So the other day, I had the very rare opportunity to read a book for more then five minutes. My husband was sick, and after running around all day with my daughter, I then took my son to baseball practice. I was not graceful about it, as I was feeling resentful at missing out on some time for myself at home. But wisely, I brought my current read, Overwhelm, by Brigid Shulte, (Which I highly recommend)
I got sucked in for the entire hour and half practice. While I am only a couple chapters in, it has really got my attention. In concurrence with this rare reading splurge, I have been frantically trying to squeeze in a webinar on stress and its effects on our bodies this week, before the deadline for me to apply for Continuing Education credits to maintain my counseling license, fully aligning with mothers described in the book.
It is so typical of many many moms, (and not just American moms it turns out) to be frantically playing whack-a-mole, while telling ourselves that after just this last reason for overwhelm, things will settle down. Once baseball is over, once my son’s orthodontics are out, once my husband stops working overtime, once my daughter starts kindergarten…. And now my daughter is in kindergarten, baseball has come and gone, and come again, my son will have a retainer now instead of headgear and braces, my husband may be out of the state for a four month work detail, my office is under construction, the sewer clogged, flooding the basement, the rain also flooded the basement the following week due to gutters being off for construction, my dogs anxiety has increased, and I have a head cold. Oh and the school just called because my daughter threw up and needs to come home. Always more moles popping up to whack down.
I can not stop the moles, but I can change my reaction to them. So for mother’s day this year, give yourself credit for all you do, and accept that there will continue to be moles, sometimes more and sometimes less. We can live with the assumption that they will slow down or stop, and be eternally frustrated. Or we can change our expectations to assume they will continue to pop up at inopportune times, and we can prepare ourselves to handle them as gracefully as possible. Choose Grace!
Warmest Mother’s Day Wishes,
How are you doing with your connection with your child? Remember, research shows that we need at least five positive interactions to each negative interaction to maintain a healthy, happy connected relationship that can withstand the normal conflicts and upsets of daily life. Yesterday (Monday after Easter), my daughter was low energy and complaining of stomach pain. I had a cold, so already had scaled back any plans for the day, so decided to take it easy with my daughter. We had a delightful day of lounging, a few errands, and no pressure to be anywhere on any timeline. (Delightful minus the fact that neither of us were feeling well). While it is not always realistic for us to just cancel our whole day it was a lesson to me in listening (tuning in) to her needs. She is in kindergarten, and consistently expresses how much she misses me during the three days that she goes to after school care. Here are some tips you can implement immediately and in the moment, without planning your whole day around reconnecting.
1. Turn off your phone and music when your child gets in the car with you at the end of the day, and listen to her most and least favorite parts of the day.
2. When your children get into a fight, keep your sense of humor, listen to both kids without taking sides, empathize, and help them work out a win/win solution.
3. When he has a meltdown because you cut his sandwich wrong, don’t make a new sandwich, but remind yourself that tantrums signal distress, not defiance. Stay close and compassionate, validate his feelings so he feels safe enough to cry and get to the bottom of the emotional pile up. You’ll all have a much better day instead of entering a power struggle over the shape of a sandwich.
4. Commiserate and encourage as you help her study for her spelling test.
5. Laugh at his jokes.
6. No matter what your child says, empathize. Often the primary need is for them to express how they are feeling and feel heard. They are not really going to smash their brother’s lego ship to pieces or run away. You can help them to cope with intense feelings and find safe ways to deal with them by listening first. When you acknowledge how your child feels, you strengthen your connection.
7. Spend fifteen minutes of special time with each child, just following her lead and pouring your love into her. This habit alone can transform your relationship with your child. When she wants to use the couch cushions to build a fort, say yes. Let her be the director and tell you what to do.
How do you boost positive interactions in your daily parenting?
Are you struggling to connect with your children in the seemingly limited time you have with them each day? Maybe you are dealing with a limit testing 5 year old, or a sullen pre-tween. Research shows that we need at least five positive interactions to each negative interaction to maintain a healthy, happy connected relationship that can withstand the normal conflicts and upsets of daily life. So when we’re short on positive interactions, our kids resist our guidance and develop attitude, whether they’re two or twelve.
Life is busy, and you don’t need one more thing for your to-do list. Instead, why not create a few daily habits that replenish your relationship with your child? After thirty days, any action becomes a habit, so you don’t have to think about it. Here are 7 things you can start doing today to build a closer relationship with your child. Try a couple, find one or two that work, and establish a new mini habit!
