Enjoy Life

Are you a super-busy, stressed out parent?

If so, you may often forget to enjoy your life and your family.

It’s easy to get caught up in work, paying the bills, caring for the kids, caring for our spouse, the house AND working on building a better future for ourselves and our family.

Sometimes we lose sight of the blessings we have and get lost in the things we’re striving for.

But what’s the point of attaining the next goal, the next paycheck or a clean kitchen if we’re not enjoying our lives?

I challenge you, and myself, to enjoy every moment we can. Because one day, we’ll run out of moments. I for one want to look back with a smile on my face, not regret.

And remember, you are not alone …

Peace Begins at Home: 6 Tips for Siblings

In our home there seems to be a constant struggle to have our boys play together peacefully and respectfully. Although our younger son (4) shares very well, his older brother (7) has a hard time with it. There’s also a constant battle for control between them. The result? Stress for everybody.

The following article by Charlotte Reznick, Ph.D., sheds some light on how to help our children’s interactions be more peaceful and pleasant. I’m grateful she’s allowed me to repost it here …

“Haven’t we evolved and learned war is not an answer?”

The state of the world has been on the mind of so many of the families I work with. Too many wars, too much aggression, too much not caring about each other and the planet. It’s created an underlying anxiety even for the youngest kids who are exposed to the news in their living rooms. One tense teen asked, “Haven’t we evolved and learned war is not an answer?” In his mind, it’s hard to fight someone who doesn’t want to fight you back, so if everyone would decide not to fight, war could end.

Although we may not be able to do anything about what’s happening across the globe, surely we can do something about what’s right in front of us. Peace can begin at home – starting with brothers and sisters.

Like nine-year-old Lars. All he wanted from his big brother was peace. He hated arguing over video games and TV, and was hurt and angry at the older one’s constant teasing. Or six-year-old Taylor’s jealousy of her three-year-old brother. Although she longed for a sibling, it was different once Riley was born. Taylor flip-flopped between loving hugs and dangerous squeezing.

Kids tell me they want positive interactions with their siblings. But buttons get pushed, defenses go up, and friction abounds. We all play a crucial role. Cooperation, empathy, kindness, fair play, and self-control don’t always come naturally to children; they are skills taught through practice, just like making a bed and riding a bike.

If you want to encourage kindness and generosity, let kids see yours. To foster self-control, watch how you respond to frustration and anger. Each conflict is a learning opportunity and a child’s imagination makes a great study partner. Even ten-year-old Melody, who couldn’t speak up to her big bossy sister, conjured up an imaginary Wizard who coached her to say “No” in a strong and clear voice.

Consider these 6 tips to squelch sibling squabbles and develop more loving connections:

(1) Don’t Underestimate Stress:
When pressure is high, patience for little annoying behaviors fall. Teach your children to use the 0 to 10 Scale for stress check-ups (0 = no stress; 10 = the most stress). Then, use Balloon Breathing (slow deep breathing about two to three inches below the navel) to calm and re-center, lower reactivity, and raise tolerance.

(2) Find Out What’s Under the Big Bad Feelings:
Start by accepting and validating whatever your child is feeling about his sibling. Then gently guide him to the core issue. Listen to whatever he offers for angry or hateful feelings, then advise, “Close your eyes, and be surprised at what’s under your anger (jealousy, betrayal…).” Taylor found sadness under her hate for her new baby brother – she was sad because she missed the attention and time with her mom that she used to have. When your child faces the emotions under his distress, you can help him make a plan to release them and make peace with his sis or bro. Taylor’s mom invited her to help with the new baby – Taylor got to spend time with mom and feel proud of helping out.

(3) Use Animal and Wizard Wisdom in a Pinch:
Suggest calling in a wise imaginary Animal Friend or Wizard for advice for any sibling disputes. Taylor’s Blue Bird flew in and recommended instead of pinching her brother or pulling his hair, she pinch and pull her pillow. And Mr. Magic offered her the gift of a magic eraser – it erased her bad thoughts about her brother.

(4) Have Feelings Talk to Each Other:
Your child probably has a range of emotions about his siblings, some of which are as distinct as love/hate or happy/mad. Having his feelings “speak” to each other can result in a creative compromise. Once they get the hang of it, kids can practice together or role play, as the Anger of one negotiates with the Sadness of the other, helping them understand each other even more.*

(5) Give the Marble Jar a Chance:
This usually works like a charm. To encourage your kids getting along, let them know you appreciate and want to acknowledge their efforts at being kind to each other. Then take a jar, and every time you “catch” them being “neutral or nice,” drop a marble (or pasta piece or colored glass bead) in the jar. In the beginning, lots of reinforcement is important to encourage their positive behavior. When the jar is filled up (about a month) offer some terrific fun time. And along the way, say each quarter up (about a week) reward them with something simple but enticing (picking the videos you rent, special ice-cream, whatever you decide together).

