The Beauty of Mindless Tasks

For some reason I don’t understand, many kids today are not ever asked to do housework. They are never asked to do a dish, vacuum, do laundry, mow the lawn, or any household chores. Perhaps parents think their children are too busy to waste time on mundane tasks? I would argue that these mindless tasks are anything but mundane. Read more

Kids Are Not OK

One thing I am called upon to do often is decode kids. A great thing about being a life coach who does home visits is I get to meet the entire family and see how they relate to each other. Not surprisingly, many parents struggle to communicate with their teenagers and 20-somethings, and I get called in to decode. Often the parents are surprised, or even shocked, to hear how their kids are really feeling.

Although many kids may seem OK or even to be doing well to their parents, they really aren’t OK. They’re digitized, anxious, addicted to gizmos, aren’t resilient, and don’t know how to push themselves outside of school and sports. They are supremely focused on goals and ambitions to the exclusion of their dreams and simple joy. They achieve, yet they often feel completely powerless. They appear to be successful, yet so many are sad.

I am not the only person who is reporting this: most of the professionals with whom I talk—pediatricians, teachers, coaches, school administrators, and some worried parents—are all seeing the same things.

Why is this happening? Part of this is cultural. We, the Analog Generation, knew that if we worked reasonably hard in school and stayed out of major trouble, we’d be fine. The messages we received, both consciously and unconsciously, from the adults in our lives went along these lines:

“The world’s a good, fun safe place.”

“You can trust most adults.”

“The people in Washington probably know what they’re doing.”

“The earth will last forever.”

“Your parents have some issues, but basically they’re there for you.”

“You can and should respect your teachers and coaches, and they’re really looking out for you.”

The Digital Kids don’t enjoy that kind of reassurance. We all know the messages that are swirling around them at all times: ISIS, global warming. A “media” that reports the news sensationally in great detail 24/7 and promulgates fear. There’s a fractured political system that has forgotten about respect and compromise and seems oblivious to the people it’s supposed to serve. It’s everyone being on their smartphones all of the time (making Einstein, who said, “I fear the day when the technology overlaps with our humanity. The world will only have a generation of idiots.” very prescient, indeed), trying to use communication devices as connection devices, which doesn’t work.

A noted psychiatrist, D.W. Winnicott, coined the term holding environment for that positive, safe, predictable environment parents create in their home for a baby. Well, the cultural holding environment, in a scant generation, has begun to radically tear.

And because of all of this, many parents are afraid—so afraid—in their efforts to protect their children from all of these awful things, they have neglected to prepare them for adulthood. They haven’t allowed their kids to be kids. Many of these children might have every material gadget possible, but they rarely get to play outside. They are hardly, if ever, allowed to go out on their own, get into trouble, get out of trouble, find out who they are as individuals. They have not been allowed to fail or face consequences. To take risks. To have fun with their friends in unstructured, unsupervised play. And the result is stressed-out, anxious, sad kids.

These kids hold a secret kept even from themselves: They do not feel in control of their lives, do not enjoy contentment, and do not experience excitement about the whole of living.

Most of their parents aren’t in on this secret and, in fact, don’t have a clue how their children really feel. We’re raising a generation of kids who are using devices, Snapchat, sex, work, working out, stress, drugs, alcohol, and achievement to feel alive. Kids who don’t know how to truly connect.

There are a lot of things parents can do to improve this situation, and that is a big part of my work with kids and families. But it isn’t easy, as it means bucking some trends. It means making a conscious decision to NOT keep up with the Joneses. It means changing things up with your kids, and, as you know, change is not easy or immediate, and you will be met with resistance. But when you see that big grin on your child’s face when she or he realizes that life is about the journey as much, if not more, than the destination, and you are sharing their joy, maybe for the first time in ages, it will feel great.

In addition to my direct work with families, I have a program on this subject for both large and small groups of parents. It’s appropriate for PTAs, libraries, religious organizations, businesses (I do a lunchtime program), or even just a group of friends who are interested in these issues. Please contact me for details.

 

 

Rock ‘n’ Roll Life Coaching

Pete Townshend once said, “I felt that the elegance of pop music was that it was reflective: we were holding up a mirror to our audience and reflecting them philosophically and spiritually, rather than just reflecting society or something called ‘rock and roll.’”

