Archive | Parenting

Mom survives serious teen slob years and lives to tell the tale!

Amy Walker's messy teenDoes your pushing, coaxing and forcing your teen to clean up after herself fall on deaf ears?

When my son leaves a slue messes in his wake it can be downright maddening!

When you spill milk, wipe up after yourself, who do you thinks going to do it? What’s the dirty laundry doing on the floor? It’s no wonder you can’t find any clean socks, your dirty ones are scattered throughout the house!

Unfortunately these “helpful reminders” do little to change his behavior.

My nagging is driven by two fears…

  1. the fear that this kid will grow into an unemployed, slovenly 40 year old,
  2. the fear that I’m raising an entitled kid who thinks, “why should I look for my socks when magically another pair will appear in my drawer?

In today’s story, Tammy, school principal, parenting educator, and parent, shares what she learned as a result of her battles with her perennially messy daughter.

MessyTeenRoomTammy’s story:

My daughter Natasha has no issue with living in a messy room.

However, I do, so we made an agreement, years ago, that Sunday would be her cleanup day.

I found myself getting upset and refusing to enter her untidy room to say goodnight or even hangout with her.

She’d say, Mom, I’m internally organized so it doesn’t bother me to be a mess externally.

I told her it bothers me, and the rest of the family, so we need a plan to address the group’s desire for organization.

For the past four years, I’d go into Natasha’s room on Sunday mornings and ask her, what’s your plan for cleaning your room today?

Her response was usually, I’ll get to it eventually, or I’m on it. But there’d be no signs of movement.

On a good day I’d say something like, would you like me to help you get started? or I have faith in you to get it done.

She’d respond, I like doing it myself, or thanks for believing in me Mom. Five hours later she’d still be cleaning her room – looking pretty miserable.

On these so called “good” days while I wasn’t effective at motivating her, I wasn’t pushing her away.

On other days – let’s call them the bad days – I’d go into my mommy tirade and say things like, “how can you live in this pigsty?” “It’s disgusting in here!”

Here’s why her messy room was painful for our entire family.

My negative energy put the entire family on edge – they’d slink away into their own worlds for fear of crossing paths with my anger.

The unspoken truth was that my tornado of frustration and anger was far worse then her the physical mess.

One day it struck me that I was the one who needed to change.  I couldn’t MAKE her do anything so I backed off as best I could.

Then it happened – one Sunday morning was different. She woke up, had breakfast, cleaned and organized her room in an hour and had the rest of the day to read, play, do homework, paint pumpkins, go with me to the market, etc. I hadn’t said a word to her because by the time I peeked into her room, she was already in motion.

It dawned on me that this is how growth happens – for me it was a slow process – for her it seemed to happen overnight!

First what changed was me and what followed was a chance for Natasha to grow, at her own pace. I would like to think that our positive communication, over the years, those good days, helped to motivate her to finally clean her room on her own but I’ll never know for sure.

Whatever clicked for Natasha wasn’t as important as what clicked for me: I can’t “make her” do anything, but I can certainly encourage her and maintain a respectful way of communicating while she learns. It’s the process in which she learned how to care for her own things that mattered not the urgency for her to learn on my time line.

Back on that day when I saw her room was clean, I was shocked to say the least but tried to play it cool. I looked at her with a knowing, loving smile and said, “I notice you got your room clean today…how’s it feel?”

She looked so proud of herself and said simply, “If feels great!”


When you find yourself freaking out that your teen is a slob and fear they’ll still be one at 64, remember Tammy’s story. Being human, Tammy reacted in anger sometimes AND sometimes she was able, through self-awareness, to step back.

To me, it’s a testament to having faith in our kids.

There’s no magic fairy dust to MAKE them adopt your priorities. Your most powerful tool is CONNECTION.

Recommendations to foster and maintain your connection with your teen:

  1. Treat her with respect and when you don’t feel respected – as calmly as you can let her know you will speak with her at another time when she can be respectful – leave the room to give yourself breathing room.
  2. Apologize when you’re off your game, modeling that even you make mistakes so she can more readily admit and take responsibility for her mistakes.
  3. Take opportunities to connect – even when it feels inconvenient.
  4. Use light humor to keep power struggles at bay.

Recommendations to survive teen slob years:

  1. Create boundaries so that the mess is confined to your teens room.
  2. Allow nature to take it’s course – don’t rescue her when items are lost, dirty, etc.
  3. Take time to train your adolescent to do her own laundry – this way her entire clothing cycle is her responsibility and even better, you can have empathy when her favorite shirt is dirty.
  4. Remember that your child has different priorities than you do and that that is a good thing!

