Teeny, Tiny, Bitty, Baby Steps

 Teeny, tiny, itty, bitty baby steps!

Teeny, tiny, itty, bitty baby steps!

Coaching clients in organizing and parenting, and trying to make changes in my own life, I have come to see that real and sustainable change comes from repeated, tiny, teeny, bitty little things. After I lead a parenting class, I see the "There's a NEW Sheriff in town" syndrome where parents want to go back home and implement everything. DIVING into the deep end of the pool takes so much energy, is so abrupt and jarring that we quickly swim to the side, heave ourselves out, and head right to the snack bar. Then we pack up our bag, leave and never get into the water again  because it was uncomfortable and non-productive.

INSTEAD, setting and fulfilling the teeniest of goals actually creates dopamine (the feel good drug) in your head. Once the dopamine is flowing we create a self-sustaining energy source for change. Let's see it in practice.

Parenting - Keep doing all the things you are doing and add in spending 20 minutes a week, scheduled, with each child, one on one, doing what they want (avoid screens). If you are a nagger,  keep nagging and write down when you nag to see if you are nagging to relieve stress, or to avoid your own problems, or to make someone do something they really don't want to do. Listen to your child without commenting after the listening (WHAT?! Yes we CAN!).

Workout - honestly, the number one thing that helps EVERYTHING is working out. It promotes healthy sleep, it creates creativity, it reduces blood pressure. If there was a drug that created as many benefits as working out we would pay SO MUCH MONEY for it. I am passionate about it. I understand you have a 1,000,000 excuses why you can't. Keep those excuses and do it anyway. I'm talking a 10 minute walk around the soccer field when your kids are at practice. Getting outside is awesome because nature and Vitamin D help everything too. If you can't get motivated,  just put on your workout clothes and see what happens. The Kaizen Way has some more awesome tips. Keep reminding your lazy brain that getting started takes 90% of the energy.

Organizing - There is no magical there there if you have been disorganized your whole life. There is no turn-key, there is no mystical book that has THE answer. Part of the trick I learned from David Allen of Getting Things Done, set the bar so low that you find success, not what you expected, huh? Here's the visual that came up in my head.

Imagine you want to play soccer (be organized), the barrier to get onto the soccer field is so, so low you can just lift your foot and swoop, there you are ON the field (open my mail every day, pitch the trash and put bills in 'action' and the rest in 'pending'). Then when you look around a few days later (and the mail has piled up, because it will) you think to yourself, "I'm a soccer player! Look, I'm on the field, not still sitting in the stands."  ("I'm an organized person"), and off you go to participate (re-boot your mail). Not, oh my gosh, I'm a loser, I'm never going to get off the bench (Oh my gosh, I'm a loser, I'll just do the mail tomorrow and have a coke and lie down right now.)

Teeny, tiny, itty, bitty, baby steps. We often discount them because they are "too easy". DO. NOT. OVERLOOK. THE. BABY. STEPS! (I am yelling, in a loving and nurturing way.)

Micro Goals is a quick article about the same thing.

Spring Cleaning

“Clutter can play a significant role in how we feel about our homes, our workplaces, and ourselves. Messy homes and workspaces leave us feeling anxious, helpless, and overwhelmed. Yet, rarely is clutter recognized as a significant source of stress in our lives,” Psychologist Sherrie Bourg Carter wrote in an article for Psychology Today.

This is a quote from this Parenting Isn't Easy blog that's making the rounds on Facebook.

Sometimes we can truly fix a parenting problem simply (not easily) by de-cluttering, purging, re-booting and tidying up. TODAY you can do one or all of these things.

1. Get your taxes in order - what is ONE action you can do today? Find accountants phone number. Download forms from investments. Fill out two pages of the organizer? Getting started IS the solution. (Beating yourself up will only slow you down.)

2. Each person gets two coats and two pairs of shoes in the entry way. The entry way is the window to the soul of your house. Make it easy going, clear, and peaceful. 

3. Buy condolence cards-sad things happen, we want to be able to send a hug as soon as possible.

4. Get more sleep! Fatigue causes brain clutter, brain clutter causes stuff clutter, stuff clutter causes relationship clutter. Turn your phone / devices off at 9pm tonight! See what happens.

