Parenting With a Managed Mind

A managed mind is not only capable of understanding where happiness comes from but it also understands how to manage the various challenges of parenthood

Podcast Version:

One of the most challenging and rewarding roles you can have in life is being a parent.  I have yet to meet a parent who wasn’t surprised at what parenthood required of them.

With each new stage in your child’s life it seems like you have to learn a whole new language.  There’s the language of early childhood, of toddlers and adolescents, of the teenage years and of adulthood.  Each stage offers its own unique opportunities to learn and grow along with your child.

If you’ve been following what I teach and have been working on managing your mind you may have had glimpses of successful results with work/life balance, your relationships, your health, etc.  But what clients often have a difficult time understanding is that thought work is important in all areas of your life including the area of parenting.

Parents often see children as an extension of themselves, making what their children do or don’t do mean something about them.  From your child’s good grades in grammar school to their arrest for a DWI as a young adult, your beliefs about your parenting role will show up in good times and in bad.

In order to successfully parent your children it’s important for you to manage your own mind first.  Parenting with a managed mind means the difference between stress and peace, control and acceptance as well as fear and courage.

This week I’m going to discuss parenting with a managed mind at various stages of your child’s life and offer examples of what a managed mind looks like at each stage.

 

Parenting with a managed mind at various stages

I once heard someone say “The best gift you can give your children is your own happiness” but I want to expand on that and say “The best gift you can give your children is to manage your own mind”.  A managed mind is not only capable of understanding where happiness comes from but it also understands how to manage the various challenges of parenthood.

A parent with a managed mind sets clear expectations and consequences, chooses to think, feel and act in a way that serves them and their relationship with their children, knows how to set proper boundaries and manages stress and overwhelm in a productive way.   When you learn to manage your mind you offer your children an example of what’s possible in the way you show up for your life.

There are countless ways that having a managed mind as a parent is incredibly helpful but here are just a few of the various stages of your child’s life and how a managed mind is a powerful tool:

 

Early Childhood Phase

It’s such a beautiful time in your life when you get to bring home your bundle of joy.  There’s a mixture of excitement, love and fear all wrapped up in one big bow in the early stages of parenting.  No matter how many books you read or how many people you listen to, nothing prepares you for the emotional roller coaster ride you may go through with a young child.

Surprisingly, even when your child is at a young age, you can start developing an instruction manual for how you would like them to be so you can feel like a good parent.   You may believe you’d be happier if:

 

  • She would let you sleep through the night
  • He would just eat what you gave him
  • She stopped screaming every time she got in the car
  • He just sat still for a minute so you could get his jacket on

 

I don’t know a parent that hasn’t struggled with the demands of early childhood.  What often happens is you begin feeling emotions like stress, overwhelm and sadness which then leads to the feeling of mom guilt because you think you’re supposed to be blissfully happy in motherhood.

The secret that few people will share is that life is supposed to be 50/50; it’s normal to feel positive 50% of the time and negative the other 50%.  You aren’t supposed to be blissed out when your child has woken you up for the fourth time and you have a client appointment the next day.

When you haven’t learned to manage your mind though, you may have the habit of feeling annoyed at being woken up but then add guilt and judgment on top of annoyance and begin to slip into total overwhelm.  An unmanaged mind is looking to overreact, to judge your choices and to catastrophize some of those 50/50 moments.

However a managed mind puts you back in control when you feel out of control.  A managed mind is aware of what you are thinking, feeling and doing and doesn’t judge you.  It’s curious and patient while you pause to assess what’s going on for you.

At this stage, a managed mind may look like this:

Circumstance – Baby wakes up at 3 am and you have an important client meeting the next morning

Thought – This is frustrating and that’s ok

Feeling – Frustrated/Normal

Action – Not beat myself up for feeling frustrated; decide that when I have an important meeting the next day, I’ll make sure my husband is on “night duty”; try the white noise machine that helped my friend’s baby sleep better

Result – I’m ok with being frustrated right now

Thankfully the dependence on you for your child’s survival in early childhood begins to morph into your child’s independence as they become a toddler and then an adolescent.  With that natural striving for independence comes the perfect time to manage your mind with this new stage of growth and challenges.

 

Toddler & Adolescent Phase

Your child is out of diapers, they can carry on a conversation and they’re discovering their likes, dislikes and what’s expected of them.  This is when their sphere of influence expands beyond you and they begin to be challenged educationally, socially and emotionally.

With this new stage of their development comes the opportunity for a new stage in your development as a parent.  This is when you are able to get clear about your family values, set expectations for your child, decide what your parenting style is going to be and go about the business of guiding your child through all their successes and failures.

This is also when managing your mind is SO important!  It’s when you learn to not blame your child for how their behavior affects you, to take ownership of your emotions and to see that drama isn’t necessary when setting expectations and consequences for your child.

This is the stage when a managed mind will help you to see that you may teach them X, they may do Y instead and you get to decide what you want to make that mean about them and you.  It’s when you can either beat yourself up for every bad grade, every unmade bed and every plate of food left untouched or you can choose on purpose how you want to feel about it all.

This stage in your child’s life will offer you so many opportunities to practice managing your mind that I often joke that you’re probably not aware that you are really getting a Master’s Degree in parenting with each phase your child goes through.  This 10 year span of your child’s life offers the opportunity to do some amazing emotional work with yourself.

