The Challenge to Identify Your Values and Stand Against The Flow

Living in Orange County and raising a family here brings its own challenges. There is pressure to succeed both socially and financially. Our children are watching us and learning from our behaviors what is important to us and what we value. Being clear in our own heads of what values we want to pass on to our children will guide our behaviors. But life is complicated, because of the pressure to succeed and compare ourselves to others we can loose our way and I believe this is making our families unstable.

It does take effort and courage to identify your core values and then to stand up for them. Social media has created an environment that is high in intensity. Setting yourself apart can feel very vulnerable. As our children grow up they are much more concerned with fitting in and having “likes” so to identify yourself and your family as something different than the norm is frightening. 

For example as we are raising our family there is pressure to keep up with everyone else including what they have, how their house looks, what toys their children have, what clothes they wear and what they are doing socially. That may mean you have to work more hours than you want too to earn the needed money and you’re missing time with the family. Is that really what you want?

There is also pressure to enroll our children in multiple extra curricular activities because you want them to have every opportunity and not to fall behind, but then we realize that we are always rushing and not having meals together at home. Or your child is invited to so many activities and going to these events brings expectations. You may have to bring a gift, take time away from something else or feel like you have to reciprocate and put on your own event.  But if you don’t participate then your child may fall out of acceptance in this social group, you yourself won’t be connected to these parents and you may have to stand alone in your value of family time and a slower pace. 

We need to consider that your child is watching you and if you don’t stand for something different, they will feel the pressure themselves to keep up and perform. Why wouldn’t they, what they are seeing is you succumbing to the pressure to keep up and if that is what they see then they make the assumption that it is what you value.

Some values supported in earlier generations were, faith, integrity, personal responsibility, a strong work ethic and the value of being selfless. These showed themselves in a family with religious attendance, family dinners, community service and holding our children responsible for their actions. It concerns me that some young families are getting caught in the current of social pressure and not taking time to evaluate their values and what they want to teach their children.

I am not promoting a set of specific values but I am encouraging you to think about what you want to show your children that is important to you and this takes thought and intention. It does take effort to fight the current.

Written by Lisa Strong

Is the Effort or the Result More Important?

I had just finished a very full, long, challenging and draining week.  My best friend noticed I was looking especially defeated and worn out.  I went on to tell her that I was frustrated that the outcomes I’d hoped for, worked so hard for that week had largely gone unmet.  I spent a few minutes berating myself before she interrupted and asked me if I could be proud of all the effort I had put in rather than disappointed that I didn’t get the results I had expected.  The question left me speechless.  I’ve been thinking on it ever since.  Is the effort or the result more important?  I’ve been wondering if I’m being too easy on myself to just pat myself on the back and say “good try.”  I started thinking about this from a parenting point of view as well as a coach and hard-working small business owner.  

Most parents tell their children that effort is what matters.  But as adults we have to produce good results to be successful.  That’s quite a mixed message and one worth sorting out.  

Anthony Moore, a well known blogger said “The process is infinitely more valuable and important than the result.

When you commit to the process — never giving up, creatively overcoming setbacks and obstacles, trying new strategies — a powerful metamorphosis happens. You literally transform in the process. This change is the real value. People who “just want the prize” miss this entirely. They don’t realize how valuable and powerful the transformation is, which is only possible from taking the hard way around.

In the words of James Allen from As a Man Thinketh:

“Even if a man fails again and again to accomplish his purpose (as he necessarily must until weakness is overcome), the strength of character gained will be the measure of his true success, and this will form a new starting point for future power and triumph.”

If you want true, lasting success in any area, you must undergo the process.”

I believe in this case the word “process” could be interchanged with “effort.”  If we want true and lasting success we must put in effort at every turn.  Sometimes that effort will yield us the exact result we are hoping for.  Sometimes, however, that effort will stretch us, grow us, train us, strengthen us and transform us… allowing us to be a better version of ourself.  Yes, we must put in maximum effort and we must often allow ourselves to rest in that and feel proud of it.  And we must know that this kind of effort will inevitably bring the results we hope for at some time and in some way, even if not exactly what we expect.

