Have you ever grumbled under your breath or spoken through clenched teeth about your kids? I know I certainly have and most fathers can probably relate. It was during one of those grumpy dad moments that everything changed regarding my perspective about how I choose to view my children.
I had just completed an epic Saturday with the kids. It was late in the day and we had been going at it since early in the morning. The children were back inside resting and we were all pretty tired from our escapades that day. I was the last man standing and as I walked around the house, I saw toys strewn from one end to the next.
I started picking them up, and by the tenth toy, I started to think to myself: Why am I out here doing this? Where are my children? They should be out here helping me. Isn’t that why I had four kids in the first place, so that I didn’t have to do all this by myself?
I was viewing each of those toys as a burden and feeling the pain in my back as I bent down to pick up each one and looking at all the others I still had to put away. And then I had one of those lightning-bolt moments that radically changed my perspective.
As a man of faith, I believe that God put this thought in my head: Justin, you can look at situations in life as a blessing or a burden. You can view your children the same way.
My perspective immediately shifted, and each one of those toys then became a blessing as they were visual reminders of the epic day I just finished with my children.
Have you ever had an experience like that where you viewed your children, even for a brief moment, as a burden? You just saw mine, so there’s no judgment here.
If so, I want to help you transform your mindset. Possessing a blessing mindset versus a burden mindset is critical because every time we have an interaction with our children, if we’re mindful, we can move the relationship forward and respond in a loving way.
Let’s look at how you can exercise a blessing mindset in various situations. But first, a little science to explain why choosing this mindset over and over is so important.
Our Mindset Shapes Our Brain
The first point worth noting is that a blessing mindset begins to take root the more you exercise it. It’s not like a light switch you flip on and off (thank God for that). Instead, it’s more like a pathway that becomes more well defined the more it’s used.
Think about it like this: we just put a pool in our backyard, and there’s a large area of new sod between our home and the pool. When the sod was first laid, the grass was green and thick. However, after two weeks, I noticed a path in the sod.
The area where the kids ran from the house to the pool had become trampled down and began turning brown. The process in our brains as it relates to the neural pathways that form in our thinking is exactly the same as the sod in my backyard.
Over time, each decision we make adds up to form neural pathways that determine how we respond or react to certain situations, like disciplining our children.
If we continuously choose a blessing mindset, we can form a highway of positive thinking in our minds through the development of neural pathways. We can also go the other direction and form a highway of negative thinking by using a burden mindset.
Let Go of Your Expectations
Like most dads after a long day at work, I can be a little revved up when I walk in the house, which is usually full of kids running around after sitting in school all day.
I’m extremely extroverted, and I’m speaking to people and surrounded by people all day. When I get home, part of how I like to recharge is by spending time with my wife, Heather, and my kids one-on-one. However, this rarely happens.
I get attacked the moment I walk in the door and it’s “Dad, can you come play football?” “Dad, come jump on the trampoline!” “Dad, help me with my homework!”
It’s in that moment I have a decision to make: am I going to treat their request as a blessing or a burden? One thing that’s helped me immensely is letting go of my expectations for what I want to happen the moment I walk in the door.
By letting go of my expectations I now have the freedom to respond to whatever the dynamic is when I walk in the door rather than react to what I thought it should be.
How Do You Tend to React?
As you saw earlier, how I responded to toys being left all over the yard stemmed from my reaction to the environment. It’s human nature to react rather than respond, so it’s also critical to understand your personality style and how you react.
From my experience, there are two personality types, exploders and imploders. I tend to be an exploder. I have a really high intensity, high personal velocity. People with this personality style tend to have triggers that set them off and cause them to react.
I’ve found an exploder can benefit from a form of recognition when they get triggered, so I wear two orange rubber bracelets on my right wrist. One is from a group called Focus 3, and it states E + R = O, which means we can’t control the events that happen in our lives, but we can control our response, which determines the outcome.
A lot of times I’ll pull the bands and snap them against my wrist as my key to be mindful of my reaction. It reminds me, Calm down, think about this before you engage.
On the flip side of the exploder is the imploder. This type of personality tends to be more introverted, holds their emotions inside when they get mad, and has a more passive-aggressive type of behavior. This personality type requires similar self-awareness, but it tends to be more of a process than an impulse like the exploder.
The introvert needs to say, “I’m starting to smolder here. I’m holding this internally. I’m building bitterness and resentment toward my children or toward the situation. I’ve got to be able to express this in a positive way because if I hold it in, that’s not healthy.”
We All React Poorly Sometimes
Regardless of your personality type, it goes back creating positive neural pathways. Every time you engage with a blessing mindset, you create a pathway in your brain that says, “This is how I’m supposed to react” and it becomes more and more ingrained. It becomes easier to react that way because you’ve trained yourself to do it.
But if you do react poorly out a of burden mindset, which we all do from time to time, the biggest thing is to have mindfulness to see your mistake and apologize. Had my kids been outside as I was picking up their toys that day, I might have snapped at them.
If I had, I’d have pulled them aside and said, “Hey, I overreacted here. That’s not the way that Daddy should have responded. I wish I would have responded differently. Can you forgive me?” It’s having the awareness to come back and admit your mistake. Showing your deficiency in front of your kids is an incredible gift in and of itself.
Blessing or burden, the choice is up to you.
For more advice on adopting the right mindset when it comes to your children, you can find Daddy Saturday on Amazon.