Welcome to Life With Joyful Courage

Parenting Without Consequences? Uh, what?

Are you committed to long term parenting?

Are you committed to raising your children to one day be adults with the skills they need to navigate the world? Skills like problem solving, self-regulation, organization, compassion, and solution finding?

When you look ahead, are you hopeful that your adult child can advocate for themselves, get out of tricky situations, fight for what they believe in, and embrace mistakes as opportunities to learn and take accountability?

Do you want them to be responsible, to use their voice, to know that they can get through even the toughest emotions and situations?

Then you must allow them to practice these skills - over and over again.

And consider laying off the consequences.

Wait, what did she just say?

Yup, you read that right, I am inviting you to consider putting consequences at the BOTTOM of your list of parenting tools.

Why would I suggest this?

Well, there are a couple of reasons. The first one is that consequences often don’t teach the skills kids need for navigating situations differently. Instead, consequences are used as a “you had better do this or that or else” type of strategy. And that assumes that your child already hasthe skills they need to do better, and that the threat of consequence will somehow “motivate” them to handle things differently.

Read the rest on the Huffington Post.

10 Steps To Becoming A More Intentional Parent

There is so much to read around parenting these days.  What gets me excited are all the voices, books and blogs focusing on a more positive and peaceful approach to raising children.

I am down with this.

This is what I teach and support parents with.

And I am here to say, it ain’t easy.

You see, for many of us (maybe for you?) positive parenting feels like it goes against our instincts, it feels permissive, ineffective, like we are letting our kids get away with something.

We all show up to our parenting journey with beliefs about how we want to parent. Then the day comes when the emotional triggers of the journey arrive, and all hell breaks loose.

Depending on our own emotional models growing up, the emotional intelligence we have gained over time, and our willingness to check our baggage at the door, how we planned on parenting our kids can be far from how we do parent our kids. This is especially true during times of challenge.

My advice?

Be intentional.

Read the rest on the Huffington Post.

Thoughts from a White Middle Class Mama...

I am going to attempt to write about something that has been on my mind…  Something that I have thought about a lot and find that it is uncomfortable for me to write about. 

So as you read this, please excuse my lack of grace and my blindness to my blindness.  I can only see the world out of my own lens.  My lens that has been developing my whole life, based on the experiences and relationships that have show up along the way.

I am a middle class white woman.

I am raising two white kids.

When I pay attention to what is happening in the world, my heart breaks for all the mothers who are dealing with loss and tragedy.  My heart breaks for the conversations that African American parents are having with their young boys about how to stay safe in the world.  A world that sees them as potentially threatening, deceitful, or untrustworthy, simply because of the color of their skin.

Yes, I have conversations with my children about how to stay safe in the world.  We talk about how others may perceive or judge us.  We talk about how to be helpful and friendly. We talk about how easy it is to be misunderstood, AND to misunderstand. We talk about not judging other’s, because we have no idea what kind of life they have, or how they have been treated.

And while I worry about my kids out in the world, there is a much higher level of worry that African American parents have – and that hurts me.  I am grateful that my children won’t be targeted because of their skin color – the same way I am grateful that academics comes relatively easy to them – and then I feel….  What?  Guilt? Shame?  Uncomfortable with the fact that I am grateful for these privileges?

This is messy. This is real. And we are all a part of it. So what CAN I do?  How CAN I make a difference in the lives of others?

I love this article written by Maralee from A Musing Maralee blog.  She calls out to the parents of her black son’s white friends to take part in the work of helping her child feel safe and respected in the world we live in together. 

It takes a village.  It takes a community. 

And it takes a hard, honest look at ourselves.

I am inspired and challenged when I read An open Letter to my Fellow White Liberal Parents by Rachel Quinn Egan on the Huffington Post. She challenges me to recognize the way that my family’s world is white washed – from the movies we watch, to the toys we buy, to the peer groups we have. How can I help my kids to see beyond “other” when they are being brought up in an environment that, by default, promotes the “other” mentality?

This is where the tension lies for me… In the recognizing the subtle things that promote a mindset that I don’t support, yet find are deeply engrained in our home.

So again, as a middle class white woman raising two white kids, I recognize how important it is to talk about race and diversity, and adversity. I believe in the ongoing conversations that happen, spontaneously or planned, about the injustices in the world. But bigger than that, is the work of broadening my children’s lens through experiences and relationships with all types of people.

It will take all of us - white, black, brown – to change what is happening in our world.   

It’s not about “everyone is equal” or being “colorblind” – it is about deepening our understanding of cultures beyond our own, of listening to their stories, their celebrations and their struggles.  It is about connection and curiosity and openness.

This is a bit of a ramble, but it has been on my mind.

And with two more publicized deaths in the last few days, two more families who have lost fathers, sons, brothers, I had to share my thoughts.

I don’t really have any great tips or powerful talking points to share.  Instead, I am trusting that by speaking up and being candid about my own messy discomfort, I am somehow broadening awareness of others. Or, if nothing else, sparking some conversations. Because it will take all of us - white, black, brown – to change what is happening in our world. 

Much love to each of you.

Empowering our Kids to Navigate Social Conflict

I recently had the great privilege to lead a workshop called Mean Boys/Mean Girls: Empowering our Children to Navigate Social Conflict.  It was a well attended and the conversations that showed up really highlighted how challenging it is for parents to witness their kids pain. 

Even for those of us who don’t fall into the “helicopter” model, when we hear “the kids were mean to me today” we are so quick to slip into mama/papa bear mode, ready to make phone calls and take those mean kids D-O-W-N!

This topic, of course, was fitting some of what my own kids are going through right now (that always seems to happen, right?).  And I find my response to their experience is quick – MAKE IT STOP.  We are all so quick to project into a future of our kids being bullied, ostracized and so desperate that they don’t see any way out…

And while the stories of bullied kids taking their lives exist, it is not the outcome of every negative social experience, so how about we all calm down?

Social conflict is real.

It exists in the sandbox, on the playground, during passing periods, and in the workplace.  Social conflict is the result of the many different personalities that come together in an environment, handling all of their “stuff,” while trying to interact with each other in a way that leaves them feeling significant.

At least, that is how I see it.  And is it any wonder that KIDS, of all people, may be challenged by this??

 
 

My own kids have had a variety of opportunities for navigating peer dynamics over the years. And I have had an equal number of opportunities for supporting them while not rescuing them.  And I believe that my response of curiosity and non-judgment, has helped my kids move from a place of the angry, hurt victim to empowered designer of their lives.

Let me be clear – the conflict my kids have had the opportunity to navigate is NOT bullying.  Instead, it is the very age-appropriate and typical little shit behavior that shows up when people are lacking skills. Little shit behavior that often leaves our kids feeling stunned, hurt and at a loss for how to handle it.

It is human instinct to hurt others when we feel hurt.  How often have you witnessed kids meet put down with put down?  It happens all the time!  You hurt me and I will hurt you worse.  What I often point out about this approach is that it never actually SOLVES the problem – it simply exists as a strategy for making someone else feel bad enough to leave you alone.

I trust our kids can do better than that.  They just need helpful support.

