Happiness is a Choice, not a Circumstance

Happiness is dependent on 1 thing:  CHOICE.  The only time it’s circumstance is when your health, loved ones or necessities are taken away.

My mom was an amazing woman.  She grew up during the Depression with 2 younger sisters, a mother with mental health issues and her father died when she was just 4 years old.  They had an unheated roof over their heads but not much more.  They often went hungry and the school would feed them cream to fatten them up.  They were in Winnipeg where it got 30+ degrees below 0 yet they were not allowed to complain about being cold, hungry or anything.  Their mom instilled in them a sense of gratefulness for what they had.

Mom had so many funny stories about growing up but one of my favourites is when they’d visit her grandmother who hated kids and would send them out in the garden to search for peas under 5 feet of snow.

What made Mom so special is that through all her hardships, and there were many, she was always cheery and positive.  Her charisma drew people to her.  She wasn’t just positive, she was also very funny, social and just plain nice.  Never said a mean word about anyone, that was too negative for her.

I was 14 when my Dad died.  I can remember it like it was yesterday as we were at home expecting Dad would die soon.  He’d been in hospital for 3 weeks in the final stages of cancer.  Mom and I got the call at noon and we cried in each others arms for a few minutes then she pulled herself together and said, “Weren’t we lucky to have him for all those years?”  I was like, “What???  Dad just died and you’re already searching for the positives in all this?!  There aren’t any!!!”  

But, that was just Mom.  She couldn’t help it.  Her glass was always half full.

They say we’re born with a certain nature.  It could be cheerful, serious, quiet, loud.  Mom was very serious and quiet growing up but she turned into a very loud, cheerful adult.  She always said it was a choice.  She CHOSE to be happy. 

I mostly got that throughout life but it wasn’t until she died in my arms that I really got it.  It almost felt like she’d passed the torch.

Happiness really IS a choice.  

I was at a party the other night and some people were talking about politics or something and it was all negative.  I wasn’t joining in the conversation and someone commented on it as I’m usually such a motormouth.  I said I just don’t function well around negativity.  A friend thought that was funny as I deal with so many crisis situations in my business.  I said that’s completely different as it’s all solution based, not just dwelling on the negative.

That’s why I don’t let clients talk about their problems for more than a couple of minutes at a time.  What’s the point???  I get it, I know there’s a problem, now let’s work on the solution.  Let’s focus on being happy.  

Happy Families are my goal with BratBusters.  I want you all to be happy with yourselves, happy with your kids, your kids to be happy with you.  I want everything to be positive.  I see problems as opportunities to learn and grow.  

Disclaimer re. youths in crisis:  I do not recommend my methods to others as they are not based on formal training, just experience and intuition.  Every situation is different but here is an example of how focusing on the positive can be a real asset: 

I was talking to a youth in a psyche ward after a suicide attempt.  I’d been working with his family but hadn’t met him previously.  I introduced myself but he just turned his head to the wall.  I sat there quietly flipping through some ancient magazines and talking to myself about how lame they were.  After an hour or 2 he turned and looked at me.  It worked, I’d gained his trust.  When I left awhile later the nurse asked what was so funny as heard us laughing.  I said, “He was telling me how he’d tried to kill himself and we were laughing at what a failure he was at it.”  A couple of years later he was still doing okay so … fingers crossed.

I won’t bore you with all the psychological mumbo jumbo but the jest of why that worked was that I’d normalized his suicide attempt.  He didn’t need to feel ashamed, he wasn’t crazy, he’d just screwed up and it almost cost him his life.  Really tough to do it again when you’ve been giggling with someone about how ridiculous it was.

Mom taught me that, she could ALWAYS find the humour in a situation.  She knew how to put people at ease, to make them feel good about themselves. 

Mom chose to be happy and knew how to spread the happiness.  What a gift.  What a woman.  

Do you choose to be happy?  Do you teach this to your children?  I’d love to hear from you.

Warmly, Lisa.


More Happy Reading.

When to Negotiate and when to Lay Down the Law

It’s fine to negotiate with kids, so long as you know when and how to do it.

I negotiated pretty much everything with my kids, ahead of time, rarely in the moment.  They were told that if something came up that they really wanted to do but it was interfering with the schedule, that’s fine, so long as they discuss it with me in a reasonable manner.

