As I support parents to shift out of anxiousness and trying to control, I've come to believe that consistent practice is more important than getting it right every time. More important than knowing exactly what you’re doing or how your kid is going to respond. And sometimes, more important than your hopes and intentions.
What are you practicing these days?
When you think about it, we’re always practicing something. Even if it’s unintentional, we are constantly practicing our habitual ways of being by simply walking, talking, thinking and choosing.
We humans shape our viewpoint, our emotional landscape and our state of consciousness by what we repeatedly give our attention, time and energy to. Observe how a colleague makes their choices, how a stranger holds themselves or the language your family member uses and you can see what ‘state’ they’re perpetuating.
A person who leaves things to the last minute is cultivating stress; one who curses the driver in front of them perpetuates frustration. We take on the shape of what we practice.
When I do qigong first thing in the morning, I’m taking on the shape of peace so I can make good connections with people in my day. When I sit still and silent and listen to my 22-year-old's plans, I’m taking on the shape of open mindedness.
It works the other way too.
When I skip qigong, I'm practicing hurry. And when I clench every muscle in my body and raise my concerns about his plans, I’m practicing presumption and discouragement.
So, how would you describe what you’re practicing these days? Take a moment here to check in honestly with your current ways of being.
What do you want to be practicing?
Let’s not get fixated on the endpoint, the ultimate goal for some day in the future, like I’ll be completely cool with all of my kid’s choices. Instead, focus on what you can concretely do to be moving in the direction you want to be moving.
For me, it’s about acceptance of his choices. I want to stop asking too many questions and making muffled side comments that imply my doubt and dissention.
Next, I have to consider what ‘state’ I need to be in to be able to stop my auto-response in those moments. What state do I want to be able to access more readily?
When I take a closer look at those moments, I realize that my mind races ahead to potential pitfalls and I jump in with my opinion before I’ve really heard him out. I think I need to cultivate a state of Patience to fully consider how he sees it.
Here’s my invitation to you:
Think of a quality, an attitude or perspective that you want to experience more often. A state of being that you want to be able to access more readily. A way of being with your child that you’re longing to be able to do.
Go ahead and name it ____________________
Ok and what state(s) of being might you need to cultivate for that to happen?
Maybe balanced, content, calm, approachable, brave, trusting, connected, proud, compassionate, open-minded, invigorated, complimentary, grounded, curious, tolerant, confident, warm, easygoing…
List a couple of possibilities ___________, ___________
How to Practice
To practice a parenting skill, you don’t necessarily have to be in an interaction with your kid. In fact, we can gain plenty of traction when we practice a skill in a different, less-charged context.
For example, I can practice patience by standing in line at the grocery store without wishing there was no one ahead of me. And by waiting a few seconds before responding to everyone I speak with.
Maybe grocery line-ups sound insignificant but this is something I can practice week after week. Each time I’m patient, or when I can take myself into a state of patience, I’ll be more able to resist the urge to jump ahead and give my half-formed opinion to my son. And that will facilitate my ability to communicate more acceptance.
This is how real, lasting change takes place. We do something differently. Once and then again. And gradually, listening to my son’s decisions with Patience will be just what I do (may it be so).
Where, when and how can you practice your desired state? ____________________
What will having more access to that state make possible for you with respect to how you want to be with your big kid? ____________________
What will be your way of practicing that consistently?
Hmmm. You know that part of you is going to say things like, it’s not working, it’s too hard and you should quit. So, this is the moment to recognize the part of you that knows how to be consistent.
How does she keep going?
What has her trying again?
Connect to that.
Draw upon that.
Consistency is a blend of rhythm and faith.
Listen for the new rhythm. Feel it and move with and create muscle memories of your new way of doing something. Dance and celebrate each time you get it right. Build that ‘muscle’, that capability.
And connect to that place, somewhere in the center of your being, where faith lives – faith in your ability to evolve, faith that a new aspect of you is emerging, faith in yourself as a parent and faith in the ever-changingness of life.