Shopping lists. Last minute tasks to complete. Another card you forgot to send! Here is how to stop the mind spin, how to stress less and enjoy Christmas. Yes, sometimes sad and bad things do happen at Christmas, but how we think about the situation can add to our stress or diminish it. 

The sixth blog of this CHRISTMAS series by Val MullallyMan with Santa hat relaxing by clock

T is for Thought Minding 

Don’t you sometimes wish you could let go the Christmas stress and just relax and enjoy?

“But there’s so much to do!”

The thoughts we tell ourselves add to our stress.

We can ease the stress by noticing our thoughts, because negative, self-defeating thoughts erode our sense of well-being.

It’s often not so much the circumstances that stress us  – it’s our thoughts about the situation.

“I’ll never get this finished.” 

“The meal’s ruined.” 

“But aren’t our thoughts our thoughts?” you may be asking.

We often have ANTs – Automatic Negative Thoughts.

ANTs are thoughts that jump into our heads  – that we often react to without assessing them.  Negative thoughts can make us reactive, which can cause the other person to react. So our thoughts become self-fulfilling. The good news is we can change our thoughts, when we are aware.

How to Let Go Of Thoughts That Stress

Notice what you are actually saying.

Is it 100% true all the time?

Is this thought helpful or is it winding you up?

To let go of unhelpful thoughts, first we need to recognise them.

Can you spot any of these in your own thought patterns?

Automatic Negative Thoughts

Mind Reading ANTs*

“She’s deliberately trying to wind me up.” 

“He just wants everything his own way.”

We presume we can read the other person’s mind.

We think we know their intentions are “bad” or uncooperative.

Fortune Telling ANTs*

We predict the worst-case scenario outcomes.

“The day will be a disaster.” 

Acknowledge that thought is not true. Consciously rephrase the thought to something that builds hope.

“Even if everything doesn’t go smoothly we will still enjoy ourselves.” 

“Always” / “Never” Thinking ANTs*

“He’s always late.”  “I can never …”

These words add to our stress and disempower us.

Whenever we notice those words and test the truth of our thoughts, it can help us to gain a more realistic and helpful viewpoint.

“Always late?” If the thought is not true 100% of the time, then it’s not true.

What would be more accurate? “He’s often late” or “He’s sometimes late”.

Change your words for something that reduces your stress.

“Guilt”  ANTs*

These often sound like ‘I should have … ’  ‘I must…’ ‘I ought to …’   

“I must give them a three-course meal.” “I should order that gift online.”

These “guilt” ANTs need careful testing.

“I ought to be kinder to myself” – probably yes.

“I ought to be doing more” – probably no!

“Guilt” ants make us feel stressed.

Test to see if this guilt causes s a vague thought that just unsettles you without creating any helpful outcome, or if it’s nudging you to take helpful constructive action.

Righteous Judgement ANTs⁠1

We pass judgement on ourselves and on others, causing a sense of comparison and stress, often leading to unhappiness.

e.g. “good” / “bad” ; “right” / “wrong”

“She’s behaving badly”,  “I’m right.” 

Unless you’re talking about a legal or ethical issue, where there is a defintive right or wrong, recognise that the strong line of  “right” or “wrong” is generally stressful.

Find words that are more helpful.  Perhaps reword your thought as a question. What happens when you view the situation with compassionate curiosity?

I wonder what might be going on for her that she is behaving that way?”

“I wonder what leads him to think that way?” 

Inviting our thoughts and feelings into awareness allows us to learn from them rather than be driven by them.    Daniel J. Siegel

Change thoughts to change feelings and behaviour

If your children’s behaviour is challenging, minding your thoughts will help to calm your reactivity, which will impacts theirs. For helpful insights  and practical tips on how to respond rather than react to your children’s behaviour, see my book, “BEHAVE – What To Do When Your Child Won’t – the three pointers to mindful discipline”

 

What is the impact of my thoughts on myself and on others?

