Category: featured

Sharing=That Family Feeling!

That Family Feeling

Children long to feel connected in a special way to those they love most. You know what I’m talking about. Those moments when you and your spouse share a laugh and no one else knows what’s funny. When you and a friend have one of those conversations where you really feel heard.

Children and teens want the same opportunity to connect in intimate and special ways with their parents and siblings, they want that ‘family feeling’.

When we share what we’re learning and what we feel with our children we give them that opportunity to feel this intimacy. When they feel it, it opens a gate to trust and can help them process what is happening in their lives.

Mini-conversations are the perfect

way to share

 

Here’s a mini-conversation about the book Lord of the Flies, held during a family meal. There’s a lot in this book that makes you think. There’s plenty that’s ugly and possibly frightening. So, can you really talk to a four-year-old about it, an eight-year-old or even a twelve-year-old? My answer would be YES, you can and should. Mini-conversations are perfect for broaching hard or sensitive topics. If you recall the tips that make a mini-conversation work, you can tell why.

• Listen more than you talk
• Ask open-ended questions
• Listen with interest
• Listen without judgment or giving your opinion

Lord of the Flies Mini-Conversation

 

Dad: I’m reading a book Called Lord of the Flies. I don’t like the story very much. It’s sad.

Eight-year-old: What’s it about dad?

Dad: Well, it’s about some boys who are stranded alone on an island. They don’t have any grownups with them.

Twelve-year-old: What’s sad about that? I’d love to be on an island without any grownups. That would be awesome.

Dad: Well, being able to do whatever you want might be good for a while, but what if one of the boys talked a lot of the other boys into believing or acting in ways that were mean to some of the other kids.

Four-year-old: That’s bad, daddy.

Eight-year-old: What did the boy want them to do?

Dad: Well, they really teased one boy who was overweight.

Twelve-year-old: We have a girl in our class that gets teased a lot. I’m glad I’m not her.

Dad: Hmmm, I guess we don’t have to be on an island for people to make poor choices.

Four-year-old: I wouldn’t be mean to people dad.

And that conversation could go on for a while and take several twists and turns.

A Second Mini-Conversation

 

Now let’s jump to the next day and a second mini-conversation. Dad and his twelve-year-old son are weeding in the garden.

Twelve-year-old: Dad, tell me some more about that book.

So, dad gives a brief synopsis. There is a long silence as they weed.

Twelve-year-old: Dad, do you think that Piggy would have been killed if more of the boys had stood up and said what they really thought about it?

Dad makes a comment. There’s another long silence as they weed.

Twelve-year-old: Dad, did you ever have a situation when you didn’t know what to do?

Dad: Sure, everyone does. What’s up, John?

Twelve-year-old: Well, there’s this kid in school and he keeps asking me and Fred…………

And there you have it, the value of sharing what you’re learning with your children by having “mini-conversations”. John will read “Lord of the Flies” sometime when he’s older. It will mean a great deal more to him than if it had just been assigned, tested and graded.

That initial mini-conversation also enabled John to connect with and trust his dad. Their relationship was strengthened. And the information from the book his dad was reading is having a positive impact on his own personal decision making.

We as parents need to be learning, and then we need to engage our children, our families, in conversations. When we do we begin creating that intimate family feeling. And as we do this we’ll all learn a great deal more and we will bond in some wonderful and unexpected ways.

Your shares are the greatest compliment

The Gum Grandma says, “Let’s get Retro!”

How can you create relationships

with people you only see once or twice a year?

That’s a question I’ve asked myself because most of my 13 grandchildren live far away. In fact, most of my children live far away.

One of my children’s complaints about their grandparents was that they weren’t very connected with them. We lived in Montana and it was a looooong drive to see them. They wanted to hear from their grandparents. So, when I became a grandparent, I decided to make the effort to connect a bit more. There have been years when I was fabulous and years when I wasn’t. But all in all, over a long period of time, I think it has worked out well.

With my children, we have learned how to use technology to stay in touch. We have a video app. that we talk on so we can see each other. It’s always nice to see someone’s face. We don’t spend hours a day on this endeavor. However, there will be a post every few days about the mundane as well as the exciting. We got to travel along when our son and daughter in law went to Costa Rica. We can get a blow by blow account when a baby is on the way. We have listened to violin recitals, watched portions of plays and seen some baseball games. We know when someone’s out of work or has gotten a new job.

The grands get on every now and then. Those over eight will share what’s happening at school, a test or activity. Parents will get the littles on every now and then and I love seeing how they’re growing up. I reply by singing songs to them or telling jokes.

But here is what I have done most consistently. I write letters and send cards. I know its old school, but it works for creating very connected relationships. There’s something thrilling about opening the mailbox and seeing a real letter. It even makes me feel a bit excited when it happens, which in our world of technology isn’t often.

A few months ago, I was having a conversation about writing letters and sending cards with a friend; I send hundreds a year. She said that she didn’t think it mattered to people anymore and that I was wasting my time and money. So, I asked the question on my Facebook page and got a lot of responses. Out of all of them, only one person felt like my friend. Everyone else talked about how they loved getting letters and cards as kids and how it’s still cool when it happens.

Let me give you some examples of how impactful a simple letter or card can be in the life of someone else and how connecting it is.

I have a nephew who has had a hard time growing into adulthood. So, many years ago, I decided to send him a card for every birthday.

A couple of years ago my nephew, who is now an adult, was really struggling with his life. That year when he got my card, he happened to be at his mom’s. She told me that when he opened it, he looked at her with a big smile and said, “She never forgets!” It matters to him!

