Category: featured

Change Looks Like Failure First!

Change can be hard. One reason that change is so challenging is that we misunderstand what change actually looks like and we also misunderstand the time that is required for change.

I have read many books on change. There is the standard – it takes 30 days to create a new habit. If we are talking about making our bed daily or exercising every morning then that is probably true. But if we are talking about changes that involve our character or our ability to respond differently in times of stress then maybe, just maybe, it will take more.

When I wanted to stop yelling that required a huge mind shift. I had to come to believe that I could actually stop yelling, that it was in my power to make that change. Accepting that fact took a few years.

Then I had to figure out what to do besides yell because it’s easier to replace a behavior than to stop a behavior. Once I knew what I was going to do instead of yelling I had to practice, practice, practice.

And here is where it’s important to understand what change looks like. Change looks like failure long before it looks like success.

Steps to Change

Step One – Realize that you need to make a change.

Step Two – Begin to believe that it is within your power to make a change.

Step Three – Determine what needs to change. Let me give you an example. I needed to get a handle on my complaining. It wasn’t that I wasn’t happy but the words of complaint just kept falling out of my mouth. It’s just too hot! I don’t know why you can’t put your socks in the hamper. I wish the prices weren’t so high. Why won’t my hair just do what I want it to? This meat is overcooked.

When I had this conversation with a friend, she said, “Well, everyone does that!” She is right but that doesn’t make it a healthful or useful practice. I knew that if I controlled what came out of my mouth I would experience far more moments of happiness during the day.

I determined that I needed to express gratitude more often and I did this by using a small notebook where I wrote down what I was grateful for as I went through the day. I also had a second small notebook where I recorded my complaints. Then I would tear up those pages each night. These exercises may seem simple and even silly but they kept my mind on what I wanted to do instead of what I had been doing.

Step Four – Make a firm commitment to doing the work and giving it all the time required. I can always tell when I only wish I was different or hope to be different and when I am committed. That is key. You have to have a firm intention that no matter what it takes, how long it takes or how discouraging it feels you will keep going.

The Process of Change

A – Realize that you will continue to do the very thing you want to change. This is the step where change looks and feels like failure. When I was working to replace yelling with self-control I would often yell. Right after I yelled I would think in my mind, “Rats. I yelled. I don’t want to yell anymore!” I would feel bad and I would feel like a big failure at this self-control thing.

However, I eventually came to understand that every time I recognized that I had errored, gave up blame and took responsibility for my actions and then determined to do better, I was making progress.

B – Stop. Eventually, I would stop in mid-yell. I would mentally catch myself and reverse course. This entailed a fair amount of apologizing. It was uncomfortable but it was progress. I caught myself and made an adjustment.

C – Change. Finally, I would think about yelling and I wouldn’t. I would choose to respond differently. It felt wonderful when I began to experience this step more often. That didn’t mean that I didn’t fall back to step three and four; I did, for a long time. But eventually, I found myself staying in control more often.

It Takes Time to Change Our Way of Being

Here is another place where people in the process of change find themselves in trouble. We think that if it takes 30 days to develop a new habit then that should equate to change but it doesn’t. The kinds of change that I’m talking about, those that make us better people and parents, are changes not just in what we do but in our very being, our character and that requires time.

It took me ten years from the time I realized that yelling was not a good coping skill or parenting tool to consistently staying in control. And the truth is, I can, on occasion, still find myself yelling. It is a lifetime work for me. However, if I had bought into the idea that I needed to accomplish this significant change in 30 days or one year or even five years, well, I might have given up and never made it to where I am today.

My current project, giving up complaining, has been in process for over six years. Sometimes I feel discouraged. But I express gratitude more often than in the past, even though I still complain. I am making progress.

Changing our way of being, who we are, how we respond, doesn’t have to take ten years or even six. But if it does, hang on and keep working.

As Nelson Mandela said,

Your shares are the very best compliment. I also love hearing from you so PLEASE leave a comment.

Do You Use Shame to Teach?

Here is the definition of shame – a painful feeling of humiliation or distress caused by the consciousness of wrong or foolish behavior.

When we are children, we find ourselves shamed by adults around us. We take that shame and learn, over time, to shame ourselves. Here is the sentence that accompanied the definition of the word shame – “I tried to shame her into sharing.” In this case, someone hoped that by making another feel like a bad person for not behaving in a specified way, they could get them to behave in a different way.

As a parent, have you ever found this to be truly helpful? I haven’t. Children who feel shamed may do what we want, in the way we want, but it doesn’t encourage them to make a change from a place of power but to succumb from a place of powerlessness.

