The Blame Game

I tripped on something and banged my knee something awful.  It hurt.  My initial reaction was to yell “Ouch!!” my second was to blame my husband.  “Damn you!  If you had removed what I asked you to remove, I wouldn’t have gotten hurt!  It’s your fault!”  What I noticed, immediately, was how good it felt to blame him.  Why does it feel so good to blame others for our problems?  “My kids behavior makes me crazy” “My boss won’t let me take time off” “If I could just earn more money, I would be happy” Or in my case, “If my husband would just do what I ask him to do, my life would be peachy.” Which of course, is ridiculous.  I will still hurt myself whether my husband does what I ask or not.

I think the reason blame feels so good in the moment, is you don’t have believe that sometimes, bad things just happen.  If we can point the finger and say, it’s you, it avoids the truth that, at any time, without warning, we could get hurt.  It’s hard to admit that without the fault of any one person or group, economy’s change, kids disobey, people ignore us, money comes and goes, and no one is going to rescue us from this big bad world of reality.  Blaming allows us to revert back to childhood.

So why don’t we view blaming as a good thing?  Why not encourage our kids to do it, find a scapegoat?  “You’re right honey, all the teachers at your school are out to get you” or “I’m sure it WAS the ref’s fault your team didn’t win”.  Oh, wait, we kind of do that! We blame the budget, the mean girls, the teacher, the coach, our mothers, the curriculum, the preschool, the boss, the job market, the democrats, the media, you name it, we blame them.  Yet if I was to ask you, if blaming other people for your problems is a good idea, intuitively, you know it isn’t.  Why is that?

Blaming is a child’s way of going through the world.  To acknowledge that you could error, make mistakes, or be imperfect, requires maturity.  To admit that life can be unpredictable and our future is uncertain, requires trust and confidence that you can handle it.  When we blame, we give all our power away.  If it’s the teacher’s fault that the child isn’t learning, you are stuck!  You can’t make somebody be a better teacher.  If you accept your child’s teacher isn’t the greatest, but there is a lot you and your child can do to learn, it gives you immense power.  You take charge of learning, seek out opportunities, other teachers, other modes of instruction, work hard and do your best.  You learn to accept reality and adapt to the situation, always claiming your own power and working with what you DO have control over.

So often my clients have the belief that “If my child would just behave, I could be happy.”  This is never true.  Children will always “misbehave”.  Blaming your child’s actions for your happiness, always leads to suffering.   I decide I’m going to be happy by the thoughts I choose to believe.  “Kids misbehave.  I can figure out a good way to handle it.  I’m a good Mom.  Health problems happen.  Social Problems happen.  ‘Misbehavior’ is a message to me.  What can I learn from this? She’s looking to me to guide her.” Thinking this way helps us enjoy parenting way more than, “my child disrespects me and there is nothing I can do about it.” Accepting responsibility for your own happiness is a very grown up thing to do and gives YOU lots of power.

So for me, I am accepting that my husband will NEVER do everything I ask him to do.   In fact, I don’t want him to.  I married a man, not a robot.  If he did everything I asked him to do, I’d probably get annoyed at him for not having a mind of his own.  So instead, I change my thoughts to “injuries happen” and “people aren’t perfect.”  My power lies in my ability to decide how I want to think about it and I think seeing the world as a mature adult, feels really good.

 

Want to give life coaching a try? Schedule a free discovery call at www.LifeCoachingforParents.com/work-with-me

Welcome to the Land of Crazy

Do you have friends telling you to take a break, relax, get a massage, hire a babysitter?  Do you have a doctor telling you your ailments are related to stress?  Or maybe you relax too much and your friends keep encouraging you to get out more, exercise, do something exciting.  It’s easier to notice other people living in the land of crazy than it is ourselves.  Yvonne just had her first baby and is completely in love and so grateful to be a Mom.  She also is a wreck and feels completely out of sorts.  She can hardly think straight.  She feels stressed and anxious all the time. She is quick to complain or get mad at those around her.  Friends keep telling her she needs to sleep when the baby sleeps, but it’s too hard.  Her husband sends her for a massage but she can’t relax.  She tries to take deep breaths and she just can’t do it.  Something is lost.  Is it her sanity?  Is it her sense of herself?  Sleep?  A feeling of accomplishment?  Social circle?  Support?  Confidence? YES, YES and YES.  She is missing all these things and more.  Even though she wanted to be a Mom SO desperately, she is in a stage I have learned to call, SQUARE ONE.

