Attention seeking behavior

This Week’s Question: Attention Seeking Behavior

Hello Torie,

I recently found your podcast; thank you for providing such great information. I want to pick your brain about parenting a child who shows more attention seeking behavior than her siblings.

My middle child (a 9 year old) is constantly pointing out how life is unfair for her and how everyone else has it better. I try my best to be as “fair” as possible to each child. I also point out how even though it seems like everyone has it better than her, she actually has a lot to be grateful for as well (which I know doesn’t go over too well).  My other two kids are pretty laid back and compliant, so, in comparison, she seems more needy!

When she was younger, this would manifest as a lot of crying spells/meltdowns over seemingly insignificant things, which I know is normal, but her behavior was so unlike my other two.  She also tends to be the instigator when it comes to any sibling fights.
She will still say things like, “You don’t love me,” or “You don’t care about me,” and I tell her firmly that’s not the case (obviously!!). One common situation is that my youngest is very attached to me and will reach for my hand when we’re walking, so naturally, I oblige. But then my 9 year old will complain that I’m holding her sister’s hand instead of hers.
In the past, I’ve given her more attention and tried to make her feel special, but once I take away this attention, she melts down and seems to demand even more. She responds well to time together and one-on-one attention, but even then, it has to be on her terms (I have tried to initiate on my own, and she will be indifferent at times).
How do I balance the attention she needs versus the attention that she wants?
-Grace

attention seeking behavior

 

Parent Educator Answer:

This is a great question to talk about defining and accepting your child’s TEMPERAMENT.  Temperament refers to the different aspects of a personality.
Grace is calling this “attention seeking behavior” but sometimes when she gives her attention, it doesn’t work. What I’m hearing in this behavior is a temperament that is sensitive, dramatic, persistent, and intense.
The great thing about kids is that often they tell you exactly what they are thinking. Grace’s daughter genuinely believes that life is unfair. She thinks, at times, she isn’t loved or cared for as much as her siblings. She truly believes she is getting the short end of the stick.
There is nothing her mom can do about what her daughter chooses to believe. We cannot make people think differently (clearly she’s tried already to convince that she is loved and treated fairly).
There is no amount of attention mom can give her to make her think differently. She could spend 48 hours straight one on one time, come home, hold little sister’s hand, and she’d be right back to thinking, she doesn’t get enough love. So trying to get her to think differently, through words or actions, isn’t going to change her.
When a child is intense and dramatic, we tend to see them as powerful. They seem so strong and capable, we get annoyed that they don’t act differently. We tend to match their intense energy, yelling, and putting in the time out. This is why I’d like to add the word “sensitive” to describe Grace’s daughter’s temperament.
She’s been having meltdowns since she was little. She struggles to feel safe and loved. Her brain easily goes to a fear response. Nobody acts their best when scared. We don’t know why she was made this way, it’s no one’s fault, the world needs all kinds of people.
Thinking about having a sensitive child helps us slow down, quiet our voice, lower our posture, speak softly and kindly. When her emotions overwhelm her, her brain goes into fight or flight. Our goal as parents to help her shift out of fear so she can access the logical, calmer parts of her brain. She cannot get there on her own.
We don’t have to agree with what she is saying to calmly validate what she is feeling. “I understand you feel like nobody loves you. You feel jealous of the attention I’m giving your sister. It’s hard for you to believe that you get as much as your siblings.”
Think about if you truly believed you weren’t loved by your mom. How would you feel?  It would be so scary to be a 9-year-old kid thinking your mom doesn’t love you or she cares more about your siblings than you. Even though we know it’s not true, she thinks, at that moment, that it is. She’s terrified. So she screams, yells, and fights for love and attention.
If you were to come to her, get down on her level, touch her, use a calm voice, repeat what you hear her saying, it would calm her down. It would also make it hard for her to believe you don’t love her when you are clearly making her feel seen, heard, and felt.
We cannot make our kids think differently but we can help them feel seen, heard, and felt. In a nutshell, that’s all we really want.