5. Contact me for assistance! (see below)

Taming the Overwhelm, Part 1 of 2

 It's all too much!

It's all too much!

Originally published in the March 2018 Glover Park Gazette

We know family life is stressful. Anyone else try to jam five pounds of stuff into a one pound bag? We have carpool, we have to manage those darn devices, we have to cook healthy meals, we have to keep the house clean and organized, we have to save for retirement and tidy the yard. It IS actually OVERWHELMING.

When we feel overwhelmed we become stressed, cranky, short-tempered, terse, naggy. We talk to ourselves like, “I can’t stand this. They should do what I say. I am always yelling. They are always fighting”  Our feelings and emotions are our fuel. When we use fuel like anger, fear, anxiety that comes from overwhelm we usually leave behind some pretty toxic relationship debris. I shudder to think of the shame, blame and pain I accidentally heaped on my beloved children trying to get out the door every morning.

On the other hand, when we are in the process of taming the overwhelm (It will never be fully tame. We have got to keep our expectations realistic.) we have access to patience, calm, and creativity.  We start talking to ourselves like, “I got this. My kids are mostly cooperative.” (NOT obedient!). “I can focus on work today. We are a perfectly good enough family.”

When we are using overwhelmed fuel we tend to reach for caffeine, booze, gossip, mindless internet search. When we using the tamed fuel we tend to reach for working out, truly resting, hanging out with friends, food that really nourishes. Whatever cycle we are in, it usually reinforces itself.

What are we supposed to do?! The first thing is to ask the proper question. NOT, the very self-satisfying and yet super ineffective one, “When are those guys going to shape up and do what I say so I can be the parent I want to be?” The question that will yield the most results is, “Who do I need to be to tame the overwhelm, foster harmony and cooperation?” You can bet your bottom dollar that who your family needs you to be is not nagging, reminding, cajoling, blaming or yelling!

Who we need to be is a parent who listens, refrains from commenting on every darn thing, and interprets our kid’s behavior compassionately (meaning we don’t take everything they do or don’t do personally). The parent we need to be notices improvement, understands what is normal, passing and annoying developmental behavior and focuses on themselves.

Easy, right?!  HAHHAHAHHAHA! Next month we’ll go into detail on the HOW to do these things. For this month we can focus on who we are being and is it fostering cooperation?




The Power of Sleep

 When life gets overwhelming, instead of nagging . . . try sleeping.

When life gets overwhelming, instead of nagging . . . try sleeping.


Yours, ours, and theirs. It’s a tool. It’s a lifelong skill. When things get rough with a child, go back and clean up bedrooms and everyone's sleep routine. This is a bit of a paradox because you can’t MAKE someone go to sleep AND you can do a lot around the whole sleep topic to make the bedtime/sleep time more effective, successful and pleasant. Take a quick look at Underused Parenting Tool: Sleep for specific recommendations and sleep requirements broken down by age.

If you want more detailed information on sleep and the brain, check out The Organized Mind. Daniel Levitin shares detailed scientific research about sleep and it’s truly fascinating. Here’s a good juicy quote: “Sleep is among the most critical factors for peak performance, memory, productivity, immune function and mood regulation". If you live with children, who couldn’t benefit from better MOOD REGULATION? He is pro nap!  Check out what happens, for you and your young child when we nap: “Naps also allow for the recalibration of our emotional equilibrium-after being exposed to angry and frightening stimuli, a nap can turn around negative emotions and increase happiness." Think new power struggle de-escalation strategy – take a nap!

For the teen set, Michael Bradley has this sobering thought on sleep, ". . .some frighteningly large percentage of what we diagnose, therapies, and powerfully medicate as adolescent mental illness is actually sleep deprivation." Teens need nine hours a night, if they have to wake up at 6:30 am - that's a 9:30 pm bedtime with a DEVICE DOWN time of 8:30pm. Close to impossible in our culture of AP classes, full year sports, and time spent socializing online.

Never underestimate the power of sleep to increase family harmony and cooperation.

Notice What is RIGHT!

 Noticing what is RIGHT promotes creative problem solving....