When Shame Cannot Survive

When an adult shows empathy, then shame cannot survive, in fact, isn’t even born. Here is the definition of empathy – the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. Empathy is the capacity to take another perspective, but more than that, it is truly caring about the person and how they feel.

I have a daughter who is very good at this. When her son, who is ten, is yelling and throwing a huge fit she remains calm. If his language is inappropriate, she reminds him firmly that he cannot talk to his mom like that. Then she asks questions and listens. She tries to find out why he is angry, frustrated or upset. She allows him to feel his feelings and then she works to help him navigate those feelings, all the while avoiding shaming him for behaving in a childish way, at ten.

Sometimes when I hear an exchange like this, I think in an old way in my brain – “Man, I would tell him to go to his room and when he’s in control then to come out and we can talk.” Yes, that is how I parented for many years. But today, I would hope that I could put that old thinking behind me and listen, empathize and then teach.

When a person knows deep inside of themselves that they are of value, that their feelings matter, that they are not broken or deficient in some way, that is a powerful place to be. When we feel shamed and believe there is something inherently wrong with us, that is a place of powerlessness.

It’s worth the effort to have empathy and empower our children rather than shame them. We won’t do this perfectly, but if we could do it even a portion of the time it would make a huge difference in how our children mature.

Tips to create a culture of empathy in your home

It’s much easier to teach children to be empathetic than to retrain adults. I know because I grew up in a time and home where empathy wasn’t considered the most valuable response – obedience was.

Here are some ways that you can increase the empathy that your children feel for others, as well as foster a more empathetic family culture in your home.

1. STOP what you’re doing and listen. Put the cell phone down, turn away from the screen, any screen.

2. LOOK your child in the eye while you’re listening and talking to them. If you can’t listen right then, tell them when you can. Later is not good enough. Say, “I will be free in fifteen minutes.”

3. Use ACTIVE listening. Listen to understand what they’re saying and feeling rather than trying to formulate a solution or response. Really care about what they’re saying. If you’re disinterested, frustrated with the interruption, or want to get to the next thing, trust me, your child will feel that.

4. Teach LATER. For now, listen. Ask good questions and mirror feelings. “How did that make you feel?” “That would have hurt my feelings too.”

4. Remember that every person is DIFFERENT. Your child is not you. They may respond to situations differently than you. Honor the differences. My husband thinks of people first. I think of projects first. That can cause us some issues unless we respect each other’s differences. When we do this, we avoid shaming one another for how we are.

5. MODEL empathy for your children. Practice empathy with your neighbors, the grumpy store clerk, the man who cuts you off in traffic, etc. I have a friend who, when someone does something stupid or rude in traffic, says out loud, “They must be having a bad day. Heavenly Father help them get where they’re going safely!” Her kids hear this on a regular basis, and it is informing them of how to care about others.

6. Give your kids some RESPONSIBILITIES. Children who have the responsibility to feed the cat or walk the dog or who participate in service projects tend to be more empathetic to others. When children learn to be responsible, they think more about others.

7. When we WORK TOGETHER as a family, we have the opportunity to create a culture of empathy. When we have regular family meetings/nights it provides an opportunity to model empathy as we consider everyone’s thoughts and ideas. When we do projects together it provides opportunities to resolve conflicts in non-shaming ways.

8. STOP! If you’re not feeling empathetic or if you find yourself dealing in poor ways with your children, STOP. Ask yourself why. Are you stressed, overly tired, is a child pushing your button in a specific way?

Now do what you need to do to get a handle on the problem, sit down, close your eyes, take deep breathes, go for a walk, hide in the bathroom and shed a few tears, whatever is needed. Then you will be able to get back on track.

9. AVOID DISCOURAGEMENT! Finally, if empathy isn’t something that you grew up with, doesn’t come naturally or if you just haven’t made it a practice, is it too late? NO. Anything, we think deeply about and then practice can become part of who we are. I know this is true because I have had to practice being more empathetic. I can still find myself in an non empathetic place, but I am far better than when I was a new parent. Don’t feel discouraged when you behave in a non empathetic way or when you shame a child to get your way. Just remind yourself what it is you want, the family culture you want, and try, try again.

The Good, the Bad, and The Ugly of Parenting

Every parent is made up of a measure of good,
a portion of bad and
occasionally a dollop of ugly.

 

I don’t care how good a parent you are; this is true. The problem that we run into is focusing on any one part.

