Category: Controlling your Thoughts

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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In Honor of Fathers – The Glen Morshower Interview Articles

In 2011 I had the extraordinary opportunity to interview Glen Morshower – Agent Aaron Pierce, from the Fox hit “24.    I had attended an event he spoke at and I was riveted by his humor, wisdom and pure joy in living. So I plucked up my courage and asked him for an interview that I could share with the mothers and fathers I work with. He said he would be glad to and gave me his phone number. I never called.

I thought about calling often. I would look at his card, smile in remembrance of his exuberance and then put the card down.

Finally, one day as I thought about tossing the card in the trash, I plucked up my courage again and called. I left a message on his machine reminding him who I was and what I wanted. I didn’t expect a call back. He’s famous after all and a busy man.

The phone rang a short time later. Imagine my surprise to hear “Hi Mary, its Glenn.” It took me a moment to figure out Glenn who. “Oh my gosh, I can’t believe you called me back.” And that was how the following delightful hour began.

Glenn is an amazing individual. He has a zest for life that’s infectious. He was fun to talk with and I had to write fast and furiously. (I do not know shorthand) I made every effort to gather as much as I could to share with you. Over the next few weeks I will be sharing what I learned. I know you will enjoy it as much as I did.

Mary Ann – Is there anything from your parenting which you regret?

Glenn – “I can honestly say that I loved it all! It has been the best role I have ever played. Now that my children are grown I miss holding them and tucking them in.

Here’s why I have no regrets in my parenting.

I grew up in a painful situation. My parents divorced when I was three and my step father was physically abusive. I learned early on that there is a purpose to the gifts we are given in life, even those experiences that are painful and are rarely viewed as gifts. My experiences were a gift and taught me character and gave me something to transcend.

I developed an awareness about life that I consider heaven’s gift to me. I became wide awake. I learned compassion and gained understanding and those are the things that I brought to my parenting.

I frequently tell audiences that moaning about a painful past is not helpful and in fact counterproductive. You need to re-frame that past. That can be done by realizing that everyone who crosses your path is there to help you even when it is obvious that it’s not what they intend.

There are two things that those who cross our path can give to us.

• There are those give us a clear road map of how to live our life. They model excellent behavior and we should embrace the experience.
• There are those who will clearly model how not to live life, how not to be. They give us an equally powerful road map of what not to do to others.

My stepfather fell into the second category. Because of his powerful example:

• I never raised a hand to my children.
• I didn’t try to control the outcome.
• I concentrated on teaching them that this is a choice/consequence driven world. What are the consequences you want to inherit? Instead of choosing what you want, choose instead the consequences you want. Make consequence based choices. This leads to a healthier, happier life.

As adults we need to be careful not to use “victim speak”. Making excuses for our bad behavior or blaming another person for our bad behavior is a weak way to pardon that behavior. Take the responsibility of making a course correction in your family tree.”

The first thing I learned from Glenn –

Glenn understood a form a pain that he deliberately chose not to dish out to his children. He chose love and tenderness which he found effortlessly flowed to his children because he decided to give them what he had always wanted but never had. He made a decision.

The most poignant portion of his answer to the question I had asked was this: In giving what he had desperately wanted he found personal healing.

And isn’t that what we all really know is true – that what we give we get back in abundance. Glenn gave love instead of hurt.

Next week Glen shares what he felt was the best thing he did for his children. Be sure and join me because it is tremendous.

Glenn Morshower is regarded as one of the busiest character actors in Hollywood. Best known for his role as Aaron Pierce on the FOX hit series 24, Glenn has a hugely successful acting career spanning 35 years. He and his high school sweetheart Carolyn married in 1978 and have two grown children.

“The Extra Mile” is a series of performances which are written and performed by Glenn Morshower. The program is a combination of motivational speaking, story telling, dramatic and comedic performance, acting instruction, and life coaching. Thousands, including a good number of celebrities, have attended these events across the US. You can learn more about it here.

Why not share Glenn Morshower and his joy in life by clicking on the buttons below.

Why Think The Best of Others?

