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Joy Multiplier or Joy Thief?

This month, the topic of discussion with my Fishful Thinking peers is Multiplying Joy. Dr. Reivich states:

“By responding positively to others’ good news and sharing in their joy you are being a Joy Multiplier. On the flip side, when you do not show interest in the joy someone is sharing with you, you become a Joy Thief.”

And while the initial question asked was  “When are you a Joy Multiplier? What time of day do you respond most positively? What kinds of good news do you celebrate most with your children?” it kicked off some absolutely wonderful conversations!

My answer was:

I’d LIKE to say that I’m always a Joy Multiplier – whenever I hear good news I ask questions and get excited for the other person. And for the most part that’s true…except that whole “I’m *so* not a morning person” thing. Especially before I’ve had coffee…So, afternoons and early evenings are probably the time of day that I respond most positively.

I celebrate ALL good news with my children! Especially if it’s *their* good news. I’m all about celebrating even the “small” stuff – if you wait for the really big stuff, you may not ever celebrate – and that’s no fun. We’re always dancing 🙂

Of course, my fear is that I’m also a Joy Thief because there are definitely times when I’m just unable to celebrate at the exact moment my kids come running in with news. Someone else brought that up in their response and I was quick to point out that it sounded like she celebrates LOTS of stuff, so perhaps she’s just a Joy Postponer and not a Thief.

Do you see how this ties in with last month’s discussion about being your own biggest critic? I was immediately able to let this other wonderful mom off the hook and see how she isn’t a Joy Thief, but when thinking about myself I go right to that.

Anyway…back to Joy. I’ve been thinking about ways to increase being a Joy Multiplier. I’m going to TRY to drop everything when my kids come to me with something to celebrate; but realistically, I know that I’m not always “in the mood” or simply able to drop everything. Plus, I’m not sure what kind of message that sends to them when they’re “allowed” to interrupt each and every time they have something exciting to say (like, if I’m on the phone or talking with another adult).

And I think if we start writing out our Joy List more often … adding to it each and every time there’s something TO celebrate, we’d be multiplying it not only at the time of the initial joy, but each time we reread it.

Oh, and did you know that Happiness is Contagious in Social Networking? If you multiply your joy online, you’re making not only YOUR day, but a whole lot of other people’s days too! Pretty cool, huh?

Criticize Me Not

One of the hot topics among my Fishful Thinking peers is being your own biggest critic. No kidding, right? When asked the question about what brings out your inner critic, I was surprised to see – and then not really surprised to see – that many of the mom’s answers were similar to mine:

My inner critic is always around when I’m in one of those “parenting” situations where I could have done MUCH better…or when I feel like my kids could have done better (in public) and it’s perhaps a reflection on my parenting skills.

So what does this mean? If so many moms feel this way – what’s made us like this? Is it one or two moms who exude so much confidence at the park who make the rest of us feel like we’re not cutting it? Perhaps. But I suspect that those moms are also feeling the same way.

So what do we do about this? I’ve been trying to check my expressions at the door (or Park entrance…). Sometimes just a single look from another mom is enough to send me over the edge…she’s looking at me or my kids for just a split second too long, or raises an eyebrow at something…you know.  I’m trying to consciously exude an “Oh, I’ve SO been there – I feel your pain” to other moms.

But I’ve also been trying to stop putting “words” into other mom’s looks. Perhaps they’re just curious about how *I’LL* handle the situation, rather than thinking about how they’d do it so much better than I am. In difficult situations I’m also trying to remember all of the things I’ve handled exceptionally well (which, I must admit, is difficult to do while you’re in the moment!).

There’s a wonderful article about how to Accentuate the Positive. It’s written for how to help your child stay optimistic; but you can absolutely apply it to yourself as well. To paraphrase: Highlight your abilities. Promote your confidence by telling yourself specific things that you’ve done well and you’ll learn that positive outcomes are the result of your own actions. For example, if you’re really good at keeping your calm when one of your kids is picking on another one of your kids, mentally take note each and every time.

