You do NOT have to live in chaos. Here’s your blueprint for regaining your control and making your child listen!

The kids are screaming at you.  The house is a mess and nobody listens when you ask for help.  Siblings are supposed to love each other but all your kids do is fight.  You are overwhelmed, outnumbered and outgunned.



Help is on the way!  In the next three posts I will teach you 15 surefire ways to regain control of yourself, the situation, and the discipline of your kids.  If you can do these things consistently for 2 weeks, you will finally see some light at the end of the tunnel.  Give this a month and you’ll start feeling like a parent and not a prisoner!

To set these up you have to understand the following concepts.  You can’t control your kids.  Didn’t get that or think I didn’t write it right?  You CANNOT control your children.  When you try all hell will break loose in your house.  There’s plenty of ways to encourage them to control themselves.

Punishment doesn’t work.  Consequences work, punishment works against you.  Consequences teach your children the connection between their own actions and what happens next.  Punishment teaches them to hide from you because they’re avoiding your anger.

You control yourself first.  Then you take control of the environment.  Last of all you reflect back to your kids.  There are consequences you will be handing out throughout all of these steps.  Anytime you loose control of yourself, you can’t do discipline.  Making children upset to match how they’ve upset you is punishment.  It teaches children that revenge is good and the strong get to take it.  Now imagine they’re 15 and bigger than you.  I’ve counseled that family too many times.  Control yourself, control the environment, then be a mirror that allows your child to see her own behavior.

Control Yourself

  1. Take your own time outs.  Instead of standing around screaming with the kids, take a five minute time out and concentrate on bringing your own heart rate down before you go back to dealing with them.  Children match the agitation level of the dominant adult in any situation.  Give them a calm to imitate.  This can take a while for parents to get.  Kids know when you’re pretending calm and when you’ve really got it.  Keep working towards a calm your children can match.
  2. Put yourself on the top five of your priority list.  You aren’t going to have a calm that your children can imitate if you don’t have taking care of yourself as a priority.  It can seem backwards to women especially when I tell them to take a yoga class and leave their children in the daycare. “But my kids will bite each other and I already don’t have enough time!”  I know.  But time and self-care can’t be the last thing you give yourself each day.  You will NOT be able to consistently discipline your children if you are too worn out to think straight.
  3. Be a neutral expert. Before your kids start their daily exercises in trashing your house and smacking each other, concentrate on your long term role.  You need to be the neutral expert that they come to when there’s sex questions or peer pressure on drugs.  Take your emotions out of the interaction!  You must sound like a calm judge not the screaming Queen of Hearts. Practice sounding like Mary F*ing Poppins no matter what!
  4. Talk about your emotions out loud until your children at least roll their eyes.  I love this one and my son HATES it.  “I can feel my neck getting stiff when you ignore what I’ve said and act like you can’t hear me.  I know you can hear me and that makes what you’re doing very rude.  You are pretending I don’t exist so you don’t have to deal with me and now my skin is getting hot because I’m mad.  I will need to calm myself down before I come up with the consequence for your behavior.”  I can go on for as long as necessary.  Talk yourself through your emotions, their physical manifestations, how you’re calming yourself down and what you intend to do.  My son would rather me take a toy than talk about my emotions.  It’s that effective.
  5. Stop giving your children emotional Touch Downs. When I ask kids in my office how long it takes to get their mom or dad frothing mad, they can give me a timeline and exactly what parents say along it before the adult tantrum commences.  All children want control and power.  If the best way to feel powerful is make you lose your control, that’ll happen on the regular.  You may be scaring your kids silly when you lose it, but you are also dancing on the end of their strings and they know which tune it takes to get you there.  Take that time out and stop giving up your power.


Once you control yourself, you are ready to take control of the environment and hand out consequences that work.  I hear from clients how frustrating it is to practice self-control first.  Sorry, it’s the only thing that works every time.  No technique works if you don’t have control of your own emotions and meet your own needs.  Most every technique can work once you have yourself trained.

