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Joyful Musings--a weekly blog

Joyful Parenting Coaching is focused on clarity, consistency, connection, being an effective parent, finding balance as a parent, and above all being a confident and joyous parent. Topics include communication, having difficult conversations, having constructive conversations, chores, routines, family meetings,  I teach parent education and parenting classes because parenting is a skill—not something we are born knowing. Get the parenting skills you need today!

Filtering by Tag: gratitude

5 Tips to Raising Happy Children

Elisabeth Stitt

by Elisabeth Stitt

Ask most parents and they'll say, I just want my kid to be happy.  But how are they teaching their child to be happy?  

That's right.  I said teach.  Maybe you think that happiness is something that either happens or it doesn't.  Not so!  Aren't you glad to hear that?  Happiness is something you can develop in your child.  Why?  Because like learning to read or write or draw a picture or throw a ball--or become an effective parent!--much of happiness is built with specific skills. Sure.  Some children are born with naturally sunnier dispositions.  Does that mean you accept the grumpy kid "for who he is"?  Well, no. No more so than you would accept a child who was struggling to read.  In fact, it is with the child who is struggling with whom you sit down and break the task into ever smaller and manageable bits

How do we teach happiness? 

Let's look at some key practices that have come out of current positive psychology research.

1. HAPPINESS BRINGS SUCCESS. 

As parents we need to rethink the idea that success brings happiness.  Current research suggests strongly that the reverse is true:  Happiness brings success.  So lead your child towards happiness practices and let nature take its course.

2. NOTICE THE POSITIVE. 

Is the glass half empty or half full?  Help your child learn to see that the glass is half full by having her focus on the positives in her day.  Model it by showing appreciation for the little things in life.  Here are some positives from my day yesterday:  Someone let me pull into traffic in front of him; the weather was the perfect temperature with a slight breeze; I got in an extra walk in the afternoon. 

3.  AMPLIFY THE POSITIVE. 

Research shows that when we feel something, certain neuro pathways are excited.  The cool part is that when we tell someone about what excited us, the SAME neuro pathways are re-excited.  That's like getting two for one!  So what does that mean?  It means we need to actively share all our little joys.  When I was able to pull into traffic easily because of someone's generosity, I told my friend, "I was afraid that I was going to be late but this really nice guy let me pull into traffic.  I LOVE that!"  Not only have I modeled finding the positive for my friend, I get to feel gushy all over again.  It turns out, my brain doesn't know the difference between the actual event and the relived event!

4.  DEVELOP A WIDE POSITIVE EMOTION VOCABULARY. 

Research suggests that the richer vocabulary we have to draw on, the greater the variety of positive emotions we can feel.  Partly, what you are doing is teaching a child to appreciate a wider scope of emotions as positive.  Stuck with just the word "happy" a child develops a very narrow view of what he can count as happy. Teach him delighted, content, elated, or genial, and he can recognize when he is feeling all those things. 

5.  MODEL GRATITUDE. 

Of all the positive emotions we can feel, the super power of them all is gratitude. In general, a life lived directed towards others is a happier one.  Feeling and expressing gratitude supports our happiness in so many ways.  It reduces stress which improves our health, it causes us to be less materialistic which gives us easier access to a spiritual life, and it improves our relationships by establishing a positive feedback loop. 

The very best part of teaching our children happiness skills?  By modeling the skills, we increase our own happiness!  And if it is not enough for you to be happy, it will comfort you to know that happy people learn better, are more productive and are more resilient in the face of setbacks. 

 

Raising Kind Kids

Elisabeth Stitt

Do you want your children to be kind or to be happy? Teach them Gratitude, and you can have both!

     Of all the life choices you can make to assure your own happiness, developing a regular gratitude practice is one of the most powerful.  Gratitude is also a powerful tool for increasing our kindness. How?  Let me explain.  

THE POWER OF NOTICING THE POSITIVE

     Gratitude is that warm fuzzy feeling that wells up inside of you when you are aware of something really good entering your life--whether through nature, chance or another person's deed.  The first step to developing a gratitude practice is to notice the positive.  Rather than taking things for granted, you want to pause and notice them.  I have to admit that living in California makes this easy:  Almost every day, I am aware of how California's sunny weather sustains me and makes me smile even when I am otherwise in a funk.  I remember when I was going through my divorce, I would go to my therapist and have session-long sobfests.  I would come out of the office feeling completely drained, but her office was right next to the water.  The sight of the sun sparkling off the laguna was so enticing.  How could it not lift my spirits?  In the midst of wanting to curse my soon-to-be-ex-husband, I would be reminded how beautiful the world is and how lucky I am to be alive.

"THREE GOOD THINGS"

     The more you practice it, the more you will see the glass as half full rather than half empty.  Your powers of observation will become more attuned.  When I am focused on keeping gratitude forefront in my mind, I notice all sorts of small things--the fact that someone else put away the clean dishes, the Safeway customer who took the time to have a conversation with the bagger with Down Syndrome, the cheerful dandelion growing up between the crack of the sidewalk.  Studies show that the act of writing down "Three Good Things" helps to solidify their impact in your mind.  Remember, our brains are wired to remember negative things more easily than positive things (Thanks, biology, for doing such a great job of keeping us safe from sabertooth tigers!).  We can retrain our brain, however, by fixing positive events in our mind.  Writing them down is a good way to do this. 

     How does feeling gratitude connect to kindness?  Well, the more you notice the positive, the more you will see other people feeling happy as a result of the kindness of others.  You will observe how the happiness is shared between the giver and the receiver.  You will find yourself reaching out to others positively, as well.  

