When you DO finally use your strong & kind voice - what constitutes a successful outcome?
Something I always tell my clients is to remember to “separate the reaction from the result”.
Even though WE have found our “strong & kind” doesn’t mean that the person we’re speaking with has. In fact, most people haven’t done the work to drop their defences and respond in an authentic way.
What does this mean? To put it bluntly, the person on the other side of the strong & kind might respond pretty poorly. Bummer eh?
So - they key - is to anticipate a predictable response. If that person is often defensive - expect defensiveness. If that person often freezes people out when they speak up? Expect some distance from them for a while. If that person is a yeller… You got it - expect some yelling.
BUT, what this DOESN’T mean is that you haven’t created change.
It might take a couple of rounds of staying “strong & kind” before a shift happens, but, it most likely will.
Perhaps it won’t include a tearful apology, a gracious repairing of harm, or any sort of acknowledgement of wrongdoing…
But what will happen? Whatever boundary you set will be followed. And that - my friend - is a big win.
Yesterday morning, my husband fell down a flight of stairs and dislocated his arm.
He’s okay - he went to the hospital by ambulance, and, after a few hours of intense pain were able to massage his shoulder back in.
It was really scary for us having to call 9-1-1… , see him in so much pain… But, he’s home now, he’s safe, and he will heal.
The reverberations of an event like this - especially in a family with small children - is not felt lightly.
Our boys are yelling more - pushing back… pushing each other. And, our daughter - well, she, like dad, has hurt arms and is refusing to both of them.
She clutched them like she had double slings on - last night she couldn’t put pyjamas on because it would hurt to lift her arms. She has needed someone to feed her dinner, and now breakfast. She is asking for someone to carry her down the stairs because she can’t hold the banister.
As our little empath, I don’t doubt she’s feeling her daddy’s pain. I also know that what she’s also looking for is some tender attention - some extra love from the adults in her life to feel safe after the scary thing that happened yesterday.
But here’s the thing - I’m exhausted. I’m stretched. I came into this latest crisis depleted - dealing with COVID, our Reno, the loss of grampa, the challenges of being a business owner with no school for our kids to go through…
I have been able to dig deep and give her lots of tenderness, but, have also lost my patience a few times with her and the boys. I just simply can’t sustain it… there isn’t enough in the tank.
I wonder, in the future, if she’ll remember this event. And, if she will feel is the love we were able to give her, or, the frustration this “I can’t use my arms” time made us feel?
We all have those times from our past - those times where we know our parents didn’t give us what we wanted or needed.
As a parent myself now, I can see how these future-therapy-worthy-conversations go. “They couldn’t figure it out! I was really struggling and they didn’t see me!”
“They KNEW what I needed, why couldn’t they just give it to me?”
And I wonder what I’ll say when finally confronted.
Because the truth - or at least MY truth today - is that I’m doing the best that I can, but, that “best” is likely not good enough for my little peanut.
To BE the best for her, I need a week long vacation, 10 hour sleeps for a little while, daily work-outs, and a break from my businesses…
These are impossibilities right now - so, my best, is simply not going to be enough.
I wonder if, in this future conversation, I’ll have the courage to say “I knew what you needed, but I didn’t have the patience, the energy, the capacity to give it to you. And I’m so so sorry.”
And I wonder if she’ll be able to forgive me.
Mostly, for now, I hope that I’ll find the capacity and the grace to be able to forgive myself.
I remember sitting in my first solo apartment. I was talking to my mom on the phone.
I asked “who do you think I am?” She answered “you’re kind, and empathic, and compassionate…”. I said “yeah, I know that, but, what about the rest of me? What colours to I like? What movies? What food? What would I do with my time if I had the right to choose?”
You see - I am a recovering people pleaser.
And, having spent the better part of my life helping others, and, more importantly bending who I was to meet the needs of others, I had lost much of myself.
That year, I chose to get to know myself. It felt miraculous.
