5 Thoughts To Help Your Parenting
Developing your parenting skills
It may seem strange to think of practicing skills for improving our relationships, but we as people practice skills for mastering every other area of our life, why not focus on improving easily one of the most important areas of our life. Parenting is an area where mothers and fathers come hardwired with some of the basic instincts for helping children survive. But, in order to thrive it takes intentionality with how we approach our circumstances to go beyond the survival mindset. Most parents take what they saw from their family of origin and apply it to their children. Or if we had to survive a very harsh environment, sometimes we take it down one notch to the next generation. But how often do we as parents ask the tough questions, “what is the best way to approach my children?”
In this article, I am going to address 5 thought patterns that may be interfering with your relationships with your children and 5 thoughts that will help growth in your parenting. The reason therapists talk a lot about thoughts is that the field of psychology has extensively shown that thoughts impact your mood and usually your behavior to follow. If you can change the thought, then you can write a different story about what happens next.
Improving your mindset
1. Replace “my child/teen is defiant or oppositional” with “my child/teen is struggling in how they navigate their circumstances.” The first thought assumes there is inherently something wrong with your child or teen and they need to go get “fixed.” It actually places parents in a powerless position to do anything to help. I am not denying that in certain situations the kiddo may be reacting poorly, but the second thought helps define a more specific problem and interventions that can help. The second thought also helps foster more understanding and connection which is an essential ingredient for seeing improvement in the behavior.
2. Substitute “my child/teen is intentionally causing a tantrum or fight to get what he/she wants” with “my child/teen is flooded and overwhelmed by the emotions.” Our prefrontal cortex, the primary muscle in our brain for thinking & reasoning isn’t fully developed till our mid-twenties, meaning that children have a developing mind for problem solving. This means it is normal for children/teens to react to their circumstances as we go into “fight, flight or freeze” when overwhelmed by stress. The biggest mistake I see parents get tripped into is assuming their children are intentionally “doing something naughty.” Often children are reacting to the circumstances and needing the skills to better be able to handle stress.
3. Retrain the brain from thinking “how do I punish this offense” to “how do I get a better understanding over what happened and guide my child to do better.” This punish first mindset is a huge source of disconnection within the family. But it is heavily ingrained in our parenting nowadays. What would we do as adults if our boss told us to “go to your office, stay isolated and think about what you did before you come out….oh and hand over your phone, keys and you are grounded at work for the next two weeks.” I hope this example points out what a child/teen actually experiences when forced into timeouts and any other punishments. We as people are seeking to be understood about our story; once we are understood, then often we can be challenged. The same is true for parenting; children often need to feel heard first, then they can take a look at their behavior.
4. Avoid “let me tell him/her everything they did wrong” and insert “lets have a healthy dialogue about the situation.” Yes, most of us don’t consciously say these words, but we are guilty of the lecturing mindset. Like the last example, how many times would we actually respect or listen to another adult if they went on a 15 minute rant of how terrible we are? Yet we expect children to somehow be a saint after a lecture. Lectures don’t work because our brain usually tunes out a bunch of negative information. Instead, dialogue is the art of having a better understanding of the situation and coming up with healthy direction forward. A hint: too many words can be overwhelming, instead check with your child/teen to ensure they are tuned into the conversation.
5. Ditch the words “I need to escape” and repeat many times “I need to connect.” Yes, parenting is challenging, exhausting and on some days can sap all the energy you have. But don’t give into the powerless mindset. Even if you can’t address every problem, your child/teen needs YOU and no one else can do the job besides you. My last secret in this article, is a majority of emotional outbursts are a result of disconnection. Please do things to fill your oxygen tank, but then get back in the game because your child/teen needs a confident and respectful caregiver to help guide him or her into a virtuous adult.
Healing a relationship
Thoughts do have the power to change direction. Change the mindset and you can start to see a shift in your relationships. I know, I discussed a few challenging thought processes so don’t ever feel ashamed for seeking further guidance in navigating these thoughts. Often, we may have grown up in an environment with a disconnected relationship with a parent. I specialize in helping parents navigate their own family of origin wounds and helping with specific parenting skills to improve your relationships. Please contact me today if you want to learn more about how I can help with parenting challenges.