A modern lifestyle brand redefining motherhood

“You are grounded.”

I delivered this proclamation to my 13-year-old daughter with sternness and grace. I was measured but emphatic. Cool and unruffled. Controlled. Unemotional.


Later that day, I sent her an email outlining the terms of her grounding:

•    No devices. No screens. Books and music only.

•    No friends, no plans, no phone calls.

In addition to what she couldn’t do, I was sure to include what she was expected to do:

•    Participate in family activities

•    Do chores with a joyful spirit

•    Complete homework

•    Exercise

I also sent her to her room with an imperative: “I want you to think about what you’ve done.”

As I was shutting her door, I swiftly remembered that when I was grounded at that age, I did not use the time to think about what I’d done at all. Instead, I stewed for a bit about my parents, life, the whole stinkin’ world, and then I likely put on music, started doodling, looked at photos, or made a collage.

My teenage brain was not quite disciplined enough to actually sit and think about what I had done, certainly not in the same way I assess my choices as an adult. But in those grounded moments alone in my room as an adolescent, with no TV, phone, or video games – the “devices” (or are they vices?) of the time – I was contemplating something.

By turning off and tuning out, I was changing my daily reality. Interrupting the patterns of my days forced me to see the world through a different lens and possibly think about the world in a different way. Even if I wasn’t ruminating on the error of my own ways, I was certainly contemplating the world, and my adolescent place in it.

This break, this pause, is so essential. As adults, we crave it. Time to unplug, to unwind. Time to get grounded. Literally, getting “grounded” means to reconnect with the Earth.

According to Cami Walker in an article for Psychology Today, “Grounding yourself is a way to build a relationship with Earth. Grounding means to make a conscious connection between your self and the source of your life force energy. …Earth energy is life force energy.”

Adolescents don’t know they need to get grounded, until they crash up against something or an adult in their lives who loves them says, “Yo! Slow down! You better go check yourself before you wreck yourself, kid.” A reflective practice is critical for humans to develop wisdom.

Reflection can make learning more effective and experiences more productive. In “Learning By Thinking: How Reflection Improves Performance” (Harvard Business School, March 2014), the authors note that, while “In our daily battle against the clock, taking time to step back and engage in a deliberate effort to learn from one’s prior experience would seem to be a luxurious pursuit,” performance, learning, and self-confidence often increase with time for reflection.

The authors conclude, “our results reveal deliberation to be a powerful mechanism behind learning, confirming the words of American philosopher, psychologist, and educational reformer John Dewey (1933:78): ‘We do not learn from experience. We learn from reflecting on experience.’”

My daughter’s imposed break in daily routine seemed to work. She even missed a communitywide, multi-school dance. Maybe “getting grounded” isn’t like clipping the wings of a free flying bird. Maybe we can see it as supporting the process of being more reflective, of getting Earth-bound, centered, re-focused. aybe we both needed it.

Maybe we both needed it.

See, what my daughter had done shocked me. In our household, we monitor and limit screen time. We live in Vermont, and she attends an independent school modeled after a homeschool cooperative. Up until five years ago, each classroom was heated with a woodstove, and the students were responsible for bringing in the wood and feeding the fire.

We eat whole foods and have dinner together every night as a family. We attend “community resiliency” meetings with our neighbors. If our recent election and current political climate highlighted that there is a national divide, we are solidly enjoying the privilege of living in our progressive “bubble.”

So, when my daughter told her younger brother that if he and his friend made any noise, came in her room, or bothered her in any way that she would “stab you two little bitches,” I nearly fainted. She didn’t deny it. In fact, she seemed to take a sassy pride in having said it.

How had this language and tone infiltrated my home? Hadn’t I striven to do all the “right” things for my kids? No sugary drinks? No “inappropriate” media? Consistent communication with her friends’ parents? For anyone who has raised a teen knows, their favorite thing at this stage of their development is to test boundaries. It’s their job, and they take it seriously.

