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.
As mothers, we can initiate new resolutions and commitments to become more effective parents.
Before starting, analyze your previous year’s portfolio. Objectively and honestly, think through the events. First, examine the positive trends. Ask yourself, “What were my victories this past year? What am I proud of? What went right? How was I a better mother this year than in the past?” These positive thoughts will charge you with the confidence to tackle new projects for the oncoming year.
Then think constructively, “What are my common parenting trouble spots? If I would change one behavior in order to make a serious difference in this house, which behavior would that be? If I were to watch my family’s actions from the window, what would be something I could do to increase proper parenting? Creating a happier home by focusing more on pointing out the things that are going right, instead of vice versa…Spending more time talking to my children… Building stability through keeping my word for both rewards and consequences, thereby teaching my children that Mom means what she says… Speaking calmly, thereby demonstrating proper speech… Practicing consistency… Working on flexibility… Devoting more time to the most important people in my life…”
When choosing an area to work on, pick something consistent with your personality. For example, if you are an exuberant person, instead of promising never to raise your voice, decide to reserve your animated tone for compliments, and aim to keep your voice within the range of normal when reprimanding. Channel your strengths to help you overcome your weaknesses.
All too often, we fail to think we can change, because we do not believe that change is within reach. However, we must know that not only is change a possibility, but it is a reality.
When we work on our own growth, we teach our children to become “growing people,” too. This is a wonderful lesson to impart to our children. As adults, change is challenging, and often painful, because we have already become entrenched in our negative habits. However, children are more pliable. They have less to undo, and even that which they must uproot is not firmly ingrained. Teaching children new concepts is compared to a new paper as opposed to an old paper, smudged with the telltale signs of previously-erased words. Therefore, by teaching children to change, we are giving them the skills in their youth – the time which is most ripe for change.
Just imagine… If we would change just a little bit every year, the cumulative growth at the end of our lives will be enormous! We must simply believe that we could do it, and now is the perfect time to begin!
Every so often, inspiration strikes and we feel motivated to swallow the “bitter pill of change” and improve ourselves. However, all too soon, we find ourselves slipping back into our old routines. The new parenting skills and ideas fall away, and we return to parenting on auto-pilot – with raised voices, punishments, threats, etc. What can we do, we say dismally. We’re creatures of habit. We cannot change!
Indeed, we are creatures of habit. Habit – in action and preconceived thought – is one of the most powerful forces in human nature. Its strength washes away the impact of the most brilliant inspiration and most stunning resolve.
If so, how can we better ourselves? Through capitalizing on the power of habit. One act of greatness does not create a great person. Rather, a person who consistently repeats small positive actions becomes a real giant. For example, a philanthropist is not built through a one-time donation of one-million dollars, but rather, through one-million one-dollar donations. If one gives a one-time lump sum, he acts upon his inspiration. On the other hand, when one gives again and again, he becomes a giver. The positive habit establishes a behavior and emotional pattern that become intrinsic and eternal.
Every action, feeling or thought creates an imprint on the subconscious memory, even after the incident has left the conscious memory banks. Every time this action or feeling is repeated, this impression is strengthened and deepened. Therefore, repetition and habit adds momentum and strength to even the weakest action, feeling or thought. Eventually, this build-up alters ones personality and behavior. For example, when a person trains himself to form a habit to think positively about others, then he will communicate positively towards them.
Even a simple act can change human nature, if done repetitively. In our parenting, we develop many habits. We adopt many positive routines, such as sending children to school with a kiss, or listening actively to show them that their feelings are important. We also assume negative patterns, such as giving in to children’s whining, or disciplining with threats.
So, how do we stop negative patterns? We replace them with new positive ones.
New habits are formed by developing new perceptions and new actions. When a person changes his perception, he can translate that new information into action. As the person repeats the action, he reinforces it in his subconscious until this action becomes second nature – or a new habit!
For example, Theresa was a screamer. She felt guilty for yelling at her children so often, but resigned herself that this was her way of enforcing discipline in her home. Then she attended a parenting class that taught her to view communicating from a new perspective. This struck a chord, and Theresa decided to change her course of action. She decided to keep her voice tone down and use the skills she learnt at the workshops. At first, she found it exceedingly difficult. Every time she caught herself about to jump to the next octave, she took a deep breath and reminded herself of the new insights she had learned. Finally, after a considerable amount of time had elapsed, she noticed that she no longer found herself about to yell so often. She congratulated herself on a new habit attained.
Indeed, habits are cyclical and recurring. However, new information can be a circuit-breaker and give the person the impetus to begin a new pattern. Still, this inspiration must be followed up with practical application. As the person reinforces both mind and action, the habit becomes a true part of him.