You Are Your Child’s Life Coach

Harvard now offers a new course to incoming freshmen, which is basically a life coaching 101 course. Since so many new students at the prestigious university have spent their high school years overwhelmed by activities and homework, barely sleeping to make the grade, the university wants them to identify their core values, learn how to make choices in their daily lives that align to their values, and start managing their time as college students in a way that will support them to live their adult lives with balance rather than overwhelm, which has become their norm from an early age.

I believe, as a coach for modern parents, that parents are their child's life coach and that children need this type of values, time alignment and choice-making life coaching way before they head off to college. In fact, the way that parents reflect upon and answer the same big life questions about their core values, align their time and responsibility commitments to those values and their levels of stress are what really teach a child of any age the same kinds of lessons this class at Harvard hopes to impart.

Here are 5 ideas to help you be your child's life coach, to support them in living a life of balance, alignment and meaning:

1.) Create a Family Mission Statement with your partner in which you detail the core values you hope to impart in raising your family. When making decisions related to discipline, activities, community building, schooling, hard choices and limit setting, use this Family Mission Statement as a guide to help support clarity and alignment.

2.) Slow down and take time for reflection. If you question the job you're in, find yourself in a constant state of stress, reacting more often than responding, it's time to step off the rat wheel and examine your own life thoroughly. Making the changes we need in our own lives to decrease stress, increase connection, and be in integrity with who we are and what we really want from life are the best ways we can support and serve our kids to become the types of adults who can do this as well.

3.) Engage in the activities and interests that you truly love, for the sake of doing them and to experience joy. When is the last time you played an instrument? Spoke the foreign language you love? Played a game with friends? Made a piece of art or a new invention for the fun of it? Took a cooking class? Learned something new that truly engages your curiosity and desire to experience being alive? If you've sacrificed these elements of your own life, it will be hard to model to your children that joy, curiosity and love of learning are essentials to a life well lived. Get out that class catalogue and sign up today for a learning experience that will help bring you totally alive.

4.) Spend time with people who are positive, living lives that align to your values, and prioritize the same values, interests and curiosities that you do. If you find yourself around people who you don't truly resonate with, it's time to do some social reflection and focusing. Get out your Family Mission Statement and spend time reflecting on the people, experiences, traditions and social activities which really resonate with who you are and the family you most want to raise.

5.) Have weekly Family Meetings where in addition to discussing appreciations, celebrations, scheduling, problem solving, you share about your Family Mission Statement and the activities, choices, friends, experiences that each of you are engaging in that reflect your family's desired culture. You can plan activities and discuss questions together to help build your family culture to be one that is balanced, aligned, positive and inspiring: life coaching at its best!

Kiran Gaind is a life, leadership and parenting coach who owns The Connected Family (http://www.theconnectedfamily.net). Please drop her a line to comment on this article, ask questions, and share your ideas for bringing the art of life coaching into your daily parenting role. She can be reached at kiran@theconnectedfamily.net or by phone at (415) 377-6791 to say hello and to schedule a completely complimentary Create Connection Conversation.

From Inner Critic to Inner Mentor

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innermentor

How many modern parents identify their own inner critics as the main cause of overwhelm, stress, guilt and worry? I can't tell you the number of parents I talk with who tell me that the biggest obstacle to their having a life filled with joy and fun is their own inner critic constantly riding them about what they should be doing, how they aren't quite hitting the highest standards, telling them to work harder and harder to keep up with perfection, achievement and success, externally-defined, in order to "make it" and to be sure their children will succeed as well. What if I told you there is a way to decrease the volume on this inner critic voice? What would it feel like instead to hear, identify, understand and transform the inner voice of criticism, perfectionism, worry and fear to a more empowered, centered, grounded voice of wisdom, guidance, inspiration and hope? One area of work I do with parents as a life and leadership coach is to support them in transforming their inner critic into their inner mentor, whose purpose is not to protect using fear and shame, but to guide and inspire with visions of their own true life calling and purpose.

I coach clients with visualizations, meditations and journaling exercises which lead to a stronger, more grounded relationship to their inner mentor. This inner mentor is us in the future, reaching back, helping us understand and live up to our true visions of the life we most want to lead.

When we can mentor ourselves to live the life we know we are meant to live, rather than beat ourselves up with the ways we are not measuring up to an external standard, we show up for our kids as mentors rather than as critics. This work on ourselves completes the parenting circle, beautifully.

Click here to schedule your free From Inner Critic to Inner Mentor Strategy Session today!

