No More Morning Mayhem

Does it feel like groundhog day at your house? The same routine . . . hit snooze, gently wake up kids, they ignore you, go in and fiercely wake up kids. Berate them, berate yourself. Blame them, blame your spouse, secretly blame yourself. Why? Why? WHY?

I don’t know why - but it seems to happen to all of us - below are 5 possible ways to transform morning mayhem into moderately magical mornings.

  1. Acceptance: Accept that mornings are hard, just because they are hard. If you live with little kids they know that getting out of their pajamas means being separated from their very favorite person on the planet (you!). Little ones will beg, borrow and steal to stay in their jammies so they can STAY WITH YOU! If you live with teens - their circadian rhythm is BEGGING them to stay up until midnight and sleep until 8am. Teens will beg, borrow and steal to stay in their beds. If we know it’s hard we will prepare, strategize and be kinder to ourselves, and them.

  2. De-Clutter: Imagine . . . there is only one pair of shoes per person at the front door. Imagine . . there is only one or two coats on their hook to choose from that is close to being the right thickness/weight for the weather. Imagine. . . the kitchen table is clear, ready for todays breakfast. Imagine . . when they pull out a shirt from their drawer, 27 other shirts don’t pop up and onto the floor. Imagine . . the calendar has lots of buffer space, there is NOTHING planned for this afternoon, what magical thing can happen between parent and child?

  3. Say it Once: If you live with anyone 5 and over they KNOW they need their shoes on. They know. In their heart of hearts they are super duper clear, “We wear shoes outside.” Nagging, repeating and reminding weirdly soothes our anxiety - but at the cost of irritating and damaging our relationship with our kids. Say it Once is a practice for advanced personal growth. It takes effort, it is powerful.

  4. Act As If: Kids want to mostly cooperate. They might not care as passionately about being on time as we do, but they do want to cooperate. Consider that our ‘over caring’ about being on time gives them the time/space/opportunity to not care at all. So, ‘act as if’ your child will come to the car if you leave 5 minutes early. Act as if your child will put on his own pants and you can confidently walk downstairs and start the dishwasher without yelling reminders.

  5. Courage: Mornings take some creativity, some experimentation. It takes courage to walk out of the house with a 6 year old that hasn’t eaten breakfast, or a teen that is still in bed, or a 7 year old with un-brushed hair. Through your courage you will find creative solutions.

Join me Wednesday, October 23rd for a PEP (Parent Encouragement Program) webinar on this very topic, No More Morning Mayhem. We’ll chat solutions, watch role plays for do’s and don’ts and leave you with actionable tips and tidbits to create less mayhem and more magic in the morning.

"My spouse and I watched the morning routine webinar together and it was very helpful. We tried the "meet you at the door" approach this morning, rolled with their choice of attire and breakfast, and we actually all made it out the door on time with no yelling or nagging. THANK YOU." 

--Participant, PEP Online

Top 7 Ways to Make SURE Your Kids Won't Help Around the House

Don't we all just wake up one day and think, "Wait, what?! Why am I doing EVERYTHING?"  

Usually I like to to be positive, and tell you what you CAN do. But let's mix it up. . . 

I have seven terrible ways to try get kids to do chores. If you want the more encouraging ways - click on the button below, but for today, let's have a little negative-o fun!

HOW TO NOT GET YOUR CHILD TO DO CHORES:

1. Let them do nothing until they are 11 and then demand they get off their butts and help.

2. Be super duper inconsistent. No chores until you've had it, then chores for three hours until you are done, gosh dern it! Add in copious yelling and shaming - kids love that.

3. Hate chores yourself, talk disparagingly about household tasks. Complain bitterly about the lack of help from your spouse.

4. They give an inch, you take a mile. Kids are jolly helping you shred the cheese, you demand they set the table. Kids happily (or not hostiley) fold their clothes, you insist they clean out the crap from underneath their bed.

5. Only interact over chores when you are terse, angry, annoyed, overwhelmed, embarrassed, at your wits end.

6. Expect your child to want to do chores, nay - expect your child to be grateful for doing chores. Have't they read the long term studies about chores and children? Don't they realize that YOU giving THEM chores is an act of LOVE? 

7. Never accept a "No" from your child when you request help with a chore. (Pssst, if it's not optional - do NOT ask, instead say, "Jimmy, you may help me clear the dishwasher now.")


