Parenting

The parenting countdown: One…Twoooooo…Two and a Half…

We’ve all done it! The thing where you ask your kid to do something and they don’t listen. You repeat it, with a more stern voice and they still don’t listen. So finally, you give a stern, “One… twooooooooo….” And usually, they listen. Like magic, they do whatever it was that you told them to do two tries ago. The funny thing is, most of us don’t actually know what’s going to happen after we get to “three” when we’re counting, which is exactly why the pause gets longer and we draw the numbers out longer to give them more time to move! But why is this counting technique so magical? Why didn’t they listen the first two times?

It took me awhile to figure this mystery out with my first kid. I was getting so tired of asking and nothing happening until I started counting. But without fail, he listened as soon as I started counting. SO frustrating!! Then I stopped to think about what changed from the first time I asked him to do something and when I started counting. I noticed a few things: 1.) I was no longer asking, it was a command. 2.) My voice was stern and I meant business. 3.) He knew this was the end of the road and a consequence (whatever THAT mystery was supposed to be…) was going to happen next. I used this information to try to hone in on a better system.

I changed my delivery of these commands. And let’s face it, they’re commands. We might “ask” them to go pick up their toys, but in reality, there’s no question about it. We want them to pick them up. We don’t care if they don’t want to or if they don’t feel like it! Why do we even ask them to do it? We need to just tell them. That helped a little, however, I think I had already created a bit of a monster. By asking twice (or more) before the counting/possible consequence took place, I had trained him not to comply until then. I had let him know that it was okay to ignore me until he heard counting. Whoopsie! Here I thought I was being patient, but instead I was feeding the problem. So I realized I needed to move that possible consequence up to the first request. And what do you know? It worked! I would say, “I need you to stop and clean up your blocks. 1…” and like magic, he would go pick up the blocks, then come back to whatever he was doing. Totally evidence that it had been a “me” problem and not a “him” problem.

He’s 14 now and I’m happy to say that I don’t have to count every time I need him to do something. Thank GOD! Ha! I actually don’t even have to command him to do everything. I can ask him to do something and he’ll go do it. I just had to retrain him. I continued the command/counting sequence for awhile and then I could start to leave off the counting. He wasn’t even waiting to hear it anymore. He knew when I told him to do something, it needed to happen immediately and there wasn’t a way around it. Gradually, I could make it more of a conversational thing instead of a command and he would still listen because he was in the habit of doing things immediately as I asked. Luckily, his compliance helped train the rest of the kids as they were growing up. They would see him acting immediately and they started doing the same thing. They’re not perfect and we still have our moments, but for the most part, they know they are to comply with what they’re asked to do the first time. All I had to do was retrain myself!

Self-Development

What Makes A “Friend”

Have you ever noticed that some friendships fade off without you even realizing it? There are people that you gradually see less and less and your life really isn’t much different without them. Before you know it, you haven’t seen or heard from them in years and you’ve kind of forgotten about them. I’ve had many of these over my lifetime. They seemed to be friendships out of convenience. We worked together, we lived next to each other, our families were friends…something that just made it convenient to be friends. It was great while it was convenient and they were lovely people, but once the convenience was gone, so were they. It makes me wonder if they were really a true friend at all. Were they really more of an acquaintance? Exactly what is the difference between a friend and an acquaintance? I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately and have come up with what I think is a great distinction. If they add value to your life, they’re a friend. If they don’t, they’re an acquaintance. But what does that mean?

You may have noticed that you have some friends that when they’re missing from your life, you FEEL it. You notice their absence, you crave time together, you have things you need to tell them. There is something about them and their friendship that adds value to your life. In my mind, this is the meaning of a good friend. If they add value to your life, you’re going to miss them when they’re not there. You will feel the void. Likewise, you add value to their life. I really don’t think you can have a true friendship unless that trait is reciprocated by both of you. It has to be a two-way street. I have had people that I believe saw value that I added to their life. They loved having me as a friend. However, they didn’t reciprocate. I got nothing from our friendship. I gave and gave and gave until I was blue in the face…time, emotions, empathy. In return, I got a demand for even more attention, more time, more effort. It’s exhausting. On the flip side, I have had people that I REALLY wanted to be friends with! I thought they were gorgeous, funny, exciting…and I tried my hardest to fit in and be everything to them. They gave nothing in return, and when I look back, I’m not even sure I was really even adding value to their life. It was more of a desperate attempt to fit in. What a waste of everyone’s time! Those are the kind of relationships that I don’t really think qualify as a friendship. To me, that’s a close acquaintance. You may know them well, but you don’t have a true friendship going on.