You can make your own decisions about how to help your kids navigate social conflict. I am going to share the strategy I use, in hopes that you find some value in it, and perhaps some nuggets to take away and use to support your kids…

The first think I do is I notice my own internal response to my children sharing their problem with me.

I notice tension and heat, and all the things that tell me I am going into fierce protector mode – and then I breathe it out.  I find my neutral.  I reset so that I can be fully present to the child in front of me.

I listen

I listen deeply to my child, to their story of injustice and hurt. I say, “can you tell me more about that?” when they share, to help them explore the full experience.

I get curious

I ask a lot of “what and how” questions (in Positive Discipline these are actually called Curiosity Questions). The goal is to hold space for my child to consider all parts of their experience.

I invite other perspectives.

I ask my kids to look at the situation through the eyes of everyone else.  I want them to develop skills for seeing from multiple perspectives, for broadening their lens to the experiences of others.

I ask my kids what they want.

It is one thing to complain.  It is another thing to consider what you want to come out of the situation.  Yes, our kids don’t want to be picked on, they don’t want to fell left out or ignore.  Helping them to identify what they DO want will help them become clearer when advocating for themselves.

I support them in developing the language they need.

As a grown up, I spend time developing what I want to say to people – especially those that have hurt me in some way. And when I have thought it through, my delivery is always so much for effective. Same is true for our kids, when they have come up with language to express their feelings and their wants, they are much more empowered to use it!

I am available for practicing.

This has been the most important piece for my son. We practice. We practice what he is going to say before any tough conversation. We take turns in different roles, we imagine how the other person might respond.  We practice more than once, as many times as he needs.  This has offered him a feeling of familiarity and comfort amidst the discomfort of advocating and taking a stand.

Raising my children with Positive Discipline has been key in their development of interpersonal skills.  Social conflict is their opportunity for practicing those skills.  I also lean on the work of Rosalind Wiseman, who has spent years in elementary, middle and high schools developing relationships with kids with the intention of getting a deeper understanding of the dynamics that exist in peer groups.

If you feel like you want to go deeper into anything that has been shared in this post, don’t hesitate to get a hold of me casey@joyfulcourage.com

And for more resources for empowering our kids through social conflict check out these books:

Positive Discipline by Jane Nelsen
Queen Bees and Wanna-Bes by Rosalind Wiseman
Masterminds and Wingmen by Rosalind Wiseman

And these posts and articles:

Your Child's Friendship Drama: Dos and Don'ts for Parents by Nicole Schwartz
"I'm Gonna Hit Him!" What Positive Discipline Sounds like (and Doesn't Sound Like When Your Kid Vows to Hurt a Friend by Tracy Cutchlow

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I Busted My Daughter on Snapchat

So, if you are a listener of my podcast, you know that I have a 13 year old daughter.  If you have a 13 year old daughter, or son, you know that social media is crazy alluring to them…  Well, I had always told my daughter than she was not allowed on any social media until she was 13, those are the rules of the different apps, and I was happy to use that as an out.

Her 13th birthday was in January.  She was chomping at the bits excited to finally, finally, have her own instagram account.  Not only that, she wanted to talk snapchat and musically, and oh yeah, “What about twitter mom?”

 Hahaha, you wish my sweet girl!  What I told her was, yes, she is 13 now, so yes, the social media door was going to crack open – CRACK OPEN – not fly off the hinges for a free-for-all of all the social media platforms she could find…

“But can I please just have a snapchat account??”

Now, if you are a parent, you have read at LEAST one article, one blog post or seen one show about the SM apps to keep your kids off of – and snapchat is always at the top of the list.

Why is that?  Because snaps leave no trail, the messages - or pics or videos – show up and then POOF they are gone.  There is nothing left for parents to monitor.  Plus, there is this idea that because of the “poof” factor, kids are going to be less cautious?  Less thoughtful?  Gaurded?  I don’t know….  But apparently they are all sending each other dick pics and boob shots – “nudies.”

Or at least, that is what the media around snapchat would have you believe.

Anyways, all of this conversation kept me from saying yes to Snapchat, Instagram is enough for now…  And, by the way, there may just not be enough time in the day for all this social media…

So the daughter knew my stand.

About a month ago, I had a business coach suggest that I use snapchat to reach a new audience…  “Really?” I said, “You think there are parents on Snapchat?”  Give it a try, she encouraged, see what happens.

I decided to get on, plus, I thought it would give me a bit more background information if I was going to argue with my daughter about not being on it – I could speak more from a place of knowing and understanding the app.

So I have been playing on snapchat, actually asking my daughter for help along the way, understanding that she plays around with her friends snapchat accounts so of course she would know how to navigate it (I know, how dumb am I?)… 

Fast forward to last Sunday – I am playing a bit with Snapchat and wondering how I can find more people to follow, and I see that I can search my contacts to see who is on Snapchat.  Awesome. 

Oh yes.  There she is.  My sweet, smart, helpful, slightly sassy girls name pops up as a contact with Snapchat.

O.M.G.

So guess what I did?  I sent her a text which read, “Hi Babe, I just sent you a follower request on snapchat.  We need to talk.”

I know, so passive aggressive.

A few minutes later she comes outside, sheepishly hanging her head.  Once she saw that I wasn’t full of rage, or flying off the handle, she gave me a small smile and a “sorry mom….”

She is not sneaky (or at least not very sneaky).  This was the first time she was “caught” doing something that she knew was not allowed.

And I am so happy she did!! 

Other than using an app I asked her to stay off of, there was really no other mischief going on.  There were no nudies, no bullying friends, it was all really innocent.  She had the chance to get sneaky and she got caught.

The gift of this situation is that I actually think it brought us closer together.  Like I mentioned, I didn’t fly off the handle or get blame-y or punish her.  Instead we had a really powerful discussion about how there would be more opportunities to be sneaky…  And sometimes whe would “get away with it” but most of the time, “I will get caught” she said.

Yup.

“And every time you get caught, you will notice things will get a bit more rigid in your world,” I told her.

I am proud of the way I handled this situation.  Our relationship remained intact, there was never any blaming and anger directed at me – no entitled “that's so unfair!”  Instead, we were able to have a coherent discussion around limits and trust.

I am sure this won’t be the last time she tries to pull a fast one.  In fact, I know it won’t be the last time…  And the Snapchat bust showed my daughter that I can handle it.

We will see what kind of mischief she gets onto in the coming years…  All I know is that the most powerful tool I have for influencing her behavior and her choices, is the relationship we are in, so that is what I choose to continue to focus on. 

Plus, I was no angelic teen.

Much love, Casey

 

Discomfort May be the Birthplace of Resiliency

We got a puppy.

She is so cute, and sweet, and just 10 weeks old.

Ben brought her home last night and the kids minds were BLOWN.

It’s been a while since we have had a dog…  And I wasn’t sure that I wanted to bring a new dog into the family.  I am a work from home (mostly) mom and knew that the majority of the dog training would fall on me.

And I thought I was done having babies.

Last night was her first night with us.  It was her first night away from her mama and litter-mates.  We had decided that this time around we would be really smart and intentional with the dog training.  So last night we put our sweet little Daisy (miniature Australian Shepard) in her crate, and were prepared to get up every couple of hours to take her out to go potty.