Square one sucks, even when you it’s a change you really wanted.  It feels like everything you once knew has changed and you are hanging on to sanity by a thin thread. If we were to record Yvonne’s thoughts it would probably look something like this.  “Holy &%*#!”  “What the #%&@ am I doing?”  “Why did I do this?”  “How am I going to do this ?”  It’s what I call “the land of crazy” and my teacher, Dr. Martha Beck calls it, “nobody nowhere with no one and nothing.” If you haven’t been through this stage yourself, I’m sure you’ve witnessed others going through it.  It is a qualitative change in who you are in this world and it’s really normal.  Most people go through about 5 or 6 of these transitions in their lifetime.   Becoming a parent for the first time is a major change in identity and involves grieving the loss of your old, pre-parent self.  If you’ve ever seen anyone who can’t get past an old relationship or keeps recreating the same bad situation over and over, you know what being stuck in square one looks like.  Moving through square one requires patience, kindness and acceptance.

Perhaps you survived new parent crazy land, but you are finding yourself in square one due to economic changes, the housing market, divorce, family illness or death. The best way to get through the crappiness of square one, is to allow yourself to be completely in it.  To grieve the loss of your old self and feel the feelings of sadness, fear, anger, frustration, resentment, or whatever else comes up.  Pour it out in a journal, find a compassionate listener, and stop “shoulding” all over yourself.

“I should be happy”,  “Something’s wrong with me”, “This should be easier”,  “It shouldn’t be this way”, “My husband should be more helpful”, “My Mom should be ____” ,“My kid shouldn’t be so ________.”  “My boss should be ______.”

When you argue with reality, you never win.  If it’s hard, let it be hard.  If you are sad, let yourself be sad.  If you miss that job you couldn’t wait to leave, so be it.  If you are mad, be mad.  Be where you are and feel what you feel.  A forced smile and pile of denial will only keep you stuck in square one longer. Instead, start reclaiming some of your power.  The feeling of helplessness is one of the worst things for the human psyche and we do it ourselves all the time.

Write down a list all the things you feel you “have” to do.  Here is mine:

I have to do the dishes

I have to pick the kids up at school

I have to make dinner

I have to write my newsletter

I have to pay bills

Now change “I have to” to “I intend to”, “I choose to”, or “I will” and see how much better you feel.  In reality, there are very few things we have to do, but when we think that way, we feel trapped & awful.  Realizing you have choices helps to move you into a feeling of personal power.

Here is my revised list:

I will do the dishes because the thought of them piled up for days creates a feeling in me that is worse than doing this repetitive task.

I choose to make dinner because I believe in healthy eating, table manners, and family dinner conversation.

I intend to pay my bills because I don’t like late fees & extra charges and ignoring them will not make them go away.

I will up pick my kids up at school because it is aligned with my values of the kind of Mom I want to be.

I will write my newsletter, oh look at that, it’s done.  Now it’s your turn.

 

Want to give life coaching a try? Schedule a free discovery call at www.LifeCoachingforParents.com/work-with-me

TMIT?

Seventeen year old, Anna wrote her parents a note saying “{My younger sister} would kill me if she knew I was telling you this, but I am so glad you wouldn’t let us have facebook accounts.  I can see how I would get roped into it like my friends are.”

Fifteen year old Sarah was telling her teacher, “At first when my parents took my cell phone away, I thought I was going to die.  But after the first few days, I can’t believe how much better I feel.  Don’t tell my parents, though, they might not give it back.”

Thirty-eight year old Eileen just got back from a fabulous vacation with her husband and kids.  She says, “I think the main reason it was so great is we had no cell phone or internet access the entire time.  It was so relaxing”.

What are the consequences of our kids having access to electronic devices so many hours a day?  Texting instead of talking?  Soicalizing online with video games instead of creating games in person?  Building relationships over texts, facebook, and other social media sites instead of building relationships in person?

My main concern about kids and media has always been about what are they not doing.  When kids are plugged in, they aren’t using their imagination, they aren’t feeling their emotions, they aren’t learning to resolve conflict or entertain themselves, they aren’t learning how to self soothe (yes, even adults need this skill).  But since I have started my life coaching work, my main concern has changed. Being connected to so many electronic devices seems to reduce the feeling of joy.

