Wake Up Call Number Two

February 11, 2020

I’m Julie.
After my life transformed through style, my mission became sharing that process to help women experience that same magic - to live out the life of their dreams, too.


Wake up call number two.

Steven’s teachers emailed me. They wanted to have a meeting. They had some concerns. NOOOOOOOO.

This was a few weeks ago now – and I wasn’t really sure how much my heart could handle. This came right after I felt like I had some control over what was happening with Olivia. Just when you think you have a handle of things….

That night I saw a big burst in behavior from Steven that I wasn’t used to seeing in him. It became very clear…

…I had to make some changes.

When things aren’t going the way we want them to go, we automatically turn to blame. Our instinct is to try to figure out where to place the blame. 

The hard part is actually in realizing that the changes that have to be made – usually start with you. 

I swallowed my pride and started putting in the work.

It’s a hard reality, but if we don’t realize it, and then start taking the steps to change our actions, not much will change. 

When Steven’s teachers wanted to meet – I wasn’t sure what I was walking into, but as a parent, you have a feeling when it comes to your kids.

I just went through all of this stuff with Olivia and finally felt like I was getting it under control and just like that – I feel out of control again. 

What happened? I didn’t have to worry about Steven. He’s the easy-going one. He’s the one who the teachers say is so good they almost wish he would do something bad. 

He is so smart. He remembers everything. He’s such a good listener – a star student so far at the young age of almost 5 and has an athletic ability you wouldn’t believe for his age. He’s so kind to the kids in his class. The other kids look to him. He’s a leader. He also has the sense of humor to match – often overshadowed by his older sister, but he gives her a run for her money. 

During that meeting with the teachers – while I won’t go into detail to keep whatever privacy I can reserve for him, private – they told me in addition to feeling like he seems a little sad (is there ANYTHING worse to hear as a parent?!), that he is having trouble identifying his letters.

Academics are one thing, but I’m not sure that anything hurts more than hearing that your kid seems sad. I cry just thinking about it.

Isn’t it funny that I used to be a teacher – I have a masters in special education. I used to write individualized education plans, behavior plans in school and for parents at home. And I’m going through all of this stuff academically and emotionally with Olivia and I don’t even know that my other kid seems sad and doesn’t know his letters? Not only did I assume he did  – I’ve just never really done work with him on them, specifically.

Writing this is embarrassing. Of course if I was me reading this I would be judging me upon first instinct. How could you not know that about your own kid? Well, for one, he presents differently at home, and two, I’d been spending so much time and emotional energy on making sure Olivia was ok that I just plain didn’t see it. None of us did. 

HELLO wake up call number two. 

No wonder I’ve seen some behaviors from him recently that I wasn’t ever used to seeing. He probably feels the attention that’s been put on Olivia in light of everything that’s been going on in conjunction with the difficulty he is having that we haven’t paid attention to because we didn’t realize we should.

It’s amazing how you can feel like you’re doing amazing, and then feel like you’re the worst parent ever, and then feel like you have it all under control, and then feel like you suck again – all in the matter of a few days. Heck – sometimes we feel that all in the same day. A roller coaster. And I only have two kids! Some of my friends have double the kids I do! Lol.

Something had to change and I was positive that something started with me. 

It’s a pretty harsh reality to face when you think you’ve been doing everything you can to be that great parent only to realize that not only is it not enough – it is so much less than enough. 

But you know – sometimes it takes a wake up call – to have a big swift kick in the butt. And I realized that not only do I need to make some changes – but I know I will look back and forever be grateful that I’ve been messing up. 

When you don’t mess up – it’s harder to realize what you have to change. 

So after that night – I took some time to learn. I had to step back away from my emotions, swallow my pride, and learn about parenting the same way that I learned in my job to grow professionally.

I started listening to a podcast recommended by my best friend who also happens to be one of the most talented therapists – called “Simplicity Parenting”. I highly recommend it!

