All Parents Get Angry: You Can Choose What Happens Next

The choice is yours.

I was on a call the other day with a dad who said to me, “That sounds nice and good the way you describe treating people with kindness when I’m upset or working through my emotions and not taking it out on anybody. But how do you do that?”

It was so clear to me after meditating on it for a moment, that what he failed to recognize was the role that his own personal choice plays in all of it. I started to see that we as families, and parents especially, have a huge opportunity to realize the role of choice in all our decisions and how we interact with people, especially our kids.

 

Fundamentally, we are the choosers of all of our actions.

We live in a culture that is often motivated and controlled by our subconscious, repeating old patterns that we’ve learned and practiced. For example, the dad I was speaking to was somebody who’s known to lash out if he gets overwhelmed or frustrated. If things get too intense for him at home, he’ll just start screaming at his kids and his wife. He’s been doing that for a long time, so it’s just sort of how things go at the house.

What I’ve been working to show him and his family, and everybody through this post, is that we are the choosers. We are choosing even when we are not conscious of it. So, do we choose to lash out at somebody when they’ve upset us?

When we realize we’re the chooser, we can begin to do the work of choosing something different. We can choose to state how we’re feeling instead of lashing out at people. We can choose to take space and not engage with anybody while we’re running too hot and too full of anger. We can choose to do things like go for a run, meditate, cook or do anything that brings us peace. We have the choice to manage our actions, so that we don’t get so angry and overwhelmed that we have to lash out at people.

All of these are choices that we can make. Nobody can make them for us. You can’t tell somebody to stop drinking if they have a drinking problem. They have to choose to do that on their own, and often times it takes serious consequences or a big intervention for them to do that. But ultimately, the way that a person stays sober is that they choose to stay sober once they’ve gotten there.

The same is true for parents who choose not to scream at their kids anymore. For parents who choose to not let their own overwhelm and fear and anxiety take hold in the course of a situation with their kids leading to fights or screaming and shaming, making a situation a whole lot worse.

As soon as we recognize that we have a choice, we have begun the big work: the personal transformation work to choose to be who we want to be in this life.

On the road I’ve been talking to parents a lot about this idea that Yale calls the ‘best self,’ and often times when things get really hard, we lose our idea of what our best self is as a parent.

When I’m speaking of being a best parent, I’m talking about that view we had of ourselves before we even had kids. That perspective of the kind of parent we were going to be: one who could be there for our kids, who wouldn’t overreact, who could say yes to things when it was appropriate. Remember that parent we wanted to be, the one who made sure their kids had all kinds of fun experiences?

That view of ourselves, of the best self, the parent that we believed we could be often goes right out the door when things get hard. You come home from work, it’s dinnertime and there’s homework to be done, or you’ve been at home all day and you’re husband comes home in a grumpy mood and you feel like you’ve been doing everything all day. You just need a little bit of help, but you don’t know how to ask for it. In those moments you may not know how to choose to be your best self. You are like that confounded dad at the beginning of this post wondering, “How do you do that?”

You recognize that you have a choice. It’s like waking up from a dream and becoming conscious.

Now, recognizing that we have a choice doesn’t automatically mean that we choose to act as we want every time. Oftentimes our subconscious will take over and we will do the thing we’ve always done. We will do the thing that we learned from our parents. We will do the thing that we see played out at work or on TV. We will not know that we are acting in ways we don’t want to.

But when you become the chooser, when you act in a way that you didn’t choose, that your subconscious led you toward, you get to reconnect with the person you impacted and try being the person you consciously want to be.

For example, screaming at our kids over spilled milk is my favorite example. We get to apologize to them. We get to reconnect with them in a good way and let them know that we’re sorry we got so overwhelmed that we screamed at them. Then we can invite them to be more careful when using their cup.

We can do that. But then we can also choose the next time to not scream over spilled milk. We can get right back to being the chooser, and choose the things that align with our best self, the things that we believe in, and our values.

If you have any questions or need some support please call me at 415 370-3767 or email me at aaron@coachschiller.com. No parent should ever feel like they don’t know who to call when things get tough.

 

Why Kids Need To Help Their Families

When you’re busy, overwhelmed and doing a lot, day in, day out, one of the best things you can experience is someone being helpful. By inviting our children to be connected to us through sharing in daily tasks and duties, we are doing our part to socialize healthy individuals before letting them loose on the world.

For much of human history, families have been really helpful to one another. If you look back to farms and agricultural life, parents had kids to support the family way of life on the farm. Kids made things possible by taking care of livestock, clearing fields, and tending to the other children. Being helpful was at the core of what made a family work.

And something really amazing has been happening, especially in the Western world, where families are having more affluence, and more opportunities for their children to do less. Parents are finding themselves more overwhelmed; kids seem to be more stressed and unhappy despite the fact that they have more things and more opportunities.

