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Talking About Terrorism: 3 Things Your Children Need To Know

Forty-nine lives were lost in Orlando on Sunday morning. Forty-nine sets of parents were called to identify the bodies of the children they loved. It’s a parent’s worst nightmare, and a nation’s greatest fear.

With this tragedy and others like it, your children may be experiencing feelings of fear and confusion. They may be struggling with questions such as: Could this happen to me? Could it happen again? Could it happen to someone I love? There are no easy answers. We can’t pretend that the world always makes sense, but we can give our children a sense of security in the world in which they live.

So what do kids need to know when tragedy strikes?

Your Children Need To Know That You Love Them

Yes, this is pretty obvious. But it is still the most important thing that a child needs to know with certainty. Tell them that you love them in the morning when they first wake up. Tell them when they leave the house. Tell them when they come home. Tell them when they go to bed. Not only tell them that you love them, but tell them why you love them. Emphasize their uniqueness and strengths. Give your child a hug and show them that you love them.

Make sure they know your love for them is unconditional. It doesn’t matter how old your children are, they still need to know of your love. They need to feel valued by you.

When I was growing up, my parents expressed their love for me and my siblings frequently throughout the day. The language in our home was one of love and acceptance. Conversely, when my husband was growing up, his father never told him that he loved him. I found that to be heartbreaking. My husband said that he knew that his dad loved him, but he never heard his father utter the words “I love you” to him.

Now don’t get me wrong… his dad was a great man. But my husband’s father grew up as a cowboy in a small town in Idaho and “I love you” just wasn’t something that cowboys said. It wasn’t until I married into the family and frequently told Ray, my father-in-law, that I loved him (because that is just what we said to loved ones in the home that I grew up in), that he realized the impact those three simple word had.

After a few years, Ray started to try to verbalize his love for his family members. It was fun to watch the transformation. At first he was awkward about it and could not get the whole phrase out. I could tell that he was trying, but just couldn’t bring himself to say “love”. He got tongue-tied and often just mumbled the word “love” instead of articulating it.

Six years into my marriage, our four year old daughter was diagnosed with childhood leukemia. She was the oldest grandchild on both sides of the family, and the only granddaughter at the time. Ray adored Brittany. When he was faced with the fact that the possibility of losing Brittany to this deadly disease was real, Ray’s hard outer cowboy shell melted away. From that point on, “I love you” became a regular greeting and salutation from him. And he didn’t even mumble it!

Your Children Need To Know That There Are Good People In the World

It is easy to be frightened by the heinous actions of one man, a cowardly terrorist. These actions remind us how vulnerable we are. The wake of the Orlando tragedy left many victims: over a hundred either dead or injured, but rushing toward that hundred there are thousands more who are quiet heroes.

Your child needs to know that the world is made up of good people… people who want to help each other, people that make a positive impact in a community that is struck by terror and grief.  Point out to your child who these heroes are.  Have discussions with your child about the goodness of these people.

  • Thousands of volunteers lined up in the heat, waiting for hours to donate blood, including Muslims who were fasting for the month of Ramadan.
  • Thousands handed out food, water and emergency supplies to victims, families, police officers and emergency responders.
  • Thousands contributed funds to help the victims’ families.
  • Thousands opened up their homes, businesses and places of worship to those needing shelter and solace.
  • Thousands upon thousands have taken to social media to condemn one man’s actions and offer words of comfort and support to those who are mourning and those who are afraid.

In the oft-quotes words of Mr. Rogers, “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” John Oliver put it more directly: “It kind of reminds you that that terrorist dipshit is vastly outnumbered.

Help your kids find news stories about the many heroes who put themselves in danger to help during the attack, and about all the people who continue to help. Kids need to see that for every person who commits an act of evil, there are thousands more who will stand together for good.

Your Children Need To Know That They Can Make A Difference

One of the best ways to overcome fear and sadness is to take action. A terrorist act can leave your child feeling powerless and helpless. Teach your children that every one of us has the power to do something. Even a very young child can pray for those that have been impacted by this tragedy.

Help your child to find ways to make a difference, however small, in just one person’s life. Maybe it’s coloring a picture and sending a note of love and support to someone who has experienced a loss as a result of this tragedy. Maybe it’s taking an elderly person in your neighborhood a flower that your child picked out of your garden. Or maybe it’s just mowing a friend’s lawn as an act of service.

A child’s self esteem is not formed as a result of awards or trophies he has won, but by the way he feels about himself when he serves others.

One of my favorite quotes goes as follows:

To the world you may be only one person.  But to one person you may be the world.

Here are a few other ways that you can help your child make a difference in the lives of those that have been impacted by this tragedy:

  • Go with you to donate blood. Donations to your local Red Cross may not make it to Orlando, but will certainly be appreciated and put to good use.
  • Do a fundraiser to donate money. The Pulse Tragedy Community Fund and Muslims United for Victims of Pulse Shooting are raising money to help the victims and their families with expenses, medical bills and grief counseling.
  • Write letters or draw pictures for the families of the victims, the police or hospitals of Orlando.
  • Attend a vigil. Join with others to talk about the event and show your support for those who are mourning.

Finally, you and your child can do so much beyond this single tragedy. We need to teach our children that their words and actions matter.  That their words and actions can pave the way to a world where everyone feels safe and accepted. As Nelson Mandela put it, “We can change the world and make it a better place. It is in your hands to make a difference.”

