How to talk to your kids about the Bad Guys

As a mom, I have a new perspective on fairy tales.

Sometimes, we read stories on the couch as a family. I know those stories impact the thoughts and lives of my children. And I find myself feeling uncomfortable with some of our most classic, beloved stories.

Do I want to read my little girl stories about ugly old witches that want to kill young women just because the young women are beautiful? Uhhh… No.

What does that story tell about old women? And young women? And what does it say about relationships between women? Yuck! That is not what I want for me and my little girl.

I want her to be valued for her heart and mind, not just for her pretty face. And when I’m an old woman, I want to be wise with my own beautiful, well-earned wrinkles. And I want to teach my daughter (and my son too) that women love and support each other.

And in that story (Snow White), the men have one of two jobs: that of killer or rescuer. The hunter’s job is to hunt down Snow White and kill her. The prince’s job is to rescue Snow White. Yuck! That’s not what I want for my husband and my little boy.

I want my son to be valued for his heart and mind, not just for his ability to fight or rescue. And when my husband’s an old man, I want him to be wise with his own beautiful, well-earned wrinkles. And I want to teach my son (and my daughter too) that men love and support each other,

and that women and men love and support each other too.

So how can I read a story about the “bad guys” while maintaining this story of love I want to teach my children? What do I say about the Wicked Witch or Darth Vader or Voldemort when my kids look back at me in shock and ask, “Why do they hurt people mama?”

Here’s how I respond. I take a big breath and say, “Everyone’s doing the best that they can.”

Let me explain.

We used to call those stories about the good guys and the bad guys battles of “good vs. evil.” We used to say the bad guys were “evil.”

Now I have a different perspective. The perception of someone as “evil” is just a way we give ourselves permission to hate. When we call them “evil,” we get to hate them. We love to hate the bad guys. We love it. We roll around in that hate like a pig in you-know-what. Yummmmy.

But what about love? Isn’t love the thing? Don’t all our wise people keep shouting, “Hey (ahem — tap-tap-tap is this mic working?), what about LOVE?”

Can we really love the bad guy? Really? We’re having so much fun rolling around in all this yummy hate-mud over here. That big love shower — it looks a bit frosty, a bit nippy…

So how do we love the bad guy?

(And when I say love them, I mean really, deeply, love them. The kind of love that makes you weep.)

This is how we love them, those big, bad, beautiful, dark bad guys:

We see their pain.

When I see stories of bad guys, now I see pain.

> Darth Vader’s in pain — you learn about his journey from handsome, love-sick Anakin to Vader, Lord of the Dark Side. He’s doing the best he can with the awareness he has, and he wears a mask to cover his face, to cover up his pain. Upon his death, when the mask comes off, he tells his son Luke that Luke was right about him, that there was some good left in him after all.

> Voldemort (He Who Shall Not Be Named) from the Harry Potter series is in pain. You only get glimpses of it (it’s a little more expanded in the books), but he had a terrible childhood. Voldemort can’t do any better — he’s doing the best he can, and maybe his pain is made worse because they don’t even say his name — they don’t see his pain — they don’t even recognize him as a person.

> There’s a book and a musical called Wicked about how Elphaba, the Wicked Witch of the West in the Wizard of Oz, became the Wicked Witch. How? You might have guessed — it’s a story of pain that began before birth.

> I don’t wake up in the morning and think, “Today I want to be an unkind mom.” But sometimes, I end up being unkind to my kids, or my husband, or my friends and neighbors. Not because I’m evil, and not because I’m a bad guy. When I’m unkind, it’s a sign of pain, of hurt. Sometimes, there’s hurt happening in the present moment, but often, hurt from the past (from my own childhood) is creeping back into the present. Sometimes the pain is so painful we keep our unkindness a secret, to hide it from the world and in some ways, we even try to hide it from ourselves. I used to yell every day behind closed doors, and blame my kids for it.

So where does this problem end? The stories we tell about good and evil, the stories we tell about ourselves. The way we let ourselves be unkind and at the same time get to be mad at others for their unkindness.

Here’s my answer: the story about good and evil ends on my couch with my children when I read them a fairy tale. It ends when they fight and hurt each other and instead of punishing them, I teach them how to love and make up. It ends when they tell a story about a kid in school that got in trouble and I reflect and say, “Maybe he was having a rough day.” It ends when I’m driving on the road and I have compassion for someone who cuts me off. It ends when I apologize for being unkind to my kids and admit, “I’m sorry. I love you. I’m doing the best I can, and I’m trying to do better.”

By calling the problem “pain” instead of “evil,” there’s a chance for healing to happen. As long as we fail to see that Voldemort is a person in pain, we’re putting a stopper in his chance to heal. He remains evil in our hearts, our minds, and our books forever. But when we see that he’s a person in pain, it’s a lot harder to hate and hurt him, and that’s when the door for healing opens. For him, and for all of us.

If we can change this way of thinking around fairy tales, it can change the way we think about ourselves too. It makes it harder for us to hurt and hate others. And it opens the door for our own healing.

Now, does all of this mean that it’s ok for the “bad guy” to hurt others? No. Hurting others is not ok, but learning how not to hurt begins with us, in our own hearts, in our own minds, and in our own houses. I’m learning how not to hurt my own kids with my own unkindness.

If there’s such a thing as evil in the world, it’s a tendency we all have to sometimes forget that people are people, and we all have pain.

I’m not the bad guy and neither are you.

When I think about it, it’s truly awesome (AWE-some) the power we have as parents. In tiny moments every day, we have the power to change a story and maybe, just maybe, change the world.

