Enough is Enough
As a parent, have you ever wished you could relive a moment wondering what impact you had on you kids? What if it didn't matter that you couldn't?
The two most important little people in my world are my kids. I am confident that all of you feel the same way. As parents, we want to see our children grow into successful adults but, and most importantly, want them to be happy adults. Am I right?
“ I rarely lay in bed thinking, “Man, I sure knocked today out of the park! What an awesome dad I am! ”
Let's take a look at what how we can help plant seeds that will create a new way for our kids to see the world and their place in it. If I've piqued your interest, keep reading!
What’s your parenting style? From my research, I know that there are three main approaches, the Laissez-faire, which is the permissive style (no rules!), the authoritarian, which is the ‘my way or the highway’ style, and the authoritative approach, which focuses on the needs and wants of both sides. I’ve even seen these styles are likened to animal conflict styles where the Laissez-faire is like a teddy bear (so very accommodating) or the turtle (avoiding conflict all together). The authoritarian is more like a shark and I am sure that visual says enough - the shark just wants to take as he or she cares only for him/herself. And there is the authoritative style that is represented by the owl. This animal represents the wise collaborator and in parenting, they work with their kids, caring about the relationship and their parenting goals.
Now, these are all ideal styles and neither of them are absolutes - we may find ourselves transforming into any of these animals while parenting. I know I have! However, it is said that we all have a dominant style. And, no doubt, as you read the words above you have realized what your dominant style is. Regardless, this is not what I’m writing about today, at least not specifically. What I wanted to say, in my sharing of these styles is that regardless of my dominant style, which I believe is the authoritative parent, I still find myself lying in bed at night, from time-to-time, thinking, “How did I screw up my kids today?” Can you relate?
As I sit and write this, I rarely lay in bed thinking, “Man, I sure knocked today out of the park! What an awesome dad I am!” Nope, wish I did but I don’t. So, this often leaves me wondering, what voice did I plant like a seed in my two children’s fertile brains that day and as they fall asleep at night what memories are they remembering?
Each night my wife and I read to our kids and give them a cuddle. This is a routine that has stuck since before I can remember, and our kids look forward to that connection each night. Still, I sometimes ask myself that question, “How did I screw up my kids today?” Will what happened today be that one day that took my kid to therapy? From what I’ve learned recently (more on this in the next paragraph), is that the negative self-talk, harsh, hurtful, critical words that we say to ourselves can greatly contribute to depression and, I believe, the negative self-talk seed is planted when we are young, and I have learned that the seed doesn’t need to be dramatic - it can even be a misinterpretation of something that happened.
How Our Minds Work
Have you ever heard of Marisa Peer? She is a hypnotherapist who gave a phenomenal talk that provided insights into what she says can change your life. You may say, “Ya, heard that before. What’s she selling?” She’s not selling anything - she is sharing what has become some people’s everything and it has everything to do with how our minds work. This is what she said about our minds:
1. You mind does what it truly thinks you want it to do and what you truly believe is in your own best interest.
2. The way you feel about any event and the way your mind responds is the result of just two things; the pictures you make in your head and the words you say to yourself.
3. To succeed at anything, you have to make unfamiliar familiar and the familiar unfamiliar
" Peers suggests that when we, as parents, are wrong our kids don’t know it so instead of believing us, the parents, as wrong, they make themselves wrong. ”
In her talk, Peers mentioned the parent child dynamic and how children idolize their parents. Which makes total sense because we are the most significant people to our kids for the most formative years of their lives. Peers suggests that when we, as parents, are wrong our kids don’t know it (unless we apologize, I’d suggest) so instead of believing us, the parents, as wrong, they make themselves wrong. And it can be right there that a seed is planted - the seed of ‘I am not enough.’ And because they create a story that they are not whole they begin to search, externally, for whatever it is that they are missing because they are determined they will get better and that everything will be alright…but it never is.
Now, I know, as a parent, at least for me, this is terrifying! What parent hasn’t snapped, yelled, or done something in a moment that they later regretted? Well, dear parents, fellow travelers on this path that is both the most rewarding and the most challenging, you are amazing! Ya, I know that kinda came out of no where but don’t you think that we, as parents, don’t hear this enough? We also need to know that we are enough, enough for our spouse, our kids, our family, our jobs, our friendships but, and most importantly, we are enough because we are whole.
In my learning at the Institute for Professional Excellence in Coaching I became to understand that the choices we make in the moment are the best we can make in that given situation. If we could have made a different choice, we would have. So, let me ask you, have you ever said, “I am enough,” out loud, in a room, when you are alone, as you’re looking into a mirror at your reflection? Just think about how that feels as a parent, as a perfectly imperfect person, “I AM ENOUGH!” I think most of us haven’t said that but let me explain to you what Peers says about the power of this statement.
