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.

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!!

Self-Development

To The One Who Is Always the Fixer…

Have you ever had something happen that is so coincidental it gives you goosebumps? Like, you’ve been hoping, praying and brainstorming about how to fix a problem and can’t find any great answers. Then all of a sudden, something falls in your lap that is completely NOT the direction you were looking at going, but you realize is probably the perfect solution?

I’m such a “fixer”, that this hasn’t happened very often in my life. I like change and sometimes I crave it, so I’m not scared to quickly change things, situations, schedules to try to fix problems. At this very moment, I’m actually wondering if I’ve sabotaged myself from opportunities simply by always trying to fix things myself. I’m so quick to jump in and come up with solutions that maybe I’ve missed out on things bigger than what I could ever dream up.

Recently I’ve been struggling to find some answers or solutions to a pretty major dilemma in my life. I’ve been scrambling to make it better. I’ve changed schedules, changed ways that I approach it, willed myself to change my attitude, tried things I’ve done in the past to make it better, made adjustments big and small…but nothing has really gotten to the root of the problem. It’s all been band-aids. Honestly, recently, I accepted the fact that I was pretty much out of ideas. I was disheartened and defeated. I just tried to make myself content and accept the things that I can’t change. I stopped fixing. I finally shut up and listened to the silence. I accepted that I am not the be all, end all. I have a cute sign hanging in my house that says, “Be still” and yet, I didn’t. Clearly I ignored my own advice. I honestly don’t think I’ve ever truly understood the meaning of that phrase. Until now.

In my silence, an answer to the struggles came flying at me. Literally right in my face. It came at a time where I just didn’t see how things would ever get better. It came in a way that is impossible for me to ignore. It is 100% not at all where I was looking for an answer. It doesn’t fit with what I thought my own plan was. But after I’ve sat and thought about it, I’ve realized that it doesn’t FIT my plan…but it’s better! There are still so many details to figure out and it is still just a hypothetical thing. But I see a plan forming right in front of a me. A plan that is better than anything I could have come up with myself. A plan that I didn’t have to struggle to come up with. A plan that doesn’t have to drain me of energy to try to make it happen. Even if it doesn’t come to fruition, I don’t care. I’ve learned something. It’s good to be proactive. It’s good to try to help yourself. It is! But sometimes it’s good to be silent. It’s good to listen. Listen to things you can’t hear and see at first. Trust that sometimes things need to happen that are bigger than yourself. If you are struggling with something, if you’re the person that’s a “fixer” and you’re trying to find an answer. Just stop. Be patient. Pray…however that looks for you. Be still. And when you feel a nudge, listen. Don’t ignore it because it doesn’t fit what you were planning. It might be bigger than you. It might be exactly what you didn’t even know you needed. Stop fixing and listen.

Self-Development

Forgiveness

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that I hold on to grudges. Not for little things. I can overlook little mistakes, hiccups, oversights, etc. It’s the big stuff that I have trouble letting go. And funny enough, in my personal life, I don’t seem to have a big problem with this. As I’ve analyzed it, I think it’s because when I have a problem with somebody in my personal life, usually I’m close enough to them to be able to work through it, or I have the ability to speak my mind. It’s more in my professional life that I struggle, and I bet this is pretty common for most of us.

As a teacher, it’s hard for me to forgive when I feel like somebody isn’t doing what’s best for kids. It’s hard for me to forgive when things are mandated that are ridiculous to be putting in place in a world full of 5-year olds (MY world!). Or it’s hard when I feel like somebody is choosing not to do their job and others have to pick up the slack for them on a regular basis. Big things in the overall picture of education. It’s a well-oiled machine and if one part is not working correctly, it throws everything off! Typically, I try to confront the problem or find creative solutions to make it better. However, sometimes the person isn’t receptive to even hearing about the problem. Or they’re so far above me in the chain of command, it doesn’t matter if a little peon like myself is upset with them. I STRUGGLE with this. It makes me mad. Like so mad, my blood pressure raises and my cheeks turn bright red. So mad I cry. Then I get mad that I’m crying, and I cry harder. So mad that I hold on to it for a long long time.

