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:

Episode 177 – What Makes a Good Parent?

This week I started a series on parenting. A friend of mine had posted on Instagram what she used to think made a parent good. Keep in mind, I’m using “good” in a very general sense. This isn’t a series about judging our parenting. It’s about encouraging, educating, and equipping ourselves.

We may have believed some myths about what good parenting looks like. Or maybe the pressures of this culture have you seeping in Mom-guilt and you have a really negative view of your parenting skills. During this stressful time when many Moms are with their kiddos 24/7, exhaustion and circumstances can have everyone in meltdown mode. Then our Mom-guilt or inner critic (or both) rears its ugly head and we sink lower into a depressed state. LET’S. NOT. GO. THERE. This isn’t a series to give you three magical steps to being a better parent. Or a good parent. Let’s look at the whole parenting gig from a different perspective by answering some questions. (Please put in your two cents by filling out this survey- here).

Does Having Obedient kids make you a good parent?

Do you think having obedient kids makes you a good parent? Like you should get a prize when your kids listen? Raising my hand here. For years I thought this was the Biblical definition of parenting to strive for. Although I do think obedience is something to aim for, I don’t think it qualifies us for “best parent” status.

Who do you think is the best parent in the universe? God, the Father, would be my answer. How did his first kiddos – Adam and Eve – do in the obedience department? God put Adam and Eve in perfect circumstances. Their every need was met. They had secure attachment. They walked and talked with God every day. His only restriction – Don’t eat of the tree in the middle of the garden. If you eat of it, you will die. Let’s take a look at what happened next:

Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”

The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’”

“You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.

Genesis 3

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. Yes, of course, I’ve read through the Bible and know about the seven cycles of judgment in Judges, the people who disobeyed, lied, and had kingships removed. Those are all pretty serious sins. But for a long time, I hadn’t processed the first kids being disobedient dynamic. It certainly takes a weight off my shoulders.

Your kids have free will, just like any human on the planet. Perfect obedience is not a job requirement for parents. It’s something we pursue. Relationship comes first though. As I say on the podcast – God already had a plan set up for reconciliation before Adam and Eve disobeyed. That’s our job. We must have a plan for reconnecting after disobedience (and a redo, time-in or whatever parenting tool fits the bill). * I’ll talk more about the reconciliation plan next week on the podcast.

Book Series I Mentioned on the Podcast

Defining Series:

1. After ten years in a Polish orphanage, Adelina’s dream of finding a home is coming true.
And, so is her worst nightmare.

After a new intern appears, Daria, Adelina’s best friend’s, adoption falls through. Then Daria disappears.
With a human trafficking ring in the area targeting teens, Adelina must save her friend or go to the states with her new family.

2. Can this newly adopted teen finally learn what it means to be part of a family? When someone from her past shows up at her doorstep with some disturbing news it launches her into the path of danger again.

3. Adelina is graduating from college and getting married. She’s left her coping mechanisms of defining words and reciting poetry behind… that is until she answers the phone at the Crisis Pregnancy Center. The caller on the other end pulls her back into the dangerous world of human trafficking.

Adelina finally feels secure in her home and family. She’s ready to launch out into adulthood, get married, and move away from her forever family. Then she takes a deep dive into the cultural issues and a different species of human trafficking. She’s at odds with her team, government agencies, and her old inner demons.

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?

Training With Sweets and Events Training

Yesterday, I shared ended my post with a “How To do a Training Session.” You can find that here.

Today lets move to types of training.

Training With Sweets

I put a handful of M&Ms on the dining room table in front of each child. I then gave them instructions about which color M&M to pick up.  If they listened, they got to eat that piece of candy. Failure to listen meant they missed out on the sweet — but there usually wasn’t much of that, and there was always a chance to try again. 

This training had several positive outcomes — the kids learned their colors in English without shame, and they got a sweet reward. There were many chances for redos, and the kids even coached each other by saying things like “That’s not brown!” and pointing to proper color. That last one is so important. The kids learned that families help each other.

I had training sessions with money, as well. I kept a gallon-sized bag full of coins: quarters, nickels, dimes, fifty-cent pieces, and pennies. I dumped the money on the floor and helped the kids work through identifying the coins. After a session, if a child could name a coin without my help, I gave him that coin or a handful of coins. The kids would spend their money on gum or a candy bar during our next grocery trip. This reward was delayed, but it reinforced the lesson. 

Training relieves the child of unreasonable expectations and puts the responsibility on the parent, where it belongs. Training can be lighthearted and fun rather than dictatorial. Most of the infractions we punish for can be eliminated by practicing outside the moment.

