Depleted and Burned Out Mom

Episode #48 What to do when you feel burned out and depleted?

“What do you do if you feel completely depleted as a parent and you feel like you are just kinda burned out as a mom? I have given so much to my kids, starting when my first son was born, and 6 years later I’m completely depleted. I don’t like the version of me I am now. I feel like I’m not showing up as my best and I don’t know what to do to change it.” Carrie

My heart goes out to you. I have totally been there and I think it’s wonderful that you have enough self awareness to notice how you are feeling, identify it, and ask for help. This is a big and very important first step.

It also gets me excited! I know exactly what to do to help you get back on track. I feel like helping moms find their way is my life’s calling, and I KNOW how much better your life is going to get from this point on. If you relate to Carrie, schedule your free coaching call at www.LifeCoachingforParents.com

Parent Educator Answer

Conventional wisdom on this topic of what to do when you feel depleted and burned out as a mom, leads me to talk about the two dreaded words for Supermoms: self care.

To me, a Supermom is someone who goes ALL IN on parenting. We try super hard to do everything right for our kids, not realizing that our expectations are a bit perfectionistic. We think that a good mom “does everything right for their kids.” There is no “it takes a village” for a Supermom! We assume a lot of responsibility (even if that means managing our nannies, husbands, housekeepers and grandparents while they help us!). If our kid needs us, we. are. there.

This type of vigilant, hard working, self-sacrificing parenting can only last so long before it becomes depletion and exhaustion.

Caring for our kids makes us feel capable and responsible but when it comes to caring for ourselves, it’s a struggle.

Self care can be defined as the practice of taking an active role in protecting one’s own well-being and happiness.

Self care can be anything that gives your mental, emotional, or physical health a boost: Sitting in the sunshine, folding laundry while watching your favorite show, yoga class, going for a walk, getting together with girlfriends for a “vent session”, scrapbooking, playing piano, or singing.

Self care is very individual but includes taking care of your body’s health (exercise, massage, and nutrition), your mental and emotional health (meditation or life coaching), social support (friends, online groups, even authors and TV shows) and most importantly, connecting with YOURSELF.

Here are examples of ways my clients take care of their bodies:

Yoga, swimming, dance class, running, soccer team, tennis, etc. Also, putting on favorite music and dancing while cleaning, walking the dog while listening to a favorite podcast, starting a hiking club, or joining a stroller walking mom group. Don’t forget about eating healthy, getting your hair done, putting makeup on, receiving massages and mani/pedi’s. Going to the chiropractor, acupuncturist, esthetician, anything that puts loving attention on your body.

Here are examples of ways you can take care of your mental and emotional health:

Meditation, life coaching, counseling/therapy, online support groups. Even finding authors you resonate with, TV shows that light you up, movies that speak to you. Online support groups like Supermom is Getting Tired, venting with girlfriends (anything with girlfriends!).

Most right brained activities give our brains a break. Pick your favorite: doing puzzles, creating art, playing or listening to music, reading books or listening to audiobooks, cooking, decorating, designing, organizing, gardening, window shopping, crafting, planning a vacation, daydreaming.

You certainly don’t have to do all of these, but I have never seen a depleted mom who has a regular habit of prioritizing self care.

The most important self care you can do when you are feeling depleted is to RECONNECT WITH YOURSELF. Most moms who find themselves in Carrie’s shoes say something like “I feel like I’ve lost myself.” If you have a life filled with self care activities, it’s hard to feel lost and depleted because you have to pay attention to YOU and notice whether your activities feel good to you or not.

Life Coaching Answer – What gets in our way from self care?

SO MANY THINGS!

Has neglecting yourself become a habit? Are you believing self care isn’t important? Do you think you have to be with your kids 24/7. Are you “too tired” to do something that GIVES you energy? Are you unsure which self care activity will help you feel better? Do you think taking care of yourself somehow takes away from caring for your children?

When I first started going through my life coach training program with Martha Beck, I was asked difficult questions that I could not answer.

“What would you do if you knew you could not fail?”
“What would you do if you could not care what people think?”
“What do you really, really, really, really want?”
“What is your wildly improbable goal?”

I didn’t know how to dream about possibilities for myself. I didn’t know what I wanted.
I could tell you what my kids want, what my husband wants, what parents wanted for me. I could even tell you what I was SUPPOSED to want. But I had never asked myself those kinds of questions and so I couldn’t come up with any answers. I didn’t know how to dream about what could be. How could I ask for what I want if I didn’t even KNOW what I wanted?

The way I start my clients back into this journey is of connecting with themselves is this:

Imagine you had a secret bonus day snuck into the middle of your week. You fall asleep like normal but in the morning you wake up in a different bedroom in a different location. The rest of your family will stay asleep while you get to do anything you want to do, without anybody knowing. There are no rules and no judgements on this dream day. You can wake up next to Brad Pitt with Zach Efron massaging you and Justin Timberlake serenading. Even laws of physics don’t matter. If you want to wake up in Hawaii and fall asleep in Italy and the time zones don’t make sense, no worries.

If Carrie was on the phone with me, I’d ask her to close her eyes, and before she opens them in this new bedroom, I would ask her to notice what the sheets feel like. Are they silk, flannel, or cotton? Then I would tell her to imagine opening her eyes and noticing what color they are.

