How to Communicate: Do NOT Talk to Me After 8pm!

Communication is a three pronged event.

  1. Giving information
  2. Receiving information
  3. Taking action (or not) on information given and received

Most of us LOVE to GIVE information and we don't think too much about how it will be received. 

Nifty note left for me on my coffee maker with the forms for me to sign underneath.

Nifty note left for me on my coffee maker with the forms for me to sign underneath.

I am a morning person. It's genetic. If I e-mail my brother or sister before 6 am, they usually e-mail me right back. I am NOT a night person. 

My children have learned that if they ask for assistance or want permission for something it's more likely to happen if I have a cup of coffee in my hand. I also am more willing to help if it's not a verbal 'demand'. I respond better to a written 'request'.   

After some trial and error, the kids have gotten into the habit communicating with me through the coffee maker. Permission slips, their phones to be charged (what happens to everyone's chargers, do they take up with the unmatched sock from the wash?), a note for laundry to be tossed into the dryer. Let's see how this works in our 3 Steps.

  1. Give Information - Teens remember stuff at night, they can give their information best when they can remember it!
  2. Receive information - I can receive information when I am fresh, not tired, have coffee in hand. I also am better with written down words - verbal requests get interpreted in my brain as demands.
  3. Take action on information (or not) - I am MORE likely to take action on the information if it's all right there in front of me and no one is running late or going to to miss the bus.

Genius!

Where might we be giving information to our beloveds (children, spouse, family of origin) in a way it is UNLIKELY to be received, common culprits . . . 

  1. Texting when our Mom responds better to call.
  2. Verbally demanding chores be done on OUR time frame, rather then texting a request to our teen with the caveat, 'Please do before bed!'
  3. Giving negative feedback in 'public' (this includes siblings and co-parents), people have a hard time receiving any thing that has even a whiff of criticism on it, ESPECIALLY in front of others.
  4. Giving unsolicited advice (even if it's super duper helpful and wise).
  5. Thinking they should know what we are thinking/feeling because we expressed it ONCE.
  6. Talking to them when it's NOT their time of day. (I LOVE to give information in the morning, teens not so receptive until evening falls.)
  7. Listening - the MOST important part of communication . . . . LISTENING!  

. . . I FEEL ANOTHER BLOG COMING ON  . . . . How to Communicate! Part Two: I'm Listening!

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Organizing 102: Solving the RIGHT Problem

You can label every durn thing in this room and STILL couldn't keep it tidy!

You can label every durn thing in this room and STILL couldn't keep it tidy!

Down in the basement playroom, surround by all the usual suspects - legos, board games, dress-up clothes, Playmobile, stuffed animals, school uniforms, lots of dirty socks, educational readers, books-galore, American Girl dolls and super heroes, we were sorting and pitching and chatting. This was about the 3rd time we had been in the playroom to work and my lovely client looked at me and said, "I just can't keep it organized." 

I am very protective of my clients, so my mind rushed to defend her and then I had this incredible A-HAH moment and I said, enthusiastically, "You do NOT have an organizational problem, you have a VOLUME problem." And it came to me that all the bins the world, all the hand made labels, all the tidying up schedules, all the encouraging talks to the children - none of it, NONE. OF. IT would FIX the problem that was simply, non-judgmentally, very commonly. . . TOO MUCH STUFF. We can't solve TOO MUCH STUFF with bins, labels, encouraging talks and tidying schedules. We must solve the volume problem with TURNING DOWN THE VOLUME!

A lot of 'organizing' problems are volume problems in disguise. 

Problem: Always late

Turn down the volume: Unstuff your calendar. Put margin in your day. If you need a refresher - read Margins, Buffers & White Space.

Problem: Kid won't clean up their room

Turn down the volume: Seriously, if you do one thing, do THIS. Get the CRAP OUT OF YOUR KIDS ROOM (I am indeed talking to you in a stern-ish voice). Alternately, if you don't want to do this, please STOP asking your kids to clean their rooms. (For more tips, read THIS Nifty Tips series.)

PROBLEM: Procrastination

Turn down the volume: Make the task smaller, teeny tiny, I'm not joking, shuffle forward 1/2 of a baby step. Our brain will shut down if the task is too big. We need to sneak past our brain in tiny, soft, quiet baby steps. Need to fill out of the FAFSA, (I feel you parents of high school seniors), or do your taxes, or submit insurance claims? All too scary. Break the sucker down in TEN MINUTE increments. Turn down the volume on your expectations on the task you are procrastinating on, then you can sneak past your scaredy cat brain, one teeny tiny step at at time.

