Creating New Patterns

Lessons From The Road Part 3

Step 1 Breaking Patterns

Families are notorious for getting into routines, some of which don’t serve everyone in the family. I can’t tell you how many families I’ve spoken to, including my own family, where we would let our little child, who was 4 at the time, watch iPad shows when she was clearly tired and maybe even hungry. And we would do it over and over again. And after every time we would ask her to get off because she’d been on a little while, she would have a complete meltdown. It would be so hard for her to transition off.

We definitely could have fed her before we let her watch a show. We could have made sure she only watched shows when she was in a good mood or feeling like she had some energy. But that’s not what we chose to do so often, because we were looking for the easy way, which is we wanted a break ourselves. We didn’t want to have to prepare lunch because maybe we had some work to do.

So the pattern would happen over and over again. And it would get pretty volatile and I would see how it would affect all of us. My eldest daughter would be upset, my wife and I would be upset. Everyone would be upset and that would be the energy of our home.

That’s just one pattern that I’ve seen evolve in our home. But if you look at your own family, there are all kinds of patterns that we get into.

We need to keep a watchful eye on the patterns that don’t feel good.

If we look at most routines, when people come home from work, oftentimes there’s routines around homework and dinner and clean up and brushing teeth and bedtime and getting to school in the morning. So many patterns and routines that are filled with people being unkind to each other, people being frustrated with one another. People screaming at one another. People being over the top, almost abusive with each other.

These are all patterns that settle into our homes because we’re moving so quickly, moving from one day to another, without taking stock that these are patterns we’re creating— that we are actually making these patterns.

We can choose to blame the school for giving homework, and we can choose to blame our kids for being slow to get ready in the morning. We can choose to blame our partners for not doing more to help out. Ultimately these patterns need to be addressed.

We need to start by saying, what are the patterns that don’t feel good? What are the things that happen in our home day after day after day that don’t feel good?

Step 2 Creating a New Vision

Once we can do that, then we can talk about how to break those patterns and how to be in a good way with one another. But we have to start looking at those patterns. We have to wake up to the systems in our family that don’t feel good. Then we can make another choice.

Step 3 Break the Isolation

So this leads me to a lesson around breaking the isolation. We are becoming more and more isolated in our culture and while these phones and screens are making us more connected, we’re growing isolated in our connection. People are going into their bedrooms and texting and Snapchatting, Facebook Messaging and Emailing, while everybody else in the family is in their own separate wing of the house.

There was this beautiful moment on the trip when we were in Taos, New Mexico, and we were visiting the Pueblos there. And I was in this woman’s old pueblo, it’s a 500 – 600 year old pueblo. Super small little home. And she was talking about how all of the family lived in this one room. And what I realized looking at this room was that one thing that these kids and these families never felt was isolated to one another. They never felt disconnected. They were always together. Sure they had moments and she was clear to say that yes, people got angry and frustrated and people would run out of the house and go and sit by the river and connect with nature, and be able to get back into a grounded state.

That’s not what’s happening in our lives right now. Right now people are slamming doors and jumping on their phones. People are avoiding one another for days and weeks. There are families who aren’t seeing their kids for more than a couple minutes because the kids are going to their room.

While we gave them their own rooms so that they could have their own space, we also created the perfect conditions for isolation. We’re spending more time apart even when we’re together.

It was really beautiful one evening, I watched my 10-year-old nephew and 9-year-old daughter sitting next to each other reading a book. And it was so beautiful because I imagined that if I’d handed them each an iPad or a screen, they might even end up in different parts of the room or they might be in their own rooms. Or they might not have any need to be together. But there’s something really sweet about them sitting together — so close to each other — that you could sense that they were connected even though they were doing their own thing.

And I think we need more of that in our families. We need to break the isolation from each other. I remember when I worked at a corporate job. I’d go to work. I’d say good-bye in the morning. I’d be gone all day, come home, and we’d be having dinner. Then, I’d want to jump on my phone. Later, when my wife was doing things like bath time or getting kids ready for bed, I was off in my own space isolated again, getting back to doing work. Instead of being with the family — instead of being in a state of connection — I was isolating myself.

