Eight Coaching Questions for A Great Start to School

Eight Coaching Questions to Get Off To A Great Start with School

Hope you’ve had a good summer.

We had fun taking ~3500 mile road trip through CA, AZ, UT, NV, ID.

Hadn’t been to Disneyland in 8 years, it’s changed! And we had a chance to go to California Adventure for the first time as well as Monterey Bay, the Grand Canyon, the Narrows at Zion National Park, the Hoover Dam and Las Vegas.

As with most year, summer seems to go by so quickly. With our kids, every year is a formative year.

John Maxwell teaches that we don’t grow just from getting older and going through things, we don’t grow just from our experiences. We grow from evaluating our experience. We can’t control what we go through but we can control what we take away from our experiences.

And we can process our experiences in a way that grows and teaches us by choosing what we underline and highlight what we take out of hard experiences and positive experiences. They don’t have to be painful, challenging experiences. We can grow from mundane, every day, positive things too. With our kids, we can take it for granted that they are doing well or that they are managing the stress and challenges of the new year.

Sometimes kids can be left to fend for themselves, without being intentional as parents to check in with them. Sometimes we can get busy and focused on activities and results and we may neglect asking how they are doing emotionally. One way to process and support your kids is to debrief with them and listen for what they are going through, what they are experiencing.

Our kids learn more what they go through together with us, than what we tell them. Experience is one of the most powerful ways our kids learn.

So, what are your kids experiencing?

This year, ask your kids questions and listen well to what is going on in their hearts and minds.  Doing it early is a way of showing them that you care about them, that you’re with them, that they’re not alone.

When you do this early in their lives, later when they are questioning whether they want you around, or whether they want you involved, when they’re struggling with whether they want to be transparent and disclose what’s really going on with them, they will because there will be a lot of trust, a foundation of lots of support and encouragement that you’ve built up.  They’ll know that they can always come to you.

One of the joys, one the best parts, of parenting is when your kids trust you and are open with you.

Here’s eight questions for debriefing and coaching your kids:

1. What was that like?

When you observe them going through something with a sibling or someone on their sports team, ask them what was it like? You can ask this in the car, around the dinner table.

2. How did you feel?

Asking them this helps our kids develop self-awareness, an awareness of what is going on inside themselves. Being able to understand what is going on inside and giving them a vocabulary, an emotional vocabulary, to understand and express themselves can be very helpful for boys and girls. Not only will it help them identify their own emotions but it will help them develop empathy and emotional and social intelligence. It will help them increase their other-person perspective, an awareness of how they impact their peers, how they impact other members of the family, how what they do affects you.

You can over do that, you can be overly concerned with other peoples’ feelings, you can become enmeshed. But taking the first step of being aware and communicating how you’re feeling can also help with exploring and choosing healthy boundaries. It will help teach them the difference between being empathetic and feeling guilty and responsible for other peoples’ feelings.

Pixar’s Inside Out, if you haven’t already watched it, can be helpful in going deeper with this.

3. What did you notice?

This question sometimes is answered with physical observations, internal or external.  This question can help you see what your child is focused on or concerned about.

4. What did you tell yourself?

This introduces the concept that we have some control in way we respond to different situations; how we react and respond emotionally or behaviorally – whether it’s what we do or what we say – is greatly influenced by our self-talk. We can also increase self-awareness with this question. Sometimes when I ask counseling clients this question they respond, “I don’t know. I didn’t tell myself anything.” If you’re kids respond that way, that’s fine, just give them some time and space to figure it out and answer. Sometimes they don’t intentionally or willfully tell themselves anything. Sometimes automatic, core beliefs or our emotions drive our behavior.  Going back to question #2 How did you feel? And working backward can help reveal what is driving that emotion and reveal what they are telling themselves, maybe subconsciously. This can help with teaching anger management and self-soothing.

Brene Brown has described this in her book Rising Strong describes this as “the story I tell myself”, she notes that when we are in pain our brain searches for meaning to try to cope with the pain. And our brain will make up a story to try to make sense of and deal with the pain. Even if it’s wrong. It feels better than not having a story.

So, what did you tell yourself?

5. What does that say about you?

This is something I’m really passionate about, helping dads to speak truth into their kids’ lives. How your kid answer is one of the keys with whether they struggle with self-worth or self-confidence, with worry and anxiety. Or on the flipside with whether they become confident, compassionate, generous or brave. What does that say about you? When they are going through things.

