A few weeks ago, I posted that as a family, we were going to start a daily journaling practice. I picked questions specific to each person. For my son, I picked questions about himself, my daughter’s questions focused on social dynamics and my husband and I reflected on our day. The kids were very enthusiastic when I explained the idea. In addition to the journals, I had a handful of different colored pens which added another fun element to the exercise. We decided to write in the journals after dinner, but before the bedtime routines started. This proved to be a good time because everyone was relaxed and had a lot of examples from the day that they could write about. The week we started was a little tough since the kids were still on winter break, but once they went back to school, they found they had many things to write about.
My son and I worked on his together each night. After a few days, he asked if I would write his answers to his questions for him, which I saw no problem doing. His questions revolved around identifying things that he did well and times when he could have asked for help. Many nights he had to think hard about for an example to write down. I always let him speak first, but if there was something else I knew had happened, I would say “I’d like to write down how you…..” This gave me the chance to show him different examples of things I thought he did well or times when I thought he could have asked for help. It enabled us to have discussions about different situations we might not have been able to talk about otherwise.
My daughter and husband worked on theirs individually. I would occasionally check in with them to see how it was going, but didn’t want to be overbearing about it. My daughter started to lose interest at the end of week two. When I talked to her about it, she thought that every night was too much. She said that the days weren’t that different with her friends and it was hard to think of new situations each night. (I’ll take minimal friend drama as a good thing!) She suggested that we journal once a week, which I think is a good compromise. My husband has also been very diligent and if he missed a day, he went back and caught up. A week or so into the exercise he sent me a text around lunch time that said he was working on something that was bringing out the best in him. Stopping in the middle of your day to acknowledge you are working on something you really enjoy can be so powerful and he has certainly seen that. He’s also seen that it can work in reverse. If he’s having a tough day, he’s stopped to focus on something he knows will lift his spirits, like checking in on an employee he’s mentoring. The simple act of breaking up the pattern of your day can have a major impact on your mood.
Overall, I’d call our journal exercise a success. We have some adjustments to make, like writing once a week instead of daily. I’m also going to expand the questions beyond the original three to keep it interesting. I will ask the kids to come up with some questions to keep them involved in the process. The greatest take-a-way has been that it has given us a chance to have a dialogue about important topics outside the heat of the moment. As parents, we want to have “teaching moments” when our kids are embroiled in a struggle, thinking that our wisdom will help them get through it. The problem is that in those moments emotion takes center stage and there is little room for anything else. This journal exercise is giving our family the opportunity to talk about situations before they happen or reflect on them after things have calmed down. I admit, some days it’s been hard to find the time to do it, but then I realize that is the point. We must make the time to slow down, to sit and have a conversation beyond the day-to-day banter. For us, today, writing in a journal is giving us the starting point for those conversations. What you do doesn’t matter, as long as you are taking the time to connect and talk to your kids.
I find so much joy in good conversations! When’s the last time you had a really good conversation about something that mattered? Give yourself the gift of a good conversation this week, dive beyond the surface of the busy day to day and talk about something more. Not sure how to get started? Direct message or email me at balancedheartcoaching.com and we’ll set up time this week to talk.
This blog was originally posted in September 2014.
How many times have you heard that today? We all do our best as parents to make things fair. If you have multiple children you try to keep things even – everyone gets the same number of chips/cookies on their plate or if one picked the movie last week, then it’s the others turn to pick this time. In an effort to keep things balanced and make sure everyone feels equal treatment we subconsciously devise a system where we keep score.
Keeping score is a natural part of any sport or game. By keeping score, you are able to measure your success and identify where you or your team needs work. In baseball if you not scoring enough runs then the team can work on their hitting. If a football or basketball team is allowing too many points, then defense can be the focus. Having a target for improvement is always a positive when you are trying to get better at something.
However, keeping score has extended way beyond the sports arena and now can be seen in so many aspects of our lives. We may use it at home to track good behavior or to keep things “fair”. Schools use grades to track performance, to identify who needs more help and who is excelling. In the work place we score employees based on how they perform in their job. On social media, we track how many likes we get on a certain post or picture. We even use it in our relationships – I called them last time, it’s their turn to call me or we invited them to our house, now it’s their turn to invite us or they drove the carpool last week, it’s my turn this week.
Keeping score does two things. The first thing is that when we keep score we subliminally start to measure a person’s effort or investment in the relationship. We have this inherent feeling within us that things need to be “even” and by even we mean equal effort. But is there really such a thing as equal effort? Does it/should it even matter? We should think about the motivation behind why we are doing something. Are you doing it because of what you are going to get in return? Or are you doing it because you want to do it? If you are doing it because you want to do it, or because you can do it, then it shouldn’t matter if it’s the first time or the fiftieth time that you are doing it. You’ve made the choice to do it. Own that choice and don’t sit and wait to be repaid.
The second aspect of keeping score is what some people call the “lack mentality”. It’s the idea that there is a limited amount, so if someone else gets it then there will not be enough for me. On paper, it sounds very simplistic and irrational, but if you watch for it, chances are you will see it’s more prevalent than you think. You’ll see that many people with a lack mentality only look out for themselves. They have little to no regard to those around them. They “score” as many points as they can on their own. When you utilize the strengths of the people around you and work as a team, not only will you “score” more points, but you will gain so much more from the experience.
It’s fun to play games, keep score and celebrate accomplishments and improvements. But keep it within the game; don’t create a scoring gap in your relationships where one doesn’t exist.