So, my answer to my own question… both, effort and results are important.  True effort will always bring results in one form or another.  And that is what we need to teach our children… and each other.

I understand that this sounds simple but it’s not easy.  I am always here to help.  Don’t hesitate to reach out if you have questions!  Give us a call at (562) 537-2947.  

Written by Lisa Smith

What Being Rude Will Cost You and Your Family

“You can easily judge the character of a man by how he treats those who can do nothing for him.” Forbes, 1972

Isn’t that the truth?!  Sadly, the truth is also that we don’t always treat others well.  We get caught up in ourselves, in our busy-ness, in our lists of things to do and even in our feeling better or smarter or more together than others. Before you know it, we are handing out sarcastic replies, snapping at the people around us, escalating situations with mean and hostile words, picking fights and putting everyone in their place.  It feels good in the moment… but then it often immediately feels horrible right after.  What’s most important is that this kind of behavior on our part doesn’t only effect us but it effects our family and others close to us.  Consider the results of an eye-opening experiment described in the book Everyday Emotional Intelligence:

“Participants who were treated rudely by others were 30% less creative than others in the study.  they produced 25% fewer ideas and the ones they did come up with were less original.”

It keeps going.  “You don’t even have to be the recipient of rude behavior; simply witnessing incivility has negative consequences. People who had observed poor behavior performed 20% worse than other people did.”

The lesson?  When we treat others rudely, they feel diminished, they can not become the best version of themselves and it breaks down the family unit.  We ask and expect our kids and spouses to help out, step up, resolve conflict… but are we helping them do that?  Are we providing the encouragement and emotional safety they need?  Or are we bringing in our own stress, anxiety, anger, discontent and pain to the home?  Are you snapping at your spouse?  Your kids see it and it hurts them. Are you treating servers, workers, customer service people rudely?  Your kids see it and it hurts them.  Are you lashing out at your kids or provoking arguments?  Your kids see it and it hurts them.  

When you feel off-centered, out of control, overwhelmed or anxiety ridden… step away.  Literally.  Go to another room and breathe deeply.  Take a walk.  Sit outside in the fresh air.  These are proven ways to lower your stress level immediately and will put a buffer between your emotions and your mouth.  

Remember that when you pull up at home after a long and chaotic day it’s the people inside of that home that matter most and deserve the best of you.

I understand that this sounds simple but it’s not easy.  I am always here to help.  Don’t hesitate to reach out if you have questions!  Give us a call at (562) 537-2947.  

Written by Lisa Smith

Does You Relationship Feel Like a Competition?

Competition is the American way. Who is the best athlete, student, employee, or even friend? Who is the best? But when it comes to a marriage and relationship with the person you love it should no longer be about competition, in fact the two of you are supposed to be on the same team. You are partners, you are there to support and look after each other. Having each others back. So why does it feel like your partner has become the enemy or you are trying to win in an argument? 

When there is a conflict between the two of you the goal is not to win but to come to a solution that works for both of you. A win/win solution. If it is a win/loose solution then the person who looses ends up feeling resentful or used and after time these feelings will rise to the surface. If it is hard for you to compromise and your Moto is “My way or the highway” then this is a problem. In a healthy relationship you consider your partners views and feelings when you are making a decision. It’s not all about you. 

Trying to outshine you partner is another red flag in the relationship. If your partner does something that results in praise or a reward, the healthy response would be to be happy for them and to congratulate them but if you feel a need to upstage your spouse or minimize their accomplishment then this will result in bitterness. It is important to allow your spouse to take the limelight sometimes. Let them have their moment and hold your tongue or join in on the praise. As the spouse you should be their biggest cheerleader. 

Another red flag would be keeping score of who has done what for whom. Bringing up past hurts and mistakes is one way to remind your partner of their shortcomings and moving them down in the score column. In a disagreement this does not help move you on to a solution. You may want to be recognized for your contribution by pointing our all you have done, moving yourself up in the score column, but this sends a message of “I’m doing more than you”. Your goal should not be to make your contribution known instead it should be to focus on working together for a common good. 

