My secret trick to motivate yourself and your kids

Do you want to inspire your kids to work harder? Contribute more? Feel proud of themselves? Recognize their accomplishments? Be inspired? Feel motivated? Well I have a secret little motivational trick to share with you that works like a charm.

When I was in college I lived in a house with 5 girls. None of us really knew how to clean but every few months the filth grew to intolerable levels and we would start complaining. “She always leaves her stuff out” “I can’t walk barefoot or her breakfast residue sticks to my feet” Basically, “Someone ELSE needs to clean this house but it shouldn’t be me!”. We tried nagging, chore charts, team efforts, passive-aggressive maneuvers, but nothing worked as well as this magic trick: Permission to BRAG. We tacked up a piece of paper and every time you did something brag-worthy, you wrote it down. Everyone wanted recognition and to be viewed as a team player, and soon we were racing to take out the garbage so we could write it on our brag chart.

Bragging, done right, celebrates our accomplishments and inspires us to continue working hard to do good things for ourselves and the world. My partner and I (in TimeforTheTalk.com) start our weekly meetings with brags. I ask clients to email me their brags in between coaching calls. At dinner time, my family and I go around the table and brag about ourselves.

Bragging got a bad rap when it was tied with superiority. To imply “I am better than someone else” is not the energy to cultivate in your home. To brag with “I am amazing, beautiful, hard working, and so is everyone else” is the kind energy I want to be surrounded by.

What you see in others is a reflection of what you see in yourself so when you see the world as judgmental, it means you have a lot of judgment. When you see the world as a scary place, it means you have a lot of fear. You cannot view the world as beautiful and inspiring, if that doesn’t reside inside of you. In order to be surrounded by positivity, you must first learn to cultivate it in yourself.
In our busy, never good enough world, it’s easy to get bogged down by all we have yet to accomplish. Our to-do lists, shortcomings, and mistakes never seem to end. Switching your focus to what you ACCOMPLISHED and what you are PROUD of, motivates and inspires you to do more of the same.

Here’s some brags from my clients (whose names I’ve changed) so they will let me share:
Kayla thought she hated her job but didn’t know what other kind of work she wanted to do. After only a few weeks of coaching, she realized she actually liked her work, but hated her commute. She realized that if she could ride her bike every day, that’s all it would take to make her happy. Six months later, she has moved out of state, works at her kitchen table for the same company, and rides her bike everyday when she takes her kids to and from school.

Maya was an empty nester. With her kids off at college, her days seemed to drag on with not enough things to fill them. She had a job, friends, activities, but they all left her feeling dissatisfied. Even things she used to enjoy left her feeling empty and unfulfilled. After a few months of coaching, Maya has accepted her calling and living the life she was meant to live. I’ll let you hear it from her, “I feel excited about life again! Even though this journey is scary and my self-doubt follows me wherever I go, I am loving this new exciting adventure I am on. I even secretly couldn’t wait for the kids to leave again after winter break so I could get back to my new life (I can’t believe I admitted that). Now I find there just isn’t enough time in the day to do all the creative things I want to do, which is a huge change!”

Now it’s your turn! If you want to create a more positive, inspiring world, leave a brag below! When you acknowledge your goodness, you give permission for everyone else to do the same. And don’t you think our world needs more goodness?

Here’s a few of my brags:
I wrote my blog today and if you are reading this, it means I also got my newsletter out!

I had a wonderful weekend skiing with my family and instead of worrying about the expense of it (an old pattern of mine), I focused on how happy I was to financially contribute to the ski resorts in a difficult, drought year.

Despite strong temptation, I have not posted anything about my kids on facebook that would embarrass them. And they seem to be embarrassed by just about anything these days, even brags! 🙂

Now you go….I dare ya!

Have you forgotten how to play?

My kiddo: “Mom, will you play a game with us?”

Me: “No thanks, honey, I’m enjoying reading my book.”

My kiddo: “What are you reading?”

Me: “Oh, it’s this great book on the importance of play by Dr. Stuart Brown, I just love it. It’s all about how Play shapes the brain, opens the imagination, and invigorates the soul.”

My kiddo: “You’d rather read about play, than play a game with us?”

Me: “Oh, all right, I’ll play a game with you.” (But inside my head, I’m thinking YES! At times, I would rather read about play, than play a game with my kids.  Is something wrong with me?)

Have I forgotten how to play?

Janine is one of those Moms schools couldn’t live without. PTA volunteer, scout leader, car-pool coordinator, and room Mom. Everyone counts on her and she takes a lot of pride in her involvement. But she gets resentful of other Moms who say “no”. Why is she doing all the work? Secretly, she’s jealous of those Moms who put themselves first, but she can’t seem to figure out how.

