Last night I stopped at the store to pick up one thing when a bald man with a little girl wearing a soccer uniform stopped me. “Excuse me, do you know where the hair bands are? I know you don’t work here,” he added quickly with a wry smile and a little shrug. The little girl’s blonde hair that looked like all seven-year-old girls at the end of a long day at school. I wasn’t sure how the hair was going to fit in the hair band once we got it, but luckily I didn’t have to worry about that. I started to point towards the aisle, but then realized I wasn’t sure, so I walked with them. We found the hair bands and I was about go back to my aisle when I realized, he might not know what to get. I stood there with them explaining we wanted to try to find the smallest size and picked some rainbow colored ones from the bottom of the display. “Are these ok?” I asked the little girl. She shyly nodded her head, her dad thanked me again for my help and I walked away with a smile. I was happy to make that brief connection with a stranger and help out when they needed it most.
Have you ever thought of it that way, that you can have a momentary connection with a stranger? What do I even mean by the word connection? Connection to me, is interacting on a personal level with someone. A connection is taking the extra time to slow down and give your full attention to someone else. In our busy lives we interact with hundreds of people a day. Many times we buzz around and keep things on the surface – hi, how are you, how are the kids. You rattle off the standard questions to be polite without truly listening to the answers. Or if you are answering the questions you reply with the standard answers – I’m good, they’re great, we’re so busy. It happens out of necessity because in our daily lives we just don’t have time to sit and have deep conversations with everyone who crosses our path each day. We can however slow down just enough to take an extra minute with a friend, co-worker or neighbor and giving them your full attention ask what they’ve been up to. You can instantly reconnect with a friend by sending them a simple text “I’m thinking about you.” How do you know if you’ve connected? It feels different. It warms you up, makes you feel good and brings a smile to your face.
How do we connect with our kids? The best way to connect with your kids is to meet them where they are. What does that mean? It means if they are a little boy that loves cars, you get down on your hands and knees and push the cars around his imaginary world. A teenage girl might connect on a trip to Starbucks or a walk around the mall or even by flipping through a catalog sharing why she does or does not like a certain pair of shoes. Babies can connect at bath time by splashing, giggling and playing in the water. Toddlers love to explore and share their discoveries with a friend who looks at the discoveries with the same level of wonder. It doesn’t have to be fancy, hard or take a lot of money. All it truly requires is your attention.
At the core of it all every person wants the same thing, they want to feel like they matter. They want to feel like you understand them and are interested in what they are going through. By connecting with someone you give them that validation. It energizes both people. It builds both people up. It gives them confidence and security that there is someone else out there that supports me. A connection can last a moment or a lifetime, both are vital. A connection can happen in person, on-line, via phone or even just by reading a blog post………..
I recently talked to a mom who said “My daughter hates me, she told me so as she stormed off and slammed her bedroom door.” (Ah daughters, don’t you just love them for their melodramatic exists from a room?) Obviously there was a lot more to the story that I was not aware of but that was ok. I asked the mom she was feeling in that moment. She used words like blood boiling, fury and frustration. Her daughter had acted, or reacted, in a way that was unacceptable. She knew they both needed time to cool off, but she was so angry over what had transpired and the way it had all gone down that she was questioning what the right next steps should be. Should she take away screen time for slamming the door? Should she cancel weekend plans for being rude and disrespectful to her mother? Her mind was swirling with thoughts that all of us have wrestled with at one time or another.
Her situation made me think of a question Dr. Shefali asks in The Awakened Family: “What’s the antidote to the energy your child is exhibiting?” I love this concept of the antidote. The definition of antidote is “a medicine or other remedy for counteracting the effects of poison” or the second definition is “something that prevents or counteracts unwanted effects”. Both definitions are relevant in this situation. The daughter’s reaction is like a poison that you definitely want to remedy while at the same time the mother is looking for the right resolution to counteract these unwanted effects.
So what is the antidote in this situation? The antidote to anger and frustration can be love, compassion and patience. Applying the antidote is two-fold. First as the parent in the moment, you must apply the antidote to yourself and approach the situation with love, compassion and patience. It is so difficult to react to a slamming door with compassion, but we must dig deep and do our best to meet our raging child with a sense of calm. Next we must apply the antidote to the child by highlighting those moments where they are acting out of love, compassion and patience. When the parent pays attention and celebrates the behavior they wish to see, then that behavior will be repeated. Dr. Shefali goes on to say (page 58) :
“This isn’t as simple as believing that merely focusing on something will change its expression. That isn’t what this strategy is about. Instead, it speaks to how our own energy changes when we focus on behavior we wish to see versus behavior we don’t care for.”
What a simple concept, focus on the behavior we wish to see. I would take it a step further and say celebrate the behavior we wish to see. It is so easy for us to place emphasis on the “bad” behavior, why not place that same emphasis, if not more, on the good?
Those of you who have been reading my blog for a while know that Dr. Shefali and her books have had a huge influence on who I am as a parent. She has graciously agreed to do a Facebook Live chat for our Balanced Heart Moms group this Wednesday (21st) at 9am PST/12pm EST! She will be live in our group answering your questions, talking about her book and her upcoming Evolve conference in NYC. If you are not a member of the group, click here and I will add you. I hope you will join me so that you can see the power of her teachings first hand. See you Wednesday!
