Updated: Mar 23
Do you ever notice yourself stuck in a cycle of negative thinking as a parent? “I can’t believe I said that. I hurt my child.” “I failed again.” “I yelled again.” “I’m messing my kid up.” It's easy to get caught up in the trap of self-doubt and criticism, but what if you could flip the script and turn those negative thoughts into forward action? With practice and the right tools, you can transform your inner dialogue into a powerful tool for achieving your parenting goals. Let’s explore some practical strategies for shifting your perspective and harnessing the power of your thoughts. From reframing negative self-talk to actionable steps, we'll cover everything you need to know to start flipping the script and unlocking your full potential. Leave self-doubt behind and step into a brighter, more confident parenting future.
Understanding negative thoughts and their impact on your parenting
Negative thoughts can have a significant impact on your parenting. They can make you feel less confident and less capable, which can affect your ability to make good decisions and be present for your children. Negative thoughts can also lead to stress and anxiety, which can negatively impact your mental and physical health. The first step in flipping the script is to understand the impact that negative thoughts are having on your emotions. You see we have thoughts, that lead to feelings, and then actions. And sometimes, implicit feelings come up first, resulting in more thoughts, and then certain behaviors. Start by noticing when you have negative thoughts and how you feel when the thought arises. Helpless? Defeated? Depressed? Deflated? Anguish? Pain? Grief? Unsupported? Pay attention to the thoughts that tend to come up most often, and try to identify any patterns or triggers that may be causing them. I have found that we often need the help of professionals like coaches to support us in identifying thought patterns. Thought patterns are related to belief systems. “Beliefs” means that we have had the same thought or experience for a very long time creating strong neural pathways in the brain for that thought. Beliefs get stored in the subconscious mind - the mind we are unaware of.
There are some significant challenges associated with limiting beliefs.
Humans have a cognitive bias called the confirmation bias that tries to find evidence to prove our beliefs are real. And this confirmation bias will ignore real and true evidence that goes contrary to our subconscious beliefs. Hence, we really need to use the conscious mind (which is only 5-10% of our mind power while the subconscious is 90-95% of our mind power) wisely. The other cognitive challenge humans come with is something called the negativity bias. This bias is actually meant to support us in staying alive as humans. But this bias gets in the way of our growth when it causes us to focus our attention on what’s going wrong, what’s not 'right enough', and our flaws, mistakes or shortcomings. This is the reason someone could give us 100 compliments, and 1 person gives us an insult or negative critique and our brain ends up paying so much attention to the one negative thing. Understanding these cognitive biases support us in understanding that we are not helpless. We have the capability to overcome the daily challenges we encounter due to these biases, when we engage our conscious mind effectively, deliberately and wisely. Once you have a better understanding of your negative thought patterns, you can start to challenge them and reframe them in a more positive light. This can be a powerful tool for improving your parenting and your overall well-being. And the more we “catch our thoughts” and flip the script, the more this practice becomes a neural pathway/circuit in the brain and becomes a habit. But we have to do it a lot!
Repressing Negative Thoughts Makes them Stronger or Resurface Later
One common mistake that people make when dealing with negative thoughts is to try to repress them or push them away. Unfortunately, this approach can actually make the negative thoughts stronger or cause them to resurface later on.
Instead of trying to push negative thoughts away, try to acknowledge them and accept them for what they are. This can help to diffuse their power and make them feel less overwhelming. Instead of pushing negative thoughts away, we “thought catch” and bring curiosity to the moment and say “Huh, I just had the thought that ________________________________... (name the thought you had)." Once you have acknowledged your negative thoughts, you can start to challenge them and reframe them in a more positive light. This can be a powerful way to turn negative thoughts into forward action in your parenting life. I’ll explain one of the most powerful ways of doing this in just a moment. But first….
The roots of negative thought patterns and belief systems have roots in childhood Negative thought patterns and belief systems often have roots in childhood. The things that we heard, saw and experienced, our tender child-brain picked up. Our core beliefs about ourselves and the world around us are formed by the age of 7. The experiences we have in childhood shape our beliefs and thought patterns for years to come. If you find that negative thoughts are holding you back, it may be helpful to explore where these thoughts are coming from. Think about the messages that you received as a child and how they may be impacting your beliefs and self-talk today. Once you have a better understanding of the roots of your negative thought patterns, you can start to challenge them and reframe them.