Another sister has a granddaughter who has had some significant challenges due to divorce and parents who struggled, so when she was turning 16, I decided to send her a card. When she opened the card, she looked up and said, “This is the only card I have ever gotten for my birthday!” It isn’t that no one is saying Happy Birthday, it’s just that it’s all digital. That card meant a great deal to her.

Last year I sent an anniversary card to one of my sisters. On her anniversary she called, and this is what she said. “When I woke up this morning I couldn’t get out of bed. There wasn’t any reason to get up. Nothing new or interesting was going to happen today. But when I got up there was your card. You can’t imagine how much it meant to me!”

When my kids were teens some of them struggled with drugs. They didn’t always live at home. So, I began writing letters. I sent the letters to all my kids, even those who were at home. I bet they thought I was crazy to send a letter through the mail when I could have just handed it to them. But I know the letters mattered and kept our straying children connected enough to us that they never got lost. At some point, one of them took all the letters and put them in a book which she then gave to everyone for Christmas. It mattered!

Here’s another cool thing about cards and letters 

In my letters and cards to my grandchildren, I always tape a piece of gum. On a birthday I may add a couple of dollars. That’s all. Years ago, as a family, we determined that we would not spend lots of money on gifts for either birthdays or holidays. We have all stuck with that intention. However, my grandchildren have other grandparents who send cool gifts in the mail. I worried about that. But I didn’t need to.

I voiced my concern to one of my daughters and here is her reply. “Oh my gosh mom, the kids LOVE your letters and cards. They care far more about them than any toy they get in the mail. In fact, they call you the Gum Grandma!”

Cards and Letters aren’t just for Grandparents 

You know, this isn’t just useful if you’re a grandparent. It’s valuable advice if you’re a parent who shares custody or who lives in a different state from your child. Get retro. Send a letter or card and do it regularly, even if you live in the same town. You’ll be amazed at how impactful it will be to your relationships.

So, what do I write about? Anything and everything. I write about the nearest holiday, what is happening in the news, what I am learning about, where I have been, what I am doing. Stuff, any old stuff. The letter can be long or short. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that someone took the time to sit down and share a thought or two. A card or a letter says loud and clear, “I see you. I hear you. I love you. You matter to me!”

How do you feel when you get a letter in the mail? How did you feel when you were a kid and it happened? I’d like to know.

Your shares are the best compliment : ) 

Kids, Adults and Pie

Kids, Adults, and Pie

In honor of the Great American Pie Month, I want to share a story that illustrates the difference between kids and adults. Understanding this can make all the difference in how much you enjoy being and working with them and it can also impact your enjoyment whenever you learn something new.

I taught a class on pie making to a group of adults. One mother brought her 11-year-old daughter and they worked together.

When I teach someone how to make a pie, I know that their pie won’t look like mine. I’ve been making pies for over fifty years and when I roll out a pie crust it’s round and beautiful. When I put it into the pie pan it’s as smooth as butter; no cracking, no tearing. When I crimp the edges, they look so taste-tempting and are, in fact, delicious. It’s all because I’ve had so much practice.

People learning to make a pie for the first time, no matter their age, have had very little to no practice. Rolling a pie crust out so that its round is a skill that must be learned. Picking up a pie crust and fitting it into the pan without tears and cracks is a skill that must be learned. It’s a skill to make the crust just right, not to dry and not to wet.

I have taught many people to make pie and I want my new pie makers to go home feeling like they just accomplished something magnificent. So, I tell them “You’re just learning this new skill. It’s like riding a bike, it won’t be perfect right off the bat. Your crust might not fit the pan perfectly, it might even crack. Just piece it back together. You’re making this pie because you love your family and they’re going to be so blessed to have it. Remember that it’s going to taste wonderful and how it tastes is what’s going to count, not how it looks.”

11-year-old Ariel

Well, all my pie makers got to work, including the mother-daughter team. The pies were turning out just as you would expect beginner’s pies to look. Everyone had taken my counsel and was feeling successful except Rosemary, the older half of the mother-daughter team. She wanted it to be perfect, she wanted to be able to do it better on the first try, how it was turning out is what mattered to her.

She was fretting and stewing over the fact that it hadn’t been very round, the dough was dry, it broke into a couple of pieces and had to be pressed back together as they were putting it into the pan. Her daughter was just busy piecing away. Finally, Ariel looked at her mom and said: “Remember mom, it’s how it tastes that counts.” Her mother looked at her for a bit and then replied, “Oh yes, thanks for reminding me.”

Outcome vs Process

Teaching adults can be difficult. They worry about not knowing the material already or not having the skill. They are embarrassed that their results don’t look like yours.

Adults are outcome (product) driven while children are process driven. How it turns out can eclipse the joy of doing whatever it is. This difference can get in the way of enjoying working with your children

Teaching children is a joy. It always amazes me that my pie looks perfect and theirs is crumbling on the side and they don’t see the difference. They look at the pie and say, “Wow, look at my pie.” They’re proud and excited about what they have done. It is the process that they enjoy.

Why Children Enjoy The Process:

1. They are teachable because they aren’t intimidated by not already knowing how to do something. They are excited to learn.
2. They are not afraid to learn new things.
3. The process is more important than the outcome. They are willing to be less than perfect while they learn. In fact, they usually cannot even see the imperfections unless they are pointed out by an adult. That is why we need to be gentle when we are helping a child learn something new.
4. The mess or time it takes isn’t important to them. They don’t worry about the use of resources.
5. They are so easy to please.

As you look at this list can you see the things that make you crazy when you are letting your kids paint, cut, or are trying to teach them to clean or garden, etc?

