A New Developmental Stage – 5 Steps to Stop Motherhood Stress

We had such a wonderful holiday in QLD earlier this month, and it was just the boys and me.  And I really felt at my calmest, feeling like I was on top of this mothering thing.  I even got a comment from another man on the plane who said that he travels a lot and that he was listening to me on the flight.  He called me a 'professional mother' (whatever that means.)  I'm not sure what I was actually doing to receive that label, but it made me feel good, and further confirmed my self-analysis that I was being the mum that I always wanted to be.

However, fast forward just one week and I felt very differently.    The kids have been fighting, wrestling and being very loud.  Cody has decided to bully and annoy his brother at any given opportunity and Ryan has amped his attitude up to an all time high with lots more 'bum head' labels, yelling and door slamming going on.

After finding myself feeling frustrated by this behaviour over the last week and having to work really hard (on my mindset) to stop the 'mummy monster' coming out, I finally stopped to assess what was going on and it suddenly occurred to me that........We have entered a new developmental stage!

Just when we feel like we are on top of one stage with the kids, they move the goal posts and change their behaviour.

If we do not stay aware of these new and forever changing developmental stages, then we can easily become consumed by their behaviour and our lives become miserable and stressful.

In my book, The Happy Mum Handbook, I teach mums the 5 step Mind TRACK to Happiness process which you can apply to any area of parenting (or your life).  The word 'TRACK' is an acronym for:

T:  Thoughts - What am I thinking that is causing my stress. 
R:  Reality - How are these thoughts in conflict with reality (all stress is a conflict between what you are thinking and the reality of what is actually happening).  
A:  Aim - What do I want? (this is where you start to shift your attention from the problem to the solution.  
C:  Choices - What are the options and solutions?  This is where you resource HOW you are going to get to your aim.  
K:  Know your plan - From the choices you have found, you now create your plan of how you are going to handle this situation and move towards your goal, so you are prepared.

This process gives you 5 steps to follow that consciously shifts your mind away from being consumed by the events that occur as a parent.

Here's how I will, and am, applying this process to my newfound developmental behaviour with my kids:

Step One:  Thoughts - I have already stopped myself and become aware of the thoughts that are going on in my mind.  These are the frustrating 'why are you doing that',  'you shouldn't be doing that', 'I've had enough of you', 'I just want to get away from you kids' type thoughts.  These are all in conflict with the reality of this new behaviour.  If I continue to allow myself to entertain this kind of thinking, it will only cause me stress.  I need to continually become aware of these thoughts and change them to be in alignment with....

Step Two:  Reality - The reality of the situation is that the kids are learning and growing and part of that is changing behaviour.  They are learning how to live in this world and learning what behaviour is appropriate and what is not.  There is a very physical process that the brain goes through where they don't know how to do something as habit until they have physically grown connections in the brain that make the appropriate behaviour habit.  This takes time.  Their behaviour is not a reflection of my parenting, it is just a developmental stage that I will need to handle, so that I can teach them a better way to behave.  Which brings me to my next step.

Step Three:  Aim - What do I want?  I want to find a way to respond to this behaivour without reacting to it.  The obvious aim might be to get them to behave, however we want to be careful in this step, that you aren't setting an aim that is not in your control.  We cannot control how someone else behaves, we can only control our own behaviour.

Step Four:  Choices - How do I find a way to respond to this behaviour.  This is where I'm up to on this process.  After assessing my thoughts and realising that what I'm thinking was causing my frustration, not the behaviour of the kids, then after realising this, changing how I viewed the situation (it's just another developmental stage) and deciding what I want, instead of keeping my thoughts stuck on the problem, I now need to start resourcing HOW I can address this problem and work towards my aim.

So this is where I start googling, getting on forums, finding books and looking up all the different ways that other mums and 'experts' deal with the backchat, disrespectful behaivour and sibling rivalry.  Doing this arms me with information and options for dealing with this situation and more importantly helps my children to move through this phase quicker and learn respect for each other and other people.

Step Five:  Know your plan - Finally I will assess all of the different options that I have found and create a plan of how I will handle the situation next time it occurs.  Having a plan, stops my reactions to that behaviour because I know what I'm going to do about it.  Whenever the behaviour occurs, I simply start implementing my plan.

Can you see what has happened here?  We have literally shifted our mindset from being consumed by a simple developmental stage of our child, to accepting the reality of the situation, shifting our attention to the ideal of the situation and arming ourselves with information and a plan of how to tackle it.  We have become solution focussed about the problem, instead of dragged down by it.

In The Happy Mum Handbook, I go into a lot more detail about the Thoughts and Reality step, using the method taught by the Anti-depression Association of Australia, however I wanted to show you a snapshot of this method and how I still use this method in my own life.

We will never get parenting 'right'.  Our kids are forever changing and growing and presenting us with new challenges.  We need to change with them and that means staying aware of our own reactions to their behaviour and finding appropriate ways of dealing with new behaviours as they arise, otherwise we will just continue to become consumed by the day-to-day life of being a mum.

This Mind TRACK to Happiness process is a tool to use throughout all these changes, and once you learn how to use it completely, you can stop motherhood stress, depression and anxiety.

So, on that note, please feel free to arm me with more information on how you deal with backchat and sibling rivalry, so I can begin to create my plan of attack. 🙂

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