Many schools now teach children that it’s not enough to simply not be a bully. Anyone who knowingly allows another human being to be teased or tormented is a bystander, but not an innocent one. Instead, children are encouraged to be “upstanders”, standing up for the dignity and rights of others regardless of their differences.

Kids won’t learn to be upstanders simply by talking about it in school. As Momastery writer Glennon Doyle Melton explains, “Children are not cruel. Children are mirrors. They want to be “grownup,” so they act how grown-ups act when we think they’re not looking.

Parents, the way you answer your children’s questions about Orlando is important, but that conversation will never outweigh the messages they hear from you every single day. When you show your unconditional love and support for a gay family member, they hear you. When you choose not to laugh at a stereotypical joke, they hear you. When you stand up for your Muslim neighbor, they hear you.

Regardless of your own lifestyle or beliefs, you can always choose to show love, respect and tolerance for those around you. Your example will inspire your children to stand up for those in their own circles, making your community a safer, more supportive place to be.

The most impactful lesson that our children can learn as a result of this tragedy is that they too have the power to change the world.

Stressed? 5 Ways to Keep Your Cool When You’re About to Blow Your Top

Jen Lee is not a Buddhist, but she’s always been pretty Zen. “Growing up, I was really even-keel. My mom called me her ‘little ray of sunshine.’ I was really calm and patient – or so I thought. Then I had kids.”

Her first child, Gavin, inherited her sunny disposition, scattered with frequent, unpredictable mega storms. “We call him our little volcano,” Lee says. “Something would happen, and he’d just blow. For the first few years, it was really hard for me to know what to do with him. After a while, I was blowing my top, too.”

Many mothers are blindsided by the way parenting can try one’s patience. I know I was. But after raising eight kids, I’ve learned a few things. In the Tiny Habits for Moms course I help moms like Jen to deal with the challenges of parenting in a way that is proactive instead of reactive and intentional instead of impulsive. Here’s a sneak peek at how you can use the Tiny Habits method to maintain your sanity and be the mom you want to be.

1. Pinpoint Your Triggers

Think back to a time when you’ve really lost your cool with your child. What was the spark that ignited the explosion? It’s not enough to recognize that sometimes your kids make you angry. To solve the problem, you need to identify the specific triggers.

For many parents, it’s defiance. Even when a parent teaches their child respectful behavior, sometimes they’re going to say no or blatantly go against you. Other common triggers include:

· Whining
· Begging
· Crying
· Teasing
· Destructiveness
· Slamming doors
· Breaking rules

Often, it’s a kid’s tantrum that leads a parent to snap. However, when your child is out of control, it’s especially important that you model healthy ways of dealing with strong feelings. Freaking out at a kid who is freaking out is akin to hitting a child because he hit someone else; you’re only reinforcing that it’s an acceptable way to deal with a problem. Instead, use the moment as an opportunity to teach your child more acceptable strategies for dealing with anger and frustration.

2. Take Preventative Measures

First, recognize that people of all ages have trouble regulating their emotions when they are hungry, tired or stressed out. If you know you have a tendency to get “hangry,” create habits that head off a bad mood before it begins.

Sample Habit: After I pick up my purse in the morning, I will put a healthy snack inside.

If you get cranky when you’re tired, make a habit of going to bed a bit earlier, or structure your evening to minimize opportunities for conflict.

Sample Habit: After one episode of my favorite show ends, I will turn off the television (and go to bed!)

Feeling stressed out or angry at a coworker, friend or spouse? Don’t take it out on your kid. Take a few minutes to meditate, write in a journal, vent to a friend or go for a run.

Sample Habit: After I put on my pajamas, I will sit on the edge of my bed and open my journal. (Tip: Keep your journal on your nightstand with a pen.)

3. Just Breathe

Even when you’re well rested, you need a strategy for dealing with moments of conflict. As children, many of us were advised to count to 10 when angry. This is good advice, as it curbs impulsive reactions and forces us to think. However, a better strategy is to take a few deep breaths.

“Deep breathing counteracts the fight or flight stress reaction that underlies anger. Deliberately taking a slow, deep breath not only brings a soothing sense of relaxation, but also helps us to focus our attention in the present moment,” says Dr. Dan Johnson of the Mercer University School of Medicine.

I’m currently working with a well-known research hospital to reduce the stress experienced by emergency room nurses. As part of my work with them we conducted several four-week Tiny Habits for Resilience courses along with a study on the impact that specific Tiny Habits have on reducing stress in the workplace. We found that one of the behaviors that was most effective in reducing stress was taking a few deep breaths at key moments throughout the day. Moms can benefit from using this technique to reduce their stress as well.

Sample Habit: After my child says “No”, I will take three deep breaths.

4. Give Mom a Time-Out

Kids aren’t the only ones who can benefit from a time-out. If you need to, it’s ok to leave a child in a crib or somewhere else safe while you collect your thoughts and plan a proactive response. And particularly with older kids, consequences don’t need to be immediate to be effective. It’s better to say, “This is a big deal. I need to think about this and we’ll talk about it later,” than to throw out an overly harsh, knee-jerk punishment that you’ll have trouble following through with. (Are you REALLY going to ground them until they’re 40?)

Sample Habit: After my child throws something, we will both take a time-out.