Homework Hassles

They’re baaaackkkkkkk! Homework hassles are back. Anyone gritting their teeth and saying, “This year it’s GONNA be different”?  It’s a fresh start, a new you, spanking clean spirals, freshened up back packs, sanitized lunch pails. All is right with the world, right? Fast forward a week, or two – forgotten assignments, pop quizzes, obsessive checking the online grading portal by us, unauthorized phone use by children. Deefeat and sadness replaces the fresh start.. Yelling, nagging, threatening ensue. Let’s get back on track!

Devices:  Get technology tamed early in the game. Come up with family boundaries (that means you too!).  Here are some ideas to spark your thinking: everyone phone free from 7-9:30, lap tops in public spaces, computers off 30 minutes before bed, tv watching only Thursday – Sunday, phones spend the night together in the kitchen. These are not the rules, they are jumping off points for you and your family to discuss. People (including kids) respect the limits if they help set the limits. Try this,  “Ok folks, this is an experiment just Sunday night – Friday morning, we can all live with that, right?” Much easier to tolerate a new idea if it’s only for a limited number of days. After a few weeks of experimentation you might find a happy middle ground for you and the kiddos.

Homework Help: I know how satisfying it is to edit that term paper, or instruct them to re-write something because you know they can write more neatly.  Homework is really a tool for the student and the teacher.  It’s very disrespectful to assume the child does not have it handled. Consider that it’s a big relationship drain when we try to be the parent, and the tutor, and the teacher, and the cheer leader, and the copy editor, and the calendar minder. You are the parent. Be available to support, listen, love, laugh and buy school supplies.  Ask what reminders might be useful to them and then focus on your own big life.

It takes a village:  Kids really do run into trouble. Don’t take it all on yourself. If you’ve butted out of the homework and things are nose-diving – go talk to the teacher, the school counselor, the class aide. Think of these conversations as being more then one complete and satisfying event. Gather information, leave with some new ideas, let questions and comments percolate. Children are unfolding – you can’t solve it all NOW (as much as you want to). 

Your kids homework is for your kids. Allowing kids to experiment, struggle, fail, succeed, work too hard, procrastinate, be a perfectionist, lose things, find things, triumph and ultimately learn something is a labor of love worth investing in.

The Art of the Consequence

What trips us parents up when it comes to consequences is consistency. It's a magical, mystical, paradoxical art. Some of us are super duper inconsistent. "I don't really feel like getting them to bed right now, one more game on the i pad won't ruin them." Some of us are too consistent, "No way, they can't stay up to hang with their out of town cousins, bed time IS 7:30, NO exceptions!" What's a parent to do?

1. Your child will help you figure out if you have a consequences consistency problem. If there is a lot of push back, whining, negotiating around every single limit or boundary - you might be the teeniest bit inconsistent. I've said it before, I'll say it again, kids are very, very under-employed and have a lot of time on their hands. IF they want that sleepover tonight with Zoey, even though they slept over at Zoey's last Saturday, and Sunday was a living hell of over tiredness. . . . they will beg, borrow, plead, barter and cry to get to you to let them do it. Because, why not? They don't have anything else to do but hit their little brother and take a bath!

2. Better to have too few consequences then to inconsistently hold-ish up a bunch of them some of the time. Pick  very few consequences that reflect your core values and work on those. Let the rest go. Meal times important? Have a consistent meal time with consistent consequences for lateness, rudeness or bad manners and let go of making the bed for a while.

3. Let the house rules limit the number of consequences by heading off common problems and areas of conflict. Sleepovers once a month. TV & video games played Friday - Sunday. Desserts every weekend night. (Do you see what I did there? I phrased everything as a positive - I didn't say "No desserts during the week!" "NO TV during the week", "You can NOT have more then one sleep over a month." Language matters!

4. Let the ecology of the house uphold consequences. Devices and screens in public areas, if devices are found elsewhere they are put away for 24 hours (be reasonable folks, making kids suffer does not teach). This goes for us too. If we, or a beloved screen addicted spouse, lays in bed with their i pad - you are going to have some problems. 

5. Keep your cool, man! Seriously, kids are gonna sneak, and beg, and get over tired, and roll their eyes, and try, try, TRY to get one more minute on their phones. They just are. You might want to review this nifty tip, I'll wait. The Only Shocking Part . . . For real people, this IS the job. They aren't being bad AND they aren't angels. The more we keep our cool and stop being totally shocked and have our hearts broken when they test the limits and need a consequence, the better we will be able to handle the situation AND get on with our day.