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6 Tips For No Drama Discipline

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Any parent can tell you that disciplining their child is not easy and no parent does it perfectly.  In my Connected Parenting classes and with my own children, we spend a lot of time understanding and addressing our own triggers that get flared from our kids' behaviors.  As parents, we have a lot of unresolved feelings and issues from our own childhoods that get kicked up every time our kids misbehave.  If we could develop the self-awareness to notice when we're triggered and deal with our own feelings first, we wouldn't react so much to our children, yelling when the tips listed below would work much more effectively. Dr. Daniel Siegel is a neuroscientist from UCLA who has written several books about parenting with the neuroscientific needs of our kids (and ourselves) in mind.  In his newest book No Drama Discipline, he and Tina Bryson, Ph.D. remind parents that discipline is about teaching, not punishment, and give several beautiful illustrations of the most effective ways that parents can address our children's behaviors and emotional needs.  Here are 6 important tips from their book:

1. BE CALM

When a parent is wound up, stressed, with unresolved prior emotions already under the surface, kids and their typical horse play can trigger loud and scary yelling and reactions which get parents and their kids NOWHERE.  Most parents have had incidents where their kids are doing something they're not supposed to do like jumping on the bed and we don't say anything, we don't say anything, it goes on, until something breaks or gets knocked over and we SCREAM at our kids about how wild and irresponsible they are.  The truth is we need to set limits calmly before the behavior gets out of hand and understand that yelling and screaming at our kids is REALLY scary and unsettling for them.  It really breaks trust for them.  Parents need to take some deep breaths and remain calm.  Respond immediately by setting a calm limit when kids start doing something they know breaks the rules.  Don't give in to avoid a confrontation/tantrum and don't wait for the broken lamp and screaming.  State the limit, hold it calmly, and handle it proactively so that kids understand WHY you have a limit (to prevent things from getting broken, including the bed).  Reacting in anger, with yelling and screaming is not discipline, it's simply unresolved rage being projected onto your innocent child and it DOESN'T WORK anyway.

2. WHAT DO YOU WANT THEM TO LEARN?

Thinking about the ultimate lesson you want your kid(s) to learn can help guide your interactions with them.  You most likely want them to learn that they can't have everything they want all the time, bigger ethical qualities like care, responsibility.  Framing those lessons in your mind prior to disciplining (remember it means teaching) them can help guide your words, your tone of voice and help you to remain calm.

3. CONNECT EMOTIONALLY

Because of the limbic functioning of the brain, when kids are acting out, they are actually looking for a connection to be re-established.  If parents understand this, they can respond to off track behaviors by connecting first to help the child regulate his or her emotions.  A parent can get down and get low, put their arm around their child, look them in the eye, speak in a calm and nurturing tone, and prioritize establishing that warm connection.  Once that connection has been made or re-established, a child can calmly function and listen.

4. DO NOT ISOLATE IN ORDER TO PUNISH

The way our brains function is to need connection for self regulation and in order to think well.  When children go off track in their behaviors, isolation actually is the polar opposite response to what the brain is actually needing to function optimally.  It does not teach the lessons intended.  When we connect with our children in difficult moments, we teach them to work with us and trust us as they work through their own lessons to be learned.  We anchor them and provide support rather than isolate them to use shame as a weapon.

5. TEACH EMPATHY

Rather than forcing a child to apologize in a half hearted way that obviously lacks true desire or feeling, parents can ask their children how their actions made another person feel by asking them how they would feel if someone did that to them.  Then we are creating internal understanding and motivation on the part of the child to improve his or her behavior rather than forcing external compliance.

6. BE THE CHANGE YOU WANT TO SEE... THEN LET THEM BE

If you want to see your most valued qualities in your child, like discipline, kindness, creativity, compassion, etc., be those qualities in your interactions and every day living.  This is how your children will learn them best.  Once you are using these tips to connect, teach, draw on their empathy, create compassion, and demonstrate excellence through your own living example, it's time to let your children be who THEY are.  Let go, allow space for them to be their unique selves.  They are not mirror images or "mini me's" of you.  They are individuals wanting their own unique expression in this world.

Health and Wellness Habits for a Better Marriage

Couple doing push-ups in home gym

How often do you and your partner plan your week of workouts, wellness and healthcare needs like meals, massages, walks, meditation completely separately from one another?  It's great to have individual space and needs met, but imagine of instead of going this alone, we planned, worked out with and generally practiced wellness TOGETHER with our spouse, side by side.  Wouldn't it cut out about half the work and ensure that each of you made it to your workouts 50% more often? In this post, I want to provide some ideas for structuring a couples' wellness plan that is sustainable and actionable.

