Every day, I get an email with this question: What do I do when my child is ____ ? The parent inserts a frustration or problem they are dealing with. It’s always a totally understandable and relatable problem. Believe me, I get it.
The child hurts, the parent hurts more.
And here is my answer: So often, your best step is to simply bear witness. I am sure you can look back on your childhood and remember a time when “no one noticed”. What would have happened if your father or mother, in that very moment, said, “You know what honey, it is hard”? Just those seven words. Those seven words may not have solved the problem or made it all go away, but the memory you are recalling today might be different.
Because you would have been acknowledged.
You will not be able to fix everything for your child. In fact, I often coach parents to do less so their child will learn how to cope more. And it can be a tricky balance to tackle on your own or with your spouse.
Simply begin to bear witness. Start noticing them and you will begin to see a shift. The shift may take time, it may not be overnight. A child’s pain – in the long run – will be lessened if their struggle of who to sit next to at lunch was noticed.
The Parenting Shift is made by relating to the child through shared experience. Not waving a magic wand and making it all go away nor ignoring their “drama” because it’s enough already. A common understanding allows for a shift. Isn’t it so wonderful when your husband comes home and notices the look on your face of exhaustion and kisses you on the forehead. Your experience is noticed.
Our children value the same.
Today, decide to just bear witness. Where do you think you can start? Leave a comment below.
It breaks my heart when I watch people say self-deprecating things to themselves. And when a child does it, it’s double the pain.
Why do we cope by being down on ourselves? What message does that give to a child?
Grown-ups can be self-deprecating by nature. Sometimes we see it as a sense of humor. It’s called sarcasm (a prime way we, as adults, cope). But underneath it we hurt, criticize, are bothered, maybe disappointed but we don’t say that.
Well, here’s how you really start…
How you speak to yourself becomes your child’s inner voice.
What do you say in your head about yourself?
Kids feel it.
What you say in conversation about yourself?
Kids know it.
What do you say about yourself when your kid is in the other room?
They hear it.
How we speak to ourselves and about ourselves matters because this is the model that our children will follow. Children often treat themselves how we treat ourselves.
For example, a parent will say, “But Di Ana, I have never told my child she is fat and yet she is saying ‘I am fat.’”
Let me tell you a little story…
Last week, I was looking in my mother’s antique vanity mirror. It sits in my bedroom. It’s obtrusive and the mirror a little warped on the upper right corner, but I can still manage to see my full frame.
And for the record, I never stand naked to look at my body. Nope. I’ve never been one of those women to strut my stuff nor luxuriate in being looked at.
I was alone in the room but something was quite loud. I heard the same criticisms in my head my mother always said to herself. My mother never dared to say them to me the way she would criticize herself. My mother loathed that lower belly (that as I got older noticed all women have), other parts of aging were hard for her. Always saying “I wish I had the luxury to fix these things, pointing out her neck and thighs.”
Mom always told me I had the “cutest little figure” but to herself, she displayed very different messages.
It was then it dawned on me: I hate my body as much – if not more – than my mother did. My mother’s years of criticizing herself was passed on directly to me with absolutely zero conscious intention.
Today I can’t help but think if my mother had accepted her body maybe I would have had a better chance of loving mine.
So if you want a child that exudes confidence, compassion, grace and grit, then ask yourself this…
How often does your child see you speaking kindly to/about yourself?
When my friend Karen couldn’t do her daughter’s 7th grade math homework, I heard her say, “I never did well in math, your father is the smart one.” Karen always felt less than because she didn’t go “Ivy League” like her husband.
Here’s the deal: your self-worth is not based on whether you know what a greatest common denominator is or if you went “Ivy League”. It’s about acceptance. Accepting yourself in the “not knowing, not good enough and the feelings of inadequacy”. Parents are not omnipotent creatures of perfection, but many expect themselves to be. Perfection hurts your child. It makes something unachievable as standard.
When you accept yourself in the “not knowing,” your child will accept themselves and learn more.
Remember all the “less than” limitations you may say to yourself have an impact – a lasting one – for your child.
So today, here’s what I want you to do…
Notice if you can begin to highlight your personal wins, what’s going well? Use that to fuel conversation with your child. As opposed to always leading with: what needs to be fixed, done better or all of your worries and concerns in the world.
Ask your child …
“What happened today that was really fun, exciting? (Your kids doesn’t have any) Okay …I’ll share a few of mine from work/home first!”
Model the response for the child.
“What’s something you really like about yourself today? I’ll go first or second, you choose!”
Model how to see the good in themselves.
“What’s something that was challenging today or didn’t make you feel so good? I’ll tell you mine first and then you can share, ok?”
Model how you handle a setback.
This, right here, is how you start and I ((promise)) you will start to feel a major change for your child – and for yourself. We cannot expect a child to magically model behavior they never see you do.
