Guiding Questions for 2015

Guiding Questions for 2015

On New Year's Eve at dinner, I shared that my resolution is to keep investigating what's going on when I feel uncomfortable in my skin as a parent.

Maybe you thought because I'm a Parent Effectiveness Training instructor, I'd be past that stage?

Oh, no, no, no.

Some people say to get really good at something takes 10,000 hours. When it comes to parenting, I buy that. And it's not just punching in at a mindless job! We're talking some of the hardest stuff on earth -- when our emotions are high and our children appear more like the enemy than cherished beings.

Patiently working to Modify Self (as we discuss in the P.E.T. course) will help me to realize my truest, highest nature: forgiving, flexible, centered and benevolent. 

And changing how I think, and thus feel, can lower my Line of Acceptance and make our family's already bigger No Problem zone even more expansive. 

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On this continuing journey, I place trust in the following queries to guide me.

i wonder what my next thought is going to be?

Andy Puddicombe's Headspace app keeps me on track -- I love the daily breaks of dropping into my body, breathing and noticing my thoughts if and as they arise. Here's his TED talk. 

Andy Puddicombe's Headspace app keeps me on track -- I love the daily breaks of dropping into my body, breathing and noticing my thoughts if and as they arise. Here's his TED talk

I've already started to ask myself, several times a day, this question from Eckhart Tolle's book The Power of Now

In so doing, I step into the role of observer and loosen my identification with the evaluations, perceptions and story lines my mind is so good at creating.

Pausing this way and accepting what is without judgment is the mindfulness I need to strengthen my brain's prefrontal cortex, the part that helps with empathy and reasoning.

I end up with more space to choose responses that are in line with the type of mother I want my kids to remember.

what really matters?

“To be kind, you must swerve regularly from your path.” 

I have meditation teacher Tara Brach to thank for this quote (for links, see below). 

I wish I had known and lived this earlier. I see now that my relationships with my 2 teens + 1 tween can’t help but be informed by all those times I was inflexible and blameful when they interrupted my “plan.”

I resolve to accommodate others more regularly, knowing that doing so actually keeps me on the course that's right for our family:

  • When I want to listen to the news, but my child asks me a question, turn down the volume and answer.
  • When my daughter breaks a snow globe just as I am about to have a rest, put down my mug of hot tea to help.
  • When my sons say they want to put off a sibling conflict Problem-Solve until the next day, accept.
  • When Claudia forgets her contact lense solution and I decide to spend 30 minutes buying some, embrace the act of generosity and hand the bottle over without resentment or a mini-lecture.

The answer to what really matters has nothing to do with my checklist but everything to do with making my kids -- with all their needs and imperfections -- feel welcome in my life.

Rachel Macy Stafford's blog gives many examples of finding opportunities where before she saw only interruptions; she so reminds me of my (earlier) self.

Rachel Macy Stafford's blog gives many examples of finding opportunities where before she saw only interruptions; she so reminds me of my (earlier) self.

If I couldn't stay in this story of how the other person is wrong, what would I have to feel?

When I fixate on what's wrong with my child or what could happen if I let him go down "that" road (my negativity bias in overdrive), I really want to

S --- l -- O -- w -- D -- o -- W -- n

and use this Tara-gem-of-a-question.

It almost certainly will be painful.

As Tara explains, our defenses -- judging, grasping, needing things to be different, withdrawing or avoiding -- are often armor we need to protect some real rawness underneath

So when I feel like making a snide comment to my son over watching another Friends episode instead of studying, pausing might bring up this: 

I am afraid for him and also terrified that the chilly distance I've been feeling lately between us means I am a "bad" mother. 

Ouch. Really, it's so much easier just to blame.

But each time we name a particular strategy of judging or pushing away, there is less identification with it. And the more we recognize with honesty what is going on, the closer we come to attaining something pretty big:

Where does it come from — this capacity to continue to love someone who has chosen to be different from you? How can we better foster this deep attitude of acceptance? Others disagree, but I firmly believe this is the principal attitude people must learn if we are to build a society that is truly democratic. Not only will it provide freedom for others, but it will bring freedom to self, as this parent experienced: ‘It frees you from judgment, and when you’re freed from judgment you’re quite a bit freer than you can imagine. P.E.T. helps parents get a new perspective on how to look at the world.’
— Dr. Thomas Gordon, P.E.T. in Action: How Parent Training Dramatically Improves Family Functioning, page 263.

So Modifying Self requires looking behind our defensive masks, or delving beneath the tip of the Anger Iceberg:

But once we've exposed that sore place, what next?

Gently pour on the self-compassion.

Tenderly bring on the self-forgiveness.

Once we see ourselves as vulnerable, in pain and just trying the best we can, why not offer kindness inwards? 

This self-acceptance then frees us to see past the mask of others and spot the goodness that's there. Our children's frailty and needs come into focus. 

Then, we can really SEE them, KNOW them. And we are able -- more often than not -- to choose ways of interacting that compassionately connect with each of them.

May 2015 bring us further along on this most worthy endeavor.



What are your aspirations for the New Year? Do you have a mantra, phrase or inquiry that you like to fall back on in the hard moments? Please do share below!


When you have time, consider listening to Tara Brach’s talks Removing the Barriers to Love (12/3/14) and Embodying Loving Presence (12/24/14). They heavily inform this post and help with the self-work that makes our job of parenting easier and more joyful.

Itching for some more resolutions? Dr. Laura Markham's advice is so P.E.T. Here's her 5 Resolutions That Will Make You a Better Parent This Year.

Credits: Sunlit path (; (Andy Puddicombe (; Handsfree Mama page (