5. Focus on the Person, Not the Problem

One of the most important strategies is to refocus on the person, not the problem. Shortly after my daughter Brittany was diagnosed with leukemia, I saw a mother yelling at her daughter in the grocery store, just screaming at her. I couldn’t help myself. I walked up and said, “I know that this is none of my business, but my daughter is in the hospital with leukemia and I don’t know if she’s going to live. You need to appreciate your child and not take this moment for granted.”

This doesn’t mean letting your child off the hook for bad behavior. It simply means that you don’t allow the problem to become more important than your relationship with your child. Shift your focus from how angry you feel to how you can use this challenge to help this person you love to learn and grow into the person you know they can be.

Sample Habit: When my teenager rolls her eyes, I will tell her I love her.

Tiny Habits, Big Results

Focusing on the big picture when we’re emotional can be hard. I have eight kids and my youngest is 17, and there are so many times that I regret how I responded to my children and I wish I could go back and respond with more patience and kindness and love. In Tiny Habits for Moms I am able to share the secrets of the Tiny Habits Method with moms from around the world and help them to be able to be proactive in their discipline and intentional in how they interact with their children.

For Jennifer Lee, the Tiny Habits method is working. She’s learned that keeping a gratitude journal and taking a time-out help her to stay calm, and her newfound peace is rubbing off on her son as well. To hear how Gavin is learning to manage his own emotions, and how you can tame tantrums in your own kids, check out our next blog post.

Would you like more peace in your home? Join our Facebook group, click here for more Tiny Tips, or sign up for the next session of Tiny Habits for Moms today!

Motherhood in the Spotlight: Unexpected Lessons That I Learned From a Movie Star

At fourteen she lived with her boyfriend. At twenty-four she starred in Girl, Interrupted, in a role that closely mirrored her own addicted, mentally unstable persona. The next few years brought an incestuous kiss, a nervous breakdown and that infamous vial of blood.

At the time, no one could have predicted that Angelina Jolie would become one of the most revered mothers in Hollywood, matron to a cosmopolitan brood of well-travelled, well-educated children whose budding social consciences so clearly mirror her own.

In connection with our newest course, Tiny Habits for Moms, we’re examining the lives of extraordinary women and mothers to discover how they do what they do, and how we can tap into their most successful strategies.

Write Your Own Script

At first glance, following in Jolie’s footsteps may seem unrealistic. After all, how many of us have homes on multiple continents, a bevy of nannies and tutors, and a net worth in the hundred millions?

Jolie herself has spoken out about the privileges she enjoys as a celebrity mother. However, her daily routine also includes sticker charts, bedtime stories and those elusive few moments alone in the shower that we all look forward to. And her rocky past is evidence that this star’s life has not been all starring roles and handsome husband. If there’s anything we can learn from this amazing mom, it’s how to learn from your past, but not allow it to define your future.

Look Beyond Yourself

Jolie accompanied her mother to her first Amnesty International dinner at nine years old. When her work as an actress took her to high-conflict areas, she was deeply impacted by the tragedy she saw there. In the past 15 years she has served as a UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador and as an advocate for refugees around the world.

Instead of shielding her children from the harsh reality of her humanitarian work, she makes it a priority to include them. “My children have been to post-conflict situations and they’ve been to refugee camps with me…when I go on U.N. missions, I always sit down with them and explain to them why I’m going,” she said in a Popcorn Biz interview. In fact, her 14-year-old son Maddox will help to research the history of conflict in his birth country, Cambodia, for her upcoming Netflix film First They Killed My Father.

You don’t have to travel the world to raise compassionate children who care about important causes. Make a habit of discussing current events with your children over dinner, and look for ways that they can make a difference right in your own community.

Sample Habits:

  • After I check my email I will read a news article.
  • After we sit down to dinner, we will share an act of service we did that day.

Don’t Let Work Get In the Way

Coming Home was a defining film in John Voight’s career, but it’s one Jolie will never see. “Because that was when my father left my mom, and the woman who he cheated on her with is in the film,” she shared in Vogue magazine. She and Pitt are determined that their on-screen lives will never take a similar toll on their own relationship.

Surprisingly, the film that has most challenged their marriage is one that they starred in together. By the Sea, which Jolie also directed, depicts the unraveling of a marriage in the wake of a trauma. On set the pair played the couple in crisis. “We had to be able to really get ugly,” she shared in Wall Street Journal Magazine. “It was not easy. We just had to be brave and say, ‘OK, honey, we’re strong enough to do this; let’s somehow use this to make us stronger.’ ”

Instead of bringing the stress of work home with them, they allowed their home life to pull them out of their dysfunctional roles and back into the strength of their own union. “As soon as we got home, it was bedtime stories, children’s needs and problems, the fights they’d had during the day. We had to immediately snap back to something that was uniting and positive and loving,” she says.

Most couples do not spend their days mimicking a dying relationship. However, work and home stresses can interfere with any couple’s ability to connect at the end of the day. Like the Jolie-Pitts, couples must choose to reunite each day and focus on each other and their family, rather than their individual concerns. Try the following habits to keep your relationship strong:

  • After my spouse walks in the door, I will give them a hug or a kiss.
  • After we put our dishes in the dishwasher, we will put the leash on the dog (and go for a walk together).

Make Time and Just Listen

Growing up, Jolie had a close relationship with her mother, actress Marcheline Bertrand, but otherwise felt isolated. Her relationship with her father vacillated between tense, explosive and nonexistent.

