Why Presence Really Matters Most This Year

Have you asked your kids what they want for Christmas yet? I admit, I started asking before Halloween. A part of me doesn’t want to worry about not getting something in time. But a big part of me used it as a distraction. When that Amazon holiday wish book arrived, I told my boys “Santa’s magazine is here!” and set them off to circle the things they wanted. It gave me 30 minutes of quiet without leaning on screen time.

Though they may have a wish list that is about 10 pages long, they know that Santa will only be able to bring them one thing. To my (honest) surprise, my boys didn’t argue or get upset. They sat quietly for a minute flipping through the pages, picked up a different color marker and circled one or two toys saying, “I’ll give mine to my brother instead… I think he’ll like this the best.”

Queue the proud mom moment.

I share this story with you because I think it illustrates a very important concept: presence is more valuable than presents.

This year, I think a lot of parents and grandparents and caregivers will feel a little guilty for not spending enough time with their kids. Trying to juggle all the responsibilities of life while also playing primary caregiver 24/7 is exhausting and, honestly, impossible. It’s hard not to feel like you haven’t done enough in some area of life as you finally lay down at night. So, I think people will spend big this year, giving kids exactly what they’ve asked for and then some. It will alleviate some of the guilt we feel that life has been so weird this year. So unpredictable. So, different.

But instead of worrying about the money, or worrying about buying the exact right gift, what if, instead, you created a gift of presence? Maybe it’s a movie night and you wrap a box of popcorn and a new DVD (or a picture of a new digital version of the movie). Maybe it’s a family campout and you wrap up the ingredients for smores. Maybe it’s a sleepover night and you create a pillow / blanket fort to sleep in.

In each of these gifts, you’re giving the gift of [your] presence. To be fully and completely tuned in to your kids. Whether it’s a group event or a single event for each kid to experience your presence individually, these are the things they’ll remember. They won’t remember the toy that broke on Christmas Day night, or the toys that didn’t have the batteries they needed when they unwrapped them.

They will remember how you showed up in a big way to make it the best holiday ever.

So how will you give the gift of presence this year?

Take Action
As you’re scouring the wish lists from your kids, try getting a little creative. If they ask for movies or books, how could you make it something you can do together? For example, if they ask for books, maybe you write and illustrate one together.

And get others involved! Ask friends and family members for their ideas to find ways to be more engaged and present in your kids’ lives without giving more toys and stuff.

Remember where the memories are made and traditions start.

By Kristin Allaben

Consider reading I’m Thankful For…

Return to the Blog

Successfully and Intentionally Raising Little Humans

I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve heard someone so confidently tell me they never yell at their children. Or the number of times I’ve seen child experts share their guidance that yelling reduces children’s self-esteem and therefore shouldn’t happen. Or that yelling isn’t a productive response.

Let me tell you something: as a mother of three boys ages 4 and under, yelling most definitely is a productive response. But there’s a time and place for it: yelling only happens when it’s an intentional choice I made that makes sense for the situation.

Here’s why.

I have a 4-year old, an almost 3-year old and a 1 year old. Did I mention they’re all boys? They’re extremely physical, all of whom are in seemingly perpetual motion. And when they’re not bouncing off the walls and furniture or pushing each other to “get there first,” they’re cackling at jokes only they seem to get and – it seems – finding ways to push me over the edge.

I recently had a neighbor tell me they can hear me yell, and one name seems to stand out more than others (the middle guy because second kids, man, right?).

And in that moment, I never felt so embarrassed or so confident ever before in my life. It was a completely unexpected and confusing response to hearing my neighbor say they can hear me. I mean, we were always taught to never air our dirty laundry – doesn’t disciplining your kids fall into that category? So, yeah, I was embarrassed, but…why wasn’t I more embarrassed?

It’s because I’m self-aware and I’m tuned in to each of my kids. I know what each of them need to thrive and I know how far they’re willing to push me to test their limits (and how far I know I can let them push those limits). I know how much sleep they each need so they’re not bears the next morning. I know how quickly I need to get breakfast for each of them when they wake up and I know what bedtime will look like if I let them stay up just 10 minutes longer. I know whether or not an extra book at bedtime is a good idea for them (honestly, it varies based on how their day was) and I know when they need a few extra minutes of individual attention during the day. I know when a fun “tubby time” event with everyone involved is a good idea and when they need to be separated. I know when one of them needs to just relax in the tub for a bit. I know when one of them needs to get some extra energy out and just run for a bit. I know each of their interests and I know how hard (or if I should even) push to get them to explore something new without writing it off immediately because it’s different.

I know me. And I know my kids. Because I’m self-aware enough to know where my limits are and my strengths are. And I’m aware enough of my surroundings – and especially my kids – to know when I need to push and when I need to let go.

