Parenting Toolbox Thought: If you think about today as having thousands of small choices, you can begin to believe that change in your family is possible. If you only look at the day as one way or the other, you limit yourself and make life continue to feel impossible. Be aware of the choices that present themselves every few minutes and take a thoughtful step in a different direction toward a better destination for your family relationships. 

Parenting Self-Talk: Improving Your Parenting By What You Say To Yourself

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.

A new spin on “Parents Day”?

Quick survey: What if we turned the tables on our kids for Mothers and Fathers Day and sent them a card or gave them a gift sharing our positive hopes for their lives and speak INTO them the gifting and destinies we see in them. I know, this sounds very “spiritual” and perhaps, to a few, just stupid. Perhaps it is both and I am not wanting to deny anyone their breakfast in bed or super cute hand drawn mothers/fathers day card. You still deserve those.

Over the years, however, as I look at parenting and family relationship I see the amount of entitlement we have around these days. Do they really have to be performed in the way that American culture dictates they should be on the Hallmark commercials? Can we use our parenting powers for good and take this day as an open door into our children’s hearts and characters? 

What would this look like and what are some creative ways to execute this in our parent/child relationships? 

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17 Parenting Lessons From ‘Downton Abbey’

Like so much of the nation, we are caught in “Downton Abbey’s” thrall. Sunday evenings have been transformed from the dreaded night when preparation for the following week begins to Downton Night, a blissful evening of mindless, Edwardian fun. But is it mindless? Layered into Julian Fellowes’ crackling dialogue are some of the best parenting lessons of the last 90 years. Looking on from our American 21st-century vantage point we feel that Lord and Lady Grantham and their brood have taught us a few things. [Watch out – spoilers below!]

1. Grandparents have a crucial role to play in any family as dispensers of wisdom and healers of souls. No one can put a situation into perspective better than someone who has seen seven decades pass. In times of pain and panic, it is the Dowager who is needed most.

2. If we do not change with the times and listen to those much younger than ourselves – our children in particular, even when they seem callow and naive – we will soon become obsolete. The world is spinning on and we must listen to the young or risk forever being a prisoner of 1923 or 2013. Even without a sneak peak of Episode Six, it is clear that Robert better start listening to Matthew.

3. We mustn’t wait until caught in the grips of grieving to tell our siblings how much they mean to us. The sibling relationship is life’s longest, and we would be fools take it for granted.

4. A home is truly only a building, even if it is Downton Abbey. Losing it or any other possessions matters little compared to losing those we love. We did not shed a tear when we thought the family would lose their beloved Downton; the same cannot be said of Sybil’s passing.

5. If our child finds true love (or friendship), whether or not the object of that love is someone we would have selected, we must rejoice for them. A seeming gentleman might jilt our daughter at the altar, but a good man will love her until her last breath. One need only look at the sad episode of Edith and Anthony versus the true love shared by Sybil and Tom.

6. Our children need and deserve our understanding and forgiveness – true forgiveness, even when they have done wrong. We love them and that love must transcend their mistakes. Mary’s painful transgression with Kemal Pamuk did not deprive her of her father’s love.

7. Never underestimate the power of a well-chosen few words. Speaking softly but strongly can have amazing results. The Dowager and Dr. Clarkson chose their words judiciously so that even though Cora’s heart was breaking, she was not alone.

8. People can reinvent themselves – just give them a chance to prove that they’ve changed, and avoid being judgmental and closed-minded, as the family was with Ethel.

9. When our deepest gut feeling tells us that there is something wrong with our child, even when experts may not agree, we need to follow our gut. Watching our child for a lifetime, through all of its up and downs, makes us an expert. No one knew Sybil better than her own mother.

10. Turning on those we love at life’s worst moments – although perhaps understandable in our rage – will only magnify our grief. True consolation and understanding come from those we love the most, as Robert and Cora learn.

11. If someone truly cares for us, we should give them the chance to show how much. It is amazing what good things happen when we let love into our lives, as Daisy did with Mr. Mason.

12. When things are difficult, it helps to have someone to talk to honestly. True friendships are one of life’s greatest gifts. We must not keep our problems bottled up inside. Where would Mrs. Hughes be without the loyal Mrs. Patmore?

13. We should teach our children to have faith in the people they love, even at the worst of times, like Anna and Mr. Bates.

14. If we have different rules and standards for our sons and daughters, things will not go well. If Mary could have inherited Downton Abbey, the show might have ended after the first season.

15. We must teach our children to be careful with their trust and alliances. Some who appear to be their friends will betray them. It is hard to know if someone is an O’Brien or a Thomas.

16. The loyalty and love of our children is one of life’s greatest blessings, never to be taken lightly. Mary’s loyalty to her father, when he is right and even when he is wrong, is a source of comfort and strength.

17. We don’t need to like or even approve of everything our children do, but we can still offer encouragement. When our children’s passions emerge and they show real enterprise, they need us as their supporters. It is hard not to imagine that someday Robert will be proud of a daughter who is a successful journalist.

This is actually some good advice, LOL.