Many parents focus on the bad. They forget that there is a large portion of good. Others focus on the good and forget that they need to work on the bad. And occasionally, some see only the dollop of ugly. Each of these scenarios lessens our ability to parent well, long term.

Let me share three personal experiences.

1. I was on occasion, not nurturing. I can recall hearing a child gaging in the night and then pulling them out of bed, running them down the hall, all the while repeating in an urgent voice, “Hold it. Don’t throw up.”

2. My youngest daughter wanted to be a cheerleader. During the try-outs, she had to do a solo routine and fell. It seemed like an eternity until she looked up towards the bleachers where I was, although only seconds had passed. When she looked my way, she saw me standing in a sea of sitting parents. She saw me silently sending the message, I am proud of you. I want everyone to know I am your mom. Get up, you can do this. P.S. She made the squad!

3. We had six kids, were living in Montana, and money was tight. One night I found an open Tampon in the bathroom garbage. A child had been curious, opened it, and it was now no good. I had, on occasion, found myself without that needed necessity. I flipped.

I drug six kids out of bed, lined them up in the hall and went up and down the line shaking the Tampon in their noses, asking repeatedly, “WHO OPENED THIS!”

Story one is bad. A good mom sits on the side of the bed with a pan, soothing a fevered brow and speaking calm and loving words. They aren’t concerned with vomit and cleaning it up. Right?

Story two is so good. I mean, doesn’t it make you want to be that mom?

Story three is ugly, totally out of control.

And there it is. We all have our ugly moments. We all have moments when we shine. And we all have moments when it’s clear that although we aren’t the worst parent on the planet, we surely could be better.

It’s vital to remember that you are not just one part, you are all three. There is no perfection in parenting any more than there is perfection in friendship, relationships, or life.

We need to focus on the good. We need to improve the bad. And we need to forgive ourselves for the occasionally ugly. When we do this, we are better parents. There is power in seeing the good, acknowledging the bad and forgiving the ugly and that power helps us parent better.

Here are a few things I have learned

about kids that make it easier for you to improve and forgive yourself, to worry less and to know that it’s going to be OK in the end.

• Kids love their parents unconditionally
• Kids are quick to forgive
• Kids are resilient
• Kids have a way of moving on

Our goal is not perfection. There is always going to be something you don’t know, haven’t mastered yet or that is messy. In a family, in life, there is always work to do. Keep improving yourself. Do more good, improve the bad and you will lessen the ugly. And in the end, it will all be OK.

The greatest compliment is when you share
but the greatest joy is when you comment. : ) 

No Matter What, You Can!

We Often Believe We Cannot Do Something Until We Do It

My husband bought a pergola for our patio. It was a necessity because the west sun is so hot that you can’t even turn the doorknob in mid-summer.

The problem is that it had to be anchored into the cement. It had already blown over three times. We didn’t have the know-how or the tools to do it. I reached out to a good friend who walked us through how it needed to be done and then lent us the tool – a huge rotary hammer drill.

Our friend drilled two holes and bolted them down. Then we were on our own. Don did one but with a replaced hip he knew he couldn’t do the other 13 holes and bolts.

I want to remind you that I’m 69 years old. I’m in good shape and healthy but my knees, hips, and back are also 69 years old, as is my strength level. But that pergola had to be anchored down! That’s where I came in.

It’s interesting that we often believe we cannot do something until we do it. Then all the impediments that we felt existed drop away. Let me give you a simple example.

I needed to begin taking a daily vitamin. I bought some but they were big. I knew that in order to get them down I would need to break them in half. I tried but my finger strength just didn’t seem to be enough. I got two small pliers and held the pill between them and snapped it in half. I did this daily for about a week.

One day the pliers turned up missing and I was impatient to move on with my day. I didn’t want to hunt for them. I grabbed a pill and gave it all I had and viola, it broke in two. I haven’t used pliers since, and it doesn’t seem to require nearly as much finger strength as the first time I broke one in half. I now know that I can break that pill on my own power. After all, I did it once. Before that, I felt sure I couldn’t. I mean, I had tried.

The day I needed to drill into cement and put in long screws and tighten them down I found myself in the same dilemma. But I remembered that pill experience which I had had only a few months earlier.

The outcome was that I drilled 13 holes, 3 inches deep, into the cement patio; I put in 3-inch screws and tightened them down. Twice I had to call on my husband to drill the last ½ inch because I hit a rock and even all my body weight on the drill wasn’t enough. But I did the job, for the most part, by myself.

Now the day before, when I knew what was required, I would have sworn that I could not manage a drill of the needed size and that there was no way I could find the strength to drill that deep into cement. But I did it.

