Episode 180 – Mom-Guilt And The Inner-Critic

When Our Inner-critic Bosses us Around

Some of us have an inner-critic. It harasses us all day long with thoughts such as –

  • It’s your fault your kids act the way they do.
  • If you would only (fill in the blank) then your kids would behave.
  • If you were a better parent, everything would be better.
  • If you weren’t parenting from your past, your kids wouldn’t struggle.
  • You’ll never be a great parent.

If this is you, I get it. I have an inner critic and it tried to boss me around. The Bible says we are supposed to take every thought captive. When my inner-critic is sending out thoughts, I need a giant lasso to grab them all. It’s not one thought. It’s a barrage of them. So, how do we handle it? And here’s a note, if you think when your kids are grown, the inner-critic quiets down, think again. There are plenty of “If you had only…” thoughts.

My Two Approaches

  1. I can’t just cast a thought out. I have to replace it. It’s called substitution. If you try only casting it out, you’ll be emotionally exhausted by the end of the day. Trust me. I have days when I only cast out the thoughts or follow them down a deep dark hole. It’s mentally and physically exhausting. I ask God to rebuke the devourer for me. I also know that God is strong in the midst of my weakness, so I pray that. God, I’m weak in this area of my thought life, but you’ve given me a spirit of discipline and self-control. Thank you for helping me and renewing my mind.
  2. Proactively copy and pray scripture that negates the critical thoughts. Like I said above, scripture says God has given me a spirit of discipline and self-control, so I pray it by faith. I said last week on the podcast -parenting is a skill we can improve. One of ways we improve is studying and applying scripture to help us grow. I’m pretty old school so I use index cards to write scriptures to study. I also have a Pinterest board of scripture art. Find what works best for you!

When Mom-Guilt and external Circumstances Boss you around

Some of us are more tuned into external cues instead of internal ones. This is true for extroverts, while introverts are more internally driven. So, maybe you aren’t bossed around by an inner-critic but base your parenting success on what you see externally. When your kids are doing well, you feel as if you are parenting well. If your kids are struggling with friendships. school situations, fear, or fill in the blank, you may feel as if you have failed. Or maybe you have both -inner-critic and mom-guilt.

Mom guilt is usually after the fact or tells you what you aren’t doing. It can be based on what the rest of the culture or church is doing. For example, we pulled our kids out of sports for a season because it was eating up all our family time. On the one hand, I knew it was the right decision. One the other, when someone made a comment (external) about how some of my kids were so athletic, I felt guilty. I FELT it. It didn’t change my mind or my hubby’s.

Mom-guilt is fierce. It tells us we did everything wrong yesterday. It’s a scarcity mentality of sorts. It tell you – You aren’t doing enough. After the fact, it creeps in and says “Sure that was a nice birthday party for your kiddo, too bad you didn’t get her exactly what she wanted.” Or “If you had more money, you could have taken a vacation, maybe you should go back to work full time.”

How do you Combat Mom Guilt?

Remember guilt usually comes after the fact. When the Holy Spirit is gently nudging you, it is before the fact. If you have these two facts in place, it’s easier to distinguish what is what. After the fact guilt is not the same as sin. If you feel as if you sinned, then repent and move on. We use the word guilt loosely, it’s not the same as “all have sinned” (which is true). This guilt is a feeling. Treat as such. Examine it. Like I did in the “stepping out of sports” example, I felt the guilt, but I didn’t change my decision. Examine it. Feel it. Make changes if you need to. Move on quickly! Don’t tread water in your guilty feelings!

If you are struggling with shame and guilt from your past- check out these articles!

JOURNALING YOUR TRIGGERS

MAKING SENSE OF AND PEACE WITH YOUR PAST

Listen to the podcast below:

Episode 179 – There Are No Perfect Parents

Are you Aiming for Perfection

Last week on the podcast, I asked – Do you think having obedient kids makes you a good parent? We must let go of the myth that perfect parents exist.