(6) Unique, Not Equal:
It’s okay to treat your kids differently. They are different – likely different ages and certainly different personalities and needs. Talk to your children about how and why you make your choices. Listen to any hurt feelings, and let them know what you can change, what you can’t, and why. At the same time, try to avoid favoritism and comparison. Celebrate each child’s uniqueness, and encourage cooperation, not competition.

Charlotte Reznick, Ph.D. is a child educational psychologist, an Associate Clinical Professor of Psychology at UCLA and bestselling author. In addition to her private practice, she creates therapeutic relaxation CDs for children, teens and parents, and teaches workshops internationally on the healing power of children’s imagination.

You can visit Charlotte’s Web site at: www.ImageryForKids.com. You can also check out her book, The Power of Your Child’s Imagination: How to Transform Stress and Anxiety into Joy and Success, at Amazon.

Collective Bargaining for Dads

Over the past few weeks, teachers and parents across America have banded together to keep collective bargaining alive so that teachers have a voice in their own future.

But what about dads?

Did you know that in Wisconsin there was a bill called the Equal Placement Draft that was proposed during this same time period? The bill proposed that dads who were willing and able to take care of their children 50% of the time should be able to do so. Overshadowed by the the issue over teachers’ collective bargaining rights, also an important issue, the bill got lost in the shuffle and was not passed.

How did we arrive here? How is it that our government does NOT find it overwhelmingly just and fair that a dad who is WILLING AND ABLE to take care of his kids should be allowed to do so?

Yet thousands of dads are sitting home right now without their children. I can assure you that some of them are in tears over it. These dads work hard, and they deserve to be an equal parent to their kids – yet they are not allowed to do so.

Who wins? Not the kids. Not their dads. I’m sure that there are moms who are happy to have their kids around most of the time. That’s only natural. But is this arrangement benefiting the child when dad is a man of integrity that mom just doesn’t get along with anymore?

Our schools and our communities aren’t winners when they have to deal with children that have behavior problems because there is no male role model to guide them.

Taking a long term view, who wins?

It looks to me like the courts are the only winners, because it’s far more simple to give dads 4 days a month to see their kids (just over 10% visitation) and 100% of the child support than it is to give a couple who are disgruntled with each other a settlement that is fair to the CHILD. It’s a classic case of dad being treated like a second-class parent, and it is shameful.

When a marriage does not work out, that doesn’t mean that bitterness and negative feelings should overtake a parent’s responsibility to put their child’s welfare at the top of their list of important things. This is true whether the parent is a man or a woman. Yet the courts have conditioned the process to strip dads and children of their rights.

There was an amazing response by teachers and parents, alike, when it was proposed that collective bargaining be taken away. But here’s my question:

Where were the dads and dad advocates?

Why was downtown Madison, WI, devoid of people shouting for dads’ rights? Are divorced dads so defeated that they believe they don’t deserve to be heard?

And remember, you are not alone …

Appreciate Your Mate on Valentines Day

Remember to kiss your sweetheart on Valentine’s Day.

And don’t forget to take a minute to think about how different your life would be if he/she wasn’t there for you. This is a great way to appreciate them, which is not always easy to do when we get caught up in the daily routine of life and survival.

Beyond money, beyond possessions, stress and pain – there is something that truly does make life worth living. Love.

Our mate is the person who gives us the love and support we need to carry on. No matter how big a problem may seem, having my wife by my side to solve it is one of the greatest gifts I can ask for.

And remember, you are not alone …

Make a Date with Destiny: Schedule a Deadline for Your Goals

I used to think that setting a specific date on my goals was unrealistic. I felt that I’d accomplish what I set out to do when I was done, and that a definite completion date was forcing the issue, and would cause too much pressure.

Boy was I wrong.

For years I have set one-year and five-year goals for myself, but there was a time when the specifics of my “due date” were relegated to a statement like, “a year from now I will have accomplished my goal of (insert specifics here).”

One day it dawned on me that each time I stated my goal, along with the fact that I’d accomplish it one year from now, I was always the guy who would accomplish his goal ONE YEAR FROM NOW. I was never getting any closer to the due date because as each day passed, my deadline kept extending to exactly one year.

Placing an actual date on my goal moves me closer to the deadline each day. And as we all know, when a deadline we’ve committed to draws closer we get moving in an effort to accomplish our goal (or project). The pressure of an oncoming deadline creates the momentum necessary to accomplish it. Otherwise, it’s just too far away to take seriously.

Even if you’ve discovered what it is you want, defined it clearly and set attainable steps toward accomplishment – without a specific completion date, we’re far less likely to get where we want to go. Without that date, how do we set milestones or a timeline of when we need to have each step of the process done?

The pressure I was once so afraid of creating is actually a key ingredient to success.

What if a deadline arrives and we haven’t accomplished our goal?
Then we need to reassess and figure out why we weren’t able to accomplish our goal. At that point we can refocus our efforts on the goal, set a new plan and a new completion date.

