Think about if you’ve ever found yourself saying words to yourself or your kids that is less than kind or helpful. Words we think matter as much as the ones we speak. Here are some examples:
“What was I thinking!?”
“What were you thinking!?”
“I should have thought of that!”
“Are you stupid or something?”
“Will I ever learn?”
“Who do you think you are?”
The words that you heard as a child became hardwired into your brain as your own inner voice. And your inner voice becomes the voice you speak aloud – to yourself and to your kids. As a result, these words then become THEIR inner voice….you see where I am going with this? Words really DO matter. However, when you blow it (because we ALL do) admitting that you did and asking for forgiveness helps heal relationships and breaks this cycle!
Here are three ways to do it differently:
#1 RECOGNIZE your self-talk:
Here’s the thing: You cannot change what you don’t first recognize! So the FIRST thing you need to do is to recognize the kinds of things you are telling YOURSELF: Are you encouraging – “I can do this!” “I have what it takes!” Or, discouraging – “Why do I even try? I always mess up!” Do you say things to yourself that would make you feel angry if you heard someone saying that about your friend…your child…your spouse?
Do you know you have inherit value and worth? No matter WHAT you’ve done or failed to do. YOU. MATTER. You were made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27) and you are not a mistake! Your parents may not have planned you, but rest assured, God did. He knew you and all of your days before you were even born (Psalm 139:16).
If you are struggling to know what your inner voice is telling you, I suggest you start with mindfulness practice. (click here for more information). Mindfulness is noticing what you are doing, feeling, or thinking when you are doing, feeling, or thinking it. Being aware of what you are doing, feeling, or thinking will help you hear your own inner voice. However, your words can ONLY change if you first become aware of what they are.
#2 IDENTIFY your emotions:
Next (but going along with recognizing your self-talk), is identifying your emotions. This must be done without worrying about why you feel this or that way. Whatever you notice is OK – just aim to simply recognize it right now.
Spend some quiet time breathing in and out and searching for words that describe your feelings right now in this moment. Start with just a two-to-three-minute-moment each day and work up to doing this several times a day. You can even do this with your children!
Hey, why not start right now?
Read through these emotions and see what “fits” you in this moment we’re in right now:
ANGRY: annoyed – bitter – critical – disgusted – frustrated – impatient – indifferent – offended – resentful – sarcastic
GUILT/SHAME: awkward – embarrassed – humiliated – regretful – remorse – self-conscious – speechless – withdrawn
FEAR: anxious – cautious – confused – indecisive – insecure – nervous – shocked – suspicious – timid – uneasy – watchful
HURT: bitter – distrustful – envious – insecure – jealous – possessive – protective – resentful – suspicious -unbelief
GLADNESS: cheerful – confident – encouraged – excited – exhilarated – friendly – hopeful – joyful – peaceful – playful – satisfied
SADNESS: anguish – bleak – disappointed – disconnect – discourage – heartbroken – hopeless – inconsolable – listless – low
LONELY: bleak – disinterested – drained – empty – hopeless – isolated – lethargic – miserable – pessimistic – worthless
So, have you got it? Do you know if your inner voice or self-talk is critical or complimentary? Are you able to put a name to the emotions you are experiencing right now? Good for you! Here’s one more activity for you that you can do alone AND with your children. It comes from The Whole-Brain Child by Daniel Siegel
#3 PRACTICE S.I.F.T.ing:
This acronym (S.I.F.T.) stands for – Sensations. Images. Feelings. Thoughts. Just ask these questions to encourage an awareness of our thoughts and feelings in this present moment.
Sensations – “What sensations do you notice in your body right now?”… For example, when practicing this in the car, my boys may say: “The seatbelt digging into my neck.” Or “The road vibrations under my feet.”
Images– “What are the pictures you see in your mind right now?”… Since my teen boys like to eat a LOT, they will often say something about food. “Sitting at Panda Express with a yummy bowl in front of me.” … “Taking spring rolls out of the oven.” … “Pouring a bowl of cereal.”
Feelings– “What feelings or emotions do you notice right now?” For example, when they are going to visit family they may say, “I feel sad because I don’t want to leave but also excited to see my other family.”
Thoughts– “What are you thinking about or what are you telling yourself right now?” Again, when we’re in the car, they may say, “I’m thinking that I am glad you are not texting while driving.” However, we also hear things like, “I am wondering when I’ll see my friends again.” Likewise, “I’m thinking about how my friends make me laugh.”
I suggest this practice for everyone, but especially for those struggling with anxiety because oftentimes we aren’t even aware of those thoughts or images that create anxiety in us!
In short, SIFTing helps us recognize feelings, be mindful of what we’re thinking about and then be able to tell ourselves the TRUTH.
For example, if you SIFT with your child at bedtime and she says, “I’m thinking of a monster in my closet,” you can empathize with that scary thought (since we ALL have some form of monsters right?). After that, help her say a TRUTH to hang onto like: “God will never leave or forsake me.” Or “God is with me always.” Or even, “I know I’m afraid of a monster in my closet, but my mom showed me it’s not in there now and my dad will keep me safe if it ever came back!”
If you tried any of these strategies in your home or if your own parents practiced these kinds of things with you, please share in the comments below how it has worked for you!
ConnectPointMoms helps you create stronger relational connections with the children in your life. This starts with being aware of your own stuff so you can BE PRESENT with your children in the moment you’re in, and then knowing and using the best ways to communicate with them! For quick, helpful parenting videos, find “Kate Connects” on YouTube or join our CFacebook group to find encouraging supportive moms struggling through it all together!