The reason parents get wedged into their own name-calling corners is that we don't let ourselves share the frustration, a little at a time, that naturally and predictably builds when we feel ignored or tested. Instead, we wait, and wait, and wait patiently as our children do everything but what we want, and then like any good combustion engine, we blow.
Of course you're going to help your child with homework, we all are, but if you really want your help to help and not hinder, you're going to help them with what they actually can't do themselves. And even then, you're going to share the job with them, meet in the middle and do the proverbial "teaching them how to fish" so that they won't go hungry next time and beyond.
Every time we see tears in our children's eyes our inner control panel goes through the same process —we want to body dive sadness and get it off our kids — fast. I would say that this lesson to not fear our children's sadness is the one that we have to relearn just about every time we see tears. I don't want my kids to be sad.
One of the best ways to teach your child about flexibility is by demonstrating your own. This is what the fine art of diplomacy really sounds like. Because in the end, if you sound like a brat while correcting your child from sounding like a brat, well, Houston, we've got problems.
The radical (to your child) idea is that you can do some work in the summer—whether that be pitching in around the house, or reviewing math facts— and still have a great summer. Don’t want to be the bearer of bad news? You’re not. You didn’t invent this. It’s called life. And it’s actually good for them—and you.
Our job is to not wait for graduation to talk about failure and success. It’s a little late then. Rather, we need to be rolling out the red carpet for our kids throughout their education. Making saying “I don’t know” or making mistakes safe. Making “I don’t know for sure” a noble and defendable position.
Anxious kids are so afraid of messing up and getting in trouble. They are constantly rattled by the thought that someone could be mad at them. They stress about it all day, and have bad dreams about it at night. So wouldn’t it be helpful for them to learn that the thing they fear most— messing up— is survivable and maybe even not that bad, not to mention pretty rare?
It’s not their bed, or the house, or the dolls—it’s what their mind, and specifically their “worry brain” is telling them about those things that is making them so frightened. So while you’re tempted to just reassure your child that everything’s fine, chances are you already know—that doesn’t work.Instead, teach your child to be the boss and not get tricked by their worry!
By answering many probing questions that reveal intimate details about themselves, couples make deep, lasting connections. This is what researchers find is relationship super glue: We consistently like the people with whom we do back and forth self-disclosure. We like them a lot. So much, that we might even fall in love with them all over again!
Worry thoughts about throwing up are like “the boot in the fridge.” Imagine if you were to open up your fridge and see a boot in there, you wouldn’t say, “Hmmm, I guess I have to have sautéed boot for dinner,” you’d say—“What is that doing in there?! It doesn’t belong there!!”
Self-centeredness and generosity are not mutually exclusive; they are more like next-door neighbors. In other words, your child has the capacity for both. It may drive us crazy to hear the gimmes, but if we want our kids to learn generosity, we’ll be better served to pause, exhale and teach our kids to feel good about giving.
The problem facing most Americans is not the Ebola virus, it’s our anxiety about the Ebola virus. Yes, we are good at panicking, but we are also good at steadying ourselves and being smarter than our worry, and this is our opportunity to get even better at that.
The brain has a hard time transitioning, starting things that don’t have immediate gratification waiting. But, the brain does like finishing things. So a parent’s job is to help kids develop a routine to quickly jumpstart their work, get a hook into those books, so that their wired-in desire to finish things will reel them in and help them get the work done.
If kids knew to expect the struggle, and viewed it as temporary and manageable, and that on the other side of it is the aha moment of success and pride—well, they wouldn’t be so set on avoiding their work fearing that it will gobble them (and their self-esteem) up; they’d head in knowing that they will emerge triumphant soon (like they always do).
We don’t have to feel the same things that people with depression do, or even understand them. But by trusting in the existence of that dark and murky reality, and leaning in to those who see it, perhaps we can offer a life-line, a connection, a glimpse of another way that life can feel, that even temporarily those who suffer may just be able to grab hold of.
All anxiety starts with the same experience. The “yikes” button gets pushed and kids think: “Yikes! Can I really do that?" The answer of course is yes, but worry's automatic reaction is—no! Better than any reassurance, when you teach your child that worry is something to test, not trust, you are teaching them skills that will serve them well all throughout their life.
The uneasiness makes sense. Your role as a parent at this point is not to take it away (if you even could!), but to help explain it, normalize it, contain it and most of all help your child understand that it is temporary and it will pass.
Rather than makes things worse by wasting time finding the misunderstandings under the rubble of the hour long recapitulation, re-hashings and analysis, when all the good parking spaces of the beach were taken, we made things better–quickly–by offering the opportunity to, respectfully, rewind and try that one again.
It’s not the ups and downs of burnt toast that are a problem for us and by extension our kids. It’s our reaction to these events. In the interactive world of crossed emotional wires, or what has been called by scientists: “the neurobiology of we,” our detours into internal distress challenge our children’s inner sense of safety: we take them along for that bumpy ride.
In sports, managing the mind is as important as managing the body. Practicing mind-management yields what United States figure skater Jeremy Abbott describes as “mental toughness.” I think of it as mental agility—being flexible in your mind to put your focus where you need it most.
When we are thinking “we” our bodies respond in kind. The magic of this word we is that it’s a game-changer. When we say “we” we set in motion a “connectedness” program in the brain (and body) and so that rather than being in survival mode (think: you against me), we can be creative, generous, collaborative and loving whether we are cleaning up cat barf or making love.
Take my too much to do life combine it with my kids too little to do life, and you have two very different weather systems colliding in my kitchen—the result: a storm, a melt down, me being a monster, feeling like the kids are (forgive me) leisure monsters, it is not too pretty. But I figured out a solution and it’s a win-win and it’s called the Common Good List.
When world events increase our sense of vulnerability, it’s a good time to consider that all the ways that we increase our daily stress by worrying, catastrophizing, or judging ourselves or others harshly are actually optional. So, take a minute and commit to eliminating the unnecessary self-imposed sources of stress in your life.
Instead of perfect love, which requires you to skip the parts that you don't like, go for true love. Think of true love as more love. It's what you get when you mix it all in: the good, the great, and the less-good and great. If there were no remainder in the mathematics of your love, but rather it all got factored in, suddenly, you're rich.