I held off as long as I could. When boys came over to play, screens went off. I wanted to see boys running, jumping and climbing. I loved to listen to their inventions and creativity. I would rather have them make a mess or dive off my stairs, then see those precious faces zoned out in front of a screen. But by age 9, I caved.
The boys that came to my house didn’t always to know how to have fun with each other. Once they found out we had an xbox, they would ask every 5 minutes “now can we play?” I made them wait, but nothing ever was as engaging as the adrenaline and dopamine hit awaiting them in that screen. I didn’t want my son to be rejected for having a boring home, so I surrendered to the pressures of modern life.
But my concerns are still there. How are boys going to learn to interact in a social setting? Will they be able to feel content without the constant stimulation and dopamine release they get from screen time? How will they build healthy relationships with the opposite sex when their only exposure to girls is through youtube? What the heck am I going to say about oral sex, online pornography and sexting?
We are offering a free call for parents called Raising Respectful Sons: Sex, Tech & Connection. We understand the digital age that surrounds us and want to empower parents to give their boys the information they need to grow into self-assured, healthy and respectful young men. You CAN help your son thrive, even with cell phones, social media, online video games and that ever present screen.
Do you ever try to relax but your brain won’t let you? Thoughts keep firing in a dozen different directions, none of them helpful? One of the reasons my clients feel so calm and focused after a coaching session is they learn the process of controlling their mind. Instead of being a passenger in an out of control vehicle, they learn how to step into the drivers seat and CHOOSE the direction they want to steer their brain. While driving your brain along this road of life, there is a huge and very powerful force you need to be aware of. Like gravity, this invisible force can be a huge pain if you don’t respect it. Learning to use scarcity to work for you instead of against you, can give you power & strength and increase your appreciation of the little things in life.
Scarcity simply means, inadequate supply. Although normally an economic term, I discovered the power of scarcity when I eliminated sugar from my house. Sugar does terrible things to my son’s brain and body so when he developed a strong addiction to it, we chose to remove all sugar from the home. Suddenly, I’m like the cookie monster. I’d get so excited when a parent would bring cookies to my Time for The Talk class, I’d eat one and store one for later. At the grocery store, I’d head straight to the bakery for the day old freebies. I’m eating treats I don’t even like out of fear that this is my only chance. My sugar intake probably doubled when I eliminated it from my house, just because I believed in “inadequate supply”.
This is the same reason why diets don’t work. You start pigging out because you know, “starting tomorrow”, you will only allow salads and fish. As soon as you get tired, stressed, sick, or any perceived weakness, scarcity jumps in and takes over and pigs out on all the forbidden food.
I’ve seen clients unable to enjoy this time with their young kids because they are imagining being sad with their future empty nest. “How can I be happy today when someday they’ll be gone and I’ll be sad?” (Scarcity Mindset)
Parents worry about their teens getting good grades and getting into a good college but there are TONS of great Universities out there. “Everyone else is taking AP classes so you should, too!” “A 4.0 isn’t good enough anymore!” (Scarcity Mindset)
With sports, we spend thousands of dollars and years of our lives driving our kids all over the state so they can make the high school team, only to have them burned out or injured by the time they get there. “There are only a few spots available!” “Everyone else is getting private coaching!” “They only take the best of the best!” (Scarcity Mindset)
Scarcity makes people buy houses in hot markets, sit outside Best Buy all night before Black Friday, spend more at school auctions than they normally would and jump on investment bandwagons. Scarcity makes toddlers fight over toys, siblings fight over everything and teens hang with forbidden friends. With such a powerful force, using it to work with you instead of against you is very smart.
My son was nervous about performing well at his track meet. I suggested he change his focus from doing well, to scarcity: “Imagine today is the last day you will ever be able to run. Tomorrow, the icebergs melt, the streets are flooded and you can only swim or float down the streets. Instead of thinking about results, think about running with all the joy & enthusiasm of your last race ever.”
I have a friend who uses scarcity every time she is annoyed with her husband. She imagines he’s being shipped overseas for a year and this is the last time she’s going to spend the night with him. She savors every interaction with full attention and fully enjoys herself and his company.
Not in the mood to exercise? Imagine tomorrow you go in for surgery that will leave you bedridden for 6 months. How can you use that thought to enjoy freely moving your body in the world today?
I had a client with three kids under five and the constant mess was wearing her down. As soon as she realized this was temporary, her outlook changed. She realized that very soon, her kids will be gone six hours out of the day which will significantly reduce the mess. This scarcity mindset helped her relax and enjoy this stage of her life, mess and all.
My kids are at the ages where I’m doing A LOT of driving. As I was complaining about it one day, it dawned on me this is my last year I will ever drive both kids around. My teen is in drivers ed and by this time next year, he won’t need me. Suddenly my complaining stopped and I’m soaking up every precious car ride with him.
Be careful not to use scarcity to make you sad. Use it to savor the moment, appreciate where you are now. Use it to help you take action towards your goals. If you get stuck in sadness, call me. Joy is a vulnerable emotion for many people and it’s worth taking the time to increase your tolerance for it.
