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I Want to Be Just Like You

My son first said these words over two years ago, when he was two and a half. I was visiting my parents in South Carolina during the summer, shooting basketball with my dad on a humid southern evening. My dad and I had our shirts off. My son came running out, looked at us, and immediately took his shirt off as he yelled, “I want to be just like you, dad!” He was so, so happy to be one of the guys. I’m smiling now just thinking about it.

At the time, I appreciated the moment and laughed, gave him a hug and high five, and then helped him “shoot” the basketball for a while. I didn’t realize how much my world shifted that evening.

I mean, talk about pressure.

When he was still a toddler, I could laugh and mostly write if off…but it turns out that toddlers grow into real, actual people with a personality. And as he develops in so many amazing ways, it is obvious that he is paying a LOT of attention to what I do. Some days I love it and embrace it. Many days it feels really heavy.

I figure that today alone, I consciously or unconsciously communicated to him…

  • How to greet someone you love first thing in the morning
  • What is acceptable to eat for breakfast
  • What is okay to wear in public/to school
  • How to make requests from others
  • How to interact with acquaintances and strangers
  • How to handle anger
  • How to apologize when you’re wrong
  • How to show joy and have fun
  • How to treat someone when they make a mistake
  • What to value – rules or flexibility
  • How a father shows love and affection to a son
  • How a father treats a daughter
  • How a man interacts with his wife or partner

Yes, these examples are just from one day, though many of these situations happen every day to some degree. Some of this stuff is trivial (I think?), but there are some big ones in there too. As he gets older, I grow more aware of shaping my son and tend to be harder on myself for losing it or messing up.

Luckily he’s an honest kid – I don’t have to guess how things affect him. He told me before bed last night that I yelled too much and should be nicer. He also told me earlier in the evening that I was the best dad ever. Those are the moments I hold on to. When he stops telling me how he feels, that’s when I’ll get worried.

Research tells us there’s such a thing as a “good enough” parent. I’m going to hang on to that and just try to be thankful for this little mirror in my life who forces me to think every day about the man I am.

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Work Life Balance

This Is All About Me

Okay, I lied. It’s about my family too. I’ve missed them because I’ve been working too much for a long time. I am very fortunate…what started as just me seeing a few clients a week has grown into a clinic with five clinicians and administrative support. There are many positive things about the growth – that’s undeniable. And, as a lot of small business owners know, there are some downsides. For a long time, I did EVERYTHING – website, marketing, accounting, answering the phone, scheduling, insurance billing…all on top of the full time clinical work each week. It got to be too much. I was thinking about work ALL THE TIME because I had too much of it. When I was hanging with my kids and wife, I was completely distracted, constantly making to-do lists in my mind for work tasks. I knew it wasn’t the way I wanted to live but felt helpless to change it, which is dumb because flexibility and control over scheduling were big reasons I got into private practice in the first place.

It got to be too much. The last year has been a purposeful, gradual shift to do things differently and try to find a little more balance. It’s been super slow, but the changes are finally accelerating over the last couple of months. I’m sharing some of my strategies in hopes that they might work for others and to keep myself accountable to continue them. Some are specific to mental health practices, some are specific to small business owners, and some can apply to anyone. Here we go:

  • I changed my schedule to allow big blocks of open time every other week for getting paperwork and administrative tasks done
  • I consciously stopped using the word “hurry” with my kids about six months ago
  • I stopped scheduling appointments before 9 am so I’m not rushing around and hustling my kids from the moment everyone wakes up (see above item)
  • I give myself at least a half hour at the end of every day to wrap up and prepare for the next day instead of just rushing out with things a mess
  • I don’t work at home unless it’s something I really enjoy like updating the website or researching technology for our practice
  • I’ve delegated nearly all administrative tasks to my – surprise! – administrative team over the last nine months
  • I did some therapy to work on my need to control everything in my world
  • As emails hit the inbox, I’m slowly unsubscribing from nearly all lists/advertisements/etc. that I’ve signed up for over the years (intentionally or not)
  • I spend a little time sitting in the car before heading into the office each morning to get my mind wrapped around the day’s priorities
  • Email does not get looked at for at least fifteen minutes in the morning, which lets me do another quality activity that’s way more valuable to start the day
  • I use the “One Minute Rule” a lot throughout the day: any task that will literally only take one minute to complete, I just do it right then…it’s amazing how many small things I would look at, decide I’d do “later,” and then not get to them for days or weeks (respond to emails, file something, make a phone call, etc.)
  • Pomodoro – or the free web version anyway ( – has taken on a major role in my life
  • At the repeated suggestion of my inspiring wife, I’ve finally set aside time for “visioning” of the practice and to do things that I enjoy at work (like writing blog posts again!)

Don’t get me wrong – these things look really neat and practical laid out like this, but it’s been a sloooow process. I have days or weeks when things are still completely overwhelming. But they feel a lot more manageable because I’ve made the choice to have agency in my life where I truly have some control.

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My three-year-old screamed this phrase at me about fifty times tonight after dinner. On special nights like tonight, after a day of no toileting accidents (another topic entirely!), we sometimes offer him a popsicle as a reward. He LOVES popsicles. One morning not long ago, my  wife and I let him go downstairs to play with toys for thirty minutes before we got out of bed…only to find that he’d managed to eat four popsicles in that time, and all before 6 am.

Unfortunately for everyone, our son managed to misbehave quite a bit before we could give him the popsicle tonight. First he purposefully dumped some juice on the floor, then tackled his sister a few times, then chose to splash water on her and all over the floor despite our requests otherwise. By the time all was said and done, he had lost his popsicle treat and all chances to earn it back.