I was modeling that for my children too. There would be times when they would be off in their room, and I would be in another room. Even though we hadn’t seen each other that much, we weren’t really even hanging out.

Now I make sure that if we’re in the same house, that we try to be in the same room for more of the day than not. It doesn’t feel good to me if we’re always around each other but never connected — never in the same room. And I think the bigger the house, the bigger the challenge that is.

So as families we need break the isolation internally. But not only from ourselves, within our own home unit. This is a big part of reclaiming our families: spending time together, not being so isolated. But also, we need to break the isolation from our neighbors, from our school communities, and from our extended families. We are going to have to work to be closer to one another, and it’s not going to be easy because of the patterns of our lives.

Reach Out

We may have to break certain patterns in order to be less isolated. And we’re driven by our will and desire for our lives to be different. We want something else. We have a vision or a dream for ourselves that is not in alignment with that isolation.

I have this dream for communities to bring back potlucks and share child care. There used to be a time when parents could say, “Hey, I have to run to an appointment. Can you watch Susie for a little bit? Can you watch Brian?” Parents would help each other with child care. I think we need to get back to that.

If you have that in your life, tell more people about it. Practice it more. Offer more people in your community to drop off their kids if they need a place, a backup. I’m not saying we’re going to get totally away from babysitters. There’s definitely a time and place for the evening babysitter, or the daytime one. But reaching out makes us closer as community, more connected, and finding like-minded people near you and making friends with your neighbors is a win for everybody!

There are parents all over most communities who are looking to change their family and community culture, who want to live in more connection and less isolation. Especially if you live in an apartment building or are in any kind of suburban environment, we need to do a better job of breaking the isolation and supporting each other by watching one another’s kids, getting to know our neighbors, and having more regular connection.

One of the ways that that’s going to feel good is if we’re in community with those people and we talk to each other and we know what we are all comfortable with.

For example, a real problem in community right now is people will drop their kids off for play dates and you don’t know what shows are appropriate. Shows at one house may not be appropriate at your house. So part of breaking the isolation is that we need to talk with the other parents and say, “Hey, just so you know, we don’t watch PG13 movies yet.” And they’ll say, “Oh, okay. We sometimes do but we won’t when your kids come over.” And you’ll say something like, “Thank you. That’s really sweet,” and you’ll feel closer to that person. You’ll feel more connected; you’ll feel less isolated.

One of my best buddies in Marin County and I became friends through our daughters playing soccer together, but I feel like our relationship really changed when he came over one day and brought over his power washer and we power washed my front fence that was just dirty beyond measure. As we’re power washing and he’s showing me how to use it and he’s using it, we’re having fun clearing off all the dirt and the spider webs from this white picket fence, we became closer friends.

Part of breaking down the isolation is restoring what it used to be to be a neighbor or a friend: to help each other, to do things that you need help with, whether it be yard clearing or power washing a fence.

It’s a nostalgic thought, but remember when you needed a cup of sugar? You didn’t just go run to the store. You went and asked a neighbor. You gave people a chance to help you, and in helping you they grew closer to you. And in helping each other, you became a community.

On The Road With Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence is a game-changer. It makes moving through the tough moments as a family an opportunity for growth instead of turmoil.

I think anybody who’s going to talk about emotional intelligence as it pertains to families should be required to spend three months on the road in a small trailer with their family.  Nothing prepares you quite as well to talk about emotional intelligence as having your own emotions front and center, with nowhere to hide during that kind of experience. Living in close quarters requires you to emotionally regulate yourself on a very constant and conscious basis. It’s that day-to-day tracking of one’s own emotions that can make the difference between a pleasant experience or a disaster.

3 Month Airstream Family Road Trip #EndlessCaravan

 

Lucky for me this is not a hypothetical situation, this is exactly what I am up to. As part of Airstream’s Endless Caravan tour my family is spending 3 months on the road touring around the United States.  This is a trip of a lifetime and a real dream come true.  On our journey my wife, Megan, is holding creative family events focused on process art and I am leading parent workshops at schools across the country through my work with Yale University’s Emotional Intelligence Lab. I am field testing in a very real way what I am presenting to parents.

