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Sometimes all the nurturing in the world won’t calm an irrational, worked up or distraught child.  That’s when I encourage parents to get a little help from Mother Nature.  You see, all things nature help bring people to their heart space.  Ever find that you feel immeasurably better after a walk on the beach or through a park?  It’s because nature seeks balance and moves in to restore frantic or low energy creating equilibrium and harmony.

Of course, a child who is cranky because they’ve missed a nap simply needs sleep.  Or if they are falling to pieces because it’s past lunchtime, no amount of nature will quell the effects of low blood sugar.  But if your child is just having an off day, a little bit of time outside could work wonders.

Sending Johnny and Sally out to play together if they have been fighting might not work, but if you take them on a walk, or on a picnic and participate together, I believe you will find a change of attitude in the kids.  Chaos can exist outside, so again, going to a crowded park where there aren’t enough swings or the slide is stuffed with kids is not likely to help you or your child.  The chaotic energy of the people there will surely overrule the calming force of the grass, trees, sun and sky, but if you can play in a quieter park, walk through a botanical gardens, walk on the beach and collect shells, work in the garden at home or sit in your personal meditation garden the effects can be magical.

Too cold or yucky to go outside?  If you have a green thumb you can make sure there is a corner of your home with child safe plants all around.  Plop your child there with some relaxing music, coloring books and/or a story book and allow them to unwind and fill up.  Or, draw a warm bath and let your child soak while you read him a story.  Add a tablespoon of Epsom salts and a couple of drops of lavender and your child just may transform from angry and defiant to complacent and happy! 

Please share with us your favorite ways to employ nature in your quest to nurture your child!

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Some up and coming business people promote Conscious Entrepreneurialism; there’s conscious living, conscious business, conscious eating, conscious parenting.  But what does it all mean?  What’s at the heart of living a conscious life?

Believe it or not, conscious living is not the opposite of unconscious living – not exactly anyway.  In western culture we are conditioned to make decisions on just about everything based on how logical or smart something is.  We are celebrated for our ability to reason out a problem and come up with a logical solution.  And we are commonly “poo-pooed” for making a decision based on our feelings or intuition.

When we live consciously, we don’t abandon logic for intuition, but we do combine them.  That means, sometimes our decisions don’t appear to make sense.  For example, when my kids were little and everyone else was teaching their kids about stranger danger, I was encouraging my kids to say, “Hello” to the elderly man in the grocery line AS LONG AS it felt appropriate.  We would enter all kinds of situations where I would ask them how the person or the situation felt.  When it felt good, safe and nurturing I would encourage them to say, “Hello.”  If it felt yucky, threatening, hateful or scary – we left and they were told that that is the kind of energy to run from.  Some parents got very upset that I wasn’t teaching what made sense to them in a frightening world, but my heart and mind were in alignment and now I have two children who don’t even go near a friend’s home if it feels “yucky.”  They also have not missed out on opportunities for making new friends because they were allowed to talk to people they didn’t know.

The essence of living consciously is living with intentions and with an open heart.  Your mind may come up with some grand ideas, but those who live consciously run that feeling through their heart to see how it feels.  Most successful people will tell you their fortune came on the wings of a faithful leap.  They took a chance because it felt right, not necessarily because it made sense.  Yes, we can make mistakes, but we make mistakes every day trying to follow a linear thought based path.

If you live consciously then you don’t just eat veggies because you’re supposed to, but you eat beets because you feel you need them.  You don’t just take on a business partner because they have the cash, you bring them on board because your personality melds with theirs creating a powerful feeling.  You don’t just issue any punishment to your child for hurting someone, you teach them with an appropriate response how to deal with the fear that made them act that way and then how to apologize and make it right. 

It’s easier than you may think to live consciously; you’re probably already doing it.  Take a moment right now and assess how this article made you feel.  How does your chair make you feel?  How is the temperature in the room where you are sitting?  Be conscious of how you are feeling in every moment and make decisions about your life from that place.  You’ll find it not only feels good, but it makes sense too!

Holidays produce some of the fondest memories we have with our children.  Valentine’s Day is no exception.  As you pick out Valentine’s for schoolmates, boxes of chocolate for mom and grandma and bake heart shaped cookies sprinkled with red sugar, you, like many conscious parents, may also be looking for more meaning or depth in this holiday to share with your children.  In fact, February 14th is a perfect time to introduce or reinforce with your children what it means to tune into your heart and your feelings.  More than a chocolate odyssey, Valentine’s Day reminds us to dig deep, remember to love ourselves and then express that love outward. The truth is, we can only love others to the degree that we love ourselves.

In addition to the crafts stamped with “I love you,” take this opportunity to help your child(ren) get in touch with the messages of their heart.  Consider adding one or more of these meaningful  Valentine activities to your memories.