I know this isn’t good. It’s not good for myself. It’s not good for the person that I’m upset with (if it’s a situation where they would even care). It’s hard for me to have a positive attitude about anything that person says or does in the future, even if it really is a good idea. I had some professional development training a couple of years ago about forgiveness. I’ve been trying really hard to try to apply it to my life. Holding a grudge isn’t worth it. You have to forgive. You don’t have to like what they did. You don’t have to be okay with it. You can definitely keep looking for ways to make it better. But you have to forgive. Don’t get me wrong: you can have your moment to be upset. It’s not good to hold it all in. But once you have your moment, you have to move past it. The only person you’re hurting when you hang on to it is yourself. YOU are the one carrying the baggage, not the other person. Chances are the other party doesn’t know or doesn’t care that you’re upset. If you can’t or won’t address it with them, you have to let it go.

So now comes the part where I have to be real with you: I’ve been holding a grudge against a person for close to four years. It’s not been good for me. It’s not been good for my health. It hasn’t changed the situation. That person doesn’t even know or care that I’m upset. They don’t care about my opinion or thoughts on the issue. So why have I held a grudge for so long? Because they hurt me and have stood in the way of myself and my beliefs in what is right. However, holding the grudge and holding on to the past hasn’t done a darn thing except make me bitter and grumpy this whole time. A few months ago, I made a commitment to myself and decided I was ready to let it go and do what I could do to move on. It’s been a slow process and it hasn’t been easy, but it feels good to finally move past it. This quote says it all:

When you forgive, you in no way change the past – but you sure do change the future.

Bernard meltzer

If you’ve been upset with somebody, take a second to really analyze the situation. Are you making things better by holding on to the grudge? If not, I encourage you to forgive them, even if they don’t even know it. Move on. You don’t have to forget, you don’t have to pretend it didn’t happen. You’ll remember and it will probably change the way to handle things in the future. But for your own sake, don’t carry around the baggage. Chalk it up to an experience that helped shape you and look to the future.

Self-Development

Being Brave

Last week, I was teaching my kindergarteners about Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks, Ruby Bridges and Ron McNair (read the children’s picture book, Ron’s Big Mission if you are curious about him…it’s such a great story). It’s so hard for them to truly understand the huge impact these people made when they’re only 5 and 6 years old. So I tried to focus on a word they might be able to comprehend: Brave. I asked them what the word “brave” meant. They’re so sweet. There were lots of answers because they have no inhibitions or worries at that age. One was “when your mom makes you do something you hate, like getting a shot or taking yucky medicine.” I had to giggle as I imagined his mom telling him, “You HAVE to be brave!” while shoving medicine in his mouth! We finally put the answers together to come up with “When you’re scared of doing something, but you do it anyway.”

Sometimes these kids really put things in perspective for me. Many times, when we think of brave people, we think they have no fear. In reality though, that is absolutely not true! Do you think Rosa Parks wasn’t scared when she stayed in her seat on that bus? Do you think Ruby Bridges walked into that school past an angry mob without some fear inside of her? Absolutely not. What mattered was how they acted.

I’ve come to realize that bravery is more of an action than a feeling.

I’ve come to realize that bravery is more of an action than a feeling. Rarely do I feel brave. For instance, with the encouragement of my students (who had no idea that the lesson on bravery was inspiring their teacher!), I created this blog. I’ve been thinking of it for awhile, but it terrified me to think that nobody would find me interesting or that this would be a huge flop. “It’s fine!” I thought. “I don’t need a blog or one more thing on my plate. I’m fine without every trying my hand at blogging!” However, with really nothing to lose, I pushed the fear aside and acted brave. So what if it flops? At least I will have gained a new experience. I’m positive that we all have something that we’re avoiding because we’re afraid or it makes us uncomfortable. I encourage all of you to find that thing, count to five and just act brave. Nobody on the outside will know the difference and you’ll be SO proud of yourself when you do it! I’d love to hear about what you tackled!