Category: Parenting Skills

Will It Ever Be Enough!

Recently I was reading in my journal about changes I have made in the last ten years of my life. Some were small and some large. All were helpful in adding to the quality of my life. One, in particular, stood out to me. It stood out because it’s what I hear from so many mothers and fathers that I mentor – it is never enough and because of that, I am not free to care for myself without feeling guilty.

Back in 2010, I was working with a mentor to get to the place where I could let ‘it be enough’. Here is an email I sent to her way back then. “I did my morning routine, read for an hour and went to work until noon. Came home and put dinner in the oven, then ate lunch and rested an hour while I read 5 chapters and took notes on the book I am currently studying. I called my business mentor and have a phone meeting set for tomorrow. I wrote 3 blogs and ate dinner with Don. I took a nap for 45 minutes. I got all the A items on my daily list done but one. I didn’t get any B’s or C’s on the list done. I know I rested too much today. I always feel like I should do more. Sigh. But sometimes I WANT a nap.”

Does that conversation ring a bell with any of you? I’ll bet it does. Can you believe that I could think of myself as lazy or falling short in some way with a day like I just described? It‘s a crazy thing!!

It’s Easy To Never Let It Be Enough

I’ve always worked a lot and I get a great many things done; I serve others, help my family, am a grandmother and mom, run a business; spend time with God, and study. What I wasn’t able to do back then was allow myself to incorporate the things that fill me up or care for myself without feeling a twinge of guilt.

It’s easy to fail to recognize that doing things for ourselves is just another part of having a life of fulfillment; the life that we constantly think we’re going to have soon or someday when we get everything else taken care of. That life is never going to happen if we can’t make it part of today because there will always be work to be done, children to care for, spouses to help, church assignments, things at work, a neighbor to comfort and the list goes on.

Whenever I say that I just don’t have time for a bath or to sit at the table and eat lunch or share a sunset on the balcony with my husband or children or stop and eat an ice cream bar or sit down and rest for 10 minutes, what I am actually doing is listening to the voice inside that tells me that I am not worthy of it or I haven’t done enough to deserve it… you add your line because we all have one.

Make Space For Work, Rest and Joy

It’s important to begin thinking about life as a whole and not in compartments. I can have hot cocoa in front of the fire even if everything else isn’t done because it’s part of a good day, just like finishing an article or serving my neighbor or cleaning the bathroom or soothing a screaming toddler are part of a good and successful day. The things that bring us joy shouldn’t be saved for when we have done enough other things but should be part of every day. Since 2010 I have made a firmer commitment to that very thing.

Why not liberate yourself. Stop being victim to “it’s just not enough”. Whatever you do is enough whether

you accomplish everything on your to-do list or whether your whole day consisted of nothing more than soothing a sick child. Knowing that we and our day are enough lets us allow every day to contain some work, some rest, and a good measure of joy!

I do seven simple things that help me care for myself no matter how busy or frustrating the day. Over the next few weeks, we are going to talk about all of them. Stay tuned.

What makes it tough for you to give self-care? What ways have you found to let your days be enough? Please comment. I would love to hear your experiences.

If you are interested in parenting with a deeper intent why not check out the Home and Family Culture Podcast. I will be sharing information on intentional parenting and you can download a PDF to walk you through the process.

Here’s to more joy,
Mary Ann

What is Present Parenting?

P.S. You can learn more about the difference between the 1% principle and the 100% devil in my new book Becoming a Present Parent, Connecting With Your Children in Five Minutes or Less. Knowing the difference will help you let it be enough. You can also receive a chapter from the book on Touchpoints, creating points of connection rather than having points of contention, FREE by visiting becomingapresentparent.com It can be life-changing for your family. I promise!

Creating A Culture of Serviceability and Kindness

One day while helping a friend in her home she asked me if I ever felt as if I was at war with my family. She said that if anything was organized it wouldn’t stay that way. If it was clean it would get dirty. If it was peaceful chaos would inevitably show up.

I understood her frustration. After all, I had raised seven children. However, somewhere along the way, I had a mighty change of heart. I went from waging war to ministering to my family. It was a slight mental shift in how I looked at the work required to manage my family and it has made a huge difference in how I feel on busy and chaotic days.

When we step out of management mode we begin to ‘see’ the needs of those in our family and we’re better able to step into the service and kindness mode. We put ourselves in a place where we’re able to be Present. We see the ‘one’ and minister to them rather than being upset that there is one more thing to take care of.

As parents, one of our greatest responsibilities is to help our children become successful adults. I have found that the most successful adults I know are generous and kind. They serve others. They ‘see’ people and reach out.

Last Sunday one of my grandchildren was ill and one parent had to stay home with them. That caused the rest of the family to run late. In our church, the Sacrament is passed early in the meeting and my daughter worried that they wouldn’t get there in time. Sure enough, they missed the bread portion of the ceremony. She was deeply disappointed.

Then the children who were with her began to struggle to be still and they all ended up out in the hall. Her nine-year-old son, Jack, reached out and touched his mom on the arm and said, “Mom, I’m sorry we missed the bread and that we’re out in the hall.”

This is a perfect example of a person ‘seeing’ the need of another and this someone was just nine years old.