Now think about your friendships. If you have a “friendship” where you feel like you are the one giving all the time and you’re not getting anything in return, I want you to really stop and evaluate that. What are you doing in that relationship?!? Self-care is a big, hot topic nowadays and I honestly think evaluating friendships and only keeping the valuable ones is a form of self-care. To be honest, it could be that that “friend” is just not that into you. You might be working so hard to be a good friend that you don’t see it. Don’t waste your time! Or it may be that they’re super self-absorbed and don’t want to invest in somebody else at that point in time. You don’t have time for that! It doesn’t mean you’re a bad person, they’re a bad person, or that there isn’t a friend out there for you. It just means that this one isn’t the best fit at this point in time. Down the road things may evolve and you’ll fulfill a need for each other, but right now, your time and efforts are better spent elsewhere. Now think about your friendships.

Now think about this: Do you have a hard time making friends? Do you feel like you don’t really have anybody that you would consider yourself close to? This is going to be tough to stomach, but stop and think about your interactions with people. Are you actually adding value to people’s lives? Are you fulfilling a need that they have? It’s not enough to just do random things for them that you think a friend would do…it has to fill a void that they currently have. They might have more than enough friends that they can call and chat with or get advice from. They might not need another friend who will laugh about motherhood with (though really, don’t we all need more friends for this purpose?!?). Or think about this: Are you a Debbie Downer? Are you constantly looking for sympathy, recognition, pity or reassurance? These people are ridiculously hard to keep around. Trust me, I’ve had several of these in my life and they’re exhausting. They bring you down and don’t want anything more than to be recognized for their crappy circumstances. If this is you in a current relationship…STOP! We all need good friends in our lives, but friendships don’t just happen. They’re two-sided and both sides need to benefit from the relationship. Clinging and expecting somebody to like you as much as you like them without a reason is not a friendship. You’ve got to give them a reason to want to be your friend! Don’t sit and complain about friendships not being what you want them to be. Usually there’s a reason and it’s not that hard to figure out. If a friendship isn’t what you want, it’s either because you’re not adding value to their life or they’re not adding value to yours. Find somebody that’s a better match. Don’t waste your time or energy trying to force it! You shouldn’t have to work that hard. None of us have time for that in our lives!

Self-Development

You Are What You Think About

Have you ever noticed that when you get a new car, no matter how unique you think it is, you suddenly see identical ones everywhere? Or maybe you just like a particular kind of car, and then it seems like they’re all over the place. Slugbug, anyone?!? When you look for them, you see them EVERYWHERE! Or at least, my kids do so they can slug each other. Or maybe you buy what you think is a unique color of vehicle…say, green…and then all of a sudden, there are green cars everywhere. It’s the craziest thing! Why does this happen? And why is it something that I would EVER blog about? Well, my friends, because you are what you think about.

I know what you’re thinking. She’s crazy! What does this even mean? Bear with me as I try to explain. It means that whatever you’ve got on your mind, you will start to see and notice everywhere. Let’s move past the car example, because seriously, cars are NOT important in the grand scheme of life. Let’s think about when you’re mad or upset about something at work. Have you ever noticed that when you’re mad about one tiny little thing and you can’t let it go, other little things start to happen that just add fuel to the fire and you end up angrier than ever? Why in heck do all of the irritating things happen back-to-back? Well, there’s a good chance that those other little things might have gone unnoticed if you weren’t focused on being mad. When you think about a green car, you notice green cars. When you think about being mad, you notice a million reasons to be mad!

