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5 Steps to Increased Life Satisfaction

“I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country.” Nathan Hale (1755-1776)

 

I deeply admire the selflessness and courage of those who serve their country. I think that’s something we all agree on, even when we don’t agree with each other on other things. 

But would you give your children’s life to your country, what about your partner’s life?

Their lives aren’t ours to give, yet so often the choices we make in life aren’t for the well being of our families, but of our country. The saddest part is we don’t even realize what we’ve done!

Ryan and I both entered adulthood with a sense of scarcity. We felt we never had enough, always wanted, always went without. One of us might do okay for a while, but that’s when the other had to buy all the things. We were the perfect target for so many advertisements. When we had our first baby, we bought all the fear, we have the premium priced receipts to prove it! We wanted nothing subpar or dangerous for our perfect darling. We paid dearly for the crib that wouldn’t kill our baby with toxic fumes.

At the time, we believed it was best for our family. In reality, our family paid in more than just dollars for those choices. We paid in happiness and increased fear. We paid in time together and Christmases with no presents. Through our fears and our spending, and the fears and spending of so many other people like us, our country’s GDP (Gross Domestic Product) grew and grew.

The country got richer, stronger, while our sense of fear increased, and our ability to buy food wasn’t guaranteed. We felt poor, but the news told us the economy soared.

Time to Bloom

We thought it was just us. Turns out it wasn’t.

Over the past several years, we’ve talked to so many people, in person and online, going through something similar.

So many of us experience a quiet dissatisfaction with our lives. It’s nothing sturdy enough to identify, rather a susurrus we catch as we walk into a room or go out with friends. We don’t know if it’s longing, loneliness, or regret. All we know is what we expected when we were 19 is not what we got.

I’ve seen and felt this dissatisfaction. I’ve fallen victim to buying things I couldn’t afford, all in the name of hoping to (finally) be enough.

Then on a day filled with determination, I discovered there’s a different way.

It’s a way I want my children to learn now. A way I want to share with others.

It’s both extremely simple, and so complex all at once.

  1. Rethink what you spend money on. Do you really need it? Is it something that’ll bring you happiness today and next week/year? Will it make it easier to experience life? So many times we hear, “Spend money on experiences, not things.” It’s true. The more life we experience, the better we feel! Maybe that means you buy that coffee, and sit in the coffee shop with a friend. Maybe it means you don’t buy that Dooney & Bourke, but instead take your children to the fair.
  2. Be vulnerable. It’s easy to throw shame at the people around us when we’re anxious or afraid, but if we open up and calmly tell others what we’re worried about, often the result is a deeper connection that brings us closer together instead of driving us apart. You’ve done something that hurt your partner. You could ignore the hurt. You can let your partner know they’re too sensitive. You could find ways to point out how it’s really your partner’s fault. Or you could walk over, let your partner know you see they’re upset and you want to make things right. You can listen and understand why your partner’s upset. Really listen to understand, not to respond, but to connect. You can open yourself to your partner and share in the vulnerability so you’ll both be stronger together.
  3. Feel your fear. Examine it. Don’t push it away. Then do what you’re afraid of and see what happens. (This does not mean putting yourself in dangerous situations, it means making a phone call, asking favours, admitting you don’t know something or trying something new). It’s applying for a job you want, even though it scares you to hand in your resume.
  4. Understand there’s a difference between humility and invisibility. It’s okay to be aware of what you’re good at. It’s even okay to tell others. Being humble is not about hiding your own value, but rather about how you rate your value compared to others. “I’ve worked really hard to learn how to do this. I’m really happy with how it turned out and think I did a great job. It’s professional quality.” vs “My work is so much better than Jim’s. I’ve worked so hard to get to where I am and am so happy with how mine is coming along.” One builds you up and allows the other person to decide for themselves what they think. The other statement tears down another person in order to make yourself look better.
  5. Be a leader. Leaders build others up. It doesn’t matter if you’re the boss, a parent, or a friend. Building others up is always better than tearing someone down. In the long run, the results will always be better. This step is the hardest to maintain, especially if you’re used to snarking or had low self esteem. I grew up believing there wasn’t enough love in the world. The only way I could be loved, is if I was the only one receiving love. If someone else received attention, that meant I wasn’t good enough. I constantly tore others down so I could feel a little more worthy. It’s really hard to change that pattern.

 

It’s time to take a stand and do what’s right for you and your family. It’s okay to feel the fear, and not act on it. It’s okay to live in the house you have and be happy with it. It’s okay to have a house with no garden. It’s even okay to not own a house at all. The government makes money every time we buy or sell something, the government wants us to spend money, lots of money. It’s time we all make decisions based on what’s actually best for our families instead of decisions based on the latests commercial or magazine article that tells us we’re not good enough!

