A Dad who is going through Calm BootCamp emailed me this weekend after the following adventure at Six Flags north of Chicago. I asked him to share the process he went through so we could all learn from him. I bet you can relate to this even as you laugh.
Kirk, I had an inkling I was off to a bad start when my daughter’s friend was one minute, twenty-five seconds late. Great, the whole day is going to be ruined. Now I had to make up time. I felt the anxiety grip my chest as I gripped the wheel tighter.
The past 500 times this has happened, my daughter has looked over and seen my face all stern. And when she asks, “Dad, what’s wrong?” I just snap back, “Nothing.” But that’s when I see her hang her head and this wave of guilt engulfs me because I’ve made it about ME and not HER. Your words rang so clearly in my ears: when you are anxious, you lose sight of others and what’s really important.
I looked over at my daughter and thought, “This is my daughter’s day, not mine.” I kept the focus on her. So what if the plan was unraveling? She was happy and enjoying the ride to the park.
When we got to Six Flags, my carefully mapped-out plan of which rides to hit first began unraveling. It’s all about me again! I recognized the anxiety and made the decision that it just didn’t matter. The girls hit random rides and were LOVING every minute.
By this time, I was convinced if I just stayed out of THEIR way and didn’t add MY anxiety all would be ok. I kept a check on my anxiety and expectations throughout the day and you know what? It was a picture perfect day. And the best part was my daughter saw that I was in control of myself…something that doesn’t always happen. Thanks a million!
– Dan G., Chicago
Parents like Dan are my heroes. Notice something important. Dan’s feelings of anxiety didn’t go away, but he controlled his anxiety instead of it controlling him. And that anxiety was the only thing separating a joyful day with his daughter from a day ruined by stress and power struggles.
If you want me to mentor you personally like I have with Dan, click here to learn about our BootCamps. And I bet if you call Brett, he can squeeze you into the July or August BootCamps so you’re ready for the new school year. 888-506-1871.
Can you relate to Dan? What causes YOU the most anxiety on vacations and summer trips?
I refuse to change my child to make others more comfortable or alleviate my own embarrassment. I love his creativity, intensity, imagination and wit. I prefer his strong will, strong opinions and strong sense of self. His behavior isn’t perfect, but his heart is golden. He is not a follower; he is a leader. Together, we have thousands of problem-solving leaders the world desperately needs. Are you allowing other people’s opinions to determine how you view your child? Are you tired of changing your child? Are you ready to embrace your child as he is and enjoy him, rather than constantly lecturing and fighting? This ISN’T the way life is supposed to be. If you are ready to get control of your anxiety so you can enjoy your child, learn about the Calm BootCamp or Teen/Tween BootCamp. I can personally mentor you.
I refuse to spend 80% of my time fixing my child’s weaknesses and focusing only on the negatives. Instead, I am going to spend 80% of my time and emotional energy cultivating my child’s gifts, talents and passions. I am going to say no to my anxiety and say yes to relentlessly praise my child. Every time I am tempted to lecture, I am going to tell my children they have the courage and smarts to know how to make good decisions. I am going to address my child’s weaknesses proactively by giving them every tool possible to succeed—whether that includes exercise, diet, sensory tools, self-regulation routines, social skills or praise. I am going to be a Courageous Parent and focus on the 10 Skills Kids Must Have to Succeed.
I take back control of my life. I make the choices and decisions that are best for my family. Let this be your affirmation. Do you ever struggle with feeling embarrassed about your child’s behavior? Have you noticed your child pulling away from you because of negativity? Does your child feel confident about his future? Comment below and let us know. We can help and encourage you.
Do you or your kids wait until the last minute to get ready? Do you push the time limit, trying to get two more things done quickly…then regret that rushed, anxious feeling you get as you drive to your appointment? Hmmm. What need is driving that behavior? What are you really looking for?
If you have listened to our CDs or been to a workshop, you know what makes our approach different. Rather than just reacting to outward behavior, we focus on proactively meeting internal needs. That way we get to the root of the issue instead of wasting time on side issues. All behavior is driven by humans trying to meet needs.
The two primary needs intense, creative people have are (1) Order, structure and consistency and (2) Stimulation. Let’s see how this works in this situation.
