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Balance Begins With Me

Before marriage and before becoming a mother, I was a workaholic. I worked ten to twelve hours a day and I traveled all over the world, keeping a suitcase ready and packed at all times. The lifestyle was not healthy and my body suffered. This was my first sign that change was needed.

Further signs came along during the pregnancy and births of my two children. Both of my children were born pre-maturely. My son, now twelve years old, was born seven weeks early and spent time in the neonatal intensive care unit. My daughter, now eight years old, was born even earlier. Was the world telling me I needed to find balance and time to take care of myself or what?

In my daughter’s eight years of life, we lived two years in Portland, OR, two years in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, two years in Bangalore, India and two years in Seattle, WA. My past experiences and my life as a globally mobile family taught me that if I want balance, if I want time for relationships, and if I want time for rejuvenation it needed to start with me. I alone was responsible for making this happen.

In his book Change the World, Robert Quinn speaks about changing within first. He discusses how we may change the world if we can look within, clarify our values as we go and then discipline ourselves to live those values. I took this to heart. Below are the steps I took. It is my journey and it still continues to change as my children grow and my life’s opportunities present themselves.

1.  I acknowledge what makes me happy (what fuels me) and what makes me unhappy (what drains me).  I do this in a time of reflection and without judgment. This process happens two to three times a year.

2.  In reviewing the list, I determine what I want more of and what I am willing to let go of, delegate, or simply accept.

3.  I check in with myself every morning to assess what my needs are. For example, last weekend I spoke at a conference and several weeks prior I was fully engaged in preparing for the conference. After it was over, I realized that I needed two things: time with my family and sleep.

So, I looked at my schedule for this week and the next week to determine how and where I could fit it in. Once I made the decision, it was interesting to see how things fell into place. I even had a last minute cancellation and was able to use that time to mentally relax.

4.  I look at two weeks at a time on my calendar to ensure that I have time carved out for various aspects of my life. I make sure there is time for work, for spending time with my children, for meeting a friend, for my spouse, to participate in some physical activity, and to simply relax with a book or a good movie.

I look at two weeks at a time because I believe in flow and know that if I put pressure on myself daily, I would not get done all I want to get done. This allows me to be gentle with myself.

5.  I believe in fate. When we moved from country to country, sometimes I did not know where we were going and what we were going to do. I simply took it on.

6.  I give myself a monthly theme for my family and my work. For example, last month my family focused on thinking of other people’s feelings in their interactions (practicing empathy). In my work, I focused on having a speaking engagement at least once a week.

7.   I am learning to be mindful and present. This is a work in progress.

8.   I embrace change. I finally feel comfortable with change.

9.   I make mistakes. I acknowledge this and try to learn from it.

10.  I have learned that I am going to enjoy the journey and not only the destination or outcome. The journey is so interesting and is made up of so many wonderful moments.

This view of balance and rejuvenation has worked for me so far. I love learning and will continue to change and adapt as I gain more knowledge. With increased knowledge, come wiser choices. I look forward to building bridges as I walk on them and I hope you do too. 


Balance Begins With Me

The Science of Successful Parenting . . . . .regardless of what country you live in

     So, whom are you going to listen to for parenting advice?  Will you follow Amy Chua’s disciplined approach that we all witnessed through her book “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother?” Will you follow Pamela Druckerman’s approach on how a child fits into the parent’s life from her book “Bringing Up Bebe?”  Will you absorb the global practices (including the academic success of Indians) described in Mei-Ling Hopgood’s “How Eskimos Keep Their Babies Warm?” 
  
    I have lived in Asia and in Europe with my young children and have personally witnessed the Asian and European approach to parenting. Both are interesting and have benefits.   Why do we look to culture to give us parenting tips?  We all share a common human nature and we are, in general, social beings. Culture gives us the framework of how to be a good member of a group.  Culture is an important aspect of each an every one of us. Is the way one culture raises a child superior to another culture?  I don’t believe so.  Having had the global experience as well as being a first generation Asian brought up in the United States, I feel that the best approach for parenting advice may be turning to brain science.  Science allows us to form a solid foundation while culture adds a beautiful layer that allows us to feel connected to others and the reality we each live in.
  
