A while back, a good friend of mine made a commitment to stop yelling at her kids.
She had attended a lecture on brain development and came away convinced that she needed to make a change. She was successful for a while and had noticed a significant improvement in her interactions with her kids, but then she reverted back to feeling overwhelmed and stressed out, and was having a hard time staying true to her commitment.
This time of year can be filled with so much anticipation and excitement. Unfortunately, it’s also filled with packed schedules, financial stress and the impossible task of making each holiday perfect for everyone in your immediate and extended family.
While our intent is to create a wonderful holiday experience for our families, often times this vision is unrealistic. Stress can build, and we end up taking it out on those closest to us.
I think a lot of people parent out of instinct. They go with what their guts tell them to do. The problem is, our gut usually mimics what our parents did, right or wrong.
It reminds me of a saying my friend’s dad, a golf pro, used to say: “It doesn’t come in a can.” He was usually referring to golf, but the saying applies to parenting too.
When I set up to hit a golf ball off the tee on a par five, my instincts tell me to swing as hard as I possibly can and hit the living s#*t out of the ball. But if you know anything about golf, then you probably know how that will turn out—I’ll slice, hook, or most likely whiff the ball altogether. To drive a ball down the middle of the fairway takes a smooth swing, a ton of practice and most importantly, a calm state of mind.
No amount of instinct is going to win you a golf tournament. It takes a whole lot of practice and a calm state of mind. Just like parenting.
When your kids don’t listen, your instincts tell you to speak louder. And louder. And louder. But when you yell at your kids, the part of their brain that allows them to learn from what you are saying shuts down. Like golf, parenting doesn’t “come in a can.” It’s not a given. You have to work REALLY HARD at it. It’s not easy. You will default to your automatic responses again and again. But the more you practice and implement mindfulness in your life, the more likely you are to remain calm and respond in a way that your kids’ brains understand.
Here’s to more cheer—and less yelling—this holiday. [Tweet it!]
and the Mindful Life Team