We fall into habits as parents. I know I do. Just like any other habit it can be really hard to break until you make a new behavior the new normal.

Screen time is a big one for us. That isn’t something I am proud of, but I know my kids spend too much time in front of screens. So we’ve changed that. Yes, they do tons of activities and so I always felt like it was their time to “unwind” – at least that’s how I justified it – until I realized that for them, it just wasn’t good.

In the past few weeks, we started implementing 20 minutes of screen time a day. That’s it. Of course, over the weekend we let them watch movies and aren’t as “strict” about it, but I’ve DEFINITELY noticed a positive change in my kids.

But let’s keep it real here. The change sucked hahahaha.

It was so much easier for them to be on their tablets. I could get more done. They were happy. BUT they were happy until it was time to be done. Then they turned into monsters. I saw the addiction. They didn’t want to stop. 

Since we’ve implemented the 20 minutes a day, it has been CONSISTENT for them. They know what to expect. Kids crave consistency. So do we, actually, as adults! I know I do!

I set my phone timer and let them know when there are 10 minutes to go, 5 minutes, 2 minutes. That way it doesn’t creep up on them. They know what to expect. And now that it’s been a couple weeks, they hand over the tablet when their time is up HAPPILY. I KNOW. Weird, right?!

Here’s what else has happened…

I spend more time DOING with them which gives me more time to give them positive feedback, build them up, play, read, build, color, cook. We DO more. The kids have been PLAYING way more. They’ve been getting more CREATIVE. It’s been actually very cool to see. And the time we’re spending together is much more quality time. I’ve had to get creative to keep them busy, and that’s been challenging, but has weirdly made me more careful with my time. More intentional with my time. It’s been feeling good. I’ve been working on Steven’s letters with him more and he’s been slowly getting them! And he notices that I’m paying more attention – which is likely a huge part of him wanting to even try something that for whatever reason – isn’t so easy for him.

Other changes I’ve made….

Being VERY AWARE of modeling behavior for them. Literally – if I’m frustrated because I can’t find a parking spot – I’ll say out loud to them “I’m feeling frustrated right now that I can’t find a parking spot but I’m going to take a deep breath because that helps me when I’m feeling frustrated and I know if I keep driving around I’ll find one soon!” 

Man does that sound dumb typing it out – but MAN is it important for us as parents to model OUT LOUD for them how WE handle ourselves when we are feeling a certain way. And it actually makes me more aware of my reactions when I’m around them. I haven’t been getting angry as quickly. I haven’t been getting to the point where I’m yelling – whereas I felt like I was constantly yelling before. It makes me self-monitor. I sort of feel like I’ve become a different parent. And it’s only been a few weeks. This makes me sound really bad before lol – which I wasn’t – but it’s just opened my eyes to how much better I could be! And I’m so grateful for that.

Another change I’ve made…

I feel like – especially in the morning when we’re leaving for school or trying to go anywhere – I’m always yelling to the kids to put their shoes on and their jackets and get their bags and it takes about 900 times of saying it for them to actually listen.

So I implemented what I heard in the podcast which made SO MUCH SENSE after I stopped to think about it. He calls it the 2 by 2 by 2. 

But before I get into that – this tip was a big one for me….

Do first. Speak second. 

Sounds so simple, but when I’m telling my kids to put their coats on, but I don’t have mine on, I’m not modeling the behavior I want them to do. So what I need to do is to say “I’m going to put my coat on now” so they see me doing the direction I’m giving to them, when possible, and when it relates to our routine. 

Now – the 2 by 2 by 2….

When you do speak – make it a two by two direction. 2 by 2 by 2…..

2 feet down: When you give a direction make sure your two feet are firmly planted on the ground. You’re not moving. Literally. Body language is SO important. Your child will imitate your distraction. They’re living through a bunch of movement and can’t take in the direction when we are yelling the direction from the other room or when we, ourselves, are distracted by something else. 

