The Still, Small Voice.

Via Gina Osher
on Apr 25, 2012
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Should we parent as if someone is watching us?

You know that famous saying that begins, “Dance as if no one is watching you”? The idea is that we might be our true selves and live happier lives if we weren’t so self-conscious. But what if what we really need is someone watching over us to make sure we are constantly striving to be our best selves?

This morning I recorded one of my numerous, frustrating interactions with my daughter. I recorded it, at the suggestion of my therapist, both to help me keep my tone of voice where I want it to be, as well as to help dissect what I am doing that is prolonging the battles. Listening to the play back makes me sad.

The one conversation I taped lasted eight minutes. Eight minutes spent arguing about eating more food after she had already finished eating breakfast. Eight minutes spent asking her to speak to me without whining. Eight minutes spent trying to keep a calm voice, not roll my eyes, not sigh deeply out of frustration.

And that is only the eight minutes I recorded. I spent 30 minutes earlier trying not to engage in a battle about her family obligations (otherwise known as chores). But I got very angry with her during that half an hour. So, I decided to start recording the next time a power struggle started. I often pretend there is a camera on me, with the thought of “How would I act if someone was filming me?” I want to be my best self with my children as often as I possibly can.

Sometimes pretending that someone else is watching or listening helps me control my tendency to “flip out”.

One of the aspects of engaging in these battles with our daughter that I hate the most is how they affect our son. On the tape, when we’re discussing food, he’s in the background trying to get attention in the midst of it in the way he’s figured out works the best—by teasing her. Teasing her takes the focus off of her and gets it squarely on him. Even if what lands on him is parental irritation.

When he’s not teasing her, he tries to get the arguing to stop—often by reminding mommy to “Be kind,” or saying “I don’t like when you talk to her like that, mommy.” He protects her when he’s not teasing, and his reminder for me to “calm down” is like a pause button.

His quiet voice rings loudly in my ears, somehow cutting through the whining and crying sounds belonging to his sister.

I worry that her battles with me are some convoluted way to get me to pay more attention to her. I worry that my kids are going to end up polarizing themselves as “the good one” and “the naughty one.” I worry that he will ultimately resent her for taking up so much of my time and attention. I worry that, as she gets older, our struggles will drive us apart, when what I want most is to understand her and help her be happy.

Although I sometimes pretend there’s a camera watching me, as I wrote about this, I was thinking about the idea of “the observer” and that there is something in all of us that is aware of everything we do.

There is always a part of us that is aware of right and wrong, and aware of right action and selfish action; although often, in the moment, we choose to ignore this awareness.

This observer can be thought of as the “still, small voice” of our conscience. Just as my son’s voice cuts through the chaos and stops me in my tracks, tuning in to this inner voice can help me do the same. If I think about it, I don’t need a camera crew to keep me on the path I want to be on, but I do need to remember that someone is watching. And that someone is me.



Editor: Lorin Arnold


About Gina Osher

Gina Osher, the daughter of world-wandering hippies, is a former holistic healer turned parenting coach and mother of boy/girl twins. She is also the author of the blog, The Twin Coach in which she offers advice, bares her soul, works though her imperfect parenting moments and continues on her journey to be a more joyful parent. Gina is dedicated to helping others find both a deeper understanding of themselves and a stronger connection to the children they love.


20 Responses to “The Still, Small Voice.”

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  2. Missy says:

    That is a fantastic last line – "And that someone is me." That is 100% true, but sometimes I forget that I'm even there. I lose touch with myself in the moment of frustration. It would be very painful (emotionally) for me to hear a replay of myself during these times.
    I really understand where you are coming from because it is extremely difficult for me to control my tone and body language when I involved in discussions with my children. I am, like my children, a work in progress.
    Thank you for your honesty. It is helpful to other parents who struggle with similar issues – which is probably most parents.

  3. I think we do parent more carefully when somebody is watching up until a point. Sometimes, when things get rough, I don't really care who is watching. My daughter was pushed off a very high slide at the park once and I could have cared less who was watching. My only concern was my daughter, despite the crowd that had gathered.

  4. Wow, what honesty. The fact that you recorded yourself when you believe you are at your worse is courageous. We all struggle, but your awareness is inspirational.