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Worry About Yourself

Originally published in the October 2016 Glover Park Gazette

Originally published in the October 2016 Glover Park Gazette

I hate to break it to you, I have another irritating (AND supremely effective) parenting tip for you guys. Last month it was the profoundly un-sexy tip of de-cluttering. I humbly give you this tip not as ‘know it all’, but as a complete butt-insky and all around general nag. I give you this advice with sadness in my heart that we can’t actually control, change, even tweak other people. Even if it would be really, really good for them. Even if all our ‘research’ proves us right. Even if we love them more then life itself.

Watch  “Worry About Yourself” and you will see the most profound 47 seconds of human behavior. I’ll wait. . . .

Here’s what I learned from this video,  (I wanted, really wanted, to write, “Here’s what WE learned from this video.” BUT that would be so wrong because this whole article is about Worrying about Myself – see, I can’t even do that for three paragraphs) people engaged in their own lives don’t want any tips (‘Nifty’ as they may be). Kids know what they need to do and they know what you need to do ("Drive the car!"). Let’s be honest, it’s more relaxing to sit and ‘help’ or ‘advise’ others then it is to go about living our own big lives. Nothing scary about giving a lecture about procrastination to our beloved child. More scary to stop procrastinating and look for a new job for ourselves.

Now, don’t throw the baby out with the bath water, people. ‘Worry About Yourself” doesn’t give you license to ignore everyone else, or leave your family high and dry. It means if your kids aren’t asking for help/advice - worry about yourself. Clean your closet, pay your bills, pitch your text books from college, tidy up your workspace, make those vacation plans, check on your 401k. (Oh my gosh, I’m making myself so nervous I might just have to go lecture one of my kids about study habits!)

Add “Worry About Yourself” to your parenting arsenal. Go show that video to your kids, it’s hilarious. (Pssst, this tip is handy for EVERYONE, parent, not a parent, a parent of grown kids, a kid of a parent.)

 

Freedom + Order

“We must get used to the idea that in a democratic atmosphere freedom and order are inseparable.”       Rudolf Dreikurs
Imagine the lattice is 'order' and the vines and flowers are 'freedom' - we need BOTH!

Imagine the lattice is 'order' and the vines and flowers are 'freedom' - we need BOTH!

Sometimes we (and our kids) think freedom is a right, not a responsibility. Freedom without order for us parents is chaos.  Freedom without order for our kids is crippling. Freedom without order isn't loving, nice, self-esteem building or life enhancing.

When we rescue kids from their neglect of order we are robbing them of understanding, really feeling, absorbing, and GETTING that freedom can't exist without each and everyone of us pulling our own weight. Here's a list of common places we rescue our children from their own dis-order and slow their learning process. 

Drive them to the bus when they wake up late.

Wake them up when they don't get up to their alarm.

Give them only food we know they will eat, and nothing else.

Make excuses or lie for them when they  forget to turn in an assignment.

Pay for everything for them with our money.

Walk on eggshells so they don't get upset.

Have all of us done all of these things?  YES! I do declare, YES! AAAAaannnnnndddddddd, we can do better. We gotta let them experience the consequences of disorder. It might hurt, they might be upset. Worse, they might NOT be upset. . . . at first. 

Freedom only feels good when there is order girding it up, supporting it, letting it grow beautifully on it's lattice - but not all willy nilly over someone else's lattice. And order only feels good when freedom surrounds it, gives it air to breath, dances around it with joy and inspiration.

It's a Balancing Act (see what I did there?). Some of us feel safer with order, some of us crave freedom. We will almost ALWAYS be off track - isn't that relieving?  The joy, the magic, the 'secret' is learning to course correct. If I sway towards 'orderly' then I gotta let the plants grow with more freedom. If I veer in the direction of  'freedom' I gotta go back and shore up my lattice. 

I leave you with one final quote from the author of "Man's Search for Meaning"

Freedom, however, is not the last word. Freedom is only part of the story and half of the truth. Freedom is but the negative aspect of the whole phenomenon whose positive aspect is responsibleness. In fact, freedom is in danger of degenerating into mere arbitrariness unless it is lived in terms of responsibleness. That is why I recommend that the Statue of Liberty on the East Coast be supplemented by a Statue of Responsibility on the West Coast.

- Viktor Frankl

 

I Just Want to Raise a Happy Kid

"I just want to raise a HAPPY kid!"

I hear this a lot from parents. I think this a lot, about my own kids. Can I be honest? It's starting to annoy me!

You know why? We are so focused on happy & successful that we completely forget about all the handy, wonderful and sublime actions, feelings and thoughts we could encourage our kids to explore, practice and try. Think about it people, what really and truly gets us through life? 