Stay tuned for the next two posts. We’ll go over the ways to control the environment and help your child start predicting how their behavior will bring positive or negative consequences.

Before you go, ask me a question! I love to hear from all of you.


When you want better, do something Scary

FearSo I’m  therapist, we’re usually the worst at taking our own advice, and I hear my clients talking about the horrible situations they’re stuck in every day.  I tell them to go ahead and take the risk, make the change, do that scary thing that’s been holding you back.  Then I’m not willing to do it myself.

For example, way back when this blog was started I was scared of the internet, computers, people reading my writing, no one even noticing my writing, etc, etc.  So I didn’t really set this up. Someone else did it for me so that I wouldn’t have to face my fears.  I knew just enough to get to my page and write a post with a picture in it.  That was it and it stayed that way for years.  Nothing grew, nothing got better with this blog.  I went along feeling bad that I wasn’t writing in it and forgot how to even get to my page to write a new post.  Sounds bad.  It was easy.

It is completely easy to avoid doing scary things and slide into a mediocre place that you swore you’d never occupy.  It can be just as easy to stay in a hole lined with your own excrement because you don’t know if it will get better, so why try?  Or maybe you don’t think you deserve better, you’re waiting for someone else to rescue you, you know you’ll fail, or any of the other things we tell ourselves.

Most people think I’ll tell them that all those fears are horse crap and to let them go!  No.  You’re smarter than that and so am I.  You, as a smart person who knows your life, have come up with an internal list of fears that have real meaning for you.  Now write them out, validate them, and plan your attack.

Seriously get a pen and paper and write out all the desperate fears and negative self-beliefs.  You may get a stomach ache while you do this.  I’ve had clients have asthma attacks.  I tend to feel like my stomach is being squeezed and my throat is burning.  Persevere.  This is where you build the tolerance to your own fear while validating that you have a right to be afraid.  Let’s say that again.  You have the right to be afraid.  The idea that we should go through life fearless, tough and never crying is the kind of crap that sells cigarettes and bad TV shows.

When you’re ready, because you may have to put down your list and take a walk, go through and think of a valid reason for each fear.  Because if they’re real, you are not crazy or stupid or whatever nasty thing you’ve been calling yourself.  So think of that reason.

Let’s go back to my fear list that I gave at the beginning of this post.  I’m afraid of computers because when I was younger I got yelled at and told how fragile they were.  I’ve been scared they’ll break from my cursed touch ever since. I validate that I have a right to be scared and I’m not stupid or a pansy or crazy.  Now I plan an attack on that fear.  I will have multiple exposures to my computer.  I will explore all those buttons.  I will thank the good Lord for YouTube and play videos that show me how to use the computer.  I will occasionally stop and cuss at the screen because anger feels better than fear.  I will go to Barnes & Noble to look at a “Dummies” book and reward myself with a latte.

I now have five different things I can do to face that fear and get past it.  Each one is simple and can be done in the next few days.  At that point I can look at the fear again and make a new plan as needed.

So when I go over this with clients I hear, “It can’t be that simple!” and “My fears don’t have simple solutions!”  Well, those are both fears, so do the same thing with them. The first one is usually about, “I will never be fixed.”  This one usually has to do with early messages you got as a child, topped with that romantic relationship that crapped on you. You have every right to worry about this when you’ve had bad messages about your worth and whether or not you’re damaged. Write out a for/against on if you need to be fixed. Read a blog post about self-esteem. Write out your usual negative litany of hopelessness and then try to read it aloud imagining you’re talking to a 10 year old.  Think of the funniest thing you can say about how damaged you are.  Write out what you would say to a friend in your shoes.  Once you’ve done all that, assess it again, repeat.

Real change on your deeper fears takes lots of repetition.  You’ve been afraid of some of this stuff for years. Every day.  For years.  You can afford a little time to overcome now. You really do deserve that.

