Why Parenting is So Challenging and What You Can Do to Lower that Hurdle!

Life is all about personal development – learning new things about ourselves, our relationships and our environment and then applying that knowledge to our lives. When we are done personally developing…we are DONE!

Parenting, is all about personal development. Forcing us to recognize our gaps in knowledge and fill them in. It is not gentle, nor is it quick. In fact it is hugely challenging.

This audio shares why I think parenting is so challenging and how knowing this information can help a keen parent use it to their advantage. Enjoy! (approx. 30 minutes)

Fill’er Up! Learning How Self-Care Can Keep You Going

One of the simplest ways to help people become better at looking after themselves, is to help them take stock of what fills them up.  Like a car at the gas station, we need regular refills of positive moments in our lives if we want to be able to keep trucking day after day. 

Things that fill you up are things that: 

  • You enjoy doing
  • You feel stronger after doing
  • Make you feel good about yourself as a person
  • Create a sense of happiness or contentment deep within 

Examples of things that might fill you up: 

  • Connection to others – quality time with partner, kids, family, friends (important you feel allowed to be your true self with these people), volunteering, being of service, giving to others
  • Movement/exercise – dancing, swinging, yoga, running, aerobics, sex, biking
  • Music – singing, drumming, listening to music, playing an instrument, chanting
  • Touch/energy work – massage,  foot rubs, Pranic Healing, Reiki, Reflexology
  • Quieting the mind – relaxing baths, meditation, daydreaming, Tai chi
  • Belly laughs – with a friend, a child, watching a show
  • Artistic expression – writing, drawing, painting, sculpting
  • Being out in nature – walking, tree hugging, sitting by water, horseback riding
  • Animals – petting a dog, grooming an animal, playing with a kitten
  • Excitement – Riding a motorcycle, flying an airplane, driving a race car

The type of things that fill you up, how much you need to reach the full mark, and the amount of time you remain “full” for, will be different for every one of us.  So take some time and explore a little.  Once you find something that fills you be sure to build it into your life so you can fill up on a regular basis and not risk the chance of ever running out of gas.

Being Who You Were Meant to Be

Have you lost your mind?

I mean literally – have you ever suffered from amnesia of any sort and experienced the incredible disconnect that comes from not knowing who you are?

If you haven’t experienced this, imagine not knowing what foods you like, what makes you laugh, where you work, your favorite sports teams or stores, what pumps you up or what helps you unwind at the end of the day. Imagine not having a clue about the kind of person you get along best with, never mind those you have built relationships with or who you love.

As freeing as that can be, doesn’t it also sound scary and uncomfortable?

Knowing these things about ourselves is what helps us feel comfortable in our own skin and ultimately really excel in life.  So with or without amnesia let me ask you this…

Do you know who you are? 

There are a huge number of people who have not suffered amnesia but still couldn’t answer many deep-reaching questions about themselves. Sure they might know their favorite drink, restaurant or vacation spot…but these are things a close neighbor might know about them and do not indicate an intimate connection or true self-awareness.

I’m not sure what exactly causes us to disconnect from this self-awareness, but I suspect it has to do with how often we are told what to like or dislike, how to act, how to respond to others, who to be attracted to and of course how we should look. This is done by others in our lives, not because they are bad people, but because they too have been raised this way.

This type of upbringing can easily help us disconnect from what we really feel, think, or desire, and focus instead on pleasing others.  We are taught to conform rather than celebrate our uniqueness even though we know variety is the spice of life.

Allowing yourself to take a risk and be you is a very scary prospect.  It means embracing your authentic self and feeling good about it no matter how it might look. This is not just self-awareness (although that is the starting point) but is about total self-acceptance. It is about understanding yourself on the deepest level and knowing you are perfect at being you.

If you haven’t already, I would like to encourage you to take a moment and think about who you are.  What are your gifts (I guarantee you have many), what makes you special, what excites you or what makes you cringe? Change always happens from the inside out and with acceptance can be beautiful and awe-inspiring rather than scary and strange. 

Best of all – you will never fail at the task of being you – that’s impossible.  So don’t wait for a bang on the head to make you tune in. Start today to get to know yourself… and allow the glow of authentic connection to help you be the person you were really meant to be.

Personal Development – Letting Unhealthy Thoughts Go

The other day I was listening to Dan Millman’s CD set entitled The 12 Gateways to Freedom and he shared an idea that really got my attention. He said our thoughts are not within our control. This was a surprise to me. I had lived under the assumption that thoughts were something we could control (in fact I even tell people that in my book!) and because of this, our thoughts are a good place to focus our energy.

