Recently the local radio topic was about a research article that claimed that parents only enjoy their children after they leave home. Okay so parenting is hard work and can be stressful at times – but do parents really believe that we only enjoy our children once we don’t have them in the home! Now here’s the angle they didn’t discuss:

parenting stress can damage child well-being!

Parenting Stress can damage child well-being! - blog post by Val Mullally

How many times do we caution our children about the fragile things in life. The things we see as precious. Things we value.  ‘Don’t touch. Be careful. It will break!’

But do we sometimes overlook the fragile precious beings our children are? Do we forget to handle with care the young people in our lives?

‘Of course I care for my kids!’ is our automatic reaction. But perhaps there are times when a careless action or word can dent the beautiful and precious self esteem of our children. We forget we are the custodians of their emotional well-being. It’s not helpful to stress ourselves about being stressed  – but what are some of the ‘handle with care’ cautions we need to remind ourselves?

3 Ways We Damage the Beauty of Our Children 

#1 Giving the message that parenting is exhausting and a pain

Okay, parenting isn’t always easy. But how much do the stresses of the rest of our lives overflow into the home – and it’s the children that take the brunt of it. Whether we yell at them, scold, roll our eyes, nag, or talk about how hard it is to be a parent, children sense our attitude. Think about how some of the favourite comedians, like Michael McIntyre often play the “parenting is a pain” line. The audiences love it because they identify with it!

But imagine if you regularly overheard your life partner  talking about what  a pain it is to have you in their life. And you notice how the listener agrees or nods knowingly.

What would that do for your self esteem?

Do you really think that relationship would last?

Or if you did stay in that relationship can you imagine how it would undermine your confidence and sense of worth?

Some parents are stuck in “Oh, it’s so hard /draining/ depressing to be a parent!” This message may be directly spoken or not-so-subtly conveyed but the thing is, children don’t have anywhere else to go! If you had a life partner who thought so little of you, you’d probably move out. But children have to live with it and they get to believe this is the truth about them:

“I’m the kind of person it’s draining to be around,”
I’m a pain to live with.”
“I’m troublesome.”
“It’s not fun to be with me.”
“I’m annoying and aggravating.”
“I don’t have anything to contribute.”

And when children believe they are a pain they are likely to behave that way. We create a self perpetuating downward spiral, unless we consciously choose a different route. If we want to nurture our children’s well-being the best place to start is with our own attitude and actions.

#2 Calling children names

Some labels we hurl at our kids are outright unkind and can dent a child’s self-esteem  – ‘stupid’, ‘selfish’, ‘brat’. When we refer to our children as ‘princess’, ‘madam’, ‘his lordship’ it may seem to make light of challenging behaviours, but perhaps that’s like casually mishandling a precious Ming vase.

Putting labels on our children is like mishandling a precious Ming vase - blog post by Val Mullally

What part of our child’s innate value is shattered when we carelessly knock them? And seemingly innocuous titles can damage our perspective of the child we are here to raise. These insults distort our vision so that we see stupidity or entitlement instead of our children’s vulnerability and their human struggle. It’s not always easy to be a child. And it can be even harder to be a teen. It’s a time when their sense of self can be very fragile and needs to be handled with sensitivity. Careless words hurt our children, and they hurt us too. They hurt us by causing us to expect negativity and resistance; by focusing our attention on the slight scratch or imperfection on who our child is, so that we forget the innate value and beauty of who they truly are. Careless words can cement a negative mindset within us, so that we treat our relationships as something cheap and shoddy, instead of the  precious gift they are.  If we mishandle interactions and toss words around that can damage relationships, similar cutting words and attitudes may boomerang back at us.  It’s time to rethink our attitude because it will be reflected in our actions.

#3 Being impatient

‘Hurry up. We’ re going to be late! Pick that up – now!’ We give a message that objects are more important than people; that our agenda is the only one that matters. How often do we rush carelessly in relationships. Today stop and assess whether you are giving the urgent priority over the important. What really matters?

A More Helpful Way Forward

So I ask you, what does a mindset of “Parenting  is draining” do to our children and our families?

Do you sometimes see parenting as exhausting or a pain?

How is this impacting your own perception of life?

How does the impact your interaction?
How might your attitude and behaviour dent your relationship with your child?
How might your attitude and behaviour dent your child?

I love browsing in antique shops, seeking some beautiful treasure others may have overlooked. My husband often cautions me to be careful with my handbag – concerned that I could bump some delicate object and cause damage. He reminds me to be mindful. The same holds true in relationship.