6. Keep consequences reasonable, related, respectful, revealed in advance and be sure that they teach responsibility. If you hit your brother at dinner the consequence should not be - lose YOUR phone for a WEEK, YOUNG MAN. Consequences do NOT work if we are too Draconian and try to nip it in the bud by being super mean. The consequence might be that dinner is over for people who hit, and breakfast will be available in the morning. Or the hitter has to get up and get ice for the hit-ee and apologize. Or the hitter switches places with Dad so hit-ee is a safe distance from hitter.

If you need more help with consequences and discipline, click on the button below and join me for an online class.

The Heart of Discipline

Discipline feels hard and mean . . .

Discipline feels hard and mean . . .

Discipline is often used when we mean punishment. “I’m going to discipline you!” means, “I’m going to make you suffer for your transgression, and if you feel really bad I believe you won’t do it again.” Discipline, however, means ‘to teach’. Whoa! If I discipline you I mean to teach you something. And at the heart of discipline is to teach our kids self-discipline. Below are 4 non-mean ways to create more discipline in your family.

Modeling: We all know the yelling has to stop, it’s just that we want our kids to go first. Once they stop upsetting their sibling, or stop leaving dishes in their bedrooms or stop procrastinating on their homework, then we can be calm and disciplined. Uh oh? We have to go first. Once we stop upsetting our kids, once we clean up the kitchen, once we stop procrastinating on our chores - then our family might be calm and disciplined - consider it.

Development: Sometimes we are disciplining the wrong child. We can waste a lot of time trying to ‘discipline’ our two year old out of saying no, our four year old out of having tantrums, or 7 year old from fibbing, or our teen from eye rolling. Remember, a lot of kids “mis-behavior” is normal and annoying developmentally APPROPRIATE behavior. Sometimes I wonder how I would react if my kids tried to discipline me out of needing reading glasses, or shamed me because I was wee bit absent-minded (both normal and annoying developmental issues for middle-aged people).

Practice, Practice, Practice: Discipline takes practice. In our impatience we actually make discipline take LONGER. When a child knows they can make mistakes and have another chance, when we KNOW our child can make mistakes and have another chance, we spend more time supporting then we do rescuing. Kids need creative ways to solve their problems and it takes practice, practice, practice.

Shame-less: If we want our kids to practice self-discipline it’s more efficient, loving and encouraging if we stop using shame. Being disappointed or mad at them on a consistent basis teaches our kids to be ashamed of themselves. They might put on a big blustery bravado show of not caring, but usually, inside, they can shrivel up and whither under the parental judgment and disapproval. Creativity, courage and cooperation do not grown in a climate of shame, judgment, condemnation and disappointment.

3 Things My Teens Taught ME**

It LOOKS like they are relaxing, but really, they can be very wise . . . .

It LOOKS like they are relaxing, but really, they can be very wise . . . .

I've been living with teens for about 6 years now. And while I thought it was my job to teach them, turns out they taught me a thing, or three.

1. I don't have to be liked to be loved.

My younger teen looked at me, at our final college tour, and said, "I don't know how, but EVERYTHING you do is annoying." This wasn't my first rodeo so I took this comment lightly. I texted the quote to his older brother who laughed heartily and said, "I remember those days, it will pass." I left him alone, not 15 minutes later we were sitting together laughing at the dinner the table. Teens teach you ARE annoying AND they love you anyway.

2 Control Doesn't Make a Grown-Up

Too much control can make us feel like good parents, that our kids our safe, that they will have a straight shot out of adolescence. Turns out, too much control makes you tired and angry and makes them sneaky and rebellious. Now, we can't give up. We still need to provide teens with firm boundaries and appropriate limits. However, control isn't an insurance policy and doesn't teach them much except how to work a work around.

3. I Don't Have All the Answers

Once I got used to this one, it was very, very relieving. I don't know the best way to get homework done. I don't know how tired they are. I don't know their interior goals. Now, it's taken me these full 6 years to start correcting my OWN righting reflex (the reflex to comment on every darn thing someone is doing and how they could do it the teeniest bit better because you really love the person). My instinct is still to tweak how they do stuff, but sometimes I catch myself BEFORE, sometimes during, and when I do it after, I can apologize.

