Disney, Clarks and Gender Neutral Classrooms – what does it have to do with me?

Disney, Clarks and Gender Neutral Classrooms – what does it have to do with me?

During the very busy run up to the end of August, you might have missed this post that went viral  about a little boy not being allowed to go to a “Princess for a day” party at Disneyland.   And with BBC’s No More Boys and Girls, and the Clarks shoe debacle, when big companies get it wrong it seems like a great opportunity to discuss what the public is increasing expecting regarding gender neutrality in play.

As you know, Kids Bee Happy has been the proud supporter of Let Toys Be Toys, and been awarded the Toymark Award for the past 2 years, but it’s something that we should never rest on our laurels and always be at the forefront of how we do business.  There is a fantastic moment in the No More Boys and Girls episode 1 where the producers swapped a baby boy and baby girls clothes round, and then put the babies on a mat with an adult and a selection of toys, and then watched as the adults pushed gender stereotype toys onto the children without even realising that they did it.  It was very noticeable that the stuffed passive toys were directed at the “girl”, and the mechanical toys for the “boy”.  And it shows instantly how all these influences are around children everyday, and how they all add up.

Now me, you might have noticed that I have a huge passion for levelling the playing field.  I personally have spent the majority of my life being the only female in the room, and I haven’t lived that rebellious a life.  And as a mother of girls, I had hoped that what gender they are would have no impact on the choices of my children in their careers and future.  However, the world moves slowly it seems and we’re still fighting the battle.  But the one thing that I can do as the Managing Director of Kids Bee Happy is to try my upmost to make sure that its something that we as a company join the battle to eliminate.

Kids Bee Happy offers a very wide range of Sand Art pictures, and we try to ensure that there is something in there that appeals to everyone, however, when i’m out at the events I have to consistently remember to help the children choose in a gender neutral way.  All too frequently we see the parents or grandparents steer their children’s choice in the direction of “suitable” pictures, how many times have we seen wee boys hovering over a butterfly or a fairy picture to see the mum go “Oh, there’s a dinosaur, or how about a car?”  Or to see a girl thinking about a robot picture and their parent suggest a “pretty butterfly”.

As advocates of gender neutral play, we have a role to play here, little things that we can do can make a difference.  If a parent is pointing at lots of stereotypical pictures then interrupt (gently) point out other pictures that they can equally enjoy.  If we’re making recommendations to children then again mix it up so that the suggestions are wide and varied, and be brave, make the first picture something that could be associated more with the opposite sex.   Make it clear to the boys that if they want to colour in a picture of a princess then that is absolutely fine, and make it clear to the girls that we know that they like cars and planes just as much as boys.  On the tables, in the displays mix up the pictures, make it clear that there is no such thing as a “boys” section and a “girls” selection.

When we colour in our display pictures make sure that we make them as multicoloure as possible, using all the colours from pink to blue, and all the other ones inbetween, so that we don’t send out the subtle “pink for girl” messages that we see so often in the clothes and fashions sectors.  What I personally prefer to do is to mix up the colours in the most wonderful and creative way, pink loins, red dolphins, brown butterflies, orange fairies, orange, pink and yellow skies, even a punk rock hedgehog.  There is no right or wrong with colour when it comes to sand art, so the more creative we can be with our display pictures, the more we send out the “anything goes” message to the children.   If a boy’s colouring the picture point out to them that they’ve not coloured anything in Pink yet. If we’re chatting to the children about colour start a conversation about how “brown” is your favourite colour etc and make up a whole load of wonderful reasons why brown is so good.

Draw attention and offer an alternative, that’s all we have to do.