The end result matters a lot to you. You don’t want a mess. You don’t want wasted paper, glue and tape. You are concerned with time. You can see all the uncleaned corners, the crooked edges, etc. You sometimes don’t appreciate the number of repetitions that are required to get good at something.

When you are working with your kids whether it’s a craft, cooking or doing chores together stay out of your children’s way a bit more. Give them space, time and the resources to do the job. Don’t micromanage so much. Let them learn and take pride in whatever they do. Don’t see the end result through your eyes. See it through theirs. The process is what counts for kids. Aren’t kids amazing!!!!

Your shares are the best compliment.

What’s a Mini-Conversation Anyway??

We’re all looking for simple ways to connect with our families despite how busy life has gotten. One technique I really enjoy is that of mini-conversations. Conversing with children and teens can be fun, relaxing, and energizing and sometimes we learn something new.

The purpose of a mini-conversation is to hear what your kids have to say and to make a connection that’s enjoyable. Sometimes you share cool stuff or ask an interesting question, sometimes they share cool stuff or ask a question, and through it all, you stay Present and listen, for the most part. Mini-conversations, done right, always feel enjoyable to both parties! They never feel like a lecture.

Let me give you an example. When my youngest daughter was twenty, she was reading Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl by Harriet A. Jacobs. She asked me to read the book because she wanted to talk about it. Over the few weeks that it took her to read the book we had conversations about the character of different people in the book, why people act the way they do and believe the things they do, and how to be better people ourselves.

I happened to mention the book to my ten-year-old granddaughter in a letter. She wrote back commenting about freedom and the fact that I had recently attended a caucus. We had a mini-conversation via mail about what a caucus is and who can go and why they would go. That led to a conversation back and forth about Fredrick Douglas, who he was and how he worked for freedom for slaves, women and other minority groups. With the advent of technology, we can have these types of mini-conversations face to face no matter what distance we must traverse.

Jack, my grandson, who was two at the time, had a dear friend who turned 90. He gave Jack a bunch of helium-filled balloons from his party. Jack and I took one balloon to the front yard and let it go. As it floated upward, we had a mini-conversation. It went like this:

Jack: “Look at the balloon go up!”
Me: “Pretty isn’t it. Do all balloons float up like these?”
Jack: “No.”
Me: “Do you know why this balloon floats up into the air?”
Jack: “No”.
Me: “Well, they have gas inside called Helium. It makes the balloon go up.”
Jack: “Cool!”

That’s it; that’s all there was to the conversation. We stood and watched the balloon until it was out of sight. We held hands. It was a pleasurable moment. We felt connected as we did something we enjoyed together.

Having mini-conversations with our children can happen in the car, at a meal, when tucking them in for the night, after a teen comes home from a date or party, when you’re doing chores together and while engaging in a host of other everyday happenings.

Mini-conversations accomplish several things:

• They get a parent and child in a position to look eye to eye, listen to each other and share feelings, as well as information.
• This generates that ‘family feeling’ I’ve mentioned before.
• When they happen consistently over time, they build trust. This can pay you dividends when your kids are teens and young adults.

If this isn’t something you have done before or if you haven’t been very consistent in your efforts it really is worth a try. As you practice you will get better and better because it’s a skill and skills can be learned and mastered.

Here are a few tips to help you get started:

A. Desire the conversation—I’m a great conversationalist with kids of all ages because I want to talk to them. I want to know them. I want to know what they think. I want to know how they feel. Do you want to know more about your children? Do you want to hear what they have to say? This is the number one key to having successful mini-conversations.

B. Listen more than you talk. You may have to ask a question or make a statement to get a mini-conversation going but then listen as much as you can. Pose the question or make the statement and wait to see what happens. If there’s no response, the conversation is over. You wait a while and try again with a different question or comment. As your child or family begins to respond, keep asking questions with an occasional comment. If you spend most of the time being quiet or asking questions, you’ll avoid giving a mini-lecture.

C. Listen without judgment or giving your opinion. A conversation goes much further with a child when we withhold our judgments and opinions. There’s great value in focusing on a child’s feelings or reactions in any given situation rather than sharing what we think or feel. When we can listen without judgment, it helps children process their emotions. We can teach later.

D. Listen with interest. Listening with deep interest shows that you care about what your child is saying, in contrast, to simply listening because it’s what parents do. If you question whether your kids can tell the difference, don’t. They can, and it matters.

E. Ask open-ended questions. How did that work out? How do you feel about that? What do you think you can do? Why don’t you like that? Would you go there again? Are you considering that?

F. Believe that kids like talking with adults. Occasionally adults feel that kids wouldn’t enjoy conversing with them, but that’s not true. Most kids enjoy speaking with adults because, for some, it gives them a sense of maturity. For others, it feels connecting and kids like that. For all children and youth, it helps them feel that what they have to say is important.

G. Take advantage of wait times. There are wait times often in a family: at the doctor’s or other appointments, waiting for the school bus to come, while Dad runs into the store leaving the family in the car, when waiting for cookies to bake, when the light’s red, and so on. These wait times are perfect for having mini-conversations.

H. Have mini-conversations at the most important touchpoints in your family: mealtime, car time, and bedtime. Have dinner mini-conversations no matter who spills milk, slurps their soup, or tips over their chair. You can get it going by saying, “Guess what I saw today,” or “Do you know what my boss did?” or “Hey, did anyone have anything fun happen today?”

If you’re having a strained relationship with any of your children, if you feel overwhelmed and just can’t find time to connect or if you just want more of that ‘family feeling’ then give mini-conversations a try. It will surprise you how it can melt hearts, soothe feelings and teach you more about your child.

