“I feel so helpless.” This is something I’ve been hearing a lot from parents.
We can feel helpless within our own lives, our ability to control our children’s behavior. We can also feel helpless about world events, and what if any part we could play in alleviating suffering or injustice.
I am using today’s newsletter to share lots of resources that you may find helpful, both within your family and also regarding the wider world.
The path from feeling helpless, to feeling in control and as if you can contribute positively, comes down (in my opinion) to two words:
Recognizing that in our family, we are leaders, is a great first step in overcoming those feelings of helplessness.
I want to start this newsletter off with hugs. (And the request that perhaps you hydrate as you get ready to read… It’s a long one : )
And then, I’d like to ask you to take a deep breath – and consider the role that leadership skills play in creating a happy family, as well as in creating a world that is peaceful, joyful, and supportive of everyone.
You may know, I offer a weekly WTOO Book Club (click the following link to join, if you haven’t already: weturnedoutokay.com/bookclub).
We are reading my first book, Positive Discipline Ninja Tactics, and this week’s chapter happened to come along at the perfect time – the ninja tactic we learned teaches us to think of ourselves as leaders, within our family.
Parents as leaders.
We talked about how crucial that is – staying Calm within ourselves to cut down on our children’s temper tantrums and angry outbursts, for example – but nearly all the conversation in this week’s meeting was about how to overcome our feelings of helplessness about what’s going on in the wider world, with demonstrations, and rioting, and the incidents of racial injustice that sparked the demonstrations in the first place.
Every one of us in the book club shared deep vulnerabilities.
About how guilty we feel.
About how worried we are.
About what we fear.
We shared stories as well, about our sincere desire to do some good, and our worries that what we’re doing isn’t enough.
These range from:
– My fears about whether or not I’m “a Karen” (in other words, a white woman who is ignorant about her own privilege, whose every action shouts “me first”)
– One mom who snapped at her two-year-old daughter this week, for something that wasn’t the child’s fault
– Another mom who worries over her son’s choice of bedtime story – a current favorite is a violent Bible story, gifted to him in a “book of children’s Bible stories”
– And another mom, who had a small meltdown of her own earlier this week and made the children get ready for bed early, and without her
And here’s what I noticed: we came together as a group.
We recognized, there is no judgment because we all make mistakes.
We supported each other in our vulnerabilities, choosing to banish any feelings of shame and instead uphold that vulnerability as a gateway to learning.
Recognizing that the only way we can learn to do better is by making mistakes, and learning from them.
Together, we helped each and every member feel supported and empowered.
THIS is what the best leaders do.
This is what our families and our kids need from us:
That they can trust us with their vulnerabilities.
That we won’t judge them for their mistakes.
That we’ll help them (in a positive way) learn from their mistakes.
That we will learn from our own mistakes.
It’s hard work, for sure.
But (and this even came up during our Book Club meeting) it is so much better than that feeling of helplessness.
Many parents remarked that, once they started on this path, their children’s behavior got better.
Some even shared that they have been seeing not just fewer temper tantrums, but more prosocial behavior in their children.
In other words, kiddos rubbing their Mom’s back when she is feeling sad or worried.
Kids putting themselves in another’s shoes, seeing from somebody else’s perspective, even when they are very young – like two years old!
Starting from a place of empathy, and helping our kids understand “you can trust me” not to judge, or hurt, or punish. Helping them understand that we love them unconditionally, and we are here to help them learn from their mistakes. And smile and laugh with them. And recognize the joy of connection.
Supporting and empowering: it’s a mindset shift that may feel daunting, no question. But it’s a MILLION times better than the negative feelings and helplessness.
I am so grateful for the WTOO Book Club : )
Part of that support and empowerment from this wonderful group of parent-leaders was the sharing of some amazing resources!
I’m listing them all here, in no particular order, and in hopes that they’ll help you when you are feeling guilt, worry, or fear.
Author Todd Parr has written many books, beloved from even the youngest ages, that help children understand difficult concepts like race, feelings, and more. His Love that the World was especially praised in our meeting the other night.
All are Welcome by Alexandra Penfold is another great read for even very young children, to help talk about embracing and supporting everyone, regardless of their skin color.
Click here for a wonderful, fun and funny “parents behavior chart” – a printable that you can use, to help you remember to do the most important things (like “hugging your child for no reason”).
Theresa Thorn, one half of the awesome mom duo behind the One Bad Mother Podcast, has written It Feels Good to Be Yourself: A Book about Gender Identity, to help young children understand all the wonderful ways there are for human beings to exist in the world.
I got to interview Theresa and her One Bad Mother cohost, Biz Ellis, to talk about not just gender identity but how to keep going ourselves, even when the going gets tough. Click the following link to listen:
For kids ages four and up, the book Something Happened in Our Town tells a fictional story of a shooting incident of racial injustice, in a way kids can understand.
According to the “about the authors” section of the American Psychological Association page (where the book is listed for sale – as of this writing it’s out of stock in Amazon, and Barnes & Noble), the authors “worked together for more than two decades as Emory University School of Medicine faculty members serving children and families in Atlanta. All three psychologists have been involved in community advocacy efforts focused on children’s behavioral health and social justice.”
A lot of what I’ve been working toward is trying to understand the worldview of others, people who have not enjoyed the same level of privilege that I have, and do.
Two of the best resources I’ve found in accomplishing this:
The memoir Real American, by Julie Lythcott-Haims. I kept hugging this book to my chest as I read because I loved it sooo much.
The podcast Minority Korner, hosted by James Arthur; his most recent episode is especially good, with an analysis of the George Floyd murder and much else. (Please note, this is not for kids, there’s swearing and adult concepts discussed.)
Finally, also in my quest to support good, kind people of every color, gender, and creed (and understand and overcome my own biases) I created the following page:
The page features lots more resources, including:
- A post on “5 ways to talk to your kids about racism”
- The book that I return to again and again in my quest to see what is actually in front of me, instead of what I “think” I am seeing
- A delightful clip from Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood, in which Mr. Rogers and his friend, Officer Clemmons, cool off on a hot day, together in the same swimming pool
Remember: you are not alone!
I want to be helpful to you however I can.
In addition to these resources here:
– next week I am offering a live training on “how to change bad behavior and raise a good, kind child,” so stay tuned for details on that
– you can join the WTOO Book Club, just for the cost of the book (and if that’s too steep, you can just let me know and I’ll get you a free PDF of Positive Discipline Ninja Tactics)
– you can work with me closely in my private coaching practice for parents; this is where I help in overcoming the struggles of raising young children, helping parents feel happy inside and truly enjoy family time
For many weeks now, I’ve signed off on these newsletters by saying “we will get through this together,” and I feel like today, this is even more true.
We need each other, we need the love that comes with positive connections and our community.
So this time as I sign off, say it with me:
“We will get through this together!”
What’s up on the podcast this week:
I ask the question “how are you doing?” and share 3 ways you can feel better if you’re struggling:
What’s up in the Ninja Parenting Community this week:
We address concerns about one sibling hitting another, and also when your child asks the same question again… and again… and again… In this week’s NPC Live Members-Only Call:
(If you’re not a member of NPC, but you’d like to become one, click the following link: weturnedoutokay.com/joinNPC )
If you’re enjoying this Parenting Newsletter, click here so you can sign up to receive it in your inbox, or forward it to a friend who needs a parenting boost today.