  5. I totally know how you feel Missy. I lose touch with myself too when I'm not constantly reminding myself to be mindful. It takes so much practice for it to become just the way one does things – especially if one has a particularly challenging situation. Thank you for your comment – it's so nice to know I'm not the only one struggling with this! 🙂
    – Gina

  6. Well, you will notice that I didn't post the recording, Donna. 🙂 It wasn't a terribly pretty moment. But it actually was super helpful!
    – Gina

  7. Gleamer says:

    How very brave of you Gina. It seems that so many of my worst moments have nothing to do with them and everything to do with me. My fears. My hang ups. They are so free and wonderful and just want our love. Letting go is so uplifting. When we let go they have the room to change or their behavior no longer bothers us. The Way of the Peaceful Parent had fantastic insight this morning. 🙂

  8. Thanks so much for your note, Gleamer! I totally agree with you – the flare ups I have with my kids have nothing to do with them. I've started to realize that because my daughter is so like me in so many ways she exhibits behaviors I dislike in myself. I'm working on accepting those behaviors in myself so I can accept them in her.
    – Gina

  9. I love and appreciate your honesty:) I've been there, we've all been there and we will surely be there again and again. Flip outs are a part of parenthood, of being human. It's how we learn. Thank you for being brave and open.
    I've always thought, "If the Dalai Lama only had kids…" 😉
    From one mother to another, YOU ARE THE BEST MOM IN THE WORLD and YOU ARE APPRECIATED.

    I wrote a little letter you might appreciate.

  10. Katie Hurley says:

    Power struggles are so difficult. Your honesty here is very brave. I know it sounds horribly cliche, but some events in my life have taught me the importance of finding the positive (even in the really hard moments) and letting the negative roll off. Yes, in parenting there will always be moments. But I grew up with a yeller. I still cringe when I conjure the memories. The damage has since been undone…but I don’t ever want my kids to have that memory of me. So I shift the focus, choose my battles, take breaks, and find those small nuggets of positive and hold on tight. For me, it’s the only way.

  11. Thank you for the vote of confidence, Rebecca! And I loved your article…just left you a note over there. 🙂
    – Gina

  12. Thanks Katie…I am learning from you to hold on to those "nuggets" and keep a positive picture of my children in my head and heart. Even when times are difficult.
    – Gina

  13. Here's how I know I DON'T parent better when people are watching: I blow up in front of our housekeeper CONSTANTLY. I don't feel good about it, but I do it nonetheless … recording myself is a great idea, though. Sure I'll hear a lot of my mother on those recordings, and lord knows I don't want to pass THAT down another generation! Great post, as usual.

  14. Sarah says:

    I spent many of my adolescent and college years babysitting babies who grew into older kids, so I was present and sometimes the subject of my fair share of kids acting out. In those cases, I never had the urge to get angry and could always remain calm and present. I still can do that today if I'm watching my friends kids along with my son. However, when it comes to my own child, I too lose touch with my positive self and feel the surge of irritation, anger, hurt, frustration fly to the surface out of nowhere. Sometimes deep breaths and taking breaks aren't enough. So, similar to recording oneself or imagining being watched, I sometimes pretend I'm babysitting or put myself in that frame of mind because I wouldn't act so poorly with someone else's kids. It's sad but true. Thankfully, I'm having to employ this trick less and less and remaining calm is becoming a more consistent habit.

  15. Jenny says:

    This was such a brave, beautiful and thought-provoking post. After a lifetime of struggles with my own mother, I can't count how many times I've said "if she only had a tape recorder so she could here how she sounds." I try to remember those hard moments from my own childhood as I parent my kids, but it's not always that easy and life gets frustrating. I'm often complimented on how "patient" and "loving" I am, but I'm quick to point on they don't see me at my worst. Which is usually at 5AM in the privacy of my own home. I'll remember this post the next time I slip a little. Don't be too hard on yourself–this kind of self-awareness and the desire to do better is an incredible gift to your kids and to yourself.

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  17. […] The Still, Small Voice. ( […]

  18. I think we would all be better parents and role models if we thought someone was watching. Though it can be so tough to do that when you're in the eye of the storm.

  19. Thank you, Jenny. I really appreciate that. I do try to be so aware of my voice and I cringe at the idea of my children growing up and thinking of their mother as a yeller! I, too, am complimented on how connected I am to my kids – and I am. Most of the time. But you're right, being self aware is SO important!

  20. LA Moms Dig says:

    Thanks for your terrific post. You have motivated me to record myself. I will do it this afternoon when I serve the kids dinner. The 5-6 hour is always a little wild at our house. I'll let you know how it goes. Lorena