According to Dan, this is a waste of energy as thoughts come through unbidden all of the time.  We are better off recognizing that we do not control them and simply notice them as they come and let them leave just as quickly.  We certainly can influence our thoughts by what we feed them (i.e. what we think after the initial thought) and we choose our actions that come from our thoughts….but we do not control each thought as it arises.

This made so much sense to me. It actually lifted a weight, that I didn’t even realize I carried, off of my shoulders. I knew I had occasional thoughts I didn’t like, but I had no idea I was judging myself on these unbidden thoughts and taking full responsibility for their existence.  I believed there was a piece of me that was not evolving at the same speed as the rest – and therefore every once in a while would allow a negative, condescending or rude idea to come to mind.

Knowing that thoughts are not within my control allows me to notice these thoughts and let them pass without analyzing them or wondering at my own imperfections and judging myself negatively as a result.  This doesn’t feel like a new idea to me – which means it truly resonates – yet it is knowledge I obviously had disconnected from and being reminded of it was very beneficial.

So, if you are investing a lot of energy wondering at your thoughts – let them be, for they are not yours. Unless of course you feed them…and then like a stray cat they suddenly start to feel like yours. But if you can let those thoughts pass on through like the credits of a movie, they will be here one moment gone the next allowing you to focus all your attention on your actions.

* Dan Millman, 2011, The Twelve Gateways to Freedom, A Peaceful Warrior Audio Program

Overcoming Challenges – How to Recognize and Move Beyond Life Changing Moments

 “Oh no…this can’t be happening…it’s not fair…my life is ruined!” 

Have you ever had thoughts like these flash through your mind? Of course you have – they are actually quite common.  But what you might not have realized is that these thoughts could be indicators of a life changing moment.

Think about that – life changing moment!  Doesn’t that sound like something incredible…like a fantastic adventure, or an exciting opportunity to discover something new? It sounds like something we might embrace with enthusiasm, and yet these statements suggest that we actually dread these experiences.

Life changing moments are opportunities to soar.  Its like we are being given a giant ladder, in the game of Snakes and Ladders, and if we choose to climb we can go higher and farther than we ever thought possible.  But do we climb the ladder? No.  Instead we stand at the bottom, studying it. “Looks unsafe to me…no way I’m going up there.  Count me out…what if I don’t know what to do when I get to the top?”

We stand at the bottom, terrified to take a risk or to believe in our own ability to handle the climb without falling. We look around and notice others judging us, determining that this is our own fault, or pitying us that this should happen. This raises self-doubt, uncertainty, embarrassment, and instead of climbing many of us sit at the bottom feeling miserable and dejected.

You might be asking, what exactly is this life changing moment?  Is it a bad accident that leaves us physically changed, an unplanned pregnancy, bankruptcy, loss of a loved one?  That’s an interesting part of these moments, it’s not the event itself that puts it on the list, but more how that situation makes us feel and what we have to do to move past those feelings.

There are three considerations I use to define life changing moments:

  1. The event rocks your world.  It shakes you up, making you question basic things like your safety or long-held beliefs.  You feel off-balance and might say things like: “This can’t be happening…it’s not possible…I don’t believe it!”
  2. It totally preoccupies you. The event is all you can think about for longer than 48 hours.  You think about it when you wake up, in the shower, on your way to school or work, while watching TV.  It’s like an elephant in the room and you simply can’t ignore it and let life move on.
  3. It forces you to change. Like the name suggests, this event insists that you grow in some way in order to move past this occurrence. Until you figure out what you need to do to move past this situation, it will be there rocking your world and taking up all of your brain space.

Unfortunately, when we don’t want to climb many of us will start looking for ways to justify our in-action. We might focus on blame and revenge, or allow feelings like anger, resentment, regret or bitterness, to occupy our thinking. These feelings hold us back making it even harder for us to go on.

So how do we get past this? 

  • Become aware of your feelings and make a point of setting your justifiers aside. Even if you have to take legal action this can be done without emotional blaming, resentment, anger or bitterness.
  • Understand that events are neutral. How good or bad a situation is will be based on our own perception, which is based on how that situation makes us feel. A coin always has two sides.  Just because the head is face down, doesn’t mean it isn’t there – it’s simply hidden from our view at the moment. You control which side of the coin is facing up – choose the one that helps you climb.
  • Accept what has happened as part of your journey. Know that it is not punishment, bad karma or ‘just desserts’.  This does not mean you won’t have to change your behaviour to make positive changes in your life…it just means there is no benefit in judging what has happened. See it for the challenge it is and then focus your energy on gathering the gear you need to start your adventure.
  • Remember that visible growth will not happen overnight, even though you may feel ready. Take baby steps and be prepared for setbacks to occur.  These are not indicators of failure or wrong directions, simply a way of ensuring true growth occurs. 