3.5 Teens are Hilarious & Insightful

I love that you can let your guard down with teens, watch edgy tv shows and movies, share in discussions of current events, and generally they crack me up. I've also found that my teens know me very well and can offer up insightful advice to me. Tweak a decision of mine to make it better, modify a reaction to be a wee bit more sane and deliver it (mostly)  with a sense of humor so I can receive it.

**Originally published May 24, 2017

Planting Seeds

As parents we are always planting, sowing and harvesting seeds through our actions and behaviors. We want to be sure we are planting seeds we want to see flourish, and not weeds that we will have to yank up later.

Plant the Seeds of Calm: We need to manage our anger (not eradicate, or pretend it isn’t there). Click for a 3 part blog posting about anger. We help our kids identify and manage their anger as well. Not ‘letting’ kids get angry is not getting rid of their anger - it’s usually planting seeds of feeling suppression (eek!). Calm grows in a soil of routine and predictibility with lots of buffer space in our calendar, our clutter and our minds.

Plant the Seeds of Independence: Chores and self-care are great ways to sow the seeds of independence. Be aware we must be willing to endure our kid’s mistakes as they are learning. Independence comes at the cost of trial and error, mess and slowness. Best if they make a bunch of cheap mistakes when we are around to help them clean up. We don’t want to send them off to college and have to experience the inevitable hard knocks of life with no experience.

Plant the Seeds of Order: Routine is a calming, relationship building, overlooked, hard to start, irritating to maintain parenting tool. AND, we would all be well served with solid, reasonable, respectful, age appropriate routines. The up front effort to start a routine is immense AND pays off in spades when you magically find your child mindlessly unpacking their lunch box and plopping their tupperware in the dishwasher (it can happen!).

Plant the Seeds of Connection: Connection comes through communication. The most important and overlooked kind of communication is listening. Our kids behave from what they think and believe, the don’t behave from what we told them to think and believe, and they don’t behave from what we think they think and believe. Best way to change/modify/impact behavior - find out what they think and believe by asking open ended questions and listening.

Plant the Seeds of Love: Have fun together! I believe the glue of long lasting relationships is problems and fun. Life throws us problems - no need to go and create anymore, but FUN we need plan form, make time for and be open to. Anchor your weekends with a goody or two - maybe a family walk in the park for you and a lunch at Chuck E. Cheese for them. A good laugh over a tv show or a hilarious YouTube video can give you stress relief, bonding and something fun to talk about besides how controlling you are and how messy they are.

Plant the Seeds of Discipline: Discipline and freedom go hand in hand. Some of us a are too stingy with the freedom and some are too lax about the discipline. We want to balance these two out. When we give a freedom, what’s the new responsibility and when we hand over a responsibility, where is the new freedom? Click here for some examples on HOW to do this!

Plant the Seeds of Growth: It’s a paradox, the more our kids need us, the more we need to focus on self-care. When things get stressful we need to double down on taking care of ourselves. It feels selfish, and it’s really the best energy source so that we can continue planting, sowing, tending and harvesting all our little seeds. Click here for some quick self-care tips.

Weeds to AVOID Planting: Yelling, nagging, reminding, rescuing, enabling, scolding, punishing, permissiveness, making excuses, doing things for kids they can do for themselves, pity, solving other peoples problems, worrying, ignoring problems, not taking care of ourselves, awfulizing.

When we focus on what we WANT to see we will watch our little family flourish and grow!

It's NOT My FAULT!

Messy children, whiny children, a bad back, a crummy boss, a lack of motivation, too much procrastination, a stale marriage, a load of debt, a cluttered house, an extra 15 lbs, an 'experimental' teen (drugs, drinking, sex), an unsupportive mother.

It's easy, comfy and safe to stay in the rut of complaining and blaming. As a MASTER of this type of thinking, I know it's a long road to nowhere worth going. Trust me, or don't trust me, and come meet me later when you are done with your own long road to nowhere worth going. We can meet on the path to responsible (not enabling) thinking, behaving and action. How?

1. NOTICE that you are complaining. Are you telling the same story again and again? Are you kind of excited to tell the story to strangers about this tragic thing that HAPPENED TO YOU? Now, this is tricky, the telling can be cathartic, affirming, opening and good. The over-telling can be habit forming, keep us stuck, whiny and victimized.

