There is Something Good

I believe there is something good in everything. We might not always recognize what goodness is hidden in the moment, but usually we can see it when we allow ourselves to open up to the possibility of hidden nuggets behind our own perceptions, if we can pause to focus and be grateful for what is right despite the injustices that we feel.

Last week at dinner, Charlie was struggling to see the good in his big brother. He kept using BIG words like always, never, every time, and so forth to describe the behaviors that were bugging him. He was rightfully frustrated and kept labeling his experiences with these words. He wasn’t feeling so good and I sensed a downward spiral that I didn’t like.

I wanted to teach him empathy. I wanted to teach him to see the good despite the struggle. I wanted to teach him that things aren’t always as bad as they seem. I wanted to teach him gratitude for all that is good and to recognize the conflict that was creating such frustration for him.  I wanted to protect him as he slung angry words so that he could hear the real, important message and I wanted to validate his feelings despite being frustrated and I didn’t want to react to his negative reactions. I wanted to help manage expectations. This was a complicated challenge and I was thankful for our family dinner time to be together and to work through the conflict so that we could get back to our roots.

At first it was hard to hear each other. Charlie taught me 7-11, the mindfulness technique to slow down and breathe for seven seconds and then blow out for eleven seconds. We practice this together when conversations start to get heated. I like to be as close to neutral as possible with our emotions so that we can hear each other and negotiate a fair solution. Eventually we got there. He was frustrated and expressed his concerns. I listened. And then I shared with him a story about how I used to label people a certain way when they frustrated me. I told him that the more I called someone something mean, the meaner they became. They lived up to my expectation and I was successful at not liking them, but I was sad because I loved them and wanted to like them. I didn’t like creating monsters from my perceptions and I had to fight against the labels to make the monsters go away. I had to see the good in them when I didn’t want to, and I had to keep fighting to see their value instead of what bugged me. I told him instead of seeing what was wrong with the other person, I tried to find 5 things I liked about them despite the things that bugged me. It worked. It works every time with those I wish to have positive relations because I choose to focus on the good so that I can scare the monsters away and catch them being great.  I challenged Charlie.

I asked him to think about what he liked about his big brother and to share with us 5 things. He was mad at me and I pushed him a little harder. He chose sarcasm as his weapon. His first response was that he liked his brother because he was a boy. His second response was that he was tall. I told him that these didn’t count. He had to use his imagination to think of what things his brother did that he really enjoyed. And then he practiced 7-11 and began again, because he knew he had to answer eventually and he really doesn’t like long, drawn out conversations over dinner. As he began, he shared really nice things such as his brother letting him in his room, and how his brother lets him play Minecraft with him, and how he lets him hang out with his friends. And as he shared, his tone began to change. He started to believe himself and he was right. He liked the things that were good more than he didn’t like the things that were wrong. He was able to see that his brother wasn’t always, never, ever and etcetera.  He saw the good. This created a connection and both boys were content.  Apologies were shared for the actions that created the conflict and resolutions were made.

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This took time. It wasn’t easy. Yet we took the time to listen, to validate, to redirect, to be empathetic, to hear each other and to not be defensive. We protected each other and avoided accusations and instead used words such as “I don’t like it when…” and “I feel… when you…” and it was no longer feelings of personal attacks and people feeling like they had to hold on to their positions. It was actually pretty cool. Our family focus is on connections and not conflict and to love one another despite any struggles. We kept bringing the conversation back to the center and the end result was success and we picked up where we left off and cleared the dishes.

So fast forward to today when after school, the boys chose to play basketball together and Charlie let his big brother be the coach that he wanted to be. The two played and enjoyed each other’s company and I was proud of their connection.

Wishing you the power to always find connections despite the conflicts you are faced and the strength to persevere.  There’s always something good.

Namaste.

Yell, Spank or Drink?

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The Wall Street Journal has an article in the Personal Journal section today under the Work & Family section that talks about the damage from yelling at your kids vs. spanking them.  

