Category: Making changes

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. : ) 

When the Result Stinks You’re the Problem!

My mom, NaVon Cazier

My mother has come to live with us. She is eighty-seven and has Alzheimer’s. That makes every day an adventure.

My mother and my husband both go to bed a bit later than I do because they sleep in. Recently, early in the morning, I used my blow dryer for about a minute and a half. This is not an exaggeration as my hair is short and I do very little to it.

All of a sudden my mother appeared at the bathroom door demanding, “What in the H___ are you doing that in the middle of the night for!” Whoa, that took me back and I replied, “Well mom, it isn’t the middle of the night. It’s six forty-five and I am getting ready for work.” By this point, she was already heading back to her bedroom mumbling about the inconsideration of some people and having her sleep disturbed in the middle of the night.

My husband, Don

I have a wonderful pair of scissors. They cost a bit of money and I keep them in a drawer with my sewing supplies and I NEVER use them for anything but cutting material. Recently, I was sewing an item and left the scissors sitting on a pile of material scraps on my kitchen counter.

Later that day I found them outside, on the patio, in front of the door of our new office where my husband had been doing some electrical wiring. I knew that my husband, unable to find the pliers, had used my good scissors to cut his electrical wires! I picked them up and marched into the house, stood in front of my husband and said in a very irritated voice, “Why were my good sewing scissors outside by the office? These are expensive scissors and are only for cutting material!” Needless, to say he was taken back and replied, “I don’t know why they were outside.”

These are two really wonderful examples of how the story we tell ourselves can and does impact how we respond.

OUR RESPONSE MATTERS   

When we’re parenting children understanding the connection between what we think is happening or has happened and how we respond really matters.

It matters for two reasons:

  • What we think will determine if our response is appropriate or not
  • Our response will send a message to our child about how we feel about them and often about who they are regardless of whether this was our intention or not

Frequently, if our story is skewed, our response is harsh and inappropriate and the message it sends is damaging to how our children feel about themselves.

In the case of my mom, her story was that it was the middle of the night and so she felt that I was totally inconsiderate of the rest of the family and that fueled her angry response.

In the case of the scissors, my story was that Don was using them inappropriately and that he was an adult and should have known better and that fueled my accusatory and angry response.

In both cases we were wrong in what we perceived was happening.

My mom and I both sent a message that we didn’t really intend to send. My mom was bugged that her sleep was interrupted but she doesn’t really believe I am an inconsiderate person but if I had been an impressionable child or teen her response could have sent a negative message that could have been internalized as true.

I know my husband isn’t inconsiderate and inappropriate but my message implied that he was both. Often the message that we send to our children when we’re not in control of our response is that there is something wrong with them, not with what they may or may not have done.

Thoughts, perceptions, and beliefs create a story and based on those stories we feel an emotion and then respond. Our response generates a result which can be good or bad, helpful or unhelpful.

Paying attention to our thoughts and the stories they generate is important and is a skill which can be learned and practiced. As we do so our lives get better and happier because we have more positive outcomes for ourselves, our relationships, our children, and our family.

Next week I will share seven tips to help you begin practicing the skill of controlling your response even when you are angry, frustrated, irritated, etc.

Your shares are the best compliment.

 

A Home Management Tip for Autumn

Stuff! Stuff! Stuff!

I lived in Montana in the same house for over twenty-one years with a husband and seven children. I bet you can imagine the amount of stuff we accumulated!

We frequently had to reorganize the garage. One whole end of the garage was a special room dedicated to storing stuff. In the house hours of time went into cleaning out closets, drawers, and toy boxes. I can recall the time required to sort, launder, store, and fold all of the clothes and bedding we managed to accumulate.

Eventually, we decided to move to Utah. I was ready! I began cleaning out the house. I held numerous garage sales. I wanted to let it all go. My husband felt stressed when he left for work because he wasn’t there to monitor what was being sold. He was worried about what we were going to have to replace.

Here’s what happened. After over thirty years of living together and raising seven children, we pared it all down to one small U-haul and a van. Would you be surprised to know that in all the years since we haven’t replaced a single item?

More Stuff!

