Being a better parent sounds like a massive undertaking, doesn’t it? In order to change things you need to take a class, or read a handful of books, or just spend a lot of time figuring it out. I say you can do this without nearly so much hassle.
One of the reasons people don’t change habits is their perception of the task. They see their goal of being a “better parent” and immediately see looming mountain in their mind. Um, no. Can’t do that. Way too hard.
So here’s a different idea. you still have to be thoughtful, but we’ll break the elephant down a bite at a time so you can really see what you need to do. Make sure you move through this exercise with some speed. Chances are good you can identify the most difficult problems without thinking too hard.
- Take a piece of paper and quickly jot down three or four behaviors or situations that cause you the most stress as a parent. The key is to be as specific with the behaviors and thoughts as possible. That’s where you’ll be making the changes.
- Take situation or behavior #1. What is your role in the situation? What are you feeling when this happens? Who is involved? How often is this repeated? Does is usually come out the same way each time?
- What is the very beginning moment of the problem? This is important because you can start to change your behavior right here. Even if you aren’t the one that starts the situation, you know what the beginning looks like. Choosing a different reaction or emotional state right here can make a big impact.
- Consider making one different choice than what you normally do. Instead of saying the same old thing, excuse yourself for two minutes to compose yourself and come back. Take one full deep breath before you talk. Say one positive thing to the other person or yourself before you get involved. Just consider one thing you could do differently to change the dynamics.
Repeat this process for the other situations you have written down. It’s very possible you could use some of the same “different choices” (as listed in #4) for the other problems. Or you might find other parallels such as who is involved, emotional reactions, etc. Wherever you can find patterns, you have the ability to influence more than one problem with a similar approach.
It might take you a little more than 5 minutes the first time through, and that’s OK. But once you have run through one situation you might find it easier to figure out where to make your impact.
Even if your problem doesn’t completely improve, just one or two small positive changes can help. Try it today and be a better parent – it only takes a few minutes.
Readers, what kinds of small adjustments have you made to improve your parenting? I often find that my tone and demeanor is important. Also just holding my tongue can be helpful! Tell your stories and ideas here.