getting along with difficult family members

How do deal with difficult family members.

As we sink our toes into the warm sands of summer and listen the sounds of happy kids playing, many of us also listen to the bickering, complaining and passive aggressive positioning of extended family members. If you’ve got family members who drive you crazy and drain your energy, read on for summer survival tips for dealing with those annoying extended relatives.

In many families, there’s at least one family member who you dread being around. Whether it’s their passive aggressive communication style, their judgmental opinions, or their tendency to binge drink and swear at your kids, family gatherings are a challenge for many people. When my clients have a challenging relative, they always want to tell me about all their flaws, but it doesn’t help me to hear it. If you need to get it off your chest, write down everything that bugs you in your journal. Then let’s get to work changing the one person you have control over, YOU.

I know it seems like THEY are the problem but the bigger problem is you don’t like who YOU become when you are with them. Either you bite your tongue and smile when you don’t mean it, or you snap and lose your cool, or you get defensive and mirror their passive aggressive ways. All of it feels uncomfortable so the first step to dealing with relatives who bring out your ugly side, is to realize where your power lies. You get to decide how you want to feel, what you want to think and how you want to behave. Ask yourself, “How do I want to feel, while he makes his sexist comments?” “How do I want to feel when he scolds my children inappropriately” You probably don’t want to be happy about this so choose something like “I want to feel proud of how I handled it.” or “I want to feel calm and in control of myself.” When we take responsibility for our own emotions, we keep all our power instead of giving it away to someone who hasn’t earned it. “If they behave, I can be happy” means your happiness is in their hands. Stay connected to you by paying attention to how you feel.

It’s really tempting to think of all the ways they should change their behavior that would make the world a better place. Although you may not like it, the truth is people get to behave however they want. They can be stupid, mean, bellegerent, judgmental, racist, sexist, drunk, controlling, worried, whatever, it’s their decision. Try this, give your relatives PERMISSION to be who they already are. You’ve had some experience in dealing with them, you’ve made suggestions and tried to change them but it hasn’t worked. When I ask my clients “What can you trust about this annoying relative?” They say “I can’t trust him at all!” I offer that they CAN trust this person to be unreliable, to say one thing and do another, to be inconsistent. Instead of trying to change them and arguing that they should be different, recognize what you can already trust about them. The FREEDOM lies in accepting the facts as they already are and recognizing that we can trust ourselves. Some of the a-ha’s my clients have had with their families are:
“I can trust my sister to be dissatisfied.” “I can trust my Mom to make comments about my appearance.” “I can trust my Dad to dismiss my opinion.” “I can trust my uncle to repeat things he heard on FoxNews.” “I can trust my brother to one-up me.”

When sunny optimism and ‘hoping they will change’ doesn’t feel good, focus on who you want to be, and how you can trust them to behave. Giving people permission to be who they are, doesn’t mean you like it or condone it. It means you are choosing to bring more positive energy into the world, instead of letting the negativity bring you down.  Good Luck!

If you want to sign up for a coaching session before your next family reunion, go to www.lifecoachingforparents.com/work-with-me

pressure to be perfect

The pressure to be perfect

I got to spend last week with a group of delightful 12-13 year old girls at my leadership camp. When I asked what stresses they had, they summed it up beautifully with these words: “pressure to be perfect”. Perfectionism is a big problem for kids and parents in today’s culture. I never thought I was perfectionistic because my house wasn’t clean, but that’s not exactly how it works. The medical definition from Merriam Webster is “a disposition to regard anything short of perfection as unacceptable.” In my clients, and in kids, I see it as black & white thinking. If I’m not good, I must be bad. If I’m not “liked”, I must be disliked. If I’m not smart, I must be dumb. When we believe there is only one right way to do things, the stress and pressure we feel is overwhelming. Perfectionism, as I see it, is the fear that the real me isn’t good enough. But if I put on a performance, look or act a certain way, then you will think I am worthy.

Perfectionism is not a healthy striving for excellence. It is the belief that if I act good enough, I will be. It shows up as meltdowns and temper tantrums (at all ages). It inhibits creativity and innovation because perfectionists are less likely to take risks or try things they know they won’t succeed in. It’s a primary cause of depression because it distances us from our genuine emotions and sets us up for unachievable goals. “I have to be the best at everything.” “I have to look perfect.” “I have to make everybody like me.”

