Home Environments: Emotional Safety

There are times where I am baffled by my children. It is like I have a couple of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hydes. When we go out for the day (anywhere away from home) my kids are very well behaved. They watch, listen, and generally stick close to my wife and I. When we are at home though it is a very different story. At home my kids are quick to act up, be crazy, and run afoul with sinister giggles. Perhaps, your kids are the same…and guess what? I think this is a great sign that we are doing something right.

A great home environment is one that creates and maintains emotional safety for the child. When a child feels emotional safe they are free to express themselves fully let their hair down. The home life should be like the prototype lab of a company. In the lab ideas are expressed, things are tried, adjusted, tried again. The home lab (environment) thoughts and expressions are made that might not be world ready….and that is ok! Sometimes things get wild as the kids learn how to be well adjusted citizens. And like a prototype lab, the home environment should be a safe place to work things out and develop.

What is emotional safety? Emotional safety is where a person can be who they are without the concern for judgment, punishment, or disrespect.

“Knowing that we can be loved exactly as we are gives us all the best opportunity for growing into the healthiest of people.” – Fred Rogers

There are five components of emotional safety. Each of the components are important in cultivating a safe home environment and rock solid relationships.

  • Trust: All emotional safety begins here. Trust is built in a myriad of ways but for the home environment the child should be able to rely on a consistent supportive experience. When running a household this is often facilitated through making everyone feel significant and heard.
  • Empathy: A great home is one where all of the members are understanding and are sensitive to the feelings, thoughts, and experiences of each other. The family unit shares the victories, hardships, and drudgery of day to day life.
  • Non-judgement: We accept each member of the family as they are while tempering down the feelings of who we want them to be. This acceptance provides the freedom for the child develop their authenticity through their unique individual needs.
  • Emotional Respect: A safe home environment is where feelings can be expressed without repercussions. Emotions are honored and are not made out to be good or bad. In this respect, I find it helpful to remind myself that I can control what I think but I cannot control the feelings that arise. Therefore, I do not judge emotions when they happen in my children. Then I can coach the child in how to manage the emotion without shame or guilt.
  • Individuality Respect: We respect the similarities and differences of all members of the household. In this environment we share admiration towards each other and demonstrate their importance.

Emotional safety is not only for the home environment. Utilize these five components everywhere you go and with everyone you meet. You will be amazed at the transformation in your relationships when these five areas are honored. Hopefully this post today brought some awareness in creating the ultimate home environment for your children (loved ones).

Be well

-MJ

Photo by Allen Taylor via Unsplash

3 Questions to Unearth Your Calling

Over the last couple of posts you probably get the sense that I have gone through a lot in life lately. However, to the outside observer I am just a happy-go-lucky guy marching through his life. So the question may beg- how do you not let life beat you down? Or, how do you shake off the garbage and keep your head held high? Well, the answer is simple: Know your Calling, your Why, your Bliss.

*For purposes of clarity I will only use Why going forward. However, Calling, Why, and Bliss are all interchangeable.

This year I have written a few of posts that speak to cultivating an unbeatable attitude in life:

While I enjoy these posts, there is one thing they do not assist with: Helping someone find their Why.

I see so many people running off to go achieve their way through life and yet they don’t have an internal guiding system. It is similar to a person stepping on the gas to a car but without any control of the steering wheel. Inevitably they crash. Or, we could say that they are forever lost since they do not have any idea where they are going.

Knowing your Why will anchor you in your life, will provide unlimited inspiration, and help keep you afloat when all seems lost.

The Why is bigger than the self. It extends beyond ego and guides us along like a GPS even when we try to fight it. Which leads me to a profound truth I have come to realize as I got older:

The life of just personal achievement eventually leads to hollowness.

Perhaps, like me, at times you have had days where you ask: What is the point of it all? Is this all there is? I thought once I hit my goals I would be happy but I am not.….

Maybe you don’t know your Why or perhaps you have a sense of what it is but have not defined it. Below are the three questions to answer which will put you on the right path of cultivating (drawing out) your Why.

  1. What is it that you most enjoy? List out activities that continually bring you the most joy. What are those things that you do that make your heart sing? These are the things you wake up early on the weekend for…or the things you would do for the sake of doing them because they excite you.
  2. What is it that you are naturally good at? List out all of your natural talents or things that have always just come to you. We all have talents. Study yourself and jot down your abilities you naturally excel at. What are your super powers?
  3. How can I be of service to the world? Using the answers from the first two questions start to connect the dots on how to provide value to others. This question is the binding agent for your Why. It is critical to be of service or you will end up in The Meaningless Hollow*.