1. Snuggle with each child for five minutes when they first wake up.
2. Take an extra minute to sit down with your kids at breakfast, asking what each one is looking forward to today.
3. Instead of yelling at him to keep him moving through the morning routine, empower him with a chart with photos or pictures of him doing each task, and let him be “in charge” of himself while you just smile and point to the chart, asking what he needs to do next. My daughter loves the Richard Scary books that show the animal characters going through their morning routine.
4. Write a love note or picture to slip into her lunch box.
5. Skip together as you walk to the school bus, or sing happy songs in the car.
6. As you hug her goodbye, tell her you can’t wait to see her this afternoon and hear all about her day. Remember to say “Have fun!” instead of “Be good!”
7. During the day, find five minutes here and there to simply close your eyes and get centered. Breath, stretch. Try to get organized before you leave the office, so you can really leave your work behind and turn off your phone. In the evening, you’ll be better prepared for your second shift, and better able to be present with your family.
Time-consuming? Sure. You can’t do everything every day with each child. But most of these practices don’t add much time to your day; they just make what you are already doing go more smoothly.
And when you cultivate habits like these, kids cooperate more, fight less, and WANT to follow your guidance. You strengthen and sweeten your relationship, every single day. So when you do get to the teen years, your child will be more open to your influence and might even ask your advice.
Look for more tips on connecting with your child here soon!
If you want to hear more about what I do, here is a recent audio link to my radio interview. First time I have done something like this, and enjoyed it thoroughly. Still working on the “umms”, but this is a great summary of my work with moms!
This week our family village was reminded of the tenuous line between life and not life.
One of my closest friends, who has same age kids as mine, experienced a medical crisis, that escalated quickly and unexpectedly to life threatening levels. Thankfully, she is on the mend, but after 10 days in the hospital, she is home on complete bed rest for a month at least. Doctors orders: do not lift anything heavier then a water glass. She is the mom who does everything, takes other peoples kids in a pinch, remembers snacks, has extra car seats, manages the family schedule, transportation, social agenda, entertainment, sports, school, cooking, laundry, doctor and medical needs, plus she works outside the home. It will be very challenging for her to remain in her recliner, directing rather then doing!
Our village has rallied to fill in all the gaps left by a mom temporarily relegated to the sidelines- getting kids to and from school, childcare while father works, meals, cleaning, errands etc. A google calender, a meal train, frequent check ins, and flurries of texting are all being employed to keep her from over exerting herself!
Since our kids are like siblings, and we are closely aligned in many ways, it feels extremely close to home for me. It highlights how very vital our role as mothers is to the family functioning. It is one thing to go away for a ladies weekend, or a few days for a work trip, and our partners and friends step up, but to be out of commission for a month or two or more is eye opening. Just think how it would be in your home, if you were unable to lift a finger for an extended period of time. Granted, both my husband, and hers are very involved dads, who work outside the home, help with household chores, coach sports, and participate wholeheartedly in family life, but even with that kind of partner it is staggering to realize the role you play.
Two things have come to mind for me out of this experience (which is still unfolding). The first, is how much moms such as you, me, her, do every day, every hour. I am reassessing how much more my now school age children could do, if I begin delegating, empowering them by letting go of doing it myself. I know how much all mothers do for their families, often to their own detriment. I see clients, friends and myself fall prey to the belief that we can keep putting our own needs on the back burner. So take care of yourselves ladies!!!!
The other is, how necessary it is to have a village around you if you do not have a large close extended family to lean on during times like these. I find myself in the village category, along with several like minded families in our local community. My family has leaned heavily on our village over the past two years, and I feel so blessed, to see it in action during tough times, as well as during times of celebration. Look around you, who is, or could be part of your village? Cultivate a village for your well being, as well as the well being of your whole family!
We are all lucky this time around, in that our friend’s health will resolve, and she will be back in action by summer if not sooner, but I hope to hold the insights this experience brought to me, and encourage you, my clients, my friends and fellow mamas to accept help, take care of yourself, and cultivate a village because you will need it someday!
Mommmyyyy! why does brother get screen time? Can I play on the tablet? Can I have ice cream? Its not fair! Why can’t I have that? I want a treat… I can’t find my pink purse…. Mooommmy….
So why do kids whine? In most cases, it’s because we let them.
Yes, it is true, kids whine sometimes because they’re overtired or hungry. In these cases, it’s best to comfort your child and tend to her most pressing needs. But otherwise? Walk away.
