Nervous about having kids all summer? Here’s how to enjoy it.


Help Torie! I am nervous about summer! I’m a stay home mom and I WANT to be one of those chill moms who loves hanging out by the pool sipping lemonade. My kids are 5, 7 and 9 so I’ve done this enough times to know that I’m not a great summer-mom. I love the structure that the school year provides but I’m not good at creating a structure for myself at home.

I signed them up for swim lessons and some other activities but I’m nervous about not getting enough time by myself. My friends that love the slow-paced, lazy days of summer. The idea of it appeals to me but the reality is, I’ll probably be crazy by July. How can I make the most of my summer?        -Stephanie

Parent Educator Answer: When you are nervous about summer

Summertime is important for the mental, emotional and physical health of children. There are two pass times that will optimize this quality time for kids: downtime and pursuing passions.

Children’s brains need the lazy, slow-paced days of summer to integrate learning, build relationships, and recalibrate to life without stress. It’s also a great time to discover and pursue passions that they might not have time for during the school year.

If your child loves baking, allowing her extra time to do get creative in the kitchen is a great use of summer.

Whether it’s building a hammock out of duct tape or learning to dive into the pool, giving kids time to choose activities freely increases the motivation parts of their brains.

Sorry kids, (and tired moms), the negative consequences of screen time on children’s physical, mental and emotional health are still outweighing any positive effects.

Find passions to pursue in the real world to maximize summer. TV and video games are too physiologically stressful to be considered downtime.

Summer and the Obliger Mom

Life Coaching Answer: With the kids squared away, it’s time to talk about MOM.

Stephanie, you sound like a classic “obliger”. Gretchen Rubin wrote a book called The Four Tendencies which describes 4 different tendencies that come into play when someone wants to take change a habit.

The Obliger Mom

One tendency she calls, obliger. Obligers have an easy time meeting EXTERNAL expectations (we show up on time for appointments, we remember to attend Back to School nights, etc.) but we have a hard time with INTERNAL expectations (going to the gym, making time for ourselves, etc.)

You say you do well with the structure of school but are worried about getting enough time by yourself.

Other tendencies (Upholder and Questioner) have an easy time meeting INTERNAL expectations. Meaning, if they want to lay in the sun and read a book every day, they do it. If they want to work out, they head to the gym easily without any drama.

The problem for Obligers is the KIDS start to take on the role of “external expectations”.

It’s easy for us to obey the demands of others: “Mom, can you drive me to Sophie’s?” “Mom, I’m hungry.” “Mom, can we go to the pool today?”

It’s almost like we lose the ability to hear our own voice. We feel imprisoned by the demands of our kids. Waiting for them to be happy and satisfied before we can listen to our own voice.

Obliger moms have an especially hard time being home with kids all day.

Rather than wishing you were the kind of mom who can just chill and enjoy a slow-paced summer, learning to work with your natural tendency will make life much easier. Here are 4 tips to help obliger moms enjoy summer more.

4 Summer Tips for the Obliger Moms

  1. Recognize that waiting for your children to be happy and satisfied isn’t working. They will never push you out the door saying, “Go take care of yourself now, Mom!” If you want to feel better this summer, it’s going to have to come from your desire to give your kids a happy summer mommy.
  2. Start every day with a paper and pen, asking yourself “What would I LOVE to accomplish today?” “How do I want to feel while accomplishing these things?” “When I look back on my day before going to bed, what will I be most proud of?” Sit in the driver’s seat of your brain and tell it what to focus on.
  3. Build upon external expectations. Have a friend meet you at the gym. Tell your kids you have an appointment with your book at 3:00 and it’s their job to make sure you don’t miss it. Sign up for a class for YOURSELF. Make an appointment with a life coach.
  4. Use a timer as your external accountability. “I have 15 minutes to clean and then I get to relax.” or “I will drive you to your friend’s house if you’ll let me read for 30 minutes first.” The world benefits from obligers, but putting ourselves last has a cost to it. It’s time to prioritize your goals, dreams and desires, and show your kids the value of pursuing things that are important to you.

Supermom Kryptonite: Compare and despair.

It’s so easy to “compare and despair”. We go on Pinterest or Instagram and see other Moms so happy and creative, we think we should be different than we are. Everyone else appears to be having an easier time than us so we assume we should be different.

Instead, try thinking about adapting your life as a mom to your particular personality. If you like external expectations, sign up for classes and make appointments with friends and life coaches to help you work towards your goals.

If you are introverted and need extra time to be inside your own head, respect that and check into a hotel by yourself for 2 nights.

Take time every day to reflect on how things are going: What do you miss? What do you yearn for?

