Reframe Your Traits to Work for YOU!
I have a ‘people pleaser’ personality and the last person I tend to please is myself. Which, for obvious reasons, rarely works out in my favor. I’m also a procrastinator, so let’s just add that fuel to this already smoking fire. ;)
I’ve done a lot of work creating personal boundaries and expectations, and follow the motto, “Be kind to yourself.” But I’m going to share a trick - a reframe - that has been so helpful in ‘allowing’ me to put myself first.
I think of myself as three separate people, Past Rebecca, Present Rebecca and Future Rebecca. I know, it sounds a little whackadoo. But, stick with me here. People pleasers and procrastinators, I’m talking to you!
Whenever I’m faced with a task I can do now or put off, I think about ‘Future Rebecca.’ I think about how busy she can get and how she could really use a break. It would feel good for Present-me to take something off Future Rebecca’s plate and make her day a little easier!
It’s totally a win-win. Present-day me feels good about helping someone else, and Future me is psyched the work is handled! I even verbally thank ‘Past Rebecca’ for helping a sista out!
Reframing my thoughts on procrastination has allowed me to be a ‘people pleaser’ for myself! Hello, self care!
My kids also like to put off tomorrow what they could do today, so I’ve been pumping this message their way. It has been inspiring my kids to help out their best friend - their future selves!
Do you have any traits that hold you back from reaching your full potential? How could you reframe those traits in a positive way so they would serve you well?
Processing Big Feelings!
Imagine you’re meeting with a close friend for a coffee date. While sipping your coffee you begin to discuss an event that is heavy on your heart. An experience that really stirs up emotions as you are still trying to make sense of it all.
You begin discussing this sensitive topic with your friend and she says, “Oh, sweetie! We’ve already gone over all this. Why don’t we talk about something happier!!” as she takes a sip of her coffee. Or perhaps as you are rehashing your experience, your friend tries to give you all the possible solutions with, “This is what you need to do...you should….”
How would that feel for you?? I’m assuming you’d feel dismissed, misunderstood, not truly seen and perhaps even embarrassed. I’d also venture to guess you’d be reluctant to share your true feelings and emotions with this friend moving forward.
It may be tough to picture yourself saying these things to a friend because it lacks care and concern. But have you ever found yourself saying these things to your child as they were retelling a story? Especially when they were resharing an experience for the umteenth time? Or maybe you have ‘yes-ed’ and ‘uh-huh-ed’ them as they retold what happened? I know I certainly have!
Many times a child's perception and worry may seem irrational to adults, but these struggles and emotions are very real for the child. When we don’t allow our kids the space to express what they’re feeling (over and over again!), it sends a message that could leave them feeling unseen, misunderstood, and embarrassed. Similar to our feelings towards the friend at the coffee shop, children may also choose to withhold from sharing in the future. They may even act out to win your attention or have a meltdown from remembering the emotions of the event.
Reflecting on the coffee shop scenario — Many of us may appreciate a friend who would carefully listen while we vented. A friend that may offer up a hug. Perhaps a friend who would say, “Those are heavy feelings you’re dealing with. I’m really feeling for you because I know you’re going through a lot right now. What can I do to support you?” These simple sentences offer you the space to feel validated and understood.
Why Is This Important?
When we are dealing with big emotions, our brains work diligently to try and make sense of it all. Our right-side emotional brain is heavily engaged, replaying the scenes, feelings and sensations over and over again until the left-side rational brain can process and digest the information in a sensible way.
The problem is, a child’s brain is not fully developed until they are in their early twenties. Children do not have the capacity, life experience or coping strategies of an adult to sort through big feelings systematically.
Fortunately, there are ways for parents and caregivers to help children fully integrate these big feelings and experiences. In the book The Whole-Brain Child, authors Dan Siegel, M.D. and Tina Payne Bryson, Ph.D., state, “In order to live balanced, meaningful and creative lives full of connected relationships, it’s crucial that our two hemispheres work together.” They go on to say, “We want them to become horizontally integrated, so that the two sides of their brain can act in harmony. That way, our children will value both their logic and their emotions; they will be well balanced and able to understand themselves and the world at large.”
So, how do we achieve integration of the left and right-side brain? How do we help our children feel understood and supported while helping them make sense of their feelings? How do parents and caregivers find the energy to stay calm and focused if (and when) your child becomes emotional while working out these big feelings?
