How FIERCE are you?

20 04 2013


It’s been a while since my last post, with life happening too fast for me to gather my thoughts long enough to write things down.  Before starting this blog I remember hearing from friends and colleagues one common piece of advice, “Always make sure you add value!” Having gotten into the habit of writing on a weekly basis it was difficult to stop, and the difficulty was in feeling I was letting my readers and myself down.  I knew I needed time to regroup after starting a new position at work, with different hours and expectations.  I needed to re-establish a “routine” for myself and channel the energy to sustain it.  So after my little hiatus, I feel the surge to write again and this after a week that I consider to have been one of the most mentally, physically and emotionally challenging that I’ve experienced in a while.

Our family has been training in the discipline of Taekwon Do for a few years now, and this weeks training was so full of life metaphors I’m not sure where to start.  I think the four of us have been pushed to confront many of our own internal adversaries this week, as we were confronted with real life “opponents” in the sparring ring, and a slue of challenges as we trained for our next belt level.  There were tears, sweat, bruises, aches and pains.  More than once I found myself asking “Why are we putting ourselves through this?”  Life is tough enough without the added self-imposed extracurricular struggles we’ve choosen to willingly pay for!  By Friday, we were all feeling it and no surprise that chores were not done, homework was incomplete and migraines were being suffered.

I also noticed that the girls were focusing a lot of their attention on what wasn’t going well.  With statements like, “I’m not good at…”, “It’s hard…” “These things always happen to me!”  It was like we were all in a bit of a negativity vacuum, and getting continuously sucked in.

All I wanted to do was shift their focus and mine.  We were feeding off of our mutual energy and not in a good way.  How do I get us all to recognize how truly FIERCE we are?  Fierce to confront challenges and grow from them.  This entire journey for me is about growth – I don’t have to wake up at 4am everyday to knead dough, that will become the bread sold to feed my family, like my grandmother did.  I am grateful, I don’t have to leave this country to find safety, work or opportunity like many others past and present. Beyond physical growth for survival, we continue to evolve to become more aligned, more centered, and more connected.

Why do people run 42 km races, start new businesses, take on extra courses, voluntarily care for those who need assistance, end dysfunctional relationships, speak in front of large groups…’s all about personal growth.

So girls, think of sparring as a metaphor, and your opponent being your fears and self-limiting beliefs.  With each punch and with each kick you score a point in your favour by dealing the blow and confronting the challenge.   With every block you conserve your energy to focus on the next move forward.

Find what works for you and share it – that’s what makes us fierce! And how do we recognize and remind ourselves how fierce we are?  A little help from wise friends goes a long way!




Coaching Kids to Deal with Change

24 02 2013


Have you or your children gone through a significant change in your lives?  How was it handled?

I believe even in their short life spans, my children have already learned that change is constant.  Having switched schools twice in the last 3 years, we have had quite a few conversations about how the affects of the transitions have impacted them.  We were very open about the decisions to move and the reasons behind them and made the girls a part of the process.  We knew that there would be a sense of loss regarding friendships, teachers and the overall familiarity of the environment they had come to know so well.  In retrospect, I believe that because both girls have had previous experience with loss they also had an increased ability to cope with the recent moves to their new schools.

I’ll never forget the time we came back from a weekend trip to find that one of the girls’ guineas pigs had died.  My daughter was devastated and inconsolable.  It broke our hearts to witness her pain and not be able to protect her from it.  Following that came the time when my older daughter learned from her teacher that Santa Claus was a myth.  This was another huge blow and lesson in trust, loss and she learned that things are not always what they seem.  She was livid and broke the news to my husband on their way home from school in the presence of her younger sister.  We were all shocked.  Then, only months after this life altering news, the girls experienced the death of their grandfather.  They had managed to visit him during his short hospital stay and knew he had become extremely ill in a very short span of time.  They were present the morning I got the call from my brother and knew what had happened.  They attended the wake and funeral and dealt with their loss as we dealt with ours.  We talked about it and cried together – again there was no hiding from the pain and reality of another significant loss and another change to their lives.

