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6 Ways to Raise a Happy Child

March 8, 2016

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6 Ways to Raise a Happy ChildAs I wrote about last week in my post- Will Watching Sad Stories Help Turn Your Kids Into Happy Adults?,  I’ve been reading a book called The Danish Way of Parenting – A Guide to Raising the Happiest Children in the World. I have now finished the book, and I want to share with you the 6 things that Danish parents do that helps them raise happy children who become happy adults.

Denmark has been labeled the world’s happiest country almost every year for the past 40 years – even when it’s not in the top spot (like this year), it’s always in the top 3.  They must be doing something right.  Would you like to raise a happy kid who becomes a happy adult?  Yeah, me too.  So, I recommend that you read the book. In the meantime, here’s a summary:

The first letters in the 6 factors in raising a happy child spells out PARENT – Play, Authenticity, Reframing, Empathy, No Ultimatums, and Togetherness.

Photo by Donnie Ray Jones, flickr.

Photo by Donnie Ray Jones, flickr.

Play – according to the Danish, the inventors of Legos and the best-selling playground equipment in the world, the key to raising happier, better adjusted, more resilient adults is to have more free play.  Stop scheduling your child’s every minute and let him have some unstructured time to discover, create, and play.

Authenticity – To raise a happy child you don’t have to make the child think that everything in life is happy and everything has a happy ending.  It’s important to be emotionally honest to your child.  So, if you are having a difficult time, don’t smile and say to your child that everything is ok.  Be honest with them in an age-appropriate way.  Also, Danes don’t believe in over-complimenting a child.  If a child scribbles something, a Danish parent won’t say “Wow!  You’re such a great artist!”  They’re more likely to just ask about it –  “What is this?”  “Why did you use these colors?”  Or just say thank you if it’s being given as a gift.  They also don’t compliment on fixed traits (“You’re so smart!” which studies show tends to have a stifling effect on children’s happiness and intellectual growth). They compliment

mother soothing childReframing – Help your child see the glass as half-full.  The Danish do not ignore the fact that negative things happen, but they reframe and put things in a more positive light.  They do this for themselves and they help their children to reframe as well.  For example, if a child is upset because it is raining and they can’t go outside, an adult would help her reframe and see that it’s cozy inside and there are many games to play.  Additionally, the Danes avoid limiting or black and white language like “I always…”, “I never…”, “I hate…” “I should…”, and help children when they do use such language to reframe and see a more nuanced version of reality.  Lastly, Danes avoid labeling people such as “he is lazy”, “she is aggressive,” or “she is smart.”  Rather, they look at their actions –  “He is not working very hard today.”  “She was being aggressive today” or “She works hard and has been getting good grades in school.”

Empathy – There are two main parts to this point.  First, allowing yourself to be vulnerable with your kids and others (showing that you don’t know what to do or that you’re feeling badly) and being empathetic and non-judgmental of others.  The second part has to do with helping your child be more empathetic and emotionally intelligent.  Danes will rarely say “Don’t cry” or “Don’t be angry.”  Instead they’ll ask “Why are you crying?” or say “You seem to be angry.  Why are you angry?”  They allow children to feel how they feel and get curious about it.  Similarly, they will ask of their child about another child.  “Sam seems upset.  Why do you think he is upset?”

No Ultimatums – this is about parenting with love and respect, versus fear.  Ultimatums (“If you do this one more time, I’ll …” ), yelling, and spanking are about trying to get your kid to do something by making them afraid of the consequences.  They’re afraid of the ultimatum, being yelled at, or being hit.  They will most likely listen in the short term, but this type of behavior results in kids that have low self-esteem, depression, and poor social skills.

Instead of those methods seek out win-win solutions and parent with respect.  Danish parents are firm (they don’t necessarily let children run amok and do whatever they want), but they establish and maintain boundaries without spanking or yelling.  Also, they devote more time and energy on how to avoid problems rather than punishing them.  So instead of punishing your child for breaking a boundary, aim to teach and educate them.  Lastly, put the bad behavior in context.  Is your child acting out because they are hungry or tired?  Is there some other change in her life that might be causing her to act out?  Deal with the underlying issue, rather than the outward behavior.