For that reason, though my neighbors may sometimes hear me loudly guiding my kids (I’m going to start calling it that instead of “yelling”), I’m confident in the fact that I know when and why I raise my voice. It’s never a reaction; it’s a response. In fact, I’d say that 90% of the time, I loudly guide to just get their attention, to create a stop and notice moment for them, to bring them back to reality as I see one of them hanging the other over the back of the couch upside down while another one claims they’ll catch them while doing a backbend over the dog (ok, this is a bit extreme but you get the idea).

Sometimes, I have to raise my voice to get their attention because, after all, though they may be active little boys, they are also their own unique person.

They have their own thoughts, ideas and opinions.

They have their own (developing) sense of individualism.

They have their own preferences and desires and wishes and dreams.

I try to remember this when I get frustrated with how easy it seems to be for them to so easily tune me out in one moment only to bombard me with a stream of endless questions in the next.

I try to remember that we’re all unique individuals living in the same house under a specific set of rules. Our rules. The rules my husband and I created to do our best to raise good, kind humans. The rules we created to keep everyone safe and healthy. The rules we created based on what we believe is the right way to raise them, especially in this crazy, ever-changing world we live in.

They’re figuring out who they are – their likes and dislikes, what’s fun and not fun, what’s right and wrong – and they’re doing it with guidance from me. It can be exhausting. It can be exciting. It can be so much fun. And sometimes, I have to loudly guide to be sure they hear me and, more likely, to be sure no one gets hurt.

So, the next time (because we know there will be a next time) my neighbor tells me she can hear me yelling at my kids again, I’ll remember to say “thank you.” I’ll thank her for giving me a stop and notice moment to reflect on why I’ve been raising my voice. And I hope I’ll be in the same position to know each time was a response and not a reaction because, after all, I’m loudly guiding my boys to figure out who they are as individuals.

Take Action
To raise your tiny humans the best way you can, ensure you are self-aware. You know where your final straw is. You know what buttons are never ok to push. You know what rules make sense for your family because you’re not only aware of yourself and your limits, but you’re tuned in to your kid(s) and what each of them need to thrive.

A great way to start is to ask questions. Though I may loudly guide from time to time, I always follow it up with a question. “Can you explain to me why you thought that was a good idea?” or “Why did you do that?” are two of the more common ones in my house, but questions could be anything. Just keep them open. A yes/no question doesn’t allow for a discussion; get them talking and you’ll engage with them in a way you didn’t think possible the moment before.

By Kristin Allaben

Consider reading Your Mood Affects Others; Manage it.

Return to the Blog

This article first appeared on Thrive Global on October, 21, 2020.

It Won’t Break When It Falls

“Imagine life is a game in which you are juggling five balls. The balls are called work, family, health, friends and integrity. And you’re keeping all of them in the air. But one day you finally come to understand that work is a rubber ball. If you drop it, it will bounce back. The other four balls – family, health, friends, integrity – are made of glass. If you drop one of these, it will be irrevocably scuffed, nicked, perhaps even shattered.” – Suzanne’s Diary for Nicholas, James Patterson

I bet this passage will resonate with you differently depending on where you are in life. For some of my clients, the conversation revolves around that seemingly always-out-of-reach work/life balance. For others, the conversation revolves around which of those five balls is rubber and which is glass.

But it always culminates in the same type of questions:

  • How can I keep my job / my career but still maintain good, strong relationships with my family?
  • How can I possibly spend any time of the day working out to be healthy when I already feel like I have to pick work or my kids?
  • How can I maintain any semblance of friendship with others outside of the house when there’s already such limited time for me and my spouse / partner to just be together?

There’s an underlying theme here, one that hit me square in the eyes as I was reading The One Thing by Gary Keller: balance is really a question of priority.

Think about everything you have going on in your life. Your kids, your partner/spouse, your friends, your job. Now think about where they rank as a priority for you. Don’t let yourself be confused about necessity or desire. Challenge yourself to really see the priorities.

  • Is it a priority for you to be present with your kids all day, or is it a desire?
  • Is it a priority for you to advance in your career, or is it a desire?
  • Is it a priority for you to work out during the day, or a desire?

Define priority. Define desire. Understand the difference between the two.

These are your definitions; no one can tell you what is right or wrong for you. You get to decide.

So here’s the biggest challenge: don’t judge it when you see it. You know what a priority looks like, so start your day by prioritizing the big stuff. What needs to get done today for work? At home? With family?

This will not only help you set stronger and more powerful intentions for your day, but it will also help stay sane, calm and more balanced in a period of great uncertainty and change. It will give you more control over things that may have seemed to be out of or not within your control.

Be honest with yourself. If you drop one of those five balls, what will bounce back and what will break or change in a way that can never be replaced?

Take Action
Learning how to prioritize work activities, family activities and personal activities is not the hard part. The hard part is learning how not to judge what you decide is a priority for you. Commit to your priorities. You’ll find that what you decide is a priority for you may be the glass ball, after all.