“ …We invest a great deal in the acquisition of stuff. Companies bombard us with slick, relentless propaganda as to why we must have their stuff, and we judge an individual’s success by their stuff’s sheer quantity and supposed quality… Stuff beyond our basic needs does not liberate. Consider the overall investment of your time. You have to shop for stuff. You have to clean, maintain, and organize stuff. You lose stuff. You look for stuff. You polish stuff, secure it against theft, trip over it, recharge it, upgrade it, accessorize it, pack it, move it, unpack it, insure it, fix it, and eventually sell, trash, or bequeath it. Stuff has no use beyond this life, and it takes a lot from us.” -Shawn Miller

If you’re having a hard time keeping your home clean you probably have too much stuff. If your dishes are always piled up you probably have too many dishes. If your kid’s rooms are a disaster they probably have too many toys, too many gadgets, and too many clothes.

Stuff is Energy Draining!

Each item we own requires some of our energy. The more belongings we have, the more emotional energy, as well as physical energy, is needed to maintain it. I want you to visualize something.

Close your eyes and imagine you have threads of energy attached to your shoulders and these threads connect to every item you have in your possession. Every item—each dish, cup, and pan; pictures in the photo album, CDs, and hammer; each nail, sock, book, pile of papers, sweater, car, guitar pick, and even your computer files. It’s one energy thread per item.

Now envision wherever you go you energetically drag all your possessions with you. You drag them via the connecting threads of emotional energy. How much are you dragging?

What if you eliminated a quarter of your belongings? How much lighter would you feel? Would you even miss any of the things you discarded or gave away? Through my experience, the answer is surprising: not really.

I have a very wealthy friend; she could buy just about anything. Her home is lovely, not cluttered or crowded. There isn’t a plethora of stuff. She gave me a perfectly beautiful blouse one day and I asked her why she was giving it away. She replied, “I have a rule. If I buy something new I have to give something away.” Wow, really wise woman!

In last weeks article, I talked about a principle which allows us a great deal of freedom – keep things simple. Getting rid of stuff is a way to simplify your life, to free yourself and Autumn is a perfect time.

Of Hens and Families

                                                   A Very Bright Chicken!

We have chickens, free-range chickens. That means they are never locked in the coop. That has its advantages and disadvantages!

•It feels like country even in the city
•They poop on your patio and steps
•Breakfast can always include eggs
•It takes a hunt to get those breakfast eggs
•There are fewer bugs everywhere
•Ripe garden tomatoes might not make it into the house!

You see the last thing on the list- Ripe garden tomatoes might not make it into the house! That has been happening to me all summer. In fact, I have been picking my tomatoes when they are still slightly orange with a bit of green. It’s annoying because the reason to plant tomatoes is that you want ripe from the vine tomatoes.

I’ve been watching for the culprit who’s getting into the garden. Today I found her out! She is the mangiest chicken in the flock. She’s missing feathers on her neck and on her behind. She’s skinny and scraggly. You wouldn’t think much of her. However, you would be wrong! She is smarter than the average chicken despite her looks.

This morning I discovered her in my garden and I shooed her out. Then, because I can’t figure out how she gets in I watched her. Within minutes I saw her scoot under the fence at the corner where it connects to our neighbor’s fence. I shooed her back out. Then I placed a large rock in front of the low spot.

These low spots are actually created by the chickens themselves. They love taking dirt baths. Over time they can create quite an indention.

That’s what has happened around the perimeter of my garden. When I discovered this I placed cinder blocks in every indention I knew about. That’s why I couldn’t figure out how Scraggy Hen got in this morning.

After I blocked her newest entrance I watched her pace from one end of the garden to the other looking for a way in. I could feel her frustration as she paced back and forth trying this and that.

Although I felt for her plight what I felt, even more, was the desire for a ripe red tomato out of my own garden so I turned my gaze away and I went back to my cleaning. The next time I looked her way she was in the garden! How did she do that!!

I shooed her out and then I watched some more. For just a few minutes she went back to pacing the fence line, then she veered to the left towards the pasture fence. The fence at the back of the garden is also the fence to the back pasture. It’s made of far different wire than our chicken wire garden fence.

This fencing is meant to keep out cows and sheep, not chickens. Scraggy Hen looked along that piece of fence line until she found a place where the wires were just a bit more open and through them she went. Now she was in the pasture and she headed for the section that is at the back of the garden, where she searched until she found a larger opening. Voila, in the garden again!

What Do Chickens Have To Do With Families?

Now, this post isn’t about hens and gardens or even ripe tomatoes. It’s about the challenge we have to work out a solution when something that used to work stops working for our family or family relationships.

Scraggy Hen had been getting into my garden the same way all summer, under the fence. She had a routine going. Get in, eat all the tomato you can and get out before Mean Lady shoos you out. Then today it stopped working. Scraggy Hen paced up and down along the fence line for a long time. She would finally wander away and then eventually come back and pace some more. It was frustrating to watch and if chickens feel then Scraggy Hen was frustrated. She just kept checking the same old spots but they were blocked and she couldn’t get through anymore.

