The Number One Tip That Will Improve Your Relationship Right Now

Regardless of the state of your relationship–whether you are currently riding sky high or feel like you have hit rock bottom, there is one tip that will make a huge difference in improving it. Simply stated: Be intentional.

What does be intentional mean or even look like? Being intentional means that you make your relationship a priority and that you are intentional about its value. Let me give you an example–take a look at your calendar. It is beyond easy to fill it up with all kinds of important activities, events and celebrations. In this day and age, it has become necessary to develop the skill to not schedule overlapping conflicts. Everyone is busy. But you can easily assess the value of your relationship based on your calendar. For instance, when you schedule a meeting at work with your boss or you schedule a parent teacher conference with your child’s teacher–those dates and times are mentally blocked off. You are committed to making those things work, as well you should. But what about your relationship with your spouse? Do you have a time where you have mentally blocked out a time where it is just for them–not just what’s leftover at the end of the day or an occasional date night but where you are intentional about blocking out a time for them? A time that shows they matter to you and hold value?

Intention is powerful. Even if you absolutely get things wrong—when your intent is to show your spouse that you love them, it improves your relationship. I will share a personal example with the permission of my husband here that might illustrate this concept. I will call it the Parable of the Spider Jewelry. My husband and I enjoy binge watching television shows together and in one such show, a character wore a red spider brooch that I had commented looked neat. My husband found a cheap costume jewelry red spider brooch for me and that gift is still on my winter jacket. Very thoughtful and meaningful. He didn’t end there though and thought this idea of spider jewelry was the best concept yet and ended up getting me a spider ring, a spider necklace and a spider bracelet in subsequent gifts. I am including a picture here so you can get an idea of the size of this spider ring that he to this day swears is a great gift. I don’t even like spiders. What I do love though is that I know his intention. He intended to buy me a gift that showed how much he cared even though this gift missed the mark in my book and I have a difficult time to this day wearing them. Intention is powerful force for improving your relationship even if you get things wrong.

There is a song that sums up too many relationships that I have seen in my office. It was sung by numerous artists including Elvis Presley, Willie Nelson, Michael Buble and even the Pet Shop Boys. It shows the timeless outcome of not being intentional and unintentionally letting the love in a relationship dwindle. It is called, “Always on My Mind”:

[Verse 1]
Maybe I didn’t treat you
Quite as good as I should have
Maybe I didn’t love you
Quite as often as I could have
Little things I should have said and done
I just never took the time

[Chorus]
You were always on my mind
(You were always on my mind)
You were always on my mind

[Verse 2]
Maybe I didn’t hold you
All those lonely, lonely times
And I guess I never told you
I’m so happy that you’re mine
If I make you feel second best
Girl, I’m so sorry I was blind

[Chorus]
You were always on my mind
(You were always on my mind)
You were always on my mind


Tell me
Tell me that your sweet love hasn’t died
Give me
Give me one more chance to keep you satisfied, satisfied
Little things I should have said and done
I just never took the time

[Chorus]
You were always on my mind
(You were always on my mind)
You were always on my mind
You were always on my mind


Maybe I didn’t treat you
Quite as good as I should have
Maybe I didn’t love you
Quite as often as I could have
Maybe I didn’t hold you
All those lonely, lonely times
And I guess I never told you…

You were always on my mind.

So, be intentional and voice your desires with your spouse. “I want you to know how much you mean to me so I am going to _________” and fill in that blank with an honest intent to show them how much you care and then do that item. It doesn’t matter how small or how extreme–whether it is making the bed or washing their car. Let them know the why or the intent behind the actions. I should note that this is not a quid pro quo exercise where you do this with the expectation that they will do the same for you, although many times that might be the outcome. This is simply you stating and showing intention in keeping your relationship alive. Intentions show where you heart is and will improve your relationship the moment they are expressed and shown.