In contrast, the Jolie-Pitt family seems to be everything Jolie’s was not – large, warm and supportive. “I suppose I’m giving them the childhood I always wished I had,” she says in Vanity Fair. Though they have plenty of help, she and Pitt remain very involved in their kids’ lives.

Before By the Sea, they took turns working on projects so one parent was always home with the children. Even when she’s busy, she plans magical family outings. “When Angie has a day off, the first thing she does is get up and take the kids out,” says Pitt in WSJ. “This is the most important ‘to do’ of the day. She has an incredible knack for inventing crazy experiences for them.”

Jolie also schedules individual time with each child, and anticipates stepping back from acting to be more available as they become teenagers. “Maybe in the next few years I’ll finish being in front of the camera,” she told Vogue. “I’ll be happier behind it. I’m happy to be home. I want to really focus on my children, doing the best I can to guide and protect them before they are out of the house. These are their most important years.”

Perhaps reflecting on her own tumultuous teenage years, she’s already considering how she’ll navigate her own children’s adolescence. “I had some great advice: ‘You’ll know they’re teenagers when they close the door,’” she shared in a Vanity Fair interview. “And when they start closing the door, don’t talk to them, listen. Because there’s nothing you could say. You’re not going to be able to tell them you know better. You’re not going to be able to correct them. You have to raise them right before that.”

Every parent is aware that childhood is fleeting, but it can be difficult to connect regularly amid the chaos of school drop-offs, music lessons, sports and homework. Set the stage for meaningful interactions by removing distractions and building opportunities to connect into your daily routine.

  • After I pick up my kids from school I will put my phone on airplane mode (so I can listen without distractions).
  • After I take the laundry from the drier I will ask one child to help me fold it (a great chance for one-on-one conversation).

If there’s anything we can learn from Jolie’s journey, it is that life is, in fact, a journey. From Girl, Interrupted to By the Sea, Jolie has never allowed herself to be defined or limited by a role or by who the public perceived her to be.

As mothers, we too can choose the manner in which we will allow our upbringing and our own past to influence our present.

Are you ready to write a new plot for yourself and your family? Join us in the next session of Tiny Habits for Moms to learn how to transform your days and your life.

For a sneak-peek at how the Tiny Habits method works for moms, tune in to my interview on the Power of Moms podcast.

For more Tiny Tips, click here.

Start Young: 10 Time-Tested Tips for Teaching Tiny Habits to Your Toddler

Melissa Turney’s kids wake up early. Really early. Sometimes before 5:00 am. This is not a behavior she encourages, but everything that happens after that is. Hannah (age 6), Paige (age 4), and even Sam (22 months) make their own beds and put their clothes in the hamper each day. After breakfast they’ll clear their own dishes. When playtime is over they put toys away. Stop by Turney’s house unannounced and you’ll be amazed at the order she maintains with her young brood. So what’s her secret?

Turney is a recent graduate of the Tiny Habits for Moms course, but she’s a lifelong pro at habit formation. Like the course instructors, she’s been creating effective routines for her kids since they were born. Parents often ask, “How soon can I teach Tiny Habits to my children?” Turney’s kids are evidence that the earlier you start, the more effective your training will be. Click here to get your free Tiny Habits tips for Moms.

The Early Roots of Habit Formation

Studies show that children develop lifelong habits breathtakingly early. For example:

  • Household routines, such as doing chores and being responsible for one’s own belongings, are set by age 9.
  • Financial habits are formed even earlier: A child’s basic beliefs and attitudes about money are formed by age 7.
  • Dietary habits begin to take root from a child’s first meal, and the dietary patterns that can predict future obesity are established as early as 1 year old.
  • Infants begin to make sense of their environment the moment they are born, and can detect patterns as early as 2 months old. By 4 months old the child will be able to recall objects and events that are not present, and by 1 year old he will be able to imitate even novel actions more than a week after he has observed them.

The research shows that your two month old is already learning to pay attention to repeated behaviors, and will soon begin to imitate them. That copy-cat behavior is the foundation for establishing lasting habits.

From Imitation to Intentional Behavior

As anyone who has raised a child will know, kids are not simply automatons who will copy a parent’s every behavior. (Except swearing. Curse words are lamentably sticky!) Toddlers may see their parents cleaning up and proceed to throw everything into the garbage can indiscriminately. A kid may be thrilled the first time they are allowed to use a mop, but the novelty soon wears off. So how has Turney parlayed the instinct for imitation into a series of habits for personal responsibility?

Turney was raised with clear expectations that every member of the household is responsible for their own belongings and space, and that it is the entire family’s responsibility to take care of the house together. She shares the following tips for raising your child with the same expectations.