When I change my thoughts,

it changes my feelings,

which in turn impacts my body reaction

which in turn affects my behaviour,

Which in turn affects other people’s behaviour.

Our state of mind can turn even neutral comments into fighting words, distorting what we hear to fit what we fear.  Daniel J. Siegel

It’s not that we won’t still have difficult situations to face.  It’s how we respond to them, rather than negatively react to them,  that can lower our stress levels.

 Becoming more aware of the thoughts, feelings ands body sensations evoked by events gives us the possibility of freeing ourselves from habitual, automatic ways of reacting, so that we can, mindfully respond in more skilful ways. Mindfulness notes – Oasis Centre, Dublin

M is for Mindfulness in the next blog in this CHRISTMAS series.

When I change my thoughts it changes my feelings which in turn impacts my behaviourSo it’s over to you:

What ANTs do you spot in your inner talk?

Try rephrasing any ANT you spot with words that reduce your stress.

Notice the impact this has on your reactivity and on others.

*. These Automatic Negative Thought categories proposed by Henslin, Earl  “This Is Your Brain On Joy”, 2008, Thomas Nelson, USA

1.  Added category proposed by Val Mullally – Koemba Parenting

Last edited December 20th 2018

Join Parenting Expert Val Mullally in Moville this weekend.

Fri 4 Nov 7:30 – 9 pm  ‘Meeting Your Child’s Deepest Emotional Needs’

Sat 5 Nov ‘Responding to Children’s Challenging Behaviour’ 

Moville Methodist Hall 

Open to all parents of children aged 3 to 12 years

(grandparents and other child-carers also welcome)

 

 

 

 

Last edited November 01st 2016

“How to Respond to Challenging Behaviour”

Following on from the success of  earlier workshop,  Dublin City Childcare Committee are delighted to again invite you to share an evening with Parenting Expert and Author Val Mullally.

Parenting Workshop  :

Tuesday, 22nd of March, 2016

6.30 – 9.00 p.m.

Aishling Hotel, Parkgate St, Dublin 8

€10 per person (payable to Dublin City Childcare Committee)

Last edited March 21st 2016

Did you grow up hearing phrases like, ’She’s a naughty child’? My mum frequently said it about me. I was the child who was always pushing the limits – the child testing the boundaries.

Fast forward to 2015.

I’m the last out the door and everyone is already in the car.

My adult son teasingly eases the car forward, as though he’ll leave me behind. I jump into the back seat and smilingly exclaim to him,

‘Oh, you’re naughty!’

’Naughty,’ repeats my toddler grandson.

‘’That’s a new word,’ says his mother.  ‘He’s never heard that one before!’

As we travel I muse how much I appreciate that his parents never label him as ‘naughty’. They never refer to him as a ‘bold child’, even at times when he’s acting out. They are aware that when his behaviour is challenging for them, there’s something going on for him that needs attention. He’s not ‘naughty’!

‘Isn’t it strange, ‘ I comment. ‘We never use the word “naughty” to describe an adult, unless we say ‘He has a naughty sense of humour,” or “naughty underwear”.’ We give this term a different meaning for adults. When we talk about a child being naughty, whether it’s a toddler tantrum, a child who won’t listen, or a defiant child, what we’re really meaning is, ‘My child won’t do what he’s told,’ ‘My child won’t comply.’ In other words, we’re saying, ‘My child won’t follow my agenda.’  But just because your child is choosing to follow his one path, not yours, doesn’t mean he deserves a shaming label.

‘Do you have a word in Danish for “naughty?”‘ I ask Sophia.

‘No, not really,’ she says. ‘If we were talking about a child who seems to be always acting out we might comment that the child was, “Uopdragen”. “Opdrage” means, “to raise”. So “uopdragen” literally  means “unraised”. ‘

As we drive along the highway I muse on this. “Uopdragen – unraised,” isn’t saying the child is “naughty”; it isn’t shaming the child.  It isn’t making the child “wrong”. It’s saying the parent hasn’t fulfilled the responsibility of raising the child; the parent hasn’t given the child the support and skills needed to interact successfully.

