I’m Diana Swillinger, and this is the Renew Your Mind podcast. Episode 46 Parenting with Compassion.
DIANA: Hey. Hey. How are you doing today? I’m good. I’m cold, but I’m good. We have a snow day here, so, uh, the kids are home, and I’m recording the podcast in the closet. Uh, so they’re very excited that it’s a snow day, but they’re not going to be excited to hear. I got an email that warned us this might be the only snow day because thanks to all this virtual schooling, they’re going to be prepared to go virtual on future school days where there’s too much snow. Sorry, kids. This could be the end of snow days. Isn’t that kind of sad? Snow days are so amazing for kids. I remember them. I grew up here in Wisconsin. If you grew up where there was snow, snow days are awesome. Snow forts, even shoveling. You’re like. Okay, I’ll shovel, I’ll help. And then we get to make snowmen and have hot chocolate, watch movies, cuddle under the blankets, play games. Even as an adult, I think snow days are magical, but might be the end of them. We shall see. Anyway, today I’m also practicing gratitude. I’m enjoying the snow day, but I’m also very grateful for things like hot coffee, my muckluck slippers, which I am wearing, and cozy, long cardigan sweaters. I have a large section of my closet devoted to my warm cardigans. Anyway, before I get into today’s episode, I want to let you know it’s called parenting, and last week was parenting.
But the episode today is going to help you whether you’re a parent or not. This is relationship tools that you can use in any of your relationships. I’m going to be talking about it, uh, in the parenting way, but really, this is about relationships. So don’t tune out if you are not a parent, because this will apply to you and other relationships. So you can just think of a relationship in your life that you wish was better and start applying these principles there. Anyway, last week I had Pat Quinn on the podcast. It’s been one of my most popular episodes. So if you’re looking for changing how you think about parenting and getting some really practical tools, it was so good, you should definitely go back and listen to that. If you have kids of any age in your life, in any capacity at all, that episode will be a, uh, must listen for you. So I noticed after that episode aired that I’ve been having my own thoughts about the way we think about parenting. So I wanted to continue the conversation this week and share some of what I’ve been thinking about with you. I have my own parenting scenarios. I have four kids, but I also coach moms all the time. Parent child relationships just always end up being part of the conversation. Just like everything in life, our perspective of what’s going on is colored by our beliefs. And parenting is an area of life that we all come to with a lot of beliefs.
How we were parented shapes our beliefs. How we witness other people parent affects our beliefs. Parenting portrayed in books and movies, religious tenants, our, uh, culture, all of it just living life and observing others lives. We have developed a truckload of beliefs about parenting, and usually it’s filled with a long list of shoulds like, I should feed them healthy food, we should have family dinners, kids should do as they’re told. Parents should help kids succeed in school. Kids should be in bed at a certain time. I shouldn’t yell at my kids. I should encourage them. TV time should be limited, and on and on. We could just have a big book of all these beliefs we have about parenting. There’s a lot, if you think about it, and this long list of what you believe about parenting, it can be helpful. It can inspire you when you use it to help shape how you want to show up as a parent. But a lot of times, it becomes a list of shoulds like expectations and, uh, a personalized how to book about parenting that we then use as a way to critique ourselves and critique our kids. And we get irritated with ourselves, and we get irritated with our kids, and we judge ourselves and we judge our kids. And when their behavior doesn’t match the list or, uh, our behavior doesn’t match the list, we feel disappointed.
We feel discouraged, frustrated, judgmental, irritated, worried. And this is what is showing up in a lot of parents lives. Parenting has become this heavy thing to do with painful emotions attached. So I’m going to use some examples. I was coaching someone recently who wanted to be in more control of her son. We were on the control lesson in my coaching program. They were working, um, on putting school strategies in place for his Add. And he had some anxiety, and mom was doing good navigating that stuff. But what was most frustrating to her was her son sneaking an electronic device into his room at night to play games on some apps. And mom was frustrated. She was frustrated because they had a rule that no one could use electronic devices after 08:00 p.m.. He should be following the rule, and he wasn’t. So I asked, if he followed the rule and didn’t take this device into his room late at night, what would you feel? Because right now you’re feeling frustrated. So if he didn’t do this, what would you feel? And she said, peace and content. So just notice how our brain does this to us, okay? When she thinks he shouldn’t do that and then he does, she feels frustrated. And what she wants to feel is peace. And she’s now relying on her son’s behavior in order to feel peace or not. And this doesn’t work. If you go back and listen to last week’s podcast, as I mentioned, you will get excellent information on how to teach your child in a moment like this. But that’s not what I’m going to be talking about today.
