Mindful Parenting

You are Worthy of Your Time

beach_italy_2019Think it sounds selfish to nurture yourself? There are tons of great reasons why we should spend at least a small percentage of our time taking care of ourselves. Taking time out to care for yourself will actually sustain you in light of the busy schedules we keep and the fast-paced world we live in. And the best part? What we do to nurture ourselves doesn’t need to take a long time.

If it’s been a long time since you have considered doing something nurturing for yourself, check out this list of potential ideas. Some items on the list might sound great to you, and others might not. Think of the list as a way to get you started on considering  what might be nourishing for you. Nurturing yourself is about identifying what your needs are – and taking small steps towards meeting them. What activity might you do that will bring you a sense of calm, or a sense of joy?

What will nurture you? 

  • Take a walk (or any form of exercise)
  • Work or sit in your garden
  • Try yoga (or an exercise class)
  • Play with your pet (if you have one)
  • Draw, paint, scrapbook, etc. – anything artistic
  • Start reading a novel (or listen to an audio book)
  • Take a moment to say some positive affirmations to yourself
  • Cozy up on the couch with a favourite television show or movie
  • Write in your journal: notice what has been going on for you lately, or explore what your own strengths are
  • Take the time to learn about you – try counselling
  • Walk in nature, take some pictures while there
  • Ever thought of trying out an infra-red sauna?  There are tons of health benefits linked with these and if you like warm temperatures, you might find it to be very relaxing! You don’t even have to buy one: many naturopath Physicians have them available in their clinics
  • Enjoy a relaxing bath (or a soothing shower)
  • Write to a friend (yes, many people still enjoy receiving snail mail letters!)
  • Are you religious? Attend a service at your church
  • Try knitting or crocheting (there might even be a knitting circle in your community)
  • Do some tasty baking or cooking
  • Learn something new (check out the classes offered at your recreation centre or community arts centre, or try an online course)
  • Work on a hobby
  • Start a puzzle
  • Try a meditation
  • Want to try a relaxation cd or guided imagery? The cool thing about guided imagery is that it has been proven effective even if you fall asleep while doing it! If you are interested in learning more, do a Google search for “free guided imagery”.  Here are some additional suggestions if you are interested:
    – Apps: Calm or Headspace
    – CD or iTunes download: Jon Kabat-Zinn (mindfulness meditation, progressive muscle relaxation); Paul McKenna (visualization and self-hypnosis for optimizing personal potential); Tara Brach (mindfulness meditation). *just to mention a few – there are far too many amazing people in our world who offer meditation or relaxation to mention all of them here!
  • Sometimes are self-nurturing moments involve others: Talk with a good friend or loving family member; Play a fun or silly game with your children; Try hiking together (or plan a fun outing together)

Chances are, if you are reading a blog about mindful parenting, you likely spend a great deal of time caring for others. How about taking a moment each week to treat yourself as kindly as you treat others? After all, you are worth your time!

This article was originally posted on October 3, 2010, to Happy Parents = Happy Kids (focusedonparenting.wordpress.com) by Susan Guttridge

Mindful Parenting

Excessive Control is Problematic

IMG_2950A degree of control in our lives can create a sense of security. We also require it in healthy dosages in order to be the autonomous healthy people we strive to be. A degree of control in our parenting is necessary when creating structure, routine, and boundaries in our home and with our children. However, control can also wreck havoc on our interpersonal relationships if it becomes excessive. Before going in to detail, I would like to share a story…

In October 2003, while I was residing in Mississauga Ontario, a beautiful 9 year old girl named Cecilia Zhang was abducted from her home during the night – out of her own bedroom window while she and her family slept. I did not know her, and I did not know her family… but I was forever changed by her. At the time, I was pregnant with my first child. Cecilia’s story was covered on all the news channels, and her picture was plastered in every store window in my community. It is a disturbing story that chills me and brings tears to my eyes even now, 9 years later. As my own precious child was growing inside me, completely safe and protected, I desperately longed for Cecilia to be found and returned home. To her parents heartbreaking dismay, she was not.  As I watched Cecilia’s investigation unfold, the remaining beliefs I held about the world as a safe place began to crumble.