It was almost a flashback to 13 years ago – almost.  I am not going to insult the mamas of babies out there by saying that having a puppy is the same as having a new baby…  However, last night did bring back some memories.

Daisy did well the first few hours. She woke and let us know that she was ready to go out with some sweet whining.  My husband hopped out of bed to take her out (not really what I remembered from the baby days, and I was grateful there was no need to breastfeed this time around!!).

When he brought her back in she wanted nothing to do with the crate.  He got her settled in and closed the door and slipped back in bed.  All of 30 seconds went by before little Daisy was letting us know how lonely she was…

We compromised and set her up in our bathroom with the doorless crate and a baby gate in the doorway.  She had room, was close to us, and we could ease her into the whole crate idea.

She still wasn’t crazy about the set up and let us know.

What was fascinating to me was how hard it was for my husband to listen to her whine.

When our kids were babes, we were pretty darn attentive.  They were snuggled up in the sling, slept in our bed, and breastfed on demand.  This felt natural to me, like the right thing to do, and at the time, it just fit who we were.  When they fussed, we picked them up and loved on them, and tried to keep them happy.

My kids are now 10 and 13 and well adjusted.  They are capable confident kids.  I am grateful.  They have had opportunities to flex and develop their resiliency muscles. They have been uncomfortable, and emotional, and made it to the other side, slowly beginning to understand, through experience, that emotions come and then they go.

Don’t get me wrong, there are still plenty of meltdowns, plenty of drama. They aren’t completely zen about the whole “being in discomfort” thing – but they are learning, and we talk LOTS about how they have the power to influence their life.  There is less sinking in, less getting stuck in the intensity of the feelings they are having.  It’s a practice, and practice only happens with experience.

When I think back to the early years, the early months, I wonder about the how attentive I was.  I wonder about how quickly I responded to their squawks and cries.  I wonder about the missed opportunities that were available for them to build their resiliency muscles, even in that first year…. 

YES, their cries are the only thing they have to let us know they are uncomfortable, AND their brain development is in full effect.  NO I am not suggesting we ignore them or believe they are manipulating us.

What I AM encouraging you to consider, is that discomfort isn’t something we need to save our children from.  Living through discomfort, or failure when they are older, is an opportunity for growing and learning and recognizing just how capable they are.

And I have full trust that our little Daisy will live through the discomfort of learning to love her crate, and eventually get to that sweet spot of sleeping through the night...

Let me know what you think about all of this in the comments below!!

Here are some resources for considering how to be in tune with your children's discomfort, while also allowing them to grow and thrive:

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Parenting with Empathy

I have the great privilege to coach for the Calm and Connected Parenting Program through a company called MAZLO

The premise of the two week program is to help parents become more connected to their children through short, daily exercises and personalized coaching support.  The tool we focus on is empathy.

There are lots of tools shared with parents that fall back on this idea of empathy – and I believe that this is the best way to really see the world through our child’s eyes, and to let them know that we get them... 

In Positive Discipline we talk about tools like Validating Feelings and Connect Before Correct.  Dan Siegel and Tina Payne Bronson, in their book, No Drama Discipline talk about Name it to Tame It and Connect then Redirect, sharing that “being attentive to the emotional experience behind a behavior is just as important as the behavior itself.”

What is the big deal about empathy?  What I am finding, as I work with parents, is that empathy is more than just the words we use, empathy is truly a way of being, and when we can show up truly being empathetic the results are amazing.  And it takes practice.

What does empathy feel like?

Empathy feels like a calm body, an open heart…  To get here, try straightening your spine and pulling your shoulders back and down.  Allow your chest to open up and take some slow, deep breaths into your body.  And you breathe in, simple imagine your body filling with love and peace, as you breathe out, allow tension and judgment to melt away.

What does empathy look like?

Empathy is a soft face, perhaps a small, understanding smile…  Empathy looks like a parent who gets on their child’s level and perhaps gently places a hand on their shoulder.  Empathy looks like presence, mind and body.

What does empathy sound like?

This is where the words come in!  Empathy sounds like a parent who is curious about their child’s experience, who notices there are some strong emotions that are happening.  Empathy sounds like acceptance and non-judgment. 

When you find yourself struggling with a child, be it a toddler or a teen, empathy can help you broaden your lens, increase your perspective of the situation.  Empathy allows you to open the doorway to connection and deeper relationship.

The language of empathy could be:

It sounds like you are feeling…..
I’m wondering if you feel….
You are really having some big emotions….
I’m curious about how you’re feeling right now….
It’s hard to feel…
It's painful to feel…
It’s ok to feel….

And my favorite way to follow up and keep the conversation going is by adding:
Can you tell me more about that?

The power of empathy is two fold.  On one hand it allows our children to “feel felt” and with that they often are able to begin to take the steps needed to begin to find their way back to calm.  On the other hand, it allows us, parents, to see out of our child’s eyes.  When we see the world from their perspective, we are much more likely to stay in a helpful, connected, solution focused mindset.

So, begin your empathy practice my friends.  Take time to bring empathy alive in your body and see what that invites from the people around you.

Declare the Parent You Want to Be

I love the word DECLARE. It feels very official to me.  It’s like, keeping it real, making it happen, truly aligning with something.

When I work with parents, I often start off by inviting them to explore the parent they want to be…  Who do they want to be when the shit hits the fan and things fall apart? How do they want to show up?  What qualities do they want to embody in those tough, heated moments?

Because guess what? This is life, the shit hits the fan, and if you’re a parent, it happens pretty regularly.

So why not be prepared for it?

Never have I heard a parent say something like, “My child woke up in a great mood, appreciated the breakfast I made, and went upstairs to clean his room before school… And I feel so guilty about how I reacted!!!”

And why not?  Because it is easy to show up as your best self when things are going well, when you feel seen and respected and connected to those around you.

And like I said, this is life, and things get messy --- so why not prepare a bit for the messy?

Here’s what you can do:

·  Think of three qualities that are missing when you find your self triggered (mine are connection, compassion and love)
·  Write them on post it notes and stick them around your world
·  Set three alarms on your phone to remind you to take 30 seconds to practice breathing those qualities into your body throughout the day
·  When the shit hits the fan, choose to invite those qualities in (and trust that is exactly what the situation is calling for...)
·  Forgive yourself when your old pattern shows up and stay committed to the process

When we practice the way of being that we desire, it becomes more available when we need it.  Over time we can lengthen the pause between the challenge and the reaction, giving ourselves the chance to respond in a way that is helpful not hurtful.

We must be intentional about this practice.

So make your own declaration – declare the parent you want to be!  Share in the comments or in the Live and Love with Joyful Courage Facebook group.

Big love – Casey

P.S.  I am also declaring more regular blog posts in 2016 – yay!

Crush Season has Arrived...

Something crazy is happening in our family right now...  After years of my daughter NOT being interested in boys, or at least, not acting interested, we are venturing into the world of crushes.

OMG.

I would be a liar if I said that I haven’t been somewhat excited for this day.  I mean, I like boys, and the butterflies and sensations that show up when they started to pay attention to me.  This is an exciting time in a kids life!

I am also full of opinion.  Dare I say, to a fault?  This is something I have been actively learning to notice and shift.  My relationship with my daughter thrives when I reign in my opinions, pause before offering my thoughts, and just listen to her.