Do you have trouble keeping score? Let’s talk, direct message or email me at balancedheartcoaching.com and we’ll set up time this week
Earlier this week, I got a text from my husband that he was not feeling well and getting worse as the day progressed. I suggested he leave work and go home to let his body rest. He replied with a long list of things that he had to do at work that needed to get done that day and reasons why he could not leave. He even included a quote Star Trek to support his decision, something about the needs of the many outweighing the needs of the one. I realized more talk about “self-care” was not going to help me make my point, so I typed “If your car had a flat tire, or was out of oil, you wouldn’t take it on a road trip to California.” Not the best analogy I’ve ever thought of but it did cause him to stop and pause.
Many of us are focused on our bodies right now trying to exercise more or eat healthier as part of New Year’s Resolutions. Often our reason for wanting to lose weight or exercise is to fit into smaller clothes or look better for a big event. But have you ever thought about how changes in diet and exercise might allow your body to function better? If you think of your body as a machine, you want that machine to run as efficiently as possible. The food that you put in your body not only satisfies your hunger, but allows your body to function for the next few hours. Have you ever paid close attention to how your body feels after eating? Does it feel the same eating a salad versus after a hamburger and fries? What about after drinking water, coffee, soda or wine? It might feel good in the moment, but are there any after effects that you might not be paying attention to (i.e. headaches after too much coffee)?
The other side to the coin is to look at how we are physically using our body. Have you ever sat around all day and when you get up you feel stiff or even lethargic? What about when you’ve pushed yourself to the limit working out and running from activity to activity only to be exhausted at night? We all have aches and pains, but how do we address them? Do we complain about them and hope they go away? Or do we try to repair, rebuild and strengthen the muscles around the pain? Our physical body enables us to move about and function throughout the day. We can’t sit and collect cobwebs and then expect it to fire up the first time. Similarly, we can’t run it to the max every day and then be surprised when it breaks down on us. If we perform the basic maintenance in the form of food, exercise and rest, our bodies will do most of the rest. Our body is like a self-sufficient mechanic that can maintain and repair most of what is needed to keep us healthy and running smoothly. When our bodies can’t do it alone, they turn on the warning lights to alert us that we need to step in and do our part to help with the repair.
In the end, my husband stayed at work and powered through the waves of nausea to finish his day. Once he got home, he did go to bed early and thankfully woke up the next day feeling much better. If your motivation over a new diet or exercise routine is starting to fade, change your perspective. How is eating better and exercising more allowing your body to run more efficiently? Unlike a car, you can’t trade it in or go buy a new one, so you’ve got to keep it running for the long haul.
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This week we reached a major milestone in our household, both kids began their journey with the orthodontist. The funny thing about braces is that when you are young, you look forward to them with such anticipation. You think about how cool it will be and how it will make you stand out in a socially acceptable way. Most kids are too young to have experienced tooth pain and to realize it is a pain unlike any they’ve ever experienced.
My daughter is almost the exact same age I was when I got my braces. I was in 7th grade and it was Valentine’s Day. I was so excited to go back to school to show off my new mouth full of metal! The excitement wore off when I realized I couldn’t eat any of the Valentine’s treats because my teeth were too sore.......maybe there was more to having braces than I realized. How often does that happen to us? We anticipate doing something (going to college, working full-time, getting married, buying a house, having a baby) and then when we actually do it we realize it’s so much harder than we anticipated. For all the joy it brings you, there is the unexpected soreness that comes along with it too. My daughter has been on a steady diet of soft foods these last couple days. Each day she asks me when is it going to get better? The honest answer is that I don’t know, so I tell her that every day she should feel a little bit less discomfort. Sometimes that’s how you have to measure improvement, in small and tiny increments.
Speaking of small and tiny, you could probably use those words to describe the amount of room my son has for the massive permanent teeth trying to make their way into his mouth. As a result, he too got to experience the fun of the orthodontist this week. He had spacers put between his back molars to prepare for the expander that will be placed on the roof of his mouth next week. The expander is a fascinating device when you think about it. His jaw is not big enough for all his teeth, they are fighting for space, trying to cram into an area that is too small. Each night, we will turn a small crank one time that will slowly expand the jaw. Each night it will get bigger by a fraction of a fraction. After thirty days, all those fractions will add up to the total amount of space his teeth need to come in straight and not overlap. I picture the ease with which the teeth will be able to slide down, finally having the room they need. How often do we try to cram too much into a space that’s not big enough? How often do we think that when we make a change it must be one big action? Do we ever stop to think that thirty small actions might be more manageable?
Orthodontics is all about moving the roots of your teeth. When you put it like that, there's no surprise that it’s painful because roots take hold and lock in. With the right tools and equipment, it is possible to shift those roots slowly over time. For my daughter, they estimate eighteen months. For my son, the time will be shorter, but chances are this is just round one. Change takes time, maybe more time than we think that we can put in. However, the payoff is having re-anchored roots that will be better prepared to handle the daily grind. The joyful smiles at the end will be wonderful too.
Do you need to shift your roots but don’t know where to start? Let’s talk, direct message or email me at balancedheartcoaching.com and we’ll set up time this week
I started writing this blog because I wanted to have deeper conversations beyond "How are you?", "Busy", with other parents. Over the years I've shared personal stories, articles, authors and topics to facilitate conversations with parents about the joys and the challenges of parenting.