Togetherness – the Danes value intensely friend and family time together, and all strive to make it as cozy or hygge as possible.  This means that they make the atmosphere cozy – they light candles, play music, and have nice food and drink.  They keep their personal problems and dramas out of the time together and focus on being present, positive, and in the moment.  They keep it simple – minimizing gadgets.  They play games together (adults and children).  They all help out so that no one feels like they have too much of the burden with the cooking and cleaning.  They are more focused on creating comfort for the group, then on their own personal comfort level.Hygge

Are your family gatherings like this?  Strive to make your time with children, family, and friends more like the Danish gatherings.  You’ll be modeling for your kids how to create loving and warm relationships that are a true measure and indicator of happiness.

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Monick HalmMonick Paul Halm is the Chief Creative Officer at the Checklist Mom.  She has made it her mission to empower women and moms to thrive in their lives, families, and career choices.  She’s a busy mom of 3, certified life and career coach, author, speaker, and real estate investor.  She’s a wearer of many hats, and juggler of many duties and loves connecting with our moms.  You can connect with her on the Checklist Mom Facebook Page and on twitter as @thereikicoach.

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10 People You’d Like to Meet & Be Friends With – 52 Checklists Project Week 8

February 24, 2016

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10 People I'd Love to Meet & Be Friends WithThis week’s 52 Checklists Project checklist is “10 People I’d Love to Meet & Be Friends With.”  This list is more than just people I’d like to meet, I thought about who I think I could be friends with.  Who’s on your checklist?

My list is (not in order of importance):

  1. Oprah 2016-02-24 11.29.10-1Winfrey
  2. Mindy Kaling
  3. Michelle Obama
  4. Barack Obama
  5. Bill Gates
  6. Richard Branson
  7. Chris Rock
  8. Malala Yousafzai
  9. Hillary Clinton
  10. Tina Fey
  11. Ellen Degeneres (this is a bonus one, but just because I forgot to add her before.  I LOVE her and would love to be her friend. )

These are people I find interesting, engaging, and/or funny.  I’d have so many questions for them and ultimately I think I’d like them as people and friends.  When I become friendly with one or all, I’ll let you know.  🙂 Who’s on your checklist?  Share your lists on instagram or twitter with the hashtag #52checklistsproject.

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How Being More Selfish Could Make You a Better Mom

February 24, 2016

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snappa-1456021298This morning at my Weight Watchers meeting, this mom of twins burst out crying because she couldn’t find the time to work the Weight Watchers program.  She had been successful before kids, but now that she had kids and “she was her last priority” she couldn’t find time to make the program work for her.  How could she exercise/track/eat healthy meals while still being the best mom she could be?

My heart broke for her and I went to speak to her after the meeting.  I left her with these questions:  What would happen if you put yourself and your health first?  What kind of mom are you being if you’re unhappy and unhealthy?

I wanted to tell her the story of my mom.  It feels very vulnerable to share this, but I’m going to share it here because it’s the reason that I’m so passionate about helping moms find time for themselves.

my family when we lived in the Ivory Coast. I'm the little one trying to eat my hand.

My family when we lived in the Ivory Coast, and life was still relatively peaceful.

This story didn’t start out too happily, if I have to be honest. When I was very little we lived in Ivory Coast.  My family moved to the United States when I was 5.  My mom got a pretty good job at the World Bank as an administrative assistant, but for a long time my dad could not find work.  My mother was the only breadwinner for a family of 5 (soon it became 6 when my little sister was born one year after we moved).

At that time, my mom’s habit was to put herself last.  She did not take time to deal with her health or her happiness, and she was miserable.  My memories of her at that time were of a raging banshee – furious and frustrated at everything.  My dad did eventually get a job, but he was definitely underemployed for his level of education.  My mom remained miserable and very ill-tempered.

I understand now it must have been incredibly stressful for her, but as a young girl all I understood was that this screaming, angry, stressed out woman scared me.  I turned to my dad for nurturing and support.  With my mom, I just tried to stay out of her way and her temper.

