Am I ruining my children?

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Am I ruining my children? 

Dear Torie,

I was already stressed before this COVID-19 lockdown, now my impatience and crankiness have reached new levels. I’m constantly snapping at the kids and having trouble seeing them in a positive light. I love them, but I don’t feel loving when I look at them. All I see is what they are doing wrong. I’m constantly riding them: “Turn off the screens! Comb your hair. Clean up your stuff. Be nice to your brother.” They must be so annoyed by me. All they want is for me to play and be happy but I just can’t. How do  I know if I’m ruining my children by being such a mean mama? 

Ava

 

Parent Educator Answer: 

We adults have these magnificently critical brains that are wired to keep us and our families safe. This bias we have towards focusing on the negative has helped keep our families alive for generations. In our current world however, this ability to hyperfocus on the negative and ignore the positive can lead us into despair. We have very few immediate threats to our physical existence but MANY perceived threats to our well being. This keeps our brains focused on the negative as a way to protect ourselves and our families from harm. 

I know when I harp on my kids to bathe, brush, be nice, and turn off screens, it’s because I am perceiving danger. Either it’s them “rotting their brains,” them being rejected by society, or me being viewed as a failure. My brain thinks that pointing out all the things they are doing wrong is somehow keeping us all safe from harm. This is a PERCEIVED harm but I’m reacting to it as though it’s real, important, and needs to change right away. 

An unmanaged mind will take you into dark, scary places. It will make you act in a way that is misaligned with your values and who you want to be. Now, more than ever before, it is imperative that we all learn to manage our minds. So much change is happening all around us. Our brains perceive change as scary. When we act from fear, we aren’t aligned with our values. Our HIGHER selves know the mom we want to be. We don’t want our kids to be afraid or annoyed by us. We want them to look back on their childhood with joy and laughter. But our LOWER fearful brain keeps us from being that person. 

You cannot be in love and fear at the same time. You say you love them, but you don’t feel loving when you look at them. This tells me you are in fear, not love. In order to switch from fear, to love, you will need to manage your thinking. 

We all need to take responsibility for the energy we create in our homes. This is not the same as feeling guilty. Guilt doesn’t do anyone any good. Taking responsibility for our own thoughts, feelings, and actions is empowering (guilt is disempowering). When we recognize that left to its own devices, our brains will steer us into ugly places, it’s important to DECIDE with our higher brains, what we WANT to think about. 

Sitting in the driver’s seat of our brain and steering it in the direction we want it to go is not easy. It takes time, compassion, and someone else pointing out our blind spots. It’s one of the most valuable benefits of having a life coach help you to improve your life. 

Right now, you can make a decision to focus on what you love about your kids. Even if your brain can only find ONE thing to love about your obnoxious teenager, train your brain to focus on that one thing. “I love his sense of humor.” “I love the way she fights for what she believes in.” The important thing is to focus your attention on what you love. What we focus on expands. As you focus on what you love, the fearful part of your brain calms down, allowing your attention to wander into even more loving places. 

When you parent your kids from a place of love, not fear, you become more aligned with the mom you want to be: happier, kinder, and more loving. 

When we WANT to be loving and kind, but aren’t being who we want to be, our higher self will use negative emotion to try and get us back into alignment. 

Life Coaching answer: 

What gets in our way from steering our brains into positive loving thoughts and away from fear?  A thought like “I am ruining my children”.

Even though you worded it as a question, not a thought, it’s still a TERRIBLE question to ask! Notice how you feel when you think “Am I ruining my children?” 

Guilty, heavy, ashamed?  When you feel this tremendous weight on your shoulders, how do you act? Lethargic. Snappy. Overwhelmed with life. 

This question only leads you to more stress, guilty and negativity. 

What does it even mean? “Ruining my children” How would you know if you RUINED your children? Isn’t it a bit disrespectful and presumptuous to judge someone else’s life as RUINED? 

Do you know any parents who were amazing and wonderful, but still had a kid who headed down the wrong path and made a mess of their life?  If not, read the book Beautiful Boy for perspective. 

Do you know any parents who were total deadbeats but the kids still turned out to be productive members of society? If not, read The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls or Educated by Tara Westover to expand your perspective. 

Our current culture puts a lot of pressure on moms to do everything perfectly and if anything goes wrong, 

to blame “bad parenting”. This pressure is toxic to ourselves and our children. We need them to be exemplary in order for us to feel like we are doing a good job raising them. This is creating a generation of stressed out kids and unhappy mamas. 