That same nine-year-old ‘saw’ me the other day. It had been a long day. I had been doing a lot of physical labor and I was tired. In fact, I was feeling a bit old. Jack came to me and said, “Grandma, I really like that shirt. You look good in it.” As you can imagine I felt better.

Jack has learned from the example of his parents to ‘see’. He has learned the value of kindness and service within his family because his parents serve their children rather than just managing them.

As I was beginning to transition from being in constant management mode in my family to serving my spouse and children I remember watching a video of a real-life experience that helped me see the difference between working in a family and serving the family.

A man with a very important job was leaving his home to go to a very important meeting. He had on a suit and tie. As he descended the stairs he saw his eighteen-month-old crawling up the stairs. He picked her up to give her a hug and say goodbye and found that she needed a diaper change.

This busy and important man, this father, did not call his equally busy wife. He got a diaper and wipes and sat down at the top of the stairs and changed his daughter. While he served his daughter he smiled and talked with her. He ‘saw’ his daughters need. He was also aware of the need of his wife. He served them both with great kindness and did not feel put upon while doing it. He was not in management mode but in the kindness and service mode.

WHY MAKE A MENTAL SHIFT

There are some very good reasons to work on this slight mental shift, from management to service:

• When we lose ourselves in service to others we grow and flourish. So do our children.
• When we feel that the work we do is serving rather than a burden we feel less overwhelmed.
• With this slight mental shift, we’re able to remain calm when things aren’t going well.
• When we serve our family we model it for our children who become kinder.
• Families who have a culture of service and kindness sustain one another better.
• In fact, as we serve rather than wage war, we begin to create a culture of kindness and serviceability.

In today’s world, there are many opportunities to reach out and serve. Let’s begin in our own families. Consider it a privilege rather than a daily burden. You can’t and won’t respond this way all of the time. But if you can slip into this mindset even a few times each day you will feel better about parenting and you will have more joy in the work that you do.

What service have you given to or received from your children? Please comment. I would love to hear your experiences.

Here’s to more joy,
Mary Ann

P.S. You can learn more about how to spend less time in family management in my new book Becoming a Present Parent, Connecting With Your Children in Five Minutes or Less.  You can also receive a chapter from the book on Touchpoints, creating points of connection rather than having points of contention, FREE by visiting becomingapresentparent.com  It can be life-changing for your family. I promise!

BUSTING THE MYTH OF THE SILVER BULLET

In her book Daffodil Principle: One Woman, Two Hands, One Bulb at a Time, Jaroldeen Edwards recounts the day her daughter, Carolyn, drove her to Lake Arrowhead to visit a daffodil garden. It wasn’t just any daffodil garden. It turned out to be five acres of beautiful golden flowers nodding in the breeze.

As Jaroldeen gasped in amazement, she asked the question that everyone who visited the garden asked, “Who did this?” On the porch of a small and neat A-frame house was a poster answering the question.

The first response to how many flowers there were was “50,000 bulbs.” The second fact listed was, “One at a time, by one woman, two hands, two feet, and very little brain.” The third was, “Began in 1958” (Edwards, Daffodil Principle).

When we multiply small amounts of time, with small increments of daily effort, consistently, we can accomplish magnificent things.

Last week I shared that it took me almost fifty years to learn to read music and almost ten to learn to sew. I had to keep practicing and getting help from those in my life who knew more than I did in order to eventually sew and sing well.

Whenever you hear that a person has achieved an extraordinary goal, rarely, if ever, are you told the process they used—that is, the ordinary actions they took consistently. You only hear the outcome.

We’re led to believe extraordinary successes in business, home, parenting or life are a result of significant actions, but they’re not—they’re a result of daily actions done consistently over time.

I enjoy the story of Naaman found in the King James Bible. Naaman was a captain for the king of Syria, “a great man with his master . . . because by him the Lord had given deliverance unto Syria: . . . a mighty man in valor, but . . . a leper.” (2 Kings 5:1).

At the direction of his king, Naaman went to Elisha the prophet to be healed of his dreaded affliction. When Naaman got to Elisha’s house, Elisha sent a messenger out to him who said, “Go and wash in Jordan seven times, and thy flesh shall come again to thee, and thou shalt be clean” (2 Kings 5:10).

Wow, Naaman wasn’t even going to have to do the consistently, over time thing. He was only going to have to repeat the action a mere seven times. But Naaman was angry with Elisha. He felt the prophet should have come out of his house to see him and he should have done some big thing to take care of this big problem.

He said, “I thought, He will surely come out to me, and stand, and call on the name of the Lord his God, and strike his hand over the place, and recover the leper” (2 Kings 5:11)

Naaman was ready to go away in disgust at the simple instructions he received, but he had a wise servant who reminded him of the principle we’ve been discussing—simple things, done over time consistently, bring significant results. His servant said, “If the prophet had bid thee do some great thing, wouldest thou not have done it? How much rather then, when he saith to thee, Wash, and be clean?” (2 Kings 5:13).

Naaman came to his senses and he “dipped himself seven times in Jordan, according to the saying of the man of God: and his flesh came again like unto the flesh of a little child, and he was clean” (2Kings 5:15).

As parents, I think we are, at times, like Naaman. We know we have problems and issues, but we expect a significant or seemingly important thing to come along and bail us out of our affliction. In reality, it is truly the small and simple things we can do daily that, in the end, will make all the difference.