When I was 12, my parents separated.  My brothers lived with my dad and my sister and I lived with my mom.  Something miraculous happened during that separation.  My mother went to therapy and she learned something.  She learned to prioritize herself.  She started to get her hair and nails done regularly.  She joined Weight Watchers (funny how things come full circle) and started working out.  She lost 50 lbs and looked great, but more importantly she became happy.  The wonderful woman she was underneath all that frustration and anger (because other people weren’t doing what she wanted them to do to make her happy), came out when she realized that other people couldn’t make her happy. That was her job.  When she became more selfish about ensuring her needs were met first, she became a way better mom.  She was more loving, patient, and better able to meet our needs.

After a year and a half my parents reconciled.  They were and still are happier than ever.  Their separation was almost 30 years ago and they’ll be celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary this November.  They’re more in love now than ever, and all four of us kids are incredibly close with our mom.

snappa-1456035005From my experience observing my mom’s transformation, I learned the truth of “Happy Mom, Happy Family.”  I think it’s CRITICAL that moms take time to ensure their needs are met – they need to be healthy, happy, and fulfilled to pass that on to their kids.  Sometimes the most selfless thing you can do is be selfish enough to ensure your needs are met.

Finding time to do what YOU want and need to do to make sure you’re happy and healthy, is a great way to be the best mom you can be.  That’s why I’m so excited about our Checklist Mom “Peace of Mind – On the Checklist” Training Program.  It’s our program GUARANTEED to find busy moms 3+ extra hours of extra time for themselves.  For a limited time, we’re offering our beta version for a very, very special price.  Click here to find out more and to register.

 

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10 Ways to Show Your Husband Love – 52 Checklists Project Week 6

February 10, 2016

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10 Ways to Show My Husband Love #52checklistsproject Week 6It’s Valentine’s Day Week and I’ve got romantic love on my mind.  In honor of the holiday this week’s checklist is 10 Ways to Show Love To My Husband.  

My list includes:

  1. Say “I love you.” I used to have a big fear that I would leave the house and God forbid anything happened, I wouldn’t have said I love you to my husband.  So every time either of us left the house I made sure to kiss my husband and say “I love you.”  I realized that I stopped doing 10 Ways to Show Love to My Husband #52checklistsprojectthat as much, so I will say it more often.  
  2. Hug and Kiss More.  Hugs & kisses are always a good thing.  I never want to feel stingy in this area.
  3. Have Weekly Date Night and Keep it Sacred. This is an area that has been rather aspirational for us.  We have said we want weekly date nights and then “something” comes up and it turns into monthly or even bi-monthly date night.  I think that keeping this promise to our relationship and treating it as sacred (committing to it and being completely present when I’m in it) will be a wonderful way to show my love.  
  4. Give him freedom and space to pursue his passions – surf, ski, other.  I want my husband to be as happy as he can be.  For him, he’s happiest on a surf board in the middle of the ocean followed closely by being on skis on the way down a mountain.  I’ll show my love by never begrudging him time to pursue this by himself or with his friends and/or my son.  
  5. Learn to surf and ski so I can share these with him.  While I never want to begrudge my husband his alone time, I want to also be able to share his passions with him.  To show my love, I’ll learn.
  6. Tell him daily 5 things I appreciate about him.  Appreciation is such a powerful way to show love.  I want to make it a nightly habit.
  7. Sex. Does this really need explaining?
  8. Acts of Service – little gestures to show I’m thinking of him. I want to think – “how can I be kind and loving to my husband?” and do that. 
  9. Gifts – little gestures to show I’m thinking of him. My husband never expects gifts, but they do give him so much joy when he receives one.  I want to help bring that joy out in him more often.   
  10. Be present. When we’re talking/connecting, I want to be fully present for him – no screens or other distractions allowed.

How do you show your love?Those are the items on my list.  What’s on your list?  How do you show your significant other love.  Share in the comments or share on Instagram or Twitter with the hashtag #52checklistsproject.  I can’t wait to find out how you show love.

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5 Important Tips For A Great Valentine’s Day Date – Free Downloadable Checklist

February 9, 2016

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Ultimate Valentine's Day Checklist

Valentine’s Day is coming up!  We’ve gathered 5 most important tips you need to have the Ultimate Valentine’s Day Date.  In order to save you time, we’ve scoured the internet to put everything you’ll need to create the perfect date for you and your honey in one place, and we created a free downloadable Valentine’s Day Checklist for you.  All you need to do is read below and follow the checklist.

valentineDownload our free Valentine’s Day Checklist here: Click Here to get your checklist.