CREATE A HOUSEHOLD OF GRATITUDE

     The next step to developing a gratitude practice is to amplify your sense of well-being by sharing your positive feelings with others.  Other recent studies suggest that when we tell someone about a positive event, we re-excite the same neuro-pathways that were excited when the event originally happened.  Isn't that cool?  Just by telling someone else about something good that happened we get more of that warm, fuzzy feeling.  This is an excellent time to involve your kids.  Your coming home and telling your kids about the positive things that you experienced today will model for them how to focus on the good.  As you tell your stories of interacting with a wide variety of people--of being thoughtful and helpful--you will model for them how to really see the people around them.  Use family dinners to regularly ask them to share what they are grateful for today.  As they share examples of other people's kindness towards them, connect them to how good that feels and encourage them to spread the feeling.  

     Once your kids have reached out with kindness and generosity to others, ask them to check back in with their own happiness--that good feeling inside.   Keep the circle going:  Notice good things, Record or talk about good things, notice how good things make you feel (warm, connected, content, full up, excited, important, needed, satisfied, calm, effective, proud).  Notice how people doing acts of kindness produce that feeling.  Notice how doing kind things yourself increases that good feeling.  

THE KINDNESS CHALLENGE

     Got it?  Good!  Now here is the Kindness Challenge:  For the next week, I challenge you to actively practice the first two skills:  1.  Notice the positive and write down at least three positive things that happened.  If you like, join me in posting them on the Joyful Parenting Coaching FB page (https://www.facebook.com/joyfulparentingcoaching/); and 2. Amplify your experience by retelling it to your family.  As you tell it, use the warmth of emotion you felt the first time to convey your excitement to your family.  My bet is your kids will jump in with their own good things, once you set the example.  

     For the week leading up to Thanksgiving, I challenge you to perform one random act of kindness a day and to tell your family about it.  Ask your kids if they would like to step up to the challenge.  Don't force them.  Invite them, and then model how rewarding it is by sharing your own pleasure and satisfaction.  

     I'm looking forward to hearing how you connect noticing the positive to expressions of gratitude to being motivated to reach out to others with kindness.  Tell me in the comments below what you are grateful for.  Your comments will remind me to look for good in my world.  Connect to me personally through email at elisabeth@elisabethstitt.com

  

Elisabeth Stitt

Happy Mother's Day
 


BLESSINGS TO ALL YOU MOTHERS, whether you are married, divorced, single, step, guardians, borrowed, you name it.  Cherish the job you do.  In my opinion there is no job more important.

Waking up and feeling a little blue that my daughter is away at college for Mother's Day, I searched my files for a reflection my therapist had me write the first Mother's Day that she was with her father and stepmother.  It was an exercise of self love and gratitude that all of us might need need to return to from time to time.
Who Am I at My Best as a Mom and How Do I Get That Way?
         It is all too easy to dwell in my mind on who I am at my worst as a parent.  Tired and stressed, snapping at people, strung tighter than a drum, only having time for the agenda in my head and not for the people around me.  Increasingly convinced that no one else gets it, that no one else understands the number of balls I have in air or the demands on my time, I become a raging inferno.  At best I ignore my children and am unresponsive.  At my witchiest I yell and give commands with the clear tone of "Any idiot could see that I need your help right now and what kind of brat are you for not giving it to me."  Not a pretty picture.  But you get it, right?  You've been there, haven't you?
         But you know what?   Honestly, when I am at my best, I am pretty damn good!  I keep my eye on the long view.  I know that happy, harmonious relationships today are more important than picking up the dry cleaning or washing the dishes.  I listen attentively without leaping to advice giving.  I really see and know and cherish my children at each of their stages.
        At my best I hold my children as the wise beings they are.  Yes, they are works in progress (aren't we all?) and will make a lot of mistakes on the way.  But that's okay, because at my best I trust that they will learn through their mistakes and failures and that it is not my job to rescue them.  I trust that wherever possible by letting them feel the natural consequences of their actions, they will use that experience and apply it next time.
         At my best I recognize that children all learn at their own pace and in their own way.  I don't worry they are not enough.  I trust that they will find their way eventually:  I can help them on their journey, but I cannot take the journey for them.  Also, I cannot live my life through them.  It is their job to find their interests and passions.  If I stay out of the way and don't push things down their throats, the natural curiosity that all children are born with will mature into their being lifelong learners who pursue knowledge for knowledge sake--not just to make their parents or teachers happy.
         At my best I really enjoy my children.  I love playing with them and being silly.  I love hearing them talk and joke.  I love the warm, physical closeness of snuggles and hugs.  I love watching them discover the world and gain mastery over new skills.  I love how when given the chance they become effective problem solvers.  I love listening to their values and worldview unfold through our many conversations.
         At my best, I really am good.
            So what does it take to be my best?  Well, first and foremost, I have to take care of myself.  That means enough sleep and exercise and good food; that means learning to say no to say people no matter the pressure; and that means not getting too hung up on doing everything right.   It also means having time just for me--to read, to do nothing. I have to have time with my girlfriends to offload steam and complain and be reassured that it will be okay.  Equally important is time alone with my spouse.  When things get busy, we talk nothing but logistics.  If I don't get one-on-one time with him, it is like I lose my mooring, my anchor.  It is our time together that reminds me of my purpose, of who we are as a couple, of what we are building.  It is that which makes me recommit to the vision of a strong, united family (no matter how far away that might feel).   But most importantly, what really helps me be my best parent is allowing myself to soak up the love and to count my blessings, to be filled with gratitude that I am lucky enough to be my child's mom.  For better or worse, at the end of the day, no matter what, I am hers and she is mine.