I was helping an older woman take a shower. She wasn’t able to stand so she sat. She wasn’t able to wash and so I lathered up the washcloth and helped her out. This was the mother of a dear friend. I had been serving her and her husband for quite some time but bathing his wife was his job. However, on this day he had another obligation. So I was filling in.

When I turned off the water I got a fluffy towel and began to dry her body. When I reached her feet I carefully dried between her toes. I was unprepared for her abrupt response.

“Oh, you dried between my toes, how wonderful!” I looked up and asked, “Doesn’t your husband dry between your toes.” She replied, “No, he doesn’t.”

Here is what I thought in my mind. “Well, that old coot. He should dry between his wife’s toes. He dries his own toes and he should dry hers. He is just being lazy and in too big of a hurry.” I thought he was doing just a tad less than a loving husband should do.

This experience took place well over 25 years ago. But I always remembered it because I love drying between my toes. Wet toes are gross toes.

Recently, Don and I had a conversation about this very subject. I know, I know, who talks about toes. But it came up in conversation when I was putting lotion on my feet one evening. I mentioned how much I like having my feet dried, especially between my toes. Then I told him the story of my friends and how inconsiderate the husband was of his wife. I said, “After all everyone dries between their toes and he should have done that for his wife.”

Don looked quizzically at me and there was a long pause. Finally, he said, “Mary, I never dry between my toes.” And at that moment the light bulb went on for me.

Not everyone dries between their toes. Maybe my friend’s husband didn’t dry between his toes and if so it would never have occurred to him to dry between his wife’s toes. The poor old coot was finally off the hook after more than 25 years.

I had misjudged the situation and I had held a negative thought about him all this time.

Why does this matter?

• Because negative thoughts that we hold about another person are unhealthy in our own body.
• Because energetically I was periodically zapping that old coot whenever I remembered the story that I held in my heart about him.
• Because I judged wrongly.

And there is the crux of the matter. More often than not we judge wrongly because we just don’t have enough information. This is important as we work to control our own negative thinking. There are a number of ways to control the story we tell ourselves about others, their motive, and our circumstances. Here is one of the number one ways:

Decide to think the best of others

 

When we have conflict in our relationships whether it’s with our child, a neighbor, our spouse, our boss, the checker at the grocery store, or even ourselves, our story is usually at the heart of the problem.

In a wonderful article by Ron McMillan, in an online magazine, he told the story of a 16-year-old girl and her father. Because of the story the father was telling himself about his daughter’s behavior he was challenged to respond well and it damaged their relationship. This is what McMillan had to say –

“The key to overcoming the natural man’s tendency to assume the worst about others’ motives is not to polish our apology skills nor learn to control our anger and frustration. Rather, the key to overcoming this destructive chain of events is to question our story.

‘Examining the negative story we tell ourselves . . . causes us to consider alternate explanations for … apparently hurtful behavior.

‘To accomplish this, ask yourself one question: “Why would a reasonable, rational and decent person do this?” Or, if this is too unwieldy, ask, “Why would a decent person act this way?” (McMillan, “Master Your Stories and You Master Your Life”)

It isn’t what happens that makes us mad it’s the story we tell ourselves about what happened that makes us mad.

It wasn’t that my friend didn’t get her toes dried that made me feel irritated with her husband it was the story I told myself about why he didn’t dry her toes.

When we decide to think the best of others, we can manage our thoughts and the resulting story more effectively. This will help us have better relationships with our family and more happiness in life.

By the way, you might be interested to know that a few weeks after my conversation with Don, as we were sitting together on a quiet evening, he looked at me and said, “I thought you would like to know, I dried between my toes.

OK, do you dry between your toes. Inquiring minds want to know. : ) 

 

GROUP MENTORING

I will be hosting a four-week GROUP mentoring session and you’re all invited. If you really want to take your parenting and family happiness up a notch then this is something to consider.

Calls will be held bi-weekly on Thursdays. They will be recorded for later playback. Each call will consist of training on a personal growth as a parent topic and then will have a Q&A. Calls will last from 1hour to 1 ½ hours depending on the Q&A.

