help4yourfamily

Create the family you want to have

Do you like how you are feeling?

Angry cat

Angry cat (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Here is another tip for your parenting tool kit.  It consists of asking a simple question to your children…Do you like how you are feeling?

I ask my children this when they are grumbling at me about a perceived injustice or when they are frustrated or angry about something.  This may seem counter-intuitive.  After all, it is pretty clear how they are feeling, and really, who would chose to feel that way?  Also, I believe that many parents have been taught that we are responsible for the feelings of our children.  We are responsible to be kind to our children.  We are responsible for educating our children.  We are responsible for keeping them safe.  But to say that we are responsible for their feelings when we are being kind and keeping them safe is to pretend that we have control over something we do not.  In the moment that our children get angry over harsh words from a friend, or frustrated over homework, then begin to lash out at us, many parents begin to feel as though it is our job to make it all better for them.   We tell them the friend was wrong to say that and go about getting angry at the friend (even if, upon reflection, the friend had a point), or we show them how to do the math problem even though they are too frustrated to learn it.  Many times this way of doing things can leave us angry because we have taken on the feelings of our child and they do not even appear to be grateful for our help!  How irritating.

I have another idea I would like to suggest.  Ask your child, “Do you like how you are feeling?”  Often times this gives a child a moment to pause and think.  They will, in most cases, pause to take in what you are asking, because this is different from your normal response to their behavior.  When they respond that they do not, you can gently suggest that they try to change that.  It goes like this:

Child: I hate Math, the stupid teacher gave us work we’ve never done in class!  (child continues to grumble).

Parent: Do you like how you are feeling right now?

Child: Huh? (Don’t worry- they are thinking about it)… No!

Parent:  Why don’t you change that?

Child: I can’t change it!  This stupid teacher gave us the worst homework ever!  I hate her!

Parent: Yes, and you are choosing to feel very angry about it.  I can see that.  Would you like to make a different choice?

This conversation often ends in a child huffing at you and grumbling some more.  You really do not need to say anything else, unless your child asks you for suggestions to change their mood (then give them some).  Stay curious in your tone, avoid sounding critical.  The goal of this conversation is not to end all bad feelings.  That is not a realistic dream anyway.  Sometimes math is just hard!  However, what you do accomplish with this conversation is a lesson about each of us being responsible for our own feelings.  I have used this conversation with my own daughters since they were three and it has worked quite well.  While they do have some times when they are grouchy, often times, after I ask this question, they end up wandering off to their rooms to reflect for a few minutes and come back to the family with a better attitude.  For younger children, you may want to talk them through it a bit, but I would strongly suggest that you wait until they ask you for help instead of jumping in to give it right away since when they come to you with a question, they are much more likely to listen to the answer.

The unintended consequence of this conversation is good as well.  Now that I use this intervention consistently as part of my parenting tool kit, I also find myself asking the same question internally when I am in a bad mood.  I hear myself grumbling at the children, then I hear my own voice in my head asking if I like how I am feeling right now, then suggesting that I change it.  This is why you want to make extra sure that you say these words to your children with as much love as possible, because soon, they will be echoing in your own ears.

Please feel free to share other ways you teach children to be responsible for their own feelings.  Have you tried this way?  How did it work for you?

May 11, 2012 Posted by | discipline, help for parents | , , , , , , | 3 Comments

When your inner critic hurts your relationship with your children

Written by Kate Oliver, LCSW-C

We all have an inner critic.  Some of us have several.  You know, that voice in your head that just feels like it is part of you?  It’s the one that tells you that you did it wrong again, you are not working hard enough to fix your child’s problem, and reminds you of all the times you tried and failed to get items knocked off your “to do” list.  If you are not fully familiar with your inner critic, the next time you are upset about something, take a moment to listen to your thought process.  What are the thoughts floating through your head at that moment?  Our inner critic can be harsh…and sneaky.  We don’t even know it’s there, it feels so much a part of us.

