Professional tools for struggling parents
What is parenting ?
Is it going to little league games?
Is it movie nights?
Is it chores and pocket money?
Is it the best punishments?
Is it answering a million questions?
I like to think of parenting as a series of opportunities and fleeting moments.
Moments in which we have the opportunity (read responsibility) to teach, to grow, to learn ourselves.
Chances to understand more, little visions into the true personality we have raised.
What they really think, how they really think, where they are hurting,
where they are growing and succeeding.
Soo many things!
But with such busy lives how can we do that?
What are the things we will teach our children?
How can we teach our children more?
And what about undoing patterns and habits that aren’t good for our children?
Imagine if an artist could communicate with their work, building the work into what the work always was…a chunk of clay attempting to explain it’s shape as you carve away and add to it. A canvas helping guide your hand as you glide the brush, leaving a trail, creating as you simply exist. Silence interrupted with sounds, patterns and texture until there is so much music that the silence comes back through and creates a song.
This is the opportunity we have with our children. While we are actively adding skills and taking away bad habits, we are able to talk with our children. They can explain how they are feeling.
We can create safe places for them to speak their true minds. We can reward effort instead of excellence, and teach integrity and standards instead of winning and losing.
If we spend the time we can grow our children into the best versions of themselves!
Now, to improve someone else, we better be improving ourselves.
So what skills and habits can we quickly add to our lives for better parenting results?
“You gotta control your smiles and cries, because that’s all you have and nobody can take that away from you.”
Children are weird. They can say the funniest things, the nastiest things, the most interesting things.
They’re experiencing the world for the first time, curious, scared, intrigued…fumbling.
A good first defence as parents is a poker face.
No matter the situation, and hopefully no matter the stimuli, a solid poker face could keep the connection.
This connection (or our relationships) are how we can bring guidance and ideas in, to change behaviour and motivations.
– I don’t know
One ‘poker face’ I wish people would use for children is “I Don’t Know” quickly followed by “…Why don’t you find out?!”
Now this is obvious and easy when we don’t know something, but how else could we use it as a parenting weapon?
What if we change it into “I’m not sure when” for questions about the future.
“I can’t quite remember”
“Why don’t you find out” when we want to encourage research
“Teach me something” when we know a subject well
Deploy this and make time for your children to explain things to you, then sit back and watch the relationship grow.
Even when you know what they are talking about, make space for them to teach.
Use some wonder yourself.
– Joke and keep a straight face
Just as a fun exercise say some stupid things, and pretend you are completely serious. Play the fool a bit.
Your children won’t have a clue how to take it, disarming them.
But BONUS, You get to relive some of the wonder of childhood WITH your children!
Being silly will show your children that there are different sides to life. Things to learn. Things they don’t know about you just yet.
– Be confident
In any ways you can.
Find some hard tasks, some things that are difficult to you,
and get some wins under your belt.
Maybe you had a hobby that you lost, give it a go.
Even with the cruelness of time there will be something there that brings joy and accomplishment if you just keep going.
In a busy world we can’t afford to just give all of our time away.
We need to make space for the things that we enjoy,
the things that bring us life,
the things that makes us feel like
we can conquer the world.
Go make bad music,
Go hit something.
Just do something. And do it well.
The confidence and peace the you find in those struggles will grow and grow inside of you.
Making it easy to stand in the face of anything,
to get back up and keep moving one more time.
To confront and combat life.
With that type of power some teenage attitude or bad decision is a nothing.
Just. Keep. Going.
Keeping our cool, and holding our cards so closely to our chests (with people we should be open and vulnerable with) is tricky.
The sheer volume of time we spend with family and children lends itself to picking up the micro-habits and movements that can express our deepest emotions. These are what we are trying to control so that we don’t seem to be judging our children. So that they don’t get a wrong impression (and also, so that we are almost impossible to argue with)
I have seen many times a child excited, bubbling over and out of control…
Then someone they care about tells them to calm down or control themselves.
