Ask intimidating boss about priorities

How to Ask Your Boss About His Priorities without Sounding Disrespectful

In this time of confinement, we are each more aware of our limited resources: finances, time, energy, focus, humor, patience, and more.

Knowing our priorities helps us invest these personal and professional resources more wisely.

Our work priorities depend upon those of our boss.

Do you really know what three numbers keep our managers up at night? What are they measuring?

They be looking at different issues during confinement than in “normal” times

  • Cash
  • Sales pipeline
  • Employee health
  • Access to technology
  • Employee morale
  • Team communication
  • Employee autonomy
  • Interruptions during a workday

Especially during a crisis mode, it is vital to (re)align our efforts with our boss’ imperatives.

YOU and YOUR BOSS

How is your relationship with your manager?  Do you know there are 150 Million responses to “I hate my boss” on Google?!  (FYI 670 Million search “I hate my job.”)

Few of us are at ease calling our boss to ask about her priorities.  Coaching clients tell me this:

  • “It’s not my job to ask my boss about his priorities. My job is to follow his directives. He chooses. I act.”
  • “It would not make a difference if I asked my boss about her priorities. I still must do the same work.”
  • “We don’t have that kind of relationship. I am not her confidant. She asks us what is going on in the field. We don’t ask her what is going on in the board room. I think she’s a great boss because she listens to US!”

Employees expect the boss to take the lead.

And yet, you have the most to lose by not being aligned with your boss’ prioirities.  Your peace of mind, energy, and possibly job security depend upon it. 

How can YOU take this positive initiative and ask your boss about his priorities with utmost respect?

Prepare both the PEOPLE and the Content

Often preparation for a meeting focuses on getting the content right.

This process prepares the people too.

Prepare Yourself

The first person to prepare is YOU (and me!).  Mindset matters.

We all have some degree of the imposter syndrome. The underlying questions are, “What gives me the right (validity) to …?” “Should I ask my boss about his priorities?”

Try reframing the situation slightly to focus on results. You’ll discover empowering questions.

  • “How can I ask my boss about priorities in a way that makes her want to share them and even appreciative of the opportunity to do so?”
  • “How can I better help my boss perform well during these times of stress?”

Here, we focus on overcoming obstacles. Merely formulating these questions helps us to birth an action plan.

Prepare Your Boss

It is more the exception than the rule to enjoy strategic exchanges with our manager. He might be taken by surprise by your request.

Consider a two-step process to help him adjust.

  1. Tell him you want to ask about priorities
  2. Ask him

Prepare the Discussion Content & Process

I like to have a basic structure when engaging in open-ended discussions. Sounds counter-intuitive?!
Structure provides safety when venturing into less certain territory.

The following steps guides us in launching and closing the discussion with confidence. You will also gain pointers on how to stimulate the exchange if your first attempt does not generate the hoped-for response.

1. Explain the trigger for the discussion

Your boss might be wondering what makes you act “oddly.”

As humans, we fill in knowledge gaps with our own interpretation. And oftentimes with negative news!
Let her know from the onset this is a forward-thinking exchange. 😊

When you explain the trigger for the discussion, point out your motivation to grow professionally.

2. Confirm your objective to support your boss in her/his priorities

Products and services that sell well are those that satisfy a need. Your boss has needs too, among which performance criteria. Assure him that you are committed to those as well.

It sounds obvious, yet we can get caught up “doing our work” and forget the reason for it. The purpose of your discussion is to add purpose to your work!

3. Present the context which depicts the relevance of your question

As we work in increasingly complex organizational structures….and as we work from home during confinement (!)…your boss might not know exactly what you do.

He might be oblivious to the fact that you spend HOURS on projects that get dropped and that your motivation has taken a toll.

This is your opportunity to provide a succinct glimpse into your preoccupations. You can present these concerns in ways that reinforce the interest of the company or of the department.

  • To best use your time and focus
  • To maximize learning for the department
  • To best reach our quarterly objectives
  • To fully tap into collaborative teamwork

4. Make your ask

Your boss is the person who knows her priorities better than you do. There is a time for you to ask that she express them.

Directly.

Expecting an answer.

It’s O.K to leave a few seconds of silence. They might feel like hours (!). Your closed mouth puts the onus on your boss to speak.

It’s O.K to leave a few seconds of silence. They might feel like hours (!). Your closed mouth puts the onus on your boss to speak.

Many of my coaching clients fall into the trap of filling in silence. It makes them uncomfortable, so they speak.

Change your mindset about silence. Remember that when you ask a question and pause, your silence communicates loudly. It speaks of

  • Intent
  • Confidence
  • Self-Control
  • Interest

And more.