Understanding this is especially important in parenting because it nearly always takes until a child leaves home and creates their own life to see the results of our efforts to parent well, teach our children and create a wholesome and happy family culture.

While they’re growing, it’s tempting to let ourselves feel failure because we don’t see our children as learning the important lessons that will help them be successful people. Often we feel there is something amiss in our family culture or in how we parent.

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

Have you ever found yourself in Naaman’s shoes? I certainly have. But now that all of my children are grown and gone I can look back and see that it truly was the small and simple things that we did consistently for their whole lives that made the real difference. I’d love your comments.

By Small and Simple Things….

There is a valuable principle that if we understand it, can change our lives and that of our family – that consistency in small things, over time, brings big results.

But most of us, when faced with growth or change in ourselves or in our family look for a silver bullet. We want one big effort, one new system, one big push to be all that’s needed. But the idea of a silver bullet is a myth. We accept this myth because the truth of small steps over time seems daunting.

Why would we rather do one big thing to change our lives? Although the big thing may take a massive effort on our part, if we gave the effort, then the work would be done. But the truth is we have to decide what we want and then follow through—over and over and over and over . . . ! There is no one and done.

In seventh grade, I took a sewing class. I made a plaid skirt and it was a disaster. But I was unfazed. I took sewing in eighth grade and again in ninth. I never made a single item that was wearable. I couldn’t seem to understand the directions even when they were explained to me. I couldn’t understand the machine. But I REALLY wanted to sew. So my mother signed me up for a class at the local sewing center the next summer. The results were the same.

When I was a senior in high school I took a final sewing class. I picked out some darling pink and brown striped material for an outfit and went to work knowing that it was going to be fabulous. When I put it on the crotch was at my knees, the zipper zipped up the inside and the facing was on the outside. I had done my very best and my best stunk!

When I was twenty years old I became engaged. I was the oldest child of nine children and so I determined that I would make my wedding dress. When I came home with real satin, beads, and lace my mother looked like she was going to cry.

I set to work determined to be successful and it appeared that I might be until I had sewed my first two seams. They were done incorrectly. As I picked out the seams I realized that on satin, every pinhole shows and it doesn’t stop showing, ever. I knew I was in big trouble!

In my moment of need, I asked my Higher Power, God, for help. I reminded him that I had made absolutely every effort to learn to sew. I had asked for help from the experts in my life. I had put in the time. I had practiced repeatedly. I asked God to help me remember everything I had learned. I asked that I would understand the directions fully and that I wouldn’t make any more mistakes. And guess what, I didn’t. I sewed that dress without having to pick out another seam. I knew what to do and I did it well. The dress was simple but beautiful. In fact, my cousin was married in that almost 50-year-old dress this fall.

When I was in 10th grade I wanted to sing in the school choir. I loved singing so I tried out and I made the cut. Here’s what the conductor didn’t know; I knew nothing about music. I couldn’t read music, didn’t even know the name of the notes. I didn’t know what pitch accompanied each note. I couldn’t always hear the notes. If I didn’t sit next to someone who really could follow the music I was lost and just had to mouth the words. But I loved to sing. So I stuck it out for two years until we moved. I didn’t get any better.

As an adult, I sang in every choir, in every church group, in every town we lived in. I never did get any better at reading music.

By my sixties, I had done all I could to learn to read music. But I still struggled so I did what I do. I went in prayer to my Higher Power, God, and I reminded him that I had spent almost fifty years practicing and working to learn how to read music. I asked him to help me understand.

About a year later I noticed something amazing. I seemed to be able to follow the music. I knew the pitch for each note. In fact, women who were struggling to learn a part would stand next to me and follow my lead. It was absolutely astounding!

Sometimes it takes years and even a lifetime to learn how to do some things well. Parenting is one of those things.

It took me well over fifty years to learn to read music and almost ten to learn to sew. In all that time I didn’t berate myself. I didn’t feel humiliated or embarrassed because I couldn’t do it independently, without a lot of help. I kept asking for help from many sources, classes, people, books. I didn’t feel like a failure and I never quit. I just kept singing and sewing.

Most things that we eventually master take lots of practice and time. But we cannot become masters if we berate ourselves, if we feel like failures and if we quit. There are few things where this applies as well and consistently as it does in parenting.

Here are the simple steps that I took consistently over time in order to learn to read music and to sew:
• I desired a new skill
• I learned all I could from multiple sources
• I practiced
• I ask for help from people and my Higher power
• I was consistent in my efforts
• I was kind to myself and kept trying even when it seemed as if I was failing
• I did not quit for as long as it took

Real growth and change come from learning to move toward our goals and desires one step at a time, consistently, for as long as it takes. Having the family you want will take time. Becoming a Present Parent takes time. Raising successful children takes time. It requires accepting the principle that small and simple things done consistently over time bring big results. You have to keep learning, practicing, failing and trying again. And it never hurts to ask your Higher Power for help to understand what you and your family need.

It takes time and practice to make lasting change and to grow as a person or as a family. We must commit to it. We need to consistently do the work. We have to believe we can accomplish our heart’s desire. In fact, it has to be our heart’s desire.

Doing simple things, consistently over time, is what will ultimately give us the success we seek as individuals and as families.

