Why is parenting so frustrating and overwhelming? It's not your child's behavior, but the way you're thinking about it that's really the problem. A shift in thinking is the difference between failure and success (and the joy you can experience).
All too often when parenting issues come up with my clients there is one main underlying problem. We start out addressing issues of disobedience, arguing among siblings, lying, tantrums – just to name a few favorites - but it all comes back to the same thing.
So, what's the problem? An underlying thought, belief, or fear that you are a crappy mom.
As a mom of 3 I'm not immune to this thought, but thankfully I'm equipped with the tools to see what's going on in my head (and redirect my brain).
Yesterday I was feeling a bit vulnerable - I was tired and facing a personally challenging situation. We were visiting family and my kids were the only ones fighting. Yes, the only ones. Like cats and dogs.
Because I was feeling vulnerable I didn't see the fighting for what it was. Instead I started to make it mean that I was a crappy mom. For those of you who have had that fear of inadequacy and failure as a parent sink into your gut – you know the feeling. I was so mad. Furious actually. I had to put a stop to this and show them this was not okay. I was determined… I may have been a crappy parent up to this point, but NOW I was putting my foot down!
Here's how this usually plays out:
Kids do something they shouldn't do
You start to blame yourself and think you must be a crappy mom (p.s. you may not notice these thoughts… but you'll notice the feelings below…)
You feel inadequate, angry, shameful, or like a complete failure
You lose it. You might cry or yell – depending on your flavor of "losing it."
You have just proven to yourself that you are a crappy mom. After all, if you were a good mom would you really fall apart like that?
Notice that you can insert a million different things into "something they shouldn't do," and the rest is all the same. You see, it's not really what your kids are doing, but how you are THINKING about what they are doing that creates the experience for you (and usually exacerbates the problem).
How you think about your child's behavior is really important to understand. The way you think about their behavior can be the difference between being effective, relaxed and confident or being ineffective, stressed out and discouraged.
Let's see what might happen in this same situation when someone has a different pattern of thinking:
Kids do something they shouldn't
You think he/she is going through a phase.
You feel curious about how you'll get through it or how to help them.
You do a trial and error of solutions. It's all an experiment with the best of intentions.
You make it through. After all, it was just a phase.
The circumstance was the same; however the thoughts and feelings created a completely different outcome and experience for you.
So, here's your starting point, mom - start to notice how you think about your child's misbehavior. If your thoughts about it create worry, anger or shame, you probably need to reassess your thinking.
How can you think about misbehavior instead? Can you get curious? Can you think of times you've had great success as a parent and apply it? What natural consequences might your child experience?
Curiosity is my favorite way to problem solve. Curiosity always opens my mind to new solutions and relieves the sense of doom and gloom.
It's also a good idea to remind yourself of all the ways you are a great mom. Sometimes we have to talk ourselves down off the ledge – honestly, think of all the sleepless nights, the selfless acts and all that you have taught your kids. Being hard on yourself is not noble, it's really just indulging in emotions of self-pity, and it's not useful.
Keep in mind, the only perfect thing about motherhood is that it was never meant to be perfect to begin with. It's all a journey – your journey as much as it is your kids. You're in it, and you won't quit - that's success in my book - keep at it mom!
Molly Freestone is a Life Coach focusing on motherhood, phase of life-transitions, home success, and improving relationships. She offers coach-by-phone programs and delights in watching her clients create a satisfying life. www.mollyfreestone.com