Stand 2 feet away from them when giving direction with 2 soft eyes looking at the child. 

{And try to AVOID requests. Dial back the number of requests you make and replace with kind instructions and directions. Requests – your voice goes up at end and direction – voice goes down at the end.}

Act first whenever possible. Then give the direction second. 

2 by 2 by 2: Two feet away with two feet on the ground with two eyes looking at the child.

That sounds so simple, but man it’s been a game-changer and made our mornings, in particular, so much more pleasant! We are happier getting out the door. I compliment them every time they do any piece of what I’m asking them to – “Steven I love that you’re putting your shoes on by yourself!” Literally – anything I compliment. It feels good when you get positive feedback – especially when it’s a specific behavior that you want to see more of. 

Think about how you feel when you get one. Even the smallest compliment can change my day. I try to give them positive feedback ANY chance I get. Literally. So at the end of the day the ratio of positive feedback to any redirection I might give – the positive way outweighs the negative. At least that’s the goal!

I knew this all from teaching, but I’m not sure why it took me listening to a podcast to realize just how hard I needed to try to do this with my own kids. It’s like we almost think they can read our minds and know how amazing we think they are – but all they want is for us to say it all out loud. It builds their confidence. So of course I’ve always told them I love them every day and how smart they are, etc., but I’ve been trying harder to give positive feedback for their ACTIONS, very specifically, so they know the specific behavior that’s leading to that feedback – and will naturally want to do it more AND will help them realize how amazing they are! 

Last, but certainly not least…. THINGS.

How many times have you said “if you do that, I’m taking away your toy”. But what does that do? It makes the toy seem like it’s such an amazing thing that it’s a consequence for it to be taken away. This one is tricky, but what I’ve found with my kids is that they sort of become obsessed with toys, with material things – because there’s this thing that’s been attached to them that makes them so valued.

The language I’ve been using instead…

“If you don’t cooperate with me when I’m asking you to do “X”, then when you would like me to do something, it makes me not want to cooperate with what you want.”

So basically what I’m teaching them is that I value them listening to me. I value them respecting something I’m asking them to do. So then when they ask me to do something I can say, “Sure! You were so cooperative with me when I was asking you to clean your clothes off the floor, so I would love to do what you’re asking me to do now.” Or – the opposite – “You were not cooperating when I was asking you to please stay in your own room when it was bedtime so it makes me not want to cooperate with what you’re asking me to do now.”

Suddenly there’s a shift and I’m no longer yelling at them or taking things away so much, but using different language. Using the word “disappointed” and using the “cooperate” a lot. It takes practice, but I love the idea behind it and I love that it takes the focus OFF of THINGS and puts emphasis on BEHAVIORS and VALUES, if that makes sense.

So, listen, I am NOT a parenting expert. FAR from it. But I’m a parent, just like you, who’s trying to figure it all out. Who loves their kids so much, who wants the best for them, but who doesn’t have it all figured out- not even close, but who’s willing to try damn hard to make them the happiest and most confident kids I can.

I am SO GRATEFUL for what my kids have been going through because it’s allowed me to realize how much starts at home – with me, and with us. And it’s made me realize that some habits we’d been getting into were not working anymore, and in fact, they weren’t good for the kids.

I’m so grateful I’ve been forced to take a hard look at myself and that I’ve had the courage to make changes. Because it can be embarrassing to think that things you were doing that you thought were great for your kids, were in fact, the opposite.

But what a cool thing to be able to see that, accept that, and learn. 

I am sharing my journey with you so you know you’re not alone. None of us know completely what we’re doing. But we can learn from each other and help each other – because this parenting thing is one of the hardest gigs in the world. But I love hard. It changes you. The kids change you. And I feel like recently, especially, they’ve been changing me in the best possible way.

And it’s all going to be ok.

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Julie Kraus | Stylist
〰️ I help you take the struggle out of style
Founder of CHIC▫️Podcast Host▫️Mom of 2