It’s normal, wanting our kids to make good choices. We want them to do well in school, hangout with good friends, and spend their time wisely. Is it really that hard to drink more water and less soda? Well, that’s a tough one for most adults too!
And when we see the opposite happening, fear begins to set in. We might get an email from their teacher telling us they’re missing several assignments and then we worry they’re going to fail the class. Maybe they come home 30 minutes late, and we start stressing that they’re in trouble in some way. Or possibly we’re realizing they spend all their free time on a screen, and we get angry that they don’t spend any time outside.
Do you notice any similarities in the above examples? Our kids do something, and we immediately come up with ideas of what might be creating that scenario or what might happen because of that scenario. Oftentimes those ideas tend to be more negative in nature, generating feelings of discomfort; feelings like fear, worry, stress, and anger.
Now think about this for a moment, how do you parent your kids when you feel fear, worry, stress, or anger? Chances are, probably not your best. Your most effective parenting skills like open communication, patient listening, asking for and respecting their input, pointing out their strengths, and unconditional love don’t come easy when fear sets in.
There’s a pattern happening here that is a game changer for us as parents to understand. A pattern that most people don’t see happening and those of us in the mental and emotional health world love to teach all about. Here it is: 1.) our kids do something, 2.) we immediately have a thought (or idea) about what they’re doing, 3.) that thought creates a feeling within us, and 4.) we then act on that feeling.
Now it goes without saying that our kids are going to do things that go against what we think they should do. Sometimes they’ll fall. Sometimes they’ll make mistakes, and the reality of life is that we’ve all been there a time or two as well and will continue to be. So now that you know the pattern above, whatever you think about your kid’s mistakes is going to create feelings in you that drive how you show up as a parent.
Here’s where I encourage you to grab a pencil and a piece of paper and answer the following questions. No, seriously, did you grab your pencil? Now remember, kids will make mistakes. When you think your kid’s mistakes shouldn’t be happening, how does that make you feel? And when you feel that way, how do you behave as a parent? And when you behave that way as a parent, is it strengthening your relationship with your kids or hurting it?
If this exercise is showing you a disconnection in your relationship with your kids, I invite you to catch what you’re thinking when they make mistakes. Catch those ideas that pop up in your head and start seeing the pattern they’re creating for you. Recognize the power you have to change your thinking about your kid’s mistakes. You can’t control your kid’s behavior and their choices. You can’t prevent them from making mistakes. But you can change your thinking about their mistakes. Changing your thinking doesn’t mean you’re putting blinders on and quitting helping your kids. The opposite is true. Changing your thinking is creating better opportunities for you to teach, understand, support, and cheer on your kids. Thus producing a better environment that is actually more conducive to them preventing mistakes. Win-win!