Editor’s Note: Ask JLove, is a recurring series by Jlove, a parent guide and co-founder of Mercury Coach. Please comment below this article to have your questions answered by JLove.
Welcome to Ask Jlove, where I will share the key things essential to you and your child’s mental and emotional well-being, especially those not being talked about in the books. Every month, I will answer questions from the community, so please go ahead and ask in the comments section below.
In this first article, I will share three key things that lead to amazing outcomes for you and your kids.
If you get these right, it will not only completely transform your life, it will make a game-changing difference in your kids’ lives.
It’s deceptively simple:
- Love your life.
- Understand the needs for psychological well-being.
- Master your mind.
Let’s dive in.
LOVE YOUR LIFE
“The greatest burden a child must bear is the unlived life of its parents.” –Carl Jung.
You’ve probably already heard that kids learn more from watching YOU than anything you will ever tell them or try to teach them.
Kids learn experientially through all of their senses, absorbing every aspect of their environment. At every stage of development, kids learn how to do life by watching those around them, especially you.
In fact, in the earliest years of life, your child CAN NOT distinguish between you and itself. If you want your kids to feel empowered, confident, free, and happy, the fastest and easiest way is to experience it through how you live it.
When a parent is unhappy or sacrificing their fundamental well-being out of ‘duty’ or fear, children learn those patterns automatically, and they feel it, even when parents put on their game face. Worse, parents can end up pushing their children, sometimes without realizing it, to make choices truer to the parent’s unfulfilled desires than to the child’s, which is the exact opposite of empowering.
So, what does it mean to ‘love your life?’ As a quick check, ask yourself;
- Do I regularly choose my own needs and preferences over those of others?
- Do I pursue my dreams and desires?
- Do I have fun with my partner and kids?
- Do I love how I spend my time?
If you struggled to answer ‘yes’ to any or all of these questions, you are not alone. In future articles, I will discuss how to turn it around.
Understand your and your child’s psychological needs.
“A life of Optimal Happiness is one where you have the freedom to do what you love and love what you do.” –Richard Ryan
Over the past 60 years, thousands of researchers have been studying the psychological well-being, motivation, and outcomes of countless people across cultures, religions, age groups, and contexts ranging from academics, work performance, athletic performance, and long-term relationships, always with consistent results.
The study is called Self Determination Theory, and it comes down to the ability to make your own choices and control your own life. It is broken down into three fundamental needs: connection, autonomy, and mastery.
What’s important to understand is that ALL of these needs are essential. When we sacrifice one to get the other, it tends to create poor outcomes, even anxiety, and depression. Unfortunately, many parenting and social norms actively undermine many of these needs, and children are frequently forced to sacrifice one need to get the other. Here we go:
- Connection (‘relatedness’ in SDT lingo): We need people. We need to love and feel loved.
When we get this adequately as children, it becomes a part of us, and our connection to ourselves can sustain us through the ups and downs of relationship dynamics. Suppose we don’t get this securely as children. In that case, it can affect us for the rest of our lives as we look for ways to feel that connection at the sacrifice of what’s good for us, or it can give us an outsized fear of loss in relationships leading to reactive or even destructive behaviors.
- Autonomy. Autonomy is the experience of being the cause of the outcomes in our own lives (versus being at the effect of others). It means we are the author of our own stories.
This is the one I see parents struggle with most. And it’s because it’s the most undermined need in our current culture. Autonomy gives us agency, independence, and freedom. What it looks like in action changes at different stages of development. For example, in a toddler, it looks like NOT sharing toys, going for the biggest cookie. As parents, we need to understand what autonomy means and how to parent differently than our parents or peers might expect.
- Mastery. This is the experience of getting better at something and being really good at something we worked hard to learn.
Sometimes, the process is uncomfortable. Every time we rescue our kids from something painful or save them from struggle, we send them a message that they are incapable and rob them of the opportunity to build mastery in themselves. This is also why we tend to be happier when learning something new or making progress as we work toward a goal.
Master your mind
Our life is shaped by our mind; we become what we think. -The Buddha (from the Dhammapada)
Why is it we know what is good for us, but we still don’t do it? Why do we know what a good habit looks like but still don’t practice it? From sugar to exercise to addiction to money, what we know and what we do are NOT the same.
The answer is NOT to meditate, deep breathe, or talk about our problems. These are all practices of awareness and consciousness, which have their place.
But when we talk about emotions, reactions, and the majority of our behavior, we need to understand the SUBCONSCIOUS mind.
It’s estimated that only 5 -25% of what we do is conscious. That means upwards of 95% of EVERYTHING we do is driven by the subconscious mind. So while the job of the conscious mind is to analyze, evaluate and choose, the job of the ‘subconscious’ mind is to go and get it.
As a parent, you should also be aware that a child’s ‘conscious’ mind is largely nonexistent until around 7. That means that everything children see, hear, feel, and experience goes straight into the unconscious mind unfiltered. During this time, you learned how to do the emotional and behavioral patterns the adults around you were doing. That doesn’t mean you do them now, but you do know HOW to.
What this means is that your child is learning from their environment. They are learning HOW to do life. And the more confidence, joy, and love you bring, the more they learn how to do THAT.
In other words, creating a positive vibe in your home and investing in your own well-being may be the greatest gift you could give your child.
Get these 3 things right to empower your kids for life, Ask JLoveJlove is a parent guide and co-founder of Mercury Coach. Using alternative therapy, education, and coaching, she helps parents restore their time and energy, reconnect with their kids and partner, and get parenting superpowers no one else is teaching.