Monday, October 28, 2013

To Jump or Not to Jump?

We all know how tough it can be to see our kids facing a challenging choice or situation -- how often is our first reaction to jump in and try to manage or fix things for them so they don’t have to feel bad or struggle? Of course there are times for us to share our experience and 'great wisdom' with our kids, but generally that strategy is helpful only when they are open and asking for it!

It’s natural to want to tell them what to do, and we’ve all done it. But what really happens when we jump in and try to force our advice and opinion in order to fix or prevent a situation for them? 

Typically, kids of any age will give us one of these responses:
- Resistance to our advice
- Frustration that we don’t really get it
- Shutting down totally and not listening to what we’re trying to say
- Deciding to never share a challenging situation with us again

There are also some kids who can become addicted to our help, always looking to us for an answer to their problems. They can eventually wind up with limited skills for finding their own solution because too often we’ve done it for them! It becomes a habit of letting us step in to fix everything …

The truth is that none of us gets lasting value when someone else fixes (or tries to fix) a problem or situation for us. We can listen to advice and stories that come from someone’s experiences, but the answers that really work best and empower our life more must come from our own creative problem-solving brain. As parents, we have an opportunity to help build empowered decision-making skills with our kids. 

I want to share an example of something that happened with my own daughter when she was 4 years old – on my part, I tried to keep it simple:

She had climbed up and was standing on a piece of workout equipment about 4½ feet off the ground. As she looked at me and then at the couch, I could tell she was planning on jumping off and onto the couch. After quickly assessing the risk of her getting hurt (I figured that if she fell, she might hurt herself but most likely not very seriously), I knew that this was one of those teachable moments. I stayed very calm and asked “what could happen if you jump?” 

She didn’t say anything, but looked at me and back at the couch, back at me and at the couch, and I just waited. I stayed curious about what her choice was going to be and wanted to let her decide, knowing that if she did fall she wouldn’t get really hurt. I was honestly not attached to a particular outcome, and stayed open and quiet.

I knew that if she decided to jump and ended up falling, I would not judge her, yell at her, or say any kind of "I told you so." 
I would simply hold and console her if she hurt herself. I truly felt that I wouldn't have to say much of anything, and could trust that she would have her experience and learn what she needed to learn in that moment. So I quietly observed, and was interested -- what's she going to do?

She didn't jump; she chose to get down on her own … it was fully her decision, and I just held space for her to make up her own mind. And today, after going through many of these experiences over the past few years, I am convinced that my commitment to remaining calm, being curious, and asking the right questions has been the biggest reason that my daughter has the ability (and willingness) to make empowered choices. 

Helping kids make decisions in this way intrinsically builds their self-responsibility and self-reliance; they learn to trust their own guidance instead of needing to be told what to do. So as parents, what can we do for our kids to help them develop their own problem-solving capability? We get an opportunity to help them every time they are struggling, and instead of giving advice, we can learn to ask empowering questions! 

Through your asking, they often will find empowerment on their own, which is the goal.  If they react and get defensive, then go back to listening with curiosity and no judgment, and reflecting back what you're hearing in your own words. 

These are just examples and there is no black or white. Use your intuition to ask questions that might lead your child to their highest choice (without being attached to a specific outcome). You can use this list of questions as a guide to empowering older kids to make their own decisions …

What is it you are wanting? 
What do you think you need right now?
How can I best support you?
What is really important to you right now?
How did you feel when you made that choice? 
If you did make that choice, what do you think would happen? 
What did you learn from this?
How could you do it differently next time?
When you think that, how is it making you feel?
How can you take responsibility for your choice?
What is new and different now?
How do you think this choice will affect you? 

As parents, we have to be willing to ask ourselves … what about me? Can I use these questions when I am faced with a decision? Am I taking responsibility for my own thoughts and actions?  There is no question that the most effective way to influence and guide is to model.  We are the example they will look to for the skills and ways of being we are trying to teach. 

Until next time, Be Empowered!


Tuesday, August 13, 2013

How Kids Get Motivated From the Inside-Out

Have you noticed with young children how they are always wanting to help, eager to be part of the action, and fearlessly try to do things that you may think are beyond their developmental abilities at the moment?

