Eyes Wide Open Parenting

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I would like to introduce you to Emi and Neumann.  Neumann is the first mother-raised infant Japanese Macaque at the Blank Park Zoo in Des Moines Iowa in over 20 years.

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My family first encountered these two on family vacation in early July.  You couldn’t help but notice that Emi was extremely protective of Neumann, she basically controlled his every move.

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We watched them for a good thirty minutes and we did not see her let go of him once. Hard to tell, but he doesn’t look very happy to me, what do you think?

Then I overheard a high school – aged girl say, “I bet she is exhausted at the end of the day, and I thought “yes, yes I am.”  You see, I have three kiddos myself and have realized that it is extremely easy to fall into the overprotective or even the dreaded overbearing parent just like Emi.

As we watched them in their habitat, we could see other monkeys that wanted to interact with Neumann but couldn’t because of Emi’s protectiveness.  It is so eye-opening when you start to think of this from the human perspective.  How many times am I hesitant to let my kids go to someone else’s house because I don’t know everything about their parents?  How many times do I not let my son do certain things because I don’t think that it is “safe” for him?  Am I holding them by the arm, not letting them experience life?  Where is the line between keeping our children safe and letting them problem solve on their own?

The term “helicopter parent” is thrown around a lot now. This parenting style is basically hovering over your children so that they have a hard time making their own decisions or making it in the world outside of your house.  When I was thinking about this blog, I came across this article from the Huffington Post that talks about what this parenting style does to your children. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/5-ways-to-tell-you-were-raised-by-helicopter-parents_us_5609de6ee4b0dd850308e260

Sometimes I know I do things for my children because it is easier and faster for me just to do it myself.  My sister-in-law has a saying, “I will not do anything for my child that they can do themselves.”  This means picking out their clothes for church, filling their glass of water at the dinner table, tying their shoes for the hundredth time, even though you are already five minutes late.  These are just small things, right? Plus, I am only going to do this while they are still young.  This is what I tell myself. How about you? What are you telling yourself?  Soon, the little things become BIG things that they really should be deciding for themselves.   As parents we need to have our eyes wide open and notice the longer term impact of our choices and how we parent.

So, this is what I have started to do.  First of all, I am trying to be more aware of the things I do for them that they could be doing on their own.  They can sort, fold, and put away their own laundry. They clean up after supper, and load the dishwasher. I know that in the past I do these things on my own because I don’t want to hear them complain or fight another battle before bed.  But the time to start the battle is now, not when they are 17 and soon getting ready to leave the house.  Second, I let them make their own choice and walk away.  Yes, you read that right, walk away.  When your son wants to take the training wheels off his sister’s bike to teach her how to ride without them, smile, give encouragement and walk away. Lots of life lessons are going to be learned.  Be there for them to patch up the skinned knee, wipe away the tears, and give hugs. You are still their parent after all. Lastly, children can understand reasoning pretty early in life.  When my daughter asks me a question such as “what happens when…”  I will answer her back, “what do you think will happen?”  I am trying to start the problem- solving process now, because I want my children to be successful, productive adults that can play happily with the other Neumann’s in this world.

 

Mindy Hadley, on behalf of the Quakerdale Team.

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The Greatest Present

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One of the great things about working at Quakerdale is the investment that our leadership puts into staff at all levels.  One of the ways that occurs is through reading books and having discussions with co-workers about how we can make improvements in the areas that are outlined in the book.  The Present is a book that we recently went though – it was a very quick read, but had some significant points that were made through the story’s fable. Spoiler Alert – I am going to tell you what the Present is, so keep reading at your own discretion.

The Present has a fable that is the main part of the book, but is bookended by how others introduce the fable to others and use it in their lives.  In the fable, there is an old man who gives out wisdom, much like Yoda, a little bit at a time to a neighbor boy as he is growing up and through adulthood.  He lets the young man know that there is a Present that everyone can have that will make them happy and more successful, however they define success.  The young boy doesn’t understand what the present is and for a long time believes that it is something that someone would give to him.  Once he becomes a young man in the business world, he is passed over for a promotion that he expected, even though he did not put in the necessary work.  He also has a girlfriend who breaks up with them during that same time.