It’s tough. When our kids are struggling or going through pain, our knee jerk reaction is to jump in there and reassure them.  My girls and boy have had different insecurities and have different struggles as they grown and are growing up.  It’s just like listening and being there for your spouse, instead of jumping in, allow them to express the depths to which they are struggling, try to listen a little longer.  Allow them to open up even more. What they start with may actually not be the most important issue, it may just be today’s symptom of it.  Often, with hard things, our kids will test the water. If they put out something and we jump all over them and cut them off too quickly, you may not get to what you need to get to. We have to handle it well.  If we minimize their feelings, tell them how to feel and think or what they need to do too soon, we disempower them. We have to let them struggle. Allowing them to struggle allows them to put down their mask and take off their “costumes”.

When we take the time and don’t rush, we earn the right to suggest other things that are true, other things that they could tell themselves. We can point them to the truth of Scripture. We can hold space for them when they are discouraged and bear patiently with them as they wrestle with decisions and ambivalence or sadness. When they feel that you’ve understood, when they’ve had a chance to vent without judgment and being shut down, you’ll feel the shift. They’ll start to talk about what they might do.

6. What do you think you’ll do next time?

You’ll know you’re asking this question too early if they “Yes…But…” you.

Asking this question, What do you think *you’ll” do?, instead of Have you tried this? Or Why don’t you do this?  Will reveal whether they are done venting and if they are ready to talk about problem-solving and what they’ll do next time.

7. What went well?

This question can help your child get unstuck and shift to problem-solving mode (Again, don’t get impatient or manipulative and ask this too early).

Most situations, if it’s not just something awful, have something to learn, something to takeaway, positive or strength, something that they did well. This helps our kids to get comfortable with ambivalence. For example, if they go to a party or you have a Thanksgiving Dinner, parts of the time or day may be great and fun and there will be parts that didn’t go great or didn’t meet your expectations. This question can help your kids with negativity, criticism and allowing the negatives to erase the positives with experiences and with people.

8. What would you like to try next?

This question helps our kids not worry about perfection.  This introduces or reinforces the principle of a growth and learning mindset.   We evaluate our experiences, highlight the positives, learn from the negatives and think solutions or adjustments and courageously try again, trying an experiment, trying to observe and improve and what we’ve been through. This question helps them understand that we don’t expect perfection, that we understand that they are growing. And we can say, honestly, that “You did a great job. You’re awesome.” And there’s to experiement with, adjust and learn. We want to give our kids truthful feedback. We don’t want our kids to be like the poor people on American Idol who they thought they are great singers when they are terrible. Somehow, no one’s been able to tell them the truth.  I guess their friends and family were well-meaning, they probably wanted to support them unconditionally but in the long run it doesn’t help our kids to not tell them the truth about where they are at. Their self-worth or how much we love them isn’t based on them being perfect.

Finally, when you ask these eight questions, it takes time.  To do it well it takes focus. Cutting down on distractions, carving out the space and time is important. When you do this with your kids, they will learn that they can put themselves out there and take risks. It will also help your kids not to quit when things get hard.

Our kids used to do musical theater. It always amazed me that they would do auditions in front of a panel of judges and their peers. They’d prepare a scene of dialogue or a song to present. And they learned that when they didn’t get the part that it was ok. And they were going to be ok and that was fine. It was still fun because they would find a way to still participate or be a part even if they didn’t get a main part.  And that was a beautiful thing that has translated to other challenges they’ve faced, like applying for jobs or taking on leadership roles.

How do our kids get brave?

They do that by having a sense that we are there for them. That we are going to walk through the risk with them.  We’re going to listen. We’re going to tell them the truth. We’re going to hold them accountable. We’re going to call them out when they’re getting off track. (It’s something my kids have told me they appreciate.  It’s hard because I want my kids to like me. It was really a struggle when they were younger.  But we’re learning.) We’re going to cheer them on. We’re going to honor their unique perspectives and their choices.

We help our kids by going through stuff with them. And we listen and support them better when we’ve worked through our own anxieties, fears and insecurity. So, maybe run these eight questions by yourself.

I hope these questions will help you coach, connect and support your kids in a deeper, more meaningful way this year.







A parenting lesson from Mayweather vs McGregor

Took my youngest to her first PPV, McGregor vs Mayweather.
It was fun.

Had me thinking about fatherhood.

A lot of guys, especially if they come to marriage and fatherhood later in life, find it difficult to crossover from areas of their strengths into the arena of relationships and healthy communication.

They may be extremely successful and competent in sports, in living independently, at work or with their military service.
They may be extremely motivated because of their own childhood to be a great dad and husband.
But lacking a role model or experience or confidence they can feel inadequate or even scared, talk themselves out of it or give up.