Identifying and challenging negative thoughts The first step in flipping the script is to identify and secondly, challenge negative thoughts. This can be a difficult process, but it's an important one if you want to turn negative thoughts into positive forward action in your parenting, instead of staying stuck in the loop of negative beliefs which causes parenting triggers to stick around, resulting in emotional dysregulation, and possibly unsupportive actions. Start by paying attention to your self-talk and noticing when negative thoughts come up. Once you have identified a negative thought, try to challenge it by asking yourself if it's really true. Often, negative thoughts are based on assumptions or beliefs that are not actually grounded in reality. For example, if you find yourself thinking "I'm not good enough to apply for that job," try to challenge that thought by asking yourself if it's really true. Are you really not good enough, or is there some deep rooted childhood experience that is limiting your self-confidence? The beliefs you developed in childhood are not your fault. But it is your responsibility to understand them and shift them to support yourself and your children.
Using Questions to Reframe Negative Thoughts One powerful way to reframe negative thoughts is to use questions. The human brain is built to “rationalize” and “problem solve.” There are several studies that show how powerful questions are for the conscious and subconscious mind. When you ask the human brain a question, the human brain tries to seek an answer. Even if a person doesn’t know the answer right away, it can trigger the subconscious mind to look information in memories or in the environment to seek answers. When information is being filtered through our mind-body system on a daily basis, a special part of our brain called the Recticular Activating System can bring particular information into our awareness that helps us with the answers we seek. It’s very powerful. Perhaps this is where the phrase “It was on the back of my mind” comes from. Asking yourself questions can help you to challenge your negative thoughts and look at them from a different perspective. For example, if you find yourself thinking "I'm a horrible mother" try asking yourself "What is really true about me?" Other questions could be:
"Are there other possibilities?" “What is this thought trying to tell me?” “Where have I had this thought and feeling before?” “What is the root of this thought? Where did it come from?” “What am I supposed to learn from this thought (or this experience/feeling)?” By asking yourself these types of questions, you can start to challenge your negative thoughts and reframe them in a way that supports you.
"No it's not really true that I'm a horrible mother. It is true that I'm having a hard time right now. It is true that my mother called me a horrible child as a kid and this is leading me to say these things about myself. This thought is teaching me to let go of the deep rooted beliefs I have that are not serving my well-being each day."
Using mindfulness and gratitude to flip the script Mindfulness and gratitude can be powerful tools for flipping the script and turning negative thoughts into positive action. Mindfulness involves paying attention to the present moment and being fully engaged with what's happening around you. Obviously, this would mean that mindfulness would support us in noticing our thoughts. We need more presence to notice our thoughts instead of letting life flit by us in a myriad of thoughts and feelings. Gratitude involves focusing on the things that you are thankful for in your life. I could be thankful that a negative thought has come up because it’s trying to teach me something or it’s asking me to shift something. By practicing mindfulness and gratitude, you can start to shift your perspective. Celebrating success and progress It's important to celebrate your successes and progress along the way. This can help to reinforce positive thoughts and motivate you to keep moving forward. And once you start doing this, watch how your parenting transforms! I’ve lived it myself, so retain faith in your own inner power. Take the time to acknowledge your little wins or successes each day, no matter how small they may seem. Celebrate your progress and use it as motivation to keep going. Reflection and self-care Finally, self-care is an important tool for managing stress and anxiety, which can help to reduce negative thinking. Practice self-care by doing things that support you in feeling healthy, peaceful or content, like taking a bath, going for a walk, or going out with friends. We have got to make space for all the areas of well-being in order to flourish as parents. If we are flourishing in our mind-body system as parents, our kids will feel the ripple effect. This in turn gives them the role-models they need to flourish as well. Conclusion Flipping the script and turning negative thoughts into positive forward action is not easy, especially if you have unresolved trauma, but it is possible. By identifying negative thought patterns, challenging them, and reframing them using powerful questions, you can unlock your full potential as an individual and as a parent, and achieve your goals. And remember, you should not have to do this alone. I didn't do any of this alone. I had support. And now, I provide similar support to parents from around the world. Remember to celebrate your successes along the way and practice self-care to manage stress and anxiety. Now is the time to step into a brighter, more confident future.
Sending love and light,
Ashley Anjlien Kumar
The Confidence Coach