Two and a half years ago, I joined a company and started my own small business. I’m not telling you this to try to sell stuff to you, I promise. That’s not how I operate. But it was the beginning of when I really started to understand this theory that you are what you think about. When I joined the company, I was SO excited. It was like somebody had breathed fresh air into this teacher-by-day, mom-of-four-at-night (more to come on that in the future!). I had something to focus on that was different than children. Don’t get me wrong. I LOVE kids! But that had literally become my whole life, 24/7, and I needed something else. Once I joined, I had my mind on the fact that there was a new opportunity for me to stretch myself. And then, guess what…I saw all kinds of opportunities out there for me to step outside of my box and grow! This blog would be a prime example. It would have NEVER happened before joining my company. I also have a Facebook lifestyle group where I share parenting tips, organization ideas, beauty/skin care information, and a whole bunch of us moms can interact and just have a little break from our day-to-day lives and feel like we’re a part of something bigger (https://www.facebook.com/groups/328768520937361/, in case you’d like to join). I would have NEVER done this kind of thing before starting my own business. It opened my eyes to possibilities beyond my career.

So what does this mean for you? It means be careful what you’re focusing on and thinking about, friends. Is it okay to get mad? Of course! But you have to let it go and move on. Don’t harbor the anger or you’ll only find more reasons to be angry. If somebody hurts you, it’s okay to feel sad, disappointed, let down. But then process those emotions and move on. If you don’t, you’ll only be hurt by more people as you’re focusing on the fact that you got hurt. If your husband does something that irritates the crap out of you (it’s bound to happen, right?!?), address it or choose to let it go if it’s trivial. If you don’t, suddenly you’ll have twenty reasons to be annoyed with him. Can’t get past the initial irritation? Try this tip: mentally list five reasons why he’s amazing and what he does right. It will help you let go of that negative! You can use this trick for any aspect of your life when you need to…five reasons why you love your job when you something unfair just happened, five reasons you ARE a good mom even though you totally just had a crappy moment, five reasons your life is probably better off without that friend that betrayed you. Focus on the positives and I promise you’ll only find more positives! As a parent, focus on the good things that your kids do and I guarantee you, you’ll find more reasons than ever to appreciate them and be proud of them. Sometimes you have to force yourself to see the positives, but when you do, you will find it becomes easier and easier to see them right in front of you.

Parenting, Self-Development

“Why do my kids keep ____ (whining, begging, throwing fits…)?” Here’s your answer!

You know those irritating things that your kids do that absolutely drive you crazy? Things like whining, telling you “no”, begging, not picking up when you tell them to, throwing tantrums or fits when they don’t get their way? As a parent, you may find yourself asking “Why do they keep doing this?!?” with total exasperation in your voice. I have the answer for you. Sadly, you’re probably not going to like it, but here it is.

Kids do these things because they work! Or because they’ve worked in the past. For one reason or another, their irritating behavior has gotten them exactly what they want. Let’s face it. As humans, when we try things a few times and they don’t work, we usually stop doing them. If you tend to speed down a certain street to get to work quickly and you don’t get caught, chances are, you’re going to keep doing it. However, if you get a speeding ticket, you’re more likely to slow down. If you get multiple tickets on that stretch of road or there is a police officer sitting on that stretch regularly, you’ll probably stop altogether. You’ll either leave earlier and go the speed limit or, if you’re a rebel, you’ll find a different path. Either way, when it regularly doesn’t work for you, you’ll try something else. Our kids are no different than us.

When your kids throw tantrums, it’s like that adult speeding down the road. If it works, they’re going to keep doing it. Even if it only works sometimes, they might be the rebel that keeps trying it until it consistently doesn’t work. I know that sometimes you’re tired and you don’t want to deal, but you have to. If you ever want that behavior to stop, you HAVE to deal with it. You have to be the police officer, sitting in their car, monitoring and controlling the behavior, making sure it doesn’t get them what they want. If you let your kids get their intended result (new toy, later bedtime, more screen time, candy, etc.), you are basically a police officer, watching the stretch of road, letting that speeding car get by with it. And what message does that send to your kids? That it is okay to throw a fit and sometimes it works, so they should just keep doing it. You can replace the words “tantrum” and “fit” with “whining”, “begging”, or whatever else you’re dealing with at your house. It’s all the same. They do it because it works or it has worked in the past.