I know I was with my eldest daughter.
I threw myself into training and competing in MMA because it made feel good.
All the while neglecting her and my wife.

I didn’t give myself a chance to win.
A chance at significance and greatness in their lives.
It took a lot of pain, a year of wake up calls to make the changes I needed to make.

He lost but McGregor inspired a lot of people.
He lost but he still won.

I encourage you and other fathers, just get in the arena of relationships.
Swing for the fences.
Learn the fundamentals and basics of empathy, communication, resolving conflict.
Learn how to listen.
Go to counseling or get coaching if you have to learn the skills.
Be humble enough to be a beginner.
And can use the focus, effort and passion that you use to win in other areas and apply them to your relationships.
Give your best at home too.
A lot of those skills can translate.

You may be awkward at first, it might not be awesome.
You feel like you’re failing and you’ve gotten knocked down.
But trust me guys, the battle to be a great dad is worth it.

Encouragement for Dads and Daughters

Hi guys,

It’s a been a bit since I’ve blogged.  The end of the school year gets a little crazy in our family.  We run the gauntlet of musical events and graduations (one week we did two recitals and three concerts).

I was a “guest” on the Launching Your Daughter Podcast recently.  Nicole Burgess a colleague of mine from the Selling The Couch Facebook group invited me to write some encouragement for dads and daughters for Father’s Day.

Part of me jumped at the chance, part of me was nervous to share them. Despite the fact that most of what I shared, I’ve shared with FB friends.

You’ll also hear another reason why our family life has been a little crazy lately (big announcement!).

You can listen to the podcast here. 

I hope it encourages you.

(I just realized, my post a letter To My Daughters On Dating is still the most viewed blog post in the past two years.)

Be in your kids’ corner

Someday your kids will have to fight their own battles.
They’ll have to step into their arena, into their own cage match.
The door will shut and you won’t be able to join them inside.
And they’ll have to stand on their own.

But doesn’t mean they’ll be alone.
If you’ve put in the work at building a solid relationship, if you’ve prepared them well, they will let you corner them.
They’ll want you in their corner.
For instruction, for encouragement.
They’ll listen for your voice above the crowd.

But they won’t listen for your voice through the noise if you aren’t with them in the grind.
Coaching and leading them in the day to day work on the mats of life, of school, of growing up, of navigating relationships and discovering who they are.
You don’t earn the right to corner them on the big moments, the big battles in life, without consistently being that voice in their lives.
If you want to celebrate the wins, be there for them in the lows.

If you aren’t sure what that means, Dad, it just starts with listening and being curious.
They will teach you what they need just by being there and showing up for them.
Every day.

How To Not Raise Entitled and Enabled Kids: The E’s of Excellent Parenting

Had a fun break with the family for Spring Break.  On the five-hour trip back home, we had a good conversation about parenting.  It started out with the ideas of Entitlement and Enabling vs. Empowering and Equipping your kids. And we ended up thinking of a bunch of different ideas that started with the letter E.  We hope you enjoy it too.

Entitlement.  As parents, we don’t set out to raise entitled kids but it’s easy to justify giving your kids privileged or special treatment by saying you love them and want whats best for them.

Enabled. One of my professors on parenting explained enabling your kids as doing something for them that they could do themselves. Another aspect of enabling your kids is letting them get away with not suffering the consequences of their behavior.  Again, it’s easy to justify this by telling yourself that you want to love and protect your kids.  You want them to know that you always have their back or that you want to show them God’s grace or faithfulness to them.

The problem with this is you as the parent can end up feeling responsible for everything. Raising entitled kids can be exhausting, excruciating and embarrassing.  How does it feel when you are at work or working on a group project and someone on the team doesn’t pull their weight, do their share?
It’s exhausting.  You can end up resenting the other person. Well, it’s the same when your kids don’t pull their weight around the house.  You can end up feeling like you are doing everything (because you are), feeling unappreciated and bitter.

Empowering.  It’s not unloving to require and train your kids to work hard, give their best effort, be diligent and finish what they start.  It’s not cruel to ask them to do things with excellence.  To do chores.  To work for what they get.  To set goals.  To delay gratification.  It’s actually empowering to your kids to give them freedom and responsibility around the house and gradually more as they get older.  A child 8-10 years old could start to help out with laundry.  They certainly could be doing their own laundry by middle school and especially in high school.  It’s actually honoring to them to not give them special privileges, just because.  It’s fine to give them gifts and to show you love them in special ways.  But when they start to expect or feel entitled to have things, or always have things their way, it’s no longer special.  It becomes common.  And it actually sets them up for disappointment and failure later in life because you aren’t teaching them how the real world works.  Their teachers and professors aren’t going to give them special treatment.  Their boss at their work place is going to expect them to work, to problem solve, to take responsibility.

