Yell less by saying no more

Today’s Question:

My kids are constantly pressuring me for sweets. They ask for sugary cereal when they get up in the morning, cookies after school, and dessert before they go to bed at night. My daughter tells me other kids tease her when she brings healthy food to school. She wants to bring processed junk food like everyone else. Everywhere we go, people are offering junk to my kids. Lollipops at the bank, donuts after a soccer game, birthday celebrations at school, it’s everywhere! My kids spot it, start begging for it, and keep pressuring me until I give in or yell. It’s been happening more lately where I get so sick of their constant asking and begging that I scream, yell, and throw a frickin’ tantrum. How can I find peace while living with sugar crazed kids in a sugar crazed culture? Lisa

Parent Educator Response –

You teach your kids how to treat you. Intermittent reinforcement is a conditioning schedule in which a reward (or punishment) is handed out in random intervals. Gambling is an example of intermittent reinforcement. You never know when you are going to win and that anticipation keeps you coming up back for me.

In Lisa’s case, she is unknowingly reinforcing her kids’ begging and pleading behavior, by intermittently giving in and saying yes. If she said yes, right away, every time, there would be no need for begging. If she said no, every time they asked for sweets, they would get bored and stop asking. Without realizing it, Lisa has created a scenario where her kids are randomly rewarded for their begging and pleading. Not only because intermittent reinforcement can be addictive, but because the reward is sugar, which releases dopamine, the reward chemical in the child’s brain. This floods the brain with feel good chemicals making the “sugar high” a fabulous reward and worth the occasional “no” or mommy temper tantrum.

For Lisa to get her kids to stop begging for sugar, and for her to stop yelling, she needs to pick a rule (any rule) and stay consistent with reinforcing it. When she creates a boring situation for the kids where they don’t get rewarded for asking Mom for sweets, they will stop asking. She can yell less, by saying no more.

Life Coaching Answer (or….why is this so hard to do)

It sounds like Lisa is battling something many moms struggle with, balancing “doing the right thing” with “making our kids happy”. Americans eat way too much sugar. Sugar is a highly inflammatory food. Inflammation is the root of disease. Since we care about our children’s health, the “right thing to do” is to limit sugar intake. Purchase, prepare, pack and serve healthy foods so our kids will be healthy. Whatever everyone else wants to do, is their business. If other kid’s parents have different values, so be it. If banks and dry cleaners want to offer candy to your kids, you can let your kid decide, or practice saying a polite “no thank you.” Consistency and conviction are key to making this become a non-issue.

Make sure not to be too restrictive, or too indulgent, or your efforts may backfire.

Those two things are hard to come because although we care about our child’s health, we also really like making our kids happy. We love it when their face lights up with joy and excitement! They look at us like every dream came true in the form of a frosted cookie. When WE grant permission for a sugary sweet, then we are the givers of joy and happiness and they know it. Then, WE get a little hit of dopamine! The reward center in our brain goes off saying, “more of this please!” We get hooked on being the source and provider of joy. This makes us want to hang on to all decision making power so we can bathe in mutual happiness and dopamine with our sugar eating kids.

When you’ve got two competing beliefs like this, it’s easy to get stuck in a cycle of frustration. Leading to what I like to call, “the exploding doormat”. You get so tired of the begging and pleading from your kids, but also the back and forth negotiations of these two competing voices, that you end up exploding and yelling out of frustration. You just want your kids to STOP ASKING so you don’t have to listen to the negotiations going on inside your head. But because of the random reinforcement, your kids have been trained to ask so it’s easier to change mama’s behavior at this point.

In order to quiet these voices, mama needs to make a decision ahead of time. Ever wonder why some moms don’t struggle with this problem at all? It’s because they have made a decision. Here are some examples of decisions moms have communicated to their child to stop the sugar battle once and for all.

  1. You can have ONE treat per day. If you want that first thing in the morning, fine. If someone offers you candy later, you can accept it, but you have to save it for the next day. Or you can collect treats all day long then at night, choose one.
  2. I am not going to monitor your sugar intake anymore. If you eat so much that you feel sick and throw up, then maybe you will learn. This is your opportunity to learn foods make your body feel the best. If, however, you are so full of junk that you stop eating the healthy food I am providing for you, then I will take the responsibility back.
  3. No treats during the week, we save that for weekends.
  4. You’ve got to earn your desserts. Score a goal, win a donut. Let your brother go first, earn some fruit snacks. Clean the bathroom, we’ll bake cookies. Eat your vegetables, get some ice cream. Do something you are scared to do like an oral report or trying out for the school play, win a trip to Starbucks.

