Doubling Down: A new diet for keeping your parenting figure in shape.

11/15/2010 By Shawn Burns

I don’t ever want to hear a recording of what I say during the day when I’m home with the kids. I don’t want to know how many times I say the following:

“No.”

“No, that’s not yours.”

“Get out of the cat food.”

“Leave your brother alone.”

“Stop pulling her hair.”

“Hey! Put that back!”

“Sit down.”

“Too loud.”

I would hope they are outnumbered by me saying “I love you”, “That was great”, “You did it!”, “Let’s try something new”, and “We’re having so much fun!” But I’m not optimistic.

How about you?

I think I need a little more self-awareness. I don’t want to tape record myself (because what the hell is a tape recorder? I live in the future, where flying cars are just around the corner), but I think I do want to notice if I’m having a generally negative interaction day or a generally positive interaction day. This is especially important to me for those days I’m home with the kids. Can I become a little more self-aware?

I’m not stupid enough to think I can stop myself from saying negative things. (Actually, I’m not stupid enough to think that saying negative things is a bad thing. I think saying “no” is perfectly acceptable and correct in many situations and there’s nothing wrong with raising kids with boundaries created through “no”. ) But I get worn out on days that I have to be the warden, when my interactions are overwhelmingly boundary-setting. I need a trick, a discipline, a psychological diet. 

Diets are rules that help you modify short-term behaviour through decisions about immediate problems (what am I going to eat right now?) for the purpose of achieving a long-term goal (improving health, losing weight, changing athletic ability, etc…). I need a mind diet. I want to end up a different way than grumpy, tired, and hurt because I’ve been setting limits all day. My short term behaviour is a little negative, resulting from decisions about immediate problems that require me to set limits. If I keep on like this with no change I will burn out and my mind will sit on the couch all day watching the Kardashians being yelled at for bringing raw scallops up to the pass on Hell’s Kitchen. I need to keep my parenting figure in shape.

I’m calling my mental diet Doubling Down. I can’t cut out the negativity entirely (though maybe I can reduce it), but I can counteract its effects on my mind and my relationships by following up with two positive interactions. What if I try to say two positive things for every negative thing I say to the kids? Like, when I have to say “No, that’s not yours”, I could follow it up with “I have this for you! It’s going to be so much fun.”

I think I’ll be able to keep this up for about two days. Just like most other diets.

But it’s a nice idea, isn’t it?