Tag: control your story

7 Tips for Controlling Your Response When Things Go Wrong

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

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

CAN CONTROLLING YOUR STORY MAKE A DIFFERENCE?

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

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

THOUGHTS CREATE OUR STORIES

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

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

TIPS FOR HAVING BETTER STORIES

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Your Shares are the BEST Compliment. : ) 

When the Result Stinks You’re the Problem!

My mom, NaVon Cazier

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

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

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

My husband, Don

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

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

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

OUR RESPONSE MATTERS   

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

It matters for two reasons:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Your shares are the best compliment.

 

Of Hens and Families

                                                   A Very Bright Chicken!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What Do Chickens Have To Do With Families?

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

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

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

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

For Better Solutions Get Out of The Box

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

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

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

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

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

•Leave your comfort zone

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

•Challenge your assumptions (stories)

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

•Ask yourself searching questions

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

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

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

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

•Don’t Take The Need for New Solutions Personally

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

Your shares are the best compliment. : ) 

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!

STOP Living in the Fog of Ignorance

One morning a woman arose early and sat by her large front window and watched an incredible sunrise as it lit the valley in gold. She observed the shadow of the night moving out of the way of the suns rays as it rose slowly over the mountains. She could feel that it was going to be a beautiful day and it filled her heart with gladness.

But as she looked across the valley she noticed that there was a thick blanket of fog covering most of the city. She realized that despite the promise of a beautiful day none of those living in the valley could see it. They had no idea that the sun was beautiful and the air was clear and the sky was blue. All they could see was the grey fog that surrounded them.

What a great metaphor for the lives of many parents.

When I began parenting it wasn’t exactly as I had envisioned. It was harder. I knew there must be a way to enjoy my children more, to feel less resentment. I knew that there must be a way to remain calm. But I was lost in the fog of ignorance.

I’m using this word in the classic sense – lack of knowledge, information or awareness.

At first, for me, it was absolute lack of awareness in the area of remaining calm with my children.

I grew up in a good family and we loved each other but the way we dealt with conflict was not healthy. We yelled. I watched my mom and dad yell and my aunts and uncles. It was what you did if you were angry, if kids weren’t complying in the way you thought they should, if money was tight, if a spouse made a mistake or if circumstances didn’t match what you expected.

It took me a full ten years to even come to an awareness that yelling might not be the best way to handle things. At some point, I began to suspect that there might be a different way as I observed other families. But it came to a head for me when my neighbor walked across the street and handed me a brochure on anger management!

 

After I became fully aware that I needed to change this particular behavior I remained ignorant for a time because I lacked knowledge and information on how it was even possible to manage your emotions. I believed at that time that responding to emotion as I did was normal. I believed that my yelling was caused by my kids, my spouse, money, other people and circumstances I couldn’t control. It had never occurred to me that how I responded was not determined by what was happening or who was involved but was totally within my control.

Fortunately, I heard this statement in a church class, “If there’s a problem, it’s your problem.” Let me tell you that made me so MAD and I didn’t believe it was true!! Over the next few years, I was fortunate enough to find other pieces of information that helped me begin to see that I could take responsibility for my emotions, maintain calm, and manage my response. The fog began to lift.

As I learned new things I applied them and my life began to change. The sun came out and I could see that it was going to be a beautiful day.

Many wonderful parents live in a fog-filled valley in one way or another.

How can you be sure you’re doing it right? How can you remain calm? How can you connect when life is so busy? How can you manage disappointment, frustration, and negative thoughts? How can you see your children in a better light? How do you let go of resentment? How do you get past so much family contention? How do you keep your home clean and orderly? These are just of a few fog-filled places in parenting and when we don’t know the answers to these and other questions it’s harder to see the sun and know that it’s going to be a beautiful day.

What I see many parents do as I mentor is to attach blame to themselves. They just aren’t good people in some way or they would know how to do it better. But they aren’t bad people; they are ignorant and need information and knowledge about what it takes to resolve their particular struggle. And then they need to implement that knowledge and begin practicing.

Sometimes parents blame their children. If they just weren’t so noisy, uncooperative, messy, naughty…and the list goes on. Sometimes they blame money or each other or their circumstances.

As parents, we need to stop assigning blame for the difficulties we have in our family and seek out information and knowledge that will help us manage better. We can get that information through good books, parenting events, social service organizations, and mentoring with someone who has accomplished what we want to be able to do better.

We have to choose to climb out of the fog-filled valley and into a brighter day. It is always a choice that we have and we can learn to make that choice more often.

Here is something you can begin to do today that will help clear fog out of your family no matter what your current struggle?

 

Take responsibility and stop blaming. When we choose to tell ourselves stories that blame others, we decide to become victims. Victims parent poorly.

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

One mom I worked with had this enlightening experience as she began taking responsibility for her own feelings and responses and stopped blaming.

She told me the following:

“I opened the dryer door only to discover wet clothes. Jonathan (my 14-year-old) didn’t press the start button when he transferred loads. I was three words into my grumble when I heard myself say out loud “Oh, I’m so glad I checked the dryer.” The next words were of understanding, with a deep feeling of love . “I’ve done this same thing before .” This whole cycle took under 3 seconds, and it happened without me really thinking about it. Wow, I’m amazed.” April H., WA

When you find yourself blaming something or someone outside of yourself STOP and ask this question – How am I choosing to respond and what would be a better response? As you practice you will get better and better at choosing your response no matter what the circumstances are.

April, who had struggled with negative thinking had begun to climb out of the fog of blame and she was discovering that the sun does shine and that it can be a beautiful day and you can discover the same thing for yourself.

What is your experience with learning and implementing something new and then coming out of the fog? Please share because we are all looking for a new bit of information that can help us do the same. : ) 

 

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 resentment; enjoy being with your children more, have more connected relationships, less 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

Join me and experience a relationship transformation

 

You can learn more about climbing out of the fog 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!

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? – 

 

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!

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