Our Future: The Strong-Willed Kid

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“I like my pants dirty.”
“I don’t care what you like, you aren’t going to wear grass-stained pants to dinner!”
“It isn’t grass, it’s marker!”
“I don’t care what it is! Change your pants!”
“No. I’m not hungry anyways.”

Ah, strong-willed kids.

If you have, or have been around, a strong-willed kid then you know exactly what I am talking about. The next few posts will be geared towards parenting these talented children. These kids are our most promising leaders. They are my absolute favorite group to work with.

For those of you who have never heard this term – a strong-willed kid is a child that refuses to be told what to do, demands to be heard and embraces debating. They can be exhausting to parent, because they can, and will, argue every step of the way. I mean

every

step

of

the

way.

I don’t think I can empathize enough their uncanny ability to debate. They know exactly how to pull adults in to their devious arguments, and oh that laugh they do when you show them your frustration. That laugh is priceless. Or maybe it’s just a smile, a glint in their eyes they get when they know they got to you.

 

You know that look I’m talking about. The one that makes you feel like an utter failure at adulting.

 

These kids are also highly dedicated to what they are passionate about though. When they have a brilliant idea there is absolutely no stopping them. The amount of energy they are willing to put into getting what they want is awe-inspiring. Unfortunately, their defiant streak can quickly lead them down a destructive path.

Fear-based tactics tend to escalate these kids. They will gladly suffer the consequences to prove a point. Often times, their point is that you can’t control them.

 

 

These kids existed 50 years ago as well so please don’t tell me how it’s because modern parents are soft. These kids were the rebels; the high school drop-outs; the runaways and the juvenile delinquents. I guarantee Fonzie from Happy Days was a strong-willed kiddo. But, if you remember, Fonzie had a good heart and was loyal to his friends. So are these kids. These kids will go to bat for what they believe is right.

 

Parenting them is about shaping and molding these strengths into behaviors that are more productive than arguing over what the stain on their pants is from. Sometimes parents describe these strategies as “manipulation”. I prefer the terms: shape, or mold – words that thesauras.com describes as synonyms to “manipulate”. But yes, ultimately, the strategies are to manipulate kids into doing what you want them to do. This is no different than using coercive, punitive tactics that are fear-based forms of manipulating; either way, your goal is to get your child to do something.

The difference is in the end result. Subtle, positive reinforcement based strategies tend to result in win-wins, while punitive measures always result in someone experiencing a negative emotion. Often times, both walk away upset. Think about the last time you got into a power struggle with your child – afterwards, did you really feel accomplished? Or were you still ruminating about the argument, even if you had “won”?
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They Expect You To Fail (Sometimes)

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Life requires us to play multiple roles in our lives – these roles may vary depending on age, personal circumstances and cultures; but all of us have more than one responsibility.

 

We are not just an individual; we are also family members. Within our families alone, we play multiple roles! Not only are we someone’s child, we are also a grandchild, a niece, a nephew, a sibling, an aunt, an uncle, a parent, a grandparent, the list is nearly endless!

 

In society, we are neighbors to people, friends, acquaintances, strangers. We play roles in the workplace such as coworker, supervisor, employee, owner, CEO, CFO; and that’s not even taking into consideration the roles we play with the company’s customers.

 

The list of relationship labels that we have is nearly endless. In college, I had a professor that I think about often; he was one of the most interactive professors I ever had and we did more hands-on projects in the class than I ever did in kindergarten. One of the requirements of the course was to learn how to juggle. The reasoning behind this was based on research showing that juggling increased grey matter in the brain (it was a neuropsychology course).

 

At any given moment, we are juggling at least a dozen hats (typically more). Even the greatest jugglers of the world sometimes drop the ball (or bowling pin, or fire-blazing stick).

 

We are destined to let someone down – one of our hats is going to fly off of our heads at some point.

 

We don’t want to acknowledge this, of course. We want to be seen as super-people, we can handle anything that life may throw at us! We want to be the best friend, the closest confidant of others; we want to feel close to them, and inherently know that this means sacrificing our own wants/needs at times. That’s part of relationship building 101 – it can’t be all about you.