GOD’S FIRST CHILDREN DISOBEYED HIM

Does that make you feel better? It did me. When I first realized that God, the Father Himself, who is perfect, had disobedient kiddos, I breathed a sigh of relief. You can read the rest of the post and listen to the podcast here.

This week, I moved on to the next step –

Have a reconciliation Plan in Place

If we follow God’s pattern of parenting, we will have a plan in place to follow disobedience. If we have the understanding that our kiddos aren’t going to be perfectly obedient, it gets a bit easier, especially if we have a reconciliation plan in place. God had one. He knew Adam and Eve would disobey Him. Before the foundation of the world, He had chosen to adopt us (Ephesians 1: 4,5). He already planned to send His Son to come to earth as a man and sacrifice Himself so we could reconnect with God. That’s the goal of a reconciliation plan. It’s a fancy way of saying – What will you do after disobedience? The goal of the plan is to get back to connection. At the end of whatever consequence you choose, there should be a reconnection. Keep in mind, all of this depends on the child (and your attitude).

Just a note – Kids who have experienced trauma or who have a capital letter syndrome my not have great executive function. They are impulsive. Sometimes these behaviors aren’t disobedience, just a faulty neural pathway.

Some Reconciliation Tools

So how do we reconcile with our kiddos and make sure they are learning and growing in character at the same time?

First of all, we often think of parenting as something we are “good” at “bad” or “meh” at. Instead, we need to think of it as a skill we can’t get better at. We shouldn’t stay static. Think about it, when we go on a job interview, we’re asked what our strengths are (more on that in a couple of weeks when I talk about our parenting strengths). When you have a profession, like parenting, you can use tools to accomplish what you need to. However you approach your reconciliation plan, it should include reconnection at the end. Here are just a few tools or “Instead Of” Tips.

“INSTEAD OF” PARENTING SUGGESTIONS

  • Instead of a lecture, use simple language (8- 12 words total).
  • Instead of waiting for behavior to intensify, respond quickly.
  • Instead of giving orders, offer simple choices.
  • Instead of just correcting, give immediate retraining and a “re-do.”
  • Instead of expecting a child to know, clarify expectations.
  • Instead of isolating when a child is dysregulated, keep the child near you.
  • Instead of only noticing the “bad” behaviors, offer praise for success.
  • Instead of taking it personally, remember there is a need behind the behavior.

Want to learn more?

Click HERE to read the whole “Instead Of” Tips article and HERE for your free downloadable infographic.

If the these tools for parenting are all new to you, take some time and read the article, maybe print it off and hi-light some tools you’d like to try. Hint – Don’t try all at once and all of them won’t work for every child. Also, print the infographic or save it on your phone to refer to!

Listen to “There Are No Perfect Parents” below:

WHAT IS A GOOD PARENT?

What is a good parent?

Am I a good parent?

How do I measure my parenting?

Is it by how well my kids behave?

Whether they have the same opinions I do?

Succeed academically?

Obey me?

Are clean, put together, and cute?

Don’t talk back?

This list could go on for days, literally. This is something I’ve been thinking about since a friend’s post about what she used to think good parenting entailed,  spurred my brain into action. 

Parents often just parent. Seventy to eighty percent of us parent like our parents did, unless we make a conscious decision to parent differently. If we do decide to parent differently, we must face our past, work on changing our attachment style, and put some new parenting tools in our belt. If this is you and you want to learn a new type of parenting (I did) click here. 

Once we are parenting, we get on autopilot. We just do it because, let’s face it, there’s not a ton of time to think about it. So, let’s make some space to think about it right here.

National Parents of The Year

Many years ago, when we only had three children (instead of seven), hubby and I were awarded “National Parents of the Year Award” at a reception in Washington D.C.. My question? “Why me? Why us?” I didn’t feel as if I were the best parent in the nation. Oftentimes, I didn’t feel like the best parent in the room when I was the only one in the room. Many times, I feel as if I’ve missed the mark completely. 

