Not too long ago, I was eating dinner with my daughter. We do picnic style, a blanket spread out on the floor. We don’t have a dining room table, which is intentional but sort of beside the point, right now.
My daughter insisted that she despises chickpeas. Even though she asked for them. “No I didn’t,” she said when I reminded her (kids are expert gaslighters, incidentally). Even though chickpeas are one of the only foods she has consistently loved since she started eating solid food. Nope, now she vehemently hates them.
She has done this with a range of foods lately. Mango. Sweet Potato. Beets. Avocado. Hummus.
I know that the reason she is doing this is because she has limited control over the things in her life and what she eats is one of them.
Doesn’t make it any less frustrating, though.
The truth is that you can’t force a kid to eat something she doesn’t want to eat any more than you can force your leg to go behind your head.
Believe me, I’ve tried both.
When you try to force a kid to eat something she doesn’t want, all you end up with is a headache from all of the screaming you both might or might not have done. You also might end up with food on the floor.
When you try to force your leg behind your head, if it’s not an action you come by naturally, you will likely injure yourself.
If something requires force, it’s probably not worth it in the long run.
I’m sure there are some things that contradict that statement, but in general I think we’re better off avoiding force to accomplish our goals or raise our kids.
What works better is creating the circumstances for success.
This is a tool I’ve learned through my study of habit change, but it applies just as effectively on the yoga mat and as a mom.
All this means is that instead of going all scorched earth on your habits or your body or your kids, you make slow, steady changes that create slow progress and allow for more opportunity in the long run.
It’s an easy fix on the yoga mat, in some ways.
If I want to someday be able to get my leg behind my head without dislocating my hip, I need to work on hip openers and in particular, external hip openers. I’m also going to need to work on my hamstrings and deep forward bends. And I’m going to have to do this DAILY. I can’t just go to a class once in awhile and hope that in one of those 75-minute classes, the teacher is going to offer up a brilliant hip opening sequence that magically moves my leg behind my head with minimal effort. That’s not how this works.
I mean, going to the class is great, but it’s not the only key to success. It’s one of the cogs that turns the wheel and gets me a little closer to my goal.
It also might benefit me to seek advice from someone else who has worked on the pose. Getting regular massages or acupuncture to keep my body and energy body healthy, would also support me and help set up the circumstances for success.
It might take a few days but more likely it will take weeks, maybe even longer, to open my hips enough to get my leg behind my head like Madonna (who is pictured above).
If I’m impatient and rush it or push myself before my body is ready, make no mistake: I will get hurt. And the older I get, the longer it takes my body to recover, so that’s not an ideal option as far as I am concerned.
When it comes to kids, yoga, and habits, patience is one of the greatest tools in your toolkit. It’s the one I always seem to misplace – at least as a parent. I’ve learned it well in the other 2 areas, but I’m working on it in my mealtime interactions with my independent and sassy daughter.
How many times have you tried to force your leg behind your head? And not just on the yoga mat. How did it work out for you?
Not so well for me, either.
With that in mind, I’ve created a checklist for how to be a Jedi Yogi Mama without using force:
1. Slow and steady creates the circumstances for success.
Fast and unstable creates the circumstances for drama, trauma, and if not “failure,” frustration.
Slow and steady might feel like you’re not doing much, but you are laying the foundation for greater success. The stronger your foundation, the more likely you are to feel both accomplished and successful in the long run.
Fast and unstable is also usually forced. If you have to force an action, by nature it will be less stable and less predictable.
2. Create simple steps that indicate a clear path to your goal.
Whether it’s convincing your kid to eat chickpeas again or getting your leg behind your head, you need a plan. The plan should be both easy to follow and progressive. Start with the easiest thing and move on to more challenging things once the easy stuff feels doable. This makes the path more comfortable to walk.
I’ve been working on this with my reactivity to Milly’s outbursts. I used to fly off the handle right back at her. Now I have a more clear plan for when she becomes excessively 3 and highly charged. I try the things that are easier first. If those don’t work, I move on to stage 2. Usually we don’t make it to stage 3 or 4. Having those steps helps me simplify my response so I know what I am going to do instead of grasping at straws. I think this is helping both of us. I can’t force her to do what I want. I have to model the behavior I want her to have.
3. Dial it WAAAAAY back.
Make that first step so easy you can’t say no.
This is the biggest habit change tool I employ.
I wake up every day to move my body, which is an important daily self-care habit. My goal is to someday wake up at 5:15am. Right now I wake up at 5:38am. I used to wake up at 6am. In the past year, I’ve gotten 22 minutes into my goal. I adjust my time in 3 or 4-minute increments. Yes, it’s taking awhile to get to 5:15am, but honestly, I’m not in a rush. And the incremental time increase is so small, I can’t say no to it. I also have to adjust time in the evening, going to bed, which is harder as a solo parent trying to keep my kids alive and my house not a total dump. Again, I aim for 3 or 4-minute increments on this end as well.
If I tried to force myself to wake up at 5:15am tomorrow morning, it wouldn’t feel so good. I’d resent it and feel sluggish and cranky. Not a great way to start the day.
4. Be Consistent.
For this to work, I have to show up EVERY SINGLE DAY.
If I’m less consistent with those small, slow, simple actions that progressively build, I will skip important steps. Or I will forget where to start. Then I’m more likely to push and try to force a result I want because it’s not happening fast enough when the truth is that I didn’t fully commit to it.
This is another reason why SMALL, SIMPLE, “CAN’T SAY NO” actions are the ones which will work the best.
5. Don’t lower your expectations. Make them realistic.
Change doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time. This is where patience needs to kick into gear. If you are consistently applying those small, simple steps, you will feel progress.
You have to make your goal match your actions. This is the equivalent of someone saying they want to lose 20lbs in 2 weeks. That’s crazy. 20lbs in 4 months is more realistic. That’s not lowering your expectations; it’s being clear about the result you want and the likely timeframe you can accomplish it in.
Follow these 5 steps and you too can be a Jedi Yogi Mama.
Or a Conscious Healthy Mama….