I have worked hard to keep my fears in-check since that moment, so as not to pass them on to my children. But the fears are always there, just beneath the surface. I keep the windows locked at night. I use a home alarm system. I try to get to know parents prior to my children having play-dates. I research daycare providers prior to employing them… But every now and then, when I have had a stressful day at work or some sort of crisis is underfoot, my need for control kicks in to overdrive. I catch myself wanting to tell my kids (and my husband!) what to do. I even start planning it in the car on the way home! And then I realize what I am doing, and I realize that my day has affected me adversely… and I take a deep breath to release it….

I believe that many parents want to have the illusion of control. That illusion helps us feel safe and enables us to believe we possess the capacity to keep ourselves and our loved ones safe. Trauma researchers Follette and Pistorello (2007) state that when our lives feel out of control, we strive to exert control over our thoughts, feelings, and environment (including the people in our environment!). That control we feel we must exert in order to escape feelings of uncertainty and fear sever only to become the problem!

Too much control is detrimental to our relationships – especially to our children. As parents, we need to successfully navigate the delicate balance between keeping our kids safe and street smart while not passing our own issues on to them.

Are there times when you have noticed a sudden excessive need for control or order within or around you? Have you ever caught yourself attempting to control those around you with threats or coercion? Have you ever caught yourself attempting to control what those around you are doing, even when it has no impact on you? If so, it might be time to check in on how you are doing.

Keeping our kids safe is one of the most important jobs of being a parent. Honouring what is going on for ourselves as parents, is an important step in that process. How can you nurture your need for security, for stability, for a degree of control and so forth, without alienating your children and loved ones?

Here are some suggestions:

  1. Recognize your triggers (what thoughts, emotions, or situations bring up strong feelings or kick on a need for excessive control?)
  2. Become aware of your own internal distress(what is your body’s distress signal? For example, holding your breath or taking shallow breaths, clenching muscles or your jaw, pacing or becoming rigid, and so forth)
  3. When you catch your self calling out directions and demanding compliance, take a moment to tune inwards and notice what is going on for you  (Notice what you are thinking, what you are feeling emotionally, and what changes you notice within your body)
  4. Withhold the judgment  (towards yourself, and those around you)
  5. Reassure yourself that you are a normal human being responding to a tough situation – and that you can get through it

(Please also feel free to leave your own suggestions as comments to this post!)

References:
Finding Life Beyond Trauma: Using Acceptance and Commitment Therapy to Heal from Post-traumatic Stress and Trauma-Related Problems, by Victoria M. Follette and Jacqueline Pistorello (2007)

This article was originally posted on October 20, 2010, to Happy Parents = Happy Kids (focusedonparenting.wordpress.com) by Susan Guttridge

Mindful Parenting

Dump the Distress

IMG-8488Let’s be honest: parenting just might be one of the hardest job you will ever have. It will also be the most rewarding, the most wonderful, the most awe-inspiring make-you-want-to-be-the-best-possible-you-ever job. Here is a strategy to help you through those moments when the worry and concern threaten to overtake the positive. This strategy can help enhance your self-awareness, personal growth, and provide an element of control over to shift emotion and build self-worth.

Here it is: Take all those thoughts swimming around in your head, and put them down on paper. Write them, type them, scribble them, paint them, blur them, or doodle them. The important step in the process is simply getting your thoughts out on paper. You might be doubting your parenting skills; you might be questioning your actions and reactions; you might be confused by your child’s behaviours; you might even be comparing yourself to others and feeling as though you don’t measure up. These thoughts can be over-whelming. When you put them down on paper, they suddenly seem concrete – tangible. You can make sense of them because they are words on paper and not thoughts triggering emotions and stirring up memories. You might find that you can think more clearly. You can even start problem-solving your way through them. “Writing about an experience can help you distance yourself from the feelings of inadequacy that get in the way of enjoying the just-as-real joys of parenting.”