So who are the bad guys to you? Who are you “fighting” with? Don’t just move on to the next thing on the internet. Set down your phone, close your eyes and breathe for a moment. Think about this question. Let it settle into your bones.

Write me: jeanette@thelowpressurelife.com

The Case of the Butter

As a kid, I grew up on Frosted Flakes cereal. For breakfast, I poured myself a bowl, added milk, and then put a scoop of sugar on top. Yum.

But as an adult, I found myself less interested in eating those kinds of foods. So about two years ago, I hired a nutritionist to take me grocery shopping.

At my HEB store in Austin (the one at Mopac and Parmer), she showed me where to find the nutritious food I was looking for. In some cases, it was on the shelf right next to the old foods I used to buy, I just hadn’t seen them yet.

So I bought a few new items and brought them home. One thing I brought home was butter from grass-fed cows. It tasted so good to me, like soft cheese. I craved it. But my husband and kids thought the grass-fed butter was gross. So I put it on a plate next to our old butter.

And for the last TWO YEARS, I’ve been buying both kinds. The regular old butter and the new grass-fed butter. Over time, my family got curious and tasted the new butter more and more. Every once and awhile, I checked with them to see if they were ready for me to stop buying the old kind of butter. They kept saying, “No, not yet,” until one day they were ready. That was a month ago. So I stopped buying the old kind. Now I only buy the new kind, the more nutritious grass-fed butter, and it’s the only one we’re eating as a family.

If one day they ask me to buy the old butter again, I will, with ease.

Here’s the lesson from the butter. It’s the key to creating a shift in your family: Take the pressure off them to change. The ONLY PERSON you can change is yourself. So if you decide to improve your nutrition, do it, but don’t force it on them. Forcing it, “shoulding” them, puts you in a power struggle. Yuck.

Likewise, if you decide to improve your relationships, like if you want to stop yelling, tell your family about it, but don’t force them to change immediately too. Having one big change at a time is enough. Your change will have ripple effects over time. Smile to yourself when you notice the effects of your work. That’s your magic.

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Interview in Authority Magazine

This is a repost of an article. To view the original click here.

Jeanette Hargreaves of tempercoaching.com: “5 Ways That Businesses Can Help Promote The Mental Wellness Of Their Employees”

By Parveen Panwar, Mr. Activated

17 minute read

As part of my series about the “5 Ways That Businesses Can Help Promote The Mental Wellness Of Their Employees” I had the pleasure of interviewing Jeanette Hargreaves, M.Div.

Jeanette is a parenting coach, author, and public speaker. She helps moms who lose their temper, and speaks to groups about stress, anger, and emotional intelligence. Her book, The Day I Threw Banana Bread and Almost Went to Jail: True Stories About How I Used to Lose My Temper (and How I Learned to Stop), is available for purchase online.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dive into our discussion, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?

Igrew up with a dad who yelled at and spanked me as a kid. When my twins were born, I yelled and spanked my kids too, but it didn’t feel right to me, so I got help. As a mom with a Master’s in Divinity, now I help others break the cycle.

After I stopped yelling (2018 was the last time I lost my temper), I came to see it as a habit. So I teach: Yelling is a habit you can break. It’s a physical, mental, and environmental habit the whole family supports, similar to cigarette smoking. In my family we all were addicted to the rush of adrenaline we got when I yelled, because it was scary! When I first stopped yelling, the family unconsciously tried to push me back into the habit, because they missed the rush. But it’s not as obvious as smoking cigarettes, because if you were raised in a yelling family, you experience it as “discipline” or as a natural response to anger (it’s neither ideally). Yelling is a habit you inherit, and it’s simply not necessary nor useful for a happy, healthy life.

Even though my career isn’t religious, doing this work is my ministry, my calling. I’m motivated by my love for people, and I’m also motivated by the anger I feel when I think about how many families still think that yelling is ok.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

I’ve introduced myself to thousands of people with the phrase, “I help moms who lose their temper, because I used to lose my temper every day.” It sets the stage for very unusual conversations. The most interesting thing I’ve found is that people tend to fall into four groups. The first small group grew up in self-regulated households, and they don’t know many people who yell. The second small group has a story similar to mine; they grew up in yelling families but they healed from it. The third group is also small, and those are the folks who are still in yelling families, but they’re ready for the yelling to stop. The largest group, however, are the people for whom yelling is normal and accepted. They usually say, “Do you really not yell at your kids? Everyone yells.”

It’s like we live in bubbles where we have different experiences around yelling. I broke out of the yelling bubble and into the group where yelling isn’t OK anymore.

What advice would you suggest to your colleagues in your industry to thrive and avoid burnout?

I advise fellow parenting educators to educate without pressure. Here’s what I mean: some people aren’t ready to hear the latest research or modern parenting techniques. Perhaps they’re not ready to let go of the old standbys of rewards and punishments they were raised with. You aren’t responsible for them. It’s exhausting trying to change everyone. Instead, work with people who are ready and willing to make changes in their family.

I’m giving this advice because it’s advice I try to swallow regularly, with varying levels of success. It would be nice if we lived in a world without yelling, wouldn’t it?

What advice would you give to other leaders about how to create a fantastic work culture?

Train as many employees as you can in emotional intelligence, especially leadership. Emotional intelligence creates an environment that feels safe and caring so people feel empowered towards engagement and problem solving. For example, emotional intelligence led me to stop blaming others for my situation and take ownership for my own actions. You want engaged, empowered employees. Beyond the workplace, emotional intelligence will benefit their homelife too, and if an employee is happier at home, they’ll be happier at work.

If you’re looking for evidence-based research on the impact emotional intelligence has in the workplace, Six Seconds has it (I have no affiliation).

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?