Motherhood is not a one-size-fits-all. The goal is to give your kids a happy, fulfilled mom. Make sure you are paying attention to who you are and what you want, rather than what everyone else is doing.

 

Supermom Power Boost – Read the book, The Four Tendencies by Gretchen Rubin

Understanding your tendency can help you have compassion for yourself and others. Compassion always feels good and boosts our energy.

If you get frustrated with yourself, “Why can’t I be more easy going?” or “Why is it so hard for me to break this bad habit?” this book will help answer your questions.

There’s no one tendency that’s better than another (although Gretchen Rubin says Obligers don’t tend to like being obligers, where the other tendencies enjoy themselves more).

I WISH this book had been required reading before marrying my “Rebel” husband. It would have saved me many years of frustration, trying to get him to do what I wanted him to do.

Raising a rebel child came with its own brand of craziness. Since all teenagers have a rebellious streak, I recommend reading how to motivate a rebel for anyone raising an adolescent.

Whether you are an Obliger, Rebel, Questioner, or Upholder, understanding and ACCEPTING your tendency makes life easier and more fun.

We tend to project our expectations onto our family, thinking they should be more like us. When you identify your loved one’s tendencies, it’s easier to enjoy them for who they are.

Quote:

“One of the best ways to make yourself happy is to make other people happy. One of the best ways to make other people happy is to be happy yourself.” Gretchen Rubin

When your kid holds a grudge

Today’s Question: Kid Holding a Grudge

Hello! I LOVE and look forward to listening to your podcast!

I have three girls: 13, 11, and 9. My 9-year-old is a very bright, confident, gregarious, and tenacious young child.

I do think that these are very strong qualities, but wonder if they get in the way of peer relations. She has a wide variety of friends. I used to be worried that she did not have that one special friend, but realized after listening to one of your podcasts that that is okay.

The issue lies in that if a peer says or does anything negative to her, she A: doesn’t forget it, B: continues to remind her peer of it, and C: tells her peer that she is not her friend. Like any 3rd grader, this peer is now hurt and upset. It’s as though my child does not care and sees no remorse.

I have conversations with her about this and it’s so hard for her to change. I don’t know what to do!  Thank you so much for your guidance!  – Andria

holding a grudge

Parent Educator Answer:

It is so hard to watch your daughter behave in ways that are not aligned with your values, but it’s a great opportunity to talk about empathy.

Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. Some kids naturally pick up on social cues and don’t need to be taught how to use empathy to connect with others.

Other kids do need to be taught. It doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with these children, they are perfectly normal, but it can make a supermom cringe when she watches her child navigate the nuances of friendships.

Kids who struggle to show empathy usually do so for two reasons.

  1. They aren’t easily hurt by others so can’t relate.
  2. They are VERY deeply hurt by others.

I asked Andria which category she thought her daughter fell into.

Her initial reaction was that her daughter was “unaffected” but after further consideration, she thinks perhaps she is deeply wounded by slights from friends and that is why she is so dismissive.

Andria said she is very caring with young children and animals which signals a profound sense of empathy.

When we feel hurt, it is human nature to want to hurt back. Picture a porcupine, whose quills lay soft and flat until threatened, then stand sharply to deter anyone from getting close.

Instead of crying, and showing her hurt, it sounds like Andria’s daughter shoves it down and gets “prickly” like a porcupine.

There isn’t a lot that mom can do to change her daughter’s personality.  This is how she is wired. But I will give you some tips to support her softer side.

  1. Acknowledge her hurt. Even though she will deny it, you can show compassion to her saying words like, “Boy, if someone said that to me I would feel hurt.” or “I feel so sad when my friends leave me out.”
  2. Find opportunities for her to hang out with children, animals, the elderly, or the disabled. She feels safe letting her vulnerable side show around these sensitive souls, encourage it!  Kids like this turn into advocates for social justice! Find volunteer opportunities for her to let her softer side show and start effecting change in her community.
  3. Make her rigidity work for you. All kids think in black and white, “If I’m not smart, I must be dumb.” “If she said something mean, she’s a mean person.” This good/bad, right/wrong thinking can keep a kid stuck in a negative pattern. You can use this to your advantage by asking black and white questions like:

“Do you want to live in a nice world or a mean world?”

“Do you think people should be kind or rude?”

“Would you prefer to have no friends or some friends?”

If she wants to live in a nice world, then it’s up to her to be nice, no matter what everyone else does.

If she wants to have friends, it’s up to her to act like a friend even when they don’t deserve it (in her opinion).

Letting her think about the kind of world she wants to live in, moves her attention from this small little hurtful comment (where she feels powerless) to the big picture where she can do something about the injustice she feels.

Life Coaching Answer: 

What gets in our way when our daughter is cold, prickly, and mean?