Tolerating S**t: Let's be honest, ya gotta just tolerate those tantrums when kids are four, the eye roll when kids are teens, the heat and humidity, the political shenanigans, the irritating thing your spouse does/doesn't do, and has/hasn't done from the MOMENT you met  them. Let's teach kids how to tolerate s**t, shall we?

Endure: Tell me who has NOT endured a crappy parent, a shaming teacher, a boring class, a bitchy friend, a controlling boyfriend/girlfriend. Didn't we all LEARN, LEARN, LEARN from these crappy, shaming, boring, bitchy and controlling experiences? Life can be crappy, shaming, boring, bitchy and slap us in the face for longer then we like. What can we do? Endure. (We don't necessarily have to suffer while we endure. It's up to us what kind of climate we create around enduring. It can be a cozy and life affirming enduring, or a stingy, whiney and complaining enduring - we get to choose.) Endurance, try it, learn it, live it.

Be Willing/Unwilling: THIS is one of the most powerful phrases I learned from PEP (Parent Encouragement Program).  If I'm willing to do something, I don't have to be in love with it, or be sure it is perfect, or be committed to doing it forever. Let's try it in a few sentences. . . 

I am willing to let you have your phone after school until dinner for this week. (I don't love this, it's not my ideal, AND I'm willing to give it a try. . .  for a week!).  
I am unwilling to let you have your phone after school. I will be willing to review this phone policy once the afternoon routine has been successful for a few weeks. Remind me after Halloween, and we can discuss.
Sweetie, are you willing to help me unload the groceries and then I can get out the messy paints for you while I prep dinner?

Tolerate, endure, be willing/unwilling - Takes the pressure off. Being happy & successful can be stressful and demanding - let's not ask so much of our kids, or ourselves!

Clutter Makes Your Brain Tired

This is one 'decision making' hell hole!

This is one 'decision making' hell hole!

You guys . . . one tool we have that our kids do not have is a fully functioning  Pre-Frontal Cortex (click for a refresher), if we have clutter, we have taken the wheels off this powerful, powerful too.

When we enter a messy room, face a jam packed closet, walk down into a trashed playroom, sidle past a too stuffed garage we have thoughts, thoughts and more thoughts! We may not notice them, and they arise none the less. It takes our BRAIN energy to to squish them back down. AND the thoughts that arise from the mess, jam packed, trashed and too stuffed spaces talks like this . . . . 

"You SHOULD totally train your kids to clean up after themselves, you suck at being a parent."
"Ugh, YOU need to lose weight to fit into those pants YOU bought on sale. Otherwise it's a giant waste and I told YOU to stop wasting money. You SUCK at being an adult."
"You need to pay those bills, file those insurance forms or else you are a loser. Do it, do it, do IT. Don't YOU dare put those papers away or else you will never do it. You SUCK at running your life."

Not only does this voice speak meanly, it's using our limited brain power to decide (again) to ignore the tasks. Deciding takes brain power. Without clutter our brain can focus on the task at hand and we get less of that negative chatter (we won't ever eliminate that critic in our head).  Read this to see how Obama conserves his decision making energy (he's a COMPLETE Nifty Tipper!).

WHEN we have more brain power we usually make saner, more patient decisions which circles back to parenting and relationships. See how I did that? It's all connected!

Give your brain a break this Fall and de-clutter one area. Get a friend to help, a non judgemental  and fun friend who can laugh with you at your crazy (we all have it). Sharpen that awesome grown up tool of the Pre Frontal cortex and then BRING ON THE HOLIDAYS!

When Being Too Nice is Not so Nice

*Originally published in the September 2016 Washington Parent

In our search for a friendlier and more open relationship with our kids, we sometimes get into a parenting pickle of niceness. How do we know when we are being too nice?

  • When we give direction but end the sentence by asking for our child’s approval, as in: “It’s time to leave the park, ok?” “We are having pasta for dinner tonight, ok?” “If you stop hitting your brother you can have an ice cream sundae, ok?”

  • When we rescue our kids from ordinary consequences, allowing ourselves to become a daily delivery system by swooping in to save them when they don’t have a coat on a 40-degree day, forget to take homework to school or neglect to pack their lunch.

  • When we consistently respond to outrageous behavior by making excuses for it: “Suzy isn’t good at transitions” or “Joe didn’t get a good night's sleep.”

The parental urge to be “nice” can create families in which the day is dictated by the child’s whims and fleeting emotions. We have a niggling feeling we are supporting a tiny tyrant and we have become the big servant cleaning up her messes and doing her bidding. Our actions are well intended, but are they good for the child?