When you do your best to model what you value; respect, connection, and in this case, tidiness and communication – you’ll more likely see these qualities bloom, in their own way and time, in your developing adolescent.

What power struggle are you currently having? Share in the comment section below what you learned here that will support you.

If you haven’t already done so, join me on this journey!

Wanna talk? Schedule a time here.

2

Stop pretending to listen to your kids… they know you’re not.

I have a confession.

When my daughter asks me if I like Elsa or Anna better, my eyes glaze over. (In case you don’t live in my universe, they’re characters from Disney’s latest blockbuster, Frozen.)

Seriously, I don’t care, much less have an opinion.

I must’ve nodded off at a pivotal moment of character development. I wasn’t paying attention.

Yes, I admit it. Tuning into to my child’s frequency is sometimes a real challenge.

Apparently, I’m not the only one.

IMG_0309A mom in my last parenting series described a similar scene: Denise and her 5 year-old daughter, Tanya, were in the car. Tanya loves to weave a tale – especially when she’s got a captive audience! So, she started in on one of her detailed stories and after a minute, Denise tuned out and started with an auto pilot response of a ha, a ha, aha, in an unconscious attempt to convey listening to Tanya.

Tanya stopped, mid sentence.

You’re using your pretend voice mommy.

It’s humbling how kids NAIL IT. Count on your kid to expose, with raw precision, whatever it is you feel you’re “hiding”.

Have you been caught using your “pretend voice?”

Has your child let you know, in so many words, when you’re out to lunch?

Note: as they grow and become accustomed to your shenanigans, they’ll stop talking if they don’t feel listened to.

Denise told Tanya she was sorry and that indeed she wasn’t listening – [validating Tanya’s feelings] please start again at the beginning because I want to really pay attention to what you’re saying.

Here’re 3 tips for listening… even when the topic may not enthrall you.

  1. Contain the conversation so you have a fighting chance to earnestly listen.

Your kids will get the message you’re listening when you put distractions away. Phone in a drawer, laptop out of sight and T.V. off (so passé).

Make eye contact. Remember the term undivided attention? That’s what we’re after here. And yes, it’s no wonder we struggle with the ADHD epidemic when there’s a host of devices beeping to grab your attention.

  1. Clear the clutter from your mind. Sure, sounds good but what does mind clutter look like and how do you clear it?

I’m referring to those great ideas that pop up when someone’s telling you a story and you’re just waiting for a space to open so you can share your brilliant thought.

We’ve all been there.

Set your brilliant ideas (aka clutter) aside and imagine your mind is a clear blue sky, or whatever vast image inspires you. Mindfulness anyone?

  1. Curiosity creates a bridge. Although I might not be interested in Elsa and Anna, when I muster the curiosity about her question and it’s answer, I’m building a bridge between us. Of course it’s not about the characters but the qualities that she most admires and why.

Another option for Denise would have been to acknowledge that the container wasn’t ideal …“Honey Pie, you’re right, I wasn’t paying close attention. I’m sorry. Could you save that story for me when we get home because it’s hard for me to concentrate on two things at once and I’m focused on safe driving right now.”

When we truly L*I*S*T*E*N we get the juicy goods. We learn so much about what makes our children tick.

Sure, there’s plenty of tedious stuff too, but the juicy stuff is there. Just waiting for you to hear it :).

And in case you’re curious, my daughter likes Elsa better because she’s “not clumsy” and she’s got magic freezing powers! I hear that….

When do you find it difficult to listen to your child? Do you notice other times when it’s easy? Please share your thoughts in the comments below!

If you haven’t already done so, join me on this journey!

Wanna talk? Schedule a time here.

0

Kids and Chores: Why Giving Up (and Giving In) Hurts Everyone

Let’s face it. Most kids today  s–l—i—-d—–e  when it comes to contributing.

You go through the motions of assigning chores, but most of us find that it’s just easier to do them ourselves. Especially if the alternative is to beg, cajole and demand that they take out the recycling, take out the recyclingtake out the recycling!

Who can blame you? Why bother? It’s painful all the way around.

Here’s what I learned during supper with my Granny. From my vantage point, she’s not your average centenarian.

Sure, it’s the middle of summer and she’s wearing her blue wool sweater. But she’s got ALL her wits. — Only her hearing and sight are diminished.

granny photo with Sonja

Granny reading with my daughter

At 103, she’s a beauty with a blunt white bob, light blue eyes and a genuine interest in others that permeates every conversation.