Here are some thoughts from that analogy that can help us shift our mindset and way of being with our children.

antique shop - handle with care

  • hold in awareness that there are things in close proximity that are fragile
  • be present to whatever is before you in this moment
  •  avoid unnecessary speed; take time to notice
  • be aware how you hold yourself in that space, physically and emotionally
  • be conscious of how you interact and move
  • be aware of where you are focusing your attention
  • look for the beauty – it may be  hidden by clutter, tarnish or dust

Life is Fragile

These days that we have with our children are precious and irreplaceable. Let’s handle with care. Child well-being is impacted by how they perceive themselves being perceived by others. Let’s not forget parenting stress can undermine child well-being! What underlying message do our children read from the way we communicate with them and about them?

Getting stressed about stressing our children is obviously only going to add fuel to the fire. I believe we can find a better way forward. 

I’d love your feedback. Where have we as a society gained messages that undermine the joy of parenting? What can we do to reclaim the joy?

Do you want to shift your parenting to be a positive experience for you and your child? I can help: 

Sign up for your online coaching session with me (Accredited Coach – Association for Coaching)

Click the link if you would like to know how coaching can help you create a calmer happier home

For practical support on how to be the parent you’d love to join me on an online Parenting course:

Stop the Yelling – 9 steps to Calmer Happier Parenting – live, interactive bootcamp

How To Discipline – creating a calm, cooperative and happy home  – self paced, start-anytime course

Book me as your Motivational Speaker at your next event.

Check out my parenting books:

Invite me to join you via internet at your bookclub to discuss one of my books.

(My gift to you if there are six or more participants who will have committed to read the book ahead of the session). 

Contact me if you’d like my support to create a calmer, happier home.

Last edited August 30th 2019

If you are a parent and feeling concerned, upset or anxious because your child is being  harrassed or teased, here’s how to support your bullied child:

“My heart is broken. My daughter is such a sweet child. But she tells me the other children are chasing her at school and calling her ‘piggy’.“

If your child has ever experienced this sort of pain, read on!

9 Essential Strategies – How to Support Your Bullied Child

#1 Keep calm so you can hold an objective frame of mind

Your child needs you to be connected; yet at the same time you need to contain your strong emotions. This matters because otherwise your upset can “contaminate” the listening space your child needs.

If you are reactive she may be affected by the reaction she’s sensing from you.

It’s possible that if you are over-anxious that she will hold back from telling you things you might need to hear, or otherwise a child may embellish the story when she finds she is repeatedly the centre of attention if she mentions such incidents. You want to support your child to work through the situation to develop happier outcomes; not stay stuck in it.

For more on how to keep calm in stressful situations, see my book, “Stop Yelling – 9 steps to calmer happier parenting)

#2 Take your child’s upset seriously

Some parents may respond with a comment like,

“You’re all right then!”

Your child wouldn’t be telling you about the incident if she was alright!

Bruises on the soul may not be visible but they can cause life-long scars.

#3 Recognise young children don’t always realise their behaviour is hurtful

Often a hurtful incident starts as a game – but crosses the boundary into “not okay” behaviour. If there seems to be bullying happening we need to be involved. Young children do not yet have the social skills to handle the situation alone. If the incident happened at school, hopefully, the teacher is your ally. Ask to meet with her, giving her as much detail as you know, in a clear objective way, stating what your child experienced. Then ask what steps will be taken to deal with this situation to ensure that other similar incidents will not happen. Bullying is not about only two children. Bullying is a community matter and school is our first formal environment where we need to learn social justice.

#4 Create a calm, safe space to chat about the incident

Create a space where your child can talk about the incident if she chooses.

Clarify as much detail as possible.

You need to hear what happened to figure out what response is needed.

If this might be more than a once-off minor incident, it’s important to keep a clear record of the facts of what happened. (Like any professional document, record only the facts; don’t write down your emotional reactions or any judgements. Only facts. This is important because if there is a pattern of bullying behaviour you need to be able to state what happened and when. That’s not easy to remember at a later date, especially when you are emotionally involved.

For more strategies on how to support your child to find a way forward in bullying situations, see my blog: “9 Inspiring Tips – How To Bully-Proof Your Child”

#5 Use “clean language” to discuss what happened

Word your questions and responses in a way that does not pollute your child’s thinking.

e.g. It’s not helpful to ask, “Was that girl mean to you?”

When you ask a question like that, you pollute your child’s mind with the thought that the other child was mean, which wasn’t necessarily your child’s experience.

Rather ask a “clean” question like, “What happened?”

#6 “Listen” to your child’s body language

It’s not only the words you want to listen to but your child’s body language, tone of voice and facial expression.