Through introspection alone in nature, he discovers that the Present is actually the present moment.  If he is continually focused on the future – what he will do later after he gets off work, when he get the promotion, after he is in a committed relationship, etc, rather than what he is doing right now, he is distracted and not in the Present.  By focusing on what is happening right then, he is able to enjoy doing what he needs to – including doing tasks he put off because he believed them to take too long or be too difficult.  He was more attentive to those around him and was able to enjoy relationships more.

After a while, focusing on the Present only got him so far and other conflicts arose.  He was working with another person who wasn’t pulling her weight, and no matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t get it done by himself on time.  He returned to the old man and learned about the impact that the Past can make.  The old man suggested to him that he learn from the Past, apply it to the Present, and then move on.  The young man went back and addressed his concern with his co-worker, who made improvements to her performance and they were able to work better as a team.

The young man was doing well with learning from the Past and focusing on the Present and he received promotions and increased responsibilities.  With the increased responsibilities, he had difficulty prioritizing and he sought out his mentor.  The old man talked about planning for the Future – by planning for the Future, the young man did not need to be anxious or overly-focused on the Future.  He needed to come up with short term and long term goals to keep him on the right track and engaged in the Present.

Eventually, the old man died, and the young man went to the visitation.  He was surprised to see how many others the old man had impacted – there were people of all ages there.  After some reflection, the young man realized that the old man had lived his life with Purpose – he was trying to “help others become happy and successful” (pg. 74).  The young man then began passing along what he learned to others around him.

Here is a great video that also paints a picture of the book:

 

The Present has several good ideas on ways to focus on the Present, learn from the Past, and plan for the Future and is worth the time to read.  While the book does not delve into spiritual matters, I believe there are ways to incorporate what God tells us.  “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” Matthew 7:7-8 NIV

When we are anxious about the Future, we can remember the following passage: “So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.  Each day has enough trouble of its own.”  Matthew 6:31-34 NIV

How we define success is an individual decision, although God, through the Bible, gives direction.  “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” Matthew 22:36-39 NIV.  By focusing and being Present for our lives, we can better do what we’ve been instructed to do in the Bible.  How many times have we missed a chance to focus on God in the Present, being thankful for all He has given us?  When have we missed an opportunity to serve others because we were so wrapped up in the Past or the Future, we missed what was right in front of us?

357bc0742fe714f139cc99eb3df2daabSarah Zollar, on behalf of the Quakerdale Team.

Johnson, S. (2003). The Present. New York, NY: Doubleday.

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Rest Easy

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One of the big issues that impacted our recent restructuring at Quakerdale had to do with a lack of employees willing to do the jobs we needed done. I was reading about a survey done with workers hired to do the types of helping jobs Quakerdale hires and the results were interesting.

Tom Woll, a consultant to non profits like Quakerdale, recently interviewed three hundred workers in our field what it would take to stay at their position for two years. (Just two years!)  Tom stated that the answers revolved around five issues associated with the work: Stress, discouragement, belonging, purpose and fulfillment.

These were Millennial workers exclusively and all of them had concerns about the work that were very practical. They felt like the work they were doing was beyond their skills and that their training didn’t prepare them for the task. This led them to feeling discouraged and stressed out. These feelings of discouragement followed them home and had a negative impact on their personal lives. Many stated that if they do not feel calm in their work they will leave.

I know we all like to feel encouraged, stress free. We like to feel that we are fully prepared for the task and that those around us show appreciation and give us the feelings of purpose and fulfilment.

Where do feelings of stress, discouragement or belonging, purpose and fulfilment come from?

The last time I checked lasting feelings of contentment and well being  don’t come from others. The process of growing and “becomming” demands stress, anxiety, challenge and general discomfort.  Then we move to the next level and become the person we can ultimately become.  Then we better know our purpose, where we belong and what fulfils us.  Have you ever went and listened to a survivor story?  Someone who overcame something really terrible?  These people know who they are and it is because of the difficulty they experienced.

We as parents, friends or co-workers can model how to overcome hardship and take on challenges because we all have them.  We can find contentment in the midst of the trials and challenges of life even if our challenges are not bad enough to put us on the 6 pm news!   When we are modeling how to handle these challenges we must allow our kids  to experience increasing levels of hardship or challenge when they are young.  Kids who face difficulty or challenges experience stress and discouragement. Kids can learn that belonging, purpose and fulfilment come from going through difficult things instead of quitting.

So where are you helping yourself or your children avoid something difficult? Are you actually helping your child grow if you allow them to avoid the problem or fixing it for them?