I was recently on a videoconference meeting where the decision-maker had been avoiding making a choice about when to kick-in an emergency plan. One of the participants finally presented the issue as a direct question.

“What is the minimum level of cash that triggers the emergency plan?” Silence.

His silence kept us quiet.

Finally, the manager responded. “I guess I have to make a decision.”

The participants remained silence still.

“Ok…” and we FINALLY got an answer!

Be serious about asking your boss about her priorities…and you will be taken seriously.

5. Prepare to listen MORE

Have you noticed how it is easier to listen when topics are relevant to us?!

The more we understand how our boss’ priorities relate to our work, the more fruitful the discussion will be for you or me.

You can guide the discussion with well thought-out queries.

  • If _____(such and such happened) what impact do you see that having on our work?
  • What might maximize our chances of success?
  • Where are the risks higher and where are the stakes lower?

6. Have a back-up plan

I teach a class on resilience. One of the keys to being able to pick up and get back into the game is to have a Plan B.

Think of professional soccer players. They fall all the time. And get back up again. They even have training sessions on how to fall so that they can rise up again quickly.

A Plan B gives room for margin.  You and I don’t have to be perfect on the first attempt.

A back-up plan is like a life vest. When we swim out of our comfort zone and into deep waters, we have something to keep us afloat.

As a Plan B, anticipate several of your boss’ priorities and ask her to comment on those and even to rank them in order of importance.

You could even present potentially conflicting priorities and explore how your manager evaluates and compares them.

7. Link strategies to actions

In the interactive story mentioned above, The Calamities of Jade, Jade had been previously assigned a Project A. She brings it up during this strategic discussion with her boss. “How does Project A fit in with your priorities? “

(We don’t know the answer yet. In fact, it’s YOUR vote that determines it! Click here to vote on #SafePlaceToTalkAboutWork.)

Our companies thrive because ideas get implemented. Your boss’ priorities impact decisions about how you and I spend our time, energy, attention, affection, and finances.

In the end, it comes to “Just doing it.”

Gain clarity on what needs to be done!

8. Close with thanks

Thank YOU!

Working with a Challenging Boss

How is your relationship with your boss?

I help managers and high potentials manage themselves and their bosses with confidence.

You spend most of your hours at work.  If your manager is a source of discouragement, you carry that with you in all facets of your life.  You used to have the commute ride home to unwind.  With confinement, that discouragement enters your own home.

Let’s (re)build your confidence and your positive impact.

Send me an email to share your goals and the obstacles that keep you from reaching them.  Let’s connect to see if my online training and coaching is the right solution for you to boost your confidence and your career.

Cover photo by Matthew Henry from Burst

Father and son spending time together

Give the Gift of Time

The holidays are just around the corner.  Will you celebrate with loved ones?  I hope you can.

For the lovers among you, scroll down to the end of this post for your gift. 🙂

For the parents among you, why not make this an opportunity to teach your children about leadership by letting them take the lead with you!!

You offer your time. The children choose how to spend it.

Children (of all ages) spell love: T.I.M.E.

Children (of all ages) spell love: T.I.M.E.

Time as a present to offer

Money cannot buy time.  Not when it comes to time spent with kids.

Play-together-time often misses the Christmas list…AND yet, it’s the gift kids crave.

How does one “give” time?  How can one make it feel like a present?

That’s why we created these Gift Certificates.  Personalize with your child’s name and you signature, et voilà!  You have a valuable stocking stuffer you and your children will cherish.

Click here to download Gift Certificates.

Kids and Parents Learn Through Play

Play teaches children how to overcome boredom, to set and follow rules, to win and lose with respect.  Those are leadership skills!

Let kids direct the play (that’s your gift). You’ll discover them WHILE helping your child learn to thrive….even with challenging team members (you?).

You thought your daughter was impatient? She spends ½ hour dressing and undressing a doll! That will stretch the fortitude of many adults.

One Mom’s Story

The first year I offered these gifts to my sons they all invited me to play their favorite video game. “Oh, no! Wrong gift!” I thought.

These shared screen times taught me so much.  This time was “extra video time” for the children and since the intent was to share a moment together, they willingly spent 30 minutes teaching me why they like this particular game, what makes it exciting, and how to win.

I observed their skills (or lack of) in anticipation, in strategizing, in concentration, and more.

And the following week when they struggled with homework, we applied ideas from the game to help concentration. “Let’s create levels.  When you finish your first math problem, you reach level 2!”

The next year, I gave each child two gifts of time. One could be used for games on screens. The other was for something else of their choice.  One child wanted to learn more about his bank statement.  Another wanted to go shopping.

I kept doing this for years, even when our eldest was in high school.  He asked for a visit to the ophthalmologist to see about contact lenses!