(1) ORDER. You may push to get those extra two tasks completed because it means you won’t have to do them later when you get home. Ahhh, that feels good. It gives you a sense of ownership, makes you feel like you’ve gotten a head start, so you’re not overwhelmed. It provides a sense of mastery—more things crossed off your list. And that makes you feel in control. For those who struggle with OCD tendencies, it’s more of a compulsion. “I just need to get these two things done NOW. Otherwise, it will bug me the rest of the day.” “My anxiety is really kicking in and I won’t feel settled leaving the house without taking care of this now.” Making things just so meets that need for order and structure inside of you. Sometimes it’s healthy, but often times it’s a compulsion that drives you.
(2) STIMULATION. There’s a physiological reason our brains need to be stimulated. (Arguing and fighting with siblings is one way kids meet this need, in negative ways!) In this situation, it’s stimulating, challenging to get those two extra tasks completed in a compressed time frame. Your heart races, blood flows to the brain and you’re super focused…in this moment. Can I get it done? Sure, it may mean you have to rush to get to your appointment, but that’s a challenge as well. Because just getting chores done and driving to an appointment is pretty mundane—it’s too easy. So you unconsciously make it a challenge. It’s also why your kids get in trouble sometimes—now they have the challenge of trying to argue their way out of it.
Take this quiz and see if you can guess which needs drive THESE behaviors. It’s fascinating.
Are you tired of feeling compelled, like life or your anxiety is driving you? Tired of that need for stimulation driving you to unhealthy habits or patterns? I know what you feel like because that’s the way life drove me during my first 30 years. But here’s the flip side. When we understand ourselves and our kids, we can take back control of our lives. We feel confident and purposeful.
Can you relate to this? How do you think you can change these patterns? Comment below and I’ll help you out. (You only have to sign in once and you won’t have to do it again–it’s a great way to get help anonymously and share with others.)
Sometimes kids meltdown and act defiant when they feel like they have no control or ownership of a situation. I never want to give a strong-willed child control of my home or emotions, but I do want to give them ownership. A sense that they have a choice. Casey teaches kids to have “power” over their emotions. So listen to what a couple of brilliant parents did on summer vacation to turn a potential meltdown into…an opportunity to build confidence, mastery and calm in an intense child:
“My husband came up with this brilliant idea a few days ago while on a potentially disastrous trip, with my entire extended family, to the world’s loudest, most overwhelming, hottest, most crowded and ‘happiest’ place on earth–Disney World!
“Here’s the brilliance…Jacob was starting to melt, for good reason, and then my husband gave him the power back and it was amazing! We told him that he had a free pass to take a break whenever he felt like he had had too much, but that in return for that, he would have to do A and B with all of us. He used his pass during the afternoon, we took the pass without any attempt to talk him out of using it, and he went along with the rest of the day’s plan without a complaint…and even happily!”
How can you use this insight to give your kids a sense of ownership, control and mastery in the most difficult situations?
At a recent Conference, many speaker bio’s used some variation of this line: “The speaker has three children, all of whom are well-behaved.” And something began to grate on me. We believe in children taking responsibility for their own actions. But there are five things about that statement that should serve as caution flags for us.
1. Be wary of pride or guilt. The statement carries a certain amount of pride, as if the parent has somehow made their children behave well. I know lousy parents who luck out with compliant children. The fact is you can be a great parent and have a strong-willed child who chooses to misbehave. So wipe off that guilt.
2. Have my kids learned to make choices or do I make their choices for them? The truth is I can MAKE my kids behave if I want to most of the time. If I use fear and intimidation, I can force my kids to behave. But then I am making the kids’ choices for them. I like disciplining kids. I don’t need them to like or love me. But I do want them to know they have choices and those choices have consequences.
3. Do my kids behave because I can’t? Are you dependent on your kids? We need them to do as we say, precisely because we will lose it if they don’t. “If you don’t do exactly as I demand, I’m going to throw a tantrum.” No matter how we try to justify it, we can’t. If your kids are walking on eggshells or if Mom secretly hopes Dad goes on a business trip to keep the peace, you must change this now.
4. What’s your real goal? Do I want well-behaved children? Of course. But my real goal is simple. I want a trusting, respectful relationship with my children. I want children who know how to control their own emotions when disappointed, who don’t react to annoying situations and siblings. I want children who are confident and purposeful.
5. What are YOU going to do? More than well-behaved children, we first want well-behaved parents whose loudest lecture is modeling. Can you control yourself when things don’t go your way? Sometimes your kids just don’t behave. The real question then becomes: what are YOU going to do? Can you behave even when your kids don’t?