Here are some tips-
Research suggests when parents put their child’s experiences into words, it activates brain calming neural pathways. I know it can feel like a challenge to remain patient while guiding your child through this process. But I can say with confidence that the time you spend integrating their emotions will be quicker (and more productive!) than the overreaction you may encounter due to dysregulation. And most importantly, this process will strengthen the bond with your child, establish trust and increase their likelihood to share feelings with you as they grow older. Now there’s a win!
What is your typical go-to response when your child needs to rehash an event? How would it feel for you to test drive one of these tips?
6 Tips to Overcome Mental Gridlock
Have you heard the saying about the best-laid plans and how they tend to go awry? Well, you could imagine with a last name like ‘Murphy,’ that I’ve had my share of plans gone awry!! I understand how frustrating it can feel when something you’ve carefully planned falls apart.
I recently spent a few days having fun in the sun at a Long Island Beach with family friends. Even on the best day, road trips in or out of Long Island can be highly congested and dicey. With that in mind, when it was time to go home, we decided to make our return trip later in the evening to avoid any rush hour traffic.
Our ride was smooth as could be as we drove back through Long Island and popped into NYC. I felt elated that the toughest part of our trip was over and the final leg was upon us. New Jersey was within our sight as we approached the Holland Tunnel when we hit traffic! Not just your run-of-the-mill NYC traffic. This was epic, dead stop, gridlocked NYC traffic! Even the Waze app was unsure what to do with us!
There was an instant mood shift in my car. We went from feeling ‘happy—beachy—sleepy’ vibes to ‘high snark alert—totally deflated—will we ever get home’ vibes! It was immediate sensory overload with honking cars, brake lights, blinkers, and cars enmeshed in all directions within inches of each other!
In what felt like a split second, we went from almost back in New Jersey to never getting out of New York City! I could feel every muscle beginning to tense up. My first impulse was to join in the madness, but my kids beat me to it. While I was internalizing my frustration, they were doing the opposite by complaining about everything and nitpicking each other! The quick onset of the traffic jam was throwing our bodies into a fight or flight response, which would dictate our reaction to the situation. How fitting to be experiencing mental gridlock as we were sitting in actual real-life gridlock!
And then it hit me…How I choose to react is going to make a lasting impact and impression on my kids!
With that in mind, how do I want to present myself as a parent and as an adult to my children? How would I like my kids to react when they are faced with a moment of pressure? What can I do to stay calm and keep our bodies from triggering the flight or fight response?
What are my options? I could choose to build on the spiral of worry by venting my concerns and frustrations, rattling off a few expletives, laying on my horn and doing my best Mario Andretti to maneuver through the traffic. Or, I could relieve some of the tension by choosing to model another approach — one that puts me in control of my actions and our situation. While option one seems more satisfying, I’ll choose option two. Please and thank you!
Here are some tips that helped me free up my mind and get things moving through the mental and physical gridlock we were all experiencing at that moment.
Pause and find some Clarity--
When you start to feel things percolating, this is your moment to pause and find some clarity. Bring awareness to the situation and how you are feeling. Can you allow yourself to accept what is happening? Breathe and accept the current situation you are dealing with and allow it to just be for a moment.
Narrate & Connect—
Express and model your thoughts out loud with your children rather than internalizing your feelings. Talk about what’s happening and how you’re feeling toward the situation. You can even narrate your thought process moving forward. Something like, “Gahh. I’m pretty frustrated with this traffic. All the honking and cars so close to us are making me a little uneasy. I’m going to help myself stay calm by taking a few deep breaths. I wonder what else we could do to help our bodies stay relaxed?” This is a great way to connect and calm your child’s (and your own!!) emotional unrest so that you can maintain (or even reconnect) logical thinking.
Your brain is wired to see whatever it is you are focused on, so why not see the good? Rather than thinking, “We are NEVER going to get home!,” try thinking, “It’s going to take us a little longer to get home, and I ‘m glad we are safe.” In our situation, there were a few other discovered silver linings that emerged: we had a full tank of gas, no one needed the bathroom and we had snacks!
Keep Calm and Problem Solve On--
Finding your control in the situation is a great way to stay calm and build a plan together. Name what is and what is not in your control at the moment. For example, here were my thoughts while on the road:
I cannot control this traffic or how quickly the cars will move.
