Do you ever wake up in the morning feeling totally exhausted instead of refreshed? And then the entire day feels clouded by the initial ugh? I want to introduce you to affirmations, which can help you start the day with a positive mindset and help you be mindful, even during difficult moments with your children.

After having two kids in less than two years, I was feeling overwhelmed most mornings, especially once the baby started getting ear infections and was up all night. It was truly miserable and I felt like I could never face each day to be my best.

I needed a plan to help me start the day off with a positive mindset, even if things weren’t perfect. We all know, things rarely are. That’s just a reality, and one of the benefits of making mistakes is also the opportunity to learn from them and have our children see us do that.

Around that same time, my husband was following some popular figures, and one of them mentioned something called, “affirmations,” as being a major part of their business success. I thought… if it helps somebody manage a multimillion-dollar business, why couldn’t it help me manage my life too? Being a parent, managing a household, it’s not much different than running a business. You have to run a budget, stay on top of things, and help your customers (yourself, kids, husband, family) stay happy.

What are affirmations?

Affirmations are statements that you can personalize and use each day to help you start out with a positive mindset and focus on what is important to you.

I use these each morning to help put me in the right place and set my intentions for the day. It’s five minutes of quiet time that I can spend to regroup and make sure I’m focused on the important things, so I don’t get so flustered over the small stuff.

For example:

I am a good parent. Today, i will be kind, firm and loving with my children. I am in the process of becoming more positive. When I forgive myself, I show my children how to also be forgiving.

How do I create my own affirmations?

  1. Set aside time in your day, each day to devote to affirmations (preferably each morning).
  2. Focus your affirmations on positive things.
  3. Include elements for yourself and for your relationships with people important to you.
  4. Choose a daily intention and plan how you will achieve it.

That’s it!

Give it a try tomorrow and let me know if it was helpful to you.

The other day I was reading in (gasp!) a Facebook Group for parents where a member was struggling with when to “give in” to their child’s request for acts of service, particularly when the child is capable of doing it himself. I was surprised at the strong inner turmoil this question brought to light in the responses; some parents felt very strongly you should ALWAYS comply with child requests, in order to keep the peace and form a positive relationship.

It’s an interesting dilemma you probably face daily in your house – where do you draw the line between being pleasant and being permissive? When are acts of service appropriate and when is it okay to decide you’ve had enough? Should you ever refuse a child’s request?

The Time When Acts of Service Created Havoc For Me

Around the time that my son turned two, we started having more demands for attention and service, and consequently more power struggles. My infant daughter was just started to becoming more, “human,” by smiling, giggling, rolling over and generally interacting more. It was tough for our oldest, and like most children, he started to notice that she got more acts of service than him. So, naturally, he started asking to be carried down the stairs, or for help eating his yogurt, even though he had long been able to do these things himself.

Knowing what I know now, I’m embarrassed to admit we indulged him. For a couple of months, I carried my almost 40-pound toddler up and down the stairs, and into daycare. I, “helped,” him by feeding him yogurt with a spoon like a baby. But the more I gave, the more he felt compelled to demand. The less time he spent playing on his own when he used to enjoy his time so much. The more unhappy we both became; him because he could never get enough love/attention, and me because I never felt I had enough to give.

My son wasn’t being manipulative, he was trying to find satisfaction in our relationship the only way he knew how; by requesting acts of service. Because that’s how we showed love for the baby, who was competing with him for attention but unable to experience many other forms of love due to her age and capability.

For me, the challenge to performing constant acts of service is that a child who never faces natural challenges and is always served will struggle in more than a few ways. There are certainly times when acts of service are appropriate, but it’s up to you as a parent to decide where you draw the line.

Let’s ? bout it for a minute.

Risks of Constant Acts of Service

I mentioned the daily yogurt ritual to my mentor, who has been a Montessori parent-infant teacher for several decades. She shook her head and gently tried to dissuade me from feeding my toddler like a baby (it feels ridiculous typing out that I did not notice how silly it was myself).

In all honesty, it took a couple weeks for what she said to sink in. Meanwhile, the frequency of meltdowns increased, the demands were constantly growing, and the constant stress was really getting to everybody in our house.

In the face of the instant gratification of peace and quiet from giving in to your child’s request, there are some very real risks to your child’s immediate development and long-term challenges.

Here are some examples.

Inability to Feel Loved Without Acts of Service

What kind of message are you trying to give your child when you perform an act of service?

  • ✔️I love you.
    ✔️I take time/effort out of my day for you, because you are special to me.
    ✔️Childhood is special, and you have plenty of time to grow up and do this on your own.

These are really beautiful sentiments, and clearly well-intentioned. But what kind of message is your child really receiving?

  • ❌I only love you/pay attention to you when you are asking me for something.
    ❌I don’t think you are capable of doing this on your own.
    ❌It’s not worth trying because I can do it better than you.