And always remember …
I did almost everything single thing on the list below – to myself and others – and what I realized is I was f**ng miserable. They were like little mind magnets – something bad would happen or someone would trigger me and one (or all) of these were in full effect:
Save this list somewhere. I even made it into an image you can download. Awesome, right? And notice if you are doing even one of these. Remember it’s totally ok … it’s just a way you are coping right now. The cool part is we can change the way we cope. But you have to know what you are up to.
So…what are you up to?
What do you do when you get disappointed, fearful, or sad? And know where you can go. Here’s what shifts can become possible …
And I made this as an image, too. So download, add it to your camera roll, and start living it – right now.
Make your a-ha moment not just a head nod – make it an action.
So what’s one thing you can do differently this week? I believe in you and I want to know. Email me or leave a comment below.
Yes, Gandhi and that is the most difficult thing in the world!!
Meet me, an expert who is human and struggles with this whole harmony thing.
And if you know me, you know I’m always working towards my inner Gandhi. Everything this man said makes total sense, right? But when sh*t goes down, my harmony can sound quite dissonant. Awful in fact.
Recently I used this quote when speaking to a client about a recent, devastating turn her life had taken. It was a difficult session and man, did I understand her plight (more than she knew). But I said to her…
I let there be silence as she cried. I wanted to apologize for this statement at first but then I realized that happiness also doesn’t come from avoiding when our fantasy crashes.
Truly happy people know how to cope when the fantasy crashes – they can find a new perspective, take new actions with compassion to keep going. But for most of us this is something we must learn to do – it’s by no means instinctual and that’s ok.
So yes, Gandhi, happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony, because you know how to do that.
So how can you get started on the doing part? Here’s one suggestion…
As I learned to understand myself and others more, I now recover more quickly from disappointments and happiness finds me again, in time. And after the shocking news you read last week, there were actions that made me happier:
- Compassion for my situation instead of blaming myself.
- Surround myself with friends who understand me.
- Sharing my story with someone.
- Telling people how to handle me. People are not mind readers and will often do what they would need and not know what you need.
- Exercise. I mean it’s like sex. Never ever do I say, “Wow I feel worse. Why did I do that?”
- Drink more water than wine. Alcohol is a depressant, just sayin …
- I bought a facial mask. Sounds nuts, but sometimes new skin changes your life for a minute.
Roger that, Dalai Lama! I may have received shocking news from a doctor but I can still take actions that are loving while I feel like a piece of crap and maybe, just maybe, I will find another path to happiness, eventually.
We will see, and you will know as I go…
What’s one action (from my above list or your own) that you can take this week to keep creating your own path to happy? Email me or leave a comment below. I want to know!
I grew up in the 80s with a TV the size of my one bedroom apartment in NYC that looked like an armoire. When you opened the armoire-like doors, don’t touch the screen for fear of the wrath of my father – a scratch was a sin and the screen a deity. My precious little brother would look up at me with his Doritos in a tupperware bowl straight from a party my mom just finished hosting. His big brown eyes looking to me for the decision as I held our fate in my hands with the remote (the size of my 6-pound Pomeranian) as I chose what show to watch on TV. I always chose.
There were 3 characters I watched, religiously. And I ended up copying them in my life – in acting, loving, eating, and many other verbs for sure. The 3 characters? The Hulk, Inspector Gadget, and Dorothy. All the characters doubted their potential. Every single time. And I found myself doing it every day of my life. And even though I presented oh, so confident, I was just duping myself.
Often anger kicked in the minute someone said something I didn’t like or whenever I was disappointed. The Hulk came out and it was not pretty. Or I could be totally clueless – like Inspector Gadget – using a million inventions; focusing on the wrong things while the world around me – my mother, brother and friends – would cope for me and I got all the credit.
I never really learned how clueless I was because no one let me fail. So more doubt came into my life. And then Dorothy. My poor brother watched that movie so many times and then as teens, we looked for the dead munchkin a million times in that scene. I’m here to tell you there is no dead munchkin. But, like Dorothy, I had the answers the whole time. I just needed to let go so I could…
The real thing is, I needed to not only see possibility but also take action to move towards solutions and try a bunch (not just one or two) without giving up when one doesn’t work out. Giving up to cope leaves you in Stuckville.
Choosing to cope without destructive habits changed my life.
And I’m dishing productive habits weekly. To get in on the life changing magic (for free!) every Friday at 8 AM, click here.
And when my mom died there was no longer anyone to keep my head above water the way she could so effortlessly. But you know what? I knew how to swim the whole time, just like Dorothy and the damn shoes walking around singing for help and killing witches. My girl Dorothy and I could have solved our problems in record time if we weren’t so anxious, fearful and constantly doubting ourselves to cope. Remember it’s all about raising your awareness so you can take action.