Create peace, connect, and teach emotional intelligence.When I decided to back the Generation Mindful Kickstarter campaign for PeaceMakers, I had no idea that this choice would change the course of my family in an instant. This might sound like hyperbole, but I’m being completely serious. This card game has been life-changing. Let me explain.

The essential premise of PeaceMakers is that connection is more effective than punishment — and for children to have success and joy in life, it takes more than academics. It takes emotional intelligence. Why is emotional intelligence so important?

Emotional intelligence helps kids manage big emotions, connect with others, form healthy relationships, and more.

As our children’s social-emotional skills improve, so do their abilities to express themselves, and practice empathy, compromise, listen, cooperate and more.

Kids aren’t the only ones who benefit, though. It’s easy to get caught up in the places we have to be and the stuff we have to do when schedules are packed and phones are chiming and emails are coming in in a constant deluge of demands and Stuff Other People Need From Us.

Originally I was attracted to PeaceMakers because I thought it might help me manage the constant power struggles with my stubborn boy, Emmett, who is terrifyingly exactly like me and oh-my-God-Mom-I-am-so-sorry-for-my-entire-childhood-thank-you-for-not-murdering-me-in-a-fit-of-sass-induced-rage. No wonder this kid is stubborn and immovable and fights everything that is good for him. Where could be possibly have learned that? (Fortunately for all of us, Miles generally takes after his father.)

I didn’t realize how much help I needed with emotional intelligence until started trying to teach it to my kids. And with this one, despite that I love this kid fiercely, I was running out of ideas. Everything felt like a fight, and I could see it taking a toll on our whole family. Anger breeds anger. Force breeds force. Yelling breeds yelling. We had fallen into this cycle of constant combat and it was exhausting and demoralizing for all of us. He was sullen and angry, I was sullen and angry, everyone was sullen and angry. ENOUGH.

Enter PeaceMakers. We cracked the box open on a particularly challenging day, which also happened to be a day I had taken off of work to recover from a major project that had had me working 60- to 80-hour weeks for the month prior. (See also: Things that contribute to family stress.) Emmett missed the first card because Jesse had sent him to his room for his own safety after a particularly frustrating meltdown. Talk about irony. That was when I realized that we had gotten so caught up in correction that we’d completely forgotten about connection.

That night, we started a new family tradition. We pull a random card out of the PeaceMakers deck at bedtime and at wake-up time, and we “do the card” as a family. (After a week or so, Miles announced that kids pull the cards in the morning and grown-ups pull the cards at night because it wasn’t fair for only the boys to get to pick cards.) Whoever chooses it peeks at the card, announces “Ooooo, this is a really good one!” and flips it around for everyone to see. After we’ve sufficiently oohed and ahhed, Jesse or I read the card aloud and everyone else repeats it. Then we talk about the content.

Ever since the first bedtime card, the kids have begged — begged — for the game at virtually every opportunity. They wake up asking for it and plead every morning to do an extra card. Here are some of our favorites, and some of the things the boys said in response.

"I'm thankful for you, Mommy, for working so hard for our family."

“I’m thankful for you, Mommy, for working so hard for our family.”

"If I'm mad I can think to be happy and then I can be happy?"

“If I’m mad I can think to be happy and then I can be happy?”

I ask for what I want and need.

“If I want a hug I can ask you for it!”

"Riding my bike makes me feel powerful and free."

“Riding my bike makes me feel powerful and free.”

I am a leader.

“I can be a leader by showing the other kids how to do stuff.”

PeaceMakers has become the highlight of our morning and evening every day. We haven’t missed a single day except when the boys had a sleepover at their grandma’s house. Our entire family has become more empathetic, more connected, more patient, and more engaged. The power struggles are gone. We’re just plain happier. Things are easier. And it’s thanks to 5 minutes in the morning and 5 minutes at night. We have had exactly one tantrum since we started making PeaceMakers a daily practice, and it lasted approximately 30 seconds. So basically it’s a miracle.