How Failure Allows You to Grow

Anyone who has taken a timed test has felt that overwhelming rush of pure anxiety. Even decades later I can remember the surge I would feel when I got to the bottom row of math problems knowing that time was nearly out. Failure was never a fun feeling. Fast forward a few years to today and now I am the one giving these timed tests and I can say that it might even be harder to watch someone else fail. While volunteering today at my children’s elementary school I was giving timed tests for division for my daughter’s 5th grade class. As I watched the seconds on my clock slowly tick away as these young kids furiously were trying to finish in time, I was in agony. I felt impulsed to silence my alarm on the clock to give them a few extra seconds to finish but then I remembered that this would not help them in the long run. Failure, although hard to watch, is not bad. In fact, failure is often our best teacher.

Struggle and failure are a part of life–the key is learning how to deal with failure. Henry Ford is quoted as saying, “Failure is simply the opportunity to try again, this time more intelligently.” Failure is a way to learn–maybe what to do different–maybe what went wrong–but in my opinion the greatest lesson it teaches you is that you can do hard things and that failure doesn’t define you but can demonstrate the courage and strength that do define you–those parts of your character that help you to try again.

I will always remember the day that I “rescued” a butterfly that I had found in our backyard as a little girl. I watched it as it was emerging from its chrysalis and I could tell that it was struggling and not wanting it to experience any difficulty, I assisted in removing it from what I viewed as it’s cage. When it sad there limpless for an extended time, I went running to my mom who listened to my breathless explanation as I frantically tried to help this creature. My mom explained that it didn’t get enough blood to it’s wings–that struggling in the chrysalis was the way in which the blood went to the wings and would allow it to fly. My assistance had crippled the butterflies ability to fly on its own. Sometimes, just like me, out of love and concern we remove obstacles from the lives of our children that are meant to teach them about the inner strength they have which will let them fly on their own.

So, don’t be afraid of failure or even watching those you love fail. Although it is difficult to experience and agonizing to watch, it serves a character building experience in a way that no other experience can. God knows how to build and shape character.

Remember that we are all like pencils–each with an eraser at their disposal that has the potential to fix failures. It is an essential skill that we all need to learn to be able to fail and fix mistakes. An old man said, “Erasers are made for those who make mistakes.” A youth replied, “Erasers are made for those who are willing to correct their mistakes.” Allow failure in your life and in those you love. Erasers are a gift but only if they are used.

The Secret to Achieving Your Goals

Simply put and summed up in one phrase, the secret to achieving your goal is this: “Put it out there.” There are a million different reasons that we tend to keep our hopes and our dreams in our mind–a place that no one can really know what we are thinking or wishing will come true. We aren’t really held accountable to anyone and we can keep our goals and our progress (or lack of progress) on them to ourselves. Sometimes our dreams seem so large we are not sure how we are going to get there and so we seek to solve that conundrum by ourselves. Sometimes we are not sure if our dreams are even possible. There is no guarantee that we will achieve them but there is a guarantee that we won’t if we don’t put them out there.

I’m not sure at what age we loose the ability to dream big but spending time with Kindergarteners today reminded me of that joy as they have no qualms about dreaming big or sharing their ideas. “I want to be a doctor!” “I want to be a race car driver!” They proclaim their dreams with eager anticipation to anyone who will listen.This is a valuable skill that if we kept would propel us towards those goals no matter what they may be and even if they were to change.

In fact, researchers have found that putting your goals out there is more helpful than we might realize. The reason that support groups— whether they be for weight loss or grief or pornography addiction are so successful is that they are prime examples of putting your dreams or goals of change out there and by sharing them with others. This makes you accountable not only to yourself but to others as well which is a powerful motivator to pursue your goals.

So, here is today’s Tuesday Tip: Put Your Goals Out There.

A wise person once said that goals are dreams on paper. Get your dreams on paper. Spend sometime writing them down. This is the step one of every dream. This doesn’t mean you won’t have to work for them but goals help to guide the direction of your life and are a way to measure if you are moving in the right direction.