Join the Group

 

I can help you experience less resentmentenjoy being with your children more, have more connected relationshipsless stress, less overwhelm, and greater inner peace. I can help you become more of the person and parent you really want to be.

“I so much from you…I wish you knew…the difference you are making. It really feels like deep, sustainable changes. I am enjoying more happiness…I’ve done plenty of mentoring/classes/energy work/ self-help, etc., and my husband told me a few months ago that this was the best I’d ever spent.”   Stefanie Miller

 

You can learn more about writing better mental stories 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!

You’ll Jinx Yourself!

The flu season is here! So are the cold season and the pneumonia season. A few Sundays ago I stopped at a neighbor’s home to drop something off. We chatted at the door for a few minutes and guess what came up? You guessed it – how many people are sick.

As I was leaving my neighbor said, “Be careful and don’t get sick.” I replied, “I won’t. I never get sick.” Her immediate and emphatic reply was, “Don’t say that. You’ll jinx yourself!”

I’ve been thinking about that and here is what I know for sure – Our voice is the most powerful voice in the world, for us. What we say out loud to ourselves over and over again is what our mind and body begin to believe. I repeat whenever possible, all winter long, “I never get sick.” And you know what, I rarely do get sick.

Recently, I was at an event with almost 500 other people. Of course how much illness there was in the city came up a few times. In one particular conversation, one of the staff said, “Well I’m impervious. I never get sick.” I believed him because what we say to ourselves is really powerful.

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

If you talk negatively about your children you will see them in a negative light no matter what they’re actually doing. 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.

If you speak unkindly about yourself you’re going to feel bad about yourself. If you talk negatively about your circumstances and possibilities the outcome will be more negative than you would like.  “I’m bald so I look older.” “My hips, thighs, tummy, whatever, is too fat.” “I have so many wrinkles.” “I am not a fun mom/dad.” “People just don’t like me.” “Nothing goes my way.” “Life is so hard.” “I’m just no good at math.” “I can’t seem to hang on to a dollar.” “My families too poor, there’s no way I can go to college.” “I could never learn to do that.”

Many of you may have a difficult time accepting that we draw to ourselves the things we focus on and say to ourselves. I used to have trouble believing it myself. In fact, the thought that is was all my responsibility made me so mad! But I couldn’t shake this new idea and over time I came to know the truth of it.

If we want better outcomes, we need to watch our words. Say what you want, not what you don’t want.

Here are some steps to help you generate more positive outcomes in your life:

  • Take responsibility and stop blaming
  • Decide to think the best of others
  • Choose words wisely
  • Practice thinking and speaking in more positive terms, no matter how the situation looks.
  • Don’t stop practicing no matter how long it takes to see results.

There are others but these will get you started.

Know how we really jinx ourselves? We do it when we talk negatively about ourselves, our lives, our circumstances, our possibilities and the people we come in contact with. If you want better outcomes, if you want to be happier, if you want life to feel and be better then begin confessing what you want.

“I never get sick!”

??? Feedback, please. Are you where I was some years ago. Does this make you mad? Or have you moved along this path far enough to have experienced what I am talking about? Let’s talk about it.

P.S. You can learn more about taking control of your self-talk 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!

You NEED a Short R&R List!

My sister is a very over-worked school teacher! The other day she was lamenting how hard it was to find time to relax and rest. She is at school from 7:30 until four thirty and sometimes later. Then there are papers to grade and she still has a family to feed and a home to run. A few weeks ago she asked me how I find time for R&R. I may not be an overworked school teacher but I have a job, I write, run an online business, do personal mentoring, manage a household and live with grandchildren. I understand and live the difficulty she was asking me to address.

So I gave her my short R&R list:  I take a shower every evening just before I go to bed and put lotion on my feet. I told you the list was short.

I’m on the far right, back row and 16 years old.

I began this little ritual when I was sixteen years old. I worked at my dad’s drive-in restaurant after school and on Saturdays, went to public school every weekday, had loads of homework, and was very busy in my church. Oh yes, did I mention I was the oldest of nine children at the time and trust me that comes with a large share of work and responsibility. Some days it was almost impossible to find time to rest and relax…if you could even find a private or quiet space in our home to rest and relax in.