I’d even do their chores for them at times so long as they were nice about doing mine sometimes also.  Mutual respect … can’t go wrong once that’s in place.  Easy peasy.  

So if it’s so easy, then why do so many parents struggle?  Two main reasons:

1.  Inconsistency

I was talking to a client recently who didn’t understand my claim of being 100% consistent when I was willing to do my kids’ chores for them if they got a call from a friend to go and do something fun.  I said I was just doing them a favour, as I expected them to do for me from time to time.

They never asked without sweetening the deal with something like, “‘If you do the dishes for me tonite, I’ll wash your car on Saturday.”  If I’d said no, which I rarely did with a better offer like that, there was no argument, they just did the dishes.

The consistency was that it was still their chore, they could just negotiate out of it by offering to do something for me.  Those were odd exceptions, not the norm.

2.  Unreasonable Expectations

Before hiring me parents have often gone into overdrive trying to get control of the family.  They’ll set up elaborate charts full of rules and chores, punish often and go diving off the cliff of frustration.  Some will even tell me they’ve been following me for years and have tried everything I’ve suggested yet nothing has worked.

What they haven’t done is have reasonable expectations.  When they work with me we work on one thing at a time.  Rome wasn’t built in a day and you can’t get your kids’ respect in a day.  You have to earn it over time.  The longer it took you to lose it, the longer it’s going to take to get it.

The biggest turnaround I ever experienced with a client was literally one day.  In order to respect their privacy I will change a few details but it’s a great story worth sharing.

The children were between 10 and 15 and not into anything terrible, just defiant and cheeky.  I told the parents to throw out everything they’d been doing and adopt my “3 Step Parenting Plan”.  We went through how to set it up keeping it very simple.

But here’s what they did that changed everything.  I have to mention they didn’t want to do it, they were horrified at my suggestion.  But I assured them it’s worked with tons of other families and that I couldn’t work with them further if they weren’t willing to do it.  I don’t recommend it for all families, but they were the perfect fit as had extremely demanding and unreasonable expectations of their children throughout the years.  The list of chores and rules were ridiculous.  They were lucky their kids hadn’t run away from home.

So, here’s the speech I gave them to say to their kids:

“We’re sorry we’ve been lousy parents.  We don’t blame you for not respecting us.  We love you more than anything in the world but that doesn’t mean we’ve treated you well.  From now on we’re going to work to be the parents you deserve.”  

They said their kids just sat there staring at them in disbelief and one even ran over crying and hugged them.  It was a huge shift for the family and all we did in the next sessions was work on how to follow through on their promises.

Now I didn’t think they were lousy parents at all, it was just said to shake things up.  Kids usually defend their parents and say they’re not lousy.  It’s a great tool to break down walls and defensiveness.  It also brings out compassion in the kids.

As difficult as it is for some parents to do, not one of them has told me it was a mistake.  They say it’s very emotional and difficult for them but also shows them and their children that it’s okay to be humble and vulnerable.  We’re all human, we all make mistakes.

So, when do you Lay Down the Law?


You can’t lay down the law if you don’t have respect.  That’s what the above was all about.  So, assuming you have at least some level of your children’s respect, you lay down the law in the moment as necessary.

The bottom line is that you are the adult, you’re in charge of their welfare, etc. and if you say something, it’s law.

The only thing I can remember my kids doing that annoyed me was arguing over Lego or some treat.  They were pretty quiet arguers as knew if I heard I’d take away whatever they were arguing over.

One day I heard them arguing over the last piece of cake, one said it hadn’t been cut fairly.  I calmly walked into the kitchen and they handed me the cake to eat right in front of them … they knew.  After I ate the cake I taught them how to handle it next time:  one cuts, the other chooses.  But in the moment, I laid down the law.

There is no negotiating in the moment, just laying down the law.  That was the first and last time they ever argued over a piece of cake, lol.

More on this:  “How do I stop my kids from fighting with each other?” 

Arguing was the crime, losing the cake was the punishment.  If I’d let them have the cake that day, they’d have learned that it’s okay to argue.  NEVER REWARD BAD BEHAVIOUR.  

If you want help learning how to navigate through all this negotiating, laying down the the law, etc. check out my coaching page.  There are unlimited emails flying back and forth between weekly sessions so I’m with you through it all.

Warmly, Lisa

How to Talk to Kids so They’ll Listen – Volume 22,317

Did you know if you master how you talk to kids you can get them to do pretty much anything you want?  Not only that but they’ll have pride in thinking that it’s what they wanted to do all along.

