I have a theory that everyone’s New Year’s Resolution are essentially the same. Some people say they want to find a new job, lose weight, get organized, be a better parent, keep the house clean, create a better relationship, etc. Really, I think what we all want is simply to FEEL BETTER.
I decided that teaching my daughter to become a more respectful and polite little girl, would help me feel better. Although loving and kind to us, my daughter couldn’t muster polite social graces for grandparents, family friends, other parents, and strangers. Many times, parents expect their children to know how to behave in social situations. I realized this was something my kids needed to be taught so I embarked on “how to be polite” lessons. The more I instructed, role played, made suggestions, gave reminders, the more it backfired. My daughter went from being tolerably shy, to being queen of disrespectful irreverance.
Although an irreverent sense of humor is almost a prerequisite in my house, the poor social graces were making me feel horrible. I stumbled upon Jennifer Kolari’s fabulous book called Connected Parenting. She talks about mirroring your child’s thoughts and feelings to help them understand, organize, and regulate their own emotions. Intuitively, I knew this would work. What surprised me was how quickly and easily it worked in comparison to the years of effort I had been putting into “teaching” my child how to be polite. I started saying things to my daughter like, “You felt uncomfortable when he asked you how old you are.” and “It’s not easy to start talking with someone you don’t know very well.” and “Always saying ‘thank you for having me’ at the end of a playdate must be really boring”. This mirroring takes practice but WOW does it ever work! Suddenly my daughter is able to articulate her inner world so much more clearly! She now says things like, “I don’t understand what I did that wasn’t polite”. This invitation to educate my daughter at a time when she is ready and willing to listen, is much more effective!
It turns out having a more respectful daughter did not make me feel any better. What makes me feel on-top-of-the-world better, is feeling like I am being MY best. This “mirroring” approach to parenting is perfectly aligned with who I want to be as a parent. When I “mirror” my kids, I feel tuned in to my child, I trust my intuition, I feel smart, loving, kind and I am being the kind of person I want to be. The fact that this approach helped me accomplish my goal, only served to validate my instincts.
So go get that job, lose that weight, organize that home. Just remember that feeling better, is about you, being the person you were meant to be. Start today by writing down 5 ways in which you were better today than yesterday. Brag about yourself to your kids. Do things that make you feel better. Repeat. Call me when you reach enlightenment.
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