Equipping.  Not enabling or entitling your kids doesn’t mean you don’t love them, it’s doesn’t mean you won’t protect them, that you are leaving them to fend for themselves in the cruel, harsh realities of the world.  Parenting with excellence means you take a coaching and equipping mindset to working with them.  You provide the tools, resources they need and you also train them on how to use those tools.  You explore, process, experiment, debrief and work through things together.  You still have their back and at the same time, you are equipping them to stand on their own, to risk and put themselves out there in different areas, to be brave.

Expectations.  Having healthy expectations is a part of growing and stretching your kids to reach their potential.  As parents, we don’t want to put too high expectations on our kids but what I’ve seen a lot of parents with too low expectations.  Often, parents in the interest of protecting their kids from failure, disappointment or rejection, set the bar low.  Kids are often capable of so much more than we think.  I was watching a jiu jitsu video that talked about the metaphor of a “Goldilocks tension” and I think it applies to expectations.  We don’t want expectations that are “too cold”, too low, and we don’t want expectations that are “too hot”, too high.  We want to set expectations that are “just right”.  Expectations that are too low, lead to boredom and missed potential and growth.  Expectations that are too high, put an adverse amount of stress and pressure on your kids and that can stunt their growth as well.

Empathy.  So, how do you know if your expectations are too high, too low or just right?  You do that by listening and listening well with empathy.  One key to empathy as a parent, is focusing more on what your child may be experiencing and less on what they are doing, on their performance.  And you’re not the only one who needs empathy, your kids do too.

Emotional Intelligence.  Empathy is one of the pillars of emotional and relational intelligence.  EQ has been shown to be more of predictor of a person’s success than intelligence. Delayed gratification is another pillar.

Endurance vs. Expedient.  It’s hard to empower and equip your kids, it requires a lot of trust and courage. On both your parts.  It requires patience because it will be messy.  Things won’t go smoothly at first, things won’t get done as well and as quickly as you would just doing it for them.  But you won’t always be there for them, they will have to grow up and do things on their own someday.

It’s sad, very sad when I’ve seen teenagers treat their single mother with contempt.  Their mother did/does everything for them and these kids had no gratitude for the sacrifices their mom made (or at least they didn’t express it).  It was sad for the kid but also the mom.  She poured out herself, bent over backwards, to love and provide for her child and her child barely could stand her.  They had no respect for her.  They either struggle with selfishness or self-hatred or both.  I’ve seen entitled young adults who struggled with anger and resentment at their parents because they feel ill-equipped for life.  They haven’t had to problem-solve or bear the weight of responsibility and get overwhelmed by the demands of adulthood.  And they struggle with imposter syndrome and feeling behind in life.

So, don’t just give into what’s expedient, what’s easy.  As the kids get older, don’t continue in the habit of taking the path of least resistance.  Learn to be mindful and intentional about your long-term goals with them. And be patient, consistent.  Get help and support if you have to.

Enforce.  One way to be patient and consistent is with enforcing consequences and discipline.  It’s easy to justify being lax with discipline and consequences by telling yourself you are being caring and compassionate and loving.  But often being exhausted and wanting to avoid the stress and upset of conflict is the main reason for not enforcing consequences.  It really isn’t about what’s best for the kids, it’s often what will feel best, for you, in the moment.

Expose and Eliminate the Elephants. Instead of avoiding conflict, instead of building resentment or emotionally manipulating your kids with passive-aggressive indirect behavior, it will benefit you and them to expose and eliminate elephants, to call out entitlement, laziness, disrespect, and other behaviors and attitudes that may be poisoning your relationship and family life.  It’s easier to do this when those negatives are baby elephant size, not full grown elephants.  But even if they are huge, be brave and start to work on it. Sometimes, just the act of exposing them, shrinks them.  If you call it out, then everyone has a chance to be aware and take ownership of making it better instead of it being your solo project.

Example.  Might daughter suggested this one, besides enforcing consequences and making rules and throwing your weight around, she recommends parents need to be good examples of what you are trying to teach and require of your kids.

Energizing.  If you start to be more intentional about equip and empower your kids you will replace exhaustion with energy because you will no longer have to bear all the weight of responsibility for how your kids and home are doing. You will not have to wrestle so much with resentment, bitterness, worry and hurt feelings.

