The most common pattern I see in parents who are reactive towards their kids is they are hard on themselves.
Many of us believe that in order to do better in life we must be hard on ourselves.
You might be thinking…nah…that’s not me…but let’s just entertain this for a moment to see if this really holds true for you.
Do you find yourself feeling frustrated when your “to do” list does not get done?
Do you ever walk around the house seeing the mess or disorganization and think negative thoughts about how you really need to get that done?
Do you ever feel shame washing over you when your kid does something “wrong” or “disrespectful” in public?
Do you ever find yourself feeling like you’re failing as a parent after you have gotten so angry at your kids?
If you answered yes to any of the above questions, then you are likely someone who is hard on yourself.
***Watch my video here for the rest of this talk, or keep reading below if you prefer to read.***
But wait - you may say…Being frustrated at any of the above situations does not mean I’m hard on myself. That’s natural, isn’t it?
Well - let me ask you this…When situations like the above happen, how do you treat yourself?
When your “to do” list or “house organization/cleaning” does not get done, do you find yourself saying things like: I just don’t have enough time! Why can’t I be more organized?!
Or do you feel the stress and pressure mounting, perhaps thinking “I really need to work harder or do better tomorrow” or “Ugh, I just can’t seem to get enough done! Pffft!?
Or when your kid melts down, swears or won’t share his toys in public situations, do you feel like an inadequate parent, that you can’t seem to get your kid to be respectful and kind? Do you take on this responsibility or blame yourself?
If shame is washing over you in those moments, then you are likely blaming yourself.
You see - much of the behaviour of being hard on yourself is very unconscious and we are not always aware it’s happening. That is, you don’t realize consciously that you are being hard on yourself, but it is showing up subtly in your feeling state, thoughts and actions.
And most of us don’t like to stay in the state of shame or self-blame for very long as this is a life-sucking emotional state, so we end up moving up into anger, which is more mobilizing and energy-giving…And this means we move into the state of blame, blaming our kids for not being better, being hard on them for not being more kind and respectful or working harder.
And this is the cycle that many of us parents find ourselves stuck in.
We think we are doing ourselves a favor by being hard on ourselves.
We think we are doing our kids a service by being hard on them - because then they will learn to do better too, right?
And believe me, I get it…I used to be this way too, and can still drop into the unconscious subtleties of being hard on myself when it comes to my work or mothering.
It’s an ongoing process of changing this deeply ingrained, unconscious belief that “I must be hard on myself to do better and be better in life."
But let me ask you this - Does being hard on yourself (or your kids) work 100% of the time?
Does telling yourself you’re a mom who can’t seem to get her kid to behave or do better (hence something must be wrong with you) help you to do something that changes this situation for the better? I’m guessing no.
Does telling your kid (or more likely getting angry at them and shaming them) help them to do better and be better 100% of the time? Maybe some of the time it works, but I’m betting most of the time it does not.
This is because being hard on yourself or your kids does not work to help yourself or your kids to do better and be better.
Let me explain why.
We have all been taught through generations past (family culture), societal culture and media, educational and religious institutions that as humans, we must be hard on yourself when we do wrong, make mistakes, or fail…Because this is the only way we will do better.
If you think about it, as a kid, when you did something wrong or disobeyed the rules, what type of reaction were you met with? My guess is you were given disapproval, rejection, punishment and even shaming. Then you likely got a lecture and pressure to do better.
When we have these kinds of experiences as kids, we automatically make meaning from this…And the meaning we make is 'I must be hard on myself because I am inherently bad' (because I did a bad thing).
Not, 'I did a bad thing, and it wasn’t great, but I am still a good person, so I can learn from this and not have to be so hard on myself.’
Do you see the difference?
The problem with continuing on this path of being unconsciously hard on yourself is that you remain unconsciously stressed - a lot.
And the more you feel this ongoing, under the radar, stress in your system, the more you are primed to be reactive towards your kids.
In fact, many of us, in situations of life today that seem to be getting busier, and we just can’t keep up with our to-do lists, keep our kids behaviors in check, or keep our homes organized, are walking around with elevated stress levels, waiting to be released like ticking time bombs that our kids just happen to push the button on, and boom - we blow!
Being hard on yourself, therefore, becomes a recipe for more anger and stress, with no solutions.
The only solution is to change this deeply ingrained way of being…this long-standing pattern that was thrown onto you, or absorbed by your through osmosis when you were younger. You actually never chose to be this way - it just got programmed into you!
You see - it’s not your fault. This pattern of being hard on ourselves is deeply ingrained into our cells (the science of epigenetics tells us this can be so).