Here is one teenagers description of what her life is like today.  “Your life can go from fine to misery to elation, all throughout the course of one English class.  You never know what people are going to post about you on myspace.  Will they make fun of your outfit?  Your day is ruined.  Will they post about the guy you hooked up with last weekend? Your month is ruined.  Will the guy you like change is relationship status? Awesome. Will that photo of you with your top off get spread around school?  Your life if over. There is no peace.  If you don’t text someone back right away, they think you are mad at them.”

I care about the social and emotional well being of you and your kids. I believe we have way more stress in our lives than necessary.  If you feel like technology is taking over in your home, I want to empower you to set some limits for you and your children (even if it seems like no other parent is).  Technology can be addictive.  Your kids will probably not set their own boundaries just like Eileen probably would have been checking emails and facebooking, if she could have accessed it on her vacation. You can limit all cell phones after 7:00pm.  You can prevent kids from having facebook or other social media accounts.   You can honor an electronics free day, one day a week. One hour of screen time a day is a popular limitation parents of younger children use.  Try it with older kids and yourself.

Sometimes it’s easier to make positive changes for our kids than it is for us.  Use them as a motivator to do something you intuitively know is good for your family. A little TV time while Mom is making dinner saves everybody from insanity.  Helping your kids feel socially connected and part of the mainstream culture is something they will thank you for.  Tune into your instincts to know how much is too much.  Ask yourself, would I take a photo of my child right now?  What activity did my child do today that was worthy of photographing.  Most of us wouldn’t think to take pictures of our kids watching TV or sitting with their DS, because intuitively we know it’s not a memory worth preserving.  We are much more likely to photograph them cooking their first batch of cookies, building a fort, putting on a dance show, creating an obstacle course, playing a sport, camping, sledding, making art, playing school, sleepovers, picking flowers, building a treehouse, selling lemonade, etc. Don’t let modern life take you away from your instincts about what is good for your family. You already know.

Wishing you lots of photographic moments this spring.

 

Want to give life coaching a try? Schedule a free discovery call at www.LifeCoachingforParents.com/work-with-me

What do you want?

What Do You Want?  A tropical vacation?  A night out on the town?  A new house?  To lose weight?  Flowers from your sweetheart?  $$$?

What do your kids want?  A new toy?  To play with their friend?  A day at the beach?  A puppy?  To play video games all day?  A cell phone?

There is a part inside us all that knows what is best for us.  I call this our inner wisdom.  Learning to understand how this inner wisdom communicates will save us a lot anguish.  Sometimes it’s through the body (My excema flares up when I even think about an old boss). Sometimes it’s through our memory (My inability to remember numbers is my inner wisdom’s way of saying, ‘don’t be an accountant’).  And sometimes it’s through our desires.

Ask yourself, “What do I want?” Then ask yourself, “What is the feeling I imagine this would give me?” When you figure out what the feeling is you long for, you can find many ways to satisfy this yearning? My daughter kept saying she wanted to go back to Hawaii.  She was four years old when she went so I was curious, “What do you remember about Hawaii?” She said she remembered eating donuts every morning.  When I asked her how do imagine you would feel to be in Hawaii again, she sighed a big sigh and said, “relaxed”.  This is her inner wisdom saying first grade is too stressful and she needs a break.  So I gave her a mental health day from school and had her play in the hot tub instead of doing homework.

Everyone is different and I have no idea what your desires are trying to tell you.  Here are some possible ones for adults that might spark your own insights:

  • Tropical vacation = I need psychological and phyiscal rest.
  • To lose weight = I need to feel like me (athletic, attractive, in control).
  • A night on the town = I need to feel carefree, important, socially connected, a break from responsibility.
  • A gift from sweetheart = I need to feel cared for, appreciated, valued.
  • A new house, kitchen, etc.= I want my outer world to reflect my inner world whether it is new, clean, different, modern, good for entertaining, etc.
  • To win the lottery = Freedom from money worries.

Once you realize the feeling you are after, you can think of many ways to get it.  Take a day off, reconnect with a hobby you used to enjoy, clean out a closet, invite friends over, buy yourself flowers, put music on and dance while you clean, go to yoga class, get a massage, or hire a life coach.