Before I spiraled into a pit of parenting-fail despair, I recollected that, while I was I growing up in a large family, we threatened each other with violence all the time. My siblings and I certainly said “I’ll kill you!” to each other often enough, but my daughter had delivered her threat with a certain 21st-century flair that I can assure you is not aligned with our values.

In a frenzied, media-saturated world of reactive tweets and instant gratification, we have effectively normalized aggressive, sarcastic, threatening speech. Even though my husband and I had done our due diligence in protecting our kids from the negative influences of mainstream culture, it seeps in like an insidious fog.

One antidote to this acrimony is a reflective practice. Our children, our families, and our nation need to adopt a reflective practice. We must take time to contemplate the consequences of our speech and our actions.

Right Speech, one of the tenets of the Buddhist Eightfold Path, asserts that hateful communication breeds disharmony and can engender physical violence. We often think of violent language as being less harmful than violent action. But violent words, thoughts, and actions are intertwined. Kind words, thoughts, and actions similarly arise together to take flight into the world.

My daughter benefited from getting grounded, and it will likely not be the last time she receives this gift. Meditation and mindfulness are popular alternatives to detention in schools around the globe. Perhaps it’s time for parents to reinvent the discipline of “grounding” kids, without guilt, but with gratitude and intention. Perhaps we simply need to reframe and redefine it as a powerful tool in the discipline towards an educated mind and a compassionate heart. Perhaps children and adults can adopt a reflective practice to assist us in looking outside of ourselves, beyond our bubbles.

F. Scott Fitzgerald said, “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.” A reflective practice allows us to exercise our minds and build our imaginations to hold multiple perspectives.

This is the path to wisdom and peace.

This post was originally published in Living Education.

Who said motherhood doesn't come with a manual?

Subscribe to get inspiration and super helpful ideas to rock your #momlife. Motherhood looks amazing on you.

Already a subscriber? Log in here.

When we consider all the skills our kids will need to succeed in the future, what comes to mind? Perhaps creativity, tech skills, or an excellent understanding of math might be at the top of many parents' lists. Social-emotional skills, like empathy, compassion, or the ability to understand another person's viewpoint may not be the ones you thought of right away, but deep down you know they matter.

We've all had those co-workers who didn't know how to listen to our ideas or friends who couldn't compromise with others. We know that in the work world and in our personal life, emotional skills are key to developing and maintaining healthy relationships.

If you are the parent of a toddler, you know that young children are inherently self-centered. It's not some faulty aspect of their character or a misstep of parenting skills. Young children simply do not have the brain maturity to consider another person's perspective or needs just yet—their brain physically is not ready to handle that kind of mental work.

However, child development research shows us that we can do a few things along the developmental path to help foster social-emotional skills in our kids. With a little help from us, our kids' brains can develop with meaningful connections that tune them into the feelings of others.

Here's how:

1. Treat others how you want your kids to treat others.

How we talk to our kids becomes their internal dialogue. We know from research that this goes for emotional skills as well. A recent study showed that when parents talk to their kids more about how other people might be feeling, the kids had better perspective-taking abilities—the ability to see a situation from another person's point of view.

This, of course, is the basis of many emotional skills, especially empathy. Just by talking about another person's feelings, kids begin to develop those crucial brain connections that help them develop empathy.

It's worth pointing out that very young children under ages 3-4 do not have the brain maturity to really understand another person's perspective. They lack a crucial skill that psychologists call Theory of Mind, meaning they can't understand the mind of another person.

However, our urgings and thoughtful phrasing to point out how another person might be feeling can only help them down this developmental path. Then, once their little brain matures, they will be in the habit of hearing and understanding the feelings of others.

2. Model positive emotional behavior in daily life.

It's probably not surprising to learn that how we react to our kids' feelings influences their emotional development. When your child gets upset, do you get angry or ruffled by their big emotions? We are all human, of course, so sometimes our kids' emotions are the exact triggers that fuel our big feelings, too. However, if we can remain the calm in the emotional storm for our kids, their development will benefit. Through modeling emotional regulation, over time our kids will learn how to self-regulate as well.