I’ve heard our inner critic (or critics) referred to as “the committee.”

Committee

Committee (Photo credit: Editor B)

I love this because it is so true.  Think about the act of going to the grocery store and passing through the cookie aisle.  The committee gets activated!  You hear one part of your committee saying, “Get the cookies you like, you deserve it!”  Another part of your committee chimes in, “Yeah, your butt loves those cookies so much it will hold onto them all the way through summer.”  Then the internal negotiator pipes up, “Maybe there is a new, healthy cookie out that you could try.  Or, if you get the individual packs, you won’t eat the whole thing in two days and you can enjoy your cookies over the next few days, a little at a time.”  Of course then the critic chimes in, “Fat chance…get it?  Fat chance?  Haha.”  And so on.  Even after making a temporary decision to leave the aisle, or put the cookies into the cart, your mind wanders back as you continue through the store, either feeling like you should take the cookies out of the cart, or wondering if you will pass by other cookies and if you will be able to pass them over too.  Is it just me?  I don’t think so, maybe for you it’s not cookies, maybe it’s picking the right birthday card for a friend, or what job to take, the email you are sending to a friend, etc.

When the committee gets involved, we can all empathize with the wish someone stated to me once when he said he wanted to put them on a bus and send them away for the weekend.  Since that is not possible, what is the alternative?  I have one that may surprise you.  Think about loving them.  That’s right, envelop each part of your committee with love and thank it for working so hard on your behalf.  Right now I imagine there are quite a few people reading this who will argue that there is a part of them that is just plain wrong, that it is a part they would like to eliminate completely and that the focus should be on eliminating the “bad” parts.  If you are saying that, here is my question to you…how is that working for you?  I’m guessing that has not been so successful or you would not still be reading this post.   I might suggest that telling them to go away hasn’t been working so well so far.

If you want to try something new, take a moment to reflect on what it is each member of your committee is trying to say to you.  Try to listen to one at a time.  Are they trying to convey important information about your health, safety, or emotional well-being?  Is your committee chiming in about ways to keep yourself or your family safe?  Is it reminding you of something you need to know right now?  I promise you that even the most seemingly destructive parts of you are trying to help you in some way.   When you figure out the message, imagine yourself giving that part of you a hug and thanking it for it’s input, like you would a friend that just told you something that was really hard to say.  Make sure it knows you got the message and that you will take it into consideration.  Often times these parts of us, our committee, can be like any other team meeting where, if people feel like their important message is not being heard they just repeat it over and over again, saying it louder and louder, until people finally take notice.  Your committee may be doing this now.

Remember, listening to your committee does not mean that you will do exactly what they say, but, just like your children, if you take time to really listen to them, and they feel heard, they are more likely to listen when you tell them no, feel good when you agree, and feel less and less like they need to yell to be heard.

If it is confusing when I say to listen to your committee then listen to yourself, since your committee is part of you, that is understandable.  What I mean is, your committee members are all aspects of who you are.  At your core is you.  The you who knows what you really need, the you who is connected to all the love you feel for yourself and others, the you that does not need to judge anyone else, and is the same you that is connected to a higher, spiritual purpose.  Some people call it their higher self.  We all have this, it is the part that tells us we can do this, forgives us our imperfections, and that finds creative ways to solve any issues.  Take a few moments each day to connect with your committee, then to connect with your core, or higher self.  If you worry about fitting this into your daily routine, remember, thinking is free and can be done anywhere.  Even people with young children can take a few minutes a day to sit when the kids are in bed or are eerily quiet in the next room to check in with their inner dialogue.  The process of getting to know yourself and find peace within does not happen in one day, rather, it happens in increments over time.  It takes a lifetime, which is okay, because you have that long to do it.

A word of caution, your committee may try to tell you that doing this is too difficult and to stop or you won’t like what happens next!  Should you hear that warning from your committee, I would urge you to find a therapist to help you navigate the murky waters of your inner workings.  Over time you will find that the process of getting to know yourself can be like finding a long, lost friend that you have been missing desperately for a long time.