I have my Master’s in Divinity, so I’m going to quote Jesus from his sermon on the mount. In Matthew 7:12, he sums up all the law and prophets saying, “Do to others what you would have them do to you.” This phrase is also known as The Golden Rule. It came to mind one day as I taught a workshop for a group of 40 moms at a local church.

One of the women raised her hand at the end of my talk and said, “But Jeanette, my kids just don’t listen unless I yell.”

I paused for a moment. I pointed at a few things I’d written on the whiteboard. I took a deep breath and thought about her kids. I felt a lump in my throat. I swallowed and said, “This all boils down to one thing. It’s what Jesus said when he summed up all the law, and all the prophets.” I paused, “Does anyone remember what he said?” You could have heard a pin drop. The moms leaned in.

I answered, “Jesus said, ‘Treat others the way you want to be treated.’” I paused again, and explained, “If the dishes need doing, or the laundry needs folding, I don’t want to be yelled at. It’s the same for our kids. If they need to get off their phone or clean their room, they don’t want to be yelled at either.”

Here’s something strange: as a yelling mom, I couldn’t see this point of view. I thought my kids deserved to be yelled at, that it was a form of discipline. I thought I was instilling respect. It wasn’t until after I broke out of the yelling bubble that I truly understood The Golden Rule. It’s a different way, a loving way, to command authority.

I’ve had literal Amazing Grace in my life, just like the line from the song: “I once… was blind but now I see.” Sometimes I wonder if my work really matters, or if the job of opening eyes is just God’s work.

Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. As you know, the collective mental health of our country is facing extreme pressure. In recent years many companies have begun offering mental health programs for their employees. For the sake of inspiring others, we would love to hear about five steps or initiatives that companies have taken to help improve or optimize their employees’ mental wellness. Can you please share a story or example for each?

1. Talk about stress and how to address it in healthy ways.

With emotional intelligence, the goal is to be able to identify and respond to your emotions (and the emotions of others) in healthy, helpful ways. I talk about stress as just another feeling people experience. People have a “stress response,” but our bodies also have responses to sadness, anger, fear, excitement, and other feelings. For example, you might feel a lump in your throat when you’re sad, an upset stomach when you’re scared, or tight shoulders when you’re stressed. Talking about handling stress is a simple way to ease into mental health awareness.

I’ve spoken with several organizations on this topic. For good mental health, it’s helpful to know the difference between numbing and soothing stress. For example, standing in the pantry mindlessly stuffing potato chips in your mouth? That would be numbing stress. Outside exercise or talking with a friend are examples of soothing.

2. Help employees identify red flags for mental health.

During the pandemic there have been jokes about stock-piling toilet paper, gaining the “COVID19” pounds of weight, and adopting puppies. There’s now a term for staying up late at night, “doom scrolling,” on the internet. Some people have been extreme cleaning or remodeling their houses. “Mom rage” has been trending also.

Most people know serious signs for a mental health need (such as endless crying, difficulty doing normal things, or hurting yourself or others), but a lot of people don’t know that the things we’ve been joking about during the pandemic are also red flags to reach out for mental health, a good reason to check in with a counselor.

Personally, I didn’t know you could get help for losing your temper, or for the way I used to beat myself up mentally every night, wishing I hadn’t yelled at the kids that day. Like anything, the pandemic (or an election or a natural disaster) can be a good excuse to go nuts, or a good excuse to finally get help.

A local company in Austin hired me to speak at an all-hands meeting about this topic, “Red Flags to Get Help for Mental Health.” The topic doesn’t have to be serious. You can have fun with it: “Drowning in puppies? It might be time to call on the EAP (Employee Assistance Program).” I talk about how I threw banana bread in anger, and now regularly women confess to me about things they’ve thrown, like ketchup, a cell phone, and even a block of cheese. Laughter helps ease the pressure and opens up our minds to learn.

Note: I have met therapists and pastors who did not know you could get help for losing your temper. The more we raise awareness about this particular red flag, the better.

3. Celebrate problem-solving.

At first, it feels strange to talk about problems, but when we talk about the tough stuff and how we worked through it, it creates a hopeful, problem-solving culture. I saw one organization hire an outside professional to help them settle a dispute between two groups, but after the fact, they swept the whole incident under the rug. That shows embarrassment and shame around difficulties and getting help. But what if that organization created a plaque to celebrate their accomplishment, how they addressed a problem? What if all companies had a wall where they commemorated the tough times and how they worked it out? It would create a culture where it’s ok to be human, to mess up, to get help, and grow.

The best example of this is my own personal yelling. I could have gotten help and then stayed quiet about it in my family, denying that it ever happened. But my kids bring it up from time to time. They remember when I used to lose it. It’s ok to talk about, and there’s still some healing to do. This also sets an example that you don’t have to be perfect, and it’s good to get help when you need it. By going public, it’s encouraged others to follow in my footsteps and get help.

4. Make it easy to get help.

A company wanted me to provide multiple resources for their employees, but people are overwhelmed, and they already have too many “tabs” open in their browsers, too many tasks in their lives. Give them one phone number or one person to call. That group decided to give their employees one phone number for the EAP.

5. Celebrate when your employees get help.

At a meeting I went to, at the encouragement of leadership, multiple employees spoke up about how they received help from their Employee Assistance Program (EAP) with free counseling sessions. That means those employees identified a need, reached out to get help, and finally received the help they needed. For someone in need, those three steps of identification, asking for help, and getting help, are a big deal. If you regularly share company statistics, consider including use of the EAP (keep users anonymous). It will raise awareness and keep the EAP at the forefront of people’s minds.

