Monday, September 30, 2013

How to Discipline Verbal Aggression

We are making camel lips!

Peter is usually very even-tempered, but he *is* still learning to express himself, to be independent, to understand rule-setting and boundaries. His weapon of choice when things go wrong is screaming. Not loud crying, that is a more natural response, used when he is sad or hurt. He screams when he is angry or embarrassed or frustrated.

And I'm having a hard time knowing how to respond.

If he were being physically aggressive, I would hold him on my lap, ending the aggression and being present with him while he regained control. But verbal aggression? That's what this is (and why I won't tolerate it as "expressing his emotions"). He sometimes even gives us warning, "If you do that, I will scream." The equivalent to holding him would be covering his mouth, but that doesn't seem at all like a loving response.

I have lots of training in behaviorism, but as a parent I try to keep consequences natural or at least logical (if you kick my chair, I won't sit next to you). The natural consequence to verbal aggression is no one wants to be with you, but sending him to his room or walking away from him doesn't help him learn how to cope. If I try to hold him or talk to him, usually the screaming escalates.

He screamed halfway through a 2 hour car trip Saturday night, waking Anne and making her cry. No one was happy. (Cause? He threatened to drop his cookies on the floor because I couldn't find his bowl and I told him that was his choice.) Since Saturday, I've been trying to proactively parent, framing questions and shaping situations in such a way that he is unlikely to get upset. It has mostly worked, but... eventually something will upset him. He needs to learn how to express himself without being aggressive toward those around him. Ideas?

I know punitive discipline would probably end the screaming, but that "fixes" the symptom without addressing the problem. Additionally, it teaches him that aggression is OK, as long as it comes from someone bigger.

Friday, September 27, 2013

7QT (Vol.57): Effective Intercessory Prayer

With thanks to Fr. Peter Adu Boahen Nkansah for sharing this with me.

There are times in life that I've struggled in my prayer life. I continue to go through the motions, believing that the desire to please God does in fact please him (see Thoughts in Solitude by Thomas Merton), but I am praying from a distance. I question the effectiveness of my intercessory prayer as I am distracted, full of doubt, and simultaneously prideful. If I cannot fully enter into dialogue with God, the fault is my own that I don't hear His answers. What can be done to open myself to effective prayer?

Meditate Good things take time. There is undoubtedly value in short prayers throughout the day, but those are only part of a complete prayer life. Setting aside time to simply be in the presence of God is a necessary component of effective prayer. Ideally, this would involve regular Eucharistic Adoration, but even carving out 30+ minutes each day brings one to a place to hear what God speaks.

Read Scripture "All Scripture is God-breathed and useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness" (2 Tim. 3:16). Reading, reflecting on, and internalizing Scripture familiarizes us with God's Word. Through this Word, all that exists was created. It is this Word that became flesh, bearing our weakness. To recognize and follow God's voice in prayer, we must know his Word.

Fortify yourself Prayer is our weapon against the enemy. We must not enter battle carelessly, but rather put on the armor of God (Eph. 6:10-17). Equip yourself with truth, righteousness, and the gospel of peace. One cannot effectively intercede for others while being spiritually vulnerable. Do what is necessary to strengthen your shield of faith that you may protect yourself and others.

Do no harm Sin distances us from God. Powerful prayer comes from a heart humbled and seeking first the kingdom of God. To pray effectively, be reconciled to others (Mt. 5:23-24, Rom. 12:18) then go and sin no more. To pray for some while injuring others is an ineffective way to build up the body of Christ.

Fast If the previous four are in order, we can approach the discipline of fasting. Fasting without a solid prayer life becomes haphazard, an exercise in physical perseverance, or a vain display of piety. To fast, have a plan. Perhaps 6AM to noon, praying every hour. Or 6AM to 6PM, praying at the conclusion of the fast. If possible, fast, pray, and break the fast in community - not to prove how religious you are, but to gather in the name of Jesus, to assemble the army of saints militant. The spiritual emptying through fasting and the celebration of breaking bread find meaning in community.

St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle. 
St. Alphonsus Ligouri, patron of vocations, pray for us.
All you holy men and women, pray for us.