I spent many afternoons, evenings, and weekends alone. I discovered I loved a good rom-com, bold colours, nature prints, and salad. I went for long walks through my town - found nature trails to cross country ski on, brought the newspaper to a local café to read on Saturday mornings. I delighted in my solo time in nature, wrote in my journal, and, found myself for the first time.
But, this was just the start. I had lost so much of myself to fit in, to make others feel comfortable, and to keep the peace.
“Discovering myself” continues today - sometimes it’s miraculous, and sometimes gut wrenching. The process is uneven and uncomfortable and soothing, all at the same time.
If you don’t do this already, it might be the right time to start asking yourself what YOU want. Start with some easier decisions: what do you actually want to eat for dinner? What show interests you? Start with these small steps forward - and the ball will start to roll.
Life is too short to not discover who you truly are.
If you want some help to find yourself and your voice in the world, send me a message and let's start the work together.
I just can’t… I just can’t… I just can’t…
I lay under my quilt saying this over and over to myself.
Overwhelm. Exhaustion… Even my fingertips were tired.
I lay there longer - tears slipped from my eyes.
I felt ashamed - I had just yelled at my husband. I hate it when this happens - but I was mad, and resentful, and jealous.
You see, I had woken early for a full week - trying to let my exhausted husband unwind…. The COVID shutdown had decimated his business, and he'd stayed up many nights trying to salvage it.
Today - he'd turned a corner. He decided to wake up early to do yoga and mediate. While he did his yogic breathing at the foot of my bed, our children were wreaking havoc upstairs.
And somehow I assumed, since I had woken early for days to tend to the kids, that he would pop out of his downward dog and into the kids’ room to quiet them so I could get some rest too.
But, this type of understanding does not exist in the old version of the “Book of Dad”. You know the book - the conscious and subconscious lessons society, and our families teach us about what it is to be a man. So, he stayed breathing and stretching.
I furiously exploded out of my peaceful slumber ready to shove his perfect triangle shaped body to the ground and kick his butt up the stairs.
Instead? I yelled… and then, being the martyr that I was, went up the stairs to tend to the children.
My next action? Slip into the kitchen and whip up a batch of banana chocolate chip muffins.
Sometime into my second muffin, my reality slapped me in the face. Tears started streaming down my cheeks, and I brought what was left of the muffin into bed with me.
Now you may find it odd that as a “conflict coach”, I’m not all that good at conflict sometimes. I teach it. Heck, I work solving some of the most complex bullying situations that exist.
But my own conflict? It’s still a work in progress.
As I reflect on the weeks since COVID started, I realized, in my panic, I had slipped into old habits. MY “Book of Mom” taught me to keep the home tidy, and safe, and calm. Keep the children and partner happy. Nourish, grocery shop, fold laundry.
And, my husband? Go to work, make money, support the family, plan for our futures.
Most importantly - I started communicating like a “good wife” would. Always with kindness. Choosing to see the gratitude instead of the problems. Swallowing frustration to keep things calm.
Being purely KIND doesn’t work for long-term happiness…. When we are only kind we give up our own needs and desires. Being unboundaried results in being walked all over - in this space, we lose ourselves and the lives we want to live.
Personally, I can only sustain my KIND for a little while. The resentment builds and I explode into STRONG.
STRONG resulted in rage and yelling - spewing all my carefully folded resentment at my husband like a one-sided snow-ball fight. STRONG was aggressive, and mean, and harsh. When we yell, or manipulate, or explode - it is hard for the other person to hear us. Worse than this is they do not have a chance to be heard. Without hearing both sides - no long-lasting solutions can be found.
But, as I lay there under my quilt - it hit me. The simplicity of the solution made me laugh.
Why am I not doing what I suggest to all my clients trying to get out of sticky situations???
I need to meld the two - find STRONG AND KIND together. When those come together, we stay thoughtful and compassionate to the other person without “giving in”.
For almost a decade, I have watched my clients find their STRONG AND KIND voices. In that place, they go from terrified to calm and courageous. When they use this new voice, complex bullying issues fold like a deck of cards.
