Becoming a More Confident Mom

There is nothing like motherhood to make even the strongest, most successful, well-educated woman feel inadequate and clueless at times. That’s because there is nothing on Earth that can fully prepare a mom to raise a child of her own. Sure, having a teenage babysitting gig or growing up with a younger sibling might offer a glimpse into what it takes, but it’s not until a mom is blessed with the ultimate gift of a son or daughter that the reality of awesome responsibility is felt.

Motherhood keeps us on our toes both literally and figuratively. Every child and every situation is so unique, chances are, we’ll all lose confidence one time or another. But the farther we fall into the pit of uncertainty, the messier our parenting can become. The trick is to embrace a Can Do attitude. We don’t have to know all the answers. We just have to be willing to try new approaches and make mistakes, ultimately finding what works best for our family. Sure, that may be easier said than done, especially if we try to go it alone.

The amazing news is none of us have to go it alone. Ever.

Our greatest source of strength can be found in God. All we have to do is ask. (A simple “Lord, please help me” will do!) Truth be told, it’s not always been easy for Li’l Ms Independent me to remember this, but I have learned to rely on the Lord, particularly when fear and frustration try to worm their way into my parenting. And the more I lean on Him for my strength, the more confident I become…and the less often I mess up.

Here are some other lessons I’ve learned (often the hard way) about confidence in parenting.

Weak Mom – Strong Mom:

When my confidence level is low I tend to yell at my kids to try to prove I’m in charge.
When my kids don’t want to listen to a thing I have to say or honor a request I’ve made a zillion times, I start to question my authority. To reestablish power, I yell. Ironically, as soon as I begin yelling, my kids roll their eyes and mutter to each other, “Mom’s losing it again.” And of course that does wonders for my already floundering ego.

A more confident approach:
When I take a deep breath and speak in a firm but quiet voice, my kids actually listen to me and take me seriously. There may be a storm brewing in my gut, but my calm outward appearance says, “Hey, I’m serious here. Let’s talk.”

Sometimes it takes every fiber in my being to keep my adrenaline floodgates closed. But it’s just like pacing in a race. Instead of sprinting out of the gate and dying before Mile 1, I find a consistent speed that will take me all the way to the finish line.

When my confidence level is low, I may tell my kids “yes” when I should say “no.”
Let’s face it, who likes to be the bad guy? It takes confidence to tell my child he is NOT allowed to watch the latest rated R movie that ALL his friends are seeing. When confidence is too weak to say, “No,” Mommy Guilt muscles in to say, “Yes.”

A more confident approach:
When I lovingly but firmly give solid explanations for banning a movie in our house, my kids seem more receptive to my decision. I empathize with their frustration in being the only kids on the planet who are not allowed to see it, and I recognize that my verdict isn’t going to be liked. But when I state my reasons confidently, and I show a little love, I preserve our relationship without sacrificing my better judgment.

Mommy Guilt has the power to plant doubt in my decision making ability by tugging on my emotional heartstrings. But when I choose to ignore its lies and hold firmly to truth based in sound reasoning, I’m able to set healthy boundaries without unraveling.

When my confidence level is low, I’m more likely to not follow through.
When kids make bad choices, they need to be held accountable for their actions. Parents make great accountants when they have the confidence to do the job. Let’s say my son’s excessive cell phone usage leads him to losing phone privileges for a week, but three days into the ban, I cave into his pleading puppy-dog eyes, and give the phone back. What does this teach?

That his mom loves him soooo much?

Maybe.

That his mom is a big softie, can be manipulated, and really isn’t that serious about accountability?

Probably.

A more confident approach:
When I love my child through the consequence without giving in, it’s like a spoon full of sugar helping the medicine go down. I try to say something like this:

“I know it stinks to lose your phone for the week. I don’t like taking it away. Next Monday you may have it back, and I bet you’ll never exceed your data usage again.”

If the begging continues, I simply say, “You will have your phone back Monday. But if the begging continues, I will add another week.”

Once I see a look of resignation on my child’s face, I say, “Thank you.” Then I redirect to something more pleasant by offering a snack or asking who won last night’s basketball game. Belaboring the point is like sprinkling salt on the wound. There’s no benefit in that.

The trick is to clearly identify the target that’s being set, lock it in, and keep your eyes on that milestone  until it has been accomplished. When our eyes are set firmly on a goal, it’s much harder to be led astray.

Wrapping Up

It takes guts to be an effective mom. Luckily, confidence is something that can be learned and strengthened over time. So get out there, pace yourself, push thoughts of doubt away, and keep your eyes focused on the Finish. You CAN do this!