7 Quick Takes is hosted at Conversion Diary

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

National Museum of Play

We're on television with The Count!

Anne in Big Bird's nest

Berenstain Bears Country

Monday, September 23, 2013

Simply Love Them

"So if we are ever tempted to say about a friend or family member or stranger on the internet "but if I don't tell them the RULES, how will they ever start being GOOD???" I'd like to suggest that they are already good and just don't know it. Help them find their God-given goodness. Help them feel like they are worthy of even striving to be good. Make sure they know that no matter what they do, they cannot ever make God stop loving them."
- Dwija (read full post here)

"I see clearly," the pope continues, "that the thing the church needs most today is the ability to heal wounds and to warm the hearts of the faithful; it needs nearness, proximity. I see the church as a field hospital after battle. It is useless to ask a seriously injured person if he has high cholesterol and about the level of his blood sugars! You have to heal his wounds. Then we can talk about everything else. Heal the wounds, heal the wounds...."
"[T]he proclamation of the saving love of God comes before moral and religious imperatives."
- Pope Francis (read full article here)

And the greatest of these is love.
A new command I give to you, love one another.
Love covers a multitude of sins.
- God (read full Bible here)

I thrive on rules. I want to know exactly what is expected, what is allowed, and where the lines are. I delight in learning the rules, traditions, rubrics, and codified laws of the Catholic Church. So when someone challenges Church teaching, my impulsive response is, "Because we're supposed to!" I'm not one for blind obedience; I know the reasons behind the rules. But because I find such comfort in the particular faith I have held since my childhood, I forget that not everyone likes to hear, "Because I said so."

Not this kid. So I don't say it. (Really!)

In fact, almost no one does. Only one other person comes to mind who likes rules as much as I do.

So I need to hear the message of love over and over. I need LOVE IN ACTION to be in my thoughts, in my words, and in my heart. I need to follow the lead of my Pope. I need the witness of other Christians who are willing to call me out on being overly legalistic. I need to remember that living a life of gentleness and faithfulness is a better witness to the freedom of surrender than being able to cite doctrine.

But if you want to know why we do what we do, I'd love to talk about it. :-)

Friday, September 20, 2013

7QT (Vol. 56): Peter Says, Catholic Edition

There are some big changes in my role as a catechist this year. For the past four years, I've taught third grade. For the past two years, I've had a fantastic teacher's aide. At the end of last school year, I was eagerly anticipating another year of the same. Then plans changed. I told our program coordinator I couldn't commit to a full year, so she found another teacher. My teacher's aide is not returning to the program this year (for reasons unknown to me).

I asked to be kept on the sub list and was instead presented with the opportunity to teach the preschool/kindergarten class until another teacher could be found. So, that's the class I have this year until/unless we move. I have a new teacher's aide. And Peter is going to be in my class! Perhaps with a whole class, I'll be able to share quotes from other adorable children, too. Now on to what you all actually want to read:

Looking at the stained glass windows with Grams, who says, "That's Mary Magdalene. She did things wrong, but when she was sorry, Jesus forgave her."
"What did she do wrong?"
"I don't know, exactly. And over here is Martin of Tours. I don't know much about him. We can look up his story on the computer when we get home."
"Yeah. And find out what Mary Magdalene did wrong."

One of his prayer books says to give thanks for the little things, like birds and flowers, and the big things, too, that God has done for you. "Like elephants and dinosaurs! They're big!"

"Do you want to wear a church shirt or keep your dinosaur shirt?"
"I want my dinosaur shirt, but tuck it into my church pants. Because we are going to Adoration and that is how we show respect to God."

(bedtime prayers) "To thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve -"
"Mommy, why did you say of Eve?"
"Because the Bible says Adam and Eve were the first people. We're the children of Eve because, like Eve, we sometimes choose to do what is wrong. God forgives us when we're sorry, though."
"No, Mommy, it's children of Veve, not Eve."
Lessons learned: I need to enunciate more clearly and never assume I know the intent of a question.

OK, this one is unrelated, but too cute. I know at some point I should correct him...
"Mommy, I think Anne is tired. You should give her some rest-milk so she can rest."

7 Quick Takes is hosted at Conversion Diary.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Fire Week

Big thanks to the Henrietta Fire Company #5!

