Aha! Parenting Blog

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Hush Your Inner Critic: Give your mind something to chew on

How’s your mental spring cleaning going? Only three more days of our "mini-course" on Taming Our Inner Critics, and then we'll be exploring Setting Limits with Kids.

Today's strategy is about getting a vacation from our mind by throwing it a bone.

Have you noticed what a chatter-box your mind is? It MUST talk, incessantly.  This running commentary is 90% negative, since it’s our mind’s job to protect us by scanning for challenges – and assigning blame.  (“My kid is so irresponsible….I told him not to…If only I were a better parent....”)

Unless we constantly monitor our inner critic and challenge the negativity, our whole mood can become anxious and hyper-critical.  (Breathe. Remind yourself that you grew up to be a reasonably responsible adult.  Your kid will, too. And you're becoming a better parent, every day. It's called "on the job" training.)

But that’s not the worst thing about our inner critics.  All that internal chatter disconnects us from the deep sense of well-being that’s available to each of us. That’s why sages have always recommended prayer, song, meditation, and other methods of by-passing the inner critic to tap into that source of rejuvenation that some people call their inner wisdom and others call God. Whatever your way of thinking about this deeper place, we all need daily access to it. And the inner critic blocks our path.

Today, think of your inner critic as a fierce dog, constantly barking and howling.  How can you get a few minutes of delicious silence?  Throw it a bone. Give your inner critic some words to chew on.  How?

1. Sing your heart out (or in!). Choose a song with positive words. (Your unconscious remembers everything you tell it, remember?)  Sing your song over and over as you go through your day. Every time you notice you’re thinking, just start singing instead.

2. Say a mantra. Whether you're changing diapers, sitting at a computer, or carpooling, mantras occupy your mind so the rest of you can just be in the moment without commentary. You can use any mantra you like, but remember that you’re programming your mind with your words, so choose something positive. Some of my faves:

I am more than enough.

Kids need love, especially when they least deserve it.

I breathe in love. I breathe out love.

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

3. Chant. Have a few minutes while you’re doing dishes or sitting in traffic?  Chanting gives your mind something constructive to do while you sit in a state of grace for a few minutes.

My personal favorites are the Buddhist Loving-Kindness meditation and the Hawaiian “Ho-o-pono-pono” Forgiveness meditation. The Hawaiian meditation seems to clear blocks between us and other people (without them even knowing why), but it’s also powerful at creating self-acceptance when spoken toward oneself. Just keep repeating as many times as you can. Don't be surprised if you start loving traffic jams.

Ho-o-pono-pono meditation:
I’m sorry.
Please forgive me.
I love you.
Thank you.

Loving-Kindness Meditation:
May I be happy.
May I be well.
May I be peaceful.
May my heart be filled with love.

May you be happy.
May you be well.
May you be peaceful.
May your heart be filled with love.

May everyone be happy.
May everyone be well.
May everyone be peaceful.
May everyone's heart be filled with love.

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