Then, put it out there and share your dreams and goals like you were a Kindergartener again. The more you get out of your head and put words to your ambitions, the more likely you will achieve your desired outcome. So, mention to a trusted friend or colleague that you are thinking about asking for a raise at work, or mention to your spouse that you are going to make an effort to make date nights and cultivate your relationship, or to someone you want to be in your corner with you that you are going to go running three times a week.

The path to achieving your goals is not meant to be a smooth road and there are no guarantees for success but the process to become better at anything requires goals and dreams. In fact, everything is a process. Winston Churchill one said, “Success is not final; failure is not fatal. It is the courage to continue that counts.” So, take the courage to put it out there. It is the only way to get the results that you want and the secret to achieving them.

The Key To Making It Through The Storms of Life

Currently, Hurricane Dorian is extending its path of destruction from the Bahamas where 110 mph winds have decimated islands, and is heading towards Florida. Despite having more technological advances than any time in history and even with all of the scientific resources, there is still no controlling the weather. Storms are a part of life. While not everyone in this life will experience a hurricane, everyone as part of life is going to experience internal storms of life–each as unique as the individual experiencing them. Every storm is different and the reactions to the storms are as unique as the storms themselves but there is one key that will help no matter what the storm you are facing in this life. What is the key to facing storms? The key to making it through the storms of life is to find meaning in the storms.

Legendary Psychiatrist and Holocaust Survivor, Viktor Frankl, details his experiences and his findings of being a psychiatrist in concentration camps in his book, “A Man’s Search For Meaning.” Frankl gave up a chance to immigrate to the United States and instead opted to stay in Vienna with his parents. In 1941, he met and married the love of his life, Tilly, and shortly after they were forced to abort their unborn child as Jews were forbidden to have children. Frankl, his parents and his wife were arrested in September 1942 and sent to Theresienstadt where his Dad passed away a few months later. Soon after, Frankl was separated from his mother and wife, and was forced to dig barefoot in the snow injured and starving. Frankl describes how simply imagining the face of his wife became a radiant sun that kept him warm. Although during this time Frankl battled his own depression, he offered therapy to his fellow inmates. He urged them to to sing and replay cherished memories to remind them of a life worth living and found that those who survived had a deeper purpose in life. Frankl was determined to be reunited with his wife and endured over 3 years of malnutrition, cruel beatings, and living in unimaginable conditions. He was liberated from the concentration camp by Allied Troops in 1945 only to find that his brother, mother were murdered in Auschwitz and his beloved 24 year old wife passed away at Bergen-Belsen a few months earlier in 1944. While in this state of despair, Frankl wrote, “Those who have a ‘why’ to live, can bear with almost any ‘how’.” When asked why he chose to share his story in his book, Frankl responded, “…to convey that life holds potential meaning under any conditions, even the most miserable ones.” For Frankl, finding meaning was the only way out of suffering. Having a meaning or a purpose was the key to weathering the storms.

This life was never meant to be smooth sailing. In fact, there is an african proverb that says, “Smooth seas do not make skillful sailors.” Developing character and virtues like patience, diligence, humility and faith often are the pearls that come from adversity. Facing difficult challenges teaches us that we can do hard things. There are a few things that are helpful to remember while we are in the midst of a storm and can help us find meaning and purpose in them.

Everything can– and will– change. Storms do end.

You’ve overcome challenges before. Remember past storms that you have experienced and reflect on the what you learned about yourself having gone through them.

Being kind to yourself is the best medicine. You spend a lot of time in your head, so make it a pleasant place to be. Allow yourself to learn and grow from mistakes.

Although trials and storms are difficult it is important to remember that we are never left alone to face them. Surround yourself with people who truly care. Even if you feel that no one understands, it is important to know that God does and that He is omniscient–or all knowing. He knows, he hears and answers prayers.

