Let’s say I was able to go back in time and talk to my old self. Past Drew would not like all this talk of self-regulation and personal responsibility. It was clear to Past Drew that the kids were the problem. Past Drew spent a lot of time worried about the behavior of his children. He did not want to think about his own behavior.
Past Drew would have said: “My child won’t listen. He won’t cooperate. He is difficult. I’ve been saddled with a non-compliant child. I’ve tried everything.”
Here’s how Present Drew would have answered Past Drew’s frustrations: “Past Drew, I know that you are having a hard time. I get it. It’s tiring for you. You want things to be easier. You’ve tried so many things and nothing seems to work. I’ve been there. Can I suggest something?”
“I say this with love: Let go of the story of having such a difficult or disrespectful child. It’s not helping. Telling this story again and again has you looking for problems rather than solutions. It has you creating your own stressed out reality and strained relationship with your child. Your energy goes more to seeing what is wrong with him rather than what is right. It also has you focused on controlling him rather than loving him. To tell you the truth it’s not his behavior that is the real problem. It is your behavior that needs addressing. You are using his behavior as an excuse and distraction from cleaning up your own inappropriate behavior. You are unregulated and inconsistent, and it is a problem. It is hurtful and counterproductive to what you want to create.
As long as you commit to seeing the worst in him while at the same time avoiding you own behavior, you will continue to struggle in a chaos of your own creation. Your self regulation is your responsibility, not your child’s. You choose how you act. This is about you. You are the adult and he is the child. Start acting like it.
Ignore this if you will, but the key to the calmness you seek in your home is tied to first being calm yourself.
This shift in thinking is going to be a game changer for you. So, instead of thinking that ‘my child is the problem,’ try this, ‘My child is having a hard time, what can I do to help?’”
Past Drew would say, “Ouch. That stung.”
Future Drew would say, “I understand your exhaustion and overwhelm. You are tapped out. You are exhausted and just want things to be easier. Trust me when I say, many if not most of your problems will resolve themselves when you commit to parent calmly, consistently and lovingly. Do you hear what I’m saying? I’m not talking about staying calm for a day or two. This is a long term commitment.
Past Drew would say, “I get it. But, leading by such a consistent and good example seems really hard. I’m only human.”
Future Drew would say. “It is hard, but it’s worth it. It’s what you really want, deep down. You want to be that kind of parent for your kids, I know. Forgive yourself when you mess up and recommit to doing better”
Past Drew would have clenched his fist and waved it at Future Drew. “You’re right, damn it. It will be worth it.”
Future Drew would already know that he was right. Future Drew would say, “Listen, there are skills you can learn to make this easier. Like I said, I’ve written a book about it. I wish I could give it to you. But if I did, I probably wouldn’t have written the book. I’m not sure how this all works.”
Past Drew would nod knowingly and say “Thank you”.
Future Drew would give Past Drew a hug and say, “I love you, you can do this.”
Then I suppose he’d get into the Delorian and go back to the future.
Here is the truth. I might be have been true that I had challenging child, but that doesn’t let me off the hook. It actually made self control and leading by example all the more important. It’s funny, many of the parents with children who are seriously challenged know this the best. They know that having a challenged/challenging child does not let them off the hook. They have learned that they have to be their absolute best if their child is going to have a chance at being their best. I have met some of these amazing parents. They are truly inspiring. For me, there was no way to escape this notion. Parenting is deeply personal work. Parenting is about the parent.