Today try to take a look at life through the lense of growth and remember good things always require extra effort and they don’t come easy! Then we are better prepared for the next hard thing that always comes!

James chapter one is the place I go when things are hard in my life and I realize I am in a growth opportunity. You see as the old hymn says: “My hope rests in nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.” You see when our happiness is dependent on others or even the circumstances of this world we are surely going to be disappointed. Teaching our children, co-workers or our friends how to find happiness isn’t quitting or avoiding. It has to do with where we put our trust and happiness and how we go about our lives.

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I want to share a great song with you with an introduction in a concert. Not only are we expected to extend ourselves as in James chapter one, but then we can also rest easy knowing God will carry our burdens!

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I can’t sleep!

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dessert spelled backwardsWe get asked a lot about managing stress and then also about how to turn your mind off so you can fall asleep or get back to sleep if woken up. These are great questions and I am betting there is not a one of us who hasn’t had stress and trouble with sleep at some point in our lives. We also have children who need to learn these skills as well and parents can provide great life tools to their children to learn to relax.  We all have ups and downs, we are all trying to do more in less time and we all feel challenged to figure it out…after all everyone on social media seems to think they have the answers!

The thing is much of the time instead of taking a step back and seeing our stress, we forge ahead ignoring our bodies and the signs.  Instead, we need to take a break. We think to ourselves, other people have figured it out, why can’t I…what is wrong with me? The first thing we need to do is listen to our own inner dialogue and pay attention to our bodies, what signs are indicating we are stressed and need a break. We are our own worst enemies, we expect perfection. We would never expect the same out of others around us, we give them breaks…we need to give ourselves a break too!

So, how do we actually manage things differently, paying attention to our bodies, reducing the tension we are experiencing?

According to Elizabeth Scott, M.S. a stress management expert at about.com, sometimes stressful situations seem to culminate quickly, and we can go from feeling fine to overwhelmed in a very short period of time. When this happens, it’s impractical to stop your life to go practice yoga, get a massage, or try other effective but time-consuming stress relievers. It’s best to have a quick and effective way to turn off your fight or flight response and trigger your relaxation response.

Here are some simple tips to better manage stress.

  • Unplug before bedtime. Set a time at least an hour before going to sleep to limit texts, emails and social media.  Just looking at the screens can inhibit your ability to rest and relax.
  • Breathing Exercises

I like to use what is called square breathing.

square breathing

Click here for a video on another helpful breathing technique.

  • Progressive muscle relaxation

I like to use what is called Autogenic training. Follow this link to learn more.

  • Excercise

Start small, the important thing is to just get moving (if you have not been regularly exercising).  There is a euphoria that comes from the release of chemicals (endorphins) in your body that will combat stress and help you relax.  (Please consult your physician before engaging in physical activity).

The next thing you can do is take charge of our own thoughts, we cannot expect others to “make” us happy, we have to do that for ourselves. I believe this has a lot to do with perspective, do you naturally see the positive or the negative in a situation. So, change your perspective and spend time thinking about looking at the situation differently.  According to Elizabeth Scott, M.S much of what stresses you does not come from your stressors themselves, but from your response to them. More specifically, your interpretation of your stressors, as well as your approach to dealing with them, can make the events themselves feel much more (or less) stressful.

You can watch this music video if you want to identify with your kids through a pop song about stress.  These young adults are re-living how nice it used to be when they were kids and they didn’t have the stress of adulthood.

 

Contrary to the video you can’t go back into your childhood when things were simpler and less stressful!  Thankfully, you can choose your thoughts, even if you can’t choose your life circumstances. There are a few ‘tricks’ for gaining a better perspective for remaining relaxed under trying conditions: first, you can adopt the thinking style of optimists by interpreting certain facets of a situation in a way that brings hope and eliminates self-doubt. You can also adopt the view that you may have more power in a situation than you realize (called having an internal locus of control, which is also known to eliminate feelings of stress), and then looking for new solutions. Finally, be sure that you’re not already sabotaging yourself with overly negative thinking, and read over these common distorted thinking patterns, or cognitive distortions–do any sound familiar? If so, you can become aware of them and eliminate this type of thinking.

Here at Quakerdale we have several mental health professionals who can help you learn more about managing stress and how to take back control of your thoughts and moods.

So use these techniques if you need them or share them with your friends or children!

The Quakerdale Team

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