In the great big gender debate it’s very easy for critics to dismiss it all, saying “oh why do we need to worry, the children will choose what they want”, but the problem is that by the time the kids get around to choosing they’ve already have years of marketing, fashion, TV, books, films, cartoons, and adults telling them subconsciously what they “should” be preferring, and sometimes its difficult for them to say something different.  And this is where our role comes in.  I know that all of our consultants work hard to ensure gender neutrality with our young customers, however, its important to remember that they might not have that same influence elsewhere, they could perhaps live with very traditional parents or grandparents, so your voice is important, even if it by doing something as tiny as just adding in the word “fairy” into a list of suggestions of boys pictures, let them know it’s OK to do something different.  From little acorns big oaks grow, so please continue to plant those little acorns.  Thank you.

Busting through the Summer Blues

It’s the last day of my holiday as I’m writing this and I must confess to have been suffering a little with the holiday blues; that feeling that you just don’t want it to come to an end and wish that every day could be filled with lazy hazy sunny mornings and that feeling that the day ahead is yours to fill in exactly the way you want to fill it!
Like many I will be going back to organising returns to school, starting new ones, mountains of washing and the like as my thoughts turn to the forthcoming Autumn and dare I say that one day in the year that starts with C!

For me, the year always seems to start in September, there are other times of the year when I justify a little boost of enthusiasm but I think that years at school always gave September that special quality and so it has become a marker in the sand that point in time where we compare where we were last year and perhaps where we want to be next year too.

So as I sit here mourning the end of my holiday I of course recognise that there are two sides to every story and that whenever there is an ending, there is always inevitably a beginning and so whilst I could focus on what has been, it makes me feel so much better when I focus and dream about what is yet to come.

Of course none of us know what the future holds and it’s a conversation that I have frequently with clients who worry about the future – it is merely a creation of our thinking, a story that we tell ourselves, we don’t know whether our thinking is true or not! How many times have you worried about something in the future only to find that when it happens it wasn’t as bad as you thought it would be? So I’m always of the view that if we are going to make something up I may as well make up something to get excited about! Ok so it may not turn out exactly how I think it will, but remember it’s not a prediction, it’s not set in stone, it’s merely a ‘wouldn’t it be fab if this happens?’

So for me the key to busting those holiday blues as I’m sat here in the sun (sorry I couldn’t resist that bit) is to dream about how exciting the next year is going to be and about how next year I’ll look back and think ‘wow wasn’t that a journey!’ I have no idea what is going to happen but I know if I approach it with dread and trepidation I’ll miss all the good bits, I know if I worry about it I won’t enjoy the moment I have now, a moment I know I won’t get again.

So if you are coming to the end of your holiday, instead of feeling fed up and blue, allow yourself to dream your ‘what ifs’ and ‘wouldn’t it be great if’ and create an amazing year ahead, that way your holiday end won’t seem like an end at all but a fantastic beginning.

Andrea Morrison is a Transformational Life Coach, Clinical Hypnotherapist & Speaker (andreamorrison.co.uk) and is author of The Feel Good Factor in 30 days.


Crushing the Critics

One of the hardest things that we come up again in life is when someone is critical of us, it could be a colleague, a friend or a family member, it could even be someone we don’t like very much! However, it doesn’t seem to matter where it originates, criticism is the one thing that seems to stick to us like glue, leaving you wondering if in fact that terse comment is the reality of the situation.

For example, when I was about to publish my book Feel Good Factor in 30 days I remember someone I knew at the time literally throwing the draft at me and telling me it was complete rubbish; I was crushed. I didn’t know where this criticism had come from as everyone else had been very complimentary about it. However, I then proceeded to do an enormous amount of thinking about it, was she right, did she see something in it that no one else had done, was she the only person telling me the truth? I nearly didn’t publish because I wondered if she had got a point, would others then criticise me, was I setting myself up for a fall?

This is where the problem lies, because when we receive criticism it often speaks to our fears and insecurities, those issues that we’ve probably thought about already and tried to ignore. When we hear them from someone else they seem to have more weight, are more persuasive, it is like our fears are being validated. The difficulty is is that we don’t do the same with all the compliments, it’s not as if we weigh it all up in a rational way and conclude on balance as we have more compliments than criticisms the idea, or whatever it is, is clearly sound. No it’s more like one criticism cancels out pretty much all the compliments in their entirety, as though the compliments carry no weight at all!