As an example of how this works, let’s examine how mine was unearthed (this is very high level but at least we can get a sense of the process).

What do I most enjoy? I love working, laughing, and connecting with others. My life is about play even when I am working. I find the most joy when I am sharing and listening to life experiences. I love inspiring smiles in others and helping them feel significant.

What am I naturally good at? Sports of any kind. Yet if I dig a little deeper, I have this uncanny ability to see the larger picture, game plan, and figure out a way to win. I love studying strategy. Even when all seems lost I can figure out how to get to the finish line first. To me, everything is just a puzzle to figure out. Yet, even when I don’t win I come back stronger, smarter, and more confident.

How can I be of service? I have gone through a lot of hard times in my life (like everyone) and have landed on my feet. I can connect and teach others how to define their values and goals. Then I can help them strategize and figure out a game plan to live their best life. By connecting authentically, I can inspire others to stand up and kick some ass! (By kicking ass, I mean own your life and put in the work. There are no victims)

This example illustrates why Be A Champion Dad is in existence. The Champ Dad site is devoted to helping dads (others) navigate their chaotic life. It aims to assist all dads declutter their mind, sharpen their dreams, and live the life they envision in their heart.

I cannot stress the importance of uncovering your calling. Once it is unearthed you will have an inexhaustible light to follow through good and bad times. You will always have wind in your sails even on the days where you just want to sleep the day away.

Answer the questions and get on with living your bliss. There is nothing greater!

Be well

-MJ

*The Meaningless Hollow: A trapped and fearful state of mind. A mind that is imprisoned by obligations and expectations of others. A depressed state where personal achievement no longer can cover up the void within one’s heart.

Photo by Ambir Tolang via Unsplash

Stopping the Flywheel Mind

Earlier this year I wrote a post called Endless Distraction. In it I detailed how I was in the habit of always checking or reaching for my phone. I also touched upon how these mindless (or programmed) activities take us out of the moment (put away the phone when you are in the presence of your children). A little later I wrote a post, Too Busy to Arouse Your Soul, in which we offered a couple of suggestions to get out from under the weight of the too busy mindset.

Today is a slightly different spin on those earlier posts. Not too much has changed for me personally since I wrote those. However, I am in much more control of the impulses that drive my phone use. This post is an examination of the current state of my mind. See, I still have too much to do. I am still strongly drawn to checking my phone for texts, emails, news, and whatever social media apps I use.

I have observed an unsettling pattern of late. My brain will not stop racing. It is always on the go…to the next thought, next worry, next thing to do, or the next problem to solve. There is little to no stillness even when I have no external distractions. Let me unpack this a little bit. My mind seems to be in a holding pattern of unrest. I have gone so long now in trying to get everything done that my mind is always seeking or moving to the next thing. It is much like a flywheel continuing on with its own crazy momentum. I seemed to have taught it to be this way and now I aim to stop it in its tracks!

It stinks and here are some symptoms that you may share the flywheel mind:

  • Does your mind endlessly loop on a worry?
  • Do you have trouble thinking one thought through to its completion without jumping to something new?
  • Are you quick to self judge as you remember things that you have missed or recognize an expectation you did not meet?
  • Do you feel like your mind is going to crack if one more thing gets thrown your way?
  • Do you ever think “once I get all of this done then I can relax and be happy”?

Well, here is how I am personally going to slowdown and stop my flywheel mind. Over the next thirty days I will follow these two approaches to get back to sanity:

  1. Meditation. For at least 10 minutes a day I will sit in stillness with no external distractions. 10 minutes might not seem like a lot but science supports that this is a great starting point to quiet the mind.
  2. No more multitasking. I will make a tremendous conscious effort to only do one thing at a time. All of my focus will be centered on my current task. When distracted, I will recenter around my chosen task. Multitasking trains the mind to be habitually unfocused. Dr. Travis Bradberry said this about it:

“Focus on one thing at a time. Focusing completely on a single task is a big risk—the risk of failing at something to which you’ve given your all. That’s why it’s so uncomfortable. The alternative—multitasking—is a real productivity killer. Research conducted at Stanford confirms that multitasking is less productive than doing a single thing at a time. The researchers found that people who are regularly bombarded with several streams of electronic information cannot pay attention, recall information, or switch from one job to another as well as those who complete one task at a time. When you try to do two things at once, your brain lacks the capacity to perform both tasks successfully. When you spread yourself too thin and chase after every bright, shiny thing that catches your eye, you’re missing out on an important opportunity for personal growth.” To read the full posting click here.