Storms will come and go and we cannot control the weather but we can become master sailors and find meaning in them. As Victor Frankl said, “Man’s main concern is not to gain pleasure or avoid pain but rather to see a meaning in his life.”

Top Ten Questions to Ask Your Child When They Get Home From School {#10 is my personal favorite}

Once again, it’s “Back to School” season. If there is anything that I have learned as a Marriage and Family Therapist, it is that questions can be really powerful tools. I think the number one question that I hear most often at school pick up is, “Hey! How was school?” Although this question is a great way to show interest and create connection with our kids who have been gone at school, it can cause kids to unknowingly narrow their thinking to a one word response: “Good”, or “Fine”. I decided I would share a list of my top 10 favorite after school questions. Not only are you able to reconnect with your kids, these questions can be powerful catalysts to really help kids become aware of their feelings, to inspire resilience and thought provoking answers and can change their perspective and actions in the future. Welcome back to school!! (Top 10 questions listed below. The responses to #10 are my absolute favorite 😂).

1. What was the best thing that happened in school today?

Best doesn’t mean that they had to have a good day because we all have bad days, but it allows them to look for good things and have a positive outlook.


2. Did you see anyone helping someone today? How did they help? Did you see anyone who needed help today? What could you do next time to help?

This can cultivate a helper mindset and a problem solving mentality.


3. Tell me one thing you learned today.

This sets up a learning mindset and allows them to recognize that they can and are supposed to learn something new everyday. Spark their curiosity!


4. When were you the most {excited, frustrated, bored, curious, anxious, happy} today?

It is really neat to watch them respond when you ask them about different feelings than being happy as they learn how to process and explain ‘heavier’ feelings that often aren’t talked about or as easily “accepted” as ‘happy’ feelings.


5. Who would you like to play with the recess that you never played with before?

This question allows for future thinking and plants seeds for actions in the future.


6. What word did your teacher say the most today?

This question will tell you a lot about what they are perceiving and will plant a seed to pay attention to their teacher more. 😉


7. Where do you play the most at recess?

This is a great opportunity to learn what your child enjoys and that they have a choice as to what they do at recess and how they spend that time. Especially if your child is into electronics and video games, it is great to get an understanding of what other interests they have outside when electronics at school are not available.


8. What was your favorite part of lunch?

If you listen and remember their response, it is a powerful tool to let them know they are loved while at school. I can even remember this many years later being excited about certain lunches that were served at school and circling those lunch days on my calendar. Never underestimate the power of bonding over the love of french fries.


9. If you could change one thing about your day, but would it be?

This is a way that you can empower problem solving and being part of the solution. Even if it isn’t possible to change that they would “skip math” or “have longer recess”, you can relate to the emotions behind them and process those feelings.

**My Personal Favorite:
10. What made your teacher smile/frown today? What made you smile/frown today? This can help kids to develop an emotional intelligence- to realize feelings and when someone is happy, sad or frustrated. It is a great way to help them process feelings and recognize how those feelings change and fluctuate throughout the day. Kids are so honest too so the responses to this one are very entertaining!

The Most Powerful Question That You Can Ask Yourself {Including the #1 Tip to Key Into That Power}

What is the most powerful question that you can ask yourself? That question is this: What is it that you hope for? And the follow up question: What are you doing to make that a reality? Hope is a universal necessity that is essential for everyone regardless of your age, gender or socio-economic status. Hope is the true and basic desires of your heart and it is what propels us forward even when we can’t see the finish line. So what can you do to key into the power of hope? Simply write out your hopes and dreams on paper. Writing down hopes and dreams allows your mind and heart to be on the same page working together.