    There is so much research in regards to brain development and growing children.  How can we disregard how science plays into the role of raising children?

       Science tells us that the brain’s number one function is survival.  In order for our children to learn and grow, we must surround them with safe environments. Ask yourself, are we doing this? Are our homes, schools, parks and other environments safe?  Are our children exposed to yelling, unsafe conditions where they may get hurt, domestic violence, or worse?  The first thing we must do in raising children is to ensure their environments are safe so that the brain can let go of its preoccupation for survival.
  
    Once we do this, we can create an optimal environment for learning.  This includes allowing our children to explore indoors and also in nature, allowing for creativity, as well as teaching and modeling good verbal and non-verbal communication skills.

      Teaching self-regulation is also important and may be the greatest predictor of academic and social success for your child.  Self-regulation is a person’s ability to regulate one’s thinking, emotions, and behavior.

       How do you regulate your own thinking?

    1.     Allow children down time so they can reflect and listen to their self-talk. Are you always hovering around your children or do you allow them time and space to be on their own, focus, and think?

    2.     Allow our children to make choices, within a safe environment?

    3.     No two brains develop at the same rate.  We must be careful that we do not put extreme expectations on our children.  Extreme will be different for each child depending on development and age.  The concern is not to put ‘stress’ on the brain so that it goes back to focusing only on survival.

    4.     Depending on the age and development of your child, you can create a balance of self-directed time and parent-guided time.

     How do you regulate your own emotions?

    1.     Well, first, we need to model it ourselves.  What emotions are we comfortable with having and expressing? What emotions are we not comfortable with and may cause us stress?  Let’s acknowledge where we are and then determine what we want to change so that we can model intentionally for our children.

    2.     How familiar are you with your child’s emotional landscape? According to science, there is a 1 in 5 chance you will have a child that is anxious or irritable. If you observe what is happening with your children, you may find an opportunity to step in before the emotion becomes overwhelming to the child.

    3.     Let’s acknowledge the importance of face time, not screen time.  Children are trying to read the emotion behind your facial expression.  The brain wants to make sense of what it sees.  Thus allowing it to recognize the emotion in others and at other times. Screens do not allow for this interaction. Children need interaction with adults to be able to improve non-verbal communication.

    4.     Furthermore, let’s acknowledge that emotions are what make us human. There are no good emotions or bad emotions.  Emotions do not make us weak or strong.  We cannot control the emotion we feel, but we can control the behavior.

     How do you regulate behavior?

    1.     We need to be firm in our discipline.  Involving a child in rule making is empowering to the child and he or she will more likely follow the rule.

    2.     We should make sure rules are delivered in a warm, safe environment.  The child should know that the parent loves the child and the child’s behavior is what needs to be changed.

    3.     Let us also offer praise for following the rules and also the absence of undesirable behavior.  If your child was quiet in a restaurant and did not yell, let them know that was appreciated.

     How do we do this?  Well, first, we as parents must take care of ourselves so that we can parent well.  Have you reflected upon your own life?  Are there aspects of your life that energize you?  Do you need to incorporate more of these energizing qualities into your life?  Are there aspects of your life that drain you?  What can you do about changing them? If you want to parent well, take care of yourself.  Not only will you be happy, you will enjoy your parenting journey.

      To be happy and to enjoy my children, that is a dream come true.

       Regardless of what culture you grew up in and regardless of what culture you are raising your children in, creating an environment of safety and then creating an optimal environment for learning can happen anywhere. Thus, we build a strong foundation that can flourish in any culture.

     If you consider parenting tips from the lens of brain development, what will be your next step along the parenting journey?

The Science of Successful Parenting . . . . .regardless of what country you live in

Nita in Bengaluru

Nita Talwar is a Parent Coach from Seattle, Washington, where she collaborates with Dr. Medina's team on parenting through brain development.

Nita will be in Bengaluru on April 2 and 3. See the flyer for details about her visit.

Read her blog here, only on Indya Unlimited.

   How to raise a smart, happy child

Based on Dr. JOHN MEDINA’S research



What’s the best way to raise a smart, happy baby through age 5? Scientists know. PCI-certified parent coach Nita Talwar will facilitate a 2 series workshop based on the peer-reviewed research in Dr. John Medina’s book.