By Kristin Allaben

Consider reading Your Check Engine Light

Return to the Blog

How to Balance Working from Home with Kids

Everyone is feeling the strain right now. The truth is that we’ve all been feeling it for months: the need to get your work done when you’re working from home when your kids are also home.

Regardless of how old they are, kids need guidance. Babies need your attention for just about everything. Toddlers can’t be left to their own devices for long. Tweens and teens need encouragement and support, especially as they work through remote learning. And adult children are likely look for emotional support and guidance, especially as they try to work through what all of this means for them and their independence, their friends and their family.

Trying to balance getting your work done while meeting the needs of your children is exhausting. We’re trying so hard to make it all work, trying to do it all. And though we don’t want to admit it, here’s the truth: a balanced life is not real. Time spent on one thing means time spent away from another.

So how do you successfully balance working from home when you have kids?

Consider these four tips:

First, identify your one big thing for work and home life that you want to achieve each day. Regardless of how many action items you have outstanding on your to do list, pick just one thing for work and one thing at home that, once done, will make you feel like it was a good, productive day.

Second, create a routine. This is as much for you as it is for them. Get used to starting your day the same way. Identify your work time. Identify school time. Identify free play time. Consider starting your day with a family meeting, maybe even over breakfast. Talk to each other about the day ahead. Communicate big events (like important work calls) or deadlines. Share frustrations and concerns. Make it a daily event and it will start to come easy.

Third, establish boundaries. When you’re working, it’s work time. No interruptions (except in extreme situations, and be sure to define what those are). When it’s school time, everyone is engaged. No excuses. Clearly define what “free play time” means and, if needed, put limits on screen time. I have found that having a brief family meeting each morning is a good way to reconfirm and remind everyone in the house about the boundaries, including a consequence for not supporting them. This is, after all, critical to making things work at this particular moment.

And finally, create a mental well-being space. Give a name like, Me time. Down time. Relaxing time. Whatever you choose to call it, make sure you build it into your day. You cannot pour from an empty cup (and I think most parents right now would say they operate on about 50% battery power on a good day).

These four tips – identify your one big thing for the day, create a routine, establish boundaries and create some mental well-being space – are how to get your arms around this working from home thing.

Whether this is temporary or permanent for you, it will require your thought, focus and intention to build and sustain something that works. Defining it and bringing everyone into knowing the approach will help ensure its success.

Take Action
Being told that the way to be effective working from home means doing more work can sound like a lot, but take it one step at a time. Start with the one thing from tip #1. What would a productive and successful day look like for you? Set your intention for the day, for both work and at home. Focus on getting those two things done and you’ll feel empowered to try the next tip.

By Kristin Allaben

Consider reading Staying Productive When Your World Goes Quiet

Return to the Blog

The Lessons You Find in Movies: Tangled

In today’s lessons from movies, we’re taking a look at Tangled. This is one of my favorite Disney movies. I love this version of the Rapunzel tale (I grew up watching a VERY bizarre version of the story). The music combined with the great characters and the comic relief make for a very entertaining movie.

But just like every other movie I’ve been watching with my boys, there are big life lessons the movie can share with us.

Here are the three lessons that resonated with me the most.

Lesson 1: The good guys can sometimes do bad things. – Flynn Rider is introduced at the start of the movie as the charismatic and funny one of three thieves who steals the missing princess’ crown.

The Takeaway: Sometimes, good guys do bad things. It doesn’t make them a bad guy, per se. It just might mean they veered off the path they were supposed to follow in life; they might be a little lost.

The Communication: This was a surprisingly important and really big discussion point for my boys who are big on superheroes fighting the bad guys. To them, the world is still just black and white. Good and bad. Right and wrong. Good always triumphs over evil. There’s no gray area to them yet, no extenuating circumstances that make explaining why something happened the way it did a bit easier to comprehend.

So, when I explained that Flynn Rider is actually a good guy who does bad things? Mind. Blown. We talked about how there are levels of “bad things.” Something like hitting or punching your brother is a “bad thing,” but it doesn’t make you a bad person. Something like stealing is a bad thing, and it can, perhaps incorrectly, label you as a bad person.

This also opens up the conversation to talk about how you perceive yourself and others. The labels you assign to yourself and to others carry a lot of weight, whether intended or not. So how do you identify yourself? And how does the world see you? The reality is often somewhere in the middle. (This can absolutely lead to an even larger discussion about what labels do to us and to others.)

Lesson 2: Always be kind. – Despite everything, Rapunzel is always kind and honest and generous to whomever she meets. In her first adventure outside the tower, she is brought to a tavern where all the “bad guys” are hanging out and in a twist Flynn never expected, she engages them all in a song where they each share their hidden dreams and wishes.  

The Takeaway: Being kind goes a long way. Not only does it invite kindness toward you (hello, karma), but it can also create amazing friendships. An added bonus? You often feel really good after you’ve been kind to others.

