Life or Lifestyle

Do you have a life or a lifestyle? Your goal is to have a life that sustains YOU vs. a lifestyle that needs you to maintain it.

Do you have a life

       or do you have a lifestyle?

A life is based on you living in a way that’s natural and joyful for you.

A lifestyle is based on an identity — having things and doing things that associate you with a certain kind of person or group.

Outside pressures go to work shaping you so that before you know it, you’re life has been consumed by your lifestyle.  Are you working long hours to keep up with your lifestyle, but losing a part of yourself along the way? Yikes!

Check-in with your life

This week think about the parts of your life that aren’t really about you anymore.  Start by identifying what about yourself and about your life is most important to you, and then find the elements of your lifestyle that seem to be a struggle for you to maintain.

The goal:  to have a life that sustains YOU – rather than a lifestyle that needs you to manage it.  Simply taking a look could be all you need to make small changes that puts life back into your lifestyle.

Listen to the conversation about lifestyles from May 20, 2013 on the Jay Michaels Morning Show, WFAS 103.9 FM New York.


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Stop Punishing Your Kids

We’ve all tried hinting, but kids just don’t get hints. Watch Out! Before you realize it you might find yourself on a slippery slope to martyrdom.

“I’m going to stop punishing my children by saying, ‘Never mind I’ll do it myself.’” Erma Bombeck

Erma Bombeck’s newspaper column, At Wits End, was famous for poking fun at the lives of suburban housewives. Her humor was wildly popular because it was just so darn true! I used her funny words in Chapter 3― Set Your Sights, to poke fun at the pointless practice parents have of hinting at their kids. Kids just don’t get hints so watch out; hinting can put you on a slippery slope to martyrdom. 

Fishing for Frustration

Most of us have tried hinting and know that it rarely works on adults, and works even less with kids.  Sure, sometimes it’s easier to just do things yourself; it’s the choice between picking up dirty clothes vs. suffering another conversation about responsibility and appreciation as you remind your kids—again—for the umpteenth time—to do it themselves.  It’s fine to choose doing the work yourself sometimes; I do it, too.  The rub comes if you cast out hints hoping to hook appreciation.  Mostly all you hook is more frustration

So what do you do?  You’ve probably tried direct communication, “I picked up your clothes again today. Please make sure you put them away from now on.”  Clearly stating what you did and what you expect in the future can work . . . but what if it doesn’t? 

Still Frustrated

He keeps leaving clothes on the floor even after you’ve tried all the “correct” responses.  Do you think you’ll get a better response by hinting and shaming? Well, maybe―but not for long. More than likely he’ll sense a new position of power. He’ll recognize his ability to make YOU feel bad and all that it costs him is listening to a few of your insults. Not a bad trade for a kid and actually a great reason NOT to do what you want. Oh, and he’ll surely find other ways to leverage his power, because you’re probably using the same hinting-shaming technique to get him to make his bed, put toys away, eat breakfast, etc.

My Solution:  One More Time

Step 1:  Directly communicate from a position of personal responsibility and power.

“Seeing your clothes on the floor bothers me, so I picked them up again for you today.”

Step 2:  Make sure your child has the skills and resources needed to accomplish the task.

“What would make it easier for you to do?”

Step 3:  Establish a period of time for practicing responsibility for the task.

“I’ll help you for another week so that you have time to practice getting it done on your own.”

Step 4:  Set boundaries and clarify natural consequences.

“Since I don’t want to do it anymore after that, anything left on the floor goes into a holding bin for a month.  That way I don’t have to pick anything up twice for at least a month.”

Step 5:  Follow through without deviation.

“After the month, I’ll return the things you want and we’ll donate the rest.”

Personal Power

I was successful with this plan, but it’s only one possible solution. The point of any solution you eventually choose is to communicate from a place of judgment-free support and personal power. The hinting-shaming way will surely backfire and it won’t teach him how to make good choices as an adult.

“I’m going to stop punishing my children by saying, ‘Never mind I’ll do it myself.’”  Erma Bombeck


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Bribing Kids – The Currency of Power

Incentives work if you bait the hook properly. You can get almost anyone to do almost anything for the right price.

Article first published as Bribing Kids – The Currency of Power on Technorati.

Everyone has a price

A recent study done by the American Institute of CPAs found that 61% of parents pay their kids an allowance and that 54% expect their kids to earn the money.  Parents are trying to fulfill a promise:

I promise to teach you how to make good choices about money and work ethic.

Allowance arrangements work so long as you bait the hook properly.  You can get almost anyone to do almost anything for the right price.

Real World Practice

Most parents reserve the control; we decide what we want from our kids and how much its worth. On the surface, it sounds like a great way to mimic the “real world,” but only the world of victimhood.  When we control everything, we prepare our kids to accept only that which is offered. For me, this arrangement flies in the face of another parenting promise:

I promised to teach you how to think for themselves and to have the courage to do something about it.

Without encouraging a child’s input regarding allowance, we drop the ball big time.

The Right Bait

For you to catch your fish, you’ll need to bait the hook with the right currency.  Is it money, screen time, an iPad, or an extended curfew?  It’s all of the above and none of the above; the right bait is power.  Kids want control which makes the currency of true incentive power; the power of control.

Paying Kids for Good Grades

Harvard economist, Roland Fryer experimented with paying school kids for grades.  Fryer found that incentives worked when they were structured around the child.   Consider the power-pay to a kid under this structure:

  • The child baits her own hook.  Money, privileges, gadgets, etc. all work wonders, but not on all kids all the time.
  • The child can win.

“We tend to assume that kids (and adults) know how to achieve success. If they don’t get there, it’s for lack of effort — or talent. Sometimes that’s true. But a lot of the time, people are just flying blind.”—John List, Economist at the University of Chicago

  • Simple and objective. You either did it or you didn’t—period.
  • Child controls results.  Kids don’t control grades; teachers do.  In Harvard’s experiment, the successful arrangement paid kids to read books, something they could do without intervention.
  • Instant gratification.  Frequent pay and feedback.

All roads lead to Rome

Fryer’s ultimate outcome was to increase standardized test scores.  The most successful plan focused on reading. 

“If you pay a kid to read books, their grades go up higher than if you actually pay a kid for grades,” Fryer says. “Isn’t that cool?”

Parents, follow Fryer’s lead by identifying an ultimate outcome, aka, a parenting promise.  Then find 10 ways in which this lesson or life skill can be learned and practiced.  Build the whole allowance arrangement around learning the skill.

Power as Currency

Young kids don’t ask for much, but as they grow they naturally expect more.  Whether you’re handing out stickers or cash, it’s up to you to make sure everything focuses on your child and your parenting promises.

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