Positive Self-Esteem for Parents
Parents know many useful ways to raise their children. But....it isn't always easy to do what you know. Science tells us that, when we stop believing in ourselves as parents, we can become less effective at child rearing. The idea "I don't know what to do with my child!" robs us from being as good a parent as we can be.
Here are four ways to create positive parenting self-esteem:
A rush of "fight or flight" can stop most parents from being thoughtful or effective. Fear stops us from being wise about our parenting....it puts us into an "act first, think second" mode. If we are afraid of parenting, we can forget how to parent-we just react to situations. To counter the rush of fear, use these simple strategies to change your "fight or flight" reaction and get back in control of your parenting:
Breathe: Slowly, take several deep breaths using your stomach muscles. You're doing it right if your belly moves in and out while you breathe. Take the air in, and let it out, slowly.
Focus: While you breathe, focus all your attention on the coolness of the air coming in, and the warmth of the air while you exhale. If you can focus your attention on your breathing, you'll probably calm down.
Practice: Practice breathing and focusing once or twice a day. Learn how to relax at first when you can be undistracted. Then, when you become a little tense, try using your new skills. Keep practicing your new relaxation skill in more and more stressful situations. Quickly, staying calm will make it much easier to build your positive parenting self-esteem.
Listen to Your Brain
Your mind automatically spawns thoughts; sometimes those ideas are not helpful. Simply being aware of the unhealthy automatic thoughts can improve your parenting self-esteem. Learning to listen to your brain is a key principle in such popular books as "The Power of Now." When you feel the most out-of-control as a parent, listen to your thinking and see if any of hear thoughts like these:
"No matter what I do, I can't stop my kid from doing this!"
"Nothing I do will make a difference with my child!"
"I give up. I don't know how to handle this!"
"I can't handle them fighting this late at night. I'm exhausted!"
These ideas happen very fast. When we think in this way, we react by becoming desperate parents, rather than confident moms and dads. Next time you feel that sense of desperation, pay attention to what your brain is saying. Just the conscious awareness of these self-defeating ideas will allow you to parent more effectively.
Change Your Unhealthy Thoughts
If you can change negative ideas about yourself as a parent, you'll be more effective as a mom or dad. Here are examples of how to improve your parenting self-esteem:
"My child will never listen to me." vs. "My child didn't understand me so I will be clearer."
"I don't know how to be a good parent." vs. "That didn't work. I'm going to try something different next time."
"I'll show them who's boss." vs. "I wonder what would happen if I make them earn TV time, and not just take it away when they are bad."
"Everybody in the store is looking at my crazy kids." vs. "No one at the store matters but my children. They need me to get control of the situation and pull things together."
"My kids will never go to bed tonight." vs. "Tonight it looks like I'll need to really stick to the bedtime routine. Maybe the kids each need some alone time to play to burn off energy before bed."
These new thoughts will improve your parenting self-esteem. Studies show that when you improve your parenting self-esteem, you become a more effective mom or dad.
Practice, Practice, Practice
Your brain is a creature of habit. Thinking habits require as much effort to change as any bad habits. You make the most improvement in your parenting self-esteem when you practice how to think like a confident parent.
Try practicing new thinking right before situations that have been challenging or stressful in the past. Write out on flashcards the self-confident ideas, and repeat them to yourself several times ahead of time. After you've become a master of the new ideas, imagine yourself in the stressful situation. Practice the new thoughts while there (in your head). Now you've finished the "dress rehearsal" and can go on stage confident in your parenting.
A Final Word from an Older Dad
An effective parent needs good discipline skills. But, negative parenting self-esteem interferes with good parenting strategies. I've learned, as an older father, that what I think affects how I parent. We parent best when we have positive parenting self-esteem.
For more information on improving your parenting skills and developing positive parenting self-esteem, check out the parenting section of the American Academy of Pediatrics website: http://www.aap.org/healthtopics/parenting.cfm or the Positive Parenting Program (Triple P): http://www.triplep.net/ If bedtime is challenging, my blog in January has some useful tips. https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-older-dad/201101/putting-children-bed-win-win-proposition