One of the strongest parenting instincts we have is the need to protect our children from harm. Unfortunately harm can come in many forms and one danger always seems to be on our radar: Bullying. The last thing we want for our children is for them to become the victim of bullying behavior or to become a bully themselves. We strive to teach them manners, we show them how to be ‘includers’ and teach them assertive communication to help them stand up for themselves or reach out for help when needed. But what if despite our best efforts our children are still being taught that bullying is okay? What if they watched their own parent passively accept bullying behavior? What if both the bully and the victim is their actual parent?
With all of the different parenting styles, Pinterest boards, and Instagram photo shoots to compare ourselves with it’s easy to be hard on ourselves as parents. It seems like the bar is constantly being set higher and we’re left feeling inadequate despite doing our best. Lost in the comparisons and stress of the day is often where negative self-talk lurks.
Have you ever found yourself saying or thinking these things about yourself?:
“I look awful today.” “I’m such a terrible parent.” “I suck at this.”
These seem like pretty common and harmless things we may say to ourselves throughout the day, right? Now turn those statements around and pretend you were saying them to a friend:
“You look awful today.” You’re such a terrible parent.” “You suck at this.”
Whoa. I’m going to guess you wouldn’t dream of saying or even thinking those things about someone you loved. So why is it okay for us to talk to ourselves that way? And what is it teaching our children? If we teach our children about kindness and empathy and don’t model for them how to use it on themselves we may be setting them on this same self-loathing path we use on ourselves. But here’s the really great part; We can change the way we think.
Let me tell you about the beauty of positive thinking. I know how cheesy positive affirmations are (Think of Al Franken’s iconic SNL skit of Stuart Smalley) but if you want to walk the path of self-compassion hear me out. Positive self-talk works a bit like advertising. We often need to hear things multiple times before we decide we like or trust the product and positive self-talk works the same way. Repetition will help it stick, so be patient with this process of change. Oftentimes negative self talk can become so automatic that you don’t even realize you’re doing it. It becomes a habit like tying your shoes. When learning how to tie their shoes some people used a special rhyme or a story to help them through the steps. I’m proud to say that I no longer need the rhyme to tie my shoes, I can actually do it without thinking about it much at all. And that’s a good thing because if we had to think about every last detail of our lives we couldn’t function. Imagine walking down the street and thinking ‘left foot forward, right foot forward.’ Unfortunately that’s exactly the way that negative self talk works, stored back into the subconscious part of your mind with all of the other automatic and useful things you do all day.
With intentional positive affirmations, catching ourselves when the bullying talk emerges, and considering being compassionate towards ourselves we can slowly and effectively change the way we view and treat ourself and move towards a more compassionate and self-loving manner. We can challenge ourselves to use self-talk as if we were talking to a friend or our child or asking ourselves if we’re unsure of a certain statement if we would consider saying it to someone else. If the answer is no that’s a great indicator you may not want to be treating yourself that way either.
I often say that my children have taught me way more than I’ve ever learned from a book. While I started my journey of self-compassion for my babies I’m continuing it for myself. I’ve learned the difficult lesson that we’re better parents when we care for ourselves. Practicing self-compassion will also pass on an amazing skill to our children and I can’t think of a better gift for my kids than self-love.