Mornings:

Try to get up before the kids and practice yoga and meditation together.  Take turns figuring out your routines or picking out videos you'd like to use.  I suggest at least 15 minutes of yoga and 15 minutes of meditation.  After your couples' practice, take turns getting up and caring for the kids, taking showers, eating breakfast.  As a family, plan for 2o minutes to practice a kid friendly yoga stretch and mindfulness meditation for a total of about 15-20 minutes so the kids also start their day off feeling confident, relaxed and connected to themselves.

At breakfast, try adding in a smoothie or fresh juice that the whole family will like.  Many parents report that kids will eat veggies when they're whipped into a fun smoothie that looks and smells great and is fun to eat!  My kids are even bigger fans of green juice than I am!  It is soo healthy and soo yummy.

Afternoons:

If you work near each other, how bout meeting to take a walk or have lunch and catch up with no kids scrambling around you?  Most couples find that even one hour per week of no-kid conversation can really strengthen their bond.

Evenings:

After the kids are in bed, you can do a workout video together one night, the next night, take a bath and exchange couples' massage to wind down from your day.  Alternating exercise nights with wellness nights can be a great rhythm to get into.

You can make soups in the winter which are nourishing and comforting.  If you are trying to eat mostly paleo, plan to make the same meal you eat for your kids.  They love to eat just like you and will be setting up some great life habits.

Family Game Night and Game Gift Ideas!

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Have you ever felt yourself in a rut when it comes to spending time with your kids?  How about incorporating a family game night into your weekly routine to turn the blahs into belly laughs and get the connections going? In our family, with a 2.5 and 5.5 year old, we have recently gotten into playing Snakes and Ladders and Ludo.  Our girls can play matching games together with ease.  There are many classic as well as new games which will have kids of any age bonding and rolling with laughter in no time.

Many of us did not have this habit or tradition growing up, so it may at first not come to you as a natural idea, but once you get going and really get into different games together, all of you will be looking forward to game night as a highlight of your week!

Try remembering what if any were your favorite games growing up.  I remember long summer afternoons playing Go Fish, Spoons, Yahtzee and more physical games like Kick Ball and Capture the Flag.  Have you tried introducing your favorite childhood games to your kids?  There's no time like today to get started!

Many parents these days wonder if video games and app-based games count.  I encourage families to let go of the technological aspect of gaming for a while and focus on face-to-face, traditional games to build the bond.  Once you're in a regular weekly game night habit, you can look to things like Wii or apps to add variety, but it's not necessary to rely on tech-based games to create positive family traditions.

For an extensive list of games that are new, old school, top notch and organized by children's ages, please click the link below.  Games make the best Holiday and birthday gifts - the gifts that keep on giving!

http://www.modernparentsmessykids.com/gift-guide-2013-top-picks-for-family-game-night

Reach for the Sun

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“It's not only children who grow. Parents do too. As much as we watch to see what our children do with their lives, they are watching us to see what we do with ours. I can't tell my children to reach for the sun. All I can do is reach for it, myself.”         ― Joyce Maynard

While modern parents take the time to read every parenting book published, discuss behavioral, policy and schooling solutions with friends, educators, family members, colleagues and co-parents at every opportunity, deep down each of us understands the simple truth of this quote:  if we want our children to be their best selves, to grow into happy, well adjusted, life-loving, confident, capable, successful individuals personally and professionally, the power we have to influence that outcome is to do and be the exact same thing ourselves; to treasure our own lives by making them what we know they can be.

When I became a parent, I put my own life on hold for some time so that I could be available and present to the needs of each of my kids. I slowly took on building a new business serving parents, completed certifications, learned the tricks of my trade, but mostly, have spent the last 5+ years savoring the preciousness of these early years of life with my children.

At times, I have felt lost in my career. I gave up a certain career track that was headed in a workaholic direction that I didn't feel I could sustain while being the Mom I wanted to be nor modeling the life I most wanted to live to my precious new children.

I took my own path, and I am so glad. However, it has not been easy. There have been many days when I've worried about the future of my children, mostly from a place of projecting my own unfinished dreams and business.

It is on the days when I am attending to my own dreams and needs as a learner and doer and contributing member of society and feeling fulfilled in my life's purpose and mission that I parent at my best.  On these days, I attend to my self care by eating healthy foods, meditating and exercising.  I think, write and create and enjoy my time.  I serve others by giving talks and coaching.  I volunteer at our school.  I see friends and family and feel that I am living a rich, meaningful, FUN life!

