"It is never the events that cause stress, it's how we perceive those events and what we perceive them to mean about ourselves."
Jackie Hall - Qualified Counsellor & Founder of The Parental Stress Centre
Often we blame the things going on around us for feeling stressed or angry - it's the child's behaviour, it's my partner, it's lack of sleep, it's having no money. The list can be endless.
However, does everyone have the same reaction when facing these events?
Do you even have the same reactions EVERY SINGLE TIME you are faced with an event?
The answer is no. This is because your 'story' about the event changes when you are perceiving it in that moment, depending on what else is happening, or has been happening around you.
Mindset when it comes to anything, is hugely powerful and to be that calm parent you're wanting to be, you often have to learn how to master your mindset so you can get out of the story that's causing you to feel stressed.
Here are 10 ways your thinking can cause you Parental Anger:
#1 - You are focussed on the picture of how thing are ‘supposed to be' rather than how they are
This is number one because it's the most common. The brain thinks in pictures. We created a picture of how something would pan out, and what's happening is very different to your expectations, however you are still focussed on the old picture. You need to upgrade your picture with what is ACTUALLY happening so you can free your attention particles up to do something about it.
#2 - You have attached your self-worth to getting parenting ‘right’
With the picture of the 'right' way things were supposed to go, is also often a 'right' way that brain has determined that YOU need to be in order to feel loved, valued, respected, to belong and to feel good, or good enough. When life is going to plan, you feel good about yourself, but when it's not, you feel worth.....less (how worth-less will depend on the how strongly you've attached your self-worth to outcome).
The belief is that if "I can't be [insert perfectionist/achiever/responsible one/people pleaser/peace maker] then I'm not good enough." This causes anger because of the hidden hurt. Anger is a way of trying to control events so you can achieve your goal or because you feel out of control because you haven't achieved your goal.
#3 - You’re catastrophizing by talking in absolutes using words like NEVER, ALWAYS, NOTHING
"I have NOTHING to wear!"
"You kids are ALWAYS behaving this way. You NEVER listen to me."
"You NEVER help me around the house. You're ALWAYS making other things a priority" (Might be something you say to your partner).
Catastrophising or speaking in absolutes sends the brain on an evidence finding mission and will draw up all of the times you have no clothes, not been listened to, when the kids have been playing up, how your partner never helps you. It narrows its focus ONLY to those reference points in your brain and won't ever look for the time when you have had new clothes, you have been listened to, the kids did behave, or when your partner did help.
This narrow view seemingly justifies your anger because you think you are right. Based on the evidence you are drawing upon, you might be. But this isn't ALL that's going on. Plus if you only focus on what you don't want, how do you focus on what you do want and start moving in that direction?
#4 – You’re focused on the past
As you'll see, a lot of these points all start to blend in together. Your brain is constantly bringing information from your reference points to the conscious mind so you can assess how to respond to current events.
If you have trained yourself to look for what goes wrong, how much you're missing out, how behaviour has occurred in the past or how people have acted, you don't give change a chance. You are living in the past, not in the present.
With this focus, you can become angry at life before anything has even happened! You already expect that it's going to go the way it did in the past and you have your reaction all ready to go.
#5 – You’re worried about a potential future
This is a biggie with anger. You are using the information from the past to predict a future outcome and you worry about how it will all play out. You're not living in the now, you're living partway in the past and into a potential future.
You'll say things like, 'What if...." and "I just know 'x' will happen'". "I don't know how I'm going to handle it when 'x' happens" and you tie up your attention, focussing on something that hasn't even happened.
#6 – You’re personalising your child’s behaviour
Guess what? Your child's behaviour is not about you! It's about where they are at in their brain development and how they are perceiving life in that moment, just like where your actions and emotions come from.
But as parents, we get fixated on outcome and think we are responsible for every little decision and action our child does and think that it is due to our failings when they respond a certain way. We think we've failed, we're hopeless, everyone else is doing it better. We feel unloved, like no one respects us or that there is something wrong with us because our child is acting this way.
But your child's reaction comes from their mindset! They need help with their thinking, just like you do. Sure they may have learnt some mindset strategies from you that may need to change, but that doesn't mean you have failed. How great that you've become aware of it. Now you can do something about it!
When you can jump out of the world of you and into the world of them and how you can help them to learn, grow and navigate their way in the world, then you free your attention particles up to be solution focussed about how you can teach them, rather than rolling around in a crappy story about how you have failed, which doesn't help anyone (and it reinforces the very beliefs you want to change in yourself and your child).
#7 – Your expectations are unrealistic
Clean house, perfect children, excellent finances, do things for others, do things for me, have it balanced at ALL times. There's no room for flexibility here! Life doesn't always go to plan. But your mind thinks it should and you get all caught up in stress when life doesn't go the way you want it to.
The belief here is "I think I 'should' be able to do more, be more, have more, learn more, apply more and then I'll get life right!"
It's okay to have goals, but you have to be flexible because life doesn't always go to plan and life isn't always balanced. Sometimes you have to find a different way to get to your goals, learn some new ways on how to get to your goal and revise your plans.
#8 – You’re in conflict with reality
This is one of my own personal catchphrases when I'm rolling around in my 'pit of shit', thinking things should be different to how they are.
Stress is caused because your thinking is in conflict with the reality of what is.
It can be in conflict with the reality of the situation (Reality is your child is having a tantrum right now).
It can be in conflict with the reality of parenting (Reality is children of 4 and under don't have logic and reasoning skills so their behaviour will often NOT be rational).
It can be in conflict with the reality of life. (Reality is life doesn't always go to plan. It's full of ups and downs.)
It can be in conflict with the reality of self-worth (Reality is that worth is not defined by outcome, or we'd all be worth-less because life doesn't always go to plan.)
#9 – You’re still making decisions and acting through your child self
Because the brain thinks from the references of the past, and your brain was largely set up between the ages of 0 to 7, often you are still making decisions based on experiences that occurred in your childhood.
"In order to get love, I need to do everything for everyone."
"You can't ask for help or you're lazy."
"I have to achieve to avoid getting in trouble" or the flipside, "I have to achieve to get love."
"In order to feel good enough, I need people to like me" so I fear judgement.
There are so many examples of how our decisions from childhood are still motivating our actions today and causing us stress as logically we know, we cannot possibly live up to these expectations, and we don't want to either. But unconsciously, the brain still thinks it needs to protect you from pain or pursue pleasure by living these same habits.
#10 – You’re stuck in blame mode – they should have behaved differently!!
We have an expectation that other people's priorities should be the same as yours. But are your priorities always the same as other people's? Is it okay for others to make different choices?
When you get stuck in blame mode, again your focus is on the past - the picture you had of the way things were 'supposed to go'. You're not looking for ways to negotiate with the other person, align with them, create ways of co-operating with each other, or finding their entry point at which those negotiations can be made.
Instead, you're stuck in a story that's in conflict with reality. Reality is, they did what they did, so where to from here? How can you either help your children with their mindset so that they change their priorities, teach them some consequences about life because they made that decision or work with them on a solution. How can you communicate, negotiate and compromise now that the behaviour did occur? This can also apply to your relationships too.
You see, your mind is key to changing how you feel about your life. You can set about changing the circumstances of your life, yelling at the kids to obey and comply, get annoyed to justify your position and stay in your own 'pit of shit', or you can work on your mindset so you can free it up to become solution focussed about your present reality.
So how many of these have you found applies to you, that you need to work on?