2. TRY NEW LANGUAGE. Easy as that (hahahhaha), try some of these new phrases to lead you out of victimization and into new thoughts, new habits and new action. AND . . . Bada Boo Bada Bing,  NEW RESULTS. This will take a LOT of practice. Luckily life throws lots of whiny kids, stale marriages, bad backs, crummy bosses, cluttered houses and those middle age extra pounds to keep us in practice.

EXAMPLES
Instead of: You should clean your room.

Try: It's important to me that you know how to clean up after yourself. Would you be willing to meet once a week for 15 minutes to tidy your room?

Instead of: I need to lose 10 lbs.

Try: I choose to focus on realistic portions for the next few months until I am back to a healthy weight range (plug in actual number!)

Instead of: You NEVER are on time.

Try: I am often waiting for you when we say we are going to meet. Tomorrow,  I'm willing to wait 15 minutes and then I'm going to go ahead and leave and run errands.

REPEAT as needed.

For more expert information, inspiration and language, read parenting coach Suzanne Ritter's Washington Parent Article, Empowering Yourself With Words. Check it it out for more details!


Organizing: Best of Summer

Summer vacation is a great time to get organized!

Summer vacation is a great time to get organized!

Just today I helped a client, who is selling her house, clean out a little kitchen closet. Peeking in, it wasn't so bad, nothing to be ashamed of AND when we attacked it. . . WHOA what energy, motivating thoughts and pride did it unleash. When we were done we had generated 1/2 a bag of trash, 4 boxes of donate and 1/4 bin of recycling. As we stood back together and looked at our work we were filled with satisfaction, pride and energy to attack something else. We underestimate what a cheap and wonderful drug sorting, purging and organizing our stuff can be. (And no side effects!).

Here's a breezy summer listicle to get you thinking about tidying up before school starts

1. You don't have to begin with the end in mind. When we walk into our kids messy, cluttered, over-stuffed room we don't have to KNOW what to do. One thing professional organizers are really good at is sorting as WAY to figure out what the answer is. The answer comes THROUGH the sorting up into our brain, NOT from our brain into our sorting. 

2. If you need sorting primer, please click here!

 3. When we start we often get mad at ourselves that we didn't do it earlier so we ruin a perfectly good organizing session by ending it with beating ourselves up. Guys, sometimes our stuff needs to ripen or marinate. Sometimes time is exactly what those papers needed to get either thrown our put in the new memory box. Speak nicely to yourself. Here's a little piece on how Turmeric from 2007 showed me how discouraging I am with myself. 

4. Kids act like it's Filene's Basement, but want it to be Barney's. Less is more to them. Kids will use more art supplies the less they have of them. Artfully display them on an empty kitchen counter, just a couple things, don't say a WORD and watch how they suddenly use those oil pastels Nana gave them last Christmas. (Marketing is very important when it comes to kids).

5. Organizing is one of those tasks, like weeding, that is more fun if there is a group. If you have trouble getting started, don't go it alone, ask a fun friend or a non-judgey relative, or a professional organizer to come and help. When we try to go it alone we get lost in thoughts, in perfection, in the memories.

6. Anything you can do now to decrease the clutter before the school year starts will pay off in spades. A clear physical space promotes calm AND creativity.

Bad Behavior! Teens and What To do About It

Teens are experimenting . . .

Teens are experimenting . . .

Eventually, our teen tries stuff. They lie, they experiment with drugs, booze, sex, porn and many, many other normal and annoying teen behaviors. When we find the red solo cup, or the beer pong balls, or discover they have partied at our house - we can be ready instead of devastated. Below is a short list of ways to handle the bad behavior, WHILE keeping the connection with our beloved teen.

Logical Consequence: Logical Consequences are something we set up with our teen on a topic that has been repeated. The consequence includes these 5 “R’s”. Related, Respectful, Responsible, Reasonable, Revealed in Advance (meaning we don’t spring this on our teen in a moment of exasperation). Logical consequences do not include: shame, blame, pain, or humiliation. Now, the teen might feel pain or humiliated, BUT we do not try MAKE them FEEL anything in particular. We are always looking for ways to promote responsibility and respect. For example, teen is over 30 minutes late for curfew on Friday, they don’t go out Saturday night. Next weekend they can try again. They might feel humiliated when they have to tell their friends, it might be painful to stay home, AND we are not concerned with that, we are concerned with upholding a limit with mutual respect

