Do you ever wish that you had a map for being the mother or father that you truly desire to be? Did the role models that you had as a child demonstrate more about how NOT to be as a parent than how TO BE? Those “I will never act that way!” childhood declarations that I made about my parents certainly backfired! When I become a mother, I was stunned at how my spontaneous reactions to challenges – especially my young daughter saying “No!” – were so different from how I wanted to be or how I imagined I would be. In those moments when I wasn’t my best self as a mom, I became less approachable and less open-hearted even though I wanted to be that approachable, present, warm mom for my daughter. I set out to become that mom, and there are ways to shake things up so that you become the parent you truly want to be. Here are some ideas for making your own map!
First thing, develop your self-compassion for being an imperfect parent. We are all imperfect parents. Judging your imperfections keeps you locked into the behavior that you desire to improve upon rather than freeing you to creatively see options for change. Acknowledge those parts of yourself that may be messy or ugly – those places that you may spend a lot of energy hiding from yourself and others. You don’t have to like those places. Simply acknowledge them and lighten up when you find yourself judging. We humans are judgement machines. As Pam Dunn of Your Infinite Life Training & Coaching Company recommends, judge the beauty and have compassion for the shortcomings, especially your own! If you find yourself judging your shortcomings, think of three things that you admire or like about yourself. Think of three successes, no matter how small. Put Brene Brown’s The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You're Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are on your nightstand and read it daily.
Secondly, understand that improving your relationship with your children – or your mother, spouse, or colleague – means taking a look inside to discover, accept, and improve aspects of yourself. That means slowing down, getting comfortable with mistakes (yep!), and getting vulnerable. This in itself is a process of growth that can shake things up considerably. Stick with it. Stick with being more conscious and mindful. Pam Dunn’s It’s Time to Look Inside is the perfect read along with Brene Brown’s Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead. Attend Freedom to Be: A Life Embracing Experience to truly enhance your comfort with mistakes and vulnerability. Get a coach to guide you through the process.
Getting down to the nitty gritty, identify what you feel shabby about in your relationship with your child. Where would you like to show up as your best self? For example, it might be feeling shabby for yelling when your daughter wanted to change her clothes right before leaving for school; for telling your son to buck up when he lost his soccer game; for minimizing the hurt your daughter felt when she wasn’t invited to a party; or for forgetting an event that was important to your child. Where ever you feel shabby, be specific.
Then, take the time to reflect on what was going on with you in the moment. What story were you telling yourself? Were you thinking that you didn’t have enough time; were you feeling scared about how to handle your child’s big emotion; did your child’s feelings of hurt bring up your own memories of feeling left out; or were you embarrassed that you forgot that important event? Were you up against images of how your child ‘should’ be rather than how they are? Explore what was going on inside of you. Get curious.
After reflecting, reframe your “shabby behavior” into how you wish to show up. Do you want to show up with more patience, as a great listener, as a deep empathizer? Do you want to be more focused or more loving? Again, be specific. A great way to discover your new way is to visualize what happened with your child in the way that you would have wanted it to be. Your daughter wants to change her clothes when you are ready to walk out the door to take her to school. Re-imagine it with you being the parent you truly want to be. Your son lost his soccer game or your daughter wasn’t invited to the big party. Visualize listening with empathy. You forgot the event that was important to your child. Visualize taking responsibility and letting them know how you will do it differently the next time. See yourself repairing the relationship.
Now, write your re-frame down. I am a great listener. I am patient. I am focused. I am loving. Whatever your reframe, write it down.
Over the next few weeks, say it out loud to yourself 50 times a day. Say it looking at yourself in the mirror in the morning. Say it in the car when you are stuck in traffic. Say it before you go to bed. You ARE what you wrote down. Along the way, you just forgot. Saying it out loud will remind you.
Begin to notice all of the times that you ARE a great listener or patient or focused or loving. Each time, notice and encourage yourself. If you slip up, remind yourself with compassion of who you are.
This is you creating your own map. It is bringing to consciousness how you want to show up as your best self (your destination), encouraging yourself when you do (when you are on your chosen route), and lightly reminding yourself when you don’t (when you take the wrong side road). It is a practice that will take root. It is a practice that will teach you about your children, yourself, and your parents. Congratulations on setting out on your path! Blaze your own trail!