You Don’t Feel Like It

Screen games or doll dressing isn’t your cup of tea? Is homework theirs?

Look to the bigger picture.  Model leadership and balance long term gains with short term costs.

You’re creating memories, proving their importance, and connecting on their level!  You’ll be amazed how that encourages them to seek to connect on issues of importance to you…like picking up their bags and coats in the front hallway.  Seriously.

The Children Don’t Feel Like It

Kids might act like they don’t want to play with you.

“Children often resist love when they need it the most.”

“Children often resist love when they need it the most,” assert Dr. Scott Turansky and nurse Joan Miller, authors of Parenting is Heart Work. Be creative and kindly insistent. They might be testing the sincerity of your offer.

If the kids don’t want to play, consider admiring them for 15 minutes. No words. No judgement.  Simply seeking to understand them in their environment.

Say “Thank You”

That magic word for all ages concludes your time together on a positive note.

The Biggest Kid of Them All

How about playing with your spouse……! We’ve got a gift certificate for them too!

Gift Certificate for couple's romance
Gift Certificate for couple's romance

To receive Gift Certificates click here.

Photo by Caroline Hernandez on Unsplash.com

Monkey looking in mirror. Feedback!

Alternatives to Firing a “Toxic Employee”- 3/3

Don’t give feedback. Give feed-FORWARD

Feedback can be difficult to receive.  A team member with toxic behavior may have had ears full of “constructive criticism.”

Full ears lead to closed hearing.

In one of our training activities, participants are given a series of directives.

“Be on time.” “Take notes.” “Treat the client well.” “Check the references.” “Find out about _______.” 

The listeners exclaim, STOP.

  • Stop talking AT me.
  • Stop talking OVER me.
  • I am STOPPING TO LISTEN!

This is the third article in a series on toxic employees at work.  Today’s focus is on providing feedback in a way that builds collaboration.

We are building on the previous articles

  1. Acknowledge the challenge…and your role in it
  2. Set firm and kind boundaries with “I” Messages

Today’s post considers how to create and follow up on a personal development action plan of a team member.

1. Focus on Qualities to Build

Did you know?  The challenges we experience today present opportunities for learning and growth!

Blessings in disguise. Ha!

And yet…by overcoming our obstacles, you and I have grown wiser and more experienced.

For every behavior, there is a counterpart.

Think about Territorialism.  Its obverse could be Teamwork.  Somewhere along that spectrum lies Communication.

We can focus on trying to stop territorialism OR to build communication and teamwork. (Progress is never a straight path.)

 

Step by step. Build on strengths

 

I love how this cartoon contrasts the removing and building outlook.

Destruction fosters insecurity.  People erect defenses. Constructing enforces community.  People feel a sense of belonging and an ability to contribute.

Asset or deficit based mindset

In the office these two perspectives could sound like this:

  • Looking back (deficit focused): “Last meeting with Jane and Joe did not work well.  What will you do differently?”
  • Facing forward (asset based): “How could you demonstrate open-mindedness in the upcoming meeting with Jane and Joe?”

2. Build on Strengths

Imagine two cliffs with a void in between the two.  How can one get to the other side?

With one thread, one can slide another strand, then a third…until one can cross.  Does it take work and time to build on that initial filament?  Of course.  AND one can build on it.

Focus on weakness is like facing the void.  Follow the thread instead.

birds on a wire

3. Encourage Self-Evaluation

People with toxic behavior can easily be on the defensive.

Read: What is a “Toxic Employee”?

Auto-evaluation makes a person responsible for his own behavior.

One manager shared this incident.

“A team member did not take her share of the workload.  Absenteeism was an issue and so was quality of output.  As an engaged union member, she knew she could keep her job despite her disruptiveness.

I finally asked her to evaluate her own overall behavior on a scale of 1 to 5.

She responded 3. 

I answered that this was a bit higher than my own assessment.  Even more importantly, was she satisfied with 3 out of 5 when we both knew of her capability to do more?

Until then she had chosen to stand up while I was sitting down.   She took a seat and we began to make a plan to help her contribute to the team through her excellent written communication skills.”

4. Notice Progress

A sense of accomplishment highly impacts a person’s motivation and desire to contribute asserts Harvard Business School professor Teresa Amabile in her work on The Progress Principle.

Noticing progress helps people progress in performance.  They are

  • more productive
  • more engaged
  • more creative and solution-oriented
  • more committed to work
  • more collaborative

Managers often associate progress with major landmarks.  “We signed the contract!”

Amabile asserts that remarking progress on “small” efforts generates these positive attributes too. “Thank you for saying ‘Thank you’.”

5. Repeat Feedback Feed-FORWARD REGULARLY

It is different to give feedback regularly vs. to do so often.

