By MGAL Expert Lynn Trotta
Before embarking on a long road trip, I went to the library to get an audio book. I came across the book Raising Your Spirited Child by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka. I consider my daughter one of those, so I grabbed it.
In the first disc, she explains that she wrote the book because she was tired of people labeling kids as “problem children” and prompted parents to pay attention to the vocabulary they use when describing their child.
They aren’t difficult, they are simply spirited. She goes on to substitute all common & negative words used to describe children’s behavior that usually leads to frustrated parents and teachers. It occurred to me at this point that it would have been helpful for her to add some kind substitution words for the things that parents tell themselves while said children are driving them crazy with their “spirited” behaviors.
I’ll speak for myself here, but there are several hundred things that I tell myself each day that are just plain mean. Without giving a thought to how I might hurt my own feelings, I non-verbally blurt that “I don’t know what I’m doing”, “I can’t handle (insert any activity/responsibility here), “I’ll never have enough money”, and “my belly is too jiggly”. I could go on and on but I’m sure that there is a word count limit.
So I am, in this very moment, committing to stop the abuse!
Bottom line is, If I wouldn’t say it to my daughter, I won’t say it to myself. OK, I’ll probably still immediately think it for a while, but I promise that I’ll rephrase it to make it more compassionate. Even if it’s just a little better and believable to me, it will work.
“I don’t know what I’m doing” will become “I’m doing my best”
“I can’t handle (insert responsibility here)” will become “If I need help, I can always ask”
“I’ll never have enough money” will now be “I have what I have”
“My belly is too jiggly” will become “A baby came out of that belly”
I’m aware that it will take a lot of effort, but with consistency and gentleness, all new practices move through the four part cycle of learning, and the thought assault will eventually stop.
The learning cycle goes like this…
Unconscious Incompetence: You don’t know what you don’t know. In this case you’re not even aware of how awful you are to yourself.
Conscious incompetence: You know what you didn’t know. You are aware of the rotten things you say to yourself, but don’t know how to change.
Conscious Competence: You’re now actively working at the change you want. You still think the mean things, but work at rephrasing them. You make mistakes and get progressively better.
Unconscious Competence: You’re so good, you don’t even know that you’re doing the new thing all the time. You no longer even think the bad things.
So for now, I’ll just pat myself on the back for knowing how crappy I am to myself and to for being willing to change that.
Anyone with me?