The rule you make isn’t as important as sticking to it with self pride, conviction and consistency. You want to think about 20 years from now, what are the results you will get from the two voices. The “I want my kids to be healthy” voice will result in healthier kids, with them respecting your authority and POSSIBLY having good boundaries with themselves and their eating.

The “I want to make my kids to be happy” voice will struggle when adolescence hits and they are grumpy and cranky. All the sugar in the world won’t turn that around but you’ll bend yourself backward trying to get that feel good dopamine hit of seeing them happy. Will you let them drink alcohol and smoke pot if it makes them happy? Will you buy them their dream car?  Kids aren’t supposed to be happy all the time so trying to make them so will exhaust you and make you, and them, miserable.

The best thing to do is focus on making YOU happy, not your kids. If you are tired of yelling and being an “exploding doormat” then focus on making decisions YOU feel good about. When you have a very clear NO, there’s no need for yelling, no matter how much kids be and plead. You get to be a mom you admire, today and 20 years down the road. Happiness is fleeting, make decisions based what will make you proud of YOURSELF in the long term.

 

How can I help my daughter make friends?


Today’s question: “My daughter is 9 years old and doesn’t seem to have any friends. There are girls in the neighborhood we carpool with, and kids she goes to school, gymnastics, and temple with, but she doesn’t seek these kids out on the weekends or after school. At recess or on weekends, she prefers playing by herself. Her brother, on the other hand, is always with friends: riding bikes, skateboarding, and generally having an active social life. I’m worried that my daughter isn’t going to have close friendships. She’s very opinionated, strong willed, and doesn’t like to compromise, so I understand why other kids may not choose to play with her. She doesn’t seem as bothered by this as I am. She likes to read and be by herself, while I’m the one scheduling play dates. How can I make my daughter make friends?”  Lea

Parent Educator Answer: It sounds like you are doing everything you can to support your daughter’s friendships. It’s wonderful that you have arranged so many opportunities for her to socialize and become familiar with other kids.

Between the ages of 3-9, most girls develop friendships based on proximity and convenience. They don’t discriminate easily and are usually happy to play with whoever is happy to play with them. Birthday parties can be huge during these years because it’s hard for kids to choose which friends they like best.

Between the years of 10-12 (once puberty begins) girls tend to want a smaller, more intimate group of friendships they can build closer bonds with. Developmentally, they are practicing intimate relationships by creating a more manageable group of girls they feel comfortable with. It’s common in these years to have hurt feelings as girls get edged out and left out while best friends are created. It is normal, however, for some girls not to be interested in forming these intimate relationships. In every class, there’s always at least one girl who is happy to play with whoever shows up. She doesn’t mind hanging with a different kid everyday, or even none at all. These kids are valuable assets for to those who have recently been rejected by their friend group. 

From what I hear in Lea’s question, there are at least 5 perfectly healthy reasons why this kid might not like playing with other kids:

  1. She hasn’t entered the stage yet of wanting an intimate friendship or friend group.
  2. She may be the type of kid who is comfortable with acquaintences rather than close friends.
  3. She is exhausted from being around kids all day long and needs time alone to recuperate.
  4. It’s more important for her to be able to hear and execute her own ideas while playing, than to expend energy compromising and explaining her thoughts to others.
  5. She hasn’t found a friend yet that allows her to be fully herself.

Kids who have strong ideas and opinions often enjoy the company of younger children. Younger kids are so excited to have the attention of a big kid, that they are willing to compromise more than children of the same age are. Little kids love the creative ideas for play that big kids come up with, and don’t mind being told what to do. Older kids can make great babysitters or mother’s helpers because they get to play the role of leader, boss, or director that they were born to play.

 

Life Coaching Answer: When our kids don’t have meaningful friendships, this can be a big trigger for moms who place a high value on friendship. It is really easy to “futurize” and “catastrophize”, imagining that they’ll never have friends and be sad and socially rejected all through adolescence. Moms can worry that their kids will ALWAYS struggle to make friends and believe this is a huge problem that needs immediate attention and intervention. 

First, we have to look at the problem that is CURRENTLY presenting itself. We cannot fix a problem in the future that hasn’t happened yet (and may never happen) and trying to do so will make us crazy.

The circumstance here, is that Lea’s daughter is 9. She hasn’t entered puberty yet. She likes reading books (a solitary activity), she doesn’t seek out playdates, she is surrounded by family members and family acquaintances almost every moment of every day, and she prefers to play by herself at recess, after school, and on weekends.