She loves to ask about details. And she’s interested in mine.

On this occasion I made a conscious effort to ask her the questions… at least one.

Dinner with Granny

Due to her hearing loss, a snippet of our conversation (in a dining room full of people) went like this…

GRANNY, I’M STILL TEACHING PARENTING CLASSES.

Won-der-ful! (her pronunciation deliberate and bright)

I’M CURIOUS ABOUT YOUR EXPERIENCE AS A MOM. AFTER 78 YEARS OF PARENTING, WHAT WOULD YOU SAY WAS THE MOST IMPORTANT LESSON? 

I really don’t recall (she waves her hand and shakes her head as if that’s too far back to remember)… but mother and father (she’s referring to her parents) did a marvelous job.

WHAT DID THEY DO THAT WAS SO MARVELOUS? 

(She pauses for a few moments to consider before answering) I was allowed to help with a lot of things. We didn’t have any help so we were the help.

She grew up in a modest, hard working immigrant family in Perth Amboy, New Jersey. Her mother from Denmark, her father from Norway and she the youngest, by far, of 3 and the only girl to boot. She said her brothers always teased her saying she was favored.

So when she says she was allowed to help, she means it – she felt special sitting beside her mother making and mending clothes, weaving rugs, cooking meals, planting vegetables in the garden, etc.

Granny is a practical woman. Learning useful skills that enabled her to contribute to the wellbeing of her family was deeply satisfying.

Our conversation went on, she acknowledged how proud I must be of my growing children – my voice echoing throughout the dining room.

It’s that simple.

I’m struck by the power of a sense of usefulness to withstand the test of time. With love and caring as a cornerstone, Granny’s sense of being a useful member of the family is paramount in her childhood memories.

I know I struggle to get my kids involved in day to day housework. You and I both know, it’s so much easier to just do it ourselves!

Over dinner last summer Granny reminded me of just how worthwhile that effort is.

My story

Yesterday I had laundry that needed to be unloaded, carried, sorted and put away. Seven year-old S. was in a bit of a snit after-school and I knew asking her to help with this relatively light task could easily back fire and become an unpleasant battle.

Here’s what happened:

Me: I’m going to get the laundry – you can come give me a hand or meet me to fold it in my room.

She didn’t say anything but scurried along beside me (things are looking good!)

I took towels out of the drier.

Me: How many can you carry?

She got silly.

S: Mommy, put them all on my head, I CAN DO IT!

I played along for a bit and then just grabbed a few towels so that she could see as she walked, covered in towels, to our room.

In my bedroom she watched as I began folding clothes and towels and stacking them on my bed.

Me: How about you take alike things and put them away in your drawers – like this stack of pants?

S: Okay. (Miraculously she purposefully takes a few trips, arms fully loaded, and then decides it would be interesting to switch with me and be the folder)

We went on like this until the task was complete – all clothes and towels folded and put away. This is a minor miracle – usually things get put away over the course of a day or two – often clothes take the most direct route – basket to body).

Here are four fundamentals to keep in mind to increase your odds of success when encouraging kids to pitch in:

  1. Do house work WITH your kids – side by side if they are 7 and under. When they’re young they still love doing most every task with you so use that to your advantage while you still can!
  2. Shift your focus from getting the job done perfectly to seeing it as an opportunity to be together teaching your child life lessons/skills.
  3. Take time for training. With younger kids this means methodically doing a task together, with older children it means using a specific list of ”to do’s”, rather than a vague “clean up the playroom.”
  4. Hold the jobs lightly. While follow through is extremely important, you’ll win more cooperation by saying “I notice the dog looks hungry,” rather than demanding, “Rachel, feed the dog right now!”

Let’s brainstorm specific jobs kids can help with around the house. I hope this list encourages you in this challenging and wildly worthwhile parenting responsibility.