Positive parenting vs. “nice” parenting

Many “nice” parents believe they are improving on the old, autocratic model of parenting, in which parents were the tyrants and kids were the servants. Parenting expert and author of “Honey I Wrecked the Kids,” Alyson Schafer, compares this to using new software with the same operating system. We get the new style of “nice” (i.e., permissive) parenting, but create the same flawed relationship of tyrants vs. servants.

Schafer suggests an entirely new operating system called Positive Parenting. Positive Parenting literally gets rid of the “Who’s the boss” parenting model – no more tyrant, no more servant. Instead of thinking in terms of being “nice” or “mean,” Schaefer says, “We need to turn to entirely new reference points which are mutual respect and the needs of the situation.”

For many families, positive parenting requires the adoption of a whole new paradigm, which can be difficult for parents to understand and implement. We all have experienced how confusing, time-consuming and cumbersome it can be to adjust to a new computer, phone or other device. We know how we want it to work, we know it’s possible to get it to work, but we just can’t quite figure out how. Similarly, Patti Cancellier, Education Director for the Parent Encouragement Program (PEP), notes that changing our permissive ways “takes a really long time and a lot of experimentation. It’s easier to stick with business as usual. A piece of the problem is that when we talk respect and encouragement it sounds nice. People think this is all about being nice.”

Short- and long-term benefits of positive parenting

What parents often overlook is that being nice in the short term isn’t always nice in the long term. Cancellier suggests that our job is to raise children so that “by the time they are launched they can make decisions and learn to live with the consequences of them.” Children need practice in making mistakes, using bad judgment, being bored, having friend problems, meeting the needs of the situation and showing respect for others as well as themselves. If we “nice” our children throughout childhood they will go off and expect other adults to “nice” them as well, which isn’t very realistic.

When Schaefer helps parents who are permissive she might say to them gently, “Do you realize you have a low opinion of your child?” If we don’t think the child can handle age-appropriate limitations and expectations and we behave as if he is not up to the task, we have effectively given him a vote of non-confidence.

Becoming a “positive” parent

In action, this means if our children are acting up in a restaurant we no longer let them go on and on, nor do we try to control them through threats and punishment. Instead, we turn to our new reference points:

  1. Mutual respect: Is this behavior respectful to the kids, ourselves, the staff and other patrons in the restaurant?

  2. Needs of the situation: Does this behavior meet the requirements of the time, place and activity?

In the above example, the answer to both questions is a resounding “no.” Therefore, to create mutual respect and meet the needs of the situation, the children either have to be quiet and behave in the way that other patrons in a restaurant are expected to behave, or the family needs to leave.

The importance of respect

The new operating system dictates parents uphold mutual respect by modeling respect themselves. That means adopting a firm and friendly tone and not acting devastated at having to leave the restaurant. It means giving children ample opportunities to practice their restaurant behavior in the future.

When kids respect themselves, others and the needs of the situation, they are learning what Cancellier describes as the goal of Positive Parenting: “Having respect for all human beings of all ages and experience levels. This includes respect for self (the parent) and not allowing ourselves to be manipulated.”

Together with our kids, we can navigate the world with these two new touchpoints of mutual respect and the needs of the situation. With this new paradigm we can expect to find more cooperation, creative solutions and closer relationships. Now doesn’t that sound nice?

Paige Trevor is a certified parent educator with the Parent Encouragement Program and a leader of PEP's "Parenting 5 to 12-Year-Olds" classes. Find additional tips on effective parenting skills at PEPparent.org.

Feelings, Nothing More THAN Feelings . . . .

Feelings are a tricky part of our humanness. Some people repress their feelings - chin up, move forward, ignore the hurt, no pain - no gain. Parents repress kids feelings (come on, we all do it, feelings slow down our day), "You are NOT allowed to cry about goldfish (candy, tv, i phones, etc)."  Some people express their feelings - the day stops, the feelings lurch forward, overtake the task at hand. We must dissect, analyze and talk about the feeling. Parents are wowed, overwhelmed impressed with their kids expression of feelings, "Oh dear, you don't want to eat the lentil soup, well let me make you a cheese sandwich so you don't cry." "Alright, 10 more minutes on the device, but then NO CRYING!" (hahhahahaha)

Feelings are only part of the story - feelings interact with thoughts and action. For example, have you ever NOT felt like working out and then you start (take an action) and then it changes your feeling, and then you have a new thought, "Hey, this work out isn't so bad.".  

Or you are working diligently on your project and you have the thought, "I don't know what to write next", then suddenly an over powering feeling of hunger (or needing to fold the clothes, or call your sister) and you suddenly stand up and take the action of getting up for almonds (or the laundry, or get your phone and dial your sister) and the procrastination on your project begins.

