Monday, June 20, 2011

Entitlement Webinar (Can't Wait!)

We just got back from a very nice (and much needed) two-week trip to Family Camp and to visit family and friends.  I'll have to post some photos and experiences from that trip soon, but honestly, coming home after a vacation always feels overwhelming to me for at least a week. 

It is fabulous to get away from the normal routine for a bit, but the laundry, phone calls, emails, etc. that inevitably pile up need some TLC, so I'm trying to keep things simple and involve my family in recreating the peaceful, orderly environment we so desperately need.

One exciting thing I do have going this week--tomorrow, actually, is our second Power of Moms webinar--this one featuring Saren's parents, Richard and Linda Eyre, and their new book, The Entitlement Trap.   (If you'd like to participate, click HERE for the details.)

Since Saren and I have been working closely together for so many years, we feel like sisters, and her parents feel like my extended family.  I remember sitting around their kitchen table after our May Park City Retreat, talking about the events of the day and our plans moving forward, and I thought, "How am I so lucky to have these people in my life?"  I adore my own parents and siblings, of course, but being able to work with the Eyre family has been nothing short of a blessing.

This webinar we're holding tomorrow night will focus on how to help our children develop a sense of ownership so they don't assume that they are "entitled" to everything they want.  I think my children are pretty incredible people, but I want to be sure I'm teaching them well.

When I hear things like, "Our car stereo isn't working, so I think we should get a new car" or "I don't like french toast for dinner" I wonder how I can help my children develop more gratitude for what they have and a greater willingness to help out around the home. 

Of course I want them to enjoy childhood (this picture of Grace makes me smile),

 but I also need to prepare them for the responsibilities of adulthood.

Since I'm going to be moderating the webinar and the chat feature, I've been thinking about my most pressing "entitlement questions."  Here's what I have so far:
  • What kinds of rewards can I use to motivate my children?  I don't want to feel like I'm "paying" them for every little thing.
  • How much responsibility is too much responsibility for children?  How do you find that balance between expecting great things and letting them enjoy their childhood?
  • How do I help my children to develop a love for giving back?
  • What are the best ways to show my children that most of the world doesn't have all the comforts that they do?
  • How can I encourage my children to go above and beyond what is expected of them (and not just settle for "good enough")?
  • What are the best ways to help my children use their free time in productive ways?  Too many hours of computer, video games, TV, etc. often feel like a waste of time (but they still need "down" time).
  • How can I respond to feelings of entitlement in the moment?  Sometimes I recognize it, but I don't know quite what to say (besides, "Arrrrgggggghhhh!").
  • If you could give me one piece of advice to start creating a stronger culture of ownership and gratitude, what would that be?

I'm getting excited for this webinar!  Any other questions you'd like to add?

Thursday, June 2, 2011

The Beauty of Doing What Can Only Be Done Now

Years ago, I sat in my quiet apartment, spoon-feeding Gerber sweet potatoes to my first baby and wishing desperately for a more exciting life.  Traveling to Italy, participating in productivity seminars, getting a Masters in Communication from USC--even having some reason to run a carpool sounded much more enticing than the constant work of running our little household and responding to the needs of a very active (and, I must add, darling) baby girl.
Mine is one of the most common stories ever told: I was thrilled to have a baby--then surprised by how hard it was to be a mother.  I was committed to doing the best I could, and I loved my family, but in the back of my head, I really wanted something "more."  To sum it up, I wanted to reach every single one of my lifetime goals at the same time.
If I could go back in time, I would tell myself about a lesson I learned recently at our local Denny's restaurant.  I know--who would expect the children's coloring page to have a profound effect on my life?  Well, it did, and I'd like to share it with you (because maybe these ideas will lesson the angst you're feeling about life right now).
This picture below shows two Space Sprockets.

