Week Seven / Day Two – Aims for being a parent


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In order to start setting our aims, we are going to start with setting your objective goals first.  Remember that the objective goals are your bigger picture goals.  These are the ones that kind of sit in the background as your life unfolds and ones that you continue to align to as you set the various activity goals in your life.  The activity goals, for the purposes of this aim step, will be the aims you set that are going to help you through your present problematic situation.

We are going to set your objective goals first because they are the bigger goals that you are essentially aligning your life too.  Activity goals will come and go.  Sometimes you will achieve them and sometimes you won’t.  Objective goals set a benchmark for growth.  You are always working towards them but they aren’t really a destination that you will reach.  You will continue to improve and grow in the direction of these bigger picture aims.  For example, you might set a parenting aim to create a close bond with your child.  If this is one of your aims then your situation goals (your activity goals) would be to spend a certain amount of time with your child.  As long as you are both alive, you will continue to work on your objective goal of creating a close bond with your child.

Since we are using the reality thinking model as a guide to setting our aims, we’re going to ignore your aims for your present situation for now (as they are your activity goals) and create your bigger picture, objective goals first, by concentrating on your parenting aims first.

Once you have set your parenting aims, your aims for your life and your self-worth aims, you are then ready to tackle your urgent situation goals, that is, the aims you will set that will help you through the problematic situation that you are presently experiencing (for example, the developmental challenge with your child or a relationship issue etc.)

This week is going to be run a little different to other weeks because as we go through each day, you are going to need to work through a few small exercises with pen and paper by your side, so that you can establish some of your aims.  All of these small exercises that you do this week will all be needed to tie in this week’s learning into exercise day at the end of this week.

So grab your pen and paper and let’s get started!

The first thing that I want you to do is to put your fears, self-doubts and self-criticisms aside and step into your ideal world.  You are going to begin using your imagination in order to establish what your aims might be in relation to being a parent.

We all have a vision of the kind of parent we would like to be, what values we would like to pass down to our children and what sort of role model you would like to be for your children.

Chances are that if you have been suffering from depression, stress or anxiety in the area of parenting then you have been rating yourself as not being a very good mother.

Hopefully after going through the Thoughts and Reality steps so far you have found a different perspective on this and have begun to see that there is value in the challenges that you have been going through, and are now able to detach your self-worth (or your value as a mother) from the events that have been occurring thus far.

However, even though you are aligned with the reality of the ups and downs of being a parent and have the understanding that there are skills to be learnt and practiced and that you are always doing the best you can with the information you have, you may still feel like you are long way away from being the kind of parent that you would like to be.

Among the events leading up to now, I would bet that you have put a lot of attention on what you are doing wrong, but not a lot of attention on what the ideal parent actually is that you want to be, or at least been able to to look at this ideal parent in a realistic way.

So now is the time to start thinking about what your ideals are for your role as a parent.  You know what their personalities are and the regular challenges that you tend to come across, the personalities that make up your children and your reactions to the events that occur in your daily life.  Just take a moment to close your eyes and imagine these day to day activities with your children.  What is happening?  How are you responding to these events?  What is the ideal scenario here?  How would you like to respond to these moments?  What do you want for yourself as a parent?  What do you want to provide your children in these scenarios?

Step One

Take some time to think about your present situation and think about some of the bigger picture aims that you would like in your ideal world of being the ideal parent.  Don’t worry about the how or whether you are capable of achieving these aims, or even how realistic your aim is at this point.  That’s why we question our aims with our two key questions.  You are simply just brainstorming what your ideal picture is of the parent you would like to be.

