November 12, 2018Back to list
By Quek Li Koon
Parenting, as we know, has many challenges. As parents (or caregivers), we sometimes have negative thoughts that affect the way we respond to our children.
According to cognitive theory, the way we think about a situation determines our emotional response. The way we interpret or give meaning to the event affects how relaxed or stressed we feel about it. When we tell ourselves, ‘He is always lying and I cannot trust him anymore’, we have a negative or unhelpful thought. This will make us feel angry, causing us to shout or say unpleasant words to our child.
Sometimes, we can also feel helpless and demoralised, and say to ourselves, ‘She does not show any respect to me. I am such a useless mother.’ When we think this way, we feel defeated. We become grumpy but unassertive. We are unable to follow through with the right response for a child’s action, whether it is to reward when our child behaves well; or, to give a consequence when our child misbehaves.
Thinking negatively or having unhelpful thoughts will affect the way we communicate and care for our children. In short, negative thoughts towards situations will lead to negative responses on our part as parents. We may end up verbally putting our child down, saying mean words that hurt our child’s self-esteem; punishing our child physically; or, thinking that our child will never change.
The first step to getting a grip on our emotions is to recognise our negative thoughts. Some examples of negative thoughts are:
‘She’s self-centred.’ – Such a label implies that the problem and our child will not change.
‘She should know how I want her to behave.’ – Such thoughts cause us to feel let down, cheated, or angry when reality falls short of our expectations.
‘He did not reply to my text because he does not care how I feel!’ – This belief may not be true and it will only cause us to feel down and respond negatively when our child comes back home.
‘I cannot tolerate his tantrums anymore.’ – This will cause us to feel hopeless and want to give up more easily.
‘He is always chatting with his friends or on the Internet, and not studying.’ – This is an example of an exaggerated statement that may not be true.
Negative thoughts cause us to be less patient with ourselves and our children. Often, they lead to unnecessary remarks or actions that distance our relationship with our children.
To help us have more positive and helpful thoughts, we can challenge our inaccurate unhelpful thoughts.
Below are some examples of how we can replace negative thoughts with positive ones:
‘She’s self-centred,’ can be replaced with, ‘She is self-absorbed at times; but there are times when she is quite thoughtful.’
‘She should know how I want her to behave,’ can be replaced with, ‘She may not know exactly what to do in this situation. She will need a little coaching here.’
‘He did not reply to my text because he does not care how I feel,’ can be substituted with, ‘He may be busy and has not checked his messages.’
‘I cannot tolerate his tantrums anymore!’ can be replaced with, ‘This is hard but I have coped with this before. I can also contact his counsellor regarding this problem.’
‘He is always chatting with his friends or on the Internet, and not studying,’ can be replaced with, ‘Since he has been on the Internet for the past half hour, let me remind him to focus on his studies.’
BEING MINDFUL OF OUR THOUGHTS
As parents or caregivers, we face many trying situations. In order to keep our emotions in check, it helps to be mindful of the situations that stress us up. Be prepared to intercept our unhelpful thoughts and challenging them. By replacing them with positive thoughts and coping statements, we will have a better grip on our emotions and behaviours.
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