Clearly I went on to publish my book and that criticism proved completely wrong, so what can we do to regain some balance, how can we get over the critics that crush?

First of all, take a moment to stop. Put aside the negative comment and focus on the positive comments that you have had or the positive aspects of what you are doing. If it helps write them down so that you can see them in black and white.

Secondly, so often with these things it isn’t about you, the critic has their own ‘stuff’ going on, they have probably talked to your own fears & insecurities because they are their fears & insecurities too. It may be that they are scared of failure or being criticised so it is easier to point out the negatives in whatever you are doing to prevent you from failure or being criticised by others.

Thirdly, it’s a good idea to ask yourself, is going over this one piece of criticism really helping me? Often it isn’t, it doesn’t make us feel good at all! It’s also important to remember than unless the person is there in front of us saying it, it’s us repeating that message over and over again, not them.

Finally, if all else fails, ask someone you really trust what they think about what has been said. This is what I eventually did with my book, it wasn’t that the other strategies didn’t work because they did. I realised that the person in question was projecting their insecurities onto me and that I was making the issue worse by going over it in my head. So as a belt and braces approach I ran it past someone I trusted and you could say the rest is history!

Andrea Morrison is a Transformational Life Coach, Clinical Hypnotherapist & Speaker (andreamorrison.co.uk) and is author of The Feel Good Factor in 30 days.

Trigger Warning – this blog may result in feelings of no fear

Trigger Warning – this blog may result in feelings of no fear

I don’t know about you, but recently there seems to be an abundance of articles and posts all over the web and social with the words “Trigger Warning” telling us that the content that follows may instigate emotions of fear, anxiety, or upset, or be distressing, or whatever.  It very sadly seems to be the new clickbait.

But on a serious note, in the Direct Sales communities posts like this which pretend to be about “personal development” flourish, so this is why i’d take the opportunity to repost an excellent blog by Michael Neil talking through why these trigger warning posts are just a heap of piffle, and why we should just pass by without even reading.

Trigger Warnings

How not to get frustrated by other people

How not to get frustrated by other people

The other day I was reminded on a song that my kids used to sing at a little Church group we used go to when they were toddlers, in a nutshell it was about a wise man who built his house upon the rock whereas a foolish man built his house upon the sand, which when the floods came of course his house was washed away whereas the one built on the rocks stood firm.

I’ve been talking a lot this week to clients and people in my community about how we interpret other people’s actions and how they invoke feelings and thinking in us; from managers who reply without patience to partners who reply using two words in a text, friends who say one thing but clearly mean another, to colleagues who become quiet and withdrawn and/or who are no longer available. We spend an inordinate amount of time trying to work out ‘where we stand’ with our fellow man and what it all means, which often creates a whole host of feeling from frustration to worry, from anger to disillusionment, upset to confusion; leaving us not knowing which way is up, let alone knowing where we stand! Unfortunately, often it is when we are in this state that we attempt to make important decisions about those relationships, we try to ‘sort’ them out, or ‘talk’ them through, often resulting in matters becoming much, much worse.
Which to me felt a lot like building your house upon the sand…

So how do we approach relationships where the other person is making us feel upset, frustrated, angry or any other negative emotion so that we have more chance of resolving it in a positive way, like building a house upon a rock?

First of all take yourself on a fact finding mission. What is it that you know to be true? Often we think that a text sent in a certain way, or a lack of response, or a certain response means something when in fact that is only our perception of it. We interpret behaviour based on our past experience or of the experience of others and we then try to fill in the gaps with what we think is true. In other words, we tell ourselves a story. A beautifully crafted, believable story, but a story nonetheless. When we don’t know something for certain, i.e it’s open for interpretation, it’s our thinking that is making it up. Now often a client will argue that they do know ‘for sure’ it means whatever, but of course we can never be sure what someone’s intention is behind their behaviour unless they tell us (and then can we really be sure) we can only suspect.