Noticing what is RIGHT promotes creative problem solving....

When my son was in middle school he had trouble getting up. He set his alarm, he hit snooze, I yelled, nagged, reminded and shamed. One night I decided I was going to take him to a high school open house in the morning, so he didn’t need to be ready for school. I thought this might be a good time to see what would happen if I did nothing. Carpool was coming to our house for his younger brother anyway. His alarm went off, he snoozed, it got later and later. When carpool tooted their horn he came RACING down the stairs, uniform on, teeth unbrushed, hair uncombed, backpack slung over his shoulder. I stopped him before he ran out the door and said, “Wow, I see a kid who wants to get to school on time.” I then informed him he was going to the open house.

Later we chatted about ways to wake up on time. He told me he loved that delicious twilight sleeping between snoozes, and it was hard to get up when he did that. I asked him if he would consider setting his alarm LATER (counterintuitive, and yet genius, I don't mean to sound braggy) and wake up the first time. More sleep, less snoozing. He was willing to try and guess what?! I probably had to help him get up once a quarter. I was no longer worried, upset, anxious or mad at him. I really saw him as someone who could get up on time.

Where can you notice and comment and appreciate what your kid is doing RIGHT?!

Psst...you guys, that means it goes for us too, no more carrying on that we are the worst parents!

Beware - We Are Not Parenting Ourselves

 They have their own mountain to climb . . .

They have their own mountain to climb . . .

Have we accidentally found ourselves in the terrain of parenting our younger self instead of the actual child that lives in our house?

Were we asked to grow up too soon and do too much and maybe parent our own parent so we have given our child our, time, our attention and service? Instead of being grateful and energized by all we have done, they act entitled and unmotivated?

Did we party too much in college? It makes sense to us then put our kids on lock-down so they don't do the same thing, because we think, 'of course they would do the same' instead of observing who they actually are. Maybe they are not as compelled to alter their brains as we were  because they had an entirely different childhood then we had.

Do we feel like we need to control things, stop bad things from happening, give warnings and information because something big and scary happened to an adult in our life that we couldn't control?

Did we have an overly controlling and intrusive parent so we are super laissez-faire with our kid believing that freedom=faith in them?

Our kids were born on a different mountain then us, they have different dragons to slay, they have other demons in their heads. We cannot protect them from the journey, the dragons or the demons. 

When we feel like we are speaking to deaf ears, repeating ourselves, doing things that aren't solving the problem - STOP, and see if we aren't accidentally parenting ourselves. If we are, take a deep breath and look around, it's a new mountain and we are now the support team on their mountain journey. 

Quiet, Shhhhh, Hold On, Give Them a Second

 Shhhh.. ...

Shhhh.. ...

You know that idea that you teach what you need to learn? THIS is what I teach because I need to learn it (and learn it again, and re-learn it, and learn it over and over).

Most of us parents talk too much. It relieves our anxiety, it makes us feel in control and we have so many good ideas. In addition, we aren't such good listeners and we don't practice the patience we so often ask from our kids. We rush our kids, we don't consider, or really even know their thoughts and desires. And you know why we might want to get super duper curious about what our children think, feel, want, need, desire?

Rudolf Dreikurs put it so well .. . . "We need to accept our children as partners in the business of creating family harmony. Their ideas and viewpoints are important, particularly since they act in accordance with them!"

Instead of lecturing your small people this week, try one or more of the below. . . 

1. Talk 80% less at your kids.

2. Give advice only when asked (eek, what? impossible, I know).      

3. What ever advice you want to give them - turn it around on yourself (stop procrastinating, clean your room, go work out, call a friend, get off your device, practice your piano).

4. When it's necessary to give them directions, go to them, get down on their eye level, touch their arm lightly and give the direction.

5. Give them a minute to respond, let their brains work, allow space for cooperation, accept some bad decision making because ...as Mark Twain said . . “Good judgement is the result of experience and experience the result of bad judgement.” Best to get some of that bad judgment out of the way before they leave the house.

6. Ask an open ended question and then listen, and do nothing else. "How can mornings go more smoothly?" "What meal would you like to learn how to cook?" "How can we make 2018 better for our family?"