A lot of my “SuperMom” clients yearn for their old school days when the measure of success was very clear. In school, you know exactly what needs to happen to considered successful. Motherhood is frustrating for those of us who want to “do it right” but can’t find a system or checklist to know if we are being successful. There are no metrics, no measure of better than/worse than, no way to gauge if you are a good enough Mom and it sends our insecurities into a tailspin.

With kids, perfectionism shows up as early as age 4-5 with not being able to lose gracefully, being inflexible, giving up easily, and emotional drama. You can watch them beating themselves up for mistakes and not wanting to be seen as vulnerable. Perfectionistic kids will deny any wrong-doing, use dramatic language “everybody, always does this _____.” Some perfectionistic kids can put others down as a way to feel better about themselves resulting in social isolation (perceived or real). Some kids develop a fear of success, avoid ‘being seen’, and strive for mediocrity, in order to avoid making public mistakes.

Whether we are overachievers or underachievers, our goal is to make up for the inside feelings of unworthiness and insecurity. You can spot perfectionism when the emotional reaction doesn’t match the event (Your kid is devastated over coming in second. You ate too much ice cream so you throw your whole diet out the window. You fear people not liking you so you mold & adapt yourself to convince them you are worthy of their friendship.)

I used to stress out while running late. Racing in the car, my kids would watch me be frustrated, impatient and get really mad at myself, just because I was late. I had beliefs running through my brain like “Being late is rude & disrespectful. I can’t believe I messed up AGAIN.” It wasn’t until I watched my 5th grader STRESSING OUT over forgetting his spelling book that I started changing my ways. The good news and the bad news is that kids learn by imitation.

If the following remedies freak you out, chances are you’ve got some perfectionistic ideas running your life. Click here to schedule a free discovery coaching call with me.

– Say the words “Oh Well” often and out loud. Let it became a daily mantra for your mistakes as well as your kids.

– Celebrate mistakes. “Who made the best mistakes this week? Let’s go around the table and see whose blunder wins the prize!”

– Model self-compassion and forgiveness in front of your child. “I had a goal to exercise three times this week and I didn’t do it. Oh well. I’ll do better next week.”

– Watch your words. Be careful not to use black/white dramatic language around your kids “If I don’t meet this deadline, they’re going to kill me”. “I looked so horrible I thought I might die of embarrassment”.

– Let your kids see you fail. At the roller rink yesterday I had so much fun watching people of all ages and ability levels, fall down, repeatedly. (Only the 13 year old girls made a big deal out of it). Let your kids see you fall, fail, get up and try again. Find an activity you all stink at and fail together. Failing=vulnerability=connection with others.

– Make sure you are praising your kid’s effort and process, not the result. “I love how hard you worked.” “I was so proud of you for trying something outside your comfort zone.” Avoid praising the outcome “You got straight A’s” or “You’re the winner!”

– Tell them that no matter what grades they get, who their friends are, or how they perform on the court, they will always be loved and accepted for who they are.

emotions anger depression joy

The Downside of Optimism

We aren’t meant to feel happy all the time. Some kids are born with a naturally sunny disposition (I always wanted one of those) and some, not so much, but when I talk to clients who want to be happy all the time, it’s a red flag.

Of course we all prefer to be happy, it feels much better than sadness, anger, fear and embarrassment. But we don’t get to only have the good emotions, we are human. If we deny ourselves access to the negative emotions, we actually distance ourselves from all of them. The movie Inside Out did a great job of demonstrating this. (If you haven’t seen it yet, go!) The character was fighting desperately to be happy during a time of turmoil. While trying so hard to be happy, our heroine was losing access to her silly/goofy side, her imagination, her connections with family and friends. It wasn’t until sadness showed up that she could feel better. Sadness made her feel better because it was the truth of her experience. She was sad. When we deny ourselves the truth of what we are feeling, we begin an internal struggle that is EXHAUSTING.

I see this in some of my SuperMom clients, continually running away from their negative emotions makes everything harder. They so badly want to stay positive that they end up in denial. From denial, they stay in jobs and relationships that aren’t healthy for them, make financial mistakes, overlook problems with their kids or their health. Denial does not serve anyone.