Feedback Often

How frequently is “often”?  What triggers the need to review behavior?

Collaborative behavior is like service management.  When things go right, we don’t notice it.  How many times have you paused today to thank your firewall supplier for protecting your computer against viruses?  Or your bank for generating interest on your savings?  Probably none.  These service gets taken for granted…until a problem arises.  THEN IT IS URGENT.

When things go right, we don’t notice it.
Take time to notice it so that things go right more often!

Unless feedback is regularly scheduled, it tends to happen when toxic behavior merits correction.

That’s when our own behavior communicates a toxic message!  Our actions reveal that we don’t care about building a team member’s strengths or transmitting values.  We prefer comfort without nuisances.

Checking-in “too often” can communicate lack of trust in their ability.  Without me or you, that woeful, tiresome person will stay doomed to exasperate others.

Scheduled Feedback

A scheduled check-in time creates a sense of accountability on both parts:

  • the person building constructive behavior (notice the progress in using positive language ?)
  • the one encouraging personal development in his team member

There is an expectation of results.  An appointment to recognize progress.  An opportunity to further strengthen relationship muscle.

There is an expectation of results.  An appointment to recognize progress.  An opportunity to strategize for continued successes and further tone the relationship muscle.

The planned-ahead element creates a safe space, allowing for bloopers and learning from mistakes.  This is not an emergency meeting called because the person messed up (again).

Follow up sessions are scheduled on the calendar to check in…and to keep focusing forward.

“It sounds like you, Jane, and Joe are starting to understand each other a bit better?  How can you go the next step?  What could teamwork look like?!”

 

Thank you for your positive attention! ?

Photos by André Mouton and Glen Carrie on Unsplash

Love Languages at Work

Have you ever tried to make someone feel appreciated at work and it backfired? You offered chocolates (because you like to receive gifts) and the recipient gave you a wierd look. You publicly complimented a colleague who then informed you they don’t need your help defending them.

Ouch.

This is a common misunderstanding asserts Gary Chapman, author the the 5 Love Languages series. Each person is internally wired to receive love in a preferred way AND expects the rest of the world to receive and express appreciation in the same way. Chapman applies these Love Languages to personal relationships and uses the term “love.”

Aren’t we also people at work?

Engaged Employees are People who Care and Feel Appreciated

According to a Deloitte study, employee engagement banks on trust in leadership, a humanistic entourage, an inclusive environment, and high learning (a.k.a. the opportunity to make mistakes and still be appreciated).

Factors of employee engagement

With a slight paradigm tweak, Love Language insights apply to any trusting relationship seeking open communication and mutual appreciation.

The MULTIPLE Love Languages

According to Chapman (who sold 11 million copies of his books translated in to 50 languages), love and appreciation are communicated in multiple and distinct ways. Everyone has a preferred Love Language.  Appreciation expressed in this favored language encourages connectivity and cooperation. Conversely, disproval communicated in this preferred language further distances the parties; greater effort is required to “retrieve” the one who received critique to regain their attention and to motivate them.

People often assume that every other person shares his same method of expressing appreciation. That mistaken belief creates a source of frustration. An Anglophone may not understand a colleague who converses in French, and the same disconnect can occur among people “speaking” different Love Languages.

According to Chapman, there are five ways communicate that they care

  • Words of affirmation
  • Acts of service
  • Receiving gifts
  • Quality time
  • Physical touch

Implications of Love Languages at Work

How could these varying modes of connection impact your and my life at work?

1. Awareness and understanding

As an Anglophone living in Paris, I come across very young French children who hear me speak English.  They turn to their parents and ask, “Why does she speak so funny? Is something wrong with her?”

That’s when these tykes discover the notion of foreign languages.

Before we gain the ability to decipher these Love Languages, it helps to know that they exist.

2. Self-awareness and expressing preferences

Maybe you feel unappreciated at work. As you discover the various Love Languages, you also uncover your preferences. Your newfound awareness allows you to encourage team members to recognize your contributions in a way that is most meaningful to you.

When come in with a smile and a box of chocolates, I feel that you recognize my contribution to our team. It means a lot to me.” (Love Language = Receiving Gifts. Read below for more details)

3. Creativity in communication styles

In an ideal world we might identify the Love Language of our team members (and family members) and communicate accordingly.

We live in a real world…and a global one at that.

To ensure comprehension among internationals, it is helpful to communicate the same thought in multiple ways. “What’s your goal?” followed by “Describe your ideal solution.”  Who knows, they might not understand your accent!

In the same way, expand your Love Language vocabulary; try using Words of Affirmation AND Acts of Service with the same person.  It won’t hurt them AND you will grow.