Next time you are stuck in a feeling, try a new action. Or you are stuck in a thought, try a fresh action. And if you are stuck in non-productive action, try a new thought. Mix and match, see how you can play with feelings, thoughts and actions to smooth out your day. Let me know how it goes!

Welcome Back!

Adapted from an upcoming Glover Park Gazette Article.

Welcome back* to your new, fresh, sparkly, hopeful 2016/2017 school year. Let’s dive right in and get to work. I love getting to work, because it makes that moment of sitting on the quintessential Glover Park porch with friends and a Cosmo all the more delicious. The number one, most successful, least sexy, most sublime, cheapest, un-dramatic thing to do for a better school year is to de-clutter. We de-clutter now, we de-clutter later, we de-clutter in January. It’s like working out. Once you learn to love the work out, or at least the work out after glow -  bada boo bada bing you have an amazing tool and resource for a great school year. Where to start? I got you.

SCHOOL SUPPLIES: Kids only like the good new stuff. They won’t use the dried up glitter glue pen they got in the goodie bag last St. Patrick’s Day, they just won’t. Toss, toss, toss. Kids treat their stuff like it’s Filene’s basement, but they want to live at Barney’s. A few choice pencils, a new pack of markers, that get put AWAY regularly, ONE eraser with a nice electric pencil sharpener. Guys, keeping that pebble covered notebook because they only wrote in a few pages, and they MIGHT use it, is a waste of your life energy. It kills you, I know. But unless YOU are going to use it, either recycle those partly used notebooks, rip it up for scrap paper or pitch. In general, buy less, use more.

CLOTHES: Kids need MAYBE 7 t-shirts, depending on how often laundry is done. I will give you 10. De-clutter the rest, Whole Foods takes clothing donations in the parking garage, Goodwill takes anything you drop off. You fighting with your kids over clothes is a waste of your time, relationship AND all those shirts!  Please only put things in your kids room they are permitted to wear. It’s your house, you bought the clothes, uphold the limits with ACTION, not lectures. Now, this isn’t license to be a jerk. It IS a license to act with authority, common sense and compassion.

CALENDAR: If dinner is a priority, your three kids can’t each do 7 activities. If activities are a priority you can’t sit down to dinner together every night during the week. If sleep is important, they can’t have endless sleepovers. If you are really busy at work, you can’t volunteer. If you are sick, in transition, or otherwise upset – you must DO less, and take care of yourself more. Time is finite. Hoping, dreaming, wishing doesn’t give you more time. The white space AROUND events is where you find the magic, the patience, the giggles. De-clutter that calendar.

Here’s the thing with kids and stuff, the trick is in the lather, rinse, repeat. When we get frustrated go back to school supplies, clothes and calendar and see where de-cluttering can help you create a successful and productive school year. See you on the porch!

*For all us older folks - Welcome Back!

 

 

DOING IT WITHOUT DOING IT

Feeling lazy about getting started on that project? Me too!

Feeling lazy about getting started on that project? Me too!

A lazy way to get going on a project we have procrastinated on is called, "Do it without doing it" and the success rate is a solid 82% - I know you want the MAGICAL 100%, but I say 82% is better then 0%, wouldn't you agree?  Here are three main categories we tend to avoid, put off, and still - needs to get done!

Office Work:  NEWS FLASH, no one FEELS like doing their taxes, paying their bills, submitting medical claims. WAITING until you FEEL like it will get you to do your taxes, bills, medical claims at exactly a quarter past NEVER!  (A lot of caps, I know, and I am sort of yelling at you, because you need a wee bit of  tough love and you will, more then likely, thank me later.)  Tonight, when you are tired, yet you have visions of the new you feeling like attacking that project tomorrow, go ahead ahead and 'do it without doing it'. Clear your desk, get out the forms, the taxes, the back up. Find your sticky notes. Locate the stapler, stamps and paper clips. Make sure your ink toner is full. If you need more info to get started, look up the phone number TONIGHT, jot it down - no need to call, no need to do it now. Remember, we are 'doing it without doing it'. Tomorrow, you will have an 82% chance of actually getting it done. 

Decluttering Project:  Let's say the bookshelves. I've seen your guys bookshelves. Most of us have 32% too many books, at LEAST jammed in those shelves. Get out your brown paper grocery bags and set them up near the shelves. Mark them, "Give to Cousin Susan", "Library", "Ask spouse". Neatness counts here. Remember when I talked about "dating your goals"? (click here for a refresher)

Working Out: You want to work out and you don't feel like it? Pour your second cup of coffee, and simply set up the yoga mat, the 15 minute video, the weights. Then go on your merry way and 82% of the time you will end up working out later in the day. It's all set up, there is no resistance, except those pesky feelings, and those we can override with some a good pair of tennies and some pumping music.

