"Yesterday my husband and I had an argument at dinner time in front of the kids. My four year old daughter yelled at us to ‘Be quiet!’ … My two year old had a tough time going to bed, which is unusual for him. Could that have had to do with mommy and daddy arguing?”
In honor of Valentines Day last week, my posts this week are about the intersection between being a parent and being a couple -- specifically, how to work through conflicts when you're in front of the kids. Next week, we'll get back to our Beyond Discipline series, with 10 Alternatives to Consequences and When Kids Just Won't Cooperate.
Conflict is part of every human relationship. If we live with children, those conflicts will sometimes come up in front of the kids. In the past, most experts reassured parents that there’s no harm in children seeing them fight, as long as the kids also see the parents make up afterwards. However, recent developments in neurological research challenge this view. Not surprisingly, it turns out that when children hear yelling, their stress hormones shoot up. In fact, even a sleeping infant registers loud, angry voices and experiences a rush of stress chemicals that takes some time to diminish. READ POST
"Dr Laura....I'm trying stop yelling, but I can't. And I can't imagine getting my kids to listen if I don't yell at them. ...Can you move in with me for a week?!” - Cheralynn
Like Cheralynn, most parents think they "should" stop yelling, but they don't believe there's another way to get their child's attention. After all, it's our job to teach them, and how else can we get them to listen? It’s not like yelling hurts them; they barely listen, they roll their eyes. Of course they know we love them, even if we yell. Right?
Wrong. The truth is that yelling scares kids. It makes them harden their hearts to us. And when we yell, kids go into fight, flight or freeze, so they stop learning whatever we're trying to teach. What's more, when we yell, it trains kids not to listen to us until we raise our voice. And it trains them to yell at us. READ POST
"The moment one commits oneself, then Providence
moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never
otherwise have occurred...Whatever you can do, or dream you can do,
begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now." -
Did you make a New Years Resolution to stop yelling? Surveys show that's the #1 Resolution for parents everywhere.
Or maybe your resolution was to transform your relationship with your son or daughter because you know that's the first step toward your child changing. Or maybe you're working to shift the tone in your house from sniping and snotty to laughing and loving.
While we have the ability to create change at any time, there's something about the symbolic fresh start of the new year that gives us a little extra momentum. But if you're like most of us, you've had the experience of making resolutions only to give up in frustration and self-disgust within a few weeks. You may even feel like giving up already, and it's only January 8!
The truth is, most new year's resolutions fail. Not because we're not good enough, or we don't try hard enough. But because what we're trying to do is HARD. And often we don't know how to support ourselves with a step-by-step plan, or we don’t revise our plan to accommodate reality when we hit a wall. Or maybe we never really commit ourselves aloud and in public, so our resolution never gets the chance to grow roots, much less flower.
So resolutions are not enough. Habits are hard to break, and resolutions by themselves are a wish without a plan. Intention by itself is a great beginning, but it's only the first step of the journey.
But there are a few lucky folks who actually make their New Year's resolutions come true. What can we learn from them? READ POST
"You may become flooded by feelings such as fear, sadness or rage. These intense emotions can lead you to have a knee-jerk reaction instead of thoughtful responses. When emotional reactions replace mindfulness, you're on the low road and it is very unlikely that you will be able to maintain nurturing communication and connection with your child." -- Dan Siegel
You know what the high road is. When you’re feeling really good, nothing fazes you. You respond to your child’s foibles with patience, understanding, and a sense of humor.
You know what the low road is, too. It’s when you’re stressed, exhausted, resentful. When you insist on being right or wringing an apology out of your child. When your fuse is so short that you feel justified in having your own little tantrum. When you're in the grip of fight or flight emotions and your child looks like the enemy. READ POST
"Love is not a feeling, love is an action...Love is as love does." -- M. Scott Peck
Last week, Step 1 of Ten Steps to Unconditional Love (It's Better for Your Child If You're Not Perfect) encouraged you to renounce perfection and shoot higher -- for love! If you change nothing else, that will change your life. But why stop there? Why not really give your love muscle a workout?
It's simple, but not easy. Commit to treating yourself and everyone around you with compassion. Every time you notice harshness creeping in, toward yourself, your child, or anyone else, stop and find something to appreciate about that person. No exceptions. If you could choose compassion in every interaction with everyone, including yourself, you'd be enlightened by the end of the month. READ POST
“Before the plane takes off, the pilots have a flight plan…but during the course of the flight, wind, rain, turbulence, air traffic, human error, and other factors act on the plane…90% of the time the plane is not even on the prescribed flight path...During the flight, the pilots make constant adjustments to get back on track. The flight of that airplane is the perfect metaphor for family life…it doesn’t make any difference if we are off target or even if our family is a mess. The hope lies in the vision and in the plan and in the courage to keep coming back time and time again.” – Stephen Covey
You may have noticed that you aren’t perfect. That sometimes you aren’t the parent or the person you want to be. Sometimes you blow it. We all do. Welcome to humanity.
The bad news is that even if we’re committed to showing up with love for ourselves and others, life happens. We get disconnected -- from our child, our partner, our own deepest guidance. There’s no magic that keeps us on the right path. In fact, all relationships are a constant series of connections and disconnections, missteps and course corrections. READ POST
"Dr. Laura, I know I can't raise healthy kids if I'm always flying off the handle, but do you have any tips on staying centered with two kids? I just don't have time to do the things I used to do to take care of myself, like going to the gym. I'm so tired all the time!" - Emily
"Dr. Laura, I'm great with my kids on vacation. But most of the time, I'm just so stressed out, my default is yelling!" - David
These comments sparked the series we just finished, Nurturing Yourself while Raising Your Child. I promised to compile the links all into one post, so they're listed below.
I hope this series has inspired you to notice your own needs and take better care of yourself. I'm not suggesting that you binge on cookies or go on vacation without your children. The bottom line in parenting is that our kids depend on us to regulate them emotionally, which means we have an obligation to regulate ourselves emotionally. If a cookie will help you do that, by all means, go ahead. But my hope for you is much more profound.
My hope is that you'll find habits that support you in staying more peaceful and centered. If you can use your love for your child as your motivation to do the hard work of learning to regulate your own emotions and moods, you’ll be giving your child a tremendous gift. But the gift to yourself will be even greater, because you’ll end up happier and more emotionally healthy.
The bottom line is that once we're old enough to have kids, we're responsible for who we've become. If we had a rocky start or a bad hand of cards, it's up to us to find a way to heal those wounds and play the heck out of that hand. The only way to do that is to love ourselves unconditionally. READ POST