Have you ever totally LOST IT with your kids and then found yourself shocked at your own behavior wondering how it all happened so fast?
Have you tried practicing Positive Parenting and struggled to actually be positive?
Last week, I talked about the 3 most common challenges parents run into when they switch to Positive Parenting.
Today I’m going deeper into the most challenging aspect of positive parenting, or any kind of parenting really, and that is LOSING OUR SH*T (ahem), tempers.
THAT’S A NICE STORY
Let’s start with a little story. Tell me if any of this sounds familiar.
Here’s a quote from a parenting advice manual on teaching positive self talk to your kids. “If your child spills her milk, you could respond by saying, ‘what a mess. You can handle it.’” That makes sense right? I mean, no use crying over spilt milk. No biggie. It’s milk.
Except, 3 years ago when my 5 year old spilled his milk, my first reaction was ‘Grrr!!!’ And I thought, “I knew that would happen, he never listens to me. I just cleaned the floor and now it’s a mess again, I’m already running late, and if I don’t clean it now it will start to stink”.
As the anger began to well up in me—this time, unlike many others–I actually remembered the good advice and was able to stop myself.
I said, “It’s ok. I know you can clean it up really well. You’ll do a great job with that.”
I said the right thing and followed the advice but the tell was still there. He saw my face when it happened and he felt my emotional reaction. Plus I had lost it a bunch of other times leading up to this point over similar stuff.
Sure, it was better than yelling at him, but the problem was that just because I was bought into the idea of positive parenting, it wasn't enough to override my automatic reactions.
What that looked like for my kid was incongruence. By that I mean that my inner state was not the same as what I was saying it was externally. Kids pick up on that whether they are consciously aware of it or not.
WHAT’S REALLY GOING ON
What’s really going on here is that many of us were brought up with very different parenting styles than the one we are trying to practice. You know what I mean? We were raised with lots of 'don'ts' and 'shouldn’ts'. With reactivity, over reactivity and punishment for making mistakes.
Many of our deepest beliefs and automatic reactions are formed before the age of 4 which means we have deep fears and patterns that got created without us even being aware of it. Patterns that make something like a messy house feel stressful, or even dangerous, things like watching a cup get broken can make us feel deeply afraid.
YOU ARE IN TWO PLACES AT ONCE
Remember earlier when I said that our unconscious mind is here to protect us?
Well there is one more aspect of the unconscious mind that you should know about. It does not know itself as separate from anyone else.
That means it experiences everyone as itself. At the deepest level you literally experience your kids as if they were you.
I’ll talk more about this in future articles but stick with me here, because why this point is important will become clear in a moment.
Let’s go back to why it’s so hard to practice positive parenting when we were raised differently.
If we got punished for things when we were kids, then our brain likely created a whole bunch of associations with kid behavior that when they happen today still trigger fear and the instinct for self protection - except this time it’s not US that are the kids. It’s OUR kids.
This time we are cast into a different role, but your mind still has that automatic fear response, and wants to play out the patterns that got wired up when you were young. Patterns it saw play out as the kid and as the parent.
And because your deep mind doesn’t experience separateness from those around you, when you are reacting at your kid, you are actually reacting at yourself. So you are playing the role of the parent and the child at the same time.
And it’s those old patterns and associations that are driving our reactions without us even realizing it.
HOW I CHANGED MY AUTOMATIC REACTIONS
It wasn’t until I cleaned up my OWN inner talk and deeper beliefs about ME making mistakes and a bunch of other stuff like being respected (i.e. he never listens) and what the state of the house meant about me, etc etc that I was able to really practice the deeper spirit of this very wise approach to parenting.
So how do we do this?
In a minute I’m going to give you 7 things you can do reduce or even stop your over reactions.
But before I do, I want to be straight with you - the real game-changer for me was not conscious practices, it was tapping into hypnotic processes that communicate directly with the unconscious mind. This allowed me to reshape beliefs at their core. Once those beliefs were gone, the triggers went with them. Now, if my son spills milk, it doesn’t phase me, I just hand him a sponge and move on.
This work has been so transformative in our family, that my partner and I now do help other parents rewire their neurology and free themselves of sometimes generations of negative patterns. If you’re curious about how this might help you, check out our personal breakthrough for parents.
7 Practices you can do right now
In the meantime, here are 7 conscious practices you can do right now to make the most out of your positive parenting practice:
Stay Aware: Recognize when you're reacting (or have already reacted) out of habit or past programming. Write down what happened and track back to the moment when you lost it, and then to the moment just before it and notice what you were thinking and feeling. This will help you gain insight into what was really going on and give you a better chance of interrupting that pattern the next time it starts to occur.
See it for what it is: Your reaction is just the best strategy your mind has right now. Thank your mind for trying to protect you and acknowledge that your reaction was actually more about you than your kid. Then pick yourself up and try again.
Be Open and Repair: If you react negatively, talk to your child. Just apologize and reassure them that the issue was not about them. Say you’re sorry and give the a hug.
Notice what you’re doing right! Positive parenting isn’t just for the kids - practice it on yourself and with your self talk. Notice what you are doing right. Thank yourself for putting in the effort to make positive change and to do better than your own parents were able to when you were growing up.
Practice! You want to replace your old automatic reactions with NEW automatic reactions. Practicing those behaviors with your kids and partner are key. Every time you do something differently you're laying a new neural pathway and over time you’ll turn that barely trodden path into a highway. Now doing this is hard when you are triggered, so take this new way of responding and start doing it when you aren’t triggered so that it become familiar. That will make it easier to remember and do at the times when you are triggered.
Reimagine your reactions. Guess what? Your unconscious mind can’t actually distinguish between fantasy and reality. So, Before you go to sleep, replay the moments in the day when you wish you had responded differently, then imagine yourself doing it the new way you want to respond. Replay this 3-5 times. Your brain will experience these visualizations as if they were happening in real life and so you are literally laying new neural pathways when you do this and making it much easier to respond this way the next time.
Stick with it: Practice makes progress, and like any new skill we learn by falling down and trying again and again. However far you get is still better than the alternative. Being willing to put in the work to show up as a better parent and a better human may be the most powerful thing you will ever teach your child.
That’s it for today folks, thanks for being here. If you found this helpful, please let me know and share your thoughts in the comments.
See you next time.
If you are ready to make changes and START loving your life, check out my upcoming program The JoyAlchemy Time Machine. It was a life changer for me and I can’t wait to share it with you.
Jlove, is the Co-Founder of Mercury Coach, a certified Hypnotherapist, NLP Practitioner, parent advocate and coach. She uses tools and wisdom from neuroscience, developmental and positive psychology to help parents break free from false and limiting beliefs and enjoy parenting while they empower their kids to be confident, self reliant and happy.