The Communication: The world can be a hard and challenging place, and some people might not know how to deal with the difficulties life shares. It’s a known fact and for that reason, there have been a number of efforts to encourage the world to be kind. Things like #bekind and #passiton and #givingTuesday are all intentional events that encourage people to think of others first.

So, think about what you could do today to be kind to your family, your friends, your neighbors, a stranger. How could you improve on something today to make the sun shine a little brighter for them so they feel recognized, valued and appreciated?

Lesson 3: Be strong enough to stand up for what is right. – In one of the final scenes of the movie, Rapunzel stands up to the witch, telling her that she will no longer bend to her wishes.

The Takeaway: Sometimes, standing up to what you believe in is hard, takes courage and may go against popular opinion. But, it’s important to identify your core values and beliefs to be able to stay true to them in a world that will frequently challenge them.

The Communication: It will always be difficult to be the one who stands out from the crowd, especially when it’s against popular opinion. But this is why it’s so important to know and be committed to your values and beliefs and to identify your guardrails. Your guardrails keep you moving on your road in a way that fits and matters to you. They also help you notice when you are being swayed to do something you’re not comfortable with or be someone you’re not. Talk about your guardrails and help others identify theirs. Life is so much easier to navigate when you know what your road looks like.

Take Action
I love Tangled. It’s a fun, entertaining movie and the music is terrific. But the life lessons it inconspicuously shares are powerful. At the end of the day, being true to who you are is ultimately what helps you identify, and consistently and wisely move forward in, the direction of your life. And the ability to be kind, regardless of what life shares with you, will always benefit both you and others, and will take you far.

How are you staying true to yourself and remembering to be kind with your family, friends and others in good times? In challenging times? In the time of COVID-19 quarantine?

By Kristin Allaben

Consider reading more Lessons in Movies

Return to the Blog

The Lessons You Find in Movies: Shazam!

In today’s lessons from movies, we’re taking a look at Shazam! This obviously isn’t a movie for young kids, but the purpose of these posts is not to focus on just the conversations you can have with kids, but the conversations you can have with anyone of any age. These posts hope to encourage you to see and hear beyond the obvious and learn how to communicate it, expand your thinking and engage with others.

Ok, so, let’s chat about Shazam.

Here are the three lessons that resonated with me the most.

Lesson 1: Know your powers. – Just like any other superhero movie, one of the most exciting parts is seeing the superhero discover and use their superhero powers. In Shazam, we see lead character Billy Batson as Shazam, trying to figure out what his superpowers are and how they work.

The Takeaway: You’ll never discover your “superpowers” (aka your talents, strengths and unique abilities) unless you’re willing to explore what they could be and how they could be used.

The Communication: If you ask any kid what their superpower would be, you would get a slew of preferences. “Flying! No, x-ray power! No, super fast speed! No… um, super strength! Um, wait…”

But if you ask an adult? I’m willing to bet you won’t get many ideas, if you get one at all.

This is because in the adult world, we get stuck in doing what we always do instead of making time to discover, develop and live what our unique “superpowers” are. We get stuck in the monotony of our schedules, frequently overlooking our unique abilities because we just don’t have the time.

Take the time now. What is it you are truly remarkable at? What do others applaud you for?

When you know this, ask yourself how you can use your superpowers to make things better. Try it. What are you noticing and how could you start to bring your superpowers into more of your days?

Lesson 2: Don’t put off til tomorrow what you can do today. – Shazam (the original) kept denying passing on his powers to anyone he essentially interviewed for the role, saying no one was worthy or pure or heart to take on his job. He waited so long that he wasn’t strong enough to do his one role: keep the seven deadly sins trapped, ensuring they didn’t escape and unleash their destruction on the world.

The Takeaway: There’s an old saying, “don’t put off until tomorrow what can be done today.” Sometimes, waiting to take care of a big task can create more problems for you in the end. But sometimes, it’s not just procrastination. Sometimes, you can create an idea in your head so spectacular it’s hard to see it as anything else. And this can create a block or obstacle for you, one that you’ll need help overcoming.

The Communication: Building a picture in your mind about what you want a situation, event or even life in general to be can be inspiring. But left unmanaged or unchecked, it can mean you lose touch with reality. You have heard the phrase “paralysis through analysis.” Sometimes getting started instead of waiting until the perfect moment will deliver you greater results than you imagine.

So, consider how you could change that goal, or the end-result image, to be more attainable. Try this: chunk it. Break it into smaller, more manageable pieces. This is by no means a discussion about limiting your dreams or to stop you from imaging being better in every aspect of your life. This is to encourage you to set small, achievable mini-goals to help you stay focused and motivated on your course. This is what it looks like to be self-managed and keep your ideas and ideals in check.

Lesson 3: “Family” is entirely up to you. – Throughout the entire movie, the lead character – Billy Batson – is on the search for his biological mother. A constant foster run-away, he finds himself moved from foster home to foster home until he lands in a group home with an unlikely cast of characters. The final scene reveals the importance of family, in the way he decides it should look.

