Put on your own oxygen mask first – looking inward so we can parent effectively.


I am teaching my 7 year old daughter to do her own laundry, and she’s totally into it. She tells me when her clothes hamper is getting too full and she needs to put clothes in the washer. She willingly adds the detergent and starts the washing machine, then puts them in the dryer and is now even helping me fold her clothes. But this morning as I looked at her wet clothes sitting in the washing machine, my thought was “I’ll just move them to the dryer now, then they won’t be sitting here wet. It’s just easier. No big deal.” And it isn’t a big deal, to me. But every time I help her when she is more than capable of helping herself, it is a big deal. If I want to instill confidence and independence in my daughter, which is my ultimate goal, I can’t keep doing these things for her. But why it so hard to stop?

Why do my thoughts continually sabotage my efforts to parent in the way I know is best for my kids and ultimately will make my life easier too?

The latest trend in parenting tells us to help our kids be resilient by “letting them fail” and “handing their problems back to them”, and to “no do anything for them that they can do, or almost do”, and “don’t solve their problems for them”, which I wholeheartedly agree with, and it all sounds great and makes sense.

But why are these methods so hard for us to actually put into practice and consistently parent this way?Why can’t we just stop telling our kids they’re smart or let them make lots of mistakes or not fix things for them? Why do we fall back into our old habits of telling kids what to do, of lecturing, and of saying I told you so’s?

We might think it’s because our kids are making it hard for us to parent them, or because it’s new and we were used to parenting another way and it’s hard to change. But in reality, it’s because WE WANT TO FEEL GOOD. And it doesn’t feel good to raise responsible, independent kids in everyday situations.

It’s hard and sometimes painful. It would make us feel so much better to prevent them from making mistakes, so we fix it for them. Or we don’t want to have to feel the frustration of letting them solve their own problems, so we solve them instead. Or we don’t want to feel the guilt of seeing them suffer the natural consequences of their actions, so we don’t give them consequences at all or berate the school for providing them. And it’s hard to set limits because our kids argue with us, so we just give in and let them have too much power. Or we just tell our kids what to do instead of letting them learn the lesson on their own.

If we want to parent differently, we need to look inward at our own thoughts and learn to manage and be aware of our own feelings first before we can help them.

If we can learn to coach ourselves BEFORE we approach parenting this way, in each situation, we will be more effective. That doesn’t mean we won’t experience negative emotions when dealing with our kids, but if we can learn to manage our thoughts and process our feelings, we can parent from a place of peace and love or at least self awareness of when we are creating problems that aren’t necessary.

When we don’t recognize that we are too involved with what’s happening emotionally with our kids, we can parent from a very different place that kids can detect. Even if we are saying what we’re supposed to say and disciplining the way we’re supposed to but we haven’t acknowledged or processed our own stuff around what our kid is going through, then we will parent from our own unhealthy emotions.

So how do we start to look inward?

Life coaching teaches us how to coach ourselves, so that with each challenge we face with our children, we can approach it from a healthy emotional space and really teach our children to be prepared for the real world with the same tools we are using on ourselves.

In order to coach ourselves we first need to:

    1. Discover what our beliefs are and what the difference is between the facts and our thoughts. When we say “My child is struggling to make friends at school,” this is a thought not a fact. The fact would be “my child is in school.” or “I have a child.” Then, find the main thoughts that are creating emotions that are not serving us well, like fear or worry. These emotions will not drive our best parenting, whereas thoughts that help us to to feel peace or love would be helpful.
    2. Next, we find where we are feeling pain for our children and figure out if it’s healthy pain, like grief, or unhealthy pain that keeps us stuck, or is not helpful and is caused by the story we are telling ourselves, This kind of pain continues to stick around if we entertain the thoughts that feed this belief.
    3. In order to find what our thoughts and beliefs are in any given situation, we can start with a thought download. Write everything down that is in your head, without judgement, and include how your feeling and why. Then find the facts and separate them out. Everything that’s left is OPTIONAL. All of your feelings are a result of your thoughts or your belief that this situation is a problem, your feelings are not caused by the facts.
    4. Ask yourself “are these feelings and thoughts serving me or my child?” If not, we need to process the feelings, and this alone can help you show up better for your child. Ask yourself, “how do I parent when I operate from this emotion?”  It might be a very subtle tone, or energy shift but it can make a big difference.
    5. Then change the thought you have about the situation to be one that instills a more positive emotion, or just a shift to the neutral ever so slightly.  Going back to the thought “ my child is struggling to make friends” we notice that this is not a fact, but just a thought we are having about our child. Maybe if we dig deeper we see that our child is ok with one or two friends or even ok with being alone, and it’s us who needed the friends as a child. So we can change the thought to “my child is ok with how many friends she/he has,” or “my child is exactly where they should be on their journey to figuring this life out.”

Coaching yourself through your emotions first will help you parent from a place of peace and not shame or guilt and will help your child will receive your guidance more readily. But many of us never learned the tools to handle our negative feelings, or even that negative feelings are normal and healthy, and actually happen 50% of the time.

Coaching helps us learn how to take back control of our thoughts and how to process our feelings so that we can parent the way we want more easily.

In short, we should make sure to put on our oxygen mask first before we help our child put on their mask. We want to be able to show up for our children as much as possible as the best version of ourselves as people and as parents.

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