"Intrinsic motivation" is something we are all BORN with. It is a motivating force that naturally occurs from within, not something externally directed by someone else. And it's something we as parents can actually foster in our kids!

How can parents encourage a child's “intrinsic” motivation?
Can you imagine your child being self-motivated, without pressure from you?  It's really possible, and as a parent you hold the key by creating an environment that supports your child's curiosity, interest and self-determination.

It comes down to knowing what really inspires your child; to understanding that kids (and actually all of us) are driven by 4 major needs ... the need for connection, contribution, control, and continual growth. 
  • Connection -- the feeling of being heard and valued; that "I matter" (creates confidence and resiliency)
  • Contribution -- the feeling of being significant and part of something bigger (creates a sense of belonging)
  • Control -- the feeling of autonomy and having a choice (creates independence and self-reliance)
  • Continual growth -- having opportunities to pursue interests, express creativity, master skills, and achieve goals (creates self-esteem and well-being)

Keeping in mind these 4 drives, here are a few things we can do as parents to begin developing and supporting intrinsic motivation in our kids!

10 Powerful Ways to Foster Your Child's Intrinsic Motivation:

  1. Encourage simple experiences that satisfy their natural desires and creativity: playing, dancing, exploring nature, or discovering new things. Give them enough free time and space; allow room for boredom :-). Avoid over scheduling.
  2. Be open and curious with your child. Sometimes that means just being quiet and listening. 
  3. Allow your child the freedom to make choices. Let go of your need to direct, interfere, bribe, or otherwise control what they choose.
  4. Instead of projecting your own ideas of what you want for them, pay attention to what your child is naturally interested in. Ask yourself if there is some way you can support them or facilitate this interest?
  5. Let go of expectations, judging, or being attached to a specific outcome with what they are doing.  It causes tension, makes them question their abilities, and can stop them from taking action. 
  6. When you believe your child is off track, remember that all behavior is a form of communication. Get curious and ask a good question, then step back. What is it you are wanting? “What do you think might happen if you choose that?” or “What did you feel when that happened?”  Communicating from your core values will help them develop their own inner guidance. 
  7. Set limits that make sense! Instead of an automatic NO, look for the yes. If it is really a no, see through their eyes and validate what they are wanting. Communicate a no in a calm and respectful way.  
  8. If possible, keep them out of "fight, flight or freeze" (survival mode). They can't think straight and can't think for themselves when they feel pushed or forced. Being calm, confident and connected with your child will usually keep them open to creative solution, even at a young age.
  9. Open up to ways your child can contribute to your family, your neighborhood, and the greater community. Give them opportunities to participate in their own inspired way. 
  10. Hold your child’s highest vision at all times -- see them as resourceful, capable and creative! See their greatness, and remember to see yours, too.

It's never too late to create an environment that supports your child being curious, thoughtful, and intrinsically motivated. Start using a few of these tips, and notice if your child becomes a bit more confident, a bit more creative, and maybe even a bit more helpful around the house!! I'm telling you that the results you see in your child will be worth the effort.

Be empowered,

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

What stops you from being a "positive parent?"

Anyone who is a parent already knows that parenting is one of the most demanding roles we get to experience in life! But why does it have to be so challenging? Why is it that, no matter how positive our intentions and how much we really love our kids, we react the way we do?  Why do we find it difficult to respond in a calm, confident, clear, and loving way when we know that's what our kids really need?

It is perfectly normal to believe that it's our child's behavior that makes us feel the way we do, and may justify why we get upset. But I'm here to tell you there's something else going on, and that our child's behavior is simply setting it off!

I have learned what I believe to be the biggest secret to understanding and solving these relationship challenges between parents and their kids. Stated simply, here is the secret:

Our child's behavior triggers our own "unfinished business." 
Based on brain research, this is what we now understand about emotional triggers:
  • A trigger is a specific person, event or behavior that initiates an automatic impulse or reaction that sends us into fight, flight, or freeze (also called “survival mode”).   
  • No matter how good our intention is, when we are triggered we cannot respond in a way that is rational and calm. 
  • Everyone has emotional triggers, but they vary from person to person, based primarily on how we were treated and brought up as children. 
To understand these triggers, think about your child being really upset or angry in public, acting in a way that frustrates or embarrasses you. Your automatic reaction might be to get visibly upset, or even quietly angry; you might feel compelled to yell at them, get out of there immediately, or give them whatever they want to make them stop. It may seem like a perfectly natural reaction to get upset when our child acts in a way that we don't like, right? 