We want to take a look at what mom actually has control over. Can she make her daughter make friends? No. She can arrange playdates, carpools & neighborhood gatherings so her daughter has exposure to other kids and becomes familiar with the people in her life. She can sign her up for summer camps and gymnastics classes, but how her daughter interacts with the kids while there is not within mom’s control.

One thing we mammas do have control over is how we interpret our kid’s social relationships. Without meaning to, Lea may be communicating the idea that “there is something wrong with her daughter” because she doesn’t have the quality and quantity of friendships that her brother has. Can you imagine that there is an introverted mom out there in the world who loves to read, be by herself, and sees nothing wrong with her 9 year old avoiding social interaction? We have no idea how this girls social relationships will change with puberty, middle school or high school. This is a time of rapid development! After a day of obeying teachers and following their curriculum, she may have a higher need of listening to her own voice, directing others, or dwelling in her imagination.

It has never been easier to find one’s tribe than it is today. If you don’t fit in with the tribe of people around you, meetup, tinder, or youtube will help you find your village and connect you with people who appreciate your authentic self. Rather than thinking, “this is a problem that needs fixing”, try thinking thoughts that make you feel at ease.

“She is surrounded by people who love her.”

“She will find her people someday.”

“She is so true to herself that when she finds someone who likes her, they will really genuinely like her.”

“If she’s ok playing by herself, I can be ok with it, too.”

“I’ve done everything I can think of, the rest is up to her.”

“If she wants better friendships, she’ll be motivated to compromise.”

When you feel at ease around your daughter’s social dynamics, you communicate the message that there is nothing wrong with her the way she is. This gives her acceptance and belonging; the whole point of friendships in the first place!

 

Supermom kryptonite: worrying

I used to think that “good moms” worried about their kids. It seemed the opposite of neglect. When my worrying turned into anxiety, I had to make a change. What I’ve learned is that worrying is terrible for kids and robs us of our ability to enjoy our lives. Worrying is imagining bad things happening. Focusing on everything that can go wrong drains our energy and keeps us from appreciating when everything is going right. Once I stopped worrying, I was floored at how much more productive I was throughout my day, how much more energy I had, and how relaxed I was able to feel.

 

Supermom power boost: yoga

All exercise is good for us but yoga seems to be especially beneficial for overworked mammas. My theory is that yoga turns our attention inwards. With kids around, your attention is constantly being pulled outside of yourself. Even when we aren’t with them, we think about them, talk to our friends and partners about them, and get annoyed with them for leaving their mess all over the floor. Yoga brings your attention into your body, focusing on the subtleties of movement, muscles, positioning, and breath. This forced self attention and flowing movement re-energies us in ways beyond a typical workout. In my opinion, yoga is a quick and reliable energy boost.

 

Quote of the Day – “Do not anticipate trouble, or worry about what may never happen. 
Keep in the sunlight.” ― Benjamin Franklin

 

 

Do you want grateful teenagers?

THANK YOU SO MUCH!  I AM SO GRATEFUL TO YOU!

Thank You so much for letting me into your mailbox! Every time I see a new subscriber sign up, or an long time subscriber open an email, I feel SO MUCH GRATITUDE!

It’s like when I was a kid and the doorbell would ring. I’d get a rush of adrenaline, of optimistic potential, hoping someone was at my door asking if I could come outside and play. When you sign up for something I’m offering, I get a rush thinking, “someone wants to play with me!”

Do you want grateful teenagers?

Did you know research shows expressing gratitude, writing someone a note of thanks, can increase your happiness for a whole MONTH after you send it?  Since the #1 way kids learn is by imitation, let’s try writing our kids a note of gratitude and appreciation. They’ll feel more appreciated by us (which makes them nicer to be around), we’ll be role modeling how to express gratitude, plus we get to feel happier for a whole month! Want to join me?

WARNING – Signing up for my Leading Your Teen Masterclass will increase the feelings of happiness and gratitude in you and your teen. Do not sign up if you want to stay angry. Feelings of peace, confidence and control are common side effects. 

Dr. Martin E. P. Seligman, a psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania, tested the impact of various positive psychology interventions on 411 people, each compared with a control assignment of writing about early memories. When their week’s assignment was to write and personally deliver a letter of gratitude to someone who had never been properly thanked for his or her kindness, participants immediately exhibited a huge increase in happiness scores. This impact was greater than that from any other intervention, with benefits lasting for a month.