You’ll gain more insight into your child’s perspective and experience of what happened, and what’s needed now when you are tuned in to her

#7 Be empathetic as your child shares his story

It’s easy to want to check he’s telling it ”right”. The more he calms, the more he can clearly tell you what happened. the more he makes sense of what happened the more clearly your child can think  anc can start envisioning a more powerful way of responding.

Stop bullying - we are all different

#8 Help your child envision how to respond differently

Avoid using statements like,

“Don’t be a baby!’

Stand up for yourself!”

Comments like these will only add to your child feeling ”not okay” and do not give your child a picture of how to respond in a more positive and empowering way. You want to create the thinking space for your child to be able to figure out what they can do to create a happier solution.

#9 Use the power of  “What…?” questions

Once you sense your child is calm and ready to look for solutions, use “What…’ questions to help your child think about how they could handle a similar situation in the future.

“What could you do next time?”

“What helps you to stay strong inside yourself?”

The importance of dealing with the incident when your child is bullied

The wise parent uses these early incidents as opportunities to help their children learn to find healthy ways to deal with challenges in social interactions before an unhealthy pattern of passive or aggressive behaviour develops. When you respond to your child’s concerns you give a message, “You matter!” – a hugely important message if your child is feeling like they don’t matter to their peers.

Knowing how to respond helpfully when your child is bullied can help your child develop assertive behaviour that can shield them in a healthy way. This matters for your child’s happiness and self-esteem not only now in the immediate situation you’re facing – but it helps build resilience and self-esteem throughout life; important factors for your child’s mental health and well-being.

How to support your bullied child

Last edited January 28th 2019

Why Mindfulness Matters

Chrismas and Stress seem to have become synonymous.

Life is frantic. Stress levels scream ever higher with alarming pressure.

Why the madness!

But there’s a swing back to a calmer way of being.

Medical Science and especially Neuroscience are recognising the power of the ancient art of why mindfulness matters to create calmer happier lives.

The sixth blog of this CHRISTMAS series by Val Mullally:

M is for Mindfulness

Imagine doing one thing differently that would open the door to being the person you would love to be.

The hinge that opens that door is mindfulness.

Mindfulness swings open the doorway to enjoying the moment, to greater understanding, to being tuned in to what is there before you. it opens our minds to what’s needed. Another word we could use to describe that mindfulness is awareness.

Choosing Mindfulness in Your Everyday Living

Paying attention in a particular way:

On purpose

In the present moment, and non-judgementally. Kabat-Zinn

Perhaps you’re thinking,

“But I don’t have time to stop and meditate.”

The good news is we can choose mindfulness in the everyday moments of our lives  – it’s about choosing to be conscious, even in the run-of-the-mill events at a busy time like Christmas.

Small hinges swing big doors.

Small hinges swing big doors

We can swing open the habit of mindfulness in the regular moments  –  whether we are peeling the potatoes, changing a nappy, opening a present, or whatever – just becoming more conscious of what we are doing in the moment.

Mindfulness as a Way of Being

 … our life is the path, and we no longer rely merely on the forms of practice.  Thich Nhat Hanh

When we are mindful we become more conscious of what we are doing, what we are feeling, who and what is around us and with us. We notice our intentions. We become more conscious of the thoughts that wind us up and how we can let them go and choose a more helpful response.

Instead of a “knee ‘jerk” reaction that is triggered by feelings of anger, fear or envy, we can respond with compassionate curiosity, that helps to create the quality of relationship we desire.

Why Mindfulness Matters for Parents

Whether the house feels like world war three broke out or a home where you’re all glad to live can depend on whether we, as parents,  choose to react or to respond. And our reactivity or calm response will depend on our mindfulness.

If you’d like the chance to develop key insights and practical skills to mindful parenting click here to discover “Stop Yelling – nine steps to calmer happier parenting” with Val Mullally guiding you through this live online course.

As parents become more aware and emotionally healthy, their children reap the rewards and move toward health as well. That means that integrating and cultivating your own brain is one of the most loving and generous gifts you can give your children.  Daniel J. Siegel 

The Mindfulness Path

Choose to respond rather than react.

Take a few breaths to calm yourself. Focus on choosing connection.

Ask yourself, “What’s really needed here?”

This is the way we can keep our selves well: with regular exercising of our attunement to ourselves through mindfulness practices.  Daniel J. Siegel

In the next blog discover how to clear the mental clutter that adds to our stress and causes us to react, rather than respond in a way that builds healthy relationship.

Small hinges swing big doors

So it’s over to you: 

What small doable step will you take today to become more mindful in your everyday living? 

