Tag: present parenting

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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Family Management vs Family Realtionships

Can we get our work done AND still build family relationships?

I went to Seattle to visit my youngest daughter’s family and to participate in her husband’s graduation. When we walked in the house from the airport at 11:30 that night we had to step over toys, shoes, the day’s clothes, etc. My daughter looked at me and said, “Mom I cleaned this house twice for you.” I smiled. I know that feeling. I also know that she has two small, busy children and that she spends time with them.

When I visit my daughter Marie, who has five children, the same scenario is repeated. She always asks me why I pick some major thing to clean every time I come. Well, it’s because I know what a challenge it is to stay on top of the daily things, let alone get any deep cleaning done, especially when you are willing to put it aside to help a five-year-old ride her bike or create a superhero costume for a nine-year-old son.

I live with my oldest daughter and her family, in an attached apartment. So I see what goes on there even more intimately. It is almost always slightly chaotic. The floor is rarely uncluttered for more than a few hours at a time. But I see her stop what she is doing to help any one of her four children with whatever project or need they may have. In fact, I have thought to myself, “Man, I would have told them I would help them later.” You see, I still have to work on being Present!

There are many things we have to DO to manage our home and family. They have to be done. Good mothers and fathers take care of the physical needs of their home and children. They cook, clean, care for the yard, do laundry, teach, admonish, and model appropriate behavior.

Being Present happens when we stop long enough to actually see and hear our child, when we step out of management mode and into relationship building even for just a few minutes at a time.

Let me give you an example of leaving the job of family management for the joy of relationship.
After 3 weeks this is my living room and soon to be kitchen.

We have all moved to a new city. It has taken a few months of remodeling the old home while we still lived there, living in temporary quarters while we found a new home, and now living in another remodeling mess. It has been chaotic and stressful, to say the least. We haven’t been able to fully move in and it has been over a month and a half. All of us, including the children, have had to deal with a great deal of stress.

A couple of days ago, after a long day of work, Doug was trying to get the

Lots done in Jodie’s house but this is still a fixture in the middle of the living room.

new table assembled so their family can finally eat a meal sitting together. This was a project which not only needed to be done; it was a project that felt important to the family fabric after weeks of chaos.

At the same time Ben, who is five, found an app that he desperately wanted to download onto his tablet. Mom was at the hospital with his sister, Maggie, who had just had major surgery. So he asked his Dad to help him call his mom so he could get the code to download the app.

As his Dad continued to work on the table Ben repeated his query. “Dad, can you help me.” “I really want to download this app.” “Dad, this is a super game and you will like it.” “Please, call mom.”

The finished table which is too heavy for less than four men to turn upright. LOL

Doug responded to Ben’s repeated questions about the app while still working on the table. “You can’t download anything if it costs money.” “Your mom can help you when she gets home.” “I have to get this table done.” “Wait a minute.” “Ben, you can’t download anything until I look at it.” This went on, back and forth between them, for about thirty minutes. I could see that Doug’s patience was thinning. He exclaimed, “Ben, you’re killing me son.”

Then Doug did a wise and wonderful thing. He stopped working on the table. He walked over to Ben, took hold of his hands and looked him in the eye. He asked, “Ben, what app are you talking about. Show me.”

In about five minutes they had the app downloaded and Ben was happily working on it and Dad was back finishing the table.

We often postpone or even neglect these types of Present moments because we think they will take a lot of time. But being Present usually happens in less than five minutes. It is something we can learn to do every day and use only minutes of our time. It is a doable skill that any parent can practice and learn.

Did you notice the four simple things that Doug did that led him to a magical Present moment with his son? First, he stopped. Second, he turned away from what he was doing. Third, he looked fully into his son’s face. Fourth, he touched his child. In that moment I saw his heart soften, his focus change from the table to his son. It was magical, simple, and it only took him five minutes to take care of Ben’s need.

We can all be more Present parents if we will learn to STOP, TURN away from whatever we are doing, LOOK into our child’s eyes, and then TOUCH them.

Regularly I pick a verse of scripture to think on and memorize. I appreciate the discipline and I like the messages. A few years ago I choose Matthew 13:16: “But blessed are your eyes, for they see: and your ears, for they hear.” May we all be blessed in our relationships as we practice the art of being Present – STOP, TURN, LOOK and TOUCH.

What are your struggles with being Present in your day to day activities? Share and let me respond. : )

WHY DID YOU WRITE IT?

I had a friend ask me a very interesting question the other day. “Did you write your book because you had troubles in your own family?” That was a fair question but the answer was NO. That isn’t why I wrote it.

I raised seven beautiful, gifted and loving children. We lived most of those child-rearing years in a very small town in Montana. However, when we had only one child left at home we moved to Utah.

In Utah, I met many parents from the homeschool community because my daughter was planning on homeschooling. I really enjoyed the associations as I had also homeschooled my two youngest children for a few years. I began attending conferences, talking with others and reading about homeschool topics.

One day I read about putting school supplies into a closet and then using the contents to get kids really excited about learning. I liked the idea. My oldest daughter reminded me that we had used something like this all her growing up years. It was familiar to me and I loved the concept. So I started talking about it with everyone.

The Puzzle that Led to the Book

Here is what I discovered – as wonderful as the concept was it wasn’t working for most families. That puzzled me. So I started watching what parents were doing and I came up with some principles that made the concept work. I asked five families to test out my theory and then I increased it to seventy families. The principles worked.

The first time I taught a class on the Spark Station, the name I gave this learning tool, there was standing room only. There was a lot of interest in a tool that could help kids love learning.

The Shift

I spent the next few years teaching parents all over the country how to use the Spark Station and the principles. In the process, I discovered that these were life principles. They didn’t just make the Spark Station work better, when implemented they made life work better. They helped parents do their job better. That was the first shift.