Here is an example of a scenario and some aims that you might write to help you to become the ideal parent:

You are a mother who is experiencing angry children who lash out, yell, hit, scream, tantrum and generally misbehave.  As a result you are stressed, run down and exhausted after running around after them and you often respond with an equal amount of anger and rage as you battle to get them to do what you want them to do.  Here are some potential goals that you might set in the area of being a parent:

a)  To be a calm mother who communicates well with her child

b)  To be able to install confidence and self-love in my children

c)  To help my kids learn the difference between right and wrong

d)  To teach my children to respect and love each other and how to have harmonious relationships

e)  To bring love and fun back into the house

You will notice that all of these aims are written in a positive sense.  It tells you what you want, not what you don’t want.  It doesn’t say “I don’t want to be angry anymore’, or “I don’t want to smack anymore”. It tells you what you do want.  This is important because the attention expands in the direction that you send it in.  “Don’t think of a pink elephant”.  What are you going on about, you might say?  Well, don’t think of a pink elephant.  What does that make you do?  It makes you think of a pink elephant.  But I just told you not to.  Exactly.  When you say ‘I don’t want to be angry anymore’ what are you focussing on?  You’r focussing on being angry.  What you want to do is put your attention on what you want, not what you don’t want or what you are trying to stop.

With that in mind go ahead and write down, in your notebook, some possible aims that you might like to have that fit in with your individual circumstances.  Put them under the heading “Potential Aims for being the ideal parent”.   Remember that you are not trying to solve the situation at this point, you are looking at the bigger picture of what you want to teach your children and the way that you would like to be as a parent overall. 

Step Two

Beside each of your aims ask yourself the two key questions about your aims and write down your answers.  They are:  Why do I want this?  & Is what I want in conflict with reality?  These are the two questions that are now going to test your potential aims to see if your answers need to be upgraded to being in alignment with reality.

Here is an example of this step using the same scenario as above:

a)  To be a calm mother who communicates well with her child.

Why do I want this?  Because I want to stop all this hostility in my house.  It drains my energy, I don’t enjoy my kids when this occurs and I don’t like myself when I’m like this.  Also, it doesn’t help my children to learn not to behave like this.  My behaviour teaches them to behave this same way, which is only adding to more conflict in the house.  I think if I can change myself, then maybe it will change them too.

Is what I want in conflict with reality?  If my agenda is to change myself so they will change, I just need to be sure that I’m not measuring their behaviour against whether I’m being calm enough or not.  They will be behaving in their way due to their beliefs and while I do believe that my behaviour change will dramatically change their behaviour, I still cannot control how they behave and how they perceive life.  I can only continue to help them to change their ways and hope that this has the desired effect.

You can see in these two questions it just makes sure that your aims are not setting yourself up for more stress by attaching your self-worth to the outcome of achieving this goal.  There is nothing wrong with this aim ‘to be a calm mother who communicates well with her child’,  however this mum just needed to make sure that her perspective on ‘change myself so my children will change’ is kept in perspective too.  Consciously contemplating what your real agenda is (which will always be in your best interests anyway)  helps you to be aware of those times when you are hoping that a specific outcome will occur and that you continue to keep your aim in alignment with reality (for example, someone else’s behaviour is not in my control and does not define my self-worth).

Let’s have a look at another aim from this example that may need to be changed, or reworded because it doesn’t align with reality:

c)  To help my kids learn the difference between right and wrong

Why do I want this?  They are always doing the wrong thing.  I can never get them to behave appropriately or to do what they’re supposed to do.  I need to teach them that there are things that you do that are the right thing and things that are wrong, so that they can implement this into their own lives as they grow older.  I really want my kids to know how to behave in public so that they don’t embarrass me.  I hate it when everyone looks at me because my kids are doing the wrong thing.  I just know that they are judging me.  Also, it’s going to make my life a lot easier if they would just do what they are supposed to do instead of doing the wrong thing all the time.

Is what I want in conflict with reality?  Firstly, let’s take a look at the reality of your child’s behaviour to begin with.  It’s not wrong in their eyes.  Their behaviour is due to priorities that they have that come from their beliefs.  Perhaps it’s not wrong, it’s just that their priorities are not the same as yours are.  Now this doesn’t mean that you should just let them misbehave in public, however, understand that they are not wrong for behaving this way, they simply have their priorities mixed up because they don’t yet understand the importance of certain values, such as respect, consideration for others and also, the consequences for behaving the way they do.  The reality of life is that they can’t just go around hitting people and yelling at people to get what they want in everyday life, because there are going to be some real harsh consequences for that that you aren’t going to be able to protect them from forever, so you need to be able to teach them these values so that they can take these learnings out into the world. 