“Writing about important personal experiences in an emotional way… brings about improvements in mental and physical health” – J.W. Pennebaker & J. D. Seagal

Not sure how to write in a journal? Here are some suggestions:

  1. Write about any situation that comes to your mind
  2. Or, try listening inwardly: ask yourself “what am I feeling right now?”
  3. Be honest with whatever you are feeling
  4. If you are venting, destroy the page when you have finished. This not only will ensure your privacy, but is also symbolic of purging the uncomfortable and unpleasant feelings
  5. Give yourself permission to write the worst journal entry ever – this will inherently give you permission to write the best journal entry ever. It will also free you of fear of failure, which might be preventing you from getting started! (Idea from Natalie Goldberg – see reference below)
  6. Try not to spend too much time thinking about what you want to write prior to writing – let your intuition and impulses guide your writing. The process of free writing or stream writing is believed to enable us to bypass our inner critic and tap in to our own wisdom, knowledge, and creativity
  7. Try ending on a positive note – What is your hope for tomorrow? What might you do differently tomorrow?
  8. Be consistent and try writing (or “dumping”) in your journal daily

Worth Checking Out:

The on-line store Knock Knock sells a very clever journal for parents titled “I’m a Parent?”. The journal itself starts out with an informative overview of parental guilt and the benefits of journaling. Then, every journal page starts with the caption “Why I’m a less-than-perfect parent today:” and ends with the affirmative statement “You’re doing better than you think”. Check it out at:
http://www.knockknockstuff.com/catalog/categories/books-other-words/journals/im-parent-guided-journal/

Resources:

Writing Down the Bones, by Natalie Goldberg (2005)
Yoga for your Brain, by Sandy Steen Bartholomew (2011)
Forming a Story: the Health Benefits of Narrative, by J.W. Pennebaker & J. D. Seagal (1999) Department of Psychology, University of Texas at Austin, USA.

This article was originally posted on September 26, 2012, to Happy Parents = Happy Kids (focusedonparenting.wordpress.com) by Susan Guttridge

Mindful Parenting

Notice the Intention, then Address the Behaviour

“Judgments prevent us from seeing the good that lies beyond appearances.” — Wayne Dyer

Holding DaisiesChildren have beautiful intentions. As adults, it can be very easy to lose sight of these intentions. We can get caught up in our day at work, in our household chores, in bills that need to be paid, in family issues, and in our own (sometimes unresolved) experiences. When we are “stuck in our heads” we lose sight of the present moment. For example, we interpret our children as being messy when they are actually being creative, or as getting in our way when they are trying to be helpful.

A very poignant example of this very notion was shared with me recently while working with a 66 year old woman (I will refer to her as Jen in order to protect her privacy). Jen described to me a story of when she was young – just 6 years old. She told me that her mother had the most beautiful flowers growing in the garden. Jen would love to sit among the flowers, most of which were taller than she was when she sat. As she sat by the flowers, she would imagine herself living in a field all of flowers. The image was calming and safe for her, and she would spend hours sitting among the flowers. One summer day, Jen’s mother had been cleaning the house and Jen had wanted to help. She saw her mother working hard and noticed how beautiful the house was becoming.  Jen described offering to help her mother, but that her mother had been too busy to attend her. Still full of admiration for her mother and wanting to help, Jen went out into the garden, and selected a few of her favorite flowers – thinking of how lovely they would look on the kitchen table. Jen pulled the flowers and brought them into the house. She found a vase and began filling it with water. At that moment, Jen’s mother entered the room: her mother noticed only the plucked flowers, root and all, and a clump of dirt muddying her freshly washed floor. Jen was in trouble and the flowers were thrown in the trash. Jen’s beautiful intention to help her mother went unnoticed. What an impact this mother’s actions had on her young daughter – so much so in fact, that at age 66 Jen recalls every detail of the experience and it still brings tears to her eyes.