Life Coaching Answer:

I remember talking with my parenting coach and having this huge a-ha. I was embarrassed because I was supposed to be this “parenting expert” and yet I was pulling my hair out with trying to understand my strong-willed four-year-old. But I sucked it up and hired a coach and I’m so glad I did! The lightbulb went on when I realized, “It’s her TEMPERAMENT”.
Arguing with her temperament was like arguing with God. This is how she was wired, who am I to think she should be different than she is? From that day on, once I accepted her rebellious, strong-willed, non-people-pleasing personality, life got so much easier!
What gets in our way when we see a difficult personality trait in our kids, is the belief that we can change them. This will exhaust and frustrate us. It’s not our job to change their personality, but to work with it and appreciate them FOR their personalities.
I think Grace is doing this. She sees the value in her daughter’s strong will, but she’s arguing thinking she “shouldn’t act this way” or “If I was a more attentive mom she wouldn’t behave this way.” This will just anger her and make her tired.
Trying to control something we have no control over will drive us crazy. Personality is something we cannot control. A good question to ask yourself is: “How can I be a great mom to a kid who is sensitive, intense, and scared?
Imagine there is another kid like yours out there in the world. Let’s say she’s having a meltdown at a park. She is saying, “You don’t love me” to her mom. You are watching this scene and thinking, “Wow, that mom is a really great mom.”
You are totally impressed at how she is handling her daughter’s meltdown. Imagine what she is doing? What is she saying? What energy or emotion is she rooted in?
The reason our children’s personalities bug us is because of how WE FEEL AND ACT when they annoy us. We don’t like that our kids can turn us into yelling, out of control, crazy people!
If we got to be the PARENT we wanted to be, their behavior wouldn’t bother us. We try to control their behavior so that we can act like a good parent. This doesn’t work so well. Putting the focus on OUR feelings and behavior works much better. You get to decide how YOU feel and behave, regardless of how your child acts.
Focusing on controlling the one thing you have control over will feel much more empowering.

Supermom Kryptonite – Therapy

I believe one of the reasons we live in a culture of perfectionistic parenting is because of therapy. You’ve got a whole generation of women who went to therapists and learned all the things our parents did wrong.
A common goal of therapy is to take you back to childhood situations where you didn’t receive what you needed and give you the compassion and empathy that you needed at that time. It works. It feels healing and healthy.
But the side effect of it is an entire generation of women who have learned that there is a right way and wrong way to parent. We learn that doing the wrong thing can have devastating consequences and cause pain to our children.
If we are to be good parents, we need to always say and do the right things and prevent our kids from experiencing negative emotion. Therapists don’t say this, it’s just a side effect of the therapy model.
Children are going to experience negative emotion. Parents are going to yell, mess up and say the wrong thing. There is no way that any parent can do everything right. The reason I like life coaching so much, is you learn how much control you actually have.
No parent, spouse, or child has the power to make you feel anything you don’t want to feel. It gives you permission to be imperfect, but still strive to do your best. Accepting the things you have no control over, like your child’s temperament, helps you relax and enjoy things as they are.

Therapist vs Life Coach

There is a time and a place for therapy so since I just bagged on it, let me tell you where I see the value.
Therapy was based on the premise that a client is mentally and emotionally unwell, and it’s a therapist’s job to bring them up to a state of wellness.
Life Coaching works with the assumption that a client is already mentally and emotionally healthy and stable, they just want to feel better, change something up, go after a goal, settle into a new identity, etc.
People hire life coaches to help them with parenting, career, relationships, creative pursuits, athletic pursuits, entrepreneurial pursuits, etc.

Supermom Powerboost – Therapy

A client is better served by a therapist when they have experienced trauma and they’ve never spoken about it. Whether this trauma was during childhood or adulthood, it’s so helpful to tell your story to a compassionate witness. To revisit this traumatic story, once or twice, talk to someone without judgement.
A therapist helps you identify the emotions you felt and interpret the trauma in a way that is empowering. It can be hard to move forward in life without this, so it really can serve an important and helpful role.
Once you have told the story of your trauma to a compassionate witness and processed the emotions of the event, repeating that story again can actually keep you stuck in the past. Life coaching is more present and future-focused.
I don’t care so much about what happened in your past, but about how those events might be impacting your future and getting in the way of creating a life you want.
If you feel like it’s time to “open this can of worms” and finally speak out loud about something that has haunted you for a long time, find a therapist in your area. You won’t get a boost of energy right away, but over time, cleaning up the past will help you feel more energized about your future.
If you don’t have a trauma that needs verbalizing and you just want to feel better, try life coaching.  If you’ve already been to therapy and you want your life to continue to get better and more aligned with your higher self, go to www.LifeCoachingforParents.com/work-with-me
Quote of the Day is the Alcoholics Anonymous Serenity Prayer. I always thought this was a perfect fit for parenting.
“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” 