So, do awards and accolades mean I’m a good parent or do they make me a better parent? And if my parenting was okayish when I had three bio children, why did I lose the ability to parent successfully by many peoples’ standard after adopting a sibling group of four?

The Inner Critic

Some of us, especially ones on the Enneagram have a constant inner critic telling us how wrong we are, how we should/could do better. Even when we have a victory, like not yelling, our inner critic tells us we wanted to and so it doesn’t count. 

All of us have mom guilt. It is universal. It shows up in different ways and always shows up pointing the finger at what we did wrong. We didn’t wash all the clothes and someone didn’t have their favorite shirt. Or we stayed up late to watch a movie because we needed a break and now we are grouchy. We yelled. We bossed. Fill in the blank.

So, here’s another question – Do we measure our parenting ability by our inner critic and/or mom- guilt? 

I know, I’ve poured out many questions. I created a survey to see what you think. It’s called the Good Parent Survey. You can find it here.

For the next six weeks, I’ll be talking about “What is a Good Parent?” on the Positive Adoption Podcast and picking apart some of these questions on my lives (Tuesday on Facebook), and in article form. If you would, take a few minutes and take the survey, I’d love to hear what you think! Also, feel free to leave a comment- What do you think defines good parenting?

Investment Parenting with Co-Regulation

Susie, a friend of mine (plus foster and adoptive Mom), shared a conundrum she had recently while teaching four-year-olds during Sunday school class. A new little one melted down and hid under the table. She had no special instructions for the little one and wasn’t sure how to handle it. You see, there is a big difference between disobedience and a reaction based on past trauma. Turns out the little one was a foster child who was placed in the home just the night before. Susie would have been better equipped to help him if she had only known. I could do a whole post on taking a fresh foster or adoptive placement to church, but I’ll save that for another day. I’d like to focus on trauma and its effect on self-regulation.

The Signature of Trauma

 Trauma produces children from hard places. Children from had places have altered brain development. The main outwards sign of past trauma is what we often refer to as “bad behavior” or the inability to self regulate (if you want it to sound more science-y and less critical).  The truth is, when it comes to behavior, we must remember that every behavior expresses a need.It's Can't

When it comes to a child from hard places ability to self-regulate, it’s CAN’T not WON’T. In simple plain language that means, he cannot calm himself. He can’t help but be overwhelmed to the point that he is either hiding under the table (flight), not responding to what you are asking of him (freeze) or running away from the situation (flight). He CAN’T. Not physically able. Not emotionally able. In this scenario, the adult must take the reins and help the child by co-regulating. Co-regulation helps a child develop a new pattern for stress regulation.

“The early developing right brain, where attachments develop, is largely dominant during the first three years of life (Schore, 2003). It contains the initial and lasting template for stress regulation. Revisions to this template will require intentional efforts.”-Deborah Gray, Nurturing Adoption

What Does Co-regulation Look Like?

Think of a two year old being tired and falling on the floor having a meltdown because she doesn’t want to take a nap. Clearly, she needs one, so Mom takes control of the situation. Mom takes the little one to her room and reads her a story and rocks her to sleep. She takes a nap. Mom is co-regulating because unless you have a rare toddler, she is not going to recognize her need for a nap and put herself down for one.

Filling in the Gaps of Missed Co-Regulation

With a child from a hard place, no matter what their age and size, we must co-regulate when they cannot. A twelve year old who cannot recognize his body’s signals to eat or drink, must be provided with a snack and water every two hours or he will enter the flight, fight or freeze zone. A nine year old who has sensory processing issues may lose the ability to voice his need to escape the noise and over stimulation of a loud birthday party. Mom and Dad must be watching for cues and either leave the party or take the child to a quieter place. It’s important to remember that a child from a hard place is emotionally at least half his physical age, sometimes more. His regulation skills may be that of a two year old while he is teen size.