Why? When kids whine and we respond, we provide a payoff that makes the behavior continue. Kids whine not to be annoying or intentionally irritate us – they’re often just looking for attention.
All humans are hard-wired with two basic emotional needs – attention and power. When kids aren’t getting as much positive attention as they need, they will seek it out. And to kids, negative attention is better than no attention at all. So kids whine repeatedly in the hopes that eventually they’ll get the positive attention they need. When they don’t get that attention, the whining and attention-seeking behavior will intensify into behaviors that seek power.
Children only continue behaviors that get results. When kids whine and parents give in, kids realize that whining gets them what they want – the attention they crave and maybe even that candy bar in the grocery checkout line. If you don’t address this behavior, it will continue well into our child’s teenage years.
But giving in to demands in the moment– like one more television show or another scoop of ice cream – is not the only way we enable how our kids whine. Just responding, even if it’s to reprimand them, gives a child payoff. Picking up the child or responding with an annoyed remark (“Enough! Stop whining!”) still gives the child attention – and now they know they can do this again and again to get the same result.
So how do we deal with how our kids whine now? The first step is to remove the payoff for whining. Times of whining, meltdowns and chaos are not places to have a level-headed conversation. So pick a calm moment when everyone’s relaxed – maybe over lunch or a snack – to talk about whining. Talk about the difference between a whiny voice and a normal voice, and how a whiny voice hurts your ears. Let your child know how you feel when he whines and let him know that you won’t respond when he whines – you’ll just simply walk away. When he uses a normal voice, you’ll be happy to talk to him.
The next time your kids whine, stay true to your word. Stay calm and walk away – even our negative non-verbal reaction to whining can be a payoff. When your child uses her normal voice, be sure to respond right away, calmly and pleasantly. The first few times, the whining may be more intense, as she tries to see how long it will take for Mom or Dad to give in. But after a few times of not finding a payoff for whining, she’ll realize she’s more likely to get positive attention by using her normal voice.
And because whining is an attention-seeking behavior, it can also signal to parents that our child – whether toddler or teen – is craving more one-on-one time with us. Think of it in a gardening sense – instead of fertilizing and watering our good plants with positive attention, we’re feeding the weeds instead with negative attention. And the weeds – the whining – get worse.
The more we can fill our kids’ “attention basket” with positive experiences, the less they will seek out attention in negative ways. When kids receive the positive attention they need, behaviors like whining become less common. It’s as simple as spending 10 to 15 minutes twice a day having fun with your kids individually. Do something they like to do, like reading, coloring or sports. This investment in one-on-one time will pay big rewards in good behavior.
Peace and harmony,
Can you remember a time when you took what someone said personally? You spent a whole bunch of time, energy, and emotion on how you felt slighted, what you wish you had said, and what you were going to do about it. After it was over, you slumped in a chair feeling exhausted, still facing your long to-do list, wishing you had spent your time getting it done.
Here’s something to remember: people aren’t going around thinking about YOUR feelings!
They’re not saying, “Gee, when I call Jane on the phone, when I send her an e-mail, when I see her at the playground, how is she going to feel about what I say or do?” Nooooo, they’re just doing their thing! But how often have do you react to something a co-worker or friend has said or done when it was delivered in less than a positive tone?
More then once I have caught myself second guessing my actions, thinking about how to defend myself, or justify myself and eventually realized the other person more then likely has no idea of the impact their comment made, or if they have made it intentionally, they have no idea about living in my shoes, in my life and my choices. I think this is especially pertinent in the world of parenting. Everyone has strong opinions about all aspects of parenting, which each of us hold close and identify strongly with. As our children feel like an extension of ourselves, it is easy to become very defensive when someone questions our parenting choices, or implies that our values are less than the imaginary ideal. It is important to remember that just as you can not possibly know the entire history of the 3 year-old having a massive tantrum in the restaurant, or his parents who seem to be under reacting, the person who made a comment about your priorities, or discipline practices, does not know your history. “How come this person thinks they know more about what’s best for me or my children than I do?” In that moment you can decide whether to let the situation steal your energy or allow it to just dissolve.
When someone says or does something that sparks an internal reaction, when you start to take it personally, when you want to say something to defend yourself, take a breath, observe your reaction. Ask yourself, is this really about me? Can I change it? Do I need to defend myself? More often than not, the person delivering the unintended slight, is having their own bad day, reacting to something that you had nothing to do with. Even if the comment is leveled intentionally at you, you get to choose how to react. How would you coach your child to act in the face of a perceived slight? I teach mine that we can not control what other people think. So long as we are treating others respectfully as we would like to be treated, we can let go of worrying about other people.
