April was stress awareness month so I am writing about it in May! You’ve likely heard that it takes 30 days to make a habit. I used the 30 days in April to conduct an experiment that would help me combat life’s little and even some big stressors. Yes, Even a Life and Parent Coach has stress! And though stress is normal, I wanted to deal with it before it made me unhealthy, unhappy, and unbearable.My experiment trialed three techniques that were really very simple. The only hard part was to conjure up enough will power to succeed. I’ve been called… ahem…. “stubborn,” so I used that as a strength and made my experiment a smashing success. The 30 days of April yielded a positive sense of personal control, a more optimistic outlook, and a feeling of calm that made me happier and more pleasant to be around. Here are the three strategies I implemented:
1. Deep Breath at Traffic Lights and 10 minutes before Bedtime: A simple Google search on the benefits of deep breathing will surrender countless articles expounding scores of health and mood benefits. Here are 5 of those benefits in no particular order:
Gives pause for clear thinking. Exhalation releases tension and anxiety. Decreases pain. No wonder moms giving birth are taught breathing exercises! Increases positive moods by releasing pleasure inducing neuro-chemicals in the brain. Rhythmic breathing is more effective in reducing toxins from the body than shallow, stressed breathing.I deep-breathed at every red traffic light for an entire month. I told myself that I could create peacefulness. I visualized exhaling difficult angst-producing people and situations. I did this again before bedtime and since I wasn’t driving, I could close my eyes to add a calming beach visual in which warm rays of the sun would empower me. 30 days later, deep breathing comes spontaneously as a quick “go to” strategy to manage feelings of stress. By quickly regrouping, I can problem solve my way to positive outcomes. Not only do I feel more in control, I truly feel healthier. 2. Just say “no!” People will ask us to do all sorts of things. Can you bake 50 cupcakes for an impromptu neighborhood party? Can you volunteer to coach soccer? Would you come to school to decorate for the party, read to the kindergartners, chair the annual fundraiser, etc…? Like many moms, guilt derailed me to say “yes” to countless volunteer roles. I finally figured out that saying “yes” to everyone and everything made me say “no” to my own downtime, family time, and sanity. In April, I learned to limit my volunteer activities to two that brought me joy. Saying “no” to others meant I said “yes” to more time for my family and fun. I’ve finished two books and had time to connect with my old hobby of oil painting. Once again, I felt more in control and powerful to create peace and recharge my spirit.
3. Create boundaries to reduce multitasking: Like anyone, I have segments that make up my day. My work time was bleeding over into family time, personal time, and even chores / errands. My laptop had escaped from the office and became a third wheel where it wasn’t welcome! Were the emails or tweaking PowerPoint presentations really that urgent? No! I told the computer in my office to “stay” and shut the door. I also shut out thoughts about work, stressful people, or stressful situations. This wasn’t easy but with practice I was able to be mindful and focus on the pleasure in everyday activities. It worked! Not only did I bake a perfect spinach and gruyere soufflé, I enjoyed my “me time" and family time without irritating, unnecessary distractions.
Making stress disappear isn’t realistic. Since I don’t want it to swim with me all day long I place it into its own segment of the day. There I deal with it with a targeted plan of action and kick it to the curb!
I want to manage stress. I can manage stress. I will manage stress!
So what do you think? Would these strategies work for you? How do you successfully attack your stress?
What’s really going on when my kids are at school? What do they think of their friends, bullies, class clowns, teachers, lessons, lunch or recess? More importantly, when I ask my kids about how their day went, how do I get them to say more than “fine” or “good?”
Here is a small sampling of questions to jumpstart meaningful dialogue between parent and child. Pick one or pick them all. Just don’t pick them all at once or you’ll raise your kids’ suspicions and make them steer clear of your “interrogation!”
ABOUT PEERS and FRIENDS:
- Who decides what to do at recess? What makes it fun? Who or what makes it stressful?
- Who did you eat lunch with today? Do you eat with the same kids every day or do you mix it up? Can anyone join you at lunchtime or do they need (a ringleader’s) “permission?”
- What do you do to welcome the new kids at your school? When are you a leader? When are you a follower? What makes you a good leader?
- Which of your friends would you nominate as “The Best School Citizen?” What characteristics qualify them to earn this award?
- What characteristics do your friends appreciate about you?
ABOUT BULLIES and STRESS:
- Which kids get in trouble the most at school? On the bus? Who / what situation challenges you the most? Why?
- If you could teach these kids a thing or two about staying out of trouble what would you teach them?
- What do you think makes bullies act the way they do? What makes you angry about bullies? What makes you feel sorry for them?
- What one thing do you regret saying or doing to another student? What would you do differently next time?
- Name three things would make school less stressful.
IN THE CLASSROOM:
- What teacher deserves a raise? What makes their class fun? What helps you to learn most effectively?
- What class / teacher challenges you the most? If you were the teacher in this class, what would you do differently?
- Who makes the class laugh? What makes this disruptive or fun for you?
- Without actually doing your homework for you, what can I do to help you do your best?
- Name three things that make you look forward to school.
Your children’s answers to these questions are insights as to how they make observations, formulate judgments, feel emotions, and make decisions. Remember to keep your questions open ended by starting them with “who”, “what”, “where”, “how”, “when”, “tell me more about…” or “describe….” Though kids can still give you short answers, it will be harder for them! Ask the questions in light-heartedly in a calm, relaxed setting and you’ll likely get some solid information. Not only will you learn more about your child’s school life, hopefully you’ll learn new things about their personality and preferences. Then, you can capitalize on opportunities to guide and teach them how to navigate the game of life.