The Takeaway: Each of us has the ability to add value to those in our lives by caring deeply, valuing others and bringing our best to what we do, whether we call them family or not.

The Communication: How do you define family? Is it the biological family you were born into? Is it a close-knit group of friends who would do anything for each other? Is it a combination of the two? Regardless of how you define family, the real value is this: you are there for each other. You are all there to recognize and celebrate each other’s unique strengths. You’re also there to help each other navigate blocks and challenges life shares. This is what families do; they walk through life with each other, guiding, supporting and helping each other grow into their best and most “super” selves.

Take Action
Shazam was an enjoyable movie. Some great laughs. A lot of tough love and lessons learned. But in the end, it really showcased the importance of discovering, developing, owning and living your true self – and allowing others to do the same. This could mean avoiding unrealistic expectations and instead identifying achievable and tangible goals. It could also mean that we’re defining who we call family. This reminds each of us that we can choose who we want to surround ourselves with and, as a result of that intention decision, we can be supported and celebrated to be the best version of ourselves.

So, the really big, important question: if you were a superhero, what would your superpower be?

By Kristin Allaben

Consider reading more Lessons in Movies

Return to the Blog

Rebuilding a New Normal from the Ground Up: For Families

I was talking to my Mom on Mother’s Day and, like our usual conversations, we talked about everything. The weather. Our jobs. What we’re making for dinner. What we’re doing to try to stay healthy and in shape during quarantine. What movies we’ve seen or TV shows that are worthy of a binge watch. And, of course, what my kids are up to that day.

After sharing some of the most recent funny and outrageous stories parents of young kids can relate to, she mentioned she’s eagerly awaiting the day when we can all get together again, hopefully before cold and flu season picks up.

Honestly, I don’t remember much of the rest of the conversation. I got stuck on “cold and flu season.” The hair on the back of my neck stood up and my stomach dropped when she said that phrase. I felt myself getting anxious. I started creating scenarios in my head, asking myself a lot of the anxiety-driven unproductive “what if” questions:

  • What if everyone gets sick when the kids go back to school in the fall?
  • What if COVID-19-related hospitalizations spike again when everyone’s back in the same crowded spaces together?
  • What if we have to go back into quarantine?
  • What if my husband’s job isn’t so understanding about a split workday as we divide childcare so we both have time to work?
  • What if there really aren’t enough hours in the day to work, take care of the kids, maintain the house, maintain our health, maintain some semblance of normalcy? What will suffer? What will I have to sacrifice? What will my family have to sacrifice?

I felt myself getting nervous. Anxious. Scared. Things I do when I let my mind take over and don’t manage the flow of negative news always coming our way.

I took a deep breath and reminded myself those were all unproductive emotions. I didn’t judge the emotions or berate myself for feeling them. Quite the opposite: I acknowledged them. This is important because these feelings, when left unchecked, can inspire (unproductive) actions. The best way to diffuse emotions is to acknowledge them. By recognizing what I was feeling – and understanding why – I remembered that nothing comes from being worried or anxious about the what ifs.

Reality check: I know I’m not the only parent right now worrying about the what ifs. In fact, there have been countless articles talking about the psychological impact on people as a result of the COVID-19 quarantine (read: no one is sleeping, or at least not well).

But operating in a constant state of worry and anxiety is unproductive and unhealthy. And as the world slowly starts to reopen and we’re challenged to create a new normal, you will have to be present enough (not in a worry or anxious state) to wisely review and consider options for a new normal for you and your family.

Here are my suggestions to start navigating the new normal as a family:

  1. Start with a family meeting. We talked about the value of having a family meeting (or whatever you want to call it) to get everyone on the same page, regardless of what external factors are in play. Ensure everyone in the family is heard, has input and is included in the plan. Get in the habit of reviewing and planning together every morning or every evening.
  2. Talk about What’s Working and What’s Not. At the family meeting, talk about what is working and not working in the return to a new normal. No complaints, just the facts. Applaud the things that worked and encourage ways to continue them. For the things that didn’t work, identify why they didn’t work then brainstorm together to come up with ideas to try to make things better. This way all issues are dealt with and everyone has a voice, ownership and responsibility for their part.  Keep reviewing this list every few weeks to see how things are improving. Watch how this improves a productive approach to communication among the entire family.
  3. Play the Imagine Game. During the family meeting, ask everyone to imagine what life will be like when we go back to school. Challenge the family to think outside the traditional approach to the back to school season. For example, start by asking, what if you could never go back to the school building? Or, what if you had to learn in local small groups in our neighborhood? Or how could we make our remote learning sessions better/more productive? There are so many unknowns right now and we know that when we finally create the new normal, it will not look like what it used to be.
  4. Commit to your one thing. Life has a funny way of challenging our greatest plans. Though your family’s efforts to define and commit to living their safe, healthy and happy new normal, life may have other plans. So consider committing to just one thing. What is one thing that you would like to have happen – as a family – regardless of what the future brings? Maybe it’s family game night or movie night. Maybe it’s having dinner together as a family every night (or at least on school nights). Maybe it’s committing to learning how to do something new together once a month. Regardless of what life shares that may further challenge our definition of normal, this is the one thing you can commit to doing together.
  5. Ask questions. When we shift to the new normal, remember to check in with each other. It’s easy to fall into old ways if new habits aren’t practiced routinely. To keep relationships growing and productive, ask each other questions that encourage discussion, not just one-word or closed questions. For example, instead of “how was your day?” ask “what is one new thing you learned today?” or “what was your favorite part of the day?” Engaging each other keeps us sharing our thoughts. Feeling heard and involved is an important part of staying mentally healthy in changing times.