This is the message I want to share

There will be many things in your parenting life that you are sure you cannot work out, fix, change or learn to do differently. However, it has been my experience that if we get good instructions/information, if we give it a consistent effort for as long as is needed, and if we believe we can, then we will find the solutions to anything. We are never too old to change how we are. We are never too old to learn something new. Strength to hold on consistently until change happens is always available. Our families are never too troubled to make positive and lasting change.

So, when you feel the job, issue, challenge, problem, is just too big then I want you to remember the vitamin. Once we try and have even the smallest success, we never again feel that we can’t. We know that we can!

Your shares are the best compliment : ) 

Are You Sick of Mother’s Day?

 

When my youngest daughter was pregnant with her first baby, she began a blog titled “Countdown to Motherhood.” Each week she had a different mother from her circle of women write an article about their experience with mothering. I was one of the mom’s in that circle.

Today I’m sharing what I wrote on that long-ago Mother’s Day. (Link for the original article HERE)

Why Mothering Can Feel So Hard

I never thought much about being a mother. I mean you grew up, got married and had kids. Everyone did it; everyone that I knew anyway, and they didn’t seem to make a big deal about it. But it is a BIG deal. I had so much to learn about being a mother.

• It doesn’t come naturally to everyone.
• It isn’t always a piece of cake.
• Sometimes it’s overwhelming.
• You often don’t know what to do next.
• If you just keep at it, it will be the very best thing you ever do!!
• I would do it over again even though there were some very hard times.

At almost seventy I look back with fondness on those earlier days. I look at pictures of my sweet children and realize that I didn’t understand how wonderful they were. It’s so easy to get caught up in the work of mothering that you forget to pay attention to the joys of being a mother.

A Few Things That I Would Want to Understand If I Had It To Do Over

• Realize that the time will come when you will miss hearing your child say “mom.” It can be wearing now but you will miss it!
• Cherish every wet, sticky, sloppy kiss because no matter how many you get, they will never be enough! You will want more of them long after your child is grown.
• A clean house is not more important than a sweet relationship with your child. Messy bedrooms eventually disappear and so does the child – into adulthood – and then all you have left is a clean room and hopefully a child who wants to come home to visit.
• Conversations with a child are amazing if you take the time to listen. I know that right now you just want to hear quiet, but the day will come when you will miss that childish prattle.
• A child’s laughter and joy are contagious. Catch it because it renews your own energy and relieves stress.
• Being the caretaker of another person’s learning and personal growth is an amazing stewardship and is worth all the time and effort it takes to do it with kindness and gentleness.

Now that I’m a grandmother, I understand these things better. Moving at a slower and gentler pace is what grandparents do and so we see a bit more clearly and we enjoy a bit more deeply.

Any mother who is clear on the importance of being a mother and is willing to make it her number one priority for a short while can understand these things long before she is a grandmother.

Child-rearing lasts only a short time so, despite the challenges, weariness and redundant work, embrace every Mother’s Day while your kids are in your home. Once they leave it will never be the same!

Your Shares Are The Bst Compliment : ) 

Do You Want to be Perfect?

Strive for improvement, not obsessive perfectionism.

“No matter how consistent I am at something I just haven’t been able to be perfect!” The mom making this comment was feeling really stressed out and like a failure. Can you relate? As a mentor, I hear it all the time!

Where in the world did we ever get the idea that there would ever be a time in our lives when we would have everything all worked out.

Unfortunately, this is how I lived a great many years of my life. I felt that in order to be of value in the world I needed to be perfect. I tried, I really tried. As a child, I REALLY tried. But I couldn’t do it and so I grew up knowing that somehow there was just something not quite right about me. And then things got ugly because as an adult I wasn’t any better at perfect than I had been as a child. In fact, I was less perfect because now I was the mother of a family and I had to lead out, so I made a lot more mistakes.

Now for the important part.

Because I was so busy trying to be perfect it became VERY hard to really enjoy life, my kids, my husband, anything. That’s because life is messy, kids are messy, and relationships are messy. Trust me, our parenting was messy. And because it wasn’t perfect and I wasn’t perfect at it, I had a hard time enjoying it.

When I began teaching about family connections and having more fun as a family it was challenging for me because I had parented imperfectly. I worried that I didn’t have anything to offer or that even if I did no one would listen to me. That was a tough place to teach from.

After a few years I contemplated quitting because, in order to teach the very things that I really knew a lot about, I had to confess to the world that I wasn’t perfect. This was truly daunting for a person who had spent a huge portion of her life working for perfection.