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

Managing May craziness without overwhelm

Question of the Day – Feeling Overwhelmed

“I feel so overwhelmed with the “end of school year” craziness.

I’ve got 3 little kids and their 3 teachers are asking so many things of me: bring $5 for a field trip, send brownies for a party, send in a baby picture for kinder-graduation, black pants for the performance, flower and card for teacher appreciation, and on and on.

Not to mention the end-of-year gifts for the teacher, my son’s birthday, my niece’s high school graduation AND requests for my TIME! I’m supposed to volunteer at the festival, watch the end of year performance, and chaperone the field trip?!?!

My brain is ready to explode! This is all fun stuff so I feel guilty complaining, but how the heck do people manage the May crazies without getting overwhelmed?”     – Lindsay

 

Parent Educator Answer: Feeling Overwhelmed

I remember feeling exactly the same way when my kids were little. I was out walking my dog one December feeling totally overwhelmed with trying to remember all the things I had to do.

I ran into my neighbor who had 5 KIDS, was homeschooling 3 of them, and was very involved with church activities. Surely, she could relate to my struggle of feeling overwhelmed trying to manage the details of many lives.

I said, “You must be going crazy, too, trying to remember all the details, celebrations, gifts and events with 5 kids! How are you not overwhelmed?”

A Lot of Lists

She looked at me contemplatively and calmly replied, “Well, I have a lot of lists.

The most common cause of overwhelm during busy months like May and December is trying to hold too many things in your head at one time.

Writing everything down gets it all out of your head so you don’t have to “try to remember.”

If you trust yourself to check your lists and follow through, this (theoretically) frees up your brain so you don’t have to hold too many things in your head at one time.

It’s like having too many browser tabs open on your computer at one time. Sometimes the computer can’t process it all and it slows down and starts taking forever to load. It needs extra time to process everything.

When we have too many thoughts in our head, we also begin to slow down and become less productive. 

Writing things down is like closing some of those browser windows so there are fewer things to think about it.

If you do have a lot of lists and you still feel overwhelmed, take it three steps further:

  1. Break things into categories. Everything you need to buy can be compiled into one list rather than making multiple trips. All phone calls get done at one time.
  2. Write how long you think each task will take. Sometimes we procrastinate on things we really don’t want to do, but when you realize that one email you don’t want to write will only take 5 minutes, it makes it seem less daunting and you get it done with more easily.
  3. Choose a date and time on your calendar to complete it. Putting it on the calendar will help you see your schedule and how much time you actually have.

The list looks like this:

  1. Buy 13 toys for the preschool summer fun basket. (40 min. Tuesday @ 7:00pm)
  2. Have Sophie make a card for her teacher. (10 min. Sunday @ 2:00pm)
  3. Buy fruit and make a fruit platter for end of year party. (60 min. Thursday @ 8:00pm)

All you need to do is check your calendar and obey it. If someone asks, “Can you drive kids to the park for field day?” You will know if you can or cannot by looking at your calendar.

Life Coaching answer: What To Do When Overwhelmed

What gets in the way from implementing this tried and true method for reducing overwhelm? Perfectionism.

I have not encountered an overwhelmed mom yet who did not have some sort of perfectionism (myself included). Inside our heads, it sounds something like this:

  1. “I have to do everything right.”
  2. “I should do everything they are asking me to do.”
  3. “I need to contribute and do my part.”
  4. “I need to be there for my kids.”
  5. “I can’t forget anything.”

Everything that makes us such reliable, responsible Supermoms overwhelms us when too many external expectations are put upon us. It all seems equally urgent and important!