These ideas are wonderful, but sadly they are not yet commonplace. What strategies would you suggest to raise awareness about the importance of supporting the mental wellness of employees?

This interview is a great step, so thank you for your questions. My first career was as a news producer, and unfortunately, as a news producer, I helped generate a lot of fear, anger, and sadness. “If it bleeds, it leads,” was our unofficial motto. Years after leaving the news, I learned about a movement called “solutions-based journalism.” The best use of media is solutions-based. If you have a media outlet, use it like this to raise awareness.

In addition, companies that have taken steps for the mental well-being of employees can advertise to set an example. Do you have a counselor or emotional intelligence trainer on staff? Do you offer free counseling with your EAP? Talk about it in your recruitment package. Let’s create a workforce that expects it.

From your experience or research, what are different steps that each of us as individuals, as a community and as a society, can take to effectively offer support to those around us who are feeling stressed, depressed, anxious and having other mental health issues? Can you explain?

As an individual in a society, if you notice that someone has a real problem and it bothers you (they may be a person in your own family, a person in your community, or even a person in the news), try to take the focus off of their problem and think about yourself for a moment. You can’t control others or force them to get help. The only person you can control is yourself, and you might need help too. Let’s start with that extreme irritation you’re feeling — do you really think that’s helping you or the person with the problem? There’s another quote from Jesus’ sermon on the mount on the topic (Matthew 7:3, NIV), “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?” One example I have of this is the way I used to complain about my messed-up dad, which is ironic because we had a lot more in common than I realized.

On the other hand, if you’re looking for advice on personal interaction with a stressed individual, there are specific steps you can take. Here they are.

When someone is stressed, they’re often focused on an issue. When that happens, look below the issue to see the emotions and underlying values. Don’t engage with that person about the issue. Instead, follow these steps using a tool I call, “Connect:”

  1. Maintain your composure. Try yawning on purpose (yawning tells your body to calm down).
  2. Connect with their feelings. If you’re in their presence, notice their body language too, because their words and bodily expressions might not match up. If they’re upset, avoid eye contact to help them feel safe. Tell them, “You’re feeling ______ because _______.” Pause. Notice their reaction.
  3. Connect with their values. What’s important to them? What do they like? Take a moment to think about it before you say anything. Don’t focus on the “don’ts,” such as, “You don’t like it when…” Instead, affirm their values, “You care about _______.” Pause. Notice their reaction.
  4. If there’s a problem, often these steps will settle it. If not, address the problem using individual and group values. Aim for a win-win solution.

Here’s a simple example. A woman was complaining to me about how disorganized an event was. I felt annoyed about her complaining, and then I remembered these steps. I let go of my annoyance (I composed myself, step one) and addressed her feelings (step two), “You feel disappointed that the event was disorganized.”

She stopped for a moment and said, “Yes.” Then, she continued to complain. (This is why you go on to step three and talk about values, because you don’t want them stuck in the feeling.)

For step three I said, “You really like it when events are well organized.”

She looked me in the eye and responded, “Yes, I do,” and she stopped complaining.

By addressing her underlying emotions and values, the issue was settled.

Habits can play a huge role in mental wellness. What are the best strategies you would suggest to develop good healthy habits for optimal mental wellness that can replace any poor habits?

All of the strategies I’ve mentioned so far are helpful. In addition, making good choices for your physical body can help your mental health. In my opinion, getting a good night’s sleep is number one. That’s your body and brain’s time to rest and renew.

I did an internet search recently looking for ways to get a good night’s sleep, and found a TEDx talk by Satchin Panda called, “Health lies in healthy circadian habits.” I can’t stop thinking about it. Basically, he says there are two ways to help your circadian rhythm. First, by exposure to light. Blue light in the morning, and orange light in the evening. So get outside in the morning for blue light, and in the evening, set your screens for night mode or wear some blue-light blocking glasses. Secondly, watching the number of hours you eat each day helps your circadian rhythm. You can eat healthy foods, but if you eat for 15 hours a day, you’re not going to be healthy, and you won’t sleep well. This last bit blows my mind. If you eat healthy foods, but for 15 hours a day, it’s unhealthy! However, if you eat in the same 8–10 hour time-frame every day, it helps with the circadian rhythm, which in turn helps many things, physical and mental, according to his research. They used rats to prove this. It’s funny how rats and humans have so many things in common.

After watching the talk three weeks ago, I’ve been eating between the hours of 8:30am-6:30pm. Panda says it takes three to four months to settle into the results. I’m excited to use this simple, sustainable idea for my physical and mental health.

I grew up with a mother who constantly dieted with no success. I love that this isn’t a diet, it’s just a way of life that honors the natural rhythms in the body. The body is a system, and it’s connected to the natural systems and cycles of the earth. It makes sense to me. Creation is like a tapestry, and we’re one of the threads woven in.

Maybe I’ll write a little manual, “How to take care of a human.” It will include things like emotional intelligence and the circadian rhythm. I bet everyone reading this interview might have a chapter to add to the book.

Do you use any meditation, breathing or mind-calming practices that promote your mental wellbeing? We’d love to hear about all of them. How have they impacted your own life?

When I’m stressed, I use something I call, “The Perfect Yawn.” Yawning is nature’s way to tell your body and mind to calm down. I open my mouth and throat wide. I bring my shoulders down. I tilt my head side to side and give my whole body a wiggle and stretch. I sigh, let my belly drop, and massage my scalp. If there’s a moment when my body pauses before a deep breath, I wait for that perfect moment to complete the yawn. While reading this, some folks might feel tempted to yawn. Let’s all take a moment and go for it. (Yawn time.) Feels good, right? Kids and animals do it naturally to relieve stress. My little dog yawns and gives her whole body a shake.