Events Training

After obedience training came events training. In this category is the library training I mentioned yesterday. Before I took the kids to the library for the first time, we played library at home, using our bookshelves to practice.

Obedience training must come first. Once children have caught on to listening and following simple commands, then you can add event training. 

When I first attended church with all my newbies, they sat in the regular service with Jerry and me instead of attending children’s church or the nursery. They were not ready to assimilate into the church culture. Since they had never attended a church service, they did not know how to conduct themselves. I could not expect them to know what to do in a church service — to stand during worship, to be silent during prayer, to sit while the message was being delivered, and so on.

To practice, I set up a church in my living room, complete with two rows of chairs. I had the kids sit on the chairs while we practiced a short service. I sang a few lines of a song, “preached” a short sermon, and then let them take turns being “pastor.” Through this simple training game, they learned when to sit, when to stand, and what cues to listen for. The training also generally relieved their anxiety regarding what church services entail.

Knowing what to expect is extremely important for the child with a stress-shaped brain. When going into an unfamiliar situation, the child’s fear is heightened, and he may have an extreme reaction that seems out of proportion with the actual event. Even if you’re just preparing for a family picnic, a child will often attempt to control the situation when he feels out of control.

We also practiced going out to eat. I set the table with my colorful fiestaware, silverware, glasses — the works. Then we filed into the “restaurant” and took our seats. We practiced placing the napkins on our laps, pretending to eat while having quiet, polite conversation, asking for a menu, ordering, and thanking the waiter or waitress.

Restaurant Manners

It amazes me to see parents assume that a four-year-old (or any child, for that matter) will pick up restaurant manners just because the family goes out to eat. I often hear comments like “You should know better!” or “I can’t believe you just did that!”

It reminds me of the Guire family’s first fast-food dining experience in Poland. Thanks to Pani Eugenia, we had taken a field trip and found a McDonald’s to eat lunch at. The new Guires had never been to a McDonald’s, and I wondered if they had ever been out to eat at all.

Jerry and I were watching carefully. We didn’t expect restaurant manners; we expected that the kids would run around or, worse, run out into the parking lot. We divided the group and each watched a contingent. Getting through the line and sitting down with the food was organized chaos, but once all the little ones had a happy meal bag in hand, they settled down to sitting or kneeling on their chairs. Everything was going better than we had hoped. They may have been too enthralled with the strange cuisine to act up. 

Ania had gotten a milkshake, as many of the group had. She removed the lid and jammed a hot fry into the cold contents. She pulled the gooey, drippy fry out and took a bite. Milkshake covered her hands, chin and shirt. She laboriously continued the ritual, messily coating each fry with shake. 

“Look what she is doing,” Audrey pointed out.

Several other youngsters had already followed suit and were also a gloppy, sticky mess. But nobody reprimanded Ania for her behavior. It wasn’t ideal, but she didn’t know any better. It was difficult to clean and all of her followers up, but I couldn’t fault them for shoving their whole fists into their milkshakes. Like her, they didn’t know any better.

This is exactly the kind of behavior I often see parents reprimanding small children for, even though the children have probably never attended a seminar on proper restaurant etiquette. 

For several years, my family ran a catering business with another family. Before an event, we would have a meeting with our “staff” (their kids and ours with a few other teens sprinkled in). During the meeting, we handed out job assignments and went over protocol for those jobs. 

For example, when refilling a coffee cup, you should take the cup off the table with your right hand. Turn from the table and refill it, then carefully place it back on the table. If you’re serving punch, hold the cup over the top of the punch bowl while filling it to avoid dripping on the white table cloth.

I could go on, but the point is this: Don’t expect good behavior if training is neglected. In the catering scenario, if I had sent a sixteen-year-old to serve a fresh pot of coffee without any training, disastrous things could have happened. He could have asked the guest to hold the cup while he poured and risked burning the guest with the scalding liquid.

I know I am going on and on about the same point, but for good reason. Training is such an overlooked tool, and exploring it in several contexts will make it easier to understand, remember, and implement.

Adoptive and foster parents face many behavioral challenges, and you may struggle with what to do in the moment. Where and when is a child supposed to learn these unwritten age-appropriate rules?

It is necessary to have a correcting and connecting response immediately following a behavior. However, you shouldn’t stop there. If a particular behavior continues to happen, the proactive approach is to practice the proper behavior outside the moment. The ETC Parent Training manual encourages parents to “turn to other tools that can help them (kiddos) learn and grow outside of the moment — when you and they are calm and they are better able to learn.”

*This article is a an excerpt from How to Have Peace When Your Kids Are In Chaos- Grab your copy here.