Here’s our guide to get it all done with ease:

  1.  Find Childcare

Kids are great, but when they’re around romance tends to go out the door.  So, first order of business is to find childcare.

If you don’t have childcare already zipped up, you can go to care.com or UrbanSitter.com to find local sitters that have been vetted by other parents.

2.    Make a Plan: Dinner

The next step is to make your V-Day plans.  Most people choose a romantic dinner out on the town.  If you’re looking for some inspiration or ideas check out Open Table’s Top 100 Most Romantic Restaurants for 2015 to see if there’s a local romantic restaurant nearby for you and your sweetheart.

Lemon Ricotta Strawberry Pie with Poppy Seed Shortbread Crust from closetcooking.com

Lemon Ricotta Strawberry Pie with Poppy Seed Shortbread Crust from closetcooking.com

If you’re looking to stay home and cook a romantic meal, you can check out some recipes from closetcooking.com.  This blog gathered 50 incredibly yummy looking Valentine’s Day recipes.  Check out the link.  You’re bound to find something perfect amongst the group.

Dating Divas     Schedule Another Fun Activity:

If you’d like to do something more unconventional you should check out the Dating Diva’s Top 76 Valentine’s Date Ideas – some are outings and some are for home.

Though we are always happy to have a romantic dinner out, my husband and I like to be a bit more unconventional for Valentine’s Day.  It makes V-Day less pressured and more fun.  This year my hubby and I are doing #31 from the Dating Divas suggestions.  We’re having a yoga date.  The yoga studio where I teach at is having a partner yoga/acro yoga class.  For me that’s fun and bonding.  I can’t wait.

Last year we did something very unconventional too.  We did a wedding proposal flash mob for Valentine’s Day.  If you want to know what that is, you can check out this video below.  Ours was to this same Bruno Mars song, but was in a night club in Hollywood.  We went and had a lovely sushi dinner nearby and then went over to to the club to dance and surprise a very happy young woman.  It was awesome!

3.   Get Spruced Up

I’m not one of those moms that never leaves the house without makeup and her hair done.  I’m whatever is opposite of that.  So, I appreciate (as does my husband) when I get a little dolled up.  Because this is not necessarily my thing, I went surfing on Pinterest to see what I could find.

    Style Hair

I went on Pinterest and searched for “easy romantic hairstyle”  I only searched for EASY.  If you’re like me, that’s all you’ve got time for.  Actually, for the most part these looks were too complicated for me. My go-to upscale style is generally “well brushed.”  However, I found this 2 minute bun that looks doable to me.  I’m going to try it.  Check it out too.

    Find Perfect Outfit:

Red & White Combo from "5 Valentine's Day Outfits You Already Own" on babble.com

Red & White Combo from “5 Valentine’s Day Outfits You Already Own” on babble.com

For the Valentine’s Day outfit, you don’t need to go shopping.  Check out this babble.com article on finding 5 great Valentine’s Day outfits in your closet: 5 Pretty Valentine’s Day Outfits You Already Own. 

    Get New Scent:

There’s definitely something to be said for wearing one of your favorite perfumes for your special date.  If you want to do something extra-special you can get or make a new scent.  If you’re into something natural here’s a great quick and easy recipe for making your own “romantic evening” perfume using natural oils.

4.    Set the Mood

If your date will be at home, you want to set the right romantic mood.

Flowers

Simple but Elegant Romantic Floral Centerpiece by familyholiday.net

Simple but Elegant Romantic Floral Centerpiece by familyholiday.net

Get fresh flowers and make a lovely table centerpiece.  This FamilyHoliday.net site has 27 romantic centerpieces you can make.  They are all elegant, and some of them are particularly simple,.  I love this one pictured here which is just the rose (minus stem)  in simple clear glasses (I think we own these exact glasses – so that’s already a score) with little votives scattered around.

