Parents: This month is hard, y’all.
Too many holiday events. Too high expectations. Too long to do list. Too many meltdowns. Too much!
Read on if you’re feeling the pressure.
Scenario: Your best friend calls you up and is crying. She just had a horrible day with the kids. She shouted, they cried, and now she feels terrible.
What would you say to her?
I bet you would say something like, “Oh no! That sounds so difficult. I am so sorry you are having such a hard time. You’re a GREAT mom. Everyone has bad days. Your kids love you and they’ll forgive you. It’s going to be okay. If I were there I’d give you a big hug. What can you do to help yourself feel better?”
You most certainly would not say, “What is wrong with you? You’re an awful mother! You don’t even deserve to have those kids.”
Scenario: You’ve had a horrible day with your kids. You shouted, they cried, and now you feel terrible.
What do you say to yourself? If you’re like many of us, I bet it’s a version of, “You’re a terrible mother and a worthless person.” Your inner mean girl would take over and you would beat yourself up.
If you are familiar with my work, you know that I often say, “We don’t need to make children feel bad to teach them something.” We want our children to know that we love them know matter what. Even though they wrote on the wall with a crayon, they are still worthy and lovable. Even though they had a meltdown in the middle of Target, they are still worthy and lovable.
You know that your child needs your understanding and compassion when they are acting out or having a hard time. We understand that they are doing the best they can. We believe in their essential worthiness and we will help them learn and do better next time.
We need to give ourselves this same grace. It’s called self-compassion.
We make mistakes. We mess up. It’s part of being human. I know you know this on a rational level. But do you live it?
I don’t mean that we shrug and move on after our mistakes. Of course we try to improve. But as my wise mentor, Dr. Laura Markham says, “You can’t do better by feeling worse.”
This is the thing: Talking to ourselves in the mean girl voice sends us into a shame spiral. It perpetuates a cycle of feeling bad and acting bad. We are the best parents when we are our best selves. When we feel bad, we act bad. Just like our children do. We can’t do better coming from a place of despair.
We also can’t calm down while we’re beating ourselves up. When we use self-compassion, the fancy word for your inner best friend voice, it’s easier to soothe yourself out of upset. It’s just like when you acknowledge your child’s feelings and they can calm down.
We need to give ourselves compassion when things are hard. Even though you yelled at your kids, you are still worthy and lovable. You are still worthy and lovable, no matter what you’ve done. I mean that.
Your inner mean girl?
She will likely always be there. The goal isn’t to silence her. The goal is to not listen to her.
Replace the inner mean girl negative shaming voice with your inner best friend voice instead.
It’s really hard at first to break the habit. But the more you don’t listen to that inner mean girl voice, the more you talk to yourself like your inner best friend, the easier it gets. And when you can give yourself compassion when things are hard, and forgive yourself if you’ve acted in ways you regret, the easier it is to calm yourself down and DO better.
Here’s what you can do the next time that inner mean girl strikes: Give yourself a self-compassion break.*
Use a self-compassion break whenever things feel hard:
- When you are about to lose your temper, are already yelling or after you have lost it.
- When you feel overwhelmed
- When you are experiencing difficult emotions
- When you recognize you are beating yourself up
Step 1: Notice
Try to recognize where in your body you feel the stress. If it feels good, you can put your hand on your body in that place or where it feels comforting.
Say to yourself, “This is a moment of suffering” or “This is very difficult” or “Of course I am having a hard time.”
Step 2: Normalize and Connect
Say to yourself, “Suffering is part of being alive” or “Other people feel like this sometimes, too” or “I am not alone in my suffering.”
Step 3: Soothe and Comfort
Say to yourself, “May I be kind to myself. Even though _____, I am lovable and worthy.”
Ask yourself, “What do I need right now?”
Try a self-compassion break the next time your inner mean girl is piping up, or when you feel yourself getting upset.
*self-compassion break: adapted from Kristin Neff
Share your experience in the comments below or in the Facebook group.
Want some more support?
Book a free short consult with me.
You can also join our free Peaceful Parenting Facebook group.
Sarah Rosensweet is a peaceful parenting coach and parenting advice columnist for Canada’s Globe and Mail newspaper. She lives in Toronto with her husband and three big kids (ages 12, 15, and 18). Sarah teaches parents a non-punitive, connection-based approach that uses firm limits with lots of empathy. Enjoy your kids again! Find her at sarahrosensweet.com