Monday, September 16, 2013

Therapy Myth-Busting

Little known fact: I went to counseling for four months.

I had a good family support system, faith in God, financial security, and a promising future. I also had anxiety. I was reading the worst into every situation, to the extent that even from the inside I could tell things were getting ridiculous.

My counselor used the first meeting to get to know me and what struggles I was currently facing. She laughed. "So, you're finishing your degree in May, moving to a different city and so changing homes, churches, and social groups, getting married, and starting a new job in September. I can't imagine why you're stressed!"

No really, I'm fine. See my smile?

Therapy Myth-Busting

Therapy is for people with serious issues. I hadn't recently experienced trauma or grief. My anxiety was nothing earth-shattering. I had no panic attacks, no phobias. I certainly wasn't incapacitated. But problematic thoughts or behaviors become a disability when they impact one or more major life functions. For example, my anxiety was impacting my ability to concentrate and to interact socially. I wasn't enjoying life.

Therapy takes years to be effective. For the first month, I went every week for 30 minutes, working through the issues that had first prompted me to get help. Then every two weeks, then finally we let it go a month. I checked in at the end of the month, a calmer and happier me. She wished me well; we were done. I think I had a total of 5 hours in her office. Certainly therapy can take years, but it usually doesn't.

If I get therapy, they're going to put me on drugs. I wasn't in need of any mood stabilizers, much less the more potent psychiatric drugs. In some cases, the best course of action may be combined counseling and medication*, but you always have the right to say no. If you want to avoid medication, try using a counselor or psychologist rather than psychiatrist.

Therapy is prohibitively expensive. I went to a local agency sponsored by the Catholic church. I don't know how or why, but there were no fees. They never took my insurance information, didn't even know I was Catholic. I guess it was just an act of charity, one for which I am quite grateful. Check out local resources if you want help but think you can't afford it.

Therapy means I'm weak.No, therapy means you can take care of yourself. If you break an arm, you go to a doctor to fix it. If your sink isn't working, you call a plumber. If you struggle with anxiety, depression, obsessions, compulsions, body image, etc., you use a counselor. If you're concerned what others will think, just don't tell them! Or work with your counselor to plan a way to tell people.

*Very rarely is medication without counseling the best treatment. You might mask the symptoms, but you're not curing the problem. Your physician probably has limited training in diagnosing and treating emotional/cognitive conditions. Just because medical doctors can give you a prescription doesn't mean they should.

Friday, September 13, 2013

7QT (Vol. 55): Peter's Camping Memories, Verbatim

One time when I was on a campout with Daddy and Mommy and Anne and Grams and Papa, there was a thunderstorm and we all decided to move to the car. So we did. When the thunderstorm was all done, we moved back to the tent. Then we sleeped all through the night and it was just raining. In the shadow trees, Grams heard drip drip drip of raindrops splatter in her tent. When it was done, we got out of our tents and had breakfast. The end.

One time, we went to the bathroom with Grams and Papa because I needed to use the toilet before bedtime, so we did. And Grams and Papa came, and we all walked down to the bathroom. And I used it. And then we came back out from the bathroom and looked at the stars and then we came back to the campout.

So when we went on the mountain with Uncle Keith and Aunt Jen and Daddy and Mommy and Anne and Papa, we goed over a hill and we walked 50 hundred miles and then we goed back to the campsite because both of our children were getting sleepy. So we went back and put Anne to sleep for quiet time and she was too noisy for quiet time and so we got her back out of the crib and I did NOT like quiet time and so I cried and cried. And then when quiet time was done I got out of the tent and we all did lots of things. The end.

One time we went to look at the broken sign after the boat ride with Papa and Daddy and Peter. So we did. And then we went back to the campsite and Mommy and Peter and Anne and Daddy all went to have lunch with Grandma Virginia.

One time when we were at the campfire I had an unroasted marshmallow and I liked it very much. And I liked singing songs I knowed with Grams and Papa and watching the fire flames get big and small.

One time when we were at the campout, we went down to the lake. And Mommy and Peter and Anne with our swimsuits on and Peter walked and made ripples in the water and then we decided to go back up to the campout. And so we did. The end.