" Your mind believes whatever you tell it. It lets in anything you tell it. ”
Peers suggests that, “Your mind believes whatever you tell it. It lets in anything you tell it.” And she says, with this realization, tell your mind great things. Yet, instead, we beat ourselves up on the regular and when someone gives us a compliment, we downplay it or outright switch it around and make it negative - by focusing on the smallest ounce of negativity that can be seen. Forget the silver lining, we focus on the sh#t-stain lining. Why? Peers says because the negative is familiar and the positive is unfamiliar.
Make the Unfamiliar Familiar
When I was teaching at collage, I would get the most amazing feedback from students at the end of the year but, despite those positive messages, it was the few negative messages, from the students who never showed up to class, or didn’t appreciate my style, or blamed me for their grade, or held a mistake I made against me, that I focused on. Because negativity is what is familiar and, it’s hard-wired! Yup! As a former Stress Management teacher, I will tell you that our brain focuses on the negative because being aware of the negative kept us alive thousands of years ago! So, our brain is naturally drawn to negativity and makes it familiar because it was once tied to our survival.
What would happen to your life, what would it be like, for you and for your kids, if you made praise the norm and tamed the critic a little? Yes, I know, a compliment from someone can feel uncomfortable - the reason, it is unfamiliar. So, we start a new relationship with praise and get to know it over time by spending time with praise. Heck, we didn’t meet, get married, and have kids with our spouse in a week, right? It takes time to get to know someone but, in order to get to know someone we need to devote that time to become familiar. Praise is the same.
Now, there are two different kinds of praise Peers tells us, the kind you give someone else, which can leave them feeling uplifted, and the kind you give yourself. Wait, did this guy, writing this post, just tell me to start praising myself? Yup! I sure did. Uncomfortable? That is because…fill in the blank…it’s unfamiliar. And no, you are not an egotist if you partake in self-praise. When you praise yourself, it is so powerful because, as Peers shares, there is no agenda. Self-praise builds you up more than any other form because it is pure.
" Write the words ‘I am enough’ on your bedroom and bathroom mirror. Program that statement into your phone, with an alarm for the morning and the evening. ”
In her talk, Maris Peers shares how a simple exercise has had an extraordinary impact on those who practice it consistently. Remember, I am a teacher, so I am going to assign you homework. I know, I couldn’t resist! Write the words ‘I am enough’ on your bedroom and bathroom mirror. Program that statement into your phone, with an alarm for the morning and the evening. Say these words in the shower out-loud (because no one is in there when you sing - and if they are, no judgement) and make it your daily mantra. I am enough.
I AM ENOUGH
I’ve always been enough
Now I know that I am enough
Everyone else knows it too
And I will always be enough
Begin to visualize what you see in your mind and the words that you speak to yourself. Make the familiar unfamiliar and the unfamiliar familiar. Focus on what you want by choosing to give positivity a home in your mind. Peers says it will change your life. Also, have your children do this homework as well. Write the words on their mirror (I’ve actually created a frame with the 5 phrases listed above and it now hangs in 3 bedrooms - pic below) and get them to say it every morning when they wake up and every evening when they go to bed. Help them plant a seed and nurture it so that the happy person you want for them can become a reality.
On a personal note, the night I began this practice with my children my 8-year-old son resisted the statement. The frame I had; he didn’t want it. He told me he had every reason to not put the frame on his wall. I asked him, if you have every reason, can you give me just one. He couldn’t. I knew why, because he is hard on himself and he partakes in negative self-talk. I’ve seen it and when I do I hurt. I can’t imagine how it impacts him. He couldn't say the words because he didn't believe them. :(
I wanted to help plant a new seed in him and encourage him to grow it on his own by reminding himself that he is enough -because he is. After connecting with him, his eyes welled up a little and he said those words. His tone was low, but he said them. After talking some more, I asked him to say them again, and he did. His voice was stronger the second time around, but I reminded myself, baby steps.
The next morning, my son came to me as I was writing and hugged me tight for what seemed a little longer than normal. As we ended our embrace, I asked him if he’d said his words. He looked at me and said, “I am enough.” I hugged him again and let him know, “Yes, you are,” knowing that his words meant more to him than mine did and that is okay with me.
I believe, as my children do this practice (and me too) it will become their norm and it will become so familiar that their negative thoughts will still and, although the harsh words may compete for their attention, the once unfamiliar will become familiar and they won’t just say they are enough, they will believe it.
~ Love, Robert