Don't Believe Everything You Think
"More often than not, fear doesn’t emerge as nail-biting, cold-feet terror, but surfaces instead as anger, perfectionism, pessimism, low-level anxiety, depression, and feelings of isolation. In these many disguises, fear can permeate life, leaving room for little else. It morphs from one pseudoemotion to another, rarely declaring itself, poisoning each moment it touches." -- Dan Baker, Ph.D.
You may think your moods just come out of nowhere. But scientists now believe that moods are mostly a response to what we think, usually without even noticing.
A thought flits through our mind ("My child should be more like that other child") and in response we feel a little anxious or sad. Those feelings make us more likely to think another negative thought ("Is there something wrong with him?...It must be my fault...If only I were a better parent...") Before we know it, we're plunged into a bad mood, running on our own anxiety. And we create more negativity in our day, and in our interaction with our child.
So those bad moods and cranky days are often created by our own minds. But why is the mind prone to negativity? Because the human mind is responsible for keeping us safe. So it's always scanning for danger, to keep us from shame, embarrassment, failure. The mind gets stuck in the bad habit of focusing on the negative and constantly triggers our internal alarms. The problem is that we accept what the mind says as gospel! And those thoughts might not even be true.
Notice how often fearful thoughts cause unhappy emotions:
"If he doesn’t start using the potty, he’ll never be able to start school."
"I just know she won’t stay in bed tonight and I’ll end up screaming at her again."
"How will she ever make it in college if I'm having to check up on her homework so much?"
"If I don’t do something drastic to stop this behavior right now my kid will grow up to be a criminal!”
Most of the times when we feel bad about ourselves as parents, it's because we've acted from fear. Fear is what pulls us off the high road and onto the low road of parenting. Fear is what makes us hard on ourselves and our children. Fear is what makes us anxious and angry. When we give fear a foothold in one area, it has a way of taking over our lives.
So every human mind generates fear much of the time, unless we "retrain" the mind. Without conscious management on our parts, fear can permeate our thoughts -- and poison our relationships with our children. That’s why fear has to be consciously confronted. How?
1. Notice your thoughts. Stop. Take a breath. Notice all that chatter in your mind. Notice how often your interpretation of events is automatically negative: "If only I were more organized, things like this wouldn't happen!"..."I just know she's going to give me a hard time about this."... "I really blew it this time!" Our minds get into a rut of worry or resentment. Don't let it get you down. Becoming aware of these thoughts is the first step toward changing them. Once we notice, we stop automatically believing and acting on our thoughts. We have a choice.
2. Reframe the thought. Notice each and every negative thought and transform it. Yes, even if it's "true." There is ALWAYS another, more empowering way to see the situation, which is at least as true. "It's not an emergency"...."Nobody's perfect"...“No, my child will not grow up to be a criminal"...."He’s acting like a kid because he IS a kid"… "All kids sleep through the night sooner or later"…"No high school kid is in diapers.”
3. Go positive. When you find yourself manufacturing negative scenarios, reprogram your unconscious mind by suggesting a happier ending: “Wouldn’t it be nice if this evening everything went smoothly at bedtime? Wouldn’t it be nice if tonight I stayed calm and cheerful and knew just what to do?” Imagine what you want to have happen. You’ll be surprised at how happy your unconscious mind is to oblige.