Friday, August 29, 2014

What I'm Reading:" Liberated Parents, Liberated Children" by AdeleFaber & Elaine Mazlish

Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish are both Theater Major NYU graduates (be still my heart) with a B.A. in Education, both taught in the New York City school system for a number of years bless their hearts, each have three children of their own.
Their book "Liberated Parents, Liberated Children", spawned from the workshops and meetings with the acclaimed Dr. Haim Ginott author of last week's "What I'm Reading" pick, "Between Parent & Child". It was a natural progression to read this book next, what an easy and informative read it was!

In my opinion perfectly titled because for me this book was liberating! The choice to raise my children differently from how I was raised is most certainly one of the most empowering decisions I've made thus far. It's also rendered me completely vulnerable, in many cases ending with me not totally understanding how to handle most situations and therefore always fearful I'm doing something "wrong". Wondering if at times I'm doing enough, or too much? That perfect dance of holding on and letting go that can be so very delicate, it's one of the treasures of parenting really (unnerving as it may be). I suppose that's why parenting is often compared to riding a roller coaster, it teaches us how to really live. I once heard a quote that said: "You don't know what it is to live, until you've learned to have your heart walk around outside of your body". THIS is parenting...

This book follows their journey through their parenting workshops, where parents with all different age children meet to discuss their triumphs and tribulation in their respective homes. A "safe" space where different examples to teaching communication skills are highlighted and even some role playing. Their "homework" is to implement some of these skills at home, results are discussed at the next meeting and more in depth "town hall" style discussion about feelings and acknowledgement of what was learned. They must have known how clueless some parents felt in these situations because they even included cartoon scenarios in which you are given an example of the "right" and "wrong" way to react. Except it's not really right or wrong, more like a cause and effect for each way you could communicate in a situation. One might fix the behavior, but certainly not the supposed "problem" or teach anything. Choosing to change the frame in which you look at a situation has the possibility to change the situation itself.

I've learned this in other areas of my life, no clue as to why it didn't come natural to apply it here! Instead of looking at situations as problems or behavior that needs to be corrected ("Behaviorism" save that debate for another day!), look at them each as a learning opportunity. An opportunity not just to "teach" in the conventional sense of the word, but in a way whereas you arrive at a conclusion together. It not only reinforces problem solving, but also fosters a deeper connection. It's all about the journey in other areas of our lives as adults, why not in parenting?

Another focus from the book that really helped me was the importance of remaining authentic throughout this process. As I mentioned before, not having these communication skills growing up means having to almost completely ignore my primal instinct of drawing from a "familiar toolbox". Instead to be conscious at all times of which tools I use to work through a situation, this can be jarring. In the beginning it can feel rather disingenuous. It's important during this process to still remain authentic because if you are constantly treading on unfamiliar territory and unsure of yourself, the only sure bet is that you are going to stumble and fall. Which is okay, but in the process I've learned that the relationship is a two way street. Your needs are also important and in order for the relationship (yes even between parent and child) to function, each of you needs to also take care of yourselves. I feel as though this is a difficult lesson for some moms, namely me. This impossible goal of being "everything" for your child at all times is just a way to set yourself up to fail. It's also doing your child a disservice in many ways, more on this in the future I promise!

Only through constant submersion i.e., reading, discussions and educating yourself can you really begin to accumulate the new set of "tools" to draw from in times of need. After a while, it becomes second nature to use the communication skills that you've acquired. I'm still very much a work in progress and am adding to my toolbox, I have a feeling I will be adding to it for a very long time!

How liberating indeed.. To be able to work alongside those with whom we have the deepest connection humanly possible (our offspring), and be able to do so with respect and dignity on both ends. This book is a keeper for my library at home and all parents looking for a great go-to guide.

What are you reading these days? I'd love to know!

Essentially Yours,


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