I don’t want you to THINK about what color or texture you want them to be. I want to bypass your thinking brain and move into your intuitive brain that already knows what you want. Our brains block us from KNOWING what we want because we think “I can’t have that”, “It’s not practical”, “I’ve always preferred something else” or “What will people think”. Send your thinking brain away for a bit and just notice what you see in your mind’s eye when you think about your ideal, dream day.

Notice what the sheets feel like, notice what color they are. Put your feet on the floor and notice what kind of flooring there is: wood? Carpet? Tile? Then stand up and walk to the window, what do you see when you look outside? Describe the view.

What do you feel like doing? Do you want to go out there? Get dressed? Have a cup of coffee and sit on the porch? What would feel most delicious to you?

After you do your preferred activity, then what do you feel like doing? What would you eat for breakfast on your ideal day? Would you prepare it yourself or just have it magically appear?

When you feel ready to get dressed, notice what type of clothes are in your closet and what you feel most drawn to wear. Once dressed, what will you do or where will you go?

As my clients imagine this fantasy day, I am listening for themes. Is she craving solitude or company? Is she yearning for adventure or peace? Does she want recognition and validation? A way of expressing herself creatively? Sensory rich experiences, physical activity, or rest?

I have no idea what my clients need to feel better and enjoy their lives more. I just ask the questions to get them out of their own way so they can find out for themselves.

Once you start paying attention to the feelings and activities you are yearning for, take a look at the beliefs that are keeping you from going after them.
“I have to put my kid’s needs before my own.” and “I don’t know what to do.” are probably the most common and toxic beliefs.

The smallest step I recommend you take is to set a timer on your phone 5 times a day asking yourself the question, “What am I feeling?” (Notice it’s not HOW). Try and come up with a one word emotion. Even if you don’t have an answer, just asking yourself the question will get you back on the path to reconnecting with you.

A bigger action step I recommend is right now, book yourself two nights in a hotel room by yourself. When you have a full day away from your daily life, to do whatever you feel like doing, and no one else around to distract you, you are forced to ask and answer the question, “What do I feel like doing?”

Being able to go where you want, eat what you want, go to bed when you want, read or watch whatever you want is HEAVEN and such a necessary step to get you back to feeling like you again.

Supermom Kryptonite – Putting yourself last

It is a slippery slope. In order for babies to survive, we have to put their needs before our own. Toddlers will get into all sorts of trouble if they aren’t supervised diligently and constantly. Taking care of our babies fills our brain with oxytocin which bonds us and feels amazing. We love making our kids happy and seeing the world through their eyes. There are moments when ignoring ourselves and focusing exclusively on our precious ones feel amazing. Taking care of someone else can give purpose and meaning like we’ve never had before.

But there is a cost to getting into the habit of putting the needs of your children before your own. When no one asks us “How are you feeling?” “What do you want for dinner?” “What do you feel like doing today?” We stop asking ourselves these questions. Our families and our friends start asking about the kids instead of asking about us. Over time, we feel depleted and lost because WE aren’t front and center in our lives anymore. We lose connection with our essence; our spirit. Getting it back isn’t difficult, it WANTS to come back, but it does take time and attention.

I created a Supermom Challenge to help moms who feel lost and depleted, reconnect with their essence. It’s 15 minutes a day of journal exercises to get you reconnected with you and what you want. Right now I share it with my clients but I’m going to open it up to everyone and do it as a new year’s resolution challenge inside my Supermom is Getting Tired Facebook Group.

Supermom Power Boost – Forward Momentum

A body in motion tends to stay in motion. A body at rest tends to stay at rest. When you are feeling really depleted and down in the dumps, it can be hard to make big changes, even if you really want to.
If you feel like you are drowning, the trick is to make one small change to start the momentum going in a positive direction. Let’s say you binge watch netflix and drink wine every night and you’d really like to go to the gym instead. This can feel really overwhelming and hard to do.
Start by changing one small thing, like watching netflix and drinking wine in the bathtub. Try switching to sparkling wine, going to a movie theater, or switching up your routine by showering and getting your pajamas on first.

Changing one small thing will get you out of your rut, create some new synapses in the brain, and give you some forward momentum. Once the ball is rolling in a good direction, your positive emotions will give you some confidence and motivation to keep you going.

Quote:
“Self Care is giving the world the best of you, instead of what’s left of you.” Katie Reed

Mindfulness


Episode #47 Interview with Hunter Clarke-Fields, Mindful Mama Mentor

Are you familiar with the mindfulness movement? Mama mentor, Hunter Clarke-Fields is here to talk to us about how to use mindfulness to become the mom we want to be.

She is host of the mindful mama podcast and author of the soon-to-be-released book, Raising Good Humans: A Mindful Guide to Breaking the Cycle of Reactive Parenting.

You can find her at www.mindfulmamamentor.com

 

Supermom Kryptonite: 

Using the words “I can’t”.

“I could never to take 2 nights away”

“I could never send my 9 year old to summer camp.”

“I can’t miss my daughter’s soccer game.”