Our children have beautiful intentions. Depending on their age, they might not know fully how to help. For example, Jen did not know she needed to cut the flowers and leave the root in the ground – her intention was solely to help.

Consider the intentions behind your children’s action – and attend to the intention. Then teach the appropriate behaviour. Grasp hold of the teachable moment and use it to bolster your child’s self-esteem.

Use the comments to share any of your examples of when you been successful at noticing the intention in your children’s behaviour.

“If you judge people, you have no time to love them”
–Mother Teresa

This article was originally posted on July 31 2012, to Happy Parents = Happy Kids (focusedonparenting.wordpress.com) by Susan Guttridge

Mindful Parenting

Think Stop

Portrait of a young boy crossing guard standing on the road holding a stop signTonight was my daughter’s first school dance. It was a fabulous evening: She danced with friends, she watched the band, she ate pizza, and she decorated herself with glow sticks! She had wanted to stay right until the very end, which meant that we didn’t pull into our drive-way until after 8pm. Once home, I found myself rushing her through the steps of her bedtime routine. She was up past her bedtime and looked very tired! I noticed that the more she dawdled, the more my frustration mounted. Iwantedto finish cleaning the kitchen. I wanted to read in bed. I wanted to get to sleep early… and so went my inner dialog. Each statement to myself triggered the added thought that the longer my daughter took to get ready for bed, the longer it would take before I could have “alone time” – and that thought served only to exacerbate the frustration I was feeling.

And there is where I had to pause. My self-talk wasn’t matching my over-arching values when it comes to raising children. I don’t want to be the grouchy parent. I want to be present (physically and emotionally). My daughter was on an adrenaline high from dancing with her friends; she wanted to dance around her room and tell me about her evening!  I want my daughter to know that she can approach me about anything, no matter the time of day. That is one of my parenting goals. But, when I was feeling frustrated this evening, and rushing my daughter to bed, and getting short in my communication, was I really doing justice to that goal? Was my behaviour helping our relationship at all?

I don’t think so. I sat back on the edge of her bed, and took a pause. I took some deep breaths. I took in the beauty of her smile and her after-glow from dancing. So what if I was 30 minutes later to have some alone time. In the grand scheme of things in this world, what is an extra 30 minutes, really? And so, I had to just stop.

Just STOP is exactly the strategy that I would like to share with you. Sometimes we need to stop the thoughts that escalate our negative feelings and fuel our inappropriate reactions. Try visualizing an actual stop sign. This is a great technique because we are so conditioned to stop when we see a stop sign (or at least slow to a “rolling stop”…ha ha!). But the point is this: whenever we see a stop sign, we come to a stop and cautiously look around.

In your parenting and in your day-to-day life, when you notice signs that frustration or anger is mounting in you, follow those exact same rules. Stop and cautiously look around (inwardly): tune in to what you are saying to yourself. If your inner voice is negative, if you are making accusations, ascribing malicious intentions to your child, if you are self-downing, or engaging in self-limiting beliefs, try visualizing a stop sign. Visualize the octagon shape of it. The bright red colour. The retro-reflective lettering. And just STOP.

If you have trouble with visualization, you can still use this strategy – just modify it a little! Print out a picture of a stop sign. Then, keep it with you and look at it often or as needed.

Keep focusing on the stop sign, and the underlying meaning for you, until you are able to clear your mind and get centered. Our kids need us to get out of our heads and into the moment with them. Good luck!

Idea From:
The Affect Regulation Toolbox, by Carolyn Daitch (2007)

This article was originally posted on April 15, 2011, to Happy Parents = Happy Kids (focusedonparenting.wordpress.com) by Susan Guttridge

Mindful Parenting

Becoming Accountable

Mia_cat_italy_2019Raising kids can bring out both the best and the worst in parents. After a challenging day, it might be easier to connect with all the things you’re doing wrong – I know I’ve had days like that! Perhaps it’s about having more energy, more patience, handling our temper, or not feeling quite so emotionally over-whelmed. Recognizing our limitations can often be easier than identifying how to create change, committing ourselves to a plan, and sticking with it.