There is a power in being honest with yourself in writing down and working towards what your hopes and dreams are. If you are hesitant to write them down, start with spending a few moments pondering the reason(s) why. Are you worried if you fail what that would mean? Are you not able to see the end result and therefore feel a little it is a daunting dream to write down a goal that seems out of reach? Are you not sure what control you have over the situation and therefore are uncertain about stating a goal that is outside of your complete control? Are you worried about the reactions of others to your goal and so the vulnerability required to acknowledge a dream seems too difficult? Are you unsure about how to go about reaching your dream and so it seems easier to daydream instead of actively pursue it? Whatever your reasons, my hope is that you will take a step of faith and allow the power of hope to work in your life. Key into the power of hope and let that be your guiding force as you work towards your dreams and goals. There really isn’t a more powerful force or motivation.

How Allowing Grace Into Your Life Can Allow You To Move Forward

When I first got my driver’s license, I learned to drive a car with a manual transmission or what we referred to as “driving a stick”. Nowadays most cars have automatic transmissions which has definitely made this much more interesting to explain to our kids who I can only imagine must be picturing their mom learning to drive a car with a small branch. However, driving a stick means that you have an extra pedal or clutch at your feet that you are manually or physically changing the gears on your car from 1st gear to sometimes up to 6th gear depending on how many gears your car has. Everytime your vehicle comes to a stop, you have to begin again at 1st gear until you increase your speed enough to switch gears. The trickiest part is that if you do not do this correctly, your car will stall out or basically turn off. It requires a great deal of synchronization that can be tricky to master, especially when a stop sign is at the top of a hill and you have cars behind you because if you stall you inevitably roll backwards. So what does driving a car with a manual transmission have to do with grace?

Getting my first driver’s license driving a car with a manual transmission was one of my first lessons about learning about grace. You see, I am actually a middle child and watched my two older brothers and sister struggle to learn to drive– countless times I was mortified in the backseat as once again we would have stalled out in the middle of an intersection while a myriad of onlookers would give us dirty looks. I vowed that I would be different and would not struggle the same way, but just like my siblings, I also experienced my fair share of stalling out and the absolute fear of a stop sign at the top of a hill. Yes, I was humbled but I also noticed that I had more patience, more sympathy and more understanding for other drivers who were driving a stick shift. I experienced the feeling of grace for the shortcomings of others. I realized that they were doing their best and that we all had weaknesses and me pointing out that a driver had made me miss a light didn’t change the fact that the light was missed. I stopped focusing on the weakness of others and instead felt more gratitude for the grace that I had experienced from others and from God for my own shortcomings.

There are several benefits that grace allows that nothing else compares to. In any relationship, both parties are going to have shortcomings that leave someone to make up the difference. Having grace means that you realize that you require help too and allows for a pathway of understanding. I can remember being shocked as a teenager that you could be in a relationship where you really loved your partner and that they loved you in return but that you could still hurt and be hurt by them. There is no such thing as a perfect person or a perfect relationship and grace allows you to strive for improvement amidst weaknesses and frailties. Being in a relationship means that we are all here attempting to drive a stick shift and mistakes can contribute to learning. Shaming a mistake of a partner does not advocate for change or learning but grace allows us to understand perfection and then need to feel loved even when we are least deserving.

Grace also assists in being able to stop the negativity and that is derived from comparison. Studies about bullying are now realizing that bullying is often not stopped many times as there is a relief that comes from attention being on someone else. Focusing on the mistakes or frailties of someone else means that fingers aren’t being pointed in your direction. We focus on where we are excelling and then find a person who isn’t excelling in that area to point out how good we are. For example: Your child was on time for school so let’s focus on those mom’s whose kids are consistently tardy or your proposals are on time so let’s focus on the coworker who is often late with their proposals. You have nice shoes so let’s focus on the kid whose shoes are less than stellar. However, grace completely derails comparison because you realize that there is “WE”. “WE all make mistakes.” “WE all fall short sometimes.” “WE all bleed when we get hurt”. “WE all require grace.” Our need for grace is something that we all have in common and is the antidote for comparison which often times fuels negativity and bullying.