Try to eliminate the words “I can’t” from your vocabulary. We give away our power and authority over our life when we say “I can’t”. This makes us feel helpless and powerless.

 

Supermom Power Boost: 

Switch “I can’t” to “I am choosing”.

“I am choosing not to go on vacation by myself.”

“I’m choosing not to send my child to summer camp.”

“I’m choosing not to miss my daughter’s soccer game.”

This small change will get you back in the driver’s seat of your life. There is a cost to thinking “I can’t do what I want”. Reminding yourself of how much power you actually have is a huge boost of power.

Constantly nagging and repeating myself

Episode 42 – Constantly nagging and repeating myself

“I feel like I’m constantly nagging my kids to do things. Hang up your jacket, put your clothes in the hamper, clear your plate, turn off the xbox and do your homework — It’s like I only have two channels: the “nagging, frustrated, annoying mom” channel and the “leave me alone, I just can’t deal anymore channel.” I am so tired of repeating myself, but it’s the only way to get them to do anything. I’m certain there is a THIRD channel, and it feels like everyone else has found it except for me. How can I get them to this magical place where they do what they are told without constantly nagging and repeating myself?”

Danielle

Parent Education Answer:

This is BY FAR the most common complaint I hear from moms asking to join the Supermom is Getting Tired Facebook group. So you are certainly not alone in this dilemma. I’m sorry to say there is no magical place, but you are right in thinking there is a THIRD channel.

Why do so many moms hate repeating themselves? There is nothing inherently wrong with this act. We might say “I love you” every day and that doesn’t bother us. We repeat ourselves when we say “excuse me” “please” and “thank you”.

The reason it bothers moms to repeat themselves is because of the energy we are rooted in when we do it. It’s the same nagging, reminding energy that makes us not like ourselves. Our kids don’t want to be around us when we are acting this way, but neither do we.

When we nag, repeat, and remind, it’s coming from a place of defeat. It’s as if we’ve already lost.

The kids didn’t do their homework like they were supposed to, so we are rooted in failure. They failed, which means I failed. We repeat ourselves: “Stop goofing off and do your homework.” “Quit talking it’s time to focus.” “You are running out of time.” When you communicate from this energy, everyone feels like a loser.

Sometimes we are jumping the gun and assuming ahead of time that they will fail. “Don’t forget to feed the dog.” “Remember to brush your teeth before bed.” “You’ve got a big test tomorrow, you better take your book out.”

These future reminders PRESUME they won’t do it. You don’t trust them. When we communicate this way, we are subconsciously sending the message that they need you or they can’t do it on their own.

Kids like to feel capable and competent so they will either
Believe us, and not do things unless we remind them.
Reject us, ignore us, and rebel against us.

Nagging actually teaches kids to NOT listen.

The Third Channel: Because Nagging Isn’t Working

The “third channel” is the calm, confident channel. Believing your child WILL listen the first time, and following that up with action.
The moms that participated in my Confident Kid Challenge were also stuck in the ‘nagging to get anything done’ cycle. Listen to how they pulled themselves out:

Sara: Yesterday my daughter was reading a book and never heard me say (about a dozen times) that it was time to leave for piano lessons…so she got left at home. It took her 30 minutes to realize we’d left. She was a hot mess of emotion and “why didn’t you tell me! You could’ve shaken me to get my attention!” I wasn’t emotional about it, other than to express sincere empathy that it wasn’t fun leaving her and that we missed having her there. Today she’s come each and every time it’s been time to go somewhere.

Jontue: My kids were making a huge mess in the living room and were told if they made a mess they would have to clean it up (including vacuuming) themselves. Well, they continued to make a mess. Afterward they threw a fit and cried about having to clean it up. I wanted to take the vacuum from them and clean it up (faster and easier), but I let them struggle through it. It took them about 3 times as long as it should, but they did it. I also discovered that my kids can vacuum (who knew?).

How do you get out of the cycle of you nagging and reminding your kids?

  • Allow them to experience negative emotions.
  • Follow through on natural consequences.
  • Allow them to struggle
  • Let them make their own decisions.

That third channel you are looking for is calm, clear, and confident. You become rooted in the energy of trust, believing your child will learn lessons from this experience.

Popular career advice is to make yourself indispensable to your employer: work so that your company depends on your skills, talents and expertise.

With parenting, our job is to do the opposite. We need to make ourselves dispensable, non-essential. One step at a time we reduce our role in our child’s life. We learn to love more but do less and care less. The goal of parenting is to work ourselves out of a job, and into unconditional love.

Life Coaching Answer:

What gets in our way of doing these four things for the benefit of our kids?

WE DON’T WANT TO FEEL UNCOMFORTABLE.

Watching your child struggle or feel sad is HARD!

Somehow we got the mixed message in our culture that “doing everything right” is more important than raising independent adults. We want our kids to become more responsible without us having to do the hard work of watching them suffer and struggle.

Letting go of control is hard for many of us Supermoms, but the more you do it, the easier it gets.

I love the warm and fuzzy cuddles as much as anybody. I would be very happy if the whole world could live in blissful harmony. But when I see the research about how detrimental it is to the psychological well being of our kids to coddle and try to prevent them from having negative experiences, it motivates me.

