Family life is a crazy thing. There were previously only you, or only the two of you; now, there are more people. Young people. With their wishes, dreams, and desires. Their needs, their feelings, and their impulse control (or the lack thereof). Navigating all this is often overwhelming, frustrating, and annoying, but we can make it all so much easier with a little perspective shift, and some practice.
Parenting can take its toll on anyone; as parents, we often feel that our freedom, autonomy, space, and individual being are taken away. Especially during a pandemic that brings stress levels to skyrocket and pushes all of us so much closer together, or like a friend of mine told me recently, “awfully close.”
With so many of our existential needs gone unmet, anger, frustration, and their daily (if not hourly) expressions of yelling, punishing, and lack of patience have become all too habitual. If you feel that I’m talking about you, you’re not alone, Mama. The good news is that the solution is right here, and I can’t say that it’s simple, but I can promise you that it is very much doable.
Mindfulness At the Service of Parenting
Mindfulness gives you the unique, even revolutionary, opportunity to stay away from the very things you hate doing. I bet you don’t like yelling, but you do. I’m sure you don’t like punishing, but you do. More than anything, I’m sure you dread the lonely feeling crawling into your heart when the children are away in their rooms, and you are left wondering how things ever got so bad.
There’s an alternative, and it’s called Mindfulness. In my unique practice I’ve combined the essence of Mindfulness, with the essence of Nonviolent Communication, to create parenting practices that work for all family members.
The following five steps are at the basis of everything I teach, and following them closely will promise you less anger and more calm in family life.
Wouldn’t you like that? Let’s dive in.
Step #1: Agree to Accept
You constantly fight about all these things, be it too much screen time (there’s a free training on screen time in my Facebook group), late bedtime, back-talk, cleanliness, order, homework, chores, distant-learning, you name it; this list is never-ending. Each family has its list of varying fight-triggers, but be sure each family has a list.
When we keep fighting about the same thing, we build a wall of disconnection between us and our children around that topic. In other words – when we resist, when we force, when we try to over-power, when we hurt, and when we punish, we perpetuate the same behavior that we wish to change.
When our children feel unseen, unheard, misunderstood, we will gain no cooperation.
Acceptance is the alternative. Accepting a behavior does not mean that we agree to it or allow for its continuation. Not at all. It means that we want to create an opportunity to honestly and openly talk about it, and for that, we are accepting that things are the way they are right now.
When we approach our children from a place of acceptance and curiosity, they can suddenly open up, agree to share their thoughts and feelings on the matter, and they agree to hear us. The change is almost immediate.
To start, make a list of the things that you fight about daily, and ask yourself – what does accepting this mean for me?
Step #2: Find Clarity
When you think of what you want, or what you can no longer stand, you think of it in terms of strategies or behaviors.
I can’t cook seven-teen times a day
I can’t constantly be cleaning the house
I need the kids in bed by 20:00
I need their homework to be done by 16:00
I can’t have them talking to me like that
When you think of family life in terms of strategies, you’re living on a constant battlefield because you’re forever trying to change how other people show up in the world.
With a little perception shift, you can find what YOU really need there, and that has nothing to do with anyone else; it only has to do with you us and the individual you are (beneath the labels of mom/wife/partner).
I need time for myself
I need peace and quiet
I need order
I need connection
You see the difference? These statements are the truth behind the previous ones, and they don’t include judgments of others.
To start, make a list of what you need; make sure it doesn’t include others and their doing.
Step #3: Host a Family Meeting
You’re used to shouting your demands, and you already know that this doesn’t work. With the new consciousness of acceptance and clarity regarding what you really need, you can approach your children in a brand new language.
When we approach people with what we need, rather than telling them that they are the reason we don’t get to have what we need, these people will perceive our message with peace and acceptance towards us. Finally 🙂
The innovative idea behind a family meeting is that every person, regardless of age, has a say, has a voice, and they are welcome to share it with parents who will accept whatever it is they bring to the table.
So, for example, I can say that “I need two hours for myself, every day. Do you have an idea on how I can get those two hours, or are you open to hearing my thoughts”? For many children, this would be the first time their opinion matters; they might not know what to say. I would then say, “Okay, well, I can take this time for me in the morning, which will mean that you’ll need to do this and that on your own, or I can take this time in the evening, which means that if you want more food after 20:00, you can have cereal. What do you think”?
Or, “I need order; I feel at peace when the floor is clean, and everything is back where it belongs. I accept that you guys are having fun during the day, playing, and things get all over the house. Let’s agree, together, on a time at which the house is back in order. What do you think? 18:00? 19:00? 20:00? What works better for you”?
Then, after you’ve shared your needs with your children, ask them what their needs are, and start brainstorming, together, on how you can live in unity, peace, and cooperation for the happiness of all of you.
I’ll give you another pro tip – merely having this conversation, allowing the children to speak and know they are listened to, creates a beautiful connection between all family members.
Want another pro tip? Have these family meetings every week. Talk about what worked, what didn’t, troubleshoot, and offer new ideas. Children are incredibly creative and insightful, and they are very clear on what they need. They just, usually, don’t get the chance to say it.
To start: schedule a family meeting, and plan what you want to say and share, and decide to show up with an open heart.
Step #4: Think Flexibly
During these family meetings, and hopefully after, as your children grow more secure and confident about sharing their ideas and thoughts with you, they might come up with weird and crazy ideas, like biking together in the middle of the night or camping out in the living room. They might tell you that they are most comfortable doing their homework while in the toilet or that they want to start skipping dinner.
Listen to them, hear them, and try to give them these little things that they need to assert their autonomy and their control over their lives. The more in-control they will feel, the less they will need to resist you and your attempts to “parent” them.
To start: breathe before you’re about to say “NO”. Ask yourself – where does that “no” come from? What can I do to make it a “yes” for me?
Step #5: Take Care of YOU
Ok, mama, this is the essential part of this plan, and this is why it comes last. This is what I want you to remember when you are done reading:
You can’t be the parent you want to be without taking care of yourself first.
So often, I hear mothers saying that the first time they’ve set down with a cup of coffee was at 21:37. Mama, I’m sorry, but there’s nothing to celebrate here. A woman, a person, who didn’t eat or drink, who is utterly exhausted and gasping for air, cannot be a calm person, cannot expect herself not to yell or not to lose patience. When we’re in survival mode, the only reactions we can generate are fight-flight-freeze reactions, which are not empowering or beneficial.
Your needs are more important than the needs of the house; your needs are more critical than vacuuming, washing, doing the laundry, and even cooking.
Find time for yourself. Take 30 seconds every hour to sit down and do nothing. Find time to jog, read, journal, paint, do something that lights your individual soul. Ask for help, reach out for support, do what you can to meet your needs. There’s no shame or guilt in having needs; there’s no shame or guilt in striving to have these needs met.
And this is where the circle finds closure – when you accept yourself and your needs, when, with courage and clarity, you examine the various strategies you can take to have your needs met, only then can you approach your children and their needs with the same courage and clarity and create a family culture of calm and positive.
Want to experience more calm and less anger in family life? Mindfulness, peace, calm, patience, positive parenting, and empowering communication is exactly what I do with my clients. I help them breed acceptance, compassion, and empathy and make it a way of life. I would love to help you, too.
You can join my monthly membership group right here, and you can check out my life and parenting support group on Facebook.
Either way – I’d love to get to know you 🙂
Want to email me? Send your email to viki @ parentsenlight.com