Great for All Ages, School Advice, Stress Management, The Happy Student Podcast

#109 Stress-Tolerance

Stress. We’ve all got it. I’ve got it. You’ve got it. Your kids have it. Some stress is good for us – it can help motivate us to do stuff and it activates our brain so that we really pay attention to what we are doing. But too much stress and those benefits go away. Too much stress and your brain starts worrying and stops working. You actually lose IQ points when you have too much stress. This is a problem. We’ve got 7 tips for building your stress-tolerance!

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Dr. Kenneth Ginsburg researches resilience, which requires a lot of stress-tolerance, and he’s got seven tips to help us manage our stress. 

1. Make problems manageable. The more you do this, the more it will become a habit every time something stressful pops up.

  • “Summit one mountain. When fully done, look up then” he says.
  • Have a plan of how you’re going to achieve your goal. It’s much scarier before you have that plan because the obstacle seems so much larger and impossible to overcome.
  • Help your child figure out what the problem is and how to overcome it, step by step, focusing just on one at a time.

2. Actively avoid stress-triggers.

  • Talk with your child about what or who triggers their stress and think about ways they might be able to avoid some of those triggers to make their school days better.

3. Exercise.

  • Anxiety is a bunch of extra energy coursing through your body, so Ginsburg says “we use up anxiety when we exercise.” And that will leave you feeling less anxious when you are done. 

4. Meditate.

  • Breathing, in particular, calms your entire system. And meditating helps to calm your mind. When you are calm, you are much more effective at overcoming obstacles.
  • When I’m stressed, I try to act quickly to relieve the stress. But I don’t always do a great job and then the stress returns. If I can calm myself down, I can go slowly and smoothly – do a good job, and be done faster. 

5. Sleep.

  • We all do better with sleep. We are happier and less stressed. 
  • We often think of sleep as nice to have, but really, it’s an absolute necessity. 

6. Take vacations.

  • Give yourself breaks and make them truly rejuvenating, like practice yoga or go for a walk. Scrolling through an app on your phone is not rejuvenating. 

7. Contribute to the world.

  • It makes you feel good to have something bigger than yourself that you’re working on. This can help protect you from stress that pops up when you are working on achieving it. Or, even when you’re not. 
  • And just because kids are young doesn’t mean they can’t contribute to the world. There are lots of things they can do, like be a bully buster or volunteer. 

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS?

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Great for All Ages, Mental Contrasting, Parent Tips, Special Phrase Language, The Happy Student Podcast

#108 Be Strategic

“Be careful.” What a common phrase parents say. Your kid is climbing a tree – “Be careful!” Your kid is carrying hot liquid – “Be careful!” Your kid is going for a drive – my parents still tell me to “Be careful!” And that’s fine. But it’s also not great. It’s not that helpful. What does “careful” mean to a kid? Maybe a good alternative to careful is to be slow – to take your time because what your doing requires concentration and thought and you don’t want to rush it because you could get hurt. But being slow and careful is boring. And kids hate boring. So I’ve got an alternative, let’s start telling our kids to “Be strategic.”

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It’s not that you shouldn’t tell your kids to “Be careful.” You totally can and should. It’s that there are times when “Be strategic” also works and I think it is often clearer and it starts to get kids to think about being strategic, which they don’t necessarily get when they are told to “Be careful.”

“Be careful” means to be cautious. It means to be slow. It means to take your time. It means to be aware of what is going on. Implied in “Be careful” is to think about what you are doing and plan it out. But with kids we need to be super explicit. Telling kids to “be careful” and expecting them to plan out their course of action in response to that piece of advice is unlikely to get the desired outcome.

Meanwhile, “Be strategic” is a little more proactive. It’s a little clearer what it means to be strategic. To be strategic is to have a strategy – to have a plan. So when your kid is looking down the stairs they don’t know how to actually descend and you say “Be strategic” the idea is that they will start to learn to pause before they just nose dive downward.

Being cautious and careful is slow and boring. Being strategic is cool.

There’s this military saying, “Slow is smooth. Smooth is fast.” And I’ve started saying it to myself as another alternative to “Be strategic”.