I cannot control how my kids will act.
I can control HOW I react to the traffic and how I will keep my body calm.
I can control my thinking and focus.
I can be in control of creating a plan.
Know your resources—
What do you have at the ready to help you through this situation? For me, I had access to Google maps and Waze, plenty of snacks and TWO teenagers to help as I drove (rather, stared at the car ahead of me!) The older teen worked out a route using the mapping apps and the younger teen watched for the exits to help us along the route - and, most importantly, provided snacks upon request!
Don’t let your brain take you in a downward spiral of false negativity! Remember, this too shall pass. At some point, you WILL get home! Believe me, my family and I have had our share of crummy situations. But, we’ve learned that those crummy moments also make for some really funny memories to look back on!
Are you curious how this mess ended? Well, we basically needed a shoehorn to wiggle our way out of that gridlock, but we made it home...90 minutes later! It was a long night, but we were already laughing about it before we even got home!
Ready to Stir Things Up?
Can you remember yourself as a child playing with a bucket of water? Maybe you dropped in some small leaves or acorn caps to watch them race around the bucket’s rim. You’d stir the contents around and around admiring the swirl of the whirlpool you created. The water was neat and organized and all going with the flow until you decided to make a change and abruptly stir in the opposite direction.
There was a brief moment of chaos as the water shifted directions. The leaves and acorns began to spin around and move out of sync. Some water would still be moving clockwise, some water pushed against the current in a counterclockwise direction, and some water even spilled over the edge! It’s not until the water found a new rhythm did it find its flow again, moving in the same orderly direction with the acorns and leaves back at it racing around the edge of the bucket.
I feel like on March 12, 2020, we had our very own buckets of water in full spin. The days were chugging along in a rapidly organized and super-busy flow. Our schedules were packed, swirling away full of obligations. We’d pause briefly here and there to catch our breath or to admire something we had completed, but then we were back at it churning away again.
Then, rather abruptly, the following day something happened to our buckets! I’d like to say we started stirring in the opposite direction, but instead, it’s almost as if a flat shovel was plunged into the whirlpool bringing the water to a messy, screeching halt! And with it, spilling water and watching our little leaves and acorns fall out of sync with the flow. March 13th was a sharp contrast to what we were so familiar with, leaving us all with a feeling of “now what?”
There our buckets stood still for a while as we tried to make sense of our days. We were stripped away of our routines and niceties, left to discover new ways to carry on.
We soon discovered, this pause could be used as an opportunity to just float and play in the water! And with it, a new way to appreciate our time and resources.
I remember one day as my daughter anxiously unpacked a box from Target filled with highly coveted and hard-to-find baking supplies at the time. As she upacked, she hugged each item saying things like, ‘I can’t believe how excited I am over this small bag of chocolate chips! It’s like the littlest things are bringing me the most joy lately!”
She was spot on! This pause in motion and my daughter's words inspired me to alter my own perspective. I made a conscious decision to find joy in the smallest moments rather than being disappointed about what we were missing out on. It’s amazing how a small shift in perspective can help to find the good in almost every situation.
Fast forward 14 months. It’s been a long haul since March 13, 2020. I’ve had an opportunity to revisit what’s important to me and my family. Finding time to spend with one another and appreciate the slower pace of the quieter days. It has also allowed me to learn more about my children, understand what their needs are and how to best communicate and connect as a family.
Society is starting to open its doors up again, and I’m over here needing to make some decisions! How do I want my life to look as we start restructuring our days? What will I choose to prioritize and what will I put on the back burner? I know we will have to add more to our calendar, but how will I be able to find a healthy balance that continues to honor what we value?
As we start to stir up our buckets again, we will begin to bring back flow and order. What will your bucket look like? Will you return to the fast spin and churn or will you choose to move at a slower pace and prioritize how you spend your days? Where will you put your attention? Will you be pushing the water around or slow down to enjoy the flow while watching the dancing leaves and acorns? Most importantly, once you have everything moving at the right pace for you and your family, how will you protect and maintain it, and bring awareness when you start swirling too fast?
I’m ready to start stirring things up again, but this time I’m taking control of the swirling water!
What's You Super Power?