So, why couldn’t it be used here too?
And I will try it out… I promise. But for now, I need to unwind, and release, and get some perspective. And perhaps I will sneak one more of those banana chocolate chip muffins into bed with me.
Want to find out what happened and learn more? Join me on Facebook or Instagram to learn about my new project: Find Your Voice, Find Your Power!
I talked with a friend last week who is an ER nurse in a Vancouver Hospital. She talked about how honoured she was that people were grateful for her work, but, felt that ALL Canadians were acting heroically right now.
She said "Do you know how much easier Canadians are making MY job, and how much healthier they are keeping people in vulnerable positions?"
That gave me pause. Sure, we can say "What? I get to stay home and watch Netflix! That's not heroic!" But, if we take my friend's perspective, we could also choose to see that we ARE giving up many freedoms to save lives. She said "So many people are in tough positions - losing jobs, taking care of kids, no school, trying to work, not being able to find work, worried about money, and not having the normal supports they usually do."
This IS a collective action by Canadians to protect ourselves and each other.
In fact, this might be the largest act of compassion Canadians have shown in my lifetime. And - we are acting with such empathy while being more disconnected than ever before.
So - I am going to remember that we are ALL important - whether we are on the front-lines, or in our homes... I am going to take this as re-reminder that at our cores, we are good - and, in this moment of crisis, love is flowing.
Think you're going to lose your marbles with your toddlers or little kids while they are home for this extended break?
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It has been a game-changer in our home. Because really, sometimes you have to just GET things done! Most of you know that we have 3 kids 4 and under - and so "getting things done" can be a bit of a gong show some days!
The tips here will help your home be calmer, more reasonable, and productive... Doesn't that sound good???
Not only have I used many of the suggestions with my own kids, but, I coach parents to use them too. The results? Consistently excellent.
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Not sure what to do with your externally or internally explosive child or teen for the next 3 weeks? BUY THIS BOOK!
I have used Dr. Ross Greene's techniques with many students, clients, and even my own children. It's gold.
It can transform your class or home SO quickly.
The concept? Our kids pick up some life skills easily, and others struggle. Just like some kids learn to read or sleep easily, and others struggle and need extra help.
He argues that most kids who struggle socially are just lacking basic skills. E.g. transitioning from one activity to another, asking for love or attention in a positive way, staying focused during challenging tasks, etc.
The solution? Get your child or teen involved in finding solutions. You brainstorm, then try them!
The book does an excellent job of HOW to do this process and what it could sound like with different kids or teens.
If you want the paperwork that goes with the book to do an assessment and go through the problem solving process with your child, go to this link: https://www.livesinthebalance.org/paperwork
Keep me posted on how it goes!
Looking for something to do during school shut down with your pre-teen or teenaged daughters (besides letting them watch copious amounts of Netflix... which is okay too!)? ORDER THIS BOOK!
It was a game changer for me in how I learned to handle conflict with a strong and kind voice.
I originally took it out from the library so I could teach my grade 9's more effectively. By the end of the first chapter, I was weeping in relief. It showed me that I had no idea how to handle things in a way that would actually resolve an issue and feel GOOD at the end.
This is the book I recommend the most to families - it will help both you (mom) and daughters figure out how we've been socially conditioned to resolve conflicts - and, show how those ways aren't all that productive. It will also give you a clear way to start expressing yourself that will make life SO much less tricky and much simpler. (And don't we all want that while we're hanging out together for copious amounts of time in the near future?)
Buy it! Now! You'll thank me for SURE!
Look at the behaviours under "unlucky kids"? They are unlucky, because the way that they are showing discomfort is through behaviours that close our hearts.
Lucky kids? They cry, they stall, they cuddle in... And, we easily love them.
Why is this so profound for me? Because I have worked with these "unlucky kids" for years - both as kids and teens who bully, but also those who get picked on and explode.
What do I see behind my closed door once they feel safe? Tears, shame, discomfort... and mostly - a willingness to change.
What do they feel from society? That they are "bad" at their cores.
