One Habit Happy Parents Have in Common

Do this one thing today to help create more cooperative kids and happier parents.

There is one thing you can do today to have happier, more responsible, self-confident kids. PRAISE THEM. I don’t just mean “You are a great kid” or other general statements. I mean specific, timely, honest praise that gets you more of what you want.  Let’s say you have a 10 year old slob living in your home. He leaves food, shoes, backpacks and smelly socks everywhere. It drives you bonkers. You are constantly bouncing back and forth between frustration, nagging and hopelessness. Turn your attention and try to catch him doing SOMETHING towards your goal of cleanliness. “I noticed that instead of kicking off your shoe so that it would fly and hit the ceiling, you wedged it off and left it in the entry way. Thanks for aiming closer to it’s designated spot, I really appreciate your effort in helping our house stay tidy.”  Even if it’s nearly impossible to find something praise worthy, keep trying and look for the slightest nudge towards what you want. 

Perhaps you live with a surly, private 13 year old whose moods change on a dime. If you want to reinforce more steady, polite behavior, find a moment to praise it. “I notice when your friend came to the door, you were polite and sociable. That must have been hard since you were so grumpy a minute earlier. Being able to manage your emotions is a wonderful life skill and I’m impressed you are learning it at such a young age.”

You don’t want to lie or be sarcastic. Just find one small, incremental movement that demonstrates effort in the direction you want to see. Notice my title says “One thing happy PARENTS have in common”.  Sure, this will help your children be happy, but so will happier parents!  It’s just too easy to see the shortcomings in our kids, especially during adolescence. When we only see the negative in our kids it feels heavy and yucky to us, and to them. Focusing on what our kids are doing well will make everyone feel happier and more at peace. Try it today. Pick a behavior that bugs you and then find something to praise about it. “You brought your dish to the sink!” “Sharing space on your plate with a vegetable takes courage and that zucchini sat there the whole time!”  “I noticed how when you got angry with your sister, you went to your room to cool off instead of letting it escalate.” “You remembered you have a test tomorrow!” “You still brush your teeth every night even though I stopped reminding you!  You are so responsible!”

Avoid “You are so smart” or “Great Job” or anything fixed like intelligence, appearance, talent or skill. The key is to praise their EFFORT, something they have power over changing. Find something every day to praise, you will never regret it!

Is too much technology stressing out our kids?

Kids, Stress, Technology and BUFFERING? 

Our bodies are designed to live outside, moving constantly, with very little noise and external input distracting our brain. Once a year MAYBE a stampede of animals would go by and cause a ruckus or a group of travelers might come through. The thought of living in one place with only familiar faces, eating the exact same food, and doing the same activities day after day, seems immensely boring to me. But it always helps me to remember that our brains and bodies were not designed to handle the level of excitement and external stimulation we get today. What is the cost to our kids of this extreme level of input coming at us 24/7  video games, TV’s, social media alerts and advertisers, all promising MORE EXCITEMENT for a slice of our attention?

Kids show us how they are feeling through their behavior. Parents, noticing their kids stress levels rising, are wondering what is causing so much stress and how they can help?

Modern life creates an unnatural environment for kids. Asking them to sit on hard chairs inside four walls with people they don’t have intimate connections with, is an automatic stress. We want them to listen to someone else’s ideas the majority of the day, keeping an eye on the clock, always looking for the next blast of input. The absence of down time, time to connect with other people time, time to create and get lost in the imagination, time to explore nature and be in the body is unnatural for kids. Time to be inside our own heads without external input allows kids to process the stress of the day and feel refreshed and ready to learn.

We can help our kids by encouraging buffering, to prevent buffering. (WHAT? One word – two meanings – too much fun!)

Just like the spinning wheel on your computer, kids need time to “buffer” or process all the input they’ve taken in during their day. If you have too many windows open on your computer, things get bogged down and overwhelmed. Rather than yelling, crying or melting down, your computer takes a pause, refuses to do more work, until it has processed all that is happening. Kids can “buffer” or process their day by talking, walking, riding bikes, skateboarding, staring into space, creating something, any quiet, repetitive, physical activity. Today’s kids might CLAIM that video games and netflix help them relax but actually it creates a different kind of buffering.

The other “buffering” is what we do to protect us from a stressful world. Like padding on the walls, we buffer ourselves from our own emotions and our own bodies so that we can’t notice how stressed we are. This kind of buffering PREVENTS us from processing and keeps us stuck in a loop that’s hard to get out of. If you’ve ever gone on vacation but took a few days to relax into vacation mode, your constant work load or input addictions were creating a kind of buffering for you. Adults use work, alcohol, food, worrying, clutter, busy-ness, any number of things to buffer ourselves from our genuine emotions. Kids, more and more, are using electronic input to buffer themselves from an overwhelming world.

What can you do to help? 

Remember that neighborhood park you took them to in preschool?  Go there (or let kids go by themselves?) Hang out. It might take a while for them to remember how to entertain themselves.  It’s different than going to “practice” where someone is telling you what to do. Celebrate boredom. Let them see you relaxing. it’s painful to step off the grid but keep at it. Just like you on vacation, it might take a few days but eventually you settle in and it feels delightful.

