Embracing your Chaos and Mess

Embracing your Chaos and Mess

A messy life is a full life. If your kitchen is in a mess, that means you live out of it – and that means good fuel for your growing family. You don’t order fake out (yes that’s right, my phone autocorrected ‘take’ out to ‘fake’ out – even iPhone knows!) each night, and you sometimes even grill vegetables and pan fry chicken. It makes a mess. That mess is a byproduct of healthy bodies. You feed your family well. And the science behind that is clearly beneficial. Go you.

Maybe your mess is more internal. It has more to do with that ‘not good enough’ disorganized feeling you have when you see other moms or dads ‘do it all’. You wonder how on earth superwoman over there is so ridiculously super human.

Sometimes, you even find yourself going to bed with a disappointing feeling that something is missing. Thoughts creep in like, ‘I/m not enough for my child even though I am a stay at home mom. I feel so helpless and inadequate.’ You are not alone. So many of us out there have the same thoughts. Here are three ways to tackle those not-good-enough feelings that don’t deserve the time you give them:

1.  Choose to be grateful for the reason behind your chaos and mess.

When you invest all your time and energy into being present with your family, sometimes (read: many of the times) it can be a challenge to do the behind the scenes work. No one on the outside is punishing you for that – only you are punishing you. Choose gratitude for a house littered with toys, because the children have toys to play with at all. Choose gratitude for a long list of chores and admin that you have, because without your sweet family, that list would be so much shorter – although life would be simpler, it would be a lot more dull too. Choose gratitude for your partner – the same one who might nag you, forget things promised to you, and who might not always communicate that well with you. There is something about your partner that is a silver lining because without them, you would struggle even more. Maybe the trash gets taken out without you asking, or the bills get paid on time. Maybe it’s just that they provide an income for the family. Or maybe there’s a bunch of things that get done without you even realizing it. Whatever it is, choosing to be grateful for 3 things a day in your crazy beautiful life, will help you find your silver lining and stop your inner voice from telling you you’re no good.

2.  Do one thing at a time.

Slow down. Breathe. Gain perspective. Leave your phone in the other room when you are with your kids. Schedule your time in your calendar and really be present when you are needed. Be a listener when your family need you to listen. Be a real and genuine parent when you have parent teacher evenings – no one is perfect. And be a encourager when your partner has had a rough day. How do you do all this? By doing one thing at a time. Dr Caroline Leaf, a well known cognitive neuroscientist explains it like this, “…the truth is that it is actually impossible to multitask – we don’t do multiple things at once; we actually shift between different tasks quickly. If we do this well then we are doing busy well. But, if we are doing busy badly, we are doing what I call milkshake multitaskingWe cause literal neurochemical chaos in our brain, which, in turn, causes literal brain damage.”

3.  Create a to do list and a completed list.

This will help you to see what you have accomplished in your day. I have days when all that is on my completed list is doing the laundry. Before I had a to do list and a completed list, I used to feel inadequate and helpless. Now I give myself a high five on those days when all I accomplish is one thing! Maybe for you it’s just getting out of bed. Put that one thing on your ‘completed’ list and watch it grow along with your confidence. No more guilt trips from your inner voice. No more bad feelings.

All of us have those feelings of inadequacy from time to time. Don’t let them creep in unnoticed! Don’t let them grow by giving them energy and focusing on them. Try these three ways to gain confidence and confidently take charge of your family life again. The best part is knowing that your children are watching too, and they too will learn how to gain confidence and take charge just by watching you. 


About the Author: Carla Buck

Carla Buck, M.A., is a writer, therapist and global traveler having traveled to more than 80 countries worldwide. She has experience working with children and parents all over the world, having lived, worked and volunteered in Africa, North America, Europe and the Middle East. Carla is the creator of Warrior Brain, helping empower parents and care-givers with simple and practical ways to confidently raise secure and calm children.

You can visit her website and learn more at www.warriorbrain.com or join the Warrior Brain Parenting community on Facebook.

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Behaviour is never from ‘bad’. It’s from ‘big’. Big hungry, big tired, big disconnection, big missing, big ‘too much right now’. The reason our responses might not work can often be because we’ve misread the story, or we’ve missed an important piece of it. Their story might be about now, today, yesterday, or any of the yesterdays before now. 

Our job isn’t to fix them. They aren’t broken. Our job is to understand them. Only then can we steer our response in the right direction. Otherwise we’re throwing darts at the wrong target - behaviour, instead of the need behind the behaviour. 

Watch, listen, breathe and be with. Feel what they feel. This will help them feel you with them. We all feel safer and calmer when we feel our people beside us - not judging or hurrying or questioning. What don’t you know, that they need you to know?♥️
We all have first up needs. The difference between adults and children is that we can delay the meeting of these needs for a bit longer than children - but we still need them met. 

The first most important question the brain needs answered is, ‘Is my body safe?’ - Am I free from threat, hunger, exhaustion, pain? This is usually an easier one to take care of or to recognise when it might need some attention. 

The next most important question is, ‘Is my heart safe?’ - Am I loved, noticed, valued, claimed, wanted, welcome? This can be an easy one to overlook, especially in the chaos of the morning. Of course we love them and want them - and sometimes we’ll get distracted, annoyed, frustrated, irritated. None of this changes how much we love and want them - not even for a second. We can feel two things at once - madly in love with them and annoyed/ distracted/ frustrated. Sometimes though, this can leave their ‘Is my heart safe?’ needs a little hungry. They have less capacity than us to delay the meeting of these needs. When these needs are hungry, we’ll be more likely to see big feelings or big behaviour. 