The point is, “Be strategic” is cool and it’s still slow. But even though it’s slow, it’s fast. And that’s cool. And your kids will respond to that. So try to start replacing some of your “Be careful” warnings with “Be strategic” and see what happens. 

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS?

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HERE’S HOW TO SUBSCRIBE & REVIEW

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Back to School Prep, Easy Action Items, Executive Functions Training, Great for All Ages, The Happy Student Podcast

#33 Back to School On Time

Teaching your kids to make good decisions can be really hard. Developing a family motto can make that a lot easier. Family mottos, such as “We are kind” or “We are inclusive” help kids develop a sense of self. Then, they naturally want to behave in ways that confirm that they are indeed kind or inclusive. When faced with a tough decision, parents can refer their kids to the family motto to then help them make a good decision.

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Without the ability to manage our time, we may spend all afternoon playing and not have enough time to do our homework because we saved all of our homework for later. Without time management skills, we get to school late and then, even if our backpack is organized, we are not able to pay attention to the teacher as she starts her lesson because we are just running into class. 

Here are a few good ideas on how to learn to manage our time. 

Start a morning music routine. 

  • Use a morning music playlist to get up and get ready for school.
  • Start with slower music just to get out of bed. By a certain song, your child knows he needs to be out of bed and brushing his teeth. By a more energetic song, he knows he needs to be out of the shower and getting dressed. By a faster song, he knows he should be eating breakfast. As the morning goes on, the music gets faster. By a certain fast song, your child knows it’s time to be gathering materials. And by the final, very exciting song, the message is to drop everything and run to the car! 
  • Play the same playlist every morning so that your child gets used to it.
  • It also gives your child some freedom from parents yelling at him to wake up. It is 100% up to them if they want to have to rush later. 

Have a seperate music playlist for studying. 

  • Have a 30 minute (or shorter for younger kids) playlist of just classical music. When your child is studying, it should be in 30 minute increments. 
  • Play the same playlist so that your child gets used to it. 
  • Creating this music habit will help your child start working when the music comes on as well as when there is just 5 minutes left, but his mind is drifting, it will be easier for them to come back on task knowing the playlist is almost done. 

Buy an analog clock. 

  •  Analog clocks are really good at teaching children about the passage of time – way better than digital clocks. Kids need to be able to estimate how long their tasks will take them in order to plan when to start their work so that they can finish it before bedtime.
  • Start teaching your children about how long it takes them to do work with the analog clock. Put a sticker on the clock when your kid starts work. Then when 5 problems are done, see what time it is and put on a new sticker to see how long it took to do 5 math problems. The same thing can be done when your child reads a 10 pages of a book. 
  • Another thing you can do with your analog clock is to have “time robber” stickers. This idea comes from Executive Functions expert Sara Ward. Time robbers are anything that take you away from the task you are supposed to be working on. So if you go to the bathroom, get a drink, sharpen your pencil, start daydreaming, or play on your phone, your time has been robbed. Whenever that happens during your work, put a time robber sticker on the clock. This helps your kids remind themselves to do their assignment. Once it’s all done, the two of you can talk nonjudgmentally about ways to avoid the time robbers next time, such as going to the bathroom before work starts.
  • Use analog clocks is to plan out an entire hour. Use a dry erase marker to draw your plan out on the clock so that you see when you should be doing each task. You can put stickers at the halfway marks so you can look at the clock and see if you are over half way done with your time or if you are moving more quickly than expected. 
  • If your child starts late, show on the analog clock how that affects the rest of the hour. Again, nonjudgmentally, just matter of factly. If your child senses any judgment, they won’t let you help them with the analog clock anymore.
  • If your child finishes early, yay! However, they can’t go to the break because that would encourage them to finish their work as quickly as possible and not as well as possible. So instead, they can start the next task or another part of homework for the remaining minutes.
  • Finally, if the work takes more than the time allotted they can 
    • keep working if they are on a roll and you two will re-plan the hour after the work is completed or 
    • they can take a break and go back to work and find time for the other work later or 
    • take a break and go on to the other work and find time to finish later. It’s up to your child. 
  • If you don’t love the analog clock, lots of people like timers. There are some that have a red face that as time passes, the face becomes white, so you can see how much time you have left based on how much red is on the face. 

