By Bianca Spears
“We don’t waste water, turn the tap off now Julian…"
As I hear myself parent, I sometimes question my own words – are they even mine?
Growing up with parents who drove home the “don’t waste water” message through verbalizing it (and once even turning the main water off when they thought I was in the shower too long), I have always been water conscious. Living purely on tank water for the past 2 ½ years with no connection to mains and droughts during that time, I’ve often worried about our water levels and how much water we use.
Shortly after moving here, I realized that my attitude and mindset around water was rippling out (excuse the pun) into other areas of my life. I had that same worry about money etc. “there’s not going to be enough”, “When will the next bit of rain (or money) come in?”, “Will that be enough?”
I saw my parents’ and grandparents’ beliefs in my behaviors and their voices spoke my thoughts. It wasn’t something I wanted to be anxious about, and logically, we could get water elsewhere. I wanted to trust that all would be well, yet anxiety and the patterns of my past had me on loop.
I’m happy to say that various influences and experiences led me to overcome this in the past year. I truly believe that money is a renewable resource and that nature always provides what we need. While I have loosened my own stress around the possibility of running out of water, I’ve caught myself telling Julian not to waste it. Even as the words leave my mouth, they just don’t make sense to me, we cannot “waste” something so renewable. This mantra: “don’t waste water” rings in my mind, and I spurt it out on auto-pilot, sending the message along the line to my son.
Do I think we should use water endlessly and unnecessarily? No.
Do I think that my son should be conscious of how much water he is using? Yes…
And there are other ways of phrasing it and behaving that induce less fear and empower him in conscious choice and responsibility.
Much like us, our children learn most from those around them during their most impressionable years. Like us, they pick up habits, beliefs and ways of being from their parents. I believe it’s our job as parents to rewire our systems and heal ourselves for ourselves, yes, and those around us now, but also for the generations to come.
It’s important for us to free ourselves from beliefs that linger, but aren’t our own, so that we can share our perspectives and set the example of being creators of change so that our children can learn how to create the changes they want to create too.
Three questions to ask yourself to begin the process of change (it will help to write your answers down):
1. What habits do I practice that I wouldn’t like my kids to “have” or practice in the future?
- Being grumpy when things don’t go my way, worrying about money, holding grudges, running late, making promises I don’t fulfill, putting others down, swearing at strangers who cut me off in traffic, banging my keyboard when my computer isn’t working.
YES – this requires a deep look in the mirror that we may rather avoid, but denying what’s going on isn’t going to change anything. Their little eyes are watching intently. Their ears are hearing the words we repeat whether we like it or not. They are following your lead. If you show them that change is possible, you can help them to shift anything that they don’t want to hold onto, believe or be now and into the future.
2. What would I prefer to be repeatedly doing, saying, thinking and feeling?
Answer each of these individually (doing, saying etc.) and for each habit you’d like to change. I recommend just starting with ONE today – come back to your list once you have successfully shifted this one.
- DO - I’d prefer to be pleasant to my family even if I am tired, and ask for space and help when I feel I need them. I’d prefer to shift my mood when I feel grumpy by walking or laughing, and return to my family feeling happier and calmer.
SAY – (rather than getting snappy) I’d prefer to say “I need some help please, I’m really tired and want to rest, can you help me?”
THINK – I’d prefer to think it’s OK to ask for help and take some time out
FEEL – I’d prefer to feel resilient, determined and calm.
3. Is there a trigger that typically starts this habit for me?
RESULT: me being grumpy TRIGGER: the kids don’t clean up after dinner
The next steps:
Once you know the habit you wish to change and the trigger, plus have your action plan (answers for question 2), it’s time to practice, practice, practice!
Take yourself imaginatively into the trigger and practice saying, thinking, feeling and doing what you’d prefer… then do it again and again and again! You will set up a new response so that when the situation comes up in real life, you’ve already opened up the pathway with new behaviors, and all you have to choose to take that path until it becomes automatic.
Happy rewiring, amazing parents!
How do you find brain retraining playing a role in your parenting? I’d love to hear from you – comment below!