It’s hard to feel happy while watching kids experience the negative consequences of their actions or inactions, but you can feel PROUD of yourself. We’re proud when we do things that are hard to do.

You can also feel compassionate and purposeful. These emotions can keep you in your calm, confident energy.

 

Supermom Kryptonite: Empathy Dials

Close your eyes and imagine two dials are in front of you. Both dials are labeled 1 – 10. The first dial has the word ME on it. Notice what number the dial is pointed to. The second dial has the word OTHERS on it. What number is this pointed to.

If your ME dial is turned way up, and your OTHER dial turned down, you are going to struggle to put yourself in other people’s shoes. It will be hard for you to feel compassion and understanding for what your kids might be experiencing.

You may find yourself frequently irritated and annoyed by your kids. They might say you are mean, that you don’t understand them and they try to avoid you. If so, see if you can turn your “ME” dial down, and your “OTHER” dial up inside your imagination.

If your OTHER dial is high and your ME dial is low, you will feel exhausted. It will be hard to hold your kids accountable and allow them to experience negative emotions. You may feel lost and overwhelmed with a whole lot of responsibility on your shoulders.

People might tell you that you are “too nice” and that you should “let go” more often. If I ask you how you are doing, and you tell me how your kids are doing, your “ME” dial is too low. In your mind’s eye, see how high you can get this dial to go up, and simultaneously turn down the “OTHER” dial.

Supermom Power Boost – Invisible problems require invisible solutions.

Just because we cannot see something does not mean the problem isn’t real. When a kid sees monsters under the bed, what helps her feel safe is “monster go away” spray that she keeps in a spray bottle near her bed.

“Over-empathy” is an invisible problem. Empathy is your ability to understand and share the feelings of another.

You can’t see how much empathy a mom has for the kids, but you sure can see the consequences of it: fatigue, overwhelm, a decrease in life satisfaction. Moms who have their “OTHER” dial up too high struggle to parent with calm confidence and to follow through with natural consequences. When you learn how to turn your ME dial up and your OTHER dial down, you reconnect with your dreams and desires. You get a break from responsible caretaker and start feeling ALIVE in your life again.

Sometimes we all we need to do is to learn to use our imagination to create what we want.

 

Quote: “As soon as you trust yourself, you will know how to live.” Goethe

nagging and reminding

 

Episode 39: Playing Bigger with Sara Dean

Question of the Day: “How I make time for me when there are so many things to get done?”

There is so much good stuff in this episode, I couldn’t write it all down! Be sure to listen to this important conversation about…

Making time for Mom.

Moving the needle forward.

Listening to your higher self.

Using kids as an excuse to stay in your comfort zone.

Playing bigger in your life. 

Embracing discomfort.

Supermom Kryptonite: “Playing Small” or staying in your comfort zone.

Supermom Power Boost: Make a “Courage List”. Look back on your life and list all the times you were courageous.

Learn more about Sara Dean and the Shameless Mom Academy at ShamelessMom.com. 

Listen to her podcast or join the Shameless Mom Facebook Group

Time Anxiety

Episode 38 – Time Anxiety

“From dawn to dusk, I am working. Constantly rushing from one activity to another. Getting the kids out the door and me to work. In the afternoons, I’m running to get them to soccer, buying groceries, taking phone calls, checking emails. By the time my kids are in bed, I’m exhausted. All I can do is zone out in front of the TV. 

I’m sure this sounds typical, like every other working mom, but my problem is…I feel like it’s not enough.

I work 14 HOURS A DAY, and then get annoyed with myself for “wasting time” at night.

The constant pressure and stress about being late and feeling like there is never enough time, is too much. Even on the weekends it is difficult for me to relax. 

This may be typical, but it’s starting to affect my sleep and my ability to enjoy my life. I see my son starting to stress out about being late and I don’t want to pass this on to him. How can I shake this feeling that whatever I do, it’s never enough?”  -Amy

 

time anxiety

It sounds like what you have is “Time Anxiety”. Time Anxiety shows up in 3 ways:

 

Current Time Anxiety

The daily feeling of being rushed. Fear of being late and disappointing someone. Fear of being early and wasting time. This panicky and overwhelmed feeling comes from trying to control something we have no control over. We think this makes us responsible, productive and reliable but it really just causes us to feel stressed and anxious. The underlying belief is that we must maximize our time or we are doing it wrong.

 

Future Time Anxiety

Worrying about what could happen in the future. These moms struggle to feel contentment in the moment for fear that “the other shoe will drop”. If I take a day to relax, more work will pile up. We love our kids so much we start imagining something bad happening to them or how we’ll cope when they move out of the house.

We are so afraid of feeling a negative emotion in the future (regret, sadness, loneliness) that we start practicing it now. The underlying belief is that being afraid of the future will somehow alleviate our suffering once the future arrives. 

 

Existential Time Anxiety

The sense of time slipping away and our existence, as we knew it, ending. This can show up as a fear of death but also a fear of losing our looks, our youth, or our kids. Moms can also fear losing opportunities to get back into the workforce, switch career paths, try new things, take risks, etc. The underlying belief is that time is running out. 