What do you think? Has this principle made a difference for you or do you think it would when it comes to your parenting efforts?  Leave a comment and I will respond. : )

Here’s to more joy,
Mary Ann

P.S. You can learn more about ways to connect with children and youth in my new book Becoming a Present Parent, Connecting With Your Children in Five Minutes or Less. You can also receive a chapter from the book on Touchpoints, creating points of connection rather than having points of contention, FREE by visiting becomingapresentparent.com It can be life-changing for your family. I promise!

What is  Present Parenting? –

Building Relationships with Youth

Recently I attended a parenting event. I had the opportunity to ask a few parents what they wanted to know. One woman’s response was poignant – How do I manage to connect with a teen if no foundation has been laid?

I could feel her pain. I raised seven children and I know that the teen years can be difficult. We can feel estranged from youth that we love. We can know they love us and still feel a big disconnect. However, building a relationship with teens is the same as building a relationship with anyone else. It takes being Present which sends the clear message I SEE you, I HEAR you, you MATTER to me. If you haven’t built a relationship of trust and connectedness it is never too late to begin.

There are many avenues to being Present. Let’s consider two that are particularly effective with youth.

RANDOM TOUCH

A random touch is just that, random. They don’t require any reason for the touch or hug. They happen whenever you’re in close proximity to your youth. They’re effective with children, youth, and adult children.

Here are a few examples of what a random touch looks like in real life:

• If you see your youth sitting on the couch, at the table, on their bed or anywhere, stop, sit close to them, stay for 10–20 seconds, squeeze a knee or give a quick hug, and go on your way. No need to say a word.
• In the morning go into your youth’s room to wake them up. Don’t stand in the hall and yell “Get up.” Go in; give a gentle shake to the shoulder and maybe a hug. Say, “Hey buddy. It’s time to get up.” It’s going to take a few more seconds than yelling from the hall, but it will build your relationship.
• As you walk through a room or down the hall and see your youth, look them in the eye and smile. Touch them on their back, arm, or shoulder as they pass by. Don’t say anything; just give a squeeze or a pat. You can do this a dozen times a day and use up only a few minutes.
• When you’re moving from one room to another (as you go through your day) and you see your youth, make a small detour. Grab them and tickle them for a few moments, just long enough to get a little tussle going. Then gently punch a shoulder or tousle a head and move on.
• When you’re walking together put your hand on their back or shoulder for a few moments at a time.
• Rub or scratch your youths back while sitting in church, in the doctor’s waiting room, and so on.

If you have a youth who doesn’t like to be touched, then respect their boundaries, experiment to find out what is acceptable to them. A teen may not want to be hugged but may allow you to rub their back or pat their shoulder.

I want you to understand how powerful this one skill can be in changing the dynamics of your relationship with a youth. It’s easy to do, takes only moments and practically shouts “You matter”.

A Success Story

I worked with a mother who was having significant relationship issues with her seventeen-year-old daughter, who was getting ready to graduate. The mom was often irritated by her daughter. They avoided each other in order to not argue.

As we talked about how she could reconnect their broken relationship, she decided to experiment with giving her daughter as many random touches as she could remember each day. I’ve seen random touch produce amazing healing in relationships, so I felt confident in offering it to this mother as an experiment.

In one week it improved her and her daughter’s relationship significantly. They were beginning to talk more. Mom felt less annoyed by her daughter. She was more aware of her daughter. She had begun responding in calmer and more loving ways. They had even made plans to go to lunch together.

Mom said later that using random touch had changed how she was with all of her children. And in turn, it has changed how they responded to her, including her seventeen-year-old daughter.

TRANSITIONS

When I was raising my children, I had many opportunities to use transition times to be Present with my youth. When they return home in the evening or late at night is a perfect transition time to connect and help them ease back into the family. Be prepared to pay the price required to connect with youth—a small amount of your T-I-M-E.

Leave the TV, the ironing, the email, and Facebook. Meet them when you hear the door open. Look them in the eye and smile. Touch a shoulder. Say, “I’m so glad you’re home. How did it go?” You may get nothing more than a quick “OK.” That’s all right because they’ll feel your Presence. Now and then you’ll get more. They will, in turn, be Present with you and share feelings. These can be precious, sweet, and, at times, crucial moments.

Example A
As a youth, when I left home, I would go out the door and yell “Bye Mom.” From some far-flung place in the house, I would hear her call back “Bye Mary. Be safe.” This scenario was repeated often.

There isn’t anything wrong with this. But what if my mom had replied, “Wait a minute,” and had come quickly to the door? What if she had looked me in the eye, smiled, laid a hand on my shoulder, and said, “Bye Mary. Be safe”? Can you feel the difference? Can you sense the Presence I would have felt at sixteen? Do you think it would have made a difference for me?

Coming to see me off would have cost my mother something. It would have cost her T-I-M-E. Time is a precious commodity. That is why it’s so powerful when we give our precious time to our children and are Present. There’s an innate knowledge that you have received a gift and it’s valuable.

Example B
This can also work in reverse when you’re returning after a long day. My friend Tiffany has a teen-aged son. One day when she returned home from shopping, he met her in the driveway and offered to carry in the groceries, an uncommon occurrence.