Then I realized that the Spark Station wasn’t just a tool to inspire kids to learn. I began to see that it was a way for parents to connect with their children, to be Present with them . That was the second shift.

I was fascinated with this idea of being Present despite the business of life. So I began working with families. I discovered ways to help parents utilize what was already happening in their homes to connect daily with their kids. I helped them hone skills that made it easier to ‘see’ and ‘hear’ their kids. I began teaching the difference between kids and adults and how they approach life. I helped parents spend less time in management and more time in relationship building. I wrote over 400 articles on these topics.

The Result

I received so many emails from people who had attended classes, workshops, webinars, and presentations saying that this information was life changing for them. I knew there had to be a way to broaden the audience and touch more families. That is how the book was born.

I was able to reach back into my own parenting and compare what I knew and did then with what I know and I teach now and that has been very helpful. But it was the results of families just like your family that moved me in the direction of a book.

This book can be life changing for any parent and for anyone who wants to have better relationships. I hope you read it and then let me know how it impacts your family. I want to hear from you!

“Being a single woman, without children, I wasn’t sure what value this book would have for me. It impacted me greatly! I have set a goal to re-read it every few years. It’s not just a book about being a Present parent. It’s a book about being a Present person. Jenny Johnson, M.A., CCC-SLP

Every family, every person must read it ASAP in order to find presence in life, not just with children, but with all relationships.  I have enjoyed it profoundly… Jason Hewlett, Dad and Speaker 

I’m not much of a reader. Unless a book catches my attention within the first few pages, I seldom read it all the way through. This book not only drew me in from the beginning but I finally had to make myself stop reading and go to bed. “Becoming a Present Parent” will be one of those life-changing books for parents and for anyone who wants to have an amazing relationship with child. Well worth the read. Cindy Winward, Mother of four grown children and mentor at Midwives College of Utah

MaryAnn is a master at helping you become a more present parent.  Each chapter is filled with actionable insight and real-life steps in helping you stay “checked in” with your children, a difficult thing in this distracting world.  I love how Mary Ann teaches us how to truly connect with our children. Ann Webb, Humanitarian, Author and Founder of Ideal LifeVision

You may read Becoming a Present Parent all the way through one time. But then you’ll come back to it time and again to refresh on certain topics at the very time you need them. My guess is your copy will become dog-eared and marked up, and will become like a comfortable friend. Norma Jean Lutz, Author, Speaker, Editor, Novel Critique Consultant, Ghostwriter 

Try Active Listening for a More PRESENT Summer

As you know I have been writing a new book – Becoming a Present Parent: Maximizing Presence in Five Minutes or Less. I started in August 2015 and finished in January 2016. Since then I have been learning the dance of being an independent author. Whew, it has required a lot of dance lessons!!

However, the book is in the formatting and cover design stage and it is going to actually make it to press this summer. Woohoo. I will breathe a sigh of relief for sure.

While we wait for the books release I thought I would share a bit of the content with you.

ACTIVE LISTENING

When we’re Present, we listen to connect with the speaker and to understand how they feel about what they’re saying. It’s active and engaged and seeks to hear the words and, more importantly, to hear the heart.

Because this type of listening doesn’t come naturally, I’ve had to develop steps to make it happen more often. They may be helpful to you also.

A. STOP what you’re doing. Turn away from any technology, book or project. If you truly can’t stop, tell your child you can see this is important to them and you want to hear what they have to say. Set a specific time when you’ll be free and keep it. Saying “we’ll talk about it later” is not specific and sends the message you’re not available to them, that whatever else you’re doing is more interesting or more important. If at all possible STOP and listen now!

B. Make eye contact with your child. I remember reading that an infant can tell the difference between a face which is in order and one with the features jumbled.

From my experience, I know babies are interested their parent’s faces. They look at their parent’s faces constantly and reach out to touch them. Infants want us to look back at them. As we grow older, desire for eye contact with the people in our lives that matter to us remains.

Eye contact is looking directly into your child’s eyes and not looking away at other things or looking down. When we look at our children as we listen to them, it sends a powerful message that we care, that we hear them, that they matter.

C. Respond to what your child is feeling, not only what they’re saying. When you’re Present you’ll respond to feelings more quickly and more accurately. This helps your child feel heard. You can say things like, “Boy – how maddening!” or “You didn’t like that did you?” or “How did you feel?” This helps your child know that you view their feelings as valid and important.

D. Listen with patience and interest. Whatever you’re feeling, your child will know! They’re like energy magnets. If your energy is inwardly impatient, they’ll know. If you’re dying to get back to your stuff, they’ll feel it. If you’re bored out of your mind, it’s coming across loud and clear. It may all be on a subconscious level, but they know. Hold thoughts in your mind which will help you maintain interest and patience.

For example, you can think, “I sure love this kid. They’re so interesting, funny, kind, thoughtful,” whatever. Hold thoughts which allow you to embrace fully the moment you’re sharing with your child.

Avoid interrupting. Ask only those questions which help clarify. Your job at this moment is not to teach, reprimand or to fix. It’s to listen.

Being present with your child is an end in itself. It isn’t about resolution, teaching, making progress, none of that. It’s about connection, pure and simple. You can always teach later. Right now, be Present!

During a day, there are dozens of opportunities to stop and listen. We can’t actively listen in all of them. But if we can increase those times we do, it will have a big impact on our relationships.

Remember, being Present is a gift we give another person without thought of return. It means giving full attention, our whole self, nothing left on the table.

I do have something special in the works to add a bit of zing to your summer and to help you get a head start on Becoming a Present Parent. Watch for it. : )

Happy Summer,
Mary Ann