By Ron Huxley, LMFT
How you feel about yourself as a parent has a lot to do with how you talk to yourself. I’m not inferring that you have mental disorder or that you hear voices. I often tease friends and family members when I catch them talking to themselves if they are answering themselves too. Everyone talks to themselves with little awareness of it. Self-talk is automatic and carried out repeatedly through the waking hours. Hidden behind parents self-talk are their thoughts which are rational and
irrational. Rational thoughts create positive, realistic feelings and behaviors. Irrational thoughts create negative, unrealistic feelings and behaviors.
Most parents assume that events around them produce these feelings. You can see examples of this in young children who say, “You make me angry!” The reality is that events cannot make you feel anything. Situations can
be stressful but they cannot dictate our emotions. Take, for example, the parent who becomes angry at her children for running around the grocery store while another parent just brushes it off as “having too
much energy” with no feelings of anger. Regardless of whether children should be running around the store, attitudes determine parents emotional and behavioral reactions.
These thoughts get expressed in our self-talk which, in turn, reinforce our thinking. Changing our thoughts, and by that some of our negative feelings and behaviors, can be as easy as changing what parents say to themselves. By easy, I mean, they can be consciously controlled. Like anything, parents must make them a regular part of their daily routine till positive self-talk comes naturally.
Some examples of negative self-talk would be:
"I am a mean mother."
"I never get a moment to my self."
"Everyone takes, takes, takes and no one gives to me."
In contrast, some examples of positive self-talk would be:
"I sometimes make mistakes but I always try to be the best mom I can be."
"I deserve to take some time for my self and not feel guilty."
"Children need to learn boundaries and respect."
"Although it is nice to be appreciated, I do not have to have the approval of my family to feel good."
The first examples overgeneralized and focused on the negative part of parenting. It is easy to focus on the problems. Finding solutions and positive reframes of the parenting job is much harder. To help, parents
can make a self-talk plan.
A self-talk plan empowers parents to look at the positive aspects of parenting or view it in a new light. Parents can identify several situations which usually produce negative or distressing feelings. Next, parents can identify their automatic thoughts and feelings about those situations by listening to what they say to themselves. And finally,
parents can create more positive ways of talking to themselves about those situations. Here is an example:
1. Children walk through the house with dirty shoes (distressing situations).
2. My kids have no respect for me or how hard I work around here (automatic thought).
3. I know how hard I have worked and I need to provide consequences for walking through the
house with dirty shoes (positive reframe).
Every time a parent starts to feel those negative emotions bubbling up, they must stop immediately and evaluate what they were just saying to themselves before
the emotions started. Most of the time this will be the self-talk that needs changing. Here are some more positive self-talk statements:
"I am a good parent."
"I do the best I can."
"I may make mistakes but that does not determine my worth."
"It is O.K. if I feel frustrated or anxious. Emotions will pass as quickly as they come."
"I am not helpless. I have people and resources to call upon if I need to."
"This is an opportunity to teach my children about life and not ‘the end.’"
"I just need to take one step at a time and everything that can be done will be."
"I can stay calm when my family members are being difficult."
"I can get my child’s cooperation without having to threaten or yell."
"He/she is responsible for their actions and feelings, not me."
"In the long run, who will remember anyway."
"In the big scheme of things, this is really a very small matter."
"Other people’s opinions are not important to me."
"I do not need other people’s approval to feel good about myself."
"I won’t put pressure on my self to be the perfect parent."
"I will not make assumptions about my families actions. I will ask them directly."
"I will not react, but act on problems with my children."
"I can still enjoy life, even if it is hard."
"I will respect others even if they do not show me respect."
"I do not have to be abused or mistreated. I can change my life to be more satisfying."
In addition to using these self-talk statements, read books like "Don’t sweat the small stuff. It is all small stuff" and others that encourage positive affirmations. Daily reading materials, spiritual texts and devotionals, and songs can also change what you say to yourself so that you can change your parenting experience.
People who feel they deserve success are among those most likely to fail when challenges arise, research from New Zealand has revealed.
“People who believe that they don’t need to work for good grades – that they are just entitled to them by right – are annoying, but there wasn’t any evidence before now that it’s actually a self-destructive strategy,” says study co-author Professor Jamin Halberstadt, at the University of Ontago in New Zealand.
The study also supports the notion that people who feel excessively entitled believe that others are responsible for their success or failure, and are less motivated to put in extra effort when required.
“When an entitled person encounters obstacles to achieving an outcome, they feel like they shouldn’t have to work for it,” Jamin says. “In fact, you should see a challenge as evidence that you need to work harder.”
