Self-control helps us lead healthy and productive lives, but is often the first to go under the weight of mounting pressures. As parents it is even more important for us to model self-control for our kids - our children are among a generation where self-regulation is becoming a real problem.
This is a scary thought. Studies show that self-control is more likely to predict success in the areas of health, relationships and income than SAT and IQ scores. Think about the Stanford Marshmallow Experiment of the 70’s where the kids who were able to wait for a second marshmallow and not eat the first during a set period. It was found that these kids were more likely to be successful than those who couldn’t wait.
Your mental skills are like a muscle; they can be strengthened. Here's 5 tips to develop and improve your self-control - for both you and your kids:
One of the biggest detriments to control is a bad night's sleep. My toddler has turned a corner, but for some time was getting up throughout the night. This struggle was made worse by my decision to stay up late on my computer or watch TV. Interruptions will happen, but do all you can to get all the sleep available by getting to bed earlier.
I read an interesting article about Formula 1 Racing and applications for business. Grand Prix winner and a seven year veteran on the circuit Mika Hakkinen credits much of his success to his mentor Dr. Aki Hinsta who advised him to regularly get adequate sleep, upped to ten hours while racing for optimal performance. Who couldn't use some optimal performance while navigating your own parking obstacle course at morning drop offs or handling a toddler tantrums? Dr. Hinsta also suggested getting control of your emotions, how appropriate!
This will sound crazy, but it is so fun. People love the idea, and it works! After watching Elf for the millionth time over Christmas and laughing at Buddy’s “I’m standing in a store and I’m singing!” I decided that I too can stand and sing… my frustrations. So I started to put my corrections, suggestions and felt aggravations into song for a laugh. Talk about de-escalation.
Instead of losing it over asking for the school bag to be put away for the 7th time, or over towels to be hung up, I was singing a little tune about this reminder. If my husband had a complaint for me, I would say “you can express your annoyance, but it has to be in song.” Often the idea itself made us laugh and defused the anger of the moment.
The singing works because it is an interrupter. If singing might cause you some odd looks at the office, taking a big breath can help you too. Waiting and breathing gives yourself more reaction time. Do I need to lose my cool about this? Probably not. Can I translate my slightly annoyed thoughts into a nicer presentation? Definitely. A breath can help remind you. It can be as simple as one big belly breath, or you can use a breathe in for five-hold for six-release for seven seconds technique.
Try it now… don’t you feel better?
Emotions aren’t bad. Frankly, sometimes I am tired, stressed, and overwhelmed. It is important to understand what we are feeling.
In researcher and author Elly Taylor’s book, Becoming Us: An Eight Steps to Grow a Family that Thrives she highlights how couples can come to understand their primary emotions (fear, anger, joy, sadness and disgust... yes just like Inside Out) and secondary emotions (frustrations, disappointment, anxiety and depression). Anger can be both, a reaction to a provoking event or a reaction to a primary emotion like getting angry because you are first and foremost afraid. So often we ignore our primary feelings jumping right to our secondary feelings.
I might act frustrated at being interrupted while I am working on my computer, but the truth is I am fearful that I might not meet a deadline or sad that my life has me so divided between parenting and work. When an event occurs, interrupt your first reaction and think about the primary feeling:
It is well known that it takes 21 days to make a habit, so get in the habit of reacting well and stick to it. Mark it on your calendar, and get some clean time from your bubbling over emotions. You can even sign up for some help, Andy Smithson of Tru Parenting even offers an online Stop Yelling in 21 Days Coaching Course.