Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Respect: we all want it.

How do we earn the respect of our children? I get asked.

My answer: “By being available and attuned to our children.”

How does that look like? You ask.

Here is one example. Child comes from being out (school, aftercare program...) for almost eight hours without meaningful parent contact because all we are doing is transporting our children from one location to the next, rushing from one event or program to the next, hoping not to be judged by being late.

Child extent their arm to welcome the parent into their space. Parent continues to be distracted (looking at their phone, playing a video game, talking on the phone or in person with another adult) you get the idea.

Parent says "Move out of my way" or "You are blocking my view" or " I'm talking with another adult, wait." Again, you get the idea.

The child now becomes "aggressive" or "loud" or "annoying" "too playful when we are trying to focus" “mocks the parent” all the phrases we use to describe the child’s behavior.

The child now withdraws, or if the child has enough confidence she or he will walk away, or go into another term we call " tantrum" to get the necessary attention, or to get validated, or to make his or her voice be heard.

The parent now goes into "EGO" mode and says: "Stop disrespecting me," or "Don't you dare do that to me," or "I am your parent, you are supposed to respect me," you get the idea. I have done it. It is in our parental template.

How do we earn the respect of our children? You are still asking.

It is in those moments that we tend to ignore where the respect comes in. When the parent does not see the child in the MOMENT because of our "business" or our cultural belief that "children are meant to be seen and not heard." It is in those moments when we miss the entire concept of what respect is about. I know, you still think I am crazy for bringing up this notion to your attention, or you say to me “It is easier said than done.” So, I say to you: "respect is given --that is how you earn respect." But you see, it is so hard to even grasp this concept.

Which is why we still wonder; how do I earn the respect of my child? This question should not even be asked. The question should be, how can I become available and attuned to my child. How can I honor my child’s space and not make it about me (the adult)?

Yes, it is a loaded question that can be difficult to answer when the entire world is looking at you as if you are crazy. And you will begin to feel isolated at the idea that you may be right. Right about being available and attuned to your children which is precisely how the respect is earned. You will begin to set boundaries with friends and family members who don’t agree with you. This too shall pass. Just like children go through phases, this too shall pass.

Despite of our audience and everything that is going around in the world, focus on this question and this question only to set you free: How can I become available and attuned to my child. How can I honor my child’s space and not make it about me (the adult)?

Kirsy C. Espejo

Founder: kindparenting.org

Training Facilitator, Parent Educator

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Acting versus Reacting

Let's save our energy, anxiety and panic mode for things that are actually going to cause our children harm such as sharp objects, crossing the streets, hitting someone, being surrounded by water, gun exposure.... you get the idea. Let's try to react when things are actually going to cause harm.   Of course this is easier said than done because the reality is that we parent based on our template, and that template may reflect the way we were parented: Panic and react to everything and anything that triggers an anxiety within us.
The idea of panicking and reacting to something is embedded in us. Whenever we see children climbing, jumping or touching we are programmed to immediately say “No!” or “Don't do that!” However, if we ask ourselves how else is a child going to experience or feel something if we are constantly preventing our children from being exposed to the experiences and emotions that life brings.
I mentioned in my previous article: http://kindparentingblog.blogspot.com/2016/04/painful-life-lessons-beautiful-thing-to.html. We should embrace pain instead of trying to prevent it. This way as our children mature, they will be more open to life's failures or painful events, such as losing a job being, being rejected by other people, losing a child, enduring death, car accident or even losing material things. Breaking up from a serious relationship or simply not having a "good day" are inevitable in life, and we have no control of it.  When a child suffers a deeply distressing or disturbing experience, the idea is for us to guide the child and help them cope with the situation.
How do we help our children cope with life's traumas and disappointments? We first need to be OK with the experience. It does not matter how bad, sad or terrible the experience may be. We need to realize that it is not about how we feel. It is about helping the individual child learn to cope.
For example, a death of a friend can be very traumatic for anyone. If my child was in this situation, I may say "I know this is a very difficult situation, how can I help you feel better?” Depending on the child’s age group, by asking if I can be of any help, I am letting the child know that I understand the pain, and that I am OK with helping him or her cope. I also need to be OK with the silence. Perhaps the child wants to be left alone, and this is perfectly acceptable. Again, it is not about how we feel or a moment to lecture.

