The day I left the hospital with my new baby girl, the nurse handed me a diaper bag full of samples of formula & diapers, and a manual: “What to Expect the First Year.” Do not be fooled. This is no “helpful care package”. This is to lull you into a false sense of security so that you will not panic when you get home and realize what you’ve gotten yourself into, or worse yet- when you realize that the “What to Expect” series mysteriously ends at adolescence. (There’s an epilogue that states this in very fine print, followed by “Best of Luck”.) Ahhhh… I jest.
As a mom of two (now young adults), there were plenty of times I reacted to them in irritation, frustration, and even tears at times. I remember thinking on several occasions, “First Year, my arse! Where’s the manual for this?!” As hard as it is helping teens manage their emotions, it’s almost impossible to do it while attempting to manage your own. I wish I knew then what I know now. I had no awareness of how often I was parenting from a messy place, let alone having the tools needed to clean up my thinking. The model I now use with clients helped me see that when I viewed my circumstances as “facts”, rather than “thoughts”, they triggered feelings in me that negatively affected my parenting. Furthermore, I thought their behavior was causing my feelings. I had no idea that much of this was optional and wasn’t helping me (or my kids!) at all.
Messy parenting creates messes
Many of the times I thought I was “protecting” my kids were actually attempts to control them so I could feel something (or avoid feeling something). But this was never their job. This wasn’t intentional by any means. When I saw them doing things that could lead down a dangerous path, I operated out of fear. When I interpreted their
actions as “disrespectful”, I felt disrespected and angry, which then caused me to show up in a similar manner myself. Cleaning up your thinking before disciplining or reacting to your kids improves your parenting, increases your confidence, and gives you back your power by helping you take responsibility for your thoughts & feelings.
You’ve likely heard the phrase, “When emotion is high, logic is low.” By reducing the intensity of your emotions and operating from a useful thought, you’re able to “show up” in a way that’s not only more logical but also helps your kids learn and apply logic to their own circumstances.
So what exactly is clean parenting and what does it look like?
Clean parenting means you’re able to interact with, teach and discipline from a calm state. It means being intentional rather than reactive. It’s evidenced by your tone, attitude, language, and other behavior. It’s not having a manual for your children (This doesn’t mean no expectations/consequences!) It involves influencing your kids while recognizing you can not control them. I’m five-foot-nothing, so my kids outgrew me by the age of two. The reality is we can’t make or prevent humans from doing anything! We can allow them to experience the consequences of their choices.
Cleaning up your act
The best place to start when cleaning up your thinking and moving into conscious parenting is by self-coaching. Realize when you’re blaming your feelings on your circumstance, rather than your thinking. The goal is certainly not to accept or be “happy” about everything your child/teen does. (Can you imagine what you’d create if you had no rules, expectations, or consequences?) When we’re clean parenting we still discipline and give consequences, but only after we’ve cleaned up our thoughts. Never while still in negative thoughts or emotion. Because negative thinking never produces a positive result. A book that I highly recommend is Parenting Teens with Love and Logic. While some of the language and examples are outdated, it’s an impressive example of clean parenting long before that was a notion! It also demonstrates how to empower your children by showing them you believe in them enough to allow them to handle whatever they mess create-in a way that’s loving and supportive, without rescuing.
Remember that results don’t lie. If you think you have clean (healthy) thoughts about your kids or parenting but have a result that shows things are not going well, that’s evidence of a blind-spot (or several)! If that’s the case, working one-on-one with a coach can help you see how your thinking is not creating the results that you want, and help get you back on track. We all have blind-spots, and there’s no shame in asking for help from someone who can see them from a different perspective. Even though my “kids” are adults, there are still times I ask my coach for help when my emotion is high, because I know it’s a sign of some messy thinking that I’m not seeing.
Whether you’re changing course for the first time, or need to make a correction to get back on track, give yourself a little grace. You will still get it wrong on a regular basis and for sure you’ll experience 50/50 positive/negative emotion. But nothing has gone wrong here. This is all part of the journey. Clean parenting is not perfect parenting, because that doesn’t exist. (You’ll be searching for that unicorn even longer than the What to Expect Teen edition!