Solve the Problem: Define the problem (consider whether this might actually NOT be OUR problem - grades, social life, their bedroom, their money), brainstorm options, consider and choose a solution, try it for a trial period - then talk again - did it solve the problem? Problem solving takes more time then punishing, dictating or yelling, AND problem solving is very relationship building. Just a parent and a teen listening to each other define the problem is a way to get to know each other better, to expand our understanding and empathy. I can assure you, middle aged people see problems VERY differently then teens. I can also assure you, teens are good problem solvers -they are creative, they are willing to try new things and most of them have a very developed sense of justice (I’m not saying they are always right or wise, just that justice is a real teen thing).

Natural Consequence: What happens if I do nothing? Nothing except show compassion and understanding without enabling or rescuing. What happens if they get a bad grade? Get caught underage drinking at a party of friend? Sometimes the teacher, the friend, the friend’s parent, the cop can deliver a message in a way our teen can receive it WAY better then our lectures (especially if we have said it more then 2-3 times). Most of us, if we go back into the rolodex of our mind, have learned our lessons from a natural consequence, not from a punishment/lecture doled out from our parent.

Share Information: Information can really help. But usually in micro-doses, and most of it from the teen discovering the information. As problems pop up, have the teen research - actually research the law - not what they think, not what their friends have told them, but the actual law where they live. What happens to an underage kid caught smoking weed, caught with weed, caught speeding, caught shoplifting, caught sexting, what is the legal age of sexual consent? Then it’s not all your judgment, but the actual law adding its two cents to the conversation. You can add in some stuff you learn, but BEWARE over researching FOR the teen, they won’t be able to receive that information as well as if they research themselves.

Get Outside Help: If you have passed ‘alert’ and moved into ‘alarm’ - go get help, for your teen, for you, for your family. Mental health issues, substance issues. Ask for help early (before a major crisis) so that you have a person, a place, a trusted advisor should things get worse. Again, remember to get help for yourself too - focusing 100% on the teen and getting them ship shape can be a dangerous place to be.

Soothe Our Own Anxiety: Living with teens is like hiking the Rocky Mountains - majestic, awe inspiring, uncomfortable, scary, filled with high highs and low lows. Click here for a little essay on this topic. Remember that our anxiety is not helpful. Our anxiety can make us over-react or under-react. Build up your arsenal of self-care (click here for some self care ideas and click here for some help knowing with junk food stress is vs. nourishing stress). When our kids are teens is the perfect time to pick up a new hobby - meditation, Scottish Dance, needlepoint, a new language, photography, pilates, spinning, birding, join a band, learn the banjo, start a podcast (these are all ACTUAL things people I know with teens have DONE). Remember that this phase of teens and bad behavior isn’t forever. When we take the time to soothe our own anxiety we can then stay connected to our beloved teen.

So You Have a Picky Eater!

Use Positive Parenting to Encourage Healthy Eating Habits**

As the parent of a picky eater, I tried every trick in the book to get my child to eat. I lectured, bribed, bartered, cried, cajoled and took rejected foods out of rotation. Along that journey, I learned a lot about what works and what doesn't, and I gradually found a way to approach food with energy and enthusiasm - and without control and obsession.

Food and eating are topics that generate a lot of parental guilt and angst, as well as repeated (and continually un-resolved) power struggles. Breakfast and dinnertime can become battlefields. Sometimes we score a victory. Maybe, after much coercion, one lima bean is consumed. But we often win that teeny lima bean battle at the cost of our relationship with our kids and a predictable, peaceful mealtime. Add to that situation the ever-increasing diagnoses of obesity, anxiety, depression and ADHD, and food and nutrition become dicey parenting dilemmas.

Food and nutrition are important and deserve our attention and care. However, attention and care do not include control, anxiety, permissiveness, giving up/giving in, lectures, demands or bribing. In order to create healthy attitudes toward food, we need to keep two parenting priorities in mind: meeting "the needs of the situation" and maintaining mutual respect. We call this positive parenting and this method can get us out of the weeds of power struggles or permissiveness and into good, healthy and productive relationships to last a lifetime. After all, childhood eventually ends, but our relationship with our child never does.