Before I began teaching families how to connect, back in my Montana days,  I had a façade going that was amazing. People in my world thought I was perfect. In fact, I was slightly intimidating because I looked so perfect. But then our lives began to fall apart and it became evident to everyone that I wasn’t perfect and this made how I felt about myself worse.

Recently I read an article by Glennon Doyle Melton and was struck by what she said about this issue of perfection.

“So often, people’s lives are presented to us as before and after stories. It’s always: “Look! My mess is fine because I’m ALL BETTER NOW! Ten steps to FREEDOM! Look at me, I’m FREE!” Sometimes it feels like it’s only okay to talk about your Cinderella story when you’re at the ball. When the tough, ugly parts are over. When everything is shiny and happily ever after, promise!! …But there is no ball. There is no point in which you stop working and just brush your long pretty hair and flit around, untouchable. Done. All better. There is no before and after. Most honest folks…will tell you that it’s just the same %^$# thing, over and over. That you just fall down seven times and get back up eight…I’m not at the ball. I’m scrubbing floors: wondering why everyone else gets to dance and make it look so easy. I’m a little angry and confused that I’m almost forty years old and STILL DEALING WITH THIS %*&^#. Why I don’t have all of this figured out yet.  Glennon Doyle Melton

She was speaking specifically about body issues, weight, overeating, etc. but it’s all the same. It could be yelling, poor spending habits, not connecting with your kids or a thousand other issues. When you don’t have things worked out you feel bad. You feel that somehow you’re a failure, that if you were worth anything you would have it all worked out by now!

I have a couple of friends who are in their late 80’s, they’re twins. They have lived together for the last few years and they walk almost every day, arm in arm.

One day Marion was walking alone, and she was a bit tippy on her feet. I saw her and was worried so I went out and said, “Marion, can I walk with you.” As we walked, she talked about her life and her sister. They had been fighting and she was sad. Their relationship had been a mess for a few days. She began to cry.

I was flabbergasted!! I couldn’t help myself, and despite her tears, I blurted out, “Marion, I thought when I got to your age I would have it all worked out!”

Through her tears she began laughing – “Oh goodness honey, that will never happen. There is always something to work on!”

And there it is. We aren’t ever going to be perfect. We will get good at some things. There may even be one or two things that we do fairly perfectly but, we are never going to be perfect. We are never going to have everything worked out. There is always going to be something you don’t know, haven’t mastered yet or that is messy.

So, what can you do about it?

Do what I’m doing.

  • Keep working on yourself, your attitude, your relationships, your systems, etc. 
  • Know that your value isn’t in perfection but in the fact that you are here, trying.
  • Know that your efforts to be better will matter and that even if you aren’t perfect you have something to share with your spouse, your children, your neighborhood, maybe the world.

Keep working on things. There really isn’t a before and after in life, a place you get to where you have it all worked out and life is happily ever after. Remember what Marion said, “Oh goodness honey, that will never happen, there is always something to work out!” And at 80+ she ought to know!

Your Shares Are the Best Compliment

Screen Free for a Month! WHAT?

What if you went Screen-Free, as a family, for a WHOLE MONTH!! Do you think you could do it? Would your family go nuts? Would everyone crack up? Would the fighting increase? Yikes!! A whole month!!

One of the main tips I give to help families connect better and more often, is to manage technology better. Turn off your digital devices, ditch technology – just for a while. Have technology free moments every day. For example, you could have a TV, computer and no phone hour just before bed. When you’re willing to let go of technology for even short amounts of time you will be surprised at how much time you can open up for your family. Finding a few moments each day to turn technology off is a good idea.

A few years ago, I met a family that goes screen-free for a whole month, once a year. I got all the details from the mom, Courtney, and I want to share them with you because I think you will be so impressed that you might consider making this a tradition in your home.

So, what is screen-free you ask? No TV, no movies on TV, no computer time, no games on the phone or TV, no screens!

HOW TO MAKE GOING SCREEN-FREE WORK

Here is how the Smith family makes it work:
1. Prepare your kids ahead of time. This family goes screen free in June, every year. However, one year they didn’t begin talking about it early enough. They usually begin talking about it and making plans about a month in advance. So, for the sake of having a successful Screen-Free Month, they moved it to July that year.

2. Presentation is everything. That’s my phrase and you’ve probably heard me say it before, but it is what they do. They talk it up. They talk about all the great things they’re going to be able to do as a family, how much fun they’re going to have together, and the family reward at the end of the month.