So in thirty days I will report back with how my experiment worked. Hopefully I will have retrained my mind how to rest, focus, and be at peace.

Peace of mind is a habit and more valuable than my worried to-do list. It is ok to stop racing….there is no finish line to cross. Peace is the way.

Be well

-MJ

Photo by Ben White via Unsplash

Flight…The other quiet emotional trigger response (and how to get out of it)

“Being human is not about being any one particular way; it is about being as life creates you—with your own particular strengths and weaknesses, gifts and challenges, quirks and oddities.”―Kristin Neff

I have a problem which I bet a lot of you also suffer from. I get caught in a loop of self pity from time to time. It is not all the time mind you but when it happens I hear my inner voice say things like:

“What is wrong with you?”

“Why can’t I ever get this right?”

“I am worthless.”

I know that seems I bit dramatic but when things go wrong or “off the rails” in your life what is your mind telling you?

People tend to have one of two responses to these situations. I have both and my response is generally based on the circumstance in which I am falling down. Each stem from a past trauma. Everyone has some past trauma as no one gets out of childhood without things to work on.

  1. Fight: Push and fight back and defend their actions at all costs. By trying to overcome or achieve through the situation they can feel right and justified.
  2. Flight: Flee the situation and try to escape. By running from the situation they avoid it and then quietly beat themselves up on the failure.

In both cases, the lesson of the moment is lost. In the first one, we are defending our actions to the world. The trauma/wound does not heal. I wrote about this in some detail in Diffusing your Emotional Triggers. In the second one, we run and hide. We hide from the lesson and the trauma/wound is ignored….only waiting for the next time to be triggered…and emerge bigger while further deepen our self pity.

In this post we will focus on the flight response and how to quickly nip this in the bud before we become downtrodden with the feelings of inadequacy.

The following 3-step method in dealing with self-pity I picked up from Gabby Bernstein.

  1. Notice the feeling of self-pity and flight. When you pause ask your self “how does this thought make me feel?”. Becoming aware of the trigger and identifying the emotions behind it will put the breaks on the situation. This will stop the emotional slide.
  2. Immediately forgive yourself of the thought. Remember: you are not your thoughts so don’t identify completely with them. They are just like clouds that pass through the sky…always coming and going. Forgiveness further allows you gain positive mental traction.
  3. Choose another thought to focus on. Pick the next best thought in your mind. Pick a thought to think about that you believe in and are passionate about.

Let’s work this out in an example. You have a meeting with your boss and he tears into you for not meeting expectations. Instead of fighting you hear him out and head back to work. Your day is ruined as you start identify with his perceptions of you. Driving home you start to have wave after wave of self-pity feelings. You feel worthless…but then you remember: YOUR VALUE IS NOT DEFINED BY THE OPINIONS OF OTHERS…so you stop and acknowledge the thought “Here is the self-pity thought again and how does it make me feel? Wow, I feel like crap and this is not fun. It’s ok that I have these thoughts but I refuse to be owned by them. Instead, I am going to focus on how I have great work habits and a great family to come home to. Tomorrow is another day and a new beginning.”

By becoming aware and acknowledging the pity spiral, you have now given yourself space and freedom to heal and grow. Following these three steps will allow you to build stronger habits around self-compassion. As the habits build you will become more resilient and have greater compassion for yourself and others.

Be well

-MJ

Photo by Allie Smith via Unsplash

What you might have missed….

We are fast approaching the one year mark since the Be A Champion Dad site took off! Over this time we have had over 50+ posts with insight on how to be a better parent and/or person. The odds are you might have missed some of our most popular posts. Below I have listed four of our top posts during this time. Enjoy!

5 “Dangerous” things you should let your kid do– Are you a parent who likes to hover and intervene your child’s play when they are about to do something scary? If so, then this is a must read. Lean into their curiosity instead of shutting it down. Coaching them has a much greater impact than not allowing your kids to take on a “dangerous” task.

