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.

 

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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. 

 

Staying optimistic in a negative world

After spending time at my vision board party last weekend, and the march for human rights this weekend, I am filled with positivity and optimism for the future. But just like anytime you feel really joyful and happy, that little doubt-filled, scary feeling shortly follows. As I was walking the streets with a crowd oozing with love and support for all people, I couldn’t help but think, “Why couldn’t we have done this sooner? Why didn’t I show my support before the election?”

Staying in positive emotions is hard for many of us. Brene Brown calls it “foreboding joy”, the immense love and joy we feel with our precious newborn baby, followed quickly by the fear that our baby could stop breathing and that love could be taken away at any moment. Happiness and love makes us feel vulnerable. Appreciating what we have and dreaming about a positive future makes us feel naive or ignorant. We worry about being blindsided by something bad happening. The fear of “getting the rug pulled out from underneath us” keeps us on alert. Instead of enjoying all the wonderful things we currently have, we “wait for the other shoe to drop” so we can at least say we saw it coming. Or, if you are like me, you go to feeling guilty for not doing enough.

But here’s the thing, foreboding joy DOES NOT WORK! Worrying about something does not keep it from happening. Feeling guilty does not motivate positive action. Getting mad at yourself or others only creates more anger and an avoidance of love and positivity.

Sometimes we use negative emotion to motivate like calling oneself fat and lazy to get ourselves to the gym. If you get stuck in negative emotion try asking yourself “What immediate action step can I take today?”  If you are angry about the steps our new President is taking, call a Senator, join an organization, or donate to support your cause. If you feel guilty, forgive yourself. If you are worried about your health, make a dr. appt. If there isn’t a clear action step to take, then it’s not helpful and it’s time to let it go.

Love casts out fear, but it also motivates you to take positive action. What motivated you to play with your adorable one year old? LOVE! What motivates our young athletes to sweat in a stinky gym and get beat up by their peers? Love of the game! What motivates us to throw cutely themed birthday parties for our toddlers who won’t even notice or remember? Love! Who would you rather hire to babysit your kids: A worried, stressed out perfectionist who feels guilty if she does something wrong, or a joyful, loving person who adores your cute kid?

Love gets you hired. Love draws other positive people to you like a magnet. When you raise the bar on how much joy you can tolerate in your life, country, and planet, it shows other people how to do the same. My clients and children need me to stay in joy and optimism, but not denial. I don’t watch the news or listen to our new president talk, because it’s not helpful or productive and it makes it too easy to fall into fear. I maintain a positive Facebook feed and surround myself with kids and uplifting adults. This optimistic state allows me to coach my clients, inspire my children, support organizations I believe in and create a vision of a positive future.  When I slip into “not doing enough” guilt, or fear and anger, I catch it and coach myself on it, so I don’t have to go into my bubble and hide. Listen to your body and let it show you what actions are healthy for you, and which are toxic. If all you can think is what you DON’T want, it’s time for a negativity detox.

If there are certain topics or people you can’t listen to or tolerate, or if you are stuck in negative emotion, it’s worth taking the time to “clean it up”. Our country is going through quite the evolution and we need as many carriers of “love and light” as we can get. Schedule a life coaching session with me today, www.LifeCoachingforParents.com/work-with-me

This video helped me focus on creating a vision for our country I’d like to see. Someday, I’d like to see an advertisement like this for the United States. Enjoy!

Should you give your child everything on their wish list?

Making our kids happy without making them feel entitled

Don’t you loving reading kid’s wish lists or letters to Santa? It’s so easy get a picture of what the child is like and what his interests and priorities are. If a kid can’t create a wish list, it’s a warning sign of low self worth and depression. It is SO important for kids to be able to ask for what they want, and believe they are worthy of receiving it. img_2686

As parents, our desires often get buried under the daily to-do list and we lose touch with what we really want. The feeling of yearning, of wanting, is very valuable and I’m often coaching my clients into reconnecting with this feeling. We need it to know who we really are and what’s next for us. It provides us a road map for our life. WANTING is wonderful, but you might want to read this before indulging your child in all of their desires.

None of us wants to create entitled kids but we all want to see our children happy. Watching their face light up when they open that gift they were so hoping to receive is OUR reward for all the hard frickin’ work! Let’s start by admitting that giving kids what they want is about US, wanting to make our kids happy so we can be happy.

What creates the “omg this is the best present ever” moment we all crave, is when the child is hopeful, but doubtful. It’s the surprise element that helps the child feel loved, seen and heard. If you always buy your child everything on their list, they lose the surprise and appreciation. Then, opening the gift just turns it into a checklist. When children expect to receive everything on their wish list, it changes from a “this is my heart’s desire and yearning” to an “here’s an errand I expect you to run for me”. Yuck.

Sometimes kids want gifts just because “everyone else wants them or has them”. Games, clothes, electronics, etc. can act a social marker between kids. If the kids your child likes and wants to be friends with, all talk about xbox, your child will want to be able to speak that language, talk about the latest games or levels, and feel accepted by his peers. This is a valid reason to want something, especially during the pre-adolescent years when they are trying to establish their identity.

My daughter has wanted UGG boots for years. Spending that much money on something that will make her (naturally hot) feet sweat and that she will grow out of quickly, is really hard for me. With so many better alternatives, the cost goes against my values. Helping my daughter have a sense of belonging and connection with her social group is aligned with my values, so I’m delegating to Grandmas and hope they can resolve the issue for me. 

“Something you want, Something you need, Something to wear, Something to read”

Remember, Christmas is for US. We do most of the work which means we can make it whatever we want it to be. By filling their stockings with deodorant, nail clippers and socks, you can make their “wants” that much more exciting. Giving practical gifts remind them that the “magic of Christmas” isn’t about the gifts themselves but the surprise, the traditions, the togetherness and the energy of giving.

So just be sure, if you are indulging your child in their desires, that you don’t do all items every year and you give them plenty of opportunity to experience yearning. There are many things that make the holidays special, make sure you aren’t sacrificing your own happiness for the sake of your children’s wish list. 

So what’s on your wish list Mama?