My 12-year-old son started orchestra last year, playing on the same violin my grandma learned on 80 years ago. (We affectionately call it Shirley, after her.) After every class, I’d ask if he had exercises or songs he should be practicing at home. If you’ve had a tween, you won’t be surprised to hear that he consistently answered, “No, we haven’t done much in class yet”…until the day the flier came home for their upcoming concert. Cue pre-adolescent panic attack.
Gavin has a tendency to catastrophize in the face of a big project, and immediately started moaning that, “I’m never going to be ready! I’m never going to be able to play all these songs! I’m going to have to practice 24/7 for a year to learn all this!”
So we started breaking the elephant down into bite-sized pieces. “OK,” I said, “you only have three weeks until the concert. Maybe you won’t have all five songs mastered by then. But what if you focused on just one?”
“Maybe if I practiced all day every day,” he sulked.
“Well, you’re pretty busy, and you still have to go to school, so I don’t see that happening. But do you think there’s anywhere in your day where you could find just a few extra minutes for this?”
“Like that’ll do any good!”
“Maybe not. But why don’t you try it for a few days and see how it goes?”
With that enthusiastic reply, we got into the creation of a Tiny Habit recipe. My kids are familiar with the method, so I briefly reminded him that it might be a good idea to choose a specific time of day to practice, so he’d be more likely to follow through. He’s an early riser, so he thought mornings might work best.
“Great,” I said, “Where does this fit best in your morning?”
We decided that if he practiced as soon as he got up he might wind up running late, but if he made it the last thing on his to-do list he could practice more or less depending on how much time he had left before the bus came.
We walked through the morning routine and pegged “After I put on my tennis shoes” as a good anchor; he keeps his shoes in his room, next to his violin, and puts them on after breakfast and before leaving for the bus.
Now for the habit. “I’ll practice all my songs 10 times,” he said.
“I like your enthusiasm, but that’s a pretty big goal. What happens if you’re running late one day? Can we scale it back a little? You can always do more if you have time.”
At this point, we decided to play around with the smallest possible habit he could think of, “I will pick up my violin case.” On days he had time, this would lead to a quick practice session. On days he was running late, he’d pick up the case and tell his violin, “Sorry, Shirley, gotta run. Let’s play tomorrow.”
Gavin was sure that anything short of a full practice session couldn’t possibly produce results, but he grudgingly agreed to give it a shot.
In three days the first song was mastered. After a week he was setting his alarm earlier to get more practice in, and picking up the violin after school to show off his growing skills. Three weeks later he walked onstage feeling calm and confident. He’d even taught himself a few songs that were not on the program and proudly gave the real Shirley a private concert over Christmas break.
For kids (and grown-ups) who are easily overwhelmed, the Tiny Habits method gives them a concrete way to break down big, scary goals and projects. It also gives them continual small wins to celebrate, which boosts their confidence, created success momentum, and keeps them moving in the right direction. They quickly see how even small steps toward your goal can lead quickly to measurable progress.
Curious about how the Tiny Habits method can help you accomplish big things? Check out BJ’s just-released bestseller, Tiny Habits: The Small Changes That Change Everything. Ready to try it out for yourself? Sign up for our free 5-day program and learn how to create habits that can help you reach even your most daunting aspirations.
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.
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:
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.
I have a confession: I used to love seeing kids have tantrums. Every time I passed a toddler thrashing on the grocery store floor or saw a red-faced kid screaming at the playground, a part of me breathed a sigh of relief. Thank goodness, I thought. Other people’s kids do this, too.
We’ve all chuckled over the “Reasons My Son is Crying” blog or a friend’s tale of their own tot’s tantrum, because it’s so reassuring to see just how normal these outbursts are, but that doesn’t mean they’re easy to handle when they come from our own kids.
In our last post, Tiny Habits Academy director Linda Fogg-Phillips detailed strategies for helping parents to keep their cool when a kid is blowing up, but kids need help learning to negotiate their own big feelings as well. She mentioned my son, Gavin, and my goal to help him (and myself) to learn to deal with frustration without throwing a fit. In the Tiny Habits for Moms course, I learned some great strategies that have helped me and both my kids to develop emotional resilience and put irritations in perspective.