But it’s not a miracle. This is what happens when you put connection over correction, when you connect before you do anything else and reconnect at the end of the day. I knew connection mattered, but I didn’t know how to make it part of the fabric of our family. Thanks, PeaceMakers, for giving us the nudge we needed to be the family we’ve always wanted to be.

I love PeaceMakers so much I became an affiliate right away! So as you can probably guess, this post contains affiliate links. Gotta fund my coffee and planner habits somehow, amirite? ;) See Amateur Parenting’s PR & Advertising policies, which also discusses affiliate compensation.

Added May 26, 2016

A few quick clarifications since this post has become very popular! In case you’re wondering:

  • I purchased PeaceMakers myself via the Kickstarter campaign – they were  not provided as part of a review request. I paid full price. Which I NEVER do — that’s how much I had to have these cards!
  • This post was not commissioned or sponsored by Generation Mindful. They were really thrilled when I shared it with them, but the idea to do it was all my own. It is not paid advertising. 
  • I was pretty thrilled when Gen:M shared this post through their social media channels and on their website! I hope you’ll share it too, or better yet write your own post about PeaceMakers! The more people who learn about this product, the more families will start creating their own special memories and traditions.
  • The only compensation I get from this post is if someone purchases PeaceMakers through my affiliate link. Which I hope you do, because this product is awesome or else I wouldn’t be recommending it. ;) If you love it as much as I do, become an affiliate! Details are on the Gen:M website.

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I watched you for a long time before we got together. My friends kept saying I should meet you, that I’d love you, that afterward I’d have no idea how we’d existed apart for so long. I’ve been set up before, so I was reluctant. Skeptical. But I decided to give you a try. I purchased a menstrual cup.

The first two months were a little rocky. We had to feel each other out, you and I. You let me down a few times, but I was pretty sure it was my fault, not yours. Turned out, I was right. Once I figured out how to handle you, how to work with you instead of against you, it was like we were meant to be — a beautifully choreographed dance with a partner who made me feel completely secure.

We fell out of touch for a little while, you and I, and I don’t remember why. But I felt your absence, and when we finally reconnected it was like we’d never been apart.

You’re my favorite partner for running and swimming, and I’ll never go to the beach with anyone but you.

When others find out we’re together, the news is generally met with a mix of curiosity and revulsion. Not that this comes up that much, but still. You know how it is. Girlfriends talk. Anyway. You’re the best thing that ever happened to my period, and I’ll tell you why:


A menstrual cup is like a Crock-Pot for your vag: You just set it and forget it.

  • There is no leaking.
  • There is significantly reduced risk of toxic shock syndrome.
  • There is no awkward itching or dryness.
  • There is no string someone can yank out in the Target bathroom while commenting loudly on how you sometimes have red come out in the toilet. (Oh, wait, just me? See also, going ANYWHERE with children under 5 during your period.)
  • There is no “running out,” because I buy you once and you’re good for 5-10 years. Even if I replace you annually I’m still in good shape.
  • Even BuzzFeed thinks you’re awesome.

What I paid for you would have gotten me less than four boxes of my preferred tampons. If a woman changes her tampon at the recommended intervals, she’ll likely go through somewhere between 12 and 30 tampons in a single cycle — plus pantyliners, which I no longer need to use because did I mention the no-leaking part?

I’m clearly way ahead in cost savings at this point no matter how you slice it.

You’re even making life-altering improvements for women in developing countries because of your awesomeness.

Thank you for making my period no big deal. It took from age 12 to age 32 before I finally got the hang of it, but thanks to you I no longer mind my monthly visitor. Keep up the good work.

With love and appreciation,

Kristen

This post contains affiliate and non-affiliate links.