Parents today have been conditioned to avoid spanking and have turned to other means to maintain control and order, which might be more harmful than spanking.  The title of the article is “Damage Control: Talking to Your Child After You Yell.”
WSJ article on Yelling

This is a hot topic in my household as we leave the Golden Years of Parenting (Ages 4-12) and transition into the Resistance Movement (Ages 9-18+).  

I was listening in on different conversations with three groups of women last night who were all talking about the same topic, but with different age groups.  

There was one friend talking about parenting an adult child who still lives at home, yet does not see the significance and importance of doing the limited tasks that are asked of him and the conflict that ensues.

There was me talking about my challenges of parenting teenagers (and one who thinks he’s a teenager because he has older siblings) who seem to know it all and don’t want to do the limited tasks that are asked of them and the conflict and slow resolution process that ensues.

And then there were the grandparents talking about their under 4 year old grandchildren who were in their care, and the temper tantrums and discussions that they were dealing with as they tried to figure out the best strategies to help the little ones do what was expected of them.

This got me thinking, we’re all in this parenting gig for life and there’s no end in sight!  Just kidding… but seriously what can we do besides yell, hit or drink too much or give up?

We know we have to set expectations and guidelines and boundaries and be consistent and follow through and enforce consequences. But knowing how and when to apply the right tools in a kind and loving and firm way is the challenging part, right? And we need time and patience to do a good job, and both of those are highly limited resources.  And heaven forbid we throw in sickness or PMS or being overworked or overtired!!

We don’t want to yell or spank or lose our temper, yet we want to manage and shape the behaviors of our future leaders. So how do we do it?  What are the best practices?  Here are my top 10 ideas – for now.  What would you add? What would you change? Let’s write our own How To Manual!  Wouldn’t that be great if kids came with one? 😉

 

1. Don’t take their behavior personally.
They’re not usually intentionally doing things to upset us or to go against us, even though it might FEEL like that. They’re usually just self centered and doing what feels right for them in the moment. Their priorities are different than our priorities. Their wants and desires are not the same as ours and they don’t always have the self-discipline to know the difference and when/how to put their own needs aside to do what’s right and expected of them for the greater good. We have to listen and be understanding too.

2. Before you react (yell, scream, hit or say mean things), count to three inside your own head and breathe in, breathe out with each count.
Practice self control. Give yourself a time out and moment to plan how to address the behavior in question. We want to focus on problem solving and try to stay away from the emotional roller coaster ride. 

3. Start with a positive perception of your child, despite their negative behavior and before you begin the discipline process.
I like to look at them and think, “I love you more than anything you say or do.”  It’s my little mantra that I say over and over again in my head, to help me focus on my goal of loving them through the parenting process. And when I’m mad at them, I try to think of all the good qualities they possess and I remind them of their goodness despite the behavior we’re trying to improve. And I try to not make the issue a big issue, because this too shall pass and the relationship between us and their self esteem is more important than one event. Yet, I still hold them accountable and love them through it. 🙂

4. Parenting takes time.
We all have other things we want or have to do and time is limited. But it takes time to lovingly teach and guide them at any age. Give yourself time to teach the lessons, with kindness and firmness. Set a timer, and it doesn’t have to be long, but we do need to make time for it. We can do anything for 15 minutes. Be patient and practice waiting.

5. Use “I” messages, instead of “You” messages.
For example, say “I feel frustrated because your room isn’t clean and we agreed to that expectation. It’s important to me and I’d like your cooperation. When can you finish this task?”  Say how you feel and what you expect and ask them to be part of the timely solution.

6. Have realistic expectations and be flexible.
Expect your children to be perfectly imperfect too. It’ll help with both your frustration levels.  

7. We are all teachers.
We don’t get paid enough and it’s a very important job. We want to help our kids to focus on solutions and to be contributing members of their family and to society. When something isn’t as expected, wait for a calm moment to explain the situation. Give the child a choice in how to fix the wrong and help guide them to possible solutions. This teaches problem solving skills and helps them to be part of the solution that they choose.