I promise, if you do one or two of these you will learn A LOT about the people you live with!


 Family Life, it's stressful!

Family Life, it's stressful!

Stress - it's everywhere, we are stressed, our kids are stressed, we are stressed about being stressed. I've come to think about stress a bit like food. We can't NOT have it, AND we have to select nourishing stress over sugary/caffeiney/boozey stress. Let's do a listicle (less stress!):

Junk Food Stress

  1. mindlessly scrolling on social media
  2. comparing our kids to other peoples kids
  3. sugar/caffeine/booze
  4. over-scheduling so we don't have to deal with kids and screens at home
  5. over-spending, using a credit card when it can't be paid in full at the end of the month
  6. too much stuff (shoes, clothes, kitchen gadgets, sheets, towels... jammed up and squeezed in drawers and cupboards)
  7. reinventing the "getting out of the house" or "going to bed" routine every day
  8. our kids problems, that they can/should solve (getting up, homework, friends, fashion)
  9. how our co-parent parents, trying to get them to change
  10. procrastinating (start your taxes, people!)

Nourishing Stress*

  1. waking up early to workout, meditate, journal or read (it IS stressful to do this)
  2. goals that are just out of reach, and not totally crazy
  3. doing Special Time with our kids on a regular basis
  4. menu planning / healthy meals / healthy food in the house
  5. creating and maintaining routines
  6. our own problems (our career, our relationships, our hobbies)
  7. connecting with friends (can be on social media, or the phone, or in person)
  8. making & eating greens, caffeine free drinks, booze free evenings
  9. continually editing our stuff and calendar so it reflects our values
  10. going to the Dr's for annual exams, mammograms, colonoscopys, mole checks, etc

*The "aha moment" is that the good for you stuff causes stress also. Trying to fit it in, not wanting to, it's uncomfortable - all stressful. And at the end of the day the nourishing stress makes us feel good tired and the junk food stress makes feel wired tired.

Ask & Show, Don't Tell

WORDS-training copy.jpg

What do you think training is? (Pssst . . . this is a great way to start training your child – with a question about what they already know!) Go back and think about parents, coaches, bosses, and friends in your past that really trained you well. Did they give lectures? Did they use terse and annoyed voices? What elements inspired you to do well, to try something new, to persevere? Training is not telling your child to do something. Training is asking what task your child might want to do. Training is asking the child to show you what they already know about the task. Watch, listen, learn. Provide some instruction, encouragement, and independence. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Some tasks you can help your child train in include: putting chips in baggies, making a salad, folding towels, sorting laundry, making YOU a cup of tea or coffee, sweeping the porch, buying presents for relatives (use a budget) on Amazon, grating cheese, setting the table (fancy & not fancy), calling a doctor's office to make, cancel or change an appointment, riding the bus. 

Training is relationship building. Remember, do NOT train if it’s really game time, do not train if you are cranky, do not train if you are trying to MAKE the child responsible for his laundry. Training is a life-long skill and a real relationship builder. Such a win/win! Check out Splish, Splash . . . Chores and Seriously, How Do I Get Them to do Chores for a few more tips and tidbits and a sampling of chores by age. 

If you like this Nifty Tip, please forward to a friend, share on Facebook or Twitter! (see Share button below).
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Treat, Treasure or Trash?

 It's tiiiimmmmeee. . . . .

It's tiiiimmmmeee. . . . .

The holidays are officially over. It's time to review Treat, Treasure or Trash.

I love, love, LOVE holiday cards. LOVE, and, it's time to let them go. I will sit down one last time to flip through each and every one. Appreciate everyones kids, vacations and pets and then I will release them. 

Treats: Your holiday cards to me. These are treats. I can watch your life from the sidelines and be grateful you thought of me. However, your holiday card to me is NOT a treasure. I do not need to file it, keep it, store it, box it up, label it, or put a rubber band around it. If I keep your treat, with too many other treats, it turns into trash that I have accidentally filed, kept, stored, boxed, labeled or rubber banded. Who needs trash in their house?

Treasure: My holiday card is a treasure to me. I keep a few so my kids can have copies. I throw a few into my daily tickler file so a few times a month I remember how cute my boys are, how great our vacations are and how much I still love my husband and the Bentley. 