 

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Teasing to Connect With Children

A Great Big Beautiful is about creating more love, joy, happiness and magic in our lives, and hopefully inspiring others to bring a bit of that home too. This week we ran into a problem in our home that stopped the magic in it’s tracks! We had to explore the situations and figured out what happened, and made a plan to prevent it from happing in the future.

 

Ryan loves to tease. It’s a fun, easy way to connect with the children after a long day at work. Most of the time this works, everyone laughs, and they feel more loved and closer to their Daddy. Twice in the last week it resulted in hurt feelings. Ryan quickly apologized, but he was at a loss as to why some teasing was good, and some was bad.

Once we stopped and I repeated his words back to him, it was obvious where the problem was. But it took a little bit more digging to figure out why other teasing is okay. I won’t get into specifics used for our children, but I’ll talk about similar examples I’ve seen other people use.

Some people use easy subjects to tease a child, “Oh that looks like a nice toy! Maybe I should have it!” if this works, the child giggles and says something like, “No, you’re too big for this toy.” Or something like that. If it doesn’t work, the child cries and instead of creating connection, the child forms a bit of distrust toward that person. Further teasing results in greater distrust.

Teasing that would leave a child feeling sad or angry in normal circumstances (toy taken away, favourite treat gone, hair cut off, not allowed to play with a friend etc) should never be done. An adult may realize they don’t mean it, but a child often doesn’t understand the adult’s meaning at first. Once the child does understand the adults meaning, it lets the child know that adult is not trustworthy. It leaves the child trying to guess when the adult means what they say and when they’re teasing – or lying (from the child’s point of view). For more information google teasing and children – so many articles about why you shouldn’t tease, ever.

Ryan and I’ve read many of those articles and we both agree with them, but there’s one small problem. Teasing is a way of showing and sharing love. Yes, people can learn knew ways of showing love, but taking away a person’s primary method of loving can be hard and cause damage to a relationship as well. Ryan loves to tease, but he loves his children more. So he’s careful when he teases. Yet something still went wrong this week.

After carefully looking at the ways that created feelings of happiness and love as well as the ones that created feelings of anger and sadness we realized there are two ways to tease.

One is to pretend to take away or prevent a person from having something they want. Teasing about a situation that would normally illicit feelings of sadness or anger. This type of teasing should never happen to anyone, especially  children.

The other way to tease is about something the child is good at or proud of. Teasing in a situation that would normally leave a child happy and/or proud. “Wow, you’re getting so fast, did you just run round the yard faster than the dog?” Whether the child agrees they were faster than the dog or not, it reinforces positive feelings about themselves.

Along with teasing there is a crucial second step. It’s important to stop and let the child know you’re teasing, let the child know you’re trying to make them laugh, and let the child know that you will stop if they want you to. In our home we don’t always stop to ask after everything we say, but at least every couple of days I stop and double check that the child I’m talking to understands and is okay with teasing. Also, if a facial expression, or body language makes me thing something is wrong, I also stop and ask.

There are times when teasing shouldn’t happen at all. If a child is really upset about something, don’t tease them, not even in a positive way. There are other ways to connect with your child in that moment. If a child has been going through something that leaves them really upset frequently (for instance sick parent, new baby in the house, new school etc), don’t tease. If a child doesn’t like teasing, don’t tease. If the child is younger than three, don’t tease.

Teasing, when done respectfully, can bring people closer together. The key is respect. Understanding the other person’s point of view. And understanding that a child’s point of view is not capable of being the same as an adult’s.

 

 

 

 

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Checking in

I’m going to take a break from my studying as really I can only read so much about butterfly valves before my mind goes numb.
download (1)See? Not the most exciting thing in the world. I just read 45 pages on valves and began to check out. Which gave me the idea to check in.

Checking in is a valuable parenting skill (or marriage skill) that most people neglect to use. I’ll be honest I don’t check in nearly enough and it causes tension between myself and my children.

I grew up in a house where teasing was a thing, a way of showing attention to someone else, a way of showing love. So as a result I tease, too much.
Sarah and our children don’t handle teasing well. If I don’t check in often enough it quickly leads to hurt feelings.
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Check-in by paying attention to faces, sounds, and actions. Asking questions is a powerful way to gauge how someone is feeling. Sometimes you assume you know what’s happening and without checking in continue on not changing what you’re doing and before you know it the situation has turned around completely.

We teach our children to pay attention to “no noises” as when frustrations build words aren’t the easiest thing to use. We remind them to pay attention to all aspects of someones behaviour to ensure they’re still having fun in the situation.

I find it important to check in with my kids at least once a day, I usually begin with a simple “How’s your day?” or “What did you do today?” from there I can get an idea of how they’re feeling and expand the conversation from there.

Sarah has taken to ending the day with questions like “Did you learn anything today?” “Did anything surprise you today?” “What didn’t go so well today?” All fantastic questions to begin the checking in process.

It’s been a difficult adjustment for me but I feel that I connect a lot more with Sarah and the kids, arguments are less and less frequent, and overall our interactions are heading toward #unforgettable every day!