The needs of the situation

Meeting the needs of the nutrition and food situation begins with gathering information about the impact of food on our moods, our mental health and our physical well-being. To find out more, I interviewed Linda Petursdottir, a certified nutrition and wellness coach with expertise in functional medicine. Linda explained that our gut and brain are in conversation with each other and surprisingly our gut talks more to our brain than vice versa. In other words, what we ingest directly impacts our moods and behavior. The typical American diet, which is high in refined sugars and processed food, gives our brain a quick surge of energy and good feelings - but at the cost of feelings of depression and anxiety as soon as that high wears off. Poor gut health directly impacts our ability to produce serotonin, and decreases in serotonin trigger symptoms of depression.

Mutual respect

When we find that our family's nutritional options and meal preparations need fine-tuning, it is up to us as parents to take responsibility. Linda Petursdottir explains, "Parents are responsible for the food they bring into the house, and kids are responsible for what they eat." While our kids are young, we parents have almost 100 percent control over what comes into our house and enters our kids' bodies. That changes as kids get older and have money and access to convenience "food" stores. Mutual respect means that as we make changes we allow kids time and space to adapt. Mutual respect means we provide for our kids' needs and some of their wants.

Getting started

Where do we begin? Do we throw out ALL the sugar? Go vegan? Eliminate gluten? Petursdottir has a saner suggestion - one we can all start working on today: adjusting our mindset. "I always like to focus on the mindset of abundance rather than deprivation," Petursdottir says. "While I don't disagree that parents need to cut things out, I think it's healthier to think of what's missing. Start by simply tracking what you eat in a day, and if you are not eating the recommended 4-8 daily servings of fruits and vegetables, then that's where you can start."

Use family challenges. How can we go from 1 to 2 servings a day to 3 or 4? When we start adding healthy foods to our daily routine, then naturally some of the unhealthy choices start falling out - without creating feelings of despair and deprivation. Petursdottir says, "It becomes a more positive environment when we create healthy new habits rather than just thinking, ' We have to cut out soda. The fried food has to go. No more Chinese take-out .' That needs to happen, too, but I always want to start with the mindset of abundance. What foods can we add that are really health-promoting?"

Making lasting changes

Let's look at the family's development of healthy eating habits as a platform on which to grow our parenting muscles. We can create deeper and more robust relationships with our kids while at the same time improving our own health and getting to know ourselves. The important thing to do is to be honest about our current habits and start exactly where we are. Guard against drastic changes that are too hard to maintain and that will just make you throw in the towel in frustration. If you slip up, get right back on track rather than putting it off until tomorrow or next week.

Here are some steps you can take right away to get your family started on the path to better eating habits.

To Do This Week

  1. Go through your cupboards and pitch half of the high-sugar items

  2. Add fish once a week

  3. Put healthy options in prime real estate - for example, at the kids' eye level in the pantry, within easy access on the fridge door, on the countertop, washed and ready to grab

  4. Add in Meatless Monday

  5. Sign up for a Community Supported Agriculture or take your family to the local farmers market

  6. Plant a basil plant (or any other easy-to-grow herb)

  7. Drink water instead of juice or soda

Learn More

  • Check out the 100daysofrealfood.com blog and the book "100 Days of Real Food" by Lisa Leake

  • Watch the documentary "Fed Up" on Amazon or go to website fedupmovie.com

  • Make better food choices by using the Healthy Living app put out by the Environmental Working Group (ewg.org), which enables kids and parents to scan foods in the grocery store and get a rating on their selection

  • Get personal support from Linda Petursdottir, Certified Nutrition and Wellness Coach, at simplewellbeing.com

**Published in Washington Parent



FREEDOM + RESPONSIBLITY

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

Usually, us parents either hand freedom over without the corresponding responsibility (give them a phone without knowing they can either help pay or act responsibly with it), or we are heavy on the responsibility but stingy with the freedom (you are in charge of your own laundry, but you have to do it my way, when I say it's time).

This July 4th let's balance out the two. Here's some examples to get you thinking. . .

Phones are purchased AFTER child has earned/saved some of the money needed to get it. AFTER the child has shown they are reliable with the parents devices (stays on age appropriate websites, forks it over when it's time, has minimal breakdowns over the handing over of the device). Child shows responsibility BEFORE they are given a GIANT freedom that most GROWN-UPS have a hard time managing THEMSELVES!

Child is in charge of his laundry.  Child chooses when to do it, child can watch tv while clothes are being folded (they might take longer then one show to sllloooooowlllyyyyyy fold their clothes).  Child then experiences the delicious freedom that comes with the laundry responsibility. 