  1. Lead by example. Want your kids to make their beds, clear their dishes and keep their stuff picked up? It starts with you. Changing your own behavior can be a challenge, but the Tiny Habits Method can help.
  2. Start young. Really young. Sam isn’t two yet, but he already knows to put his diaper in the bin and his dishes in the sink. He’s not great at putting all his toys away, but he’s getting there, and as he gets older he’ll be ready to take on even bigger responsibilities.
  3. Be consistent. “Paige just naturally likes to rebel,” says Turney. “For six months she would put her clothes right next to the hamper or on top of the hamper or under her bed. And every day I would call her up from breakfast and say, ‘Hey, before you have breakfast you have to put your clothes in the hamper.’ One day something clicked, and she realized, ‘I don’t want to keep running up and down the stairs and stopping breakfast to do this thing.”
  4. Take advantage of their enthusiasm. “I have found with my kids there’s a certain age between like 3 and 4 where they are really anxious to help,” says Turney. “So when they are excited about something I try to keep that momentum going and I teach them how to do it.” And while Turney doesn’t typically pay for chores, she might offer a small reward for a job well done on a newly mastered task.
  5. Teach them to do it right. You can’t expect your kid to be perfect on their first attempt, but that doesn’t mean they can’t try, and for heavens sake don’t undermine their effort by redoing it for them. Praise their effort, then show them what they missed and teach them how to fix it themselves.
  6. Keep messes manageable. Turney and her husband work together for about an hour twice a week to compete deep-cleaning tasks such as mopping and cleaning the bathrooms. The rest of the week they clean up as they go along, so the clutter never gets overwhelming. To copy her style, try the following Tiny Habits:
    1. a. After I take off my clothes, I will put them in the hamper.
    2. After I brush my teeth, I will wipe down the sink.
    3. After I finish eating, I will rinse my dish.
  7. Tame the toy bin. The Turney’s toys are separated by category and kept in labeled bins. The kids can play with two bins at a time, allowing them the freedom to combine the toys in creative ways while keeping the cleanup manageable.
  8. Race the clock. Tiny Habits Academy Director Linda Fogg-Phillips frequently recommends a timed five-minute cleanup, followed by a celebration. It’s a tactic Turney uses as well. She warns her kids to move fast, as anything left out will be donated to charity, and they know she’s not kidding. After the cleanup, she praises kids for their hard work and points how quick and easy it really was.
  9. Give kids a space of their own. Give each kid one bin or dresser drawer where they have free reign to collect acorns, rocks, drawings and whatever else they want to keep. If the bin is overflowing, it’s up to them to throw some things out before they add anything new.
  10. Be flexible. Turney’s rules create a framework that keeps her home orderly and lets her kids know what to expect. However, she knows that sometimes it’s ok to bend the rules. When friends come over, the kids can play with as many bins as they want. If the cleanup is especially daunting they’ll get more than five minutes, and plenty of help. Projects in-process can be set aside instead of completely cleaned up. And if a truly treasured item gets left out she’ll give a warning instead of donating it directly.

It’s never too early to instill good habits in your kids, and never too late to cultivate new habits of your own. Click here to get your free Tiny Habits tips for Moms.
Learn to do both, and to find greater health and happiness, in our next session of Tiny Habits for Moms.

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Warning: Your Family Time May Be Less Effective Than You Think

When it comes to family time, quality is more important than quantity, right? Or is it the other way around? Parents get plenty of conflicting information about how much time they should spend with their kids, and how they should spend that time, and what it generally boils down to is guilt. No matter what you’re doing with your family, it seems like it’s never enough. If you’ve used the Tiny Habits Method before, you know how impactful a few Tiny Habit recipes can be. (If you haven’t, click here to learn more!) But can Tiny Habits build relationships as well? Read on to find out.

Modern Parenting By the Numbers

The Pew Research Center reports that parenting trends have changed drastically in the past 50 years. Among their findings:

  • Over 50% of mothers and fathers say juggling work and family is a challenge for them.
  • 40% of working mothers report that they always feel rushed.
  • 23% of mothers feel they don’t spend enough time with their children.

However, the study also found that both mothers and fathers spend significantly more time with their children than the parents of the 60s did. Mothers’ time has gone up from 10 hours a week to 14, and today’s fathers spend about 7 hours a week with their kids, compared to the 2.5 hours their own fathers put in.

Feeling Like It’s Never Enough

So why is it that we feel it’s not enough? Societal pressures may be partly to blame. As more women join the workforce, they feel the stress of balancing home and family more. And whether you’re a helicopter parent or not, our culture has begun to equate intensive parenting with a child’s future success, putting pressure on all parents to double down and focus on their kids while also maintaining their careers and households.

Surprisingly, researchers are finding that quantity may not matter as much as we think. A study published in the Journal of Marriage and Family found that the sheer amount of time children over three spent with their parents had little bearing on their overall social and academic success. The important factor was engagement. Time spent participating in activities together turns out to be much more impactful than time spent together doing separate activities. (One caveat: Teens whose parents are more available on the periphery exhibit less delinquency whether they actually interact with their parents more or not.)

From Available to Engaged

The good news is you’re probably already spending plenty of time with your kid. The real struggle is feeling like that time is worthwhile. You may spend hours together in the car each week without actually strengthening your bond. So how can you use the time you’re already together to foster a deeper and more meaningful connection? Here’s where Tiny Habits can spark major change.

Turn off the devices. Tiny Habits for Moms Coach Brittany Herlean puts her phone on airplane mode when she picks her kids up from school. It’s a small gesture that allows her to focus completely on them as they reconnect and talk about their day.

Try It Yourself:

  • After I park in front of my child’s school I’ll put my phone on airplane mode.
  • After my family sits down to dinner, we will silence our phones and put them in a basket.
  • After I sit down to help my child with her homework I will silence my phone.

