Parent Educator Answer:My first answer is to come to the Raising Responsible Kids online workshop on Saturday, February first! Here, I’m going to go over everything you need to know to delegate effectively. You didn’t say how old your kids were, but I’m going to guess they are school-aged and clearly old enough to master the task at hand. With little kids, you would want to be more instructive, “Put your sandwich bag in the trash and rinse your lunch box out in the sink.” With older kids, ask them before you get into the house if they know what your expectations are for their backpack, shoes, jacket, and lunch. If they say they do, then remind them with just one word. If you are like most Supermoms, we use way too many words. We nag, lecture, complain and it just makes our kids tune out and ignore us. It also annoys them, which makes them NOT want to do what we are asking. A simple one-word reminder: “shoes” or “lunchbox” should do the trick. If you watch them walk into the house and remind them with a word as soon as they drop their stuff on the floor, soon it will become a habit and they will do it automatically, If not, go back to the first step and ask them before they walk into the house if they know what to do with their stuff. Simple, easy, boring. So why is it such a challenge for SOOOO MANY OF US?
Life Coaching Answer:The reason these simple instructions are so hard to follow is because you are pissed! When we perceive our children’s behavior as disrespectful, we get MAD. The positive side of anger is to help us notice injustice. But to get kids to clean up, we need to be calm, patient, and confident. So what gets in our way from teaching our kids how to manage their belongings is our perception that the kid’s behavior is disrespectful. Are you absolutely sure that your kids are trying to disrespect you by dumping their stuff? If a handyman walked into your house and dumped his toolbox and coat by the front door, would you think it was disrespectful? When you were lugging around a baby in a car seat, did you ever dump your diaper bag and car seat by the front door when you walked into someone else’s house? If so, were you trying to disrespect the homeowner? Of course, not. When you think your kids are disrespecting you, you get mad. You are short with them, you yell, nag, your tone, and posture changes. You lose the leadership energy that makes kids do what you ask. So often we want to quickly switch to a better feeling thought. We think, “anger is bad, patience is good. From now on, I will be calm and patient until they learn the routine.” and you do it for a day or two, but a week later, you are right back to feeling disrespected. Has this ever happened to you? If so, it’s time we honor the anger. It is true that the distribution of duties in the home is unjust. You have WAY more on your shoulders than anyone else, and it isn’t fair. When we learn how to turn the dial up on our anger and allow it (away from the kids), then we also learn how to turn it down. Trying to suppress anger can last forever, but allowing anger to move through your body in a physical way, can only last for 90 seconds. Think about a toddler throwing a tantrum. Notice how PHYSICAL it is for them. They cross their arms, scrunch their face, clench their fists and stomp their feet. Find a private place and do it with me now. Anger is a healthy and normal human emotion but, societally, women are not given permission to feel it or express it. Put your body into a position of anger: stand up, clench your fists, stop, hit the pillow on your bed. It is 100% unfair that you do so much for these kids with so little appreciation in return. They will never know how much work you do for their lazy butts all day long. Really let yourself go there, feel the fire in your belly, swear, let it all out. After 90 seconds you might notice you feel better. Emotion is energy in motion. When we suppress it and try not to feel it, we distance ourselves from ALL the emotions. When we can fully allow anger, disappointment, and shame, we also get full access to joy, love, and peace. This is what we are trying to get when we complain to our husbands. We get annoyed because they tell us how to fix our problem when really we just want to feel felt. We want to feel like he gets the struggles and frustrations we went through that day. When we vent to our girlfriends or cry or go to a kickboxing class, we feel better after because we processed the emotion and moved it out of our system. Teaching kids to take responsibility for themselves is really quite simple. The problem is there are a lot of barriers that get in our way from delegating to them. We:
- label their behavior as disrespectful.
- think a good mom should be able to do all the work.
- don’t want to watch our kids struggle or suffer. We’d rather rescue them.
- want them to do it “right” the first time without the learning curve.
- feel bad putting more on their to-do list.
- resist relaxation. We pride ourselves on being busy and overwhelmed.
- want to feel needed.
Supermom Kryptonite: Over-parenting. Doing too much for our kids.I ran into my friend at the hardware store the other day, she was buying light bulbs for her son’s bathroom after noticing they were out. I asked if she was going to replace them herself or have him do it. She paused and looked at me incredulously, “Should I have HIM do it? I should! I shouldn’t even say anything, I’ll just leave the lightbulbs on the bathroom counter!” Mamas, her son is 20 years old. When our kids are little, we show we love them by taking care of them. Care and love are intertwined. As they grow into adolescents, we need to separate the two. We need to stop caring FOR them so much. Continuing to do things for them that they are capable of doing themselves can delay their maturity and lessen their self-esteem. When we continue to take care of them, we treat them like the child they were instead of the adult we want them to become. Many teens will push back against our over-parenting and show us that it’s time to back off, others will not. Many teens will continue to ask for our help because they lack confidence in their own abilities. Confidence comes from competence and the only way to build competence is to make lots of mistakes. If my friend’s son was living in a house with other 20-year-old men, they might live in a dark bathroom for weeks before someone thought to change a lightbulb. They might light a candle or use their cell phone flashlight before one of them decided to take action. This seems ridiculous to us as responsible adults! The problem is so easily solved with a simple trip to the hardware store! But here’s the thing: something magical happens on that day he decides to go to the store, buy a light bulb, and screw it in without anyone telling him what to do or how to do it. The magical thing that happens when our teens do things by themselves without our input is self-efficacy.