 

Parent Education Answer 

Overcoming time anxiety is difficult because it shows up is so many areas of life! The best answer to how to reduce your stress around time, is to work with a life coach or therapist who has experience with time anxiety. 

Step One – Accepting

Time stresses us out because we don’t have control over it and we think we should. Accepting that the passage of time is outside of our control and letting go of our fears is step one. 

I had a lot of time anxiety before I found life coaching.

My biggest triggers were fear of wasting time, not getting enough done, and being late. I remember driving with my kids in the car and being so upset with myself for not leaving sooner, for taking the slower route, for not checking traffic.

I was beating myself up, in front of my kids. My oldest was already showing signs of perfectionism: not trying new things if he couldn’t be good right away, throwing fits if he lost a game, etc.

The lightbulb went on for me on this drive. I realized my kids were picking up on my habits and I didn’t like it. From that day on, I have learned to forgive myself when I’m late. It’s as though I believed stressing about being late made be a better person. If I was flustered, remorseful and apologetic, they wouldn’t think poorly of me.

I was so worried they would think I was disrespecting them, and it bothered me that I couldn’t control their perception of me, so I just disrespected myself. 

Step Two – Undoing Fearful Thoughts

Undoing our fearful thoughts is step two. But if I tell you to stop thinking about how much time you have left here on earth, how you are going to regret wasting time and to relax around being late, suddenly time is all you can think about. You need someone else, outside your brain, to help you dissolve the thoughts that are making you anxious.

Letting go of the ILLUSION of control, shrugging your shoulders and saying “oh well, late again”, will make you feel vulnerable. No one likes feeling vulnerable, so we cope by taking control of how we spend our time. 

I have a teenage client with time anxiety. Whenever she isn’t studying, she feels guilty and stressed. She struggles to relax, have fun, sleep because she perceives it has a slippery slope to failure. Stress is never the ticket to success, it’s just the ticket to more stress. Working hard with enthusiasm, joy, passion and love are much more effective emotions to work from.

Step Three – Overcoming Time Anxiety

The third step to overcoming time anxiety is to take a look at the thoughts you are thinking whenever you are stressed, and get clear on your VALUES. 

What is most important to you in this life? 

How do you define a successful day? 

What emotion do you want to be rooted in while driving kids to soccer? 

How will you know when the cost of the activity outweighs the benefit? 

How do you want to feel in the mornings before school? 

You really do have a choice and committing to your values, instead of your fearful thinking, will help you feel better.

Life Coaching Answer – 

What gets in our way from:

  1. accepting the things we cannot control?
  2. dissolving negative thinking?
  3. committing to our values?

Our human-ness.

When we are scared, our brains think there is a REAL EMERGENCY. We don’t have time to look within and uncover our fearful thoughts and values! 

Our sympathetic nervous system gets activated: hearts start racing, blood rushes to our extremities, body is tense, jittery and ready for action. This is not the time to try to analyze your thoughts and think about your values! Your brain thinks it’s going to die!

In order to overcome time anxiety, you’ll need to take a look at your thoughts in your brain when you are relaxed and safe. 

If your anxiety is bleeding into nights and weekends, you may never have a time you feel relaxed and safe. If you did, the last thing you want to think about it is the stuff that triggers your anxiety! 

Anxiety likes to stay hidden. It doesn’t want you to talk about it! So it will say things like,

“It’s not that bad.

“I’m no different than anyone else.”

“How is talking going to help?”

“I don’t have the money to hire someone.” or, the classic

“I don’t have time to deal with it!” 

 

These all will feel true but it’s really just fear. Your brain will think talking about the anxiety will make it worse, but it won’t. We live in stressful times, in a stressed out country and learning to manage your fearful brain is SO important and worthwhile.

Supermom Kryptonite Scarcity

Scarcity is an incredible motivator. When kids think there isn’t enough of mom’s attention to go around, they will fight and scream for it. When we plan to start a diet on Monday, we’ll eat extra calories on Sunday. You can use scarcity to your advantage but make sure you are using it, don’t let it use you. 

I’m running out of time will always stress you out. Try switching it to, “I have plenty of time”.

Or use scarcity thinking to help you slow down and enjoy the moment. “I don’t want to miss these precious moments with my kids” can bring your attention to the present and out of future/past thinking. Being in the present moment always feels better.

 

Power Boost – “Oh, Well”

I was taking a parenting class specifically geared towards raising kids with “perfectionism, giftedness, and anxiety” and the teacher taught me these two magic words, “Oh Well”.

She said it was important to model using these words often with our kids.

“Your friend doesn’t want to play with you right now?” Oh well.

“You lost the game AGAIN even though you tried your best?” Oh well.

“Your sister is cheating and changing the rules?” Oh well.

But I found these words to be especially helpful for ME and my time anxiety.

“Late again”? Oh well.

“Binge watched an entire season on Netflix?” Oh well.

“Didn’t get anything accomplished today?” Oh well.

Try it out and see if it helps your inner perfectionist calm down and relax a little more.

 

Quote of the Day:

“Time you enjoyed wasting, was not wasted.”  John Lennon

Stealing, sneaking and lying about it

Question of the Day: Stealing, sneaking and lying about it

sneaking“Thanks so much for the podcast! I am really enjoying you approach and using it with my kids has helped a lot. My almost 8 year old has been sneaking and lying for a couple of years now.