Take Action
Creating a new normal as a family doesn’t have to be a daunting task. This is your opportunity to create a new approach to how you want life as a family to be. Stop and notice what worked and didn’t work in the way things used to be. Do more of what worked, and replace what didn’t work with new ideas.

Imagine. Brainstorm. Create. It is yours to invent, so invent something better. Then work together to make it happen.

Define your new normal as a family.

By Kristin Allaben

Consider reading The Quarantine Diaries: Day ???

Return to the Blog

The Lessons You Find in Movies: WALL-E

In today’s lessons from movies, we’re taking a look at WALL-E. I have maybe seen the movie in its entirety 2 or 3 times, and that’s including the time I just watched it with my boys. But I admit that recently watching it again, I was surprised how much of the movie I vividly remembered. This was particularly surprising when I realized it was released in 2008 (what?!) and despite being nearly 12 years old, the lessons it shares are incredibly accurate for our world today.

Here are the three lessons that resonated with me the most.

Lesson 1: The Earth needs a break. As explained on the WALL-E Wikipedia page, “In the 29th century, rampant consumerism and environmental neglect have turned Earth into a garbage-strewn wasteland.” Sound familiar?

The Takeaway: As humans, we are notoriously bad at recognizing our impact on those around us. Whether it’s other people, places or things, our impact is so much more far reaching than we could possibly imagine.

The Communication: This is a great discussion point for your kids – especially with Earth Day just a few weeks ago – to highlight the importance of taking care of our environment. We talked about the impact we have on the environment on The Leading Edge not long ago as it relates to COVID-19, and since then, we’ve seen a continued number of stories and pictures emerge as the Earth seems to be healing from our harsh way of living. Understanding how to recognize your impact on others – whether people, places or things – can make a big difference in the words you choose when you’re expressing frustration with another. The cars you choose to drive. The intentional decision to recycle or throw something away. The effort you make in the relationships with those around you. Be aware of yourself enough to recognize when something you may do or say could negatively impact those or the world around you.

Lesson 2: Reliance on technology – In the movie, after everyone was evacuated from Earth, they become lazy and helpless, unable to do the most basic things due to their increasing reliance on machines to do it for them.

The Takeaway: Technology is amazing. It can do so many wonderful things and has allowed for incredible advances, like the ability for so many of us to work from home during this pandemic. But if it’s not managed, if technology is leaned on too much, it becomes a crutch we can’t walk without.

The Communication: Though technology can let us do so many wonderful things, using it too much can actually cause more harm than good. Remember the wisdom of the ancient philosophers, “Nothing too much.” Watching TV too much or playing too many video games can damage your eyes and impact your brain. Using a laptop or tablet from your favorite place in the house may be appealing for a while, but soon you’ll start to notice parts of your body getting tight and uncomfortable, most likely because you’re not sitting correctly. Like everything, technology is great when managed but can create challenges and unhealthy behaviors when left unmanaged. Learning how to use technology as a supporting item, and not relying on it for survival, is a tough transition to make, but possible. Start small, like putting the phones away during dinner. Retrain your brain to think on its own instead of relying on your virtual assistant to do all your thinking for you. Manage your technology the way you manage your eating: use it well and have a treat every now and then.

Lesson 3: Stay curious. Be positive. – Despite the fact that WALL-E is the last surviving robot on Earth tasked with cleaning up the mess, he still continues to wake up and do his job every day. He takes new items he discovers that intrigue him back to his “home” and gets excited about finding new things. He’s also incredibly curious, which shows his eagerness to continue to learn new things.

The Takeaway: Life is what it is. In every challenge there is always an opportunity – or three or four. But it’s what you do with what you’re given that makes the difference.

The Communication: Consider how you can shift your mindset to see the good in whatever life has to share with you. For example, think about the current quarantine we’re in. Do you see it as being stuck at home? Or do you see it as being safe at home? Same event, different perspective. Recognize how a mindset shift to see things in a positive way can change the entire experience.