I think the Danes are recognising something significant here; it’s our job as parents to successfully raise our children. To  “opdrage” – to raise your child, whether your child is “easy to raise” or challenging  – takes mindful parenting, commitment and consistency.

As parents it is our responsibility to raise a child. This is our task – blaming or shaming our child won’t achieve what’s needed.

 

5 Parenting Tips for when you might be tempted to label your child as ‘naughty’. 

1. Your children’s behaviour is about them, your response is about you.  

When your children act out, it doesn’t mean you’re a “bad parent”. It means your children are trying to let you know something is “not ok” for them.  If you let your thoughts run away with, “What will other people think?” you won’t be able to focus on what your child needs.

 

2. Respond rather than React 

Think of ‘React’ as in a knee-jerk reaction  – instant and without thinking. In any situation you have a split second to determine whether this is an emergency, (where you need to instantly react to ensure safety) or whether to pause and assess what’s needed. In most situations, except for “emergency” concerns, if you want to “raise your child”, it’s more helpful to pause to assess, then respond in a way that gives your child the message, “I’m here for you.”

 

2. Focus on your breathing.

When you want to respond, but can feel your own anger or anxiety is likely to overwhelm, take a moment to focus on slowing and steadying your breathing. When your own strong emotions get in the way it becomes impossible to figure out what’s needed in that moment to effectively ‘raise a child’. When you steady your breathing you will steady your thoughts.

 

3. Remember to ‘HALT’.

When you need to deal with your child’s challenging behaviour, first stop and use the ‘HALT signpost‘ to ask yourself, ‘Is my child Hungry? / Anxious or Angry? / Lonely or iLL? /  Tired?’ When you respond to your child’s needs often the challenging behaviour will dissipate.  Ask yourself, ‘What’s really needed here?’

 

4. Remember, ‘All behaviour makes sense.’ 

Often our children’s challenging behaviour can be frustrating or worrying for us as parents. Remember your children are not “naughty” and they not trying to “get at you”. They are trying to let you know they are in a “not-okay” place. They are acting out because they need your support. Ask yourself, ‘What might this behaviour be telling me?’

 

5.  Recognise a Challenging Moment is a Teaching Opportunity

Maybe it’s a teaching moment for yourself as parent – about what works, what doesn’t and what’s needed. And sometimes it’s an opportunity for you to help your child learn about life.  Most times that lesson is not a lecture, but what we model. The lesson is in our actions.  Maybe it’s a lesson of, “You are loved, no matter what,’ or a lesson in kindness, a lesson in, ‘I trust you.’ What lessons do you most want your child to learn?

 

For more parenting tips about how to ‘raise’ your child, particularly at times when their behaviour is challenging, see new Parenting book, ‘BEHAVE – What To Do When Your Child Won’t  by Val Mullally.

Last edited October 25th 2015

My Mirror Makes Me Fat

 

When you have one of those ‘not-feeling-beautiful’ days (or weeks or years!) do you avoid the mirror?

When we moved into our new home we bought a new dressing table.

Whilst I love thepiece of furniture, the attached mirror makes me look fat. Fat and hippy. The mirror distorts and enlarges the parts of me I least want to see enlarged. Do I really look that bad! I avert my eyes when I walk towards the mirror so I don’t have to see myself like that, or else I scold myself about how I should be working harder on my weight. Not that it helps – the fat image makes me feel ‘not ok’ and demotivates me from achieving my healthier me.