Today, in this situation, let’s talk about managing our emotions as a parent. Managing our emotions about parenting. When we think our kids should meet our expectations and they don’t, we feel frustrated. We wish they would behave differently so we could feel peace. And then we place our emotional well being into their little immature hands. We’re putting our, uh, kids in charge of whether we get to feel frustrated or peaceful. And it’s a little bit insane. Do you want your kids in charge of your emotions? Because that’s what this does. I don’t want my kids in charge of my emotions. I want to be in charge of my emotions and I want to talk about compassion soon. Because these emotions yeah, she wants to feel peace. I know. Instead, she’s feeling frustrated. But there’s an emotion here we never discussed, and that’s compassion. So we’re going to get to that shortly. But listen, children don’t follow rules all the time. That’s how it goes. This is what you can expect as a parent. We know children don’t follow the rules all the time, but then we get totally surprised and irritated when they do. Like, why are we surprised? Even if you’re newer to parenting, did you think children obey rules all the time? No, you know they don’t. This is why there’s so many books, huge parenting sections in bookstores. Parenting and discipline and how to raise a child. This is why the proverb in the Bible tells us, train up a child in the way he should go. If the children were born following the rules, there would be no training them, not following rules, and us having to parent them is unknown. Quotient but why are we irritated then, when it happens, so we don’t have to be? Remember, uh, an episode I did recently, maybe a month or so ago, it was called. This is the part where what if we didn’t resist these moments as parents? What if we weren’t surprised? What if we didn’t decide to use them to be irritated and frustrated? What if we thought, this is the part like, this is the part where my child doesn’t follow the rules because I knew it was going to happen. And this is that part. This is the part where I enforce consequences. This is the part where I don’t act surprised. Because I realize this is normal.
This is the part where I wish it was easier. But I also know this is what I signed up for as a parent. This is the part where it might not be super fun, but I do it anyway. This is the part where I show up as the mom I want to be. And this is the part where I still feel peace about it. Because in the grand scheme, nothing’s gone wrong here. This is normal. This is what kids do. This is what parents are supposed to do. This is how it works. Now, for a minute, let’s think about why kids misbehave and don’t follow all the rules. Kids are human beings who are trying to take care of their own needs. We all do that. We all try to take care of our own needs. Very rarely is a kid thinking, I don’t care about the rules. Rules aren’t for me. I get to do whatever I want. Most kids aren’t that cynical and conniving. They really aren’t. I think sometimes we think they are when we’re getting all irritated for them not following the rules. But that’s probably not what it’s really about. What’s likely happening is that your child is just trying to take care of his own needs.
Here’s an example. Let’s say mom says kitchen is closed, okay? Seven at night, nobody gets food. Kitchen’s closed. And then a few hours later, daughter doesn’t follow the rules, and she goes and makes a sandwich. What is this about? She trying to break the rules. That’s what it’s about. She wants to be rebellious. No, it’s not about respecting the rules. It’s about her being hungry and wanting to satisfy this need. Parents say, no electronics after 08:00. P.m.. Son takes tablet into bedroom to play a game late at night. Why? This isn’t because he’s thinking, I want to break the rules, and I don’t care about the rules. This is him trying to meet a need. What’s the need? Stress relief. Comfort, enjoyment. You know, we all have a need for enjoyment and entertainment too, to be amused in life, right? Could be. That could be stress relief. All right, here’s another example. Mom says you’re grounded for bad grades. Child sneaks out of the house to hang out with friends. This may or may not have happened in my family with my children. Is this because the child is bent on being a rebel? Or is this because they want to connect with friends and feel supported or understood or connected? Could be a lot of other things too. Um, I’m just giving some examples. It’ll be different for each child. Why do we want to notice that kids are trying to meet their own needs? Well, this is very important because when we understand their motivations, even when they aren’t mature enough to figure it out on their own, when we take a minute to figure this out and see what need they’re trying to meet. We get to have some compassion. And when we have compassion for them, we will show up differently. We’ll interact with them in a different way than if we’re coming from frustration or irritation or resentment or whatever else.