Trash: After January 10th-sh, holiday cards are trash. We pitch the trash and open up our mantle piece, our piano top, our good silver bowl to emptiness. Emptiness invites calmness and creativity. Then we go on to live our own big lives and wait for the days to get short and the 2018 cards to roll in!

Screen Shot 2018-01-09 at 7.43.49 AM.png

The New You!

 Oh, if only it were so as easy as declaring it on a Post It!

Oh, if only it were so as easy as declaring it on a Post It!

Everyone go to the gym? Did we all 'just say no' to that cocktail we promised ourselves we were giving up? Budget anyone? Bueller, Bueller, anyone Bueller?

Turns out we are still our same old selves on January 3rd as we were on Dec 31st. Unfortunately, just as we can't nag, shame, or yell our kids into being different, we can't nag, shame ourselves into our being different either.

Here are a five ideas to keep us realistic as we change, modify, exchange habits that no longer serve us.

1. Add, don't subtract. Instead of thinking, "I'm eliminating cheese!" Think, "I'm adding in guacamole and hummus."

2. 5% is better. Do not minimize tiny, incremental steps. "I wanted to yell every morning at the children to get up, I spoke in a normal voice that one morning. Gee that felt good."

3. It's all about the re-boot. Kitchen counters, front hallways, coat closets, shoe bins, kids cubbies need to be emptied, sorted and 'put to rights' FREQUENTLY. Do not stop because it didn't "STAY ORGANIZED". PEOPLE! Organizing is like sit-ups, you can't do them once and be slender and svelte. 

4. Date your problems. Read, Buy it a Drink!

5. You are still you, they are still them, even if it's 2018. Sit down and ponder that one!

Below are links to a few other posts to keep you thinking, inspired and encouraged about the same old, and yet improved and fantastic 2018 YOU!

This IS Tomorrow

Who Do I Need to Be?

Five Steps to Getting SERIOUSLY Organized this Year

New Years Resolutions

If you like this Nifty Tip, please forward to a friend, share on Facebook or Twitter! (see Share button below).
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Rest, Reflect, Reset

 Bentley is taking a minute to review his year. . . . 

Bentley is taking a minute to review his year. . . . 

There is no parenting finish line, it's more like a giant, cosmic, joke of a game of whack a mole. So instead of trying harder, going faster, comparing ourselves to everyone else we need these tools before we start on a brand new year.

REST - we can't do it all, there are seasons of parenting that need to be respected and honored. Dreaming is a great thing to do while you are resting. try - First a Dream.

REFLECT - what worked in 2017, remember - we can only build our house on strengths, never on weakness. Did we yell less? Did we listen more? Did we laugh heartily? Did we minimize criticism? Did we have fun? Where was I too firm? Where was I too friendly? What tasks can my kids take on for themselves? Where am I over-parenting and where am I under-parenting? Do I need to think about my own life more and let the kids be? Am I working too much and I don't have enough time with them?

RESET - The new year is the perfect time to re-set. If you need help with household chores, maintenance and dinners, check out the FlyLady, she'll get you on track. If you need Parenting support, check out PEP (I'm leading THREE bootcamps this winter!). If you need workout help, try Beachbody On Demand. If you need nutritional support, check out Simple Well Being.

4 Time Management tips for Parenting

 Arggghhhhhhh . . . too much to do in too little time!

Arggghhhhhhh . . . too much to do in too little time!

I love fresh inspiration for old stale problems! Julie Morgenstern, author of Time Management from the Inside Out offers up the 4D's as a way to handle overwhelm. I love it as parenting tool. Let's review!

Diminish - "Yes, and a wee bit smaller, please."

Time Management Hosting a dinner party? Diminish the overwhelm by getting part of the food pre-prepared,  Diminish the overwhelm by NOT using your fancy china, and still use the fancy wine glasses. Think, "How can I get the essence of a fancy party without going crazy."

Diminish: Parenting - Devices, Hello?! Screens are here to stay. Can we diminish the impact having  house rules on bedtime and wakeup time? Diminish by allowing screens in only the public part of the house. Diminish by having one "Device Free" day a week. Diminish by turning off the router at a certain time each evening.