So I began taking a bath and putting lotion on my feet each evening after the littler kids were in bed. It was wonderful and my parents, sensing my need, didn’t give me grief about water (a precious commodity in an 11 person household) or for tying up the bathroom.

Once I began I never stopped. It doesn’t matter how tired I am, how much is still left to do or how late it is. I always give myself this one thing even if I can’t give myself anything else.

I’m sharing this because my sister was surprised that I put taking a shower on my R&R list. I mean it’s a very plain, everyday, ordinary thing that most people do. Right? Here is the difference. I do it for the express purpose of caring for myself and so it doesn’t feel ordinary or everyday to me. It feels loving.

And therein lies part of the problem when we work to carve out some rest, relaxation or alone time for ourselves in a family. Many people look for something out of the ordinary – going to a movie, a few days away, a date, etc. They look for something that gets them away from home and responsibility, kids and noise.

But as I have said before, if we think of taking care of ourselves as being child-free, away from home, in quiet, then most of us are going to get precious little of it.

How can we care for ourselves right where we are, in the thick of parenting? We need to get creative and we need to manage our story about what is required to care for self.

One of my good friends had a unique solution. She had a treat box, up high, which no one knew about. When she needed a break or the feeling of being cared for she would go to her room, take down the box and have a handful of licorice bits, one of her favorite treats. It took only a few moments. She smiled when she told me about it. It gave her real pleasure to have this little secret, this small piece of R&R.

Here are a few other things that I do to care for myself:

The bathroom is on my self-care list

1. I read in the bathroom. I don’t know about you but I know I am going to be in that room at least three times a day. And right next to the toilet is a large basket of books and magazines. I may only get to read one or two paragraphs before someone knocks on the door but I love those few moments of reading. It feels restful, rejuvenating and makes me smile.

2. I sit down and shell peanuts. It gives me a reason to stop what I am doing and sit for a few moments as well as have a treat. Most of the time, I have grandkids shelling right along with me. You might think that that would negate the feeling of self-care but it doesn’t because I know I am deliberately allowing myself to sit and rest and have a treat. It feels like self-care because I have decided it is – kids or no kids.

3. I also crochet. It’s calming to me. I can do it without thinking. Noisy kids and chaos don’t matter. It’s relaxing in the midst of family. When I engage in this activity, I know I am caring for myself because I am sitting down and doing something that I enjoy. I don’t usually get more than 10-15 minutes but it’s enough. Quiet and aloneness aren’t required.

Here is what I hope you are beginning to understand:

  • Being alone and in quiet are not always required to feel that you are caring for yourself
  • Self-care can be ordinary, nothing special
  • Self-care doesn’t have to cost anything and can happen right where you are, in the midst of family
  • The story we tell ourselves goes a long way to making an activity feel like self-care

I hope you get away now and then. But even more, I hope you will begin practicing self-care right where you are. Write down your own short list. Then be consistent in doing the few things you have written down. It doesn’t have to be every day, like a shower/ bath but they all need to be things that you can do at the drop of a hat, even with your family all around you.

As you practice you will find it easier to be patient, you will feel less resentment and you will have happier days.

Here’s to more joy,
Mary Ann

??? What do you do when you want to care for yourself and you have huge responsibilities, loads of work or very little time? What do you do when you want to care for yourself and you have a house full of children? I would love to know and so would my readers. We could all use suggestions. Please leave a comment and share what has worked for you.

I WILL BE SPEAKING at the Winter Homeschool Conference on January 27, 2018, in Layton, Utah. This conference is designed to support and rejuvenate home educating parents who want to thrive, not just survive the homeschooling experience. You don’t have to be currently homeschooling to attend! I will be speaking on Process vs Outcome. Knowing the Difference Can Change Your Family. If the topic resonates with you I would love to have you join me.

P.S. You can learn more about seven ways to get better self-care 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!

A New Way of Being in 2018

A few years ago I came home and on the counter was my blender…filled with flowers. I loved the flowers but I couldn’t understand why they were in the blender!!

When we moved last time I really downsized. I kept only two vases. One was filled with plants I am rooting. That left just the red one under the sink…too narrow of a neck for the flowers I found on my counter, in the blender.