Not winning a game can also be devastating for our children, especially if we have not dealt with our own fear of losing and understanding that losing is also part of the game.  Losing a game or a contest is how we learn and get better. Unfortunately, our society has made the word "loser" to be a terrible thing to endure.
In my family culture I embrace losing when I am playing with my 5-year-old daughter. Which was something she was not happy about since the perception of losing is taught to be a negative aspect of the game. I took this perfect opportunity to role play both scenarios with my daughter. When we play and I lose, I say: "I am a happy loser.” We continue to play and when she loses, she is now saying to me: "I am a happy loser." And we continue to play. In other words, life goes on and I am automatically teaching her about sportsmanship and grace—without having to lecture her about it.

It is with the little things that we teach our children about resilience and endurance. By acting in a practical manner and choosing not to react, our children relate to us and they feed of the way we handle ourselves and their experiences.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Be a YES Parent with Conviction

In a world where the majority of people are negative and are taught to believe that children are meant to be seen and not heard this got me to thinking: I need to make the conscious decision to change my template, in other words, the way I was trained to believe children should not have a voice or a form of expression.
For years we have been taught “The No,” but before we had our first child, I made the choice that I was not going to use the word “No”— unless it was necessary. Part of my reasoning was because “No” is the first word an infant learns to grasp—It’s no secret why—we, the adults have it embedded in our vocabulary.
So for almost five years I’ve been on this journey of being a YES kind of parent. I first start by creating an environment in which I don’t have to say the word “No.” From the choices of food we bring to the house, the toys we buy, the outside activities we do as family, etcetera.  I also had to reinvent my vocabulary by not saying things like: “don't touch this or don't touch that, don't do this or don't do that.” I have incorporated other words, such as: “Let’s try this instead,” or “What about this?” or “What do you think of this.”  Or redirect by distracting the child with another activity if the child is still an infant and cannot speak.
Growing up in a scarce environment with limited resources and not always getting everything one desired, can temp us to allow this past experience to influence our present parenting abilities. 

In fact, at times we had very little to share but one thing I do remember is my grandmother telling my cousins and me “Today we have one banana and that's all we have, but this one banana we're going to share amongst all of us.”  That was a true life lesson for me, and I was only five or six years old.  I still remember my grandmother’s conviction and how she stood in her own two feet and believed in her message. Until this day, I believe this is why giving back and sharing is so very important. 

My four-year-old wants everything in the store if she could get it. I choose to be a YES parent by not allowing my past experiences or my ego contaminate her present experiences. Keeping in mind that what happened to me or my ancestors have nothing to do with my four-year-old, instead of saying: “No, you cannot have that,” I choose to say: “Our budget allows us to buy XYZ,” or “Remember what we came to buy.” If we have already established the understanding of why we went to the store.
However, if what my daughter wants is something that is going to put a smile in her face and it is not going to harm her in any way, I am happy to make it happen for her without feeling shame or guilt for it.  Keeping in mind the age group---some things are not a big deal.
By being a YES parent with conviction, I am teaching my children about resilience and about how anything and everything is possible! This lesson is not taught in a school or college.   This lesson is taught by the person that spends quality time with that child.
          So go ahead, be that YES parent, and don't worry about your audience (the people that are judging your parenting abilities).  Follow your heart, and as I've always said, have a little fun. These are the things that our children will remember.
By being a YES parent with conviction you are building the foundation of resilience, positivity and most importantly -- that everything is possible!

Kirsy Espejo

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Teachable Moments

My 19-month baby while taking a bath decided to lift his foot attempting to get himself out of the bathtub. My immediate reaction (in my head of course, since I now practice conscious parenting) was to yell at him by saying: “NO DON’T DO THAT!”  however now that I know better I immediately suggested by telling him in a normal voice and with eye contact: “it is dangerous, ask for help to come out". Since he already knows how to say “help” it is now a matter of continuing to practice those two words: dangerous and help versus “NO” without an explanation; which will than diminish the power and credibility of the word “no” which we sometimes use it for everything and anything based on our own fears and insecurities.