For example, in a recent experience with my family on the road, we were all worn thin. The youngest was crying, jumping up and down, while the eldest was crossing her arms as we walked in the hot sun towards a restaurant we couldn’t find. Lost, tired, hot, and hungry, everything in that moment was terrible. I realized I was feeling the same way my kids were.

So I took a deep breath and found some space in myself to move forward in a good way. Connecting with the eldest first, I let her know I totally get it. “It makes sense to feel frustrated right now. We’re going to get some food soon, and just maybe you can have a sip of my sweet tea,” I tell her, which sparks a small smile. Then she turns to her sister with some hope that things may improve.

It Starts With You

Everything centers on my own ability to recognize how I am feeling first.

Knowing when your own tank is empty or you’re feeling overwhelmed or frustrated can help keep you from lashing out at your family. Being aware of your own emotions could keep one moment from escalating out of control and into something difficult to handle.  Using your emotional intelligence, a potential calamity remains a positive experience.

As I look at this in my work with families, I see this happening all the time. One parent comes home from work tired, or another had a tough day at home with the kids or their own job, and emotions spiral out of control. Suddenly the adults find themselves in the middle of chaos: kids not doing their homework, no one is listening to anyone, and all kinds of hell breaks loose. They look at each other and think: how did we get here?

15 Minutes of Unpleasant Emotions Vs A Whole Night of it – You Choose…

Without emotional intelligence, that one moment of frustration at the time when most families reunite at the end of the day, turns into a whole evening of nobody getting along, nobody feeling close, and nobody getting what they need emotionally from each other. The time when families come together has turned into a time of pulling apart. That’s where the practical skills or tools of emotional intelligence come in: recognizing your emotions and understanding them, and taking a proactive approach to dealing with them can turn the situation around and bring you back to harmonious togetherness.

In times of chaos, I consider the impact on my children. They are young and have done nothing to me to deserve my vengeance or aggression. As the adult, it is my role to model for them how to muster up the calm and then move from the love and sweetness I know is possible instead of letting my battered nerves guide the ship. Through practice, I learn to soften even when I am pushed to my limit.

I want these practices to be accessible and change the ways families engage during their precious time together. That’s why I’m excited about the work Yale is pioneering at the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence, and the information I am bringing to people across the country right now with this road trip. It’s a tremendous opportunity not only for me but those I meet. At its core is the question: What brings us closer as families? The answer is simple, but not easy. It is about how we relate to ourselves, internally, and to one another.

Families Want to Enjoy Each other

When people— kids or parents— are able to more deeply understand their own emotional experience, regulate those emotions, and then communicate from that regulated place, people become closer, families become tighter, experiences become more fluid. I truly believe it helps families do what they’re intended to do: enjoy each other, help one another to be happy, to live amazing lives, and to encourage one another to reach their potential.

What I love about working with the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence is that they’re moving away from creating a methodology or program. Director Marc Brackett’s ideas, and what he and his team are pushing forward, are more practical: by learning the skills and developing ourselves, we become aware of and in tune with our own emotional and social beings. Emotional intelligence becomes a part of everything we do, seamlessly integrated to the life and culture of our family.

It’s a theory of change. It’s about how we learn more about ourselves and our emotional experiences in this world and how to use that experience to achieve the things that we want to do in our lives, whether it’s to have closer family relationships or to achieve success in our personal or professional growth.

Emotions Matter

Emotions matter, in many nuanced ways, which is a fundamental piece of the work that Yale has proved through their research. Emotions affect our quality of attention, our focus, and our ability to have meaningful relationships. This is not a soft skill. This is about how we show up in the world and how we live out our dreams. It’s about how we reach our potential as human beings on this planet.

Emotional intelligence is a skill people have overlooked. Society has taught many of us not to care about what we’re feeling. We’re told to get over it. Move on. Don’t cry. Don’t worry about it. Don’t feel so much.

But the truth is we are feeling beings. You can’t stop the emotional experience from happening. You can try to scare it out of people, you can attempt to restrict it, you can make people go underground and bury their emotions. But you cannot stop the emotional experience of being a human being. It’s fundamentally who and what we are.