Here’s a list by age:

My daughter cleaning up a spill

My daughter cleaning up a spill

2 to 3

  • put toys away
  • feed pets
  • wipe up spills
  • put dirty clothes in hamper

4 to 6
the list from above plus

  • unload clean flatware from dishwasher
  • weed
  • water plants
  • set house alarm
  • bring in mail 
  • help prepare meals
  • scramble eggs

    My niece preparing apples for crisp

    My niece preparing apples for crisp

7 to 10

the lists from about plus

  • vacuum
  • help make and pack lunch
  • help do laundry
  • help load/unload dishwasher
  • help grocery shop
  • help make dinner (apple pie)
  • take pet for walk
  • make toast

10 to 13

the lists from above plus

  • fold and put away laundry
  • wash car
  • wash windows
  • babysit younger siblings
  • take out garbage & recycling
  • garden tasks
  • run walkable/bikeable errands

14 and up

I’m helping Granny make her famous apple pie crust!

the list from above plus

  • grocery shopping
  • cooking full meals for family
  • extended sibling sitting
  • transporting siblings and running errands in car

Being allowed to contribute has an impact that lasts a life-time.

I’ve only scratched the surface with these ideas. Please share yours in the comment section below and help grow these lists…and in doing so – help us all have more satisfied families!

If you haven’t already done so, join me on this journey!

Wanna talk? Schedule a time here.

4

4 Ways to Fix “If you’re not in the car in 1 minute I’m leaving without you!”

It’s a typical morning, nothing out of the ordinary.

The boys haven’t brushed their teeth and I’m yelling, BRUSH! And then Get your rears in the car NOW.

It feels like we do this every. Single. Day.

When I get in the car, I feel like a real heel – this isn’t how I want my boys to get off to school in the morning. Yelling let’s go, let’s go, let’s gooooo! – Probably isn’t the most inspirational start to their day.

traffic-sign-6756_640Sound familiar? Are bells ringing? Would you prefer mornings with your kids be fueled by calm cooperation instead of high-volume threats, pleas and crazy-making?

I promise, it IS possible. Read on!

Introducing… the Conversation Guides Series – the first of which – Morning Departure Guide: Practice scripts for parents, so that getting out of the house is a wee-bit easier – is available starting today! And it’s my gift to you 🙂

Quick story about how I got the idea for scripts. In a recent parenting class I was role-playing a conversation, between a parent and teen, using Positive Discipline tools. The teenager, played by a parent volunteer, was forgetting to take out the garbage. (Been there?)

As our demo came to an end, an observing parent vigorously raised her hand, “You were going really fast just then and I’m not sure what happened but it sounded awesome. Could you go through it again but this time slowly so I can understand?”

I’ve fashioned these scripts to support you – they’re like training wheels to get you over that bumpy patch in the road. At first, they may feel a little stiff or clunky – just like training wheels – but it’s worth giving them a try. Especially if you leave the house in the morning shaking your head (or crying), wondering why parenting is so darn hard.

The Conversation Guide slows down the parent child interaction. Think of it as parenting in slow motion, word by word, so you can rewind at any time.

It’s true, there are many ways to parent that fit with the Positive Discipline principles. My hope is that the four approaches I’ve offered here give you confidence to find your own genuine parenting voice. One that’s both kind and firm – respectful of your child and yourself.

Okay, back to my morning with the boys… what could I have done differently? Let’s see what happens when I ask a question instead of yelling demands at them.

“Guys, what do you need to do before you get in the car for school?” They actually mumble “brush our teeth…”

“Yes, great, I’ll meet you in the car when you’re done.”

Does that sound too easy? With enough repetition, time and the resulting trust, it works.

And if you get zero response to your question – or just eye-rolling – you can calmly let them know you’ve decided to wait in the car until they’re ready (take a good book so you’re doing something pleasurable while you serenely wait).

I know what you’re thinking, if I’m not yelling at them, they’ll never come and then we’ll all be late!  Believe me, when you leave the house, the wind will leave their sails.

The two keys are:

  1. You follow through with what you say you’re going to do – this builds trust
  2. You remain calm, cool and collected – trust x 100

CONSIDERSHAREACT

What get’s in your way of having that calm morning you so desire?

What’s worked for you?

What gets in the way of you practicing these scripts? Share in a comment below so we can learn from each other.

If you haven’t already done so, join me on this journey!

Wanna talk? Schedule a time here.

2

Winning Genuine Cooperation by Showing Empathy and Validating Feelings

You know those times when you’ve just got to get your child to do something important (go to the doctor, to swim class, the dentist…) and she/he refuses to cooperate? Then you think, “Why can’t they just get with the program this one time? Why does everything have to be so hard?”

Well, let me introduce Susan, mother of 9 year-old Alex, and a recent graduate of my 7-week parenting class. In this story, Susan shares the remarkable shift that happens when she uses tools she learned in the series. Without giving too much away, here are the two conversations (with very different outcomes) between Susan and Alex:

BEFORE taking Positive Discipline Class

Susan:  “Hey Alex, Dad and I forgot to tell you – Swim lessons start today, so you need to get ready to go.”