Not only is grace essential in relationships and being able to be successful in creating and maintaining a healthy relationship, grace is also essential for every individual. Grace allows you a way to move forward. Grace allows you to understand that there is a way to begin again and a way for shortcomings to be made whole. When you offer grace to others, it becomes easier to offer grace to yourself and to recognize and improve personal weaknesses.

Even now, when I see a driver’s ed vehicle, I inwardly smile and remember those moments of struggle as I learned to drive a stick shift and where the grace of someone else– the person who didn’t stare me down but gave a knowing smile in the intersection—allowed me the ability to become better. That is what grace does for all of us–it allows us to remember that there is a way for all of us to become better and move forward.

#1 Tip to Finding Joy: Learn How to Celebrate the Little Things

It is important, whether it is in your job, in your marriage, or with your children, that you are able to find joy in the process, not just in the outcome. The thought, “I’ll be happy when…” is the robber of many moments of happiness and joy. The key is to learn to celebrate the everyday small things.

It has been said that Rome was not built in a day. Neither are your relationships with your spouse or your children. In fact, most of the success comes in the small everyday actions that build cities, individuals and families. It is important to look for, recognize and celebrate those small moments that contribute to the process and find joy in them.

This is something that I strive to do and I make an honest effort to catch my children doing something good and I will make a mention of the impact of that effort. Many times they are unable to see how their actions whether they are positive or negative impact the world around them. Just yesterday, I accompanied my daughter’s 4th grade class on their field trip to visit the State Capitol building and I brought my 6 year-old son and my 4 year-old daughter. As we went to enter the building, my son, on his own accord, opened the door and then held that door open for the classes to enter. I mentioned what a thoughtful idea that was and how much he helped using his strength and hard work and how everyone was able to enter the building faster especially the students carrying the lunch bucket. Little did I realize the impact of that compliment and how many doors are part of the tour of the Capitol building ;). It became his mission to open the door whenever he could and to hold it open until he was the last one in the room. It was a small token of kindness but one that brought joy to many and helped him to develop hard work, think of others rather than himself and to be kind. Watching him became a moment of joy in the process of parenting for me.

It is easy to get caught up in the celebrations that are celebrated by others in the world–the valedictorian or the talented athlete. It takes thought and effort to find reasons and ways to celebrate character traits that are not measured by a GPA or a high vertical jump. While excelling in school or on the field are accomplishments from months and years of training, the true joy lies not in the outcome but the process.

I once watched an olympic athlete who placed second celebrate more than I have ever seen- in fact–I would go as far as to say that they outwardly celebrated more than the person who placed first by hundreds of a second. It could have been really easy to focus on those hundreds of a second that cost them the gold medal, but that outcome wasn’t their focus.

At my son’s T-Ball game a few weeks ago I was able to watch that same reaction by an opposing player who had some delays that affected his physical body but not his heart. After swinging and missing a dozen or so pitches, they brought out the Tee for him to hit off which in the Rookie little league is sometimes a fate worse than death. However, this boy appeared unaffected by this “plight” and then swung with all his might and after a few swings and misses from the tee, managed to hit the tee and the ball so that the ball was knocked off the tee and traveled maybe two feet before it rolled to a stop. That young man ran to 1st base pumping his arms in the air like he had hit a homerun in the world series. How amazing would it be if we all celebrated the small meaningful moments like him.

So, look for ways to highlight the small, everyday moments. You’ll be amazed at the joy you can discover there.

Five Easy Ways To Teach Your Child Empathy

Empathy comes from being able to see something from someone else’s view. Unfortunately, many adults have never developed this necessary skill. Developing empathy is crucial and this is something that will help them thrive in creating connections with their teammates, peers and siblings. Not to mention, that helping your child increase their emotional intelligence and understanding will also increase the likelihood of them selecting a spouse with the same skill set. Being able to empathize with your spouse is one of the most important factors in a healthy marriage as it fosters understanding, forgiveness and connection. So, what can you do to teach your child about empathy? It honestly doesn’t take much and it is never too early to start.