Creating that ‘Family Feeling’

How Do Kids Feel About Reading As A Family?

The number one reason to read to your children until they leave your home and go out on their own is to establish an intimate experience filled warmth and belonging, that ‘family feeling.’

From Scholastic’s Kids and Family Reading Report, we learn only 17 percent of parents of kids aged 9–11 read aloud to their children. Yet 83 percent of kids aged 6–17 say being read to is something they either loved or liked a lot.

One of my warmest memories is of my mother reading poetry to us. She didn’t read to us often, but when she did it was magical for me! As I think back on those reading moments with my mom, I know what made them so special. I felt my mom loved us and it created that ‘family feeling’ for me.

There are many ways to read together but if we really want to create that ‘family feeling’ then we can take a lesson from a mother I observed.

A Better Way To Read

Jodie was reading the book Charlott’s Web to her children. Frequently she would stop and ask a question. “What does manure mean?” “What does loft mean?” What does slop mean”? “What is a manure pile?” When the term manure pile came up again, later in the story, Jodie emphasized the term as she read. Then she asked, “Do you remember what manure pile means?” I heard, “Eweee, a pile of poop.” Then laughter.

In the story, the cows were described as patient. Jodie had been working on helping her children learn to be patient. When she read that word she stopped and said, “Patient means to wait quietly till you get what you need.” She got knowing looks from the kids.

At one point something happened that wasn’t right and one of the characters in the book said, “You’re going to catch it.” Jodie asked the kids what that phrase meant. They weren’t sure so she replied, “It means you’re going to be in trouble.” Then she said, “You’re going to catch it, Jack. You’re going to catch it, Maggie. You’re going to catch it, Mary.” Big smiles all around! Jack said in a loud, happy voice, “You’re going to catch it, mom!”

Later she asked, “Do you know what asparagus is?” A chorus of “No.” “Well, it’s like a great big piece of grass that people eat. It’s yummy. We could buy some, eat it and pretend that we are cows. Should we do it?” An excited chorus of yeses! “It sort of looks like a spear”, Jack said.

Next, there was a discussion about slop. Jodie told her kids, “If some people don’t like something, they say it tastes like slop. But the better thing to say is, I don’t like this.” Then there was a discussion about manners.

Then a conversation about freedom ensued. The animals in the story were glad they weren’t tied up or penned in. Jodie said, “Isn’t it interesting that everyone wants a little freedom, to be able to choose what they want to do.” The kids had a lot to say about that! They all talked about freedom and choice and responsibility.

At one point in the story, the goose was telling another animal to twist, turn, skip, slide and run. Jodie said, “She isn’t helping him. Why isn’t it helpful?” Jack replied, “She’s teaching him to run away. She is getting him in trouble.”

Eventually, they read something in the book that was unfamiliar, and Jack said, “That part isn’t in the movie”. Then they discussed why things in books aren’t always in the movie. They decided it was good to read the book first and get the whole story before seeing a movie about the book.

This family reading time took about 30 minutes. The ages of the children were 7, 5, and 3. They were totally engaged and involved. They got through one, maybe two chapters. It’s going to take some time to get the whole book read. But getting the book finished isn’t what this mother is trying to accomplish. She’s connecting with her kids. She’s taking 30 minutes to be Present. She was intent on creating that ‘family feeling.’

What did they share:

• The meanings to many words that were unfamiliar and that are important to understanding the story.
• They learned about some character traits such as patience and responsibility.
• They talked about freedom and why it is important and why people like it.
• They learned the meaning of a new phrase; you’re going to catch it.
• They planned the next family activity – to buy, cook and eat asparagus and act like cows.
• They talked about manners and what to do if you are eating and you don’t like something.
• They talked about the difference in written stories and movies and why they might not be the same.

This is a delightful way to read a book to children. It’s fun, it’s interactive, it holds attention, it’s learning at its best. I’ve seen this same type of success with older children and youth. Reading time as a family is not about getting through a book. It is about bonding, laughter, happy feelings and learning together.

For Success Remeber The Difference in Adults and Kids

Remember that adults are product driven, for the most part, and kids are process driven. We want to read, move along at a reasonable pace and get it done, then on to the next book. Kids want to experience something while they’re reading. They want to experience that ‘family feeling’.

What great book have you read with your family recently? I’d love to know. : )

Your shares are the best compliment. : ) 

The Big Epidemic

The idea that we should be careful to keep our priorities right in terms of not letting lesser concerns get in the way of greater ones so that we find ourselves “in the thick of thin things,” is good advice.

The Big Epidemic

However, getting stuck in the thick of thin things seems to be epidemic in today’s world. It can be a challenge to discern what the thin things are and sidestep them. This is a problem for every parent. There are so many things we need to do to manage our home, make a living, and frankly, get some time to ourselves. And then there are the expectations of the world; what parents are supposed to do to really give their kids a good life, to be great parents.

Let me give you two very different examples of the difficulty of staying out of thin things from two very different moms. One is middle aged and is schooling her children at home and one is older with five grown children. And just for fun, I’ll share how the issue was solved.

Phones, Screens, Frustration!

I was working with a mom who happened to be homeschooling. She really wanted to be Present with her kids during the time they were learning together but she kept getting sucked into thin things.

If the phone rang it had to be answered – it might be important. The computer and other screens were also a siren’s song. Just glancing at the screen for a few minutes couldn’t be harmful, right!

As this mom put it to me, “during our learning time are a tool of Satan!” Pretty strong words! That tells you the level of frustration this mom felt at her willingness to let the unimportant intrude on the important.