Doing this exercise is especially important for parents because, I hate to tell you, our inner dialogue shows to our children whether we like it or not and becomes their inner dialogue.  The best thing we can do for them is to clean up our inner space and be infinitely loving to ourselves so that our children may follow our example.

There are guides for this type of work as well. Self-Therapy: A Step-By-Step Guide to Creating Wholeness and Healing Your Inner Child Using IFS, A New, Cutting-Edge Psychotherapy, 2nd Edition by Jay Earley (Jan 27, 2012) is one such book.  It is available on Amazon and if you click on the Amazon widget link at the top right of this screen you can find out more about it.  Please read my disclaimer page.

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May 9, 2012 Posted by | help for parents, parent support/ self improvement | , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Monday is parenting affirmation day at Help 4 Your Family!

From now on, Monday is going to be parent affirmation day at Help 4 Your Family.  Sometimes I  will share affirmations I have created and used, other times I will quote affirmations from teachers I have come to trust.

For this Monday, May 7, 2012 your parenting affirmation is:

My children give me constant opportunities to learn and grow.

Now, you know this one makes you smile, even when you are tired. I would suggest that, to make this part of your self-talk, you repeat it many times throughout the day.  Say it to yourself in the mirror, and mention it to your friends in conversations.

If you have a parenting affirmation that you would like to share, please feel free to let me know.  Maybe you will see it some other Monday 🙂

All the best to your family,

Kate

May 7, 2012 Posted by | affirmations | , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Talking with Robert Holden

Robert Holden Ph.D

Robert Holden Ph.D (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Written by, Kate Oliver, LCSW-C

On Thursday of this week I decided to try calling into one of my favorite radio shows, Robert Holden’s Shift Happens.  It comes on at 1pm EST.  Every Thursday is the day I stay home from the office and try to get enough done around my house so that my family and I can have a weekend free from running errands and picking up the house.  I always listen to Hay House Radio using my phone app as I clean.  If you don’t know about Hay House Radio, it is a station dedicated completely to positive radio programming.  I love listening to Dr. Holden because he is always gentle and kind to everyone he speaks to and has a wonderful way of helping people to look at things in a different way.

I’ve had an unusual amount of anxiety lately, really since I started this blog.  While I have taught other mental health professionals and parents in educational seminars, I’ve never publicly shared my writing until now and I have been feeling, well…vulnerable.  So, I called into the show, anticipating a busy signal.  How surprised was I when the phone rang and someone asked me what my reason was for calling before putting me back on hold?  Umm, pretty surprised.  I am so grateful for the time I had on hold so that I could gather my thoughts.  Then, just after the commercial break, I heard Dr. Holden announcing…me!  What a wonderful, effortless surprise :).

I know most people hate public speaking.  I actually love it.  I know I have good, worthwhile information to share and I love being with people as we all gain knowledge together.  When I am in front of an audience, I can see people responding and adjust accordingly.  But with this blogging thing, it’s like I’m putting my baby out into the world and it’s difficult for me to see how people are responding.   When speaking in front of an in-person audience, I also know who is there (no one I know personally) and it is easy for me, in a professional setting, to shrug off criticism.  I know what I am saying some people will respond to and some will not.  Remember, I work with children with difficulties with attachment.  I probably hear a few times a week that I am wearing the wrong clothes, have a weird look on my face, don’t have the right games in my office, and that I am just plain wrong.  I usually find it pretty amusing since I know that criticism is more reflective of where my client is and if we stick with it, we will get to the other side to figure out where the defensiveness is coming from.

While speaking to Dr. Holden, I realized it was not so much the people I don’t know reading my blog, but more the people I do know.  It’s funny the things we worry about.  Mostly I was worried about people I know personally changing their opinions of me, or my blog causing conflict with people I love.  Everyone else, if you like it, wonderful!  If you don’t, I sincerely wish you luck in finding a site that better suits your needs.