Although she was tired and anxious to get things put away and dinner started, she got Present. She watched her son as he carried in the groceries and paid attention to his body language. When the groceries were on the counter she asked, “What happened today?” Her son opened up and shared an experience that was bothering him.

My friend said, “I almost missed this opportunity because I was transitioning back home and I was tired and had an agenda. I’m so glad I stopped and got Present.”

Are you getting a sense of how you can use transitions to be Present and create more connected relationships? You won’t be able to do this all the time. You’ll run late for work. A work-at-home parent may have a deadline. You may miss a youth coming back. But as much as possible, we can use transition times to be Present with our children. When we do, we build relationships, we bond our family, and, frankly, we are happier.

If we are just beginning to create a connected relationship with our youth then it will take some time. It will take consistency. It doesn’t require that we do big things. It requires that we connect daily in these very small ways, day after day and week after week; as we consistently touch and use the comings and going of our day to connect it will make a difference. Trust can and will be built. A sense of connection will be forged.

What is your experience with connecting with youth? What have you used that has worked well?  Leave a comment and I will respond. : )

Here’s to more joy,
Mary Ann

P.S. You can learn more about ways to connect with children and youth in my new book Becoming a Present Parent, Connecting With Your Children in Five Minutes or Less. You can also receive a chapter from the book on Touchpoints, creating points of connection rather than having points of contention, FREE by visiting becomingapresentparent.com It can be life-changing for your family. I promise!

What is  Present Parenting? –

Want Better Relationships – Like Yourself First!

I keep thinking that I’ll switch topics from the power of controlling our story and response to another parenting topic but every day provides a new and powerful example of just what it looks like to control how we think and act.

Stories of real-life examples are impactful in helping us relate to principles in a way that allows us to get clarity on how to live them better. There’s value in ‘seeing’ a principle at work because it extends our knowledge of the principle and knowledge is power when it comes to personal change.

Here is an example from this week.

When I was writing the book Becoming a Present Parent I found myself constantly distracted and it was hard to make headway. So I pondered what I could do to find more consistent time to write. My most clear and compelling thought was to get up at four in the morning which would give me three uninterrupted hours. It was one of the most challenging and rewarding things I have ever set out to do. For over six months I got up early six days a week and wrote. It was exhilarating to see the book come together.

That was over 1 ½ years ago and a recent move. I have got to confess that I fell off that wagon and I’ve struggled to get back on. I’ve been making an effort to go back to my early morning routine because I have some studying to do that is kicking my rear and I need more quiet, focused time.

Each day since I determined to get up at four a.m. I have awakened to the alarm and then changed the time to 5:30 or 6. Of course, I want to get up, I know I should get up but when it comes to getting up I have an argument with myself and I lose. Here’s the story I’ve been telling myself about the situation: I’m just rebellious. I know I should get up but I just don’t want to. I’m being a lazy lump!”

On Monday I told my daughter how I was feeling. She replied, “Well mom, maybe you’re just being charitable to yourself. We’ve just moved, have been renovating every day and you are tired. Maybe you’re just listening to your body and taking care of yourself.” Wow, that felt a lot better than the story I’d been telling myself.

On Wednesday I helped my 95-year-old friend in her yard. It was laborious, to say the least. My back was sore and so were my legs. I felt very weary. In fact, I went to bed at 8:30.

Now, from 8:30 to 4:30 is eight hours, the amount of time I feel I need and want to sleep each night. But when the alarm went off I was still TIRED. I wanted to lie there and rest a bit more. So I did. The difference was this: I thought it over and made a decision. I didn’t argue with myself or feel like a lazy lump. I just decided to give myself an extra hour of sleep.

I know I need to get up at 4:00. I feel very strongly about that and I will. But while I’m getting back into the traces, so to speak, I’m going to be kinder to myself. I’m going to be more generous with the story I tell myself about the process I have to go through to make it happen.

Remember last week? I shared the idea that when we think positively about any given situation it increases our ability to come up with options for moving forward. With this in mind, I know that as I remain positive, continue in my efforts to accomplish a challenging goal and don’t quit, I will succeed more quickly.

The story we tell ourselves about ourselves, others or situations impacts how we feel and then respond. Getting control over our story and the ensuing response gives us greater power over our lives. It’s worth the effort!

If you want to begin taking control of your story, then I want to help you. I have an exercise that I want to share with you, FREE. It’s a simple PDF which will walk you through a 30-day exercise that will help you see patterns in your negative thoughts and will give you clarity on what you need to work on first. If you’re interested then click here. It will be available for download for one week.

I’d like to know what you’re struggling with right now and how changing your story could help you have a better outcome. Please leave a comment. I will respond. : )

Here’s to more joy,
Mary Ann

P.S. You can learn more about controlling your thoughts and emotions for better family relationships in my new book Becoming a Present Parent, Connecting With Your Children in Five Minutes or Less. You can also receive a chapter from the book on Touchpoints, creating points of connection rather than having points of contention, FREE by visiting becomingapresentparent.com It can be life-changing for your family. I promise!

Want to know more about Present Parenting? –

Of Cats and Dogs

I grew up in a family that always had a dog. We had Sheppard’s and once we even had a giant poodle. We named him Expense.