Doing the Best We Can, With the Information We Have, and What We Really Truly Believe

What are you believing? What are THEY believing?

What are you believing? What are THEY believing?

Anyone been hurt, outraged, upset by what their children have done or haven't done? Great - all hands are raised! I've been pondering this idea that we are all doing the best we can with the information we have.  The older I get the more I truly believe this is so. Age has given me more equanimity (not a lot, but more then where I started). Also, I try, try, TRY not to be such a blamer (old habits die hard, if only so and so didn't do such and such I would be able to let go of this old habit!).  Love + Equanimity - Blame = Compassion

After spending two full Saturdays leading an intensive PEP Parenting class I thought that perhaps this old saying is good for the kids too. When we parent with hurt and angst, like our two year old is tantruming AT us. Our four year old is being unreasonable and undignified about forking over the i pad TO us. Our eight year old is trying to turn our hair gray by 'forgetting' to take out the recycling.  Or our tween is telling us half truths to embarrass us.

What IF they were doing the best they could, with the information they have AND with what they really and truly believe. The really and truly believe is my little twist - because we really and truly believe what we are doing is right (or the only way, or the path to what I need). And guess what. . . . SO DO OUR KIDS. Our two year old believes the world will end when she can't sit in THAT chair, RIGHT now. Our four year old believes his happiness can be found after one more, gosh durn, Pokemon Go guy is found. Our eight year olds brain is filled with legos and how to survive the camp bus and really and truly believes taking out the recycling is LESS important, after all those recycle guys come back every week, what's the big deal, CHILL. And oh boy, our teen is telling us half truths because she loves us, AND she wants to do what she wants to do, and what EVERY SINGLE OTHER ONE of her friends get to do, and honestly believes she will lose all her friends if she doesn't get to go either.  

I hear you, "Seriously Paige, they are doing it TO ME. They KNOW better. I can't let them GET AWAY with this."  I'm with you people, I don't want them to 'get away' with anything either. I bring this up so we remember to dole out equal amounts of compassion AND goodwill as we are upholding our limit. As we wait for the device to be handed over, as we escort the child to the recycling, as we double check with the teens friend's parent about the sleep over, we give them the benefit of the doubt. We assume, we believe that THEY are doing the best they can with the information they have and what they really, truly believe.

When we treat our kids (and everyone else, for that matter) that way we save and protect the relationship.  Once the boundary, limit, chore is upheld we don't have that angry, fearful, upset chasm to cross to get close again. We have goodwill and compassion and with only that between us we can snuggle up close on the couch, watch a good show, and try again tomorrow.

Splash, Splash, Listicle

Diving into summer!

Diving into summer!

It's too hot and humid to write a whole article, long live the LISTICLE! Here's a short list of stuff we should do.

1. Get those pesky medical forms filled out BEFORE school is about to start AND you are stressed. TRAIN kids to fill out everything they should know, in neat handwriting. Filling out forms is a part of life. Seriously, they can do this - middle schoolers and up SHOULD be doing this.

2. Enjoy. Relax. Have FUN!

3. Get all those pesky appointments out of the way - eye appointment, dentist appointment, yearly check up. Use these longer days and slower pace to get some of these less then exciting chores done.

4. Re-read this series on helping kids de-clutter their room. Try it. Tell me all about it!

  1. Step 1: Address the issue & make an appointment
  2. Step 2: Follow through on the appointment, but try it this way

5. Screens got you down? I got you - 8 Device Tips to Save Our Sanity (written for the winter holidays, PERFECT advice for the summer holidays).

6. Change your air conditioner filter, you'll be glad you did!

 

 

Organizing 101: Sorting

Sorting is easy, fun AND useful!

Sorting is easy, fun AND useful!

Summer is a great time to get organized. Our mistakes from last school year are fresh in our heads, our hope for the upcoming year is blossoming and has yet to be crushed, dashed or squished.

I hear you through the internet.. . . "Hoooooow do I start?" (slight whine, whiff of the search for a magic answer, there IS a magic organizing answer, right?)

When I help clients get organized they often head into their office, junk drawer, playroom, closet and want an immediate answer, a solution, an end game. You guys, that's NO FUN at all (and, um, yo! it doesn't work). The answer, the solution, the end game comes through the doing. THAT's the Magical Art of Tidying Up. 

The expectation to HAVE the solution clogs the system, jams the wheels, de-rails the organizing train. Sorting gets it going again. Sorting is non-judgmental, sorting is easy, sorting gets your body into movement and then your brain gets into movement and from there answers start bubbling up.