1. Meet Primary Needs
Linda reminded us that people who are hungry, thirsty or tired have trouble keeping their emotions in check, and that goes double for children. I’ve learned that the combination of after-school hunger and homework makes it hard for Gavin to push through the afternoon without drama. Now I set him up for success by making sure he is getting enough rest, and that his blood sugar stays stable throughout the day.
Sample Habit: After my child sits down to work on his homework, I will give him a healthy snack and a glass of water.
2. Join Their Team
My friend Amanda’s son is a lot like Gavin, and she has said that sometimes she feels like she’s his emotional punching bag. Kids come to us with their frustrations because they want our help, but sometimes their efforts at getting it are clumsy and even downright abusive.
When one of Tiny Habits for Moms coach Brittany Herlean’s three boys becomes frustrated and starts taking his feelings out on her, she reminds him that she is not the enemy, and that she is on his side. Then she helps him redirect his focus by identifying the real problem, and helping him to find a solution.
Sample Habit: When my child yells at me, I will remind him that I am on his side.
3. Identify Tantrum Triggers
To deal with tantrums, outbursts and general moodiness, try to identify the root of the problem. It might not be as obvious as you think. Some are predictable; you know that these circumstances often challenge your kid. Common triggers include:
These triggers are pretty immediate, but some are much subtler. If a kid’s fit seems way out of proportion or just doesn’t make sense, step back and look at what’s going on in the rest of her life. Like hunger and thirst, feeling out of control or neglected can give kids a hair trigger. So can trouble with friends or stress at school, which may sap your kids emotional resilience and manifest in general snappishness.
Deal with the bad behavior, but follow up with a heart-to-heart once things have calmed down to see if your child is struggling with something unknown. Find ways to give your child more of whatever they need (like autonomy or affection) once the conflict is over, or help them to find solutions to the problems that are causing stress.
Sample Habit: After my child has a tantrum, I will snuggle her in the rocking chair.
Sample Habit: After my child pulls out her homework, I will help her outline a study plan for her test.
4. Help Them to Self-Soothe
Over the years I’ve tried a number of strategies to help my son Gavin deal with his mercurial temperament. Yoga didn’t help; a meditation app did. Counting to ten makes him angrier. Folding origami is magical. I spoke to some of the moms from my Tiny Habits for Moms group, and together we amassed a list of ideas that have worked for us. Try a few for yourself and see what happens.
When I feel like hitting, I will stomp my feet.
When I get suck on a homework problem I will tell myself, “I can do this.”
5. Think Like a Scientist
Being a mom is a lot like being a scientist. Your child is an unknown element, and it takes some experimenting to learn what causes a reaction, and how to prevent one. As they get older, their triggers and strategies will change, and so will yours. Finding the right recipes can take time, but remember, you’re also teaching your children to be more aware of their emotions and more able to act on them in a healthy and socially acceptable way, and that lesson will benefit them for the rest of their lives.
Tantrums are just one of the challenges moms face every day. To learn how the Tiny Habits method can help you to deal with everything from the dinner dishes to your relationship with your spouse, join our next session of Tiny Habits for Moms.
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:
· 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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
Imagine you’re at the Olympics. The crowds are cheering, but you’re not among them. You’re down on the field, crouched at the starting line, poised for the race that may define your career.
No doubt you’ve trained for this moment for most of your life, but how would you prepare for it on the morning of the big day? If you were looking to accomplish something monumental, would you begin by hitting the snooze button until you were running late, grab whatever breakfast came to hand, then rush into the fray distracted and without a plan?
A Strong Start for a Strong Finish
Runners know that the morning of a big race is crucial, and they leave nothing to chance. All-State Conference track and Olympic distance triathlete Maria Serrata explains, “When that alarm goes off and you want to sleep in another hour, you can’t. No matter how much you’ve prepared, the things you do the morning of are critical. They will make or break your race.”
Whether you’re an Olympic runner, an adventurer setting out to ascend Mt. Kilimanjaro or a busy mom with a mountain of laundry to summit, the way you start your day can have a huge impact on whether you meet your goals or fall short. The Tiny Habits for Moms team offers these tips for creating a morning routine that will prime you to accomplish whatever you choose to pursue.