It’s not about obedience, but about guiding kids to make the right decisions and do the right things.  This leads to pride, high self-esteem, etc., etc.

So, how do you guide kids to choose to do the right thing?  It’s easy, you just learn how to communicate with them on their level, not yours. 

Far too much parenting advice tells parents to speak to children as if they’re tiny adults.  That drives me nuts as it’s so disrespectful.  That would be like expecting an adult to communicate on a child’s level.  Okay, maybe some do, but you get the point.

Speak to children as if they’re children.  Don’t talk down to them, just speak in their language. 

Here’s a great example of getting a defiant 9 year old to do a task he didn’t want to do:

I was running a workshop awhile back and a 9 year old boy was being very cheeky to his father who kept trying to get him to settle down and do a task.  Dad was using phrases like:

If you don’t sit still and listen there’s no TV tonight.

I told you on the way here that if you’re not good today then you’ll be in trouble when we get home.

I intervened and told the boy that he didn’t have to do the task, he could go sit in a chair by the wall, no problem.  He ran right over to the chair.  His father was upset but I whispered, “Just smile and let me lead.”  We did the boy’s task while talking and laughing and eventually the boy came over and tried to join in. 

His father was ecstatic and started to pull up a chair so he could join in.  I said to the boy, “You chose not to do the task and I completely respected that.  You’re welcome to do the next task but you’ll have to go sit back in the chair for now.  Thanks.”  Then I just continued talking to the dad as if the boy wasn’t even there.  When the boy tried talking to me I just smiled at him and pointed to the chair.  I didn’t have time to talk, I was busy doing “his” task.

The boy was kinda confused as had never been spoken to like that but because it was all so clear and definite with no room for negotiation, he went right back to the chair.  Sure enough, he ran right over for the next task.  He even waited for me to gesture for him to come back and join us.  All happy smiles, nothing negative about the interaction. 

Not only did he feel respected, but he felt appreciated and proud when he completed the next task.

If I hadn’t intervened he wouldn’t have done any tasks and at the end of the workshop the dad would’ve been frustrated, angry and embarrassed.  They both left feeling very proud of themselves.

It took a lot of coaching after that experience to kick dad of his old habits as he really struggled to let go as in his home country children are taught to obey.  It’s not like that here in Canada so the outside influences were really messing that that cultural beliefs.  The dad was trying to demand respect but learned how to command it instead which I think is way better anyway, don’t you?

The above interaction was specific to that situation but this same belief system of talking to kids in their language, very concise and direct, works with homework, bedtime and even chores.  Of course the method is changed as who’s going to look all happy to take out the garbage while the kid just sits in a chair, lol.

Anything you’re struggling to get your kids to do?  Let me know and I may use it in Volume 22,318 :).

Warmly, Lisa

You Know Disciplining is Necessary, but how do you Get Started?

You know you have to discipline.  But where do you start?  I’ll break it down into 3 steps:

1.  Adopt a calm demeanour (will elaborate on this below).  It doesn’t have to be who you are or what you’re feeling.  It’s just a demeanour.  If you’re stressed, yelling, losing it, the kids are going to focus on that, not rules or anything else.

2.  Pick just 1 rule and 1 consequence for every member of the family (refer to my “3 Step Parenting Plan” (below) for this.

3.  Follow through with the rule and consequence 100%.  If you mess up, start again and pick another rule and consequence.  

The point of this is to win one battle, just one.  Once you master that, the next ones get easier.

What are the best battles to start with?  The ones that are measurable and daily.  They could be bedtime, mealtime, etc.  

Let’s eIaborate on your calm demeanour.  It’s along the lines of “fake it till you make it”.  Once you start to see results with this new you, or this pretend new you, it will start to become genuine.

When I first started working with troubled teens I’d make the inside of my cheeks bleed chewing on them trying to stay calm.  I knew those kids were testing me but I’m still human.  I knew that the quickest path to getting positive results was always to stay calm under any circumstances.

I really lost it once with a troubled teen.  He was into cutting and had suicidal tendencies.  He said I may not see him the following week as he wasn’t sure he wanted to be around anymore.  I grabbed him and growled, “If you kill yourself I’ll kill you!”  He thought that was pretty funny and our sessions continued the following week.

I hope this helps,