Don is a good provider and father of two young children, yet he constantly feels like isn’t doing enough. At work, he feels like he should be at home, at home, he feels he should be working. He’s burning the candle at both ends and burning himself out.

Many of my clients fill their calendars and to-do lists, but still feel like they are missing something. We are taught to focus on goals, hard work and productivity, but we aren’t taught about the importance of play. (Or perhaps we spent too much time playing patty-cake and trains, that we’ve forgotten what feels like play to US). Grown ups need to play in order to feel like all our hard work is worth something. It gives us a sense of well-being, connection, and shifts us into a more relaxed brain state (and who doesn’t need that?). But what feels like play to one person, may not to another. If you or your kids need a break from stress, check out these play personalities, from Dr. Stuart Brown’s brilliant book.

Storyteller – Imagination is the key to the kingdom of play. Reading, writing, movies, performances, dance, etc. Storytelling can be brought to any activity. (If your child loves stories, make sure to give them lots of quiet time to be inside their own heads.)

Director – Enjoys planning and executing scenes and events. Born organizers, they love the power of being in charge and creating an experience for others. Center of the social world. (Discovering my daughter’s bossiness was her way of playing helped me accept it and find appropriate outlets for it.)

Kinesthete – Move in order to think. Like to push their bodies and feel the results. (School desks are torture for these kids. These kids need trampolines, chin up bars, balancing boards and roller blades, especially if they are trying to learn something new.)

Joker – A joker’s play revolves around nonsense. Silly jokes, behavior, foolishness, practical jokes, class clown. (Which means these kids need an audience, thank goodness for YouTube.)

Creator/Artist – Joy is found in making things: something beautiful, something functional, and something goofy. Or just to make something work. Take something apart, fix it, clean it, put it back together, and make it new. (Gardening, organizing, decorating, woodworking, blogging, detailing a car, there are many outlets, if this is you or your kids, make sure you have a creative outlet or you’ll never feel completely alive.)

Explorer – Exploration is a way of remaining creative & evoking the imagination. Can be going to new places, searching for new feelings or meanings. Discovering something new by going deeper or researching and discovering something new. (Now I understand why I love life coaching and reading non-fiction, it’s how I play!)

Competitor – Playing to win a game with specific rules. Keeping score and fighting to be number 1. Games may be social or alone, observed or participated in. Competitors like to be known for being on the top. (Who can be the first one to eat their veggies and clean their plate?)

Collector – Wants to have and hold the most, the best, the most interesting collection of objects and experiences. This may be a solitary activity or the focus of intense social connection. (This can apply to multiple activities, you can travel to collect souvenirs, play soccer to collect trophies, or collect subscribers on your YouTube channel).

Can you identify the play personalities of everyone in your family? Remember, the things that feel like play are the things your kids will make a career out of later. What’s your favorite way to play?

The Opposite of Play isn’t Work, it’s Depression

Can you feel the enthusiasm?  New lunchboxes, new pencils, new classrooms and the back to school excitement is here.  But a look at the statistics for today’s kids tells us this optimism will turn to stress by October.  How do you keep the relaxed and joyful days of summer, even after the school year begins? The answer is so simple you won’t believe me.  So let’s take a look at the problem first.

Many kids today struggle with motivation, joy, self-acceptance, social and life skills. With suicide rates rising and occurring at younger ages, it’s not a problem we can continue to ignore. Anxiety and depression are higher than ever in teens and increasing in YOUNG children! Why?
1. Kids today think the world is a scary place and they have no control to change it.
2. Too much structure: school-work, organized sports and screen time are all about following OTHER people’s ideas.
3. Less and less time spent in nature.
We’ve got a serious problem in the health of today’s kids and teens, not to mention an inability to prepare them for the jobs of tomorrow, which require creativity & drive, not repetition. The success of the movie Race to Nowhere shows you parents know it, see it, and need help changing it. But the solution is simple.
It’s PLAY.

Self-directed, imaginative, social, outdoor PLAY.
The benefits of this kind of play are HUGE! But somehow, in our drive to make kids smart achievers, we forgot that the best way to be successful in life is to FIGURE OUT WHAT YOU LOVE TO DO then SPEND LOTS OF TIME DOING IT.  PLAY helps us discover who we are and what we enjoy. PLAY teaches us how to solve our own problems and exert power over our lives. When you PLAY you are in control of your environment, (something my corporate clients know is important).  PLAY teaches that life isn’t about success and failure but about participating for the sake of it. It gives us ACCESS to ourselves: our feelings, thoughts, preferences, abilities, etc. PLAY allows us to discover who we are and who we are meant to be. It gives us the feeling that life is good and all is well. Allowing your kids to initiate and pursue their own interests is as crucial to their well being as feeding healthy foods.