Encouragement.  This is hard work. Remember, your kids aren’t bad.  They may need some maturity, course correction, training and equipping, but they need encouragement and acceptance most of all.  You will need encouragement when they changes you are attempting don’t seem to be working, when you have a bad day, when it seems to be getting worse instead of better.

Enjoyment.  Lastly, implementing and being more intentional about the positive E’s for parenting will not just allow you to experience excellence in parenting.  It will allow you to enjoy the experience of being a parent, of being in a healthy mutual relationship with your kids.

The power of simple words and small beginnings

Happy New Year!

In the past few weeks you might have seen folks on social media posting about their word or theme for the year.  You can also see people writing about their resolutions and goals.  Do you have a word or goal for the year?  Here’s something I’m focusing on:

I got an early start and started writing a parenting book in December.  As of today I’ve written 24 days straight and I will write every day until I’m done.  The plan is to publish it later this year, likely in the Fall.

As I was writing this morning, I was musing about the why and how and what of writing. I’m writing to help parents, dads and mom, overcome insecurity and fear.  I’m writing about how what I’ve learned training, competing and coaching Mixed Martial Arts and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu can help with relationships and life.  And I was struck by the question of writing enough, not just “Will it be good enough?” but “Will I say enough? Will it be long enough?”

Not only do I want to encourage parents, as presumptuous as it may sound, I want to write to change peoples’ lives.  I don’t want to shy away from that.  If I’m not writing something that could potentially change someone’s life than why bother.  I want my words to have that type of impact.

This week I started listening to Tim Grahl’s Book Launch podcast and in episode two he emphasizes that you have to believe in the book you are writing will help others.  As I’m writing, I know it will because it is helping me and what I’m writing has helped my counseling and coaching clients and patients for many years.

While writing I was listening to some worship music oo YouTube from the Passion Conference 2017 being held this week. I realized that in songs, the number of words isn’t what makes them powerful.  Complex and artful prose may be impressive but simplicity can be significant and even more helpful. I listened to 4-6 word phrases that shifted my heart and mind and I thought of other songs in my life that have changed my trajectory or kept me on track and it made me realize the number of words and pages my book isn’t the most important target to shoot for.

There is power in simple words and small beginnings.

I’ll go with you.

I’m sorry.

I have a dream.

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound.

I’m proud of you.

You’re hired.

It’s not the critic that counts…

I will…

You don’t have to be perfect.


You can do it.

I need help.  

Thank you.

You are not your past.

I forgive you.

I’m not there, yet.

God, grant me the serenity…

Welcome home.

I’ll listen.

I can’t…but I can…

Let’s start over.

I miss you. 

I love you.

Small shifts in our thinking, in our communication, in our habits can undo patterns that have been in place for decades.  Living a different way, achieving a different outcome often doesn’t just mean changing our outward behavior – the most powerful changes often involved changing what we believe and how we see ourselves.  And if we are trying to make an impact in others’ lives, just the right words, at the right time – even if it’s just a handful – can make the difference. I hope in the stories and metaphor, illustrations and teaching, of my book many of those simple phrases above will sink into my readers in new and deeper ways.  And I hope in the meantime I will write blogs here that will encourage and support you this year.

Are you beginning something this year?  Are you starting over?

What’s something simple but powerfully true that you can tell or remind yourself of today?

What’s one small habit you could start that would make a big difference in your life?

Three ways sharing your stories can help your kids

Three ways connect with kids

Looking forward to starting a month of connecting with my kids and helping other parents connect with with theirs on The Words I Would Say Facebook Group on Sept. 1st.
It’s a month long event to help parents spend less time on social media, watching TV and the news and arguing about politics and more time talking and telling their kids stories.
There’s a few other benefits for writing or talking to your kids. Here’s three ways.

The first is that sharing your stories connects them to their past and helps them make sense of it.
It gives them a sense of heritage and belonging.
It tells them where they came from.
Our stories form a significant part of our identity and when you are share them with your kids, it becomes a part of theirs.

The second place that connecting with your kids through sharing stories and memories helps them is in the present.
When you take the time to intentionally communicate and share yourself, you give them a sense of how important your relationship with them is.
With whatever they may face this year, it can help them know, that they aren’t alone.  It’s an opportunity to turn away from Netflix or sports or being productive and prioritize them; to help them experience how important and special they are through your actions and attention.
Some of the writing prompts will be of the when-I-was-your-age variety; when you as mom or dad share what you thought, felt and did at their age it can help them realize you understand what they may be going through. At least a little bit.