Alex: (Playing with Legos) “What? I don’t want swim lessons! You know I hate lessons!”

Susan:  “Alex, learning how to swim is really important – it’s about safety.”(Susan begins to feel angry and thinks, “What’s so hard about going to swim class? Swimming is great. This should be fun. Why is it so difficult?”)

Alex:  “I don’t want to.”(He starts to crush his elaborate Lego creations). “I’m not going.”(He sits defiantly on the couch.)

Susan: “Swim lessons are a privilege, young man. That’s enough of your whining. Stop it. Now!”

Alex:  “You never ask me what I want – I HATE YOU!”

Susan: (Thinking… “I hate this. I hate how hard it is to motivate my son. Forget it, I give up.”) She stomps off to another room to grab the swim gear.

Susan: “We paid for this class. Now get up and get to the car!”

Susan and Alex are both miserable and swim lesson does not go well.  

Sound familiar?

AFTER taking Positive Discipline Class

Susan:  (Taking some time beforehand to prepare herself.) “Hey Alex, Dad and I forgot to tell you but you’ve got swim lessons today. I’m really sorry that we’re springing this on you, but we gotta go now. I’ve got your swim gear and a snack for the car.”

Susan held up these two cards - Validating Feelings was where she experienced the most growth

“Both of these Positive Discipline Tool Cards were key.  I feel I learned the most about the power of validating feelings!

Alex:  “What? I don’t want swim lessons!  You know I hate lessons!”

Susan: “Honey, you only have to go four times and we found a new place where there are fewer kids so you’ll be able to hear better.” (She shows remorse for not giving him any warning and feels empathy for him, knowing that while he hates lessons, he actually loves to swim.)

Alex:  “I don’t want to!” (He starts to crush his Lego creations.) “I’m not going.” (Alex plops himself defiantly on the couch.)

Susan: “Alex, sweetie, I know this is upsetting, but destroying your Legos is not OK. You can hit a pillow if you’re angry.” (She allows him to express his feelings. She calmly and firmly tells Alex that swim lessons are something he just needs to do. Susan uses only one or to sentences instead of lecturing him.)

(Alex violently hits the pillow. Susan leaves the room. Then she remembers that staying with him might feel encouraging to him. She goes back and keeps him company but doesn’t try to fix or change his feelings.)

Susan: (After some time has passed, speaking gently…) “Honey, it’s time to go.” (Alex gets up and together, they walked to the car. During the drive Susan felt connected to her son through their easy conversation and a palpable sense of calm.  Alex even seemed to enjoy the lesson!)

This story’s a beautiful example of how empathy and encouragement go a long way toward winning genuine cooperation.  Through her use of grounded positive energy and empathy Susan not only accomplished her goal of getting Alex to his swim lesson, she laid the groundwork for a foundation of trust.

Later she she told me,

It was a tiny miracle that I didn’t lose it and Alex was able to get up to walk to the car. It worked mostly because I didn’t flip my lid. Being there while he hit the pillow actually calmed me down too! Now Alex is doing great with his lessons. He still complains, but there is an ease and matter-of-factness about our interactions.

Thank you Susan for sharing your story!

If you’re curious about deepening your parenting practice and learning the art of cooperation through empathy, check out my one-on-one coaching opportunities and it you’re in the Bay Area, my fall Positive Discipline Series.

CONSIDERSHAREACT

What gets in your way of just being with your child while they’re caught up in a feeling? Next time a big emotion hits, try bearing it with an attitude of love and let us know what happens!!

2

One EASY way to get your kid to butter her own toast!

ToastYesterday morning I had a simple, accidental revelation with my dexterous 7-year old daughter. Short on time, she decided to have a piece of toast for breakfast. Knowing I’m the best toast-butterer in the world, S. said, “Mom I need butter on my toast – please butter it for me.”

My hands, immersed in sudsy, warm dishwater, scrubbing away at the long-neglected dishes, were not fit to butter toast. The wheels in my mind slowed,  I sensed the opportunity at hand and replied empathetically, “Oh honey, my hands are all soapy, I don’t want to ruin your toast.”

Disappointed, S. tried again. “But mom…I’m not good at buttering toast and you’re really good at it!”

“Darn… sorry about that, Sweetie. Just look at these sudsy creatures!” I lifted my hands to show the yucky soapy mess that would envelop her toast.