By Ron Huxley, LMFT
They know every excuse in the book: I need a drink of water. I forgot to
give you a hug goodnight. I heard a noise outside my window. Bedtime can be
a nightly power struggle for parents when children do not want to go to bed
resulting in no winners. Here are some ways parents and children have both won the pajama game:
* Provide a “bedtime friend.” Michael refused to sleep unless his mother lay down next to him every night. At first, this was a comforting experience for both parent and child. But, over time, it took Michael longer and longer to go to sleep and he would cry whenever his mother tried to get up to go to bed herself. His mother quickly recognized that Michael needed a
transitional object or “bedtime friend” that would substitute the feelings of comfort that she provided him and would allow him to go to sleep alone.
Together they went and bought a stuffed animal that Michael found warm and
comforting. His mother talked with him before the trip about finding a “bedtime fiend” and what its purpose would be. After the purchase, she spoke to the stuffed animal, in front of Michael, and told it that it had “a very important job” to help Michael go to sleep. This employed Michael’s young
imagination and helped to transfer the comforting qualities of his mother to
the animal. Of course the transition from parent to transitional object was
not an easy one and Michael resisted the change at first. But with a lot of
patience and perseverance, Michael was able to sleep on his own, with his
new “bedtime friend.”
* Celebrate a good nights sleep. Even the most difficult sleeper has an occasional good nights sleep. Perhaps it was only due to exhaustion that a child didn’t get back up with a bedtime excuse. Celebrate it anyway! In the morning prepare the child’s favorite meal. Sing, dance, or do whatever it takes to give the child positive attention to the basic fact of having a no-excuse, sleep-filled night. Too many parents do their “song and dance routines” at night after the excuses have been given, reinforcing the very problem parents want to stop. During these stress times, ignore the irritating please for water or the annoying claims of nighttime terrors. Instead, redirect the child back to bed with a minimum amount of words or actions. This will rechannel the power struggle and increase the percentage
for successful bedtime routines.
* Discourage scary stories or television show. Sarah complained of monsters
under the bed, ghosts in the closet, and killers outside her window. Nothing
her parents did got rid of their daughter’s fears. Finally they found the root of the problem: Sarah had been watching scary movie at a friends house on a recent sleep over and had been exchanging scary stories with friends at school. Her parents talked to the other parents and convinced Sarah to stop the tales of terror. Within a week she was going to bed without any problems.
* Make a bedtime routine. Being a single mother and working a full time job
forced Eleanor to use a babysitter for her son Ben in the evenings. Ben had
developed a custom of waiting up for his mother and spends some “time together” before going to bed. Eleanor knew he should be going to bed earlier but felt guilty about leaving Ben with someone else and not being with him more. Once, on a very quilt-filled night, after yelling at him
before school, she brought home ice cream for them to share together. After that, Ben expected a treat every night. In addition, his late night routine got later and later. It stopped being simply about waiting for mom to not wanting to go to bed at all. The final straw was when Ben’s teacher called
and informed Eleanor that Ben was falling in sleep in class. She resolved to change the nighttime routine.
She arranged to have more time in the mornings before he had to go to school
to spend together. She enlisted the support of the babysitter to put him in his room and turn off the lights even if he didn’t go to sleep. He was to go through the motions of bedtime regardless. When she came home there were no treats and their interaction was simple and quick: a kiss, a hug, and a tuck into bed with the lights quickly out. It took some doing but Eleanor was able to get Ben to settle into a bedtime routine.
* Share the workload. Getting Tasha to bed was work! Her mother did everything she could think of to get Tasha to stay in bed but after a long day her mother just didn’t have the patience of the energy for a big fight. And Tasha knew all the right buttons to push on mom to make her mad and
manipulate her into giving her what she wanted (even after being told no).
Finally, Tasha’s mother recruited the father to back her up or take over when the mother felt like she was weakening. The parents agreed to a plan of action prior to the bedtime battle and they consistently enforced it, winning the war. Tasha would try and divide and conquer but the greater
numbers and the parental teamwork held firm and Tasha finally stayed in bed.
Getting children to go and stay in bed is no easy task. Parents face he limitless excuses and untiring energy of children who know how to maneuver around their parents with amazing ease. In order for both parties to win the pajama game, parents must use some special bedtime tactics to even the odds. But none of these things will prevail if parents are not consistent and provide positive attention to good nighttime behavior. How parents cope with the bedtime disruptions is as important (maybe more) that what they do to get their children to bed.
