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Don’t Miss Life’s Teachable Moments

As a parent, it is our job to watch for  and use life’s teachable moments – those moments that life has something important to teach our kids. It is in this constant learning that they discover how to show up happy, successful and responsible in life.

Too many times we are too blind to see or too busy to use these teachable moments. We miss an opportunity to help our kids learn how to develop the virtues and behaviors to live a life of impact and quality. We are their teachers, helping them learn how to successfully be in our world, to discover and live what makes them unique and to be happy in the process. This is lifetime work, and as such, requires us to on the watch – to be ready and willing to translate life’s situations and our kids responses to it into meaningful life lessons.

So what do teachable moments look like? Here are some examples:

The time your kids are wrestling with a toy, neither one willing to let the other play with it. Teachable moment: teach sharing, sacrifice and patience.

The time your son or daughter is critical of someone who said or did something to them at school or criticizes someone who is different. Teachable moment: teach kindness, respect, acceptance.

The time your son or daughter fails at something (important or unimportant) and continues to be negatively affected by it. Teachable moment: teach empathy, forgiveness, resilience.

The time your son or daughter deliberately disobeys you or treats you poorly. Teachable moment: teach respect, caring and kindness.

The time your son or daughter receives a gift from a family member and makes no effort to say thank you. Teachable moment: teach gratitude, appreciation and kindness.

The time your son or daughter got caught driving without permission or drinking at a neighborhood party. Teachable moment: teach self-respect, honesty and integrity.

The time your son or daughter is ready to give up on a school project, sport, music lesson or homework. Teachable moment: teach determination, creativity and accountability.

The time you and your son or daughter are working on things together and life is fine. Teachable moment: teach joyfulness, helpfulness and love.

These moments happen constantly in our lives (for us to learn from) and to use to teach our kids. Stop and notice these moments and tap into the virtues that drive lifetime success behaviors to help your kids show up happy, successful and responsible in life.

Teach Your Kids To Slow Down And Enjoy Life

My dad, an amazing gardener, once said to me as we were building a walkway from the street to our front door, “No garden path or walkway should ever be a straight line. All paths should zig and zag, meander to the left, then the right.” He explained that the turns force us to slow down to see things – new vantage points – new things to appreciate. A well-planted walkway is an adventure, a show and an event – with something new at every turn. It is not a means to an end, but rather a journey. “Slow down,” he said, “and enjoy the ride – enjoy life.”

Though I had my father’s wise advice to slow down and be connected to life, I, like most people felt that moving faster and doing many things at once was a better use of time; it was all about accomplishing things and checking them off my to-do list. As we live this way, we influence our kids to live this way. But what value do things have if we don’t remember being part of them?

Multi-tasking makes you miss your life

As a culture, we pride ourselves on multi-tasking and filling every moment of our time; workplace job ads intentionally search for those who say they can do more than one thing at a time. Students write in their college essays that they are able to do many things at once – to be part of our high-paced world. We applaud and reward this manic behavior.

And though it may look like we get a lot of things done on our checklist of life, we realize that the process can be completely unfulfilling. We don’t remember any part of what we do, how we spend our time and who we are with. We don’t zig and zag – we bolt for the finish line as if life were some sort of race – something we are supposed to complete efficiently and on-time. But getting it done isn’t its value – the value is in the ride.

Teach your kids to slow down and enjoy life

Thinking about the zig and the zag, I am reminded of George Bernard Shaw’s quote, “I want to be all used up when I die.” We shouldn’t have any life left in us because we lived with such passion, excitement and energy that we used up everything we had. When we slowly move through life, enjoying the ride, meeting new people, finding out more about ourselves and treasuring each moment, we can be thrilled by all that life is. This is how to discover and develop our greatness – to get acquainted with who we are and to find where in today’s world we can connect with what is best in us. We can’t guide our kids to do this work if they are rushing through their lives.

 

Consider these 4 ways to teach your kids (and yourself) to slow down and enjoy life:

  1. Go for a walk with your kid. Force yourself to take the long way. Watch for new things – things you never saw before. Stop and appreciate what you see – plants, buildings, stars – whatever. Notice everything. And for this one time, comment on everything. Say it out loud. Don’t worry who may see or hear you. Invite them to join you on your walk. Slow down and be really present.
  2. Sit and talk with your kid. Get reconnected to who your son or daughter, grandson, niece or step child is. Be interested in whatever is important in their life. Make time to share stories, thoughts and ideas. See how much richer your relationship becomes. Slow down and really connect.
  3. Turn off technology. To tune in you have to tune out – that means to turn off the influences from today’s loud and always-on world. Tune in to what you hear in the quiet of a moment – in noticing the world around you – plants, people, weather, food – it is all there for you to appreciate. Slow down and notice.
  4. Play more with your kid. Studies show that our greatest learning in life doesn’t happen when we formally learn – it happens instead when we play – when we practice with what we learn. Building in more playtime not only accelerates learning, it makes for a better life. Build in time to play together. Slow down and play more.

Make the intention to really be part of your and your kid’s amazing lives. Only when you make the time can you see how amazing it is. It isn’t perfect, but it is still amazing. Slow down and enjoy your ride of life.