1   SMART BABY explores several key ways that intelligence works. Use them to improve your child’s chances of intellectual success.
 

2   HAPPY BABY discusses the incredible importance of focusing on your child’s emotions, and strategies for doing just that.

3   MORAL BABY examines what discipline looks like in your home and the best ways to enforce your rules for lasting results.
 


DATE & TIME:

2nd and 3rd April 2012

3:30 pm to 5:30 pm


COST: Rs1000 for both days                 

To register call: 080 4096 7237

Space is limited!  Ask questions at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it


* Nita will be flying in from Seattle, WA USA where she collaborates with Dr. John Medina’s team on parenting through the lens of brain development.

If you are expecting or have young children, this event is for you!


Nita in Bengaluru

Never Underestimate the Importance of Family Mealtime

Nita TalwarImagine, if you will, a family sitting down together for a dinner, which allows for open conversation and a sharing of stories. Add to this the aromas and tastes of an excellent meal. The thought of it appeals to my all senses.

It has been a dream of mine to have consistent, regular family dinners together. As my children grow older, I feel the desire for this even more.

As we entered 2012, I really asked myself why my dream has not happened. There are so many reasons. When my children were younger both my husband and I worked and we were doing everything we could to just hold it together. Then, I stopped working and my husband took on additional responsibilities to keep the family afloat. My husband then worked longer hours and did not always make it home to eat with us. Then, I decided to go back to school. This required more juggling to keep things running smoothly.

Now, my children are 8 and 12 years old, I work part-time, and my husband has a job that he enjoys and allows him more work-life balance. Family dinners now actually seem possible. But it wasn’t easy.

My children have after-school activities and their sports’ schedules can go until 8:30PM on some evenings. At these times, they wanted to eat dinner earlier. And it turned out there were days when my husband had to work late. My evenings also start to fill up once or twice a week. We were all so busy, I thought that I should just let go of my desire for family dinners.

I am a Parent Coaching Institute-certified coach, and help parents world-wide with challenges they have with their children. I also teach them how to take care of themselves so that they can parent well and help them enjoy their parenting journey. I always discuss perspective with my clients and provide exercises on how to change perspective. One day, it suddenly dawned on me: I needed to do this myself.

I sat down and thought about why I wanted a family dinner. Why was it so important? The answers I came up with included having a ‘pause’ in the day to reconnect with loved ones, creating a special time to share stories, feeling reminiscent of my childhood and sitting around the table with my parents and brother, and providing a time and space for open conversation over some good food.

There is something magical about a shared meal. Once I became focused and clear on why I wanted family dinners, I also thought about other opportunities and times that I may foster this connectedness and open conversation.

I, then, turned to ‘observation’ mode. This is also something I ask my clients to do. If your attention is there and you are focusing on something, look for it in your life. It will present itself.

For my family and I the opportunity presented itself at breakfast. We now sit together almost every morning and have ‘family breakfast’ together. Everyone is awake and engaged. We are able to discuss what is happening that day. The kids bring up things that they have been thinking about and my husband joins in the conversation adding what is happening at work for him as well.

I received an additional gift in allowing breakfast to be the family meal. We actually eat hot, healthy meals now instead of gulping down a glass of milk and grabbing something portable in our hands. My entire family eats a hearty meal such as steel-cut oatmeal with nuts and fruits in it. They have a glass of milk and take their vitamins.

Feeding my family a healthy breakfast (the most important meal of the day) has also been deeply gratifying. One thing ‘family breakfast’ has done is increase my food preparation responsibilities very early in the morning. I get up a half-hour earlier than the rest of my family. I have my cherished cup of coffee and start making breakfast. Some days, I feel as if I am conducting an orchestra with multiple pots on the stove at once, cutting up fruit, and filling plates and bowls with aromatic, tasty food.

As I serve the food and sit down with my family, I feel that I am hearing the beautiful music from a symphony orchestra when, in fact, I am listening to the rich conversation happening between my family. On top of that, my children clear their own dishes and rinse them.