So how do you fix it? You make sure it DOESN’T work. And you will probably have to do this more than once, especially if you’ve had weak moments in the past where they’ve found success with their behavior. In a calm time, where they’re not ____________ (let’s just say tantruming, for ease of discussion), you need to lay down the rules. This is how you do it:

  • First you need to describe the behavior and be transparent about what is behind that behavior. I suggest saying something like this: I’ve noticed when you want something really bad, you throw a fit. You yell, scream, tell me “no”, cross your arms and turn away from me. It looks like this (model so there is NO question about what you’re referring to). I understand that when you do this, you’re trying to get me to change my mind, but I want you to know that it will no longer work. When you throw a fit, I will make sure you do NOT get what you want, no matter how big of a fit you throw.
  • Next, you need to model what will happen when this behavior happens (and it WILL, so make sure you’re willing to follow through on this!). It helps to have some sort of visual cue, since those don’t initiate backtalk. It could be putting your hands over your ears signaling you won’t listen, turning around and walking away, clapping your hands twice, etc. As you coach them through this, I suggest something like this: I’ve decided that you need a signal that reminds you of this new rule that fits won’t get you what you want. When you start to throw a fit, I will say, “Fits don’t work anymore” and I will turn and walk away from you. It will look like this (model how you will do this calmly…even if your blood is boiling inside). If we are in public, I will say it and then take you to the car so you can throw your fit in there. When you are done, we can talk about what happened, but you will NOT ever get what you want because you threw a fit.
  • Finally, explain why this behavior won’t work any more. It’s okay to tell them you’re tired of it, but honestly the reason you want it to stop is because you love them. When I talk to my kids (or my students!) about these things, I usually say something like this: I love you too much to let you act like this. You are such a good kid and I want everyone to see that. Kids that throw fits and get whatever they want usually don’t make good friends and are hard to play with. I want you to be happy and have friends to play with. I think that is more important than giving you _____________ (more screen time, a new toy, etc.).

And after you’ve done all of this during a calm time where the behavior isn’t happening (this is SUPER important to do), you wait. You wait for the behavior to come. I promise it will, unless you have a child that is like the adult that sees a police officer once on that stretch of road and never speeds again. We know how rare those individuals are, but they are out there! I’m guessing if your child happens to be one of those, however, you aren’t searching for answers on how to make a behavior stop! Once your child exhibits this behavior, you HAVE to do exactly what you said you were going to do. You probably won’t see an exact change the first time it happens. However, if you continue to do this every single time the behavior happens, it’s like giving a person a speeding ticket every single time they speed on a certain stretch of road. They will get tired of not getting their intended result. Consistency is key, and it’s really up to you to make it happen. If your kid keeps doing it, more than likely it’s because it works. The change has to start with you as a parent before you’ll see the change in your kids.

Parenting

It’s okay to tell your kids “no”

When I was little, I don’t remember hearing the word “yes” very often. In fact, I was careful what I even asked for because I felt like if I saved my asking for the things that I REALLY cared about, there might be a chance. I went to the grocery store with my mom. We bought groceries. No toys. No candy. No treats. If I asked for a toy or something that I saw on TV, I was told that I should put it on my birthday or Christmas list. It was extremely rare that we splurged any other time. Were we poor and unable to afford the extras? No! If my parents had wanted to splurge, they could have. But we just didn’t. Honestly, looking back on it, it made the times that they did say “yes” seem so much more exciting and I appreciated it so much more.

So then why, as parents nowadays, do we feel bad saying “no” to our kids? I don’t think it’s just me, based on my experiences with kids in the classroom. I think it’s our culture now to give our kids as much of what they want as we can. Of course, we have limits and when we absolutely can’t, we say “no”. But I would venture to say that our kids hear “yes” more than they hear “no” these days. It’s creating a group of kids that are very entitled. Did we mean to do this? Absolutely not! We’re trying to be good parents. But buying them something each time we go to the store isn’t treating them. Sooner or later, it won’t be enough. THAT will be expected and they will want something additional as a “treat”. Think about when you plan a vacation or a getaway…is it enough? When we were little, one night in a hotel was an exciting adventure and we cherished every moment. It was awesome! Now, I feel like kids get to go places and do things all the time and it’s still not enough. They come back, ready for the next big thing and as parents, we’re scrambling to one-up ourselves. It’s exhausting!