This vision for what reaching for the sun means, looks and feels like is unique to every individual!  There is no cookie-cutter definition for what "success," "dreams," "reaching for the sun" looks like.  That is the beauty of this life - becoming centered and grounded in ourselves, our values, our skills, abilities and passions and then offering those to the world in the unique way that only we as an individual can.

I invite those reading this post to stop what you are doing and thinking for a few moments and get honest with yourself. How are you reaching for the sun in your life today, this week, this month, this year? Have you been allowing yourself to have enough time and space to experience and create in your life what really matters most to you?  What has been getting in your way?  How can you handle those obstacles this coming year in a way that gets you on track to your dreams?

I will help you to gain clarity, focus, motivation and action steps towards living the life you most want to live, so you can inspire your children to do the same in their one wild and precious life.

Click here to schedule today!

Special Time Can Take The Edge Off Sibling Rivalry!

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Do you find that your  angel children often act like devils when they start fighting with each other over what seems to you like the silliest things?  In Siblings Without Rivalry, the authors discuss the roots of the constant tension often present between siblings:  their need for individual connection to their parents and their desire to be known and seen for their uniqueness. When you sit and plan your week, one tool to start adding to your parenting toolkit is Special Time.  It's designed to create and foster an intimate connection with each individual child.  All you need is 15-30 minutes, at least 3 times per week.  When you carve this time out, you simply tell your child "We're going to have some Special Time" and you explain that during Special Time, your child gets to do whatever he/she wants to do and that you will simply give all your attention and do whatever he/she wants you to do.  This gives the child back the power he/she needs to feel confident and often loses throughout his/her day as a child living in an adult world.  You put away any distractions - no phone, no computer, no cooking, no side conversation with the sibling or partner.  You give ALL your loving, focused, undistracted, warm attention to your one child for this period of Special Time.  Set a timer for the time you have (15-30 minutes).  This helps the child know that Special Time is different from regular time and helps set clear expectations.

During Special Time, you let go of control or influence over this time and let your child lead the way.  You watch with your full, focused love and warmth as your child starts a game, runs and wants you to chase, pulls out the dolls or trucks, sings, dances, jumps, and you see how he/she wants you to participate.  You let go of control.  You can have limits around how this time is spent.  I do not allow screens or sugar during this time.  And just enjoy taking in the beauty and awesomeness that is your unique child.  And he/she feels this love and warmth and awe and takes it in fully.  This practice fills the emotional and neurological needs of your child so fully that when you've been doing it regularly, you will notice changes in his/her cooperation and sense of ease throughout your days together.  And if each child is receiving this Special Time regularly, you will see a decrease in sibling rivalry because their individual needs for connection and recognition will be met so fully!  YES!

If you have certain times of day that are most challenging, try inserting some space for Special Time before those times (the morning routine, a meal, bath, bed, when sibling comes home from school, etc.).  When the off track behaviors occur, that is your child's brain signaling a need for connection, which is well met and nourished using Special Time.

You can start using Special Time with children of any age.  When they are babies or too young for verbal interaction, you can take a stance of observation instead of forced interaction or teaching.  Let the child's curiosity and interest lead the way.  When a child is older and "Special Time" is not a fun or cool enough name, let the kid name it.  My daughter started calling it Birthday Time or Science Time and I've heard of teenagers calling it Hangout Time or perhaps it becomes centered around Baseball or Basketball or Nature.  Let it evolve and let your child have control over it.

Enjoy this sacred time with your children and the amazing results and benefits that it brings!

If you would like to learn more about this and other useful, practical, neuroscientifically-based parenting practices, check out my 6 week Connected Parenting classes which are offered throughout the year from September- May in a call-in video format on Tuesday evenings from 8-10pm so parents do not need to find a sitter or leave their kids in order to learn practices which improve the whole parenting experience and family dynamic.  You can find out more by visiting http://theconnectedfamily.net/services/connected-parenting-6-week-class/.

Balancing it All: Top 5 Ways to Become Minimalist

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In today's intense work and parenting times, many of us find ourselves hurriedly running around in the car from appointment to activity, returning home to clutter and chaos.  There is hardly a chance to breathe, much less feel balanced. There is a movement gaining momentum which encourages us, even parents, to become minimalist.  In a minimalist lifestyle, clutter is gone, stress is reduced, and people actively behave in their daily lives, and create in their environments, balance through simplicity.