4. Personalized engagement

One employee (or boss) particularly challenges you? Spend some time observing them to discover their Love Language.  In the process, you will grow in empathy and understanding AND communicate more effectively.

Impact of Love Languages at Work

Let’s take a peak at each of these communication styles and identify how to apply them appropriately in the workplace. Some ideas you will find familiar; you’re doing them already.  Do you do so with every colleague or selectively?

What new approach would you like to adapt today?

Words of Affirmation

Everyone makes mistakes AND everyone does at least one thing right.  This language focuses on identifying and naming those strengths.

With a spouse it can sound like, “Honey, great job organizing this family outing. It’s so much fun.”

With a child, one could say, “You are reliable with your schoolwork. I really appreciate not having to check up on your homework all the time. You should be proud of yourself.”

And at work:

“Thanks to your timeliness in preparing the presentation we practiced well. It helped us speak fluidly in front of the customer and present our ASK with confidence.”

“You bring good humor to our meetings which stimulates creativity for everyone. You’re an asset to the team.”

Affirmation helps identify the conditions which favor success…which we can then replicate for continued growth.

Affirmation can also reduce the risk of a new challenge by helping the individual recognize a transferable skill.

“You are rigorous in ____ (type of work), I’m confident you can apply that rigor to move us forward in this new domain.”

Affirmation is more than non-committal phrases like “Good job.” “Great team.”  These provide candy to the ego yet lack the consistency to generate a vibrant sense of belonging and feeling of contribution.

Acts of Service

These big and small gestures demonstrate an intentional kindness for the benefit of another person.

At home it might mean taking on an extra chore when your partner comes home exhausted.

How about these for the office:

To help someone with a software or a technology issue

To connect people and smooth the way with an introductory email

To help to set up the conference room

To bring the morning coffee just the way you like it (with the two dashes of cinnamon and the squirt of honey)

To ask, “How can I help?”

Receiving Gifts

It’s the thought that counts, like showing that you thought of them when they were out of sight. The size of the gift matters less than the having a present to offer.

It could be a photo of the professional event you worked so hard to organize together. A print of the two of you together or an image sent specifically to them, especially if they cannot be there with you.

Does the person enjoy a delicacy with her/his coffee?

Stick a post-it message of encouragement on their screen as you pass by.

Quality Time

The key concept is TOGETHER.

Going for a coffee break together. Inviting a colleague to grab lunch just the two of you. Playing of the company soccer team.

What about an after-work outing? Be considerate. If your colleague has a family or other personal commitment, your offer may be taking quality time away from his loved ones!

Physical Touch

According to Chapman, most men express and receiving caring (and rejection) through physical touch.

Think of the hearty handshake, even a double-handed one.  Notice those paternalistic pats on the shoulder.

In a workplace, one can create a sense of physical connection without touching.

Sit on the same side of the desk

Secure eye contact

 

So….what’s YOUR Love Language? 

P.S. And when you get home, remember those Love Languages too!

 

Eldest son

Family Feedback How to & Example—To Mom, be clear. To child, be humble

“A TABLE!”  That’s French for “Time to eat. Kids, come NOW! Prepare your taste buds and your conversation skills…”

On December 31 the family was dispersed in six different parties.  On January 1, we all sat down for a meal together…and shared feedback on the previous year and insights for growing forward.  We call this The Family Annual Review.

We do this every year and it is AN AMAZING family moment that the children request year after year.  

Friends (who also are parents) exclaim, “What a great idea….but I’d be so scared.”  We’re giving you the play-by-play so that you can get a feel for how it happens…and do it “chez vous” too!

Since we have four sons, we’ve given each one a full post.  Keep clicking to the next post!  Each child is different (don’t you KNOW!) so you catch a different aspect of the exchange from each one.

How To – Family Feedback

Children Give Feedback to Parents

Every year, and it has now been close to ten years, we set aside a moment to step back and review our relationships.  It began when I realized I peppered my sons with feedback all day long.  But when could they voice their likes and concerns to me in a way that I would receive them graciously?

The first year, the boys game me feedback.

One behavior I do well and that they want me to continue doing.

One behavior to talk about changing.
Sometimes this can be a no-brainer.  (The first year our youngest son did this he piped up, “No more lemon cake.” Go figure.  He felt the others got a treat when he was stuck with a cake he did not like.  Apple cakes became the norm.)

Sometimes discussions ensue.  We aim to close on an action step.

Parent Gives Feedback to Child

I learned so much from their feedback shared in this out-of-the-every-day-buzz-of-activity setting.  The following year, I requested to share thoughts for them following the same process.  It is one of my favorite times of the year.

I share an OFFICIAL affirmation (we take notes and review them occasionally throughout the year). This is what they do well.

I share a vision for their growth in character.  In this post, you’ll read about my son and a vision for him growing in humility.