Another good idea is the octopus watch for younger children. Every time they are supposed to do something, the watch vibrates and shows you what you should be doing.

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS?

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Definitions, Executive Functions Training, Great for All Ages, Parent Tips, The Happy Student Podcast

#107 Learning to Think About What You’re Doing

Metacognition: a useful skill that can help you study better because you know what you’re good at and what you need to improve. It can help you make better decisions, like when you just want to yell at someone because that would feel good but you realize that’s not actually the best course of action – which is helpful as a student, in the workforce on a team, as well as as a partner, parent, and friend. But it’s a really difficult thing to teach. Fireborn’s got 6 tips to make it easier!

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Metacognition is defined as “an awareness or understanding of one’s own thought process.” It’s  thinking about thinking.

The executive skills specialists, Peg Dawson and Richard Guare, describe good metacognition as…

  • You can routinely evaluate your performance and devise methods for personal improvement,
  • You can step back from a situation in order to make objective decisions,
  • You can ‘read’ situations well and adjust your behavior based on the reactions of others.

Metacognition is a useful skill that can help you study better because you know what you’re good at and what you need to improve, so you can practice that deliberate studying from episode 95. It can help you make better decisions to choose the best course of action. 

Ways to help your child develop metacognition

Make some goals.

  • It’s really helpful if your kid comes up with these goals for themselves because then the goals are something they really care about. 
  • You need a goal so that you can practice thinking about evaluating your performance and coming up with ways to improve.

Strategize.

  • Strategizing and spending time planning helps us think about what we actually want to accomplish, come up with a way to do it, and then we can actually do it. Practicing going through this thought process helps develop metacognition because it helps us evaluate what we are doing and adjust our behavior

Ask questions.

The following questions are super helpful and come from a blog called Inner Drive. So the questions to be asking are:

  • What do I want to achieve?
  • What should I do first?
  • Am I on the right track?
  • What can I do differently?
  • Who can I ask for help? 

And then there are questions to ask yourself at the end:

  • What worked well?
  • What could I have done better?
  • Can I apply this to other situations?
  • Ask these questions in a collaborative tone as your child works on accomplishing their goals. It would also be a great idea for you to set your own goals and ask yourself these questions to model all of this for your kid.

Stop and take stock.

  • With those goals that you have, make plans to check-in later. Maybe that means you set a calendar reminder for a week from today to see how you’re doing. Or maybe it means once you’ve done 1 hour of work, you take a break and reflect on the work you’ve done.

Review behavior and tell stories.

  • Once you have worked towards achieving your goal, or you have achieved your goal, review what you did well and what needs improvement. 
  • One way to do that is to tell a simple story – the story of what you did. Taking the time to say out loud what you did slows down your thought process and gives you time to pause and reflect.

Meditate.

  • So much of the trouble with executive functions comes from stress and/or an inability to slow down and make intentional choices. Meditation helps with that. It’s a stress reducer and it slows us down so that we are responsive instead of reflexive, so that we make intentional choices instead of being driven by habit. 
  • For help with meditation, there are apps like Calm and 10% Happier, and the book Sitting Still Like a Frog is a good one too.

Resources:

Inner Drive Questions

Teaching Metacognition

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS?

I would love to hear your thoughts on this episode! Comment below or send us an email!

HERE’S HOW TO SUBSCRIBE & REVIEW

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Podcast reviews are important to iTunes and the more reviews we can receive, the more likely we will be able to get our podcast and important messages in front of more parents! I would greatly appreciate if you clicked here and left a review letting me know your thoughts on this episode!

Difficult Topics, Executive Functions Training, Great for All Ages, Motivating the Unmotivated, School Advice, The Happy Student Podcast, The Procrastination Problem, Use Your Summer Wisely

#106 3! 2! 1! Blastoff! How To Get to Work

If your kid doesn’t believe in getting started on homework as soon as possible; if procrastination is a problem; and if tasks are often left to the last minute, your child most likely struggles with the executive function skill called task initiation. Fireborn’s here to help with 8 tips for building task initiation skills this summer!

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It’s hard to get started working. Most of us have to use at least some willpower to stop doing something fun in order to start doing something not fun, but necessary. 