These are the moments that we need to really think before reacting or getting angry when our emotions (fears, anxiety or insecurities) have nothing to do with a child in front of us. Reacting can be an action that with time we must think of it as a teachable moment versus an: “I Told You So” or “stop doing that” or “you're going to get hurt” … It is always a fear based reaction and in reality we do very little to educate our children on the “how” and “what” we can do to show them.  Instead the conversation should sound like: “let's try it this way because you may get hurt that way”, “how can I help you see that this is dangerous?”. Of course the dialogue should be age appropriate and the “pain” (refer to:
Painful life lessons: A beautiful thing to model, at kindparenting.org) tolerance level on our part should also be accounted for.

Take the case of a mom that says that her thirteen-year-old daughter is giving her “issues”. I asked why and she responded by telling me about her daughter got a “bad” grade. Now for everybody a bad grade maybe different. She continued by saying: “I just took her phone and her tablet for the entire month”.  I said: “you do realize that the grade has nothing to do with the phone or the tablet?”. She reflected. 

I continued by saying: “The conversation with your 13-year-old daughter should be about how does this grade makes her feel? Ask her directly: “What are you trying to accomplish” How can I help you, what are some things we can do to help you receive the grade that you desire?”.  Of course the conversation can go either way it all depends weather or not the 13- year-old wants to pass or fail that particular subject. And that is the “pain” we as parents must be OK with.

When we are uncomfortable we tend to react instead of reflecting on the situation. What is helping me in my conscious parent journey is to make every uncomfortable moment a teachable moment.

What can I teach/learn from my four-year-old, my 19-month toddler or from a teenager? This means the learning can go both ways.  The key is to be open to those teachable moments. Are YOU ready?


Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Plan, Plan, Plan

Planning has been at the top of my list forever, first as a stay-at-home mom for one year, and now as an out-of-the-home working mom. Perhaps I mastered this skill during my many years as a bank manager or in other leadership roles. However, things are always going to come up and "ruin" our plans—In other words, life happens and we need to learn to set just a few priorities a day and go with life's flow.

People ask me how I manage to do everything I do and still have everything under control? The truth is, I don't have anything under control and I don't want to. It is quite exhausting to watch many of my colleagues trying to have things under control. I choose to plan, plan, plan, hoping for the best.

It takes planning to take care of two children under the age of five and a husband while assisting in the administration of an elementary school, and now being part of www.Kindparenting.org. The only way to participate in life's expectations and experiences is to plan a little and sometimes a lot in hopes that some things will actually get done. 

Let me be perfectly clear what I mean by planning.  On my phone calendar, I simply add the things that I need to get done or that I want to be a part of.  For example, doctors’ appointments, taking kids to the library every Tuesdays (this would be a recurring event), getting my hair/nails done, returning a phone call/email, volunteering at my daughter's school, girls’ night out, giving a lecture/workshop, date night, park, festivals/cultural events…the list goes on and on and on. The point is that you can write everything and anything on your phone calendar in hopes of getting some of those things done. 

As I continue to practice conscious parenting and just living a more conscious life I realize that not everything is going to happen and that is the beauty of it all.  When something does not get done, I simply postpone to a later date on the calendar. Sometimes the due date keeps changing, unless it is a priority, obviously.  For priorities I work extra hard and ask for help if I need to in an effort to show up on time-- It does take a village at times.  

The message is this, even though things don't happen just the way we wish them to happen, it is still a beautiful day.  But a little planning goes a long way...

Kirsy C. Espejo

Sunday, April 3, 2016


Limits are often referred to as boundaries, but it is hard to establish them if we don't have the backbone and consistency needed to deal with our children in difficult situations. “In all human relationships, limits are necessary. Limits define what works and what doesn't in terms of the effect we have on each other.  Learning appropriate limits is therefore a vital part of a child's development.”  ̶ Dr. Shefali Tsabary Out of Control: Why disciplining your child doesn't work and what will.  Chapter 6. 

In my journey to conscious parenting, I have found that we are often confused deciding how and when to set limits with children.  Conscious parenting works regardless of the adult’s relationship to the child.  You can be a biological parent, a teacher, a grandparent, an auntie, a friend of the family, a priest, a judge, etc., because as we now know, every time we interact with a child, we are automatically parenting. Titles are irrelevant; therefore, we want to be aware of how we relate to children in our care/presence. 