The more you can fill their love tanks at the start of the day, the more they’ll be able to handle the bumps. This doesn’t have to be big. It just has to be enough. It might look like having a cuddle, reading a story, having a chat, sitting with them while they have breakfast or while they pat the dog, touching their back when they walk past, telling them you love them.

All brains need to feel loved and wanted, and as though they aren’t a nuisance, but sometimes they’ll need to feel it more. The more their felt sense of relational safety is met, the more they’ll be able to then focus on ‘thinking brain’ things, such as planning, making good decisions, co-operating, behaving. 

(And if this today was a bumpy one, that’s okay. Those days are going to happen. If most of the time their love tanks are full, they’ll handle when it drops a little. Just top it up when you can. And don’t forget to top yours up too. Be kind to yourself. You deserve it as much as they do.)♥️
Things will always go wrong - a bad decision, a good decision with a bad outcome, a dilemma, wanting something that comes with risk. 

Often, the ‘right thing’ lives somewhere in the very blurry bounds of the grey. Sometimes it will be about what’s right for them. Sometimes what’s right for others. Sometimes it will be about taking a risk, and sometimes the ‘right’ thing just feels wrong right now, or wrong for them. Even as adults, we will often get things wrong. This isn’t because we’re bad, or because we don’t know the right thing from the wrong thing, but because few things are black and white. 

The problem with punishment and harsh consequences is that we remove ourselves as an option for them to turn to next time things end messy, or as a guide before the mess happens. 

Feeling safe in our important relationships is a primary need for all of us humans. That means making sure our relationships are free from judgement, humiliation, shame, separation. If our response to their ‘wrong things’ is to bring all of these things to the table we share with them with them, of course they’ll do anything to avoid it. This isn’t about lying or secrecy. It’s about maintaining relational ‘safety’, or closeness.

Kids want to do the right thing. They want us to love and accept them. But they’re going to get things wrong sometimes. When they do, our response will teach them either that we are safe for them to come to no matter what, or that we aren’t. 

So what do we do when things go wrong? Embrace them, reject the behaviour:

‘I love that you’ve been honest with me. That means everything to me. I know you didn’t expect things to end up like this, but here we are. Let’s talk about what’s happened and what can be different next time.’

Or, ‘Something must have made this (wrong thing) feel like the right thing to do, otherwise you wouldn’t have done it. We all do that sometimes. What do you think it was that was for you?’

Or, ‘I know you know lying isn’t okay. What made you feel like you couldn’t tell me the truth? How can we build the trust again. Let’s talk about how to do that.’

You will always be their greatest guide, but you can only be that if they let you.♥️
Whenever there is a call to courage, there will be anxiety - every time. That’s what makes it brave. This is why challenging things, brave things, important things will often drive anxiety. 

At these times - when they are safe, but doing something hard - the feelings that come with anxiety will be enough to drive avoidance. When it is avoidance of a threat, that’s important. That’s anxiety doing it’s job. But when the avoidance is in response to things that are important, brave, meaningful, that avoidance only serves to confirm the deficiency story. This is when we want to support them to take tiny steps towards that brave thing. It doesn’t have to happen all at once.l and it doesn’t matter how long it takes. Brave is about being able to handle the discomfort of anxiety enough to do the important, challenging thing. It’s built in tiny steps, one after the other. 

We don’t have to get rid of their anxiety and neither do they. They can feel anxious, and do brave. At these times (safe, but scary) they need us to take a posture of validation and confidence. ‘I believe you, and I believe in you.’ ‘I know this feels big, and I know you can handle it.’ 

What we’re saying is we know they can handle the discomfort of anxiety. They don’t have to handle it well, and they don’t have to handle it for too long. Handling it is handling it, and that’s the substance of ‘brave’. 

Being brave isn’t about doing the brave thing, but about being able to handle the discomfort of the anxiety that comes with that. And if they’ve done that today, at all, or for a moment longer than yesterday, then they’ve been brave today. It doesn’t matter how messy it was or how small it was. Let them see their brave through your eyes.‘That was big for you wasn’t it. And you did it. You felt anxious, and you stayed with it. That’s what being brave is all about.’♥️
A relationally unsafe (emotionally unsafe) environment can cause as much breakage as as a physically unsafe one. 

The brain’s priority will always be safety, so if a person or environment doesn’t feel emotionally safe, we might see big behaviour, avoidance, or reduced learning. In this case, it isn’t the child that’s broken. It’s the environment.

But here’s the thing, just because a child doesn’t feel safe, doesn’t mean the person or environment isn’t safe. What it means is that there aren’t enough signals of safety - yet, and there’s a little more work to do to build this. ‘Safety’ isn’t about what is actually safe or not, it’s about what the brain perceives. Children might have the safest, warmest, most loving adult in front of them, but that doesn’t mean they’ll feel safe. This is when we have to look at how we might extend bigger cues of warmth, welcome, inclusiveness, and what we can do (or what roles or responsibilities can we give them) to help them feel valued and needed. This might take time, and that’s okay. Children aren’t meant to feel safe with every adult in front of them, so sometimes what they need most is our patience and understanding as we continue to build this. 

This is the way it works for all of us, everywhere. None of us will be able to give our best or do our best if we don’t feel welcome, liked, valued, and free from hostility, humiliation or judgement. 

This is especially important for our schools. A brain that doesn’t feel safe can’t learn. For schools to be places of learning, they first have to be places of relationship. Before we focus too sharply on learning support and behaviour management, we first have to focus on felt sense of safety support. The most powerful way to do this is through relationship. Teachers who do this are magic-makers. They show a phenomenal capacity to expand a child’s capacity to learn, calm big behaviour, and open up a child’s world. But relationships take time, and felt safety takes time. The time it takes for this to happen is all part of the process. It’s not a waste of time, it’s the most important use of it.♥️

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