The most surprising part of the call for me was toward the end when Dr. Holden suggested that if I am worried about critique from people I know and am most connected to, the concern I focused on in my call (no perfectionist tendencies here), that I must begin to be the most loving, least critical person I can be.  I had a little inner battle about that one.  “No, wait!” my insides wanted to cry, “I’m not critical of others!  In fact, I am one of the least critical people I know!  I pride myself on being non-judgemental!”  But then, after the call it clicked.  I am loving and non-judgemental to many, many people with one major exception.  You know the exception, right?  Yup, it’s me.  I have a tendency to save my major criticisms for me.  Don’t we all?  I mean, when we are yelling at our children, isn’t part of it that we are berating ourselves for our perceived lack?  Our inability to get them to eat what we want them to eat, the anger over the clutter or mess in our homes taking over that we can’t seem to keep under control, or feeling like we do not know how to address an undesireable behavior?  It is on the days when we are harshest to ourselves that we are the most harsh with our children.  I realized from that call, (thank you Dr. Holden) that I need to be less critical to everyone.

Let this be a reminder to us that we all, even the experts, need reminders to be gentle, kind and loving to ourselves.  Thank you to all of the people who have contacted me since hearing me on the call.  It has warmed my heart and I welcome building continuing relationships with you.  I hope that I can also take part in helping to you be kinder and gentler to yourselves as you continue your own journey as parents, no matter the age of your children.

You can listen to the show here: http://www.hayhouseradio.com/listenagain.php?latest=true&archive_link_type=link_mp3&archive_id=9401&show_id=180&episode_id=8697

This archive is available for only the next few days for free then it will go into the permanent archives and will cost money.

If I remember correctly, my call was the second after the break at the half way mark.  You can buy Dr. Holden’s book Shift Happens, on Amazon by clicking on the Amazon widget on the top right of this page.  I do not receive any financial compensation for this post or for any referrals to Hay House, or Dr. Holden however I do receive a nominal fee for purchases from Amazon if you click on the link on this page.  I only recommend products I believe in strongly.

May 5, 2012 Posted by | help for parents, parent support/ self improvement | , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Ten Free Ways for Parents to Break Free of a Bad Mood (I’ll bet there are a few you’ve never thought of)

How do they get any work done?

How do they get any work done? (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Picture yourself, it’s Sunday around 3:00 pm.  You have already watched the children slowly dismantle any progress you made in getting the house into order over the week while they were in school.  They have gone through the playdates, video games, television and 1/2 the board games- as evidenced by the living room floor.  As you think about whether you are up for making dinner and wondering if you even have anything to make, you start to get grumpy.  Okay, you were already grumpy.  Maybe you have already yelled at them a few times and now, in addition to feeling overwhelmed about the mess in your home, you are also feeling bad about the words you have said- not that you are going to stop saying them mind you, because you are stuck in a loop of grumpy, nasty behavior…the same kind you get angry with your kids for having.  Below are a few techniques to help break free from the grumpy nasties and I’m quite sure there are a few you have not tried yet.  Why not print out the full list at the bottom of the post and stick it on your fridge to try out when the grumpies strike again?

1.  Put the kids in the tub or shower or take a bath or shower yourself.  Something about being in the water helps to set the reset button for kids and sometimes adults.  If you are taking a bath or shower, visualize all the angry, grumpy feelings getting washed off of you and watch them go down the drain.

2.  Set up a behavioral chart for yourself (if you get through something without yelling, you get a point and x number of points gets you something like a night out, a new cd you’ve had your eye on, etc.  I cover this one in my post “Ditch Your Behavior Charts!”).

3.  Tap on the inside of your pinky finger and say three times “I forgive myself, I did the best I could do.”  Then, continue tapping and repeat three times “I forgive myself, I’m doing the best I can.”  Don’t ask how it works, it’s an accupressure technique, just try it!  You know a big part of what you are doing has to do with the way you are talking to yourself about what is happening right now.  Think about ways you can forgive yourself- this is one of them.