The good news is, as we connect and co-regulate, we change the brain chemistry, wiring and development. Scientists tell us that relationships and experience shape the brain. Think of a developing brain like a multi-storied house under construction. At birth the downstairs brain is developed. This is the part that tells the child when to breath and keeps the functions of the body on track. This is also where survival mode resides, the fight, flight or freeze mechanisms. The upstairs brain is the higher functions of the brain. It is more sophisticated and houses reasoning, speech, regulation of emotions, the ability to be flexible and adaptable. Trauma skews the wiring of the brain. Trauma triggers the amygdala, the watchdog of the body. If the brain stays in this state too long, it rewires to stay stuck in fight, flight or freeze. Chronic stress takes a heavy toll on the prefrontal cortex. It is involved in impulses, aggression, anxiety, decisions, changing gears and self-regulation.

At this point, you may be thinking, I thought you said there was hope. There is! The Hebbian Principle says –what fires together, wires together. That is the more you experience something, the more your wires go that direction. So, how do we rewire a child’s brain that is stuck downstairs in the survival (fight, flight, freeze)? With co-regulation and fresh new experiences that show him he can trust us. We call this felt safety. When a child feels safe, his adrenals calm, he produces less cortisol and he is able to function in his upstairs brain.

I know, I feel like this is all over the place, so let me end with three reminders.

If you are parenting a child or teen from a hard place:

  1. Expect to co-regulate a lot more than your peers with bio children (who aren’t from hard places, because some are). Don’t base your expectation of whether you need to help them regulate on their physical age and size. “Many children who do not have early experiences of proper care also lack proper physiological and emotional regulation. This is because both of these regulation systems are developed through an attachment relationship.” (Nurturing Adoptions)
  2. Make sure your children feel safe. It’s not about really being safe. It’s about feeling safe. If they feel safer with a light on, not going to the noisy party, staying near you at a function, comply, don’t complain.
  3. Keep the positive, connecting experiences coming. “The brain is also “experience-expectant.” We come hard wired for connection. For eye contact, touch, playful interactions and co-regulation.These fill up the kid’s emotional tank and help their brains rewire. Blow bubbles. Ride bikes together. Make cookies and eat them. Read a favorite book fifty times. Swim with them, don’t just watch them swim. Hike with them. Take the time to invest positive experiences. This is investment parenting. Just a note -this practice applies to teens as well. If you are filling in the gaps of missed co-regulation, an older teen may still want you to watch them jump on the trampoline, ride bikes with him, play board games, or watch movies. Many teens from hard places may have no interest in what their peers are doing and want to hang out with Mom and Dad.

If you see your children struggling with regulation, which parts of this article resonated with you? Are you willing to try to do a few things differently? If you do, please share your stories! I’d love to hear from you!

The Tyranny of the Urgent

“The tyranny of the urgent frustrates every goal we hold.” - Mike Porter, The Time of Your Life

It’s surprising how easy I can get off track. How about you?

I have a goal for the day and then the urgent pokes at me screaming, “Do me first!” And I follow the command, do all those things first. When I get to the end of the day, I sometimes find I didn’t do what I intended to do at all. I end up frustrated and cranky. 

Does this ever happen to you? 

Does this quote from Marlene Bagnull, author of Write His Answer, hit home?

“Clutter greeted me everywhere I looked. Crumpled homework papers, crayons, toys, dirty socks. My husband didn’t mind the way the house looked. I did. It was a reflection of me! I resented my children for being so sloppy and accused myself of failing as a homemaker and a mother.”

This isn’t an article containing three steps to decluttering your home, or how to organize your house, or the best schedule for you. I do love all of the aforementioned topics. I think those topics are important. It’s not what I want to talk about though.

The Importance of a good attitude

More important these all of those practices – decluttering, organization, and schedule, is putting first things first. What’s more important than having a perfectly clean house and schedule, friends? Our attitude. Yep.