My daughter is not one to share.  In fact, my fingers are crossed that she will grant me permission to send this article out to the world (I hope she says yes).  She holds things in, as many who lean towards introverted do.  But something is changing as she inches closer towards thirteen.  She is opening up to me.  And I love it.

Here’s the thing though, it's a delicate balance.  I am dying to know all the details, I am eager for any information, any glimpse I can get into her life apart from our family.

This is no bueno.  The eagerness shuts her down and she shuts me out.  And that kills me.  As she moves into her adolescent and teen years I don’t want to be shut out.  I want her to confide in me, trust me, and let me in.

So here is what I have been practicing – compassion and nonjudgmental. 

I let her come to me.  I show up with no agenda, no attachment, just a pure desire to share space with her.  She leads the conversation.  She offers up her stories, her excitement, her news.

…And I breathe out all the thoughts and opinions I am not asked to give.

I listen and smile. 

I relish in the closeness that is growing between us.

I am not naïve, I know that there will be tough conversations moving forward, boundaries and limits that she is not going to like…  She will push me away, that's it developmentally appropriate thing to do…  But for right now, my girl is in the sweetness of crushes, and potential hand holding, and she’s letting me in.

And I am so glad to be able to meet her there.

 

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Chores again?

I can’t believe that I am writing about chores again….

However, it is August and we have totally slacked at keeping up with our “family work” routine and expectations this summer.

So it shouldn't have been such a big shock today when I hit the wall.  I looked around at all the clutter, thought about all the times this summer when I nonchalantly asked the kids to help out with something extra, and how they responded with moans and groans, and felt myself on the verge of freak-out.

I recently interviewed Amy McCready on the Joyful Courage Parenting Podcast after reading her new book,  The “Me, Me, Me” Epidemic: A Step By Step Guide To Raising Capable Grateful Kids In An Over-Entitled World and I have become HYPER SENSITIVE to the entitlement seed that exists in my kids.

Ugh. 

Yes, I take full responsibility.

Being a Positive Discipline Trainer, I know that using routines to teach and not doing things for my kids that they could be doing for themselves, is key for them to develop all the skills they need to feel a sense of belonging and significance.  And for them to also be developing gratitude and generosity.

Knowing this and practicing this are two different things.

I have created monsters.

No, not really.  My kids are all sorts of awesome, and I recognize where we could all use some work.

So, what’s a mom to do?

Today I said, “I think we should suspend allowance until you guys are back in the routine of helping out…” 

I am not totally comfortable with this statement, but boy did it get them moving!

The daughter popped up and vacuumed the whole upstairs (something her dad had asked her to do a few days ago), and the boy quickly moved into the kitchen and emptied the dishwasher.

We don’t pay our kids for chores.  We see their weekly allowance as money management practice, and an out for when they want something, “Do you have any money?”

I also believe that the fact they get a weekly stipend is a privilegeAnd privileges are earned through responsibility.  So, while we aren’t paying them to do chores, we are recognizing the responsibility they display through contributing in the home. 

It’s slippery though…  The memory of my then fiver year old son looking at me with solemn eyes while stating, “It’s ok mom, you don’t have to pay me….  I don’t want to clean my room.” Remains fresh in my mind…

I remember thinking all those years ago, that’s why I don’t pay for chores – because it makes them negotiable… 

AND, the fact that my kids receive an allowance is a privilege.

And it's not tied to chores.

But is it tied to responsibility? Everything in my body says yes.

Hmmmm…  This is one I am going to continue to play with.

And I will keep in touch about how it goes…

In the meantime, we will be revisiting routines during our next few Family Meetings (another routine that has fallen to the wayside in during the summer months). I will share how I am feeling and request help. The kids will be encouraged to give ideas and we will make a new plan for contributing to the work of keeping up with the house and taking care of ourselves.

What are your thoughts about this??  Leave a comment and let me know!

Helping them help themselves...

Ultimately I want my kids to leave me and make their way out into the world with SKILLS for being contributing, cooperative members of society.

SKILLS PEOPLE!

Is that too much to ask??  I think not...

And one of the skills I would like to help them develop is follow through.  And engaging in tasks that may not be that fun to do.  Work before play....  You know what I'm talking about, right?

CHORES!

Or, "jobs." as we like to call them.

I have written about this before.  Jobs are not negotiable at our house.  We do them because we all live together and we all need to help out.

And, as I have mentioned, how they get done is up to the kids.  

The finny thing is, my daughter has really been dragging her feet with the whole "daily job" routine and it is making me CRAZY!!  She is really pushing back on the follow through.  She tends to be really responsible and self motivated in other areas...  So I was curious about what this was about...  The other day, I asked her.

I posted this little video on Facebook and got tons of feedback.  Many parents were wondering what happens when she didn't "just do" her work, her job/chore,  when I held back on the reminders.

I loved that it got people all riled up!  Clearly this is something that many of us struggle with, I mean, none of us love  to nag our kids, but what else are we supposed to do??

Well, this inspired another short video:

This was fun on two levels.-

One, I invited my child into my offer to the world, right?  She is now "on the Joyful Courage team" and knows she is contributing to my work.  Love that.

And two, she shared "what works for her" in a way that made it really alive for her.

Or so I thought.

Well, it wasn't two days from when I posted the video that I was saying "If you get on the iPod before you get your chore done, I am going to take it away."

Gross, I hate saying things like this to my kids.  For me, it is a total I have run out of skills and don't know what else to do so I will threaten you moment.

So we went back to the drawing board.  I asked her about what she had agreed to do - get her job done right after school.  I mentioned that despite what she had said, this tool she had created didn't seem to be working for her.

She said, with a bit of a dismissive voice, "Yeah, writing it down just isn't my thing.  It doesn't help me. I'm just going to remember to do it."  

And you know what I heard?  You're going to have to come up with something different because your kool-aid doesn't work on me.

HA!  Oh this girl, my sweet teacher.  This was a moment that could have gotten really emotional, where I could have become defensive and critical.  Instead I said, "well, what would help you? You don't want me to nag. You seem challenged by just 'remembering to do it.' I am unattached to how you help yourself to remember, this is about you, not me."

It was glorious. And I am not going to lie, I was proud of myself.

Because the goal here isn't that she does what I want her to do (although wouldn't that be lovely???).  My goal is for her to develop the skills she needs to go through life...  

When I told her that I didn't care how it looked or what she did to help herself, that it was about her, something shifted.  She sat down at the computer and created this:

 
 

And this morning, she did a job before school.

We will see how tomorrow goes...  

One thing I know I can count on - this will be helpful for a while.  And eventually, she will be creating something new to remind her to follow through with what she says she will do.

Living the dream over here.

Let me know what you think!

Three Tools for Taking Back Bedtime

I have a dream…

I have a dream of children who come to me at the end of the day with a kiss and a sweet smile. They look at me with love and say, “goodnight.” Then they walk to their rooms and go to bed.

Does this happen at your house?  Are you living this dream?

I used to think, when they are older bedtime won’t be so annoying….  One day they will put themselves to bed….

 Don’t get me wrong, my kids are nine and twelve and bedtime is a lot easier now than it was five or six years ago.  Way easier.