Notice where in your life you have that restless feeling because “there isn’t going to be enough”. Make sure you are using scarcity to your advantage, rather than letting it use you. Let it help you save water during a drought, sign up for my next Time for The Talk class with your 9-12 year old and sing and dance with your kids for as long as they will let you.
Many parenting classes and books teach parents how to be more empathic but for some of us, that’s the easy part. We love the cuddling, the sympathetic listening, and the intimate bonding that comes with parenting our precious cutie pies. But being too nice isn’t good for anybody. Nice parents will put everyone else’s needs before their own, not even realizing the burdens they are carrying. Here are some of the warning signs that you may be too nice and it’s time to change the way you operate:
-Your kids are acting out. When kids start testing boundaries they are looking for a strong leader and misbehavior means they need you to step into your calm, compassionate power. Not everyone likes this role or has easy access to the energy of leadership.
– Your mood is dependent on your kids: if they are happy, so are you. If they are grumpy, it seems impossible to have a different emotional state.
– You have a hard time taking time to yourself. You hear yourself saying, “I don’t have time for me” or “I don’t like taking care of myself, I’m just fine” or “I can’t afford it”.
– The thought of an empty nest makes you really uncomfortable.
– Your body is showing signs of stress: back pain, digestive issues, weight gain or loss, TMJ, or other health problems that doctors think could have a stress component to them.
– You worry a lot or try to control things. You have a hard time going with the flow.
-Your friends or spouse keep encouraging you to relax, get a massage, or take a break.
Websters defines empathy as “The ability to share another persons feelings.” A wonderful skill and much needed in our competitive world, but too much empathy and you lose touch with yourself. ESPECIALLY if you also have a job that involves taking care of others, you can get out of balance really quickly and easily. If you are like me and these warning signs sound very familiar, you owe it to yourself and your loved ones to start integrating these steps towards reconnecting to your authentic self and finding balance. If it’s been years since you felt connected to your spirit, it may take a long time to get it back. Be patient with yourself and enjoy the journey of re-discovering your best and highest self (it’s in there, I promise, and it really wants your attention!)
Here are my best steps to any empathic Mom or Dad who thinks they might be too enmeshed with their families needs and has lost touch with their spirit.
Set aside time to do NOTHING. Doing nothing is the best, most healing, most PRODUCTIVE, thing anyone who finds themselves in The Land of Crazy can do. Doing nothing, with nothing being the only agenda, is the fastest, most efficient way to gain access to your inner wisdom and your intuition. But nice parents have a hard time with this one so first, write down all your excuses of why you can’t make time for this. Find amusement in this list, set the timer and DO NOTHING for as long as you can stand it. Take a bath, sit in your car and stare into space, hike up a hill and enjoy the view, just decide that for 15minutes or 60 minutes, you are going to BE and not DO. It’s going to feel strange and unfamiliar because change always does. Just breathe and allow, pretend you are on vacation.
Re-discover your creative side. Drawing, painting, jewelry making, interior design, web design, writing stories, scrapbooking, organizing, this is the perfect time to pursue those creative interests. Dwelling in the right hemisphere of your brain in other areas (besides empathy) is like a road back into your inner wisdom. It’s healing and nurturing, allow it to be more about play than productivity. If you hear yourself say, “I’m not creative”, do more of step one.
It is very hard for empathic care-takers to access their authentic inner voice with anyone else in the room. Find mental, emotional, and physical solitude so that you learn to differentiate your authentic voice from everyone else’s.
The first time I realized I had to make a change was when my baby was 8 months old. My back pain was unbearable, I’d get a massage and frustrate the masseuse because it seemed I had lost the ability to take a deep breath. My constant worrying was driving my husband so bonkers he begged me to do something, anything, to relax. I had taken up permanent residence in The Land of Crazy.
It was really easy and fun for me to put by baby’s needs before mine. I loved it but I felt “on” all day, not realizing the toll it was taking on me, to have my attention always turned outside myself. If I tried to take a break in the house, it was really hard! I could hear laughing, crying, whining and I couldn’t help but “help” from the other room, I’d shout, “He wants his blanket” or “Don’t forget to feed him”. It was like I was permanently tuned to a station that I couldn’t shut off. When I left him in the care of someone else, the volume turned down, but I was still thinking, wondering, checking in to make sure he was okay. After 8 months of this, my mind was telling me I was fine, but my body was telling me different.
I started with going out to dinner by myself. I relished in the quiet, the taste of the food, the fact that someone else was serving ME and cleaning up after ME, it was fabulous. Then I worked my way over to day spas, starting with an hour massage, eventually enjoying 12 hours of luxurious lounging. I’d bring books, a sketch pad, but often just soaked, swam and soothed. I started teaching yoga and Pilates classes so I had no excuse not to go. Now about twice a year, I go away, by myself, to a hotel for two nights. It is HEAVEN. I get to eat what I want, when I want, stay up as late as I want, sleep in. But most importantly, I get access to my own voice. I can tune in and listen to myself without distraction, what feels good, what I’m missing, and what’s next for me. If your days are filled with taking care of others, being alone and receiving care isn’t a luxury, it’s mandatory. It’s like filling up your gas tank, you can’t keep running on empty and expect there not to be consequences.