Emotional intelligence, used as a way of understanding ourselves, can transform our relationships, can transform our interactions with people, whether it’s with your family, or outside the home. It can transform anyone, whether you’re a 4 year old, a 24 year old, or a 50 or 60 year old. This transformation can happen across genders and generations.

I’m super excited to be traveling across the country, sharing this with people of all ages, in all situations, at various venues. To learn more about RULER visit http://ei.yale.edu/ruler/
To follow my family on Facebook visit @CoachAaronSchiller or Instagram follow @coachschiller @artpantry and #endlesscaravan
If you have questions send me a note – aaron@coachschiller.com – I love hearing from people and will respond promptly.

Mindful Father Training _ Mill Valley

Introducing the Mindful Father Training. Being fully present and alive in our role as fathers requires practice, guidance and support. In this training, meeting once a week for 3 weeks, new and experienced fathers will be given the skills, tools and support needed to be a Mindful Father!

By utilizing Mindfulness based research and parenting strategies, participants will leave this training feeling more present in their role as a Father. Mindfulness training prepares us to handle any daily or random challenges that arise with their kids.

There is still space available and you can complete your registration here.

Small Mindful Flyer

Two Minute Video: How to help your anxious child going into middle school.

This is the first in what will be many short videos on different topics. If you have a question or a topic you want me to dive into just leave it in the comments.

Introducting Personal Growth Groups For Youth Ages 8-16

In addition to the one-on-one work I have been doing with 8-16 year olds, I am teaming up with my dear friend and colleague Will Hubert to start group work. Will is a Marin native with extensive outdoor education and youth mentoring experience. The goal of these summer groups will be to support your children as they transition into being young adults.

Coach Schiller

Each group session will cover a specific theme and can be signed up for individually, weekend pairs or for all them. Here are the group themes and dates. The groups will run from 4-7.

  • Resiliency & Grit: The Value of Perseverance July 25th

  • Self Awareness & Self Care: For A Vital Life July 26th

  • Relationship Building: Bridging Adolescence, Friendship and Family August 8th

  • Positive Communication Tools: Creative Means for Self Expression August 9th

The cost is $100 per session ($75 if you sign up for all 4) and free to any parent who organizes a group of 5 or more. In addition if the dates above do not work for you and you think you have enough people to join please let us know what dates might work. We picked weekends in an effort to not interfere with camps.

We have designed a unique experience that will lead children through many important life lessons and provide skill development not generally taught in schools.  A majority of the sessions will take place on Mount Tam while others will happen around town.

I realize we are late in the summer planning season but I know some people still feel like they are missing a meaningful experience for their children to help them transition into middle school or the next grade.We recognize that everyone has busy schedules and many will not be able to participate. However we will be rolling out additional programs in the new school year so stay tuned.

If you would like to grab coffee/tea to learn more do not hesitate to reach out.

Happy Summer
Aaron

Summary of The June 7th Tween/Teen Parents Workshop!

Thank you to all of you who attended the workshop last night.  Your contributions and willingness to share your vulnerability was inspiring. Here is the summary of what we covered last night.

The Four Steps to Bringing Mindfulness Into Your Parenting Style

Buddha meditation - 3D render

  1. Be Present

    • Sounds simple enough, but it is one of the hardest things for hard-working, fast passed humans to do. It takes practice to be able to do it when you need to.  If you want to see the research on this check out MBSR. You may want to check out the Headspace app if you are interested in expanding your ability to become present. Or just take a couple of minutes a day to calm your mind and connect with the present moment. My teacher once told me “The best thing about birds is that they only sing in the present moment” -so try and listen to them!
  2. Be Prepared

    • This is the game-plan that you create based on the specific behaviors you are working to modify or adapt to.
    • This includes having some pre-set consequences so you don’t have to come up with them on the spot. Ideally your child comes up with them with you. That way you don’t have to surprise them with a consequence. You can calmly say from your very present state of being. “I feel really sad about this, but we agreed that if you did __ then ___blank would happen. Remember discipline is about teaching, not about punitive punishments designed to torture or make kids feel bad.
    • Have a planned scaled response. Don’t treat severe behaviors and mild ones the same.
  3. Be Empathetic