As for me, here I am on my Surface.  I feel a little less nauseous every time I open it.  If I start worrying about how it will die and I will be at fault, I put another $5 into the replacement fund and carry on.  My fear is not gone, but it’s not holding me frozen anymore.  I hope the same for each of you reading this.

This is the simplified version.  If you have questions please comment and I’ll try to expand where you need it.  Thanks for reading and I hope to see you again soon.


The benefits of making that goal.

I had a goal this week to write one blog a day, even if it was a sentence and a picture. Here’s the last blog and my goal is complete, for now.  Remember that goals should be a constant part of your life.  If you have a direction you’re going towards, you are less emotionally reactive, have greater emotional stability, and a better sense of your own power to change the world around you.  When you react to whatever the day throws you, you will be on the defensive constantly.  When you have a clear idea of what you want, you’re already thinking through the obstacle in front of you and moving on to the next checkpoint.

Making goals and reaching them is like exercise.  It needs to be a regular part of your life.  It works as an anti-depressant. It helps your brain stay younger.  You look better, feel better, and react to changes in your situation with greater flexibility.

Happy goal setting, I’ll be back in a week with another series of blogs on a new topic.  My goal for the intervening week will be work on my fiction novel for bored middle aged women.  I figure I’m part of the demographic, so I’ll be able to write what I’d like.

Have a great Thanksgiving,


Don’t be so responsible, at least not for everyone else!

Who are you responsible for?  Most adult women don’t know the answer to this question.  They think they do, but they are taking care of everyone else around them, not taking care of themselves, and then resenting someone else for the state of their lives.  Plenty of men are doing the same things and talking about how they can’t ever get out of a job they hate.

If you’re going to have a goal, you are the only one who can truly make that happen for yourself.  You are even responsible for who and how you ask for help.  But that’s help, not take over and make my dreams happen for me.

Prince or Princess Charming is not coming to make your better life appear.  You will have to take the responsibility for yourself and start letting a few other people’s needs slide.  That’s right, you need to get a lot less responsible.  Go nuts, let the dishes sit, mow the lawn after you’ve written your bucket list, let the other people in your life have the control.

Yes, control.  You need to control you, and let other people get into their own trouble or success as the captains of their own ships.  I’m not saying let your 3yr old make major life decisions.  But you’re teens could definitely do their own laundry.  And if they mess that up, let it be a learning experience.

Never be so dependable that you never get a chance at your own dreams.

Be less responsible, go play, go dream, let everyone else pick up the slack for once while you make something happen for yourself.

Goal setting never works for me!


Every now and then some helpful soul will give me a new set of how-to-plan forms.  In the past I’ve even tried to use them. Then always felt like I was this failure, because they never worked for me. Well, I’m not a line.

I don’t think in a linear fashion, which is often true for people who have any kind of ADD, ADHD, or other differences in how they process information. If you’ve tried and failed at planning software, paper forms that are supposed to help you get organized, or felt frustrated with the well-meaning but ultimately ineffective methods you’ve seen, the real problem may be the method.

Most planning forms have you start with one large goal and then break that down into steps that you are going to use to achieve it. This makes lots of sense, only it doesn’t work. Your brain is far more likely to be thinking in leaps and jumps, interconnections, and what would look more like a series of bubbles with lines in between them.

Toss your old forms. Bring out a blank sheet of paper, and draw a large circle in the middle of it, about 2 inches in diameter.  Write a word or sentence that describes what you want in that circle. Draw a line away from the circle an inch or less. At the end of this line put another bubble. Whatever comes to your mind first, put in that second circle. Go around your larger circle putting new lines, and new bubbles with anything and everything you can think about in connection to that topic.

Repeat step one for all of your smaller bubbles. Some bubbles are going to just a singular thought.  Some you will have a lot more to say about and they may even surprise you.