This mom, like all the parents I work with, really does want her children to know that they come first, that she loves being with them, and values her time with them. But she was struggling to not walk away from being present with her kids to take care of what was coming in from the world. It was making her feel terrible.

Wisely, she pondered the situation, did a bit of knee time and came up with a solution. She decided to turn off the screens when she wanted to be present with her kids during their learning time. She turned the computer off at night, so it wouldn’t be a temptation in the morning and then when she got down to business with her children, she put her phone on silent.

The outcome is that she’s been able to be truer to her family and herself. She can be present for small amounts of time and accomplish her goal of teaching her kids, but more importantly of sending the message that they matter to her and are at the top of her list.

Expectations, Stuff, and Guilt!

I have another friend who has raised five children. In a recent conversation, she mentioned her dismay at all the stuff that she still had from when her kids were living at home. You know the kind of stuff we save – school photos, childhood drawings, old school papers, awards, etc. She felt that somehow, she had let her kids down because they didn’t have all this stuff in beautiful scrapbooks. I mean, all her friends had made beautiful scrapbooks for their kids, she was sure of it. She felt guilty. It weighed on her mind.

This is what she said to me “I guess I was too busy helping kids with lessons, sitting through games, playing, supporting plays,” … her voice trailed off.”

When I called her on this she smiled and said, “Your right. All that stuff I did with my kids was really more important, wasn’t it?”

Seth and his treasures : )

Now there isn’t anything wrong with a beautiful scrapbook or looking at a screen if they don’t take us away from time we should be connecting with our family. I made a few scrapbooks for some of my older kids, but they didn’t have any fancy pages. I just paper punched the sheets and put them in the binders. My son, Seth, who is on the downside of forty, still has his and thinks it’s the best. He never missed beautifully crafted pages. Andrew doesn’t even have a scrapbook, he was farther down the line but he loved the box of his stuff.

And if you feel pressed about all that stuff you seem to be collecting for

Andrew and his box of ‘stuff’.

your kids here is a thought. A couple of Christmases ago I bought some pretty storage boxes. Then I sorted all the stuff, and after seven kids there was a bunch of it! I put each child’s treasures in a separate box and that’s what Don and I gave them for Christmas.

How did that go? They LOVED them. It was so fun to watch them sorting through the contents. You could hear, “Do you remember this.” “Oh my gosh, I can’t believe I did that.” They sat and reminisced for a couple of hours. Since then they have discarded most of what I thought needed to be saved all those years ago.

Funny how we downplay the time we spend with our family, connecting with one another. We rarely give it the kudos it deserves. Funny how we sometimes elevate the value of things that matter far less.

As the world gets busier and noisier and the expectations increase, it becomes critical for us to carve out time for those things that are of greatest importance, our children, our family, our time together.

“We become so caught up in the busyness of our lives. Were we to step back, however, and take a good look at what we’re doing, we may find that we have immersed ourselves in the ‘thick of thin things?’ In other words, too often we spend most of our time taking care of the things which do not really matter much at all in the grand scheme of things, neglecting those more important causes.” (“What Have I Done for Someone Today?” Pres. Thomas S Monson, Oct. 2009)

Being present doesn’t require a lot of time. It does require letting go of outside influences and focusing on those who matter most. When we look someone in the eye and listen, we send a very clear message: I see you. I hear you. You matter to me.

Your shares are the best compliment. : ) 

I’ve Got The TONE!

 

Nature abhors a vacuum.

 

Aristotle believed this was true and so do I.

I used to rage/yell. Even though it took ten years to stop raging and many years before that to even see that raging might be a problem, I have felt very proud of the accomplishment. However, if we’re open to growth we won’t rest on past laurels.

Not too long ago I was having a conversation with my son-in-law, Kash. He’s married to my third daughter and we see their family a couple of times a year. I like Kash a lot.

He and I were talking about making changes, what that process looks like and so forth. I happened to bring up the raging thing and this was his reply, “Well, you know what I hear in your voice most of the time – frustration and annoyance.” WHAT!!!

Man, that was like having cold water thrown in my face. Whew! But I have learned over many decades to pay attention when the Universe/God speaks, even if the voice is funneled through my son-in-law. So, I spent some time pondering what he had said and, being a praying person, I spent some knee time asking God about the situation.

When You Discover a Weakness

CELEBRATE! 

 

Guess what? He was 100% correct. Now in my past, I would have felt terrible and castigated myself for having yet another weakness. But no more! I do not do that “beat myself up for not being perfect” thing. In fact, after catching my breath I did a halleluiah dance. Really, in my mind I celebrated.

It’s been over twenty years since I stopped raging and it had finally become time for me to make a new advancement in my life. I know this because I have been shown a current weakness that I’m prepared both mentally and emotionally to change. It’s an event to celebrate.

After I returned home, I made it a priority to see what this frustration/annoyance looked like in my daily walk. It was easy to see, now that I knew it existed. It’s a tone in my voice. It’s not the words or the feelings behind the words. What I had done over twenty years ago was replace raging with a tone.

You see, what I didn’t realize back then that I understand now is that you can’t just say, “I’m going to stop yelling/raging.” You must also decide what you’re going to do instead. You must replace one way of being with another. Remember the earth abhors a vacuum. By default, I replaced raging/yelling with a tone of voice that lets people know I’m not happy or satisfied with them or the situation.

I decided that I wanted to replace the ‘tone’ with a calm and peaceful response. I have written about taking control of our response many times and I know it’s doable! I believe that I’m 100% in control of my response no matter what is happening.