All sorts of fearful catastrophic thinking!

“She’s never going to have any friends”

“She’s a b*tch”

“Nobody’s going to want to be around her”

“She doesn’t care about people.”

And of course, whenever we see bad behavior in our kids, we fall into the conclusion that “I must not be doing a good enough job as a mother.”

When we think these dramatic thoughts, we get scared.

When we get scared, we get mad (hello porcupine!).

We start telling her to be nicer, stop holding a grudge, forgive and forget.

There’s nothing wrong with this advice except that it’s rooted in our own fears.

She picks up on our judgmental, “you need to change now” energy, feels a feeling, and shuts down.

She acts cold and aloof. This makes us get meaner, in order to try and get an emotional reaction out of her.

We escalate our words, trying to break her down, which only makes her more cold and aloof towards us.

We’ve got to keep an eye on our thoughts, making sure they help us feel like the parent we want to be.

In order to allow our sensitive kids to show their softer side, we need a soft place for them to fall.

How do you get a porcupine to lay down her quills?  Sit still, be calm, and give her time to feel safe again.

This personality trait of your daughter has nothing to do with you as a mom.

If you can be soft and gentle with her, she will know you have her back, no matter how many people say mean things to her.

Eventually, she may look around and find she doesn’t have any friends.

Then she may be receptive to your helpful advice. More likely, she will be the one who befriends the kid on the “buddy bench” at school, advocates for the disabled kid, and is friends with the bad boy no one wants to be with.

The world is made up of all kinds. You can teach her appropriate social behavior from a place of acceptance and gentleness.

Instead of “futurizing and catastrophizing,” share your vision of her in the future. Say things like:

“Someday, you will realize that most people mean well, even if they don’t always say the right things.”

“People make mistakes all the time, someday you will learn that forgiveness feels better than being right.”

“You care so deeply about others, it’s this compassion of yours that is going to make the world a better place.” 

 

Supermom Kryptonite: Parenting from Fear

This is a sneaky one. Our words and actions can be exactly the same, but when we are rooted in fear, our kids pick up on our neediness and push us away.

For example, your 14 year old daughter comes downstairs looking sexy in a short skirt and tube top, ready to go out.

Your mind immediately jumps to “OMG NO! Too sexy.

Sexual predators! Kidnapping and human trafficking! Boys! Dirty old men! What will people think? Embarrassed.”

The words that pop out are, “No. You are not wearing that. You need to change NOW.”

She argues, complains, then pops her outfit into her purse and changes as soon as she leaves the house.”

If she comes downstairs wearing the same outfit, you might get a different result if your thoughts are calm and inquisitive…

“Is that outfit aligned with our family values?”  “Would I have worn that when I was her age?” “What is the statistical probability that something bad will happen to her because she is wearing that outfit?”

You might say, “No, that outfit is not aligned with our family values. Go put on something more modest, please.”

This calm, clear, confident energy is much more likely to yield a positive result. She might argue, but she would match your energy, doing so calmly and logically.

Whenever there is behavior you want to change in yourself or your child, be sure you are rooted in positive emotion rather than fear.

Supermom Power Boost:

Choose a spirit animal. Do you have a favorite animal? Do you find yourself intrigued by certain animals?

Learn more about them and see what they have to teach you. ‘

If you love sloths, it could be your higher self saying it’s time to slow down and chill.  Are you drawn towards elephants? Maybe you are yearning to feel supported by a larger community.

Andria’s daughter could learn more about the porcupine as a compassionate way to learn more about herself.

We don’t argue with reality thinking, “porcupines shouldn’t be so prickly” we accept them for who they are and learn to live with them peacefully.

 

Quote of the day:

“Everybody is a Genius. But If You Judge a Fish by Its Ability to Climb a Tree, It Will Live Its Whole Life Believing that It is Stupid.” -Albert Einstein 

How can I encourage independence in my clingy kiddo?

How can I encourage independence? episode #16

Question – “My daughter constantly follows me around the house always wanting my attention. I give her A LOT of attention! I’m a stay-home Mom and we are together all the time. She even follows me into the bathroom. I’ve tried “filling up her tank” just to see if she ever gets enough but I found the answer is NO. When my husband gets home and I try to leave for the gym, she clings and whimpers, begging me not to go. In fact, she does this any time I try to leave her with anyone. Sometimes the guilt and hassle isn’t worth it, and I cave in and stay home. Sometimes I feel imprisoned by a cute and loving jail warden. How can I teach my daughter to be more independent?” – Allison

Parent Educator answer –

I love how this question is worded. This shows such keen awareness that the situation is a pattern of her DAUGHTER’S. When kids behave this way, it can really lock moms in without them even realizing it, so I’m glad Allison is aware and wanting to change. I don’t hear mom beating herself up thinking she should do more, be better, etc. I love that she experimented with “filling up her daughter’s tank” and can feel confident that not having enough mom time is not the issue. My favorite part is her final question, “How can I TEACH my daughter to be more independent?”