Which then leads me onto the second step towards creating a firmer foundation, if we can’t be sure and we are only telling ourselves a story which is based on suspicion, those feelings that we are creating within ourselves, surely are being created by us, not the person with whom we are cross, frustrated, upset or the like and when we recognise that actually we don’t know for sure why that person is acting in the way they are, often those feelings subside.

Finally, when we allow these feelings and thoughts to settle, and we allow those that have no foundation to pass, we return to a state where actually we feel OK, we feel calmer, more rational and we can see the relationship in a clearer light. It’s at this time, when we are in this state, we experience ‘seeing things in a different light’, and all of those negative feelings often give way to feelings of compassion and understanding. When we approach a relationship from this space, this is like building a house upon a rock as you start to build the relationship based on reality which is probably the most solid of all the foundations I know.

If you would like more clarity in your life, Andrea Morrison is a Transformational Life Coach, Clinical Hypnotherapist & Speaker and is author of The Feel Good Factor in 30 days you can find her at andreamorrison.co.uk to book a free consultation or join her Free Seize Your Life community on Facebook.

Chocolate Digestive anyone?

Chocolate Digestive anyone?

As we have quite a lot of new consultants going out to their first events, I thought that it would be a great time to have a chat about pricing.   You see, as a new business, people sometimes panic about pricing, particularly if someone is selling something similar at the same event for a cheaper price, so lets think about that a bit in a slightly different context, and you’ll see that its not a majorly important factor.

Do you like Chocolate Digestives?

Probably, most families and households in the UK buy a packet of chocolate digestives each month.  But the price of them varies wildly, from store to store, and also within the store from week to week.  In fact, it’s fairly safe to say that everytime you buy a packet of chocolate digestives there is a 100% chance that you could have got an identical (or very very similar product) cheaper, and within 200m.

Shall we test that thinking?

Have you ever done your big grocery shop in one supermarket, and decided not to put chocolate digestives in the trolley, because you’re going to go to another supermarket afterwards to buy them cheaper?  No.  Be honest, you haven’t – not for just chocolate digestives.    So, what this tells us is that people value CONVENIENCE, and that they are prepared to pay extra for a product to have the convenience of being able to buy it in a time and location that is more convenient to them.

Have you ever (and I mean ever, even once) bought McVities chocolate digestives when they were sat right next to the supermarket own brand ones that were 50p cheaper?  Be honest, you have haven’t you?  and 50p is quite a big percentage in terms of the cost of a packet of biscuits.   So, what this tells us is that people value BRAND, and that they are prepared to pay extra the have the brand of product that they are comfortable and familiar with.

Have you ever bought McVities or Foxes or Cadbury’s chocolate digestives because you prefer the taste and the texture of the biscuits?  You know that there is the Savers Choccy Digestives sitting there for only 27p, but you’d rather spend £1 to have the others?   So, what this tells us is that people value QUALITY, and that they are prepared to pay extra to have a higher quality product.

Have you ever compared the price of chocolate digestives in all the different supermarkets and stores before you purchase them?  We tend to do this with big ticket items such as a TV or a Fridge, but do you do the same level of price comparison due diligence for every single purchase that you make?  No, you don’t.  You know that in all reality they may well be cheaper in other places, but you’re not going to take the time and effort to check it out.  So, this tells us that people don’t always care that much about PRICE, and that they don’t always bother to research to the n’th degree the price of all comparable and similar products in the local area.

Have you ever gone online and purchased just a packet of chocolate digestives because its the cheapest way to buy them?  No, you haven’t, because you don’t tend to make individual purchasing decisions separately for each and every product you buy.

Have you ever purchased a packet of chocolate digestives that are far bigger than you actually need?  Because the price of the twin pack is only 50p more than the single pack and you get twice as many biscuits?  Yes, you probably have, because VALUE FOR MONEY, is important to you, and its better value to buy the twin pack, even if you know you don’t need that many (note the word need, lol, because in my house those extra biscuits will definitely somehow end up eaten, even though we don’t need them).