Many rock artists could have been life coaches had their music careers not taken off. Here are a few examples: Read more

The Media is Catching on to The Bombardment

If you have ever talked with me about kids, you know about The Bombardment, because I bring it up all of the time. The Bombardment is my term for the amalgam of the cultural and societal issues that have changed kids and parenting over the last 20 years or so. The Bombardment has caused a number of challenges for parents, but, more particularly, kids. The challenges are serious: they have caused increases in suicides, opiate use, failure to launch, crippling anxiety…these are just a few examples, and so many times, parents don’t have a clue about the secret lives that their children live every day. Much of my work addresses these challenges. Read more

Life Coach vs. Sports Psychologist

Mark Seliger of Jeff Levin at Holy Cross

How is a Life Coach Different from a Sports Psychologist?

Working with athletes is a regular part of my practice, so one question I get all of the time is “how are you different from a sports psychologist?”

Like a sports psychologist, I deal with the mental side of the game, but our approaches are quite different. Say a player is missing shots. A sports psychologist talks with the athlete about the problem or challenge the athlete faces on the field and then provides ideas and interventions on how to manage that problem. The operative word is “how” because that’s what sports psychologists focus on: how can you focus better so you stop missing shots?

I, on the other hand, am more focused on the “why.” Why is that player missing shots? Are they nervous? Worried they’re going to miss? Thinking about what their teammates, or the refs, or the opponents are doing? Or is their grandmother dying of cancer?

Although discussion centers, naturally, around the game, the athlete’s approach and experiences in the game and so on, I’m always listening for and learning about the tapestry of the person’s whole life and experience. It’s clearly not just about performance on the field; for me, that performance has to be seen in the larger context of the athlete’s entire emotional life. Read more

In Your Eyes: Mirroring for Confidence

Jeff Levin, Life Coach, plays some music.

Sigmund Freud said, “How bold one gets when one is sure of being loved.”

Boldness is the ability, the willingness, the love of taking risks. The risks don’t have to include sky diving or free climbing El Capitan, but boldness is an important component to happiness, because it means that you are living without fear.

I know what you’re thinking: you love your kids, so you should be all set, right?

Not exactly. Read more

Using the Eight Ages to Heal Trauma

One of the things I do with most of my individual clients is talk about psychological theory. I don’t expect they will read all 24 volumes of the Complete Works of Sigmund Freud, but a little psychological theory really is helpful when working with kids—understanding why we are the way we are and how what we do with kids can have such a great impact.

For example, I remember learning about Erik Erikson’s “The Eight Ages of Man” in college, and, even to this day, his simple distillation of all the most complex, mystifying psychology I’ve ever studied rings true and right. You can read more about them here (Cherry, K. A. (2005). “Erikson’s Stages of Psychosocial Development,” Retrieved from http://psychology.about.com/od/psychosocialtheories/a/psychosocial.htm), but basically what Erikson said was that people go through eight stages (“Ages”) in their lives, and their experiences during these eight stages shapes who they are. Seems obvious, right? But it is amazing how many people don’t understand how this relates to them personally. Read more

The Kiln: Your Pathway to Contentment

Experience All of Life

Your pathway to contentment and wellness on every level has to be natural, dog-eared, hard-fought, and real. It can’t come from a book. It’s got to be an inside job. It comes from what I call being in “the kiln,” where your triumphs and your tragedies are melded together and strengthened by fire, or it doesn’t last and it isn’t real, and it definitely won’t cut the mustard with the kids you parent, coach or teach.

What do I mean by “the kiln?” Read more

The Blast Furnace of Stress

Getting through one’s adolescence safe and psychologically sound reminds me of a scene from one of my favorite action movies, The Rock, starring Sean Connery, Ed Harris, and Nicholas Cage. (My wife makes fun of me every time I watch it – so what if I’ve only seen it about ten times?)  Sean has guided the government forces into the bowels of Alcatraz Island, where maniac Marine Ed Harris has a beef with the federal government so has missiles aimed at San Francisco.

In order to gain access to the prison, Connery explains, he’s going to have to roll through this fearsome blast furnace tunnel, timing things perfectly with the blasts of fire, or else get charred to smithereens. Of course his new colleagues think he’s nuts. Because he’s Sean Connery, he smoothly rolls through the furnace and unlocks the door to the room where they’re all waiting, opening the door with a smile that says, “No problem, boys.” Read more