One study, in fact, showed that toddlers whose parents exhibited anger or over-reacted to tantrums were likely to have more tantrums and negative emotionality by the end of the study. However, the opposite dynamic can happen, too. Parents who model firm, but calm emotional regulation help their kids learn these skills as well.

3. Don’t be afraid to show your emotions.

Many times, we feel that one of our main jobs as a parent is to protect our children from the big, often overwhelming emotions of adults. For instance, we try not to break down crying or become red-faced with anger in front of our kids. It just feels too big for them to handle and perhaps not developmentally appropriate.

As they mature, however, older kids are able to handle a bit more discussion and expression of honest emotions. Have you noticed that kids usually pick up on the fact that you are upset even if you try to hide it? Kids are naturally curious and, many times, very sensitive to the emotional tenor at home. If they are developmentally ready, this can be a good time to have more discussions about emotions and how to handle them.

For example, my 9-year-old is playing a lot of baseball this summer and always wants me to pitch to him so he can practice batting. Now, I am not a very skilled player so my pitches often go off course or are too weak. He had gotten in the habit of correcting my pitching or (more likely) complaining about it every time we played.

After repeated experiences with this, I was not only annoyed but it also sort of hurt my feelings—so I finally told him how I felt. Guess what? His behavior at practice time changed dramatically! The mere fact of him realizing that his mom has feelings too really made him think about his words more carefully.

These types of interaction can become part of your "emotion coaching." It may sound silly but it can make a big impact for kids, especially as they grow older and are more able to really understand the emotional lesson. On some level, it's nice that our kids think we are superheroes, but it's also crucial that they understand that we are still human, with real feelings.

The magic of helping our kids develop empathy doesn't happen in well-planned lessons or elaborate activities. The real magic happens in the small, simple interactions and discussions we have with our kids each day.

You might also like:

In the moments after we give birth, we desperately want to hear our baby cry. In the middle of the night a few months later it's no longer exactly music to our ears, but those cries aren't just telling us that baby needs a night feeding: They're also giving us a hint at what our children may sound like as kindergarteners, and adults.

New research published in the journal Biology Letters suggests the pitch of a 4-month-old's cry predicts the pitch they'll use to ask for more cookies at age five and maybe even later on as adults.

The study saw 2 to 5-month olds recorded while crying. Five years later, the researchers hit record again and chatted with the now speaking children. Their findings, combined with previous work on the subject, suggest it's possible to figure out what a baby's voice will sound like later in life, and that the pitch of our adult voices may be traceable back to the time we spend in utero. Further studies are needed, but scientists are very interested in how factors before birth can impact decades later.

"In utero, you have a lot of different things that can alter and impact your life — not only as a baby, but also at an adult stage," one of the authors of the study, Nicolas Mathevon, told the New York Times.

The New York Times also spoke with Carolyn Hodges, an assistant professor of anthropology at Boston University who was not involved in the study. According to Hodges, while voice pitch may not seem like a big deal, it impacts how we perceive people in very real ways.

Voice pitch is a factor in how attractive we think people are, how trustworthy. But why we find certain pitches more or less appealing isn't known. "There aren't many studies that address these questions, so that makes this research especially intriguing," Hodges said, adding that it "suggests that individual differences in voice pitch may have their origins very, very early in development."

So the pitch of that midnight cry may have been determined months ago, and it may determine part of your child's future, too. There are still so many things we don't know, but as parents we do know one thing: Our babies cries (as much as we don't want to hear them all the time) really are something special.

You might also like:

Sometimes it can feel like you never get a minute to even finish a thought—let alone a to-do list. When your day is packed with caretaking, your own needs get pushed back. So when you finally get to lie down at the end of the day, all those thoughts are waiting for you. While we haven't figured out the secret to keeping you from over-analyzing every.single.thing. (sorry, mama!), we do believe you must carve out time for you. Because that rest is just as important—and you've certainly earned it.

