I made it!”

Every child will go through a challenge at some point in their life. It might be potty training, eating, sleeping, reading, writing, math, making friends, difficult behavior or something else. Parents don’t like watching their kids struggle, but it will likely be the struggle that will make them the amazing person they become. Be grateful for the struggle because it will help you learn and grow, even though it might be hard in the moment.

Remember that flowers bloom and close and bloom again. Blooming is a lifelong process, it’s not something that we ever arrive at, but something we keep working towards. My son had an encouraging week, but he still has a long way to go. Of course there will be more meltdowns and more struggles in the future. At the end of the story the little lion says, “I made it.” I don’t think we ever make it. We are all a work in progress. Our goal is to keep doing better and keep blooming.

If you are struggling with your child in any area don’t be afraid to reach out for help. Sometimes just having a better understanding of the problem can help you approach it from a place of love instead of a place of fear. This will make all the difference.

Do Better & Shine

Keep Moving Forward

I was sitting on the floor in my youngest son’s room. Little pieces of mismatched toys were scattered everywhere. Amid the clutter of toys he handed me a rock with three words on it. He asked me what it said and I read the words aloud to him, “Keep Moving Forward.” He then asked in his curious four-year old voice, “What happens if you don’t keep moving forward?” I thought about it for a quick second and said, “You get stuck.”

He proceeded to tell me about a cartoon he had watched where a girl was dribbling a soccer ball the wrong direction. I was intrigued by this example he immediately thought of and told him it sounded like the girl was not moving forward, she was moving backwards. He said, “Yes, she was.” I told him she was moving in the wrong direction and he agreed. I told him you don’t want to move backwards. He said, “No, you don’t.”

I thought to myself that is exactly what happens. You are feeling good and really focusing on doing your best. Then for some reason you become overwhelmed, and you don’t know which way to go or what to do next. It’s easy to get stuck in this place for a while until you can notice what is happening. If you are not careful and don’t notice your patterns, it is likely that you will continue to move backwards.

Amazing how my son just happened to pull that one little rock off his messy floor today at just the right time and ask me about it. A perfect little reminder for everyone to keep moving forward. Don’t get stuck. Try not to go backwards into old habits. This is a challenge and I know it is bound to happen. When it does, observe your patterns and get yourself back in the game. Don’t be the one dribbling the wrong direction, but if it happens it’s not the end of the world, all you have to do is turn yourself around and KEEP MOVING FORWARD.

~Do Better & Shine

Practice Stillness

It’s what everyone is looking for, yet sometimes it’s hard to slow down and find it. I am talking about complete stillness with nothing else going on in the background. When is the last time you were completely still? No music, no phone, no Youtube, just YOU!

If we want to practice stillness, one of our best teachers is our pets. I have a dog that can do this for hours a day. Can you imagine how relaxing that would be? She just finds a cozy spot, usually right in my bed, maybe even on my pillow and curls up. I don’t think she has any other thoughts rushing through her mind, she is just enjoying the quiet, warmth, and stillness. She is so good at taking deep breaths. Your dog can teach you how to do this too. All you have to do is be still and listen.

If you want to practice, wait until your dog is in a quiet restful state and go snuggle up and get close. Put your ear to your dog’s heart and listen. You will hear long, deep, slow breaths. Try to follow along. Be still, close your eyes and just breathe. Stay in this place for one minute, or as long as you like. Ahhh.

I know your days are busy, but whenever you have a moment, remember this feeling of being still and try to come back to it. Visualize yourself cozied up with your warm pup, remember the sound of your pups deep breaths and pretend you are back in this warm, soft place. As you imagine this picture in your mind take a long deep breath in and let that same long breath out.

This is such an amazing, full sensory experience that your mind should be able to recreate it in any moment . When life is feeling crazy and your body is craving some peace, no matter where you are, take your mind back to this experience and just breathe and be still. Ahhh.

Do Better & Shine

Martin Luther King Day Poem

I tried to teach my four-year old who Martin Luther King was today. I pulled up a video of King’s “I Have A Dream” speech. My son watched intently for a short while, not really understanding what it was about, but at the same time now having a picture in his head of this important person. He was obviously paying attention because when his Grandpa called a few minutes later he asked him, “Do you know Martin Luther King?”

I told my son we were going to write a poem together. He was up for the challenge, as he is quite the little thinker and likes to talk and come up with ideas. First, I asked him to think about the kids in his class at school and tell me how some kids might be different from him. His first response was, “Some people are small and some people are big.” I was surprised, at how quickly he understood what I was looking for.

Next, I asked him to tell me how all the kids are alike. He said, “We all need food.” We continued back and forth like this until we came up with a sweet little poem. I encourage you to try this and see what deep thinkers your kids can be. You could do it as a whole group or it could be something kids work on individually, depending on their age. When I asked my son if anyone has skin that is different than his, he said, “Some people have freckles.” When I asked him what color Martin Luther King’s skin was he said, “Grey.” He was correct. The video I showed him was in black and white. Even though my son still has a lot to learn about King and the importance of this National Holiday, it never hurts to start young. My son is aware of some differences in people, but I love how he really sees how we are all alike or equal. Here is his sweet poem…

Martin Luther King Day Poem

Some people are small and some are big.

We all need food.

Some people wear different outfits.

We all need clothing.

Some people are mean and some people are nice.

We all need love.

Some people celebrate different holidays.

We all need family.

Some people get hurt.

We all need to be taken care of.

Some people have freckles.

We all are beautiful.