Suddenly resolute, S. asked, “Okay Mom, where’s the butter?” A minute later with quiet pride she said, “Look Mom, I did it all by myself!”

Sometimes I have to be creative, play a bit silly, a bit incompetent or just plain unavailable, to get my kids to step up and take the initiative on a task well within their grasp or even one that seems a bit out of reach.

CONSIDERSHAREACT

Have you had a similar experience? Share it or plan your “incompetence” ahead of time and let us know how you imagine it could encourage your child.

Your comments inform and empower other parents! Examples with kids of all ages encouraged!

0

I LOST IT with my kids

You know those moments when you are pushed to the brink, when you know that just one more movement or word from your sweet angel will push you to explode, to yell “I CAN’T TAKE IT ANYMORE!!!!” so loud it freaks out the neighbors?

If you’re like me, you also strive to maintain a sense of calm in the midst of the craziness of parenting. Yes, this is a worthy goal, but we’re only human!

Here’s a not-so-pretty story from my own life a few years back:

I was sitting down to supper one night with my kids (pre-iPod), when my ten year old son, E., for the second time that night, ignored my request to strap his portable CD player to his body. (For his occupational therapy, E. did therapeutic listening for a half hour each morning and evening.)

E. rose to get himself a glass of milk and the CD player slid precariously to the edge of the table.

Reenactment photo taken by my now 7 year-old daughter!

Reenactment photo taken by 7 year-old S.

That’s when it happened. I completely lost it – full on, crazy-woman, raised-voice, heart-pumping LOST IT. I vigorously pointed my finger at him and yelled,   “THAT’S IT! YOU NEED TO TAKE CARE OF THIS NOW BEFORE YOU DO ONE MORE THING.  YOU ARE PUSHING ME! WHY DO YOU KEEP PUSHING ME?! TAKE CARE OF IT RIGHT NOW!”

We stood two feet apart, his eyes wide, me breathing fast. Honestly, I felt like strangling him.

Ghost like and calm, E. turned and floated out of the room to find the belt device. I returned to my seat – heart still pounding.

I took deep breaths to regain my composure. I felt the heat of embarrassment rise in my body as my oldest son sat quietly at my side. In a matter-of-fact voice, my three year-old daughter said, “That was too loud mommy – it hurt my ears.”

When E. returned, he looked at me – a twinkle in his eye – already he’d forgiven me. With effort he pressed his hands on either side of his mouth, to keep from laughing.  I couldn’t help but smile as I said, “Thank you for taking care of it,” (my Positive Discipline know-how seeping back into my consciousness).

As these words came out of my mouth laughter bubbled out too.  Soon, we were all roaring.  Through his giggles, E. commented “I’ve never heard you be so loud!” The laughter was healing and reassuring, like we knew I’d just been possessed by Mommy Dearest and was now back to my usual self.

As we ate and laughed some more, I said I was sorry and expressed my regret.  I could tell they were eager to move on. We felt close and connected.

Jane Nelson says, “Instead of feeling guilty when you make a mistake, rejoice that you have just provided a good example for your children.”

I wish I could rejoice but I’m not there… yet. When I make a mistake, I consciously keep the guilt to a dull roar so that I have the energy and bandwidth to be present and take the opportunity to connect. Now that’s something to rejoice about!

Smeeta1I do lose it with my kids sometimes. Rather than brushing it under the rug, I try to do the following:

  • Acknowledge my mistake with my child in a timely manner so that it’s relevant to them.
  • State a brief, simple sincere apology, “I’m sorry I lost my temper with you.” What’s critically important here is that I don’t add – “but if you’d gotten the CD holder like I’d asked you to…” – this turns my apology into punishment (more on that later).
  • After some time has passed I work with my child (or myself) to come up with a plan so that the explosion will be less likely to happen next time.
  • Finally, there’s an element of trust and letting go, of being the best role model I possibly can and, of acceptance that I am…exquisitely… imperfect.

CONSIDERSHAREACT 

Do you lose it with your kids?  You’re not alone. In another post I’ll share a “losing it” redo – what I learned from my triggered response and how I was able to step back and use Positive Discipline tools to make a different choice the next time. Empowering!

Share your thoughts below! The parenting journey is so much more fun when we travel it together!

4

Should I be more like my dog?

BooneI’ve been thinking a lot about my oldest son – 18 today!

