The Five Skills Calm and Happy Parents Have Mastered
How many of them do you have?
Very rarely do you come across parents who are just born to do this parenting gig with ease.
Nothing seems to phase them!
What’s that about? Why do they get to experience parenting with this blissfulness, while we’re over here struggling – getting overly frustrated, reacting, seeing our child’s reactions to our behaviour, feeling like a crappy parent, judging ourselves, swearing we’ll change, only to get up the next day and make the same choices all over again.
I know. I get it. I’ve lived that cycle over and over and over again.
Thankfully, I got out of this though, AND I’ve worked with over 20,000 parents across the world, helping them off this emotional roller coaster too.
And by walking my talk and helping so many parents, I’ve figured out the key ingredients to being a calm and happier parent.
Let’s see how many of these you have nailed as a parent, or how many you may still need to work on.
You’ll be surprised by what it takes and how little it actually has to do with the skill of parenting.
Calm and Happy Parents have the skill to recognise what is actually triggering their stress.
Event: Child keeps behaving the same way after the 10th time you’ve asked them not to.
How you feel: Angry, disrespected, ready to throw something, defeated. What’s triggering this? YOUR STORY. “How many times have I told you not to do that. You continue to disobey me again and again and again. You NEVER listen to me! You NEVER give a damn about what I think or how I’m trying to run this house. You just keep doing whatever you want with no concern for anyone else but yourself. You don’t clean your room. You don’t help me with anything. You give me backchat. I’m so sick of having to deal with this crap day in day out.
I do everything for everyone around here, and no one gives a damn about me and what I want. I’m just everyone’s slave around here. Well I’m sick of it. If things don’t change around here, I’m seriously going to lose my s**t!”
Can you recognise this story? We all think like this at times, in one way or another. But with this outburst, there are key patterns of thinking that are what is actually causing stress.
The patterns you may identify are:
- You use absolutes like ‘never’ & ‘always’ & ‘again, and again and again’ – this makes you catastrophise the situation.
- You look through a missing out lens – finding evidence of what you’re missing, what you’ve lost or what you lack in your life
- You personalise the situation – As human beings, our minds are always asking the questions ‘what does this mean and what does it mean about me?’ You make judgements about yourself or your life because you’re experiencing this unwanted situation.
- You ‘Stack until you crack’ – The mind is a loyal servant and will dutifully find evidence of what you have your attention on. When you focus on what you’re missing out on, your mind will stack up the evidence of what you’re missing out on. When you look at how someone else (or you) should have behaved differently, your mind will search through your memory bank at other times you or that person has behaved that way to justify your judgement of them (or you), and/or you stack up evidence of how much your life is worth…..less or how you’re at fault for the situation you’re experiencing. You stack and stack and stack, until you crack emotionally.
Many people believe that it’s their external experiences that are triggering stress, but if that was the case then that would mean everyone who experiences a toddler throwing a tantrum, a teenager giving backchat, or a messy house, would experience stress. But we all know that calm mother who just doesn’t seem to be triggered by these things. Why is that? Because…It’s never the event that triggers your stress, it’s how you perceive that event and what you perceive it to mean about you. That’s the real culprit!
The first skill calm and happy parents learn is the ability to become aware of the their thoughts and know which ones are triggering their stress. They recognise that it’s not the event that’s causing their emotions. The recognise that the work they need to do to feel calm, is within their mindset first.
Calm & Happy Parents can adjust the way they perceive the challenges of parenting.
All emotions of stress are triggered by a conflict between belief and reality. Our thoughts about the current moment are arguing with the reality of what is. Example: Reality is your child is having a tantrum or giving you back chat. Your conflict is your story about why that’s happening and what it means about you (see point 1). Parents who work with us learn to recognise the thinking that’s triggering their stress and then learn how to ‘upgrade’ that thinking.
Now this requires practice and effort, because the mind has likely gotten used to the way you’ve been thinking and is not going to give that up without a fight. You have 60,000 thoughts a day and 95% of those thoughts you had today are the same as yesterday. So how many days have you been telling your ‘story’ that’s been triggering your stress?On top of that, every time you have a thought you release a chemical in the body, which is felt as your emotions. Over time of repeating your ‘story’, the cells in your body can literally get addicted to those chemicals (ie your emotions) and start driving the mind to think the thoughts that trigger the same emotions.
Just like when your body starts to crave the chocolate you’re wanting and then you start thinking of all the reasons that justify having that piece of chocolate. The mind/body connection is working the same when it comes to the hormones of stress! Also, 95% of the thoughts you think come from the subconscious, meaning below consciousness. You’re not even aware that you’re thinking them! That’s why we have to use point one and start paying attention to what you’re saying to yourself. But it doesn’t just stop there!
Our parents then have to retrain their mind and body to think and feel differently. That requires effort, consistency, persistence, repetition and new knowledge of how to think and feel (FYI, this is what the Parental Stress Centre teaches parents how to do). Parents who are calm and happy have mastered the art of awareness and adjustment. It’s not that they’re perfect. They have these rolling in their ‘pit of s**t’ moments too. But they don’t STAY THERE. They’ve trained themselves to recognise the story and get out of it!
Calm & Happy Parents have the skills to jump out of the world of them and jump into the world of understanding their child.
When we’re rolling in our ‘pit of s**t’ we’re in the world of us.
When your body is in hormones of stress it’s exactly like being in fight or flight mode. The body goes through the same physical changes you’d go through if you were being chased by a lion.