In my practice, I work with adults every day who get bogged down taking things personally, judging themselves, or spending hours rehearsing the response they would have like to have had in the moment. It amazes me how freeing it is to let it go. Let others carry their own baggage, judgments and critical thoughts. They are not yours to carry, fix, or change. Take back your energy. Obviously, if there are people in your life who are chronically a negative presence, you may choose to distance yourself when possible. But when you are required to interact via work or family, take a breath for yourself, and consciously decide not to take it on.
Certainly, there are those times when you think, “Well, I may not take this personally, but I need to say something, I need to do something to speak my mind and set a boundary.” It may be a family member inserting their opinion on your child rearing or career practices, or a close friend unintentionally making hurtful remarks. Recognize this need and make the phone call, write the e-mail, go see the person, or do whatever you believe is appropriate. And, then, when you’re done, still let it go!
Peace and wellness,
2014 has been quite a challenging year for my family. I will leave it at that, but we are all ready to embrace the New Year, to refocus on our intentions and build on what we learned from 2014. Here are four helpful questions I’m asking myself, my husband and my clients as we move into 2015:
1. What did I learn about myself in 2014? This could be a personal/family life lesson or one related to your career or professional path.
2. What do I need to embrace, remember and celebrate from 2014 AND what do I need to release and let move on down the river? In transition? Be gentle on yourself and allow your village to support you. Be willing to reach out for help when you need it! And especially be open to letting go of what is no longer useful to you.
3. What is uniquely mine to do in 2015? This speaks to your calling and life purpose, beyond 2015. Just sitting with this question may begin to stir up some interesting ideas, and help you clarify your day to day, month to month focus.
4. What do I need to set myself up to be successful in the New Year? Imagine it’s New Year’s eve 2015. What support did you call in to help you manifest your intentions? What self care practices did you adopt to help you function at your highest potential?
Wishing you all Joy, Wellness, and Inspiration in 2015!!!
Mindfulness isn’t about being happy all the time. It’s about accepting the moment we are in and feeling whatever we feel without trying to judge, criticize, resist, or control it.
Focusing too much on happiness or the expectation of happiness, can actually be counterproductive, leading to an unhealthy attitude towards negative emotions and experiences. Practicing mindfulness does not mean avoiding negative emotions or always looking on the bright side. It means accepting both positive and negative emotions and sitting with them. Accepting the dialectic; positive and negative feelings can share the same space at the same time. Our culture tends towards an “either / or” mentality. I feel either happy or I feel sad, yet reality is that we may feel both, as well as confused, overwhelmed, motivated all at the same time.
Practice today. Spend 5 minutes breathing mindfully and observing your feelings. Notice your tendency to begin applying judgments or solutions to the feelings you observe in yourself. Gently bring your mind back to just observing and describing what your feelings are. Many of my clients find that using an affirmation such as “just be” as they breath in and out can help keep them in a space of neutral observation. I find that this exercise of observing without judging can be applied during yoga practice as well. Whether we apply it to our feelings and thoughts about our emotions, our bodies, our relationships, there is power in mindfully, intentionally sitting and holding space for the feelings that are!
Happy Weekend to You!
If you are thinking of becoming a mom, are a brand new mama or a have been a mother for many years, you won’t want to miss this free online event which I am participating in!
I will be giving a talk about juggling motherhood with our multiple other roles of wife, friend, daughter, sister, and professional to name a few. I will touch on the challenges we face in our relationships, in parenting, and in managing our own stress. And as always, I focus on practical, in the moment exercises, skills you can take with you and apply to your day!
Plus, there will be a panel of brilliant experts interviewed about balancing hormones, awesome fitness routines, finally releasing the baby weight and even getting your sexy back! It’s going to be jammed packed with useful tips and I know you won’t want to miss it.
>>>Join me here!<<<
Most health and wellness seminars are pricey and time consuming. With travel, hotel and ticket prices it’s almost impossible to make it. The great news about The Zen Mama Health and Wellness Summit is that it’s all done online, there’s no travel required and it’s totally FREE!! Now can you see why I’m so excited about this and wanted to make sure that you reserve your spot?!
It all starts April 6th and I know you won’t want to miss a thing!
>>>Register here today!<<<
Can’t wait to see you there!