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

Seven Steps to Making New Years Resolutions that Stick

I love the fresh start of the new year.  My kids and I are pulling out our vision boards and magazines and dreaming and about an even more ideal life.  Right now, my list of resolutions is so long it’s likely none of them will come true.  So while I choose which ones to focus on, I thought I’d share with you my 7 steps to creating successful change.  Teaching kids how to make dreams come true and accomplish goals is one of the greatest things we can teach.  And since the #1 way kids learn is by imitation, why not show them by creating your own, most fabulous and ideal life.

1.  Pick something you really, really, really, really want.  Make a long list of all the things you’d like to change, then ask yourself, what is it I REALLY YEARN for?  (Hint – it’s going to be a feeling.)

2. Imagine what it will feel like to have accomplished your goal.  Bathe in the emotions of it:  self-pride, accomplishment, freedom, joy.   Notice what it feels like in your body and breathe it in.  (BTW – This is how we are meant to feel all the time)

3. What in your life are you willing to give up in order to make room for your new dream to come true?  (Moms, especially, have a tendency to pile more stuff on to their plate without realizing there is a limit to how much time and energy they have.)  Mentally scan your weekly routine and choose the areas you’d like to replace with something new.

4. Imagine it happening perfectly.  Go walk the dog or take a bath and spend time imagining your new routine.  Create a scene in your mind like a movie with you as the star.  Imagine what sights you see, sounds you hear, smells, tastes, textures, and most importantly, what it feels like to be living in your ideal future.  Breathe into the difference of where you are today, and where you’d like to be.

5. Anticipate obstacles.  In this mental movie, imagine what obstacles arise (distractions, you get sick, people need you, etc.).  Imagine that you overcome these obstacles with grace and ease, without abandoning your goal or positive emotions associated with it.

6. Write it down.  Studies show that your chances of accomplishing a goal improve 33% if you write down what it is you want, create action steps and check in with a friend or coach to whom you feel accountable.

7. Celebrate your victories.  If you are like me, this is the hardest of all steps.  Brag to your spouse, your friends, your dog, and most importantly, your mirror.  Say out loud, “I did it!  I worked out today, yeah, ME!”  Look at your reflection and tell it how proud you are that you overcame resistance.   Tell your kids how amazing their Mom or Dad is and what a super star you are.  Model for them what it’s like to work hard to create positive change.  Model for them what it’s like to honor yourself.

Helping kids with empathy

News of the shooting in Newtown, CT. is vibrating through my body.  I can feel the weight of it: the suffering, fear, shock, desperation, anger, and grief.   It shows up in me as real, physical pain:  stomach ache, headache, tension in my neck, jaw, abdomen, crushing chest, and a feeling like boiling blood I know well as anxiety.  I live on the opposite side of the country and yet I am connected to those parents, teachers and kids at Sandy Hook Elementary in a very real way.  When I was a kid, and heard tragic news like this, I didn’t know how to handle my emotions.

Whether the scary stuff on TV was real or imaginary, as a kid, it felt the same.  I was afraid, but I didn’t know what to do with my fear.  It seemed the right thing to do was to “feel bad” for others.  My big, empathic heart couldn’t handle the guilt, grief and fear.  This wasn’t my pain or my problem, but somehow I thought that if I suffered, I could alleviate the suffering of others.  If I joined them in grief, if I carried the burden with them, I could lessen it.  I was wrong.  All this got me was decades of chronic pain, anxiety and a fear of bad things happening. I tried writing notes and donating money, but it never felt like enough.

Tragedy’s, like the one at Sandy Hook Elementary School, are opportunities to teach our children healthy ways to deal with their emotions.  It can be hard to notice if your child is reacting in these ways but asking them what they feel, and what they do with that feeling, is a good place to start.  Many kids (and adults) will cope by….