When parents control their children’s behavior, their children do not learn how to become responsible for their choices. Studies indicate that this tendency is passed down through generations. Unless we take specific action, we will pass this along to our kids. Today’s lesson? Watch how much power and control you get over your life when you control yourself, not others.
1) Control yourself, not your spouse. Confession: I recently realized that I have in subtle ways steamrolled my wife over many decisions. Subtle to me, but my wife felt steamrolled. I am inwardly very driven and when I encounter an obstacle, my natural tendency is to overcome it. Because I’m not aggressive or outwardly overbearing, I never thought I was some ogre. Wrong.
When considering a major purchase this past spring, I called my wife and she had major reservations. My instinct was to overcome her objections with a flurry of rational points-proving my point-then just move on. But instead of trying to CHANGE HER OPINION, I changed my reaction. I validated her reservations and agreed to wait until she was comfortable. After she recovered from shock, my wife said she really appreciated it.
How many of us spend our entire marriage trying to change our spouse, only to grow resentful? We don’t tout them much, but our relationship CDs save and improve marriages. Even husbands like them because the strategies are simple and easy.
2) Control yourself, not your kids. Want to freak your kids out? When they are upset, control yourself and not them. Show them how to control themselves. So your son is on the floor kicking and screaming. Dad can stand over the child, yell and physically pick him up. But what would happen if the Dad began doing push-ups next to the upset child? Now father and son are bonding, modeling what TO DO instead of just yelling to stop. What would happen if dear daughter is mouthing off and instead of biting on the provocation and lecturing, Mom gave her daughter a hug and whispered, “Something is upsetting you. I’ll be sitting on the front steps if you want to talk.” Once calmed down, we can deal with consequences and the root of the problem. But it begins by controlling our own actions instead of our kids.
3) Break generational patterns. Hoping or wishing things will change never works. Neither does theory. When you are at your wit’s end, you need very specific, practical strategies that work. Simple new habits to use in the midst of the storm. Whether you are in the car, living room, grocery store, classroom or church, use our step-by-step strategies. Break these patterns of behavior that have passed down through your mother and that your husband is replicating from his father. Ahhhhh. Before you know it, you will enjoy less defiance, fewer meltdowns and power struggles. It’s worth it.
Let’s cut to the chase. There are at least 15,000 Moms reading this who don’t need a special day to honor their sacrifice. In fact, for many of you, it’s an affront. Because you’ll wake up Monday and the same pattern will repeat in perpetuity: Mom taken for granted, feeling responsible to manage everyone’s happiness, exhausted, resentful.
Know how I know this? Because this is how I treated my wife for years. I showed up for one day, did my duty, and then reverted to emotionally ignoring her. And you know what’s just as bad? She allowed it to continue year after year. Because that’s what we do here in America. We pretend everything’s okay when it’s not. We put on the happy face and inside seethe with pain and anger.
Some people won’t like this brought up so bluntly, nor will they like the title of this message. Too bad. I am tired of seeing so many Moms and families suffering. And just sending a nice Mother’s Day message won’t change a thing. This is what will.
1) Moms, you must demonstrate self-respect. During the other 364 days of the year, you MUST learn to take care of yourself emotionally, physically and spiritually first. NO ONE else is going to make you a priority if YOU don’t make yourself a priority. NO ONE else is going to respect you unless YOU show self-respect. If you don’t take care of yourself, your kids will have to manage you–and you will become resentful.
2) Don’t allow yourself to become only “Momofthree@aol.com”. You are an individual with unique gifts, talents and passions that make you complete. Instead of running your kids everywhere, your kids need to see you going to Book Club, taking a college class, reading a book or pursuing your passions just like they pursue theirs. What are your passions? Your gifts that bring you contentment and joy? Don’t put them in a drawer somewhere. Use them. Being a Mom is the highest calling there is. But you are not only a Mom.
3) Expect More. If you settle for the flowers and lunch after church, then you are telling your husband and kids that’s all you expect and need. Yeah, this is hard! But you must be assertive. Since we’ve been doing BootCamp, we’ve been spending 50% of the time on this. You need to be very clear about your needs and expectations.
What are you willing to do different so you have different results? Bottom line: you need to take action. So that every day is Mother’s Day.
I believe in you.