Last edited December 21st 2018

 In the fourth blog of this CHRISTMAS series, Val Mullally looks at Inspiration – how to breathe life into your passion. 

What’s been your film of the year? For me, the film of the year has been the BBC documentary “Drowning in Plastic” presented by Wildlife biologist Liz Bonnin. We urgently need to do things differently.

 I is for Inspiration

What about the mental pollution that we’re drowning in? Like the plastic in our lives, we initially think all this information and technology is useful, or fun, and we don’t realise how it’s seeping into every corner of our existence in ways that are toxic and destructive.

Seabird -Drowning In Plastic

Like the seabirds that are swallowing rubbish, are we unaware what we are ingesting? We don’t recognise how it’s strangling us – mental pollution that leaves little space for the psychological nutrients we need to thrive. Like the seabird chicks with stomachs full of useless plastic instead of life-giving nutrients, are we gorged on negative news, useless trivia and manipulative advertising that screams we are not good enough.

It is as Kabat-Zinn says,

Not only does unawareness go with the territory, it is the territory.

What can a person do?

It’s time to stop the madness.

Become aware. Notice what inspires you –  what fills you with hope and joy.

The root of the word inspire comes from the Latin inspirare – “to breathe or to blow into”.

What dreams do you want to blow life into?

Interestingly, in the paragraph above I accidentally typed “dreams” instead of “screams”. And it got me thinking – what is screaming in my life and how do I replace that with my dreams?

It’s time to clear the psychological clutter.

How do I substitute the mental pollutants with the things that inspire me?

Make space for the things that breathe life into your being

I know as a parenting author I  have to deliberately and systematically create space and time to write. If I wait until I am inspired I would hardly ever write. It’s about getting my bum in the chair every day and beginning to write. Then Inspiration comes. Not only when I am writing, but, she whispers to me as I walk the dog. She nudges me as I iron a shirt or stir the soup. I’m attentive to hear her when I’ve given the first part of my day, while I’m at my freshest and best, to writing.

Whatever inspires you, whatever your passion, breathe life into it daily.

whatever your passion breathe into it daily

At a global level, we urgently need to do things differently. It’s not only about the supposed “big stuff”.

When we follow our passion we each find our unique way of contributing to the greater good.

My passion, my inspiration, is that we can raise a generation who will:

think more clearly,

connect more compassionately,

behave more response-ably

and live more joyfully.

Will you join me in breathing life into that dream?

This Christmas let’s slow down and become aware of what matters.

(More about this tomorrow).

So it’s over to you.

In what ways will you choose to cut the mental pollutants in your life? 

Who and what inspires you? 

What things breathe joy and hope into your daily life? 

How can you bring more of these into your life in the year ahead?

whatever your passion, breathe life into it.

Last edited December 18th 2018

“As children, my sister and I were so jealous of each other,” said Claire, as we sipped our lattes. “I thought my sister was so much more beautiful than me.”

I raised my eyebrow. In my mind how could my friend not have seen her beauty. Claire has a fair complexion, smooth blond hair and neat features, and she has a radiance that makes me smile just thinking about her.

“My sister had dark curly hair, dark, dark eyes. I thought I looked insipid compared to her. I was so envious of her looks. We fought most of our childhood,” she sighed. “Imagine – all those years we could have had a great sibling relationship. It was only when we got to be adults that we talked it through and discovered we were both envious of each other’s looks.”

So many parents despair because of their children’s constant bickering and fighting. Perhaps you are a parent in that situation too, concerned about the sibling rivalry in your home – perhaps you are wondering how to respond to sibling jealousy.

Three Key Aspects to Counteract Sibling Jealousy

1. Create Opportunity to Listen to How Your Children Are Feeling

To stop the fighting we need to think about what might going on underneath the surface that is causing the turmoil. Like adults, children are influenced by the thoughts they dwell on. They are not likely to respond in a kind, compassionate manner when they are thinking:

“She’s prettier than me.”

“He’s better at sport than me.”

“She’s cleverer than me.”

“Mum and Dad love her more than me.”

“Just because she’s the baby, they let her get away with it.”

Very often when anger surfaces there are feelings of fear or disappointment underneath the blanket of the aggressive behaviour. These emotions are fueled by envious, or jealous thoughts. Until we acknowledge and respond to our children’s feelings and thoughts, we are likely to find ourselves dealing with the fallout of sibling rivalry. The thing is, jealous thoughts are like woodborers – if they are ignored, they slowly erode the fabric of the relationship.

“Jealousy and envy distort the truth of what is essential for satisfaction or genuine happiness in life.”