Delete - "No thank you."

Time Management - Just don't do it. Say "no" to the holiday card if you don't love it. Say no to The cookie exchange if it doesn't bring you joy. Say no to the holiday traveling if it brings only stress.

Parenting - Fighting about shorts in winter, either delete shorts (take them out of their room) or delete the fight (you decide not to care about it). Trouble cleaning the playroom - DELETE 80% of crap/stuff in there. Yes, 80%, you will thank me!

Delay - "Yes, and later."

Time Management - Need to clean out the garage? YES! And we don't have time for that during the holiday season. Note your calendar, hire and organizer and schedule for a couple days in March.

Parenting - Child asks if they can go to an edgy concert. A fabulous phrase I learned from PEP, "If you need an answer now, it's no. If you can wait until tonight (or until I talk to your Dad, or until you bring me more information), the answer is maybe."

Delegate - "Yes, and not me."

Time Management - Vacuuming the house before our holiday party goes to our tween. We know we can do it better, AND we are grateful for the mediocre effort the tween does. Delegating means we appreciate help and we act like we appreciate the help.

Parenting - Sometimes we all need a little help. We can't really delegate parenting, and we can take breaks to re-energize. Hand off to a spouse (without a spreadsheet of instructions on how to do it OUR way). Hand off to a reliable teen, an hour to yourself in your house alone while children are outside at the park can do wonders for you, your child and that teen!

In a time management or parenting pickle, think the 4D's!

5 Resolutions for the Holidays

 Originally published in the December 2017  Burleith Bell

Originally published in the December 2017 Burleith Bell

As we enter the crazy season of holidays and vacations and resolutions I’ve been thinking about how our parenting skills can get out of whack and take a beating during this time. Below is a list of holiday and New Years resolutions to ponder.

I resolve to live by “The Less is More” motto.

Less is more toys – let’s just start there.  This is the season of gift giving and let’s all be mindful that the junk we buy our family and friends becomes the  junk they have to nag their kids to pick-up.   The less you have in your house, the less you have to pick up.  Remember that most kids favorite game is to fight with their sibling as close to a parent as possible. No legos needed for that game to work.

I resolve to have realistic expectations.

If you have little kids and you travel on vacation, don’t expect much sleep.  If you have kids and it’s a holiday, expect runny noses, sore throats and head aches.  If you have kids and you go to holiday party, expect sugar highs and bed time lows.  If you have tweens expect that the sweater, or phone, or book you bought them is completely dorky and for losers.  If you have teens expect them to either be out with their friends or asleep.  If you have family traditions with tweens and teens expect eye rolls and groans and sarcasm.  Keep doing the tradition, but expect the push back.  Expect these things and you will have an easier time dealing with them. 

I resolve to take care of myself.

Nag yourself to make your own bed, clean your own room, go outside for some fresh air, find a play date, take a nap, eat something healthy, practice your musical instrument, read a book. You’ll be glad you did.

I resolve to be grateful.

We live in a culture where it’s never enough.  Never enough money, never a good enough education, never a clean enough house, never a healthy enough meal. We live with an attitude of scarcity.  Let’s buck the system and resolve to be grateful for what we have.  Let’s live with an attitude of gratitude.  We don’t have to Keep Up with the Kardashians, let’s just be grateful that we are so fortunate to live in a close knit, beautiful and diverse community.

I resolve to volunteer.

The best way to get that attitude of gratitude is to volunteer your time and services. Shovel a neighbors walk, have your child decorate a homemade card for your neighbor’s birthday, take a dish to the folks down the street with new twins, pick up some trash in front of the bus stop.  There’s always a way to pitch in and it always makes you feel better.

In Conclusion

The holidays are part magic and part drudgery, part delight and part exhausting.  Resolve to abide by one or two of these resolutions and see if you can glide through the season with more grace and gratitude.

Please e-mail me if you have any parenting/organizing questions. Check out www.paigetrevor.com/events to see upcoming online or In the Neighborhood presentations. Join me for a PEP Parenting Bootcamp January 19 and 20 on Capitol Hill and February 2 and 3 in Kensington, MD (save 20% if you register before 2018)