One time I was driving home from a night out in Manhattan. It was late, so the roads were pretty empty, which was really good because my gas pedal just happened to get stuck. I panicked for about twenty seconds, which seemed like forever, but then I managed to come up with a plan. I knew my breaks would not work while I was driving so fast, so I shifted into neutral. From there I waited for the car to slow down, waited for the road to have a shoulder to pull off on, and right by the McDonald’s sign off Maurice Avenue, I had enough room to pull on the shoulder and break. What a relief! From there I was able to calm down, collect myself and finish my journey.
Although scary, this experience taught me a valuable lesson. There are often times in parenting where we switch to autopilot. We get tired, cut corners, go against what we want and it just sticks. We find ourselves in a rut where we don’t like what we are doing but we act before we can think. Just like in the car, we can’t just slam on the breaks and change directions without losing control. The best thing to do? Switch in to neutral. Do nothing. Give yourself a moment. Once you are safely on the sidelines, reevaluate.
Here are some ideas to get you back on your path.
Take a Deep Breath-
It took longer than a day to develop the parenting habits you do not like. Maybe you don’t even have any dissatisfying habits and you just want to learn to live in the moment. Whatever it is, just start paying attention to what you are doing by switching into neutral and doing nothing. Just observe. Maybe you get angry fast when the kids start whining. Maybe you come home ready to go right onto social media instead of spending quality time together. Start noticing. Now that you are paying attention, you know exactly where you are.
Map Where You Want to Go-
How are you going to get somewhere if you don’t know where you are going? Find that place. Whether you want to write down what your family values, visualize your perfect day, or even get advice from others, do it. Knowing where you want to be is an important first step in getting there. Be as specific as possible, for example, do you want dinner, seated as a family at least four nights a week. Do you want to cut TV back and do a family activity for a half an hour instead every night. Maybe you just want to stop losing your temper. What ever it is, name it.
Take it Slow-
Now that you know where you want to go, don’t just peel out. If you start to strong, you are bound to lose steam fast. You can’t go from no sit down dinners, to dinner together every night, overnight. Give yourself incremental weekly goals. If you can stick to them, good. If not, reevaluate.
Sit Back and Enjoy-
“Life moves pretty fast.
If you don’t stop to look around every once in a while,
you are going to miss it.”
You already put in all the hard work. You have your goals. You have your map. Now you get to sit back and enjoy the process. Sit back and belly laugh with your kids, telling stories at your family dinners. See who inherited your Grandmother’s habit of cheating or who is a sore loser at your family game night. You deserve it!
Observe and Reflect Often-
You are not completely off the hook. Life is not static and the goal keeps moving. You cant keep your eye on the goal if you no longer know where it is. Great thing is, you probably are coasting rather than barreling down the highway at full speed so this should a lot easier.
Also, Don’t Forget to Check Out What Caused You to Go Off Track-
None of the above is going to fix anything in the long run if there is an underlying issue. Are you depressed? Do you need more help around the house? Are you dealing with an illness? Or maybe you are just not taking care of yourself and you need to start. So call a therapist or even a friend, enlist your spouse or children to help out, get a check-up or find other ways to take care of yourself. Here are some ideas.
Have you been parenting on auto pilot? How did you fix it? Did you use any of these tips to get back on track? Let me know in the comments.