I’ve had my share of angry cleaning sessions. You know the kind when you vacuum vehemently? Or scrub the toilet while muttering under your breath about you’re the only one who cleans, no one else helps, or fill in the blank. I once asked a counselor what I could do about the angry feeling that sometimes came over me while I was cleaning. I wanted her to dig deep, maybe find some event in my past triggering my feelings. I wanted an excuse for my anger so I could blame someone other than myself. She didn’t give me one. She simply told me to change my attitude and think about something else while cleaning. Durn. It was on me. I had to do something.

The point is – a clean house doesn’t produce a peaceful feeling unless you have a great attitude. In the culture of our country, we women are told to create a picture perfect home. Just turn on HGTV ( I will, thank you) and you will find the best colors, counters, centerpieces, you name it for a gorgeous home. I love home design. I love to paint, decorate, make book wreaths, etc… As long as I keep in mind those are the fruit of my purpose, not my purpose. Then it’s okay. It’s better than okay. It’s amazing. Keeping my home to bless my families and others is a great use of my time.

Here are three tips I need to be reminded of in my life. They may seem elementary but sometimes I need the basics! 

  1. Put Christ first. I can get off track when I just plow into my day without taking some time to acknowledge God. I need to ask Him every day what He would like me to do. I’m a list maker. I make one every day. Sometimes the list becomes an idol. Instead of listening to the still small voice of the Holy Spirit to slow down, I look to the list. Guess what happens if the list doesn’t get finished? I feel as if I am a failure. I am frustrated. Peace is not being my umpire. As I have said before – You don’t have to work all the time. I need the reminder. Maybe there is something you need reminded of daily. Put Christ first and ask Him.
  2. Put your purpose second. If you are a wife and mother, obviously this comes next. What does that look like? I mean we quote it as our theology. We say “Family first” and similar sayings. We need to ask, what does it mean for my family? If you’re single, widowed, or an empty nester, the same guideline applies. Figure out what your purpose looks like lived out on a daily basis. For instance, in Marlene’s quote, she says her husband doesn’t care if the house is messy. Mine does. He likes things neat and orderly. So, I should try my best to keep it that way. Not because he dictated it to me, but because we are to consider the needs of others before ourselves. If your husband considers you the home administrator, then you have some liberty to make decisions like, let’s go hiking this afternoon and let the lunch dishes wait. Let’s have pancakes for dinner. Let’s clean first and then pull out the games on this rainy day. Amerey and I did a great podcast on this topic – Moms you are the boss and the employee. Which leads me right into tip number three.
  3. Add in some creativity to your day. As I’ve said many times before, hubby and I were both raised in work oriented families. It’s hard to break the mold and do something different. It’s as if we were both hardwired to work, work, work, eat, and then collapse. There’s no question about the work needing to be done. The way we do the work and the amount of time we set aside for the work is something we can have control over. Here’s a few examples, when we first moved into our new house in March, I was working all day. Literally. Unpacking, painting, cleaning, and repeat. After a few weeks I had a bit of a CFS crash. My body just shut down. One day, when my body felt as if I was in quicksand up to my neck, I took the time to evaluate the time I had spent working. Turns out, with packing and moving, I had spent six weeks without any real breaks or fun. Not good. So, I did something different after my recovery. First of all, I set a timer while I was working. I pre-determined how long I could work.  Second. I picked one fun thing to do a day – a walk, a swim, sauna time, reading time, or sitting down by the lake with my journal. My newest creative thing? I take my typewriter out on the porch in the evenings and work on some writing. Love it. Here’s another thought, work can be fun. I do love to work. Maybe I’m weird. I’m okay with that. How can work be fun? Turn on some music – my fave – Opera for People who Hate Opera. Make chores a contest. I used to have timed challenges for my kids getting dressed. Not only did it make getting dressed fun, it sped up the process. Add your personality to your work and make it fun!

Urgent poke

As far as the urgent poking you -there will always be dishes to wash, clothes to wash, smudges on the windows, and fill in the blank. It’s up to you to decide what to do when (to a point). When you make a choice -whether it is to leave the dishes while you play outside, when the urgent screams, remind your brain you chose this instead for now and it’s okay.