It’s important to take notice if there is some competition going on in the marriage. Try to understand some of the underlying reasons for it. One reason someone pushes to be on top and win may be because they are actually insecure and may overcompensate by pushing to be on top. They are afraid to be vulnerable and show those insecurities. If you notice this in your spouse then talk to your spouse about what you are noticing and try to find ways to work together as a team rather than trying to step on one another to get ahead.

Written by Lisa Strong


4 Habits to Support a Healthy Relationship

Do you ever feel like relationships are hard?  Sometimes it can feel like there’s one thing after another that causes tension or gets in the way of the connection we are looking for with the other person.  

Creating and maintaining a healthy relationship does take effort. I understand that you as an individual have pressures put on you each day and the immediate demands often press in on you and distract you from the fundamental foundational goals of maintaining your relationship. Here are 4 things that will help your relationship to stay strong.

  1. Build on the knowledge of your partner. This means make it a priority to check in with your partner, catch up and talk. Know what are their daily habits, likes, dislikes, fears, stresses, joys, worries and hopes. This is something that continually needs to be revisited and this is achieved by communication and asking open ended questions. This is not a time for judgement or criticism it is a time to listen. 
  2. Build your fondness and admiration for your partner. This is the antidote for contempt. If your mind is always focused on the negative your behaviors will follow. It is fundamental that you feel your partner is worthy of being respected and liked. A way to rekindle this fondness and admiration is to scan for qualities and actions that you can appreciate. Let your partner know what you observe and express your appreciation. Refocus your thoughts on the positive.
  1. Turn towards your partner instead of away. There are many times in your relationship when your partner will reach out for support. It may be as simple as them expressing concern about their job or moaning about the laundry. When these things happen do you ignore them or give unsolicited advice or do you show understanding and empathize? Coming to their support shows your partner that you are their teammate and partner in life. Validate their feelings and show you care.
  2. Let your partner influence you. Couples that allow their partner to influence them will have happier relationships. This is when each is willing to share the power. Each person is showing the other respect and honor while listening to their partner’s feelings and opinions and taking those opinions into account. Your partner and you should work together to solve conflict and sharing the power is the first step to compromise and coming up with a win/win solution.  There has to be the feeling that each person has an influence for a compromise to work. 

Being aware of these building blocks and keeping them in the forefront of your mind will help you maintain the health of your relationship. Don’t let the demands of each day distract you from the goal of maintaining your relationship.

We understand that all of this is easier said than done.  It takes practice.  We can help you improve the relationships in your life and gain the tools and skills that will help you achieve  that.
Call us today at 562-537-2947 to find out more about how we can help you.

Written by Lisa Strong

6 Ways to Monitor Your Teen and Social Media

Like it or not, for better and for worse, social media is here to stay.  The question now is how you’re going to monitor it with your teen.  There are lots of options but I’ve narrowed it down to six common and effective tips.

1. Set the ground rules.  When is social media access allowed and when is it not?  What sites and content are acceptable, which are not?  These ground rules should apply to the whole family whenever possible.

2. Educate Yourself!  What sites are your kids on?  What is the difference from one site to the next?  I understand it’s easy to be overwhelmed or feel like you don’t have the time to learn all there is to know about social media but you must. You can’t bury head in the sand.  

3.  Use All of the Privacy Settings.  All the devices your kids use should have strict privacy settings. These settings include who sees online social media posts, what social media sites are permitted and virus blocking on all devices.  Safety first!

4. Insist on full access to all social media accounts.  Of course your teen will argue this on the basis of privacy.  But this is a non-negotiable parameter.  Teens are less likely to share inappropriate content and more likely to stay safe when they know you will check up on them.

5.  Teach them how to protect their online reputation.  Teens don’t give this much thought so  it’s your job to teach them.  Kids can be impulsive and may not think about how their social media usage affects their ability to get a job or college entrance in the future.

6. Be a good example!  Whether we want them to or not, our kids follow our lead. Let’s be a good example in this area as we practice smart online usage and etiquette.  I promise they are watching.

