I understood how she felt. She was in the middle of habit-reconstruction – a challenging place to be.
When we work on changing our habits, we need to work hard. We need to harness every human power to choose change over old-time comfort.
1. Pace: Aim for gradual change, rather than extreme character overhaul. It is not wise for a person to swing from one extreme to another. A person usually likes his habits and feels like they are his second nature, and, therefore, rapid change feels unsettling and disruptive. Rather, a person should aim for gradual behavior modification. This will help his new habits solidify and become permanent.
This step-by-step process ensures that we really integrate and internalize the information…so that we can eternalize it.
2. Repeat: Do the new action once. Do it twice. Do it a third time. Eventually, it will become part of you. After all, every habit is the sum total of an action repeated over and over again until it has become second nature. You can consciously create a habit by repeating your new action over and over again.
3. Act: Your internal chemistry is directly affected by your external actions. Your perceptions can be changed through repeated actions. For example, a normally kindhearted person who is commissioned as state executioner will become a hardhearted person. Another less extreme, but equally true example is a disorganized mother who makes timely bedtime a top priority will become a more consistent person. The best part is that as these new habits become second nature, your actions line up with your perceptions and you want to choose correctly.
4. Record: Keep a daily record of your progress. This is helpful throughout your climb. At the beginning, written records are important because they make you aware of your actions. All too often, people do not even notice how often they slip up. For example, the critical mother may view herself as a nurturing, loving mother – until she starts tallying up how many times she spoke sarcastically, negatively, sharply, etc. With the facts glaring at her, written in black and white, she can be motivated to improve.
Even once you are making upward strides, these daily records are important, since they help you notice your progress. Most people enjoy seeing their own successes documented and will try to beat their own records.
A healthy growth pattern usually resembles a gradual upward curve. If you notice a downward trend or the habit is not progressing properly, take stock: When does this breakdown occur? What triggers it? One particular child? My particular weaknesses? One part of the day? This vigilance will prevent a relapse and perpetuate new habits.
5. Say It: Link mind and heart by saying your goals out loud. Concretize your vision by saying, “I will speak with firmness and calmness. I will not raise my voice.” As you progress and move up your ladder, switch your key sentence. “I will wait for compliance and show my child that I believe that he will listen. I will use the cooperation techniques.” When confronted by a tricky situation, your own voice will ring in your ears and prompt you to choose wisely.
6. Visualize: Imagine the new you. Picture yourself standing at the finish line, living your new sweet life. For example, see yourself walking over to your children, making eye contact, saying, “Five more minutes of playtime until supper.” In five minutes, you go outside and walk them inside to the table. Firmness replaced raised voices.
Remember: Only you can help yourself.
Know: You can do it.
Actions speak louder than words. In fact, they speak 93% louder than words. That’s because, case studies prove that 93% of our messages are communicated through body language, divided between 55% conveyed through the emotional messages of face-to-face interaction and another 38% transmitted through the voice. This means that only 7% of communication is expressed by our words. That’s astounding!
In practical terms, this means that we can be giving the most loving, caring speeches to a child, and yet, if he does not feel the love and care behind these statements, then they are almost worthless. In contrast, we can be giving the most stinging rebuke to a child, but if our body language continues to convey respect and love, then the very sharp criticism is transformed into a cherished moment symbolizing love and concern for the child.
People believe non-verbal communication more readily than verbal communication. That’s because, while one can pay lip-service to giving fine platitudes without really meaning them, one can rarely put on a convincing act of body language. For example, when we say no to a child, yet we sound unsure and doubtful, the message that there is room for negotiations speaks louder than the word no.
In addition, non-verbal communication happens continually, all day long, as opposed to verbal communication, which happens only when we engage in conversation. At times, we might think that we aren’t being expressive, while in reality we are sending messages all the time through other means, for example a look of annoyance or a grumpy face.
We must make sure that our non-verbal communication matches our verbal messages. Otherwise, our children become confused and insecure.
For so many reasons, we must work from inside-out and start tuning in to the silent signals we give our children.
Start by analyzing your facial expression. When your child arrives home from school, do you look happy? Uptight? Worried? Concerned? Excited? Remember: A face is public property, always open for public viewing. Make it pleasant and warm.
Think about eye contact. When you look your child in the eye, you convey your love and concern for him. You show him you truly care about him.
Brainstorm for different positive gestures, which can help you express your unconditional love for your child. A pat on the back, a stroke on the cheek, a small handwritten note, a thumbs-up; these speak so much more than long-winded messages.
Examine your tone of voice. Listen out for its intensity and loudness. Messages conveyed softly and are easier to intercept and accept. In addition, our tone can sound firm and confident or uncertain and meek/trusting or critical/proud or disappointed/excited or sad.
When a parent-child relationship is positive, the child is eager to hear from and please the parent. However, when the relationship is strained, it is important to examine our forms of communication. Think of non-verbal ways to express genuinely positive messages to the child-and you will see how far these silent messages can reach.