He’s the first born, a quiet, self-sufficient guy who keeps busy with many interests and responsibilities. He’s easy going, never complains – a boy who’s finally grown up to be a young man. The letters and emails from colleges are arriving and soon he’ll be heading off into to the big wide world.

Have I supported him enough? Could he possibly know how much I love and care for him?

When I say, “I’ve been thinking about him”, the reality is I’ve been thinking about myself in relation to him. Recently I’ve been trying too hard and in all the wrong ways.

When we’re in the same room, I feel an urgent need to connect. I find myself falling into a default, one-way, boring-as-heck line of questioning that runs like this:

How’s school-How’s it going-What’s going on-What time’s practice What are your plans after school-What friends are in your classes this semester?

While he’s patient with me, this stale inquiry goes nowhere.

I feel an awkward gap between us.

Here’s a beautiful contrast. First thing when my son comes home, he goes to the dog, and they share a few moments of mutual adoration and affection (face licks, tail waging, IMG_3038cooing noises). Seeing them together warms my heart.

What does my son see in his special friend?

  • The no-pressure act of just being
  • No one is asking, prodding or demanding ANYTHING
  • The warm & fuzzy factor

Then I get it:  for him, my efforts to connect feel like poking, nudging, and even prying; less like a relaxed, neutral, loving presence. Ichh!

So I decided to make a shift. Instead of eagerly confronting him at every turn with the usual litany of hollow questions, I would stay put, be present and let him come to me.

Once I embodied my new perspective, I noticed an immediate change. He came to me simply asking for help finding supplies and this felt HUGE from a kid who RARELY asks for anything.

Stepping into his shoes is helping me let go. At the same time, I’m learning to adapt to my children’s ever changing needs.

For my 18 year old, I’m channeling my inner pooch.

While I draw the line at face licks, happy whimpering, and faithful obedience, my inner snoopy-mama is more present (letting him come to me), unconditionally loving (fewer questions and less attachment to the need for answers), and always happy to see him.

CONSIDER⇔SHARE⇔ACT 

As always I encourage you to share your insights and questions below. The parenting journey is so much more fun when we travel it together!

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New Year’s Resolution Redux

IMG_2156Note:  I first published this post one year ago and re-reading on the first day of 2015, I find it still speaks to the heart of a parenting dilemma. How can we expect to become better parents when we’re so busy being hard on ourselves? I wanted to share it with you again and encourage you to take time to make the list I prescribe and share it with a friend!

What if this year you did something totally different with the whole New Year’s resolution thing?

Instead of setting the usual intentions for becoming a better version of yourself, you made a list of all the things you already do smashingly WELL, as a parent!

Don’t you feel guilty just thinking about it?

I do. It feels odd and unnatural.

For me it would be much easier to spend the next 500 words describing my shortcomings as a mom and all that I could do better.  (Read: more family dinners, more trips to the library, more game nights, more patience, more follow through on kid jobs, more communication with my 18 year old… more, more, more…you get the picture.)

Not going there.

This year I’m doing something RADICAL. I’m going to share with you a challenging exercise that I LOVE, inspired by Kelly Bartletts’s blog Parenting from Scratch.  It’s about turning away all of that “I’m not good enough” parenting stuff and welcoming the good that’s already there.

I’m asking you to acknowledge what you do well and linger in the good. I assure you, this is not a silly exercise in self-aggrandizement.

When we do this, our brains literally re-wire for positivity and well-being. It’s what Dr. Rick Hanson, author of Hardwiring Happiness and Buddha’s Brain, calls taking in the good. Hanson says that putting attention on good experiences helps build new connections in our brains  –

 It’s part of the growing body of research around Neuroplasticity. We have the ability to change our brains!!

So, what does Neuroplasticity have to do with parenting? When we put our minds to it, we can become happier, better parents. And now here’s what I’m asking you to do:

  1. Make your own parenting infomercial (i.e., I’m great and here’s how:)
  2. Stick with your list – share it – savor it
  3. Be on your own side – be aware of that sabotaging voice but don’t feed it

This was a tough exercise for me. I noticed my loud, qualifying gremlin voice saying things like “but you don’t do X enough” and “you’re a parenting educator, your list should be much longer!” etc.

What’s important is that I made the list anyway, noticed that critical voice along the way and kept going. Here’s my list: (and before you read it, promise me you’ll try making your own.)