That can happen in family relationships and family systems; what used to work stops working and then we mentally pace. We keep trying to do it the old way. We feel frustrated, angry, annoyed, sad, victimized and any number of other human responses.

Back to Scraggy Hen. She got tired of pacing that fence line. She wanted ripe, red tomatoes for breakfast. She had had them before and wanted them again. So she checked out a new fence line and got through. Back into ripe, red tomato heaven!

For Better Solutions Get Out of The Box

What Scraggy Hen did was get out of the box. She stopped thinking in the same old familiar pattern and tried something different. She stopped being frustrated and feeling victimized. She took control of her response and began to think outside of the box. When nothing was going right she went left, literally.

Scraggy Hen was used to getting into the garden a specific way. When that way stopped working she had to find a new way. She had to leave the comfort zone of what she knew and try something else.

There are books written about how to become an out of the box thinker, to find better solutions. But here are some simple steps to begin practicing now.
.
•Stop accepting victimhood and begin taking control of your responses.

When things aren’t going well it’s easy to feel like a victim of other people, even our kids. However, we are always in control of our response and when we believe and live as if that is true, it goes a long way in helping us manage even unmanageable situations and come up with better or new solutions

Repeat to yourself every time you feel that someone is doing something to you – I am not a victim!

•Leave your comfort zone

We all have ways that we have always done things or think that they should be done. It’s easier to follow the status quo but families who thrive keep changing whatever needs to be changed. They aren’t afraid to try doing something in a new way. In every family, everything is an experiment. Some work and some don’t and it’s OK. Try another experiment!

•Challenge your assumptions (stories)

Often when things stop working or go awry we assume it’s the other person’s fault. However, as we remain in control of our response to what doesn’t feel right we can also begin looking at our own motives, desires, and stories. What is fueling our feelings and our actions?

•Ask yourself searching questions

For example – instead of blaming your kids for not doing their chores ask yourself questions about how you are when you’re attempting to get them to do their chores. Are you present? Are your boundaries good? How do you feel about chores and what energy are you bringing? How is your consistency? Are you allowing yourself to feel like a victim? Why? When we ask ourselves searching questions about what is happening or not happening we can often make slight changes in our own behavior that can right a sinking ship or help us find a new ship altogether.

• Step out of your shoes and step into that of your spouse and children

It’s easy to get stuck in our own heads and in our own feelings. But when we step out of our shoes and into someone else’s we get a better idea of what’s driving another person’s behavior. For example, I had a friend who’s 13-year-old would not talk to her. It made her feel like a bad mom, that her daughter was mad at her or that she didn’t love her. She kept trying to get her daughter to talk to her. It only widened the gap.

Finally, this mom stepped out of her shoes and into those of her daughter. She decided that being 13 was probably a tough place to be and that what her daughter might need was a consistent connection, not words. She spent 3-5 minutes sitting on the edge of her daughter’s bed each night in the dark, in silence. She gently laid her hand on the bed next to her daughter’s arm. After a few weeks, her daughter began opening up. This mom stepped out of the box in her thinking.

•Don’t Take The Need for New Solutions Personally

Life is full of ups and downs. We can ride these waves of change better when we’re open to exploring different options and trying new experiments. Don’t take the need to change personally. Don’t make it about how you are doing as a parent. Just try a new experiment.

Your shares are the best compliment. : ) 

Flying By The Seat of Your Pants Is Uncomfortable!

Being a mother of seven busy children was a BIG job. One of the difficulties I ran into was managing all the mess and work that comes with a family. Believe me, you don’t have to have seven kids to figure out that a family takes work.

I do a lot of mentoring with mom’s and dads who feel a bit over the top with managing all that they have on their plates and still finding time to enjoy being in their homes with their families. One thing that we always take a good look at, as we analyze feelings of frustration or anger, are family systems.

I had a mom tell me that one thing that really got her down was that after dinner everyone scattered and she was faced with cleaning up the mess by herself. She felt she was in this bad place because she didn’t have a system.

Here was the real problem – she had a system that didn’t work well for her. The system that she and her family were using was that after dinner everyone scattered and mom was left to clean up. Yup, that was their system. It was a system by default but a system none the less. Flying by the seat of your pants is uncomfortable!

When looking at family systems I have a parent make a list of the top three things that happen in a day that cause them to feel like leaving home, you know, those times when they feel most frustrated or angry at their children or family. Then we take a look at what system is being used. We take an honest look! Once we know what has been happening over and over we can design an experiment to determine what might feel and work better.