3. Get everyone to buy in. As Courtney was telling me how they get their kids to cooperate I said, “Oh you get them to buy in.” She smiled and said, “Well I didn’t have a term for it but yup, that’s what we do.” They get their kids to buy in by allowing them to pick a reward they would like to have at the end of the month. It could be swimming, camping, eating out, going to the movie theater, visiting grandparents, a road trip, whatever the parents want to throw out there. When the kids pick it, plan it and talk about it – they are IN.

Here is their families one caveat concerning rewards – They don’t use screen time as the reward. They don’t want to reward ‘no screen’ time with ‘screen’ time. : )

4. Parent’s have to be honest! It isn’t the kids who struggle the most, it’s the parents. They really do have to commit. Courtney told me that the hard part for her is at lunch. She usually has lunch when the big kids are at school and her little one is taking a nap. She likes to read Facebook, watch a show, catch up on the news, whatever, as she eats lunch. It’s a challenge to read instead or call a friend.

It is also challenging for her and her husband in the evening when everyone is in bed. They usually veg out a bit in front of the TV, just the two of them but – YIKES – it’s their screen-free month. She told me that they have learned to play games together or read to each other. It’s become really fun.

The one adult caveat – They do occasionally check email, pay bills online or prepare church lessons. Just no screens for entertainment purposes.

5. Plan ahead. Get the games out. Check some great books out of the library. Stock up on popcorn. Know in your mind what you’re going to say to your kids, how are you going to direct them when they come and ask to watch a movie or use technology. Get mentally and physically prepared.

This family goes screen free in the summer months because they feel that in the winter you’re shut in and it’s more difficult to disengage from TV, videos, games, etc. In the summer you can get out, walk, go swimming, go to the mountains, etc.

THE RESULTS

Courtney said that it’s challenging the first few days because it’s a serious transition, but then they settle right in. They have a lot of fun. They play together, they talk, and they laugh. She said that it’s something they all really look forward to each year.

They feel more connected at the end of their Screen-Free Month. It takes a while for screen time to become important to them again. The break feels good – after the first few days. : )

In fact, Courtney shared this with me, “Last time we did it our kids wanted to continue for more than a month! And they hardly ever asked when it would be over.”

So why not consider it and give it a try. You just might find out how much your family likes to read, play games, hike or swim.

Who else out there goes screen free for a day, a week, a month? What is your experience?

Your shares are the best compliment!

We ALL Play the Embellishment Game

I got a fabulous call recently from a dear friend. She wanted to tell me about her three grandchildren, twins, aged 8 and one, aged 5. They have been playing a game with their grandma when she takes them to school 3 times a week. It’s called, Embellish the Story. One of them begins the story and then they each take a turn adding to it. In other words, they embellish it.

My friend said the best thing is watching their faces when the person ahead of them takes the story in a direction they didn’t want or didn’t anticipate. She sees their face go from annoyed or mad to thoughtful and then illuminated as they figure out where they can take the story, so it fits what they want better.

Recently, in school, the older girl’s teacher said that they were going to have an embellishment project. The twins were so excited because they knew what the word meant. They were the only kids in class who knew what it meant. So, what does the word mean to them? That is a very interesting thing – In their words you get to tell your story and sometimes you make stuff up.

Our Stories Matter!

Isn’t that the truth. In every situation, we get to tell ourselves the story and sometimes we make stuff up. And it all affects the results that we get. I’ve learned through almost seven decades of life that we do have control over the story that we tell ourselves in any situation and that the story we tell impacts our response to whatever is happening and the outcome that we get.

One of my favorite quotes is from Viktor E. Frankl, a Holocaust survivor. He said, “When we’re no longer able to change a situation—we’re challenged to change ourselves.” He reminded us in his book Man’s Search for Meaning the one thing that can never be taken from a person is their ability to choose how to respond (Frankl)

This can be tough because it means that, just like these little girls, we have to figure out how to tell a better story, one that leads us to the destination we want.

You’ve all heard this old saying or something like it, “What you say is what you get.” It’s true. If you say, “My kids are driving me nuts,” they’ll drive you nuts. If you say, “I can’t stand my kids today,” or “My kids are so sloppy, messy, noisy, naughty, and so on,” that’s what you’ll get. It’s what you perceive is happening, regardless of what’s actually going on.

I worked with a self-employed mother who was telling herself a negative story about her son’s actions. She felt he was whiney and needy. He was a bother when she was trying to work. Her responses to her son were causing a strained relationship between them. She was having difficulty figuring out how to fix the situation. When I asked her to tell me more about her son, she replied that he was bright, loving, and responsible.

