As a parent, you know that kids will most likely drive you to conversations with yourself, especially if you feel they aren’t listening. And if those talks are productive, then I say, go for it! Talking to yourself isn’t just normal, it’s good for your mental health — if you have the right conversations. Talking to yourself doesn’t necessarily mean you are losing it. In fact, here are some conversations you should be having with yourself as you travel the parenting journey:
If you are going to spend 18 years sacrificing time, money and energy on raising a child, it’s a good idea to know what you are aiming for. Winging it is not a sound parenting strategy because if you aim at nothing, you will hit it every time. What sort of character traits do you want your child to have? What kind of adult do you hope they will become? Look at the end game, then establish core values and boundaries as a family that will help get you there. And every time you face a “crisis” with your kids, ask yourself how this will help your child develop into the grownup you hope they become. There is no better training ground for life than youth sports. Take advantage of those opportunities.
When your child does something that angers or troubles you, practice responding instead of reacting. Reacting is saying the first thing that comes to mind, no matter how hurtful or unproductive it is. Responding is taking a second or a minute, or however much time you need, to think more calmly about what just happened. Always start with the question: “What does my child need to learn in this situation?” And follow it with, “What do I need to do to help them learn it?” If you can take a few minutes to have that conversation with yourself, I think you’ll find that communication with your child will be more productive.
Your kids will blindside you and mystify you at times and in those moments it’s easy to make conclusions based on a first glance. But as parents, there are instances when we need to push ourselves to look deeper. Is there something you are not seeing? Are you jumping to conclusions or is there more to see than the headlines your child’s behavior is blaring at you? Most likely there is.
There were days when my kids hurt me deeply. I’d go hide in the bathroom. It was the only place I could find privacy for a few minutes and cry it out. The question I had to ask myself was, “Why do I feel this way?” Often things affect us because of inner struggles we are having, and it really has little to do with our kids. Don’t be so quick to blame everything on children; the issue may have nothing to do with them and everything to do with what’s going on inside your head.
When you make mistakes–yelling angrily at your kids after they have a bad game or forget to practice, break a promise, or hurt them in some other way–the best way to move forward after forgiving yourself and asking for their forgiveness is to determine what you should do differently next time? Because there will be a next time. Think about how you wish you could respond and how you know you should respond. Don’t let the same mistake happen again. If it does–and it most likely will–give yourself grace and try again by determining what you want your response to be. With enough practice, that personal conversation will produce results.
Talking to yourself should not be something to be ashamed of. Con-verse, chatter, communicate respectfully with yourself. It’s not a sign of insanity. It’s a sign of good health.
Janis Meredith is a family life coach who wants to help all parents raise champions. You can find out more at rcfamilies.com.