Adults can yawn like this with purpose. I use it to help me calm down and think clearly, “How am I feeling, and how do I want to respond? How can I be helpful (instead of hurtful) in this moment? What is the most helpful action for me and those around me?”

I also use yawning to help spread calm. Stress is contagious, but calm is contagious too. Try yawning in a group of people sometime. See if the yawn gets passed around.

As a person who used to yell all the time, I needed a simple, everyday calming practice. The yawn was it.

Now, the yawn wasn’t the only thing that helped get my hot temper under control. I relied on professionals too, such as nutritionists, coaches, counselors, doctors, and massage therapists. Yelling was a hard habit for me to break, but it was worth it.

Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story?

I like many books. I’m also a fan of good children’s literature. I want my children to see the world as a system, how everything and everyone is connected, and so small things matter. I’m still working on comprehending that myself. There are several kids’ books that remind me of that. I couldn’t pick just one. Stars Beneath Your Bed: The Surprising Story of Dust is about how the dust we breathe today might have been the dust that made King Tutankhamun sneeze in ancient times, so it reminds me that we are connected to other people through history. A Drop Around the World reminds me that the water in my kids’ milk might eventually be the water in a whale’s gills, so we’re all connected with the water system. When the Wolves Returned: Restoring Nature’s Balance in Yellowstone reminds me how much we still have to learn about systems, because when we killed off the keystone species, the wolf, in Yellowstone National Park, the whole park began to deteriorate. When we introduced the wolf again, it helped bring things back into balance. Everything is a system, so little things we do matter.

Learning about our inter-connectedness has impacted my daily life. I try to buy organic food, because I know that restoring America’s soil will help us, nationally and globally. I’m also learning about organic clothing for the same reasons: organic clothing is better for people and the environment. I try to look for businesses that use responsible supply chains and treat their people with dignity. One purchase at a time, each of us can shape the future.

Family life is inter-connected too. I know if I have a stressful morning with the kids, that stress is going to be passed around my community through their friends and teachers, but if I have a calm, pleasant morning with them, that will have an impact. God willing, the impact of my parenting will be passed down through the generations, as my children and grandchildren parent with kindness and connection instead of threats.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Thank you. I’m already part of the movement that I think could bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people. It’s a simple idea with profound effects: stop yelling. More than that, it’s the idea that all feelings can be felt in healthy ways. Because when you stop yelling, you’re not stopping the anger. You’re just learning how to respond to it differently. Yelling, hitting, and throwing things isn’t helpful. Taking action to make a situation more loving and safer is helpful. You know all that energy it takes to yell? Imagine what we all could do if we used that energy to do good things. It’s possible. I know, because I harness the energy of anger for good when I’m doing my work.

What is the best way our readers can further follow your work online?

They can read my blog and subscribe to my monthly email newsletter at jeanettehargreaves.com.

Thank you for the time you spent sharing these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!

You’re welcome. Thank you for highlighting this important work in mental health.

From Authority Magazine:

Leadership Lessons from Authorities in Business, Film, Sports and Tech. Authority Mag is devoted primarily to sharing interesting feature interviews of people who are authorities in their industry. We use interviews to draw out stories that are both empowering and actionable.

Written by Parveen Panwar, Mr. Activated:

Entrepreneur, angel investor and syndicated columnist, as well as a yoga, holistic health, breathwork and meditation enthusiast.

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Fear & Punishment Vs. Love & Learning

Today’s topic: The old and new styles of discipline.

Many of us were raised in the old style of discipline. It was largely based in fear and punishment. Here are some characteristics:

1. The adults have authority based in fear because the kids are afraid of getting in trouble.
2. When the kids get in trouble, it’s unpredictable, and the punishment often takes away something that is precious to the kids.
3. Even if rewards are involved, the discipline is based in fear because the kids are afraid they might not get the reward.
4. Kids and adults struggle for power.  If/then is often used in the struggle: “If you do this, then you’ll get in trouble. If you do this, then you’ll get a reward.”

Here’s an example: The kids fight. A vase is broken. The adult yells and tells the children to go to their rooms and that they can’t go to their friend’s birthday party. The adult is furious about the vase and never forgives the children. The kids are furious and never forgive the adult for missing the birthday party. The empty shelf where the vase once was reminds them all of the hurt.

Here’s the new kind of discipline. It’s based in love and learning (this is what I teach):

1. Self-regulation (calming techniques) are taught and used so the family feels safe.
2. Feelings are talked about so the family feels loved.
3. Values (revealed by the feelings) are regularly discussed and guide decision-making.
4. Kids and adults work together to support each other in problem-solving and reconciliation when needed. Instead of a struggle for power, the family works together so everyone “wins.”

Here’s an example: The kids fight. A vase is broken. A calm adult helps the children talk about their feelings. The adult may also talk about their feelings (without blaming the kids). Values are discussed, like this:

“In our family, we value self-regulation and problem-solving.”
“We value our hearts — our feelings teach us our values — that’s our conscience.”
“We value our bodies — our bodies are made to love and be loved.”
“We value our house and the things in it, so we try to take good care of our things.”
“We have individual values — what are yours?”

So then, based on their values, the adult works with the kids to reconcile their relationship with each other. They talk about how they would like to handle the situation differently next time (to use the steps above during conflict). They work together to clean up the broken vase, and they pick a plate from a cabinet to go on the shelf in its place. They celebrate and admire the placement of the plate. The plate reminds them of how they work together as a family. Everyone feels safe, loved, and respected.

What do you think? How were you raised? Does any of this sound familiar?

The new kind of discipline does not come naturally. It takes a mentor. I mentor you, and you mentor your kids.