I LOVE experiments! When a scientist wants to see if they can get a certain outcome they design an experiment. If they don’t get the outcome they want then they try something else. The scientist doesn’t berate him or herself at the end of a failed experiment. They just try another experiment. But moms and dads can be pretty hard on themselves if something doesn’t work out well the first time. Maybe that’s why we fly by the seat of our pants so often and have systems by default. We don’t want to fail. But as I said, you can’t fail with an experiment because, that what it is, an experiment. So, begin taking a hard look at your family systems.

As I help someone design an experiment we take into account their desires, energy level, family personalities, etc and come up with something that has a chance to work in their family. Over the years I have seen many successes.

I devised some very successful systems over the years to manage my own life and family. They worked for me but they may not work for your family. But I want to get you thinking about your own systems.

THREE SYSTEM EXAMPLES

A. Laundry
With seven kids clothes and towels can become a chaotic mess. I was doing piles and piles of laundry every week. I couldn’t keep up and realized that I need to upgrade whatever system it was that we were using. My experiment had three prongs to it and although parts were certainly not what most people would choose, it worked for our family.

1. One of the items of clothing that became problematic was pajamas. We had a really terrible system. You wore them, took them off, dropped them wherever, and then the next night you got clean ones. Yup, that was our laundry clogging system.

So I put hooks on the kids’ walls. I didn’t feel that we needed clean pajamas every day. So in the morning they hung them up and put the same ones on at night. If they ended up on the floor then you had to wear them anyway. PJ’s were good for at least 3 days. It really helped cut down on laundry.

2. Towels were another issue. Often towels ended up on the floor, and remember I had seven children. By morning, especially in the summer, the towel was sour and headed for the laundry. Uggggggh I hated that because 4-7 towels a day was excruciating.

So I added another hook for their towel. I gave each child a towel and it was the only one they got for a week. If hung up it was good for a week because it was used to dry a clean body. I didn’t give in to cries of, “But my towel stinks.” If your towel was on the floor and got stinky you had to earn another towel. It wasn’t a very popular system but it worked and the kids soon learned to hang up their towels.

3. Here was the third prong to the new system – when you were 12 you did your own laundry. I took the time over a number of weeks to help a new twelve-year-old learn how to do their laundry. Then they were on their own. I didn’t monitor their laundry. There were a few times that someone had to borrow underwear from a sibling or wear a dirty uniform to gym class but it was a great learning experience and everyone got better at it.

B. Cleaning rooms

I had different systems for getting kids to clean their rooms over the years. As their ages changed so did our systems. At one time I had five kids over 12 and under 18. Their rooms were horrible and we didn’t have a system at that time that was working and I was weary of talking and cajoling to get older children to manage the mess.

So I told my older children that I wasn’t going to remind them to clean their rooms anymore. But we did have some rules:

•Your mess cannot spill out into the hallway.
•If you choose a mess you have to keep your door closed.
•If it smells you will have to take an evening or afternoon off and clean your room. No activities until the smell is gone.
•Every bedroom has to be put in order once a month. You can do it or I can do it. If I do it then I get to decide what stays and what goes.

I know lots of moms are gasping right now but I love cleaning and I loved getting my hands on those kid’s rooms. : ) This was very workable for me.

I had two sons who couldn’t care less about their stuff so, often as not, I picked up their rooms once a month and I chucked a lot of junk. It felt fabulous.

I had a third son who cared about all of his stuff and I rarely had to go into his room. Two of my daughters fell into this over 12 under 18 category and for the most part, managed their own rooms because they didn’t want me messing with their stuff.

Sometimes, as I began a room a horrified teen would come running in and say, “I got this mom.” You may think this was a terrible system but it worked for us.

THAT IS THE POINT!

And that is the point, do you have systems that are working for you and your family? If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed and angry at your family or children then take a look at your systems.

DESIGN AN EXPERIMENT, CREATE A NEW SYSTEM

•Write down the top three things that make you most upset with your family or children.
•Stick with three items because what you want is movement, not overwhelm.
Narrow your list to the one that you want to change most.
•Honestly look at your current system. Acknowledge those that are systems by default.
•Design and experiment with a new system based on your desires, energy, family personality, etc.
•If it works great, and if not, go back to the drawing board. Design another experiment.
•Remember, whatever you can get your family to ‘buy into’ they will take more ownership of and it will work better and longer.
•Be clear that very few systems work forever and be open to new experiments every now and then.

