Monthly Archives: July 2009
Guest Post at Maw Books Blog

I feel excited and honored to have written a guest post for Maw Books Blog.  Posted today, it is entitled “Reading with Feeling” and I wrote about to use stories to help children explore their feelings.

Maw Books Blog is a wonderful book review blog site and, if you haven’t already, well worth bookmarking. Natasha Maw is a mother of two young children and pays special attention to the value of books for children.  As I believe that the books kids read should enlighten them in positive ways, I like this.

I also love finding out that the person behind the pen is nice!  Watch her videos of her and her boys. They are very sweet.

more →→
Say What You Mean

One of the great lessons I have learned from my children is to say what I mean. Children are experts in many ways and one of these areas of expertise is being able to see right through innuendos. Non-verbal “speaking” has as much impact on kids as verbal.

When my youngest son, who is now grown up, was little, he once asked me, “What are you saying to aunty Dalya?” I was confused because we hadn’t been talking.

“Nothing,” I replied.

“Yes, you always talk to her with your eyes!” he said impatiently. Wow, not only was it true but I was amazed that he could see that.

When I had my first child, I floundered, I agonized, I sweated. I had no idea what it meant to be a parent and somehow I felt that I needed some kind of formal training. Reading parenting books is great and helpful but really, really (and I say this emphatically) the best guide is right before us in our children.They will always tell us when we are doing something right and when we are not. Our job as parents is to learn to listen and to respect what we hear. This does not mean no discipline or teaching. If we manage to find the right frequency for our child, both of these are a cinch.

Children need the truth. They flourish with the truth. This means answering all their questions honestly even if we sometimes have to say, “I’m not going to answer that.” I will often explain to my young daughter that I am choosing not to share something with her but that I will when she’s older.

Truth, however, is not just answering questions. Truth is believing what you say because children know the difference. It is also validating their truth.

My middle son has dyslexia. When he was younger he was not doing well at school and would frequently anguish over this. For a long time, my husband and I would reply that we knew how smart he was despite how he was doing. Firstly, we were worried, which he no doubt picked up on and secondly, we should have explored the way he was feeling because they were his real feelings.

It was not until I was given a book by a friend called “Smart but Feeling Dumb” by Harold N. Levinson that I realized what I was doing. It wasn’t so much the content of the book, which is quite interesting, but more the title which struck home for me. I understood for the very first time how discounting it feels to anyone when they are told that they are not feeling what they are indeed feeling.

So in conclusion, check in with yourself by asking the question, “Am I saying what I feel and am I respecting what my child feels?” It’s a simple philosophy that could make a big difference in how you parent.

more →→
Fabulous Family!

Can anyone explain the blood and water thing when it comes to family?

We’ve just said our sad goodbyes to my sister-in-law, my seventeen-year old nephew and fourteen-year-old niece. They’ve gone back to South Africa and chances are that we won’t see them for another couple of years. But the connection is like an invisible cord woven from granny’s wool. Even my daughter, who has only seen them five or six times, spent three weeks draped around her girl cousin. And my niece didn’t mind sleeping on the pull out bed in Gabi’s room despite the four year age difference and the fact that there were free beds in our home.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not suggesting that we don’t have to work really hard at family relationships. We do. It’s just that when they are forged, their mettle seems stronger. And easier. Easier to hug, easier to tease, easier to relax.

I’ll really miss these guys.  Thank goodness for Facebook!

more →→
Podcast Episode #003: Discipline and Emotional Intelligence

In this episode: discipline and emotional intelligence.  Topics include disciplining from baby to teenager, helping parents handle their feelings, and how to incorporate emotional intelligence in discipline.

As promised in the podcast, here is a link to the book made reference to.  It is called “Get Out of My Life, but First Could You Drive Me & Cheryl to the Mall: A Parent’s Guide to the New Teenager” by Anthony E. Wolf.

more →→
Q&A: What Inspired “Boom… Boom… Boom…”?

Please continue to write to me with your questions!

more →→
“I Want My Book!”