To schedule a free 30-minute call with me, use the Contact page on the website so I can text you.

Share this with someone who’s ready, who’s looking for a different way to raise their kids.

Emotional Intelligence and the Virus

Updated 3/28/20

As a coach, here is my response to COVID-19 support the community.

1. WHAT NEWS DO I CLICK ON?
I was a news producer for nine years. The news is commercial, which means they are encouraged to create articles according to your clicks and views. So click on articles that are helpful, that talk about solutions. Look for solutions in the headlines. As a community, if we click on articles that are helpful, then we’ll get more helpful articles because news producers will focus on providing them for us.

2. HOW TO ADDRESS FEELINGS
In an emotionally intelligent family, family members try to notice and respond to feelings in healthy ways. For example:

Tired? Sleep. Our brains are forming new pathways during this pandemic. We learn and problem-solve in our sleep. When we wake up, we have new ideas and perspectives. So, sleep. Take naps.

Sad? Cry. Snuggle with a blanket. Tell a friend. Pet a cat or dog.

Stressed? Make a list for each family member of what is soothing for them. Note: Soothing is not numbing (like television or wine or cookies). Truly soothing activities are things like talking to friends, taking a walk outside or snuggling. Numbing is ok, but eventually, you will also want to address your feelings so they can come up and out.

Happy? Try to find something to be happy about or grateful for. Put on a favorite song and dance.

Angry? Anger usually happens when you think you or someone else is getting hurt. It’s also usually accompanied by sadness. Try saying this, “The story I’m telling myself is…” and then problem-solve to address the story in healthy, helpful ways. If you’re very angry, breathe, take a break, and calm yourself first. Anger and upset do not have to be the same thing. Use your anger to give you the energy to take action that is helpful for you and those around you. (If you would like me to train you how to do this, contact me.)

Overwhelmed? This is usually a combination of feelings. Try to sort them out and identify the individual feelings. Also, sleeping can help with overwhelm.

Stress is contagious, but calm is contagious too. So adults, focus on your calm. Take breaks from the media and breathe.

3. WHEN SOMEONE LOSES IT
When someone does have a moment of dis-regulation and loses their temper due to stress, there’s a very useful technique I teach called “Connect.” First, you stay calm. Then, you “connect” with their feelings, you notice how they are feeling. Third, you “connect” with their values, you notice what’s important to them. I created a PDF you can print to use at home. (Click here to download.) Here’s an example from yesterday:

I took my daughter to the creek. She didn’t want to leave and was rude to me. Instead of taking it personally and becoming angry at her, I breathed. I said, “You feel sad about leaving. You love spending time at the creek.” She calmed down.

Doing this takes practice, especially if you grew up in a family like the one of my childhood, where we didn’t talk about feelings at all. But, as a family learns to talk about the feelings and values going on underneath the upset, problems become much easier to solve.

4. HOW TO TALK TO THE KIDS

Depending on the age of your children, decide how much information you want to share with them. Here’s a script, it’s how my husband and I have talked with our 8-year-old twins:

“There’s a bad sickness going around the world this year. This is the first time this has happened in our lifetimes; it’s not usually this bad. Many people are working together to slow down the spread, so we are staying home. Doing this will help the doctors help people who are really sick, and it will give them time to find medicines. A lot of people are stressed out by this, and we are a little stressed out too, so let’s all try to be gentle with each other during this time.”

5. FOCUS ON YOUR VALUES
Let your feelings teach you about your values. If you’ve felt worried recently, your feelings might be teaching you that you value these things:
Health & Safety
Love & Connection
Financial Stability
Write your values down on a piece of paper and stick it to the fridge. Focus on your values, and let them guide you in your decisions. For example, I value my health, so I’m continuing my exercise and healthy eating routines. What’s a small step you can take today based on your values?

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The Stages of Learning (They can be painful)

When I introduce myself at a business meeting, I say, “I’m a parenting coach. I help moms who lose their temper. I used to lose my temper and I got help. Now I help others.”

When people meet me, sometimes it’s a painful moment. It’s painful because I teach them something new: I teach them that they don’t have to lose their temper (and that’s something they didn’t know before we met).

The first stage of learning is: You don’t know what you don’t know. It’s an easy place to be. You do things a certain way and it’s fine because that’s all you know.

The second stage of learning is: You know what you don’t know (and it bothers you). This is the most painful stage to be in. You realize there’s a different (and better) way to do things, and you haven’t learned how to do it… yet.

The second stage is also painful because you realize that you’ve been doing it the old way all along. Like, perhaps your a mom who’s lost her temper with her kids for the last 10 years. That’s a long time. It can be painful to look back.

And here’s what I say: You did the best you could. You don’t know what you don’t know. And that’s ok. (Try to be loving towards yourself.)

And now that you know better, you can learn to do better. And that takes time.

The third stage of learning is: You know how to do it and it takes work. During this stage, you may fall back into your old habits from time to time. But you’ll become better and better at your new skill.

The fourth stage of learning is: You know how to do it and you don’t have to think about it anymore — you do it naturally.

At stage four, you’ve learned how to be a different kind of parent. What does that look like? Let me paint a picture for you: You have the patience and control you’ve always wanted. Your children are respectful and obedient without threatening them. You’re a model for the kind of life you’d like your children to lead when they become adults.

If you’re a yeller and you want to stop yelling (and the idea is new to you), that’s the stage where your yelling starts to bother you. It can feel painful, but it’s also a necessary part of learning. It’s actually a good thing that it bothers you. The fact that it bothers you is motivation to change. So, breathe. Be gentle on yourself.