We talked about the importance of our story, how they affect our response and ultimately the result we get. Her result was painful. She determined to change the story even if the situation wasn’t changing. She decided to remind herself of her sons’ positive qualities each time she began to experience annoyance or frustration.

When I talked with her next, I asked her how it was going. She replied she and her son were no longer at odds. She enjoyed his company. She could see that he was just interested in what she was doing, and they had had opportunities to connect on and off during the day. She was able to respond positively to him more often.

This mom got better results because her feelings were positive. Her feelings were positive because she changed her story about her son.

Now back to my friend and her grandchildren. She made the call because she wanted to thank me for all that she has learned about taking control of our stories and how impactful and life-changing that has been.

She wanted me to know that because I have made an impact in her life, she has been able to make an impact in the lives of her granddaughters. This morning as she dropped them off to school she asked, “Now when you get in school you get to tell your story. So, what will you do if someone gets your story going in a different direction that you don’t want it to go or that wasn’t what you expected? They knew – “We get to take it in the direction we want it to go!”

As my friend said goodbye and thanked me for sharing with her through the years, she had tears in her voice because as she said, “It’s wonderful when you can see it used in real life, and when you can help the rising generation learn it so much earlier. I know this is going to have an impact on how their lives will go.”

Here are a few tips to help you have better stories.

• Take responsibility and stop blaming
• Decide to think the best of others
• Choose your words wisely
• Keep practicing

Take responsibility for your thoughts, the stories, and emotions they create, and your responses. Stop blaming. Take responsibility for your words, which are your stories in concrete form. You’re in control of the stories you tell—stories about yourself, your family, your children, the world, the past, the present, and the future. Knowing this gives you all the power.

Our Stories Determine Our Happiness Level

Stories are powerful in determining our happiness level. My granddaughter, Mary, is six. She loves to watch the fish in our tank. We have a very sleek, silver catfish that swims fast and erratically whenever anyone stands in front of the tank. I believe the fish does this out of fear or because it has been disturbed. One day Mary asked me, “Do you know why this fish swims so fast when I’m looking at him?” I replied, “No, why?” She responded with, “Because he likes me!”

Mary, like all of us, gets to write the story, and her story makes her happy. And for all I know, her story may be as true as mine.

Want to Know More?

If you want an in-depth understanding of how to control your responses in tough situations, how telling a better story can open up your internal resources, and an in-depth look at the tips above as well as a few more, then read my book Becoming a Present Parent: Connecting with Your Children in Five Minutes or Less. You can purchase it on Amazon or at your local bookstore. Here’s to better stories and better outcomes.

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A Principle with Power – Consistency

I love to write but don’t always want to prepare and post a new article every week. I enjoy posting something of value every day on Facebook but sometimes I would rather do other things. However, I do both as perfectly as I can because I have a goal and to reach it, I have learned that there must be consistency in my effort, for as long as it takes.

Consistency is a principle with power. When we do simple things consistently, over time, we will achieve amazing results. This principle can be found in cultures all around the world and in most, if not all religions. But this is a challenging principle to live because what we really want is a silver bullet, one big thing that will bring us growth, change, or success.

It’s amazing we ever believe the silver bullet myth because the truth of small steps over time has been restated and demonstrated so often. But the myth is comforting. It’s what we want to believe because the truth is harder to accept. Why would we rather do one big thing to change our lives? Although the big thing may take a massive effort on our part, if we gave the effort, then the work would be done. But the truth is we have to decide to do it and then follow through—over and over and over and over . . . ! There is no one and done.

Whenever you hear that a person has achieved an extraordinary goal, rarely, if ever, are you told the process they used—that is, the ordinary actions they took consistently. You only hear about the outcome. We’re led to believe extraordinary successes in business, home, or life are a result of significant actions, but they’re not—they’re a result of daily actions done consistently over time.

I worked with a single mom who was struggling with her children ages eight, eleven, and fourteen. They were argumentative and disobedient. One of her sons was withdrawn, and other people commented on how hyper her kids were. There was a fair amount of chaos in the home.

As we talked this mother realized that to have what she wanted in her family she would need to be more consistent. But being consistent in anything was a challenge for her. So, she picked one thing that she would do consistently in her home so she could practice living this principle.

She occasionally read to her kids, but it was rarely successful. However, she chose this to experiment with. As she began reading aloud to her children, it didn’t appear it was going to work out well. The kids were restive and quarrelsome. But I encouraged her to keep it up no matter how it looked or felt because the goal was to practice consistency. Her job was to provide a comfy spot and to read, no matter how her kids behaved, and to do it consistently.

