Come on, we all do it. Maybe it's not audible but we each have a running commentary in our heads providing feedback on how we're doing as people and especially as parents. The question I'm interested in challenging you to consider is this: Is the feedback you 'provide yourself' critical or constructive? When you forget to pack the sunscreen and you're halfway to the pool does it sound more like this: "I can't believe I forgot, I am totally losing it!" or like this: "With three kids and a full day, I'm glad that's all I forgot, I'll just borrow some from our friends." I'm not a psychologist (although I like to play one) but I tend to believe, based on my own experience, that the voice speak to ourselves in is the same voice our children hear when we speak to them. When I am extending understanding and patience to myself, it's likely my children are experiencing similar feedback from me as I respond to their needs throughout the day.
As I've been pondering this concept, I'm finding the ramifications are far reaching. I've come to understand that more often then not, to become a better parent, I first need to focus on becoming a better 'me.' When I learn and apply how to handle my own failures and shortcomings, I am better equipped to deal with my children's 'spilled milk.' When I engage in effective 'problem solving' tactics with my spouse, I am better equipped to deal with my children's sibling squabbles. The paradigm shift involves letting go of something that is out of my control-the behavior of my children, to focusing on something that is well within my control-the behavior of myself. I'm finding time and time again that as I gain a better grasp on how to act myself...my children are following suit.
Emily Rempe is the co-founder of ProductiveParenting.com, a website that provides free educational activities tailored to your baby or young child's developmental stage. She is also the 2010 Mom Congress delegate from Ohio.