It is IMPOSSIBLE for you to ruin your children. Yes you are an incredible influence on them, but they are not putty in your hands. They have their own inner wisdom, personalities, drives, emotions, and perspective on the world. Take the pressure off yourself and notice how wonderful they are without you having to do anything at all. 

 

Supermom KryptoniteBeing overly responsible

One thing my Supermom clients have in common is an over-active sense of responsibility. 

Does this sound familiar? 

  1. You work hard to make plans for your family and lose it when things don’t go as you planned.
  2. You get annoyed by the irresponsibility of your family members. When they drop the ball, you take the responsibility onto your shoulders. 
  3. Your attention is constantly on your to-do list, Always reminding yourself of things you “SHOULD” be doing better or different. 
  4. You feel TIRED, GUILTY, ANNOYED and ANXIOUS a lot of the time.

Our culture rewards responsibility but taken too far, responsibility robs us of our ability to enjoy the exact life we worked so hard to create. 

I just had three days by myself and it was heaven. The following three days were spent with my daughter and her two friends inside our “germ circle”. I noticed I wasn’t enjoying myself as much with them here as I did by myself, even though my activities hadn’t changed at all. I realized I was taking on responsibility for how my daughter’s friend’s were experiencing the weekend. I worried about whether they were having fun, or missing home. Were they hungry? bored? annoyed? Cold? Hot? 

This level of responsibility would have been appropriate if they were toddlers but these are teenagers who are perfectly capable of speaking up for themselves, entertaining themselves, Feeding themselves, and managing their own body temperature. I love hosting gatherings but this “over responsibility” plagues me and keeps me from enjoying my own events. 

If you are overly responsible, learning how to manage your mind is SUPER important if you want to increase the quality of your life. 

  • Notice all the times you are “in someone else’s business” worrying about what they might be thinking or feeling, trying to control or manage their behavior. Awareness is the first step. 
  • Labeling it is the second step. Whose business am I in when I’m worried about whether my kids are having fun on vacation? Whose business am I in when I’m trying to manage my mother-in-law’s opinion of my kids? 
  • Let go of all the things that are outside your control. You control the rules you set in your house. You decide what and how to reinforce the consequences. But your kids decide if it’s worth it to them to follow these rules or not and accept the consequences. You can set an example of a healthy lifestyle, schedule opportunities for your kids to be active, but it’s up to your kids to decide if they want to emulate you or not.

It is freeing to let go of the things you cannot control and only focus on the things you do have power over. 

 

Supermom Power Boost – Taking 100% responsibility for your life

Once we let go responsibility for other people’s thoughts, feelings and actions, it frees us to take responsibility for the things we CAN control. 

There will always be limitations. You are a woman of color in a racist society. Your child has a disability or neurological difference that makes learning a challenge. Your kids would rather TikTok than hike with you. Accept reality as it presents itself, then make the most of your life. 

If your kids are behaving in a way you don’t like, assume you have the power to change it. Not by feeling guilty, blaming, or telling yourself it’s all your fault, but by taking responsibility for your part in it. 

Focus on YOUR thoughts, YOUR emotions, and YOUR actions. 

Your child is constantly asking for more video game time. This is HIS business, not yours. He gets to decide what interests him and what he asks you for. He can ask you 100 times a day to play video games, that is not a problem. But you can take responsibility for your part in this situation. 

What are YOUR thoughts about his asking? “He should want to play outside” “He should listen to me when I tell him no”. How do you feel when you think those thoughts? Annoyed and angry. How do I act when I feel annoyed and angry. I argue with him. I engage in a debate, giving him my (negative) attention and energy.

Just by YOU changing how YOU react to your child, you can effect this situation. You decide you are done with this argument and you aren’t going to engage with it anymore. He still asks to play 100 times a day but you decide this is boring. You yawn, you ignore him, you change the subject, you give him a hug. Eventually he will learn that there is no payoff for him. No excitement, no argument, no caving in to his request for more time. This is totally within your power. 

The way to know if you are taking responsibility for your actions and yours alone, is by how you feel. Taking 100% responsibility for your life will feel empowering. Being overly responsible, beating yourself up for things that you have no control over will feel DISempowering. 

Pay close attention to how you feel and you will know whether you are on the right responsibility track. 

 

Quote of the day:

“Remember, you and you alone are responsible for maintaining your energy. Give up blaming, complaining and excuse making, and keep taking action in the direction of your goals – however mundane or lofty they may be.” – Jack Canfield

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