A child who experiences acts of a service as the primary interaction with caretakers risks becoming motivated only by external forces (such as acts of service). They require constant attention and input from parents, other caretakers, and eventually their friends in order to feel satisfied and confident.

Struggle with Independence

I sometimes like to imagine what it would be like to come home from work and have a healthy dinner on the table, all the laundry done, and the floors clean enough to eat off. Well, okay, sometimes I pay for someone else to clean my floors. But what if people would take care of this for me for free?

How different would your life be if you didn’t have to worry about the chores anymore?

Now imagine that you had all that help. Life was amazing because there was always somebody there to do the dishes, hang out with you, and show you how to use the TV remote.

But what if it suddenly went away?

A child whose only experience is constant acts of service is robbed of opportunities to learn how to be independent, use their imagination, socialize with their siblings or neighbors, and be by themselves without feeling uncomfortable.

Those are life skills, mental muscles they never flex and build with enormous future consequences. It will be so much harder for them during transitions like getting a new sibling, going to daycare or school, heading to college, and living on their own.

Childhood is the time when the brain is best able to adapt and learn new skills. Constant acts of service handicap your child during the least painful times for growth, putting them in a position to learn those skills when their brain is much less prepared for the stress.

Lack of Self-Confidence

One of the biggest factors in self-confidence is the ability to be motivated internally. A person who can feel satisfied and capable without someone else telling them how great they are (through words or actions) has a big leg up in self-confidence. A child who is only motivated by what happens to her, instead of what happens because of her, will always be dependent on others for her sense of self-worth.

Another factor in self-confidence is willingness to make mistakes and recover from them. Mistakes are how we master new skills and maintain positive attitudes with all the challenges we face each day.

Your child’s “mistake muscle,” needs to get flexed so she can feel confident that it’s okay to make mistakes. A child who is constant served experiences less challenge, and less opportunity to make mistakes and recover from them.

How will your child learn how to drink from an open cup if he doesn’t spill it a few times first? Your reaction to the “failure” is critical. He’s looking to you to see how he should respond. Should he cry and demand that you drink for him or give him a sippy cup? Or should he accept the failure without drama and try again?

Go ahead, hand him a cloth and say, “hey, it happens, sometimes I spill too! Shall we try again together?”

How to Support Your Child Without Being Permissive

I started to research some strategies to make the change that our family needed to get back to a healthier relationship with our son and help him to continue growing.

When I started implementing these strategies, the power struggles got worse before they got better. But the end result was so worth it.

  1. Spend some time observing considering what your child is already capable of, and what activities are a “reach” goal.
  2. Decide where you will begin to set boundaries on what acts of service you are willing to perform. Involve other caretakers to ensure you are being consistent.
  3. Talk to your child about what your new boundaries will be. Be very factual, and non-judgemental. Even a child as young as two will be able to understand.
  4. Don’t give in once you have created a boundary. Giving in this would give a confusing message to your child.
  5. Be gentle, firm and kind when you refuse a request. Try and infuse your answer with the understanding and love behind your motivation for refusing.
  6. Express calmly and without judgment that you know your child is capable.
  7. If your child experiences a meltdown, be empathetic and supportive without giving in. Let them experience their emotions without judgment.
  8. Once they are calm, tell the story together about what happened by naming the emotions, emphasizing that they are capable, and being kind. Pause or invite them to participate in telling the story.
  9. Find other ways to show love, like wants-nothing quality time with them. Invite them to help you with household chores. Enjoy family dinner together without an agenda.

What can independence do for you and your child?

These are real-life results I have seen in my own family through encouraging independence and self-reliance.

  • My children are happier and so am I
  • Fewer tantrums
  • Fewer power struggles
  • More quality time together
  • Less stress for the whole family
  • A more capable, confident, independent-thinking and self-motivated child

How will you help your child become a self-confident kid and achieve her maximum potential?

An interesting fact is her genes do not make the final decision on the person she becomes. Environment affects how genes are expressed, which means her experiences from birth make a difference in her future capabilities, personality, and even self-confidence.

All children need self-confidence to reach their potential. Here are five things you can do to help your child thrive.

1. Watch and Wait

The next time she challenges herself, step back and give her a minute to work through it before you intervene. You probably didn’t learn to ride your bike the first time you got on, and maybe not even the twentieth. Let your baby fuss while she tries to roll over, or allow your toddler to make a big mess when she is learning to feed herself yogurt. Every struggle is a learning opportunity on how to push past adversity and on to success.

Step back to watch and wait, which gives you the opportunity to learn what your child is capable of, and what she needs some help with. It also gives her a chance to be challenged and attempt a new task on her own. Building confidence to try and fail helps her learn how not to give up when faced with a difficult task, which is a lifelong skill that many adults struggle with.

2. Never Do For Your Child What She Can Do for Herself

This is a tough one, and it is definitely the hardest for me. When my son turned two I was still carrying him down the stairs, even though he’d been able to do this himself safely since he was less than a year old. All this accomplished was giving him the message, “You need my help.” A better message would be, “You can do this yourself because you are capable.”