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They were running down the wide aisle of Target between home goods and groceries, screaming like banshees, when I turned to Jesse and said, “I don’t know why they’re so crazy today! I didn’t even give them cocaine.” (Note: I do not ever give my children illegal drugs. Please don’t call DCF.)

“SHHHHH,” he hissed at me. “Don’t say shit like that! They repeat everything!”

I cringed. He’s right. Which Emmett promptly demonstrated by screeching, “I REPEAT EVERYTHING! I’M A REPEATERRRRRRRRRR!” as he veered into the canned vegetable aisle.

These are not my kids. I wish mine were still small enough to strap into the cart. I wonder if shrink rays will be on Cartwheel next week... Photo credit: Surlygirl via CC.

These are not my kids. I wish mine were still small enough to strap into the cart. I wonder if shrink rays will be on Cartwheel next week… Photo credit: Surlygirl.

Which of course led to a conversation about how you can’t go where Mommy and Daddy can’t see you when we’re out places because someone could steal you. Which prompted the woman who overheard us from the other side of the store (not joking) to come over and chime in with some grandmotherly commentary (that I didn’t particularly want) to the children about how someone could steal them or us if they wander away from us, so stay with Mommy and Daddy.

So basically it was like every trip to Target with the kids where I go in with a specific list of things but it quickly gets so crazy that I fill my basket with random impulse buys and get home without actually purchasing anything I went there for in the first place. You know how it goes.

Later that day, I said something I can’t remember to Emmett (he was about an inch away from my face while I was peeing, so I think I have a good excuse for not remembering what exactly I said), to which he replied, “You shouldn’t say that because I’m a repeater and I repeat things.”

“What do you repeat?” I asked. I was still on the toilet, FYI, because he was blocking the toilet paper.

“What do you repeat?” he said.

“Do you repeat things?” I asked, praying that what I thought was happening was not actually happening.

“Do you repeat things?” he responded.

FML.

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The first word that came to mind when someone asked how my day was today was “relentless.” My day was relentless. From the moment the alarm went off in my freezing cold bedroom to right now, I have been counting down the moments for this day to end.

I could have predicted this, but I didn’t. Here are the signs it was coming:

I just finished my period. I’m always exhausted at the tail end of my period. Ugh.

The kids have been sick since last week. I’m sure I’m fighting it off myself — mercifully with some degree of success so far.

I’ve been woken up in the middle of the night every night since last week. See also “sick kids.” This is on the heels of my having run a marathon challenge a week ago and having been in Vegas for a conference the week before that — with zero recovery time.

The laundry still isn’t caught up from my being away. Extra laundry from work travel and extra laundry from people being sick plus all the extra laundry from doing four races in two days last weekend has added up to a big old pile of clothes I just do not want to look at.

I’m getting ready to go out of town. Yeah, again. This time for pleasure but still. I feel like I just unpacked. And I didn’t even put my clothes away yet because they’re somewhere in Mount Foldmore in my living room.

We’re all tired of being cooped up. It’s been a WEEK. Seriously, kids, can you like develop an immune system already? Jeez.

We realized the shower has been leaking. When we found mold in the carpet in the kids closet. So that was fun. Know what else is fun? Bare concrete in a closet and a house that reeks of bleach from killing said mold.

Basically any time I’m at the intersection of not-enough-sleep and a-to-do-list-that-just-keeps-growing, my days start to feel endless and I just want to crawl into bed with a hot cup of tea and zone out until my brain turns off and I can sleep.

So that’s the plan right now. And I’m hoping tomorrow feels a little less relentless so I can breathe.

How do you come back from those relentless days? What operates your reset button? I’d love to hear your tips. Leave a comment.

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And That’s Why We Don’t Talk About Other People’s Bodies

by Kristen King

You know that thing where kids just say adorable stuff all the time? Yeah. Mine don’t do that. They say funny things, sure. But mostly they just hurt my feelings. For instance, by following me into the bathroom despite my protests that I want to pee alone, and then adding insult to injury by telling […]

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