Teaching is a process. It takes time, patience, and clear explanations and repetition. You teach your children how to treat you. This doesn’t mean they are going to do it perfectly right away, just that you are committed to doing your part as teacher.

When we see clingy behavior in children, it’s a sign of anxiety. It’s great that your child feels comforted by you, it’s also important that your child feel comfortable away from you. Anxiety can be caused by many things: modern society, a genetic predisposition, even a stressful birth; so we’re not going to waste our time arguing that your child shouldn’t feel anxious.

3 things NOT to do are…

  1. Don’t sneak out without telling them. 
  2. Don’t have long goodbyes or wait for your child to give you permission to leave.
  3. Don’t avoid anxiety provoking activities.

4 ways to increase your child’s comfort and stability, which will increase their independence and (eventually) decrease their clinginess.

  1. Predictable Routine – All kids benefit from structured routine but, anxious kids especially can  benefit. They might even ask every morning, “What are the plans for the day?” Have a chart with pictures so they can predict “cuddle and read with mom time” “play independently time” “screen time”. You can also have routines for each day, Monday is library. Tuesday is gym. Wednesday is playgroup.
  2. Encourage deep relationships with other adults and children. Invite your child’s friend over after school every Friday. Go to the park with Dad Sunday morning or play games with Grandma Sunday night.
  3. Transitional objects – If your child doesn’t have a transitional object, give them one. Tell them it will make them feel safe. A beautiful stone to slip into his pocket or a soft feather. Whenever he feels anxious, they hold onto the object. When he is clinging to you at the door, remind him of this special object and its’ special powers.
  4. Reduce narrow focused attention – When we are nervous, our eyes lock into an object like a lion stalking it’s prey. School and screen time encourage narrow focus attention. A lion spends 95% of its day in diffused attention, this is important for humans, too. Diffused attention is a recuperative state that helps our brains calm down and feel at peace. Staring into space and daydreaming shift the brain into diffused attention. Try hard not to interrupt your child when in this state. You can encourage this diffused mental attention with music, art, and nature based movements. Experiment with turning off electricity, watering the garden, and classical music and see what calms your child the most.

Life Coaching answer – When your child is clinging and pleading for you to stay home, it is SO HARD to leave!  They pull out all the stops, filling us up with love, making us feel wanted and needed. Instead of reciprocating with love and devotion, we break their hearts, causing them suffering, tears, and misery!

Many moms fall into this trap because they think, “I am the only one that can help them feel better.” This belief keeps kids locked in anxiety, believing they are only safe when mom is around. Mom feels so needed and valuable that she forgoes her dreams and passions, trapping her in a limited existence.

The best thing Allison can do is to manage her own anxiety and set up a regular, predictable routine around leaving her daughter. The thoughts that will keep her stuck are “She needs me” “I can make her feel better” and “It’s not right to let her suffer”

We have this idea that our kids shouldn’t suffer- that they should always be happy and if they aren’t we are doing something wrong.

This is our primitive brain talking. Our higher brain knows that sometimes we need to make parenting decisions that our children aren’t going to like- that we can forgo that temporary ‘false joy’ for long term well being.

Of course we want to avoid negative emotions unnecessarily, but being willing to choose discomfort for long term well being is a really important life skill.

We endure discomfort for a high intensity exercise class for the long term gain of fitness.

We endure boring subjects in school so that we can pursue a major that interests us.

We tolerate uncomfortable dental appointments for the long term benefit of healthy teeth and gums.

The buddhists say life is suffering. So, trying to keep your child from suffering is trying to protect them from life. Believing you can protect your kids from emotional discomfort is believing you are more powerful than God.

Kryptonite – “I’m tired”

This is a sneaky one. Thinking the thought or saying the sentence “I’m tired” seems like you are just stating the facts. But try it out for a minute, how do you feel when you think the thought “I’m tired”? TIRED!! When you feel tired, you act lethargic, and don’t seek out energy inducing activities! It’s not like you rest, take a nap and the feel energized. It seems so legit that we don’t even argue it.

Energy is something we create more of, through exercise, rest, sleep, food, etc. Many Supermoms use the thought “I’m tired” as a way to avoid doing hard things and taking action towards their goals.