~Do Better & Shine

Lizard Brain

I am thrilled that my youngest son has a teacher that specifically teaches classes in mindfulness. It is probably not practiced enough, but I am happy to know that it does exist. I wish I had more knowledge of exactly what is being taught, but for now I am going by what my four-year old tells me.

He has shown me different breaths he has learned to calm his body. His favorite is called the “Volcano Breath”. When I was doing Yoga at home the other day he heard the instructor say, “Lion’s Breath” and he told me he learned that breath in school. He said I was doing it wrong and showed me how to do it correctly, letting out a big lion roar. I was also surprised when he told me he had a “Lizard Brain”. He could not put into words what it meant, but when I told him how his “lizard brain” keeps him safe, he understood. He also told me his teacher had a lizard puppet.

So last night after two very long weeks of winter break, lots of traveling, and probably not enough sleep, I decided my youngest should take a bath before bed to be ready for school the next day. He was already being pretty bossy, so I should have known this might not go well. When it came time to wash hair he insisted on doing it himself. When he didn’t get his hair quite wet enough, I took it upon myself to pour a cup of water over his head when he wasn’t expecting it.

His “lizard brain” went into full effect! His first response is to fight! So he takes his hands and give me three big splashes, soaking my clothes. I was not happy, but I also did not react. I could feel myself going into “lizard brain” mode too, but after years of practice, I am finally able to recognize it and move on. His next response is to tell me he doesn’t love me. He knows exactly what to say to stab my heart and get revenge. At this point the option of washing his hair was over unless I was going to go into full on battle with him. He was mad. I was very frustrated. We both needed to calm down. I helped him out of the tub, but I was in no mood to help him with anything else.

He went downstairs and sat in his rocking chair wrapped up in blankets. I sat on my bed and took some deep breaths. Once I regained some composure and compassion, yet still damp from being splashed, I went into the fridge and brought him a slice of cake for a bedtime snack. He ate half the cake, too tired to be completely happy about it. I helped him get his pajamas on, he brushed his teeth and hopped straight into bed. I asked if I could snuggle with him and he said, “No, I hate you.” I said, “Maybe tomorrow.” I told him, just like I told my older kids when they were little, “I love you always and forever and no matter what.” He closed his eyes and went to sleep.

When I came into the kitchen this morning he was eating his cereal. I asked if I could sit down beside him. After thinking about it for a moment he said, “Yes.” I asked him if he still loved me today and he said, “Yes, I do.” We talked about what happened last night. I know he felt bad for splashing me and I told him that it wasn’t really him that splashed me, it was his “lizard brain.” Sometimes our emotions completely take over and our lizard gets out of his cage. Even though it is not a life or death situation, sometimes our brain does not take that into consideration and just goes right to fight or flight. Some kids are super sensitive and go here more easily than others.

Everyone has a “lizard brain”, we just need to learn to recognize it. I told my son we need to try to keep our lizard in its cage when we don’t really need it. A little water over our head is not the same as having to survive if we are drowning. If it comes out of the cage by mistake, we can practice our volcano breaths or our lion breaths to put it back where it belongs. We can snuggle up in our blanket and rock. We can get a good night’s sleep, or do whatever else helps calm our brain and body.

This takes years of practice. Many adults still don’t even recognize their lizard brain and why their lizard charged out of its cage in a particular moment. You are way ahead of the game learning this at age four. We will keep practicing. The more we practice the more we understand our emotions and are able to have a little more control over them. You did all the right things to get yourself back on track. Sometimes we just need to sleep on it too. Everything looks better in the morning!

~DO BETTER & Shine

Just Start

“The secret of getting ahead is getting started.” -Mark Twain

Why is it always so hard to just start doing something new? We can be so excited to start something new and then our fear takes over. Fear of what others might think of our crazy ideas, fear of failure, fear of not being good enough. You are not alone. Everyone has these thoughts.

We overthink, we procrastinate, we think of all the reasons it won’t work. Sometimes it’s good to be cautious, but the more you think about doing something different the more your brain tries to keep you safe by talking you out of it. Starting something new can be difficult. It sometimes means taking the road less traveled.

It takes work to learn new things. This is called growth and even if you fail, you will be a better person for it. You will learn from your mistakes. You will dust yourself off and try again. No matter how many times it takes, never give up on yourself. You have something special to share with this world. I can’t wait to see what you start in 2020!

~Do Better & Shine

Blog Intro

When I first decided to start this blog, it came out of the idea of developing curriculum for teachers. As I thought about what kind of curriculum sparked something inside of me, I decided that I wanted to create curriculum that allowed ALL students to feel successful. As a former special education teacher and a mom of three very different children- all with their own unique gifts and challenges, I wanted to create something that allowed all students to SHINE.

After lots of scribbling in notebooks and jotting down tidbits of thoughts here and there, I decided to start blogging publicly so someday my kids can gain some insight from my writing in a more organized fashion that might actually make some sense. Even though I try to teach them everyday, I know their brains will only take what they need today and learn the rest over time. My hope is that they will read this someday, be inspired by their own gifts and gain more insight into themselves and the world around them.

My soul was telling me to start. Just start even though I don’t know where this path will lead. I love to learn and I plan to share inspiration and ideas I discover on a daily basis, usually just within the chaos and challenges of family life. Writing helps me better understand and process my own world. I hope reading this helps you process yours a bit too. I’m sure this blog will evolve as I continue to learn and grow, but I’m excited to see where it takes me. Thanks for coming along for the ride!

~Do Better & Shine