XO,

#TeamMotherly

PS: We spoke to Jessica Alba and she gave us the lowdown on why she stopped breastfeeding, and Nordstrom is having their anniversary sale until August 5th. Here's everything we want!

My Instagram feed has been full of pictures of friends that their kids to the beach. I get it, I like the beach a lot. But the forest and the mountains are my real loves.

The way the damp leaves smell in the morning. The peace of walking underneath a canopy of trees. The sound of firewood crackling at night. Sigh, heaven.

I also grew up camping with my family and have done some intense hiking, backpacking and search and rescue. So it's kind of in my blood—I wear my frostbite scars with honor.

So I couldn't wait to get my future kids out into nature (minus the frostbite). I had visions of us hiking to a stream, swimming and splashing all day, then cooking a big meal over a campfire as we sing songs and laugh.

Then, I actually became a parent. Of three kids, actually, all of whom are still very young… and a dog… and a husband who doesn't really like camping.

Despite the realization that it wouldn't be exactly as I planned, this summer we finally decided to take our first camping trip as a family.

Here is what I learned:

1. Set the bar low

I had to remind myself over and over again that this trip would not live up to my expectations. I know this sounds like a bummer way to start a trip, but it really helped. I have the tendency to over-plan and get really (really) excited about things. This is not a bad quality, but it can lend itself to disappointment when things don't go as hoped. I didn't want us to leave the trip feeling like it was a failure in any way.

This trip was a success, and a big moment for our family, no matter how it turned out.

Instead of forcing activities or memories, I forced myself to just… be. Not expecting the trip to be magical opened us up to appreciate the unexpected moments of magic as they occurred naturally, without being forced.

This got harder, of course, when our car got stuck in the mud (true story), and we had to wait three hours for AAA to arrive. But when our kids talk about the camping trip now they still squeal with delight as they recount the story of the tow truck coming. You're welcome (I guess)?

2. We made it really easy

I put my camping ego aside, and we took a lot of shortcuts on this first trip. We didn't stay in a tent but rented a barebones cabin instead. For dinner, we ordered a pizza. And we let the kids play on our phones for a little bit in the evening.

Those things didn't make for a truly authentic experience, but goodness, they really helped. I have started to realize that there is no shame in making things easy, especially when you have little kids. And they didn't know any different. As far as they are concerned, we hiked the Appalachian Trail and gathered all our own food from the earth.

This was a lazy camping trip, for sure—and that was exactly what we needed.

3. I over-prepped for safety so I could calm down

I have hiked and camped in the White Mountains of New Hampshire in February—this was not that. At any given moment on our trip, an ambulance could have easily reached us, and we were only a few minutes away from a hospital at any point. But it made me feel much better to know that we were safe and ready for anything that should happen.

We bought a first aid kit, a survival kit, too many flashlights and bottled water. I was really big on everyone wearing good footwear and teaching them how to walk carefully on uneven terrain.

We also used the opportunity to teach about other areas, like water safety. Rita Goldberg of the British Swim School recommends "[teaching kids] to avoid water hazards and to not approach a fountain, river, pool or lake without an adult's supervision and permission."

We also incorporated their "Water Watcher" program, which assigns a "badge of responsibility" to one adult at all times, who maintains a constant watch over the kids while they are near water.

These easy steps, that we decided on ahead of time, made me feel much more relaxed, and therefore better able to enjoy our time.

This trip took some emotional adjustments on my part. It wasn't glamorous, or particularly exciting. But that was exactly what it needed to be. Emily Glover wrote that "by getting away from the distractions of home and focusing on each other...we're reminded of what really matters."

We found that in the woods—together.

You might also like:



Motherly provides information of a general nature and is designed for educational purposes only. This site does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.Your use of the site indicates your agreement to be bound by our  Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. Information on our advertising guidelines can be found here.