Most of the time we parent on ‘autopilot.’
We react automatically without stopping to think.
We manage our kids the way we always have – reactively. We yell, threaten, swear and maybe even push or hit. (In my 22 years of being a mum I have done all of these and if you have too – you must be human!)
Most of the time (some scientist suggest it is up to 95% of the time) our subconscious mind is in control. We parent our kids based on our values, beliefs, past behaviours and what we have learnt from our parents.
I’ll give you an example:
My eleven year old has a cold.
After soccer on Saturday I asked him to have a hot shower and put some warm clothes on. He said, “No.”
Before I had a chance to say anything my gorgeous husband stormed down the hall yelling, “Do what your mother says right now or you will stay in your room all weekend!” (I may have exaggerated that for the purposes of this article because I can’t remember exactly what he said, but you get the gist!)
In the circumstances that’s not unreasonable and definitely wouldn’t get you reported to the Family and Community Services, but here’s the thing…
My husband reacted on autopilot because he was scared:
- Jack might get even sicker.
- Jack might get in the habit of being oppositional.
Jack yelled back, “You can’t make me!” (Sound familiar?)
I said, “Mate we love you, we want you to get better and we want you to play with your friends. Why doesn’t Shady want you to have a shower, get warm and then go play?”
He answered, “All my clothes are in the wash from camp, I just looked. I don’t even have any clean undies. Plus I’m just going to get dirty anyway and then I will need another shower tonight.”
Fair enough! We then agreed he could just put a jumper on and go outside to play.
When you stop and think about it… How weird is it that we yell at our kids because we love them and want to protect them? Shady is scared our kids will get hurt or turn into selfish little so and sos without discipline. But the reality is Shady’s way makes kids resentful. Their Shady thinks, “Mum or Dad don’t understand me, they don’t listen and they don’t really love me.”
So back to the point of this article, “How to stop yourself ‘losing it’ with your kid.”
- Notice your feelings.
- If you feel bad – STOP!
- Ask Sparky, “What now?”
When you bring your awareness to your feelings your autopilot turns off.
Stop what you are thinking, saying and doing and ask the most loving and wisest part of you what to do. If you can’t hear anything, then make something wise and loving up!
If you can’t hear Sparky and you can’t make something up tell your child you need a few minutes.
Go to your room or somewhere private and ask Shady, “What am I thinking?”
Often when we are emotional we can’t hear Sparky because Shady is too loud. If you take time to listen to Shady and hear everything he or she has to say then he or she will shut up!
“He can’t talk to me like that. How dare he say ‘no’? He has no respect. This Sparky stuff is just crap. He is going to get sick. He has to have a shower and get changed because that’s what he was told to do. He can’t negotiate. Who is the boss around here? He will think he can get away with everything now. We have to make him. We have to win. He can’t have any power, he just has to do what he is told and that’s that.”
If you are really angry scream into your pillow or bash your pillow on the bed to release your anger. You may even end up crying because your baggage that your parents didn’t understand you, listen to you or love you no matter what is probably starting to come out.
When you have let go of your feelings and thoughts ask Sparky again, “What now?”
If you still can’t hear anything make it up. The solution will be something that is good for you (in the long term), good for your child, and good for your family. It may involve you apologising and explaining that you just reacted without thinking and that you were wrong to yell, threaten, swear, push or hit.
It’s hard to be a ‘Sparky’ parent because most of us are programmed to parent from fear. But the good thing is, if you get good at noticing your feelings and listening to Sparky you will eventually change your programming!