But you’re probably wondering, okay great now that my brain is on paper, how does actually help me achieve a goal? The goal setting comes when you put the bubble up at the top of the page, and start drawing out what you’re thinking, followed by ways to achieve it, followed by steps you can take today.

This technique is especially effective for goals that you have run into a dead end on. If you’ve always wanted to lose weight, but find yourself never being able to actually achieve this. Do a bubble map.  Draw your circle in the center of the page, and then put what you want in the middle of it. If your first impulse is put the problem in the center of the page, we may have found your problem. Bubble mapping allows you to see what your actual focus is, and all of the associated thinking processes that go along with it.

Put the positive outcome you want in the center. And then go to town on what your associations with it are. If you had a difficult time achieving your center bubble, there will be a lot of sub bubbles with negative thoughts. Don’t be scared of these. You need to know what’s been stopping you from getting to your goal. If you don’t know the obstacles that are in your way, you will not be able to plan for them.

When you’re ready to put the information into an achievable form, start with a new page and a new circle at the top of the page.  Put your goal in the circle and draw lines radiating  downwards with new circles on the end of each, write out your thoughts in each of these circles both good and bad. Radiate more lines and circles down from the second level, and fill these in with achievable goals related to each of the thoughts above. Your third radiation of lines and new bubbles is for results you can achieve today.

Remember, the goals that are small, that you can work on today, and that will help you build for success later, are the most effective.

  1. Grab a sheet of paper and draw a circle.
  2. Write your goal in the circle.
  3. Radiate out lines that have bubbles on the end of them.
  4. Write whatever comes to mind in each of these bubbles.
  5. Repeat steps 3 & 4 for each of the new bubbles you create.
  6. Repeat on each new bubble ’till you run out of space.
  7. Does your original goal still hold true?  Sometimes you discover it doesn’t.
  8. Take a new sheet and put a circle at the top with your goal statement.
  9. Put bubbles beneath it with at least 5 related thoughts both good and bad.
  10. The next level down is bubbles that are goals associated with your thoughts.
  11. Last level of bubbles will be results that are small enough to achieve today.
  12. Repeat weekly.

When multi-tasking isn’t getting that task done!


There’s all these studies I won’t bore you with, that state that multitasking  does not work.  The same studies go on to say that no one really multitasks. All of us toggle back and forth between different tasks wasting energy and being less efficient. The people who did the studies ought to have a few kids. Because let me tell you, if you’ve got kids you multitask.

You are doing the dishes, and making sure nobody dies in the next room. You are on the phone, and making evil faces to at least one child to get some quiet.  This works well for keeping the species alive, but not so much for you reaching your goals.

For goal reaching you really do need a toggle switch. Because if you had unlimited time and resources, you wouldn’t need advice like this on how to make limited time and very limited resources work for you. Actually, if you had that first set of things you’d be on a beach and you wouldn’t care about goals.

A toggle switch allows you to go from one task to another with equal focus. It’s the process by which I get done with a client, and then use the 5 min. in between clients to write part of this blog.  I’m not doing two things at once, I’m switching focus so I can use very limited amounts of time.

This won’t work if you have multiple goals. Toggle switches move between two points and that’s it. So if I have one goal, to get my blog done for the day, and one basic job, see clients, the toggle switch works great. Even if I have several jobs, but only one goal, I’ll still be able to toggle.

Find your most important goal and only work on that. Once you get it done, you may be able to move to something else. Or you could take a break and get one of those little fruity drinks with an umbrella and imagine you are already at the beach.

  1. Pick one goal to work on.
  2. Set up your computer, equipment, shoes, whatever you need to accomplish that goal is ready to go.
  3. Switch your focus to the goal whenever you have 5min or more.
  4. When you’ve accomplished your daily goal, reward yourself.  I’ll be having the fruity drink.

You need your Yoda.