In fact, researchers back in 1982 discovered that within a matter of days, a newborn baby will learn to discriminate between different emotional facial expressions like sad, happy and surprised faces.

By 5 months old, infants will learn to match the image of a sad or happy face with its corresponding voice.

By five years old, the child’s ability to recognize and label facial expression is nearly that of most adults.

It doesn’t take much to be able to teach this essential skill to your children. Here are five of my favorite ways to help them develop empathy.

One: Reading! When you are reading a board or picture book with a child, emphasize the facial expressions and focus on their feelings. “Ooh look at that pig’s face. He looks scared! I bet he is going to try and run fast!” Then, simply put them in that character’s place. “What would you do if your house got knocked down by a big bad wolf?” Do the same exercise yourself. “Oh man! If that happened to me, I would be so scared. I would probably try and run to find somewhere safe too!” Characters in books are a great way at being able to help your children learn to empathize with someone that is in a different situation than they are. Learning that someone could have a different thought or perspective than they do in a book allows them to look for that when they are dealing with situations that arise in their own lives. Books are FANTASTIC at being able to teach about emotions. Correlating facial expressions and emotions is key to helping your child recognize them in others throughout their day. This even works with your youngest kids- mimic the faces in the board books and repeat the word for that feeling: Surprise face in the book, mimic the face and say the word “Surprised.” For older teenagers you can even use books that were made into movies and see how the dynamic of the movie would shift if one of the side characters was the main character in the story. This is a shockingly simple way to see things from another person’s perspective and develop empathy.

Two: Resolving Conflict. Conflict especially between siblings is bound to happen and it can be a great time for teaching empathy. When I can recognize an emotion in one of my kids, I try and emphasize that to their sibling. For example, “Don’t just grab the hair brush from her. You wouldn’t like it if someone did that to you. Next time, just ask her first and she will give it to you.”

Try and place your child in the place of their sibling they are having a conflict with. “How would you feel if that happened to you?” Even if they respond, “Well, I wouldn’t care etc..”, you can redirect them to the facial expression or outward expression of their sibling and explain , “Look at her face. She does care and you would want someone to care if it mattered to you.” Emotions are often times ways to communicate messages that are unheard. Situations escalate when people don’t feel like they are being listened to or have a voice. We all feel emotions and we can relate to them. The emotions that we feel are communicating a message and if we can listen to what they are trying to teach us we can handle the situations better. It is important to help our kids recognize their own emotions and the messages those messages are trying to convey so that they can in turn realize that other people are the same as them–feeling emotions and it allows them to empathize.

Three: Make Discussing Emotions a Part of Your Day. When you are asking your child about how school was you can ask a question that can spark some empathy such as, “When did your teacher smile today? What did your teacher frown about today?” Help them to clue into the emotions of others. During dinner we take turns talking about the best part and worst part of our day. This helps to normalize that we all have difficult events that happen and also to look for good things that happen throughout the course of the day. They are able to develop their skill of empathy listening to others talking about their day. Empathy doesn’t mean that they have to feel the same way as the other person, it just means that they can understand why the person might feel the way they do. For example, one of my daughter’s really doesn’t like math and so it was hard for her to relate to my other daughter saying that math time at school was the best part of her day until we were able to explain it that they way my daughter who enjoys math feels is the same feeling that she has about her P.E. class that she really likes. You are relating the feeling, not having the same feelings for the same events.

Four: Emphasize Your Own Emotions. It is important for your kid’s to recognize feelings in others and there is no one that their recognize more than a parent. You can help them learn to put a label or a name to emotions by doing that yourself. For example, instead of simply saying, “We are going to be late–put your seat belt on!” add in the emotion that you are feeling: “I am nervous that we are going to be late. Put your seatbelt on.” You might just see that putting a label to your own emotions will help you process and communicate better as well.