Supermom Power Boost schedule a vent session

Sometimes all you need is a good vent session. It’s tempting to turn to our husbands at the end of the day to complain about everything that went awry. Most men are wired to fix problems so when unload our challenging day onto them, they try to tell us what to do. This is not what we want to hear! We just want them to say, “Oh honey, I don’t know how you do it all day, that sounds really rough.” Instead they say, “Did you try putting her in time out?” “Just tell your boss no.” or “You shouldn’t let her get to you like that.” This makes us aggravated and frustrated because all we need is a little compassion.

To get a power boost, try scheduling a “vent session” with a girlfriend. Most women naturally commiserate. We vent, we get our frustrations off our chest. They tell us about their challenges, we feel better. Venting with other moms gives you just the fuel you need to make it through another day. We don’t want to be told what to do to fix our problems, we just want to feel seen, heard, and supported. You can try telling your husband, “I just want you to listen and not fix.” but girlfriends are the best power boost I know of.

Quote of the day – 

“People have a hard time letting go of their suffering. Out of a fear of the unknown, they prefer suffering that is familiar.” Thich Nhat Hanh

Disrespectful Child

What’s the right way to handle a disrespectful child?

My son is 8, is a great kid all around, but he’s mean to me. He can be sweet and loving one minute, but a rude and disrespectful child the next. He talks back, ignores me when I’m talking, and “accidentally” bumps me with his backpack when we’re walking into school. The teachers have no complaints, he behaves perfectly at school, it’s only at home with me that his disrespectful behavior comes out. What am I doing that makes him treat me so poorly?    -Ava

Thank you for this question, Ava.

I’ll never forget when the speaker’s bureau I worked for asked me, “Could you teach a class on raising gracious children?”

I thought they were joking. They knew my daughter. They had been around her since she was a baby. Every time I brought her in, they would say “Hi, how are you?” “look at your cute shoes?” “How old are you?” She NEVER answered.

She would stare and glare but never smile and never respond, so I thought they were being sarcastic: making a joke about ME teaching a class on gracious children based on my very ungracious daughter!

The “people-pleaser” in me was embarrassed by her behavior, but my co-workers weren’t as bothered by her as I was.

They were serious.

I figured this would be a good challenge for me, so I took it on.

Here’s what I learned in my research and preparation for teaching this class on raising gracious children:  Children learn by imitation. If you are kind and polite, chances are they will be too. EVENTUALLY. When they are little, their personality, emotions, and other motivations come before social niceties.

So the real question I set out to answer is: “How do I act graciously, no matter how my child is behaving?”

I’ll dive into this in the life coaching answer, but first, we’ll start with the parent education answer.

Parent Education answer

We want to take a look at what might be motivating Ava’s son to be polite at school and be a  rude and disrespectful child at home.

Based on your scenario, I’m going to guess it’s one of two things:

1. He feels yucky on the inside and wants you to know it.

It’s possible he doesn’t know how to express his negative emotion in a constructive way, and/or he doesn’t feel like it’s ok to have negative emotions like anger or sadness.

If this is the case, helping him develop some emotional vocabulary is very helpful. You can do this by talking about your own emotions, “I feel so mad I want to hit something” (you could even find something to hit like a couch cushion or kick an empty cardboard box).

If you were feeling low, you could say, “I feel sad so I’m going outside to be by myself.” or “I’m disappointed that my friend canceled plans so I’m going to draw a picture of what I’m feeling.”

Showing him that everyone has negative emotions sometimes, and modeling how to cope in healthy and appropriate ways would boost his emotional intelligence.

You can also help him pay attention to his emotions when you notice he’s starting to misbehave by saying things like “You feel disappointed” or “You feel frustrated.”

Print out a page of different emotion faces and put it on your fridge to help him identify and understand the nuances of his different emotions.

When we are having strong emotions, they can feel really overwhelming. By naming them, we contain them; it makes them feel manageable.

I learned this when I was 14 and tried out for cheerleading. I worked hard and did my best but didn’t make the squad.

When I walked in the house after the tryouts, my dad said, “I thought you said you wouldn’t be disappointed if you didn’t make the squad?” I burst into tears, yelled, “I said I WOULD be disappointed!” I ran into the bathroom and slammed the door.

I remember looking in the mirror as the tears flowed down my face and said to myself, “I’m disappointed. Is that what this is? I’ve been disappointed before. I can handle this.”

Then I felt fine. I was totally over it. Even the following year when I tried out again and didn’t make it, I allowed myself to be disappointed without any drama.

Humans aren’t meant to be happy all the time. We want to make sure our kids have access to the wide range of human emotions, and we can do this by modeling it for them in a healthy way.

2. He wants you to discipline him.

Discipline comes from the root word discipulus- the Latin word for student. Kids like rules and structure when it comes to their behavior, even if they don’t show it.