But dogs in our family didn’t live in the lap of luxury. They ate table scraps for the most part and for the rest they beat the streets, so to speak. They stayed outside no matter what the weather and I came to know that my dad just tolerated them. He didn’t like dogs but he had nine children and felt that a dog was a must.

As for cats, they were the scourge of the earth. My dad would no more have had a cat than live underground. As much as he disliked dogs, he hated cats.

Not surprisingly, I grew up an avid dog and cat hater. There wasn’t a single thing about them that I could stand. It creeped me out to have a cat rub up against my leg. I felt like throwing up if a dog licked me or put his cold, wet nose on me anywhere. I couldn’t even stand the feel of cat or dog fur. And I absolutely could not abide the smell of dogs. If I was in the same room with them I could smell them and it was disgusting.

But I had seven children and a husband who loved dogs so like my father before me we had dogs and I couldn’t stand them. I was not cruel but I was not kind. I wasn’t terribly harsh but I wasn’t gentle either.

When I was in my fifties I had a dear friend named Ruby. She raised little dogs and she was dying. She had daughters who also raised little dogs and she knew they would take her dogs. But she had this big old grey cat named Big Kitty. Her girls were not interested in that scruffy old cat.

So Ruby asked me to take Big Kitty. I agonized over what to say. So did my husband because he also disliked cats. Nevertheless, for the sake of a dear friendship, we took the cat. He lived with us for a few years. In that time, for Ruby’s sake, I made a decision that I would care for that cat and I did.

But I could still barely tolerate dogs. Then we moved from Montana to Utah and lived with our daughter and her family.

She had a timid little dog named Odie. He was a small dachshund and he was terrified of me. He had good reason. I called him dumb dog in a loud and irritated voice on many occasions.

Other people loved animals. Why didn’t I?

Then one day I made a decision. I decided that I didn’t want to dislike cats and dogs anymore. I had watched other people and they loved their dogs and cats. I began to think that I might be missing something. But how in the world was I going to find out if I couldn’t get over my aversion to the smell and touch of an animal?

Because I am a praying person that’s what I did, I asked God how I could come to like animals. The first thought I had was to make friends with Odie. So every day after work I would come into the yard, call Odie and then touch his head. As he came to me he walked on his short little legs like a condemned man heading to the gallows. And when I reached out to touch his head he would pull back a bit. Poor little guy. I could barely touch his head and give a little pat. That was all I could handle. As the weeks went on I went from barely a touch on the head to an actual pat and then to stroking him once or twice.

I did this for many weeks and then one day I sat on the back steps, pulled him into my lap and sat there for a few minutes. I didn’t pet him but I held him. It’s well to remember that I couldn’t stand the smell of dogs or the feeling of their fur so this was huge!!

Eventually, Odie and I became friends. I felt tenderness for him. I never touched him a lot and we didn’t pal around but we became friends.

During this time our last child left home and Don, my husband began to long for a dog. I dreaded that. It’s one thing to be friends with someone else’s dog but it’s another to live with one. So I stepped up my prayers. I began telling myself that I liked dogs. They were man’s best friend after all and if they were man’s best friend they could be woman’s too.

I petted all of my client’s dogs. I talked to the neighborhood dogs. I patted them and then one day Patch came to live in our home and guess what! I like Patch. I can pet him and I’m not grossed out. I do still avoid his wet nose but I like him. I am kind. We are friends. In fact two days ago I went back to bed. I get up very early and walk with my daughter but this day I was tired so I went back to bed.

Patch and don in their favorite place. : )

After I let Patch out in the morning he runs and jumps on our bed and snuggles with his pal, Don. This morning, the morning I returned to bed, he had his side pressed up against Dons back. That meant he was sort of on my side. I looked at him and thought about tossing him off. But I got into bed, turned over and went to sleep. You cannot imagine how amazing it was to me to be in the same space with a dog and be able to sleep.

At this time we also have a cat who lives with our daughter . He has decided that my office chair is his personal retreat from children and noise. I let him have it!

Jax on my office chair.

So what happened between finding cats and dogs absolutely disgusting and becoming their friend. It was a decision. I decided to change my story from dogs and cats are filthy and disgusting to dogs and cats are wonderful animals and I am OK with them.

I am not yet Patch’s pal. I don’t hold him on my lap but I pet him. I don’t talk baby talk or feed him from my hand or sleep with him. But I like him. He’s a good dog and I find this particular miracle wonderful.

Here is the truth – When You Change Your Story, You Change!

When I changed my story about animals and about how I wanted to see them, I experienced a change. Understanding that your story can and does influence your response to your spouse, your children and yes, even to cats and dogs is powerful and frankly, life-changing.

Does this ring true for you?  Please share your feelings with me by leaving a comment.

Here’s to more joy,
Mary Ann

P.S. You can learn more about controlling your thoughts and emotions for better family relationships in my new book Becoming a Present Parent, Connecting With Your Children in Five Minutes or Less. You can also receive a chapter from the book on Touchpoints, creating points of connection rather than having points of contention, FREE by visiting becomingapresentparent.com It can be life-changing for your family. I promise!

Want to know more about Present Parenting? – 

 

Want More Internal Resources When Dealing With Your Kids?

For the last few weeks, I have been sharing information on the value of seeing situations in our lives in a more positive light. It requires that we let go of blame, fear, anger and so forth. But that takes some practice. So why would we even want to do it?