Read on and discover the richness of the exchange…and the natural flow too.

Feedback to Mom

Mom, sometime between the green beens and the cheese (meals chez nous are served in courses.  We’re American AND French!): “Hey guys, let’s do the review.  Who wants to give me feedback?”

Silence.

Well Done

Four sons

Mom: “Son 1 (of course I used his name, probably preceded by a ‘honey’), why don’t you start.  What is one thing I have done well this past year?”

Son 1 (19 years old.  Junior in college):  “I know I’m only supposed to say one thing, but here are two.  You have been very welcoming of my girlfriend coming to stay at our home (she stays in the guest room).  You’re becoming more flexible.  You have also been kind in driving me back and forth to school (he comes home some weekends and usually takes public transportation…which takes 1 hr while, at no-traffic times, the car takes 20 minutes) on some short notices.  Thanks.”

Mom:  “I’m glad we have been able to coordinate schedules so that we can do those runs outside of rush-hour.”

To Change

Son 1:  “…and to change, two things too! (meek grin)  First, consider letting my girlfriend and I sleep in the same bed at home.  And second, you’re not clear with the financial budget.  When I come to you with exceptional expenses (contact lenses, pharmacy purchases…) you say those are in the budget, but when I worked out finances with Dad we did not include funds for that.  So, I feel like I’m paying for too much.”

Mom:  “About the girlfriend, I hear you.  You know that we have different perspectives on this and I’m not willing to change (yet?).  So what is the budget exactly?…. (Discussion to clarify)…well, let’s get that written down and put it in The Binder (THE PLACE where we store family ‘contracts’, kids’ friends’ phone numbers, forms we’ll need in two months and  wonder where to keep in the meantime…)

For reimbursements, talk to me and bring receipts.  You usually do so when my hands are full of soap suds from the dishes…so I’ll put Post-It notes in the kitchen drawer on which you can write an IOU and stick it on top of the stove.  That way I’ll remember to pay you back.”

Son 1:  “Thank you.”

Transmiting a Vision of Thriving to My Child

Well Done

Mom:  “My turn for feedback to you.”  (Yes, all the other boys are listening…and eating.  We get a few ‘Pass the _______’ as we’re going along.)

“What you have done that is really great is to develop a relationship of confidence with your Chinese tutor.  (He helps a Chinese student with French and English…and with cultural adaptation.)  From time to time you tell us of his surprised (horror-stricken) reactions to events at school.  The entire family has benefited from your sharing those insights.  And what it shows about you, is that you have been able to secure his trust so that he can express both positive and negative observations with confidence. That’s GREAT.

Son 1: “Yeah, it’s been interesting for me too.  Thanks.”

To Change

Mom:  “Regarding growth for next year, be humble.  You’ll be studying in Asia for 6 months. Life doesn’t happen the same way there as it does in Paris.  We French are known for being aggressive and arrogant…and you have exhibited those attitudes in the past.  Being humble means purposefully listening and learning.  Be like a sponge:  take in before squeezing out.

Son 1:  “I hear you.”

That’s good enough…it’s even wonderful!

NEXT SON…

 

Enjoy this year’s whole Family Feedback series:

  1. Family Feedback How To’s &
    To Mom, be clear.  To child, be humble.
  2. To Mom, be flexible.  To child, go step by step.
  3. To Mom, stop being a fashion victim.  To child, think before you speak.
  4. To Mom, be generous.  To child, learn through a job.
Family Happy New Year

Favorite family activity to wish a SoSooper New Year!

The Family Feedback

One of our most precious family moments comes after Christmas. That’s when we share what each person does well and how we can be even stronger as an individual and as a family.

We” means the kids start with the feedback and Mom & Dad L.I.S.T.E.N.

[bctt tweet=”The Family Feedback:  kids share and parents LISTEN.”]

The structured process keeps discussion positive.  Each child gets to share:
One Great Thing that Mom or Dad do
(and the kids want them to keep doing)
– One Thing they would like to Change about Family Life
(it would hugely improve family life for them)

PARENTS LISTEN.

You may be surprised by the suggestions!

Some “To change” suggestions could be a no-brainer “YES.”  One child asked, “Please, no more lemon cake.”

Other requests could merit deeper discussion.  (“More screen time.”  “No veggies.”)  Talk it over while everyone is calm and together.

The Family Feedback works with kids of all ages

with teens

Teen boys

Click here

 

with kids

Family meeting with parents and kids

Click here

 

with tots

Click here

Download Free Tools

SoSooper prepared some worksheets for you:

  • to prepare
  • to succeed
  • to remember

Free download

Click here to get your free downloads.

 

We’d love to hear from you.  Give us YOUR feedback too in the comments below!