Negative emotion you feel as a parent when you wish everything would be different. Their behavior isn’t about your expectations of your rules. Their behavior is about them. And you may have heard me talk about the Mind Shift tool before. It basically walks us through the psychological concept that first we have a thought, then we have emotions, and then we act with behavior. Your child’s behavior is coming from that. It’s about them. It’s about your child having a thought, their thought in their brain. And then your child has an emotion, their emotion. They’re experiencing it. Then from that emotion, they behave. This is all about them. The child that sneaks out when grounded, imagine him in his room. What is he feeling? He’s feeling things like frustrated, misunderstood, lonely, ashamed, whatever it is. Painful emotions. Maybe he’s thinking, this is so unfair, my parents don’t understand me. And then he’s feeling misunderstood or disconnected. And then he sneaks out to see friends. Sneaking out to see friends, spending time with friends helps him meet his need to get connection and understanding. Because before he was feeling misunderstood and disconnected.
Going out, disobeying the rules was the way to do it. But what he really wanted is to get connection and understanding. Now, any kids listening, I want you to know I am not endorsing sneaking out or breaking your parents rules. This is not the green light to do what you want. What this is is an opportunity to gain understanding and have compassion. It’s not easy being a kid. It’s not easy growing up and learning parents expectations and teachers expectations and culture’s expectations and trying to figure out your own thoughts about it all and your beliefs and learn how to understand it and know what you’re feeling and figure out your own needs. They don’t know all the healthy ways to communicate and request for their needs to be met. They don’t even know what they are half the time. They may not even realize they’re trying to meet their needs. They’re subconsciously thinking things and having painful emotions and then trying to meet the need and feel better. They don’t know all the things yet. Heck, most adults struggle to understand their own thoughts and feelings and needs and behaviors. I know this because this is what I do for a living. I help adults do this.
Your kids don’t have it all sorted out and they’re doing their best. One time I was coaching an adult about her past, but we were talking about her teen years. She said she was always wondering if something was wrong with her because she rebelled. She was wild. She felt bad about her behavior as a child, and to this day. She thought she did her teen years wrong. But as we dove into it and we were understanding what her needs were back then, what her experience was and how she was trying to make sense of it all, she was trying to provide relief for herself, we realized she was doing her best to navigate the stage of her childhood. And it wasn’t easy. It was hard. She was doing her best. Sometimes she acted out, but she was trying to meet her needs and doing her best. Sometimes she broke some rules, but because it was because she was trying to navigate life and take care of her emotions. She was just a kid. She didn’t have it all figured out yet. She was doing her best. And I want you to know that your kids are doing their best too. Just like you did, or whoever it is you’re thinking of during this episode. Whatever person you’re in relationship, uh, even if it’s not a parent child relationship, that person is doing their best. I guarantee it. Even if the best hurts people sometimes, they’re trying to do their best and take care of their own needs. This life isn’t easy. Being in a broken world isn’t easy. Trying to understand our own thoughts and feelings and needs isn’t easy. And we’re just doing our best. So this is the part where we get to have some compassion for our kids. It’s not easy being them. Um, and we get to have some compassion for you as a parent. It’s not easy being you. It’s not easy parenting kids and you’re doing your best. And the way your parenting might be exactly the right experience your child needs shortcomings and all, and the way your child is navigating life might be exactly the best way for them to navigate it right now and experience what they need to experience and learn what they need to learn at this point in their journey.
Let’s have compassion for ourselves. Let’s have compassion for our kids. It’s not easy. Be willing to notice how the way things are might be exactly how your journey is supposed to go. The way things are might be exactly how your child’s journey is supposed to go. And it’s okay. It’s okay. I promise you will notice that you are a much better parent when you come from a place where you’re having compassion for you and compassion for your child. Did you know when you have compassion, just try this sometimes. Try going into a place where you’re feeling compassion for someone and then try to simultaneously feel irritation and anger for them at the same time. I don’t think it’s possible. When you have compassion, you’re letting go of that irritation and anger. And we make better decisions from this place. We communicate better from this place. We’re better at problem solving from this place. And we can bring our kids into the problem solving too, which I think you can find very rewarding and fun. When you come from a place of compassion, it breeds trust, and it lets love have space to enter into all of it. Compassion will do wonders for your relationship with your kids and all the people in your life. I highly recommend it. And if you’re having trouble feeling compassion for someone in your life and you want to try it, snag a free coaching session with me, and I will help you feel compassion for that person. And then you can see the magic of how the relationship improves and evolves. When you are willing to come to the relationship with compassion, it is pretty amazing. So go to Rympodcast.com to sign up for your free coaching session. You totally should do it, and I’ll talk to you soon. All right, y’all, that’s it for today. I’ll catch you next week. Take care of you.
As an advanced certified life coach, I help Christian women trying to live their best lives, but they still feel unsatisfied and stuck. I teach thought management skills that work so you can joy life again and step into who God has created you to be. Don’t forget to head on over to Rympodcast.com to get my free resources or a free coaching call.