In those instances there was little that we did to prepare oursleves or the girls for the changes they experienced, since we as parents did not / could not anticipate what was about to happen.  We did speak very openly about our feelings and theirs and encouraged them to express whatever they felt; sadness, and disappointment, even rage.  There were accusations and we did our best to stay calm, always leaving space to allow the feelings to be owned so that they could also be processed and allow space for new feelings to emerge.

Looking back I know that these harsh life lessons have been the true teachers for the girls to deal with more change that they will inevitably encounter as the future unfolds.  They are learning that they are different in every breath, and every moment is a new experience; an invitation to live fully.  The past is unchangeable since, as my daughter put it “there’s no magic clock that can make us redo something that we already did”. 


So can organizational change management theory apply to real life change situations?  Here are some common steps to facilitating change that I’ve adapted from the 9 to 5 version some organizational leaders use with their employees. The basic fundamentals are straightforward and transferrable:

  1.  Break change down into small steps. The big picture may seem overwhelming.  Be sensitive to where your kids are at and break things down into smaller pieces that they can grasp more easily.
  2. Provide guidance and training. There will be doubt and uncertainty.  Your ability to acknowledge and address the discomfort will have a direct impact on how the change is adopted.
  3. Allow time for practice. There’s always an adjustment period for any change and comfort comes with time and patience.
  4.  Learn with your kids.  Be honest about your own challenges with the new situation.  Getting to common ground regarding the change can help diffuse the tension.  If one child is having an easier time than another, ask for their help to share how they’ve managed to deal with things.
  5. Encourage and reward progress. Don’t wait until it’s too late, acknowledge progress as it happens.  A good day can simply look like more smiles than tears – it’s a start!
  6. Sympathetically deal with frustration.  The better your self control, the lower your stress and greater your ability to deal with your children’s angst.
  7. Maintain confidence in your kids’ success. You are their cheerleader and their champion.  Let them know you are routing for them and believe in their success.
  8. Help get them started.  Set them up for success however you can by stacking all odds in their favour.  (i.e. if there is change in one area focus on increasing stability in another.) You will all benefit and grow from the experience.


Although change and loss are symbiotic, it’s the loss of the familiar and fear of the unknown that create the most anxiety.  The girls know this and as a coach I can remind them that they have lost, and continued to thrive in a new reality.   And, no matter how frightening change may seem, we need it in order to evolve.


Priority Management for Kids – A Coach Approach

11 02 2013

“It’s 7:45 and the bus leaves in 10 minutes – hurry up please!”  I noticed recently how often I hear myself hurrying the girls along, reminding them to do things before it’s too late.  Needless to say, the girls and I very obviously have our own unique concepts of time and identify our priorities differently as well.  More often than not, I would also argue that the consequences of being late are much more significant to me than them.

  Urgent Not Urgent

Getting on the bus (me)

Not Important

Getting on the bus (girls)

You may have heard about teaching our children through logical consequences; a concept that has been promoted by psychologists and human behaviourists for several decades.  Is this theory still effective – what’s changed?

I know that when my kids are late for school or miss the bus, I jump into what that means for me:

  • later start to the day;
  • missing a meeting;
  • having to work later;
  • getting stuck in traffic….

All of the above happen to be pretty strong negative motivators, for me!  I know when I start to feel that flutter of adrenaline; my habituated response is to go into autopilot and take over – despite all of my fabulous coach training!  So its not the theory of logical consequences that’s flawed, it comes right back to my chosen behaviour.

I share with you what I consider to be the spiciest of all the NLP pre-suppositions: “Every action has a positive intention!”  I interpret this to mean that all our behaviour is valuable to us at some level – even if that behaviour is not the best way of getting the result we seek.   I know that yelling at my kids to “Hurry up” and frantically packing their back packs for them to get them out the door is not the best way to teach them how to prioritize or understand the consequences of their choices.  It also doesn’t put me in a very positive state for whatever I’m rushing to get to.  On the flip side, I trust that my children know that sitting in front of the computer playing a game when the bus leaves in 2 minutes isn’t the best way to get Mom’s attention, even though that game they’re involved with is quite fun.

