Positive Thoughts for Better Parenting
Updated: May 14, 2021
What do you think about all day? Have you ever stopped to think about it? A new study shows that the average human has as many as 6,000 thoughts per day. Even if you’re a mindful person, that’s a lot of thoughts to keep track of. And if you’re like me, a lot of those thoughts can be negative, anxious or just down right distracting.
So, yes, it’s important to be intentional in your thinking if for no other reason than to keep your sanity. But your thoughts can also affect your kids.
Simply put, our thoughts affect our outlook on life and our outlook affects our behavior. So in this article, I’m attempting to look into how to control our thoughts, choose positivity and direct that positivity into our parenting.
Step 1 - See your kids in a positive light
Have you ever sensed someone judging you? How did it feel? Even if they don’t say anything, even if their body language isn’t overt, you could feel it, couldn’t you? We humans are such intuitive beings. We can sense what others are feeling and thinking, even if a word is not spoken. And I guarantee you your kids are no different. So no matter how they are acting, choose to see them in a positive light. I’m not saying ignore bad behavior or don’t discipline them. Far from it.
All I’m saying is in the moments when they are pushing every last button you have, try to think about what you like about them. Not only will they think highly of themselves, but as a bonus it will help you have joy when you spend time with them, even if you're really, really tired.
In the same vein, touch can stimulate oxytocin and make you feel more bonded to your little one. So hold their hand, hug them, give them a pat. Initiate love actions and you’ll generate love feelings.
Step 2 - Speak life, seek positivity
Your words are powerful. Even if you don’t speak them out loud. So speak life into everything you do and see throughout your day. Do you have to do the dishes? Or do you get to catch up on your favorite podcast while you clean up after dinner? Try to shape your internal and external language in a loving, positive way. Practicing positive language in your head will lead to positive language aloud which can result in your kids speaking positively too.
And here’s another bonus for you: when you try to look for positives, your brain goes to work reinforcing those positive beliefs. It’s called your Reticular Activating System (RAS). Basically your RAS is a part of your brain that searches out and filters all the information you take in everyday. It’s the reason that if you bought a Prius, you started seeing Priuses everywhere. Your RAS filters what is important to you. So the more you look for positivity, the more positivity you will find. Look for the things you want to see.
Step 3 - Allow all emotions and talk about it
I talk a lot about positivity, but I am not at all saying we should mask our emotions and just put on a happy face. No way! In my family, I talk to my boys all the time about how all emotions are normal and OK. If they’re tired and have a tantrum, that’s OK. If someone takes their toy and they scream because they’re angry, that’s OK too. The only time it’s not OK is if those emotions lead to bad behaviors (see below).
Step 4 - Don’t allow emotions to dictate behavior
Just as with my boys, I am trying to teach myself to allow all of my own emotions, nonjudgmentally, without letting those emotions dictate my behavior. If I’m tired, stressed or overwhelmed, I used to snap at my husband or at my kids. Negative behaviors that come from overwhelming emotions can be OH. SO. CATHARTIC - but they're not fair to those on the receiving end.
So I stopped using my emotions as an excuse and I started making a choice. Now I ask myself, “Is this how I want to respond?” in every stressful situation. Then I try to identify the source of the stress. It’s almost never the kids. It's almost always something deeper. Once I identify the source, I try not to respond to my kids out of anxiety or anger, but out of kindness and love. I’m not perfect at it, but I hope my efforts will be a model for my kids as they navigate their own emotions and behaviors.
Step 5 - Limit Media
There’s no shortage of studies out there (like this one) telling us that overuse of social media can lead to depression, anxiety, low self esteem and even poor sleep. But still we dive in head first. And it’s not just social media. News can have the same effect. That’s why, after several crippling panic attacks and constant anxiety, I decided to go on a media “diet.” I cut out all of my personal social media, except Instagram, and I set specific boundaries with it. The panic attacks went away completely and the anxiety lessened drastically. It also freed me up to choose what I want to think about and helped me become more purposeful about my thoughts. My mental clarity and ability to function in my daily life improved too.
Step 6 - Daydream
Now that your mindspace is clear, what should you think about? My go-to is to daydream. I love it. I even wake up early to daydream. I think about meeting my best friend in Paris, or getting a big acting job in another country or taking the kids to Disneyland. Five minutes of daydreaming in the morning can boost your mood and carry you through the rest of your day. I also like to talk about my daydreams with my kids. It’s a fantastic way to teach them to dream, that anything is possible and how to choose their thoughts and focus on the positive. And it feels so darn good too.
Remember, you get to choose what you want to think about - and what you want to feel. So choose to think about things that make you happy, instead of things that make you frustrated. Talk about those things with your kids and help them to navigate their own thought life and emotions. It will create an atmosphere of joy and love and peace in your home so thick you can snuggle up in it. Enjoy! And as always, reach out for support - this one is not easy, but it is well worth it.