I used to keep candy around the house but stopped because she would steal it and keep it under her pillow or bring it to school.

She steals little toys from school, toys from her sister and friends, and I even found $40 in her nightstand that she stole from my wallet.

A couple of months ago she took our house keys without asking and lost them–she lied about it at first and then confessed. Nothing I do seems to help. 

When I confront her, I tell her to just ask for what she wants. She apologizes and seems remorseful — or maybe worried/scared because she is “in trouble”. I tell her that she’s down a bad path with this habit that could end up with shoplifting and juvenile hall (catastrophizing?). 

We have a bit of a personality clash because I am such a rule-follower. She is doing fantastic in school, her teachers rave about her but she does break rules sometimes. I am worried she will steal my jewelry next.

She does have a lot of jealousy over her younger sister and sometimes explodes if she feels that her sister is getting more attention. Please help!    Esther

Parent Education Answer:

I want you to take a look at the things your daughter is sneaking: candy, toys, money, keys. She is taking treasures. Things that other people VALUE.

Kids steal things that others value as a way to feel that value inside themselves. For whatever reason, your daughter doesn’t feel treasured and thinks that taking other treasures will help her get this emotion. 

The jealousy she has over her sister and the perception that she gets more attention all point to a feeling of unworthiness. 

When adults feel unworthy, they often find external ways to feel more valuable. We might go shopping for nice things, shrink ourselves down to conform to society’s definition of beauty, or try to make people like us.

Think about it like this: It’s the end of a rough day, you are just settling in to watch your Netflix show.

The thought, “I have ice cream in the freezer” comes to mind. You promised yourself you wouldn’t snack at night.

Then you see that you don’t like what the scale tells you. You want to eat healthy food. Most of the time you resist the urge but sometimes, you cave. You say to yourself, “I deserve it” “I earned it” and you indulge. 

It’s similar to what your daughter is doing. Most of the time, she resists the urge. Occasionally, especially when it’s been a particularly rough day, she gives in to the impulse. 

Your daughter is showing you that she doesn’t feel good enough as she is. It’s easy to treat lying, stealing and sneaking as a moral issue but this feels like an emotional issue to me. 

If it was a moral issue, she wouldn’t show remorse or try to hide it from you. She knows it’s wrong but she’s still looking for a solution to an internal problem. 

 

Life Coaching Answer: Handling the Sneaking Kid

I love that you caught yourself catastrophizing and futurizing and yes, in a case like this it is SO EASY to do. What makes it hard to address this as an emotional issue and try to fill our daughter up with love, is  because of what you are making it mean about her and you. Especially as a self described “rule follower” I can only imagine how awful this must be for you! 

Embarrassment is “I did something wrong”. Shame is “I am wrong. I’m a bad person.”

It sounds like you are making your daughters stealing mean something that is causing you shame. Nobody likes feeling shame so we do our best to run away from it. The funny thing about it is as soon as you shine a compassionate light on it, it goes away. It can only live in the dark, when we aren’t acknowledging it’s there. 

It’s easy to think: “My daughter is stealing & lying, she’s doing something wrong. She must be a bad person, therefore I must be a bad mother.” 

When we believe we aren’t doing it right, and feeling ashamed, we want to stay hidden. We don’t want to ask for help.

The Love Tank

The only way to get her to stop, is to address the root cause. We need to fill up her love tank so it overflows with self worth and value. She needs to know what a treasure she really is. 

I would start by taking her to a family therapist who works with children. For whatever reason, the love you’ve been giving her isn’t getting through. She can’t receive it. This is not a reflection on you, just a personality trait.

If she had an allergy, you would take her to an allergist. If she’s showing signs of poor emotional health, she needs a mental health counselor.

Kids are unique when they come into this world with their own paths. Sneaking doesn’t mean she isn’t a bad kid, but she is showing you that she needs inside help. 

Understanding the Love Language

The second thing I would do is to understand her love language. There are a handful of books written about this concept that people give and receive love in different ways. The 5 love languages are: words of affirmation, quality time, gifts, acts of service, affection.

You might be giving your daughter words of affirmation, telling her how much you love her, but it’s not getting through because it isn’t her love language.

Perhaps hers is gifts? Or quality time if she complains about sister getting more attention? Read the book and determine her top two love languages so you can fill up her love tank in ways that she is more likely to receive. 

The Urge Jar

The third thing I suggest is an urge jar. My life coaching teacher Brooke Castillo came up with this concept for her weight loss clients who were learning to resist an urge to overeat. I think this could work with your sneaking 8 year old.

Many teachers keep a marble jar on their desk and when kids behave, they put marbles in the jar. This works similarly only every time you resist an urge, you put a marble in a jar. There is something so satisfying about the clanking sound and watching it slowly fill up. 

My hunch is that there are many times when your daughter feels bad about herself and DOESN’T steal, sneak or lie. Let’s reward those times by putting a marble in the jar every time she resists the urge to take something!

You can tell her that the marbles are symbolic of how much love you have for her. When she fills up her marble jar, she gets a reward of some kind. 