1)       Spend a day using Feeling’s Language.  Instead of making statements like, “I am hungry,” or “I love you,” phrase everything with feeling language.  “I feel like it’s about time to eat.”  “My heart is full of positive emotions for you.”  “I feel like this is the perfect day for a family walk.”  “I’m overwhelmed with joy.”  “I’m blessed to have you in my life.”  You get the picture.

2)      Establish a Gratitude Jar.  Place a jar in a family common room along with slips of paper and colored pencils, crayons or pens.  Encourage every family member to mark down what they are grateful for at least once a day and put the paper in the jar.  At the end of the week take out the slips of paper and read everyone’s gratitudes.

3)      Have a Family Meeting and ask each person to state what they love about themselves (this can be things they think they are good at as well as qualities they like in themselves).  After the family member in the “hot seat” has expressed their self love, let all the other family members add the qualities they like about this same person.  Make sure every family member gets an opportunity to be in the “hot seat.”

4)      Download music that makes your heart sing and play it when you pick the kids up from school.

5)      Make a Commitment to only say, “I love you” when you are looking into each other’s eyes.  It has more meaning that way.

The most successful teams I have seen, from sports to the workplace to philanthropic groups, are ones on which every participant is working with others doing what each does best.  The teams that I watch fail are those where everyone is trying to be the star and no on wants to play a supporting role.  I was in 3rd grade PE class when I learned that winning was important to everyone.  Not being very coordinated and, quite frankly, caring more about friends than winning or losing, I was never first choice for any teams.  I remember being so very confused that people I thought were friends were choosing others for their team because they had a better chance of winning.  In sixth grade I realized that I was not in the “smartest” class, only the “second smartest” in my grade and I was too young to realize that in my case, changing classes meant going from the top of second to the bottom of first.

To this day I have a problem with competition.  Yes, I realize that competition can push us to be better, give us something to strive for etc., but we are assuming that without competition we would turn into lumps.  Instead, I suggest that in fostering competition we are encouraging a society where there is a hierarchy of abilities instead of a society that recognizes each person for what they are good at. 

More times than not I see children as young as four years old, sad, depressed, angry (note none of these are positive emotions) because they weren’t the best at one or two activities.

Let’s imagine for a minute that instead of competing for one or two coveted spots on a team or in school, each child was recognized for what they are good at.  That every child’s unique contributions to the world were cherished.  Do we really think that under those circumstances our corporate, social and financial worlds would do anything but thrive?  Not to mention what the spirit of collaboration could do for world peace.

I see parents pushing their children earlier and earlier in sports, academics, dance, art….trying to secure a “top spot” in their child’s future.  I also see a lot of kids suffering from anxiety, depression, and stress disorders in elementary and middle school.  It’s not too late to change our world.  Here are a few ways to help foster collaboration and bringing out your child’s unique talents.

1)  Let your child try lots of sports, art and social activities before deciding on which one they excel at.  Don’t tell them how they are doing, praise them for trying and let them tell you how the activity makes them feel.  It is OK to do something just because it’s fun.

2) Do household projects as a family letting each person choose the part of the activity they will enjoy most.  Then talk about how quickly the project got finished and what each person enjoyed most about it.

3)  If you have multiple children, let the kids help each other with difficult homework problems or projects.  Letting them help each other not only lets each child shine, but it teaches the children that one person (the parent) doesn’t have to be great at everything!

4)  Ask for help and let your children see you do that.  In acknowledging that you are not an expert at everything, you open the doors for your children to know it’s OK to do the same.

5)  Let your children see you share your talents with others.  They will then want to share their gifts as well.

One of the most used tools for punishing a child’s behavior in the last decade has been the “Time Out.”  Companies capitalized on products geared to assist parents with this consequence creating tools that range from Time Out Timers to  Time Out Chairs.  I’m a fan of Time Out myself.  It’s a great way for everyone to regroup, reset and recharge.  But if a child sits in Time Out and stews about the punishment or is uncertain about what they did to land themselves there the Time Out is really ineffective, and more times than not the child will end up right back in the Time Out seat.

This consequence is much more useful if the child has an opportunity to get in touch with what they are feeling and then get to a calmer more centered place.  A child that leaves Time Out calm and balanced is a child that will interact with his surroundings more successfully.

Here are a few tips for getting the most out of a Time Out.

1) Choose a time out spot in your home and make it peaceful — Maybe at a window that overlooks the garden or in a space that removed from household noise.  It should also be comfortable enough that the child can relax, for example a chair is preferrable to standing.

2) Play some happy music in Time Out.  Not something that is distracting, but this is a good time to use something like Baby Mozart’s Relax, Daydream and Draw CD.