I’m cheering for you!

Question: What gives you the confidence to make tough choices or face challenging days? I’d love to hear from you! You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Becoming a More Confident Runner

It took me a long time to learn to run with confidence. Convinced I was the slowest runner on the planet, and that my gait resembled a newborn goat, I’d run incognito with dark sunglasses and a ball cap pulled low. I eventually adopted better form and embraced my 11 minute mile pace which helped my confidence level until I experienced the fears of my first 5K. Each time, I found that a lack of confidence can lead to big mistakes.

My solution? Keep running!

For every run that poses a threat to my self confidence, an opportunity for growth emerges. I still have much to learn about the sport and about myself, but I’m far more confident than I was in the beginning. What’s even more amazing to me is how the assurance I’ve gained as a runner has spilled over into other aspects of my life. Particularly parenting. For more on that, please check out Becoming a More Confident Mom.

Back to running: With hopes that you’ll be able to learn from some of my mistakes, here are three lessons I learned in my not-so-sure-footed days:

one

During my first race, I tried to conceal looking like an awkward rookie by starting out fast and powerful. (Need I mention that this is one of the biggest mistakes most rookies make?) Of course, after just about two hundred meters, I was gasping for air, grinding to a crawl and watching my earlier road kills fly past me with ease.

I later learned that there’s nothing wrong with being a rookie – runner, jogger, walker…everyone starts somewhere! The secret to running a great race is to run it at your personal pace. A spectator sign at the beginning of the 2015 Austin Aramco Half Marathon confirmed this for me. It simply read Find Your Happy Pace. It’s in my happy pace that I find my smile and all the confidence I need to run My Race.

two

I’m a pro at doubting my abilities as an athlete. And that does not bode well for the old adage “Running is 90 percent mental and the rest is physical.” While that percentage may not be completely accurate, it does take huge mental strength to overcome the fear and apprehension that can lead to quitting.

When I run, my whiny, inner child sometimes tries to cling to my ankles and drag me down. Luckily, my firm but loving, inner drill sergeant knows how to loosen the grip.

Their struggle in my mind sounds something like this: 

Inner child:  “Can I just slow down and walk now?” (whined to the tune of “Are we there yet?”)

Drill Sergeant:  “No.” (simply stated and with authority)

Inner Child:  “Why not? I’m gonna die!!”

Drill Sergeant:  “You are not going to die. You did twice this distance last week…with hills! You CAN do this! Stop sniveling. Think of how great you’ll feel after the race!”

Running has given me the confidence to not only overcome the wimpy voices that tell me, “I can’t,” it’s helped me better defend against the real life complaints of my kids. Armed with logical, objective proof of my abilities, I can now leave doubt in the dust without ever looking back.

three

In my early days of running, (and even today, if I’m not careful), I’d halfheartedly commit to running three or four miles and then head out. By the end of the first mile, if I was in any kind of discomfort, I’d find a fabulous excuse to end by mile two. My lack of accountability ultimately resulted in weaker training days and gobs of regret.

Today, I commit wholeheartedly to a distance goal ahead of time and tenaciously go after it. If it turns out to be a particularly bad running day, I may slow my pace, but I’m much more likely to follow through with the distance no matter the discomfort. Not only has this taught me to finish what I begin, it’s also helped me hold my kids accountable for their choices. I’m better at empathizing with their discomfort, but more than ever, I understand the importance of seeing things through to completion.

I’m still learning to overcome the mental and physical obstacles in running. But with each new challenge, I grow stronger and more sure of myself both as a runner and as a mom

Question: How does running boost your confidence? Come on, I dare you to share! 🙂 You can leave a comment by clicking here.

How Running Makes Me a Better Mom

When it comes to motherhood, I have a theory that runner moms have a huge advantage over other mothers simply because we run. Here’s why:

Running is undeniably not for wimps and neither is parenting. Each demands mental and physical toughness that, at times, seem to exceed human capacity. But running provides a training ground for flexing many of the same muscles needed to be an incredible mother. I’m basing my logic on personal experience. Even though I’ve been running half marathons for years, and I’m a professional parenting coach with teenagers of my own, the obstacles in running and parenting can still kick my butt. It’s in the challenge of striving for personal best that I’ve become better at both.

One of the things I love about running is that each accomplished mile is a concrete reminder of just how strong, determined and resilient I can be. On days when endless parenting failures leave me so defeated I’m ready to give myself up for adoption, a good cathartic run beats even a glass of Cab or a pint of Haagen-Dazs.

