Posts Tagged ‘Julie Pep Talks’

Podcast: Exploring the Meaning of Regret

Brave Writer Podcast

What do we do with regret?

On one hand, dwelling on our past – giving in to feelings of remorse, guilt, or shame – is not exactly productive. But on the other hand, regret is trying to tell you something, perhaps that you’ve been doing things wrong and could stand to make a change.

So what do we do with that feeling and how do we channel it productively? Let’s explore.

Show Notes

I received a question from one of our listeners. It went like this:

“I am reading a parenting book. On the one hand, it’s fantastic, totally shifting my paradigms. On the other, it’s cutting me to shreds by revealing how counterproductive or downright harmful my prior approach was.

So I’m struck with a potent mix of enthusiasm and commitment to the new idea and intense regret that I wasted 9 years on the old way.

I’m sure I’m not alone in this. Rationally, I KNOW we all make mistakes and damage our kids (that’s a #freakingtruth). But emotionally? I feel intense guilt and remorse. Shame for hurting my kids, shame for not knowing better. Bitterly wishing I could go back and tell my 25 year old self to get in therapy sooner! I know these feelings aren’t really productive, but ignoring them won’t help either. So what do I do with them?”

Let’s look at what you can do with regret in order to turn that unpleasant emotion into something productive and helpful.

What is regret?

We can often feel regret when we learn something we didn’t know before and now evaluate a past choice in light of this new information. Regret is the sensation that the previous choice failed and we should have known better at the time.

Ironically, I thought it was possible to side-step the regret pit. I thought if I was conscientious enough, I wouldn’t make the mistakes that people frequently regret. I believed that somehow I could curate a life free of regrets because I would be prepared, careful, and supported by right practices.

But the further we get into our journey of life, the more we realize this one truth. Life is hard. Adulting is hard. Marriage is hard. Parenting is hard. It often means learning on the job – and that means making mistakes. And mistakes often mean feeling regret.

Can regret be avoided?

It’s impossible to know in advance what you don’t know. We all roll the dice based on the latest and best data available to us. But that data is constantly changing as our understanding of the world changes. The impacts of alcoholism, codependency, and divorce on children were barely understood as I was making many of the decisions that would shape my future and those of my children.

Each era takes a slightly different approach to parenting, too. Certainly, each time a new parenting philosophy is promoted, we can be sure it is a counter-move against what didn’t work before. Whenever you had kids, you were influenced in countless invisible-to-you ways to adopt one or the other perspective.

The truth is: parenting will push you to the very edge of yourself and then a little beyond. You will consider methods you swore you’d never consider because of your exhaustion, exasperation, fear, and feelings of defeat. The moment you believe you have the right model, a child comes along to blow it up!

Regret, then, comes in a moment when you are no longer overwhelmed and at your wit’s end. It comes when you can reflect. But the moment you begin reflecting is no longer the moment where you made the choice that you now regret. 

As I look back on my parenting experience, what I appreciate most about it now is that I kept pivoting. I was responsive to what I was seeing and experiencing, how my kids were responding and what they offered me. I didn’t do any of it perfectly, but I did learn, I did grow with them, I did repair when it was warranted, I did keep seeking more information to test and try.

Breaking free from regret

The regret loop is perfectionism in hindsight. It says you could have done it differently. But you didn’t.

To get out of the loop, we need to not only offer ourselves some grace but also go belly up with our kids. You don’t have to schedule a big appointment necessarily, but as you make changes in how you parent, you can acknowledge your new choices.

Belly up means admitting that you too are in a process and that your choices, as the adult, can do real harm. It matters to let the kids tell the full version of how they felt because the parents always keep a version of the event in their memory that favors them.

All we can offer is what we know now. But we can offer it with humility, love, and gentleness.

Some pain we’ve caused will require the child to rely on their own resources (spiritual, psychological, relational) to overcome pain you’ve caused. You can’t fix everything. That’s okay. Simply do better when you know better and welcome any grace or love they send your way.