Lisa’s “Things I Do Well as a Parent” List

  1. I make yummy soups
  2. My “from scratch” dessert traditions kick-butt
  3. I read stories aloud to my youngest before bed
  4. I pull out my goofy, silly side on a weekly basis, for everyone to see
  5. I exercise and eat well (modeling what I want for my children)
  6. I love reading great books for myself (ditto)
  7. I am a room parent for one of my kids’ classes
  8. I got those weekly family meetings going on
  9. I regularly snuggle with my seven and fourteen year-olds
  10. I take the time to pause and breathe before I react to my child’s fall, F on their report card, the blatant lie, and of course – the periodic tantrum.
  11. I’ve gotten very good at biting my tongue and boy is it an effective parenting tool! (Listen more, too)

There you have it.

Now, I insist that you do this exercise for yourself.

Remember, when we recognize our own strengths, we nurture our minds and our whole being.

Really let it sink in after you’ve made your list – take it one step further by sharing your list with a friend.  Then notice the visible and invisible ways your relationship with yourself and your children unfolds for the better.

Peace and Happy New Year!

CONSIDER⇔SHARE⇔ACT 

Consider your list, the mundane and extraordinary ways you parent. When you share what you’ve come up with below you  inspire us and remind us of things we’ve forgotten.

Some of you have told me you feel too shy to share in this forum – in that case email me your list. I’d love to cheer you on!

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The gift that keeps on giving

Images are powerful. Today’s mail included a Lands’ End catalogue with a cover photo that caught my eye:  a mom lovingly sandwiched between her admiring tween daughter and four-year-old son, all three clad in their snuggly PJ’s.

Mom  had an eggnog-induced, post-nap afterglow that made me wonder if she wasn’t the kids’ free-spirited Aunt Uma visiting from New Mexico who’d had a little extra something something just before the photo shoot.photo

I admit it, I want some of that “look” and the feeling of holiday contentment it implies.

So I wonder, is “relaxed Mom” available in a size large with express shipping?

It’s our tradition to celebrate Christmas and the truth is, what I really want more than anything, is to know that the holidays have been meaningful to my family beyond the gift-giving. I want to feel THAT kind of relaxed (and sure, a little bit of the other stuff wouldn’t be so bad either.)

Lands’ End promises that their pajamas will give you,  “the Magical Moments of Christmas Mornings all Winter Long.” That seems like a tall order for a PJ and slipper set.

Instead, I’m going to offer two tips for a more enduring “Mom Glow”, and it won’t cost a dime. One tip pops you into action while the other invites you into presence.

Lisa’s “Holiday Glow” Tip #1: Discuss ‘together time’ with your family

This might sound like you’re adding more activities to your already packed schedule. But fear not. It’s about peeling away obligations and busy-ness to find experiences that are meaningful to your family.

Sometime in the next week pull your family together (e.g., during a car ride when everyone is captive) – and ask these two questions:

“What’s one thing you want to do with the family, during this holiday time?”

“What’s one thing you want to do alone or with friends during this holiday time?

This creates an intention for the time you have together so by the end of the holiday break you’ll feel less like “I don’t know where the time went” and more “Yes!….. that was just the holiday I desired … ! In other words, less frantic and more fulfilled.

I am not suggesting you agree to satisfy everyone’s wishes. But simply asking these questions shows your family you care and are interested in their desires. Even if the trip to Disneyland isn’t in the cards, deciding to go to the park together with hot cocoa and a blanket might be.

That’s a lot of potential activity to anticipate and coordinate, which leads me to my second holiday tip.

Lisa’s “Holiday Glow” Tip #2: Accept your imperfections

If you’re like many parents I know you catch yourself saying “what’s wrong with my kids – what’s wrong with me? My kids aren’t behaving and don’t listen to me.”  Parenting is hard AND I know we make it harder on ourselves when we listen to our critical self-talk (about our kids and ourselves).

I’m asking you to do this:

Next time you catch yourself criticizing or comparing, take a step back, watch the berating and be both curious and gentle with yourself. In other words, notice your critical voice, but treat yourself as you would an admired friend, with openness and compassion.

So dear REAL parent, here’s my recipe for a relaxed holiday season:

Tip #1: Talk with your family about together time (beyond the shopping) and write ideas into the family calendar

Tip #2: Be kind to yourself/ Accept your imperfections

…and when in doubt, put on your (old, mismatched) PJs (in my case a soft t-shirt and sweats), gather your kids on the couch and hide the to-do list.

Who knows, maybe Aunt Uma will stop by after all.

CONSIDERSHAREACT

What’s one thing you want to do with your family in the next few weeks?

What supports you to feel greater acceptance of yourself as a parent?

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