But if you are like me, it’s easier said than done.
My neighborhood is full of single-family homes with sidewalks, basketball hoops and nice families, but nobody’s outside! My kids are not the outgoing type so outdoor play only happens if it’s me initiating it, and I’m busy! TV, video games and ipads keep my kids quiet and out of my hair. And when I say no more, I have to listen to them whine & fight. The pressure to put my kids in organized sports comes at me from all angles.

When you ask parents what is their greatest hope for their child? It’s always the same….happiness. Every parent wants their child to be happy and PLAY is what creates that sense of well-being. Here are some practical tips to create an environment that encourages a LIFETIME OF JOY.
1. Back away from the children. By hovering and directing their play experiences (or hiring a teacher/coach to do it) they don’t learn to control their own world. Let them struggle, make mistakes, invent their own rules & figure it out.
2. Initiate a neighborhood playgroup or street party. Collect emails and schedule “play in the street” days if your neighborhood is as quiet as mine.
3. Teach your kids how to call up a friend and ask them to play. Practice it and praise their initiative.
4. Limit screen time! TV and video games distract a child from their emotions. Kids need to experience boredom, disappointment, frustration and failure and then find ways to soothe it and make it better. Think of it like serving vegetables, nobody likes it but it must be done. Limit and commit, no matter what their ages.
5. Go camping with other families or (my favorite invention ever) go to family camp. Free time outdoors encourages more imaginative play with more creative problem solving than free play indoors.
6. Invite other kids and families over and play “the old fashioned way.” No video games, cell phones or TV, and let the kids figure out how to invent their own fun.
7. Tell the teacher you aren’t going to do homework because it stresses out your child and takes away from valuable play time. (I did. It was hard, I was nervous the whole time.) Remember the schools are here to SERVE YOU, not the other way around. If enough parents do it, they’ll change their policy.
We are out of balance and it’s time to change. We need to enjoy living for life’s sake, not because it’s leading us towards someone elses external goal. What feels like PLAY to you? Do that more and set a good example.  It’s for the kids!

Is something bothering you?

Sometimes life sucks.  People are mean, Teachers make dumb mistakes, Bosses are blind, and our family pushes our buttons.  When you or your kids are feeling down in the dumps, it’s important to give yourself permission to feel it.  Take a break from blaming & complaining and LABEL THE FEELING:  mad, sad, embarrassed, frustrated, disappointed, scared.  Finding & labeling the AUTHENTIC EMOTION is powerful.  It honors you and your feelings.  Worry, stress, anxiety are not emotions, they are a mental distraction that only create more worry, stress and anxiety.

Naming an emotion contains it.  Suddenly, what used to feel overwhelming, now feels manageable.  You’ve felt disappointed before, you can handle it.  So you feel ashamed?  That’s ok, we all do from time to time.

This is a hard thing to give our kids.  We don’t like to see them sad, mad, scared or ashamed.  We want to kiss their boo-boo’s and make it better quickly so we don’t have to see our child suffer.  But when we first tell them to “look on the bright side” “don’t feel that way” or “it’s no big deal”, we unknowingly teach them that there is something wrong with them, that the way they feel is flawed.  We do the same thing to ourselves when we deny our own emotions.  “I should be happier”  “I need to just suck it up and get over it.”  “Why can’t I just……be different than I am?”

Naming and owning an emotion doesn’t take long.  In fact, Scientists have timed it.  If we fully allow ourselves to experience an emotion, it lasts about 90 seconds.  Kids are usually better than adults at staying with the feeling, crying, hitting, stomping, and then they’re over it.  Sometimes it’s all you need. But if you’re a Mom like me who can’t help but help, you can ask my most favorite question, “What do you know to be true about you?”

DD -“Ella was so mean to me at school today.  She said I was stupid and fat.”
Mom – “You feel mad.”
DD – “Yeah.  It makes me mad when she’s mean to me.  Why can’t she just be nice?”
Mom – SILENT SITTING (no talking, just let her have her emotion, let her stay frustrated for 90 seconds.)
Mom – “What do YOU know to be true about you?”

Somehow when we ask for TRUTH, it raises the bar:  “I know I’m overweight, but I’m also a good friend.” or “I say dumb things sometimes but I’m not a dumb person.” or “Whenever I’m with Ella I feel worse about myself.”
If your child’s response is “The truth is I’m a loser and nobody likes me”, start over at step one, naming the feeling, “You feel sad.”