Another study, by psychologists Dr. Robert A. Emmons of the UC Davis, and Dr. Michael E. McCullough of the University of Miami, discovered the effect of gratitude this way. One group wrote about things they were grateful for that had occurred during the week. A second group wrote about daily irritations or things that had displeased them, and the third wrote about events that had affected them (with no emphasis on them being positive or negative). After 10 weeks, those who wrote about gratitude were more optimistic and felt better about their lives. Surprisingly, they also exercised more and had fewer visits to physicians than those who focused on sources of aggravation.

Instead of focusing on those things teens do that drive us nuts, write them a letter thanking them for the behavior you would like to see more of. It’s a win-win 🙂

Learn more about Leading Your Teen Masterclass 

How to get your kids to go to bed on time

Are you doing the Back to School Happy Dance! YEAH!!  woo-hoo!

via GIPHY

But oh my what a pain it is to get kids to go to bed at night, so they can be on time for school in the morning.

Last spring, I wrote a blog about how to get kids out of bed in the morning so now seems like the perfect time to write about how the heck to get them to bed.

Here’s the problem: Some kids are easy. They just go to bed. This sets us up with the expectation that ALL kids should easily just go to bed. Combine our expectation that it be easy, with our own end-of-day fatigue, and you’ve got a recipe for conflict and drama.

If you struggle to get your kids to bed on time, read through these steps and see where you can focus your attention to help you get a peaceful evening routine.

The first step

is to accept that your child just doesn’t like going to bed, without blame or frustration. Being a night owl, and taking a long time to wind down at night, are wired into us. What makes people sleepy is when certain hormones, like cortisol and adrenaline, rise during the day, and drop at night. Lots of things can mess with this hormone production: not getting enough exercise or daylight, getting too much blue light from screens, or artificial light after dark. When puberty hits, and stress of any kind, these hormones can get out of whack. It’s not always our kid’s fault if they are up until midnight and can sleep until noon. If you start trying to change your child’s bedtime routine by trying to change something you have no control over, you will frustrate yourself. Acceptance and compassion must come first.

The second step

is to get your kids on board with the idea. As you may have noticed, you cannot make someone go to sleep who doesn’t want to. Pay attention to what motivates your child. Some kids are motivated to please their parents and like being seen as responsible. (How awesome is that? If this is you, enjoy it!)

For the rest of us, we have to get clever. Some kids are motivated by fun, (and watching mom lose her sh*t at bedtime is entertainment for them!). Other kids are motivated with bribes (“I’ll give you a $1. if you are in bed before 9:30, but $5. if you are in bed by 9:00.” You can encourage going to bed without complaining by rewarding with treats in tomorrow’s lunchbox. If you have a kid that is motivated by power, partner with them to design a bed time routine that works for both of you, making sure they think it’s all their idea.

Many Supermoms can get caught up with an idealistic picture of what the bedtime routine should look like: reading books, cuddles, pillow talk, but if this isn’t working for you it’s time to let it go. My daughter hated reading (so much for the years I spent as a reading specialist.) Instead, we played games before bed for about 8 years. Now that she’s in high school and I’m older than dirt, I want to go to bed earlier than she, so we had to switch up our bedtime routine using step 3.

The third step

is all about making your home conducive to sleep. I remember one power outage we had. After our makeshift dinner, we hung out by candlelight, talked, played charades, and all 4 of us were SO SLEEPY and ready for bed. When we checked the clock it was only 7:30pm! Melatonin is released when it gets dark outside. If you want your kids to get sleepy, turn off the stimulation. Fast moving images on TV and video games, release chemicals in the brain that tell us to wake up and get moving. Try making it darker in your home an hour before bedtime. Light candles, take baths, play music or just turn the wi-fi off all together.

With our constantly wired world, sleep rates are dropping for kids and teens, making it even harder for moms to get kids up and out of bed in the morning.  The first step in improving the morning routine, is to make sure they are getting enough sleep. By accepting the things you cannot change with compassion, understanding what motivates our children, and creating an environment conducive to sleep, you can create a more peaceful morning and evening for your whole family.

Are you looking for support establishing routines that work for you and your family? Schedule a free discovery call at www.LifeCoachingforParents.com/work-with-me

How to influence your teen

Today’s question comes from a Mom of a teenager:

Q – I know friends can be a big influence on teenagers. How can I still be a strong influence on my teen?

A – For this answer I turned to the experts. Those who have made their careers (and earn big money) motivating, influencing and inspiring others. What I found is two words that get your teen to listen to you and pay attention to what you have to say: Bold Enthusiasm. Watch the video below to learn how to communicate with bold enthusiasm to your teen and be a positive and powerful influence in their life.