Originally published in the March 2018 Glover Park Gazette
We know family life is stressful. Anyone else try to jam five pounds of stuff into a one pound bag? We have carpool, we have to manage those darn devices, we have to cook healthy meals, we have to keep the house clean and organized, we have to save for retirement and tidy the yard. It IS actually OVERWHELMING.
When we feel overwhelmed we become stressed, cranky, short-tempered, terse, naggy. We talk to ourselves like, “I can’t stand this. They should do what I say. I am always yelling. They are always fighting” Our feelings and emotions are our fuel. When we use fuel like anger, fear, anxiety that comes from overwhelm we usually leave behind some pretty toxic relationship debris. I shudder to think of the shame, blame and pain I accidentally heaped on my beloved children trying to get out the door every morning.
On the other hand, when we are in the process of taming the overwhelm (It will never be fully tame. We have got to keep our expectations realistic.) we have access to patience, calm, and creativity. We start talking to ourselves like, “I got this. My kids are mostly cooperative.” (NOT obedient!). “I can focus on work today. We are a perfectly good enough family.”
When we are using overwhelmed fuel we tend to reach for caffeine, booze, gossip, mindless internet search. When we using the tamed fuel we tend to reach for working out, truly resting, hanging out with friends, food that really nourishes. Whatever cycle we are in, it usually reinforces itself.
What are we supposed to do?! The first thing is to ask the proper question. NOT, the very self-satisfying and yet super ineffective one, “When are those guys going to shape up and do what I say so I can be the parent I want to be?” The question that will yield the most results is, “Who do I need to be to tame the overwhelm, foster harmony and cooperation?” You can bet your bottom dollar that who your family needs you to be is not nagging, reminding, cajoling, blaming or yelling!
Who we need to be is a parent who listens, refrains from commenting on every darn thing, and interprets our kid’s behavior compassionately (meaning we don’t take everything they do or don’t do personally). The parent we need to be notices improvement, understands what is normal, passing and annoying developmental behavior and focuses on themselves.
Easy, right?! HAHHAHAHHAHA! Next month we’ll go into detail on the HOW to do these things. For this month we can focus on who we are being and is it fostering cooperation?