When your dog dies, you want to feel sad. When someone betrays you, anger feels appropriate. When you worry about something bad happening, you are going to feel fear and that’s ok.

It’s still important to allow the feeling you feel, even if our thoughts are illogical. Little kids will give you lots of practice in this because so few of their emotional reactions are logical. Next time your child has an illogical, highly emotional response, practice using these three magic words: “You feel __________.”

“I want a cookie!”

“It’s 5 minutes before dinner.”

“I want a cookie NOW!”

“You feel frustrated.”

 

You will be AMAZED at the calming affect these three words can have on your child!

“I don’t have anything to wear!”

“Your closet if full of clothes.”

“Nothing fits me. Nothing looks right. I don’t even know what I’m supposed to wear. I don’t even know whose going to be there. Everything sucks.”

“You feel overwhelmed.”

Now practice using them on yourself, “Right now, I feel _________.” We need to validate emotions before we can think logically. Ask yourself, “What am I trying not to feel?” You’ll know you got it right when you feel RELIEF. “I feel angry and that’s ok.” “I’m disappointed.” “I feel embarrassed.” A feeling is always one word so if you get “I feel like I wish my husband would just…..” that is a thought. Look for one word.

If you really want to be an optimist, you must allow yourself to feel the negative feelings when they show up. Then, when you do feel joy, it will feel richer, truer, and you will feel a deep sense of relaxation. Learning how to allow negative feelings, and becoming familiar with your full range of emotions, is a wonderfully empowering feeling. It feels awful when we think “I should be happy” and we don’t.  “I should be over this by now” is just another way of putting ourselves down for having a feeling. When you aren’t afraid of your feelings, you give your children permission to feel theirs as well.  Their happiness depends on their ability to feel the full range of human emotions: shame, disappointment, sadness, anger, excitement, joy, curious, etc.

The truth, even if it’s yucky, will still set you free.

 

Ten Questions to Ask Kids when Report Cards Arrive

I’m going to be honest with you, some parents make a big issue about something that doesn’t really mean anything. The grades kids receive don’t mean they are smart or dumb, hard-working or lazy, or whether you are a good enough parent. Grades are not an indication of good teaching, bad curriculum or a prediction of your child’s success in school or in life.

Have you ever noticed that…. report card

– a “C” grade at one school could be an “A” at another?

– a child could get a “D” during the semester and an “A” in summer school?

– a teenager could graduate high school with a 2.2 but graduate college with a 4.0?

– a teenager with a 4.3 in high school can be on academic probation their first semester of college?

– one teacher thinks your child is a closet genius, another thinks they have a learning disability?

– a child can flunk biology with one teacher and ace it with another?

The only thing the report card offers is feedback on your child’s ability to PLAY at this GAME we call school. I think, if you are choosing to play a game, you might as well learn how to play it well. Ask your kids these ten questions when their report cards come home and squeeze the learning opportunities out of this school year.

  1. How do you feel about your grades? Allow your kids to feel what they feel without trying to change it. If they are happy & proud, say, “I see you feel happy and proud”. If they are disappointed, say “You feel disappointed”. Kids want to feel seen, heard and felt. Refrain from telling them what YOU think, “you should be very proud of this” or “These grades should be higher”. Instead, just tell them how you see them reacting. This is hard but you can do it!
  1. What has this school year taught you about what you love and what you don’t?
  2. What has this school year taught you about your special gifts and talents?
  3. What has this school year taught you about how you best learn and study?
  4. Are there any surprises for you on this report card?
  5. Which grade are you most proud of and why?
  6. How could you make your next school year even better?
  7. What is your plan to get even better at playing this game called “School”?
  8. Is there anything we can do to support you on your goals?
  9. Which of the teacher comments do you appreciate/value the most?

Then, right before you burst out of your skin because you are dying to share YOUR thoughts and opinions, focus on their effort and growth. Instead of talking about grades and report card results that are over and done with and cannot be changed, put your attention on the things they can do more of. “I’m so proud of how hard you worked on your states report”, “I loved hearing about how you participated in class discussions”, “I think it’s so cool how you went outside your comfort zone and signed up for drama class” or “I think it’s wonderful how many good friends you made this year.” “It was fun to see you finding books you enjoyed reading.”