Another problem that can lead to procrastination is anxiety. If you are scared you don’t know how to do the homework, you may want to avoid it. And then you avoid it for so long that there is no possible way to finish it in time and you’ve done two things: 1. You’ve reinforced this belief that you didn’t know how to do the work, so now you are scared for tomorrow night’s homework. Or 2. You don’t really have to blame yourself because you didn’t have enough time to finish and if you had, then you might be able to tell yourself that you could have done it. Therefore keeping your pride intact. 

The summer is the perfect time to practice building those task initiation skills because the stakes are lower. Once you’ve got some task initiation skills and you go back to school when there is more pressure, you’ll already have some skills developed.

Today we are going to talk about finding ways to practice this executive function skill over the summer. 

  • Your child can practice with any reading lists, math packets, or stuff like that from school. 
  • If your child is going to camp and there is homework or practice for something like a play. 
  • Or maybe your child is taking swim lessons or tennis lessons – practicing at home like juggling a tennis ball on the racket could be seen as “homework”. 

You can set some goals at the beginning of the summer with your child. These goals should be child-generated. Having fun this summer is definitely an important goal. And then you can figure out what your child plans on doing to have fun. From there, talk with your child about some other goals. Just because these are things your kid wants to do, doesn’t mean they will actually be good at leaving video games behind to do it. So it will require practicing task initiation, at least at some point.

You can teach your child these 8 task initiation tips.

1. Use a “Rocketship Countdown”. 

  • Simply countdown like they do with rocketships, “3, 2, 1, blastoff!” and on “blastoff” you “blastoff” and go do whatever it is you need to get done. 
  • Being enthusiastic can be really helpful. 
  • Modeling it for your kid can encourage them to just do it too.

2. Create a music playlist for work time

  • Build a music playlist that does not have any words. Words in the music can take away brain power from reading and other verbal skills you need during homework time. 
  • Every time they are working on something, play the playlist. The playlist will eventually become a habit – it will cue that it is time for work and will help your child get into the working mindset. 

3. Develop routines. 

  • The nice thing about routines is that we don’t have to think about them – we just do them. So, if you can start making some work routines this summer, and the cues are the same in the school year, it can help them just work when they are cued.
  • Cues can be things like… 
    • the time of day, 
    • a sound, 
    • or a set of activities.

4. Work in short bursts with breaks

  • The thought of working for an unknown quantity of time can be intimidating. If your child just has to work until “it’s finished” – that can really dissuade them from wanting to get down to business because who knows how long that could take. 
  • They are also more likely to realize that the work is not as bad as they thought and they might get on a roll and keep going for longer, but maybe not and that’s okay too.

5. Preview the work and then take a break

  • By suggesting that your child just preview the work and not actually do any of it, you remove a lot of potential stress about how difficult the work will actually be. 
  • While they are having fun taking a break, their brain is still thinking about how to approach the work. So then when it’s time to get back to work, they already have some ideas on what to do, making it easier to just get started again.

6. Start using “Brain Breaks”

  • As Stacy Vernon from the Center for Brain Health writes, you need to “take frequent brain breaks to ‘recharge’ your mental energy.” Pushing yourself beyond the point of mental exhaustion stresses the brain. 
  • Building in brain down-time every day helps alleviate the stress that builds up throughout the day and can result in a feeling of mental exhaustion and low-level anxiety. 
  • Consider the 5 x 5 method, “taking 5 minutes of down time 5 times throughout the day.” Spend these times doing something that is relaxing to you! These brain breaks are meant to be times of zero effort thought – not zero thought at all.”

7. Use explicit instructions. 

  • When you have clear goals and steps to achieve the goals, it’s much easier to get started on the first step. 
  • You can help your child by giving them explicit instructions when you ask them to do stuff and by going through any assignments, cooking instructions, engineering project instructions (like Legos) with them ahead of time and answering any questions they have about what they mean, or showing them what those instructions mean. That will give them practice understanding what it looks like to follow instructions or to figure out the steps based on what is assigned. 

8. Figure out if you should do the hard stuff or the easy stuff first.

  • Talk to your child about what you prefer to do and point out opportunities that they have to figure it out for themselves. 