Sibling Envy

This quote is from Normile and Alley’s book “Overcoming Envy and Jealousy Therapy” 

When sibling rivalry erupts your children need you to help them to restore equilibrium. Focus on creating a safe space where your children can process what’s going on for them. To quote Dr Dan Siegel: “Connection calms.”

2. Help your children to think about what their envy might be telling them

Children often feel frustrated, irritable or fearful because they imagine they are at a disadvantage to the other.

Think about the expression we hear kids use – “I’ll get even!”

This statement says so much  – when there is sibling rivalry at least one child is not feeling equal to the other.

Perhaps your child’s envy is tied in more with admiration of his sibling than a feeling of resentment.

We can’t stop the envy, but imagine if we could help our children to take ownership of their envy and to turn this around to be a helpful tool. Have you come across the term “frenvy”? It’s a term to describe “friend envy” – that sometimes we envy the character traits or achievements of the very ones we like. When we listen supportively we can help our children figure out what their envy is really about, and it can spur them on: “If she can do it I can too!” We can help them turn the green-eyed monster into a helpful ally – to be the best they can be.

3. Build your children’s self esteem

When there is strong sibling rivalry it is often connected to low self esteem. A key aspect to easing sibling rivalry is to build your children’s self esteem.

“Jealousy and emptiness are related, not twins, but born of the same emptiness within you.” Normile and Alley

To discover practical ways to boost children’s self esteem see 7 Useful Tips On How to Build Self Esteem In Your Child.

Bringing positive change to levels of self esteem and softening the intensity of sibling rivalry is a long steady haul to healthier, happier relationships. And, as parents, our consistency counts.

"creation calms." Dr Dan Siegel

Photos Acknowledgement: © Redbaron | Dreamstime.com

What are your thoughts? If you have any questions or comments about sibling envy please post them below.

 

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Last edited August 04th 2017

Consistent in your actions

 Every parent wants to be a ‘good parent’ – but what’s needed?

‘Any area in your life that has inconsistent results is an area where you have not made a decision to be consistent in your actions.’ Jeanine Blackwell

I love this quote. It challenges me in my work as a soulpreneur and coach. But is it true when it comes to effective Parenting? What does it take to be the parent you want to be? If consistency leads to awesome results in the workplace is the same true for parenting? If I am consistent in my actions as a parent will I get consistent results? I’d love to believe it, but when it comes to parenting, whether you are parenting a toddler or parenting a teenager – think again!

As humans, consistency isn’t always a natural way of being. Circumstances change. Family dynamics change. People change. Especially little people. And when change happens there isn’t going to be a consistency in result. There will always be challenges and inconsistencies in raising children. Every child is different, so every parenting experience is different. And as our children move through different developmental stages the experience and the challenges are different. As one mum said, ‘Every time I think I have this parenting thing sorted, my child pulls the rug out from under my feet.’

So  – how to be a ‘Good Parent’?

We can judge ourselves that we’re not being ‘good’ parents when things don’t go smoothly, but we need to hold in mind that we’re in the job for the long haul. There will be ups and downs, particularly as we move through times of change. Consistency in our parenting can be really hard.

So does this mean, as parents, we should forget about consistency? No! Consistency matters if we want to be the parents our children need.

Consistency matters – particularly in the things that are so hard to measure:

Patience.  Kindness. Awareness. Believing in your child.

Patience, kindness, awareness, believing in your child

 

Consistency matters particularly in the moments when no-one else is looking:

–  those moments when you might be tempted to yell or scream at the kids

– those moments when you might be tempted to use sarcasm

– those moments when you might be tempted to say ‘Whatever!’ rather than do the hard work of conscious parenting

Does that mean you’ll see consistent parenting results? In the short term, probably not! You’ll still ride the roller coaster of everyday parenting, with all its wild ups and downs and unexpected corners. But in the long term, consistency pays off every time. Look around you and notice the families whose children have grown into fabulous young adults. Warm, caring, compassionate, responsible young people invariably have warm, caring, compassionate, responsible parents.

Consistency pays.

We may have different parenting styles, but consistency always matters. consistency matters as much in the world of parenting as in the world of the entrepeneur.

What three qualities or values do you choose to consistently model to your children? It doesn’t come by chance. It comes from a conscious decision.

So now it’s your turn to challenge your online community. What three values did you choose?  Please share your thoughts in the comments box below.

Consistent in your actions

  

Needing support to be the parent you want to be?  Discover more about Parent Coaching.

 

 

Last edited June 04th 2017

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

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Last edited October 28th 2016