    • Nobody loves your kids like you love them. For some reason, when they act out and overwhelm us we hit a breaking point and that love gets hidden away.
    • In my experience, 9 out of 10 times children act out there is something going on for them- hunger, fatigue, sadness, depression, anxiety, self loathing, embarrassment at school- something has set them off. Even if we can’t give them a hug when they are in this place (my 3 year old kicks and pushes me away), we can still hold love and empathy in our hearts (even when handing out a planned consequence).
    • Being able to truly understand how your child is feeling even when they are being nasty is the gateway to really being there for them in a deeper and more powerful way.
    • Remember a key piece of empathy is truly knowing from your own experience what the other person is feeling.
  4. Be Honest

    • There is some myth out there that we should not show or tell our children how we feel about the things they do.
    • I believe it is not only okay, but necessary to let them know that what they did made you sad, angry, frustrated, etc.
    • It allows them to see you as a real human being with feelings and emotions.
    • If you tell them how you feel they may just learn to tell you how they feel. Modeling is everything.

Parenting through Power vs Building Strong Relationships

Man and woman help silhouette in mountains

There Are Two Sides Of Parenting

  1. Loving kind, compassionate, supportive
  2. Firm, confronting, boundary–setting
    (Credit Steve Bearman, PHD, Founder Interchange Counseling)

Warning signs of a strained relationship include -resentment, defiance, lack of gratitude, withdrawn, isolation. limited interactions and short conversations.

4 key aspects of building a healthy relationship

  1. Respect -It is very hard to ever have a healthy relationship if we don’t respect the other person. Our kids are no different to any other relationship we are in. Respect for another human being is a key aspect of a healthy relationship.
  2. Connection –Merely habituating in the same place does not necessarily strengthen a sense of connection. I recommend making sure to have some 1-1 time with your teen/tween. Find a couple activities that are special to them or both of you and schedule when possible. Think of cell reception when it comes to connection. If you don’t have bars, its hard to talk.
  3. Independence – According to research, middle school students need to feel a sense of independence.
  4. Keep Talking – It is not your child’s responsibility to continually try to find time with you and talk to you about their life. Make it imperative to keep talking and keeping the communication flow open between you and your kid.

 “Keep Talking” Tips

Unfortunately Tweens/teenagers do not have a great reputation for wanting to have deep conversations with their parents. Sometimes parents get lucky, but mostly there is resistance during this important developmental stage.

  1. Go for it – this is your child. There should be nothing you are not willing to talk to them about. You made them, you get to talk to them even if its uncomfortable. Birth is uncomfortable, waking up to change diapers at 2am is uncomfortable.
  2. If you are uncomfortable talking to them about something  it is a really good sign you need to. Don’t ignore that resistance. It means its important. Not talking about it will only make it harder to not talk about the next thing. That pattern can actually be really dangerous for your child. Imagine not talking about walking across the street when they were young.
  3. Timing is everything. Try to figure out when they seem the most open to talking. For Some kids it is right before bedtime. For others, it is during a Saturday morning breakfast or in the car on long drives. Spend a little time figuring out when that time might be and make it a regular occurrence (not once a year, more like once a week).
  4. Be creative and never give up. Giving up on talking with your child is not just a teenage thing it can last much longer than that.

Parenting is one of the hardest things you will do in life, yet in our society we all try to do it alone.  There is definitely a delicate balance at play here and getting support is a key ingredient to being the best parents we can be.  I hope we can all focus on loving our children and not punishing them in the hopes they will learn a lesson we are not properly teaching. Focus on what is amazing about them and make sure to tell them. Continue to work on your own personal growth to properly model that for them.

And most of all, get support when you need it. Do not think you need to parent all on your own. There is no winning in going at it alone.

Feel free to reach out any time,

Aaron

aaron@coachschiller.com

 

 

New Parenting Workshop June 4th “Harm Reduction” For Tweens & Teens

Please RSVP for a spot at my newest workshop focused on supporting parents build stronger relationships with their children as they transition into middle school and beyond. Donation is for a couple and if the cost is to high please just come.

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