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  • Parent Do Overs

Tug of War - Part 2

Last week I spoke about the tug of war within ourselves. This week let’s look at tug of wars between you and an outside force. (Child/Other)

Let me start by saying that a tug of war cannot exist unless there are two parties pulling in opposite directions. Both parties think their opinion is the correct, so while both are indignant, nobody moves and both parties lose!

I realized early on that a tug of war uses up so much energy and typically ends with regret, so I immediately ask myself, “how important is this to me?”, “will I regret my reaction later?”, and most importantly, “can I take a pause to open my mind and see the other person’s side of things even if I don’t agree?”

For parents: Think about a tug of war with a two-year-old. It’s interesting that we feel the need to push back to prove our point. We obviously have many more years of problem-solving experience, yet we go head-to-head with our defiant children to prove our superiority. As a parent of four with very different personalities, I have strong evidence that their ability to stick with the tug of war was way greater than mine, so I did everything not to get into the struggle in the first place. A parent will ultimately win but it might be at the expense of breaking their child’s will, which has much greater ramifications later in life.

As my children got older, I did have strong boundaries, but they were pre-set and consistent. There are things I would Do Over, but I can only learn and improve in the present moment. This allows me to release regret and embrace the process without being attached to outcomes. I remember days where my child would be screaming at me, I would react by screaming back only to feel terrible when I calmed down. I’ve decided that children are made small before they can adequately reason, so we can easily lift them out of harm’s way. Have any of you experienced the “surfboard body arch” while trying to put your child in the car seat? I think all parents of toddlers have had the pleasure. It usually happens when we are in a rush, and we must get the tantruming child into the car seat. In this moment we can take two approaches, either reacting with shouting, which only adds noise to the chaos, or remaining calm and deep breathing while still shoving the child into the car seat. I also know from experience that within 5 minutes of driving the child in that car seat will likely be asleep, but we will still be replaying the situation in our heads and regretting the shouting.

I have also noticed that we impose rules on children that we as adults don’t follow:

· Snacking: How many times do you tell your child not to snack before dinner, but we eat all day.

· Cursing: We set boundaries when children curse yet we curse all the time.

· Screen time: Many adults are equally if not more addicted to screen time and social media than their children. I have been called out by my kids to put my phone down during a dinner.

When we are looking to change a behavior, it’s how we show up for ourselves in that moment that determines how long the struggle will last and how it will end.

Here are 3 steps to use consistently.

1. Self-connection

Be compassionate with yourself. Raising children is hard work, but ask yourself, are you being parent centered or child centered? As parents, we must take time for ourselves, but our children can’t be expected to be perfectly behaved in a Michelin star restaurant.

2. Connect to your child

What is your child’s the need in the moment? Is the homework too hard? Does technology inspire your child’s creativity, or does it cause lack and anxiety? Can your child break away to eat dinner? Do you have a consistent evening routine so they can get homework and game time in before bed?

3. Converse with your child

Conversation eliminates the tug of war. If your children are older, ask them what they feel is reasonable and realistic. For the younger tantrums, use the moment to practice your breathing and keeping your voice calm.

The next time you are in a tug of war with another person whether friend, family, or a random person. If you are using the same energy pulling in the opposite direction you are co-creating the tug of war. Drop your end of the rope to regain your composure. Sometimes agreeing to disagree is the best you can do. The goal is to end it calmly, however that has to happen.

If dropping your end of the rope feels unrealistic for you, or if you feel you are struggling with a situation which is not easily resolved I am here to help you with a guided Do Over.

I invite you to write back if you have a question to any of my blogs or a topic request for a future blog. All communication is anonymous.

I will be away next weekend, so I will see you the week after. As always, please email me with thoughts and questions.


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