Amy McCready in her book, If I Have to Tell You One More Time…The Revolutionary Program That Gets Your Kids To Listen Without Nagging, Reminding, or Yelling, describes three ego states of personality, the mind-set behind our communication and our interactions with those around us.
The three mind-sets she refers to are: Parent Ego State, Adult Ego State, and Child Ego State. In parenting children, it is useful to recognize these different ego states in helping us understand and interpret our interactions with our children and how they readily affect behavior – ours and theirs.
As parents, we often find ourselves spending much time in the Parent Ego state. We are concerned with making sure our children are safe, healthy and well-behaved. In order to stay on top of things, we might feel we need to remain in our Parent Ego state where the communication mode is one of ordering, directing and correcting. But most of us do not respond well personally to continual hovering and direction and our children are the same. So they often react negatively and power struggles ensue.
The most rational of the ego states is the second, the Adult Ego state. This is the one we often are in when we are at work and with other adults, friends, new acquaintances. It displays a conscious effort to be respectful, polite, considerate and calm. Even children will operate in this state when they are away from us in preschool, organized programs or having a play date, and we are often surprised to hear the adult in charge remark how wonderfully mature and cooperative our child is.
And then there is the Child Ego state. Here we experience fun, laughter and the pure joy of playing and being in the moment. Except when it’s the other side of this mindset – the side we may all have experienced – the temper tantrums, the melt-downs and the explosion of emotions – both theirs and ours. Children spend the majority of their time in this child ego state – hopefully mostly the brighter, positive side.
It’s a delicate balance juggling these three different mind sets as we go through the day. But what is essential to understand?
Amy McCready recommends parents spend no more than 30% of their time in the Parent state. So how does that happen?
Be very aware of the words coming out of your mouths. Do you really have to order, remind, correct, direct as much as you do? Can you think first “how would I say this request to a co-worker, a neighbor, a friend, a spouse?” What tone of voice do I use? Am I demanding and critical or am I able to speak calmly and effectively and invite cooperation? Can I spend more time in this Adult state even when I am busy parenting my children?
And can I definitely spend more time in the Child state -(the happy side) – being present, being playful, being imaginative, open and positive – connecting?
Try making a simple tally list where you can easily keep track of your comments and interactions over the course of a few days. You’ll quickly be able to recognize your major mode of communication. This awareness will help you recognize where you need to spend more time.
And in doing so you may begin to see a change in your child’s behavior and response as well as your own. There’s nothing like a parenting check-in and tune-up to help put the zest back in our everyday routine.
And this new state of mind – it feels so good!
If you would like to have more input on determining how you can improve interactions with your child, give me a call at The Parenting Place, 784-8125 and we can sit down and find some ways.