You pop out the colorful templates on the right, and you place them over the blank sprockets on the left.  The readied sprocket looks like this:
You simply pick one of the stars on the perimeter and line it up with the North Star on the blank sprocket.  Then you color in the parts of the template that match the color of the star.  Below, you'll see how the red star is lined up with the North Star.  This is when you would hold the sprocket steady and color in those red designs below.  Pretty simple, right?

Here's how it looks:

Once all the red spots have been filled, you rotate the sprocket to the next star (in this case, green), and you proceed to color the green areas of the template.

After the third rotation, the image looks like this:
And by the end, it looks like this:

Isn't that a nice-looking meteor?  My eight-year-old made his using four colors, so you can see how each part contributed to the final image.

If you get mixed up, there's a little answer key on the back to show you how your picture is supposed to look.

Where on earth am I going with this?

Our lives are metaphorically divided up into a series of colored-star periods.  Depending on our unique situations and the speed of our growth, the number of stars varies, but each of us can look back and identify many "times and seasons" of our lives.

It's tempting to want to have/do/be everything all at once, but if we do, our Space Sprocket will end up looking like a haphazard scribble.  Does this look anything like a meteor to you?

Instead, each of us gets to identify our "North Star" (a very Stephen Covey-ish principle that I love) and figure out what, exactly, we need to be doing within that season of our lives.  This isn't rocket science (no pun intended); it simply requires that we step back, take a deep breath, and ask ourselves, "What do I need and want to do that can only be done now?"
I feel very fortunate to have "kind of" figured that out while I was still spooning out sweet potatoes.  Here's what I did:
  • I sat down one day and wrote, "Before I can be ready for more, what do I need to learn to do well?"  I then made a list of about 20 habits and skills I could develop in harmony with my current responsibilities and family situation.  And I started working on them.
  • I used my quiet time to read, think, create "Family Idea Binders," interview mothers I admired, and seriously plan for the future (knowing that there would certainly come a time when we would have two cars, and when my children would go off to school, and when I wouldn't be wiping up a mess every 45 seconds.  I am now there).
  • I cherished my baby (and the babies I've had since then).  We have hours and hours of home movies where I captured their sweet expressions, their giggles, their favorite toys, and their delight at experiencing life for the first time.  I hugged them, kissed them, and danced with them.  Now, my oldest is turning 12 and my youngest is turning 4.  Though it pains me to think that 14 years from now, I could be an empty-nester, because I've done my best to color in the "assigned parts" of my Space Sprocket, I know we're all ready to move on.
The end result (which I haven't yet reached, but which I can see taking shape) is that we'll create lives that are beautiful.  We'll have lived lives that made sense--that had some order to them.  We'll be able to look back and see how we were progressing--even if it felt like our work could have been replaced by an automatic sweet potato-disher-outer.

This type of thinking, in my opinion, is essential to mothers.  I hear countless women lamenting the fact that their work as "unappreciated, mundane, and invisible."  Of course these mothers won't feel a sense of progress at the end of the day if they see it that way, but what if we looked at our family work a little more closely?  What if we stopped trying to color in all the wrong places and focused instead on the meaning of the work we need to be doing right now? 

Italy isn't going anywhere, but my children won't always beg for bedtime back tickles.  Productivity seminars happen just about every day somewhere in the world, but dinnertime kitchen dancing with my children is probably closer to its end than I know. I'm going to have years to work on a computer and get more education, but I won't always be able to play "House" with my girls.  These are the things I need to cherish now.
I still get impatient with my life.  I want to see my Vision Board come to fruition, I want to check all the tasks off my "Someday" list, and I want the not-so-fun parts of motherhood to end, but when I start getting all worked up, I think of my Space Sprockets.  I ask myself what needs to happen right now, and even though I don't have an Answer Key in front of me, I feel confident that the focused energy I'm devoting to my family right now is central to the beautiful life picture I'm going to create.
QUESTION: What, in your life, can only be done right now?
CHALLENGE: Identify 10 habits and skills that would benefit your whole family if you were to focus on them right now.  Then make those habits and skills a central part of your life.
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