My daughters and I have a private joke from an episode of Dancing With the Stars. Andy Grammer was a celebrity on the show and after his dance, while being judged, he was critiqued and questioned as to what happened when he had messed up in the dance. Andy responded, “Dancing is hard!” It was such a genuine answer and brought everyone back down to reality; he is a musician, not a dancer, and dancing is hard.
Being a parent is hard too, really hard. But what makes it even harder is when we are hard on ourselves for not allowing ourselves to lose patience, to mess up, to think we should always have the answers.
I had a rough week as a parent this week. I noticed that even with all the personal development, coach training and positive psychology work I’ve done, after a frustrating situation with one of my kids, the voice in my head says, “You should be more patient. How is she going to learn if you don’t teach her? She can’t learn if you aren’t patient.” I felt so drained. Where was that self-love voice I teach about? The one that should be there for me saying, “Parenting is hard! You are doing the best you can! It is okay to lose patience, you are human and not perfect.”
I decided to become very aware of my judgmental parenting voice and to replace it with a self-love voice. In addition, what helped me and what I hope can help many others, came from a podcast I listened to this week.
There is a life coach I absolutely adore, her name is Brooke Castillo. On one of her recent podcasts Brooke answered a question from a listener who asked about how to manage her mind in response to seeing her two- and four-year-old boys throw, hit and bite so she can teach them to behave. Brooke’s answer was absolutely genius; it helped me tremendously.
Brooke said she wanted the listener to expect the boys to continue biting, hitting and throwing and to plan on having that be an opportunity to teach them. Brooke suggested to the listener to practice ahead of time how she wants to react when the boys fight. If the listener plans on the boys hitting each other with the thought, “of course they are hitting each other, that is what two- and four-year-olds do, it is part of my job to teach them not to do this”, then it doesn’t become as tension filled.
So when it happens that the boys start fighting the mom thinks, “yup, this is the part where you fight and this is the part where I show up and respond to it in a way that I've decided ahead of time.”
Brooke says that when the listener practices the scenario in her head before it happens, it will allow her to slow down because she’s not in that moment. Then the listener can practice responding to the situation in the way she wants, being more responsive not reactive.
The key is changing the thought from “they shouldn't hit” to “this is the time when they do bite and they do hit and they learn how not to.”
What is it that your child does repeatedly that frustrates you the most? Is there something they do every day and every time it happens you wish you could respond vs react?
Try this. Imagine the situation that frustrates you the most playing out in the way that it typically does and watch it as you would as an observer from above the situation. Then look at yourself and imagine yourself responding to the situation in whatever way you think is the ideal way to handle it. Before you respond, you see yourself taking a deep breath to center yourself, then you speak calmly and confidently because you have prepared for this moment, because you have expected it to happen.
Another tidbit to remember, which I was just taught this week, is when children are emotional, it isn’t helpful to bring logic to emotion.
For example, my daughter Lindsey lost a school reading book and was very upset over it because she was scared she would get in trouble. While she was upset, I tried to reason with her that if she had lost it, it wasn’t a big deal, I could order it on Amazon for $6.00 and have it in two days. My logic didn’t help her and then it frustrated me that she continued to be upset over something that, to me, was a nonissue. What I needed to do in the moment was acknowledge and validate her emotions first (something that is drilled into my head in my coach training). Only once a child has calmed down can they process anything logical.
So in summary, be kind to yourself as a parent, parenting is hard! And being hard on ourselves only makes it harder than it already is. Expect your kids to act the way they act and prepare for it before it happens. Accept that part of your role as a parent is to continually teach them how you want them to behave. Think about this before it happens so you can practice being responsive vs reactive. Don’t match logic to emotion when your child is upset. Let them be upset first, then once they have calmed down you can reason with them.
If you have any parenting issues you would like to be coached on, I would love to help.
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