When we take responsibility for how we feel and stop blaming our family or kids, then we can come up with solutions that help us feel better. We will be able to look at our current systems honestly and design something that works.

Create A Culture of Togetherness

Tightly knit families with good relationships don’t just happen. We have to have some idea of what we want and then take one small step towards that bigger picture.

Every family has a culture. They’re all different. In my family’s culture kids and adults didn’t play or work together. Even at family reunions that theme played out. There were activities for kids and different ones for adults.

My mom and dad did a lot of stuff for us but not with us. My dad loved to garden but he did it alone. If we needed to weed or water we were sent out to do it. He did his part and we did our part. My mom planned fabulous birthday parties. She did it all and they were great. We attended. We didn’t plan together or organize them together.

I know that there are lots of families with a culture like this. Kids learn and work separately from parents and families spend many hours each day away from one another.

When I was a young mother I had a beautiful garden in our backyard. I usually gardened by myself. I liked the solitude. I would send the kids out to weed. But at some point, I realized that I wanted a different family culture. I wanted a different bond with my children.

So each weekday when I got up at 6:30 I woke a different child up to help me in the garden. I did this all summer. They were not happy about it. But soon we started talking about all kinds of things. They shared what they were feeling with me and I was able to share with them. It was a remarkable summer. The fruits from the garden that year seemed sweeter than ever before.

The Advantages of a Culture of Togetherness

What are the advantages of parents who are present with their children, who foster a culture of togetherness? Learning and working with a child tells them you are concerned about them and that you like them, that they matter. It strengthens self-esteem. It allows children to model what you are doing and to ask questions. They learn more. Deep and thoughtful conversations can come out of casual activity with a mom or dad. Relationships are stronger.

Ways to Create a Culture of Togetherness

But connecting as a family can be a challenge if that wasn’t part of your family culture growing up or if you have gotten used to doing your work and learning while your kids do theirs.

A family culture that fosters healthy, connected relationships don’t just happen. It takes some work. If we want to have a culture of togetherness we have to do something new. We have to take a small step and then be consistent. Simple/small things done consistently over time bring big results.

Take a look at your current family culture. Is it as connected as you would like? If not, figure out one thing that would make a difference in the feeling of togetherness in your home and then implement it.

Do you need to give up using technology when you’re working with or listening to your kids? Do you need to listen more, yell less, play with your children, have more mini-conversations, or tuck them in at night? What is it for you?

You might decide to have your family participate in fewer clubs and classes and allow your children to spend more time at home while you involve them in life’s activities: cooking, repairing something, learning a new skill, or playing.

Maybe a morning devotional would benefit your family. How many mornings will you commit to – one, two?

You could try reading together. Reading as a family and then talking about what you are reading creates a feeling of safety and warmth.

You might consider one evening a week doing something as a family. Keep it simple. Take a walk, play a board game, or serve someone.

For some families just sitting down at the table and eating would be a big accomplishment. If eating together is not something you have been doing regularly why not set a goal to do it once or twice a week. Then be consistent.

Whatever you choose, make a commitment to it. Be consistent and be present. Don’t talk on the phone, fold laundry or watch TV out of the corner of your eye. When you are doing that one thing consistently then choose another and go to work again.

And finally, remember being consistent is not the same as being perfect. Perfect isn’t what we need as families. What we need is connection and togetherness consistently.

A Toilet and Self-care

The bathroom crashers – Ashley, Elizabeth, Aubrey

Recently, my daughter shared this story with me.

I was sitting on the toilet. In front of me were my three small girls.
“What are you doing?”
“I’m going to the bathroom.”
“Are you almost done?”
“No, I just got in here.”
“Well, how long will it take?”
“As long as it takes. Now go out. I need some privacy.”
“But we need you.”
“I’ll hurry, now go out.”
“But mom, why can’t we stay.”
“Because I need some privacy!”
“We won’t talk.”
“GET OUT!”

I’ll bet your laughing. And I also bet that many of you have had a similar experience. It seems to come with the territory called parenting and it can wear us pretty thin at times. That’s why taking care of ourselves on a consistent basis is critical.

WHY WE SHOULD TAKE CARE OF SELF

There are some really good reasons to take care of ourselves when we’re in the thick of parenting:

• Facilitates greater patience
• We are less likely to take our frustrations out on our children.
• We’re able to process our emotions in more adult ways than yelling, spanking, etc.
• We remain freer of resentment which allows us to see what is really happening in tough situations
• We experience less exhaustion
• We avoid feeling depleted and are instead energized
• It helps us tune in to the joy of having children even on busy or chaotic days
• It gives us the mental resilience to remain Present with our children more often
• We will actually remain physically healthier
• We will feel happier and more fulfilled

Often, when we find small moments of time for ourselves to recharge there is a sense of guilt but caring for yourself is a key to caring for your family better. Self-care is an investment in our family relationships, rather than a selfish indulgence.

