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No! I'm right!!

I thought being right and getting the right answer was the goal. Doesn't everyone want to be competent, right, and achieve good results?

I sure did and it got me A's in school, wins in races, goals in soccer plus attention and praise from my parents, teachers, coaches and friends. It also got me into college and good paying jobs. I was high functioning from a left brain perspective, high achieving, and a people pleasing wiz.

Does this sound familiar? Do you enjoy pleasing others and performing well, wanting to be right too? Is one of your strengths to plan ahead so everything works out? Isn’t it awesome?

Everything seemed to be going well in my life...that is, until I had kids. That's when I had a huge wake up call. 

That's when I realized how striving to be right, competent  and in control, in fact, had a cost to human connection.

Consider this: When you strive to think 3 steps ahead so everything runs smoothly and you don't make a mistake, are you actually able to tune into what your children are saying and feeling? 

Umm no, not really.

Turns out when you are uber focused on attaining the best, right outcome, it interferes with your ability to connect and emotionally co-regulate with your kids. 

This was confusing to me as I had trained my whole life to excel at being rational, to find the correct answer, to do what I should. How could these high functioning left brain skills end up blocking the very connection with my childrenI yearned for most?

I was coaching a mom this week and she told me she gets so angry when her 7 yo yells, "No! I'm right! My way!"  She said she got so frustrated she was clenching her fists and wanted to throw something at him. How the positive discipline chart from school just wasn’t working so she yelled at him, threatening to take all his gold stars away! Ugh! 

She describes herself as being high achieving and effective, working a tech job with lots of responsibility and deadlines. She juggles many balls at once, feels stressed, and often gives up her own self-care time in service of her kids' needs. 

Then when she blows up like this, she feels terrible, like a failure as a Mom. It’s double confusing when she’s so good at other areas of her life. 

This is a key moment when many lose it, and yell at kids, thinking, ‘How dare you say, 'No' to me after all I've done for you!’

But here's a secret: It is also a moment of opportunity. A chance to break the cycle.

In the hundreds of hours I’ve worked with parents as well as my own experience with my two daughters, I've discovered a tip that helps this intense moment not be so painful:

"Two things can be true at the same time"

  1. It makes sense that I feel angry and frustrated in this moment  AND

  2. It makes sense that they say, 'No' and resist doing what we ask.

Wait, what?!? 

At first glance, this is confusing and counterintuitive. The left part of the brain is logical and rational. It wants things to be certain, clear, definitive: like right or wrong, good or bad, that someone's at fault, that one person is right and the other person is wrong. This part hates paradoxes, despises uncertainty and can't stand confusion. This part wants to always be right. That feels safer and more in control.

Turns out you don't parent well when you primarily operate from the rational, left hemisphere part of your brain. Even though that's what most high achieving Moms were taught to use since they were very young.

So, how can two things be true at the same time? What’s going on? What can normally high achieving Moms do?

First, recognize that many of the skills that make us high achieving in academic + work places actually block relating and connecting with our kids. Skills like maintaining control, managing, problem solving, judging, comparing and analyzing serve us well to get A's and succeed in our profession.

However, when our kids are upset, angry, sad, yelling, struggling, hurting or behaving badly these same high powered skills don't work. In fact, they make it worse. 

We end up frustrated and confused about why our kids don't cooperate when we tell them to do something reasonable. They should!  Why doesn't managing them work, especially for spirited strong willed children?

Why? The bottom line is that those left brain skills you learned like managing, organizing, and controlling end up treating our kids like they are objects rather than subjects with free will. 

So these skills end up leaving our kids feeling invalidated and misunderstood, not seen, not emotionally attuned to.

Over the past 20 years I've learned this hard lesson over and over and over again. My child shows up crying or angry and I've been conditioned to repress all my emotions in the service of high achievement, so I get triggered and do whatever I can to stop their feelings. 

I disapprove of them. Or try to fix whatever has upset them. Or I talk them out of what they are feeling, the OPPOSITE of that they need in that moment!

So what is the solution? How can you relate with your kids in a more skillful way?

The answer is in the 5 Steps to Connect.

I've found you relate better when you are able to let go of your ingrained habitual reactions like needing to be right, needing control. 

Step 1 is to MEET yourself where you are: notice the compulsive need to keep everything running smoothly and maintain control at all costs.

Step 2 is to validate your hard feelings  (just not AT anyone). Befriend and integrate ALL your uncomfortable emotions. They are essential for pointing you to your unmet needs. 

Then you’ll be able to validate your kids' emotions. 

Step 2 will add the secret sauce that Brené Brown talks about: Be vulnerable. 

You get to model being human instead of the myth of superhuman.

This need to control is just a part of you, a habit you internalized early on to avoid feeling overwhelmed, or powerless, or afraid or angry. 

Your parents probably couldn't handle your emotional outbursts. Odds are they disapproved of them, unintentionally shamed you for being too loud, too much. 

And when you were good, like when you were quiet and cooperated, they probably gave you approval face and positive attention.

You can bet that you learned fast to repress feeling angry and upset by staying controlled, rational, avoiding ALL hard feelings and performing well. 

Even today, as an adult do you subconsciously fear getting judged or disapproved of for feeling angry or sad? So it would make sense that you get triggered when your kids express these big feelings and ‘bad’ behavior.

The cycle repeats. Generationally passed down.

So take the first step forward: decide to invest in your family, in your kids, in yourself by unlearning these old unskillful patterns and practicing the 5 Steps to Connect.

You won’t regret it!

Parent Testimonial: Sarah, Mom of sons 7 and 10 in California

"My biggest struggle with anger was when my oldest was a baby/toddler - I did not know it was about unmet needs. I blamed my son (or my partner) when he didn’t take a nap or sleep well at night. I would cry and beg him to sleep just so I could take a break -or usually it was to get some chores done. I played & went on excursions with him all day to save up my ‘me time’ for when he was asleep and when he didn’t - that meant I got no time for myself. I resented the fact my husband never experienced this as he went to a corporate job while I stayed home with no ‘village.’

Until Allison came to the rescue! I finally learned to take time for myself which filled my cup for the need to have inner peace before the outer chaos.

I still get upset when things don’t go as planned when it comes to my personal needs- but I give myself grace and allow the feelings to pass thru me. As my kids are now 10 & 7, I want them to see & hear me express my needs for alone time, or a workout, or even just a kid free shopping trip. I wish I could take back how I handled things when I didn’t know any better but I’m so glad to be here and learning with you now!"

What's possible with the 5 Steps To Connect Coaching...


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