You have to know how to watch and wait to figure out what your daughter is capable of. The important part is that once she’s accomplished a task, then she needs the space to do it herself from then on. Let her master the details, and feel pride in what she’s capable of. A self-confident kid is created this way.

3. Let Her Lead

One of the biggest characteristics in private schools with high success rates, like Montessori or Sudbury schooling, is they are based on child-led learning. Child-led learning means allowing and encouraging children to explore what they are most interested in the moment. Children left to their own devices will gravitate towards activities their brains and bodies are ready for, allowing them to learn new things during the optimal development period. This helps kids become self-confident because they are pursuing what they are ready to learn at that moment.

The benefits of letting a child lead at home and at school include:

  1. Becoming a self-confident kid from an early age
  2. Encouraging a lifelong love of learning
  3. Learning happens in the areas of greatest benefit at the time
  4. Embrace new experiences instead of fearing them

As adults, it’s our responsibility to offer opportunities. Our children have the responsibility to choose what opportunities they wish to pursue.

4. Give Her the Gift of Safety and Security

In order to thrive your child needs to feel safe and secure. A child who doesn’t feel safe and secure is spending a lot of energy anticipating or reacting to stress instead of learning and growing.

Safety and security are accomplished by creating firm boundaries and enforcing them gently and with kindness. Outdated discipline methods like threats, yelling, and spanking are confusing to children and are counterproductive. By helping your child feel safe and secure, she will be able to focus on becoming a self-confident kid.

5. Lead By Example

The uncomfortable truth about being a parent is that kids are watching everything we do. Kids are little sponges observing, learning and internalizing all the time.

Instead of taking a negative, creepy-stalker view of this, think about your child’s amazing observation skills as a chance to teach. Use it to show her the type of body language and tone of voice that is productive and calming. Demonstrate daily tasks and healthy ways of managing emotions. Be honest and genuine. You can become the person you always wanted to be, in honor of your child.

We’ve all been there. Your toddler just ran into the street for the thousandth time today. It’s past nap time, nobody slept well last night, and you are are the end of your rope. He’s now whining and laying on the ground, refusing to get up and move. It is this moment that makes you reconsider ever decision you ever made leading to becoming a parent. The urge is there; your parents would have spanked you. This situation is unbearable. It’s time to teach him a lesson about respect!

I get it. I’ve been there. Toddlers are HARD to deal with. They have big emotions and not enough words or ways to deal with how they feel.

Let’s get real though. Not only is spanking abusive (yes, I said it, spanking is ABUSE), but it’s ineffective. There is no reason to spank. Spanking will not make you feel better, and your child’s behavior is not going to improve from spanking.

Spanking doesn’t work because it’s not a natural or logical consequence to anything they might be doing that drives you crazy. As adults, we would never spank each other (unless it’s fun and consensual) even in the most extreme circumstances. Your toddler will not learn anything from it, because he can’t make the connection between action-result.

Also spanking is abuse.

Here are five things you can do if you feel the urge to spank:

Be Honest

Be totally honest with your child. Say, “Wow I am feeling really angry right now because of how you are acting. I love you, I need a minute to calm down and feel less angry.”

Step Back

Step out of the situation. Don’t do it judgmentally, just explain you need a moment alone. Let your child fuss if they need to, let them know you are nearby if they need you and you will be bac

Connect

Hug your child instead. Chances are if emotions reach the point you feel like spanking, neither of you are in control. Reconnect, and hug if you and your child are both open to this.

Talk

Talk it out. Use “I” phrases. “I feel overwhelmed and scared when you run into the road. It’s not safe and I won’t let you do that.”

Ask for Help

Ask for help from your spouse, family, or even another parent nearby. Let them take the lead with your toddler for a few minutes while you get grounded.

Times that seem to call for spanking are actually opportunities. Opportunities for you to connect with your child. These are the moments when you can teach him how to deal with his emotions in a healthy way. Your urge to spank is rooted in not knowing any other way. You are the hero of this story; you can break the cycle of abuse by choosing to parent differently.

Next time emotions are running high and you are feeling overwhelmed, take a deep breath and a step back. Show your child the healthy way to manage their emotions by example. This is hard, but the results are worth the effort.

Welcome To Guilt Free Families

I’m so happy you are here to join me.

Guilt Free Families is inspired by respectful parenting techniques from Maria Montessori, Emmi Pikler, and Magda Gerber. As a full-time working parent in a two-earner household, I wanted the best for my family even with the limited time and resources we had.

Something that really surprised and excited me when I started reading books like Your Self Confident Baby by Magda Gerber and The Absorbent Mind by Maria Montessori was how easy and valuable these techniques are for busy modern families.

I’m excited to share with you ways to make the most of quality time with your children, and how the same methods will help us raise children who are self confident, empathetic, problem-solving, independent and critical-thinking.

Let’s work together to raise a generation of good people. I’m looking forward to sharing this journey with you.