I took a minute and stood in the middle of my living room and thought about what I might have that I could put this big, beautiful bouquet of flowers in. I mean, I couldn’t leave them in the blender. Right? Only a man would put flowers in the blender! Right?

I have a curio cupboard filled with stuff. In the cupboard, I discovered a beautiful clear, glass cookie jar. It was perfect for the flowers and the arrangement looked so nice.

Here is the thought that I had when the flowers were arranged in that beautiful, glass jar:
“What’s wrong with Don? He could have found this jar just as easily as I did. Why in the heck did he put those flowers in the blender? Men!”

Now in my past life, this is what would have happened when Don got home:
Hi Don. Thanks for the flowers. They’re beautiful but why did you put them in the blender?”

“Well, I couldn’t find a big enough vase.”

“Honey, there was a glass jar right in the curio cupboard. You can see it as well as I can. You just have to look. Anyway, thank you for the flowers. I love them.”

Ladies, does this scenario sound familiar to you? I am sure it does. Here my man brought home flowers but he would have gone away feeling unappreciated for his efforts and me, well, I would think that despite the fact that he brought home flowers, he was kind of lame for not putting them in something pretty, instead of the blender. In fact, I would have thought he was sort of lazy for not taking the time to find anything else.

Fortunately, I had time to think this through before Don got home and I am old enough to have been down this road many times in the past. I was looking for a new road! Here is what I realized. He wouldn’t have been free to use that glass jar even if he had seen it. Why? Because he wouldn’t have known if it was an antique or just stuff. If he had used it I might have come home and said, “Gee Don, why did you use that. It was Great Aunt May’s and it’s worth a lot of money. Why do you think it was in the curio in the first place?” I’ll bet this sounds familiar to many men. They just can’t do it right.

I was telling this story to a friend the other day. She nodded her head and said, “My husband is always saying, “Can I do anything right for you? Anything?” Gee, Don has said that to me! It isn’t that they really can’t do anything right. It’s really about complaining because it isn’t done the way we think it should be done.

This is the bind that our husbands and our children find themselves in quite often. They do the best they can but it just doesn’t make the grade and we let them know it. I propose that it’s better, more often than not, to just accept what is offered without complaint or criticism.

For example:

•Your husband brings flowers home, can’t find a vase, and so he puts them in the blender. Kiss him soundly and say, “Thank you so much, sweetheart!”
•Your 12-year-old son does the dishes without complaint. When he is done you notice that he hasn’t swept the floor so you point it out. “Sigh”, this comes from the son. It would be better to give a quick hug, say thanks and acknowledge that the job was done without complaint. Then, if you must, at a much later time mention that when he does the dishes next time would he please sweep the floor.
•Your husband helps the kids with their baths. There is a lot of laughing and good times going on. When they are done and in PJ’s and sitting on the couch you huff out of the bathroom because there is water all over the place and the towels are on the bedroom floor. You do one of two things – march into the living room, angry that you are again stuck with cleaning up, and loudly ask everyone to go clean up the floor and hang up their towels or you stay quiet and just put on your martyr face so that HE knows that you are upset. It would be better to join everyone in the living room, even if for only a few minutes. Give some quick hugs, thank your spouse for a job well done and then quietly wipe up the floor and hang up the towels. Later, in a day or two, if you must, you then ask him to wipe up the floor and have the kids hang up the towels next time, please, with a smile.
•Your five year old sets the table for dinner. He forgets the napkins and two plates don’t have forks. He comes to you beaming from ear to ear and lets you know he has done the job. You point out that there are no napkins and forks are missing. The job gets finished, the smile is gone. It might be better to give the five-year-old a big hug and ask him if he wants to learn how to fold napkins in a really cool, new way. Sure he does. You show him how, help him do it and now there are napkins on the table. You quietly put on the two missing forks. Later you have a Family Learning Time and everyone practices setting the table.

There are three things I am pointing out:
•Sometimes it’s wise to just accept the job as is and be grateful. No complaining!
•Timing in teaching is everything. We all want to feel valued for what we do even if it isn’t perfect.
•Even though we want our family to do their best, their best isn’t always going to be our idea of “best”. That’s OK.