Why can’t we be one of those moms who just “phones it in” and doesn’t stress?

Because we are not kind to ourselves if we drop the ball.

“Oh my gosh, I’m such an idiot, I can’t believe I forgot the coach’s gift!”

“Every other kid had their baby picture. I’m such a terrible mother!”

“What is wrong with me? How could I forget the baseball banquet? I’m such a loser.”

Other moms can drop the ball occasionally because they are quick to forgive themselves when they do.

What keeps us feeling crazy and overwhelmed? The fear of WHAT we are going to say to OURSELVES, about ourselves, when we screw up.

To feel more calm and more in control, you’ve got to commit to being nice to yourself no matter what. Practice saying things like this:

  • “Oh well, no big deal.”
  • “I’ve contributed plenty this year already.”
  • “I give myself permission to drop the ball”

 

Not only will you feel calmer and more clear headed, but you will be modeling for your kids how to let go of perfectionism and forgive yourself for being an ordinary human.

No doubt about it, you are a Supermom; but trying to be perfect in May and December can be too much. Sometimes you just need to hang up the cape.

 

Supermom Kryptonite: 

Trying not to drop any balls. Picture a juggler with 5 balls in the air. He focuses; whole body tense.

He might smile and talk, but he can’t really relax. Most of his attention has to stay on juggling those 5 balls. Now imagine he is juggling these balls for 12 hours a day. EXHAUSTING.

Give yourself permission to drop some balls. Decide ahead of time which balls to drop or just commit to being kind to yourself when the inevitable ball drops.

You are not perfect, you are human, and human beings forget things, flake, and make mistakes.

Supermom Powerboost: 

When we are exhausted, overwhelmed, and crazy, we just need to be with people who understand us.

The Holderness Family does a great job of laughing at the craziness that comes with modern-day parenting.

They are famous YouTubers who make funny videos that make us crazy Supermoms feel seen, heard, and felt.

Their recent Maycember video is today’s Supermom Powerboost. Watch the video, have a laugh, and know that you are not alone. I’ll include a link in the show notes and my Facebook Page, Life Coaching for Parents.

Quote of the Day:

“Imperfections are not inadequacies. They are a reminder that we are all in this together.” Brene Brown

What’s the best way to spend Mother’s Day?


Join me for the 7-day Supermom Challenge and reconnect with yourself and your essence!

I feel so silly asking this but it’s really weighing on my mind! What should I do for mother’s day? I know it’s MY DAY to do whatever I want to do, but I can’t figure it out. Every idea I have feels exhausting. I thought I would invite both grandma’s over for a family celebration but I can’t seem to commit to it. Going out to a restaurant with my kids and long wait times sounds terrible. I’m afraid to lose my one day a year where I have permission to be selfish if I don’t pick something soon! -Erin

I don’t think this is a silly question AT ALL. I actually think it’s a very important one and one that will show up every birthday and mother’s day. The big milestone birthdays can be especially difficult because there is extra pressure to make it spectacular.

 

Life Coaching Answer:

As I read your question, I’m wondering if you feel like you lost yourself in parenting?

Our wants and desires are key to the essence of who we are. It’s difficult to answer the question, “What do I want?” when we have disconnected from spirit.

Here are some signs that you have disconnected from your spirit:

You feel tired a lot.

You go through the motions of the day, without feeling fully engaged and alive.

You feel lonely and confused.

You’ve tried to solve your problems but it doesn’t change how you feel.

You can tell me what your kids want, your husband wants, your mother in law wants, but struggle to answer the question, “What do I want?”

Reconnecting with your essence is easier than you might think but it helps to understand how you lost the connection in the first place.

How often do your kids ask, “What do you want to do today, mom?” “What do you feel like eating?” “What outfit would you like to wear?” “What did you learn today, Mom?” “Did you have fun at the grocery store?”

The people you are with the most, stopped asking you what you want. So you stopped asking yourself that question.

I love that Erin is asking the question “What do I want to do for mother’s day?”

Unfortunately, it’s tied in with pressure and scarcity so she feels like she has to pick the perfect thing for her, her family, and suck it up for the rest of the year.

You deserve more than ONE day of the year to think about what you want!