Take Action
WALL-E is about being self-aware (knowing your strengths, passions, liabilities and triggers) so you can be self-managed. This is how you ensure you’re managing your impact on the people, places and things around you. This is how you create a positive approach to life, allowing you to see the good in every moment, even when things seem particularly challenging.   

By Kristin Allaben

Consider reading The Lessons You Find in Movies: Frozen 2

Return to the Blog

The Lessons You Find in Movies: Frozen 2

Ok, this might be a little corny, but I’m finding some big life lessons presented in movies as I’m watching with my kids.

Let me explain. I’m trying really hard to not resort to having the TV on all the time with everyone home during this quarantine phase. I’ve tried to make it an exciting event (“movie day” with special chairs and snacks in popcorn containers) rather than a normal occurrence. It works, sometimes.

Most recently, I noticed how many questions my kids ask when I turn a new movie on. And I realized they’re not asking questions to interrupt but instead to help them make sense of what they’re seeing.

Movie Day – Frozen 2

So I started answering their questions. All of them. And then I started asking them some questions, too. Before I knew it, I realized there was an untapped opportunity here: if we watch a movie, we have a conversation about what we’ve learned or taken away from it. *Flashback to freshman English class.*

As a coach, I’m sharing some of these big lessons with you to encourage you to have discussions with your kids about some of the things you see everyday – not just in movies – and to always entertain questions. After all, how can you learn new things, or see how things could be better, if you’re not willing to ask a question?

In fact, one of the greatest things we can do for our kids is to encourage them to find their own answers. By asking them questions, they can try out their own thinking and practice putting their thoughts together to (ideally) develop into a critical thinking and problem-solving person who can successfully navigate their way through life. But this means we can’t direct and control; we have to guide them and help them interpret what they see so they can learn about life and themselves and how to put the two together.

So here we go: lessons you find in movies. Up first, Frozen 2.

Full disclosure: I put this movie on in desperation for an hour of uninterrupted time to get some stuff done around the house and try to tackle some work. But I mistakenly sat within watching distance and let me tell you: I didn’t get any work done. I was sucked into this movie in a way I haven’t been in a very long time.

I know I’m late to the party with this one, but I was absolutely amazed at the depth of the life lessons shared in this movie. Here are just three that resonated with me.

Lesson 1: This will all make sense when I am older – It’s a great song Olaf sings (check it out on YouTube) as he encounters a variety of things that scare and confuse him.

The Takeaway: Life is big and amazing. But it can also be confusing and scary. And this is ok. Moving through the confusion, the scary parts and the overwhelming moments is part of life, but you can always get through it when you remain positive and choose to see the good. I also can appreciate the sarcasm here because really, when do any of us really have the ability to make sense of why things happen the way they do?

The Communication: This is a great discussion point for your kids if you’re looking for a way to chat with them about our current situation with COVID-19, or any situation they find themselves in that they don’t know how to handle. Whether they’re 2, 12 or 20, they’re looking for a way to make sense of all of this. Their world has been changed, drastically, and it was done seemingly overnight. This will all make sense when I am older could be a great way to illustrate to them that as they gain wisdom that comes from every experience they have in life, they’ll start to recognize when they can and can’t control a situation. And in both situations, they’ll see how they can control their response to the situation. Like Olaf in this song, he chose to remain positive and optimistic instead of cowering in fear.

Lesson 2: Lost in the woods – Another powerful moment, we see Kristoff lamenting that he’s been left behind, forced to make a decision to follow Anna (again) or to wait for her to come back. He’s confused and unsure about what this means for their relationship and he works through it by highlighting his confusion, frustration and undying love for Anna.

The Takeaway: It’s ok to be vulnerable. It’s ok to be confused. It’s ok to be uncertain of what the future holds. It’s not ok to sit back and wait for the good to come to you. Life is what it is. It’s what you do with what you’re given that makes the difference.

The Communication: When you feel confused or vulnerable, sometimes talking through your situation can be incredibly helpful. Some may choose to journal or draw to get their thoughts on paper for a visual representation of what they’re feeling. Some may choose to talk to someone, like a friend, family member or coach, to hear the words said out loud and get feedback and support. At the end of the day, feeling vulnerable is not a weakness; it’s a sign of self-awareness that helps each of us determine how to act in a meaningful way. It’s a learning opportunity to help yourself understand why you feel the way you feel and identify how you can overcome the feeling of vulnerability. The biggest lesson, though, is that even though there may be times when you feel vulnerable, confused or defeated, it’s what you do in the next moment that matters more: how you choose to respond to those feelings to make the next moment better.

Lesson 3: You’re the one you’ve been looking for – Ok, SPOILER ALERT. If you haven’t seen the movie, continue reading this lesson with caution. This is the scene when Elsa learns that the person she’s been waiting for, the person to help her navigate her magical powers and help her become who she’s supposed to be has actually been her the whole time. It’s a powerful scene… who’s cutting onions?

