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Getting Your Spouse on Board


Once we quit pushing,
there’s nothing to resist.

I get asked a lot, “What can I do to make my spouse more supportive?

I suspect the question stems from a hope that I have clever ways of prompting spouses to change . . .  in order to act the way the person (who’s asking) thinks is best.

However, my response to that question is always the same: Nothing.

Huh? There’s nothing we can do to get more spousal support?

That’s right. Do nothing. Quit pushing.

Why? Well, think about the laws of physics. The more we push against something resistant, the more it pushes back. My guess is that those asking that question have already tried every persuasive argument—and still, there’s no change.

So then, what happens when we quit pushing? We no longer get resistance.  That’s already a notable improvement over having no support and resistance. :-)

In doing the above, we also consider the possibility there may be more than one effective way to approach a problem, that our way is not necessarily the only, right way.  Humbling to consider, but true.

Now, can we ask our spouse a few questions that loosely fall under maybe igniting some support? Yes. But we ask these questions just once—and we don’t have pre-set answers, whereupon we become irritated if we don’t get the response we want.

Examples of such questions are:

Are you interested in reading any of the material (on a topic we want our spouse to be more supportive)?

Are you okay if I read aloud to you a few interesting paragraphs (on a topic we want our spouse to be more supportive)? Note: the latter sometimes presents itself as an opportunity while riding in a car together.

Would you be willing to (fill in the blank) while I am working with our child on (fill in the blank)?  Here, we’re not asking for direct support. Rather, we’re inquiring whether our spouse may be willing to help in another way (that we both perceive as necessary). For example, maybe our spouse goes to the store to pick up a few things for dinner while we’re working with our child.

But won’t kids get confused if both parents aren’t supporting (whatever)? No.  It only becomes a problem if one parent feels the need to undermine the other parents’ efforts by making negative comments in front of the child. In such case, that parent is now doing the pushing, the assumption that his or her way of thinking is “correct.”

So I support a truce from both parents, where everyone stops pushing.

Last, time (not more attempts to persuade different thinking) will ultimately tell its own story. If we’ve chosen to help our kids in a way that results in significant, positive changes, that says it all.

Parenting with a New Brain: Part 1


Myelin makes it possible to create new parenting circuits.

There are no parenting genes. Anyone can become the kind of parent they aspire to be. It all has to do with how our brain is wired.

In short, if we want better connections with our kids, we can have that by creating new and better connections in our own brain. So where do we begin?

Learn about Myelin

Myelin is live tissue that slowly wraps around neurons (in a way that’s similar to insulation). With each layer of myelin, we create a bit more bandwidth and precision to a neural circuit.

But myelin never “knows” what it’s wrapping. Simply, circuits that fire get insulated.

So we can create new parenting circuits (by changing how we think and what we do), and myelin will wrap fibers around them. Voila!  And that’s true whether we’re American or Chinese or Mexican—or from any country in the world.

That’s why I’ve come to think of myelin as parents’ new best friend. We all have an innate way to rewire how we interact with our kids.

Ignite our Brain

For the longest time, everyone thought it was impossible for humans to run a mile in less than four minutes. But then Roger Bannister broke that barrier.  Just a few weeks later, John Landy did the same. Within three years, no fewer than 17 runners had broken the four-minute mile.

The explanation? These runners’ brains were now ignited to believe that they, too, could do this.

As parents, we can also ignite our brain by believing, “I can do this—I can change my neural pathways.”

Getting Started: The First Four Steps

The first four steps focus on believing in our potential, becoming aware of thoughts that interfere with effective parenting, and challenging prior mindsets.

Step 1. We believe that we can rewire our brain to parent in new and different ways.

While outside sources may have previously criticized our kids and us (even though those critics never actually demonstrated how to bring about change, either), they were wrong. We can wire our brain so that we wow and awe people with our parenting finesse.

Step 2. We identify which of our thoughts and actions have created undesirable networks.

Some examples of unproductive thinking entrenched in our brain may be:

We believe the child has something fundamentally “wrong” with him—that cannot change, no matter what.

We think the child is making a conscious decision to to act in a way that we perceive negatively.

We point to someone else as the cause of the undesired behavior.

We think the child’s behavior should change without us doing anything differently.

We believe the child needs rescuing and is incapable of learning to act independently.

We attach a past and future “narrative” to what others only view as a simple action in the present.

Step 3. We’re aware that our subconscious affects our child’s actions and brain wiring.

Our unconscious mind can process 11 million bits of information per second, while the conscious mind processes a mere 40. That means we send lots of primal cues—subconscious messages—to our kids.  So how does that affect our daily interactions?

Was our subconscious message more powerful than whatever we consciously said or did?

