Aha! Parenting Blog

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3 Steps To Transform Your Inner Critic Into Your Inner Nurturing Parent

"Sometimes I feel like all I do is criticize and nag my children and husband--and myself!"  -- Heather

"The way we talk to our children becomes their inner voice." - Peggy O'Mara

Too often, our inner voice isn't an encouraging, nurturing voice. It's an inner critic. Whenever you criticize yourself or others, judge, nag, bully...That’s your inner critic.

We all have one. Its job is to protect us. It just goes about it in the wrong way.

Go under the criticism, and you’ll find fear. Fear that we aren't good enough somehow... and we therefore aren't worthy, won't be loved, won't survive. That seems crazy, right? 

But when you get a call from your child's teacher, and you worry that he's not succeeding, that you'll be judged and found wanting, that there's danger ahead, you go straight into survival mode. Fight or flight. So by the time you see your child, he looks like the enemy.

But there's more.  Your child has the same fears. They come out as clinginess, or defiance, or aggression, or demanding-ness. As humans get older, fear usually evolves to self-criticism, rigidity, controllingness, as we try desperately to make everything perfect, just so we can be good enough to survive.

But fear disables us. When you react to your child from fear, worry, or anxiety, you lose your empathy and compassion. Your child becomes an object to control, instead of a person to understand. You can't make good parenting decisions. And what you say to your child from fear isn't the inner voice you want to pass on.

Wouldn't it be lovely if your inner voice could become your cheerleader, encouraging you? It is possible to transform the inner critic. Simply noticing your tendency to speak negatively to yourself as you go through your day will loosen the grip of those negative tendencies. Over time, you can actually rewire your brain. 

Want to transform your inner critic? Here's how.

1. Stop, Drop and Breathe. When you notice a negative thought, just stop. Drop It. (Beating yourself up is not the way to get yourself back on track.) Take a deep breath. That pause gives you a chance to switch gears.

2. Soothe your anxiety  Your negative thoughts come from fear. When you hear that negative, bullying voice in your head, find a mantra that reassures you: "It isn't an emergency...I can handle it..." That will ease the fear that's gripping you. And it will rub off onto those around you.

3. Talk to yourself like someone you love. You wouldn't let someone speak to your child that way, right? You deserve compassion, no matter what. Train yourself to "correct" those negative thoughts with something more encouraging. "Nobody bats 1000....I'm doing my best....I am more than enough....This is good enough for now."

These three steps will start transforming your inner critic into your inner “Nurturing Parent.”  Think of it as "re-parenting" yourself. That tender care will help you do your best. Within a month, you'll actually be rewiring your brain. And you'll find that you're a more encouraging parent to your child, which means that he or she will be developing a more supportive inner voice--for life. 

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