But the benefits of stress-reducing workouts go far beyond their restorative powers. I’m convinced that they actually equip moms to be wiser, stronger and more effective parents. Determination, self discipline, perspective and focus are just a few of the parenting traits that naturally emerge during a run.

My Story

Inspired by one of my post-run journal entries:

At the end of an exhausting day of endless parenting fails, collapsing on the sofa in an Emmy award winning pity-party sounds pretty darn inviting. Exerting real effort in anything constructive is totally out of the question. And engaging in any form of exercise seems laughable.

But, before I have time to start sobbing, a small and powerful inner voice inevitably whispers, “Go for a run. It’ll make you feel better. You know it will… Go on… Do it!” After bantering with my thoughts for longer than a sane person should, I find the determination to lace up my shoes, untangle my headphones and step outside.

Plugging the earbuds into my ears, I shut out the world and focus on the task at hand. My finger jabs at the red button on my Nike Running app, and the familiar male voice announces, “Beginning workout…” My feet feel compelled to move, and I cynically applaud myself for the herculean effort that got me here. Playing sloth on the sofa still seems like the better option, but at least the hardest part is now behind me.

My first few steps on the street are labored and intentional. I actually have to tell myself to put one foot in front of the other. “No excuses.” “You’ve got this,” “It WILL get easier,“ I remind myself. And by the time I reach the mailbox, I settle into a comfortable pace in sync with my running playlist. Peacefully alone, my narrow-minded perspective slowly broadens, allowing rays of sunshine to rush in. Earlier arguments with my kids over homework and snippy attitudes don’t seem as drastic now, and life’s more reasonable solutions come out of hiding.

At the mile and a half mark, I hit what I call a “warm-up wall.” My legs feel like they’re dragging through quicksand, and I have trouble catching my breath. Another inner whine begs me to “Slow down and walk.” In my defense, I open up a can of perseverance and keep running. This mama refuses to wallow in regret all the way home. Besides, I know that if I just push through to mile 2, my feet will become lighter, and I’ll find my happy pace.

By mile 2, my melodramatic complaining turns to grateful celebration as countless reasons to be thankful emerge. In truth, nothing about my chaotic day has changed, but the endorphins dancing in my brain remind me to lighten up and focus on the positive. And in this time of genuine thanksgiving, I discover what I’d been missing all day – my connection to God. In the middle of the muck, I had dropped my life line and tried to go it alone. No wonder I was such a mess. My perfect source of strength, encouragement and wisdom was cut off, and I have no one to blame but myself. Skip the blame. Instead, I ask for forgiveness and allow God’s grace to carry me the last half mile back home.

As I end my 3 mile workout, I log it with a smile emoji, and a renewed sense of self confidence showers over me. Sure, I may have totally messed up in the Mom Department today, but I did manage, against all odds, to successfully complete a stinkin’ run. And in one 30 minute workout, I feel like a new woman.

Who knows what parenting obstacles tomorrow will bring, but I’m more ready than ever. I’m a runner mom.

More to follow…

Join me in the next few weeks as I dive into more detail about the specific traits that make moms successful. We’ll take a look at WHY those attributes are so important to parenting, and HOW moms can strengthen them with every workout.

I hope you’ll join me!

Question: How has running helped you as a mom? I’d love to hear your story! You can leave a comment by clicking here.

A Winning Attitude In Parenting

Parenting (like a triathlon or marathon) is an ultimate test of endurance with incredible challenges and priceless victories. It’s pretty crazy, too, how the training and fundamentals of all of these feats can be so similar. I honestly think that training and running in races has helped me become a better mom. And reading articles about upping your game as an athlete often inspire me to be the best mom I can be. My latest read The 5 Essential Keys to Athletic Success, by Marisa Carter (owner and head coach of Evolve Multisport), is no exception.

Based on a presentation given by Dr. Elizabeth Hedgepeth, adjunct professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Marisa writes about how athletes can positively affect their outcomes by making a few adjustments to their attitude and thoughts. The 5 Essential Keys, (be happy, quiet your mind, have a plan, commit, and master self talk) not only inspire me as a triathlete, but they can also be applied beautifully to parenting. I encourage you to read the Active.com article ,then see how I’ve applied it to becoming a Personal Best Mom.