Resources:

Brain Breaks

Center for BrainHealth

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS?

I would love to hear your thoughts on this episode! Comment below or send us an email!

HERE’S HOW TO SUBSCRIBE & REVIEW

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Difficult Topics, Great for All Ages, Parent Tips, The Happy Student Podcast

#103 What’s the Hubbub Surrounding Spanking? (with Alison Smith)

The American Academy of Pediatrics just put out a strongly worded statement arguing against spanking because the AAP argues that spanking can harm kids. This is controversial because a lot of parents spank their kids as part of discipline and no one wants to hear that they are doing the wrong thing, especially when they feel like they don’t have a good alternative. So what’s the deal with spanking? And are there good alternatives?

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The American Academy of Pediatrics just put out a strongly worded statement arguing against spanking because the AAP argues that spanking can harm kids.

What are the arguments in favor of spanking?

  • “I got spanked and I turned out fine.”
    • Years of research show that most people who were spanked usually aren’t “fine”.
      • Anecdotal evidence vs. research based evidence
        • Anecdotal evidence is a true story of one person in one particular set of circumstances in his/her own results.
        • Research takes lots of anecdotal evidence into account and the person’s particular circumstances, as well.
    • Is it really worth the risk?

What are the consequences of spanking?

  • It does do harm, but it often appears over time.
  • We have laws and ethical standards against hitting animals, spouses, strangers, so how are children biologically different that makes hitting them ok?
  • Any force, whether physical, emotional, etc., from a larger adult to a child has subtle and significant impacts.
  • The idea of spanking is to inflict at least temporary pain or discomfort.
    • How can we then say that it is not causing pain or discomfort?
  • When they are touched in a private area (the buttock) that they are supposed to protect; they feel shame and humiliation because they’ve had no choice in that.
    • This causes uncertainty and confusion about whether the buttock is a private part of the body.
    • Children can’t articulate this, but they know that something feels off, uncomfortable, or “icky.”
    • Under the age of approximately seven, children have not developed in the part of the brain that judges whether something they see or hear is true or not. So, if someone they love/respect and has a place of power does something to them and says it’s their fault, children take that in internally that they are bad and have done something wrong. They don’t even know how or why, but they feel uncomfortable, knows it has something to do with the private parts of their bodies, and that they must deserve it if this loving person is doing this to them.

Many parents believe that they have to spank their child. There are interventions that work just as well in the short term and are better for the long-term, without the risks associated with spanking.

What are a few good discipline techniques?

  • Allow them to feel like they can come for help without the fear of something bad or uncomfortable happening that may cause them to lose part of that connection they have with you. Then there’s an opportunity to work with your children to help them see the possible outcomes of all of their choices, which then builds the trust and connection between you and your children for next time so they will be more likely to come back to ask for guidance.
    • Keep a good, open communication with your child.
    • The decision making part of the brain does not fully develop until the child is 25-30 years old.
  • Teach the problem solving process and give them safe practice.  
  • Expect them to mess up.
    • There was a fear of messing up because of the thought of being in trouble. This kept us from taking healthy risks and from learning important things. It stifled us.
    • Our goal is to teach them in the moment how to make those right decisions.

But, there has to be consequences sometimes…

  • Consequences are a natural result of something.
  • Some consequences we don’t want them to experience.
  • It takes time and intentional effort.
    • We need new skills to teach us how to do this.

Where do parents go for help now that parenting has changed?

  • Parents can visit a
    • Parenting specialist
    • Therapist with specialized backgrounds in parenting/family dynamics, relationships, problem solving
    • Parenting consultant/coach/educator.
      • They focus on prevention. They consider relationship as much as possible.
  • Follow the links below.

What constitutes spanking? I have a friend who gives her son just a little tap when he’s messing up and she argues that he immediately stops and corrects his behavior. She argues that this is not spanking.

  • I would argue that it is in fact a form of spanking – she is hitting her child and that is physical punishment. And I think that teaches the child that hitting is okay – because his mom is modeling that behavior for him.
  • It teaches that might makes right.
    • Whomever has the size, strength, or power, and if they are motivated enough then they can use their size, strength, or power and it’s ok.
  • It confuses the child on what’s private, what their in charge of, and what someone in power can do.

