If you don’t struggle as a parent then you must be doing something wrong. Or that is what I like to tell myself on the occasion. Okay, weekly. Maybe make that daily. Child therapist or not, I struggle. In fact because I do carry that clinical license I feel I shouldn’t be struggling at all. I am the professional. I should have all the answers. This kind of thinking only deepens my well of guilt and wrongdoing. When it comes to my own kids I am just like the rest of you. I find myself questioning and second guessing. And I go back to the drawing board again and again.
It is one thing to help another child or family and it is an entirely different sport to see your own players working against the team. So I call in my coaches just like you and I get some game day direction for how this parenting thing is going to play out. And then I think and I strategize and I think some more. But what happens with that is sometimes I find myself ruminating on the negative – on what I have done wrong – or on what may be wrong with my child. I get nowhere good really fast. What I have come to learn is this kind of thinking just isn’t cutting it for me. Staying focused on the difficulties in a relationship with one child or all three only feeds the negativity.
In steps my cognitive behavioral therapy background – I need to change the way I am thinking to change the way I feel and behave. So what did I do? I did what any sensible mother would do; I headed to Target. But I actually had a reason for going this time. I bought a journal. And I am going to force my brain to highlight a different train of thought.
Every night before I go to bed I write one positive interaction between me and each of my 3 children for that day. It takes only minutes and I tell you what – it works. It completely reframes my day. Suddenly a bad day with one kiddo has been turned around by the almost forgotten sweet conversation we had earlier in the morning before things really got gnarly. Not only has journaling changed my outlook on my parenting skills, I think it will be a really sweet reminder for my small children when they are grown. They can look back at it all and remember the beautiful small moments we nearly forgot to grab hold of. And I can look back and realize maybe I wasn’t such an angry monkey after all. I too had pieces of patience and gentleness and love wrapped around my daily internal battles.
So if you want to change the way you parent you have to start by changing the way you think about your parenting. Take the time and jot it down in a journal. It’s a decision that will remind you of your strengths and softness amid the chaos.