Social media doesn’t have to be a bad thing… but it does have to be monitored. 

I understand that this sounds simple but it’s not easy.  I am always here to help.  Don’t hesitate to reach out if you have questions!  Give us a call at (562) 537-2947.  

Written by Lisa Smith

4 Reasons Your Partner May Be Shutting Down Communication

How tragic it is when listening breaks down to the point where a person gives up trying to be heard! This can happen in a relationship after a period of time when that person has repeatedly tried to share their feelings or concern and never feels heard. Let’s look at what they may be experiencing and what the listener may be doing to send that message.

  1. The listener is more concerned with how they are going to respond than listening to understand what is said. They might assume they already know what is going to be said so they stop listening all together and mentally work on their response. This is a very selfish way to listen because it shows more concerned about making a point than understanding.
  2. The listener is judgmental so the person no longer shares their feelings about painful and difficult subjects because they are criticized. They feel like they have to defend themselves instead of feeling supported.
  3. The listener continually tries to solve the problem. But before someone is open to listening to a solution they need to know that they are being heard and if this step is skipped than they may not be open to a solution.
  4. The listener is focused on the details instead of the feelings. The listener may hear a fact that they believe is not accurate and so they feel the need to correct it, when really the facts are not the point and correcting facts just frustrates the person speaking.

Here are two simple tips to improve your listening.

  1. Showing genuine caring: Show attentiveness with eye contact, head nods and words of compassion. Also giving your undivided attention by putting the phone down or turning off the T.V. 
  2. Give brief summary statements once in a while as you listen: This assures the person that you’re hearing and comprehending his message. You can ask for clarification to make sure you do understand.

If we are talking about a marriage relationship or your significant other than that person should be held at a higher regard than others, they deserve this attention and it shows love and respect for them. Don’t let your partner shut down because they no longer feel like they are heard. Put your own needs and ideas aside and invest in the relationship. 

Written by Lisa Strong

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What Is Your Communication Style? What Makes You Feel Safe?

Do you feel safe when communicating with your spouse or friend? I don’t mean fear of physical harm. What I mean is that you may wonder, why am I feeling stressed right now, they don’t seem to be? It may be because you and that person have different communication styles. Drs Les and Leslie Parrot wrote about safety in communication and they identified 4 categories. 

The first one they labeled Time. Do you get stressed if you feel like your time is not being used well? I am one of these people and once I sense the conversation has slowed then I am ready to move on to the next thing. No use wasting time right? Well if you are not like this then you might be more comfortable with a slower pace, you like to just slow down and it takes you time to process as we are communicating. 

The second is called Approval. If this is you then you are influenced by emotions and feelings. If you sense that the person you are communicating with you is not approving of you then this is stressful. Some people really don’t care how you respond to what they are saying, they are more concerned with facts and information, not feelings. That may sound harsh but it is true. You also might use feelings to influence people, in your persuasion you include feeling words not just facts.

The third is Loyalty. This title is a little confusing to me but it has to do with a predictable routine. Does change and spontaneity cause you to be fearful or anxious? Are you resistant to change? When your friend or spouse drops a surprise change on you does this cause you to feel unsafe and it is hard to communicate at that time? You need a warning so I think the word loyalty is about being consistent and reliable this brings you safety.

The last is Quality. If this is you then you want to do things well and you have a process so when your process is interrupted then it causes you stress. For example if you were buying luggage do you need to shop around, test them out, check for discounts and possibly return it because you eventually found a better deal? Or do you just go to one store, see what you need and get it, job done? Well if you are the first type then you fit in this category, you are cautious, you need to be sure and if someone rushes you through this it causes you stress. 

It is good to consider these types of communication syles. Look at yourself, where do you fit. You may fit into more than one category. It is also good to consider where the other person fits because you don’t want to cause stress in them. So if your partner is in the Loyalty category then don’t spring things on them, give them advanced warning so they have time to process the new information and get comfortable. Or if you have to make a last minute change then show compassion for who they are, don’t get frustrated this only adds to their stress. 