But you can choose - today - to change this pattern once and for all.
And the solution to changing this pattern is taking on a new pattern or habit instead - and that is the practice of Self-Compassion.
Self-compassion is truly my hero.
I used to dream of my husband being my hero. LOL. He would laugh at that too! That’s another subconscious belief I took on through Disney movies telling me a man can be my hero. Talk about a lot of pressure for our husbands! Ha!
But no…alas, I learned that my true hero is right inside of me.
Me bringing self-compassion…to ME.
Mindful Self-Compassion is the amazing work of Dr. Kristin Neff, who has done extensive research in this field (she is a “sHero” to me!), and has proven that the way to truly be better and do better in life is through this work of self-compassion.
Self-Compassion is the practice of bringing loving kindness to yourself when you are struggling or when you notice you are having negative thoughts about yourself (or your kids - because when we think negatively about our kids, we are indirectly being hard on ourselves as it always leaves us feeling pretty bad).
When we practice self-compassion, it activates the self-care network in our brain, and calms our body and nervous system, which then allows us to have a more nurturing experience in the face of our stress.
Being hard on ourself brings more stress to the stress that’s already there. Bringing loving kindness and compassion to ourselves for our struggles brings a new experience of soothing and care to the stress, which helps us to feel safe in the face of it, which then helps us to become more resilient and bounce back faster too.
* Compassion inhibits fear, activates courage, increases motivation
* Helps tolerate difficult emotions and distress better
* Changes the body’s stress response in the brain and body
* Improves resiliency of life’s challenges
* Improves mental health: anxiety, depression, rumination
* Increases intrinsic motivation and desire to learn and grow
* Less fear of failure, more likely to try again and persist in efforts after failure
* Helps people to engage in healthier behaviors
* Creates feelings of safety and self-love
It’s like a muscle: If practiced regularly, you can strengthen it, and it can change your response to stress and your relationship with yourself to one that is more supportive.
It’s a way of nurturing ourselves so that we can reach our full potential.
And when you can do this for yourself, then guess what? You can do this for your child too…And teach them a new way of being where they actually can help themselves do better and be better with kindness and compassion (instead of develop a big ‘ol inner critic like the one you may have from your parents’ critical voices).
And when they can do this for themselves, then guess what? They can become the kind, compassionate, respectful human beings you want them to be, and help others too.
So, whenever you find yourself saying “ugh, I didn’t get my to-do list done!” or “oh my goodness, this house is so messy, I just can’t find the time to do it all!” or some sneaky inner critic thoughts are popping up causing you to feel shameful about your parenting, or you are sitting in guilt and shame after a blow up with your kids…JUST STOP….and do this instead:
Put your hand on your heart
Notice the negative thoughts or the feeling of stress in your body.
Say to yourself: This is a moment of suffering. I am not alone. Many parents feel this way. It is ok for me to feel this way. I can support myself here and now.
Bring a warmth, or some love to your suffering.
Ok, so I realize some of you may be thinking: that’s it? That’s going to change this deep seated long-lived pattern of self-hardship?
And what I will say to that is YES! It will.
But you will have parts of you that may fight it, or feel really uncomfortable being this way as it may feel so foreign to you (especially if you didn’t have parents who were this way towards you when you were suffering)…and that is totally ok. Baby steps…little bits everyday really wins the race in this case.
Because the challenge is that if you don’t do this, you just end up with more of the same.
You see, being hard on yourself may have got you here (so you might be thinking: if it got me here, then why do I need to change this?), but let me ask you this…
Are you coping and just surviving? Or are you thriving?
Do you experience more stress and anger than joy and peace?
Do you experience deep connection and joy with your kids more than conflict and tension?
Do your kids feel joy being with you more than the stress of your lectures of being hard on them?
These are all signs that what you’re doing now is not working for you. Nor is it working for your kids.
There is proof in the pudding, and I encourage you to eat that pudding today (pudding being self-compassion here).
Give it a try - for at least 21 days to see if things start to shift for you. You will know because you feel less stressed, you become more accepting, and bonus: you become more motivated about life in general!
If you want to learn how to really shift these deeply ingrained unconscious patterns causing you to react, then come join me on my LIVE Webinar, ON THURSDAY DECEMBER 3RD AT 12PM EST, with all brand new content, on the 7 Steps to Transforming Anger - The Conscious Way.
We will be diving deep on the 5 unconscious mistakes we make as parents that cause us to react…You will learn more about your deep programming and how you can shift it so you can really thrive in your life and have more peaceful, connected relationships with your kids.