So in those moments of conflicting priorities consider the following:

  1. Take a breath or two;
  2. Let your kids know what you consider to be urgent and important in that moment, and ask them what’s urgent and important to them.
  3. Ask them “by saying yes to playing on the computer what are you also saying no to?”
  4. “How can we get to common ground?”
  5. Ask yourself “What’s acceptable to me in this moment?”
  6. Make a choice.
  7. Breathe.
  8. Communicate the choice.

Choices may not always be agreeable to the majority, nor will there always be common ground.  However, we also have the right to change our mind when presented with new information and can always choose differently.

Regardless of the direct outcome, the true benefit in this approach lies in building more self-awareness around what we consider to be ESSENTIAL to us  – which opens up the possibility of having a different conversation with our kids!


Overprotective Parenting

2 02 2013

I confess, I am a borderline overprotective mother.  I wouldn’t go as far as saying I bubble wrap my kids but I have driven the occasional forgotten lunch to school and chased after  my children with hats and mitts on cold days.  I do not do my kids homework but I do follow their academic performance, where my main concern is knowing that they understand material they are learning.  I also have a great deal of respect and admiration for teachers and their vocation.  For this reason I share with you the following article about overprotective parenting from a teacher’s perspective.  Would love to hear comments, especially from my “teacher parent” readers – you know who you are!

Why Parents Need to Let Their Children Fail

A Coach Approach to Nurturing Altruism

28 01 2013

From the ancient Egyptians, to Abraham Lincoln, the Dalai Lama, and modern day scholars, the power of altruism and altruistic behaviour for both the beneficiary and benefactor has been professed throughout history.  Even beyond historical wisdom, psychological theory and scientific data we can all relate to the feeling we derive from bringing joy to another. It’s real and its poignant!

So how do we strike the balance between selflessness and selfishness in our children and ourselves? It can be challenging to teach our children about asserting themselves and drawing limits to make decisions that are good for them while nurturing their ability to put themselves in someone else’s shoes.  The issue is compounded further when we consider how recent generations and we ourselves are so accustomed to instant gratification.  It’s hard to think of anything – object, service or piece of information that we can’t have with Wi-Fi and a few deft finger strokes on a screen or keyboard.

Simpsons’ fans may recall Bart’s sad albeit funny Thanksgiving prayer which sums up this rather dismal ingrate mindset:


Thankfully, there are schools and other collectives promoting values of gratitude and kindness to raise our children’s altruistic awareness.  My children’s school moto is “Soyons Toujours Respectueux!….des autres, de la propriété et de soi!” (Always be respectful…of others, school property and yourself)  in that order and they live this value everyday.   Introducing children to charitable causes and having open dialogues about local and global needs also helps.  Practicing altruism and appreciation in the family community reinforces how children can serve the greater good in their choices by considering impact on family members and themselves.  So although challenging it is possible to raise the level of social consciousness around altruism by simply recognizing examples of random and even not so random acts of kindness.

Want to use a coach approach to nurturing altruism? Ask your children the following questions and listen beyond the words for the answers:

  • How do you feel when you do something for someone?
  • How can you help make a positive difference?
  • How can you make the biggest difference for the most people?
  • What contribution can you make that would make you feel good?
  • What changes when you help others?  How are you different?
  • What can you do today to open your heart to someone in need?

Not everyone was born to be a social activist  – right Bart??  But even the Simpsons writers and producers would probably agree that a little kindness and gratitude can go a long way, and maybe even come full circle!

Goddesses Confront – Sibling Rivalry Part 1

20 01 2013

The issue was a plastic drinking glass; the situation was breakfast and who would get to use the glass. Right off the bat the exchange was heated, with both girls placing their territorial stakes on the said glass. As each girl became more anchored into her respective “I’m right – you’re wrong” my concern over missing the school bus was steadily increasing. As a result I was quite motivated to end the squabble and regain peace and harmony, ASAP. It did cross my mind to just remove the evil glass from existence forever, which would make me the archenemy in the situation and solicit the wrath of both girls for days to come. My next flawed idea was to bribe the girls with a brand new glass as soon as I could make it to the dollar store.