  1. Worrying, pulling-back from life, living small and fearfully, breathing shallowly, just in case a threat shows up.  Constantly staying in fight or flight, when there is no immediate danger, is horrible for your emotional and physical well-being and does nothing for those suffering. You can read more about my results of living this way. This adds more fearful energy to the world, which causes us to do things like horde weapons of mass destruction and maintain the right to bear arms against our neighbors and classmates.
  2. Get Mad – We can be angry at the shooter, the NRA, video games, the president, the lack of care for mentally ill, anyone.  For many people, anger is more comfortable than fear so they stay here, hoping it will lead them to productive action.   This is the “fight” response, in action.  It feels good to use it and get the energy out, but adding more of this angry/fearful/fighting energy to the world is just going to result in more violence.
  3. Get Tough- Many times, big hearted kids (and adults) will grow tough exteriors to mask the really deep feelings and negative thoughts they think about themselves.  They ignore, act cool, like they don’t care, deny their own dark side, and try to act perfectly, sometimes even self-righteous. (The emotion will be looking for a way out so don’t be surprised if they explode at a dead cat in the road or missed soccer goal).
  4. Guilt/Sadness – Somehow we get the idea that if we suffer along, it helps alleviate the burdens of others.  When I feel sad and guilty, that just adds more suffering and depression to the world.  Instead, feel the grief and guilt in your body and transform it into love.  Hug your kids, appreciate your life, but do it from a place of love, not fear.   (You’ll know the difference because love feels expansive, fear feels graspy and scarce).

In order to send love to Newtown, Connecticut, you have to feel it in yourself first.  The first step for all of us is to acknowledge and label their emotion.  When a big, scary, yucky feeling gets named, it diffuses it and makes it easier to manage.  Ask yourself, “What am I feeling?” or “What am I trying NOT to feel?”  Is it anger? sadness? guilt? fear?  Then acknowledge that no one is perfect, nor were we meant to be.  We all have the potential for darkness, given the right brain chemistry and environmental circumstances.  Look for something you have done or said you feel bad about and forgive that part of you.  (Notice where you feel the guilt in your body and what color it is, then breathe into it and relax around it until you can transform it into a color that feels like love, seems weird but it works).  Once you can forgive yourself for your shortcomings, you can fill it with love.  From this place, you can then send gratitude and love out to the world, the victims, the troubled soul of the shooter, everyone.  Pet your dog, sing Christmas Carols, cook something delicious, make a list of things you love about yourself and your kids.  Do whatever you can to shift to the state of gratitude and peace.  The world doesn’t need more suffering.  The world is hungry for love.  Take this opportunity to role model for your kids how much power they have to feel and send LOVE.

Who were you meant to be?

When you were little, you knew EXACTLY who you were and what was right for you.  You were on a mission: you were alert, focused, intent, but your body was relaxed.  If someone tried to keep you from accomplishing your goal, you screamed.  In fact you didn’t let anything or anyone stand in your way.  You worked hard all day, but it felt like play. 

This is exactly what my clients are yearning for:  connection, passion, love, play, belief in their abilities, joy and meaning.  This is what it feels like when you are living your best life and doing what you were meant to do. Whether we call this your essential self, your original genius, or your inner wisdom, it is how we are meant to live.

Not once, while trying to master your block tower did you think to yourself, “I really should be learning to walk.  I see Kylie is walking already.  Sam is talking up a storm and his Mom seems so happy about it.  Maybe I should focus on building my vocabulary?”

You NEVER thought, “What’s wrong with me?  I used to love trains and now I hardly play with them at all.  Why can’t I just stick to one thing?”

You didn’t question your own instincts.  “Everyone else seems to playing on the slide.  I wonder what’s wrong with me?  I just want to tinker with my toys, maybe I should be more like the others?”

You complained loudly when you didn’t get to do what you wanted, but you never thought, “When am I going to get rewarded?  I’ve been working my ass off on this macaroni necklace, why isn’t anyone noticing how great it is and compensating me for my time?”  It never even dawned on you to ask “What’s in it for me?”  You just did the work you knew you were meant to do.

Your Original Genius knows when to rest and when to move on.  It doesn’t wait for people to give you permission to do what you KNOW you want to do.  It’s driven, passionate, and full of purpose. You KNOW what you love, what your purpose is, and it’s still inside, whispering to you all the time.

Where does this passion and certainty go?  Often, it gets left behind at middle school. Adolescence is the time parents see their child’s essence fading into “group think” and “shoulding” (as in, I should be more than I am). It’s normal to want to fit in and be accepted by peers, but as parents, it’s important to help our kids stay connected to the essence of who they are.

