My daughter and I have been dancing together all year. It seems we are on a six-week cycle that ranges from love to despair and back to love. During a week where I was heavy with anger and misery, I reached out to friends. Their best advice:
- Love your children for who they are.
- More than being right, or justified, remember that you must preserve the relationship.
Remember that you just might want your (adult) children to repay your kindness down the road. With three kids, I figure one will come through for us. I have a lot of advantages to help make that happen.
With that in mind… Being a great student, a successful investor, an elite athlete… all of these have NOTHING to do with being an effective parent. To live happily alongside young children requires new skills and different approaches.
What’s my source of education and new ideas? My best advice for you is to read – The Happiest Toddler on the Block by Karp. The book took me 90 minutes to read and removed half the meltdowns in my life. My son (2.5 years) and I have a fantastic relationship due to the application of Dr. Karp’s advice.
There is no denying the segments of deep misery that I have experienced this year. However, when I step outside my life, I can see how easy I have it. However, it’s near impossible to “will” a change in attitude. To change, most people need a crisis.
To help myself shift my attitude I’ve taken the lead with emotionally difficult situations. To date, I’ve had more success outside my house. However, I’m going to stick with my efforts through 2014. My misery could be a catalyst to let go of my desire to force change on my kids. It all comes back to being happy with the way things are (and if I can’t be happy then at least accept it).
A wealthy friend of mine has to deal with a lot of people that have massive egos. Some of these folks are extremely difficult to handle. I asked him for advice on dealing with fraud. His secret is to be grateful that he doesn’t have to be like others. By acknowledging his freedom to choose, he decides to be a good guy (and that makes him grateful). So I’m working on a good-guy at-home sabbatical for 2014.
On the gratitude side, working with the dying is effective. Some of the folks I work with would love the opportunity to swap into my “problems.”
Be a hero rather than a bystander. Remember that being part of the solution doesn’t require owning, or solving, the problem. In serious situations, it takes surprisingly little to make a difference.
Resist the urge to judge other people’s involvement with their families. There is an air of superiority between parents that spend a lot of time with their kids. We wear our involvement like a hair shirt. I need to remember that, often, less involvement is better for everyone. When I over-do-it (even by a couple hours per week), I set the kids off and make everyone miserable.
Too much parenting and I become the problem, rather than part of the solution.
I have a negative pattern of responding to noise with anger. Now that I can see it – I can work to respond to noise with calmness.
I will share a tactic…
In each of our lives we have moments where we transcend ourselves. For me, it might be the feeling of my son resting his head against me and giggling. A feeling of peaceful openness where the two of us are relaxed and together. If I am aware then these moments are easy to remember. I breathe into those moments and save them for later. When I feel the seed of anger, say tightness, I use the same breath-feeling to open the resistance that creates my anger. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. Any reduction in suffering is a win.
By the way, the above is a technique that I used a lot in endurance training. I would breathe into my training “highs”, attach a word to the feeling, and save for later. I’d use my power words when racing became difficult.
I will be 45 at the end of the year. A lesson that stands out with achievement and success…
The years where I focused on self-improvement, and made progress, resonate more strongly than the years where I focused on beating others.
Excellence defined relative to peers brings resentment, especially when value systems aren’t shared.
In all areas, let go of the constant desire to be right.