 

Cover photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash

Dad and daughter cuddling and smililng

Spell “love” T.I.M.E.

Today’s Gift on the Joy. Peace. Love. @ Home advent calendar for parents

Gift Certificates to offer to your children and your spouse – “My Time, Your Way”
by Denise Dampierre of SoSooper

How to receive this gift?  Take the fun quiz on the Parent Advent Calendar today and you could be the lucky one to win the draw.

Time as a present to offer

Money cannot buy time.  Not when it comes to time spent with kids.

Play-together-time often misses the Christmas list…AND yet, it’s the gift kids crave.

How does one “give” time?  How can one make it feel like a present?

That’s why we created these Gift Certificates.  Personalize with your child’s name and you signature, et voilà!  You have a valuable stocking stuffer you and your children will cherish.

Click here to download Gift Certificates.

Kids and Parents Learn Through Play

Play teaches children how to overcome boredom, to follow rules, to win and lose well.

Let kids direct the play (that’s your gift). You’ll discover them WHILE helping your child learn life-skills.

You thought your daughter was impatient? She spends ½ hour dressing and undressing a doll! That’ll stretch the fortitude of many adults.

One Mom’s Story

The first year I offered these gifts to my sons they all invited me to play their favorite video game.  “Oh, no! Wrong gift!” I thought.

These shared screen times taught me so much.  This time was “extra video time” for the children and since the intent was to share a moment together, they willingly spent 30 minutes teaching me why they like this particular game, what makes it exciting, and how to win.

I observed their skills (or lack of) in anticipation, in strategizing, in concentration, and more.

And the following week when they struggled with homework, we applied ideas from the game to help concentration.  “Let’s create levels.  When you finish your first math problem, you reach level 2!”

The next year, I gave each child two gifts of time. One could be used for games on screens. The other was for something else of their choice.  One child wanted to learn more about his bank statement.  Another wanted to go shopping.

I kept doing this for years, even when our eldest was in high school.  He asked for a visit to the ophthalmologist to see about contact lenses!

You Don’t Feel Like It

Screen games or doll dressing isn’t your cup of tea? Is homework theirs?

Look to the bigger picture.  You’re creating memories, proving their importance, and connecting on their level!  You’ll be amazed how that encourages them to seek to connect on issues of importance to you…like picking up their bags and coats in the front hallway.  Seriously.

The Children Don’t Feel Like It

Kids might act like they don’t want to play with you.

“Children often resist love when they need it the most,”

assert Dr. Scott Turansky and nurse Joan Miller, authors of Parenting is Heart Work. Be creative and kindly insistent. They might be testing the sincerity of your offer.

If the kids don’t want to play, consider admiring them for 15 minutes. No words. No judgement.  Simply seeking to understand them in their environment.

Say “Thank You”

That magic word for all ages concludes your time together on a positive note.

The Biggest Kid of Them All

How about playing with your spouse……! We’ve got a gift certificate for them too!

Gift Certificate for couple's romance
Gift Certificate for couple's romance

To receive Gift Certificates click here.

Photo by Caroline Hernandez on Unsplash.com

From “Brush your teeth” to “I love you”

This post is for moms and dads who feel like they repeat themselves 1000x/day.

How can we get children to listen IN OUR HOME?

Effective parenting tools are great…but help me apply them!

That’s why we developed SoSooper Parent + Child workshops like the one we held on Saturday: Stop Repeating Yourself – Listen with Curiosity Questions.

Sign up for this workshop.  We’re doing it again in central Paris on October 7.

Parents Want Tools & Kids Want Play

The parents’ objective centered on getting the kids to listen. They wondered how it could be possible.

The children wanted to have fun, go on an outing, and be with mom and dad.

We aim to please both.  The smiling faces tell us we did.

We’re doing So Sooper!

Surprise-filled Activities

Parents & Children switch roles

“Kids, would you like to play Mom & Dad for a while?”  Children’s eyes popped excitedly…and off we went to try on costumes.

Commands Lead to Rejection

Scene 1:

The parents’ eyes and ears grew wide as they heard their children give them instructions.  In a commanding voice, 6-year-old told his dad to “Put his coat on” and to “Stop playing on the computer.”

Father responded with “No, no, no” until he exclaimed, “Woah! Son.  You’re bossing me around!”

Hummm.

Questions Generate Engagment

Scene 2:

The children (acting as parents) then replaced the instructions with questions. Here was a fun exchange:

Parent (played by a child): “What is our agreement on Computer Time?”

Child (played by a parent speaking defiantly): “I can play when I want!”

Parent (played by a child): “What is OUR AGREEMENT on Computer Time?”

Child (played by a parent):  Silence. “OK.  10 minutes.”