There’s one more piece of advice that applies to star athletes and moms alike: Figure out what works for you and do it every day. “My friend eats pop tarts before every run. After a race I drink a Sprite. Listen to your body and do what works best for you,” says Serrata.
However you choose to structure your morning, do it with the same focus and intent as a runner preparing for the Olympics, with the understanding that by starting your day focused and strong you’ll set yourself on the path to achieve your goals and do amazing things.
For more free tips on creating strong habits, click here.
To learn more about how to achieve your goals by creating habits that work for you, join our next session of Tiny Habits for Moms.
It’s Sunday afternoon, and my dinner guests are an hour and a half late. Luckily this is a barbecue, so the food is all prepared save the burgers and hot dogs, which my husband will throw on the grill the moment our overdue friends waltz in the door.
In another life I would have been furious at such inconsiderate behavior, but Sam and Nicole have a good reason for their tardiness: they have three boys under the age of three, and their one-year-old twins are still napping. I know what it’s like to deal with just one cranky toddler, so I’m happy to wait.
Adrift on the Ever-Changing Tide
Making plans can be difficult when you’re dealing with small children, who are notoriously inconsistent. Creating habits in this unpredictable environment can be even more of a challenge. Several women in our recent Tiny Habits for Moms course shared this frustration, including Meg, who is struggling to get her infant on a schedule, and Kim, whose four children keep her running from school to soccer to swim team with no room to breath in between. Scheduling is also a problem for Michele, whose work schedule shifts at the mercy of her children and her boss. Can you relate?
Tiny Habits for Moms participants learn to create new habits by attaching them to existing behaviors. When asked to generate a list of existing routines that could be used as potential anchors, or behaviors that they complete at the same time every day, these women lamented that nothing in their lives happens at the same time every day!
Super Habits Save the Day
It’s a problem that Tiny Habits creator BJ Fogg often faces with a very different group of Tiny Habits students: high-profile business professionals. Many of the businesspeople he and Tiny Habits Academy Director Linda Fogg-Phillips train travel frequently for work. How, these professionals wonder, can you establish strong habits when your days are at the mercy of flight schedules and business meetings and you are sleeping in a different hotel room every night?
Fogg instructs frequent travellers to look for what he calls super habits. “When there’s a behavior you do no matter the context (in my life, for example, it’s brushing my teeth), then I call that a “super habit.” We all have super habits in our lives. Most people don’t recognize them. These super habits are great anchors to trigger new tiny habits.” It’s a strategy that can work for new moms as well.
Finding Patterns in the Pandemonium
In addition to these super anchors, moms might overlook other potential anchors because they don’t always happen at exactly the same time every day. You may not be able to set your watch by your baby’s diaper change or your preschooler’s nap, but any activity that happens regularly can make a good anchor. If your days feel entirely unpredictable, consider how many of the following types of behaviors you can still count on to provide some structure:
Biological Behaviors: There are some things we do every day simply because we are human and these behaviors keep us alive. These include:
Biological behaviors are the ultimate super habits, because no matter where you are or how harried your schedule, these things will happen. Anchor new habits to these behaviors and you’ll be well on your way to creating lifelong change. Some of our favorites are:
Existing Routines: These habits are so well-engrained that you do them without thinking. Many of them were probably established in childhood. Yours might include:
Most existing routines are nearly as engrained as biological habits, and can be just as effective in creating behavioral change. Try these recipes:
Contextual Behaviors: These activities are more specific to your particular situation. They might happen multiple times per day, or only once a week. Decide how often you want to trigger a behavior and find an existing habit that fits. Your contextual habits and behaviors might include:
Contextual behaviors may change over time; odds are you won’t be changing your baby’s diaper three or four years from now. However, if an activity is a reliable part of your schedule, it can still anchor a behavior you want to get started on. For example:
An irregular, unpredictable schedule can increase stress and depression for both you and your family. However, it’s possible that your world isn’t as unpredictable as you think. By identifying the anchors throughout your day and using them to establish new habits and meet your goals you can feel more in control and more successful.
Could you use more predictability in your life? Learn more about finding anchors and creating new habits in our upcoming session of Tiny Habits for Moms.
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:
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.
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.
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:
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:
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:
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:
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 firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll feature our favorites in an upcoming post.