Kids are a little easier to read, here are some common ones for them that may or may not ring true for your kiddo:

  • Wanting to play video games for hours can be wanting an escape. Introverts, especially, will escape to this world to feel rested and renergized.
  • Yearning for a new toy can mean I’m ready for new stimulation and excitement.
  • Wanting playdates can be a yearning for more social connections, fun, and, for extroverts, an important part of learning.
  • Babies, puppies, and other cute cuddlies are a yearning for that loving, peaceful feeling. Pull out baby photos and home movies of your child and cuddle them on the couch, unless you have an endless supply of puppies and babies.
  • Wanting a cell phone can be a kids way of saying ‘I want to fit in with my peer group and feel connected to them’.
  • Repeating “I’m hungry” or “I’m bored” all day long, could be true, but it can also be a yearning for attention, excitement, social stimulation, or a change of pace.

Recognizing what kids are REALLY yearning for will save you money, time and frustration when you give them ‘the thing’ and they still aren’t happy.  By asking your kids what feeling they imagine this item will give them, you are helping them connect with their own inner wisdom.  When you can help your kids feel heard and felt, then you are giving them what they REALLY need to be happy.  Learn to listen to your own desires and follow the feelings you are after.  This will lead you towards true happiness for yourself.  And if you decide it’s time to plan a tropical vacation, my daughter and I would be happy to tag along.

 

Want to give life coaching a try? Schedule a free discovery call at www.LifeCoachingforParents.com/work-with-me

Summer Camp Paranoia

I just put my son on the bus for a week of sleep away camp and I have had lots of emotions rising for me today:  sadness, sentimentality, and excitement.  Last year he asked to go, and I told him, “Mommy’s not ready yet.” I knew I had work to do on my fears around sending him.  I had all these thoughts swimming around my head like, “I’m the only one that can care for him” and “I will miss him too much” and “There’s too many things that can go wrong”.  I also anticipated many horrific situations like him drowning, being attacked by a bear, feeling like an outcast by other kids, you name it.  Before I could even think about letting him go, I had to deal with all these scary thoughts and limiting beliefs.
When we picture horrible things happening, our bodies react as though bad things are actually happening.  Our hearts beat faster, our blood pressure rises, our stomachs turn, we sweat, we enter the physiological state of “fight or flight”, JUST FROM OUR THOUGHTS.  Then our feelings become so uncomfortable that we shut them off by distracting ourselves with something else.  The problem for many parents, is that we imagine horrible things happening ALL THE TIME!  Constantly thinking, then avoiding these thoughts, puts us in a perpetual state of ‘fight or flight’, even in the absence of a legitimate threat.  The longer we stay in this sympathetic nervous system without having time to ‘rest and digest’, the harder it is on our bodies, our health, our weight, our ability to sleep, relax, and play.  This habit of worrying, then avoiding, is so well ingrained that we don’t even know we are doing it.
In order to work through my fears about summer camp, I had to calm myself down first.  Breathing (seems basic but you wouldn’t believe how foreign it is to worriers) is the most important thing you can do to move your body into ‘rest and digest.’ Other parents calm down with yoga, journaling, running, relaxing music, hot baths, even petting a dog can help.  Once you can notice your breathing is deep and regular, THEN can you access your logical brain and ask yourself the following questions.
1.  What is the worst thing that can happen?  (In my case that summer camp = imminent death.)
2.  What is the probability of this horrible thing happening? (the scared part of my brain says 1 in 1,000 although it’s probably rarer)
3.  Can you think of specific evidence or examples of times when nothing bad has happened?(although I’m sure bad things have happened at summer camp, I don’t know anyone that had a bad experience and most, including myself, loved it).
4.  Isn’t it just as likely that something good will happen?  (For this one I try to lighten the mood by making it a little absurd).  I decided it is just as likely that my son will be discovered by a talent scout (he HATES singing and dancing), as it is he will face death by summer camp.
Once you can laugh at your extreme thinking, you know you’ve got your power back.  Worry only gives us the illusion of power.  Real power (and you know we Mamas like to feel in control!) comes from being able to control your THINKING.  So take a deep breath, relax for a minute or two, and ask, isn’t just as likely good things will happen?

 

Want to give life coaching a try? Schedule a free discovery call at www.LifeCoachingforParents.com/work-with-me