Yes, you don’t know how to stop yelling, yet. This will take time and practice (and help) and you can do it one step at a time.

And yes, you may have been hurtful, yelling in the past. Be gentle on your past self too. You didn’t know what you didn’t know. You did the best you could.

Would you like to take the next step? Say this out loud, “I’m a yeller and I want to stop yelling.” Congratulations. You have begun.

Now, find your mentors who will teach you and guide you along the way. I can be one of them. Subscribe to my newsletter, click here.

Resistance to change? Dance!

Here are some basic examples of resistance to change:

A mom decides to eat healthier. Her husband and kids don’t like the change. They say they don’t want to eat healthier, so they eat different food than she does. She gets discouraged and goes back to eating unhealthy again.

At a business an awesome new cafeteria is installed. Many people complain about the new design and talk about how much better the old cafeteria was. For the first month, only a few people eat there.

The City of Austin delivered a composting container to our house, but none of us liked setting aside the compost, so we didn’t use it for six months. I noticed my resistance, which is normal for something new, so I tried experimenting with different ways to save the kitchen compost. Today, the whole family is composting, and stuff we used to throw in the trash now goes to make soil for the city.

If you’ve been in the habit of losing your temper and you decide to stop, you’ll experience resistance to change.

> Your kids might push your buttons more than ever (for a while).

> Someone else in the family might take up the habit of yelling (for a while).

> Your mother might start criticizing you more than usual, or she might all of a sudden ask for help more than usual.

All the things that make you crazy — the things that make you more likely to lose your temper — they may happen (for a while).

That’s resistance to change.

Sometimes it’s hard to notice resistance, because it feels personal, like the universe (or your toddler) is blocking you.

And they kind of are blocking you. But they’re not doing it on purpose. The people in your life are just used to you the way you are, so they’re going to treat you like your old self for a while, or even try to push you back into your old habits for a while.

When you begin to work on ending the yelling habit, sometimes it feels like being a cigarette smoker walking past your old smoking spot, or watching your old smoking buddies take their smoke break. (Like, getting through the morning routine without yelling might be a challenge for a while.)

One story you can tell about resistance goes like this: “I tried and it was too hard — no one wanted me to succeed, so I gave up.”

But instead of getting stressed out, angry or discouraged, here’s what I encourage you to do:

Dance.

Seriously, put on a fun song and feel that goodness in your body.

And try telling this story instead: “Resistance is a sign that I’m changing. I’m on the road to success. I’m excited to keep going!”

When you notice resistance, that’s the moment when you say, “Wow, I would have yelled during this time in the past, but today, I didn’t.”

Resistance is nobody’s fault. It’s just part of the process of change.

So hold your ground, and dance. Celebrate.

Notice how many times I said “a while.” Resistance won’t last forever.

The longer you hold your ground, the more the resistance will fall away. People will get used to the new you, and you will get used to the new you too.

Will it happen overnight? Like can you yell for your last time like putting out your last cigarette forever? Not in my experience. A change like this takes time and practice. And noticing resistance (and celebrating it) takes practice too.

So you probably will yell again, and that push-back you feel may make you lose it a few more times, but the yelling will become less frequent and less dramatic over time and then, one day you’ll do a new dance. That’ll be the day you notice: the resistance is gone. You’ve succeeded. No more yelling (truly). Welcome to the new you. <3

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What we call anger isn’t anger. It’s a response to stress.

What we call anger isn’t anger. At least not completely.

What we call anger is a response to stress.

A response to old wounds we haven’t healed.

A reaction to fear.

A resistance to sadness.

What we call anger looks like yelling or hitting (or throwing banana bread). It looks like hurtful behavior.

But that’s not anger.

Anger happens when someone’s getting hurt. Maybe our own feelings are being hurt or we have the impression that someone else is in danger of being hurt. And it’s possible to be angry without having a stress response. But before I teach you how to do that, it’s helpful to learn about the thing we call a “stress response” so you can learn to separate the two.

The stress response: it’s instinctual. Your body’s natural reaction to danger. When someone’s in actual danger, the stress response is a gift. It’s actually life-saving.

The problem is that sometimes we have a stress response when no one’s in actual danger. That’s when we end up being hurtful.

To be helpful, when you get angry, notice.  Notice if you’re having a stress response. Try to take a break and ask yourself: Who do I think is getting hurt? Is it me? Is it someone else?

You might have the impression that you’re getting hurt, even if you’re simply feeling ignored. That was me. I used to get rage-full when I felt ignored by my kids. It was an old wound from growing up feeling ignored as a child.

You might be wondering: What does a stress response look like? Here’s a checklist to get you started.

The stress response varies from person to person, but there are some things we have in common. When I lead group discussions, I hear these descriptions a lot:

> Feeling short of breath, like there’s a weight on your chest.

> Feeling like you’ve been punched in the stomach. It causes you to be protective, to kind of ball up your body with hunched shoulders.

> Tight shoulders, neck and jaw. The tongue pushes up against the roof of the mouth.

> Tense butt and thighs, like you want to run. The stress response is also called the “fight, flight or freeze response” for a reason — because you do basically want to do one of those things: fight, run or freeze in position (those of us who clam up, who stop talking, know all about “freeze”).

> The sensation of heat or tingling, sometimes in the eyes, ears, head, or any of the previously mentioned areas (shoulders, butt, etc). There’s a reason people use the phrase “blow my lid,” because sometimes it does feel like a hot volcano at the top of your head.

So those are some of the physical sensations you might experience as a stress response. In addition to a physical sensation, you might also have a psychological one: the desire to connect with others. Getting in touch with others makes sense instinctually because if you were in real danger, it’d be a good idea to find safety working with other people. But in this case, it looks like calling your friend to vent or getting online and writing about what jerks your kids or husband are.