Ironically I have another new mirror in my house that has the reverse effect. I love this jewellery cabinet with a place for every pair of earrings, every necklace and my bangles. And when I look in that mirror I look thin! First time I saw this reflection of myself it jolted me.Then I got to quite like this mirror. Hey, I really look slim in this new dress. Great! But this mirror doesn’t really help either. I can kid myself I’m looking fine and that also doesn’t motivate me to make the health changes I really want to make.

I need a regular, kind and realistic look at myself to see how I am and to remind me of what’s working and what I need to do differently to be the healthy me I want to be.

I’ve been thinking that the same applies to parenting. There are those ‘expert’ books and people that are like the ‘fat’ mirror. They make you feel not good enough in your parenting. That ‘not ok’ experience leaves you feeling – ‘not ok’, not good enough – and instead of motivating – you feel resigned nothing is going to change no matter how hard you try.

Then there are the people, perhaps even your best friends, and the articles that are equivalent to the ‘skinny’ mirror – ‘You’re fantastic! You’re brilliant!’ And deep inside you know that’s not true. That’s not how you really are. And either you choose to pretend to believe the lie – and go on as you were (which ultimately isn’t helpful); or you remind yourself that’s just an illusion. Either way it doesn’t motivate you to be the parent you’d really love to be.

Imagine having a gentle, rose-tinted mirror that lets you see how you really are, in a way that helps you to really notice your best bits. The bits of you that you like and are working for you. This mirror accurately and kindly reflects what you need to work on. The good news is – you do!  I figure every parent has one or more of those mirrors in their home – they just haven’t noticed that mirror is there all the time.

So you want me to tell you where to find this mirror that will give you the helpful reflection you need about being the parent you want to be? I figure that mirror is our children’s behaviour. The thing is, our children love us and want to cooperate with us. And their behaviour tells us when our parenting isn’t helpful in creating the enjoyable and fulfilling family life we all need.

Many ‘experts’ tell us how to manage our children’s behaviour – but that’s not possible. The only person’s behaviour you can manage is your own. Rather we need to learn to understand our children’s behaviour – to recognise that all behaviour has a cause and all behaviour has an intention. Rather than focusing on how to manage your child’s behaviour, ask yourself, ‘What might this behavour be telling me?’

In other words, ‘How is my child’s behaviour an image of what’s really going on here?’  The family behaviour (including yours!) is a pretty accurate reflection on how things are really shaping up in your family.

The rest of this letter is sharing with you about my latest resource for parents who are facing the challenge of children’s challenging behaviour. If you want to know more, please read on:  

You may be wondering, ‘But how do I figure out what my child’s behaviour is trying to tell me?‘ I’ve been asked that question so many times that it’s spurred me on to produce resources for parents specifically on this issue. Some people are so keen to get this material that, rather than you having to wait for the book, I’m giving you some of the insights in my audio for parents: ‘Behave – an introduction to Parenting Challenges’, because I know parents are looking for answers now!

In this audio you will discover two significant signposts that help you make sense of your child’s challenging behaviour.  And when you have the signposts, you can understand how your children’s behaviour is a message. Sometimes it’s a message about what they need. Perhaps their behaviour is telling you they need you to be more consistent, more firm on boundaries, or maybe more relaxed. And you’ll also discover that their behaviour might be telling you when you aren’t looking after your own needs. They get ratty when we get ratty. They’re happy when we’re happy. They’re relaxed and go with the flow when we’re relaxed and go with the flow. After all, didn’t you have kids because you wanted it to be fun? Didn’t you want having kids to be an enjoyable, pleasant experience? If some days you feel as though you don’t like the parent you see when you look in the mirror, here’s practical help to discover how to use what your children are reflecting as helpful feedback to be the parent you really want to be! If you want to know how to see your child’s behaviour as a reflection to guide you to be the parent you want to be you’re only one click away on iTunes!

Last edited June 10th 2014

Koemba is delighted to announce the arrival of the “Behave! – an Introduction to Parenting Challenges” audio by Val Mullally in the iTunes store!