Lots of people buy Chocolate Digestives in Marks and Spencer, again, knowing that they are paying more than they would for the same product in Aldi, so why do they do this?  Because although Aldi has cheap prices, it’s not so hot on CUSTOMER SERVICE, there are only a few staff, and if you’re slow in unloading your trolley and bagging it up you’ll soon hear about it from the people behind you.  Much nicer to go to M&S where the kind staff will pack it all in the bags for you.

Have you ever gone into a store and they haven’t had the product that you wanted – maybe there weren’t any Milk Chocolate digestives.  Did you leave with nothing?  Did you leave the supermarket, get back in the car, and drive another 3 miles to another supermarket just to buy chocolate digestives  Or, did you simply just buy an alternative product?  In reality, once people have decided to buy from you, if you don’t have exactly the thing they were after they will choose an alternative.

Would you buy your chocolate digestives from a dirty shop?  Even if they were half the price of everywhere else?  Probably not, because SAFETY & CLEANLINESS is an important factor particularly when you’re buying food, drink, products for your children etc…

Have you ever avoided a particular shop because the staff are unfriendly?  Even though the products are cheap?

Do you know that sometimes people even buy chocolate digestives in Waitrose?  Imagine that!!  They know that by even walking through the door they are going to pay 10-20% more on every single product that they put in the trolley, but they still go there and buy chocolate digestives?  Why do they do that?  Well it’s all about the ENVIRONMENT, they love shopping with posh people and love being seen shopping with posh people, and everyone knowing that they’ve got enough money to pay more money for Chocolate Digestives than they have to and that they dont care about it.

Have you even paid an extortionate price for a packet of chocolate digestives when you’ve been out with the kids, and they’ve been hungry and moany, and you’ve been filling up the car with petrol, and the garage has a packet of chocolate digestives there, twice the price of normal mind, but you’ve thought “that will sort them out for the time being”…………   Well, You know where this is going…….

Every week we buy hundreds of products, and price is one of the factors that we consider, but never the only factor, and most of the time it’s outweighed by other factors and influences – Convenience, Brand, Quality, Value for Money, Customer Service, Staff, Environment, Location etc.

So why does this matter in my Kids Bee Happy business?

So, when you are pricing your products, and comparing prices with other suppliers and entertainment at your events, its really easy to fall into the trap of panic thinking “Oh, I’m more expensive than X, I need to drop my prices”.  But really, that’s not how the customer is thinking.   If the whole world simply bought the cheapest products then 99% of businesses wouldn’t exist, they would all have closed down, because there is always someone out there prepared to sell cheaper.

So what do I do?

Firstly, you reign the brain in and you get that naggy voice in your head under control.  And you accept that there are a very small number of people who may decide not to make a picture with you that day because there is a cheaper alternative, and that’s OK.  But the vast majority of the people are looking for more than just the cheapest price – and we’re going to concentrate on those.

Secondly, you focus on the other elements that people want – and pay for.  You set up your stall in a professional manner, clean, safe, tidy.  You promote your brand, and you make sure that you are the best you that you can be.

And thirdly, you provide excellent customer service, you avoid being an Aldi (sitting behind a table waiting for people to come to you) and you turn into a John Lewis upfront, outfront, talking to people, helping them, answering their questions.

But, does it work?

And lastly, one final question for you – have you ever gone into a supermarket for a packet of chocolate digestives, and come out with 2 bags of shopping?  You know you have.  And the reasons why you did that had nothing to do with the price of the chocolate digestives – all of that extra shopping (that you didn’t actually need) came about because of everything else in this article – Convenience, Quality, Brand, Value for Money, Customer Service, Cleanliness and Safety, friendly staff, welcoming environment.

And if it works for the supermarkets – it will work for you.