8. If you lose your temper and react negatively, apologize and forgive yourself as well.
It’s ok for us to make mistakes too and it’s the right thing to fix the relationship when we make a mistake. This teaches our kids that it’s ok to make mistakes, to be vulnerable, to say you’re sorry and to try again. It also teaches positive communication skills and takes the pressure off from trying to be perfect. Love is unconditional.

9. Be consistent, kind, firm and confident.  
We are setting boundaries and expectations for our kids and they desperately need us to do that. The boundaries and expectations will change over time and they will challenge them, but it is our job to define them, to communicate our expectations, and to consistently enforce them and follow through. They need to know what the boundaries are, what the consequences will be, and they need us to follow through with our words and actions. And we can do this kindly and firmly, without yelling or losing our temper as we follow through. Whispering is actually a powerful tool.

10.  Have fun with your kids.
Laugh and play and be silly. Life is stressful and we don’t always have to be so serious. Use humor and joke around and dance and tickle and wrestle and hug and love one another. Each stage is so short and this too shall pass. Sometimes hugging it out is all that is needed and having a Do-over moment, that gives everyone a chance to start over and try again. It’s never too late to try again. It’s a new minute. Try again.

All of these are easier said than done, but we have to remind ourselves that we are still learning and practicing this life thing just as those who are in our care and we have to keep trying and practicing and not give up as we learn by doing. Forever. Sigh.  

We are not perfect, nor should we expect ourselves to be. And we shouldn’t compare ourselves to others or their Facebook updates for the sake of feeling badly, or to pass judgment, but rather for continuous learning. We are perfectly imperfect and have to be gentle and forgiving of ourselves and those in our care as they are perfectly imperfect too. We’re all still learning and have to continue this journey together, breathing through each event and moving through them peacefully, hopefully. 😉

Hugs! xo

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IAmSickToday

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Maybe I am sick today so that I can slow down and sit still.

I am sitting in my bed, with my legs crossed and I am almost still except I’m still writing.

I have a restless soul and this is something I would like to master. Just being still.

Do you meditate? If so, how often and for how long?

I laid down to take a two hour nap today before picking up the kids from school, and think I slept for maybe 20 minutes. Even though I was sick, my mind was still restless.

We all have things we are trying to improve to make our life the best it can possibly be. I know, this is a high-class problem.

As I sit here with a stuffy, tired head and runny nose I just discovered something new already. I didn’t think I had the energy to write and I accidentally pressed the wrong button on my iPad, which lead to my new discovery: the talking and writing speaker function. How cool is that?

By sitting still, I found something new. Not something zen, but hey, it’s a start to slowing down.

I am speaking to my iPad and it is typing for me with a little wave line showing me that it is sensing my voice. Whoa. Jeff was talking about how he uses voice technology to type his text and emails now just this weekend. I guess I was subconsciously listening to him. And now that I took the time to sit still, I discovered (new) technology! I wish I would have learned this last year. But hey, there’s always time for learning.

So you know when I say my life is perfectly imperfect? This is one of those examples of not having a perfect day, but being okay with it. If you were in my house, or reading my texts or listening to me on the phone, you would really know how perfectly imperfect I really am. But I’m okay with that. I don’t expect perfection from myself or from my family or from anyone. We are all flawed, and what I expect is to flow with whatever comes my way, and to seek love everywhere, in every situation. No matter what.

I choose to share the highlights and lessons learned, every day with you. I choose to focus on the positive because negative stuff happens all the time. That’s drama. That’s what the media keeps showing us. That’s not what real life has to be all about. That’s not happiness. Ok, enough of the nots. I’m sure you understand what I’m saying.

I choose to share beauty and joy, positive experiences and peace on my blog and on my Facebook status updates. I choose to share the highlights and the best parts of my day, because that is what is good. That’s where I want to play and share and connect. Maybe boring, but it’s ok with me. 🙂

I believe there is good in every experience and that’s what I seek and look for every darn day. Do you do this too? If not, try it. Let go of anger and frustration. You’ll be amazed by how much better you feel and how much control you have over your own well being.

Namaste and good night.