You want to be really careful with this right/wrong kind of language because you don’t want to install in them that there is a right way to live and a wrong way to live and if you get it wrong then you are somehow worth-less.  The reality is that we are always learning and growing and there will be times where we stuff up and we learn lessons from those times.  When we impress upon our children that they are doing something ‘wrong’ then we are alluding to them being wrong and this can cause all sorts of self-worth issues. 

Secondly, the agenda here seems to about making your life a whole lot easier by having them do what they’re ‘supposed to do’.  What is it that their ‘supposed to do’?  This may need further investigation.  Is their ‘supposed to’ about doing things that make your life easier, or is it about living with adequate moral values and having the space to learn and grow through their mistakes and adversities.  If it is to make your life easier, then perhaps you need to revisit your thinking around your life being hard to see whether you can change the way you look at their behaviour with the reality thinking model.  You could still set this aim with the agenda of making your life easier, but just know that there is a mindset involved here that keeps you thinking that this situation is presently hard.  Also, if your agenda is to teach them moral values, then I think that this aim can be revisited and reworded to be in alignment with the reality that we are always learning and are always having our ups and downs that give us this learning.  There is no right path or wrong path for life to go, there is only one path and that is your unique life.

If you would like to install healthy morals in your children then perhaps a more appropriate goal might be:  to teach my children the value of respect, healthy communication and consideration for others, rather than it being about teaching them the difference between right and wrong.  Maybe an aim that teaches them certain values might be more of a productive goal that teaches them more about values rather than being right and being wrong.

With these examples in mind, go ahead in your notebooks and test your aims against our two questions:  Why do I want this?  & Is what I want in conflict with reality?

Whenever you are setting your aims, you really need to be careful of what your agenda is and the specific language that you use when you set your aims and test them.  Firstly, you don’t want to be setting yourself up for more stress if you are attaching your worth to the achievement of your goals.  Secondly you don’t want to be installing ‘get your life right’ beliefs in your children either.  This whole idea of right and wrong runs rife in our society today and it causes so much pressure amongst people.   While yes, there is a right and wrong in terms of a morals and social etiquette, there is also the reality that we are all on our journey of learning and growing, so we won’t always get it right.  Furthermore, we are always operating with the priorities that we have IN EVERY SINGLE MOMENT, so we need to stay aware of what these priorities and also teach our children to think about the decisions they are making in their lives and whether they are in alignment with the reality of life, and more importantly, the reality of self-worth.

Step Three

Now that you have tested your aims against our two key questions, write in your notebooks your final aims that you would like to set as your objective goals.  Know that you have been really honest in your agenda and are clear that you do not have your self-worth attached to these aims. 

At this point don’t worry about how you are going to start achieving these aims.  If this is what you want to go for,  then just right these aims for now.  In the choices step and the know your plan steps taught next week and the week after, I’m going to teach you how you can start implementing plans to reach these aims, or start your growth towards these aims.

Remember, with these objective aims you are continually working on the achievement of them.  There will be times where you feel like you are achieving these aims (for example, you have handled a situation calmly) and then there will be times where you have resorted to old thinking and totally lose the plot again.  The point is that when you set these aims, consciously, you then set about consistently working towards them through life, or in this case, throughout your relationship with your children. 

There will be many challenges that arise that test your commitment towards this aim and also show you that you have more to learn about how to consistently achieve this aim, so don’t go attaching your self-worth to achieving this aim 24/7, as the whole reason we are setting these objective aims is to give you a benchmark to continuously aim for.

Now that you have your list of aims for the ideal parent you would like to be, in tomorrow’s lesson we are going to expand on your objective goals to create what aims you want for your life.