It stops sending blood to certain parts of the body to conserve energy for the fight or flight.
- Your pupils dilate.
- Your immune system weakens.
- Cortisol levels rise.
- Melatonin levels drop (they’re the ones that help you sleep)
- And (put simply) the conscious part of your brain gets compressed so you’re thinking with your hind brain. The conscious part of your brain is responsible for logic, reasoning and rationale.
So not only are you stuck tumbling around in the story of you and your judgements about the situation, you are literally lacking the ability to think rationally about WHY your child may be doing what they’re doing and what solutions might be available to change this behaviour (either in the moment or as a long term strategy).
When you’re swimming in hormones of stress, it’s not a time to be learning anything new. The body thinks it’s time to survive!!
Not only do parents who work with us understand what’s going on to trigger their stress and know how to pull themselves out of this pit, they are also learning how to free up their attention to be able to observe their child’s behaviour.
- What must my child be thinking to be feeling and acting this way?
- What’s going on in their brain development for them to be behaving this way?
- How are they in conflict with reality right now?
- What do I need to teach them?
- What resources are available to me in this moment and beyond to help me work on this situation?
When you’re able to get out of the world of you and get into the world of your child, you’re no longer personalising their behaviour, and when you’re not personalising the moment, you’re not feeling stressed about it either.
This frees your attention up to start thinking more rationally about their behaviour – why it exists, and what the solution is for change.
Calm and Happy parents who are developing this third skill don’t have all the answers. But they know that the answers exist and have the freedom of mind to keep working on helping their kids and making those changes.
They recognise that, just like themselves, it’s going to take repetition, consistency, persistence, knowledge and action, to help their child learn new skills and ways of thinking for their life.
Calm and Happy Parents have the skills to communicate effectively (with their partners and others).
Sometimes it’s not our kids that prevent us from being calm and happy parents. It can be our partners, our family members or our work colleagues – in other words, our relationships.
Our Happy parents are recognising first and foremost that nothing external ever causes an internal shift within you.
You and your mindset trigger your emotions. Period!
So, our parents are using the same solution focussed attitude used in the last point, and are learning to apply it to their relationships too.
They recognise that just like our self, we are doing things with the agenda to pursue pleasure and avoid pain. They recognise that other people are running stories and patterns and looking for ‘what does this mean about me’ and know that there are ways to communicate with people so they will listen.
When we develop the ability to understand another’s behaviour, have empathy, compassion, understanding and the skills to communicate effectively with others, not only do we feel more in alignment with a calmer self, but externally, we have much better relationships.
The fourth skill our parents are learning to acquire, is relationship skills.
How to understand the difference between how men and women think.
How to understand what they must be thinking to behave the way they do.
They understand how dynamics are set up because of each other’s belief systems, and how to ‘align’ with another person to create more amicable relationships.
Imagine the difference that then makes to how you run your family or how you interact with your kids.
Relationships are everywhere.
When you learn to take responsibility for the knowledge and actions of yourself internally, you will watch as your external relationships start to transform too.
Calm and Happy parents are present and flexible
Our parents are far from perfect. I’m far from perfect. Like I said earlier. It’s about awareness and adjustment, not perfection. The reality of parenting is that there are going to be A LOT of anomalies that get in the way of your expected ‘picture’ of how you wanted things to be. There is going to be A LOT of repetition in your life. We are learning.Our kids are learning. We don’t have all the answers to life and parenting. We do get caught up in our emotions. There’s going to be lots of times when you don’t have any idea how you’re going to handle a new situation with the kids. There are going to be times when you realise a decision you made in the past is now creating the challenges you’re having in the present and there’s going to be nothing you can do to change that reality straight away. Our parents recognise that this is all part of the parenting journey. It was never about getting it right. Life is full of ups and downs, and our parents are learning how to roll with that reality and BE HAPPY ANYWAY!. Calm and Happy parents learn not to personalise their mistakes or roll around in their ‘pit of s**t’ for too long when life doesn’t go to plan. They recognise when their thoughts are coming from past habitual patterns and they reign their attention back into the present moment. They bring their awareness back to the five senses because they know this is where the true peace is that they are looking for. Seeing. Hearing. Touching. Tasting. Smelling. Loving. Laughing. Experiencing. Living. Learning. Sharing. Growing. Evolving. These are the realities of life. Calm and Happy parents are CONTINUOUSLY working on this skill. They LIVE it. They practice it. They train their bodies to feel calm and happy emotions. They stumble, but they get up and they keep going. Every day they work on staying aware of the negative thoughts that trigger their emotions, and they work on retraining their minds and bodies to be calm and happy.
So where does this leave you?
Some people have developed these five skills naturally. They don’t need help. They don’t need training.
They probably had really good mentors that served as role models to teach them these skills and they’re already in the habit of being calm and happy.
For the rest of us, we need to develop the habit of being calm and happy. To do that it requires knowledge, practice and repetition, just like learning to walk did. It often requires some mentoring too.
I have personally had to train myself out of the pit of depression and anxiety as a mum. I have literally had to walk my talk and still do.
In this day and age, ignorance is a choice. Parental stress is a choice. Not a subconscious one, but a conscious one.
Neuroscience and psychology know so much about the brain these days, that we are no longer even governed by our genetics!
This means you are already equipped with everything you need to create change.
You have the power to feel good whenever you’re ready to learn how and whenever you’re ready to put in the effort to make that transformation.
It’s not easy, but I promise you it’s worth it!
So tell me, which of these 5 skills do you feel you need to work on?