Another gift: My husband and children leave the house together and he drops them off at school. That equals more quality time for him with the kids.

Now ‘family breakfast’ is more than I ever could have dreamed of. I start each and every day feeling healthy, and most of all, connected to those I love. Now that I am living one dream, I wonder what dream will next become reality in its own, unique way.

Stay tuned.

Read about Nita and see more articles from her.

For further information, interest in finding about parent coaching as a vocation, or for being coached, Nita can be reached through www.peakexperienceparenting.com. Please send her a private message through the Contact Nita page. Nita is able to call you, regardless of where in the world you may live. 

Never Underestimate the Importance of Family Mealtime

New Year’s Resolutions: Children’s and Parents

Read about Nita and see more articles from her.

New Year ResolutionsSo, it’s that time of year again and we’re discussing New Year’s resolutions.  My children tend to overhear all of our conversations these days and later asked me what a resolution is.

I explained that a resolution is a promise.  It is a promise that you make to yourself.  It is a tradition that many people do at the beginning of the New Year. They seemed intrigued.  “Why make a resolution?  What’s the point?” they asked.

I explained that if you’re able to keep the resolution you make, you feel good; generally you’re doing something commendable either for yourself or someone else.  That is the point.  They then asked if I could give them a couple of examples.  I said, "How about eating at least one fruit and one vegetable every day (thank you American Academy of Pediatrics!)."  My kids asked if that meant every day for the whole year.  I said, "Yes."  It seemed a bit overwhelming to them.  I wondered if for my kids, I could break it down into monthly resolutions. I asked if they would want to make a resolution for the month of January.   "Only the month of January?” the kids inquired. Okay, that didn’t seem totally impossible.  After some thought, my son said he would rinse with fluoride rinse twice a day in January. He just got braces and I have been pestering him about this daily. My daughter, who had been quietly listening to most of the conversation, finally spoke up and explained to me that they discussed resolutions in school and she promised her teacher that she would not talk in the hallways. Wasn’t that enough?  Absolutely.  So the kids are on their way to trying to keep a New Year’s Resolution.

I then told my children that my New Year's Resolution (promise to myself) was to be more myself!  My kids were confused.  "Aren't you always yourself, mom?" Not really.  Now how do I explain that to my kids?  I know that they were thinking "Who do you turn into ... batwoman?  A big green monster?" I explained that I sometimes do or say things that don't make me feel good and when that happens, I am not myself.  For example, sometimes I react to something someone says and I need to remind myself to ‘pause’ (take a moment) and decide who do I want to be in this moment.  Oh!  Fine mom, whatever you want.  Ah, if it were only that easy.

While I had my children’s attention, I then asked if they were interested in making a resolution to make the world around them better.  Where we live in Seattle, everyone composts and the city picks up the compost bins weekly.  This is a new concept for me and I know that it helps make the world a better place.  I told my children that I was going to be more aware about composting and try to do it. My son said that he would recycle more. He is very conscientious about recycling, but if he feels that he can do better, so be it. My daughter said she would clean up her room more. Technically, that counts, right? Both are making the world around them better.

I have also decided to make some parenting resolutions. Hopefully, these will improve the life of my children and my own life as well

Number one: I will no longer tell my children to stop whining.  My kids don’t realize they are whining and the only person it bothers is me. But I will get over it.

Two: I will no longer tell them to stop fighting. My kids don’t physically fight, they argue.  I am now telling myself they are learning negotiation skills.

And three: I will no longer tell them to hurry up. The more I ask, it seems, the slower they go.

With letting go of all of this, I will take the newfound freedom in my head and go meditate, get a massage, or drink a glass of wine.

Come to think of it, I hereby resolve to do all three.


Did you like this article? Read Nita's article on School Success here

As new articles pop up every day about what is needed for school success, I tend to look at school success from a coaching perspective.In coaching my clients, I use Appreciative Inquiry techniques.  Appreciative Inquiry is an organizational methodology...Read More

About the Author: Nita has lived in Holland and India and currently resides in Seattle, WA USA. She is a PCI certified parent coach. To contact Nita or find out more about her please visit www.peakexperienceparenting.com


New Year’s Resolutions: Children’s and Parents

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