3 Habits to Help Disable Depression– This is one of my personal favorites and I use it more often than I would like to admit. Heading into winter and the darker months many of us may suffer from seasonal affective disorder. This post with give you some good tips and reminders on how to battle back to a healthy mindset.

Outdoors and Unsupervised…Let’em Play!– This one closely relates to the the “5 Dangerous” post listed above. Unsupervised play is required for kids to properly develop into well adjusted adults. Heck, if my kids are acting up and fighting indoors…I boot them outside and get them running. The outdoors is the elixir that heals all of our souls. Get them out there and let them be!

Traditions: The Binding Stories of Our Life– As we rumble on into the holiday season, take a moment to pause and reflect. Traditions (whether societal, family, or personal) play a wonderful role in our life. Traditions provide meaning and connectivity with others and our own divinity. Whether you dreamed it up or it has been passed down through generations..take part! Traditions have value and help you tell the story of your life.

Be well

-MJ

Photo by Vidar Nordi-Mathisen via Unsplash

First Hour Needs: Optimizing your child’s well-being

Needs…we all have them. Hopefully our needs are met on a routine basis. In this post we will be reviewing some of the basic needs your child may have to function optimally. Specifically, we will be looking at addressing these needs within the first hour from when the wake in the morning. These are call first hour needs.

Two years ago I read a book that transformed how I handle my morning with my kids. The book was called The Dance of Interaction by Jeanine Fitzgerald. In it Jeanine discusses first hour needs and how meeting these needs are critical to developing a secure relationship with your child.

As stated throughout many of Champion Dads other posts– Behaviors are an end result. When the child’s needs are met they develop and exhibit good behaviors. When the child’s needs go unmet they develop and exhibit problematic behaviors. The key is to address the child’s needs as soon as possible in the morning. By meeting their individual needs the child is off to a great start and has the space to deepen their resiliency while taking on the day.

Since reading her book, I have made meeting these needs a habit for me and my kids. The results have been amazing and have really assisted in starting off the day on the right foot. I have provided an example below of my interaction with both of my kids. Then I have listed out the ten needs with a short definition. Keep in mind that that my kids are both under 8 years old and as they grow I will adjust how I meet these needs going forward (needs never go away). Also, you don’t have to meet all the needs listed but I make sure I meet some of them every time (Acknowledgement/Touch/Encouragement/Nutrition).

I am consistently the first one up in our house. So when I hear the footsteps on the stairs I get ready to pause whatever I am doing to acknowledge my kids. When one or both appear I make eye contact, smile, and wave them over (acknowledgement). From there I give them a big embrace and tell them how happy I am to see them (communication & touch). I ask them how they slept and what they are going to do with their day. I let them talk as long as they need while I slip in some goofiness (socialization & humor). At this point I ask them what they would like for breakfast let them go get started with a word or two of inspiration mixed in (nutrition & encouragement).

First Hour Needs

  • Acknowledgment: Acknowledgment is the greeting we provide our children to welcome them to the new day. It delivers the message that we welcome them as part of our household. A child who does not have this need met right away may nag and seek your attention (or someone else’s) throughout the day.
  • Nutrition: Nutrition is one of the most basic needs of the child. If this need is not met it will be difficult for the child to move on to higher needs during the day. This results in a child whining about hunger or constantly seeking to eat anything.
  • Communication: Some children after a night of sleep and processing need to share/tell stories when they wake. It is vital that we create a home environment where the child feels safe enough to communicate with us. Listening allows the child to decompress and feel significant. By feeling heard the child will be able to better manage their day ahead.
  • Socialization: Some children need time to socialize and play with others when they wake. My son fits this category as he gets right “to work” when he wakes. This usually entails him telling me how he is figuring things out and things he really wants to do. Other times, he may need me to sit with him and help him get started on a game or task.
  • Touch: The need of touch is often tied to how a child gives and receives love. It is a love language. My daughter has this need. When she wakes she seeks me out to give a giant good morning hug. This also happens when I come home from work where she has not seen me all day. Hugs, holding hands, cuddling on the couch fills the child with enough love to take on the day.
  • Humor: Humor is a very serious business for some children (I have this need still to this day). Humor serves as a stress buffer and a positive coping strategy. Research suggest that children (people) who use humor suffer less from fatigue, tension, anger, and depression.
  • Physical Activity: This needs is common among children. My son has this need. He can’t seem to sleep in. As soon as he wakes he is off into his day looking for things to do. He needs to move. Oftentimes, shortly after he has woke he asks to go outside to play. Meeting this need is allowing the child to move about and use their physical capabilities. This can be achieved indoors or outdoors. We should make appropriate space for our children to be always on the move.
  • Structure: Predictability and order in an environment provide children with a sense of safety and stability. Structure is attained my meeting the child’s expectations through routines and schedules. A good example would be to be consistent with the order on how things get done each morning (wake, use bathroom, brush teeth, dress, then go get something to eat).
  • Relaxation: There is a strong connection between body and mind. This means that emotional and psychological reactions effect our physical health and well-being. Some children need time to get warmed up to the day. My daughter requires this need. She does not function well when rushed right when she wakes. An approach that works for her is time spent with a personal activity (usually drawing or writing). This allows her to balance out and get ready on her own terms.
  • Encouragement: A child who has this need will demand reassurance before taking on a task. You may recognize this need if you hear the phrase “but I can’t do it”. Meeting this need is as simple as starting the day with some positive affirmations or a little pep talk (“I believe in you and know that you are going to have a great day”)

