Think of all the ways you’re surrounded by growth as a parent: the laundry pile that’s constantly growing and the boots and clothes your kids are always outgrowing.
Now think of the ways you’ve grown since becoming a parent. Maybe you’ve learned how to oversee homework while making dinner, or you have got that nighttime routine down to a science! When I think about the growth that I have gone through as a parent, the most impactful aspect of this is the realization of how I find myself thinking about things, and how that impacts me in my parenting and the peace that is in my home. Perhaps you have also had many rocky seasons of parenting, when you are confronted with challenging behaviors day in and day out. These seasons can be daunting and exhausting!
But what causes this exhaustion? I have found that the behaviors coming at me can certainly be overwhelming, but it is the mental spin I put on a chaotic situation that only increases the challenge. I have had many evenings when I have put the kids to bed, sat down and quickly became consumed by thinking over the hard moments of the day. I would ask myself why he did that or why did I react that way — and all these questions were typically wrapped up in a package of shame and inadequacy. Then, because my mind was still wrapped up in the challenge of the behavior, the next day seemed to be an inevitable repeat like, well, second verse same as the first!
For me, this started early on in my parenting journey. When our oldest grew into toddlerhood and preschool age, we started to see some differences in his development, such as increased anxiety or how his body processed the world around him. This impacted his day-to-day routines, relationships, and really pushed against what I expected. Then we added two more kids in the mix and there were days that I really felt like I was drowning.
Now that I look back, I can recognize that on many days I was stuck in a cycle that I called “spinning”. This was brought on by the negative thoughts that I allowed to settle in. I found myself taking a single behavior and allowing a sense of fear to grow into something of a life sentence for my child. By doing this, I would lose sight of his true self—when he was not burdened by the unfair expectations that I was putting on him.
Perhaps you have found yourself in a similar spot. I can definitely say that this begins with your thoughts, and I also provided a few other practical ways that I have found interrupt the spin cycle:
Think About What I am Thinking About!
Yes, this is something you can do! I learned that as I had discouraging thoughts, I could put them through a filter: Is this true? Is it helpful?
Doing this helped me to more easily see when these thoughts were grounded in shame or fear, rather than in the challenge of the moment. Once I realized this, the fear was disarmed, and I was more able to navigate the actual challenge of the behavior with peace and confidence.
One statement I come back to frequently is “Comparison is the thief of joy.” Isn’t this the truth!? How easy it is to look around at other moms, families, and children, and let what you see become the measurement for what you desire, or think is normal. When I am thinking about my thoughts, I strive to ask myself, “Is this conflict because I am comparing my child or our family to a false (or imaginary) standard?” If so, I release the expectations I am placing on myself or others.
One resource that has been greatly helpful to me is the book by Joyce Meyers, “Battlefield of the Mind.” In her book, two things stuck out to me: 1) identify negative thoughts and 2) out loud, speak thoughts which are true and helpful. You cannot think one way and speak the other! This has been incredibly valuable for me in parenting and life.
Journal: Who does God (or others in my life) say I am/my children are?
The idea of journaling is likely a familiar idea to you. Many people find great benefit in writing out their experiences, hopes, or challenges they are facing. However, as a person of faith, I have found this is also one of the best ways for me to hear from God. When I pray, it is easy for my mind to wander, but writing my prayers keeps me grounded in listening and talking to Him. I use this time to ask the Lord to remind me of who I am as a mom and who He has created my child to be. I find that what I hear gives me a fresh perspective, comfort, and hope. I am reminded my children are made in the image of God for an amazing purpose. He loves them and has their future in mind. This realization does not change even in the face of challenging behaviors.
Finding my People Who Speak Truth and Life into Me/My Children
As I went through these earlier seasons, I am thankful to say I also had people, who I trusted, speak truth into me about who I was as a mom and who my child was. This was crucial because it would lovingly interrupt the fears I was allowing to shape how I saw him.
It’s easy to get stuck in a place of sharing hard things, even if we’re sharing with family and friends. We need those same family and friends to listen well, and then encourage us to move back onto the path of truth.
Play with Your Child
Whether you keep it simple with a popcorn and movie night or take them on a fun outing, this is the path out of the “spin cycle!” After you have done the work to gain new thoughts and perspective, you can pour cement on these by just enjoying time with your child. Laugh together and enjoy this time of connection that you both crave.
Parenting is hard! The ages and stages of our kids always seem to surprise us, and while there is adventure to be found in this, there can also be great challenges. I hope that these words do not feel as though any of those hard moments are dismissed. I have been there, and I am still there on some days. However, I have seen that the growth I so greatly desire to see in my child has always started with me. As you move through your days, I encourage you to look for ways you can grow in your journey of “thinking about your thinking” and how, by the renewing of your mind, you can see the ways this can bring greater peace and joy in your home.
Julie Salwasser is a wife, adoptive mom, and a TBRI® Practitioner. After working for 16 years in the field of adoption and then in a school, she now uses the experiences of her own family, the families and kids she has worked with, and what she has learned as a TBRI® Practitioner to encourage and support families. She considers it a great joy and honor to walk alongside families in their parenting journeys. She can be reached through www.polishinggoldcoaching.com.