Everyone agreed that it felt better to be saying and hearing the questions.

But, parents enquired, how can we come up with the right questions when we need them?

Digging for Questions

For our next activity, parents and children gathered together in their own family units and explored for questions.

The kids knew by heart (!) the instructions repeated 1000 times.  They rarely really understood why.

Precious Sharing

Here is a precious exchange between a father and child:

Child: “I know, I know.  You always repeat that I need to brush my teeth.  Why is it important to brush my teeth?

Father: “So that you don’t have cavities.”

Child: What is important about a vacaty?”

Father: “A cavity is when your tooth gets sick and it hurts a lot.”

Child: Why is it important that my teeth don’t hurt?”

Father: “Because I love you.  I don’t want you to hurt.”

Child: Smile. “Because you love me.” Grin.

Finding Solutions

Together they came up with a question that Dad could ask at teeth brushing time,
“What do you need to do so that your teeth won’t hurt?”

 

This is what SoSooper is about.  Turning a challenging situation into a moment of connection between parent and child.

SoSooper helps parents turn a challenge into solutions while staying connecting with their kids. Click to Tweet

Join us next week.  We’re doing this same workshop in the center of Paris.  Click here to sign up.

pere et fille

Kids change when parents listen

“Dad, listen…”

Yesterday was Mother’s Day in France.  A friend (a mom of teens) shared about her reunion with her parents. “I left utterly discouraged.”  What happened?!

They enjoyed a day full of fun outings:  restaurants, shopping, and culture.  What was discouraging about that?!

Then she spoke her heart. “I shared a video of my work with my dad.  Not even 10 seconds into the video my father began telling me what I did wrong.  Hey, I know the video was not perfect, but critique before listening is not the feedback I need.  I just won’t talk to him about work anymore.”  She’s an entrepreneur; work is her passion.

I doubt this father’s goal was to alienate his daughter…and yet he did.

[bctt tweet=”I doubt this father’s goal was to alienate his daughter…and yet he did.”]

Could you and I do that with our children too?  You bet.

(In)Active listening impacts behavior

And when the children act out of discouragement, we think their behavior is their problem.

  • They are too blasé. “Whatever.”
  • They don’t listen to us
  • They criticize their brother or sister
  • Why can’t they just be motivated?!

Irony.

[bctt tweet=”Children misbehave out of discouragement…and parents get more annoyed at the kids!”]

My friend is an adult.  “She should know better,” and in a responsible, loving gesture she should go to her father and share her feelings.  But, in her discouragement, she’s opting for “why bother?”

If adults (she’s MY friend.  So, if intelligent, dynamic, and caring adults ????) decide against reconciliation, then what will our discouraged kids choose to do?

Yep.  Our children keep up with that annoying behavior!  And they seek counsel elsewhere.  Aagh!

Father and daughter in conversation. Listening dad.
Father intently listening to his daughter. Body, mind, and heart are all engaged.

What does active listening sound like?

I shared with my friend tips I learned from Positive Discipline about listening styles.

In our classes, we have an activity like the movie “Groundhog Day.”  We get to replay a scene, beginning again as if we were given a fresh start every time.  It’s a roleplay of a child (an adult playing the role of a child) who comes to tell Mom or Dad about his BFB (Best Friend Breakup).

  • Scene 1 – parent is on the phone, distracted
  • Scene 2 – parent criticizes
  • Scene 3 – parent tells child how he should act next time
  • Scene 4 – silence
  • Scene 5 – active listening. “What happened?  What had you hoped would happen?…”

We ask the person playing the role of the child how they feel, what they think, and what they decide to do after each of these scenes.

The first four scenarios generate disengagement in various degrees of intensity.   “I’ll go to my room…I just won’t tell them next time…I’m not good enough so why bother try.”

The Curiosity Questions*, however, built trust between parent and child, helped the kid discover his responsibility in the friendship dilemma, and inspired the child to handle the relationship differently.

(*Curiosity Questions are a tool from Positive Discipline by Dr. Jane Nelsen and Lynn Lott.)

SoSooper “Aha”:  when bloopers help parents become super

These role plays are an Aha! moment.  Oooops.  You mean my kids act the way they do in part because I (the parent) acts the way I do!

John Newton’s Third Law of Motion also applies to e-motions:  For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.

Father and son having fun in the pool.
For every action, there is a reaction. Play (action) leads to togetherness.

It’s stories like that of my friend that motivate me to keep on developing SoSooper, the mobile app that helps parents equip their children to thrive.

Guess how many tips you’ll find to reconnect with kids WHEN you feel like a recording machine because they’re not listening? 

Check it out on the SoSooper app 🙂

Cover photo from KiddyTrend