Music

The last step in setting the mood is to get the music.  You can set up a playlist filled with some of your favorite romantic songs.  There are great playlists already on Spotify (you can just do a search for Valentine’s and your favorite genre and I bet you’ll find something).  If you want to make your own, you can check out Billboard’s Top 50 Romantic Songs of All Time.

5. Gifts

If you’re into DIY, you can check out this great post from DIY Joy on DIY Gifts for Men.  Buzzfeed has “23 Insanely Romantic Ways to Say I Love You” with food and/or booze.  The Buzzfeed article gave me some great insights into the working of the male mind.  🙂

If you’re not into DIY and don’t want to stress with shopping, Real Simple has curated 37 Valentine’s Day Gifts for your husband or boyfriend.

That should cover you for the gifts and then you need to get or make the card.  In my house sometimes (ok… pretty much always) the card is my husband’s “present.”  And we think that’s totally ok.  Valentine’s Day is more about the experience of being together and expressing our love for one another in non-material ways.  Though this year, I’m going to try one of those Buzzfeed “love through food” gifts.

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Download our free Valentine’s Day Checklist here: Click here to get your checklist!

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Ok, that’s everything you need to have a great Valentine’s Day date.  The only thing missing is the right attitude.  Don’t take it too seriously and just have fun!  It doesn’t have to be “perfect” to be a perfect date.  Let me know how it goes and/or if I missed anything!

 

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10 Ways to Show Your Kids You Love Them – 52 Checklist Project – Week 5

February 3, 2016

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#52ChecklistsProject Week 5 - 10 Ways to Show Your Kids You Love ThemIf you’re reading this, there’s no doubt that you love your child.  Sometimes we need reminders of ways to show our kids love.  Well, I can’t speak for you.  I know I love my children, and I wanted a create a reminder to show MY kids I love them.  It’s easy to get distracted and take the fact you love them for granted.  I never want to take my children for granted so, for this week’s checklist I’ve come up with 10 Ways to Show My Kids I Love Them.  

10 Ways to Show My Kids I Love ThemMy list includes:

  1. Be around more (be present).  I want to be physically present more.  When my daughter comes home from school, for meal times, etc.
  2. Be completely focused during conversations (be present… no looking at screens!) I want to be completely mentally present.  I want to look my kids in the eyes when I have conversations with them and not put my attention anywhere else.  
  3. Put love notes in lunch box. This is something that I’ve been doing with my 7 year old.  I’ve been lazy recently and have recycled some of my old cards.  I’d like to draw her new ones daily.  
  4. Support their goals and dreams.  I never want to tell my children to “be realistic.”  I want them to know that skies the limit, and I’ve always got their back. 
  5. Say YES to requests for play.  This is something I’m stealing from the Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes.  She decided that every time one of her children said “would you like to play?” she said yes regardless of whatever else she was doing.  I’d like to adopt that.
  6. Say “I love you” oftenI do say “I love you,” but could say it more.  So I will.
  7. Tell them what I love/admire about them. I am not sure I’ve been really doing this, but I really admire my kids.  I love them, but I also think they’re pretty extraordinary individuals and I want them to know what I see in them.  
  8. Give more hugs & kisses. Hugs & kisses are always a good thing.  I never want to feel stingy in this area.
  9. Listen deeply. When my kids speak to me, I want to listen deeply. I guess this another variation on being present.
  10. Model & encourage healthy habits (e.g., eating, sleeping). I want to be the healthiest mom I can be for my kids and I want them to know health too.  That means I will eat and feed them healthy food, encourage proper bedtimes, and other healthy habits.

Mama and ChildThose are the items on my list.  What’s on your list?  How do you show your kids love.  Share in the comments or share on Instagram or Twitter with the hashtag #52checklistsproject.  I can’t wait to find out how you show love.

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Can You Create More Love in Your Relationship With 36 Questions?

February 2, 2016

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More Love in 36 Questions?We’re in February now, and I don’t know about you guys, but this month always makes me think of love.  Valentine’s Day is coming up, and even though I’m not a huge fan of Valentine’s Day (I like to focus on love all the time, not just when Hallmark says it’s a good idea), I still appreciate the reminder to be more romantic and loving.