I Think It Is Time To Get Rid of Holidays…

With Thanksgiving just ahead of us, I am reminded of our tradition to take a day and celebrate a special theme. We celebrate mothers, fathers, pilgrims, veterans, workers, religions traditions, famous people and presidents. Maybe this concept has run its course…

Well, what has run its course is the holi“day” (emphasis on “day.”) If these are really important events, why do we limit the celebration to just one day? Shouldn’t we celebrate their meaning every day?

Rethinking holidays

Holi “days” aren’t cutting it. A day’s celebration is too small – too limited – to inspire the celebrated behavior for an entire year. In a world that is increasingly unkind, selfish and confrontational, couldn’t we make an improvement if we were to extend the meaning of these celebrations? Couldn’t we stay more focused on being kind, considerate, passionate, loving and respectful if we acted the way we do on those special days? No need to buy gifts. Just concentrate on the messages of the holidays and live them more often. I think this could really make a difference in life.

So my suggestion is to replace holi”days” with an “everydays” approach – a new DAILY focus on celebrating what matters most in life.

Celebrate “Everydays” by:

  • Telling (and showing) the people you love how much you love them and what they mean to you.
  • Sharing a story about your life’s successes and failures to teach someone else and make their road easier.
  • Making someone else feel important, even if you did most of the work.
  • Showing your tolerance for and acceptance of someone who does not look like you, act like you do or believe what you do.
  • Appreciating a flower, a tree, the wind, a star, rock formation or any other part of nature.
  • Saying thank you, holding a door open, letting another person or car pass ahead of you, or being kind to someone you don’t know.
  • Giving away some of your “extras” to someone who has few or no “extras.”
  • Making the phone call even when it is the other person’s turn.
  • Sharing a call, thought, card or gift with someone you love or who needs to hear from you – just because.
  • Allowing another to have an opinion different than yours, allowing them to share it and still respecting them.
  • Keeping your planet safe and healthy for those who will need it after you.
  • Smiling at someone you don’t know.
  • Being more grateful – particularly for the small stuff.

How will you regularly celebrate the very special people in your life, and those who do so much to help you have your life? What would you add to this list? Never miss the opportunity to celebrate something everyday – and let these celebrations change you from the inside out.

(Be sure to talk about this with your kids and to share it with someone who can benefit from it.)

 

When You Are Feeling Down, Do This One Thing To Turn Things Around

Face it, we all get to places and events that seem to take us down:

  • We get tough news about our health or the health of a loved one.
  • Our kids get into trouble outside of the house.
  • Relationships get challenged.
  • Jobs get lost and money gets tight.

Each of these can take us down. And sometimes it feels right to pull the covers up and feel sorry for ourselves. Or, it feels right to lose our cool and get angry. Being a victim or getting angry are the default behaviors for some of these life situations. Visiting these negative emotions is fine, but don’t move in.

Focusing on the negative brings more negative

When we dwell on a tough situation, it can take the joy out of every other part of life. Feeling down or sad about a situation you cannot control just brings these same feelings to the other parts of your life. We all have met or had to deal with people who were upset about something and then let it ruin every other part of their day (we’ll start to see it now as another election cycle happens).

So the question is, when you are feeling down, what is something you can do to turn things around? That one thing is GRATITUDE.

See, even in the worst of times, there is always something to be grateful for. In the moment of shifting out of victim or anger (both show up when we are down), we create a new energy – a positive energy – one that can help us reframe what we see, create optimism and encourage new solutions.

Gratitude changes the energy

Research shares that one of the greatest abilities to heal ourselves and to stay healthy is to live with both a positive outlook and with gratitude. It changes the chemicals in our brains which then positively influences our body chemistry.

If you are dealing with a challenging teen or young adult who has gotten herself in trouble, you are much more capable to handle the issue, help the young adult realign and keep a family together if you keep your mind focused on solutions and stay positive. Using your energy to be angry limits your ability to see the situation clearly, solve it wisely and build a more solid relationship. But with the awareness to shift to a little gratitude, opportunities to successfully resolve become more apparent. After all, what you seek you find.

Studies show that being angry or acting the part of the victim are life’s defense mechanisms; they are designed to keep us safe (notice the brain’s defaults are about safety, not happiness – we own creating our happiness). To (stop and) notice these feelings can help us shift to make sounder, wiser decisions.

Try this everywhere

We can do it face-to-face with our kids – when we focus on what is great and amazing in them. We can do it as money gets tight to see that we have support and help from others, or our health, or a loving relationship. We can do it when we are frustrated in the workplace by choosing to focus on something remarkable about the job or the people. We have to choose (on purpose) to stop and notice the good things when the bad things seem to have our full attention.

Don’t let the downs make you miss all the ups of life. The ups are more powerful than you think – they can completely dissolve the downs. Remember that “be happy” and “be down” can’t coexist – they are mutually exclusive emotions. Focus on the ups and they will help you provide solutions and responses to your downs.

What are three things you are grateful for, and how will you focus on these when life send you things that get you down?