3) Encourage deep breathing in the Time Out space.  This may mean sitting with your child the first few times and breathing with them so that they understand this is part of the Time Out process.  Deep breathing encourages the physical and emotional levels of the body to relax.  Only once these levels are relaxed can anyone process what’s going on around them.  You are much more likely to get your child to understand their actions once they are calm.

4)  If the child is angry, have them count to ten.  This process helps them refocus their energy and helps to move them out of such a negative space.

5)  Just before they leave their Time Out space ask them to tell you  something they love about themselves.  This reestablishes the idea that consequences do not define them, and they will be in their heart which opens them up to better interactions with everyone.   (Remember ideally it’s 1 minute of Time Out for every year of the child’s age.  A 2-year-old can sit for 2 minutes)

6) My only DON’T suggestion is directly for the parents or caregivers.  Do not end a Time Out asking the child if they know what they did wrong.  This only serves to inject more negative energy into the process at the exact moment that we are asking them to go back to playing or listening to instructions.  We are setting ourselves up for disaster when we do this.  Instead, it is appropriate to tell the child why they are going to Time Out when it is issued, or if the child is older, to ask them why they think they are being sent to Time Out.

I don’t believe in making resolutions at the beginning of  the year for two reasons.  First, I feel like most resolutions come from a place of wanting to correct something I was doing wrong (eating too much, not working out enough, not making enough money, etc.) and I’d rather leave self-judgement out of the picture.  Second, I’m a new person everyday.  If I only make resolutions in January, I am assuming I will know who I am, what I will have accomplished and what I want for the next twelve months.  This is not possible. 

So at the start of every month I make a list of intentions.  These are things that I’d like to do, experience or accomplish.    My intentions are always positive and always lead me to a new phase in my journey instead of trying to correct an old behavior or pattern.  I encourage my children to do the same.  We talk about our intentions, sometimes on a daily basis.  We encourage and support one another in our intentions and we celebrate the successful completion of someone’s intentions.

Here are a few ways to help get the ball rolling in your home.  Set some positive intentions just for the next 2 weeks and see how profoundly your life changes.

1)  Get a notebook or journal for everyone in your family to write their intentions down.  Writing them out helps you remember what is important to you and it let’s you modify your intentions according to how you shift and change.  You can even get a great online journal from www.plumjournals.com if you prefer using a computer.

2) Talk about your intentions regularly.  At breakfast each morning go around the table asking each person what their intentions for the day are and be sure to share your own. Talking about the intention makes it real and you get the support of people who love you.  You are also modeling for your children how to live with intention.

3) Create a vision board with your children.  Take a piece of poster board and glue words, pictures and sayings on it that support your visions and intentions.  Vision boards can, and should, be updated regularly as you accomplish what is already on it and set new intentions.

4)  Participate in a community, either in person or online, that helps support your vision.  You and your children can get accounts on a website like www.intent.com and post your intentions daily, weekly or monthly.

Have fun, and my you experience all of your heart’s intentions this year!

As you wrap yourself in the spirit of giving this season don’t forget to include yourself as a recipient of your own generosity.  While you’re at it, include your kids and teach them the art of prioritizing oneself.  Too often we unwittingly give our children the message that everyone else should come first.  We over-commit, over-dedicate and generally over-do.  Our children see this and follow our lead of rushing and putting other first even if at the expense of our own mental or emotional well-being.

This holiday season help your kids learn to make time for themselves.  Try one of our suggestions for giving back to yourself or let us know what you do with your children to teach them this important skill.

1.  Have a mandatory quiet time.  Turn off the house phones, the cell phones, the computers and have everyone pick their favorite place to hang out in the house.  Every person does something they enjoy for at least 30 minutes; read, color, journal, listen to music on an mp3 player, bird watch or anything else that feels self-serving.

2.  Have a “Pamper Me Party” with the kids.  Help the kids pick out lotions, nail polish, bubble bath ect.  Turn on some soothing music and join the kids in a little at home spa indulgence..  Help younger children learn the art of self-care by helping them with the pampering or just let them soak in a bath while you sit close by relaxing to the scent of a lavender scented candle.

3.  Do some yoga with your child.  It strengthens and relaxes.  There is an excellent child friendly version of yoga on Self-Esteem the DVD by Little Soul Productions. (www.littlesoulproductions.com)

4.  Make a cut out of your child and provide glue and embellishments.  Encourage them to make the doll in a way that expresses what their own beauty and love looks like.

5.  Snuggle with your child and watch their favorite TV show or movie. Turn off all distractions and hold off on any chores until the show during this “down-time.”

6.  Sit for 10 minutes and just practice breathing.  Deep breaths with closed eyes.  Inhale and exhale evenly.  You can play soothing music or light incense if you wish.  This time can eventually turn into a family meditation time.