Another really helpful article is How to Be a Happier Mom. Some of the items touched on are pretty common sense ones, but sometimes it’s really good to be reminded. I know *I* need the reminder every now and again. And we all know that a happy mom is a relaxed mom. And a relaxed mom can tackle just about any situation thrown at her. 🙂

Fishful Thinking: Do Over!

Last week I wrote about dealing with disrespect. It’s gotten a little bit better, but we’re far from being over this (not too surprising!).

I was  looking for an activity to help with it all (and to compliment those awesome articles), when I stumbled on the Do Over activity. What I like best about this activity is that it’s not a one-time-sit-down-and-do-this activity; it’s ongoing! Oh, and it’s for everyone – not just the kids.

Basically, the article part states that kids are often embarrassed about something they’ve done wrong and get discouraged and don’t want to try again. It states that if we, as parents, start vocalizing our mistakes, it might help our kids get over it and realize that everyone makes mistakes. (I’m thinking this would help a lot of adults out there as well…)

The thing that really caught my attention was the example though:

…[You would say] “The way I said that sounded too bossy” and then call a “Do Over.” Try saying something like: “I call a Do Over. I’m going to say that in a kinder way,” and then try again.

It’s a do over for words too!! I absolutely need that for myself … and so does Burke. We’re both quick with our words (and our button-pushing-anger is typically right at the surface), so being able to take back something that was said without thinking it through is a wonderful way for us to start trying to actually think before we speak.

The suggestion is made to use a ball with the words “DO OVER” on it to ‘playfully’ remind younger kids about do overs. I’m not so sure about the ball (we’d probably need a do over for how the Do Over ball was thrown 😉 ) but I do like the idea of an object for a visual reminder.

Haven’t you ever wanted a do over? I bet your kids have too.

Fishful Thinking: Dealing with Disrespect

One of the things I’m dealing with right now is back talk from Burke. It’s more than just “talk” … it’s the full gamut of disrespect. I’ll get a foot in the face. I’ll get raspberries when I’m trying to discipline. I’ll get faces made. You get the idea. (Maggie’s not too far behind, but she’s much more subtle about it at this point…)

It’s been really frustrating for me, so I decided to browse around my trusty Fishful Thinking resource to see what I could find. Bingo! Not just one, but two articles: Dealing with Disrespect and How to Handle Back Talk. I won’t copy the entire articles here, but I will give the bullet points for each.

Dealing with Disrespect:

  1. First, calm yourself.
  2. Give clear feedback.
  3. Refocus on your goal.
  4. Resist the temptation to retaliate.
  5. Try to hear your child.
  6. When it’s over, it’s over.

This article goes into each one in more depth (and gives examples of what to do and what not to do).

.

How to Handle Back Talk:

  • Don’t attack
  • Don’t belittle
  • Don’t condemn
  • Define what the problem is
  • Define how to rectify it
  • Figure out what can be done to prevent it in the future

This article also includes examples of back talk at each age level – and how to effectively respond.

.

These points may seem like common sense, but what a great reminder. It’s so easy to lose yourself when you’re in the moment! And of course, that’s what Burke is looking for … “Let’s see how many of Mommy’s buttons I can push.” Boy does he have my number. But not for long! 🙂 This is what I’ll be working on for the next few weeks…wish me luck!!

Another kick-in-the-teeth reminder I got was a simple status update from a friend on FB: “Trying to remember that the kids have had to be quiet and good all day and need to blow off a little steam.” DUH, Nancy. As much as I’d love for them to be wonderfully good and nice and quiet at home, I’d much rather that they be good at school…so I definitely need to remember to let them be loud and crazy when they get home from a long, quiet day at school.

How do you handle disrespect from your kids? Any good ideas for me?

Fishful Thinking: Practicing Kindness

This month’s Fishful Thinking newsletter is about practicing kindness and encouraging random acts of kindness.