When kids know what to expect, it calms them down. Sometimes they may choose to ignore our expectations, but it’s our job to lay it out there and tell them the behavior we want to see.

I struggled with parenting a rebellious child who was always fighting for power. I would try and offer her choices: “Do you want to wear the red or the blue?” She would NEVER choose one of my options. She’d always go for whatever I didn’t want her to wear, just to defy me.

I would offer mac ‘n cheese or peanut butter sandwich and she would declare that she will only eat red foods. As soon as my fridge was full of red food, she would switch to green. It drove me crazy because I wanted life to be easy and for us to get along. She just wanted to assert her power.

After much debate, I decided to put my strong-willed daughter in Catholic school. I was nervous. It was a great kindergarten program with the most fabulous teacher, but it was old-school strict.

These kids were taught to BEHAVE. I thought, “It’s either going to be great, or really terrible.” My plan was to switch her to a Montessori school for first grade, assuming Kindergarten was going to be a nightmare.

Her teacher was so savvy. My daughter tested her for the first four months. How much can I get away with? Do you really mean what you say? What if I do it this way? You draw the line here, what about here?

As soon as my daughter realized that she couldn’t outsmart her teacher, she relaxed. It’s like all that energy and attention she was putting into trying to control everyone and everything, could shift into learning and being a kid.

Some kids are strong willed and will fight for power, but it’s too much responsibility for them to be in charge. No five year old, or eight year old, should be in charge.

When kids know there is a strong authority figure present, they get to be a kid. They get to relax and play, knowing someone else will steer them back on track if they wander.

Could it be, Ava, that your son is asking for more discipline?

Life Coaching Answer: 

Based on your question, Ava, I’m going to guess that you bounce back and forth between anger “he shouldn’t be treating me this way” to helplessness “Why can’t he be nice to me?” This does not feel good.

It’s kind of like you’ve got this powerless, abandoned kitten on one shoulder whispering “please be nice to me” and a ferocious tiger on the other saying “you better be nice to me.” Bouncing back and forth between these two keeps you out of your power.

I want you to listen to the energy embedded in the last sentence of your question: “What am I doing that makes him act so poorly?”

Can you feel the emotion in that sentence? Self-blame? Guilt, maybe? It’s coming from weak energy.

Your first sentence felt the opposite: “What’s the right way to handle a disrespectful child?” Can you hear this one is a bit more annoyed?

It implies there is a right way and wrong way, and because you label the behavior as disrespectful, I’m guessing you are in anger.

Most people think that angry, ferocious tiger energy is you being powerful, but studies show the most powerful energy is calm, assertive energy.

In order to TEACH your child how to treat you, you’ve first got to find your calm, confident energy. Which means stepping out of blame and accepting reality without argument.

You aren’t a bad mom because your child misbehaves or is rude to you. Can you imagine a child that NEVER talks back? That ALWAYS says the right thing, at the right time, in the right way, since the day they learned to talk?  That would be weird, right?

Like a little Stepford robot child. If that happened you’d still probably be writing into me, concerned that your child is behaving too well. Something must be wrong with them if they never misbehave, right?

Our thoughts create our emotional energy. Notice how you feel when you think, “He’s disrespectful.” It makes you angry and annoyed. You want to snap back, yell, give him the silent treatment, basically mirror how he is treating you.

Notice how you feel when you think, “What am I doing wrong?” “Why won’t he be nice to me?” “I should have this figured out by now”.  Those thoughts make you feel weak. You give in, letting him have the power to treat you poorly.

You want to find a thought that gives you the feeling of calm confidence. The word that helped me was “teach.” I can teach her to be kind by my actions. I will teach her how to treat me.

Every time my daughter did something I didn’t like, I would treat it as a lesson. “When you ignore me, I feel unimportant. What I’d like to hear you say, is ‘Ok, Mom.'”Most kids don’t like learning the same lesson every day (especially strong-willed ones). This “instruction” motivated her to adopt the behavior I was looking for because being told the same thing every day became annoying.

When she talked back, I would remind myself, “She is asking me for more guidance”.In order to curb your son’s behavior, Ava, find a thought that gives you the feeling of calm, confidence. “I know what to do here” is a good one. Think it often and see if it helps YOU change YOUR behavior, giving you the change in your son’s behavior that you are looking for.

Supermom Kryptonite – The Dictator and The Wild Child

I learned about this concept from my first life coach teacher, Martha Beck. I obsessively read every book she wrote and learned about “the dictator and the wild child” in her book, The Four Day Win: End Your Diet War and Achieve Thinner Peace.

When people are dieting to lose weight, they very often create two opposing characters she calls The Dictator and The Wild Child. The dictator is the voice in our heads that only allows us to eat spinach and quinoa. We must do everything right, eat everything right, and never falter.