But do you ever wonder why someone else is not even phased by a particular behavior that sends you through the roof? Or why there are times when you can handle what your child is doing, but there are other times you totally shut down and lose your composure?

It’s common to feel these automatic impulses more often if we grew up in an environment that was not nurturing or loving. These triggers are personal, and bring up our own “unfinished business” -- that is, the unresolved emotions, thoughts, and beliefs that get stimulated by something in the environment. They bring up parts of us that feel unloved, unsupported, and perhaps disrespected.  

But no matter how strong these emotional triggers may seem in the moment, they are also a huge opportunity for self-awareness and personal growth. And, you can transform them!

When I understood this one, very important function of our human psychology and physiology, it turned my parenting around. I took the time to really understand how our brain is wired to react, and discovered what needs to happen to rewire and become the calm, loving, confident parent we truly want to be!

I found that taking responsibility for and moving through these emotional triggers really is the KEY to being calm, thinking clearly, setting limits that make sense, and coming up with creative, win-win opportunities and solutions with our kids.

Be empowered!


Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Morning Meltdown: Getting out the door and still liking each other!

Some school mornings can get off to a pretty rough start. You might know what I’m talking about. You have a full day ahead of you, and it starts off with “I DON’T WANT TO GO TO SCHOOL!” This morning was one of those.

I could have gotten mad and tried to force her, telling her “You are going, no matter what.” But I know from experience that when I start doing that, it gets worse and escalates into a power struggle.

Instead, I took a deep breath and remembered the most important thing to me is that she and I stay connected; our relationship is really important and being CALM is a #1 priority for me. Well, maybe I had to take more than one deep breath on this particular morning!

So what did I do? First, I just noticed that she was having a hard time. I mentally stepped back from the scene, observing her fully communicating how she did not want to go, watching her drama as she sprawled out on the bed, not going to budge. I knew for sure that she was going to school, but also know that when she is struggling, that’s not a time for me to push, push, push.

The second I was calm and not in reactive mode, the air got a little lighter. I validated her feelings … “I totally know what you’re saying and agree that I don’t always want to get up and go either.” I paused, allowing her some silence and space to take in the fact that I understood.

Then I reminded her, “And we both know that once you get going, you’re fine.” I said it calm and easy, and almost funny using a little sense of humor.

She stopped her drama for a moment and said, “Okay, that’s true. But I still don’t want to go.” Then back into a little drama, saying that she needed some help – “Could you at least put my pants on for me?” It was pretty funny to me, since she never asks for help getting dressed! I joked with her, helping her with her clothes and asking what else I could help with, being fun and playful in my tone.

I thought we were clear for takeoff, but then there she was, on the floor again with the drama! So I encouraged her …“Honey, if you need to, why don’t you go over there and scream it (I don’t want to go to school!), five times really loud.” She did; it lasted only 2 times and then she was done.

I was really clear that we were going. She had to be there at 8:00, and I had a meeting at the school at 9:00. Again, I was unwavering – if I am on the fence, she is also on the fence, and then it’s almost impossible to get going!

So then I asked for her help – please work with me so we can get there on time. Her demeanor softened. She got herself together and ready to go.

Okay, it’s 7:50 am, and it is crunch time! We are out the door. She was happy and regulated; I was happy and regulated.

You know, it may sound like this took hours, but it really was only about 30 minutes. I was still able to shower, make breakfast, make her lunch. Okay, so the mascara had to go on in the car at the stoplight.

But it was worth the extra few minutes to not fight and have both of us start our day feeling disconnected. I know without a doubt that it would have taken longer and been so exhausting if I would have tried to force her through yelling, demanding, and throwing out consequences that I know would be hard to keep.

How did it all work out? As she got out of the car to walk into school, she kissed me goodbye and cheerfully said “Have a good day, mom!”