Dr. Reivich states, “As a parent, think about the questions below to deepen your own awareness of kindness.” I know she meant “in your head,” but I figured I’d work through those questions here.

  • How do you feel when you help someone or do something kind for another person?
    Obviously, I feel an incredible sense of joy when helping others. I do go through the “Am I doing this for how it makes me feel, or because I really want to help the other person” question, but during our phone conversation with Dr. Reivich, she confirmed that it’s OKAY to do it because it makes you feel good…what better win-win situation could there be?
  • What character strengths do you pull on when you are being kind (love, empathy, compassion, etc.)
    I think what I pull on depends on the situation and the person. If it’s something for a family member or friend and not something I really want to do, it’s all about the love for that person. Otherwise, it would have to be empathy and compassion. I often wonder what it would be like to be in that person’s shoes, and how I’d feel with the help.
  • When someone does something kind for you, how do you respond?
    I’ve gotten MUCH better at just saying, “Thank you!” It’s crazy to think about how hard it used to be to just accept kindness and be happy with it.
  • What messages did you learn as a child about being kind?
    The one thing that sticks out in my head comes from my Dad. I have clear memories of him taking the time to talk with anybody. It didn’t matter if you owned a shop, were a farmer, worked the cash register, or lived on the street. My Dad would chat with you – and still does!
  • How do you promote kindness in your children?
    Right now I’m struggling with how to get them to be kind to each other, so when I see them really helping another out – or even just offering to grab a juice cup for the other – I try to comment about how nice that was.Otherwise, I try to take them along with me when I know I’ll be doing something for someone else – like bringing a meal to a new mom or something. We’ll talk about why the person needs the meal and why we’re doing it on our way.

Here’s what I’m struggling with: promoting vs. bragging. I sometimes end up doing a spontaneous random act of kindness and I’d love to have that “rub off” on my kids; but it usually happens when they aren’t with me. For example, a few months ago at the grocery store, there was an older woman in front of me in line who didn’t have much in her cart. She ended up being around $1.00 short and was digging around in her change purse looking for more money that she obviously didn’t have. She started looking at her items trying to decide which (obviously needed) item to put back, so I dug out a dollar and handed it to the teen-aged cashier. The cashier looked at me like I had 3 heads before she realized that I meant to cover the balance. The older woman was obviously a little uncomfortable, but at the same time instantly grateful. (After she left, the cashier told me that I had just made HER week – she’d never seen anyone do that before…she had thought I was in a hurry and trying to pay for MY stuff instead of waiting.) BUT…my kids weren’t with me when this happened. And I didn’t do it for the “bragging rights” (although, I guess I did just announce it here…), but do I come back and tell my kids all about it so that they’d think to do something along those lines later on in their life? Or is that just bragging? And how do I get them to do the kindness thing without needing to do the bragging thing (or does that even matter, as long as they’re kind?) I just don’t know the answer – but I’d love to hear your thoughts.

The second part of Dr. Reivich’s letter is:

…sit with your family and create a list of Random Acts of Kindness. By creating the list, you are setting a goal for your family, making it more likely that you will actually do those kind deeds. See if you can get to fifty or one hundred simple kind acts and then put a star next to each one your family accomplishes. Make it a goal to do at least one act of kindness each day.

To cover my bases, I asked Burke and Maggie if they knew what “kindness” meant. Maggie immediately answered, “Be nice!” *phew!* We ARE doing something right here! 😉

While I have no delusions that we’ll do one act of kindness each day, I know that if we practice, we may eventually get there. So here’s the list Burke, Maggie, and I came up with:

  • Draw pictures for others
  • Give food to others
  • Give new toys to others
  • Throw away paper (garbage) when you see it on the ground
  • Doing beadwork and bringing it to someone else
  • Knit a blanket for someone else
  • Holding the door open for the people behind us
  • Saving a seat for someone special
  • Letting someone go in front of you in line
  • Helping Logan (or someone small) reach something high

I’m hoping to add to it bit by bit…and perhaps one day we’ll have it all starred. 🙂

Fishful Thinking: Positive Habits

I recently attended my very first meeting as a Fishful Thinking faculty member. And I cannot even begin to tell you how inspiring it is to listen to everyone! The meeting was only an hour long, but could have easily gone on for a lot longer – with very few complaints from everyone who was there!

Anyway, the meeting kicked my butt into gear for another wonderful year of Fishful Thinking. One of the things we chatted about was concentrating on the positive things in life rather than the negative. (An incredible example that was shared by Kelli, and then expanded on, was a Warm Fuzzy chart where the kids identify kind acts in each other and award warm fuzzies for the kind act. I’m  SO doing that in my house!)

To get my kids starting to think more positive thoughts, I did the Positive Habits activity with each kid – individually. Here are their (unedited, mostly unprompted) answers. (Keep in mind that we were outside while discussing these; I suspect if we were inside, I would have gotten much different answers!)

Maggie – Age 5.5

What are some things that you can do today that you weren’t able to do one year ago?

  • Flips
  • Dress up
  • Hug my mommy
  • Swing
  • Ride my bike
  • Hula Hoop

How does it feel to do those things?

  • Happy!
  • Really, REALLY happy!

What are some things you’ll likely be able to do a year from now that you can’t yet do?

  • Easter Hunt
  • Show things at school I really like (like flips)
  • Swim without noodles

What is a positive habit that you’d like to begin?

  • Draw
  • Eat more salad
  • Make nice soup

What are three things that we can do together to help develop this positive habit?

  • Plant salad stuff
  • Go to a farmer together
  • Go to the store together

Burke – Age 5.5

What are some things that you can do today that you weren’t able to do one year ago?

  • Make snow angels
  • Play baseball
  • Play Freeze ball/freeze tag
  • Hula Hoop

How does it feel to do those things?

  • Good! (with a BIG smile)

What are some things you’ll likely be able to do a year from now that you can’t yet do?

  • Skateboard
  • Ride my bike without training wheels
  • Draw
  • Eat lunch at school

What is a positive habit that you’d like to begin?

  • Practice baseball
  • Practice reading

What are three things that we can do together to help develop this positive habit?

  • Give kisses and hugs
  • Throw a ball back and forth
  • Find books at the library
  • Play at the playground

Logan – Age 3

What are some things that you can do today that you weren’t able to do one year ago?

  • Baseball
  • Dig holes
  • Feed myself

How does it feel to do those things?

  • Good! (with a BIG smile)

What are some things you’ll likely be able to do a year from now that you can’t yet do?

  • Baseball better
  • Swing in Burke and Maggie’s swings (out of his baby swing)
  • Climb poles
  • ABCs

What is a positive habit that you’d like to begin?

  • Practice baseball

What are three things that we can do together to help develop this positive habit?

  • Go to a baseball game
  • swing a baseball bat
  • throw my shoes

Maggie – Age 5.5

What are some things that you can do today that you weren’t able to do one year ago?

  • Flips
  • Dress up
  • Hug my mommy
  • Swing
  • Ride my bike
  • Hula Hoop

How does it feel to do those things?

  • Happy!
  • Really, REALLY happy!

What are some things you’ll likely be able to do a year from now that you can’t yet do?

  • Easter Hunt
  • Show things at school I really like (like flips)
  • Swim without noodles

What is a positive habit that you’d like to begin?

  • Draw
  • Eat more salad
  • Make nice soup

What are three things that we can do together to help develop this positive habit?

  • Plant salad stuff
  • Go to a farmer together
  • Go to the store together

Friday’s Fotos: Beauty Detour

The weather was really nice at the beginning of this week, so Burke, Maggie, Logan, and I went on a Beauty Detour in the back yard. (Fishful Thinking!)

Then Logan decided to get daring on the glider swing…which, of course, he *loved* every minute of.

"Look at me!"

"Who needs a seat??"

I’m trying to take a step back and not have a heart attack every time he does something daring…but it’s so hard!! heh 🙂