"You're right, I'm the worst mom ever. This will give you another thing to tell your future therapist," you say to your daughter. While kidding -- at least halfway -- the modern parent is beginning to see therapy in their child's future as inevitable, a necessary part of being a mentally healthy adult. In these tough economic times parents are struggling to keep up with the college tuition fund. Imagine thinking you need to start the therapy fund as well!
Parents today worry about so many decisions, about how everything they say is some kind of deal breaker guaranteed to send their kid straight to a shrink's couch. It's as if parents are keeping a running tab of what each "mistake" might cost in future therapy bills:
Forgetting to pick up the kid at a birthday party: $1,000
Letting the child cry because the sleep advice book told you to: $2,500
Bringing store-bought cookies to the school bake sale: $600
Then there are the really "big-ticket" items: divorce, mom going back to work, not noticing the kid had a learning disability until second grade, etc. These things are what you think will screw your kids up.
But here's some priceless advice: You are worrying about the wrong things.
So many of us use worry as some kind of amulet. "If I don't have any control in this situation, worrying will at least give me the illusion that I'm at least doing something." But here's the thing about worry: It grates on us. It makes us weary, irritable and more likely to engage in parenting behaviors that are not aligned with our values.
You can spend thousands of dollars on therapy, spas, organic essential oils, self-help podcasts and herbal supplements, and still walk in the door and scream at your kids when you trip over a toy left in the middle of the floor.
Parents looking for a healthy state of mind for their children should look no farther than the bathroom mirror. Some recommendations:
Accept the now. Let go of the thought that you should be somewhere else. Feeling guilty and crappy and ashamed of where you are in your life is not a good motivator, for anyone. No matter what you think, beating up on yourself is not going to help you or your kids.
Stop the cover-up. What often gets lawbreakers into the most trouble is not the crime -- it's the cover-up. The problem isn't what we think, what we feel and who we are, the problem is all the things we do to try to cover these things up.
Realize our actions have a ripple effect. Let's say you insist on cleaning up your house before anyone comes over. You then create the belief for someone else that he or she is the only one who lives in a messy house. The same is true in life: If you only believe that you can let people "in" when you're perfect, you're never going to let people in.
Think about how this must affect your parenting. When you're yelling at the kids because things are a mess, are you genuinely yelling at them because this will teach a valuable life lesson, or are you yelling at them because you are worrying what others will think of you?
We're often not seeing the world (or our kids) as it is but rather how we ourselves are. We need to understand how we all have our own distorted way of seeing things and start wearing the right corrective "glasses" to help us see ourselves and our kids more clearly. When we accept who we really are we are able to accept who are children really are.
Follow Dr. Paula Bloom on Twitter: www.twitter.com/drpaulabloom