Negative thoughts hinder you from achieving things you want but research has shown that positive thoughts do the opposite.

Barbara Fredrickson is a positive psychology researcher at the University of North Carolina. She’s been able to demonstrate that positive thoughts can create real value in your life. She took five groups of people and showed each group film clips. Two groups saw clips of joyful things or sights that engendered contentment. Two groups saw clips which brought forth feeling of fear or anger. The control group saw neutral images.

Afterward, each participant was asked to imagine themselves in a situation where similar feelings would arise and to write down what they would do.

Participants who saw images of fear and anger wrote down the fewest responses. Meanwhile, the participants who saw images of joy and contentment wrote down a significantly higher number of actions that they would take, even when compared to the neutral group.

In other words, when you’re experiencing positive emotions like joy, contentment, and love you’ll see more possibilities in your life. Your thoughts will be more positive. That means the truths you embrace or the stories you tell yourself will be more positive. That will help you see more options for response.

I was mentoring a self-employed mother who was telling herself a negative story about her son’s actions. She felt he was whiny and needy. He was a bother when she was trying to work. Her responses to her son were causing a strained relationship between them. She was having difficulty figuring out how to fix the situation.

Here’s what happened when she began telling herself a more positive story. When I asked her to tell me more about her son, she replied that he was bright, loving, and responsible. So she decided to remind herself of these qualities each time she began to experience annoyance or frustration rather than think about his whining.

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

When her story was negative, she had fewer ideas on how she could deal with the situation in positive ways and, in fact, dealt with her son in more negative ways. This set up a negative cycle between them.

Her son tried harder to be heard and seen, her annoyance was heightened, and she responded in more negative ways. Her son would try even harder to be heard and seen, and the cycle would repeat.

When she changed her story and generated more positive feelings, she found more creative ways to respond. The new responses changed the dynamic or cycle with her son. This mom got better results because her feelings were positive. Her feelings were positive because she changed her story about her son. She found ways to be Present despite her work or his needs.

Remember that every situation and experience is made up of multiple truths. When we choose to focus on the more positive aspects of what happens in our lives we will be able to be Present more often and more consistently which will help us have happier family experiences. That’s why it’s worth the work and practice to take control of our thoughts, feelings, and the resulting stories. We will be able to respond better, even in negative situations. And that will get us a better result!

Have you had an experience where changing your story about a person or situation has changed your ability to respond well? Man, I really want to hear about it! Please share in the comments section.

Here’s to more joy,
Mary Ann

P.S. You can learn more about controlling your thoughts and emotions for better family relationships in my new book Becoming a Present Parent, Connecting With Your Children in Five Minutes or Less. You can also receive a chapter from the book on Touchpoints, creating points of connection rather than having points of contention, FREE by visiting becomingapresentparent.com It can be life-changing for your family. I promise!

How to get what you want!

When You Change Your Story, You Change

I was mentoring with a woman I loved and trusted. I was mentoring because, well, I wasn’t as happy with my life as I felt I should be. Each week we talked about things that were seemingly out of my control, which were making me miserable.

One day I was complaining about how my husband managed money. I was fed up with having the same discussion over and over again. Finally, my mentor said, “Mary Ann, you’re not a victim. You can choose to leave.” I was shocked. No, I couldn’t. After all, he was my husband, and I loved him. My religion would make leaving difficult and I had seven kids and . . .

Suddenly I realized I could. I could leave. I wasn’t a victim. I had the ability to choose how I was going to respond to this situation. I was in control of the story and the outcome.

I’m happy to say many years have passed, and I’m still married to the same man. I love him and occasionally we still have a money conversation but it has changed because my story changed.

You see, at the time, this was my story. “My husband doesn’t care how I feel. If he did, he would spend money differently. He does what he wants to do. My life is painful because of my husband.” Wow! Feels dreadful, doesn’t it?

Now, years later, here’s my story. “I have a great relationship with money. I always have what I need. Don’s making progress on his relationship with money. I’m supporting him, sharing what I’ve learned, and enjoying my healthy relationship with both Don and money.” Doesn’t that feel better?

You might be thinking, “That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard! You still have to live with the results of his choices. How can you be happy? Nothing has changed. You’re hiding your head in the sand and being a Pollyanna.”

If I weren’t living my life, I would agree with you. But I have firsthand experience that has proven when we change our story, everything changes.

In the case of my husband, myself, and our money conversation, when I changed my story it changed me. I no longer felt threatened, put upon, hurt, scared, or angry. It stopped impacting me as negatively.

In Every Situation, There is More Than One Truth

Here is something I have come to understand. In every situation, there is more than one truth. We get to choose which truth we want to focus on and that becomes our story. Our story fuels our response.

Take my family for example. You can say that Don and I raised seven beautiful, happy and productive adults. That is certainly true. However, it is also true that Don and I made mistakes; some of our kids struggled a lot and used drugs. That is equally true. Everyone who knows us gets to decide which lens they will see us from. Believe me, there are people in both camps. And frankly. Don and I have had to decide which lens we would see ourselves and our family through.

