Doing Life Together

child phoneA mom asks:

The other day I was so embarrassed because my child whined around when I was trying to talk to another mom. When our children whine, it really bothers us. We want to turn that whining to gratitude. How do we make that happen?

When you want to extinguish one behavior and then replace it with a positive one, you begin by labeling the inappropriate behavior. For example, “Kayla, right now you are whining, that needs to stop in order for mom to listen to what you are saying or need.”

If she doesn’t stop, ignore the whining and restate the expectation-you will only respond when she stops whining. Do not pick her up and don’t engage her until she stops. If a request is involved, ask her to restate it politely.

If you are consistent with withholding your attention for whining and giving attention only when she is not whining, the behavior will eventually end.

Then, at other times of the day, model gratitude by periodically verbalizing things for which you are grateful. Read books about thankfulness and practice thinking of things you are thankful for while you are driving around in the car. Make it a game—who can come up with the most things to be thankful for in the day. You can also memorize scriptures that talk about thankfulness like Psalm 100 and provide a small reward for this.

The point is that you have to intentionally teach children to look for things for which they are grateful. Eventually, they will notice on their own and point them out to you. Keep modeling this as well. Kids learn best by watching their parents. Grateful parents create grateful kids.

sleepAre you irritable? Difficult to live with because you are constantly tired? Time to look at your sleep habits and do something about them.

If you are tossing and turning consider these 8 tips:

  • Women take an average of nine minutes to fall asleep at night compared to 23 minutes for men. IF you are male, get an early start on winding down!
  • The effects of caffeine can last up to 8 hours after you indulge. So maybe skip the after dinner coffee with dessert.
  • Adjust your weekend hours of sleep. So many of us stay up later and sleep in on weekends, but this throws our sleep schedule completely off. It is better to keep your sleep and wake schedule the same on weekends.
  • There is so much activity in your home that you find yourself eating dinner late in the evening. The problem is that heavy or large meals eaten within a couple hours of bedtime can keep you awake. Eat earlier or eat a very light meal at night.
  • If your bedroom is toasty hot, turn down the temperature. A dark and cool bedroom helps you sleep better.
  • If you watch TV to try and fall asleep, this may not work as the bright lights can signal the brain to wake up!
  • Your schedule leaves very little time for exercise so you do what you can at night. If you exercise too late, your body is wound up, ready to go. Try to get exercise in earlier in the day so it doesn’t keep you awake.
  • Too much to think about and remember? Write it down. If you put the issues on paper, you are less likely to toss and turn thinking about them.
  • If you nap during the day, it can make you less tired at night and throw off your sleep pattern. Stop the naps.
  • Too much on your mind? Try to switch gears and relax, letting go of anxious thoughts. A racing mind keeps you awake. End your day with prayer and meditation. Read the Bible and quiet your mind. Cast your cares on God and settle your mind on His goodness.

Make a few changes and see if your mood improves. The lack of sleep is one of the biggest problems with kids and adults when it comes to irritability. Just a few changes could make you a better family member.

stressed womanJulie was handed her biology test in class. While she studied for the test, the material was difficult. When she saw the red C at the top of the exam, she began to cry. Racked with anxiety, she couldn’t believe she barely passed the test. The stress overwhelmed her. One has to wonder why?

This is just one example off what most of us would consider mild stress than seems to put our teens in a panic and struggling with anxiety. I offer one of possibly many explanations for this. Parents!

Before you stop reading and think, great she is blaming us for teens’ poor coping, stay with me. I am a parent guilty of this as well. While our teens have to be responsible for how they react to minor difficulties, we have to take some ownership regarding how we prepare them for such times.

Consider this possibility. Have you helped your teens too much?

Ask yourself these 5 questions:

1) When my teen is stuck, do I jump in and find the solution? Or do I watch them struggle and figure it out without my intervention?

2) When they fail, do I minimize the failure and try to make them feel better or do I allow them to sit with that failure and work through the feelings?

3) When they are upset, do I listen and encourage them to problem-solve or do I get angry at whatever happened to upset them and blame others?

4) When there is a problem, do I immediately defend their behavior, make excuses or do I allow them to feel the consequences? 

5) Do I believe failure can build character and am comfortable watching them struggle for a time? Or do I feel compelled to rescue them? 

Hopefully, you see that in our quest to be helpful and good problem-solvers, we may be denying our teens the development of these specific skills. If you want to prepare your teen to cope better, consider pulling back from intervening, becoming a good listening ear and empowering them to work through their problems.

burgerI’ve been commuting between a small town and a large city. The almost four hour rural commute usually requires a meal stop. Here is where the challenge comes. The only food stops on the rural route are fast food restaurants.

The temptation is to grab something fast and keep moving-greasy fries, highly sugared caffeinated drinks and pizza by the slice can become mainstays when you winding your way to a speaking engagement or running through airports to make that training session.

When your job involves traveling, eating well on the road takes intentionality but has a pay off in terms of your overall health and mood,

Food and mood are related and you don’t have to be a dietitian to exercise self-care on the road. There are two basic principles: 1) Eliminate as many refined carbohydrates and sugars as possible and 2) Increase your protein intake. Both of these help to stabilize blood sugar and mood.

The chronic stress of travel, poor sleep and poor eating can create reactive hypoglycemia, an excessive release of of insulin from loading a meal high in refined carbs. Blood sugar drops along with mood and you are irritable and cranky.

So forget the energy drinks, cookies, candies and sodas that tempt your travel and reach for some protein. A protein rich diet will help reduce cravings.

This means you may have to pack snacks high in protein and eat small amounts (two to four ounces) six times a day. Try the packaged carrots, nuts,

Skip the aspartame as it has been linked to headaches and panic among vulnerable people. Use stevia if you need to add a little sweetness.

For digestive health, probiotics help lower stress by regulating GABA via the vagus nerve. Probiotics come in capsule or liquid form NSAID and can be purchased in a health store. They are also found in fermented foods. Yogurt is your best bet in the  road.

Like most things, a little planning and good choices make all the difference. So next time you are on the go, exercise a little self- care and see the difference it makes,