Life changing moments come to everybody at some point in their lives.  It’s a way of helping us grow and reach new heights. The sooner we understand this and accept it as part of our experience, the sooner we can start climbing towards amazing things.

Debbie Pokornik is the Chief Empowerment Officer for empowering NRG and author of the award winning Break Free of Parenting Pressures. She believes personal development is key to unlocking life’s little treasures and when people are ready the rewards are great.

A Personal Perspective

We spend a lot of energy taking things personally, when they weren’t really ours to begin with. For example we might make eye contact with a person in a mall at the same moment that she sneers.  Suddenly we’re wondering – “What’s her problem…what’d I ever do to her!”  In this situation we might not carry it with us very long, but the fact that we gave it any brainspace at all is quite interesting.

If you think of the many times in a day when things like this might occur, it adds up to a lot of brainspace.  For example:

  • another driver honking their horn
  • a car cutting you off
  • the lady at the coffee shop glaring at you when you say “Good Morning!”
  • the person in front of you who allows the door to swing back in your face
  • the person who starts laughing when you walk in the room or during your non-funny story
  • your dog running off and not coming when you call
  • your neighbor cutting grass early in the morning while you’re trying to sleep
  • the hot water tank being empty for your shower
  • the weather turning cold and miserable on a day when your plans require a sunny sky

Obviously this list could go on and on, but the important piece is if you can remember reacting to any of these kinds of things you might be taking things more personally than you thought.

Let’s go one step closer and talk about the significant people in your life. Your partner, kids, parents, sibling, colleagues, boss, neighbor…the people you interact with on a much closer level. Many of these people have meaningful relationships with us and therefore have a much greater influence when they shoot us a sneer. Examples of these situations might be:

  • your toddler waking you up multiple times when you have important plans the next day
  • your partner snoring
  • your child refusing to go to bed
  • comments about a meal you provided (cold, too salty, hate chicken…)
  • neighbor chasing your dog with a shovel
  • no greeting when you walk in a room
  • being interrupted right in the middle of a great story
  • people guessing the ending to your story

Even when these situations very obviously involve us, we are best advised to not allow the other person’s “problem” to make a direct hit on our battleship.  If our spouse is having a bad day, they might aim things in our general direction like, “Where is supper – I’m starved!” or directly at us, “You left the car on empty again!”.  These are expressions of how they are feeling at the moment and while they may appear to be shooting in our direction, it’s really not about us.  They are disappointed or frustrated to not find supper (or to get in a vehicle that’s out of gas) and are dealing with those feelings.  This does not excuse their behaviour if they are treating us badly, but if we allow ourselves to take their comment personally and attack back we’ll be making this into a much bigger problem than it needs to be.

When we refuse to take things personally, but instead allow that person with room to work through their issues, we hold tight to our personal power and avoid collateral damage that is sure to arise if we reacted. So repeat this mantra:  It’s not about me, it’s not about me … and see if you can let them work through their problem without dragging you into the ring.

In my next blog I’ll talk about how to stop yourself from reacting and language you can use to answer their assertions without buying into the fight.

Got the Blues…Out of Energy…or Just Feeling Blasé?

Try these simple pick-me-ups for a quick fix:

  • Tap lightly on the middle of your chest about 2 inches below the dip in the collar bone, and feel your chest expand.
  • Gently pinch and roll your ears starting at the lobes. Massage all the way up and around to the top, then back down to the lobes again.  
  • Sing or hum a favorite song (Do-Re-Mi is a really good one).
  • Give a Tarzan yell, squeal like a child or say the word YES! Loudly, forcefully, 3 times in a row! 
  • Fake laugh until you twig your true laughter switch.  Focus on making it sound like real laughter and keep at it until it turns into a belly laugh (easier to do if someone else will fake it with you).
  • Create a mental list of the things you are grateful for. Say them aloud and really focus on feeling grateful.
  • Sit in the sun (direct is better than through glass) and feel it filling you with golden energy.
  • Dance like no one is watching…sway to invisible music… or go for a walk and swing your hips in an exaggerated way.
    These ideas might seem too simple or too silly…but imagine how amazing it would be to try them and find out they work!

Alternatives to Yelling: Strengthening Your Parenting Tools & Strategies

There are a lot of great tools/strategies out there, but none that will totally replace a fear-based tool. It is helpful to learn a lot of strategies so you have a variety of options to choose from, but it’s even more important that you understand how and why tools works so that you can be sure to use them more effectively.