WHY WE DON’T TAKE CARE OF SELF

There are a number of reasons that both mothers and fathers neglect their own self-care:

• No time
• You don’t know what daily self-care looks or feels like
• You feel that it needs to be away from home, doing something special, for it to count

Let’s take a look at each of these excuses for neglecting ourselves.

 

A. No time
This is the same excuse we use for not being Present with our children. But as in the case of being Present, it can take as little as 30 seconds to 5 minutes.

1. Deep breathing
It only takes 30 seconds to take 3-4 good long deep breathes. There is ample research that backs up the claim that breathing deeply is good for us. A few deep breaths:

• Relieve stress
• Helps a feeling of calm return
• Allows us to process emotion more quickly
• Slows a rapid heartbeat
• Drops blood pressure

2. Read
Go to the bathroom and lock the door. While you are in their read 1-3 paragraphs in a book you keep by the toilet just for this purpose. It takes less than 3 minutes to read a few paragraphs. I use this technique daily. Sometimes it’s the only self-care (except for my shower) I get and it helps me feel cared for on even the busiest days. You will be surprised at how many books you can actually read in a year this way!

3. Take a shower
A restful shower in the morning or evening can take as little as 10 minutes. I take one daily for the express purpose of letting myself know I am cared for. You probably take a shower to wake up or get clean. By changing that story I can promise you that your shower will begin to feel quite different and you will feel cared for. I have been doing this daily for over fifty years now and it’s one of the daily events I look forward to the most!

4. Sit down
Just stopping and sitting down for 1-3 minutes, even if children are with you, can feel like self-care if that is the story you tell yourself for sitting down. I also use this technique every day and when I sit down for this short rest I smile because I know it’s a tool for self-care and not just my bum in the chair. : )

I’ll bet you can come up with at least 3-4 ways that you can take care of yourself in under 5 minutes that can be repeated a few times each day. I would LOVE to have you share them in the comments.

B. You don’t know what daily self-care looks or feels like
At some point, I had to make a conscious decision to figure out what I could do that would feel like I was taking care of myself. So I paid attention to my days and began making a list. You know what is on my list – a shower, reading in the bathroom, sitting down on purpose for no other reason than self-care, and deep breathing.

Take the time to make a mental list. What would work for you? For one of my friends, it’s sneaking a piece of licorice out of her secret stash a couple of times a day. It always makes her smile and she feels like a kid again.

Another friend makes a cup of herb tea and then sips it as she passes the counter during the day. Yes, it gets cold but every sip tells her mind – you matter and I am taking care of you!

Another suggestion is to smile. When you want to yell or spank or run choose to smile. It may sound impossible when you’re stressed out by the 3rd cup of spilled milk or by your 2-year-old who is going to see how long he can scream; but there is magic in a smile, even if it’s forced.

Forced smiles also increase positive feelings. When a situation has you feeling stressed or flustered, or overly tired even the most forced of smiles can genuinely make you feel happier.

My mother walks out to check on the chickens. It takes only 5 minutes and she repeats it a number of times a day. She loves her yard and her chickens and rain or shine, summer or winter she takes these small breaks.

So take the time this next week to make your mental list and then implement with the express purpose of telling your mind and body – I love you. I’m taking care of you!

I promise that it will feel like self-care no matter how simple it is.

C. You feel that it needs to be away from home, doing something special, for it to count
Remember that consistent actions are what are required for self-care to impact your daily walk as a parent. If you have to leave home or do something special then self-care will be spotty at best. Even if you are one of those lucky couples who go on a date every week it is still not consistent enough. In order to impact your ability to parent at your best then self-care has to happen daily, in fact, a few times daily.

The need to leave home and do something special is a story you tell yourself. Our stories are powerful. All that is required is that you rewrite your story about self-care. If you need to, write out a simple one statement declaration about your new self-care story. Then repeat it to yourself every time you take one of your new actions.

EXAMPLE – I care for myself when I shower, sit down, read in the bathroom or breathe deeply.

Getting away is wonderful, as is doing something special. But if we truly want to have greater satisfaction in our parenting lives then we have to learn to care for ourselves every day, in fact, a few times every day.