Create mini family traditions. The way you say good-bye in the morning and good-night in the evening, how you spend your Saturday afternoons, and the way you celebrate small wins or make bad days better can all work to establish a strong family identity that binds your family together. Tiny Habits Certified Coach Jennifer Lee, writer and mom of two, always rode the bus growing up, except on days when she had tryouts, a performance or a big test. Then her dad drove her to school, stopping for a “Farmer’s Breakfast” – twinkies and chocolate milk. Not the healthiest tradition, but one that let her know her dad was always cheering her on.

Try It Yourself:

  • After my child informs me of an upcoming event, I’ll open up my calendar and input the information. (It’s a starter step that enables you to make their event part of your day.)
  • After I make my child’s lunch I’ll put in a fun surprise (or a loving note or silly joke).
  • After I tuck my child in at night we will fold our arms to pray.

Use tech to your advantage. Smart phones get a bad rap for reducing parents’ engagement, but they don’t have to. Tiny Habits Academy Director Linda Fogg-Phillips is also an expert on using social media and technology to strengthen your family connections. “We need to be at the crossroads of the lives of our children,” she says, “and oftentimes that’s online.”

Try It Yourself:

  • After I push the button on my coffee maker I’ll text my child a note of appreciation or encouragement.
  • After I check my child’s homework at night I will invite him to play a video game with me.
  • After I open up Instagram I will like one of my child’s posts.

Be sure and celebrate after every Tiny Habit. Get your kids celebrating, too. The positive emotions will reinforce the behavior, and you’ll teach them that making time for each other feels good.

In our latest course, Tiny Habits for Moms, you’ll learn more about how to strengthen your family connections and create balance in your life. Click here to join us for this impactful online workshop. Want to share your own ideas for making time together meaningful? Share your suggestions below or email them to jenniferleelee@gmail.com and we’ll feature our favorites in an upcoming post.

Planting the Seeds of Growth Mindset

It’s been a decade since Dr. Carol Dweck, Stanford professor of psychology, published Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, forever changing how parents and teachers praise their kids. In Mindset, Dweck explained the findings of her research on motivation, learning and mastery. To recap Dweck’s discovery:

  • People who believe their abilities are innate have a “fixed mindset.” These individuals often fear failure and shy away from risks and challenges.
  • People who believe that they can change their abilities through hard work and perseverance have a “growth mindset.” These individuals are more resilient and, in the long run, more successful.

Praising Effort, Not Ability

Dweck emphasized that, like ability, mindset can be shaped, and that a child’s mindset comes from the way the adults around them talk about ability and accomplishment. In the wake of Dweck’s research, parents and teachers strove to change the language they used with their children.

Instead of praising ability and outcome, they learned to praise effort and improvement. For parents of my generation, telling a child, “You’re so smart!” or even “Good job!” was tantamount to using profanity. Instead, we learned to respond to a child’s every action with, “Wow, you really worked hard on that!”

What’s Missing? Strategies and Results

Dweck now says that her research is often misapplied. Valuing effort is only the beginning. While effort is important, it is not the end goal. Children need to learn to use multiple strategies in their quest for growth, and should be praised for trying something new.

Parents should praise results as well, even when imperfect. The key is to give specific praise that emphasizes new learning and growth, not just effort. You might say, “You’re not there yet, but you’re on the right track! What else could you try here?” or “Look how your work has changed since two months ago. It’s clear you’re starting to get the hang of this. What are you doing that’s working?” Learn to acknowledge the small successes on the road to each accomplishment.

Celebrating Each Step

Celebrating incremental successes comes naturally to parents and teachers who use the Tiny Habits Method. Dr. BJ Fogg, Director of the Persuasive Technology Lab at Stanford and creator of the Tiny Habits Method, frequently emphasizes the importance of celebrating each success.

The mental high that we experience with each accomplishment, no matter how small, contributes to what he calls “success momentum”. With every win, your sense that you can accomplish something more grows, and you become more motivated to pursue difficult goals and more confident that you will be able to achieve them.

The same thing happens for children. If they feel that only an “A” grade or a first-place ribbon mark success, they may shy away from classes and activities where they are not certain to win. However, if they have learned to celebrate each step on the road to achievement, they will take pleasure in tackling new challenges and learn to recognize their own potential for growth.

Ready to learn more about how the Tiny Habits Method can benefit you and your family? Enroll in Dr. BJ Fogg’s free 5-Day Tiny Habits program.

How Your Inner Night Owl Can Help the Early Bird Get the Worm

The “morning rush” is so common it’s a bona fide cliché, but your day doesn’t have to start with pandemonium. Here’s a secret the most successful people know: their mornings begin the night before.

Take a look at your morning routine and evaluate each action. Does this need to be done in the morning, or could it be done at night instead? If it is indeed a morning behavior, what can you do  the night before to set yourself up for success?

Getting Dressed

My son used to beg to sleep in his clothes, arguing that it would enable him to sleep in for several more minutes each morning. We don’t advocate allowing your business suit to do double duty as pajamas, but laying out your clothing the night before does more than just save you time deciding what to wear. You’ll also spare yourself the hassle of searching for stocking and accessories, and you’ll know before it’s too late whether part of the outfit is wrinkled, dirty or in need of repair.

Have your kids lay out their entire ensemble as well, from underclothing to socks and shoes. You’ll know whether a necessary item is still in the laundry, and you can veto the bathing suit/batman combo and other unacceptable choices before your kid is halfway out the door. 