 

Supermom Kryptonite – Motivation for Misbehavior

Not understanding a child’s MOTIVATION for misbehavior – such as sneaking – keeps us focused on the behavior. This is frustrating because nothing we try works because we aren’t addressing the root of the problem. 

When we can’t understand our child’s behavior, we start catastrophizing, futurizing, making it mean we aren’t doing enough or they are bad kids. 

The main motivations for misbehavior are:

  1. Excitement
  2. Revenge
  3. Display of Inadequacy
  4. Superiority
  5. Power
  6. Attention
  7. Peer Acceptance

When we know our child’s motivation, we can find ways to give them what they want, but on our own terms.

 

Supermom Power Boost: Finding shades of gray

Many of us think in black and white terms. Stealing is bad, Giving is good. Lying is bad, truth telling is good. I’m either a rule follower or a rule breaker. Often, this black & white thinking ends up biting us in the butt. Try and make room, in your mind and in your vocabulary, for shades of gray. 

We are all good moms, who occasionally say things we regret.

There are rules we like which we follow, and ignore ones we don’t. 

At times we can be generous at times, and selfish at other times. 

We are all kind people, who sometimes say mean things. 

Finding the shades of gray, gives you room to be an imperfect human who is also wonderful. 

Quote of the Day:

“Inside every child is an ’emotional tank’, waiting to be filled with love. When a child really feels loved, he will develop normally but when the love tank is empty, he will misbehave. Much of the misbehavior in children is motivated by the cravings of an empty ‘love tank'”. Gary Chapman

Worried about starting middle school

Question of the Day: Middle School Worries

Today’s question is from a mom worried about her son starting middle school.

“My son is starting middle school and I worry about all the things he’s going to be exposed to. Vaping, drugs, girls, social media, bullies, online porn, you name it, I worry about it.

He is such a happy, sweet boy and I don’t want his peers to ruin his innocence. Part of me thinks I should talk to him about some of the things he’ll be exposed to. But the other part of me thinks I should keep quiet and let it unfold as he experiences it.

How can I prepare him for the big, bad world of middle school without scaring him or giving him more information than he is ready to handle?”    Catalina

middle school worries

Parent Education Answer:

I think there are many parents who share the same middle school worries and apprehension. I heard this a lot from the parents who came to my classes on “How to Talk to Kids about Sex”.

They wanted to be the ones to tell their kids about how babies are made but they get nervous about taking away their innocence. Rather than saying the wrong thing or giving too much information, they end up saying nothing at all.

In a way, your instincts are correct in not talking to him from your worrying energy. Emotions are contagious and you telling him about your fears and all the middle school worries could do one of two things:

– Scare him. He might mirror you and become equally worried and stressed.
– Reject you. Kids don’t like the energy of worry. He may disregard your helpful information and not want to listen to you, be around you, or confide in you later, if he thinks it will worry you.

I believe knowledge is power.  This could be a great opportunity to inform him of things he will be encounter. But keep in mind that only if you are in a calm confident energy.

Benefits of  Information

When parents inform their kids about vaping, sex, drugs, etc. before they are exposed to it, there are many benefits:

  • Kids learn they can talk to their parents about anything that comes up.
  • When your middle schooler hears something taboo, he doesn’t need to rely on peers or youtube to answer questions because they already received information at home.
  • Talking about personal, important things builds trust and brings you closer.
  • Middle schoolers are surrounded by peers willing to give their opinions and judgments easily. When they also have the voice of their parent in their head, it helps them make an informed decision.
  • Kids tend to rise to our expectations. If we expect them to do drugs and get bad grades, they probably will. If we expect them to encounter such, but not partake in unhealthy activities, they probably will do that.

Format of Discussion

Think about this format when talking to your kid about difficult subjects: information, consequences, opinions, choice.

Let’s take online porn as an example.

Information: Porn is short for pornography. It refers to visual materials (mostly digital these days) containing explicit display of sexual organs and/or activity intended to stimulate erotic feelings (as opposed to aesthetic or emotional). Showing pornography to children is considered illegal and obscene.

Consequences: Some people experience it as harmless and healthy. Others experience it as addictive, exploitative and damaging to relationships.

 

Opinions: Your Dad and I don’t want you watching it because it’s going to give you an unrealistic picture of what sex is like in a real relationship. When you are in a real relationship someday, we want you to experience the best of it.  This includes emotional intimacy, companionship, friendship and love, not just the physical aspects of sex.

 

Choice: We realize we can’t control what you view on the internet but we hope you choose will things that uplift your spirit and not watch things you feel you should hide. We also want you to know, you can come to us if you ever have concerns or you encounter something that feels weird or icky online.

 

Life Coaching Answer: Handling Middle School Worries

What gets in our way from being this calm confident parent discussing these middle school worries and informing our child of unhealthy risks of middle school? FEAR.

Fear of what could happen, fear of letting go, fear of how other kids will behave, fear of losing the child you have known, fear of him getting hurt, fear of watching our baby suffer, fear of not being able to help him solve his problems, fear dressed up in multiple outfits.

When we feel fear in the absence of immediate threat, we struggle because there is no productive action step to take.