You’re going to spend far more time with your children than you’re going to spend without them, so it’s imperative to learn how to self-care while you’re in the thick of parenting. It’s simple, it’s doable, and it takes small amounts of time and virtually no money; but it can and will pay huge dividends. Nurturing yourself while you’re doing your job of parenting is going to help you be in a place mentally where you can and will be Present more often.

You Can’t “Do” Yourself Into A Good Relationship

Have you ever noticed that when we’re having trouble with our spouse, neighbor or our children we begin to wonder what we can “do” to make the situation better? Can we devise a new system, have a good old-fashioned “talk it out” session or come up with a consequence/reward and so forth.

Recently I was mentoring with a mom who found herself in that sticky place. She wanted to know if I had any counsel that might help. I want to share with you what I shared with her.

Blame is an indicator

Relationship is everything and ultimately it depends on you! You can’t “do” yourself into a good relationship. You have to “be” yourself into one. Our way of being is far more important in our relationships, especially with our children, than anything we can do. It comes down to how we are with them. How do we treat them? How good are our own boundaries? How consistent are we? Do we have control of ourselves? Do we keep the promises we make to ourselves and to them? When “how” we are changes, when our way of being is right, everything begins to change and the relationship grows.

I always know when my “way of being’ is at the heart of an issue. I can tell because that is the moment I point my finger at someone or something and blame them for how I am feeling. Blame is an indicator that we need to look at our own behaviors, our own stories.

This good, loving mother shared with me that her son is needy, sometimes whiny, and doesn’t respond when asked to do something. He doesn’t like being directed. It’s frankly annoying. The energy between them is not positive and she is short with him.

See that blame finger pointing. Because of how he is, how he is behaving, she has to put up with feeling irritated and annoyed.

 

You Can Re-write the Story

As we talked further here is what else came out:
• He loves to snuggle
• He likes having a choice
• He needs details to move forward in a job or activity with confidence or to make a smooth change in          plans
• He is interested in learning

This mother realized that she was telling herself two different stories about her son and that her focus was most often on the negative story about him.

So she designed an experiment to change her “way of being” with her seven-year-old boy.
She rewrote her story. He isn’t needy. He is bright and needs detail and information to move forward and when given a choice is responsible for doing a good job. He likes her company because he loves her and he loves connecting with her.

She has coupled this new story with a new way of being when she deals with her son. She gives him a choice when asking him to do something. For example: “You need to clean your room. Which would work for you, to clean your room now and then go play, or to have 30 minutes to get stuff done you want to do and then clean your room?

When major plans change she takes him aside and lets him know before they tell the whole family. For example: They had a family activity planned. As she and her husband looked over the calendar for the week they realized that that one extra activity would mean they were gone from home every evening of the week. They decided to do the activity the next week. She let her seven-year-old know why the change needed to be made and when they would do the activity. When they told the family he didn’t make a scene.

She has also begun using “random touches” with him as often as she can remember to do it. A random touch takes 3 seconds and is accompanied by silence while looking the other person in the eye. It’s just a pat on the arm or back as you walk past them, a squeeze of the knee when sitting by them, etc.

I asked her today how her experiment was going. She said that when she remembers to give him details it works PERFECTLY. When she gives him a heads up about a change in the schedule it works PERFECTLY. And as for random touches….well that is making ALL the difference. Not just for her seven-year-old, but for all of her children.

She said that using random touches has changed how she is with her children. For example: When she is working and a child asks her for help in some way, if she turns so she can touch a shoulder or arm she is able to disengage for a few seconds and focus on them. She is learning to be PRESENT.

Check Out Your Way of “Being”

When you find yourself angry, frustrated or bewildered in any relationship, when you feel that someone or something outside of yourself is causing your discomfort or pain that is the time to check your “way of being”.

This mother’s efforts to change her “way of being” in this relationship is paying HUGE dividends in her family.

Remember that relationship is everything and that you can’t “do” yourself into a good relationship. You “be” yourself into one.

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Complaining and Charity-The Connection

There is NO silver bullet for change

Simple things done consistently over time are what bring the changes that matter in our lives. Often we look for a silver bullet but time, increased understanding and practice are what are required for lasting change. Here is an example.

The 1% Principle

I learned about the 1% principle way back in 2011. It basically states that when you work on the one most important change you need to make it exponentially expands that change for good in your life – it affects not only the 1% you were focusing on but all the rest of your life as well. That sounded really important to me and even true.

But it wasn’t until the fall of 2013 that I put it to the test.