  1. Be Happy. When momma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy. But when Momma is happy, the whole household is a much better place. Throughout your day, (even if it’s one of those days), find reasons to celebrate. And if you can’t see them on your own, call an encouraging friend to point out the positives for you.
  2. Quiet Your Mind. Endless To Do lists, lack of sleep, demanding kids, sensory overload. Our brains need a rest! I know it’s not easy, but find a few moments each day to tune out all distractions. When I go for a run or swim laps in the pool, I focus on relaxing my mind while my body burns off the stress.
  3. Have a plan. Launching into the day flying by the seat of your pants is a recipe for disaster. But when we prepare (as best we can) for the challenges ahead, we set ourselves up to parent proactively (effective) rather than reactively (exhausting and ineffective).
  4. Commit. A wishy-washy mom soon loses the respect of her children. (Feel free to quote me on this). When coming up with new limits, rules, and discipline strategies for your kids, be prepared to follow through with your decision. Before making a royal announcement to the family, know what you’re getting into and be prepared to commit.
  5. Master Self Talk. The constant feedback and advice that we give ourselves has the power to make us miserable or cheer us on to success. So take control of that internal conversation and make it work for you. Here are the steps I take when self defeating thoughts try to overpower my mind:

This week, I challenge you to focus on these 5 points. If needed, give yourself a ‘Tude Up (see what I did there?) and point every thought towards being your personal best

Question: What helps you keep your thoughts in check? Inquiring minds want to know! You can leave a comment by clicking here.

How to Turn “I Can’t!” into “I Can!”

One of the quickest ways I’ve found to FAIL is tell myself “I CAN’T.” And, if someone sympathizes with me that the task is too tough or the journey is too long, chances are I’ll quit before even trying. Far better is the friend who can help me see what I CAN do and encourages me to build on that instead. Like when I first considered running a half marathon…

Big disclaimer: I’m a runner, but not a die-hard runner.  (I much prefer to bike or swim than pound the pavement on foot). But my sister challenged me to join her in a 13.1 mile race, and I couldn’t resist. Shortly thereafter, reality struck, reminding me I’d never run more than 6 miles before, and those 6 felt like 600. Seriously, WHAT was I thinking? “I CAN’T RUN 13.1 miles!”

When I mentioned this half marathon goal to my current training buddies, they were quick to build me up. They pointed out my strengths and reminded me of all the 5K’s, sprint triathlons and walk relays I’d already accomplished. They even helped me find a realistic training plan and agreed to hold me accountable to it. Convinced, my “can’t” quickly transformed into “Let’s do this!”

Translated to Parenting

Kids who think they can’t face the same challenges and need the same help that I did. Often, though, parents are quick to jump in and either rescue the child or add to the frustration by insisting the child can. But there are steps that parents can take to help kids believe that they really can. Here’s an example:

Four year old Jacob flops down on the floor, tossing his shoes and complaining, “I CAN’T tie these!”

Mom sits down next to him and shows she wants to team up to solve the problem. (The trick is to help him calm down so he is receptive to hearing and trying).

She says,”It looks like your having trouble. Tying laces is hard work. I know you can learn to do this. Let me see what you can do, and I’ll help with the rest.”

“But I CAAAN’T.”

Mom, staying positive, says, “Let’s start with what you can do. What do we need to do first?” (Mom encourages Jacob to take the first step of putting his shoes on his own feet).

Shoes are on. Mom says, “Great that’s the first step. Shoes are on. Now what?” (Then she encourages him to take the laces in both hands and (if needed) gently guides his hands to hold them properly).

Once in hand, Mom asks, “Now can you show me how to make the first crossover tie?”

Each step continues like this, with Mom allowing Jacob to do as much as he can without her direct help. When Mom does take over the more complicated steps, she can encourage him to either guide her through the rest of the steps or verbally repeat and copy what she says and does. When the shoes are tied, Mom gives a big hug or high-five and points out how much closer Jacob is to tying his shoes all by himself. “Ta-da!”

Breaking a task into bite-sized, attainable pieces makes it seem less overwhelming. And confidence grows with each small success. So, it pays to have patience, be consistent, and stay positive.

P.S. After (mostly) sticking to my training plan and seeking encouragement from my close friends, I ran my first Half Marathon with my sister. We walked about a mile of it, but we did it! And we were so pumped afterward, that we signed up for another. And now it’s become a semi-annual tradition.

Question: What task easily frustrates your child ? What can you do to break it down into baby steps? What can you say and do to empower him or her to do as much as possible on his or her own? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Here’s a popular resource for help tying shoes.

Word of the Week 2 – for Strength

I can do all things through him who gives me strength.  Philippians 4:13

A Prayer When You Need Strength and Reassurance

Heavenly Father, thank you for today! Help me to approach this day with confidence, knowing that whatever obstacles I face, I CAN overcome them through you.  Help me to turn monsters into mole hills. And help me to rely on your endless strength and power, particularly when mine seems to fizzle out. Alone I feel weak, but in your power, I truly am Super Mom! Thank you! Amen.