Thoughtful Parenting: Let go of negative self-talk

Lindsey Garey For Steamboat Today
Thoughtful parenting youth
Courtesy Photo

I was trying to snap a cute picture of my daughter playing when I realized my iPhone storage was full. It was finally time to digitally clean up. Sitting down to get rid of unnecessary photos, I pulled up hundreds of moving memories and poignant images.

I’ve been drawn in many directions lately. Both of my daughters started school this fall and I returned to working full time. Like other working parents, I hadn’t traded one job for another. I was still driving my girls to appointments, helping them get ready for activities, teaching them daily living skills and tending to their emotions.

At times, I felt I wasn’t spending enough time with my kids. Thoughts of being a terrible mom even crept in. I’m busy, multitasking and wondering: How could I be anything but?

But when I glanced through all my pictures and videos of my singing to Lily, making playdough letters with Nora and awkwardly dancing to “Let It Go,” a different depiction emerged. The impeding self-talk and negative self-portraits that had begun to creep in were cracking to pieces with every smile that beamed and every laugh that gushed — all real and captured on my camera.

Not everyone experiences self-criticism or doubt, but in my work and personal life I notice it isn’t uncommon. Guilty feelings (stemming from fear, control or perfectionism) seem to be universal among parents — a contemporary parental norm.

Parenting classes, books, and articles are filled with beneficial information but sometimes leave us feeling anxious. We worry if our kids are using too much technology, our job choices or work schedules will harm them, we’re feeding them nutritious food, we’re intellectually stimulating and emotionally showering them. Are we saying, doing and modeling everything we can to help our kids grow up to be happy and successful?

As important as it is to do our best, it’s also important to take a step back, reclaim our worth, and stop apologizing. Embrace the plausible truth about our parenting: We’re good at it.

We love our kids unconditionally. We take our kids to parks and pools, play backyard soccer, push them in swings and read to them. We sing “Let It Go” at the top of our lungs while disastrously dancing, just to make them giggle. We kiss and hug them before bed, “I love you to the moon and back, don’t ever forget that.”

Accepting that we’re good parents might not be easy. But even if we haven’t unlocked the secret to raising perfect children, can we appreciate what we have and see in front of us?

Recognize and challenge negative self-talk with four types of questions.
Reality testing
• What’s the evidence for and against my thinking?
• Are my thoughts factual or interpretive?
• Am I jumping to conclusions?
• How can I find out if my thoughts are true?
Alternative explanations
• Are there other ways I can look at this situation?
• What else could this mean?
• If I were being positive, how would I interpret this situation?
• Is this situation as bad as I’m making it out to be?
• What’s good about this situation?
• What are the worst and best things that could happen?
• What’s most likely to happen?
• Will this matter in a few years?
Goal-directed thinking
• Is thinking this way helping me feel good or achieve goals?
• What can I do to solve the problem?
• What can I learn from this situation so I do it better next time?

Lindsey Garey is the Early Intervention Coordinator at Horizons Specialized Services. She also teaches Let’s Play Music, a three-year comprehensive music program for children beginning at age 4 to 6. Visit for more information.

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