By Ron Huxley, LMFT
I recently picked up my copy of Tim Ferriss book “The Four-Hour Chef.” The author has been listed as one of Fast Company’s “Most Innovative Business People of 2007”, Forbes Magazine’s “Names You Need to Know in 2011,” and the wildly successful author of “The Four-Hour Work Week” and “The Four-Hour Body”. Although “The Four-Hour Chef” sounds like another cook book, it is far more than that. It spells out the recipe for how to learn any skill, regardless of your age or how hard the task. The book’s subtitle is “Learning anything, and living the good life.” Who doesn’t want more of that?
The premise behind the Four-Hour Ethos is help you have more control over your own life by doing more of what you enjoy and less of what you don’t. In the example of cooking, many of us love to cook (and eat, of course) but few of us love to shop for the food, do all the prep work or clean up after. Tim Feriss uses the metaphor of cooking to describe his step-by-step process of “meta-learning”. That’s the real recipe for parents.
His idea of meta-learning refers to the Zen concept: “before you can learn to cook, you must learn to learn.” I think this has a lot of relevance for parents who need to learn how to learn before they learn to parent. Parenting education has been around for some time. You can read attend classes, read books, search the internet, watch programs, and listen to podcasts. There is plenty of parenting information out there but still we strive for more. Or are we striving for the “recipe”? Are we looking for that secret ingredient on how to get a teen to do their homework or stop an ongoing sibling rivalry? Perhaps what really need is to first learn how to learn to be a parent.
One step toward this meta-parenting-learning skill is to ask ourselves: “What is one parenting skill I would like to master today or perhaps, one skill I have given up hope of learning with my children?” Ferriss would then suggest we deconstruct this skill to its simple components and reapplies the laws of learning to truly become its master.
Ferriss describe a deconstruction tool to help us called the 80/20 Principle. This is also known as Pareto’s principle or the law of the vital few and it states that roughly 80% of the effects of an event come from just 20% of the causes. Taking cleaning up the house: 80% of the work is done by 20% of the people, probably mom. This applies to other areas of life, such as, 80% of the sales of a business comes from 20% of the clients. Or, 80% of the world’s wealth is owned by 20% of the people.
This economic principle works well in many parenting situations and I have used it for years to describe how 80% of the parenting issues that come up in my consulting office can be answered by 20% of my parenting tools. Most parents have similar struggles: getting homework done or picking up after themselves or talking back or putting their feet on the furniture. There are typical problems that come up by developmental stages. Two year olds and teens are defiant. Five year olds have short attention spans, etc. It is the other 20% that is creates the big challenges and creative solutions. Dealing with a divorce or say, stealing items from a store. These are more serious issues really only occurs 20% of the time but make up 80% of my clientele. Who needs to see a child therapist for not picking up the dog poop or some other chore, really?
As a personal example, I have four adult children and two grandchildren and the skill I would like to master is how to maintain on-going communication with them spread out over various states. I want to do this in a way that feels warm and fuzzy despite the distance. Applying Pareto’s principle to my communication issue, I realized that regularly scheduled phone calls and text messages (20% effort) could result in my perceived sense of connection (80% effect). I also started being more diligent about traveling two hours away to my grandson’s early Saturday morning baseball games. It was a drive and there was a cost of gasoline but the level of connection and my parenting needs were met with this minimal effort once a month.
This was a useful parenting tool with my clients as well. Ten minutes of one-on-one contact in the morning before school and ten minutes on getting home from school dramatically improved many families gauge of the amount of respect and cooperation. Sibling fights and morning tantrums decreased as well. It would seem that there isn’t an extra ten minutes in the morning routine to give to a child but really, how long were those tantrums occurring? How long does it take to make a U-turn back to the house to get the forgotten lunch or homework sitting on the kitchen table? A lot longer than the ten minutes it took to have some one-on-one. And parents and children felt so much more connected all day long.
Another way of getting at this core parenting skills is to ask yourself if I only had 20 minutes to spend with my child each day – you couldn’t see or interact with them at any other time during the day – how would I best spend that time? Do more of that parenting behavior and witness the 80% effect from that minimal parenting activity. I am just guessing but that 20 minutes would be spent doing laundry or watching television together.
Parenting Action Plan:
Take a few moments and ask yourselves these questions above. Start focusing on how to better manage your time with your child this next week. Start deconstructing what makes up the core elements of your parenting day and concentrate on the main ingredients behind what really makes a good family recipe. It is different for everyone so don’t look at the neighbor parenting activities. Start with works for you. Let us know how it goes by leaving a comment or sharing on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/parentingtoolbox
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