At times, there’s a break in the poor child’s face.
A drooping. A death.
Think about the messages we could be sending… the careless words from frustration.
Some of these things have a life altering impact.
Our child is excited and happy, and we are (on some level) telling them to not be happy. To not be themselves. To hide who they truly are.
To push the authentic deep inside. . .
Having your enthusiasm cut down is demoralising. It hurts. It makes you sad… Which is the opposite to the happy being express. The happy that we have been trust with.
Maybe. Perhaps. On some days. Without the correct sleep, or food, or coffee… Perhaps we can shut down our own children.
Accidentally showing them it is better to be sad. That it’s safe to be sad… That it isn’t safe to be happy.
How terrible would that feel?
What types of things would you think?
How would you behave, and interact with those people?
Probably not well… But,
There is hope !!!
– Fill Yourself Up.
What do they tell us on every plane flight? Every emergency message?
“Put your oxygen mask on first before helping others”~ Every Airline Ever.
But what does this look like in parenting?
Unlike a plane crash, where the cabin pressure and falling masks give us a pretty good signal that things are about to get hectic. Parenting is an ever shifting game of multiple people’s emotions and the interactions second to second between our moods. Sometimes there is no warning signs before the storm.
We must stay ready.
We can’t afford to be lazy and let ourselves go.
We might need the energy to stay up through the night,
or the will power to clean up all kinds of disgusting messes.
On any given day a truth could come to light that makes us look at our little angel in ways we never dreamt of. In those moments our reactions bring life or death.
We need to care for ourselves like we care for our children. Thoughtfully.
Being awake for 17 hours has similar effect as a BAC of 0.05%
Being awake for 24 hours has a similar effect as a BAC of 0.10%
If we aren’t sleeping enough, we cannot function at our full potential.
Be it naps, earlier bed times or changing our wake up times it is recommended that :
8 – 60 year olds have more than 7 hours of sleep.
61 – 64 year olds have 7 to 9 hours of sleep.
And that 65 year olds and above have 7 to 8 hours sleep.
(https://www.cdc.gov/sleep/about_sleep/how_much_sleep.html – children’s sleeping times are here as well 😉 )
Whatever it takes our sleep is important.
It’s where we repair out brains.
How we save memories.
When we problem solve deeply.
And ultimately where ideas can spring from!
Recharging with a little fun is amazing. The joy and freedom will carry over in to many other areas as we expand ourselves through the struggles (and joys!) of learning.
This leaves us with one final piece of this simple self care plan:
I believe that no matter how extroverted and outgoing someone is, that some of the best ideas and deepest discoveries are found alone.
Silence is powerful.
There is a room, the world’s quietest room.
“Inside the room it’s silent. So silent that the background noise measured is actually negative decibels, -9.4 dBA. Steven Orfield, the lab’s founder, told Hearing Aid Know: “We challenge people to sit in the chamber in the dark – one person stayed in there for 45 minutes. When it’s quiet, ears will adapt. The quieter the room, the more things you hear. You’ll hear your heart beating, sometimes you can hear your lungs, hear your stomach gurgling loudly. In the anechoic chamber, you become the sound.” write Rose Eveleth of Smithsonian Magazine
“ … In the anechnoic chamber, you don’t have any cues,” Orfield told the Daily Mail. “You take away the perceptual cues that allow you to balance and manoeuvre. If you’re in there for half an hour, you have to be in a chair.”
I believe that is the thing with silence. With sitting with ourselves. Even with filling blank pages with our thoughts.
By venturing into the deep unknown within ourselves we can all find the things we have trapped, lost, discarded and rejected. The things once too painful and real that we banish them into unknowable parts of ourselves. Treasures and pieces so locked away behind walls of hurt, shame and blame that they become almost inaccessible.
In the silence, while alone, we can heal.
Make space, confront those hidden and harsh truths, be the change in your life and your family.