Most importantly - we need to understand that these unlucky kids will NEVER change when we punish or isolate them. They are lacking SKILLS to handle things better.
So - the next time a child, teen or adult explodes? Take a deep breath, and open that big heart of yours. Find out what's going on - stay curious - and THAT is what they need..
Isn't this so beautiful?
This quote came from one of my clients. It was her mantra.
Mantra? Yes... Part of the Third Way process is not only figuring out how to find your strong and kind voice with the person bullying you, but, understanding the truth of the relationship and solidly finding your spot in it.
Cue creating a mantra.
I will ask my clients this question: "What is the truth of this whole situation?"
The truth becomes their mantra. We write it on a sticky note and they put it in their bedroom. I tell them that they must say it to themselves before they go to bed, and when they wake in the morning.
By following through on this practice, they re-find their truth - their power - their foundation - every day. The result? They stand taller and are much less likely to give their power up.
About 50% of the time the mantra is SO successful my clients never get bullied again.
The truth? Sometimes I don't.
Sometimes I snap, or yell, or pick a child up and move them somewhere else.
I try really hard to make those moments the minority though.
It is HARD to be calm, and curious, and non-reactive with 3 small children whipping around me at warp sleep. Really really hard some days. Finding my strong and kind voice as a parent has been one of my toughest challenge yet.
So - I'm going to share with the best wisdom I've learned along the way... maybe there's a little nugget in here to help you out.
1. I go to therapy. We make sense of the past, of lessons we learned, and the person I want to be instead. It's given me clarity, and relief, and has helped me find the voice I want to use.
2. I read parenting books. When we find a behaviour that seems impossible, we look for an answer in the research we have found (next week I'll share my favourite books and blogs with you!)
3. Being a mom and entrepreneur and wife is HARD... and my legs tell me to "flight" sometimes. So - I do the thing my body wants me to do: I run away almost every day. And then (of course) I loop back home. By doing what my parasympathetic nervous system is asking me to, I can return with a better hormonal balance to be the calm and centred mom I want to be.
4. I sleep. My goal? 8.5 hours a night. I find there's a direct connection between my mood and sleep. Bad sleep = angry mom. Good sleep = calm mom.
5. I have figured out which emotion is hard for ME to feel: grumpy. When my kids are grumpy - I have a hard time being supportive of them. I have found a mantra that helps "he's grumpy. This is hard for ME. Let him feel it, it will wash through him."
6. I practice acknowledging my kids thoughts and feelings so intensely that it's now THE habit. It easily pops out of my mouth.
7. And then, when I mess up... which I do... I apologize. I want them to understand that when I lose my cool, it is not because they are bad, but because I am a human and imperfect. I find those moments to be hugely connecting - they soothe the bad moment, and teach them how to apologize too when it's their turn.
What can YOU do to support YOU through this hard work?
What does this have to do with my kids' big emotions?
Staying calm during a storm of emotions is HARD work. Asking you to feel compassion for your child while they rage and reel against you... well, it can be downright excruciating at times.
If you don't find a way to "put your oxygen mask on first" - these skills will be almost impossible to follow through on.
A question I always ask parents is: "What is the one activity you enjoy doing that shifts your mood for 24 to 48 hours?"
Before you pick your activity, do a body scan.
Our bodies often tell us what is going on with our parasympathetic nervous system. These kid blow-ups might be putting you into "fight or flight" - so, to calm down, you'll need to "fight or flight". Obviously I'm not suggesting you ACTUALLY do those things - but, get to a gym and do the work your body wants you to.
If your arms, shoulders and neck are tight, you might consider trying some boxing while you're at the gym or try a Flow or Vinyasa yoga class. Legs? Get running, hop on the elliptical, skip.
If your body feels loose but your mind or spirit are low - go to the activities you know will fill that need - singing, meditating, praying, quilting, laughing with a friend.
Once you find the right activity for yourself, see how you can fit it in more regularly - and I mean about 4 to 5 times a week.