When I help a client sort I can't feel, don't see, am unaware of the psychic goo* on, around and in each object, piece of clothing and book. I really just see things like - clothes, stuff that doesn't belong here, supplies, to read, action, project, give to spouse and my favorite of favorites - PITCH! Sometimes there is so much psychic goo on the objects that just moving them around upsets the apple cart and the client shuts down.  If we can loosen the goo - tolerate the anxiety and work on the sorting at hand the psychic goo loses some of its stickiness. Then, order and organization, values and priorities can start bubbling up. THAT'S where we find solutions.

When you tackle your next project - think "I will SORT out the answer", not - "Oh no, oh geez, I need an answer. I don't know the RIGHT answer. I think I'll get a diet coke and lay down until the answer magically comes to me (click goes the office door)."

Sorting Categories to Inspire, Move and Motivate

  1. Clothes
  2. Action (as in it has to get done, action is NOT "I should do this someday" or "It would be nice if this got done" or "My mom (dad, sister or friend) does this, so I should to."
  3. To be filed (Stuff you need to keep for taxes or reference BUT no action is necessary. Guys, that's NOT EVERYTHING. Please don't save random articles you can look up online. Please.)
  4. Pending where you've hit the tennis ball into someone else's court and you can't do anything until it's returned.)
  5. Projects (stuff that takes more then one step). For example: Skirt Project: Does it fit? Do I like it? Where do I get the button replaced? Do I have anything that matches it? Will I wear it? - See, more then one action - try on skirt, look at shirts/shoes, look for button (in the house, online, at a store), take to tailor, get cleaned. When we start acknowledging something is a multi-step project, we start being more realistic about what we have assigned ourselves and what we will actually do. (Pssst. . . we all have more projects then we can possibly do for the next decade.)
  6. Not my stuff (toss in whoever's room it is, don't turn it into a game of you helping them get organized, TOSS it in their room. On the other hand, don't THROW it in their room aggressively, just toss it in their room. Having lots of opinions and thoughts about how others really should, could, oughta get organized takes energy from our very own beautiful lives. "Helping" others get organized is a seductive dark art - feels good in the moment, doesn't get you where you want to go.)
  7. Pitch (do you hear the angels sing?!)
  8. Recycle & Donate (beware this category and it's potential to stop you from moving - allow yourself to put some of this stuff in the Pitch category. You alone can't save the planet, but you can save the planet a lot more effectively if you aren't consumed with your stuff and what to do with it!)
  9. Debris - sometimes things defy a category, don't let it stop you! Put all the 'debris' in a category and see what bubbles up.
  10. Some Other Time, Thank You - stuff that you want to keep but realistically know you won't get to it until you start your new job, your kids go to school, everyone is done with college, you come back from that trip, you recover from seasonal allergies. Put this stuff away - don't use up good every day real estate for this category.

*Psychic Goo: The meaning, thought, energy you put into objects. "I spent $350 on this, I should keep it." "Favorite Aunt Beatrice gave this box to me, I hate the box, but I love Aunt Beatrice, I should keep it." "What kind of monster would throw out their Dad's Master's thesis from 1974? I should keep it, Dad was really smart, I need proof, right?" "I should fit into these pants, I'm going to save them and they will shame me into submission, right?!" "I might, one day, even though I never have, and I probably shouldn't wear these shoes." Psychic Goo gets in the way of you living your every day life with comfort and ease!

It's All About the Re-Boot!

Summer is the perfect time for a parenting re-boot, the days are longer, the stress is lower, the time pressure has lessened. Ready for  two full days filled with encouragement, camaraderie, information, laughter, enlightenment and fun? PEP is offering, and I am co-leading with the fabulous Elizabeth Jones, a PEP Intensive. Come yourself, bring a friend, tell your neighbors.  PEP knows that fitting in parenting classes is hard for PARENTS! Hopefully these summer sessions will be just what you are searching for. 

Here’s what I love most about this parenting re-boot.

Action Oriented: PEP sends parents home with actions, phrases, thoughts, resources they can use THAT night. A few positive interactions can boost family morale and parental creativity. Action, action, action! I love it, love it, love it.

Parent Support – Guys, it’s hard for all of us. The group setting gives us all the support and understanding we need to look at our problems without shame, blame or pain. You will see that you have a lot of great wisdom to share with the parts of your parenting you are naturally good at and other participants can help YOU with your sticky and confusing situations. It’s a collaborative and creative process and usually filled with lots of laughs.