One of the greatest ways to successfully change a behaviour is to document it. We can do this through journaling, or by writing out a plan for ourselves. Committing our thoughts to paper somehow makes them more concrete. No longer are they fleeting words floating through our mind – on paper words take on a stronger meaning. They become real. Through writing we give order to our thoughts, which assists us in seeing a plan more clearly.

So, to become accountable to yourself, every night write in your journal the ways in which you were successful in carrying out your desired behaviour change.

Example: Becoming Accountable with Anger

  1. Think about the ways that you would like to better handle your anger. Be realistic and use small steps.
  2. Every evening, document the ways in which you handled your anger well that day. Did you follow your plan? What helped you to stick with it?
  3. If you had a “blip” (an experience in which you did not handle your anger well) – write about how you will handle things differently tomorrow.

Example: Becoming Accountable with Self-Esteem

  1. Think about the ways in which you would like to raise self-esteem in your child(ren).
  2. Every evening, write about the interactions you had with your children where you made positive attempts at increasing their self-esteem
  3. If you had a “blip” – write about how you will handle things differently tomorrow so that you remain focused on interacting in ways that raise your child’s self-esteem.

Journaling in this way will make you accountable to yourself. It doesn’t feel very good to sit down to do this journaling exercise and have nothing to say – which is the success of the technique: You will want to implement the behaviour you planned so that you have something positive to write about in your journal!

This article was originally posted on November 16, 2010, to Happy Parents = Happy Kids (focusedonparenting.wordpress.com) by Susan Guttridge

Mindful Parenting

Keeping Score

writing-pen11This summer, my 6 year old daughter told me that I was a ‘no parent’. When I asked her what she meant, she told me that I say “no” all the time. Could this have been true? I was quite sure that I was a balanced parent – with an equal share of “yes’s” and “no’s”! However, because my daughter was quite adamant that I was in fact a ‘no parent’, I decided to check it out for myself. To keep track and deepen my self-awareness, I used an index card, with the word ‘no’ on one side and ‘yes’ on the other. What the process did for me was increase my self-awareness. Was my ‘no’ response simply a knee-jerk reaction, or was there a good reason for me to say ‘no’ to my daughter’s request? By the end of the day, I realized that I was in fact a very balanced parent, and the score card opened up a great dialog between my daughter and I about expectations.

If you would like to increase self-awareness about a particular behaviour, try using the score card technique! It doesn’t have to just be used to increase awareness of  ‘yes/no’ responses. If you are learning to better handle your anger, keep score on when you handle anger well (staying calm), and when you lose your cool. You can then use the score card to better understand what is going on for you when you are able to stay calm in the face of frustration – and hopefully learn to build on these moments!

What helps you to stay present, to pause before responding? Type your ideas to the comments and let’s all learn from each other.

Good luck!

This article was originally posted on November 1, 2010, to Happy Parents = Happy Kids (focusedonparenting.wordpress.com) by Susan Guttridge

Mindful Parenting

Developing Mindful Awareness

sunriseThe concept of mindfulness has become increasingly popular over the last few years, and involves the ability to notice what is going on for you at any given moment, without judgment. Mindfulness is a learned skill that one acquires through regular practice. For example, if you start to feel some of the physiological sensations of anxiety, stress, or anger, (such as rapid heart beat, shallow breathing, heat in face), it is important to stop what you are doing and ask yourself “what is going on for me right now?”. This will get you present and focusing on yourself in the moment. Answering this question will involve noticing what thoughts you are having that may be contributing to physiological sensations (of increasing frustration, anxiety, anger). It also helps to notice what is going on for you in your environment (the immediate situation).

