As humans, we’ve got some impulses that are there for a reason (survival and enjoyment come to mind), but the older we get, we may realize that our ability to become more effective in [all areas of] our lives is tied—to a great extent—to how well we are able to positively control our human-nature impulses and instinctive drives to do whatever we want and feel like doing.
When it comes to child-friendly parenting, we learn fairly quickly that using a reactive approach probably isn’t in our (or our children’s, especially) best interest. So we must learn a new way to do things. The problem is that we may want to do things differently but can’t seem to figure out how. It seems like our impulses and our drives are just too strong to overcome with will-power alone.
Here are a few ways to help yourself (that have been helpful to me) when you are attempting to change unwanted behavior. For me, it’s been important to cultivate a calm, peaceful presence around my children—no matter how childlike they are being. This is extremely difficult to do (as anyone with young children knows well), but it mattered a lot to me to be able to achieve this. I am convinced that participating in more of a “thoughtful response” approach is entirely more effective than reactivity and a go-with-your-feelings approach. I’m still working on some things, but I feel that I have come a long way in a lot of areas. Here’s how I’ve been able to make measurable progress in my growth areas—and I hope that you will find them helpful as you make progress in yours, too.
- Put time in between the potential trigger and your response to it.
As soon as you recognize that you are up against a trigger, immediately put space—in the form of time—between you and the trigger. The goal here is to give yourself the space (in the form of time and perhaps physical proximity so that you can think clearly and so that you can let the urge [to do whatever] subside. The goal here is simply to lengthen your reaction time as it evolves into more of a response time, where you are thinking about how you would actually prefer to proceed—weighing your options—instead of not thinking and just recklessly saying and doing whatever seems to make you feel better but what might not make your children feel better (or what will not actually make the situation better). This is tough, that is true. We are growing out that fuse that we need that truly effective and wise parents have. So we are giving ourselves time in the moment, and we are also giving ourselves time in life—as in, it takes time to change a habit/a mode of behavior, but it will happen if we just give it time and effort over the long haul.
- Make up your mind about it.
As soon as you can distinguish between behavior that you don’t want to participate in anymore and behavior that you do want to participate in, it’s important to make a decision to be what you want to be (even if it’s hard). Make up your mind about it, and stop at nothing to reach your goals. This is all for the benefit of your children, your family, your marriage/co-parenting relationship, and yourself. There is nothing more important in this life than these things except decisions about faith. The path might not be trip-free (like if you stumble over rocks), but that doesn’t mean you can’t still walk the path. Walk it anyway. Get up and keep walking. You’ll want to stop, sit, and turn around. But just keep on walking in the direction you know you need to go in. Decide that you’re doing this, and that’s that. You will still make mistakes because that’s just how it is. But you will also make progress (that will feel so good to make) if you keep going. And if you’re serious about making a change, then you will do whatever it takes.
- Develop some item-specific strategies.
How each of us will proceed will be different depending on the goals we have and the areas we are working on. But there are some general, framework-y type things that can help anyone, wherever they are, with whatever they are up against. Some of these things include putting your mind on other things (deliberately so), staying positive (turning negative thoughts and moods around in their tracks, being your own thought and mood coach), raising awareness/mindfulness (thinking about and tracking your goal, step, area, issue, and/or progress), consciously changing your thoughts/the way you think (refusing to be so down on yourself and/or on others, adopting a new perspective on solving problems), accepting how you feel/that you feel what you feel (with no attached judgment), and finding productive diversions for your energy and attention (like an enjoyable hobby, job, or service-oriented action like volunteering or helping others in practical ways).
- Deepen your understanding of your issue.
When we become knowledgeable in our area of weakness, then we are better able to tackle the things that might trip us up. There is something about information that arms us—truth is a powerful tool that will many times carry us to the other side if we won’t let go of it. When it comes to our children, our marriage/co-parenting relationship, our family, and our relationship with ourselves, it’s important to remember that any positive change we can make in how we relate and build trust will always yield a harvest of more positive changes. We simply have to start somewhere. We don’t have to know everything about everything, but we do have to start somewhere.
If you have a story to tell about your personal growth journey (most especially as it relates to your relationship with yourself, your child/children, your spouse/co-parent, your family as a whole, or your God), I would love to hear it. Feel free to post a comment to any of the blog posts (like below) or send me a message (through the “Contact” tab above). Thanks for stopping by, and I invite you to sign up to receive new blog posts by email. If there’s a topic you’d like me to write about, feel free to let me know as well. I hope what you have read on this blog has been helpful to you, and I wish you the best as you continue on with life and everything you encounter in it.