Because a majority what we think and do is automatic, it takes real work to change the things we don't like about ourselves or our behaviors. Patterns are engrained in us from childhood, therefore it requires a conscious and long term effort to adjust our behavior.
By changing our own destructive patterns, we can significantly improve the relationship with our children and others in our lives.
The first step is to Mirror. Taking time to really look at our behaviors and reactions while determining what triggers
these actions is important. Granted, no one likes to look at what is wrong about themselves, but it is necessary if we are to make meaningful change in our lives and those of our kids. For example, I realized that the first thing I would say to my daughter when picking her up from school after “how was your day” was, “how much homework do you have?” What I was doing was to put into her mind the fact that
after a long day at school she now has more work to do. I was not giving her that cushion or space in which to decompress. The planner in me wanted immediately to know the details and get it done. But what was this doing for
her? And how did this affect our ride home together?
The second step is to Modify. This is all about change! We identify our behaviors and we work on altering them, so that we can create a more positive experience for our children. Because behavioral patterns can be decades in the making,
this stage takes some work. Until I set my phone to record the exchange between my daughter and I each afternoon, I didn’t realize that I asked her the same thing every single day. Old patterns that aren’t serving us need to be replaced
with new patterns that do. I therefore changed the sequence of the conversation. After “how was your day” I asked, “did anything surprising happen?” She then launched into an actual story. I had a better sense of her experiences and emotions. Taking my lead, she also asked about my day. We therefore had a far more meaningful exchange.
The third step is to Model. This is where we show our children how we changed and improved our own behavior. We can explain our own process, and thus give them a much better sense of personal responsibility. Not to mention,
sharing with them that we noticed something about ourselves and took the initiative to change it, helps them see us as flawed, human and vulnerable. This can also go a long way toward showing our kids that we do not expect perfection.
Simply saying to my daughter, "I realized as soon as you get in the car, I ask you about your long day without giving you a change to relax from it. I can see how this could be irritating to you or at least not helpful. I am working to change this but it may take some practice." Depending on age, another step could be to ask, "any ideas on how I can greet you each day when you get in the car? Perhaps, what song would you like to hear or what snack sounds good?"
This can go a long way as youth often report not wanting to disappoint parents who expect them to be close to perfect. Even if they don’t enthusiastically congratulate us or express understanding, the seeds are planted for them to consider this valuable behavior.
Practicing the 3M’s can help us all raise our parenting to another level, improving our relationships and development of our children.
What thoughts do you have related to the 3Ms? Share your experiences to help us all gain perspective. I look forward to hearing how you relate or suggestions you have so that we can continue improving for our children!