Most people can’t keep up with this perfectionistic discipline, nor do they want to. So they then create this wild child who rebels against the dictator and says, “Screw you! I can do what I want, eat what I want, anytime I want.”

Bouncing back and forth between these two extremes is exhausting and a huge energy drain. You decide you want to eat healthily, but then you rebel against yourself to the point where it feels like you are eating behind your own back.

These two extremes can play out in parenting as well as weight loss.  We develop this idealized version of ourselves; the perfectly balanced mom who does everything right.

Naturally, we can’t keep up with these perfectionistic expectations. We yell, we say things we regret, we snap at our kids, never understanding it’s because our expectations for ourselves aren’t allowing for imperfection.

If this sounds familiar, the fix isn’t more will power and discipline nor is it to beat yourself up. We want to LISTEN to the wild child. What does it need more of? What would feel joyful and playful to the wild child?

This isn’t an “angel and devil on the shoulders” scenario. Maintaining perfection isn’t part of being human so that goal will always create rebellion. Find some middle ground by asking “What emotion do I want to feel, no matter how my kid behaves?”

Supermom Power Boost – Becoming the watcher

A friend of mine described it best. She was in a hospital bed, having a severe allergic reaction to a medication. Her body was in anaphylactic shock and her brain was in psychosis.

As she lay there, she became aware of her body shutting down and her brain was spinning in crazy directions. Very calmly, she had the thought, “There’s a third thing”. My body is freaking out. My brain is in crazy town. But there’s a third thing. This part of me that can OBSERVE the other two things without attachment is very calm.

You don’t have to be in a life-threatening situation to become the watcher of your brain, we do it on every life coaching call.

When you become the watcher of your mind, you detach from the wild child and the dictator. You aren’t either one of those. You are the person who can observe them, watch them talk, argue, and fight but with detachment. It’s like being a scientist, just observing with curiosity, not buying into any story.

Learning to become the watcher of your brain and body is key to a peaceful, engaged life.

This is what meditation is all about. From the watcher position, you get to choose how to react when your kid talks back, what goals you want to pursue, whether you want to eat that candy or not.

Everything you want in life begins with becoming the watcher. Meditation, journal writing, life coaching, mindfulness all help develop this skill.

Quote of the day “Stepping back from the Dictator and the Wild Child and becoming the Watcher is like thinking you’ve been stuck on a railroad track, able to move only backward and forward, and discovering that you had the capacity to fly all along.”  Martha Beck

How to motivate your child

How to motivate your child in one simple step

Today’s “parent education” answer is a fabulous way to motivate any child or adult so keep listening even if today’s question isn’t reflective of your situation.

Today’s Question: “My son is quite smart and capable, but not motivated in school. He does his homework but forgets to turn it in. He could get top marks in his class but seems content with mediocrity. It bothers me that his grades don’t reflect what he’s capable of. How can I motivate my son to care more about his school performance?” Jen

Life Coaching answer: There is one simple thing parents can do to motivate their kids. There is also one thing that will BLOCK kid’s motivation that I think could become a problem for Jen here. Beware of attachment to ego.

When kids are little it’s not unusual for their success to feel like our success. Someone tells us how cute or polite our pre-schooler is, we say thank you. When our kids act out in public, or bite some other kid on the playground, we feel embarrassed. The line between where they end and where we begin, is blurred.

As they grow into their own person, it’s helpful to stop taking credit for their amazing-ness and stop blaming ourselves for their missteps, however tempting it may be. When our ego gets attached to their academic performance, their athletic performance, their drive or lack of it, we create a messy situation. Our ego will fight like crazy to stay in tact and often kids will sense our attachment to their success and deliberately sabotage themselves to take off the pressure and stay in control in their lives. When we can see them as a separate individuals, allowing them take credit for their successes AND failures, it keeps us sane. We have the privilege to guide our children but not steer their lives.

Parent Educator answer:

One day, I was on a road trip with my family, and my kids called from the backseat asking, “Mom, wanna play a game with us?”

I responded, “No thank you, I’m enjoying reading my book.”

“What book are you reading?” they asked?

“Oh, it’s a fascinating book, I’m absolutely loving it. It’s all about play and how it shapes the brain, opens the imagination and invigorates the soul.”

My astute kiddo responds, “So you would rather read a book about play than play a game with your children?”

I pause with stunned realization, knowing the answer is yes, but also aware of how strange that answer sounded. I WOULD rather read about play! Why? What was motivating me to choose reading my book, over playing game?

Luckily, Dr. Stuart Brown had the answer right in my hands.