Once I finally got passed my own habitual filters and paused long enough to take a breath, I managed to give way to what I knew with absolute certainty – these eruptions are never about what’s going on at the surface. So I really started to listen to the dialogue:

• It’s mine!
• You weren’t using it!
• You always take my stuff without asking me!
• You never share!
• Get your own!
• You’re so mean – I can’t believe it!
• Why do you say I’m mean, you always hurt my feelings!

In the midst of the generalizations, and blame I could hear the hurt, anger and fear from both girls. I knew there was an opportunity in this moment to get both girls to recognize what was going on within themselves and each other if I could redirect the attention from the object in question (blue plastic glass) and coach them around the emotions at play.

So with all the patience I could muster, here’s how it went down:

1. I acknowledged the girls’ feelings, and they became more open to listening to me.
2. I asked each of girls in turn to use their own words to share with their sister what they were experiencing.
3. I asked each to paraphrase what they had understood from what their sister had said and gave them each an opportunity to further clarify until they felt that the other “got it”.
4. Once both girls felt heard, I asked each to share what they would propose as a win-win solution using their ideas not mine.
5. Finally, I encouraged them to come up with as many ideas as possible until they were both satisfied.

Sounds like a lengthy process? To be honest it took me longer to get a grip on myself than what it took the girls to come up with some mutually acceptable solutions to their confrontation. We actually made it to the bus on time, I felt good about how the situation unfolded and the glass in question is still used from time to time without any drama! Lesson learned: we are Goddesses in the making!

Limits and Boundaries

11 01 2013

Do you ever feel as though you’re wearing a sign on your back that says “On demand”?

“I need my water bottle”, “Fill in the order form for the hot lunches”, “Did you wash my TaeKwon Do uniform?”  “I don’t understand this question, I need your help”, “I can’t find my library book – it’s due tomorrow”, “Review my evaluations, you need to sign them”, “There’s a message on the computer, I don’t know what it means”  “The TV’s frozen, can you fix it” ….and since when did please and thank-you become optional?  Interestingly, in my house, most of these declarations and demands seem to come when I’m either on the phone, having a conversation with my husband, carrying a load of laundry down the stairs, or in the washroom – sound familiar?

Typically my response to such demands used to be shoulders up, shorten breathe, increase the heart rate and respond within seconds.  I recognize that when it came to my kids, my own limits and boundaries were not well defined, especially when they were younger, and everything seemed so URGENT!!  Yet something inside of me knew that the real urgency would be in rushing Mommy to the ER because the nervous twitch in her eye took over her whole body!

Beyond the adverse physical effects of my chosen behaviour, I wasn’t exactly mirroring to my children how to set their own boundaries or create space for themselves either.  It took a while, but I started to do things a little differently and it’s been a slow but incremental change process.

I started to use hand gestures for time out, taking a few breathes before responding, and articulating my needs and giving timeframes for when I would be ready to take action.  I can see now as the girls are getting older, how critical it is to lead by example and be comfortable drawing the line in the sand for myself, not just at home but in all areas of my life.  Beyond simply recognizing the importance of this concept of establishing limits and boundaries, I behave and choose differently, which allows me to feel more confident and credible especially when I’m supporting my kids in establishing healthy boundaries for themselves.

Notice the conversation you have with your kids when they tell you about the friend who is smothering them all the time and insisting that your child do everything they want to do, when they want to do it and on their terms.  How does your child react when you simply tell him/her “Just say know no” ?

Here are some questions (tried, tested and true) that you may want to ask to heighten the awareness in your child around where their personal boundaries lie, and have them feeling more confident about defining their limits:

  • What makes you feel respected?
  • How do you know when you’ve had enough?
  • What are other options that would make you feel good?
  • When you say yes all the time, what are you also saying no to?
  • What do you really want to say?
  • How can you say it in a way that feels right?
  • Who else can help you?

Defining boundaries and clear limits creates space, space to make one’s own decisions, space to honor one’s feelings, space to allow independence to be nurtured and space for happiness to flourish. Are you drawing the line in the sand?


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