Fake a blackout. Pretend the power went out, light candles and let yourselves be bored together. Tell stories, play charades, or just do nothing. It was eye opening to see how early my family got sleepy without TV entertainment and artificial lights!

Go camping or visit state parks. There is something about being around water, trees, and fire that connects with our primal brain and tells it to relax. I’m always amused to see kids who have trouble paying attention in class, spend five straight hours burning stuff at a campfire pit.

Music calms the savage beast. If you can’t live without electronics, choose relaxing music or audiobooks. It connects with a different and more relaxing part of the brain. Try www.gonoodle.com or simple habits app to use your electronic devices to encourage downtime.

If you see your kids staring into space, don’t interrupt them. That is very valuable time that is becoming more and more rare. Some kids like to process out loud, others need to process quietly inside their own heads. Be open and supportive to either one.

 

Sign up for my free webinar, Trust Your Gut, Not Your Snapchat Feed.

Trust your gut, not your snap chat feed


Do you ever feel overwhelmed by your kid’s use of technology?

Between homework assignments, researching, online video games, snapchat, texting, youtube, reading books, and easy access to inappropriate content, it seems our whole world is being overrun by technology. For many parents, it feels like technology is taking away childhood.

Parents of adolescents face an interesting challenge. It’s natural for young teenagers to want independence and privacy as they create identities separate from their parents, but the place they seem to want independence is online? How do we keep our kids safe in a world we can’t see or control?

Join me for a free webinar:

Trust Your Gut, Not Your SnapChat Feed.

This webinar will cover 5 things parents can do to help their child build a healthy relationship with technology. Click the button below to register for the free webinar held on Tuesday, April 11th. (A recording will be sent to those who cannot make it live).

CLICK HERE


Below is something I call The Ten Commandments of Texting. (Say it with a loud deep voice for dramatic effect.) Some of it might sound basic but kids don’t know if we don’t tell them. Right now, lessons are being learned by watching others make mistakes and get in trouble. The more we can teach ahead of time, the fewer consequences our kids will have to suffer. Print this and post on your refrigerator, or better yet, share on social media and encourage your kids to do the same. 

The Ten Commandments of Texting 

  1. The person in the room gets priority over the person on the phone. Apologize or ask permission before using your phone in front of them. A quick “excuse me one second” goes a long way.
  2. Never chat with strangers online. Don’t give out personal information to people you haven’t smelled.
  3. Never text when you are angry or hurt. Be nice to yourself. Allow yourself to feel what you are feeling then text “I’ll call you” or “FaceTime?” so you can resolve conflict in an appropriate way.
  4. If you see something online or on a group chat that feels weird, icky, or not right, screenshot it and share it with a trusted adult.
  5. Never send or post anything you wouldn’t want to see on a billboard in front of your school.
  6. Beware of using sarcastic humor, it can sound mean instead of funny. Use extra thank you’s, please’s, and emoticons to soften blunt words.
  7. If your media time leaves you feeling yucky, bad or grumpy; unfriend, unfollow or just turn off your phone. Seek happiness and positivity.
  8. Group texts are annoying! Use them only when necessary and don’t add people without permission.
  9. If you message someone three times without a response, stop messaging them. Call, talk in person, or give up.
  10. Devices need a bedtime and days off. Unplug, set boundaries, or take a break. We all need a digital detox once in a while.

Does your child lack confidence?

Kids display a lack of confidence in many ways. Stressing themselves out/panicking, going above and beyond what is necessary to prove one’s worth, requiring peer approval before taking action, overly-apologizing with soft voice and meek posture, and, of course, avoiding activities they would like to do. Some kids will even act overly confident to hide their doubts and fears. If you ask your kid to share their strengths and weaknesses, and they say “I’m awesome and a genius” and cannot claim any weaknesses, they are hiding a lack of confidence.

Sensitive kids seem to be born with a general lack of confidence, others seem to grow more self-conscious and fearful once puberty kicks in. Either way, it can be hard for parents to watch their kids hold themselves back, stress themselves out, and avoid doing things they would really enjoy. Parents, too, lack confidence in certain areas so watching kids struggle can often bring their own insecurities up the the surface.

According to the brilliant Russ Harris in my favorite book on the subject, The Confidence Gap, people lack confidence for the following five reasons:

  1. Excessive expectations
  2. Harsh self-judgement
  3. Preoccupation with fear
  4. Lack of experience
  5. Lack of skill

I was one of those sensitive kids who seemed to be born lacking confidence. At a very young age, I picked up the belief “I have to say everything perfectly” (#1). Avoidance seemed like a better option than stress so I simply didn’t speak until I was about 12 when my extroverted personality couldn’t take the silence any more. Then I just started beating myself up for all the mistakes I made while speaking (#2) and combined that with my generally fearful demeanor (#3). All this first hand experience helps me move clients past the first three obstacles easily until they feel ready to take action. 

We all lack confidence because we all lack experience and skill in some area. If your kid was born naturally athletic, and has spent many hours cultivating her athletic skills, she probably feels confident in this arena. But getting in front of the class to give an oral report might be an area she has yet to cultivate this confidence.