What motivates anyone to do anything is emotions. We are driven to seek pleasure and avoid pain. It sounds like Jen’s son doesn’t get enjoyment out of turning in his homework, or seeing gold stars posted on the sticker chart. Jen, on the other hand, does enjoy that. She sounds like she is motivated by accolades, competition and identifying herself as a high achiever.

Emotions are crucial to motivation and the one simple step I’ve discovered to motivate kids, is to figure out what is their PLAY PERSONALITY.

Dr. Stuart Brown identified 8 distinct play personalities.

If you can figure out your child’s top 3 play personalities, you’ll have key insight into how to make things more fun, and therefore more motivating, for your child.

  1. The Joker  – Play revolves around nonsense, practical jokes, pranks, silliness.
  2. The Kinesthete – If I’m not moving, it’s not play.
  3. The Explorer – Goes to new places, discovers, learns and understands new things.
  4. The Competitor – Enjoys competing and keeping score, plays to win.
  5. The Collector – Enjoys collecting objects or experiences (can be social or solitary)
  6. The Artist/Creator – Joy is found in making things.
  7. The Storyteller – Imagination is the key to play. Movies, dance, acting, reading, etc.
  8. The Director – Enjoys planning and executing scenes and events. Loves being in charge and in the center of the social world.

 

The reason I enjoyed reading about play more than playing, is that my top play personality is that of explorer. I love traveling and seeing new places, but also learning and discovering what makes people tick.

Jen probably has competitor as one of her top 3. She cannot understand why her son wouldn’t be motivated to turn his homework in. He might be an explorer, more interested in the act of learning, than proving to anyone else what he has learned. To motivate him, she can tap into his play personality. If he’s a collector….for every paper he turns in, she’ll buy him something to add to his collection.

If he’s an artist/creator…..he could design a creative poster or method to remind himself to grab his homework before he leaves the house.

If he’s a storyteller, pretend his homework is the important key he needs to bring to school to open up the world to a new dimension, saving an entire species of alien beings. 

If he’s a kinesthete, hide the homework somewhere in the house and play a game of “you are getting warmer” in the morning before school.

The director can put his little sister in charge of his homework. The joker can attach a joke to his homework assignments for his teacher to read or “prank” her by doing his assignment upside down or backwards.

I think part of the way we stay attached to ego is by thinking our kids should do things the way we would do them. As we let go of our expectations, and learn to see our children as separate from us, it actually helps us grow closer to them.

Understanding your child’s play personality will help you motivate them, but also appreciate what a unique and wonderful person they are.

 

Supermom Kryptonite – valuing work over play

I’ve always loved working. As a teen I loved babysitting, waiting tables, garage sales, you name it. As a child, my favorite thing to “make believe” was playing store, bank, library or house. Today, I’d rather sell raffle tickets at the school auction than just mingle and socialize. But the reason I love working so much is because it feels like play to me.

When we value work, for the sake of work, without honoring our need to play, it’s like burning the candle at both ends. We use up twice as much energy trying to motivate ourselves. We can do it, because our ego values hard work & productivity but it’s a struggle on our soul.

Imagine a dog digging a hole to bury a bone. This dog is focused, intensely digging, not distracted by anything around him. It looks like he’s working hard and he is, but he is enjoying it. He’s doing work that he’s meant to do, that’s aligned with his essence, and so it feels like play. It requires physical effort, but not psychological or emotional effort. I think this is what work is supposed to be like for us, too.

I’m not a kinesthete. Ask me to do yard work or mop my floors and I will move at a snails pace, dragging my feet and complaining the whole time. UNLESS, I’ve got people coming over for a party or my girls summer camp and suddenly I’m full of energy. The director in me loves creating fun events for others. Be careful not to value work, over play. Use play to make work more fun and aligned with your highest self.

Supermom power boost – Step out of your routine

Stepping out of our normal routine encourages our brains into a more playful state. Life coaching encourages playful transformation because you take an hour a week to observe your life from the outside in, looking at what’s working and what isn’t. Getting a change of scenery can also help to offer a new perspective.

  • Getting swept away into a novel or spending time in nature are play states.
  • Attend a local cultural event for a holiday that is not one you are familiar with.
  • Learn to play a new game or understand a new sport.

Sometimes, stepping out of our routine is all we need to open ourselves up to our sense of play and imagination.

It is really common for Supermoms to lose their sense of play when there is so much work to be done. Stepping out of your routine, creating space for you, is a quick way to invigorate the soul and feel playful again. 

Quote of the day:What might seem like a frivolous or even childish pursuit is ultimately beneficial. It’s paradoxical that a little bit of ‘nonproductive’ activity can make one enormously more productive and invigorated in other aspects of life.” Dr. Stuart Brown