This audiobook is available for purchase or streaming in the following stores worldwide:

Last edited June 06th 2014

Linda Martin, what were you thinking?  Storming off the stage to confront Billy McGuinness, after verbally attacking him as an ‘odious little man’ in front of a TV audience of thousands. (Replay on the Irish Examiner webpage.) 

It seems TV loves it when chaos erupts during a live performance – reality TV at its ‘finest’ but what are our children learning about human interaction?

Are we adults giving a message that if somebody says something you don’t like or agree with:

– it’s okay to insult them

– it’s okay to make them feel small in front of others

– it’s okay to bring other unrelated comments into the argument?

(‘You may not be used to dealing with women with brains’  – Linda, what is that saying about your opinion of the many woman who interact with Billy McGuiness, including Laura O’Neill!)

What was Linda hoping to achieve?  She’s a fine lady and we’re proud of her contribution to our country.  I just wish she’d used this opportunity to model  graciousness. What I want my children to know is how to have a good clean fight that improves understanding and restores relationship.

So for Linda Martin and for any parent who wants to raise their child’s level of Emotional Intelligence, here are ten top tips on how to use Anger constructively.

* You don’t have to attend every argument you’re invited to.

* When you get angry the reactive part of your brain takes control, so your clear thinking temporarily shuts down. So rather than blurting out the first thing that jumps onto your tongue, focus on your breathing.  Breathe in 1-2-3-4-5-6-7- out 8-9-10-11 several times. You’ll get more oxygen into the brain, you’ll become calmer, your thinking brain will reengage

* Ask yourself, ‘What really matters here?’  (If you were to look back on this incident in ten years’ time, what would you like to remember?)

* The person’s behaviour is about them; your response is about you.

* Two wrongs never make a right.

* It’s never ok to insult another.  Treat others as you would like to be treated, even (or especially) when you’re angry.

* When there’s an issue that needs to be discussed, stick to that topic only and don’t allow any other issue to contaminate the space.

* Anger is always a signal, ‘I need change.’  (So figure out how to create the change you need. And sometimes the only change you can make is the way you think about something).

* Anger and aggression are not the same thing.  I feel angry but when I act out of that anger it becomes aggression.  Aggression is never pretty, helpful or healing in any relationship.

* My feelings are never wrong, providing I never use them as weapons against anyone, including myself.

What  tip would YOU add to this list about Managing Anger?

Nearly fifteen years ago I started a programme that introduced preschoolers to basic Emotional Intelligence, including what to do when you’re feeling angry.  I was so amazed at the children’s enthusiastic and wise response to this work that it began my path of working with parents so that families can:

think more clearly,

connect more compassionately,

behave more response-ably

and live more joyfully.

If you’d like to discover more, I’m running a six week evening Parenting Course in Douglas, Cork: How to Listen so your child Will Talk

and also Kinsale: ‘BEHAVE – what to do when your child won’t’ (based on Val Mullally’s forthcoming book)

Last edited March 21st 2014

This evening (12 November) Val Mullally is the keynote speaker at Douglas Community School, sharing some helpful insights and practical tools re how  parents can support their teens’ emotional well-being.

Last edited November 12th 2013

 

Perhaps you have one of those ‘school angel – house devil’ children; good as gold when out with others but driving you mad at home? Or perhaps your child’s behaviour is driving everyone mad. Maybe it’s some particular behaviour that you wish you could do something about – get them to listen, get them to be more confident, stop whining, stop fighting, stop bullying, stand up for themselves, do their homework. 
I don’t think that there’s a parent who doesn’t puzzle about what to do when it comes to dealing with challenging behaviour, at least some of the time.

Over the next few days I’m going to share three practical insights about challenges parents face and give you some helpful tips to help you create less stress and more fun in your home. I’m asking your to read this and then take time to REFLECT on what this might mean to your family – and especially to you as parent. It’s easy to read something, think ‘yes, ‘yes’ and then rush on to the next item in your agenda. But the three thoughts I’m going to share with you in these articles over the next few days could move you to a whole different and more enjoyable path of parenting. What it will take is time to let them soak into your mind?