In our family, certain limitations or boundaries constitute our "family culture."  For instance, rudeness is not acceptable in our household. Conversely, bathing, grooming, maintaining a clean environment, as well as being kind, helpful, and grateful are all important values to our whole family.  

Sometimes my four-year-old daughter wants to make bath time an issue. "Mom, I don't want to take a bath." My firm answer always is “That's not an option." I say this because we have already established this to be a non negotiable item. Even if she chooses to state the same complaint, I don't even entertain it, and I don't feel bad about it. I am fine with that particular "pain" that she is experiencing around bath time. 

The key in this situation is to hold the bath time limit. How do I accomplish this task? I do it with compassion and kindness. Since at four years of age, a child is still building this skill. I extend my arm and guide her to the bathroom. We than proceed together. I don't leave her since she is not ready to be left alone --in this scenario. There are times that she does it all by herself. We also get creative with bubble baths, water play and or whatever we choose to do. 

As her parent, my job is to figure out when she is not ready to do things on her own. Without shaming her, yelling at her or making a "big deal" about bath time or any situation that will require my physical presence. This takes time and work from the adult; but the results are priceless. At the same time, you are building trust and emotional confidence with your child.

It took some time for me to develop this muscle (strength) and I continue to work on it. This is because as parents we are prone to feel bad when our children react. Reacting is a normal emotion that everyone must endure in order to learn (look for Blog Article: Acting versus Reacting under www.kindparenting.org). The idea is to create a win-win situation for everyone as Dr. Shefali says. 

Since I know my now, 5 year old daughter likes to have the last word, I create a win-win situation: “Would you would you like to take a bath before or after dinner?" She automatically says after dinner, and that is perfectly fine. My daughter’s choosing when to take the bath makes her happy because she is now part of the decision-making process, and of course, I am thrilled because it is not an issue any more. 

Thanks to the conscious parenting work and the teachings of Dr. Shefali, bath time is an enjoyable time for everyone. Depending on your priorities, you have the power to set your own limits for your family. The key is to follow through on a consistent basis and hold your limit. 


Painful life lessons: A beautiful thing to model.

Pain. We often think of the word “pain” as a negative aspect of life, one we must prevent our children from experiencing. When in fact, pain is pivotal in the process of growing as a kind and respectful human being. “…there is nothing more pivotal in the journey of conscious parenting or conscious living than the understanding, integration, and evolution of pain…” https://drshefali.com/project/pain-as-a-portal-to-consciousness/ Dr. Shefali Tsabary.

Pain teaches us vulnerability, compassion, respect, courage, wisdom and so much more. So why is it that as parents, we are so afraid to experience pain? Again, we parent based on our template, which means we have been parenting with the same guidelines, rules and myths from generations and generations before us. It is up to us to break the cycle of fear and disbelieve that is our ancestors’ legacy.

We can change the paradigm by simply being aware when a subtle pain shows up. For example, my four-year-old daughter comes to me at the playground, “Mommy my friend does not want to be my friend anymore.” Her face, of course, was very sad as if her world was coming to an end. “Did you talk to her about it?” I asked. “I did, and she still does not want to be my friend,” she answered. By this time, the tears were threatening to overflow. I continued “I understand how you must feel. We can either cry about it or do something about it. Maybe your friend needs a break and that is ok; you can also find another friend.” Sure enough, my daughter asked her friend again and her friend shouted “I need a break!”

As I witnessed this dilemma, the other girl’s mother felt the need to intervene by suggesting to her daughter to talk to my daughter and to be her friend again. I could also feel the judgment of the audience (other people around the park) thinking what a cold parent I must be for suggesting to my daughter to simply deal with her dilemma on her own. On the other hand, my daughter’s friend was simply being her authentic self; she needed a break from my daughter. She did nothing wrong by expressing her true feelings at that moment.

Granted, we are all full of advice, feedback or suggestions even when it is not welcome, but the reality of this is that witnessing pain is a tricky business, since it touches our very core — raw human emotion. However, unless you are OK with experiencing pain, it can be very difficult to endure, let along welcome it with open arms.

“Nothing hurts our children more than to have a parent unable to witness their pain,” says Dr. Shefali, because pain is transformational, so it can also be beautiful--I say. It is how we grow to be kind and respectful human beings.