4.  Imagine you are speaking to someone who loves you, your best friend who always knows what to say, your grandmother, whoever, and pretend they are with you right now guiding you.

5.  Learn EFT.  EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) is a quick, easy tapping technique that can help in all kinds of different areas of your life.  It addresses anxiety, depression, traumatic memories and much more.  Here is a link to someone teaching EFT.  I would recommend just doing the shortcut he teaches in the first 6 minutes.  It’s all I ever really teach and it seems to be enough.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NPZ-xmj6KTI&feature=related.  If you really want to learn more, check out this site: http://eftuniverse.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=18&Itemid=21

6.  Do a quick 5 minute spurt of exercise even though it is the last thing you feel like doing right now.  Partly this is just going to break the pattern by doing something different from what you were originally going to do next.  Add to that a quick, natural endorphin rush, and a feeling like you just took care of your body for a moment and it can really do the trick.  A great exercise that we do sometimes in our home that really gets us moving and laughing is playing “Just Dance” on the Wii.  We crack up as we watch each other try to get the moves right.  Just make sure no one gets hit with the remote.  Remind yourself that you don’t have to be at the gym and doing a full workout to get a little benefit from exercise.  See how long it takes you to go up and down the stairs of your home or apartment building 10 times, jog in place, race the kids a few times in the yard.

7.  Cry.  You read that right.  Think of the energy we spend holding back tears when really tears can be quite healing and good.  Even better than crying is crying in a hot shower.  That really gives your body a release.  Your tears actually carry stress hormones, that are otherwise trapped in your body, out of your body.  So, when I say it’s a release, I mean it, you are letting go of stress hormones when you cry.  Also, people worry about crying in front of children.  Unless this is a recurring issue- in which case I think you need to read my post on finding a therapist, crying in front of  your kids a few times a year is okay and actually can teach them about allowing themselves to show feelings and get comfort.

8.  Change locations.  When the kids were little I called them, “I need a witness days.”  I didn’t need a witness for them.  I needed a witness for me.  I needed to go out of the house so that I would be more mindful of how I was acting with my children.  Also, just getting out and going to the park gets you away from some of the compounding factors that may be contributing to your mood.

9.  Accept help.  Remember how you did something wonderful for your friend or neighbor and they were so thankful and told you if you ever needed anything to call?  Call.  Ask for help.  Accept imperfect help from your spouse, partner or friend while you go out to take a walk or clean up so you can feel sane again.  Sure, they may not do things the way you want them to, but are you doing things the way you want to right now?  Right.  Ask for and accept the help.

10. Picture yourself tomorrow, thinking back on today.  What do you want to say you did today when you were feeling this way?  Do you want to say, “yesterday I was in a foul mood and I couldn’t pull myself out of it?”  or do you want to say, “Yesterday I was in a foul mood, then I remembered this list of things to do to get me out of it.  I looked on there and found something and I’m pretty proud of myself because I gathered the children and pulled myself together and we all went for a walk.  The rest of the day went pretty good.”  Once you have pictured what you want to say.  Break it down into three smaller steps, what you need to do to get to feeling that way.

Good luck!  Let me know what works for you, or, even better, add to the list…

May 3, 2012 Posted by | help for parents | , , , , | 10 Comments

I’ve been tagged and I’m dedicating this post to assholes

Asshole 7"

Asshole 7″ (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Well, I’ve been tagged by Rebecca from Mom meets Blog.  What does that mean?  It’s some kind of game in the blogosphere, and I’m a child therapist so I know games are good. Here are the rules of this game:

  • Answer the question the “tagger” listed for you in their post
  • Create 11 new questions for the people you tag to answer
  • Choose 11 people to tag and link to them in the post
  • Let each blogger know that you have tagged them

Rebecca was kind enough to allow me to choose a question.  I figured since she listed me as the fifth blog she tagged, I would answer question number 5.  It’s a good one.  “Was there a teacher who had a particularly strong influence in your life?”  Why, yes, quite a few as a matter of fact.