As you read through the above list, chances are you began to think about how you have these same needs. Just like your children, if you have an unmet need, you can expect your behaviors to be less than stellar throughout the day. So, hopefully this post has brought awareness and insight on how to optimize your mornings.

Observe your children and discover what types of needs they exhibit. Work with them to create an environment and routine that brings out the best in them. You will be blown away by how addressing first hour needs can transform your relationship and put them on a path of well-being.

Be well

-MJ

Photo by Simon Matzinger via Unsplash

Why Sport is Critical to a Child’s Development

Growing up sport was what kept me on track in my life and development. Very early on I had a learning disability due to my hearing. This turned into delayed progression with reading and writing. Needless to say, I did not feel at all confident with academics well into high school. However, even though I was only average with schooling, I excelled at sports. I can only imagine what life would have been like if sports were not a part of my daily routine. Sport gave me the feeling of significance where academics never did.

In today’s post I am providing several reasons (reminders) on why ALL CHILDREN should take part in sport(s). It is my position that sport goes beyond achievement. Sport is an art form that all can partake in and grow from. Wins and losses are not what it is about. Sport develops the body, sharpens the mind, and enriches the soul.

What sport teaches:

  • Life lessons– Simple lessons show up everyday while competing. Things like “Even on your best day you still may not win” or “You may be the best player on the field but if you don’t play as a team you won’t win”.
  • Values and Respect– Children will learn about sportsmanship and what it means to be a humble winner or gracious loser. They will also learn the boundaries or their own bodies and how to manage them.
  • Emotional Regulation– This is a critical skill to develop in a world that often values achievement over community. Sport brings the child into contact with highly emotional situations that they learn to control and navigate. This serves them well later in life.
  • How to learn from failure– Failure is one of the best teachers out there. Children who learn to handle failure, self reflect, and try again another day build resiliency. Children who are resilient are happier and well adjusted later in life.
  • Problem solving skills– Sport teaches children how to assess a situation, scheme up a game plan, and then try to execute what they thought up. Chess is a wonderful game that promotes this. All sport requires this on some level.

As children participate in sports there is a whole host of things that increases (or get a boost) within the child. Over time stamina, strength, and cardiovascular fitness rises in the child. Downstream this improves the child’s sleep quality and immune system.

Let us not forget about increased development in communication skills. Team sports especially push children to communicate better for the success of the team. It has been my experience that the best team (most fun and enriching) is the team that has the best communication. Children develop a sense of belonging and what it means to be part of something bigger than themselves.

There is also a bunch of things that sport reduces over time for children as well. Sport gives the child an outlet outside of home and school life. As such, sport allows the child to blow off mental tension which marks a decrease in stress, anxiety, and depression. Physically, for sports that require this type of effort, there is a reduction in childhood obesity.

Going back to my own childhood story, I don’t think I would have made it through schooling if physical education and recess was ever taken away. As I started to take part in sports offered through school my grades improved dramatically. No joke….baseball and soccer was the main driver on why I got into college.

All life is a balance. Let’s help cultivate an environment where that balance is honored for the child. Sports provides this balance by offsetting the demands of schooling and everyday life.

Be well

-MJ

Photo by Jeffery F Lin via Unsplash