I was feeling resentful and under-appreciated. My husband went out of town and I felt stuck in the daily grind of dishes, laundry, cooking, driving and homework. Even the holidays just looked like more chores on my to-do list. I was busy but bored. Normally I can coach myself out these moods, take some time to myself, go to yoga, etc. This time I wasn’t snapping out of my bitterness. I really needed to feel appreciated, valued and considered but I was stuck in my self-righteous anger and I didn’t like it.
I believe that no one can make you feel anything without you believing it first. If you tell me I’m mean and selfish, it doesn’t affect me because I don’t have that belief about myself. If I roll out of bed and drive to CVS, sick and feeling awful with my head pounding and nose running, and I see you there and you tell me how great I look, I will not believe you. If I want to feel appreciated, I have to appreciate me first, in order to receive a compliment from anyone else. So as dorky as I felt doing it, I wrote myself a thank you note:
I just want to take a minute to thank you for all you have done and continue to do to make our household run smoothly. You do such a great job of raising our children, cooking for our family, keeping them in clean clothes that fit, and maintaining a beautiful home, it’s easy to take you for granted. You manage to stay in good spirits while you juggle all the demands of our family. You encourage your children and husband to pursue their interests, joys, friendships and activities and are happy to “hold down the fort” and help facilitate, plan, drive and arrange financing to make these dreams possible. You always prioritize their needs, remembering their schedules, being on time, purchasing the right shoes, birthday presents, permission slips and all the details of life. You do this because your family’s happiness makes you so happy. Sometimes taking care of your family is a thankless job, but I want you to know that I appreciate and recognize your hard work, thoughtfulness and consistent care. You are a gem of a wife and mother and I am truly proud to walk in your shoes every day. I hope next time you look in the mirror, you recognize what a powerful force for good you truly are and how blessed your family is to have you in their lives.
With gratitude & love,
It took a few drafts to get into the genuine feeling of gratitude (that self-righteous anger held on tight!). But once I wrote it AND felt it, the rest of the day I felt only love and gratitude. It was like I had filled up my appreciation tank and didn’t need any external validation. But what happens when you are walking around, vibrating in self-appreciation? Other people feel it too, and about 5 hours later my husband walked in with a dozen roses AND the two items I asked him to pick up at Costco!
Don’t sit around and wait for someone to give you the feeling you want to feel. Give it to yourself first. Write a letter telling yourself how proud you are of you, how you deserve a break for all your hard work, how caring and generous you are, how much you admire your patience and self respect. Then watch and see how your family and your world start to respond to you differently.
I’m sure you’ve all experienced “help” from your loved ones. Well meaning advice that starts with “What you need to do is……” or the pleading words from parents, “Honey, I’m worried about you….”
It can be really hard to watch our child, our friend or a loved one suffering unnecessarily. Often, we can see things they can’t see but when we try to offer a new perspective, we get shut down. “If you just changed your attitude, your job wouldn’t be so bad.” “Just because your friend didn’t text you back doesn’t mean she hates you.” There are three ways people “help” that just don’t work.
“Let me tell you what to do.” If you’ll just step aside, I can take over and do a much better job at managing your life than you are. This may be true but it’s not your lesson to learn and this type of “help” leaves both parties feeling frustrated and ignored.
“I feel bad for you.” I’ll jump into suffering with you in hopes it will eliminate and relieve your burden. I will feel sad & scared in solidarity with you so at least you aren’t alone. As well meaning as this is, this version leaves both parties feeling crappy and unable to see solutions.
I’m worried about you so if you could worry too, I’ll feel better. This version of “helping” is common for parents to do to kids but it’s really about helping “the worrier” feeling more comfortable. Asking someone else to change their behavior so you can feel better, ignores the real problem and real solution.
Learning to help your friends and loved ones in a way that TRULY helps is an art form. If you’ve got “The Helping Tic” like I do, seeing people struggle causes you physical pain and mental anguish. The desire to help others is a good and important trait so learning to do it in a way that helps you BOTH feel better is SO important!
This “How to Help” workshop is right for you if ……
Your friends confide in you about their problems.
You find yourself thinking more about other people’s problems than your own.
You find yourself avoiding certain people because strong emotions come up when you are with them.
You hear yourself telling others “What you need to do is…..” or saying “Why doesn’t she just _____________ and then her life will be fine.”
Watching your loved ones or friends repeat the same mistakes really bugs you.
You worry more than you like and wish you knew how to stop.
Your children come to you with their problems and you’d like to help them feel better, without “fixing” it for them.
You can’t stand watching your children struggle.
This workshop was inspired by some of the girls in my summer camp who felt burdened by some of the secrets they had been asked to carry by friends who were in a really bad place. Please share this invitation with your daughters age 13 and up and bring them along if they are interested.
Mom’s Mini-Retreat (teenage girls welcome, too.) Sunday, November 23rd 12pm-3:00pm near Walnut Creek. $35.00 each, includes lunch, drinks and an interactive workshop. Space is Limited, Sign Up Today.
If you are interested in the topic but can’t make the live retreat, click here and let me know. If I get enough interest, I’ll create a webinar version.