There’s plenty of people who will get in your way, tell you it can’t be done, yada, yada, yada, when you really need Yoda.  You need that person who will respectfully tell you you’re full of it or genuinely help you celebrate success.  You pick them, you let them guide you, and they get the joy of mentoring your success.  Now where can you find them?

The internet has blogs and info pages about everything these days.  You can find a pod-cast or a you-tube channel custom made for your goals.  Your Yoda doesn’t have to be in person.  Listening to people who are respectful and helpful will also fine tune your antenna.  You could use more of these people, but if you’ve picked bad romances and lousy friends, start on the internet and develop a sense of what the good ones actually sound like.

Take a class.  Whether you find one that you have to pay for, or a one time freebie at your local library, you will get in touch with other people who share your enthusiasm.  You’ll also find a teacher that you can ask questions and get ideas about other places to research.

Hire a coach.  This could be a personal trainer, an adult baby sitter, or a life coach who’ll ask about your goals and how you’re doing.  If you’re goals are physical, I would especially recommend hiring someone to take over the planning if you’re just getting started.  You can concentrate on effort and not puking, while they figure out which muscles need to hurt tomorrow.

Use the mentors you already have access to.  If you belong to a religious group, a social circle, or a family with a few healthy members, you may already have met your guide and just not know it.  Ask some questions of the people around you.  At my church, there are Nurse Practitioners, Doctors, Carpenters, and the guy who survived a Japanese prisoner of war camp.  There are marriages that have held together for 60+ years, and a few people that have survived brutal divorces.  Somewhere in that group, I could find people to read manuscripts, research history, or give me parenting tips.  And that’s just one group.  Think of the groups you belong to and find out what resources they have.

  1. Use the internet.
  2. Take a class.
  3. Hire a coach.
  4. Leverage your network.

Make it easy to keep your goals!


I have two times in any given day that actually belong to me. 1. Before everyone else wakes up. 2. After everyone else has gone to bed.  Otherwise I’m between a rock and hard place on finding time for myself and the goals I want for just me.  So I wake up at 4:45 and go work out.  When you’re talking about making yourself a priority in the midst of a busy life with other people depending on you, get ready to do one of three thing; get up early, stay up late, pretend you’re at work.

Most of the same people that won’t respect your personal time will act like your job is sacrosanct.  Use that.  Find a way to put breaks in your work day that you don’t tell anyone about, and use them to write your novel, walk around the block, plan your escape, etc.  Remember that we’ve already talked about making your daily steps to that goal so small, they can thrive in the 5min space that your coworkers are using to slowly walk back and forth from the water cooler.  Write one sentence.  Find the staircase and run up a flight or two.  You really can take your life back one tiny step at a time.

Start with the time solution that you’ll actually use.  The best plan is the one you’ll use.  Getting up early might be great, but if you’ll just slap your alarm around and go back to sleep, it’s a lousy plan.  The mediocre plan you keep to, will get you further than a great plan you can’t stand and won’t use.

Put the time on your schedule and then you’re more likely to keep the appointment with yourself.  If your day is like mine, you’ll miss a number of appointments with you.  You are important enough to reschedule and be persistent.  You’ll win if you keep making the appointment and show up for yourself.

  1. Assess your day for time you can use
  2. Get up early, stay up late, and/or use the 5-15min spaces in your work day
  3. Keep it small so you’ll motivate yourself with success
  4. Schedule the time if you can, and then expect that you’ll have to reschedule
  5. Persist.

Clean out your kitchen


Walk into your kitchen, look around, what do you see?

This is where the past can negatively affect your future more than in any other room of your house.  It’s the pizza cutter that won’t go away. The foods we ate as a child, or that we eat to “feel better” now.  Or how about some raw chicken slime?

Your kitchen should be the cleanest room in your house, but it’s usually the room where you wish the magic fairies would come so hard you black out. They’re not coming, and you’re not going to get healthy by wishing.  Since you are the only rescue you’ve got coming, here’s a few ways to save yourself.