I recently took a meditation class where the teacher, Claudia, explained about people with a name she pronounced ( ash-o-les).  When she said it, I thought she was talking about her wise, spiritual teachers.  The actual spelling of this word is assholes.  In fact though, Claudia said that assholes have been some of her best teachers.  Well, the same is true for me!  They are, indeed some of our best teachers if we allow them to be.  In figuring out how to live life with, around, and in spite of, assholes, we learn so much about ourselves, including our weakness, strength, resilience and even courage.  I have had several teachers in my life who, I have to say, sometimes I thought were real assholes (and sometimes they really were).  I won’t name them here- they don’t really need it.  Most of them were wounded and were assholes because they carried the belief that whatever they were doing was self-protective.

Now, on to another great teacher for me who is most definately not an asshole.  Well, not to me anyway.  My mom thought he was a real asshole for a long time.  She’s long since worked it out, but who can blame her?  After all, she and my dad divorced back in the early 80’s after he came out of the closet.  The non-asshole is, you guessed it, my father.  Stay with me, I’m going to bring this right back to the beginning.  My father is one of my greatest teachers because, among other things, he decided to be true to himself.  Back in the 80’s, being gay was not considered to be too awesome.  In fact, things were pretty hush, hush.  My dad’s coming out caused quite a ruckus.  He lost his marriage (and almost his children), and he came close to losing the private practice (he is a physician) that he started when his partners nearly voted him out.  He has told me, in the many conversations we have had since about this time in his life, that he felt he no longer had a choice once he came to the late understanding that he is gay.  In coming out, my father modeled for me how to stick with the strength of my convictions even though sometimes people are going to think you are an asshole.

I offer this to you, readers, as a lesson as well.  Sometimes in life, we need to be okay with other people thinking we are assholes.  It can save lives, literally.  We can also learn that sometimes, when we think someone is being an asshole, they are just trying in the best way they know how, to protect themselves, or even save their own lives- even if it does not look that way from the outside.  The people who think you are an asshole sometimes could be your kids, your parents, your boss or co-workers.  They could all think you are an asshole when you don’t do what they want you to do.  The trick is to figure out if you are doing what you are doing for the greater good and whether this is actually self-protection (or protecting your children) or not.  I’m so glad my dad was able to weather that storm.  His decision to be true to himself gave me so many gifts.  I am also grateful and for all the other lessons he has taught me- like, that being honest is really the best policy, and how to maintain long-term, healthy relationships (he and his husband have been together for more than 30 years).  Thanks Dad.

Now, on to the next part of the game…tagging others.

  1. Gorillaparenting
  2. Queen of Familosity
  3. Anger Management Chicago
  4. 400 days til 40
  5. Mommyman
  6. Science of Mom
  7. One Inch of Grace
  8. Let Life In Practices
  9. Boundaries of the Soul
  10. Unhappy Mommy
  11. Danielle’s Story

There are so many great blogs to choose from! If I didn’t choose yours, or you don’t have a blog, feel free to just answer one of the following questions below.  I pose the same questions (pick one or more) to the chosen blogs.

  1. What is advice you would give to new parents?
  2. How is your life different now than you imagined it would be ten years ago?
  3. Have you ever had a good lesson that came in strange wrapping paper?
  4. What is something you said you would never do that you now do routinely?
  5. What books are you reading and what do you think about them?
  6. What path did you take to do the job you are doing now?
  7. If you could change something about your life, what would it be?
  8. What is the best thing that has happened to you in the past year?
  9. What do you think will be different about your life in ten years?
  10. What is your favorite blog post ever, and why (you can include your own)?
  11. What is something about you people might not guess from your blog?

May 2, 2012 Posted by | blog awards and recognition | , , , , , , | 8 Comments

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