Let’s all practice a new way of being in 2018. Let’s all complain less and be kinder. I think we will like the results. I know our families will!

What do you think? True or not? Doable? Leave a comment.

Here’s to more joy,
Mary Ann

I WILL BE SPEAKING at the Winter Homeschool Conference on January 27, 2018, in Layton, Utah. This conference is designed to support and rejuvenate home educating parents who want to thrive, not just survive the homeschooling experience. You don’t have to be currently homeschooling to attend! I will be speaking on Process vs Outcome. Knowing the Difference Can Change Your Family. If the topic resonates with you I would love to have you join me. ​​​​​​​

 

P.S. You can learn more about parenting with gratitude 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!

If You Can’t Say Something Nice, Don’t Say Nothing At All

Taking care of ourselves when we’re parenting is NOT selfish; it is an investment in our family. When parents care for and nurture themselves they parent better. They are able to remain calm when life is tough, have extended patience and be Present more often.

Last week I mentioned that I do seven simple things that help me care for myself no matter how busy or frustrating the day. This week let’s talk about the NUMBER ONE way to nurture and care for yourself as you parent your family and maintain relationships.

TALK NICELY TO YOURSELF

Think and talk nicely to and about yourself. We would rarely speak to others, even those who are messing up, the way we talk to ourselves. Pay attention to what you say and how you say it. I cannot express the importance of this one step. It will change everything!

It’s magic when it comes to helping you parent well and be Present. As Carol M. Colvin, life coach, stated, “When we say things like ‘I’m such a loser,’ ‘I’m an awful mother or father,’ ‘I’m so fat,’ or ‘I’m just not good enough,’ we do devastating damage to our souls. If we continue to think and speak negatively about ourselves over time, we’ll find that we’ve eroded our self-esteem and extinguished our inner light.”

You need to be your own best friend, no matter how you’re doing presently. Best friends speak kindly to each other and are honest and support one another, even if one of them is floundering. It’s self-care when you treat yourself like your own best friend.

I make it a habit to rephrase any negative words or thoughts immediately. For example—if I say, “I’m so impatient,” I immediately rephrase and say out loud, “I work to be patient and I’m making progress.” It won’t always feel true. Rephrase anyway. The most powerful voice in the world is your own, so rephrase out loud.

I made myself a “Who I Am” poster. I copied a drawing of a woman from the Internet. I picked a drawing that looked like the kind of woman I felt I wasn’t but wanted to be—perky and cute.

Next, I did some free writing. I wrote all the things I wished I was inside the body of the woman. I wrote exactly what came to my mind without judging the thoughts.

Each day I would stand in front of my poster, strike that perky pose and repeat all of those amazing qualities. It felt so weird at first! After all, it was clear I didn’t currently exhibit many of these qualities, but I was also fully willing to accept that these were my actual strengths in embryo.

I did this little exercise for well over a year. It felt better and better. Those qualities felt truer and truer. But here’s when this little exercise in self-care was the most powerful: When I messed up, I would march myself to my poster and recite all those qualities that were mine, even those in embryo. With tears streaming down my face or anger in my heart or dislike of self coursing through me, I would repeat them loudly and with conviction.

As I repeated the attributes, I accepted that this is who I am despite my weaknesses and my errors in judgment or my occasional poor choices and behavior. By the time I was done reciting, I would feel better. I would be able to do whatever I needed to do to make the situation right. Apologize. Forgive. Pray for a better solution, whatever the need.

I still have that poster in my office where I see it daily. Whether I’m doing well or poorly, I’m reminded of who I am! These are the thoughts that I want to hang on to each day as I work toward becoming the best person I can be. Those attributes are what I replace my negative thoughts with.

There are few things that you can do that will help you care for yourself as powerfully as speaking kindly and with respect to yourself and about yourself, even when, in your mind, you least deserve it.

What strategies do you use to speak more kindly to yourself? What do you do to feel better about yourself when you know you have messed up? Please leave a comment and I will respond. : )

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!

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.

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? –