Tag Archives: perceptions

What to do When Your Button Gets Pushed

We all know what it’s like to lose it with a child. When that button gets pushed, you see red, your authority and sanity flies out the window and you say and do things you swore you never would. It feels like there’s nothing you can do about it—but there is. Once you know that button belongs to you, and your reaction is your responsibility, not your child’s to change so you can stay calm, the job of uncovering that button and identifying it is the next step. It’s a peeling away process, and the layers to be peeled are not at all obvious for most of us.

After a button-pushing situation, take the time to dig. It’s easiest to start with your reactions. If you didn’t like your reaction, write down what you did.

Reaction: When that happened, I blew up and screamed.

Then think about how you felt. Your emotions are one word. I felt like I was a terrible parent is a thought. The feeling might be hopeless.

Feelings: I felt used, resentful, unappreciated.

Okay great, you have identified your reaction and your emotions.

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How to Get to Calm: Lessons from the Oregon Trail

Getting to Calm

What would it take for you to stay calm when it comes to managing your kids’ behavior? Sometimes it feels like a herculean task.

Remember the Oregon trail? One wagon after another followed the tracks made by earlier wagons. The ruts got deeper and deeper as more wagons rode west. In places, a person could stand in ruts up to their waist. It would have been impossible for a wagoneer to veer off in another direction.

When we react to our children the same way over and over, we dig ourselves into emotional and behavioral ruts. Ruts run especially deep when they stem from beliefs we hold about ourselves learned in childhood. If you believe you’re never good enough, a disappointment, or unlovable, etc. from remarks made by parents or teachers, those beliefs stick and can drive your behavior.

The early pioneers stayed in existing wagon ruts for safety. So do we. It’s often safer to believe what we do about ourselves than to venture out on a new trail to believe I am good enough. I can do whatever I put my mind to. Try changing deep down beliefs. It’s not easy. It’s much safer to stay in familiar patterns, even though they may be self-destructive. Bad feelings about yourself lead to negative, damaging reactions toward your kids — in turn, sending negative messages to them. And the cycle perpetuates. Venturing into new territory to see things from a different perspective feels too unfamiliar, unsafe.

How many times do you think, If only I were a better mother…. Even if you have a great moment with your child, you might discount it thinking, Why can’t I do that all the time? Do you tend to focus only on your failures and your child’s?

Which thoughts make you feel calm?
• I never know what to do – or – I really listened to my daughter this afternoon.
• I always end up screaming – or – I didn’t yell when I asked him to come to the table tonight.
• I never have enough patience – or – When I take better care of myself, I have more patience.
• I‘ll never be able to stop blaming – or – I can do this as soon as I decide to.
• I’m a lousy parent – or – I am a perfectly good parent and I know my kids love me.

The negative thoughts are assumptions — your perception only. They logically cause feelings of despair and hopelessness, which in turn lead to beating yourself up and yelling at or threatening your child — leaving you thinking you’re a lousy parent. Can you see how the reframed thoughts lead to more self-compassion? But we rarely go there. It’s much easier to think negatively. We don’t even see that we have a choice. Oh, that’s just me. That’s how I am. What are we trying to prove?

We’re control freaks. We want to be right even when being right is wrong. My child is so self-centered. He never thinks of anybody but himself. That is a judgment that could be seen from a different perspective. Kids are naturally self-centered. He wants what he wants but is also very loving and kind. Do you see how you might respond with more understanding when he is acting self-centered?

Our negative assumptions are automatic. They fly through our brains at lightning speed, and we jump to conclusions in a nano-second. Those automatics come from the old, outdated beliefs we hold about ourselves. Those ruts we are stuck in.

In order to step out, pay careful attention to the moments you do connect, say words you mean, and are able to stop yourself before reacting. It is the little moments that build up when, and only when, we shine a light on them. Focus more on what you want rather than what you don’t. Baby steps build the ladder to help you out of even the deepest ruts. Start by reminding yourself you can do this, even when you make lots of mistakes.

Change can’t happen until you first recognize what it is that comes so naturally. Here’s how:

1. Pay attention to your feeling first. Ask yourself, If I felt so angry, what must I have been thinking about myself or my child?
2. Pat yourself on the back when you recognize a thought that led to your feelings. Why can’t I ever get anything right? He never listens. This is a big step forward.
3. Take responsibility for your thoughts and feelings as well as the behavior they fuel. Don’t blame them on your child or anyone else, even yourself. They can change when you pay attention.
4. Go back to your thought and see if you can reframe it until you feel calmer or more understanding. I know I can do better when I am not so hard on myself. My child is having a problem, not being a problem. When she hits, she’s probably feeling misunderstood or ignored.

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Yoga Meets Parenting

In the teachings of yoga, tension is experienced and released on three levels. The first and most obvious is the physical, next the emotional and finally the mental. In parenting it is the same thing. Our outward manifestations of tension, stress, worry, fear is in the physical—yelling, tone of voice, language, facial expressions. These physical aspects are underlined by the emotional—frustration, anger, exhaustion, defeat, hopelessness. But underneath it all is the mental—our perceptions, the ideas and beliefs we hold about ourselves and our children, the standards of behavior we buy into, our expectations. In order to effect change in our physical and emotional reactions to our children, we must address our mental state. How is it that you see and think of your children? Are they in general a pain in the neck? Do they never listen or do what they’re told? Do you doubt everything and think you don’t know what to do? Or do you feel confident in yourself, mistakes and all? Do you know that this too will pass? Are you able to drop into the moment with your child without focus on the past or future? Your mental state is what starts it all. How you think of yourself, how you think of your children informs everything you do. It is this mental strain that needs releasing. Practice breathing into it. read more