Daniel Siegel (2007), a researcher and author on the topic of mindfulness, describes mindfulness in the following way:

“Mindfulness means paying attention, in the present moment, on purpose, without grasping onto judgments. Mindful awareness involves paying attention to whatever arises within the mind from moment to moment. Recent studies of mindful awareness reveal that it can result in improvements in a range of physiological, mental, and interpersonal domains of our lives. People who develop the capacity to pay attention in the present moment without grasping onto their inevitable judgments also develop a deeper sense of well-being.”

All too often to tend to ignore what our bodies are telling us and just get on with daily life. We create habits for ourselves of going through each day in a state of ‘mindlessness’. However, in order to maximize our potential (and our potential happiness) in daily living, andlive without fear and anxiety, we need to tune into ourselves with regular “check-ins”.

Try working through an example so that you are better equipped to apply this technique when needed. Think of a time recently when you noticed you were starting to feel anxious, fearful, angry, stressed, etc. What body sensations did you experience? What thoughts were going through your mind? For example, what were you telling yourself about the situation or about your ability to handle the situation?

When you notice that you are feeling discomfort, it is important to acknowledge it. Notice what is going on for you and then do something about it. Perhaps you need to do something to calm down. Or perhaps you have been triggered and need to take a few moments away from the situation to regroup. Perhaps you need to reframe negative self-talk. When you are calm, your problem-solving skills are enhanced. Remembering to take deep, slow, regular breaths is an important part of staying calm and in control.

If you tend to be triggered by certain behaviours in your children, practicing using mindfulness in your parenting. Remember, it is not the event that determines your reaction – it is your thought or interpretation of that event that determines your reaction. Without mindfulness, we risk reacting to situations without noticing our thoughts and physiological cues that cause us to react in the ways we do. Doing check-ins to increase mindfulness can enable you to take control of your actions and reactions at all different points in the cycle, and increase feelings of control, calmness, and competence.

Reference:

Siegel, D. (2007). The mindful brain: Reflection and attunement in the cultivation of well- being.  New York, NY: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc.

This article was originally posted on November 1, 2010, to Happy Parents = Happy Kids (focusedonparenting.wordpress.com) by Susan Guttridge

Mindful Parenting

Learning to Love Yourself

Blond woman lying in fieldMany parents have a very difficult time making themselves a priority. From the time your children are born, you have most likely learned to put your needs on hold to care for them. When they cry in the night, you give up your sleep to attend to them. As toddlers they need close attention, and again your routine changes to ensure their safety and contentment. If your children are involved in sports, then you learn to adapt your schedule to take them to their activities. In essence, your life revolves around your children and your desire to raise them to be healthy and well-adjusted.

However, if you are in the habit of caring for your children, your partner, pets, etc. at the complete expense of caring for yourself, you will come to identify yourself solely by this caregiving role. Doing so puts you at risk of losing sight of your own individuality. Making yourself a priority, treating yourself kindly, nurturing yourself as well as the others in your life, is crucial to maintaining balance. It can also sustain you during stressful times, buffer against feelings of anxiety, and aid in the development of self-love. Everyone has time to care for themselves throughout the day: we just tend to use that time for other things. And the truth is, it doesn’t have to take a great deal of time.

For example, your plan to care for yourself may involve choosing to speak kindly to yourself (to be less critical with your self-talk). This process could involve enhancing self-awareness, which would enable you to start catching yourself when self-talk becomes critical, and then replace it with something kinder. Such a process wouldn’t necessarily take time out of your day, just a shift in your thinking process! Read and work through the steps outlined below, and make a plan to build some self-care into your week.