So, I’ve been paying attention. Man, this has become a deep-seated habit for me. Every day I hear the tone many times. If I didn’t know what I know I would be discouraged because on the surface I don’t seem to be getting a handle on it. However, I’m clear about what change looks like and frankly, it looks like failure long before it begins to look like or actually become success.

You may be at a place in your life where the Universe/God knows you’re mentally and emotionally ready for a change. Celebrate and decide what you will replace the current behavior with. Then get clear on what change looks like in real life. Here are the steps that I have experienced repeatedly and have watched those I mentor experience. Understanding and embracing these truths will help you stay the course while making lasting changes.

 5 Steps to Lasting Change

 

1. Recognize that there is a need for change or adjustment. I recall weeping on the phone during a session with one of my mentors. She asked me why I was crying, and I replied, “I am ______ years old. I should have known that!” She reminded me that we come to knowledge when we’re ready to do something about it and not until. You can read, hear or be taught something and never really internalize it. That’s because you weren’t ready. When we’re ready the teacher will come in some form. There is no need to weep over the time that it’s taken to become ready. Just celebrate that you are now ready and then go to work!

2. You will continue behaving in the old way for a time, but the difference is that you recognize that you’re doing what you don’t want to do. Because this step can last a while it can be discouraging and we are tempted to think, ”I’m never going to overcome this, or change this.” But the truth is that this is what the second step looks like so don’t get discouraged. It can and often does look and feel like failure before it looks or feels like progress.

3. Eventually, as you begin doing the very thing you have decided not to do you will catch yourself in the act and reverse course. This step can feel a bit challenging because it usually involves apologizing, some explaining and then starting again. But it’s worth it!

4. The next step is having a desire to behave, speak or act in the old way but then choosing not to. There is a space between stimulus and response and in that space, we get to choose. When we begin making a change that space is small and for some, seems non-existent, but I promise it’s there. I also promise that we can increase this space for choice.

5. Our way of being has changed. We no longer think about responding in the old way. We just respond in the way we have chosen. Our very nature has changed. We have become a new person in that one thing. We no longer must practice because “we are changed”.

Anyone can change. We just need to understand what change looks like in real life, the steps, and then be persistent and consistent.

Your shares are the best compliment. : ) 

Exploding is ALWAYS a Choice

I bet you clicked this email because the subject line ticked you off! Twenty years ago, it would have ticked me off too. However, I hope to move you in the direction of accepting this as true because it has great bearing on what we have been discussing for the last two weeks.

We have talked about how our perception of what is happening fuels our emotions and leads to a response either positive or negative. We have also looked at seven tips to help you learn to control your responses when things go wrong.  However, you have to believe that controlling your response is even possible.

How I Learned to Take Control

When I was a young mom, I was prone to exploding/raging on a regular basis. I am not proud of this fact and it took me quite a few years to come to the realization that exploding/raging was not only ineffective when dealing with my husband and children but that it was detrimental to healthy family relationships. You see I came from a family of exploders. It’s what we did, how we dealt with disappointment, sorrow, frustration, etc.

Eventually, I did begin to see that exploding/raging was counter-productive and that it never resolved whatever it was that was causing me to explode/rage in the first place. But I couldn’t see how I could ever stop this behavior because it was so immediate. I mean there would be a stimulus of some kind and then an explosion. There wasn’t even an opportunity to not explode/rage.

However, as the years went by, I began to learn more about stimulus and response and I realized that there was a moment of choice. It took me a long time to accept this because if it was true then I could choose to not explode/rage. It made me responsible for what I did and took the responsibility away from the circumstance or another person. It made me 100% in control of my response.

That was intimidating! It felt like a huge and burdensome responsibility.

One thing I learned and began to believe in fully was that there was a space between stimulus and response, no matter how small. When I had accepted this as true I was able to move to the next step: believing that I had the power to increase this space.

The first thing I did was begin to analyze what happened after each explosion. What triggered it? What was my perception of what was happening? Was I blaming anyone or anything? What was I really feeling because I knew that anger is always a secondary emotion? Was I disappointed, embarrassed, feeling disrespected, what?

Looking carefully at what caused me to explode was helpful.

It didn’t take long for me to begin to be able to see in my mind what was happening. I could see the trigger and then see the explosion and in between, I felt a tiny space for choice. I also began to see that I chose to explode. It’s hard to put this into words but I think if you’re a person who lets your response get out of control you will know what I’m talking about.

Next, I stopped beating myself up when I behaved inappropriately, and I just looked at what had happened. I gave myself credit for wanting to do better, to be better.

As I did this, I began to feel hopeful that yes, I could take control of my responses. I began to feel the space between stimulus and response get larger, I could feel myself making the decision to explode. Rather than feeling badly about this I allowed myself to celebrate that I could see myself choose. This made it possible, over time, to begin making a different choice.

Eventually, I stopped exploding/raging. I rarely do it anymore. I still see the space in most situations and I feel myself choose.

A couple of weeks ago I told you about my husband and my good sewing scissors.  What I didn’t reveal in that story was that when I picked up the scissors, I felt the space for choice and I saw myself choose to be angry. Then I marched into the house and confronted my husband. I didn’t explode/rage as in the old days, but I was clearly annoyed with him.

As I walked away from him after my harsh words, I felt myself in that space between stimulus and response and I knew that I wanted to remain angry at him. So, I came to a dead stop in the middle of my kitchen and asked myself, “What are you really feeling.”

Here it is in a nutshell. I was frustrated that the office wasn’t finished. I was feeling anxious because the weather was changing and all my office stuff was under a tarp on the patio. I was weary of controlling my anxiousness because this part of my life was out of order.