When you decide to get help for your anger, the folks who usually support your venting (and agree with you) aren’t the ones you want to get help from. They support your anger habit. Instead, you want to reach out to professionals who can help you break those habits that are keeping you down.

And if you’re reading this, those old habits probably are keeping you down. They’re stressing you out and preventing you from living your best life. The good news is: You can do this. I did. And I’ve helped others. So loosen that jaw, relax your neck, take a deep breath and dive in. Take the next step in your healing. You know what you need to do. Do it. I support you. <3

Subscribe to my newsletter to learn how to separate your stress from your anger so you can respond to both stress and anger in healthy, helpful ways.

How do I talk to someone who loses their temper?

I get this question a lot: “I know someone who loses their temper (my wife / my husband / my mom). How can I talk to them about it?”

Here’s the easy answer: You start somewhere, anywhere.

Here’s the hard answer: If they’re a part of your life and you’ve never talked with them about their anger habit, you’ve kind of enabled them — you support the habit.

Perhaps you’ve been scared or sad, or maybe you didn’t know you could do anything about it. Or maybe you’ve been happy with how things have been (and maybe they’ve been that way for a long time).

But now, if you’re asking me this question, it isn’t working for you anymore. You’re ready for a change.

Here’s the challenge (and the opportunity!): You can’t change someone else. You can only change yourself.

So you can’t change the person who loses their temper.

But you can change your reaction to it. Talk to them. Tell them how it makes you feel when they lose their temper. Do something different than you’ve done in the past. Here are a few ideas:

> When everyone’s calm, talk about it, “Honey, when you yell, it scares me and the kids. I wonder if there’s a different way we can get the kids to listen?”

> When everyone’s calm, talk about how you’ve decided to get help, “Honey, I’m having some trouble and I need some extra support, so I’m going to see a counselor.” If you feel comfortable, you could tell them you’re having trouble coping with the times when they lose their temper. Or you could simply tell them you’re feeling sad and want to talk to a professional. If you grew up in a family where getting help was not normal, you might experience some resistance to the idea, but push through and do it anyway. It’ll be worth it.

> Yelling is ok when someone’s in danger. Otherwise, it’s not necessary. If they’re yelling, try to stay calm and imagine they’re on an emotional train ride. You’re not on their train. Ask them to take a break, or take a break yourself.

> If they’re yelling, they’re stressed-out. A stressed-out person has difficulty with rational conversation. So if you decide to talk, try not to use too many words. Sometimes it helps to talk about feelings. Two simple phrases you could try are “I’m feeling _____ because ______.” (“I’m feeling scared because you’re yelling.”) Or, “You’re feeling _____ because ______.” (You’re feeling angry because the kids aren’t listening.”)

> It’s not your job to fix them or to fix the situation. If they’re yelling, it’s not your responsibility (or the kids’ responsibility) to make them feel better. Your responsibility is to keep yourself calm and make sure everyone’s safe.

> Have compassion. You’re all doing the best you can. And, hurtful behavior is not ok. Try to be loving through it all and set boundaries around hurtfulness.

Think about getting help from a life coach or counselor (I can coach you with practical strategies, and I have a list of referrals for counselors too). The person who loses their temper might not be interested in change, but if you’re ready for a change, getting help for yourself can make a difference.

You can make a difference because you’re close to that person. And when one person changes in a relationship, the other person can’t help but change over time.

Hot tempers tend to run in families. If you’ve got the habit too and you’re working on ending it, the work you’re doing will have ripple effects in your relationships.

I used to lose my temper with my family. My dear husband never said anything. It was part of our routine. Now when one of us loses it, we talk about it. We take breaks. We apologize. We know it’s hurtful and we choose to put boundaries around hurtfulness.

(If you have a child who loses their temper, click here.)

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The Redo

So you’re working on breaking the anger habit.

You’ve had a few successes. A few times when you would have lost it in the past, you haven’t lost it.

But one day you get to the end of your rope and you lose it. Again.

It happens. Breaking the habit takes time.

It takes time because it’s a habit (that may have been around for generations), and you’re learning new habits to take its place.

It takes time because it’s not just you who are making a change. Your whole family’s changing and learning new ways to be together — they can’t help it — when mom makes a change, it affects everyone.

During those times when you lose it again, here’s what you can do:

  1. Know that this is a normal part of breaking the habit.
  2. Tell yourself: “I’m doing the best I can.” Be gentle on yourself. Stressing out and beating yourself up over losing it can stress you out even more.
  3. Apologize: “I’m sorry I lost my temper. You know I’m working on not doing that anymore. I care about you.”
  4. Next is your opportunity for “the redo.”

Sometimes you can ask in the moment: “Can I have a redo?” It might feel silly, but (if your family’s willing) re-enact the conversation or the situation and this time respond to it in a healthy, helpful way. Practice being the patient mom you want to be. Fake it ‘till you make it!

Sometimes an immediate redo isn’t appropriate, but you still can reflect on the moment:  Think about what happened. What button was pushed? What did that feel like in your body? What feelings were you having? And maybe: Why were you having those feelings? Try talking about it or journaling. (If you’re seeing a counselor, tell them the story.)

Develop awareness about that button that was pushed. Then next time, that’s your chance for “the redo.”

Life is messy. Nobody’s perfect. Redos are an acknowledgment of that and an opportunity for grace.

And what better lesson can we teach ourselves and our children? Let grace in with the redo. <3

Have you read my story about how I used to lose my temper? I made a flyer about it. If you know a community bulletin board or a parenting group that might like to see it, please print and share.