I’m a big believer in ‘finding the good’ in a situation but have really been lacking in finding the good in myself lately. It’s all about that measuring stick — always measuring up to some imaginary mark. And, while I usually don’t play that game, (or shall I say, I’ve been getting much better at not playing that game), I feel like I keep getting sucked in.
What am I getting sucked into, you ask? Measuring up against myself! As I reflect on the last 14+ months, I’m feeling overwhelmed with all the “should haves/could haves.” I’m concerned I haven’t made the most of our time during the ‘stay at home’ period, and I’m feeling guilty about all the ‘stuff’ I haven’t tackled. My brain tells me I did my best (as we all did) given the circumstances. But in my heart, I can’t help to feel as if I’ve failed.
While my family was fortunate and didn’t experience any hardships during the shutdown (for which I am completely grateful), we certainly didn’t make the most of the time home. While some families took advantage of the remote learning and traveled creating pandemic memories, we were more conservative and stayed home. We didn’t get a COVID dog or add on to our family. My basement was not reorganized, I didn’t clear out any closets or sort through the drawers. Nor did I experiment with any recipes in the kitchen. And, although we were together pretty much 24/7, it felt like we had less quality time as a family than ever before.
Then, I read this New York Times piece, “12 Moms and Their Secret Strengths,” and it was just EVERYTHING to me. It’s a collection of essays that allows us to drop the “I didn’t” or the “I’m not good at” statements. Instead, it encourages us to find the qualities that identify us as great parents. We each bring something special and unique to our own families...let’s celebrate that!
It was a reminder to adjust my perspective and start focusing on the positives. Rather than perseverating on how I haven’t measured up, I began to hone in on all that I HAVE accomplished and found an appreciation for the mother that I am to my children.
When I pause and let my inner judge rest, I can start to peel back the layers and really see below the surface. When I allow myself some grace and reframe my feelings around our time spent during the pandemic, I can see where my superpowers kicked in, allowing me to remember that I am exactly what my family needs.
Wondering about my Superpowers? Here are a few I’ve discovered-
The ‘Let’s Do It’ Mom (aka ‘Embarrassing Mom)-
My accomplishments over the past year may not seem like much on paper, but in reality, they have certainly made an impact. I’ve come to the realization, there will always be closets to organize and projects to tackle. I’ve decided to let go of the feelings of failure and revel in my pandemic successes as simple as they may seem. And, I’ll just keep all the closet doors closed for now!
We’re all rockstar parents in our own way. Where do YOU shine? What qualities make you a unique parent your family needs and adores?
I challenge YOU to find 10 ways you bring your unique self and specialness to your parenting game. Heads up: It’s a tough start, but once you get going you may not be able to stop! Go ahead, grab a piece of paper, start a google doc, open the notes app on your phone, and start your list! Refer to it often to remember the awesomeness you bring to your family on the daily!
Small Changes for Big Results
Think about your past New Year’s resolutions. Have you ever kept a resolution just because you ‘told’ yourself to do something new? If so, I’m super impressed! But, many of us need to put some changes in place before the resolution sticks. For instance, if the resolution is to start going to the gym, you may lay your clothes out and fill a water bottle the night before, perhaps reserve a spot in class or get a training buddy to hold you accountable. In other words, we adjust our environment to reduce the friction and increase our chances for success.
So, why would it be any different for children? Telling kids to do something new rarely works. How can you support your child to change their behavior in a way that promotes success and independence? Think of an area your child (and/or you) may be struggling with. If you widen your lens and shift your perspective, can you find one small change in your environment you could implement to get a different (hopefully, more positive) response from your child?
Looking for some ideas? Let’s discuss -
Routine - Does your child have a tough time following along with a routine? (getting ready in the morning? Bedtime routine?)
Behavior - For example, is your child melting down during transitions?
Following Directions - Does your child have a hard time following through with directions?
6 Life Lessons Learned on the Links
I think my family may have found the most perfect COVID-friendly activity - GOLF! My husband plays, I’ve always wanted to play, my kids play ice hockey and we all love Happy Gilmore, so sounds like the perfect foursome! After a few days at the driving range, we decided to take our game to the long course. We were lucky enough to get a beautiful day for our game and we were really excited for some sun, fresh air, friendly competition, and, let’s be honest, riding around in golf carts all day!