Part 1: Identify

In your journal, or on a piece of paper if you do not use a journal, write the title “What does it mean to love myself?”. Then, divide the page into 2 columns, with “Behaviour” on one side, and “Thoughts/Beliefs” on the other side. Take a moment to think about what it means to truly care for yourself. Once you have an idea of what this looks like for you, put your ideas on the paper, in the appropriate columns. For example, on the behaviour side, you might include things like: eating right, allowing yourself enough sleep, calling friends, reaching out for help when necessary, relaxing regularly (perhaps with a bath, meditation, yoga, reading, etc.), exercising, going for walks, gardening, limiting stress in your life, having strong boundaries with difficult people in your life, and so forth. Examples of thoughts/beliefs are: using positive affirmations, saying kind things to yourself such as “I can do this”, “I can learn to do that” (rather than “I’m such an idiot”), “I can handle my anger”, “I’m currently struggling with this because I am new at it” (rather than “I can’t do this”), “I have the power to take charge of my life”.

Part 2: Plan

Now that you have identified the ways in which you can care for yourself, take steps to incorporate loving yourself into your daily life. Review your list, and select the items on it that you identify the most with – the ones that really stand out for you. With these you will create a plan to incorporate them into your life: write down all the details necessary to carry out your plan during the following week. For example, if you want to eat better, you could review a recipe book, make a menu plan for the following days, and a grocery list of necessary food items. Or, if you commit to going for walks, but it is wintertime and you don’t own a pair of winter books, make a plan to purchase winter boots. When you are creating your plan, think of anything that could get in the way of carrying out your plan, and then deal with it. Identifying the obstacles ahead of time is important and will enable you to better change your routine in your desired ways. Start small. Be realistic. Once your plan has been created – start living it!

Reference:
Yes You Can! 16 Steps for Discovery & Empowerment, by Charlotte Kasl (1995)

This article was originally posted on October 28, 2010, to Happy Parents = Happy Kids (focusedonparenting.wordpress.com) by Susan Guttridge

Mindful Parenting

Let’s Get Philosophical

Screen Shot 2019-09-27 at 2.36.29 PMYou do not need to be religious to have a philosophy guiding your life. However, when times get tough, it sure is helpful if you have a belief system to hang on to – to sustain you through difficulties. My absolute favorite personal philosophy for life comes from the author Don Miguel Ruiz, in his book The Four Agreements. It is a short read and my emotional outlook has improved significantly since I adopted it. By following it, I find myself better able to  focus on the positive, to catch myself when negative self-talk tries to take hold, and am better able to behave in a way that is congruent with how I feel and with what I believe.

Don Miguel Ruiz proposes the following Four Agreements as a philosophy for living:

Be impeccable with your word:
Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your word in the direction of truth and love.

Don’t take anything personally:
Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.

Don’t make assumptions:
Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want. Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness and drama. With just this one agreement, you can completely transform your life.

Always do your best:
Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick. Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse and regret.

As a parent I am continually reminding myself not to take things personally, and to be impeccable with my word. For me, this means that I don’t need to “own” my children’s issues: if my daughter is having a bad day, then she is having a bad day! It is not a reflection of anything I have done and I will not spend hours wondering what I could have done differently in order for her to have been in better spirits! I will certainly be available to her should she want to talk about it, and I will maintain an up-beat attitude around her.

All too often, parents do take the behaviours of their children personally. If a child is not listening, this can be interpreted as a sign of disrespect.  Once the thought pops into your head that your child is disrespecting you, negative thoughts automatically flood through and before you know it, you are probably thinking angry thoughts about your child or about yourself as a parent. These angry automatic thoughts often are not grounded in reality and can serve only to bring forth negative emotion. Remember, just as you have your own agenda (you may need your child to listen because you have made dinner and she needs to come to the table), your child also has her own agenda (she may be in the middle of an activity and wants a moment to finish it up). Keeping these agreements as the philosophy guiding your life can help you keep the situation in perspective – it can help you remain objective and calm by not reading more into a situation than is necessary.  Take some time to determine for yourself what the best guiding philosophy is for your life – then stick with it and see what happens!

Reference:
The Four Agreements, by Don Miguel Ruiz (1997).
http://www.miguelruiz.com/

This article was originally posted on October 20, 2010, to Happy Parents = Happy Kids (focusedonparenting.wordpress.com) by Susan Guttridge