Then I did what I have practiced for years now, I chose to let go of my desire to remain angry and I smiled. Smiling releases endorphins and even if the smile isn’t genuine it changes how you feel. I was able to pull myself together, apologize to my husband and talk about what was really going on.

Exploding/raging or even being angry, no matter the underlying cause, is always a choice. You are 100% in control of how your life looks. If you feel like you have no control, I promise that when you this you plant your feet on the path to control. As you increase the space between stimulus and response you will find a sense of freedom and you will be happier!

Seven Steps to Increasing Your Ability to Choose

Let’s put the steps I took to increase the space between stimulus and response into order:

1. Believe that there is a space between a stimulus and your response and that no matter how small it is now it can be increased
2. Believe that it is in your power to increase your space for choice no matter how poorly you are doing at present
3. Understand that when you take 100% responsibility for your life and your responses it is not burdensome but is the most freeing thing you will ever do!
4. Once you have these beliefs planted in your mind, begin analyzing every time you respond inappropriately. What were the real reasons? What triggered it? What was your perception of what was happening? Were you blaming anyone or anything? Be honest.
5. Never berate yourself for falling back into the old behavior. I gave myself credit for wanting to do better, to be better. It’s a wonderful thing to come to know where you are in error and then taking steps to change, no matter how long it actually takes to change. Celebrate that!
6. Begin to mentally see the space between the stimulus/trigger and your response. Mentally see it enlarging. If you are a praying person I have found this to be invaluable in assisting me to see in my mind this enlarging of the space for choice.
7. Avoid discouragement. This isn’t an easy or quick process for most of us but it is doable over time. How long did it take me to stop exploding/raging? Ten Years!
8. Never quit. Keep seeing. Keep analyzing. Hold on to the belief that you can choose anger or not.
9. Remember that small and simple things done consistently over time bring the desired results.

Your shares are the best compliment.

What Can You Do When You Have a Mess?

 

See those garbage bags-been there three days. They might get thrown outside today!

The last three weeks have been packed. I tried to get Christmas done and mailed before my trip to Seattle to help my daughter who is pregnant and very ill. But life is life and I live in a four-generation household and… well, I didn’t get it done.

Seattle was wonderful, busy, fun, and tiring all at the same time. I came home with croup. I know, only kids get croup but every few years I join them. I don’t feel ill, but I sound terrible and feel totally worn out, so Wed. and Thurs. I didn’t get much accomplished. But I couldn’t rest on Friday because there was so much to do.

 

Here’s what I was trying to accomplish on Friday 

  • Bake three apple pies
  • Make another tent kit
  • Go to the doctors
  • Get my mom to take a bath and trim her hair
  • Make 50 pancakes and a pot of green chili
  • Create and format a special document
  • Get all the rest of Christmas wrapped and shipped

I have a friend who had surgery the day before I flew home from Seattle. When I asked how I could help her she said that she was having tons of visits and treats but that her family could use some nurturing. Hence one apple pie.

My neighbor loves apple pie too and I have had her on my gift list for three weeks. I wanted to give her a pie and if you’re going to make one pie you might as well make two right! But if I bake and give away pies, I must make one for my own household or there would be a rebellion. So, three pies.

Saturday morning our church planned a Christmas breakfast. That’s right, breakfast. I would have opted to take a breakfast casserole, but my husband has a family tradition of Green Chili Pancakes and it’s so unique that he really wanted to share it. The problem is, he doesn’t know how to make it, I do. His grannie taught me. : ) So I needed to make 50 pancakes and then a huge pot of the green chili sauce.  It was too much to do Saturday morning, so it had to be done on Friday. This is very delicious by the way.  You can print the recipe HERE.

Now all of this wouldn’t have been too bad, but we had a double doctor’s appointment in the afternoon, we had to stop at two stores on the way home to get some items we needed to finish the above projects and that whole thing took three hours.

I was still trying to get my Christmas items packed and shipped but found that I needed one more tent kit. Long story. And I also realized that I needed a formatted document to include with a special framed family genealogy chart we are sending to our children. We are direct descendants of William Brewster of the Mayflower and I wanted to help each family understand who he was, what his family was like, and why they came to America.

I was able to create and format the document but never made a dent in the gift wrapping or the tent kit making. I did get mom bathed and her hair trimmed. Big woohoo!

It’s Saturday morning now. The church breakfast is done. The chili pancakes were a success. Everyone loved the pies which have been eaten and I am heading off to do the tent kit and get the rest of the stuff wrapped and shipped. My house is a disaster and the kitchen cabinets can’t even be seen. I haven’t vacuumed, dusted, or cleaned anything. Laundry is piling up but I did get one load in before the breakfast. Another big woohoo!

Here’s my point – life can be overwhelming even when we don’t plan for it to be. Sometimes we get stretched out, tasks bunch together and it feels heavy. In those moments, in my past and younger life, I would go to bed feeling like a failure. I would wonder why I couldn’t get more done. Why wasn’t I like so and so who not only gets more done but looks great too and on and on!

Here’s what I don’t do anymore:

  • I don’t compare myself to anyone! Really everyone has their hidden disasters!
  • I don’t beat myself up because I’m not perfect, slow, behind, didn’t plan better, start sooner, stay well, look put together, etc.
  • If I find myself having a hard time managing my thoughts about myself I pray. Find something that works for you!
  • I work diligently to refrain from blaming anyone, or anything for my slowness, tiredness, lateness, etc. I don’t blame! Sometimes it is what it is.