Although we were at the course midweek, it was way busier than we had anticipated. Out of courtesy, in addition to playing best ball, I decided to hold off my swing for a few holes just to help speed up our game (spoiler alert - it didn’t make us much faster!). But I did find out I’m an excellent caddy and golf cart driver! And, lucky me! I got to watch the game unfold as a spectator rather than a player, which offered me a whole different perspective. As I observed my family play, I couldn’t help but notice the family life-lessons that struck me along the way — as well as a stray golf ball on the 12th hole!
Here are the 6 life lessons I learned while watching my family play golf….and, please excuse any errors in golf lingo. I’m a complete nube and just trying my best here!
1- “Golf is a game of patience,” is what my husband said to my kids several times during play that day. You can only move as quickly as the group ahead of you, which allows you an opportunity to be in the moment and appreciate where you’re at. Enjoy the sunshine, enjoy your company. Take a breath and find the good in the moment. Great advice for us all in any given scenario!
2- You can’t always have a perfect game! Even if the best golfers make it look easy, they all hook and slice off the fairway now and then. It’s tough to have a perfect game. It may take you longer to achieve your goal when you end up in the rough, but by staying calm, focused and patient, you can recover and get back on track. And, while on this topic, let’s not forget forgiveness!! The best players let that sh*t go and move on.
3- How you approach your challenges matters. Every hole on the course has varied conditions, levels of difficulty and may even experience different types of weather! Each hole offers you an opportunity to evaluate and come up with a game plan for your next move. Rather than taking a shot blindly, you can make the best of it by assessing the green, deciding which club to use and how to angle your shot. In life, when we are met with a new challenge, we should allow ourselves a moment to assess the situation and figure out our approach using our personal strengths and tools.
4- Your form matters! Happy Gilmore’s coach, Chubbs, will tell you “it’s aaaaall in the hips.” It’s not a softball swing, nor is it a slapshot, like how my kids might approach it! You need to keep your head down and have a small bend at the knees. The slightest change in your form will affect your swing and outcome. The same is true with parenting. If you can be mindful of your parenting form by maintaining your focus on the priority and staying relaxed, you will have a way better outcome.
5- Muscle memory is everything! I noticed as we moved through the course, everyone’s swing got a little better! As with anything in life, practice makes progress! With consistency, your muscles will begin to remember the motion helping you to find that sweet spot. In life, the more consistent you are with practicing your values and respecting your boundaries, the easier it will be for your family to go with the flow. You will find that sweet spot by building up your family’s muscle memory.
6- Self-Care is always the answer! I have a competitive bunch, but even when ‘someone’ was sour after double-boogying a hole, a quick ride in the golf cart turned that frown upside down and got a few laughs! There’s nothing a little ‘reckless’ golf cart driving can’t fix! (Don’t be alarmed! My reckless driving isn’t all that reckless — no turf was damaged by my ride!) A little bit of fun and a smile help harness a better perspective and focus. The self-care paradox always amazes me. Practicing self-care (especially during moments when you’re feeling stuck) allows you to re-energize, refocus and get back on track — and perhaps become even more productive in the long run!
It was a great day on the links! Did we play a great game? Nope! Did we have fun? YES! And, I can’t wait to get out there again! The most valuable lesson of the day: Trying something fun and new with my crew is a guaranteed good time, which is always good for my soul. And, I suppose I also have a better understanding why my husband is gone for HOURS when he plays a round of golf with friends!
Some days, I feel like Sandra Bullock’s character from the Bird Box blindly navigating down the river of parenting. I mean, minus the creeper dude who attacks her on her journey and the deadly invisible whatever-that-is trying to off everyone, of course. But otherwise, totally sorta the same, right? There are moments you’re traveling down a calm and peaceful segment of the river and other moments when you're trying to do whatever it takes to save yourself from crashing up on the rocky rapids! That river can be unpredictable at times...and relentless, which is why it’s important to have proper form while navigating through this River of Parenting.
Proper parenting form? Let’s pull it back a little - when you think about any physical activity like walking, running, swimming or throwing, it’s important to consider your mechanics while going through the motions. Maintaining proper parenting form is just as important. Take a look at the chart below to understand why both forms are so important.
