By Ron Huxley, LMFT
How you feel about yourself as a parent has a lot to do with how you talk to yourself. I’m not inferring that you have mental disorder or that you hear voices. I often tease friends and family members when I catch them talking to themselves if they are answering themselves too. Everyone talks to themselves with little awareness of it. Self-talk is automatic and carried out repeatedly through the waking hours. Hidden behind parents self-talk are their thoughts which are rational and
irrational. Rational thoughts create positive, realistic feelings and behaviors. Irrational thoughts create negative, unrealistic feelings and behaviors.
Most parents assume that events around them produce these feelings. You can see examples of this in young children who say, “You make me angry!” The reality is that events cannot make you feel anything. Situations can
be stressful but they cannot dictate our emotions. Take, for example, the parent who becomes angry at her children for running around the grocery store while another parent just brushes it off as “having too
much energy” with no feelings of anger. Regardless of whether children should be running around the store, attitudes determine parents emotional and behavioral reactions.
These thoughts get expressed in our self-talk which, in turn, reinforce our thinking. Changing our thoughts, and by that some of our negative feelings and behaviors, can be as easy as changing what parents say to themselves. By easy, I mean, they can be consciously controlled. Like anything, parents must make them a regular part of their daily routine till positive self-talk comes naturally.
Some examples of negative self-talk would be:
“I am a mean mother.”
“I never get a moment to my self.”
“Everyone takes, takes, takes and no one gives to me.”
In contrast, some examples of positive self-talk would be:
“I sometimes make mistakes but I always try to be the best mom I can be.”
“I deserve to take some time for my self and not feel guilty.”
“Children need to learn boundaries and respect.”
“Although it is nice to be appreciated, I do not have to have the approval of my family to feel good.”
The first examples overgeneralized and focused on the negative part of parenting. It is easy to focus on the problems. Finding solutions and positive reframes of the parenting job is much harder. To help, parents
can make a self-talk plan.
A self-talk plan empowers parents to look at the positive aspects of parenting or view it in a new light. Parents can identify several situations which usually produce negative or distressing feelings. Next, parents can identify their automatic thoughts and feelings about those situations by listening to what they say to themselves. And finally,
parents can create more positive ways of talking to themselves about those situations. Here is an example:
1. Children walk through the house with dirty shoes (distressing situations).
2. My kids have no respect for me or how hard I work around here (automatic thought).
3. I know how hard I have worked and I need to provide consequences for walking through the
house with dirty shoes (positive reframe).
Every time a parent starts to feel those negative emotions bubbling up, they must stop immediately and evaluate what they were just saying to themselves before
the emotions started. Most of the time this will be the self-talk that needs changing. Here are some more positive self-talk statements:
“I am a good parent.”
“I do the best I can.”
“I may make mistakes but that does not determine my worth.”
“It is O.K. if I feel frustrated or anxious. Emotions will pass as quickly as they come.”
“I am not helpless. I have people and resources to call upon if I need to.”
“This is an opportunity to teach my children about life and not ‘the end.’”
“I just need to take one step at a time and everything that can be done will be.”
“I can stay calm when my family members are being difficult.”
“I can get my child’s cooperation without having to threaten or yell.”
“He/she is responsible for their actions and feelings, not me.”
“In the long run, who will remember anyway.”
“In the big scheme of things, this is really a very small matter.”
“Other people’s opinions are not important to me.”
“I do not need other people’s approval to feel good about myself.”
“I won’t put pressure on my self to be the perfect parent.”
“I will not make assumptions about my families actions. I will ask them directly.”
“I will not react, but act on problems with my children.”
“I can still enjoy life, even if it is hard.”
“I will respect others even if they do not show me respect.”
“I do not have to be abused or mistreated. I can change my life to be more satisfying.”
In addition to using these self-talk statements, read books like “Don’t sweat the small stuff. It is all small stuff" and others that encourage positive affirmations. Daily reading materials, spiritual texts and devotionals, and songs can also change what you say to yourself so that you can change your parenting experience.