I popped up a Facebook post this week that has been getting some interesting feedback. You can have a read of it here. It was my #sorrynotsorry post about complaining about the challenges of parenting. I can totally understand why mums need to blow off some steam when their children’s behaviour has pushed their buttons. When they are feeling overwhelmed, frustrated and depleted. I’ve been there. We all have our days. No matter the parenting style that you choose, your children will have behaviour that drives you nuts! It’s part of their normal childhood development.
However, if you find yourself chronically complaining that is day after day saying how hard it is to be a mother to your children, or how ‘bad’ your child’s behaviour is, then you’re potentially making the situation worse. I know that can be hard to hear but sometimes the truth is. Research within the field of neuropsychology that shows that chronic complaining actually re-wires your neurons within your brain changing your experience of reality.
Thoughts occur when electrical impulses fire across neurons in the brain. Between each neuron is a gap called the synaptic gap. Within this gap neurotransmitters carry this electrical charge from one side to the other. Every time a similar or identical thought occurs repeated electrical charges along the neuron brings the synapse closer together, making it easier to think this particular thought. This particular thought becomes automatic as it is easier or quicker for an electrical impulse to travel across neurons with a smaller synaptic gap, compared to a different thought pattern (electrical impulse) traveling along a neuron with a larger synaptic gap.
Repeated thoughts become automatic thinking patterns. When we have automatic thoughts about a situation we do not evaluate or explore it for other alternatives. Our automatic thoughts therefore becomes our perception of reality. Considering that automatic thinking occurs because synapses have grown closer together we can see how our thoughts shape our brain and our experience of reality.
Let’s consider sibling rivalry and fighting for an example, something that’s been big in my household lately and common in most families with more than one child.
When our children start fighting we start thinking thoughts about the situation and they could range from anywhere to “Not again” to “It’s normal behaviour”. If the majority of our thoughts about our children fighting are negative, that is along the lines of how frustrating it is for us, or that it’s ‘bad’ behaviour. The group of neurons that govern our thought patterns about it will have synaptic gaps that are closer together. Therefore our automatic thought about sibling rivalry is that it is negative and in turn every time our kids fight we will perceive it as a negative experience.
The opposite can also occur. If we view sibling rivalry as something positive – part of normal childhood development, the opportunity for our children to assert their needs and learn peaceful and respectful negotiating skills and the opportunity for us to parent them in the way that we wish to – the group of neurons that are involved in this thought pattern will have the synaptic gap closer and have a quicker transfer of the electric impulse. The positive thought pattern is automatic and our perception and experience of our kids fighting isn’t negative but instead positive.
It is easy to see how important the thoughts that we think and the words that we say matter in our experience of our reality. If we are complaining about our children fighting (or whatever other ‘negative’ part of parenting) then it means that we are thinking negative thoughts and continually reinforcing the group of neurons that transmit the electric impulse of that thought making it automatic rather than positive. Complaining actually makes our experience of parenting more difficult.
So what about the occasional rant? Every single mum has had that day when by the end she feels completely defeated. This happens to even the most positive and gentle parent. A beneficial way to manage stress is to talk it out, so calling up a girlfriend, or jumping on Facebook quickly to have a whinge in the very short term to blow of the steam is okay. Yes the thought pattern of this rant will bring neurons together for that particular thought, however if it is only short term and occasional then the bunches of neurons that carry the electrical impulse for the positive thoughts will still outnumber those for the negative.
The problem lies in the chronic complainers. The mums who are on Facebook or talking to their girlfriends every day about how hard it is and how ‘bad’ their child’s behaviour is or how awful they feel or how they want to run away from it all, or how they can’t wait to have the glass (or bottle) of wine are just reinforcing the negative experience of parenting by thinking more negative thoughts than positive. Their thoughts about their role as a mum or their child’s behaviour in a particular situation is therefore automatically negative and as our thoughts govern our reality, they experience it negatively and often worse than it actually is.
We can see how our thoughts are incredibly important and as we have free will over the thoughts we think, it is up to us to take personal responsibility for our thoughts and in turn our experience of parenting. So considering that we get more of what we focus our energy on, it’s time to focus it on the positive and not the negative and stop complaining!
I’ve written before about the thought-belief-action process so I won’t go over it again but instead have a read of it here.
Hearing the truth that we are in control of our experience of parenting can be hard when we are currently finding it very challenging. The beauty of it is that we have 100% power to change our experience so that even if our children’s behaviour stays the same, it does not effect us in such a negative way.
If this is something that is ringing true for you and something you believe you need to get on top of for the benefit not only for you but also for your children then I invite you to get in contact with me. Introductory 1:1 coaching sessions are available here and we can identify which negative thoughts are currently the most destructive for you and explore alternatives we can replace them with. Jump onto Facebook and connect with me there, or for a free resource join my Happy Mums = Happy Kids Facebook group where we discuss things like this and more!
You can change! Change your thoughts and you’ll change your life! Don’t wait until it’s too late and your children have all grown up and you’ve spent a majority of the time raising them not enjoying it. Please, get in contact with me today!