To regret is human. It means you’re a good person. I’m so glad to be in a community of regreters. We’ll get there together. One day at a time.


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Brave Writer Podcast

Podcast: Tips & Tricks to Calm Down

Braver Writer Podcast

Last week on the Brave Writer podcast we discussed how the path to giving our kids the best possible outcomes in life comes down to some counterintuitive advice: You have to think – and care – less about that outcome. Easy, right? Maybe not.

Now that you’ve hopefully bought into the theoretical concept, we’re going to dive into more practical advice about how to apply it. I’m going to offer tips and tricks for caring less and calming down – both for yourself and for your child.

Show Notes

Breathe In, Breathe Out

When faced with an abundance of chaos or overwhelm in the household, we naturally and instinctively draw in air, fill up our bellies, and exhale slowly as a way of calming the nervous system.

But our children may not take requests to “calm down and breathe” very well. They quickly learn to take this as a control mechanism – something you force them to do to make yourself feel more comfortable. They’re already doing what makes them feel better, even if that behavior is disruptive to you.

So how do we combat this? How do we allow our kids to regulate their emotions in ways that aren’t overly destructive or disruptive to our own health and sanity? According to educator, Joshua McNeil, you create hidden “brain breaks.” We want to allow our kids to have the space to make a good decision without losing face or feeling embarrassment and shame over their decision.

Brain Breaks

These come from the book 101 Brain Breaks & Brain Based Educational Activities by Joshua McNeal. Try these techniques to give your kids the break they need without forcing them to do something they don’t want to do or making them feel embarrassed:

  1. Paper Football Breathing: Create a paper football (one of those triangle origami ones), and clear off a table. Put the football at one end of the table and invite your kids to blow the football from one end of the table to the other so that it hangs on the edge without falling off. This requires some controlled breathing but wrapped up in a fun game.
  1. Hum, Hum, Hum: Humming along to a favorite song forces you to take a deep breath and relax. It vibrates your face and loosens the muscles that get tense when you are angry or stressed.
  1. Bubble Blowing: Keep a bottle of bubbles hidden under your sink, and, when chaos breaks out, just start blowing bubbles in the direction of the disruption. The breathing required to blow bubbles will calm you down, and it creates a magical environment that will delight your child and slow them down.

Our job is not to talk our kids into better behavior. Our job is to model and provide alternatives. We need to lead wordlessly with our own behavior, and we need to make these de-stressing behaviors pleasurable. Keep these in your back pocket and don’t use them every day, because repetition will cause them to lose their power. Help your kids regulate and renew their energy for the next step in their day.


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Podcast: Don’t Overthink It

Brave Writer Podcast

As parents and caregivers, we all care so much about giving our kids the best possible:

  • outcomes,
  • education,
  • and experiences.

We’ve probably even spent an inordinate amount of time diving into books, podcasts, consulting with others, and other ways of learning what we think we need to know in order to be good parents. But what if all of that ends up backfiring? What if we end up killing our children by caring?

In this Brave Writer podcast episode, I share how caring less might end up being the best thing you can do for your child – and yourself.

Show Notes

As a parent, we hold onto these hopes and dreams for our children – and the child may not have those same dreams. This leads to a power imbalance where parents are trying to force kids to fit into a vision of life that they are resisting.

What’s a parent to do? Stop caring about their child’s future? Well, in a way… yes. My chief advice to parents in this instance is to care less.

Despite how the word makes things look, it isn’t actually careless to care less about what our child does or how they perform. The more you care, the less the kids have to. When a parent is highly invested in their child’s success, the child won’t put in as much energy because they don’t have to! In fact, they quickly learn that they can be resistant and still wind up at the destination the parent has in mind. That child ends up balancing the power dynamic by exerting that power and control with willful resistance.