Self-efficacySelf-efficacy refers to an individual’s belief in his or her capacity to execute behaviors necessary to produce specific performance attainments. It reflects confidence in the ability to exert control over one’s own motivation, behavior, and social environment. Self-efficacy is a superpower. We know. We’ve got loads of it. We are super responsible and capable and it feels good! But, without even realizing it, we can rob our kids of self-efficacy because we aren’t willing to let them live in a dark bathroom, or get a bad grade on their report card, or go away to summer camp, or make a mess trying to cook something in the kitchen. Supermoms don’t like to watch their kids struggle. We feel like we have to do everything right, and having kids who suffer and struggle doesn’t seem right to our perfectionistic brains. Combine that with our need to feel needed and our love of taking care of our babies, it becomes really easy to stay stuck in a habit that feels good to us but is problematic for our child’s self-efficacy. Over-parenting drains your energy because it keeps all the burdens of responsibility on your shoulders. It also creates this nagging voice in the back of your mind that says, “Shouldn’t my kids be doing more by now?” Learning how to watch your kids make mistakes and not make it mean anything has gone wrong, is one of the things we’ll work on in the Raising Responsible Kids workshop this weekend. If you think you err on the side of over-parenting, you need to join my workshop this weekend.
Supermom Power Boost: Get sneaky to restore balanceI have a client with a husband who loves golf. She gets annoyed that he takes off for 5 hours on a Saturday to go do his own thing. When we dug deeper, we discovered that if she was to take off for 5 hours on a Saturday to do something she loved, she would feel guilty. She had the belief that a good mom should want to be with her kids every weekend. So instead of taking turns with her husband to do activities she loved doing on weekends, she just wanted her husband to be stuck at home with her. If she isn’t going to have fun, then he shouldn’t either. The problem with this belief that “self-sacrifice is good and self-indulgence is bad” is that Supermoms end up totally out of balance. Our instinct is to restore balance so we end up sneaking our indulgences, behind our own backs. Since we struggle to proclaim, “I’m going to a spa for 5 hours every other Saturday” we indulge unconsciously by drinking wine, eating sweets, and staying up later than we mean to binge-watching Netflix. We mindlessly scroll through our phone as a way to give ourselves a break, instead of saying, “I’m going to order myself DoorDash and face time with a girlfriend for an hour.”
Mommy TimeInstead of letting our subconscious try to restore balance in a way we don’t actually want, I recommend an illicit affair. I’m not saying to go cheat on your husband but go have an affair with your creativity. Call it “Mommy’s special time” but don’t tell them what you are doing. Explore an interest, write your novel, paint or draw, wander around the city with no agenda, visit museums, eat whatever you feel drawn to, indulge in something frivolous and nourishing to your soul. The key here is it cannot be noble. It must feel indulgent in order to restore balance. Tell your family you are traveling for work, but really just enjoy the quiet cleanliness of a hotel room by yourself. Put your kids in the gym daycare, then lie in a lounge chair and read a book. Go on a silent retreat or yoga retreat. Take 5 hours and go dancing, skiing, or golfing. Park your car somewhere, write in your journal or listen to an audiobook while looking at a beautiful view. Tour open houses in a beautiful neighborhood. I walk my dog on a popular trail near my house. Sometimes, when no one is looking, I start skipping. You cannot skip as an adult woman, without also laughing at yourself and feeling joyful. Or, if I’m listening to some catchy music, I’ll sneak in a few dance moves when I think no one is looking. I’m hoping this three-hour online workshop will be a stepping stone for you. If you can carve out three hours for a workshop on a Saturday to do something that is good for you and your kids, maybe next time you’ll take thee hours to do something fun and frivolous just for yourself. Deliberately sneaking in an indulgent pleasure will help you feel balanced. When we feel some equanimity, we don’t need our husbands and kids to suffer along with us. They can have frivolous fun and so can we. Next time you go to a hotel room, try dumping your stuff on the floor, kicking off your shoes and not caring where they end up and see if it feels like indulgent fun to you.
Quote of the Day: “Do anything, but let it produce joy.” Walt Whitman
10 Powerful Questions
5 Questions every morning to give you clarity and intention.
5 Questions every evening to give you satisfaction and gratitude.
This is the best way to get you in the driver’s seat of your life.