Please visit our comments section and let us know how these questions worked for you. Feel free to add your ideas to the lists so we can learn from each other.
"Look!" "Lauren is wearing Ugg boots." "She thinks she's hot so let's teach her a lesson and just ignore her!" (Lauren got the boots as a gift from her grandmother. She was nervous about wearing them because she usually doesn’t wear designer brands.) "Josh's dad drives him to school when he lives only a few blocks away and could walk." "What a lazy loser!" (Josh’s peers don’t know that he has a fragile bone disease and that doctors have asked him to avoid tripping and falling on uneven sidewalks.)
“Those kids get straight A’s.” “They’re such bookworm nerds!” “No wonder they have no real friends.” (The straight A students are funny and personable if only some of their peers would give them a chance.)
We all pass judgment. Sometimes it can serve as a 6th sense that protects us from danger. Most of the time however, passing judgment is an unjust allegation. Kids in particular observe something and make up their minds about it before acquiring any facts. Their observation is a mere sliver of the big picture. Kids then go on to express this observation as an assumption using words that can be hurtful because they are not necessarily true. The words in turn can become nasty rumors and lead to schoolyard pranks that hurt, alienate, or otherwise harass the person being judged. Suddenly an innocent child is subject to teasing or full-fledged bullying. So what can we do to help?
Parents and teachers can choose from an array of ideas to help their kids to be fair and friendly instead of judgmental. My new favorite is the old classic video of Susan Boyle on Britain’s Got Talent. I know. You’ve already seen it, but would you please consider watching it again with your kids or students beside you? Pay close attention to the judges and the audience. Assess their facial expressions and ponder what they might have been thinking both before and after Ms. Boyle sings. Then ask the kids what they observed. Query them on how passing judgment can be unfair. Ask why one of the judges called the incident “the biggest wake-up call ever.”
To really connect with your kids, consider sharing your own experiences related to passing judgment or being the recipient of it. Then ask them to share theirs. You might just learn something new about their “secret” life at school, sports or other extracurricular activities. Lastly, solicit your children’s solutions. Gandhi said “Be the change that you want to see in the world.” How do your children think they can be that change?
It takes a village so let’s support one another. After you watch the video http://youtu.be/RxPZh4AnWyk please come back and leave us a comment of the wisdom you and your children shared.
Back talk from kids rears its ugly head to annoy, challenge, and sometimes even embarrass parents. It doesn’t just come from teenagers, even tiny tots catch on to “sassing” their parents. Luckily, parents can remedy this surly syndrome. Let’s jump right with the following tips. As always, take what works and toss what doesn’t. You’re the parent and you get to decide! 1. It is important to note that kids who back talk are normal. This is part of their natural desire to grow toward independence. Since they learn by trial and error, they are testing their limits to see what works and what doesn't.
2. Try not to snap back at your child. Doing so will justify their behavior and procure more of it. Instead of getting annoyed with them, try looking at the situation as an opportunity to teach. (This won’t work all the time, but the more you try, the better you will get at it.)
3. Rule out hunger or fatigue as catalysts for back talk or any other unpleasant behavior. Physical discomforts would make anyone cranky and short tempered. Then, set rules and limits that work best for your family. Experts advise that kids actually want limits set for them so that they can help themselves self regulate. Here is what a limit might sound like. “In this family, we speak with courtesy and a pleasant tone of voice. Talking back with rude words, tones, or gestures will not be tolerated.”
4. Teach your child how you would like them to express themselves including a courteous tone of voice, pleasant facial expressions, and civilized body language. This might seem like common sense, but remember that what your children learn from the media and some of their friends is anything but common sense or common courtesy! Of course the more you role model high-quality communication the more you’ll be able to teach by example. Your child’s brain does not just learn by listening to what you say, it learns by observing what you do.
5. Empathize with your child. Okay, I know! The last thing you want to do when you’ve just been sassed is to be empathetic but try for just a moment try to actually feel the frustration that is making your child talk back. I’m not saying you must agree with them; just try to understand where they are coming from. It is very likely that the back talk was provoked by a strong emotion such as anger, disappointment, or frustration. Once you identify why your child is having a strong emotion resulting in back talk, you both can lay the groundwork for problem solving both.
6. Use empathy again, but this time as a teaching tool. Ask your child how he would feel if his closest friends or family addressed him with back-talk. Of course, this step is best done when your child is calm and not talking back! It is a step that can allow for bonding between parent and child. Building empathy takes time but is a key competency of emotional intelligence and it addresses how we communicate with each other. With your patience and persistence it can work wonders.
7. Age appropriate consequences should be delivered for the child who continues with back talk. Remember though that consequences only work for parents who commit to enforce them with consistency. If you don’t do this, you are teaching your child that your rules are meaningless and that you can be manipulated. Not good!
8. If you catch your child regressing a bit but the circumstance isn’t severe enough to be enforced with a firm consequence, consider this simple question as a gentle reminder: “How do you speak to me?”
9. Kids are smart and sensitive. They can pick up on insincerity so please sincerely PRAISE your child when you see that he /she has made improvements. "I really like the calmness and maturity with which you expressed yourself." “I’m proud of your efforts.” Watch the pride on your child’s face when positive feedback is rendered.
10. After you praise your kids, please praise yourself. The steps outlined above require patience and persistence often in very grueling emotional situations. Parenting is the hardest job on the planet, and you just advanced the success in yours. BRAVO!
Over to you. How do you handle back talk with your kids? Did your parents have tricks that worked on you when you were growing up? We’d love to hear your thoughts in our comments section.