Things You Have Never Thought of That Will Help -  Our parenting game has been shaped from the moment we were born. Our kids are their own little people, not blank slates. There are developmental behaviors we can expect, endure and they pass. Learning about their development, our private logic, everyone's assumptions from their birth order can infuse our parenting with more self-respect and more respect for the child. Respect usually breeds cooperation. Cooperation breeds connection and connection is the name of the game!

Lively and Entertaining – We learn material through talking, slides, reading, small group work, role plays, worksheets and much, much more. We will laugh as we learn. Something always unexpected happens when we get a group of parents together. Wisdom and realness abound. 

Feel free to contact me if you have any questions! Hope to see you July 16th!

 

 

Pick a Book Title, Any Book Title!

Send alternate book titles . . . 

Send alternate book titles . . . 

Sometimes I amuse myself by conjuring titles for different parenting books I would have written at different phases of my journey. Each age and stage brings out something new and different, some of it funny, some of it boring, some of it anxiety provoking all of it universal at one point or another. Shall we?

Goddess Pregnancy: How the First Woman in the World to Ever be Pregnant Handled the Situation - The first woman in the world to ever be pregnant takes you through the ins and outs of pregnancy. Diet Coke-verboten. Cottage cheese – looks gross, strangely makes you feel better. Learn how YOU get to go home early from work because pregnant ladies can NOT ride crowded buses. Learn phrases to use on your significant other – things like waking up and before you even stand on the ground look at them grouchily and say, ‘Honey, you need to . . .. “ Anything will do. Because honestly, while you are growing an ACTUAL human being, they are just skating through life.

Timers, Rules and Clocks: Receiving Your Child is Unbelievably Scary (Alternate title: If In Doubt, Cry it Out) – Is it possible to keep your baby safe by constant vigilance and timing and tracking every feeding, every diaper, every nap? Probably not, but it’s worth a try! How crying means you are happy, sad, content, amazed, at a loss, frightened, in pain, joyful and bored. Just keep crying, someone will eventually do something that makes you feel ok again.

Watch How I Do It (In Overalls, no Less) – See how once you get the hang of this you have answers for EVERYONE on how to do EVERYTHING. A friend’s baby doesn’t sleep – share your righteous opinion. Watch a neighbor carelessly wander to the bananas leaving the baby in the grocery cart near the peas- learn how to scold them with love. Curious about what toys to let them play with, we got answers! (Appendix A: How to Apologize to all your friends and acquaintances for being such a god awful know it all. Appendix B: Yo! You don’t look as cute as you think you do in those overalls.)

Whoops, I Did It Again: Learn how baby #2 is usually vastly different then Baby #1 and all your superior knowledge about how to get a baby to sleep turned out to be dumb luck because Baby #2 isn’t playing your game! Special section covers information on how your 3 year old is actually not a rational person who can help with chores or take care of the baby for you. In comparison to your newborn they seem like they are 11, they are not.

I Wish this Would Last Forever: You Find Your Groove. You put on non-yoga pants and a proper top. You go out with your girlfriends, you rekindle a little romance. Your kids are basically predictable and love you.  You dictate 90% of your kids clothing, food, travel plans, friends, sleep patterns. Bring. It. On.

Groundhog Day: WILL THIS, FOR THE LOVE OF PETE, Never End: Seriously, boredom sets in, the same old, same old. You can’t possibly read “Rotten Ralph” one more time. Chicken nuggets and fish sticks have become stale and gummy. Been to the pool, been to the park, volunteered on that PTA, the magic is gone.

SHIT, What the HELL?! The Middle School & Early Teen Years: Don’t nobody know nothin’. Endurance is the name of the game here. You will be too strict or too permissive. Your kid will be too popular or friendless, they will be stressed with good grades or relaxed with crappy grades. The ground is shifting, you have no control, EVERYONE is unsettled. (Special chapter is devoted to ways to humiliate your child – breath, dance a little, sing in the car, have an opinion, ask their friends questions, wear your clothes, laugh, breath more.)

Mistakes Were Made (Swearing, R Movies and Giving Up, Just a Little Bit): The late teen years you loosen the reins because you have learned that they do a lot of what they want before their ridiculous 8:30 pm curfew. You pay attention, but a little less. You realize you made some mistakes. You were too controlling or you were too permissive. You expected too much, you expected too little. You spied too much, you didn’t pay enough attention. Too restrictive on screens, not restrictive enough. (Special Appendices Include: Good hobbies for middle aged people. A list of age inappropriate TV shows to watch with your kids – being bad never felt so good. Links to YouTube videos that will brighten your day and delight your teen. Tips on how to deliver teen slang – tips don’t work, you can’t do it, but it’s funny to practice.) As long as you can still laugh with your kids, all should be fine.