Child's room is a disaster, parent can decide that there will be no more money spent on clothes because the parent is unwilling to add to the mess. Child experiences the lack of freedom to purchase new clothes when the responsibility is shirked for caring for the current clothes he has.

When a child wants a new freedom, brainstorm a matching responsibility. When you give the child a new responsibility, brainstorm a new freedom that comes with it.

“If you want children to keep their feet on the ground, put some responsibility on their shoulders.”
– Abigail Van Buren

 

 

Magical Thinking: The Land of Organized

There's no place like home - especially when it's neat and tidy!

There's no place like home - especially when it's neat and tidy!

We think "Being Organized" is a mystical, magical land where you are your best self at all times. In "Being Organized", all the planning, purging and organizing will stop strep throat, tantrums and device over-usages in their tracks. Because it's so mystical and magical over there we never really believe we can get there from plain old, always late, slightly messy and disheveled over here.

Guys, "Being Organized" is just a regular old place. We can get there - think Dorothy's journey in Oz. Dorothy always had the power in those Ruby Slippers.  We do too.  I am not saying it's EASY, or RELAXING, or YOU WILL EVER FEEL LIKE DOING IT. I'm just saying, it's not some mystical techno-color situation over there. Here's what gets in our way of clicking our own Ruby Slippers together.

Magical Starting Place

I need to do the kids rooms first, and THEN I will be content and patient and motivated to attack all my college notebooks. I need to get the kitchen organized, and THEN I will be content and patient and motivated to attack that mess of an attic where I have stored every durn thing any relative has ever handed down to me, ever.

Magical Solution

FIRST I need to go to the Container Store and get that cart for my photo sorting, and THEN I will attack the photos. I need to really 'figure out' how we want to use the basement before I purge the linens. I might, one day, the day after never, need to use that slightly stained comforter, that I really should pitch, so I can fit the air-mattress in the stupid closet. But FIRST, I need to get my husband to sort his high school memorabilia his mom sent. THAT is what is holding me up.

Magical Mindset

I need to be in the mood and build my self-esteem, and THEN I will have all the energy in the world to attack, keep attacking all the clutter. During the entire project I just know I will feel positive and energized. If I stop feeling positive and energized I guess I will need to stop and wait until my Mindset shifts.

Magical Causation Determination

Once I journal about this room, and really am CLEAR WHY it's a disaster, what happened in my child hood - that time my mom scolded me about the room and I thought it was clean. Well, then AFTER that is figured out, THEN I can attack this space. Or I need to 'figure out' why my spouse makes me feel bad about my clutter and once I discover what's wrong with our relationship THEN I can purge my files.

What magical thinking is keeping you on the sidelines of your own life? There is no there there. But the here, right here, right now, could be tidier, more orderly, more on time and then we'd have a little more peace like a river in our soul. Let's click those shoes together and realize we have the magic in us already.

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Pampering vs. Self-Care

We get confused sometimes with pampering and self-care. Maybe we believe doing things like – candlelight, long baths, massages, getting dressed nicely – is saved for when we have a romantic partner. Let’s remember that LOVE is an energy source and what would happen to our energy if we spent time being in love with the ONE person we are with all day long. 

We can be disdainful during the busy season of parenting of all things pampering and spa-like, but let’s turn that on its head and consider that when we spend time on self-care, and self-love, and self-acceptance, we are actually re-energizing the patient part of us, the joyful part of us, the part of us that can give to others. Consider adding in some self-care (love & and acceptance), remember . . . little bits add up. It’s not selfish, it’s a renewable, fabulous energy source! Here are some ideas to get you going. 

1.     Bath with bath salts or oils

2.     Hire a cleaning crew – even once a month to deep clean your house

3.     Massages – even 10 minute neck massages at the mall or the airport 

4.     Pedicures during the summer months

5.     Reading books we love, even if they aren’t productive or literature, or they are books we have read before

 6.     Protecting ourselves from relationships that drain us or make us feel bad (even making that relationship smaller) 

7.     Buying and wearing luxurious pajamas and robes

8.     Spending a little extra for fresh flowers, or the expensive cut of meat we favor 

9.     Sleeping in or napping on the weekends

10.  Taking ourselves out to a movie, or play, or the ballet, or the theater.