So, she did. She committed to reading to her children twice a week. They would all gather in her room, in the middle of her bed and they would read. It wasn’t always easy, but as time went by it became more and more enjoyable. The surprising part is they began to have a sense of cooperation and peace while they read together, and this feeling moved into other areas of their lives. They felt it at mealtimes, in conversation, and when working together. People began commenting that her children seemed more patient and calmer. Her withdrawn child seemed happier and had begun to sing around the house.

Time and consistency are required to take care of most things. Understanding this is especially important in parenting because it nearly always takes until a child leaves home and creates their own life to see the results of our efforts. While they’re growing, it’s tempting to let ourselves feel failure because we don’t see our child as neat, quiet, mannerly and so forth. We often see a mud-covered child, a snitched cookie behind a back, spilled milk on the kitchen floor, or we hear voices’ complaining that it’s not their fault or “it’s my turn.”

Remaining Present while a child grows, not checking out because of discouragement or feeling overwhelmed, is dependent on doing simple things consistently rather than searching for a one-time fix to family issues.

Tips for Remaining Consistent

It takes time and practice to make lasting change and to grow as a person or as a family.
• We must commit to it.
• We need to consistently do the work.
• We must believe we can accomplish it.
• It’s important to remember that consistent is not the same as perfect.
• Keep your word to yourself. Do what you’ve decided to do.

Consistency long term is the key. We must commit to giving any issue time and consistency. Don’t allow discouragement and don’t quit! Time doesn’t equal failure. It equals eventual success.

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Why Is Relaxing Exhausting?

Why does showing up and staying Present wear us out?

“There isn’t anything in this world quite as exhausting as relaxing.” These eleven words, spoken by Rabbit in Rabbit Takes a Holiday, summarize my early parenting efforts. I know that these same 11 words will hit many of you right between the eyes also.

When we engage in a family activity, watch our children in one of their activities or engage in a few minutes of listening time it should feel good. It should feel satisfying and yes, even restful and relaxing. After all, we aren’t working, we’re just chillin with the fam. Right?

Why does showing up and staying present wear moms and dads out? Why does watching our children play, answering their questions or listening to them as they verbalize their thoughts sometimes seem like a poor use of our finite time. Don’t we love our children? Don’t we have a vision of the warm and gentle family atmosphere we want to create? Of course, we do but we are so busy.

Let’s revisit Rabbit’s comment in view of the need to be able to let go of our incessant to-do list and really get Present with our kids.

Rabbit was chattering on about how on his vacation people wanted to know what they could do for him, could they get him tea, or draw his bath or turn down his bed, and on and on. He missed work! He missed having something important and valuable to do! All his busy-ness made him feel valuable and useful.

After all, seeing old friends and relatives, reminiscing about the past, contemplating and discussing the future, listening to other’s goals and needs and just plain having a good time was a waste of time. Have you ever found yourself in this frame of mind? I have. It happened to me at little league games, dance classes, Beans and Book night at the local elementary school, sitting on a child’s bed rubbing their back or while listening to all the details of their day.

Now lest you think that I was a terrible mother let me assure you that I did plenty of those activities and did them often. That didn’t stop the occasional feeling that I ought to be doing something else, something of greater import.

I had work to do. The laundry was 3 feet high (literally), the kitchen floor had taken a hit of orange juice and I had a lesson to prepare for Sunday School. Just sitting and listening to another person, even my child, was not enjoyable because all I could think about was my stuff.

Just like Rabbit, I found it exhausting to sit, listen, care and enjoy being Present. Steven Covey has said that it’s easy to get stuck in the thick of thin things. I was stuck there on a regular basis.

If we look at the important things in our lives, they usually involve putting our own stuff down and letting someone else’s stuff take center stage, even if it’s only for three minutes at a time.

Being Truly Present

Being Present with a child means giving the gift of our full attention, our whole self, nothing held back, and it can take as little as three minutes or less. When we’re Present we send the clear message that we see them, we hear them, and that they matter. This is why learning to put down our ‘stuff’ and giving moments of Presence to our children matters so much.

We love our kids and we think we’re sending that message but when we don’t take the time to
• Stop,
• Look them in the eye,
• and Listen.
We send a far different message.

As we learn to take the opportunity to find moments to be Present with our children, when we walk away we will be refreshed in mind, even if tired in body (listening to and working with kids can wear you out) because we’ll know that we’ve been taking part in the “real” work of parenting – sending someone we love and care about the clear message that we see them, we hear them and that they matter to us. Trust me, it does a body good – both yours and theirs!

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