Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Mental Health

So, the first month, starting in 11 short days, is about my own mental health. I'm starting with this because it is such a strong predictor of parenting quality. Plus, it's all about ME, and what's not to like about that? I have decided on 3 specific behaviours for this. 

1. Start therapy. I wasn't going to do this, but when your partner suggests it, it's probably a good idea ;-). I have just contacted a clinical psychologist friend for a recommendation.

2. List 3 gratitudes at the end of every day. There is a tonne of positive psychology research showing that this improves mood, and also physical health. I do it from time to time, but I'm not super disciplined about it. 

3. Mindfulness. This does not appeal to me AT ALL, but apparently this also improves mood, even for those people who don't believe it will work. I work with someone who has developed an on-line programme for this. I need to talk to her about this, or maybe just read a self-help book about it. I really can't see myself sitting around being in the moment, but maybe I can just turn off the radio when driving.

I am aiming for three behaviours each month. I will carry on with those that work for me throughout the project, but I am going to do all three things for the entire month, in order to give them a fair shot.

Another major mood booster is exercise. I haven't included it here because I am already a regular exerciser. Tick! Alcohol is also a depressant. I am practically tea-total already, and for the month of March I will be sure not to touch a drop. This is (now) easy for me, so I'm not including it as one of the three behaviours.

On a more controversial note, I also take anti-depressants. I have done for years, and I'm just not interested in kicking the habit. There is research to suggest that anti-depressants mainly have a placebo effect for those suffering from mild depression. Sian pointed out that she thought my depression without them is more in the moderate range. In any event, there is no evidence of long-term side-effects, and the few times I have come off them, it has not worked out well. So these remain my medication of choice. The effect for me is nothing short of magical. I believe that in my case, there is a chemical imbalance that the meds fix perfectly. End of.

Monday, 17 February 2014

The Plan

So what's the plan? I'm going to spend the next 6 months, March 2014 --> August 2014, improving my parenting. In turn, I hope that this will improve my relationships with my boys, and in turn, their behaviour. Each month, I'm going to focus on one distal predictor of parenting, and one specific parenting strategy. It's crazy, I have been teaching this stuff for years, but find it oh so difficult to implement in my own life.

Month 1: Mental Health; stop shouting
Month 2: Personality; descriptive praise
Month 3: Marriage; special time
Month 4: CHAOS; reflective listening
Month 5: Social Support; only ask once
Month 6: Finances; plan for success

I reserve the right to switch things around -- this is the first draft!

Sunday, 16 February 2014

It's Time

I have been putting off starting this Scientific Parenting Project for a long time now. I first thought to do this about 18 months ago, when I first read Gretchen Rubin's Happiness Project. A few things have stopped me. I wanted to start in January, or September, or at least at some meaningful time of the year. I wanted to wait until Harry started school/work wasn't so busy/Tom could understand reason; the list never ended. Basically, I thought I would wait until this whole parenting thing felt easier, less like a daily crisis. How stupid is that? Clearly parenting is something I need to focus on if I perceive constant crises.

A few things have happened over the past month or so that have spurred me on to action. The boys are now 3 & 6; in many ways it doesn't get better than this. They can hold meaningful conversations, and still adore their parents. Still, I often find the joy in parenting distinctly lacking. Sadly the boys do pick up on this. One of my PhD students practiced a puppet interview on Harry and he very clearly stated that mummy does not like playing with him. And a few weeks ago before the boys' babysitter came over I was being particularly short-tempered, and Harry said, "I can't wait for Eve to come and for you to leave."

It's time to sort this whole parenting thing out.