The third place that writing or talking to your kids this month can help them with is the future.
Sharing your memories and stories, positive and negative, can help them make important decisions about their future because stories and experiences are a great way of illustrating and teaching your values, your lessons learned (mistakes), the way you think and see the world and your heart and passions.  It’s also great way to help them discover and explore theirs.
And some day, when you aren’t around anymore, your words and your wisdom, the time you took to share memories and you, may help them through some rough seasons and bad days. The words we say are a big part of the legacy we leave them.

This month long event will be fun, it’s for staying connected in the busyness of the start of the school year.  It’s also about leaving a legacy, something that will endure in their lives. Something they can hold onto and remember; the best parts of you.

I hope you’ll join me this month and that you’ll have a great time connecting or re-connecting with your kids through your stories and memories.

The Importance of the Day After Father’s Day

The Importance

I hope you had a good Father’s Day.

Have you seen the movie Interstellar, remember where Matthew McConaughey is watching a video of his kids?

That was basically me during church yesterday.

Father’s Day can be super emotional as a dad when you love your kids so much.
When there’s some hurt or distance between you and your kids.
When your Dad is gone.
Or all of the above.

Father’s Day is a great time to re-evaluate how you’re doing as a Dad,
to recommit to the role, to stepping up, reconnecting,
to being more present, being more intentional and purposeful.
To being a great, loving father.

Father’s Day is a great place to start over with your kids.
Every day is but especially Father’s Day.

What I realized today, driving home, the day after Father’s Day is as important or more important.

The day after the gifts, the BBQ
The day after the church service and the card.
The day after, when you’re back to normal, to your work schedule,
after the come-to-Jesus talk.

Your wife, your kids are in that in-between place,
the place where they want to trust what you’ve said,
hoping that you’re going to follow through.
And they’re hoping this time is going be different.

But they might be guarded and defensive.

This is where your actions need to line up with what you committed to.

Because a decision becomes a day,
a day becomes a week,
a week becomes a month,
a month becomes a year,
and your years become your life together together with your kids.

Maybe your wife and kids aren’t the ones holding onto hope today.
Maybe they’ve already given up.
Maybe you’re the one that’s hoping it will get better.

This is also where you need to battle through the fear of rejection, irrelevance and inadequacy.
Along with the fear of the unknown and negative self-talk.

This already hit me this weekend before Father’s Day and today the day after.
I’ve been working on communicating more directly and honestly with my kids.
And it’s not easy.

When it gets hard, the thoughts come

“See, it won’t work.”
“They don’t want to be closer.”
“If you had done a better job as a father, this wouldn’t be so hard.”
“They’re too busy.”
“It’s too little, too late.”

Harsh, nasty thoughts
that can make you want to fall back to familiar territory and give up on pursuing them or going deeper.

The way things are may make you feel alone.
But the temptation to stay the same tells you
at least it’s a familiar alone, a loneliness of your choosing.
It isn’t the aloneness that makes you feel out of control because
it’s vulnerable and dependent on the choosing and freedom of your kids.

I just want to encourage you to push through.

It might take more than a push, it might be a battle and one of the hardest things you’ve ever tried.

Keep going.

You won’t know, and you can’t control, if they want a relationship with you still.

You can control, and let them know, how much you want it.

If you didn’t make a decision to step things up, to reconnect
I encourage you to do that.
Think about it.

It’s not too late.

Eight Practices To Let Go Of Perfectionism in Parenting: Part 2

Eight Practices to Let go ofPart Two of Eight Practices to Let Go of Perfectionism in Parenting

You can view the first four practices in part One.

These are from a Periscope video I filmed last year. You can watch the video or read the edited transcript below. The transcript includes one practice I forgot to mention in the video.

Practice #5 is Authenticity

The next practice for letting go of perfectionism and performance is to practice authenticity and to practice imperfection. To courageously let others know who you really are warts and all. And doing that with your kids.  I think this is really hard in some families especially if Dad is really busy with work. If he’s just kind of tired and exhausted and distracted and focused on sports and hobbies; if he’s just distant and disconnected.  And so the kids wonder: “What does he really think of me?” It’s sad, that can be such a trap, at home for kids and for families where “Dad pays attention or Dad shows up, when I play soccer or play baseball.” and “Dad gets excited and pays attention to me when I’m doing really well, in sports, but if I’m not, then he’s not really into me.”

Practice #6 is Getting Support and Accountability

Practicing vulnerability is hard. I hear and see this when people talk about Facebook how it’s hard to be vulnerable, it’s hard to tell the truth about where you struggle. And what happens to a lot folks is they struggle on their own, keep it hidden, until it gets unmanageable and then things blow up and it leaks out somewhere.

