"All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players." - William Shakespeare
The problem with parenting is that we don't get any prep time. We learn our lines as we go, improvising. We're always on stage, performing for an audience that responds to our every thoughtless word or action. As soon as we master a cue, it's replaced by a new one. We spend the entire play just trying to get ahead of the action enough to think about what to do next.
And before we know it, the play is over and our little audience has grown up and gone on with their lives. Yell as we might, they're off our stage. Our chance to influence them is over.
Does that sound bleak? It doesn't have to be. It's possible to rewrite the script to change your parenting. Why not revamp your role, so you can live the part of your most inspired inner parent?
This is hard, I admit. But you can do hard things, if you give yourself support.
Here's the key. Don't just wish you could act differently next time and regret it when you don't. And definitely don't beat yourself up about the fact that you aren't perfect.
Instead, use the latest research on how to actually create change. That means that you reprogram your subconscious, and give yourself a new script for how you want to respond. Then, when tempers flare, you'll be able to course correct in the heat of the action. Here's how.
1. In a quiet moment, consider the last time you felt you blew your lines on the stage of parenting.
Hit the rewind button and let the scene replay in your mind. What were the cues from your child or other players that set you off? Those are the hot buttons you'll want to manage next time.
2. Visualize how you want to react the next time this happens.
Re-consider the scene you wish you could re-do. This time as you let it play out in your mind, imagine yourself as the hero or heroine who saves the day. Instead of escalating the drama, you calm the storm.
- How do you handle the situation?
- What do you say?
- How do you look?
- How do you feel?
- How does it change things between you and your child?
- How does your child feel?
- How does your child react?
Visualize your new script and stage directions, and feel it in your bones.
3. Now -- don't skip this step -- Write it down.
Write the words you wish you had said. That's how you learn your new lines. And write down a few reminders for what you'll actually do, like take a deep breath, remind yourself to lower your voice, or smile.
4. Next time you get that same old cue that usually triggers you to over-react, take a deep breath and step into your new character.
Breathe your way past those hot buttons and try on your new role.
Watch your child react differently in response!
Don't quite have your new part mastered? Take a deep breath and fake it till you make it. As you act calmer, you'll feel calmer. Soon, you'll stay calmer. You'll actually have rewired your brain to respond more calmly to stress.
Changing the lines you automatically say when tempers flare is hard. Give yourself whatever support you need. (Post the words you want to say all over your house so you practice them. Give your child the gift of a parenting course that YOU take, to support you in real change. Listen to podcasts that inspire you. Get enough sleep!)
What if your child doesn't notice his new cues? Just keep working on your part. At least you're not escalating the drama, so your child doesn't need to ramp up in response to you. If your child feels heard, soon he'll stay calmer, too. When we change how we show up, our children always begin to change, too.
What if you try it and trip? Expect that, as with all new things! Forgive yourself. Adjust your scenario, visualize, and try again. You're programming your subconscious. Practice is what perfects any skill. It takes hard work, but there's no reason you can't be the parent you wish you could be. That parent is there inside you, just waiting for the cue to walk on stage.
Why not write the story you long to live?