I came across an article recently about 36 Questions That Could Make You Fall In Love.  These questions are from a study by psychologist Arthur Aron.  In the study he had pairs of strangers spend about 45 minutes asking each other a set of 36 increasingly personal and vulnerable questions.  At the end of the question set, the pair was to spend 4 minutes looking deeply into each others’ eyes.  The idea was to see if vulnerability would foster closeness and even love between strangers.  At least one of the pairs in the study ended up getting married, so it worked with strangers.

We at Checklist Mom are always interested in ways to create more thriving families. Happy parents who love one another lead to happy kids and happy families.  So, I was curious if these questions would work for a couple who is already married.  In the interests of science, and the Checklist Mom community, I decided that I would take on this experiment with my husband.

Last weekend I drove with my husband from Los Angeles, where we live, to Phoenix for a conference.  We had a 6 hour drive without kids and the 36 questions, so what better time?  As we drove, we asked and answered each of these questions.  Because we were driving, we did not take the 4 minutes to stare deeply into each other’s eyes.  I guess we could have pulled over onto the side of the freeway and done this, but we didn’t.

Hiking with my husband in Sedona, post conference

Hiking with my husband in Sedona, post conference

The Result: I still very much love my husband.  We were already very open and intimate, so I didn’t feel much more intimacy after these questions.  These questions are designed to foster intimacy in strangers and obviously we were not strangers, but I still learned one or two new things about my husband asking the questions.  Discovery and surprises, especially after being together for 10 years, is always a good thing.

Also, I think if we had been looking at each other more while asking the questions (instead of mostly staring ahead at the road) and had done the 4 minutes of staring into each others’ eyes, we might have noticed more of a change.  All in all thought, it was a good experience.

Here are the questions if you’d like to try this experiment with your significant other or a stranger as the case may be.  Try it, and in the comments let me know how it goes:

Set I

1. Given the choice of anyone in the world, whom would you want as a dinner guest?

2. Would you like to be famous? In what way?

3. Before making a telephone call, do you ever rehearse what you are going to say? Why?

4. What would constitute a “perfect” day for you?

5. When did you last sing to yourself? To someone else?

6. If you were able to live to the age of 90 and retain either the mind or body of a 30-year-old for the last 60 years of your life, which would you want?

7. Do you have a secret hunch about how you will die?

8. Name three things you and your partner appear to have in common.

9. For what in your life do you feel most grateful?

10. If you could change anything about the way you were raised, what would it be?

11. Take four minutes and tell your partner your life story in as much detail as possible.

12. If you could wake up tomorrow having gained any one quality or ability, what would it be?
Set II

13. If a crystal ball could tell you the truth about yourself, your life, the future or anything else, what would you want to know?

14. Is there something that you’ve dreamed of doing for a long time? Why haven’t you done it?

15. What is the greatest accomplishment of your life?

16. What do you value most in a friendship?

17. What is your most treasured memory?

18. What is your most terrible memory?

19. If you knew that in one year you would die suddenly, would you change anything about the way you are now living? Why?

20. What does friendship mean to you?

21. What roles do love and affection play in your life?

22. Alternate sharing something you consider a positive characteristic of your partner. Share a total of five items.

23. How close and warm is your family? Do you feel your childhood was happier than most other people’s?

24. How do you feel about your relationship with your mother?

 

Set III

25. Make three true “we” statements each. For instance, “We are both in this room feeling … “

26. Complete this sentence: “I wish I had someone with whom I could share … “

27. If you were going to become a close friend with your partner, please share what would be important for him or her to know.

28. Tell your partner what you like about them; be very honest this time, saying things that you might not say to someone you’ve just met.

29. Share with your partner an embarrassing moment in your life.

30. When did you last cry in front of another person? By yourself?

31. Tell your partner something that you like about them already.

32. What, if anything, is too serious to be joked about?

33. If you were to die this evening with no opportunity to communicate with anyone, what would you most regret not having told someone? Why haven’t you told them yet?

34. Your house, containing everything you own, catches fire. After saving your loved ones and pets, you have time to safely make a final dash to save any one item. What would it be? Why?

35. Of all the people in your family, whose death would you find most disturbing? Why?

36. Share a personal problem and ask your partner’s advice on how he or she might handle it. Also, ask your partner to reflect back to you how you seem to be feeling about the problem you have chosen.

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