It’s important to understand that your thoughts are creating your feelings and your actions just like your child’s thoughts are creating their feelings and their actions.  Therefore, what you have control over is how you think, not how they think.  Just this awareness alone can help you be less adversarial and more managerial.

You can then discuss reasonable expectations along with possible rewards and consequences.  When you learn to manage your mind you like your reasons for your expectations, you communicate them in a way your child can understand and you are willing to carry out any consequences without emotional drama.

At this stage, a managed mind may look like this:

Circumstance – My daughters are 7 and 10 years old and have been late for school 3 days this week (I have set an expectation for being on time and the consequence is losing TV time)

Thought – It’s understandable that they are upset they are losing TV time as a consequence for being late

Feeling – Compassion

Action – Allow them to be upset; not take their mood or anything they say personally; calmly reiterate the expectation of being on time for school and what the consequence is; love them no matter what

Result – I understand their sadness

Now that you and your child have navigated the rough waters of the toddler and adolescent phase, you enter the teenage phase.  This is the phase where most parents experience the most stress and drama.  However, if you’ve learned to manage your mind, this phase of your child’s life can be the most rewarding for you and for them.

 

Teenage Phase

Think back to when you were a teenager – all the hormones racing through your body, the need to be accepted, the pressure of school, the expectations of your teachers and parents, the growing pains, the distraction of sex.  I don’t know about you, but this was the most tumultuous time in my life and in my children’s lives.

Back in the late 80’s when the actor Will Smith was the rapper, Fresh Prince, he had a song “Parents Just Don’t Understand”.  It was a funny but poignant song about how parents don’t understand that kids are going to make mistakes as they try to figure out their way in the world.  He ended each refrain of the song with “So to all you kids all across the land, there’s no need to argue, parents just don’t understand”.

Since we went through the teenage phase ourselves, what is it that puts us at odds with our teenagers?  What is it that we just don’t understand?  I think the answer is that when you don’t understand your own thoughts and feelings, you project that confusion onto your children.  When you don’t know how your thoughts create your feelings you will try to control the people in your life in order to feel better.

One of the most powerful things I have learned in the process of managing my mind and learning where my feelings and actions come from is having a better understanding of where other people’s feelings and actions come from as well.  By understanding this on a deeper level, you can learn how to not take things personally, how to not need your teenager to change in order for you to feel better and how to take charge of your own emotions.

When my children were teenagers my biggest challenge was acceptance.  I’ve joked over the years that my daughter came out of the womb needing to learn her lessons the hard way but once I learned to manage my mind, I accepted that she needs her own challenges and failures to grow and that they mean nothing about me as a parent.

When I set the expectation with my son that his job was to do his best in school and had clear consequences that he understood, the fact that he would spend a lot of time in his room playing video games after his homework was done wasn’t a big, horrible thing.  He actually turned that love of video games into a degree in Computer Science and is in a highly successful career.

At this stage, a managed mind may look like this:

Circumstance – Teenage son

Thought – He gets to have his preferences and his “growing pains” and I get to decide what I will focus on and how that makes me feel

Feeling – Acceptance

Action – Feel love for him without condition; make requests of him; allow him to have this thoughts and feelings about my requests; make decisions about what is non-optional and what is just part of his growing up; don’t compare him to his siblings; leave judgement out of our relationship

Result – Nothing is wrong with our relationship

Your teenagers don’t need to change in order for you to feel better because you get to decide how you want to show up in your relationship with them in a way that serves you.  This phase could be the most challenging but will also help tremendously when your child transitions to adulthood.

 

Adulthood Phase

They’re out of school, possibly employed, maybe started a family of their own and you feel…what?  This is the phase where there can be a tug of war in your mind about what your role is now that your child is no longer a child.

I believe this is such a great time to practice unconditional love for them and for you.  It’s the time to look forward and decide how you want to show up in their lives.  You no longer need to be the “momager” and instead get to be the observer.

No matter what your child decides to do or not do with their life, you get to feel whatever you want to feel because you now understand that your child is not responsible for your feelings.  You now understand that your thoughts are 100% responsible for how you feel and you owe it to yourself to feel the best emotions you can no matter what the circumstance.

At this stage, a managed mind may look like this:

Thought – I have so much love to share with my kids

Thought – I can do what’s best for me when I am deliberate with my thinking

Thought – I can create an amazing relationship with my kids in my mind first

Thought – All relationships are the thoughts I have about the other person and I choose acceptance

No matter what phase your child is in, it’s never too late to start managing your mind.  You owe it to yourself to have the best experience as a parent and to show your children what’s possible when you make your emotional life a priority.

 

Summary

  • The secret that few people will share is that life is supposed to be 50/50; it’s normal to feel positive 50% of the time and negative the other 50%.
  • The toddler and adolescent phase is when a managed mind will help you to see that you may teach them X, they may do Y instead and you get to decide what you want to make that mean about them and you.
  • By understanding where your child’s feelings and actions come from, you can learn how to not take things personally, how to not need your child to change in order for you to feel better and how to take charge of your own emotions.
  • No matter what phase your child is in, it’s never too late to start managing your mind.

 

If you’d like some help with parenting with a managed mind, please feel free to schedule a free mini session or email me at dawn@cpa-moms-coach.com and we can get to work together.

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