Now that I’ve taken the jogging stroller around the block a few times, I realize that the two things that I really did need, the two things that mattered most… weren’t even on my radar.
What are the two things parents really need?
Parents need help when we have conflict. When there’s a conflict, a few things happen: our stress response kicks in and we become reactive, then we often communicate from old patterns (i.e. your own parent’s voice comes out of your mouth).
We can break it down into two problems:
1. The stress response
2. Unskillful communication
We come into the most trouble in our parenting when we are stressed, so it’s important to understand the stress response. There are biological and evolutionary reasons why we “lose it.”
“Losing it” refers to those fast, automatic reactions to a perceived threat which can be triggered in stressful interactions with our child.
This literally cuts off access the rational, thoughtful part of our brain.
The first and most fundamental thing we need as parents (for our stress response!) is this:
With practice, we can acknowledge our thoughts and feelings, but not be swept away by them.
Once we are able to calm down and become less reactive, what do we say?
Many, many people are like me – the language that I used was the language I grew up with, commands and demands that didn’t work and caused resentment in my young child. The language I was using was weakening our relationship rather than strengthening it.
The Second Thing parents need help with (perhaps most of all):
We go into parenting with great intentions to be loving and kind, but with the combination of our stress response and our unskilful, habitual ways of communicating, we get really stuck.
Since parenting comes down to, at it’s core, our moment-to-moment interactions with our children, parents need training in how to communicate in those moments.
The blaming, shaming, judgmental words that come out of our mouths create resentment in our children and make them less likely to cooperate with us.
What do I wish I had as a young parent?
1. Mindfulness for the stress response and cultivating non-reactivity.
2. Skillful communication for more cooperation and a better relationship.
I believe that mindfulness and skillful communication are incredibly powerful tools for parents and for every part of our lives.
These two things can change the world, one family at a time.