I’d love to hear from you about books that have really grabbed hold of your child. You know, the kind of book that has to go everywhere with them.

I find that these connections are often not accidental but are a child’s way of expressing a feeling.

Anyone agree or disagree with me?

more →→
Q&A: My Three Year Old Son Is Jealous of My Baby Daughter

I’ve decided to change the format for this videos slightly from a “faq” format to a “q&a” one. Before, I would answer many questions per video however I felt the videos ran too long.  Instead, now I’ll be anwering one question per video so that the content is much more specific.

I love answering questions about children, emotional intelligence, anxiety, Boom… Boom… Boom…,  or anything else from visitors to my site.  Please feel free to write to me with yours.

more →→
Where The Wild Things Are

[ Sootys Painting Trip ]

As a young mother I noticed that from an early age my children were drawn to stories that explored feelings of fear, sadness and anger. I remember clearly my eldest son, who is now 26, loved a particular book called “Sooty‘s Painting Trip” by Lesley Young (seems to be out of print now).  In this book, a bear accidentally spills some paint all over the floor.

The bear was mortified over what he had done and was scolded for his mistake. My son would cry every time we reached this page in the book and was so upset by it that we had to remove the book from his room before he could settle down to fall asleep.

The very next day he would bring the exact same book to me and say, “Read, Mommy, read!” At this time I had already received my Masters degree in Clinical Psychology and was familiar with the many theories on child development. None of these adequately explained what I was observing in my son.

I pondered over the strangeness of this for many years until I began exploring the concept of emotional intelligence. Through reading and life observations, I came to understand that all emotions are part of our human experience, which we need to understand in order to become strong, emotionally well-rounded adults.

In our desire for our children to be happy, the most desirable emotion for most people, we forget that happiness is only one part of our emotional spectrum. I believe that children intuitively understand that which “grown ups” have almost forgotten: that is, “negative” emotions should be acknowledged, accepted and explored as much as “positive” ones.

We underestimate the importance of raising children to have the ability to recognize, understand and react appropriately to their full array of emotions. This ability has been described as emotional intelligence and it gives children and adults the strength to cope with the stresses that life so reliably delivers.

So it is no surprise that Maurice Sendak‘s “Where the Wild Things Are” appeals widely to children.  It’s position as a “classic children’s book” reasserts this.

It is not our children’s exposure to fearful things that shapes their personality and success. It is how they are taught to process their fear. I for one can’t wait for the movie version of “Where the Wild Things Are” directed by Spike Jonze to be released in October 2009. I look forward to watching it with my daughter. I look forward to the clinging and hugging in the scary parts and mostly I look forward to the discussions it will evoke.

I look forward to our experience of feeling.

more →→
Podcast Episode #002: The Role of Stories in Emotional Intelligence

In this episode: the role of stories in teaching emotional intelligence – how stories can be used, advice on choosing books, sharing childhood stories, and more.

I also speak about the techniques I applied in my book “Boom… Boom… Boom…”

more →→
No One Feels The Way I Do

At a recent family function, I was sitting and chatting with two cousins whom I have known since my birth. For many years I kept my struggles with anxiety to myself, convinced that I was alone in the way that I felt.

My cousins were interested and curious to know more about my book “Boom… Boom… Boom…” They also wanted to know how it had been conceived. I explained the focus on anxiety and  emotional intelligence. I told them about the importance of helping children understand that it’s okay to feel, accept and communicate with others about their feelings. All their feelings.

Both my cousins then shared with me their personal experiences with anxiety. This heartwarming conversation confirmed two things for me. Firstly, we should never assume that others don’t experience anxiety or related feelings just because they don’t talk about them.  Secondly, sharing with others often encourages others to share with us because they feel safe to do so.

This is a good lesson to teach our children. With four children I have heard many times, “No one feels the way I do.”

I always answer them in the same way, “You’ll be surprised how many do. They just don’t talk about it in the same way that you do.”

I teach my children that anxiety is part of our human condition. Ignoring these feelings gives them a power that they shouldn’t have. Acknowledging and exploring anxiety empowers us in ways that we would not expect.

more →→