But even at nine and twelve, my kids still need me.  They still want to feel connected, to be the ones getting kissed goodnight. I still find myself engaged in the routine with them.

There are nights when things spiral a bit.  The kids share a bathroom and some nights they really know how to get on each other’s nerves…  And no amount of it really doesn’t help me want to spend time with you when you act like that helps.

Lets break down the bedtime drama, shall we?

Kid’s Experience:

There are still things I want to do…  I don’t want to go to bed yet... I don’t have to if I don’t want to…

Parent’s Experience:

I am so tired and so ready to be done with parenting for the day.

Kid’s Experience:

I feel disconnected because my parents are telling me to go get ready for bed, they don’t want to spend time with me…

Parent's Experience:

Why can’t they just do what I say?  Its bedtime! What am I doing wrong?

Kid’s Experience:

I want to play with my sibling and it's the end of the day so I will see how far I can push it…

Parent's Experience:

I don’t understand why they can’t be in the bathroom together without starting something…. They have no respect for me.

Kid’s Experience:

No body’s paying attention – how can I get them to notice me?

Parent's Experience:

I will just stay in my room to show them I won’t engage when they act like this…

Kid’s Experience:

I’m sad/angry/frustrated it’s bedtime already, everyone else should feel this way too…

Parent's Experience:

I am so done.  These kids are out of control and making me so mad…

Does any of the above sound familiar?  I am drawing from my own parenting experience. One thing I have come to know is, if this is an experience I am living through, I know other parents are too…

So what is a parent to do??

  • Revisit (or create) a routine ­– Yup, routines aren’t only for our littlest kids, they continue to be really valuable for our older kids as well, especially the ones that tend to get off track.

    Routines create consistence and clear expectations.  When created together they invite cooperation.  Routines can be revisited over and over and tweaked as the kids get older.

    For support in creating a routine with your child, check out Chaos to Calm, a free four part video offer from Joyful Courage.
     

  • Continue to connect - This is the biggest thing to remember at bedtime. Our kids feel our energy.  They know that we are looking forward to saying good night and closing the door.  Rather than expecting them to “just get ready for bed,” be a part of the action.

    It's a small thing really.  I take the floss into their bathroom and invite them to my flossing party (because doesn't that sound fun??) – I hang out and get my own bedtime routine tasks done as well.

    I lay on my daughter’s bed while she gets ready for the next day.  This is when we have some of our juiciest conversations.  It takes away the urgency and replaces it with a lovely feeling of love and relationship.

    We still read aloud to our kids too.  The books are a lot more interesting now that they are older.  Both kids love that special one on one experience.

  • Be kind and firm – When you begin to notice that your emotions are getting the better of you (hello to the emotional freight train) take some time to connect with yourself, to calm your nervous system, and tell a different story. For example, this kid doesn't care about anyone but himself, can shift to, wow, he is really needing to connect tonight.

    Following through is key here too.  If you are willing to read until 8:30 (that is our routine) then be sure to stop at 8:30, even if its taken the kids longer to get their routine done.  This is where firmness shows up.  They will protest and you can say, “I know it’s disappointing.  I bet you can get your routine finished quicker tomorrow night.”


I forgot what I knew to be true about kids and behavior, and recently fell into the pit of bedtime despair.  A couple weeks into it I found myself thinking, what is going on with bedtime??

That’s when I remembered that the most effective way to influence behavior is to connect with our kids. I know, I am a really good parent educator, but sometimes I forget that I know what I know.  I am as susceptible to emotional overload as you are…

We have turned things around at our house, and I know you can too.  Revisit your routine, look for opportunities to connect and remember to practice kindness and firmness.

You’ve got this, I know you do!!!


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What was our agreement?

On any given day of the week, these four words can be heard spoken around the world by dedicated Positive Discipline parents.  I LOVE making agreements with my kids – we make them for all sorts of things,  It is an opportunity for the expectation to be help as a given, while the kids get to make some choices and distinction about how the expectation is met.

When something isn’t going well and you notice a lot of conflict, whining, nagging, ultimatums, it's time to make an agreement.

Jane Nelsen, the founder of Positive Discipline, and author of many parenting books outlines the four steps for making agreements as:

·      Have a friendly conversation with your child.  Open up the conversation by asking you child how they  are feeling about the situation.  What do they notice.  For example, if homework is a battle every night, get curious and ask your child aobut what they notice happens during this time.  Perpare yourself to hear about your behavior from their perspective and not get hooked on what they say.  Hold the space for them to share.  Listen.

When they finish, share why the situation is a problem for you.  Let them know how much you love them, and that, perhaps, you feel as though (in the homework example) you have made homework your job, instead of theirs.  Let them know you need their help finding a solution to this problem.

·      Brainstorm solutions.  Solutions are related, reasonable, respectful and HELPFUL.  Ask your child what ideas they have about how to solve the problem.  Might sound like, what are your ideas about how homework time could play out?  Remain a non-judgmental listener as you write down their suggestions.  Once they have exhausted their ideas, add a few of your own.  Remain curious and friendly.

·      Pick one solution that both of you can live with and commit to trying it for a week.  Yes, you read that right.  Try it for a week.  Lots of time, the solutions that work the best come after a few visits to this process.  Giving it a week allows both of you the space of knowing that you will be revisiting the agreement if it isn’t ideal.

·      Set up a deadline.  When the agreement is around getting something done, whether it is schoolwork or a chore, get really specific about when it will happen, down to the minute.  This is helpful to the child and to you, as that deadline is written down and can be referred to as you follow through.  Also, set a day and time for when you will sit down and review how the week went.  The conversation is much more likely to happen when we schedule it.

When I teach “Making Agreements” during a parenting class, people are stunned that there is no time spent on consequences if they don’t follow through.  Our culture is so consequence driven that we have forgotten that it's the process of making the agreement that is key to the tool working.

Yes, really, the process of creating an agreement with your child is powerful 

In the spirit of keeping it real, lets focus a bit on the fact that a lot of kids won’t magically keep their agreements without some friendly reminders from us…

“What was our agreement?”  You’ll ask, when you notice your child not doing what they said they would do… 

Following this question, you may hear a variety of responses from your child, including:

“Oh yeah, right…”

“Uh, I forgot…”

“Uuggggh….”

“FINE!”

And this is the tricky part.  This is when we get to step into our best parenting selves, a moment when we have an opportunity to model and practice self regulation.  Just because we have been through the process of making an agreement and having this great conversation, connection with out kids, doesn’t mean they will be transformed into obedient children who are blissed out because it is time to do homework (or a chore, or go to bed, or turn off the video game…).

Because our kids are normal, they will hope we have forgotten all about that agreement thingy and life can proceed as usual. 

What was our agreement?

This question, spoken with kindness and firmness, is the follow through.  Sometimes we have to say it more than once.  Sometimes we need to get right at eye level and put gentle hands on our child’s shoulders.  This is how we follow through…

“I don’t want to do that!”

“I hate you!!”

Yes, when you are new to making agreements and you lean in and really hold your firmness, your kids could very well respond with anger.  Again, this is your chance to model self regulation.  This is your opportunity to connect with your child while also maintaining dignity and respect for yourself.