I wanted to flow into 2014 gracefully and make needed changes. So I began taking that desire to the Lord (my chosen source for information) and asking him for some guidance. I phrased it this way, “What is the one action step I could take in 2014 that would make the most significant change for good in my life?”

You will notice I asked for an “action” step and only one of them. Remember the 1% principle.

God must have wanted to see how serious I was about the question because I prayed that same prayer every day for three months! Then one night I knew the answer – stop complaining!

That response shocked me because I certainly wasn’t a complaining person. However, over the next few weeks, as I watched myself, I found that I did a fair amount of complaining.

• Can’t you put your socks in the hamper?
• This meat is so tough.
• I can’t believe the city decided to fix the road now!
• Stop being so noisy.

I worked on this one thing for the next couple of years but eventually, I went back to my knees because I didn’t feel that I was making much progress. This time the response came immediately and was just as shocking. Be grateful! I have worked on that for three years now. I have used gratitude journals, better prayers, more service, and I have become more grateful and I do complain a bit less.

But this year I felt the need to understand this whole complaining thing better. I recall a conversation I had with a friend not too long after I was counseled to stop complaining. She said, “You’re not a complainer. Everyone says stuff like that. It’s just talk.”

Words are Powerful!

One of the topics that always comes up with families I work with is how powerful that ‘talk’ or our words and thoughts are. They carry enormous weight.  I understand that subject well and I have used a number of exercises over the years to get a handle on my own words and thoughts. In fact, there’s a whole chapter on the topic in my book Becoming a Present Parent. 

So although I am aware of when I complain and work to keep on top of my thoughts and the words I use I still felt that something was missing because I still complain. There seemed to be a gap in my understanding that if understood would radically assist me to complain less and be more grateful.

I have to take a short detour here in the narrative. At the same time I began working on complaining less I made a serious decision to become a more charitable person, less judgmental. That has been a work in progress too. Here is how they’re connected.

Last week I was sitting in my office pondering what I knew about complaining, thoughts and words and how they affect our lives. In that moment a light bulb went on in my brain. Complaining was more than just being bugged about something or someone.

Complaining is actually any negative thought we have. Any negative thought. And in that same moment I came to understand that when you are having a negative thought, even before the thought becomes words or action, you step back from charity. You cannot be negative and charitable at the same moment any more than you can experience fear and faith at the same time.

I have been embracing this new information for a week now and it has radically changed what I allow into my mind and out of my mouth. It’s a simple concept but it isn’t always easy to implement. Entertaining negative thoughts and speaking complaining words are as my friend said, “What everyone does.” It is a bad habit!

What You Get if You do the Work

But here is what can change in your family and life when you change the habit of entertaining negative thoughts and speaking negative words:

• You get better and more inspiration. You cannot hear God (your Higher Power) when you are listening to the negative

• Your relationship with yourself will improve. You cannot be charitable to yourself and your weaknesses when you use unkind words about yourself.

• When you truly love and accept yourself, warts and all, you will love your family better. You will be more charitable when someone messes up.

• Your family relationships will improve. You cannot be charitable, teach effectively or build up those you love when you hold negative thoughts about them or their actions or speak negatively to them.

• You will be a more effective example and teacher. Children learn better when there is less yelling, tension or judgment.

• You will yell less. If you hold negative thoughts and emotions long enough the complaining words will come out and spill onto others, despite your best intentions

• You will grow as a person. The process of learning to control your thoughts, words, and stories will teach you new things and elevate your way of being. That is what happened to me last week.

• You will be more charitable and less judgmental

• You will feel more gratitude, even for the hard things, because you will recognize them as opportunities for growth.

I have been working to lessen my own complaining for five years. Yet just last week I got another part of the puzzle and it’s exciting.

Sometimes we equate the time it takes to make a significant change in our lives with failure; “If we were really any good we would have gotten a handle on this by now.”

But that’s a lie. Simple things done consistently over time (whatever amount of time is required) is what bring changes that matter and adjust our lives for the better. I have been working on becoming a more grateful, non-complaining, charitable person for five years and I just had a new lesson. Thank goodness time spent does not equal failure. It equals eventual success no matter what it is we’re working on.

So don’t get discouraged. Just keep working on whatever is your 1%. When you don’t quit, change is guaranteed.

• It took me eight years to learn to sew well.
• It took me over fifty years of singing to be able to read music.
• It took me ten years to stop raging and yelling.

Simple things done consistently over time are what bring the changes that matter in our lives. Don’t Quit!

Want a clearer view of what change in real life looks like and tips to make changes that stick?

 

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