Parents Are Doing Too Much

I was on a call the other day with a family and I said to them, point blank, “Would you like your kids to be helpful?” And the mom paused this really profound pause and said, “Sometimes I see other kids being helpful to their parents and I just wish and dream that my kids would do that.“ So I thought: Wow. Maybe that’s what this is all about. Maybe the value that is missing from our culture that could shift our happiness factor is helpfulness.

How do we bring helpfulness back into our family’s life? How do we connect and be there for one another in a way that feels really helpful?

I don’t know about you, but when I’m helping another human being, I feel really good. In fact, I like to be put to work whenever I’m new somewhere or if I’m a guest in someone’s house. I do whatever I can to be helpful so that I can feel more comfortable. I can feel part of the unit.

I want this feeling for our children as well, for them to truly enjoy being of service. I like to think of what every parent wants to hear when their child is a guest somewhere: “They were so helpful at dinner, and even helped clean up after everyone was playing for a while.” Supporting our children’s natural orientation to be helpful and part of the group will continue with them wherever they go.

For example, a child who was helpful at home through their childhood may go on to their first job asking, “How can I help?” instead of standing around waiting for someone to give them an order or a task to do. This way of being prepares our children for life skills well beyond home life.

Being Helpful Can Improve Family Dynamics

One of the new values that I’m currently concentrating on as I work with families is this value of helpfulness. And I’m not just talking about making kids do chores and work from a place of obedience or a place of consequence. I’m talking about true helpfulness. A way that parents and kids can feel some satisfaction that they are contributing to the whole, that they are part of the family unit.

I think one of the medicines that will be a boon to families is to re-enlist each other in being helpful. I see it on my trip, in my own family. Karuna, my oldest daughter, has been so helpful. There are times when she comes out and says, “Dad, do you want me to help hook up the electrical for the trailer? Do you want me to crank down the stabilization jacks?” There are all kinds of little things she’s offering to do. It makes me feel really supported because I’ve got so much I’m managing in my head, and extra hands on deck really do make a difference.

Furthermore, I see that it makes her feel really part of the experience. The feeling of being helpful is driving her and connecting her to the whole family or pack. I think family cultures can benefit greatly from instilling this value into your culture as a unit, because it is unifying!

Helpful Kids Care More About Their Surroundings

To see how powerful being helpful is, look at children in school. You see small children using their little brooms and dustpans because little kids love being helpful. Go to any preschool across the world and you’ll find kids who want to help their teachers. But for some reason, as those kids get older, we strip away the helpfulness. We make kids sit in their desks. There aren’t a lot of opportunities to be helpful at school that empower students, and make them feel connected to the school. So what do kids do? They vandalize the school. They disrespect it. They do the same thing at home.

A lot of these problems could be solved through finding unique and creative ways to give kids an opportunity to be helpful. This doesn’t mean you need to make your kids sweep or wash dishes. If your kids are older, ages 8 to 15, be creative. What are the ways they want help? How can they contribute to the home? Are they interested in helping with meal prep? I know kids who love to cook and so they are very helpful in their homes and actually make dinner a couple times a week.

In other families, kids are more makers and they want to work in the shed with their dad or mom building things that the family needs. Or maybe they want to watch their siblings. Come up with a list of things, especially for older kids that they want to do. This is not about forcing anyone to work—being helpful is not a punitive thing, it’s something that you want to do.

I love to say to my daughter, “Hey, do you want to help me dry the dishes?” And when she says yes, she’s opting into it. I’m not forcing her. She could stop at anytime. But in being helpful, we’re together. We’re having beautiful discussions. We’re feeling connected. And it’s optional. Once again, I’m not trying to create model where being helpful is just a punitive chore or a consequence, but a way in which a kid gets to be part of the whole.

And maybe, just maybe, some of your own overwhelm will reduce and you’re ability to connect and be present with your kid will increase. Then, instead of the need to buy a new thing or class for your kid, you will find in this togetherness what you were truly after, which is to be appreciated, to be loved, to be connected.

If you have any questions for me or want to talk email me at aaron@coachschiller.com

These posts were written while I was on the road as pat of Airstream’s #endlesscaravan. You can follow the adventure and see pictures on my Wife’s site The Art Pantry or facebook by searching #endlesscaravan

Next Level Empathy -Weekly Video #1

For this first weekly video I am sharing my new concept I am calling Next Level Empathy. In this short 2 minute video I breakdown what I think it takes to really understand how hards certain challenges are for people and sometimes even for ourselves.

 

Before we can solve anything we need a place to start…

This video is not a solution to your child’s challenges it is however the place to start.

Whenever I work with a new family I always like to start with exactly what is going on as it is. I do not want to fix or change anything right away. I want to honor everyone involved and be present enough to find the path forward. I also know that some challenges do not just go away.  Once again, this video is not a solution to your child’s challenges it is however the place to start.

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