 

Women, in particular, often tell me that they have no expectations of other people. Of course we have expectations of people; we just never expect them to be as capable as we are ourselves. We are far more understanding of other people dropping their hats than we are of ourselves. We expect other people to let us down at some point.

 

Self-love, self-acceptance and self-care have been token words within recent years; our society is slowly starting to recognize the importance of taking care of our wellbeing. Accepting that you are a fallible human being is part of self-acceptance – you are going to let someone down and guess what…

 

They expect you to.

 

Anxiety has become so pronounced in today’s society, and it’s really not that surprising when one considers how many responsibilities and activities we are cramming into our days. Late nights are the norm, trying to catch up – even if what we are catching up on is relaxation. Sometimes, it becomes hard to breathe as the realization that there simply isn’t enough time in the day to get everything done settles in on us. But it’s okay.

 

Today, I was spinning at work – multitasking like the super-human I am and a coworker suggested to me that I write a to-do list – which made me laugh a genuine laugh as I pulled out my 5 “to-do” lists because there simply isn’t enough space on the paper for the multitude of “to-dos” running through my brain.

 

Yes, I have 5 “to-do” lists – a priority list, an important list, a monthly list, a catch up list and a whenever the hell I get to it list. They are color coordinated. This may sound overwhelming in itself, but it works for me.

 

But I’d be outright lying if I told you that I never drop the ball. I do.

 

And the world has never caved in on itself.

 

No one has ever seemed even remotely surprised when balls are dropped; and I’m starting to really realize it’s because we all expect other people to mess up.

 

We don’t get upset when other people mess up – we get upset when we dislike the way they handle their mistake. We get upset when people deny that they made a mistake.

 

The next time that you’re juggling and lose control on all the pieces up in the air – it’s okay. Point to the ball on the floor and acknowledge it. Perhaps someone will pick it up for you.

I’ve Never Seen You Before In My Life; Finding Your Core Values

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Networking is a completely novel idea for me – I’d become accustomed to writing my name on small scraps of paper when asked for a business card. I’ve had business cards before, but never really found the need to carry them with me – they typically would end up scattered between my car seats and were more a nuisance than anything else. Even now, I’m sure I can find at least five cards hidden between my seats.

 

My promotion has resulted in networking becoming a HUGE part of my daily life. Considering my wallflower tendencies, this has proven quite risky. I’m working on a list of networking tips for wallflowers such as myself as I become more skilled at personal introductions (I’m measuring this success based on the number of cards passed out and received from others…yes, I’m nerdy like that, always collecting data).

 

I’ve held a variety of human service positions throughout the (small) community I live in for almost 10 years.  People seem to remember my face – that glimmer of recognition in their eyes gives me hope – but never my name. Which is okay because I am absolutely terrible at names and have no idea their names either. So, we’re even.

 

Social skills are not my strong suit – I have zero filter in new situations and my mouth moves far to quickly for my brain to say “WAIT! THAT’S GONNA SOUND WEIRD!” Luckily, most find this endearing.

 

I attended a community event over the weekend and was busily setting up my little networking table. Because marketing signs apparently require a degree in mechanics (which apparently everyone else had except me), I was able to introduce myself to those around me by asking for help. They were supportive; they could tell it was my first time. I think when I spilt my coffee all over the CARPETED floor, I further solidified their view of me as a newbie.

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I made my way around the room, perusing the other tables and handing out my business cards (I challenged myself to 20 cards that day). Suddenly, I hear:

 

It’s been so long! How are you?” – This was said in a very overly excited tone by another networker looking right at me. Oh, he was directing it to me.

I have never seen you before in my life” – Yes folks, this was my response to someone that obviously had seen me before. I didn’t even skip a beat; there wasn’t a pause for polite feigned attempts at recognition – I immediately said this following his question. And not in a haughty bitch way but in a matter-of-fact, deadpan way.

 

Yes, I realized the complete error of letting those words out immediately.