1. Remove what doesn’t work.
You know your life would be easier if you could walk into your kitchen and instead of being directed to all of the foods that are bad for you, you could pick the ones that actually help you. Your kitchen is where you feed your body and you make choices without even realizing it is all about your health.

Get rid of whatever you haven’t used and you won’t be using.  Throw boxes over your shoulder, fill crates with dishes that you’ve never even liked, make this place work for YOU!

2. Follow through on your goals.
In the kitchen the emotional and the physical goes so hand-in-hand we’re going to talk about them somewhat interchangeably. If you have a strong emotional drive to loose weight/get healthy, but you have junk food everywhere in your kitchen, there is a disconnect there.

There are so many disconnects that I see in my practice. People who come in and think that they are ready for change but their physical environment is still reflecting the old them.

When you walk into your kitchen your physical environment needs to reflect the future you want. It needs to be free of the past, clean and ready to make the present doable.  Point yourself towards the future that you want.

3. Make a commitment to yourself.
Does your freezer, and your refrigerator, and your pantry reflect the new you?  No? Your worth cannot be measured in Pop Tarts, and mac & cheese.  Anything that’s sugared, over processed, and says , “I don‘t really deserve to be healthy“, throw it out!

You no longer need this. You need a life that reflects what you want for yourself and not just what you’re willing to put up with. Make your pantry, your refrigerator, and your freezer reflect that new reality.

Emotionally we do the same thing with our beliefs about who we are and what we’re capable of.  Do you have self beliefs that reflect an old you? Are you able to say I love myself ?  Or do you still pack your emotional freezer full of pop tarts and crap in a box?

The good news here, a change in one area begins to reflect in the other areas. Even if you are not believing in yourself fully right now, restock your physical kitchen. Believe in your self enough to make physical changes around you, that will eventually be reflected in your emotional state.

4. Do the easiest stuff first.
It’s often easier to make the changes physically than it is to make the emotional changes. Unfortunately many of my clients think that they need to make the emotional changes and then finally go clear out their pantry. It doesn’t work that way.

If you are self sabotaging with your emotional beliefs and your physical reality, it’s going to be easier to change your physical reality before your emotional beliefs.

Think of it like this, if someone loves you there going to do good things for you to convince you of that. Have you convinced yourself lately that you actually even like you? If you haven’t what can you do that will convince you of your own self like?

Get into your kitchen and make it aware that you now like yourself.

5. Do it as big as you can and as small as you need to.
If you live with a bunch of little kiddos,  or a big boy who likes lucky charms too much, you’re going to have to do this in smaller ways. You’re going to have to claim a section of the kitchen and make that section free of the things that you no longer want for yourself. But somewhere, somehow in your kitchen, make an area that’s about you and how you want to feel about yourself.

Nobody will do this for you.  It’s your right to do it for yourself.

6. Expect and deflect the haters.
They may even be your own family.  People don’t respond to change well.  The very people who asked you to get healthy may be the ones who put sugar in your special section, whine about the new food choices, and tell you, “You take this way too seriously.  It’s like you joined a cult!”  When you expect everyone to make things easy for you, you’re doomed.  Other people will make healthy changes harder.  Now that you know that, you can be prepared to overcome.

Here are some possible responses.
-“I’m doing this for me, so that you’ll know it’s OK to take care of yourself.”
-“If I take care of myself now, I’ll still be here when we’re old.”
-“I refuse to live with shame and regret for one moment longer.  I have made a commitment to myself and I’m going to stick with it.”
-”I’m not making anyone but myself eat healthier.  I’m just suggesting it to the rest of you.”
-”Thank you for noticing I’ve made changes.”

Health and time cannot be bought back.  Protect yours.

Next time we’ll still be in the kitchen, talking about emotional residue and how it affects your new recipes for emotional closeness. Until then, happy cooking!


photo is “He has a plan” from the flickr photo stream of x-ray delta one.