AND, you have scheduled a time to revisit this agreement in the near future, something you can share with your child when they push back

“What was our agreement?”  Become a broken record…

But what about when they won't do what they said they would do?

Thank you for asking that question, as most parents do...

There are a bunch of reasons that the kids simply won't do what they have agreed to do.  Here are a few things to get curious about:

*  Your relationship.  Reflect a bit on how you and your child are relating to each other.  Is there a lot of time for connecting, one-on-one time, and child-led play?  Often kids become defiant and hurtful when they are feeling disconnected to you.  Work on getting into your child's world and look for opportunities to connect more.  You will see a difference in their willingness to follow through with agreements.

* Your expectations.  Are you expecting perfection?  Does your child think you are?  Are you doing a lot of criticizing?  Many kids will avoid tasks all together rather than be criticized for doing them wrong.  Get reflective about how you are, or aren't, encouraging your child.  One of my favorite quotes from Rudolf Dreikurs, who's work inspires much of Positive Discipline, says, "A misbehaving child is a discouraged child."  Sometimes all it takes is a shift in the way we show up for our kids to become more cooperative.

* Missing skills.  Lots of time, our kids act out due to lacking skills.  Make sure that you have taken time to train your child in whatever solution they have decided up.  Look for areas where missing skills are keeping them from following through with agreements.  How is their time management?  Do they have the organizational skills needed to clean their room?  How can you parter with them so they can learn and practice the skills they need to be successful?

I have made so many agreements with my kids over the years…  It is a norm in our house and something that they have been a part of since they were little.  It has been such a powerful tool that now, when I am unwilling to commit to discussing something (read: stalling) they will request that we make an agreement about it.

“Mom, can we please make an agreement about texting my friends?”

“Mom, can we please make an agreement about taking my iPod on the bus?”

“Mom, can we please make an agreement about you not having to do any more dishes???”  Ok, that one was made up, but I can dream can’t I?

The point is, the power of making agreements isn’t just about the parents getting what they want, but it is also about the kids getting to share what is important to them and being a part of the process of setting limits, and feeling a sense of power and control over their life.  It is about holding space for our kids to have a voice, to feel valued and for us to be deep listeners.  

The power of this process lives in the relationship that is built and strengthened every time we engage in it.  Trust in the process, friends.  And let me know how it goes!

Smiles,  Casey


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Get off that train!!

You know that moment when you go from calm and happy to totally pissed off? 

You know when you find yourself blaming, shaming or criticizing others? 

When your body is hot and tense and logic has left the building?

Yeah, that moment.

Lately I have been referring to this as the “Emotional Freight Train.”

Imagine this train, this big, noisy, speedy fast, train that we are hanging on to for dear life…  Hanging on and letting it take us wherever the tracks may lead.

My personal emotional freight train takes me to a place where everyone else is at fault…  Everyone else (generally my kids or husband) is making my life hard.  No one respects me or cares about all the things I do…  People always leave their shit everywhere and never  help out… 

My emotional freight train takes me to Victim-town.  Victim town is all about me…  And the inner voice that shows up there validates all the emotions I am feeling, urging me to just hang on and ride it out, no matter who I hurt on the way…

We all have our own personal emotional freight train that shows up when we are feeling afraid, overwhelmed, embarrassed or out of control.  It allows us to avoid the pain of discomfort and transform it into something that is easier to dish out – rage.

Oh and the release of that rage is a powerful experience, isn’t it???

Yeah, except that when the ride is over, when we have finally exhausted the rage, or the self pity, or whatever showed up, we are left to clean up the mess. 

You know what the mess is, don’t you?  The hurt feelings, the broken relationships, the broken plates (well, I haven’ broken any plates, but I know some of you have gone there ;) )…

We have to wade through the guilt and shame of our actions and get it together so that we can make things right again.  

The emotional freight train is no joke.

Lately I have been talking a lot about the train with my 9 year old son.  His train shows up when he is disappointed, when things don’t go his way, when he is embarrassed, when he needs to turn off the screen and brush his teeth (some times you would think I was ripping his arm off...)

His train has been showing up for a long time…  And it shows up quick and sometimes unexpectedly. 

Maybe he is building something with his Lego and becomes frustrated, the next thing you know he has collapsed on the floor howling about how stupid everything is…  Or perhaps he is in just the right mood and his sister decided to poke him as she is walking by (ugh, this will often trigger my train to show up…).

Regardless of what happens, rarely does a day go by with no visit from the train.

The awesome thing is, my son is really open to working with this.  When I talked to him about the train, and how sometimes we may notice that we are holding on and allowing the “train” to decide how we behave, he knew exactly what I was talking about.

Here’s what we grown-ups forget – just like it feels bad for us to notice when we are emotional and out of control, it feels bad for our kids too!

And you know what?  Just realizing that we are on the train gives us the awareness we need to decide to get off.

Once my son and I had a conversation about being on the train, we had new language to use.  A new way and very simple way of communicating how we were feeling. 

This is what it looks like to teach and develop emotional intelligence, my friends!!

Our kids don’t come understanding how to handle the shockwave of emotions that can show up in their live.  I mean, how many adults do you know who can’t manage this?? 

Ross Green, in his book Lost at School, invites adults to shift their thinking from "kids do well if they want to," to "kids do well if they can."  What a concept, right?  Kids want to do well, and are lacking the skills needed to get there.

We must meet them where they are at and teach them…

We must talk about and model our own journey on the emotional freight train (I'm sure even the Dalai Llama finds him self riding it every once in a while...)  And we must recognize that it takes practice to learn how to get off… 

And because it takes a village to parent, please share how the emotional freight train shows up in your house, and how you manage to get off, in the comments below!  Lets remember to support each other and always strive for improvement and growth!!

Smiles,  Casey

 

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The most important thing you can do as a parent?

Show up.

Well, duh, you may be thinking, I already know that I need to show up for my kids.

I know, we all know that showing up is key when it comes to lasting relationships with out kids.

We know we need to unplug, be mindful, stay present when we are sharing space with these.

Yes, we know this.  And then life happens.

And you know what leaves me feeling resentful and irritated on this parenting journey?  That my kids getting older doesn’t mean they need me less. 

Yes, I just wrote that I feel resentful and irritated.

I want to keep it real hear in parent blog land.  

I love my children, I love working with parents, I love all the tools of Positive Discipline that I share with the world.

And some of the time, I feel resentful and irritated.

Sometimes I want them to just brush their damn teeth without needing to be supervising.

I want them to help clean up after dinner without me nagging at them.

And honestly, I want to be able to send an email or a text without all hell breaking loose because I am not 100% engaged!!

Is this too much to ask? 

No.

The truth is, just because my kids are getting older, doesn’t mean they want to be any less connected to me.  Just because they can do so much more on their own, doesn’t mean they don’t want me there. 

And the mischief?  Well, it’s just the perfect way to engage me.

 Ugh.

So, what do I do?

I show up.  I show up throughout the day.  I know those “hot spot” times where my presence will invite my children to show up as their best.

Before school – I’m there. 

The half hour after they get home from school – I’m listening.

After dinner – I am engaged.

Bedtime – Well, I might as well brush my teeth too, right? 