Sitting in silence reflecting on our families is bound to bring up painful hidden unknown feelings and memories. As we dive deep into ourselves our mind will unlock the things that were too harsh and painful. The things that it has chosen to protect itself (You) from.
We all pick up the tools to do life from our parents. We naturally copy their style, their thoughts, their ideals, their ways of being in the world. It only makes sense. We have lived with these people and have watched them navigate the world, cruising around the tragedies of life.
They have made it, they arrived in their own way.
But we, the children. Are the ones left in the wake, left to suffer and pick up the pieces. Living in the aftermath of their choices, good and bad…
By thinking deeply about the painful things we have experienced while growing up, we can have deeper connection with our parents.
We can put ourselves in their shoes, change our perspective, and begin to have some powerful empathy towards our own parents.
The choices they made suddenly make sense.
Some of the ways we communicate suddenly make sense.
From there, we can begin to unlock where the automatic reactions we have come from.
We can begin to see ourselves, unfiltered, free of our own biases. Objectively.
We can then change. We can be better.
We can do better for our children.
Simple work, but costly.
Working on ourselves though, is the best way to make a fast impact with our children.
It softens us. It makes us more aware.
Ok, let’s be real… Being kind to our children can be annoying.
How many times do we need to say the same thing? How long does it take to sink in? What makes you think doing that is ok right now?! . . . on and on… and on and on and on and on . . .
SO, now. Kindness. How do we show that in those moments ?
If we are in the kitchen, and for the fifty millionth time find an empty jar in the fridge that isn’t on the list to buy a replacement…
First of all, PERSPECTIVE… What could have lead to the jar being there?
-Is there on in the cupboard to replace it?
– WE could have put it there.
– Maybe we had a friend or partner that did it.
– the child probably did it again…
Now, why would someone do it… Step into their SHOES…
– Maybe someone was in a rush, or stressed and put it in without thinking…
– Maybe they thought there was enough left in for more toast the way they butter
– Maybe someone interrupted and distracted them.
After coming up with a few versions of the story we can check our ATTITUDES.
– Why are we mad about this?
– Does it matter?
– Should it ruin my day?
– Do I want to take this out on everyone else?
– Can I solve the problem?
With some Time, some Perspective, walking in someone else’s Shoes, and checking all of the Attitudes there’s nothing that we can’t handle.
Simple, but costly.
Once we have practice putting ourselves into other people’s shoes, and thinking like them a little, we can’t help but be radically kind.
From the perspective of someone struggling through a situation, how can we be frustrated with almost any choice anyone makes?
There is always a positive spin. And that positive spin is what we NEED to believe in (… while also being realistic and preparing for the negative.)
We can make it like a game,
dancing between the negative
while balancing the positives.
Practising radical kindness.
Radical kindness is looking at the world, imagining how they could be struggling, and treating them as we would expect to be treated.
Anything we feel we “deserve” is now something we must give.
If on our worst day everyone should get out of our way,
now we are the person giving everyone space.
If we don’t like being talked at in the morning while we wake up,
now we don’t talk to the tired person at night trying to relax…
Practice on your children 🙂
That will change the relationship, and usually changes the annoying behaviour.
If we are continually putting ourselves in other people’s shoes, thinking the best in every situation and practising radical kindness we are naturally going to be concerned for other.
We are going to imagine their situations and happenstance with clearer and clearer detail the more they share. As we see these things we have a choice.
Do we tell them what we see, or do we just make accommodations for them?
– Filling the gap
If we decide to make a difference, we are in the perfect vantage point.
With our child we can now talk through the things noticed. By doing this we know we are not just pushing our ways and feelings onto our child. We are trying to raise an individual, with their own thoughts and feelings and decisions.
This is part of teaching them how to do that. Teaching them HOW to think for themselves, How to recognise their own emotions.
The goal is to guide them through this process. To be there for them and to give them direction.
These are some ideas and options.
Drop a message below and let everyone know how you relax
or how you deal with the tough times!
Part II coming soon…