When our vision for our children is to be world-changers, we will naturally put a lot of pressure on them to care. What if we shift the focus away from what we expect on our kids and instead focus on bringing the wide world to them?

  • Allowing them to meet a diversity of people,
  • giving them cross-cultural experiences,
  • helping them experience astronomy, mathematics, and engineering.

When we focus on bringing the wide world to them we allow them to become who they are meant to be – rather than imposing on them who we want them to be.

We are all growing alongside our children. Don’t overthink things. Just learn, grow, share, and trust.


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Brave Writer Podcast

Podcast: Keep All Options on the Table

Brave Writer Podcast

There is a difference between having a joyful vision of family life that includes opportunities for growth and learning and love versus a specific vision you feel you must protect in order to think you are successful.

In our last Brave Writer podcast episode, I explored the difference between setting boundaries and setting rules. I want to continue that conversation because there is so much to tease apart between the two.

Show Notes

Part of what makes setting boundaries so difficult is the sense of responsibility parents or caregivers have over their children: responsibility to create a healthy environment, to ensure a solid education – whether at home or at school, and to provide food and a safe place to live. But, in the midst of all of those responsibilities, we can sometimes substitute a personal agenda or dream in its place.

The only way to have a beautiful outcome in your family is to keep all options on the table at all times.

You can make a philosophical choice, but you need to back up that choice by understanding that if that choice no longer serves you or that child, you can look at the other options on the table.


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Podcast: Setting Boundaries, Not Setting Rules

Brave Writer Podcast

Welcome to the first episode of a new segment I’m calling “Julie Pep Talks,” where I narrow in on one particular topic and give you my thoughts about it and suggestions you can quickly put into practice. Today’s topic is all about setting boundaries, not setting rules.

At the start of a new year, we’re often coming from the combined high of family gatherings, as well as the residual resentment that can come when your closest relatives push your buttons in all the wrong ways. Couple that with the cultural expectation to reform our lives in the form of new year’s resolutions of the year and it makes sense that we’d look at our mental welfare and engage in some relationship hygiene. That means setting the boundaries necessary to have a good relationship with the people in your life.

Let’s explore what it actually means to set boundaries, and why, sometimes, what you think is a boundary is actually a rule. The distinction matters.

Show Notes

There is a famous quote from the book Codependent No More by Melody Beattie that says, “You cannot set a boundary and take care of someone’s feelings at the same time.” What I’ve seen happen in the name of boundaries is often just more sophisticated, codependent behavior and manipulation. There’s a temptation to pretend we’re setting a boundary when we’re actually setting a rule. A rule is meant to enforce the behavior of others, while a boundary is meant to protect your own emotional energy.

When dealing with behavior you don’t approve of in others, you have a few options available:

  • pretend there isn’t a problem and cooperate,
  • set personal boundaries,
  • or set rules.

Rules are about what other people do, but we have no control over the behavior of others.

Imagine dealing with an alcoholic. You can set the rule that you do not allow alcohol in your house, but that relies on the other person to follow that rule and adhere to it. Instead, you could set the boundary that you will not buy alcohol for them. That’s something that you have complete control over.

It’s hard to set boundaries because we often feel as if we are losing something: a relationship, control, revenue, respect, or something else. How does this apply to homeschooling? Think about the child who doesn’t want to learn math. You can set a boundary that, if you’re going to help with schoolwork, then they need to have a good attitude, follow through, and do the work. But that’s actually a rule – and it’s one that you’ll have to enforce because the child is really the one in control. 

So what do you do instead? Your boundary could be that, when you show up positive and motivated to give your child a good learning experience, and they show up without a good attitude, you can get up from that table and walk away. It’s not about their performance but the kind of life you want to live.

A boundary is not about the other person. It is about what you need to ensure your emotional wellbeing. Think about how you are being codependent in your relationship with your child, and how you can set boundaries that protect your own mental health.


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Brave Writer Podcast