Asking questions like these and commenting on their effort instead of results, will turn your child into a life long learner who learns, studies and grows for the intrinsic value of it. You are modeling for them how to reflect and review their own work in a positive way instead of getting stuck, self-berating, or thinking everything comes easily to them.

Jump on over to my facebook page and let me know how it goes and good luck!

 

Making chores fun

Summer is almost here and you are up to your eyeballs with end of the year parties, teacher gifts, field trips and celebrations. You are giving a lot of time and energy to your kids and their activities, let’s reverse that and think about how THEY are going to give back to YOU this summer.

Creating a chore chart that works for you and your kids is easy once you recognize how you get in the way. Check out my last blog to make sure there is no negativity coming from Mom that prevents kids from learning, enjoying, gaining valuable life and leadership skills from doing chores.

Follow these seven steps to delegating effectively and joyfully to your kids.

  1. What’s your WHY? Why do you want to have your kids do chores? To develop life skills? Make less work for you? To contribute to the household? If you sense any negativity, “She should know this by now!” “I’m tired of doing all the work around here!” Hold off and clean up your thinking until you can approach it from a positive place.
  1. What’s THEIR why? Your kids aren’t going to value what you value, so give them a good reason to take this on. Money? Free time? A trip to the water park? Take time to discover your child’s currency. It’s ok to have different rewards for different kids. One might value having a lemonade stand, the other a new toy, another Minecraft. My teenager just negotiated six hours in the house by himself as reward for hard work. Feel free to get creative here, nothing is off limits. Your attention can be earned, too!
  1. Create a Chore Chart. Kids love to clearly see what the expectations are and to track progress to their reward. If you want chores to be a positive thing, creating some sort of a chore chart is a must (there’s a reason every primary classroom is filled with these kinds of things). Go to Pinterest and search “chore chart” to see the wide variety of options, ideas and free downloads. Don’t pick something so cute & elaborate you never get around to it. Start simple and make improvements later.
  1. Start with DAILY chores: You can include ANYTHING on the daily list of to-do’s! From making your bed and brushing teeth, to eating your vegetables, playing outside, and putting on sunscreen. Anything you want to remind and reinforce goes on the daily chart. Have some things that are easy wins, and some that are new habits you want to encourage like “read to your sister” or “drink water” the power you have here is awesome, enjoy it! If you ask for so much your kids attitude turns negative, back off, you want to set this up for success.
  1. Include Extra Chores: What skills would you like them to develop and master? The extra chores are those that will take more time from you in the beginning but less time from you at the end. Cleaning bathrooms, washing windows, doing dishes, laundry, cooking, yard work, these chores will require instruction, supervision, praise and support. Imagine teaching your kids, showing them how to succeed, giving them room to make mistakes, all while maintaining a positive attitude. This is your chance to practice YOUR leadership skills and model for them that learning new things can be fun.
  1. Praise & Consistency! You don’t have to keep this chore chart going all year, or even all month. If your kid’s enthusiasm wanes after 2-3 weeks, just go with it! If you start forgetting, losing interest or feeling negative, end it. This is no place for perfectionism but you do want to be consistent for at least two weeks so everyone feels successful and positive. Praise their efforts and their learning, follow-through with rewards and be proud of them and yourself for the accomplishment.
  1. Don’t miss this important step! So much learning happens in the last step and so many adults skip it. Please take time to sit down with your kids, reflect and evaluate. How did it go? What did you like or not like? Were you surprised by anything? What’s your favorite/least favorite chore and why? You can learn SO MUCH about your child’s essence, who they are meant to be, how they best learn, their future career choice, future major, by asking these really important questions. Be listening for patterns: Do they like working inside or outside? Are they detailed oriented or big picture? Do they like to work by themselves or with others? Do they prefer to jump in and figure things out as they go, or do they prefer lots of instruction and all necessary tools ready before beginning? Do they like to rush through lots of tasks or stick with one and do it to completion?

Ask them what could make it better next time? What would make chores easier or more fun? Start again with a new and improved chore chart and renewed enthusiasm.

Chores can be fun, educational, and inspirational if we allow them to be. Good luck, ENJOY and as it says in my kid’s yearbook, H.A.G.S.