Saturday, October 16, 2010

Negative thoughts - Byron Katie/ Welcome to Holland

Parenting any child has its challenges. But we, as parents tend to make matters worse.

We have expectations of our children to be better than the average and when they don't perform or misbehave we struggle to accept who they are. Our minds get filled with negative thoughts and we say to ourselves – he should not hit his brother , he should be respectful towards me , he should do his homework , he should ….. , he should not ……

Byron Katie
says that we should not try to fight reality. We should accept reality. This has a liberating effect on us and frees us from all the negative thoughts that are getting in our way. This then opens up the possibility for us to deal with problems and engage people in a happy, positive and creative way.

But what if your child has special needs, has a list of labels after his name and your marriage and family life is stressed out because of your child , what then? . His siblings are angry at him and you because you need to give their brother extra attention and don't treat them the same. You can no longer go out and enjoy yourselves as a family. You and your son are continually being judged by outsiders and you are continually getting advice that you are not consistent and firm enough with him. Your husband thinks you are too soft and that your kid is manipulating you. Everyday getting your kid to school is battle and you spend your day at work waiting for a call from his teacher to come and take him home, because he is out of control etc etc , what then ?

The situation is a tough one, but why make it tougher by letting so many negative thoughts get to us.

I think it is important to first say a word about diagnoses. For many parents a diagnosis maybe comforting , that they are not to blame and they have a reason for their child's difficulties. But very soon they discover that dx's don't tell us much and all we have done is labeled and pathologized the child. We are now in a fixed mindset and stuck with the label. Instead of having a child with difficulties, we now have a difficult child. It is much better to get an understanding of the child's lacking skills and work on them by tackling unsolved problems in a collaborative way. We are now have a growth mindset , we are work-in-progress and change becomes a real possibility.

Imho the way to go is (a) - deal with the negative thoughts by ' doing the work' , -

(b) - Try to see and enjoy the positive moments of parenting a challenging kid.

(C) Avoid thinking about you as an object , or focus on the self , instead see yourself as a process or work-in-progress, focus on living

(a) - deal with the negative thoughts by ' doing the work' , -

answering the 4 questions and then turn it around. When we deal with negative thoughts we become free and self determined enabling us to feel that we can direct our lives and experience autonomy.

Inquiry: The Four Questions and Turnaround

1. Is it true?

2. Can you absolutely know that it is true?

3. How do you react, what happens, when you believe that thought?

4. Who would you be without the thought?


Turn it around, then find at least three genuine, specific examples of how the turnaround is true in your life.

Here is a link to a summary of Katie Byron's ' the work '

here is a mp3 15 min audio of Katie Byron doing the work with a dad who is angry with God because he has a special needs kid.

I heard the following ' turn around 'from a single mom of 2 challenging kids – Instead of I feeling angry with God , I feel honored by God in that he has chosen me to raise these special children.

This reminds me of the mom who was told by her priest that God gives people only those challenges that they can handle. She replied – I wish that God would not have such a high opinion of me.

My take is that God gives challenges that communities or if necessary the global village can handle. There is an African saying – that it takes a whole village to raise a single child, how much more so when raising a challenging kid. Parents need a supportive community, or at least a cyber community. This provides ' relatedness ' , another important psychological need which will help us cope better.

(b) Try to see and enjoy the positive moments of parenting a challenging kid.

Here is a inspirational essay called ' Welcome to Holland ' , also a you tube version

(C) Avoid thinking about you as an object , or focus on the self , instead see yourself as a process or work-in-progress, focus on living. When a poor person has a plan to get rich and is living his plan , he feels rich already. The same goes with parenting. If we are using Collaborative problem solving and got support , we cope so much better and we give our kids the support they need. We have hope because we are on our journey . Even if there are bumps in the road , we are at least moving in the right direction. The process also involves finding the time or even moments to nurture ourselves and enjoy .

It is not easy , - education is a process.



  1. Thank you for this post, Allan. I truly needed to read something like this today as I have a potentially difficult meeting with parents coming up. This puts another spin on what's going on and will help me prepare mentally for this meeting.

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