 

Apparently though, he really remembered me – he could cite off my name, where I had worked and the freaking year. Yeah, the freaking year he had met me…7 years ago. People’s memories are amazing. He also remembered that I’m terrible at remembering people and made sure to highlight this character flaw of mine by pointedly stating that I never remembered his name, or face, 7 years ago either. We shared a chuckle as I passed him a business card.

 

At some point in your life, someone is going to walk up to you and know your name and some other detail of your life while you awkwardly shuffle your feet and run through every social encounter over the past 10 years trying to place their face.

 

So the question then becomes, what do you want people to remember you for?

 

We all have values – characteristics and traits that we hold dear to us: honesty, transparency, justice, equality, social connections – identifying your personal values is imperative to demonstrate them.

 

We demonstrate our values through our actions; not our words. I value social connections, however, my lack of commitment to remembering people’s names goes against this value – which means, I am going to have to start making efforts to change this flaw.

 

My partner also works in human services. Early on in our relationship, like the first month or so early on, he brought home a values checklist that he wanted us each to complete. While at the time, I wasn’t gung-ho on the activity, I must admit that it did give me a deeper understanding of his own actions and where they stem from.

 

Even if you don’t have a willing partner for this activity, I encourage you to try it for yourself.

 

Here are the steps:

 

  1. Identify your top 10 values from this list
  2. Now, narrow it down to your top 5.
  3. Finally, if you could only choose 1, which would it be?

 

Share your results in the comments! Mine is awareness (bet you wouldn’t have guessed that!).

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via Daily Prompt: Risky

The Good Wife: Reflections on women

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I’m not a huge television buff, but two shows in particular have been able to hold my attention and trigger some deeper thinking recently: The Good Wife and Scandal. Both shows had a large following of viewers, I’m assuming primarily women – considering both shows depict unsatisfied women in unhealthy, adulteress relationships – why do so many women identify with these characters?

 

Both shows depict a highly capable woman involved, in some way, with a political figure. In The Good Wife, Alicia’s husband runs for governor (and later President) with a history of affairs and shady business practices. Alicia is returning to the work arena for the first time after having children while her husband serves a prison term (and yet, is elected to governor afterwards). The story line is about finding her own identity and happiness. Throughout the show however, she remains by her husband’s side for political reasons; hence the title “The Good Wife”.

 

Scandal, on the other hand, features a highly independent woman afraid of commitment who is having a long-standing affair with the President of the United States. I am still catching up on this series; but again, the thread is of a woman finding her own identity. Olivia, the main character, is afraid of committing to one man because of all she has to lose as a successful career woman.

 

The majority of women are not with public figures; we aren’t drawn to these plots because of living similar lifestyles or an understanding of what it’s like to be the center of media attention. But, my theory at least, is that we are drawn to them because we can, and do, identify with the submissive, self-sacrificing role of these women. The struggle is the same, albeit much flashier if you’re with a politician from the looks of it.

 

I believe that gender equality has come a long way, I’m not marching around with a vagina hat on right now although I do respect and understand why others choose to. The simple fact that these types of shows draw in so many female viewers does show me that there are still many steps to be taken in our society to change societal views. Women continue to sacrifice their independence and personal goals for the roles of mother, wife and lover.

 

I’ve personally known other women whose husbands have been at the center of a scandal – an affair, accusations, a secret child, job loss – whatever the case, I’ve watched these women fall alongside them. And quite frankly, I think I would do the same depending on circumstances – partly because I know that’s what’s expected, and partly because I believe you don’t abandon those you care about during less than ideal times. But as I look back, I have never come across this situation in reverse – a woman in the middle of a community scandal supported by her man. That’s not because women aren’t scandalous – we absolutely are…it just never seems to be as big an outcry as when it’s a man, again only in my experience. So I guess gender inequality in our communities goes both ways.

 

I was part of a social networking group for a while comprised of female attorneys, bankers, accountants, medical and mental health professionals and business owners… until it fell apart due to trouble finding babysitters, husbands having to be somewhere or simple exhaustion from the week leaving us dreading actually having to get together with people for lunch. Most of our stores were the same:

 

We are freaking tired of taking care of everyone.