Tom went to medical school and was told Primary Care is the wave of the future.  Everyone should go into General Medicine, it’s the most responsible & secure choice.  Being a responsible guy, Tom complied.  Only to find himself miserable wiping noses and diagnosing ear infections all day.  Any interesting case that came through his door, he had to refer out.  Anyone that knew Tom’s essence, knew he was a specialist.  He loved to go an inch wide & a mile deep.  Think of the time and money he could have saved if his parents had steered him towards his essence, instead of what was safe & popular?  After 5 grumpy years, he went back to med school and is now a brilliant pediatric anesthesiologist and thank goodness!  If people are putting my child under the knife I sure as heck want them to living their purpose and doing the job best suited to who they are meant to be.

Imagine a world where EVERYONE is expressing their wisdom, their essence, and their original genius.  Your waitress is thrilled to serve you and help you enjoy your dining experience.  Your babysitter thinks your children are amazing little creatures and joyfully shares every detail of her time.  Your dentist loves inspiring you to take great care of your teeth and creates a relaxing environment you and your children look forward to going to.  This is the world I want to live in.

Want to help your teen make good choices, while helping yourself at the same time?  Join me on my FREE phone class Tuesday, October 30th at 12noon, PST.  Leading Your Teen:  Live Your Best Life So Your Teen Will, Too!

Be A Quitter

Be a quitter

For generations parents have been telling their kids “Don’t be a quitter”.  Quitting gets a bad rap but for today’s busy families, it’s one of the best things you can do.

Gabrielle Douglas, Olympic Gold Medal Champion and all-around awesome cutie pie, had to quit lots of things in order to be successful at gymnastics.  Her decision to quit her school, her hometown, even living with her family, led her to victory.  She was smart enough to notice that trying to make other girls like her, was keeping her from excelling at her sport.  She had to quit her old gym in order to grow into the athlete she was meant to be.  It wasn’t easy but it felt right.

Every time we quit something, we make room for more of who we are meant to be.  This can create a temporary void until we fill it with things that feel more authentically us.  (Ask anyone who has been through divorce or an empty nest about this void, it’s scary!)  But it is a necessary step to lead us closer to our best life.

Ben was a super star soccer player.  He lived and breathed his passion for soccer and it showed.  His family’s life and future plans revolved around Ben’s competitive, traveling soccer team.  When Ben turned 12, he was ready to try something new.  Nine years of intense year-round soccer left little time for him to try new things and he was ready to explore a new identity.  He thought about joining the band or trying out for drama, maybe even a girlfriend?

Ben’s parents had a hard time with this but after a year of seeing their son unhappy, they said goodbye to soccer and hello to band. Gabrielle Douglas’ Mom had a hard time letting her quit her life to pursue her passion but eventually succumbed to Gaby’s relentless persuasion.

Michelle’s daughter wanted to quit basketball her sophmore year but her parents said no.  They encouraged her to stick with the team through high school.  She excelled and got that full basketball scholarship her parents were expecting.  After the first semester at University, burned out, she quit her sport, lost her scholarship, and moved home to attend the local community college.  Thirteen years of playing basketball was enough and she knew it. It was time to explore who she was without it.

Quitting things is about growing into a new identity that is more closely aligned with who we are meant to be.  How do we know when to let our kids quit and when to encourage them to stick it out?

Short answer:  we can’t know.  We have no idea who they are meant to be in this lifetime.  But they will tell us if we learn to listen and watch for these signs:

Time – Do they change their mind from one week to the next or are they consistent with their feelings after a month or two.

Body – When you tell them it’s time to go to _______, does their body collapse?  Do they literally drag their feet out the door?

Voice – My daughter complains and collapses when it’s time to bathe but that doesn’t mean I’m going to let her quit!  The voice used for whining is a different tone than the mature, often quiet whisper of TRUTH.  Listen and see if you can hear the difference.

Tears – When we are preparing to move to our next stage of life by quitting the old and moving to an unknown future, “Truth Tears” show up.   This can be confusing to parents who think “if quitting makes you sad, why quit?”  There is a different quality to these tears that accompany an out loud acknowledgement of “I know I’m meant for more than this and I’m ready to see what it is, but change is scary.”

Quitters try new things.  Quitters are open to new ideas and new experiences without fear.  Quitters know who they are and who they aren’t and they are FUN to be around.  Life is a game of “You’re Getting Warmer”.  Look back on your life and tell me what’s the best thing you’ve ever quit?

Take inspiration from the teens at my summer camp:

“I’m going to quit trying to make everybody like me”

“I going to quit being so hard on myself”

“I’m going to quit a friend who drags me down.”

“I’m going to TRY to quit caring about what other people think.”