Last week I wrote about how inevitably people will let you down because they are never going to act exactly how you think that they should. The saving grace is that you get to decide how you will react. You can decide to act from a genuine place instead of doing things based on the reaction you think you will get in return.
This week, I want to talk about the flip side - people can lift you up. People can surprise you by showing you more compassion than you ever thought possible. We are here to help one another. We live in families and communities so that we can utilize other people’s strengths so that we do not have to work as hard. There is no need to try to do it all yourself, there are people waiting in the wings to help you out.
In her new book, Love Warrior, Glennon Doyle Melton talks about what it was like when she started writing her blog and people she knew started responding and relating to the things she was sharing. She writes:
“We’ve spent our time together talking about everything but what matters. We’ve never brought to each other the heavy things we were meant to help each other carry.”
How many conversations have you had this week where you have talked about everything but what matters? I think about those conversations you have in passing at school drop off/pick up or passing in the halls at work. You speak about how busy life is and make small talk. You can talk for quite a while, without ever scratching the surface of having a “real” conversation.
It was the second sentence that stopped me in my tracks when I read it, “the heavy things we were meant to help each other carry.” She is so right. We are supposed to help each other carry the load. How many of us muscle through believing that we are strong enough to do it all, to carry it all on our own. The truth is we don’t have to. When we share what we are going through and get it out in the open, there is a lightness that follows. We no longer feel that heaviness of it weighing inside of us. Once you share you can start to move forward from it, instead of replaying it over and over again.
So as much as people can let you down, people also have an amazing ability to support you, if you let them.
Sometimes working with a neutral party is just what you need to help lighten your load. If you are interested in exploring the benefits of working with a Life Coach, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
People will let you down. It has happened to all of us, yet it is no less painful if you are a child experiencing it for the first time or an adult experiencing it for the 500th time.
Many of us believe that whether it’s a friendship, a co-worker, a parent/child, a romantic relationship or even your barista, the nature of being in any relationship creates a certain give and take.
There are expectations.
And then a situation happens where your expectations are not met. You are left angry, sad, mad, frustrated, confused. You wonder where things went wrong. You play over and over in your head “how could they ____”. The more you think about it, the more you get angry, sad, mad, frustrated, confused. It builds. Your heart beats faster. You want to scream, yell, cry.
The hardest thing to do is to stop and to breathe. To take a moment to step out of the eye of the storm, away from the emotion swirling around you.
It sucks you back in, how could they do this to me when I did this, that and this for them? I was this and I did that and how could they not even give one iota of that back to me? In the midst of this inner dialogue you feel like a victim and it seems like there is no way out. The event has left you scarred. You will never be the same. How can I open myself up again? How can I be the nice one that gets taken advantage of?
It is at this point that we have a choice to make – do we choose to live in fear of getting hurt again? Or do we choose to live in a way that we give love and kindness freely?
We are human. We let each other down because there is no possible way that we can ever truly know what the other person is thinking, how they are experiencing this life or how they will react to something. You cannot control another person. This is such a hard lesson for us because we are so surprised every time someone lets us down, when in reality it happens so often that we shouldn’t be surprised at all. We should almost expect it because we can’t control them and we can’t control their reaction.
But we can control our own. We have a choice to decide why we do things. Are we doing them only because we want the pats on the back for doing them? For the acknowledgement of a job well done? Or do we do things because that is the kind of person that we are? We hold doors open for others because we want to help. We smile at the cashiers and ask them how their day is going because we just want to be courteous and show them that we appreciate them. We help others because that is who we are, not because we expect something in return.
In life coach training, they tell you that you have to be unattached to the outcome for your clients. It’s their journey. Their work. They are responsible for their own results. We are just there to ask the questions that maybe they never have answered out loud. It’s hard not to hope for the best when you can see that is so close within their reach.
Being unattached to the outcome does not mean that you do not care. It does not mean you become complacent in the relationship. It does not mean that you stop contributing. What it means is that you accept the fact that you cannot control the outcome. That no matter what happens, it is not a reflection of you, but a choice of the other person.
You can scream and shout about how unfair it all is and how they treated you poorly, but what will that really accomplish? That will close you off. That will make you live in fear of getting hurt again. It will mean that so many others will not benefit from your compassion, your wisdom and your smile because you have chosen to put it away and lock it up because someone didn’t treat it properly. But what sense does that make?
This is so hard, but so necessary……..the things that we do for others, must be because we WANT to do them, not for what we might get from them down the road. I believe that people are generous at their core. I believe that the only way that we can truly live is to live together helping and caring for one another. Unfortunately, too many people have been hurt and have decided to heal their hurt with fear and callousness to others.
Maybe one day I will be able to achieve a zen-like nature that I imagine someone like Deepak Chopra has where they are unaffected by the reaction of others. But until then I will find comfort in the fact that I’m not going to change the person I am. I will continue to live life from a place of genuine respect and kindness to you and if you cannot afford to pay me back in kind, well that is your loss, not mine.
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.