Jenny, the daughter I talked about two weeks ago was in the same boat. She could see the man who hit her with his car as a drunkard who lost control and drove on the wrong side of the freeway and destroyed her life as she knew it. He deserved to pay. That was absolutely true. Here is what was equally true and which Jenny decided to focus on. Here was a man in trouble who needed help. He had a family and a life but he was in trouble. She wrote to the judge asking her to not just punish him but to help him.

In every situation, there is more than one truth, sometimes many truths.

In our situation, with money, it was true that Don struggled to manage well. It was true that I felt scared and threatened about money. It was true that Don loved me and wanted to do the best for his family. It was also true that I was acting like a victim and allowing that place to determine my response. Thankfully I chose this truth, which has proven to be as true as any of the others – I am not a victim, I can manage money. I am not afraid of how money shows up in my life. I love my husband, he loves me and he is doing his best.

What You Say Is What You Get

You’ve all heard this old saying or something like it, “What you say is what you get.” It’s true. I have lived it.

If you say “My kids are driving me nuts,” they’ll drive you nuts. If you say “I can’t stand my kids today,” or “My kids are so sloppy, messy, noisy, naughty, and so on,” that’s what you’ll get. It’s what you perceive is happening, regardless of what’s actually going on. It’s your story. This will influence your response and your ability to be Present.

James Clear wrote for the Huffington Post, “Your brain is . . . programmed to respond to negative emotions . . . by shutting off the outside world and limiting the options you see around you.”

In our families, in order to have better outcomes and happier days, we need more options, not fewer when it comes to responding to the chaos, noise and sheer work of juggling all that’s required. And there are ways that we can increase our internal resources so that we can and will have more options and respond better – because we will have a better story.

Next week I’ll be talking about that. You’re going to find it uplifting and enlightening. And remember there’s always more than one truth in every situation. Pick the one that will help you get the results you want!

What have you learned that helps you control your story and your response? Please share in the comments section.

Here’s to more joy,
Mary Ann

P.S. You can learn more about controlling your thoughts and emotions for better family relationships in my new book Becoming a Present Parent, Connecting With Your Children in Five Minutes or Less. You can also receive a chapter from the book on Touchpoints, creating points of connection rather than having points of contention, FREE by visiting becomingapresentparent.com It can be life changing for your family. I promise!

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React or Respond. We decide!

For the last two weeks, I have been writing about families and how we respond to one another.  I wrote that how we chose to see what happens to us can and does impact how we deal with difficult circumstances.

Our brains are wired to create a story around all of our experiences. 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; usually, evidence based on past experiences. This process takes fractions of seconds.

Once we have our story, feelings are generated. These feelings move us to an action or response. Our response produces a result, either good or bad. This little scenario repeats itself hundreds of times each day. The better the response the better the result. We can’t run away from this principle. We live it out whether we understand and accept it or not.

Today I want to illustrate how our story can impact our response.

My husband Don is a gadget man. One fall he bought a new stove top grill at the county fair and was excited to use it. The next morning was Sunday, and we needed to get to a very important reception right after church. I said to Don, “Honey, there isn’t time to grill chicken today and make it to the reception. You’ll have to grill chicken tomorrow.”

After church, Don was nowhere to be seen. I surmised he had left early to go home and grill chicken! Sure enough, when I got home the grill was on and he was cooking. We were going to be late for the reception!

When we got to the reception, they were cleaning up. The bride and groom had left.  I was so angry!

Here was my heat of the moment story—“There are only two reasons Don would have done this. Either he didn’t hear a word I said because he doesn’t listen to me, or he didn’t care what I said.”

I was practiced at controlling my thoughts by now, and I knew this particular story was about blame and would color our relationship for weeks. Not appealing at all. So I looked for a new story. “I know Don. He loves me. He isn’t insensitive. There must be another reason he went ahead and grilled that chicken.”

Later in the evening I calmly said, “Don, remember when I said there wasn’t time to grill chicken today. I can see two reasons why you went ahead and did it. Either you didn’t hear what I said this morning, or you didn’t care what I wanted. But I know you, and you love me. You’re not insensitive. So there must be a reason I haven’t thought of.”

He looked at me with a stricken face and replied, “Gosh Mary, I thought I could do it in time. I thought the whole thing would take thirty minutes. I didn’t know it would take so long.”

I had to laugh because I could tell from his poor face he had really believed it would only take thirty minutes and was shocked to find out it wasn’t true. He never intended to ignore me or hurt me or make us late. He didn’t plan anything of the kind. He was moving forward based on an unrealistic expectation.

I was able to revise my story, even in the heat of the moment, because I took responsibility. I stopped blaming. I could see my story was the issue, not Don’s actions.

When I changed from a blaming, negative story to a more positive story I was able to come up with a plan for moving forward that got me a really good result. When we take responsibility for what we think and how it makes us feel we will be able to respond to negative situations better. That will have a VERY positive and connecting impact on our families.

What has been your experience with taking control of what you think and feel? Please share in the comments section.

Here’s to more joy,
Mary Ann

P.S. You can learn more about controlling your thoughts and emotions for better family relationships in my new book Becoming a Present Parent, Connecting With Your Children in Five Minutes or Less.  You can also receive a chapter from the book on Touchpoints, creating points of connection rather than having points of contention, FREE by visiting becomingapresentparent.com  It can be life changing for your family. I promise!

If you liked this article and found it useful please share.