I have to wonder, too, if some of this “yes” business is what’s leading to obesity in kids. I have no research or data on it, but know that it is an ever-growing problem. This brings me to my point of this whole article. The lunch box analogy. As a teacher, I see kids bringing lunches to school filled with the stuff that would have been considered a treat in the past. Their whole lunch box is filled with treats with very little nutritional value. These items are not considered treats anymore…it’s considered their lunch! And THEN they have candy or something even better for their “treat”. It’s the perfect metaphor for what’s happening with kids. One treat was expected, then it became the norm and another treat was added to try to make them happy and surprised. It just kept happening until the stuff that was good for them didn’t fit in the lunch box anymore and it was pushed aside. Instead of caring about their needs, we gave in to their wants.

Hearing “no” is good for our kids! They learn limits, boundaries, moderation, anticipation, self-regulation…all of the things that entitled children don’t seem to have. Imagine if that parent packed their child’s lunchbox to contain all fruits and veggies and a plain old meat and cheese sandwich. (I’ve seen this happen!) The kid opens it up and there’s pouting, shock, bewilderment and usually a refusal to eat anything that’s in there. They go home, complain and whine to their parents how hungry they were, and those treats begin showing up again in lunch boxes. Parents say they don’t have a choice because if they don’t send the treats, their kids will go hungry! Now stop and think about it…will the kids actually starve? No. Will they actually become hungry enough to eat the things that are good for them? Eventually, they probably will. But the kids are in charge. They’re entitled to whatever they want and they know how to make it happen. We’re so busy trying to be good parents, we aren’t realizing what is happening!

Like I said before, it’s really not about the lunch, so even if you send healthy, nutritious, organic lunches with your child (way to go!), I’m still talking to you! I’m referring to the metaphor for what we as teachers have to do in schools. We have to give them what is good for them (hard work, learning, responsibility, self-control, rules…). They don’t like it. They want all of the fun things, but we can’t just give them all of the fun things! They act up, throw fits, go home and then complain to their parents. Sometimes it goes further and it comes back to us as teachers. You guys, it’s HARD to take away the stuff they like and replace it with what they need, especially when that’s all they’ve known in their little worlds. We love them though, and it’s our job to help them adjust to this new normal. For them however, it’s hard to come to school when it’s full of the stuff they don’t have to have or do elsewhere. It seems like year after year, I have concerned parents telling me that after the first month or so, their child is not wanting to come to school and they can’t figure out why. There’s not a specific reason, there’s nothing happening to cause this, there’s really no explanation. Usually, it’s because the novelty of school has worn off and it’s a lot of work that they don’t want to do. If this has been you as a parent, it’s okay! Don’t panic! I saw it happening with my own kids, too. It opened my eyes when I really sat down to analyze what was going on. It’s not too late to make changes to fix this. I can tell you that my kids are going to be hearing “no” a lot more than they hear “yes” this summer before we head back to school. And when I say, “no”, there won’t be a discussion about why I’m saying it. That is really only a tactic to try to persuade me to change my mind. “No” means “no”. I’ve learned a lot in my 14 years of parenting and this is one little gem! Ha!! When it comes down to it, I’m not doing this to be mean, but to break the cycle of entitlement. I love them too much to let them turn out that way. You CAN say “no” and still be a good parent. Actually, you NEED to say “no” in order to be a good parent and it’s never too late to turn things around!

Self-Development

Change

I’m one of those weirdos who thrives off of change. It stresses me out but it lights a fire in me every single time. I do NOT like to fail (who does, really?!?), so I will do whatever it takes to make the changes be successful. Does that mean I make changes without anxiety? Without fear? Ha!! I wish!