Prepare Breakfast, Pack Lunch

Set out bowls and cold cereal or bake muffins or quiche cups that can be quickly reheated. Chop fruits and veggies, make sandwiches and put cookies in zip-lock bags. If your kids’ activities keep you out late, prepare everything you need for a crock-pot dinner. In the morning you can dump it in, set the timer and go. For even more efficiency, set aside some time on Sunday and prepare meals for the whole week.

Check Your Calendar

Take a look at your appointments and to-do list for today as well as tomorrow. What did you accomplish today? Was anything left undone that you should address tomorrow? What are your highest priorities this week? Are there any conflicts in your schedule?

What do you need to be ready for the coming day? Will you need any documents, files or other materials? Will you need to prepare in any other way? If you wait until you’re at the office to see what’s on your agenda, you risk missing an early appointment or arriving unprepared.

Check your kids’ schedules, too. Is there a student council meeting that slipped your mind, and possibly theirs? Do they need any special materials or equipment? Do they have a ride to and from all their activities? By reviewing their day as well as your own you forgo missing cleats, unfinished science projects, and a hundred other morning dramas.

Prepare Your Launch Pad

You’ve identified all the major events of the day to come and prepared everything you need, but how often has an important form been left on the kitchen counter or in a child’s room? Identify your launch pad and make sure everything is there before you go to bed. For kids, set out:

  • Backpacks
  • Homework
  • Library Books
  • Shoes
  • Coats
  • Hats
  • Athletic gear
  • Instruments
  • Projects
  • Anything else they’ll need to make it through the day

For yourself, include:

  • Briefcase
  • Purse
  • Laptop
  • Exercise clothing/gym bag
  • Coat
  • Shoes
  • Keys
  • Anything else YOU need to make it through the day

Only two things stay out of the launch pad: Your clothes, which are laid out neatly in each person’s bedroom, and your lunch boxes – leave those in the kitchen, ready to be filled.

Set the Stage for Success

Now that you’ve covered the essentials, you may find that you’re more able to meet some of your personal goals. If you’re familiar with the Tiny Habits method, you know that the easier a goal is, the more likely you are to follow through with it. By arranging everything you need the night before, you invest in the next day’s success. In fact, it will add to your motivation – you don’t want to have gone to the trouble of laying out your things for nothing!

  • If you’re trying to establish a habit of taking supplements each morning, place the supplements and an empty glass next to your sink.
  • If you want to add some exercise to your morning, set out your shoes, yoga mat or weights.
  • If you’ve decided to write a thank-you each day, put some cards and a nice pen at your desk, ready to go.

Morning Chaos or Morning Clockwork?

Rushing through the morning has implications for the entire day, for both you and your children. Most kids need time for transitions. Arriving at school a few minutes early allows them to calmly stow their backpack and jacket, pull out the things they’ll need for the day, check in with friends and adjust to the classroom atmosphere. Running late means they’re constantly hurrying to catch up, and it impacts their entire day. You’ve probably noticed similar effects in your own life. Set your whole family up for success by letting your evening routine do the heavy lifting and see the morning chaos turn to clockwork.

If you’re looking for more ways to master your to-do list, create balance in your life and create peace and positivity in your home, sign up for our newest course, Tiny Habits for Moms.

Your Mom Was Right: This One Simple Habit Matters More Than You Think

Navy Seal William H. McRaven wants you to make your bed, and don’t try telling him that you’re only going to mess it up again tonight. Admiral McRaven is a big believer in the power that small actions have in accomplishing big objectives, and he should know. He was the commander of the raid that killed Osama bin Laden.

Start Your Day With Success Momentum

In his 2014 commencement speech at the University of Texas, Admiral McRaven told graduates, “If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed…It will give you a small sense of pride, and it will encourage you to do another task, and another, and another.” At Tiny Habits we call this success momentum, and it’s one of the keys to the Tiny Habits method.

By making your bed, you start the day off with a win. You’ve only been awake for two minutes, and you’ve already accomplished something tangible. It’s a visible daily reminder that you have power over your environment as well as your attitude. It’s the first domino in your day of accomplishing tasks both large and small.

Order or Chaos?

A tidy bed sets the tone for your day, but it also impacts how you’ll feel at the end of it. Imagine it’s finally time for bed. Maybe you’ve had a terrible day. You lost your temper with your kids. You got stuck in traffic and arrived twenty minutes late for an important meeting. You didn’t accomplish half the things on your list. You open your bedroom door and there, blankets disheveled, pillows askew, is one more reminder that your life is out of control.

Or maybe you had a great day. You made it to the gym. You finished a project early. You helped the kids with their homework and had time for a story before bed. You open your bedroom door, feeling elevated by all the things you accomplished, and there is your bed. Disheveled and unkempt. Your balloon of satisfaction deflates just a bit.

End Your Day With A Feeling of Pride

Now imagine how a two-minute investment at the start of the day can change the way you feel at the end of it. You had a terrible day and you just can’t wait for it to be over. You open your bedroom door and there is your bed, tidy and neat, reminding you that not all is lost. You started your day with a moment of triumph, and you’ll do the same tomorrow. And if you had an amazing day, that perfectly made bed is the icing on the cake.

After your feet hit the floor each morning, take a moment to make your bed, then pause to celebrate your accomplishment. Teach your children to do the same, and they, too, will start their day with satisfaction and pride.

Our Groundbreaking New Course

Whether you’re a veteran bed-maker or recommitting yourself to the task, you’ll learn many new strategies for putting your life in order and finding much-needed balance in our new course, Tiny Habits for Moms. Sign up here to join this life-changing workshop.