So, tell others the truth.  Share with safe people. You don’t have to broadcast everything to anyone, but finding folks that you can really disclose who you really are can help you learn to trust that it’s worth it. One of the best things that our family has done this year (we took a break for a while) but we’ve got a small group of friends from church that we get together with once a week  and that’s been great to get support and talk with other parents about where they’re at and where we’re at. To get encouragement and support.

Practice #6 is the practice of having fun as a family. One practice I forgot to include in the video is a suggestion from my son: practicing having  fun and being playful.  Humor and laughing at yourself. If you struggle with perfectionism or anxiety, it can be difficult to loosen up and laugh. My son likes to invent board games and weapons out of cardboard.  My youngest and I like to express playfulness with verbal and physical comedy.  It’s hard to be perfectionistic when you are trying to make someone laugh by making goofy faces!

Humor can be threatening and misused.  As with the other practices, if this is something new or difficult for you, you may need to go slow and get some support for this one.  Our favorite memories as a family are the times we can laugh together, when the kids can tease me.  It reminds me to take a break from all the weighty matters matters in life.  It also helps me not to take myself so seriously and to be too hard on myself.

Practice #7 is Self-Care  clearing your mom or dad if you struggle with perfectionism is to practice self care. For folks that have faith and are believers part of that self-care can be a prayer and worship.  Managing your stress as a mom, as a dad, by simplifying an overwhelmed and busy schedule can really help with with healing up and and getting off this rat race, this treadmill and getting some perspective about what why are we doing, what we’re doing, why are we so busy and tired and overwhelmed.  Practicing self-care and pulling back to evaluate what you’re doing as a family and who are you trying to please and who are you doing it for can help you figure out things.  To figure out what things are unhealthy, things that need to go, things that in your schedule that you need to cut out or have healthy boundaries about and say “no” to.  This will give you the space to pay attention to your heart, to pay attention to your stress level and pay attention to your kids and be aware of how they’re doing.

“Shifting from human doings to human beings” you’ve heard that phrase.  It takes time. It takes time to just enjoy sitting and being and not doing anything. I think stillness, the discipline of stillness and solitude and silence and not being busy is increasingly being lost.  I know we feel that as a family running around, especially right now with Christmas performances, concerts and things like that. But it’s great to just be able to spend some time, an evening, or a bit of time in the morning disconnected from screens, not having to be entertained but just hanging out and talking and going for a walk or just enjoying the deck and the sunshine.

So, that’s what I’m going to go do. I hope that you guys have a great weekend. If you’re a mom or dad that struggles with perfectionism in yourself or with your expectations and perfectionism or controlling behavior and speech with your kids I hope that some of these things might resonate with you.  I encourage you to take action one or two practices. If it seems overwhelming, just get started.  I hope the best for your family. If you have any questions or comments feel free to comment below or tweet me on Twitter and send me a message. I would love to hear if you have any questions or if you have any suggestions for future blogs or videos. 

Eight Practices To Let Go Of Perfectionism in Parenting Part 1

Eight Practices to Let go of

Eight Practices to Let Go of Perfectionism in Parenting

Here’s a recording of a Periscope video I did last year on perfectionism in parenting and an edited transcript below.

Today’s blog will be the first four practices.  The next blog will be on the second half and include an additional practice I forgot to include that my son recommended to me.

Here’s three signs that you might have an issue with perfectionism in parenting I didn’t included in the video:  feeling Stressed out, Shouting a lot and struggling with Shaming your kids or feeling Shamed.  If you feel that way or notice this going on, if you notice decreased joy in your role and work as a parent, if you feel decreased closeness with your kids even if you spend a lot of time with them or if you talk a lot with them but don’t feel connected at a heart-level, I hope watching this video or reading this blog will help you and your family.


This is something I work on with a lot of adults. I see the effects of their parents’ perfectionism, their stress and anxiety, on them. I hesitate to talk about this a little because I don’t want to come across as shaming parents. Because that’s one thing about perfectionism: shame feeds it and it doesn’t help to feel bad. Feeling bad about your parenting doesn’t help, long-term that doesn’t sustain change. Feeling bad about who you are and how you’re doing as Mom or Dad just feeds that vicious cycle.

At the same time, I do want to encourage parents to be aware of how protectionism affects their kids because that’s one of the ways that perfectionism is harmful to kids and families is that it makes parents really self-focused and selfish.

My kids are 19, 16 and 12 (now) – girl, boy, girl – and this topic, this issue of perfectionism and performance-based love and acceptance is something kind of near and dear to my heart because I just want my kids to experience grace and unconditional love. But it’s so tough and we can we can slip and get sucked into focusing on behavior, focusing on how we look outwardly to other people to other families and get caught in comparison and jealousy and things like that.