Yes, I fantasize about saying “go upstairs and get ready for bed” and watching both of my children peacefully climb the stairs and do what they need to do, without ramping each other up… 

And as they get older (they are 9 and almost 12) this may actually happen. 

And on that day, I will need to come up with new and creative ways of staying connected to them.  Connected when they aren’t trying to engage me.  Connected when they are actually pulling away.

Because that day is coming, my friends.  And I’m okay with it.

So today, I will show up.

I will smile at them, listen to them, love them up. 

I will notice my resentment and irritation, breathe deep into it, and recognize that my kids are making a bid for me to connect. 

Big love to you today, as you show up for your kids.

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Saying NO to the Comparison Game

Do you ever feel like everyone around you has everything all figured out?

Like they are living fantastic lives full of health and happiness and success?

Do you ever think, what about me?

This has been showing up for me lately and I know I am not alone.  I know I am not alone.  I know that there are plenty of other people out there that do this too. 

It’s the worst.

Comparing yourself to others.

We look at one person who seemingly has it all and feel as though we could never be that thin/happy/peaceful/successful.  Or we look at someone else and we think, well at least I’m thinner/happier/more peaceful/more successful than that person.

The comparing game is so LAME.

It’s not helpful, it sucks away at your soul, and distracts you from showing up as your best self.

And it’s something that I am really good at.  I am really good at finding all the ways that someone else is better than me, more successful, in better shape…  I do it all the time and do you know how it leaves me feeling?  Shitty.

Yup, super shitty.

And unworthy.  And small.  And full to the brim with enough self doubt to keep me small for a lifetime.

Ugh.  This is my darkness.  This is something that I have made a commitment to exploring.  I am tired of being small.  I am ready to be big…  But to get there, I need to ditch this comparison game – or at lease, get curious about it. 

We are all striving to be the best we can be, right?  We are all at different places of our journey, we all have different back stories and lessons we have lived.  We can’t ever know the whole story of the person we are comparing ourselves too – we can’t know what they are thinking, what they have overcome, what they are in the process of overcoming… 

It just doesn’t make sense to continue to hold ourselves back from our greatness by comparing ourselves to others.

So…  Let’s.  Just.  Knock.  It.  Off.  Already.

How about we trade in doubt and uncertainty for faith in ourselves and some self-worth?  How about we begin today, and change this pattern that is not serving us AT ALL??

Awareness + Choice + Practice 

This is what it comes down to…  We need to start by catching ourselves playing the comparison  game.  Catching ourselves and calling ourselves out…

Hey look – here I am playing the comparison game and feeling really bad about myself…”

Get curious. 

Why is this person’s success drawing me into the comparison game?  What is it about her body/parenting/business that takes me there? 

Settle into your darkness.

What does my self-doubt and unworthiness feel like?  What sensations does it bring to my body?  What other emotions and stories are present? 

Choose to a different path.

Move your body around until you are grounded and in a posture that allows you room for possibility. Room for greatness.

Release your self doubt and breathe in the quality you do wantThis may be determination, focus, compassion (for self and others), love…

Tell a new story.  Create an affirmation, a mantra – anything that leads you in the direction of worthiness and possibility.

Here are some of mine:

My body is strong and I have all that I need to continue down the path of good health…

My children feel loved and encouraged…  I am a great mama.

I know how to find peace in my body and embrace challenges as opportunities to grow.

My business is a success, I make a difference in the lives of others.

Now – cover your world with these affirmations!!

Post-its on the mirror or in your car, alarms set on your phone, a special bracelet or piece of jewelry that sends you back to these truths.

We can only create a new way of being when we are in the practice of going there!!  You can do it!  I can do it!!

This world will be a much better place to live when we all quit allowing our external experience determine our internal experience… 

How does this land for you?  Please head down to the comments and let me know what affirmations you will start to tell yourself when you notice you are playing the comparison game.  Let’s support each other!!

Smiles,  Casey

Remembering the process...

It’s been a week since I posted my lofty goals around sleep, screen time and self care.

I have not been very successful…  Turns out that it takes more that a public declaration of intention to make significant changes in your life.

I haven’t put the goals away, instead I am using them as a reminder that really life is about the process you go through for small improvements, rather than the actual end results.

This is so valuable when it comes to parenting our kids as well, right?  Often we get so fixed on the end result, we tend to forget to see the small improvements.  Instead, we are frustrated that problems aren’t solved, responsibilities aren’t met – and that takes us right into the funnel of criticism and disappointment.

This has been played out perfectly after school lately, at our house.  The kids have their routine, I have really tried to be hands off and hold a space of encouragement.  Except that I haven’t, I very often slip into the nag, frustrated and angry when the kids aren’t following through with what they have agreed to do.

And man, nag mom is so OBNOXIOUS!!!  She is such a drag, such a whiner, so disconnected and caught up in her emotions….  She fills my body and clouds my mind and takes over.  It really sucks.

After one afternoon of me “you never”ing my kids and blah, blah, blahing them in the car, it occurred to me that I was forgetting that this work is about the process.

Oh yeah, I teach people about this, duh.

So, I shut my mouth for a while.  Later that evening I owned my behavior.  I made it right with my kids and let them know how much I love them.

Then I asked, “What would help you in the afternoons?"

What followed was a conversation about solutions.  In this space, the kids were able to let me know what works for them, I was able to share my own needs (like, not wanting to be in charge of telling them what to do), and we came up with a new system.

Now, when they get home, their “after school routine frames” that they made will be on the counter.  Once the kids take care of all their business, they put the frames away.  We discussed more details last night during our family meeting, and my son decided it would help him to stay on task if he set the timer for 40 minutes.  He thinks that is plenty of time to finish his routine.

Will this “work”?  Perhaps for a while… 

Will the kids follow through perfectly?  No, that would be an unrealistic expectation.

Will this new plan be helpful?  Yes, I believe it will.  This was created after everyone voiced their needs and concerns and is seen as a solution.  The power of this lies in the process.

I know this.

Next Sunday we will review how this new routine worked for them.  They will tweak it as necessary.  No criticism, anger or frustration necessary. 

As for my goals?  Well, this week is a new week and I will continue to work hard to cut down on my screen time, get more sleep and take time for self care.

Maybe I need to make my own frame?

 

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Working On My Foundation

When I think about the parent I want to be, the word foundation has come up recently…

There are a few different ways to think about this word, right A foundation can be something that provides support for something else…  Or an underlying basis or principle for something.

When I work with parents and teachers, I found that not only is the theory behind Positive Discipline an important foundational piece, but so is the internal experience of the individual.

You know what I mean? 

I am talking about all the emotions and thoughts that are taking up space in your body as you are interacting with the kids in your life.

I am talking about how you are feeling physically inside your body.

All of this is foundation.

All of this affects how we show up as parents, regardless of the tools or philosophies we have chosen to use.

At a very basic level, there are some things I recognize as providing a shaky foundation when it comes to being the parent I want to be.

Lack of sleep – when I give in to the desire to stay up late at night, I wake in the morning a bit more short tempered, a bit foggier.  When I am in this state with my kids, I find that I am quicker to react, and less likely to see situations through the eyes of my kids….  Leading me down the path of taking things personally and criticizing – not helpful, and at times, hurtful.

