Practices of Mothering

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The Practice of Self Talk

I full on, out loud, talk to myself.  Sometimes.  Not, conversations, exactly, but a narration and explanation of my actions.

“I am going to wash the dishes so we have clean dishes at lunch time.”

“I feel angry right now so I am going to pray for guidance.”

“I am going upstairs to study so I can focus.”

This practice accomplishes several things.

For starters, it more effectively demonstrates the behaviors I am teaching my children.  When my daughter is angry, I want her to take a few deep breaths and do something that centers her.  When I’ve been narrating my own emotional ups and downs, she starts to follow suit in her own toddler way.  “I feel angry so I stomp my foot!”  Stomping is not the end goal I have in mind for her, but she’s using her words, she’s communicating with me, she’s not hurting anyone, and she’s demonstrating her attempts to find a solution (which for her, at the moment, was expressing her anger).  As she grows, I can already see her moving away from the tantrum type expressions to more constructive ones.  She’s breathing and planning a sentence before she says it.  She’s making choices that are mature far beyond her young years.  And she’s doing that because not only do I walk her through decision making processes when she needs help, but she hears me walk through those processes too.

It also helps me feel sane.  Odd, that talking to myself lends me a feeling of sanity, but I feel less disorganized.  Less disconnected to the routine and strategy of my day.  I can focus better when I’ve stated my goal, whether it’s for the next ten minutes or the next hour.  Plus, I get to try out some two and three syllable words to see if I still remember them (and see if my toddler is listening – if she is, she’ll ask me what they mean).

Verbalizing my emotional state also gives my daughter a chance to practice her forgiveness.  A chance to practice comforting me, or offering help.  My daughter loves to ride in on a white horse to save Mommy.  I am a very upbeat person.  I stay positive and can’t imagine a glass half empty. So when I do voice feeling confused or hurt, my daughter sees these emotions as unique and unusual.  They stand out, and she watches closely for her opportunity to offer me support.

But under all the superficial reasons and simple reasons, speaking my self talk aloud keeps me accountable.  We all think to ourselves.  We judge, we praise, we criticize and we condemn, we congratulate.  And unfortunately, it’s easy to be harsh with ourselves.  I do it way too often.  But when I’m voicing my little comments to myself out loud, I notice the tone.  I notice how often I’m lifting myself up or tearing myself down.  And I examine whether or not my thoughts are the kinds of things I want my daughters to think to themselves.  If I’m modeling a future I want for them.

I’ll never be perfect.  I’ll never be sweetly chirping the right comments all the time.  But this practice gives me pause about the things I say to myself and the way I handle my day.  And that benefits my family so greatly.

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9 Comments

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9 responses to “Practices of Mothering

  1. Yes! I love this! I talk about a similar idea here in a post called “Seen and Heard”. http://emilyelizabethstone.com/2011/07/24/seen-and-heard/
    I was so excited to see some of these thoughts. I so value how you are parenting your daughter.

  2. As a person who grew up in a home where only happy feelings were expressed, and angry ones acted out, it’s assuring to ready your blog. I’m a counselor now and I really believe God gaves us feelings for a reason, but we need to find healthy ways to emote them. Thank you for this post.

    • Wow, thank you! I believe we have feelings for a reason too. I cannot imagine all the work that went in to creating the hormones and physiological processes that are the foundation of our emotions was for nothing. Was an accident. Like God didn’t notice that feelings would be the result. I think it’s much more likely that we are meant to notice our emotions, respond to them, use them, and learn from them. And I sure hope I’m teaching my kids healthy ways of doing all that!

  3. Bang on – I do the same thing. Loved this —> “But under all the superficial reasons and simple reasons, speaking my self talk aloud keeps me accountable. We all think to ourselves. “

  4. Very cool. I need to start practicing this. Before my baby was born I spent the good part of my last 6 years alone (I was a student, and then a researcher, so I spent my hours studying, writing, and researching), so I got used to being silent. Since my little one can’t talk yet, I find myself reverting back to my old silent ways, even when she’s with me, which I know isn’t benefiting her. I’ll have to start practicing this intentionally, for all the reasons you discuss. Thanks for this post!

    • I know all too well the silence of study. The memories of quiet time in the lab bring me great comfort as my toddler runs shrieking from one room to the next. The seasons of life are beautiful aren’t they?

  5. I unfortunately talk to myself more than I’d like to admit…at work even…thanks for celebrating it!

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