We often go through life on autopilot. We wake up, get dressed, brush our teeth, eat the same thing for breakfast day in and day out. We go to work, come home, eat dinner, check facebook, go to bed. Sometime in there we also interacted with our family. But so often those interactions are habitual. “Time for homework!” “I told you to put your coat away!” and “Bedtime!”
These are interactions that don’t require thought, we do them without looking at each other or connecting.
Unless you put conscious thought into your relationships, you risk your loved ones never feeling loved.
When life’s difficult, we often resort to autopilot even more. Think about the hardest part of your parenting day. What is it? How long has it been this difficult? What have you tried differently since things got difficult? How much thought have you put into the situation?
What’s Your Plan?
The easiest way to stop living on autopilot is to take control and make a plan. Show your family you love them. Tell your family you love them. And most importantly think of all the things you do out of love in a day and do them with love. If you think you make dinner out of love, but don’t think about your family with love, or at all, while you’re making dinner, then you’re not actually making it with love, you’re making it on autopilot.
Maybe you have a child that is often angry and says no one loves her. What do you do to help her see she’s loved? If your words or actions are said or done in anger, then you’re likely reacting on autopilot and not likely to help her see she’s loved. She may stop crying about it, but it won’t shift her feelings.
You see the value in a plan, but you’re not sure what to do next. That’s okay. You don’t need to know the right thing to do. Often it takes a lot of exploration before we know the right steps to take. But you don’t need to know the perfect steps to take. You just need to try something with intention. It’s okay to make a plan, try it, then evaluate and change what you do next.
The process is creating a plan, acting on it, then evaluating to see if it worked.
If you decide you’re going to tell your daughter you love her 6 times a day and also hug her every time you walk past, then that’s your plan.
Commit to taking action on your plan. Decide how long you’ll follow this plan before you evaluate whether it’s working.
If you need to, keep a journal so you can clearly see the results.
Plan. Action. Assess. As you take action, decide how long you’ll try before deciding if you’ve been successful. What does success even look like to you? If your daughter was crying 5 times a day, then would crying 3 times a day be a success, or 2 times?
When measuring success, it’s very important to understand the difference between positive progress and perfection. Perfection takes a lot of time and energy. Even then it isn’t always possible. But if decreasing the amount of crying from 5 times a day to 3 times a day counts as a success to you, then you’ll feel more confident and ready to take the next step.
What about when there aren’t any major problems in your family relationships?
Are your family relationships amazing? No? Then you need to make changes and life your life with intention. It’s not enough to only have a plan when things go wrong. It’s also vitally important that you have a plan when things are going well too. The reason why is it strengthens the whole family, creates resiliency, and lets the people in your life know they’re important to you.
Sometimes I make Ryan a coffee just before he wakes up. This way it’s ready as soon as he comes into he kitchen. I do this out of love. But there’s two different ways to do this. One is checking facebook while I make the coffee, then setting it on the warmer until he comes in, and telling him it’s there from across the room. The other way looks very different. While I make the coffee, I only make his coffee, I don’t let my attention be caught by social media. I think about loving him while I prepare it. When he comes into he room, I hold his cup, hand it to him, tell him I love him while I look him in the eyes.
Even though I did it out of love both times, one way he felt loved the other he knew he was loved. Hint: Feeling loved is so much more important than knowing you’re loved.
What one thing can you shift today to love with intention and show someone in your family that you love them?