Distracted by Technology – I am here to admit that I have a problem with technology.  I am so grateful and blessed to have work that I love and am passionate about.  I would happily work on my parent offerings 24/7 – I repeat, I LOVE MY WORK.  I have recently become willing to see this as the problem it is.  I am on my computer or my phone when I should be connecting with my family.  I am distracted and feeling more of a pull to technology than to my kids.  Ugh, I have pain in the pit of my stomach coming clean about this – I mean, my work is about             ENCOURAGING PARENTS TO CREATE CONNECTION AND RELATIONSHIP WITH THEIR KIDS!!!

Not making time for self care – yes, self care to me is about exercise and me time, it’s also about meditating and quiet reflection.  When I get out of the habit of scheduling in this time, I find that resentment creeps in.  I begin to resent my family and the demands that show up with being a mother. 

So here are my new declarations for rebuilding the foundation I need to be a connected, present parent:

Sleep – I will get 8 to 9 hours of sleep each night.  I will take advantage of that “after bedtime” time and do my own winding down rituals.  I will move my body with some yoga, I will take time to read, I will write down gratitude for all the goodness in my life.  I will not bring my computer upstairs.

Technology – I will keep my phone on airplane mode until 8:15 am (this is when the school bus picks up my youngest), and I will put it back into airplane mode at 5pm each evening.  I will keep those hours for working on my computer as well.  My laptop will stay in my office from 5pm – 8:15am.

Self Care – I will schedule self care and have it on my calendar.  I will follow my own routine in the morning for getting my needs met – daily meditation/intention setting is a MUST for me, it is a commitment to showing up as my best…

Ok, its all good to make these plans, now its time to get accountable.  When my kids agree to things, agreements are put up for the family to see, as a reminder to the person and also a way to ensure accountability.

I will post my commitments to growing my foundation on the fridge.  I will open up for my family to remind me of what I have agreed to .  I will do it for one week, then assess and tweak as necessary.  In turn, I will be an example to my family, I will be walking my talk and creating a “do as I do” experience.

Where is your foundation weak?  What small changes can you make to strengthen it?  Click here and let us know!!


3 Mistakes and 3 Tools for Inviting Our Kids to do Chores

Does any of this sound familiar?

Nobody picks up their clothes.
Nobody puts away their dishes.
Personal belongings are left all over the house.
Nobody cleans up after a spill.
Wet towels pile up on the floor of the bathroom.

They ignore my requests for help…

Now, these statements aren’t true all the time, but there are days when all I can think to myself is everybody expects me to do all the cleaning!  I’m not their maid!  How can they do this to me?  It’s so disrespectful….  Blah, blah, blah.

I know what you’re going through.  Talk to any parent and they will share their woes around getting their kids to help our around the house.  It is a continuous source of angst in many families - for kids and grownups alike.

Here are the three mistakes parents make when it comes to chores:

·      Assuming grownups and kids have the same priorities

You kids will be grateful that chores were a part of their life growing up, once they are taking care of a place of their own.  However, they can’t project themselves into the future and right now they do live with their mother.  Parents get into mischief when they make the assumption that a clean room/house is as important to their kids as it is to them.

·      Dictating what should happen

Parents often use a top down approach when it comes to chores and house cleaning.  Because it tends to be a place of tension, we get rigid and dictate what our children have to do and when.  Adding to that, we mistakenly think that tagging on rewards and punishments will motivate our reluctant cleaners – and sometimes, for some kids, in the short term, it does.

·      Taking it personally

This is probably the mistake I am the guiltiest of…  When our kids don’t follow through with expectations around chores or cleaning up, we make it about us.  As if they are doing something to us.  And yes, we do tend to be the one that cleans up the mess, but to assume that our kids are thinking “I’m going to fling my clothes all over the floor and really stick it to mom” leads us down the emotionally triggered path, no longer able to connect or be helpful to our kids.

Ok, great.  So now our mistakes have been highlighted – and we still believe it is important for our kids to do chores!!

At our house, we refer to chores as “family work.”  The idea is to use this language as a way to highlight that we all live in a space together, and it is a shared responsibility to help out with taking can of the space.

Family Work teaches our kids life skills for when they do eventually need to take care of their own space (yes, one day they will move out).  How we manage and negotiate Family Work teaches them so much more…

Here are three tools for engaging your family in Family Work:

·      Co-Creating Systems and Visuals

Your kids are so smart.  They have so many creative ideas.  Work with them to create systems for getting family work done in a way that works for everyone.  Some things are nonnegotiable, right?  Like whether or not they do chores?  Invite your family into a conversation about chores.  Why is it a problem for you?  Why is it a problem for them?  What is the goal?  Create a system to try for a week, then see how well it worked and revise it.   This kind of conversation lets your kids know that what they think matters.  Their voice is needed in this conversation.  They are learning the art of communication through negotiating, brainstorming, and compromise in a truly authentic setting.

An example of this occurred at our family meeting last night.  We had been doing a big “Family Housecleaning” on Sundays, but really the kids took so long to do their rooms that my husband and I ended up doing the rest of the house.  We then modified by adding one job a day to the kid’s afterschool routine – that way the work was less on the weekends.  My son, however, didn’t like having to do a job on Fridays, so he wrote it down in our family meeting book.  Last night everyone has a chance to share their opinions about this, and the kids decided that they would pick an extra job to do on Sunday, before their cleaned their room, so that they were still helping with the overall “housecleaning” but could take Friday afternoon off.  We will assess how it went next Sunday, and make changes if the solution wasn’t helpful.

·      Take Time for Training

As our kids get older, we expect more of them.  But taking time for training remains important.  Doing chores with the kids will ensure that they are not only learning how to do things, but also how to meet our expectations.  Taking time for training isn’t only about the specific job that needs to be done, but its also teaching and supporting our kids in how to manage their time and their things.

One example of this is the laundry basket I recently bought for my son.  It has two sides, one for dirty clothes and one for clean clothes that he doesn’t want to put away.  On Sundays both sides get emptied – clean clothes are put away and dirty go in the laundry.  Another example is my daughter now uses a white board to map out her what she needs to get done in the afternoons during the week.  She picked two days a week to “pick up the clothes on the floor.”  Providing space and encouragement for our kids to create and try out different systems increases the likelihood of cooperation and engagement.

·      Focus on Relationship

The most powerful tool you have for influencing your kids to participate in chores and family work is the relationship you have with them.  Kids who feel a strong sense of belonging and connection to the rest of the family are much more likely to be willing to help out.  No one really likes to clean, so you can’t fault them for the huffing and puffing or the eye rolls, but even if its reluctantly, kids will engage in chores when they feel a strong connection to you.

In our home, when I notice one of my kids really pushing back against helping out, I reflect on how we have been connecting.  More likely than not, I find that I have fallen into a pattern of being over critical and distracted, and that it is affecting our relationship.  When I shift the way I show up for that child – biting my tongue is a big part of it – things seem to fall back into a more cooperative place.

You are not alone, dear reader.  We are all trying to figure out the best way to motivate our kids.  I would love to invite you to shift your mindset a bit and try out some of these tools.  You are the expert on your kids, yes, but stay open minded.  And remember, it’s about improvement, not perfection.

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