 

The group met 1 time a month, to spend a total of 2 hours doing something for ourselves – usually lunch. How sad that we were unable to continue this group because our heads just couldn’t carry one more hat. How sad that we were so overwhelmed with the demands of others that we began seeing a monthly lunch gathering for our well-being as another to-do. For real…that’s pathetic.

 

As more and more women are becoming career oriented and gaining strides on career goals, many seem left feeling restless and dissatisfied.

 

A lot has been said recently about self-care and work/life balance, topics which are relevant to both genders. But I must say, in the real world, I see far more women struggling to find this balance. That, to me, is a societal flaw. Of course, the importance of fathers has been given more of a primary focus than previously; yet and still, workaholic men continue to be admired and emulated – they are considered successful (and really, they are successful; we can’t pretend that they aren’t) while women with the same drive and stamina are often referred to as cold, aloof and other negative terms. Yes, we may see these women as successful but we often throw in a sad phrase as well about all that they are missing out on.

 

I know that I hear this said about myself quite frequently – “When are you going to slow down and start a family?”

 

I have never had anyone ask me if I want to start a family. Instead, I get the reminders that I’m getting older and nudges about my biological clock ticking. I’ve even had some suggest that if my clock does run out, adoption would be a viable option. The assumption being that at some point I will regret not having biological children of my own. No one has bothered to ask if adoption would be my first choice; for some reason, this is viewed as a last choice alternative for me – without anyone asking for my input.

 

We act as though women must choose one or the other – career success or success at being a woman. A successful woman, from a societal lens, appears to be one that has children, makes full dinners (with vegetables!), gets the kids to soccer/baseball/dance/gymnastics/alltheotherones practices and still finds time to clean house, do laundry and work.

 

Forming an identity as a woman is a tough path – the shows that women revel in illustrates the dissatisfaction and sense of failure that appears to be prominent amongst us. Rereading this post, it sounds a lot like bitching – but really, I don’t know what the solution is…only that something is weighing heavily on us that needs to be examined.

 

I’m interested in others thoughts on this topic – let’s talk about it!

via Daily Prompt: Believe

The Mess You’ll Leave Behind

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This is a heart-breaking letter written by a father whose son died from an overdose. The family is trying to gain signatures for their petition for the Affordable Care Act to cover 90-day inpatient substance abuse treatment.

Addiction effects all of us in some way, whether personally or through someone we know. Treatment does work, recovery does happen but unfortunately, insurance often doesn’t cover it. I encourage you to read the letter and learn more about Anthony’s story.

Please remember, those statistics the news shares with you… those are real people.

Heroin. Stop the Silence. Speak the Truth.

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Dear active drug user,

I know you believe it’s your life and you’re only hurting yourself. You’re wrong. I know you believe you’re indestructible, that what you’ve witnessed happen to so many of your friends won’t happen to you. You’re wrong again. Sooner or later it will.

Here’s what will happen after you die.

First, someone will find your body. Maybe you’ll die at home and your Mom will find you and start screaming. Maybe you’ll die in your bedroom; maybe in the basement that your Dad rebuilt so you and your friends would have a place to chill. 911 will be called and first responders will come. Paramedics will cut off your shirt, put the paddles on your chest and try to shock your ass back to life, but it won’t work and one of them will turn to your Mom or Dad and say, “I’m sorry, he’s gone.”

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Chaos…it happens.

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It has been quite some time since I’ve been able to write.

The planets aligned for me last week and I grabbed an opportunity that came my way – which has led to an adjustment period of absolute chaos. A good chaos though – the exciting kind.

Unfortunately, I already had a lot going on between freelancing, blogging and seeing clients. So now, I’ve practicing my juggling skills and sadly, I dropped the blogging ball. I’ve been practicing Radical Acceptance a lot these past few days as I reorganize my life.

I’m planning on posting weekly for the next month, until my juggling skills improve a bit. I’m hoping that Fridays will be my publish day, so please check back Friday!

via Daily Prompt: Planet