Here are a few points to keep in mind when thinking about your parenting pack:

• There are no good or bad tools – it’s how we use them that will make the biggest difference. If you want to hurt your child because you are feeling hurt – you will likely take whatever tool you are using and add a hurtful element to it. The best thing you can do to help yourself choose less fear-based tools will be to notice how your emotions are influencing your tool of choice.

• It is rare that a person will try out a new tool in a challenging situation. This means if you want to add new ideas to your parenting pack, do it when you aren’t in crisis mode and practice it as often as you can. The more you practice with a tool, the less awkward it will feel and the greater your chances of actually using it in a heated situation.

• An overused tool becomes an ignored tool. No matter how good a tool is, if you find you are using it often it will lose its effectiveness quickly. This is especially true when you threaten the tool before you use it. Just because a tool works well with your kids, doesn’t mean you should use it for everything.

3 Ideas for Adapting Your Pack:

1) Planning, Planning, Planning…this is more of a strategy than a tool, but is very deserving of the top spot for ideas to share. If you’ve ever planned an event or tournament, than you know the better prepared you are for problems that could arise, the calmer you are when they happen.

Most parents can predict the challenges that will arise when patience or quiet behaviour is required from their kids. Going to the bank, a restaurant, or a school concert (for siblings) are examples of outings that we might want to “plan” for. Talking to someone on the telephone or visiting with a friend can create problems at home.

If we can predict it, we can often prevent it. Even if we can’t head it off completely, having a plan and knowing the consequences can really help us to stay calm.

Steps for plan development:

1. Predict areas your child will find challenging and what you can do to avoid extra problems (i.e. avoid nap time, make sure they’ve eaten, bring snacks…)
2. Become clear on what your expectations are for the outing
3. Decide what you could bring along to occupy your child during wait time
4. Plan how you will deal with misbehaviours and how you will reward compliance (teamwork!)
5. Explain this to your child in an age appropriate way. Break it into chunks delivered throughout the day before the outing if necessary.

Thinking about this in advance will take a few moments of your time, but it decreases your chance of over-reacting and perhaps blowing your top. Nothing frustrates us more than failing to try and prevent a predictable problem. “I knew you would do this – you always make a scene at your brother’s concerts!”

Consequences planned in advance can also help us stay calm:

• Develop consequences for things you fight about often and share them with your kids during times of calm. You will be more creative when you are calm – so use those times to brainstorm ideas. Whenever possible, allow your kids to help.

• A consequence thrown out in the heat of the moment will result in too much taken away too quickly which causes resentment rather than respect and learning. This will make it hard for you to follow through after you have calmed down and realized you over-did it. Retracting now must be down carefully and with discussion.

2) Be Creative… rather than throw out all the tools in your parenting pack as defective, I always encourage parents to use their creativity and see if they can adapt them to align with their parenting goals.

In my book Break Free of Parenting Pressures, I provide details on how you might do this for a variety of common (North American) tools. I also share one of my own examples where I used the tool of privilege removal and adapted it to help convince my daughter she needed to listen. A FREE tool analysis which helps you figure out if a tool is functional, respectful, effective and easy (and therefore helping you reach your goals) is also provided.

For those who haven’t read the book in a nutshell my message is this…the tools you were raised with are the ones that will jump into your hand the easiest when you reach for a parenting solution. Rather than ditch all those tools and feel bad every time you accidentally use them, become aware of your parenting goals and then use your creativity to adapt those tools to fit your needs. There is a certain comfort in using what you already know, so take what you know and make it work in your favor.

3) Learn how to simmer…going back to the boiling pot analogy in Part 1 of this series, if you can practice cooling yourself down in the heat of the moment, you can model some very important skills to your kids:

• Practice self-control rather than automatically engaging in power struggles (techniques shared in Part 3 of this series)

• Acknowledge you are yelling (or your desire to) and tell your child you need time to calm down before you can talk about the situation; “I’m too angry to discuss this now without yelling. I’m going to take a time-out. Until we’ve had this discussion _____________ (there will be no electronics time) or (you can stay in your room)…”

• Point out the problem, admit you don’t know the best way to proceed and ask for suggestions – “We have 20 minutes to get to our appointment, no one is ready and it’s a 15 minute drive – any suggestions how we might make this happen? ” This type of question often creates a team mentality which can calm you and get your kids on board to solve the problem (be sure to use a calm voice in delivery).