Does our child try to take control because he senses there is no consistent leader in the home?

Do primal cues tell our child that she’s not like other family members so she acts in ways that reinforce that belief?

Does our child break the toy because we already “knew” he would before we even handed it to him?

We also have to consider how our own subconscious may actually want our child to act negatively.  Perhaps, we need a distraction so that we don’t have to deal with whatever is buried in our subconscious. Maybe, we need to be needed.  In such cases, the child is only responding to whatever message we’re sending.

Step 4. We rattle prior mindsets and convictions, head-on, until they’re gone.

If we don’t change our mindset, then (by default) those negative circuits are going to keep lighting up in our brain. And we’ll keep wrapping myelin around pathways that only lead to dark alleys.

So, if we’re having trouble shaking old ways of thinking, we say aloud what we believe to be fact.  Then we ask ourselves this question: How is that way of thinking working for me (i.e. Has it brought about positive changes)?  If our answer ranges anywhere from “not so good” to “horrible”—then, maybe it’s time to chuck that circuit.  After all, what do we have to lose? :-)


(Parenting with a New Brain: Part 2 appears in the next post.)

Parenting with a New Brain: Part 2


With new parenting circuits, we look at our kids’ behavior with curiosity, rather than emotion or judgment.

Creating New Parenting Pathways: The Second Four Steps

After addressing the first four steps (Part 1’s post), the second four steps focus on ignoring prior circuits, building new ones, and celebrating the process.

Step 1.  We implement the second part of “Use it or lose it” when referring to the brain.

Since we actually want to lose negative networks, we no longer allow ourselves to think or do whatever created them in the first place. In other words, we shut down myelin production for those circuits. Today.

Step 2.  We build new circuits that reflect a different way of thinking and then wrap lots of myelin around those neural networks.

We say new thoughts to ourselves, to our child, and to lots of other people—knowing that every time we do so, we’re wrapping more myelin around those circuits and disregarding old ones.

Some examples of such statements are:

  • I’m curious about all the different ways I’ll parent my children with my new circuits.
  • My kids need me to be their consistent leader so they can feel safe at all times.
  • I have more potential than I may have realized to bring about positive changes and help my family.
  • I like that I’m the one who’s the primary source for improving our family interactions and creating harmony in our home.
  • I’m excited to learn new ways to interact with my child that will help us connect better and allow us (both) to shine.
  • I’m no longer believing others’ doom and gloom perceptions of my child (especially since no one has backed up their beliefs by saying they’d give me their life savings if they’re wrong).

Step 3.  We adopt a new, 3-part plan of action for interacting with our child.

We pause.

Without the pause, we’re likely to go right down some prior, well-established circuit that we now want to avoid.

We do something different.

That way, we’re laying down a new circuit

We’re curious about what just transpired.

Rather than having a knee-jerk reaction (e.g. See? Nothing works with this kid!) or judging ourselves (I’m not good at remembering which technique to use), we now merely reflect with curiosity as to why our new response did or did not work.

This nonjudgmental way of thinking then makes our brain feel safe to explore situations and form new insights. Parenting simply becomes an opportunity to learn—both about ourselves and our kids.

Step 4.  We recognize signs of new wiring and celebrate.

Some examples of how we (not our kids) have changed are:

Instead of believing our child bears the responsibility to change, we now begin sentences that focus on what we (as the parents) can do differently.

Instead of thinking there’s a right or wrong way to respond to our kids, we look at situations as feedback and opportunities to learn something new.

Instead of judging our kids, we now look at all behavior (including our own) with curiosity.

Instead of becoming upset or resigned when our child does an undesired behavior, we adopt a demeanor similar to a paramedic (i.e. calm, assertive).

Instead of dwelling on the past or having angst over the future, we no longer attach personal narratives to whatever is happening in the present.

Instead of solving problems for our kids, we allow them to experience some struggle (but not so much that the brain shuts down), knowing that operating on the edges of our ability actually produces more myelin than when we aren’t challenged.

Instead of focusing on what our kids still cannot do, we applaud their willingness to explore, re-think, and give something a whirl.

There is no getting around it: Our own brain wiring is directly linked to our child’s behavior. If we want our child to change (somehow), we need to first look at how we can change.

However, since myelin wrapping can be slow, we also need to remember to be kind and patient with ourselves during this process.

In fact, just thinking about creating new parenting circuits . . . is a terrific start.

Shy Kids are a Myth


We may not realize that we encourage kids to withdraw.

There isn’t a shy gene—though you’d think there was one by how many kids are called this.

In fact, it’s quite common for parents and relatives and teachers to tell everyone (within earshot of the child) that Tommy or Tiffany or Jake is just shy whenever the child doesn’t want to say hello, play with other kids, or try something new.  And since being shy is generally accepted as a plausible explanation for withdrawal, the label is not challenged.