It helps to know that fear is an instinct to keep us (and our loved ones) out of harm’s way. We are hiking, we see a snake ready to strike, we freeze. Some crazy person running towards us yelling, we run away.

Hence, our brain’s fear response is brilliantly designed to keep us safe, except for when there is no clear reason for our fear.

When we feel fear, yet everything around us appears safe, we go into our heads and try to figure out why we are scared. We look for an explanation for our fears: school shootings, bad guys, drugs.

The news will give us plenty of logical reasons why we have this fear. It makes our worries seem valid and important.

Fears and Worries

Worry pretends to be helpful. It makes us feel like we are DOING something productive but we aren’t. All we are doing is making it harder to help our children navigate a fear-filled culture with confidence and ease.

In order to prepare your child for some of the negative things he might be exposed to in middle school, you’ll want to release these middle school worries and process the fear.

Fear is just an emotion. It is energy in motion and it shows up as a vibration in the body.

Close your eyes, take a deep breath and notice what fear feels like and where in your body you feel it. The more you stay with this feeling, without having the need to run away from it, the easier it will move through you.

Our brain thinks we’re going to die but if you look around you, and all is well in this moment, it’s safe to process this feeling so that you can return to a state of calm.

From the sound of things, it looks like your son is healthy, happy and safe. He is going to school in one of the safest countries in the world, in one of the safest times in history. He’ll be with other kids who have been raised in a safe environment, having all their basic needs met.

Worrying gives you the illusion of safety, but it really doesn’t help.

Once you’ve allowed yourself to feel the feeling of fear without reacting to it, you’ll notice you feel calmer.

Your Mindset

This is when you want to engage the brain and ask, “What do I need to think and believe in order to talk to my middle schooler calmly?”

“I want him to have knowledge so he can make his own decisions.
“This is good information to know” might be a helpful thought.
“I trust him to make good choices.
“I’m earning my good parenting sticker today”
“I want to be the kind of mom who can handle tough subjects.”

Once you are feeling calm and ready to give your child “Information, Consequence, Opinion, Choice”, you may need some additional resources.

Middle school is a great time to shift from being the person with all the answers, to learning things together with your child. Which is handy because a lot of us don’t know about the dangers of vaping, social media, or today’s potent marijuana options.

Marlene Mahurin from Nevada County’s Tobacco Use Prevention and Education program, recommended a great video to watch with your kids. I will post a few of my favorites but I encourage you to look through Google on your own. Find a few to watch that you think will resonate with your child’s personality. Just be mindful of who is publishing the video.

Recommended Resources

Common Sense Media has GREAT videos and is a resource you should know about from school shootings to sexting https://www.commonsensemedia.org/
The Nevada County TUPE video on vaping http://nevco.org/programs-services/tupe/

Sex Education (for 9-12 year olds) http://TimeforTheTalk.com

Marijuana https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FvszaF4vcNYConsent https://youtu.be/pZwvrxVavnQ

Gender Fluidity https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=udI-Go8KK2Q&feature=youtu.be

Sex Education (for parents and high schoolers) https://youtu.be/L0jQz6jqQS0

How to ADHD https://howtoadhd.com/videos/

 

Today’s Supermom Kryptonite – Your media diet.

Just like the food we eat impacts us, even if we don’t notice it immediately, the media we take in affects us, too.

If your media diet consists of Fox News, Criminal Minds and CSI, it’s no wonder you feel a lot of fear. If your media diet consists of Queer Eye, romance novels, this podcast and video chatting with friends, you probably feel a lot of peace. In order to stop worrying, try changing your media diet.

I remember going to bed one night and noticing I felt gross. It felt like I had just eaten a bunch of junk food but I hadn’t. I realized the “junk food feeling” was because I just watched 20 minutes of “Housewives of Whatever County” before I went to bed.

This show might be just what you need at the end of the day to lift your spirits. That was what I thought, but it wasn’t healthy for me.

Especially before bed, I have to be very careful about what I take into my brain.

It’s amazing how easy it is to keep up with current events without ever watching a single newscast. Thus, I limit my social media exposure and seek media that uplifts me. That way, I can maintain peaceful energy for my clients, and kids, to come home to.

 

Supermom Powerboost – Allowing your kid to experience negative emotion

  • It is common in today’s perfectionistic parenting culture to believe that it’s our job to protect our children from having any negative emotion ever. We genuinely want our children to be happy and successful, every second of every day, forever. First, because this is what we think a good mom would want. Second because we don’t know what to do with ourselves when they have a negative emotion.
    When we understand that allowing children to “feel all the feels” is IMPORTANT and NECESSARY, then we focus on what we want to feel WHILE they are feeling sad, disappointed, angry or scared. You can:
  • allow your child to feel a feeling without taking it on as your own.
  • feel proud of yourself for letting your child have a negative experience.
  • feel satisfied knowing that this negative experience is teaching him lessons he could never learn on his own.

Trying to ensure that your child only has positive experiences and emotions is exhausting. In contrast, allowing your child to experience negative emotions, (without making it mean anything has gone wrong), will free you and boost your energy.

 

Quote of the Day:

 “Worry never robs tomorrow of its sorrow, it only saps today of its joy.” Leo Buscaglia