The Takeaway: Sometimes, you can be so caught up in what you think life should be or how you think it should look that you forget to see what’s right in front of you: you. The uniquely wonderful, amazing and very capable you.

The Communication: Imagine what the world would be like if you were able to fully embrace all your strengths, talents and liabilities. What would it be like if you were able to fully step into the person you were born to be? How could you be different? How would the world be different because of you?

What’s holding you back?

Take Action
Frozen 2 is ultimately about learning how to become self-aware and to embrace who you are – all your strengths, passions, liabilities and triggers. You are just right as you are, and you have what you need to have a great life. You may just need some help to discover, uncover or access all that you are.

What do you know of yourself? Start to build your list of your abilities, interests and the things that matter for you. And if you want some help, check out The Greatness Zone, a great read while everyone is at home during COVID-19 to learn how to discover who you are and how to connect what is best in you to your world.

COVID-19 or not, you are capable of great things. Use everything around you to help you learn this and ultimately discover what is great and remarkable about you. Then bring it to your life and do great things.

By Kristin Allaben

Consider reading What Fills You Up: Finding Your Fit

Return to the Blog

A Look in the Mirror

Sometimes, I feel like parenting is a look in the mirror. You see what you’re doing well and you see where things can improve in real-time, all the time.  

We’ve all seen those memes about realizing your kids is growing up to be like you.

And there are those “quizzes” on Facebook that are made up of a short list of questions to ask your kids. One of those questions is, “what is something I [the questioner] say a lot?”

What a great social experiment it would have been to have asked your kid(s) these questions before, during and after quarantine to see how you evolved over the weeks at home. I know mine would shed some light on things…big time.

I started thinking about this the other night when we were watching some home videos of my husband when he was a kid. In one shot, he was wearing his sneakers while sitting on the couch. That’s a big no-no in our house; shoes off at the door. And my 2-year old shot up from his seat and practically shouted, “uh oh Daddy, your shoes are on.”

My husband thought this was pretty funny, but my 2-year old didn’t stop there. He had more explaining to do. “Shoes are for outside. No shoes in the house. Unless they’re slippers. They must be slippers. Slippers are inside shoes, so those are ok. Shoes are for outside only.”

My husband, though laughing, gave me a look out of the corner of his eye.

But me? I was so proud. And horrified. My words not only sunk in, but he’s repeating them.

What else have I been saying or doing over the last month in quarantine at home with my boys that they’re going to do or say?

So I started asking myself: what is something I say a lot?

Here are my lists:

Before Quarantine

  • I love you!
  • Great job!
  • I can’t wait to see what you drew/made/have to show me.
  • Let’s see how much dinner you have before we have dessert.
  • Please slow down/pay attention.
  • SMALLER BITES!
  • Wash your hands, please.

During Quarantine (I admit, I polled the house for this one a bit)

  • I love you!
  • That’s great babe.
  • Can you please just stay still for a second?
  • FOR THE LOVE OF GOD (caps required)
  • Are you kidding me!?
  • PLEASE PAY ATTENTION
  • OH MY GOD SMALLER BITES I DON’T WANT YOU TO CHOKE!!
  • WASH YOUR HANDS. This is not something new. WASH YOUR HANDS!

It’s easy to overlook how powerful your impact can be on people, places and things. As a parent, it’s a mixed blessing to have a mirror walking around and talking to you. You can see the things you’re doing well; that reflection is positive and makes you feel good and proud.

But that mirror also shows you where things can improve. Don’t label these as good or bad, or even right or wrong. Instead, see this as recognizing that there are some things you can improve on to be more successful, effective or even happier. You may even see things in you that are now showing up in your kids, like the way they raise their voices when they are upset, or they are always stressed or anxious.

The purpose of all of this is to encourage you to stop, notice and reflect. The mirror is there, showing you what’s working and what’s not. Take advantage of the real-time opportunity for information. Don’t judge it. Don’t ignore it. Don’t berate yourself. Don’t dwell on it. Just see it for what it is. Celebrate the good and figure out how to improve on the other, unproductive things.

Take Action
Parenting needs the mirror. A tiny, walking, talking mirror. It helps you see what you are doing so you can assess what to do more of and what to improve on. Don’t miss the opportunity to keep developing your parenting A-game.

So, the next time you notice something great in your kid(s), applaud them. Celebrate even the smallest of victories. And when you see something unproductive or some questionable behavior, ask yourself what behavior they may be mimicking.

Disclaimer: some behaviors do warrant additional, professional help. If you are unsure if your child is exhibiting behavior that could benefit from the help of a pediatrician or therapist, call your pediatrician to confirm the best next steps for your child.

By Kristin Allaben

Consider reading The Double Standard to Accepting Change: Kids vs. Adults

Return to the Blog

1 2 3
RSS feed
Connect with us on Facebook
TWITTER
Follow Me
Connect with us on LinkedIn