But what registers in the child’s brain if he’s excused from interacting because “he’s shy”?

First, he learns that he doesn’t have to respond if he feels uncomfortable.  Second, he doesn’t engage in opportunities to practice social skills (e.g. how to greet people). Third, he becomes less and less confident with how to interact with others each time that he withdraws.

And then, how does that brain map serve the child when he becomes older? Not well. In fact, one might argue that such a brain map makes it more probable that such kids become teens or adults who rely on alcohol or drugs to “fit in.”

So why does the shy myth perpetuate?  Well, it’s possible that some (or most) of these kids have an underdeveloped pons. In such case, this primitive part of the brain is still wired to go into “flight” the second it feels threatened—even if such perception is distorted.

But since most parents aren’t aware of this connection, the child’s first withdrawal is merely noted as “he’s just being a little shy.”  After that, such thinking becomes entrenched in the brain every time the child, once again, demonstrates “shyness” so that it has now become a learned response.

Such behavior is often further reinforced when parents allow the child to hide behind them, speak for them, and find other ways that, in truth, only further create the perception that the child is not capable of responding.

So, if we’ve been inadvertently encouraging shyness, how can we turn this around?

1) We tell our child we have been selling him short by thinking and telling others he was shy, that we’ve now learned ways we can help his brain feel more comfortable in situations—without retreating.

2) We quit speaking for our child, and we no longer become a safe haven (where they hide behind or cling to us in social situations).

3) We role-play situations at home so the brain is already familiar with what’s expected in social interactions.  For example, if we know we are going to a family gathering, we practice saying hi to Aunt Evie and Uncle John (with stuffed animals or other willing participants) lots of times before we actually attend the event.

4) We start to incorporate phrases such as “Let’s give it a whirl” for new opportunities.

5) We actively seek opportunities for our child to share what he’s naturally adept at when he’s with others in order to help regain confidence and more likely experience positive interactions.

6) We praise and honor the child when doing any of the above, saying we’re glad he’s creating a brain map that allows him to trust us (e.g. why would we introduce him to someone we don’t want him to meet?) and share who he is with others.

Doesn’t that sound like something we’d want to happen for every child?

25 Ideas to Keep Floor Time Fresh


Here is a recap of all the wonderful, creative ideas parents submitted in the July 2011 Fresh Floor Time Ideas contest.

Creative parents use their cortex to create original floor time games.

Kathy Akehurst Reed

We set up a domino chain reaction. Nate gets to set up a couple of dominoes during each break and when the creeping is done, he can set off the chain reaction. (It is also a visual for not having connections in the brain at first because the vertical dominoes don’t touch each other, but a highway is built in the end.)


Bridget Smith Witt

Reece and Spencer’s favorite creeping game is “Creeping For Berries.” We set up tiny plates used for wasabi, and instead I place a blueberry, raspberry, grape, etc. on them, as a surprise while creeping. They never know where they may end up, so they need to creep all over the downstairs looking. SOMETIMES there may be a mini-marshmallow, the signal that 30 minutes is up! This game usually gets two sessions of 30 minutes out of them!


Brenda Sharpe

A fun activity we do while creeping is getting the Nerf gun and making a target, and then trying to hit it after two laps. She also loves me to read her fairy tales and then we put new endings on the stories.


Jason Alan Robinson

We love to take Junior to the gym with us to creep. There are a ton of great surfaces for creeping and he loves to be like mommy and daddy and workout, so after he gets tired of creeping, we let him SAFELY use a piece of equipment under our supervision!


Carol Skinner

We used different types of plastic/rubber animals from the dollar store and put them in a bowl. We had the boys close their eyes and pick an animal, then tell us what they thought they had picked.

We are also going to pick Lego mini figures and put them in a bowl or put them together and then take one away and have them figure out which mini figure is missing. This is a take-off of the game we saw Sunday with Littlest Pet Shop. Our creeping/crawling game is iPad for Brain Highways using educational and fun games. We play the apps checkers, Stack the States, math apps, Angry Birds. It’s fun and it helps pass the time:) You could also use apps on your Droid phone or iPhone.


Cindy MacDonald Piggott

Our favorite creeping motivator is to make it a treasure hunt — each hidden clue found leads to today’s idea for our next vacation. A coin attached is the reward to put into our family vacation fund jar. Killing two birds with one stone and it gets sisters involved and excited about it, too!


Carlin Beal

I’ve stopped clocking floor time. I timed a lap and that’s the daily goal. In our case, 100 times around the coffee table. Kids choose how many laps in between activities, and no adding time to make sure 45 minutes is done. Just get your laps in. And, it’s visual: for each lap, a penny goes in the glass, so you see progress LOL! It takes less time to get the same 45 minute floor time, and there is real excitement as more pennies are in the jar.