Summary of how spanking is harmful:

  • There’s more than physical harm. It affects the way they think, the way they internalize the mistakes that they’re making, and it has a lasting impact.
    • Parenting is the most important relationship.
    • People can heal, but it takes more work to counteract those early years.
  • Being spanked has been linked to lower self-esteem, depression, masochism, and psychological distress.
    • It has an emotional affect.
  • It impacts the relationship between parents and children when power is taken out of the equation. The bond and trust we have is important to protect.

References & Resources:

Alison Smith Parent Coach

A Gift from Alison Smith: The Gentle Parenting Manifesto from

The Happy Student episodes on discipline:

“The General Rules of Discipline”

“Types of Discipline”

“Giving Logical Consequences”

“What To Do When Your Kid ‘Talks Back’ with Alison Smith”

“The Bizarre Time-Out Controversy”

“Lighthouse Parenting”

Debra L. Stang has put together some excellent arguments against spanking, using both research and common myths in favour of physical punishment. I shared a number of points from her article. https://nospank.net/stang2.htm

GENERAL SPANKING RESEARCH LINKS

https://stopspanking.org/research/

https://stopspanking.org/2013/06/20/what-researchers-say-about-spanking/

Hard-hitting essay on the evolution of society’s view of what constitutes violence.

https://medium.com/@tommycrow/parents-who-spank-should-be-worried

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS?

I would love to hear your thoughts on this episode! Comment below or send us an email!

HERE’S HOW TO SUBSCRIBE & REVIEW

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Podcast reviews are important to iTunes and the more reviews we can receive, the more likely we will be able to get our podcast and important messages in front of more parents! I would greatly appreciate if you clicked here and left a review letting me know your thoughts on this episode!

Great for All Ages, Parent Tips, Stress Management, The Happy Student Podcast

#102 How To Be Happy and Fulfilled So Your Kids Are Too

Our kids do as we do. And what we want for them is to be happy and fulfilled. So, if they’re going to be like us, we need to be happy and fulfilled so they can be. Easier said than done. Fireborn’s got 7 tips that intertwine so you can do multiple at a time for maximum happiness efficiency, so that your kids can learn how to be just like you.

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  1. Give yourself some quiet time.
    1. Take time to meditate, to reflect on the day, and to daydream, and maybe to practice some yoga.
    2. You can specifically set aside time for quiet time in a specific place and your kids know they are not to bother you while you are there (or they can quietly join you in your quiet time).
      1. Put on some classical music that is a cue to your kids that it is your reflection time. If your kids interrupt or ask, definitely tell them what you are doing and why. They will start to interrupt you less and less and they may even start to join you.
  2. Put the phone and social media away.
    1. The real problem is “reverse FOMO”. You’re not missing out on anything online. But by always being online you’re missing out on life.
    2. So stop the scrolling and live in the real world more often.
    3. This gives more time for that quiet reflection.
  3. Spend more time having conversations with people (in person if possible).
    1. Use phones to make plans to hang out with people, but avoid using it to catch up. If you can’t meet up in person, a phone call is way better than texting.
    2. That personal connection is so much more powerful and healthy and joy-producing than seeing life updates on Instagram.
  4. Give and get a lot of hugs (with consent obviously).
    1. As Eric Barker puts it, “Hugs make you happier.”
  5. Make plans and do stuff together with your friends.
    1. Don’t just talk with your friends, do stuff together! Learn a new activity together!
    2. Eric says, “Someone else is not doing cooler things than you because they have “more time”. It’s because they have different priorities.”
  6. Have a hobby and make sure your leisure time is high quality.
    1. Hobbies are things we are passionate about. Things we like to do, skills we like to learn, and challenges we like to overcome.
  7. Remember to focus on your values.
    1. People are prioritizing doing cool stuff because that is what they value.
    2. We don’t even think about how to spend our free moments. Somehow it just happened that every time we have a second, we check our phone. So you have to figure out what you value and remind yourself of those values to get  motivated to not check and scroll forever and to do that cool stuff instead. You have to be intentional with your time.

Reference:

Barker, E. (2019) This is the most powerful way to make your life fantastic. Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

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