One time I went down to the beach with Uncle Keith and Uncle Shane and Amy and V. and A. And I scooped some water with some buckets that were down there and put it in a little pond that was outside the lake. And I went back up to the campout. The end.

7 Quick Takes is hosted at Conversion Diary

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Anne's Turn!

She got her foot in and stood by herself :-)

This is what happens when I run upstairs for a minute...

Monday, September 9, 2013

Preschool Unit Study: Ireland

Given Peter's age and my educational leanings, we are doing week-long unit studies this year. He gets excited about having a new theme each week; I get to make high-level lesson plans that are appropriate for a three-year old. Last week was Ireland week.

Memory Verse: Let them give glory to the Lord and proclaim his praises in the islands. Is. 42:12

Reading: We got a handful of books about Ireland from the children's section in the library, but the best by far was Saint Ciaran: The Tale of a Saint of Ireland. The illustrations are beautiful!

Writing/Art: Made a collage of Irish pictures (from AAA magazines), stickers, and drawings and labelled it. Peter loves cutting and gluing, so collages are always a big hit.

Math: Truthfully, we didn't do any themed math... but I made Irish soda bread and could have had Peter help me with the measurements. He wanted to play with Grams instead, though. :-)

Social Studies: Irish dance, music, food, and dogs. Found Ireland on a map, talked about islands.

Science: Rain! How rain forms in clouds and how wind impacts rain.

Theology: Drew pictures of shamrocks and talked about the Holy Trinity.

Music: Irish Rovers on vinyl and a very cheesy Irish sing-along album

Sunday dinner with my parents was the conclusion of Ireland week. I made the soda bread, Mom played her Irish Rovers record, and we brought a variety of Cadbury candy bars to try. Crunchie is by far my favorite. (Yes, I know Cadbury is English, but it's popular in Ireland, too.) We also all dressed in green, because that's how Americans celebrate Ireland. :-) SlĂ inte!

Curly Wurly, Wispa, Crunchie, Dairy Milk

Friday, September 6, 2013

7QT (Vol. 54): What You Can Do For Syria

The Syrian civil war is slowing seeping into the American conscious, if my Facebook news feed is any indication. If you've heard anything about it, you may feel powerless to effect any meaningful change. What can you do for a country thousands of miles away?

First, learn what is happening. Read this excellent primer, 9 questions about Syria you were too embarrassed to ask. It is well worth the five minutes it will take to read it.

It is just a primer, though. The situation is even stickier than it appears in that article. You may notice that Assad has allegedly used chemical weapons. It seems no one is positive which side actually used them, a piece of information that might be useful to know before firing missiles. Read more on that here.

There is another article here with an explanation of why one side is no better than the other in terms of brutality. Not a light read, as you may gather. If you don't want the details, just be assured that neither side has a moral high ground.

Why is important to know what is happening? We can PRAY. Armed with specific knowledge, we can pray for people, regions, and circumstances. Go beyond tacking "and world peace" onto your petitions and pray by name for cities, leaders, and military groups.

Pope Francis has asked the world to join him in a day of prayer and fasting for Syria on Saturday, September 7. "I have decided to proclaim for the whole Church... a day of fasting and prayer for peace in Syria, the Middle East, and throughout the world, and I also invite each person, including our fellow Christians, followers of other religions and all men of good will, to participate, in whatever way they can, in this initiative."

Finally, spread the word. Tell people you know, post it on Facebook and Twitter. Mobilize spiritual warriors.

7 Quick Takes is hosted at Conversion Diary.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Family Camping

It was raining anyway, might as well go in the lake!

Climbing the fire tower on Mt. Arab
"I climbed SEVEN steps!"

Photos courtesy of my brother Keith

Monday, September 2, 2013

So Forlorn

Remember when I posted that I should use my laptop less? Apparently it agreed. The power supply has been inconsistent to say the least, making it difficult to write new posts. I'm currently using my husband's smart phone... He will vouch for me when I say that prolonged use makes me want to throw it out the window.  He did get the laptop to start charging tonight, though, so maybe I'll be up and running by Wednesday.  Either way, definitely time to back up my hard drive. Happy Labor Day!