So today I share with you top 5 ways to turn your chaotic lifestyle around to become minimalist, even if you are a dual working parent household:

1.)  Get rid of stuff:

If you go through the scattered toys, clothes closets, junk drawers, all the stuff in your house and get rid of anything you have not used in the last 6 months, you will be surprised at how different your environment will feel and look.  And what's more, if you bring those extra things that are doing nothing but cluttering your space to a charity that serves poor families, your clutter becomes someone else's treasure.  Nothing better than a win-win!

2.)  Cut out extra activities:

Sure, your neighbor's kid is going to be a world chess champion, and the Nobel Prize winner's daughter at school is probably going to get into Harvard one day.  Does that mean you have to sign your kids up for 6 different activities, signing yourself up to become an unpaid chauffeur?  Not necessary.  Let your kids be who THEY are.  It's not about comparing them or keeping up with perceived greatness.  Your kids will make their own progress just fine.  The important thing is that you and your family spend quality time together.  What if in the afternoons when you normally would be running around from activity to activity, you and your kids laugh and play and connect?  What if you spend that time NOT STRESSED and your kids experience your presence?  Don't we all know that that is what matters most to our kids' growth and development?  Go through your weekly schedule and for now, pick one or two things that your kids really excel at or love and stick with those.  Everything else, cut them out and stay home or find simpler, free ways to spend your time, TOGETHER.  Your kids, your life, your spouse, everyone around you will thank you for taking this step because it will make you all happier.

3.)  Let go of your To Do List:

If  you're like most modern moms, your To Do List is like an angry boss who never relents.  Your To Do list controls your entire existence.  Really?  Is this why we had families and work so hard everyday?  What would it feel like to just let the To Do List go for a while and replace it instead with one or two major things per day that you need to get done?  Are the To Do List police going to come after you?  I don't think so.  It is a CHOICE to live a lifestyle that creates stress and overwhelm.  And while we choose that because we think somehow it makes us a better mom or a more efficient person, in the end, the anxiety and stress caused by it bring us down and get in our way.  So for the next month, burn your To Do List.  Seriously.  Just let it go.  And let yourself experience some freedom from anxiety, worry and stress.  What you gain in centeredness, groundedness and a feeling of freedom will serve you better in the long run than chasing after a finished To Do List, which is impossible to attain.  When we die, our inboxes will be full.  So what?

4.)  Spend More Time in Nature:

Research shows that people who spend time in nature are happier and experience a feeling of balance in their lives.  The natural sounds, beauty, energy and lessons available to us when we are in nature have an impact on our inner rhythms, our sense of time, and our connectedness with all that lives.  When we spend too much time around technology, we are robbing ourselves of these opportunities.  Remember that technology and gadgets, the latest app, all of that "cutting edge" stuff is really produced for companies to get rich off of us.  What if we let go of the time we spend using technology and replace it with time spent in nature?  The local park counts.  Sure, if you have a chance to go take a real, longer hike in the woods, great.  But just choosing the park and outdoor play over technology will make a huge difference in yours and your child's life.  Every chance you get, when you see yourself opening the laptop, your kids turning to the video games, whatever form screens are taking over your family, close them, turn them OFF.  Open the door and go outside.  Even for 15 minutes, time spent in fresh air will serve all of you better now and in the long run.

5.)  Tell stories and connect:

Some parents may wonder what they will do with time created by cutting out all the things that stress them out and have their family running around like chickens with their heads cut off.  No gymnastics class?  What will I do with that time?  No TV?!  How will I possibly entertain my kids?  Well, here is an idea.  What if with the time created by letting go of the chaos, you spent some time telling stories and connecting with your family?  Research is showing that the more kids understand about their parents', grandparents' and family's lives, the more they can recount stories about where you grew up, who your friends were, what milestones you reached, what you learned along your journey, etc., the more grounded their sense of self is in life.  Sure, it takes a bit of time and energy, but connecting with your family is always time well spent.  And this is authentic time together, not created by buzzing lights and plastic levers.  This is just people being together, sharing what their lives have been, and satisfying natural curiosity that kids have to know their histories, their parents, and their own lives more deeply.  Enjoy those special, meaningful and fun moments!

Some of these ideas may seem impossible from where you currently are in your time management and family lifestyle.  But they are completely within your reach.    Everyone can benefit from slowing down, deepening into themselves, embracing simplicity, and relying on nature and connection to teach them what matters most in life.  You will not be sorry!