Five: Seek to Be An Example of Empathy. It is has been said that the number one rule in communication is: “Seek First to Understand, and then be Understood.” It is important for all of us to feel listened to and understood–especially our kids. When your child is explaining why they behaved the way they did or why they made that choice, seek to empathize with them. It doesn’t mean there isn’t a consequence for their behavior, but it does mean that you are trying to understand and empathize with their feelings: “I can understand why you would be nervous and didn’t want to be embarrassed when you showed up at piano lessons with tangled, wet hair.” Kids don’t always know why they do they things they do, but they will seek to look for those reasons the more that we ask about them. When we model seeking to understand their emotions, they will seek more to understanding their own and then at the same time develop that skill to understand and empathize with others.

5 Ways Humility Can Help You Stop Comparing Yourself To Others

There is a natural tendency that we all have to compare. Even a two year-old is capable of quickly recognizing if they have less fruit snacks than their siblings. Comparing in of itself is not wrong and can be a valuable skill set—for example– comparison shopping can allow you to get the best deal on your new phone, car or groceries. However, we often have a tendency of comparing apples to oranges. We will look at our weaknesses and compare them to the strengths of others. We will stand in awe of the woman who obviously makes it to the gym in the morning when we are struggling to get our kids to school on time. We will focus on something we are struggling with and then notice the person who seems to excel in that area and this usually does not foster positive feelings towards that person. This usually leads in the direction of self-loathing and being critical of our ourselves and our weaknesses or to feelings of envy and jealousy of the person we view as successful in an area we are lacking in. However, there is one characteristic that everyone can develop that will directly counter these outcomes of our natural tendency to compare: humility.

One: Being humble is a way that you can still recognize your own weaknesses and the strengths of another without the overwhelming negative feelings. Humility allows you to recognize and remember that we all have strengths and we all have weaknesses that we can improve. Humility allows us know that there is room for growth in all of us for a reason. We can focus on our own self-improvement and look of ways to work on and get better and allow others the same opportunity.

Two: Being humble also helps us to be kind to ourselves. When my mom is overwhelmed, she often says, “I am only one person.” It is helpful to remember this and that we are not meant to be more than just one person–a person who will make mistakes–a person with flaws but a person who is learning. We are one person but we make a huge difference.

Three: Being humble allows us to create true connections. It does not mean being weak nor that we should allow ourselves to be at the dictates of someone else. Recognizing that we have weaknesses does not mean that we negate our strengths. In fact, it helps us relate and connect more to others realizing that we all have strengths and things that we offer to this world that make a difference. Humility allows for us to reach out for help when we need it and creates connections with others which is the strongest predictor of happiness. (truth-or-myth-connection-is-the-strongest-predictor-of-happiness)

Four: Being humble also allows us to remember that everything we have–our time, our talents and skills, our health and energy, even our very lives come as free gifts from God. When you recognize that you have been given talents and gifts, it makes it much easier to share them.

Five: Being humble means being teachable. We can seek to learn from those that have strengths in areas that we might be lacking. We are not meant to know everything but we are meant be be able to learn. Being humble is what makes the true difference in learning. My daughter was having a difficult time with a particular subject in math. I can remember this feeling as I was in math class in high school. Math had been pretty simple for me growing up and then for some reason geometry happened and I can remember looking around in class thinking I was the only person who just wasn’t getting it. My counsel for my daughter was the same counsel I would have given my 9th grade self–raise your hand. Acknowledge if something is hard for you to understand. Your teacher does understand it and can help you. When you acknowledge what you don’t know, you allow your mind to focus on learning that exact information. Humility is the key to learning.

So, the next time you recognize the feelings of envy that are derived from comparing, give yourself a dose of humility. Refocus your energy on ways in which you can use the talents that you have been given and look to learn from those around you. Being humble makes a real difference.