Here’s what I do to manage those times when life is just too much:

  • I practice remaining calm and if I need to I go to the bathroom and read a few paragraphs and breathe
  • I do what I can and I let it be enough
  • I remember to do the few things that make me feel cared for (my nightly shower and reading in the bathroom)
  • I make an effort to get enough sleep even if it means not getting as much done in a day
  • I take time to remain Present – at least once a day. Being Present happens in 5-minute chunks. This takes practice, even for me
  • I pray a lot! and I force myself to smile : )

I hope that this holiday season you’ll work on being your own best friend. Say no a bit more. Compare less. Talk nicely to yourself. Remember small moments of self-care. Smile even when you don’t feel like it. Be Present at least once a day with someone you care about. It can take 5 minutes or less!

Your shares are the best compliment! : ) 

7 Tips for Controlling Your Response When Things Go Wrong

Last week I shared two stories about how our perception of what is happening fuels our response; that paying attention to our thoughts and the stories and emotions they generate is important when parenting and is a skill which can be learned and practiced.

Yeah right!! There was a time when I didn’t believe that I could control how I felt let alone that it was a skill which could be learned. Many of you may also have a difficult time accepting that you can control how you feel and respond.

CAN CONTROLLING YOUR STORY MAKE A DIFFERENCE?

I was a reasonable person, and I lived a good life but, darn it, stuff was always happening. I mean, if the kids are acting crazy, it’s going to make you feel crazy. If milk keeps getting spilled, if the house is getting trashed, and if grades are down, you feel down yourself. When money’s tight or your spouse isn’t helping you out, you feel overwhelmed. If you feel unsupported or if you have a health issue, all of this is going to mess with how you feel and respond, right?

Back then I knew the answer was a big fat yes! But time and experience have proven to me that you can control how you feel by taking control of the stories you tell yourself.

THOUGHTS CREATE OUR STORIES

Perspective is an amazing thing. It is, simply put, the story we tell ourselves: what we think is happening or has happened. It all begins with a thought. Once we have a thought, if we hold it in our minds, it becomes a story because our brain does its job and goes to the files and finds evidence that our thought is correct. This process takes fractions of seconds and this scenario repeats itself hundreds of times each day.

You change your story by controlling your thoughts. You manage your emotions by controlling your story. When you do this, you take more positive actions and you get better results. It is a skill and the more you practice it the better you get!

TIPS FOR HAVING BETTER STORIES

TIP 1—Take responsibility and stop blaming
When we choose to tell ourselves stories that blame others, we decide to become victims. Victims parent poorly. I hear parents blame their kids all the time for how they’re feeling.
• You make me so mad.
• You have ruined my day.
• I can’t think straight because you’re so noisy.
• I wouldn’t be yelling if you would listen.

Blame is always an indicator there’s a problem with our way of being or how we perceive what’s happening.

TIP 2—Decide to think the best of others
A father expected his 16-year-old daughter home at a certain time but she was late, very late! He began writing a mental story. He imagined all sorts of scenarios for why she was late. She lacked respect for family rules. She was thoughtless. She was irresponsible. The later she was, the bigger the story grew and the angrier he became. As she opened the door, he exploded with, “You’re late! You know the rules, and you broke your promise. You’re grounded, young lady.” Of course, his daughter ran to her room crying.

To let you in on the facts, the girl’s date had taken her to a drinking party after the movie. When she asked him to take her home, he refused. She had tried to call home, but the line was busy. So she called a friend who got off work at midnight and came and got her. In the meantime, she sat on the curb in the dark because the party was out of control and not safe.

The father’s story was at the heart of the problem, not his daughter’s lateness. When we decide to think the best of others, we can manage our thoughts and the resulting stories more effectively.

TIP 3—Choose words wisely
“What’s in you is what comes out.” It’s true! Pay attention to the words you say in frustration, sorrow, and anger; you’ll get a good idea of what you’re holding onto in your subconscious mind.

Our words reveal what we truly feel. The words that we allow to come out of our mouths are what ultimately drive feelings and the resultant actions and bring the results we live with daily.

Watch the words you use when thinking or speaking about your children and teens:
• Childlike vs. naughty
• Young vs. clumsy
• Needs more direction vs. oppositional
• Tired vs. grumpy
• Preoccupied vs. lazy
• Angry vs. rebellious
• Being a kid vs. messy
• Wants my presence vs. needy
• Has a need vs. is pushing my buttons

TIP 4—Check your core beliefs
We can get an idea of the beliefs we’ve formed growing up by paying attention to the stories we tell ourselves over and over again and by listening to the words coming out of our mouths. These beliefs may not be supportive or helpful in having good relationships with others or in our ability to be Present and parent well. Once we’ve found a core belief which is not helpful, we can get rid of it by rewriting the story.

TIP 5—Track your thoughts
Because thoughts are powerful, we need to gain control over them in order to stop getting more of what we don’t want. Once you’re aware of a negative thought, you need to capture it—write it down. You might be thinking it’s crazy to write down negative stuff, but I’ve lived this, and I know it works! So pay attention to your negative thoughts and write them down. Look for patterns, unsupportive and destructive stories and repeating themes. You can shred or burn your daily list periodically. Take control!

TIP 6—Teach others what you’ve learned
Teaching others what we’re learning and experiencing is a powerful tool that helps us make even greater changes. As we teach others, we clarify for ourselves. If we teach what we learn to our family, we’ll be heartened as we see them making changes also, and our whole family will be blessed.

TIP 7—Keep practicing
Keep working at controlling your thoughts. This is something you need to do daily. There isn’t a point when you’re so good at it that you can stop working on it

Would you like to know more about these seven tips on controlling your responses with your children, then check out the book Becoming a Present Parent: Connecting With Your Children in Five Minutes or Less.

Your Shares are the BEST Compliment. : )