When we aren’t giving enough attention to our spirit, we may inadvertently put unrealistically high expectations on this ONE-day event.

It’s easy to slip into thinking this one needs to be perfectly rejuvenating, inexpensive, make everyone happy and bring me back to feeling like myself again.

Let’s throw the perfectionism out the window!

I suggest you declare another day just for you to remove this scarcity around mother’s day.

I always tried to switch father’s day with mother’s day in my family. The golf courses are packed on father’s day but empty on mother’s day so we go against the tide and swap them. We’ll hit a day spa on father’s day and enjoy the absence of crowds, but you have to be careful.

Moms that are good at self-sacrificing and putting everyone else’s needs first, need to watch out for the temptation to skip over their day altogether. If you hear your brain saying, “I can skip it” or “I don’t really need it”, don’t believe it! 

Claim your day, set aside some money, know that resistance might come up but don’t allow it to take over. Then start fantasizing about what you really, really want.

Look around you. Everything you see around you began in someone’s imagination. Your job is to let go of rules, fears, and just dwell in your imagination.

What would you do if you could not care what people thought?

What would you do if you had a day to yourself and nobody knew it?

What if you had no fears and endless cash?Celebrating Mother's Day for Supermoms

If you hear your brain saying “That could never happen” or “I can’t afford that”, tell it to relax, you are just dreaming as a way to reconnect with your essence.

Children are constantly in transition, which means that our needs as parents are constantly in transition, too.

When they are babies, we just want sleep.

When they are pre-school age, we just want our own attention.

When they are angsty teens we might crave more joy and peace. What do you crave? order? calm? nature? adventure?

One year for mother’s day I was craving productivity and quiet time by myself. So much of my life was spent in circular tasks that never gave me a sense of actual accomplishment.

I sent my family away from the house for 5 hours and painted the dining room. It was so fun. Just me, my thoughts, my music, my aesthetic with a very tangible result I could look at every day.

Write out your fantasy mother’s day in your journal and give yourself permission to want whatever the heck you want. No judgment. No expectation. 

Supermom Kryptonite: Maximising

In 1956, prize-winning economist, Herbert A. Simon wrote a paper about the different ways people make buying decisions. He coined the terms “Maximiser” and “Satisficer”.

Maximisers expect themselves to make the most informed, intelligent decisions with the most long lasting benefits.

Most of us would expect that “maximizing” one’s decision making would lead to superior and more satisfying results. Psychologists, however, have discovered no difference in the quality of decision but a big difference in one’s ability to be content with their decisions.

Maximisers are more likely to struggle with making a decision and then beat themselves up afterward if it proves to be less than ideal.

Putting pressure on themselves to make perfect decisions with the most long lasting benefits, drains their energy by making us avoiding decision making altogether.

In Erin’s scenario, she may be trying to “maximise” her mother’s day experience by putting too many expectations on one day.

She wants to tap into her essential self and use this day to reconnect with what she wants, but she also wants to make the grandmas happy, and not be perceived as “selfish”.

Supermom Powerboost: Satisficing

Simon combined the words “satisfy” with “sufficing” to coin the term satisficing. A “satisficer” is one who looks at what they want to gain (or maintain) and chooses based on modest criteria.

They don’t feel pressured to make a perfect decision with long lasting benefits, they just want it to be good enough for right now.

“Satisficers” find contentment with what they have and don’t worry that there might be something else better out there.

What researchers have found is that “satificers” are generally happier than “maximisers”.

They have an easier time making decisions, don’t beat themselves up afterward for making “bad” decisions, (they don’t even label decisions as good or bad!) and don’t dwell in negative emotions like buyer’s remorse.

They make decisions based on what they want at the time, and allow their wants to change over time.

Becoming more of a satificer will boost your energy, your happiness and your decision making abilities.

Making decisions based on what is good enough for you right now, requires you to KNOW what it is you WANT.

This is an easy thing to lose when you are a busy mama, but that’s why it’s the first step towards claiming a day just for you.

Quote of the Day

“Knowing that you’ve made a choice that you will not reverse allows you to pour your energy into improving the relationship that you have rather than constantly second-guessing it.”

Barry Schwartz, The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less

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