So, a little bit about my family for some context then we’re going to talk about practical ways to let go of perfectionism. One of the key ways that this is a challenge and difficult – or has been in the past – for our family, is that each of my kids have been involved in musical theater and music and performance so we’ve had lots of talks about “How do you balance working hard, to do your best, to do things with excellence to do quality work and not get sucked into your self-worth and your approval and your sense of yourself being based on what you do?”

I’ve always tried to affirm and notice the kids for who they are regardless of how well they do with auditions or school work, test results in projects to turn in things like that. But it’s tough, I got to admit, I can slip it into that myself and brag and boast about when they do well.  And with social media that’s a challenge that I see and I hear folks talk about a lot in the counseling office about feeling discouraged and anxious, less than, not good enough, because they see how well other people are doing, how well other families are doing, how well-behaved other kids are in the grocery store or at church and they start feeling discouraged and feeling like they’re failing as a parent.  So here are eight practices, I hope will be encouraging to you.

Practice #1: Self-awareness. To replace performance and perfectionism and getting caught in that trap, the first practice is self-awareness and identifying what’s driving any type of perfectionism, procrastination, avoidance or controlling behavior as Mom or Dad.

For me, one of the things is insecurity. Honestly, when my kids are doing well that’s a boost, that makes me feel good. And we want to be proud of our kids but I notice – self-awareness – that I know I’m getting off track and getting unhealthy when how well they’re doing…I’m more concerned about how I feel, how that makes me feel better, than how they feel and how that’s growing them and how that’s helping them gain some self-confidence. And I’m losing track of what their experiences, and what they’re going through, are teaching them about life and character and forming them into the people that I hope that they will be. So self-awareness, practicing self-awareness about where you’re at with this, can be really helpful.

Practice #2 is Patience: the other thing that can help with parenting and communication is being patient with your kids.  You might have heard the phrase “tiger mom”, it’s from a book written by a mom who really drove her kids down in California. (I didn’t read the book, I’ve read some articles and interviews with her.) There can be a culture of pushing kids academically with music, with extracurricular activities, with the kind of the goal of making it in the ultra-competitive college application process and hoping that they stand out.

The desire as parents for our kids to be successful and be able to graduate high school and get a job and take care of themselves – that, that’s legit – but it really helps to get some perspective and to be patient with their growth, and patient with their maturity level. Allow them to be kids. Stretching them but not pushing them to the breaking point and causing lots of stress and anxiety. I talk with a lot of single adults who are still struggling to find their way they don’t have it figured out and their parents really pushed them.

Having your kids just follow your agenda and expectations doesn’t set them up for success because then they don’t have the ability to problem-solve and discern who they really are and what they end up doing, or pursuing, doesn’t end up being a good fit for who they are, the way of doing things, their personality, their strengths, their temperament. That can be really confusing and disillusioning: when you pursue a college degree, a career path, and get the message that “this is going to make you happy and this is going to make you successful” and you’re just miserable.

Practice #3 is practicing Presence.  This is a whole other topic (blog), but just listening well, spending time with your kids to hear how they’re doing with school how they’re doing with relationships, how they’re doing personally is practicing presence. Listening for how they’re feeling and viewing themselves, what their self-image is, what the messages that they’re telling themselves are, can be really helpful.  But that means spending less time on TV. That might mean spending less time on social media or even Periscope. Setting healthy limits so that you can spend time because those conversations come in the middle of spending time, in the middle of the rhythms of the day and rhythm of the week.

Practice #4: Praise and Positivitity. Another practice is praise and positivity.  And that can be with yourself.  Our kids observe and know the things that we really believe based on the things that stress us out and make us fearful and anxious.  They sniff out the hypocrisy in the things we really value. For example, if we are really critical and negative of other people, other families, then they pick up on “That’s not OK.” and “This is what Mom and Dad are expecting and if I don’t want to be criticized if, I don’t want mom or dad to think poorly of me, then I’d better not look like or act like that person.” And if we speak critically or negatively of other families that can be damaging because they likely pick up on where we’re judgmental and that makes them at risk to be perfectionistic and inauthentic with other people.

So work on your issues.  Don’t pass on your negativity.  Don’t pass on your anxiety.

I’ll post the next four practices is part two of this blog.

If you struggle with perfectionism as a parent or with the affects of a parent’s perfectionism, what do you think of these practices so far?

How might you incorporate these practices in your life this month?