Be Empowered,

P.S. There is no “perfect way” to parent that can make this happen. And, there’s no amount of pushing, pleading, bribing, forcing, or threatening that will get me this outcome, either. Bottom line, I have to be authentically confident, clear, and calm. It’s not always easy to do, and that’s where the WAVE™ comes in. Just a great foundational tool I can count on to help me through these kinds of challenges!
“It takes longer to argue or force than it does to connect with your child and find an empowered resolution.” 
Kim Griffith, Parent Empowerment Coach

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

I Was Almost a Helicopter Mom!

My daughter loves animals and decided to sign-up for a spring break camp at the Dallas Zoo.  She spent some intense, focused time creating a journal and wrote about how excited and a little scared she was to go.  Wow… she is going to camp without knowing anyone. My little daughter is growing up!
We arrived early (which is rare for us) and found the Camp Advisor. After a brief conversation, I kissed my child goodbye.  I started to drive away when something told me to wait and watch.  I could feel my stomach turn!  What was happening?  She usually connects with people right away – usually having no problem finding her place.  Not this time!  She quietly looked around as the boys were wrestling and the girls were looking at a bug.  She wandered over to a patch of grass next to the outdoor classrooms and sat down by herself!  I was feeling nervous for her.

I waited and waited – surely someone will notice that she is struggling!  No – everyone was in their own world and walked right passed her.  My nausea tripled and I wanted to throw-up!  Here goes the voice inside my head, “I should have put her in the older camp …these kids are too young.”  Then it happened; I couldn’t help myself and started to get out of my car to go rescue her from this horrible situation!

I abruptly stopped. I asked myself what is really going on here?  Is this her experience, or was it my own when I was a child?  Immediately, a picture flashed through my mind of me at school when I was a little girl.  I was feeling left out and nobody noticed.  Tears came to my eyes, as I watched my daughter in this very moment sitting on the grass looking through her bag.  I took a deep breath and allowed myself to feel my own struggle.

I knew it was important that I let her have her own experience.  I couldn’t solve this for her, and instead I envisioned her having a wonderful time with the animals and easily talking with the other kids.  And that is what I did for the next few minutes.  I would love to report that all of a sudden some little girl came over and started talking to her, but that didn’t happen.  The Camp Advisor motioned for them to form a line.  My daughter stood up from her grassy spot and simply walked over and found her place in line behind a red-headed spunky fellow and began walking toward the entrance of the Zoo.

As I drive away, I am now curious about her day and feeling very interested in hearing her side of the story when I pick her up!

Finding my trust,

P.S.  When I picked her up, she jumped in the car and said, I want to come back tomorrow!  And mom, when you dropped me off, I almost started crying.  I wanted you so bad!  But then I found a friend and things got a lot better.”

I gave my child a chance to feel uncomfortable and find her own way.  Instead of being a helicopter mom flying in to “rescue” her from an uncomfortable situation, I understood that my discomfort was simply my own unfinished business, needing to be felt and acknowledged.

NOTE: I am writing this as my daughter is feeling a little left-out at school, and I thought of this story from last spring. I shared it with her and we were both reminded that things do work themselves out and she will find her way ... no helicopter needed, thank you very much!

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

A Parenting "Challenge-Buster" for You or A Friend

I want to help make 2013 a year of less stress and more ease for you and your child by getting you started on the right foot ... if that sounds good to you, please keep reading!
If you’ve had your fill of parenting advice books and feel you’ve tried everything but haven’t been able to help your child feel calmer, more respectful, and more self-responsible, and you’d like to turn this around once and for all, then I’d like to help you.
For a limited time I am offering a special zero-cost “Parenting Challenge-Buster” Coaching Session.

During this powerful 30 minute one-on-one coaching session, we’ll work together to ...
  • Create a crystal-clear vision of what you really want for you and your child.
  • Uncover hidden forces that may be sabotaging your efforts to feel respected and listened to.
  • Outline a "next-step" action plan for solving your biggest parenting challenge, once and for all!
You’ll leave this session feeling renewed, re-energized, and inspired to be the parent you really want to be and see your kids be the happy, healthy, successful, respectful and fun kids that they are at their core!

To claim your “Parenting Challenge-Buster” Coaching Session, simply send me an email and answer the following questions: