31 Aug

In parenting, I do better when I feel better. How about you?

When my 3rd baby was born, something happened to my 2nd-born.  She transformed from a sweet, cheerful, optimistic and easy-going child into a needy, super-sensitive, irritating being.  She was bugging the crap out of me.  I didn’t like the way I was feeling, and I definitely did not like the parent I was being.  So I enrolled in my first parenting class.

The parenting class was great.  I learned a ton and gained many new tools.  Our relationship improved, and her neediness declined.  However, I am aware that my goal in taking a parenting class at that time was to change my child — to get her to stop being so irritating.  Wrong goal.

Many years later, while training to become a life and leadership coach, I began to see my role as parent in a new light.  For the first time in a long time, I took some time to reflect — not on my kids, my husband, my home or my career, but on me!

I began to reflect about what I needed to feel happy, peaceful, “on purpose” and fulfilled.  I began to listen to my heart rather than always my brain.  I allowed myself to let go of some long-held beliefs about who I “should” be, and began to explore who I really was.  And in doing so, magically, my children started to become more easy-going, joyful, and cooperative.  Huh?

Dad with Daughter balanced on feetIt’s a lesson that you probably already know:  when we feel more grounded and “balanced,” that confidence and ease breeds the same in others, including our kids.  I’m not saying that parenting tools aren’t helpful.  They are incredibly helpful!  But for me, the real transformation happened when my goal changed:  from getting my kids to do better, to getting myself to feel better.

“Children do better when they feel better” is a famous quote by Dr. Jane Nelsen of Positive Discipline.  But it’s not just true for children.  It’s true for everyone.

What do you need to feel more balanced and fulfilled?  How can you get more of that in your life? (Life is too short to feel chronically stressed-out, bummed-out, exhausted, irritated or burnt-out!)  Take some time to ask yourself these questions.  Take a risk on having the life you dream of.  What are you waiting for?  You’ll feel better, you’ll do better, and that’s better for your kids, too.

If you’d like some help getting the process started, contact me to set up a 30-minute sample coaching call.

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07 Aug

Going back-to-school in chunks

About a week ago, I found myself feeling unsettled and anxious about the coming of a new school year.  My son will start high school this month which presents all sorts of new emotional and logistical issues, I lost my carpool partner for my two younger daughters, and I had a lot of questions about what the extracurricular schedule would look like.  Still do.

On top of all that, my three kids have each grown a foot since last year, so they’ll need new clothes, shoes, and of course school supplies.  My water heater is broken, my work load is heavy, I have a blog to write . . . it was all feeling a bit overwhelming.

Until I remembered an old friend’s piece of advice:  “Chunk it up!”  My kids know this saying very well since we repeat it to them whenever they face a daunting task.  High school application needs to get done?  “Chunk it up.”  Need to clean your incredibly cluttered and messy room?  “Chunk it up.”  Got an enormous amount of homework tonight?  “Chunk it up.”

I began to chunk up my back-to-school tasks and immediately started feeling better.  So I’m sharing my chunks with you.  (If you’re ready for school already, skip this!  Instead, read here for my top 3 tips for a smooth transition back to school.)

Chunk 1:  Make a list of everything I need to get done before school starts.   Just having it all down on paper helps because I’m no longer sucking up energy by trying to hold it in my brain.

Chunk 2:  Cluster like topics/activities together.  My clusters are pictured here (transportation, cleaning, shopping, extracurriculars.)Back To School List

Chunk 3:  Start asking questions and doing research for carpools and extracurriculars.  This is mostly emails and phone calls.  My husband is helping.  Little by little, it’s all coming together.

Chunk 4:  Put a date in the calendar to go clothes and school supply shopping.  I hate shopping so I will ask my mother-in-law and babysitter (who both love to shop) to help me.

Chunk 5:  Set a date with each child to clean out their closet and dresser and ID clothing needs.  This could be a major project.  So I’m going to have my kids take a first cut on their own by pulling out everything that doesn’t fit or they don’t like to wear and putting it in a big pile.   Then I’ll take a second look.  We’ll then look through what remains for needed items and make a shopping list.  And then go out for ice cream ( :

Wow!  I feel a lot better now.  I know what needs to be done and I have a plan for getting through it.  Thank you, old friend Duke Pascucci, for “Chunk it up!”

Please tell me:  was this helpful for you?  Is there some chunking of your own you’d like to do?  Share your comments here.

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07 Aug

3 Tips for a Smooth Transition Back to School

As summer comes to a close, it’s time for another huge transition in our children’s lives:  a new school year.

Some kids handle this transition with ease.  Others don’t!  And most all kids need some help with transitions:  from bed to school, from school to home, from play to work, from awake to sleep, etc.

The transition from summer to school is a big one because with it often come new teachers, new classrooms, new routines, new extracurricular activities, new shoes, new this, new that – so much newness!

For our kids, there’s excitement, for sure, and also uncertainty:  who will eat lunch with me?  will my teacher understand me?  will my caregiver know where to find me after school?  will the homework be hard?

When we feel uncertain and unsafe, the brain goes into “threat” mode; and tantrums, power struggles, and melt-downs are all much easier to trigger in this state.

So how can we help our kids feel a sense of safety and certainty during this major transition?  Here are some tips:

Morning-Chart-BetteFetter.com1. Re-establish (or establish!) morning, bedtime, and homework routines.   Routines create predictability and safety for kids of all ages (even adults!) by both clarifying what’s expected, as well as giving advance notice for what’s coming next.  Visual reminders (a chart, a picture, a list) can provide a literal picture of success, and help transfer responsibility from parent to child.

For example, if I find my child dawdling in the morning, rather than bark commands from across the room, I can simply point to the chart or ask, “what’s next on your routine chart?” and let them take it from there.  Now I’m not the boss, the routine is!  And if your child has helped create the routine, well then they are the boss, too, and that’s self-discipline.  For more on routines, and how to create them with your kids, click here.

2. Practice the routine!  Who would wait until “showtime” to practice the script?  Think of the first day of school as “showtime,” and the routine as the “script.”  Have you practiced getting up and going through the morning routine?  Practice definitely makes better!

3. Build in time for genuine connection.  Your child’s greatest source of safety is her relationship with you. Our kids get a huge sense of belonging and significance when we take time to connect with them, and those good feelings will help them manage the transition with more ease.Mother-and-daughter-laughing

There are so many ways to connect with our kids:  listening with empathy, hugs, 1:1 time, laughing and playing together, a love note in the lunch box and more.  How will you build connection during this transition time?  Enjoy it!