Are Your Habits Hurting Your Brain? Part 3

Yesterday we examined how mindless routines can be transformed into mini-workouts for your brain. If you haven’t read that post, check it out! Today we’re going to look at how healthy habits can lose their potency, and how to reinvigorate them.

The Puzzling Truth About Crossword Puzzles

It makes sense that adding cognitive challenge to routine tasks like brushing your teeth can benefit your brain, but if you do a crossword puzzle every day, isn’t that a workout on its own? Maybe. Crossword puzzles are the quintessential example of a cognitive challenge, but if you regularly breeze through yours it might have become like that route you take to work, to well-worn to excite your mind. If brain boosting is your goal, you never want to get too comfortable.

In his seminal work Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, Mihály Csíkszentmihályi explains how the perfect combination of skill and challenge leads to satisfaction and growth. This same principle applies to many of the activities that are routinely touted as brain-building. Whether you play a musical instrument, study a foreign language, play chess or memorize poetry, you can eventually become so proficient that the activity is no longer stimulating or rewarding. As your skill grows, you must continually seek out new challenges to stay in the zone of growth and engagement.

Add Some Weight

There are two ways to shake up a good habit gone soft. The first is to amp up the challenge. Think about lifting weights. As your muscles grow stronger, you need to lift more if you want your muscles to continue to grow.

  • Find a book or newspaper with more challenging puzzles.
  • Try new scales or songs on your musical instrument.
  • Learn new vocabulary words in a language you already know.
  • Read a book or watch a show that is slightly higher than your fluency level in a language you already know.

Try Cross-Training

Increasing the difficulty works to build muscles you already have, but for overall brain health and robust cognitive reserve, think cross-training. It’s ok to continue playing the piano or doing crossword puzzles if you enjoy these activities, but alternate your favorite brain-builder with something completely new that challenges you in a very different way.

  • Swap a crossword puzzle for sudoku, which relies on logic and numbers instead of words and ideas.
  • If you already play the guitar, learn the flute instead of the cello.
  • If you’re fluent in Spanish, try Russian or Chinese instead of another Romance language.

The brain’s need for novelty is a double-edge sword. On the one hand, it means that the task of keeping your brain healthy is never-ending. You can’t just implement a handful of good habits and be done. Instead, you need an ever-changing approach to brain health that continually introduces new activities and new challenges.

However, the brain’s need for novelty has an upside: studies show that people who seek out novel experiences tend to be happier, healthier and more satisfied with their relationships and their lives. The combination of mindful habits and novel experiences can make your mind both rich and resilient.

If you’re ready to learn more about the habits that support your brain health, click here to join our groundbreaking new course, Habits for Brain Health. This live, interactive course combines the Tiny Habits method with powerful, practical recipes for keeping your brain sharp now and throughout your life.

Are Your Habits Hurting Your Brain? Part 2

If you missed yesterday’s post explaining the neuroscience behind habit formation and the novelty response, click here to get up to speed. If you’re wondering how you can cultivate cognitive reserve in your most routine moments, you’re in the right place.

Mindful Habits or Mindless Routines?

When you first learned to drive, your brain was probably very engaged. This challenging task requires coordination between your eyes, hands, and feet in particular. You have to be aware of everything around you while also monitoring your speed and position on the road. However, over time driving becomes less of a challenge and you are eventually able to navigate all but the trickiest of roadways with only minimal engagement. This is great for your commute, but not so great for your brain.

The brain possesses an infinite capacity for mastering new skills and making them feel effortless. This is great, as it’s exactly what we need to establish healthy habits and effective routines. However, like an energetic child, it needs to be continually challenged or it can become bored and disengaged. The key is to strike the right balance between novelty and structure.

Turning Off Auto-Pilot

If you frequently can’t remember whether you took your morning supplements or arrive at work with little recollection of the drive there, your brain may be so bored by the day’s predictability that it has essentially shut off. When your routines have become mindless, you’re missing out on great opportunities to boost your brain throughout the day.

Try spicing things up by adding a small cognitive challenge to each routine task.

  • Brush your teeth with your non-dominant hand. It’s harder than you’d think. It also forges novel connections in several parts of the brain.
  • Shower with your eyes closed. You’ll use senses that are usually neglected and be more focused on the task.
  • Spritz on a new scent. Our olfactory center is closely linked with memory formation.
  • Try a different morning beverage – swap coffee for tea or sample a different blend. Take a minute to really savor the new flavor.
  • Switch seats – at the dinner table, in the lunchroom or in a meeting. You’ll hear different conversations and see things from a different perspective, literally and figuratively.
  • For one day, turn your photos upside down. Again, the change in perspective can spark your brain to work in new ways.
  • Shop in a different grocery store. It might take a few minutes more, but your brain will be more engaged and open to new foods and discoveries.
  • Read a section of the paper you usually skip. You’ll learn something new and spark your creative brain as those new ideas bump up against the old.

Now you know how you can change your everyday routines to better support your brain health, but what about that morning crossword puzzle? Is it possible it’s not as productive as you think? Check back tomorrow to find out more.

If you’re ready to learn more about the habits that support your brain health, click here to join our groundbreaking new course, Habits for Brain Health. This live, interactive course combines the Tiny Habits method with powerful, practical recipes for keeping your brain sharp now and throughout your life.