Knowing your parenting form is about having mindfulness and clarity. It’s about being deliberate and having control over your actions and reactions in order to handle difficult moments in a meaningful way. With proper parenting form, you have control over tough situations to build character and connection rather than chaos and hurt feelings. As you paddle down turbulent sections of your own river, here are some strategies to help keep you focused on your parenting form:
Continue to Pt. 2 of my blog to learn how I put these strategies into action in my own life!
I have a child who struggles with anxiety and a heightened sensory system, and we recently had a messy boat ride down the river of parenting. It was a looooong, drawn out ride that required me to dig deep, but was all worth it in the end. We made it through the rapids, and while there were a few moments of taking on water, we managed to keep the boat upright and afloat. Here’s the breakdown of our experience and the mindfulness that helped me stay focused on my parenting form along the way...
I haven’t always practiced proper parenting form - I may be a parent coach, but that doesn’t make me a perfect parent! I’ve had (and, still have!) my share of messy moments in parenting. We are human and there are always moving parts in any relationship, so no situation is ever the same or predictable - the same as any river. The best we can do is know the tools and strategies we have accessible and be mindful of our parenting form.
Has Parenting Brought You to Your Boiling Point?
Picture it — you’re cooking pasta when the pot starts to boil over. It’s quick to become a real mess if you don’t do something about it. So, how do you react? Do you stir the contents to slow the boil or put the lid on to cover the boil? Maybe you’ll do the ol’ wooden stick across the pot to keep the bubbles down (did you know that one??!!) You can try any of those, but you’ll quickly learn that they are just temporary fixes — that starchy water is sure to bubble up in no time and your pasta is going to become a mushy mess. But what if you made a change in the flame, what would happen then? Just by turning that flame down a notch, you would notice the water settling down which keeps the bubbles at bay and allows the pasta to cook gently.
This is something to keep in mind as parents. Not that we’re a pot of heated water about to boil over — although sometimes it feels that way! But more so, to make a difference in our parenting, we need to make changes in our own actions. Would you ever expect to toss some pasta and water together in a pot and have it cook perfectly without doing anything to it? Of course not! Your bowtie pasta doesn’t just know how to prepare itself! You, as the chef, would take the necessary steps to transform that crunchy dehydrated pasta to its wonderful ‘al dente’ potential by creating an ideal situation for the best outcome. The same goes for parenting. We shouldn’t expect our children to just know how to meet our expectations, sometimes we as parents have to initiate a change within ourselves to get things cooking.
When I was getting irritated by my daughter’s nitpicky and witty replies to pretty much anything that came out of my mouth, it took me a little while to see the big picture. I kept reprimanding her for her curtness which just made the situation even more tense — each episode of this brought the pot closer to boiling over. I decided to really take a look at what was going on. How could I make a change that would impact this situation for the better? One small change I decided to put into action was just listening more. I became more selective with which comments I would respond to. Turns out, I was adding my input and opinions to areas my daughter wasn’t even looking for advice, she was just trying to share or vent. The very act of me being more selective with my commenting, adding my two cents, or even stating, “I have some thoughts on this, would you like to hear them?” made a big difference in our relationship. Within a few days of making this small adjustment, the snarkiness was practically gone and my daughter was becoming even more conversational with me!
When there is an aspect of your family life that is a little messy or difficult, stirring or covering it up is not going to make the real change you’re looking for. You need to make an adjustment to break the cycle. Making an actual change to the heat is going to make the difference in the overall outcome. The change begins with YOU. It doesn’t have to be a big change - even the smallest adjustment can make a shift happen. I mean, if you think about that boiling pot again, if you made a big adjustment to the flame, the pasta wouldn’t even cook! The small changes are the ones that make a big difference by allowing you to slowly adjust to help make an outcome stick!
I know, I know. Change is not easy nor is it comfortable. But, if the year 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that even though change is hard, change is doable. And, we often find good on the other side of change. Small changes are intentional, small changes are manageable and small changes incite larger changes and put positive outcomes into motion.
So, let’s do this — what’s boiling over or about to boil over in your life? Do you feel like you’re a broken record with your kids? Does your bedtime routine need some revamping? Does your day feel like it’s in hyperdrive and you need to find a way to slow the pace? Whatever it may be, take a step back and look at the situation from a different angle. What’s one thing you can do to make a small change in the routine? How can you turn the heat down a few notches and allow your situation to simmer down?