So here’s the wildly challenging thought for today:
Getting your child to be ‘good’ might be bad for your child.

Yes, of course you’d like a ‘good’ child. ‘Good’ would be so much easier.

A child who always does what they are told. Who wouldn’t want a ‘good’ child!

Is ‘good’ what really matters?

But your focus on what you need now you might be overlooking the long-term cost of  ‘good’. That cost may be far too high. That cost might mean low self esteem, it might mean becoming a ‘yes’ person to whatever others demand, which will get in the way of your child’s fulfilment  and happiness in life. You want a child who does what he is told, right? But if that’s what you instil then don’t be surprised if this becomes the teen who does whatever anyone else asks: stealing, drugs, sex. Your ‘good’ child is likely to become a vulnerable target for others’ selfish desires. Because ‘good ‘ is about your child fitting in with your agenda, ignoring their own needs as human beings.
And who decides what is ‘good’?
What parent doesn’t wait for the school report, hoping to read the words ‘excellent pupil’, ‘well behaved’  – anxious about the teacher’s comment. And it makes sense that teachers tend to praise children who are compliant. In most school situations teachers are overburdened with too large classes, administrative demands, a syllabus to complete and the emphasis on examination marks. Our school system is set up to encourage ‘good’, also known as ‘compliant’. But the compliant child is not going to be the mover and the shaker that is what the world needs now. Do you really want a ‘good’ child or do you want to support your child to grow into the full potential of the unique, wonderful, awesome human being that he or she already is? The children who grow up to really make a difference in the world are very often the ones who didn’t ‘cut it’ at school.

Think of Einstein, Steve Jobs, Oprah, Richard Branson. I wonder if there’s a school report lying around some dusty attic for any one of those characters! I bet that would make interesting reading, and I doubt you would find the word ‘good’ on their school reports.
You’d be more likely to spot phrases like ‘daydreamer’, ‘doesn’t listen’, ”won’t settle in class’. Children in touch with themselves and with life don’t put their focus of fulfilling someone else’s agenda. They intuitively know they must follow their own inner calling.

So what are the words that are maybe used to describe your child that cause you concern?

‘Wilful or stubborn’ – They know what they want.

‘Daydreamer’ or ‘easily distracted’ – Their minds are on other more exciting things.  ‘Imagination is everything. It is a preview of life’s coming attractions.’ Albert Einstein knew how to use his imagination. That’s how he discovered such amazing things.

‘Needs to listen’ – maybe your child listens to his or her own inner rhythm.

So if you are dreading receiving one of those school reports, maybe it’s time to think again.
Take time to think about:
What am I actually focused on when I want my child to be ‘good’?
What do I really want, when I think long term?
In what ways could my child’s challenging behaviour actually be a positive?
What do I need as Parent (or support person to the child) to help this child to develop to his or her full potential?

Let’s move beyond ‘good’ to ‘happy’, ‘curious’, ‘interested’, ‘imaginative’ , ‘tenacious’ and all of the other crazily wonderful qualities that make your child a unique person who lives fully.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not advocating wild, out of control behaviour. Rather I’m saying that as parents and people working with children we need to think further than ‘good’. But rather than striving for compliant behaviour we need to know how to create environments that encourage cooperative behaviour. That’s what the Koemba approach is all about. Watch out for my next blog in a couple of days, because I’ll be chatting about how if you  focus on keeping your child ‘safe’ it may not actually nurture your child’s health and well-being.

Last edited April 04th 2013

Val Mullally’s keynote on Tuesday evening for Fermoy Friendship week focused on ‘what we can learn from spiders’ re responding to bullying situations.  For key points of this discussion CLICK HERE.

Last edited March 22nd 2013