Wyatt’s creep/crawl activity is singing — he changes the words of songs to fit Brain Highways, and they are never the same. For example, the James Brown song,  “I feel good, like I knew that I would, if I creeped.” Or Ke$ha, “Wake up in the morning crawl, around the floor, I got the Brain Highways.”  Raskall Flatts works: “Life is a Brain Highway, I gotta crawl all night long.” And of course, a lot of Elvis songs will work: “I ain’t nothing but a crawl dog, little bit more creeping . . .” He does sound effects too!

Jordan’s creep/crawl is down the red carpet. From US or other magazines, we get photos of different people wearing the same dress. There are multiple levels of play. Level 1 – what are the differences? See how many you can spot in between laps. Level 2 – look, store it in your mind’s eye, and then answer questions without looking. Everything is fair game – background, hair, jewelry. Level 3 – open discussion, for example, why do you think she got more votes than her? Do you agree?

Creep & Crawl Game: First time, creep to card with picture side & one word. Put it in mind’s eye and think of rhyming words. For every rhyming word you give on a lap back, you get a penny. Then read out loud the rhyming words and do another lap. See how many more you get on the next lap. Go to the next card when you’re ready to give it a whirl. Jordan says this is funnier than it looks in print — trust me!


Cari Mcclemons

Kaitlyn and Nolan like musical I Spy. They have an I Spy puzzle that has cards for what you find. We spread the cards around and they creep. Once the music stops, they flip a card to see what they have to find and creep to the I Spy puzzle and find what is on the cards.

Lynette Staples Helmer

Seth’s favorite activity is listening to a Goosebumps audiobook on his iPod while creeping. I also make him a scrumptious berry protein shake that I move around the floor to help cool him down.


Don Trujillo

An original activity that Nate came up with is, he spins and while he’s spinning, I bounce a raquet ball to him. He has to stop, track the ball, and try to catch it. And I will vary the location of the bounced ball. He likes this one a lot!

Nate likes me to read to him while he’s creeping. We’ve read several books about baseball already. About every 4 or 5 minutes, he’ll take a short break and we will do something vestibular or proprioceptive during the break. For example, pulling at silly putty, standing on the balance board, or digging into raw pinto beans to find a ring. Sometimes we will incorporate eye tracking exercises, or math problems. Dice are good for random simple math problems. Either add the sum of the dice or multiply the numbers that come up.


Stephanie Wiese

Madison’s idea: Creep outside doing a crazy 8, while your parents shoot a water gun at you.


Karrie Ochoa

Creative ideas: Before beginning, get eye contact and thank your child for their participation. Spice it up with — music, block towers to knock down, balloons, bubbles, stamps, stickers, friends, obstacle courses, change of scenery or route, story telling, wall charts, short poems, hidden, unexpected treats, a secret surprise when all done, a special privilege, massage, and a place to jot down improvements along the way.


Kathy Holding

Simple creeping game: All you need is some dice and something to keep score with. Roll the dice (you can use one or two) and add up your points. You get to roll as many times as you want, to get a higher number, but if you get a “one,” you lose all your points for that turn. Depending on time, you can play up to 100 or turn by turn. Of course it’s always funner when the parent doesn’t win and has to take a lap!


Mindy Chiou

As the days get hotter, reward your child with squirt guns or spray bottles of water. On a hot day we “spritz” Sam regularly as he creeps, and he loves it!

Put your creeping lane outside for a change of pace. I duct taped two 6×8 pieces of vinyl from Home Depot together to make a 16-foot creeping lane. I put it at the top of my driveway so it’s fairly level (not like I have shown it in the photo–finally wised up about this!), and shaded by the garage in the afternoon.

P.S. Disclaimer: I made this sign myself without permission from BH. We are in a very well-traveled part of the neighborhood and I thought it would be a good way to share what we are doing.

Hire teenagers to help with floor time. I have a fleet of them since Sam doesn’t do the floor work on his own. They are creative and fun, and it is a great way to build self-esteem in the teens, too.


Rebecca Woodland Christensen

Bubble Pop! Evie’s original creeping idea: Mom blows bubbles and she creeps/crawls to them. If she gets there in time, she gets to catch and pop the ones that are left! This has helped us immensly with stalling on the floor! : )


Heather Olson

Cook, Creep, Crawl – The kids love to bake or cook with me, so they take laps around the kitchen in between adding ingredients or following directions for making something. For example: measure the flour, take a lap. Pour flour in the bowl, take a lap. Crack an egg…you get the picture :) Hope some of you find this activity as enjoyable as we do.


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