As this school year comes to a close, I find myself making a major change in my professional life. After 16 years in a classroom, I’m switching to become a reading teacher. As if that wasn’t stressful enough (and trust me, I’ve got ALL the stress there), I’m switching to a different school (eek) and taking my youngest two kids with me (double eek). On the outside, I look calm about it. On the inside, I am a disaster. I wish I had a crystal ball so I could stop pondering my decision-making skills.

I am super excited about the change, don’t get me wrong! I know that I’m going to grow, professionally from the change. I’ve taught kindergarten for the last eleven years. I LOVE it, which makes this move all the more stressful. I have an amazing team, which also makes me stress. I’ve got it pretty good where I’m at. But I’m feeling stagnant. It makes me wonder if I’m feeling ungrateful. I worry about that. But I just am in a rut. Guys, I’ve been leading calendar every single day for eleven years. If I have to say, “What month is it?!?” in a fake excited voice for more than the ten days that we have left, I’m going to poke my eyeballs out! I’ve done this thousands of times in the last eleven years. It’s become exhausting instead of exciting. That’s how I know that I have to change. My great position with great staff, students and families isn’t enough. It’s become too easy to overlook ALL of the good because I’m so used to it. It’s become way too easy to see the tiny little flaws because they’ve become a novelty. I hate that. I don’t want to be that person.

And so, even through the anxiety, the worries and the flat-out fears…SO many fears (Will I be good enough? I don’t want to let anyone down. Will my kids thrive in a new environment? Will they make friends? What if people don’t like me?), I change. I change because I know that’s what I need to benefit myself and everyone around me. And you know what? I’ll make it work. All of those fears will be a giggle to me down the road. This change will start a new chapter in my life that is yet to be titled. I have a feeling it’s going to be beautiful, earth-shattering and life-changing. Bring it on!!

organization, Parenting

When Schedules Collide

With four growing kids, you can imagine how ridiculous our schedules can get. I struggled to try to find a way to keep everyone connected. We used Google Calendar, and I still do. But somehow we ran into some hiccups where my husband wasn’t seeing things on my calendar, a few things mysteriously disappeared…basically just chaos happened. We needed something better!

A friend of mine is a Mary & Martha Consultant. I hadn’t heard of the company until I became friends with her, but their products are awesome! As a super thoughtful gesture, she gifted me a weekly calendar notepad, similar to the one in the picture that I found on Zazzle. It has been a game-changer. I’m positive she had no idea how big of a help that was. Or maybe she actually saw that I was a hot mess and was gently trying to help. Who knows!!Either way, I will forever be buying these things because they have majorly changed things at our house!

On Sunday afternoons or evenings, my husband and I write everything from our calendars (digital calendars, school calendars, activity calendars…everything) on one of these pages. We ask the kids if there’s anything they need to put on there like due dates for projects, spelling tests, activities we didn’t know about, or anything else. Not only do we make sure everything is laid out in one place, it’s a good reminder for us as to what the week actually holds. It’s easy to look at my calendar on my phone and think I’ve got it all. But to actually have to carry it over and write it down? It cements it in my brain and makes it harder to forget. Not impossible, but harder!

When it’s all on the counter in one place, not only can we make a plan to divide and conquer if needed, but the kids see what the week holds. It is SO easy for them to see which nights are jam-packed and which nights are free. We are all on the same page and there’s no surprises. It has made all of our lives so much more streamlined! It’s such an easy thing. I’ve seen notepads like this in the past. I’m pretty sure I’ve even bought them. But I don’t think I fully understood the need for them until there were six of us going in different directions at once. Now? Now I get it!

The most brilliant part of all of this is that we’ve started using the back of the sheet as a grocery list. Whenever somebody uses the last of something, they’re SUPPOSED to write it on the list. My husband and I are good at this but the kids aren’t quite trained…yet. It’s still been super helpful though! We usually place a grocery order on Saturday nights (we are QUITE the interesting couple, I tell you!), so it’s right there in front of us, ready to be entered.

Now, we still forget things here and there, but it’s been such a practical thing that we put in place that has made a huge difference! If you’re starting to feel like a chauffeur that has no idea where they’re going, give it a try. Go back to the basics of a pencil and paper. There’s something about it that just works for us!