Learning about your own communication needs and your partners can add to the understanding and compassion in the relationship. I hope this is useful. If you need more help and support please call 562-260-4796.

Written by Lisa Strong

How to Help Your Hurting Teen

As a teen and family coach who has worked with thousands of teen, I often hear parents talk about how much their teen is hurting emotionally. In today’s unpredictable world, encountering hurt is as inevitable as paying taxes. It’s even more so for your teen. Add intense peer pressure, a friend’s betrayal, derogatory comments on social media, the cultural rearranging of values and family structure, and it’s no wonder teens face significant trauma.

No parent likes to see her children in pain. When your teen is hurting, you can follow these three principles to help them work through the hurt and develop strength and resilience.

Acknowledge The Pain
Ignoring a hurt doesn’t make it disappear. But you can comfort your teen by saying, “I know you’re hurting. If that happened to me, I’d be hurting, too.” That speaks volumes to your teen about your support.  Don’t compare their pain to any of your pain… past or present.  Don’t tell them to “let it go.”  Don’t talk on and on about the situation at hand with sage advice or anything else.  Just listen, validate and support.

Listen Without Judgement
Emotions are not right or wrong. They’re simply what your hurting teen feels. If you want them to talk, sometimes the best thing to say is nothing.  Stop yourself from telling them what to feel and what not to feel.  Don’t tell them why they shouldn’t be feeling the way they do.  Just accept them right where they are and remember that they are teenagers… most things are a big deal to them!  They will mature emotionally as they grow up and they deserve the time and space to do that without judgement.

Strategize How to Handle the Situation Together
Don’t rush in to fix the problem!  Rather than solving the problem for your teen, encourage him to strategize a path to healing. 

Helping your teen brainstorm his next move will make him more resilient in the future. On the other hand, rescuing your teen from emotional hurt weakens them and promotes a victim mentality. Yes, there are times when he should get an adult involved. But most of the time, them staying in the fight and proactively problem-solving will help them stand strong in life’s storms that we know are sure to come.

When your teen has followed through on their plan, cheer the effort: “What happened to you was really tough. But you were strong and rose above the situation.”

Your belief in your child means more than you will ever know.  

 I understand that this sounds simple but it’s not easy.  I am always here to help.  Don’t hesitate to reach out if you have questions!  Give us a call at (562) 537-2947.  

Written by Lisa Smith

How Positive Words Can Strengthen Your Marriage

“Marrying you was the biggest mistake of my life!” 

“I told God that I’d rather be dead than stay married to you!” 

“I’m absolutely certain that I married the wrong person.” 

“Come back here and fight me like a man, you chicken!” 

“To be completely honest, I’ve lost my feelings for you.”

Words have the power to start wars, scar hearts, lacerate a person’s soul, create enemies and incite fear. Our words can actually damage a person’s identity for life. That’s how powerful words are!  Believe me.  And if we aren’t careful with our language, we can destroy our marriage.  

I understand that sometimes we use negative words with the intention of motivating the other person to step up, to get their attention and to convey how hurt and disappointed we are.  But it’s important to understand, really wrap your head around, that this may bring momentary change but it will not bring a change of heart, the kind of change you are looking for.  

“I can see this is hard for you but I also see the effort you are making.”

“I appreciate what you are doing for our family.”

“You look nice today.”

“I know we will work through this hard time as long as we stick together.”

These are the words that will actually bring real, lasting change.  These are the words that will motivate your spouse, cause them to listen and to keep trying.  I hear some couples say that they are afraid to say anything nice to their spouse because they are afraid it will lead their spouse to believe that everything in their marriage is going ok and that all the pain and resentment have been resolved.  This isn’t usually the case.  If you truly want your marriage to turn a corner, become more enjoyable and you really want your partner as your lover and your best friend you have to build them up.  There is no other way around it.  

I understand that this sounds simple but it’s not easy.  I am always here to help.  Don’t hesitate to reach out if you have questions!  Give us a call at (562) 537-2947.  

Written by Lisa Smith