Eventually, I had to deliver the unfortunate news that there was ZERO chance of getting a popsicle after all. His reaction would make you think it was the first he’d heard of the possibility. I offered Bunny Grahams as a consolation prize instead. Then he let me (and the entire neighborhood) know that Bunny Grahams, in fact, are NOT a treat. Several times in a row. With some thrashing, throwing things, and aggressive behavior toward his sister thrown in for good measure.

I was tempted to cave. Was I doing the right thing? Being too harsh? Should we have offered a popsicle in the first place?

But I was feeling strong tonight. I held firm to the “Bunny Grahams or nothing” decision. After several minutes and some half-hearted swings at my face and chest, he settled down and allowed himself to consider the idea. Eventually I asked if he wanted to get his snack and sit on the couch with me, and he agreed.

While this happy resolution doesn’t happen nearly enough in our house, it was a good reminder of how important it is to set boundaries with kids and stick to them. Myself included, it’s all too easy to threaten without following through. Especially when there’s a huge tantrum. Being in the field and talking with parents at least once a week about parenting strategies for things like ADHD and other behavior disorders, I’m always reminded of the need to “walk the walk.” But it’s hard! Nights like these give me a little hope.

Here’s a link to some good handouts on communication, parenting, and self-esteem in kids.

Hang in there, parents!




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Just Let Go

My little girl, now fifteen months old, is learning how to climb down from different places – the bed, the couch, her chair, etc. She’s mastered the technique of sliding over the edge on her belly, but then things get hung up for a bit as she struggles with whether the floor is actually where she judged it to be before starting her little adventure. This morning it happened again. I was in the kitchen making breakfast when I heard her start to whimper a bit, and when I looked around the corner…sure enough, she was stuck about three inches off the ground, unable to let herself “drop” that last little bit to firm ground. I tried to get a picture, but to her credit she took the leap and got firm footing before I could grab the camera.

It made me think of how many of us can get “stuck” three inches off the ground in so many situations. Times where we feel mostly confident, but there’s just enough doubt to keep us from leaping. Maybe it’s in our relationships, when we want to reach out for our partner but feel vulnerable doing so (like EFT teaches!). Maybe it’s initiating a friendship with someone new or going out with a less-familiar group of people. Maybe it’s something more practical like expanding a business. Whatever the situation, sometimes we need to trust ourselves and our judgment. It might mean “falling” a few inches, but your initial judgment was probably accurate, and you’ll likely land on your feet even if you stumble a bit.

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The Gift of Sleep

My two young children gave me a wonderful, unexpected gift this morning: the gift of sleeping in. For going on three years now, sleeping in has been a rare event. To have BOTH kids sleep late, on a day when they don’t have to be at school and I’m not already getting up early to run or head to work, is a true blessing. One that I am VERY grateful for, and one that likely will not happen again soon.

Even if they don’t sleep in that often, our kids are still pretty good sleepers. Doing the work that I do makes me especially thankful for this, given that many kids I evaluate have sleep problems. Whether it’s ramping up near bedtime, being unable to fall asleep or turn their brains off, or getting up in the middle of the night, sleep problems are very common. Many physicians and psychologists cite sleep problems as a primary cause for ADHD-like symptoms and a host of other concerns. When conducting an evaluation, I ALWAYS ask about sleep patterns. If a kid’s not sleeping well, that’s often the first thing that needs to be addressed, before making any other diagnosis.

Many parents aren’t aware of general sleep hygiene practices. Sleep hygiene includes things like:

  • Go to bed and wake up around the same time each day (no more than 30 minutes’ variation from day to day)
  • Have a predictable, consistent bedtime routine
  • Avoid caffeine after noon
  • Avoid stimulating activities just before bed (i.e., exercise, TV, video games, computers, other “screen time”)
  • And many more…here’s a great link to a sleep hygiene handout

Being a parent myself, I am well aware that putting these ideas into practice can be tough if not impossible sometimes. But hopefully the list at least gives some ideas to shoot for.

Happy sleeping!

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The Thursday Ritual

I’ve had a little routine going on every Thursday night for several months now. It goes something like this:

As I’m settling down to go to sleep Thursday evenings, I’ll picture myself waking up the next morning. I’m refreshed and relieved that it’s Friday, a day that I usually save for paperwork and miscellaneous tasks for my practice. I grab my coffee, drop the kids off without a hitch, find a great parking spot near my office, and arrive for the day. I sit at the computer and sip my coffee, then take a deep breath, crack my fingers, and begin writing a blog post. Thirty minutes later, I have a reasonably well-crafted post. I hit “Publish,” feel satisfied that I’ve started the day productively, and continue on with an enjoyable Friday.

I can’t remember the last time that actually happened. In fact, I haven’t written a single post since our daughter was born in late April 2013. The reality (happening now) is that I’m writing very early on a Saturday after said daughter, bless her heart, woke up before 5 am.

But the important thing is that it’s happening. Not exactly according to plan, but I guess that’s okay. Having kids has given me plenty of opportunity to get acquainted with the concept of being Good Enough. Not perfect, or even close to perfect, but just Good Enough. For someone who’s historically tried to do everything Exceptionally Well, this is a shift. At times painful, frustrating, and difficult. But something I’m getting used to. And it turns out that the world doesn’t actually fall apart (yet) when I’m doing things Good Enough. So in the process I’m learning a little more about what’s really important and where I should be putting my energy.

I hope to write more often moving forward, but for now I need to wrap up. I can hear our son calling from upstairs, ready to start his day.



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