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.

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

How Much Screen Time is Too Much?

I’m so glad my kids are grown up as I’d be setting a horrible example. I love wasting time on social media, especially YouTube. I end up falling down the rabbit hole of one video leading to another and next thing you know I’m watching pimples being popped and thinking, “How on earth did I get here?!”

So, how much time do your kids spend looking at screens every day? 10 minutes? 10 hours?

10 hours isn’t uncommon for teens. Some teenage boys will spend entire weekend playing video/computer games. I don’t mean just during the day, I’ve talked to some who have done binge gaming starting Friday night and gone right through to Sunday night. Needless to say, getting to school Monday morning is no easy exercise.

What do I mean by screen time? It’s TV, video games, computer, tablet and phone.

So, how much is too much? Of course there’s no set rule but here’s my basic outline:

Toddlers – 0-30 minutes
Preschoolers to 12 years – 60 minutes
13 to 18 – good luck with that one

I see little kids on tablets everywhere. I’m sure it’s an easy way to keep them still but do we really want to keep them still? Is it okay for a toddler to develop without moving anything but their fingers and eyes? I don’t know, I’m not a doctor. But it doesn’t feel right does it?

So what do you do? How do you cut down on unnecessary screen time with your kids?

Set up some ground rules. Put this in a high traffic area on a chart and stick to it like glue. You have to be on it also to set a good example.

Being realistic, just do your best to be mindful of the fact that you may be relying a bit too much on screens to keep the kids busy while you drive, cook dinner, do laundry or even just get a second alone with your thoughts.

Lisa Bunnage, Parenting Coach

Are you a Leader or a Bossy Friend to your Kids?

Almost all of the parents I work with are highly intelligent, successful and confident.  They’re stunned that they’re having problems with their kids because they’re so good at everything else.  The reason their kids are challenging them is usually because they’re Bossy Friends instead of Leaders.

So what’s a Bossy Friend?  It’s a parent who tries to be friends with their kids but when the kids get out of hand they become bossy and often yell and just lose it because the kids won’t listen to them.

I was definitely friends with my kids but I was the Leader first and foremost.  Once you get that figured out, let the friendship and fun and happiness roll right through the teen years.  You just have to exercise your leadership every so often to remind them who’s in charge.

Being in charge isn’t about telling them what to do, being bossy or “demanding” respect.  It’s about being a calm leader, trustworthy, consistent, predictable and always willing to listen.  You give respect to get it.

So what are you putting first?  Friendship or leadership?  Think about it, it’s important.

Lisa Bunnage, Parenting Coach

Note:  Coaching probably isn’t what you think it is.  It’s not about telling me how you got where you are.  I don’t work that way at all.  I just work on moving you forward in a positive direction, it’s all goal and results driven.  For more on coaching.