Model it for your kids by trying it for yourself.

1-    Find something or someone that is bugging you.

2-    Name your authentic emotion:  (mad, sad, scared, ashamed, etc.)

3-    Bathe in it.  Picture yourself sinking into a bathtub of your emotion.  Let yourself soak in it for 90 seconds. Say to yourself, “I feel scared, and that’s ok.  I allow myself to feel my feelings.”  Notice how it feels in your body and where you feel it.”  BREATHE!  It is super important to keep your breathing slow and deliberate.  If you start to think, talk, blame, argue, bring your attention back into your body and your breath.

4-    After 90 seconds is passed and you are feeling calmer, ask yourself, “What do I know to be true about me?” and see what answers arise.

5-  Congratulate yourself on being authentic.  Celebrate your awesomeness.  (I know you want to avoid this step but your kids are your motivation.)  You want them to have a positive self image so show ’em how it’s done!

When your kids drive you crazy.

Sarah was exhausted. No matter how many activities she scheduled for her son, he always wanted more. She worried about overbooking him (and herself) but every time they had a day at home, he ended up climbing the walls and driving her crazy.

Julie was frustrated. At home, her daughter was exuberant and talkative, but out in public, she shut down. She scowled and clung when people tried to talk to her and refused to participate in activities. Julie couldn’t understand how her daughter could act so rude to people who are just being nice.

When parents feel calm and at peace, it brings out their best parenting skills. But when we argue with the reality of who our kids are, we drive ourselves crazy. “Why can’t he just come home, sit down, and get his homework DONE instead of dragging it on for hours.” “What’s so hard about making friends? Just go up and ask them if they want to play.” “Why can’t she be more like the other kids?”

When we argue with our child’s TEMPERAMENT, we lose. All kids were made with built in personality traits that we can certainly squelch but the effort will exhaust and frustrate us and cause our children to be unhappy, believing they are innately flawed. A better way is to understand how your kids are wired and parent, based on who they are. But how do we know what is temperament, something we cannot and should not try to change, vs. something they just haven’t learned yet and it’s up to us to teach them? This is the classic nurture vs. nature debate and the best resource I have found is the book Nurture by Nature by Paul D. Tieger and Barbara Barron-Tieger. This book uses the classic Myers-Briggs Personality Type assessment many people discover from human resource departments, but is geared towards raising children.

My clients want to respect the essence of their kids and support who they are, but they want to stay sane while doing it. Accepting your child’s personality, as it is, and parenting them accordingly, is so worth the effort. Here are a few questions to consider…..
Does your child like to play with toys or board games as they are intended “S” or will he create his own version, changing rules as he goes, for something totally different ”N”?

Does your child need time at home to fill up their energy tank “I” or does staying home drain them and make them antsy “E”?

Does your child refuse to accept responsibility when they cause pain or sadness in someone else? They may be a deep feeler “F” and the thought they caused someone harm might be too much for them to take. Or are they perplexed by the emotional reaction they caused, “T” and need an explanation as to why the child is crying.

When it comes to making decisions like childcare, school choice, summer camps, understanding your child’s personality type is SO helpful. Instead of comparing your kid to others, look at who they are as a unique individual and ask yourself, how can I help them to be their best?

Being a former reading specialist, it drove me crazy that my daughter didn’t like books or reading. Once I realized she was an INFJ and was more interested in her OWN ideas than someone else’s, I could help her learn to like reading. By changing the endings, letting her lead, and using the pictures to tell alternative stories, I helped her discover the joy of storytelling. I also need to make sure she has plenty of unstructured time after school where she can invent and be the boss.

My ESFJ is way harder on himself than I could ever be. So instead of reminding him to “be good” or suggesting he pay attention in school, I have learned to celebrate mistakes. “Oh well, no big deal” is a mantra I try to use a lot of in my home as well as, “guess what awesome mistake I made today?”  Unlike INTP’s, whose mission is to question authority, ESFJ’s cannot function with conflict so maintaining harmony at all times is of primary concern.

The Serenity Prayer from Alcoholics Anonymous is a perfect mantra for parents. “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” You can gain wisdom by assessing your personality profile, online for free. It’s geared towards adults but if your kids are older you can use it for them. Also check out Nurture by Nature. It’s super fun (unless you are an ISTJ or INTJ, then it’s torture☺) but it works best if your child is age 4 or older to get a clear picture of their type.

My much-loved, dog-eared, duct-taped copy.

“The privilege of a lifetime is being who you are.” Joseph Campbell