We can't schedule our kids' meltdowns, so, without a pretty regular self-care practice, you might not be all that successful at staying present and calm during the moments of big feelings.
Share in the comments the activity you think will help YOU to unwind! Maybe we can make a list together to help the parents out who might be still searching for that "right" activity.
You can do this - I promise. It's hard work, but the results are... well, beautiful. Your home will be calmer. You will feel more connected to your kids. You will feel proud of yourself.
Doesn't that sound good?
And, if you need a bit of extra help to get here, remember I am here to help, just send me a DM/PM and we can set up a session!
Yesterday, we talked about what to do when your kids are raging... or bawling... or showing other HUGE emotions.
We talked about how important it is to let them have their feelings. Not only will they feel supported, heard, and understood... But, by letting them have the full range of their emotions, they will decrease the amount of stress hormone in their body and will be open to problem solving!
So. Here's my guide to get YOU through this time. You can download it, save it, and pop it open on your phone during these intense moments as a guide.
Your job? Let them have their feelings.
Make listening sounds: "oh!" "ahhhh" "hmmmm..."
Connect to them - look sad, or worried, or frustrated FOR them.
Say back what they are saying - you don't have to agree, just make them know you've heard them - "Your brother hit you".
Say their feeling - "You are SO angry right now!"
And then let them do their thing. They might show bigger emotions, different emotions... but, at some point, they will burn out. They WILL stop, I promise. And when they do, they will feel calmer - and feel loved and cared for by YOU.
You have showed them that their feelings matter - and, ultimately, that THEY matter.
Only once they are down to a level 1 emotion only THEN do you try to find any solution to the problem.
You can do this - I promise it will help.
What do I do with my kid or teen’s emotions? They are so sensitive! He sobs uncontrollably! She screams and screams! Nothing stops them!
I hear this from parents all the time.
Sometimes these feelings exist because they are going through bullying or other traumatic issues. But, sometimes it's just because of every-day emotional lives of children and teens.
In my next 3 blog posts, I'm going to teach you how I handle my own kids emotions, and, how I coach my clients to make it through these stormy times.
Typically I first ask: What DO you do when their emotions are high?
Take a moment and think about your response to this question.
Often I hear these answers: I tell them to stop, I yell, I walk away, I tell them to stop crying, I distract them, I make a joke, I hug them but give up, I punish them, I try to problem solve, I put them in their room.
Fair. These times are SUPER hard. And, if we don't know how to handle these feelings, our go-to response is to shut them down ASAP so we can all breathe again.
But here's the thing: your child or teen is raging, because their stress hormone (cortisol) is super high. The only way to decrease their stress? Let them cry, scream, rage, bawl, yell, freak out.
But, the good news, is after these episodes - they are CALM. They are re-calibrated. They are happier... healthier... AND ready to problem solve.
Isn't that the goal? To try to ensure that this doesn't happen many more times?
Check my blog tomorrow for what to DO when you are in the midst of a meltdown, and, to get a nice visual guide you can download and have on hand when the next storm comes.
PS - If your child or teen is angry and hurting people or breaking things, that's NOT okay! Re-direct them to a safer place, and, allow them to continue to hit, but find something safe (like a pillow or couch cushion).
When I get a new client, it's typically because their child is getting bullied. So, our sessions start by looking at the bullying and stopping that problem. Then, if the family is open to it, I shift the focus to the family. We explore how their child can be best supported at home - especially now that they need to be practicing their new strong & kind voice.
The family that wrote this testimonial has been a joy to work with - not only did their daughter's bullying end, but, the family was so committed to shifting the way that they talked to each other...
When we met, it was so clear that there was SO much love between them, they just weren't totally sure how to untangle the messes that the HARD times brought.
Everyone wanted to be loving and supportive - they just weren't sure how to do that.
If you are interested in this kind of work too, know that I can be hired when there isn't bullying, but, there might be some conflict management issues that seem unsolvable between family members.
It's work I love doing - it feels important and impactful.
Send me a message to set up a Discovery Call to find out more!