If you’d like to help your child, and yourself, with confidence, here are a few things to remember.

  1. We all lack confidence in some areas and have it in others. Kids like to know they are normal and it’s ok. Think about things that used to scare you (roller coasters, swimming lessons) but are no longer scary. Overcoming fears comes with time and experience.
  2. You do not need to FEEL confident, in order to ACT confident. This is one area where “fake it till you make it” can be very helpful. Watch this TED Talk about body posture for inspiration.
  3. Facing fears is a part of life and courage doesn’t feel good. But the more you feel the fear and do it any way, the easier it will get.
  4. Commit to having your own back. Promise yourself you will say encouraging things no matter what the result. Be your own cheerleader and reward yourself for taking risks.
  5. Recognize perfectionistic thinking. “If I don’t succeed, I’m a failure”, “If I’m not the best, I’m the worst” “Nobody likes me”. Look out for black & white thinking and start creating shades of gray. “I’ll be proud of myself for trying”, “A B- in a class I hate is a victory”, “I’m learning how to make friends with all kinds of people”.
  6. Make friends with fear. It’s going to be with you your whole life. Make room in your body for it. Learn to recognize what it feels like, looks like, sounds like. Allow it to coexist with you and your life will be a great adventure. You get to choose the relationship you want to have with it.
  7. Parents can use their child’s doubts and fears, as an opportunity to recognize their own. What area would you like to have more confidence in?  How would it change things for you? If you’d like to feel more confident in your parenting, try scheduling an appointment today. 

 

Are you overwhelmed by your calendar and to-do list?

If you feel tired just thinking about your schedule, email and to-do’s, try this Supermom life hack and “Close the Loop”

Do you like to think about things before taking action? When you get an email about a party, a request for donation or volunteering, do you give yourself time to think about it? When someone asks you a question you don’t know the answer to like, “What should we do for spring break this year?” what do you do?

Moms today are often the organizers for the family calendar. When we are asked a question that doesn’t have a clear yes or a clear no, it goes into our mental “think about it” file. The problem is, all these open loops and indecisions drain our energy. It takes energy to remember to get back to that person, do research or weigh the pros and cons. It’s an invisible energy leak that we don’t even realize drains us. If your email inbox is full of things you need to action on, you probably are guilty of keeping too many open loops.

Supermoms who want to accomplish a lot in a day, and still have energy at the end of it, close as many loops as possible. They have learned to book that dentist appointment 6 months from now, say yes or no to that evite (you can always change your mind), give a clear answer to volunteering or donating (they will always ask again). Making decisions clears our energy. When we “put it in the back of our mind”, it keeps us energetically tied to that person and that future event. Too many of these open loops and our energy resources get depleted.

Let’s say you need more information before you can make a decision, respond with “I will let you know by 3/1” and put that date on your calendar. Then pick a day and time to “research family camps” and put that action on your calendar and out of your mind. When you calendar your to-do’s, the only thing you need to remember is to check your calendar.

Your energy goes where your attention goes so if your attention is being pulled in 50 different directions, you will feel exhausted. As you learn to rely on your calendar and can trust yourself to follow through, you will increase your energy and accomplish more in a day.

Emilia felt busy and overwhelmed all the time. With two young children, a part time job, a dog, a house, and a husband who traveled, she could barely make it through the day. She knew there were highly productive people in the world who were WAY busier than she was and got a lot more accomplished. It bugged her knowing it was possible to do more with more energy, but she didn’t know how to do it.

Emilia stopped writing her to-do lists on paper and started putting them on her google calendar. Her calendar was synced with her phone and laptop so wherever she was she had access to her calendar. Whenever a question came up she couldn’t answer right then, she would put it on her calendar whatever the next action step was. “Ask Sophie if she wants to go to girl scout camp. If yes, fill out form. If no, recycle.” Some days she didn’t want to do what the calendar told her so she would just move it to another date or decide not to do it. It took getting used to, but she felt like a superstar with all she was able to accomplish and found herself able to say yes to more fun things.  

Remember to write “actionable steps” on your calendar: write email, call Mom, schedule appointment, research mortgage rates for 15 minutes, etc. If you just write “summer camp” or “dog” on your calendar it may be hard to remember what you planned to do. Any time you schedule “research” or “plan” or other internet related perusing, be sure to put a time limit on it. The internet will suck all your time and energy up like a black hole if we aren’t focused and clear on our goals.

Not sure what’s draining your energy?  Imagine you wake up every morning with a fully charged battery. Where does most of your energy go?  Are you at 10% before 10:00am?  Kids take a lot of our attention and therefore a lot of our energy, but see if you have any other “open loops” that need closing. Sometimes a negative relationship with a loved one can be a big energy drain but a 15 minute “close the loop” conversation will recharge you back to 100%. A job or commute you hate but feel trapped in can take up a lot of your personal energy. Cluttered rooms, a cluttered schedule and a cluttered mind are silent, secret energy drains. Making time to close these open loops will have tremendous payoffs in your energy.

Not sure where to start? Go to www.lifecoachingforparents.com/work-with-me and together we’ll create an action plan you can be motivated to tackle.