Check out the following links for more details on goals:

A Fresh Look at Goals for Parents, Kids and the Family
The Magic If: Do you Know What Your Future Looks Like?
Life is Like a Cup of Coffee

And remember, you are not alone …

Great New Men’s Resource: Thirtymag.com

There’s a fantastic new online publication for men called Thirtymag.com.

According to the publisher, Christian Collard, the publication has one simple goal: “to provide content that will inform, inspire and engage with today’s guy.”

Simple? Maybe. Easy? Absolutely not – but Thirtymag.com delivers. I think the key to the publication’s success is Christian’s ability to bring together dads and men from all walks of life. Yes you, as long as you’re a man, can submit an article to Thirtymag.com.

“Our website is an outlet for men, husbands, and fathers to connect, share, and engage with an active community of similar lifestyles and personalities. We leave the door open to any writer or blogger with an idea to share, topic to cover, or even a event to promote. ThirtyMag.com covers topics such as health, adventure, travel, fitness, fatherhood, relationships, food, sports, cars, money, and fun. We publish regular content appropriate for all ages (stuff that won’t get you in trouble when viewed at home or the office).

ThirtyMag.com hopes to provide quality and engaging content from a wide range of viewpoints with the goal of informing and inspiring men of today. We are connected, we are learning, and we are sharing.”

I’d like to thank Christian for taking some time to tell us a little bit about his site. I also hope you enjoy Thirtymag.com as much as I do.

And remember, you are not alone …

The Magic If – Do You Know What Your Future Looks Like?

When I speak about goals to students and families, one of the things I do is help people create a 5-Year Vision – a very specific picture of what they want their lives to look like and who they want to be five years down the road. It’s something I learned about from Brian Tracy.

What I’ve found is that many people say they have no idea what it is they want to be doing, or who they want to be in five years. But when I ask a very simple question, almost 100% of the time their “not knowing” melts away and a clear answer begins to manifest.

So what’s the question?

What if? What if you did know? Who would you be? What would your life look like?

This question comes from the famed director and teacher, Constantine Stanislavski, one of the greatest contributors to modern theater and film acting.

Stanislavski had a theory called the “magic if,” and he instructed his actors to ask questions like: “what if I were this character? What if this were my role? How would I act? How would I react? How would I feel? If this were my life, what would I do? Who would I be?

You might be wondering what this has to do with your life. An actor playing a role and a real person are totally different – right? Not as much as you might think.

When you’re an actor, you audition for a role and you either get offered the role or you don’t. If you’re offered the role, it’s your choice whether or not you accept it. It’s completely up to you.

Life is the same way. Whether you know it or not, we’re all actors. At least to the degree that we ALL accept the role being offered to us or we don’t.

As an example, let’s say you’re a sales associate. What’s being put upon you is the role of sales associate. That’s what’s you think you should be doing, that’s what you’re being told you should be doing. And so you go into work every day, and you love it. You love working with your boss, you enjoy being a sales associate – helping people find what they need, merchandising the store, etc. It’s a good company and you’re satisfied – great!

You’re accepting that role, and you’re happy about it. It’s the role you want.

Now let’s alter the situation. You’re still a sales associate, but now you hate it. You despise it. You can’t stand your boss, you loath your calling in life – or more specifically what you think your calling in life is. And even though you hate coming into work every day, you still do.

You’re accepting that role of sales associate. It’s your choice whether or not you change it. Just like the actor, you decide.

In order to make a change, or more specifically a change that’s going to give you a more fulfilling life, you’ll need to discover, clarify and set a new goal. Then you can make a plan to help you move toward accomplishment of that goal. For more details on what I call smart goal setting, click on the links at the end of the article.

One Final Note
Sometimes when you’re thinking about change, fear rears its ugly head. You may start thinking things like, “this looks too hard. I’m scared. What if I fail?” There will be a temptation to not try at all, to remain in the same exact spot that you’re in. But remember, failure is sometimes part of the process. It’s what we do with what appears to be failure that defines our future.

It took Thomas Edison over 10,000 “failures” before he invented a working light bulb. It took Colonel Sanders (Kentucky Fried Chicken) 1,009 “failures” before he received his first yes from a restaurant to sell chicken with his secret recipe.

As Brian Tracy says, “the five years are going to pass anyway.” When you arrive at that future time, will you be happy if you’re in the same place you’re in today? As hard as it may seem to make changes, it’s just as hard – and as painful – to stay where you are.

Don’t let the deceitful feeling of “comfort” with where you are stop you from having a truly fulfilling life. You have the right to accomplish your objectives and goals.

And remember, you are not alone …

Related Links:
A Fresh Look at Goals for Parents, Kids and the Family
A Fresh Look at Goals for Parents, Kids and the Family – Part 2
Goals and Emotions
Life is Like a Cup of Coffee
Smart Goals