• Announce you need to vent some steam and suggest a group yell. This is one of my favorites and involves everybody complaining loudly all at the same time. In Part 1 of this series I talked about how yelling is a way people vent off steam…if we can find another (possibly humorous) way to do this we decrease our chances of blowing our top in someone else’s direction.

In conclusion, I hope you will take the pieces from this series that resonated with you and use them to help you figure out your strengths and begin creating a plan for making positive changes.

Parenting can not be done on auto-pilot. It is our job to tune in to where we are headed, why we do the things we do and how we plan to get to our family destination. If we do this, we can make course corrections along the way and still wind up exactly where we wanted to go. This type of thinking can help us do our best work as parents and really…what more could anyone ask?

Part 1: Why We Yell
Part 2: Why Yelling at Children is Not Effective
Part 3: How to Control Your Yelling – or at least decrease it!
Part 4: Alternatives to Yelling – strengthening your parenting tools and strategies

Debbie Pokornik is the Chief Empowerment Officer for Empowering NRG and the author of the award winning Break Free of Parenting Pressures; Embrace Your Natural Guidance. She believes personal development is key to unlocking life’s little treasures and when people are ready the rewards are great. For more info check out http://www.empoweringnrg.com

What if I were Queen?

One way to create a perspective shift is to play a game of imagination. What if I were Queen and everyone did exactly as I ordered? Would I be a good Queen? Would I make good decisions? How would I deal with problems that hurt a few for the good of the whole?

Using the lead in “what if” helps us come at things from a different angle and opens our mind (and heart) to a huge range of possibilities. It can help us be more understanding, feel grateful for our current stress level, or appreciate something that in the past we found annoying. This can be hard to do when you’re emotionally caught up in things, but with practice even play gets easier.

Check out the ideas below and see if any of them help you see things in a different light. Keep your mind open and if you find any you can’t accept (you’ll recognize them because they make you want to argue) just throw them away and replace them with something that works for you.

• what if the guy who just cut you off is on his way home from the hospital after getting bad news?
• what if your son got in that fight at school because someone was making fun of his sister?
• what if every time you smiled it decreased your chances of ever getting sick?
• what if you found out tomorrow you only had one week to live?
• what if your child’s messy room ended up getting her on the Ellen Degeneres show?
• what if no matter what you did you knew you’d always be looked after?
• what if an irritating colleague at work is pushing you to see if you’re management material?

Playing little games like this might seem silly, but what if they are what makes the difference between a good day and a bad?

Understanding Your Responses to Change

Often when a new idea is presented to us we will respond in predictable ways.  Being aware of these responses and what they might mean for us as an individual, allows us to understand ourselves better and use the information to put our energy where it will help us most. For each of the categories below, see if you can remember a time when you might have experienced this response:

1. Resonance – the new idea feels good to you and resonates beautifully, much like when two voices harmonize perfectly.  It feels right, perhaps like a missing piece has been found and you cannot wait to give it a try.  You embrace the change and are shocked when others don’t seem quite so enthusiastic. When a new idea resonates it’s time to celebrate and enjoy the new found treasure.

2. Regular – this plain word perfectly describes the feeling people have about a lot of new ideas.  Nothing feels different… you don’t feel excited or repulsed…you just feel regular.  It’s important to know about this category, because this is the one that will often end up “shoulding” on you.  Since the idea makes sense and you don’t feel strongly one way or the other, you add it on your “to do” list and then feel guilty when you don’t put it to practice.  Beware new ideas that make you think “I should do that” without strong feeling one way or the other.  Just because you can doesn’t always mean you should.

Resistant girl3. Resistance – in this case the new idea feels wrong, repulsive or uncomfortable. What’s interesting about this category is that this resistance can come from a variety of different places.  For example resistance might come from fear of moving out of your comfort zone – like a warning that you’re about to try something new that could be beneficial to your growth.  Moving out of your comfort zone is often like throwing out those old, ratty and worn out pair of sweats.  It’s time to move on, but you’re a bit hesitant to do so.

On the other hand, your resistance could indicate a personal block from a limiting belief or past experience that went wrong.  This resistance is offering you a chance to release this block or heal the negative energies from your previous experience.  In other words it’s not the change you are resisting but an opportunity to heal. Finally, this resistance could indicate an instinctual knowing that this type of change is not a good idea. In this case, your resistance is your intuition trying to warn you you’re about to travel an unnecessary path of problems. The trick with resistance is to use it to explore where it is coming from rather than simply digging in your heels and fighting the change.

Change will never be easy for most people, but becoming aware of your own responses and what each one might mean can definitely make your journey a little easier to navigate.

I’d love to hear your feedback or answer your questions below.