You look in the mirror and say to yourself – “It’s going to be different this year. I am tired of feeling like a crappy parent at the end of the day and that means something has to change”. But where to start?
Maybe you’re thinking this will be the year where you stop yelling.
Or maybe you’ll stop making their beds, lunches, wiping 5-year old butts, or orchestrating homework plans.
Maybe it’s the year of more family connection and family meetings and less devices and empty conversations with your teen.
More joy. More memories. More appreciating. More kids helping. More peace in the house. More of what you want and less of what makes parenting hard for you and the kids.
Truth: there’s no magic wand for turning your wishes into reality. Just like the kids don’t grow out of their bad habits – (they grow into them); You won’t grow out of yelling, nagging, reminding, threatening, begging or whatever it is that you are currently doing that doesn’t qualify as stellar parenting simply by “promising” to do better.
That fire in the belly attitude that has us ready to become the parent we know we can be is burning bright. There’s 100% genuine intent – you’re committed, no doubt. But then, just as inevitably as the resolutions are made, they start to crumble.
I’m not saying resolutions don’t happen (change comes to those who try!), but when change DOES happen, there’s something far more powerful than motivation, inspiration and drive leading the way.
The change is fueled by NEW THINKING.
Here’s what works to bring new thinking and actually see the dial move in the new year:
1. What I Want
I start with the problem and what I want to see happen: For example,
I want to replace my yelling at the kids with a more respectful form of communication.
2. Identify WHY
Try to identify why you use your unproductive behavior (in this case, yelling at the kids)
I yell when I am at my wits end and I don’t think anyone is listening to me.
[Keep digging deeper…] …and well – in all honesty – my feelings are hurt. Yes, under all the manufactured anger, I feel hurt. Holy shit – why don’t they LISTEN to me?!
3. Does it work?
Help find some extra evidence in why the behavior needs to change. Ie. is it working? Does it bring you results you desire?
With the yelling example, ask yourself, does yelling work? It doesn’t. Oh sure, you can get your kids to hop to it when you reach 10 decibels, but that’s not the same as saying “yelling works”. It doesn’t work if what you are looking for is long lasting, sustainable change. So if you want to change, and you know the yelling isn’t working – what’s tripping you up? Why can’t you just “let it go”?
Either fear or a faulty belief is influencing your parenting decision which means you are being held hostage to old ideas which include yelling as a viable parenting strategy. Let me say right now, these fears and beliefs of ours can be buried deep and can be difficult to sniff out. Be patient and think of this as an archeological dig. You are looking for the treasure that will explain why your knee jerk reaction is to yell at the kids. Here are just a few I have collected over the years from parents I’ve worked with:
• Yelling equates to leadership and my authority (HUH?)
• If I yell long enough and loud enough it will work one day and then I can use my inside voice (Ummm….not gonna happen)
• My kids only respond to yelling (I wonder what would happen if all you did was whisper?)
• Things will get so much worse if I start talking to them like they care and understand what I am saying (Why do we forget that kids are people first? The things that work with adults, work with kids!).
Here is the big, get out of jail and change your fricking mindset question:
What would happen if I started to talk to my kids the way I talk to my friends and my co-workers? What if I absolutely could not, under any circumstances start screeching at my kids any more than I could at my co-workers?
Bingo – You’ve begun the journey to a new way of thinking. If you spend another 24 hours thinking about this, you might find that you like the idea. It provides an improvement in your life. You haven’t done anything yet. You’ve just let yourself absorb this new way of thinking. Kick it around to make sure it can stand the test. Try out scenarios and notice if you’re open to the possibility that this might actually work. After all, you would be more inclined to cooperate with people who spoke to your respectfully, than those that yelled at you. Maybe the same is true for the kids…
Can you see that what you’re doing is deconstructing the way you looked at the yelling? Nothing complicated. After 24 hours, you’ll be ready to “try” it – just once, to see how you feel when you do it. You can’t base your decision on how the kids respond, but on how you feel about yourself when you choose NOT to yell. You’ll probably notice it means you’re in control.
So, pick a time or a situation, where you’re usually reduced to yelling. Be aware. Decide not to parent from auto-pilot. This small shift changes everything. You’re thinking, you’re in control, you’re doing something different.
What you DO isn’t nearly as important as what happened before the doing. Most parents find themselves spending too much time on the “doing” and not enough time on the “change my thinking”. If you know me, you know that I am, by nature, lazy. And I do not like to waste my time on crap that doesn’t work. If this didn’t work, do you think I would be using it? Fat chance. I would continue to yell and screech every hour of the day.
This year, let your thinking be your guide. Don’t like where your head is headed? Cop a squat, breathe a bit, and then challenge your thinking. By the time you stand up, you’ll have a new path to travel and you just might find your bliss on the road to “screech free parenting”.