"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 decide to act differently next time. Instead, 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. 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. 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.
Visualize your new part and feel it in your bones. Now -- don't skip this step -- write it down. That's how you learn your new lines.
3. 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.
What if your child doesn't notice his new cues? Just keep going with your re-write. 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 step into a new role, too.
And if you try it and trip? Adjust your scenario, visualize, and try again. You're programming your subconscious. Practice makes perfect. 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?