Building Your Parenting Evidence File: Summer Playback Series – 304

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Are you ready to take control of your thoughts and bring more positivity into your daily life?

In today's episode, I'll share a simple tool to help you build new, positive beliefs and explain how to collect proof of them.

Get ready to shift your mindset and improve your experience of parenting!

HERE’S WHAT YOU’LL DISCOVER:

  • Why understanding how your brain filters information is vital
  • How to reinforce new, empowering beliefs about yourself and your parenting skills.
  • The exact steps you can take to identify and collect proof that supports new thoughts, leading to more peace and joy in your family.

LISTEN TO THE SHOW:

Transcript

You are listening to the Less Drama More Mama podcast, episode 304: Building Your Parenting Evidence File, week 4 of the Summer Playback Series

This is Less Drama More Mama, the podcast for moms who want to feel calm, in control, and confident about how to handle anything life throws their way. If you’re ready to go from feeling frazzled and disrespected to feeling calm and connected, this is the podcast for you. I’m your host, Pam Howard.

Hey, Mama. Today’s Summer Playback highlights episode 64. It’s all about using a simple tool to help you build new, positive beliefs.  I’ll explain how your brain filters information and shows you what’s important depending on your focus. By understanding this filter, you can start directing it to notice more of the good things in your life and reinforce the beliefs you want to have. I’ll show you how to collect proof of these positive beliefs, shift your mindset, and improve your experiences. Are you ready to learn how to take control of your thoughts and bring more positivity into your life? Let’s go!

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Today’s episode is called Your Evidence File. And the evidence file is a tool I created for myself and my clients to help collect evidence for the new thoughts and beliefs we want to have. I talk a lot about the brain on this podcast because if our thoughts create our results in life, understanding how the brain works and why we think the way we do is helpful. And it depersonalizes what’s going on in our lives a bit like, there’s nothing wrong with you, you have a human brain, and so this is why you’re feeling the way you are, or this is why you’re doing what you do. I find it all so fascinating, and I’ve been told that I explain things in a way that’s easy to understand and remember.

So, today I want to talk about a mechanism in your brain called the Reticular Activation System, sometimes it’s referred to as the RAS. And basically, the RAS acts as the filter through which you interpret the world. It’s the gatekeeper of information that you let into your conscious mind. There’s so much information in the world, your brain can’t possibly take in and process all of it, so the RAS sifts through all the data coming at you every day and presents you with the pieces of information it deems as important.

When you play the game I Spy with your kids and they say, “I spy with my little eye, something red,” you tell your brain that red is an important color, and so, all of a sudden, you start noticing everything red, right? Wherever you are right now, do this. Find the red. Okay, that’s your RAS at work. It’s the same thing when you decide you want to buy something new. Let’s say you want to buy a new pair of sneakers. All of a sudden, you start noticing everyone’s sneakers. You start noticing who wears sneakers, how many people wear sneakers, whether they have laces, or velcro, or they’re slip-ons, what color they are, what brand they are, whether they have a design on them or not, or they’re just a solid color. You never noticed anyone’s sneakers before, and not because they weren’t wearing them, but because you and your brain never thought sneakers were important before.

The RAS also filters out other senses. For example, you could be in a noisy, crowded space, and when you hear your child crying or calling, “Mommy,” immediately you know it’s your child because your brain brings that information to your attention. So, the RAS is helpful in many ways. But it can also cause problems. If you believe that someone doesn’t like you, for example, your RAS will interpret and filter everything they do in a way to confirm your belief. Psychologists call this your confirmation bias.

Remember that your brain likes to be efficient. And the most efficient way to process information is to repeat the same thoughts and beliefs over and over again. Also, the brain likes to be right and will believe whatever you tell it. So, it’s going to look for evidence to prove your existing thoughts true and ignore evidence to the contrary. If you tell it that the world is full of good, kind people, it will find good, kind people. If you tell it the world is scary and full of horrible people, it will find evidence for that, too. If you think someone is selfish and inconsiderate, your brain will constantly provide evidence for how that’s true. The funny thing is that even when that person does something in direct contrast to what you believe, your brain will make up a story to justify it, so you can maintain your belief. Like, if that person you think is selfish went to volunteer at a soup kitchen, you’d create a story in your mind about how she just went there to get praise and admiration from others and how it had nothing to do with being altruistic. This is why I love coaching so much. Because I help people become aware of their thoughts and beliefs and how they’re actually creating their experience of the world. It’s like that quote by Anais Nin, “We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.”

Here’s another example. Let’s say your child’s teacher just graduated from her Master’s program one year ago. Because of this, you think she’s not as good a teacher as the older, more experienced ones. You’ll filter everything through that lens, so no matter what she says or does, you won’t think it’s good enough. The belief about her might cause you to feel doubtful about what she says at parent-teacher conferences, so you disregard her assessments. The belief might cause you to feel anxious about your child getting the best possible education, so you constantly question her judgment. And your brain will keep giving you more evidence to prove your belief. Someone else, meanwhile, might believe that because she just graduated, she’s up on all the latest research and best practices in education, she’s energetic, and she’s more motivated than some of the teachers who have been there for years.

Let me share an example of something that just happened to me. I mentioned in episode 58 that I often struggle with feeling competent. So, recently, I got an email that said a subscription of mine had expired and so I clicked on the email, filled out all my information, including my address, date of birth, and credit card number and hit submit. As soon as I did that, I realized it was a scam. And as soon as I realized it was a scam, I called the credit card company, ordered a new card, and changed my password on the account with the subscription. Those were the facts of the situation. Immediately afterwards, my RAS kicked in and said, “See? This is proof that you’re incompetent.” I felt so embarrassed and ashamed and starting beating myself up with thoughts like: How could you be so stupid? I can’t believe you did that. You’re such an idiot.” Luckily, very quickly, I remembered about confirmation bias. I stopped and said to myself, “Wait a minute. You’re focused on what went wrong. But look at what went right here. You caught your mistake and took action right away. You knew exactly what to do, and you did it before any damage was done. That was really smart!” In that moment, I made a conscious decision about which thoughts to think, rather than being at the mercy of my RAS. And the good news is that by choosing the exact thoughts you want to think, you can deliberately program your RAS. You can decide what to think on purpose, and then put your brain to work looking for evidence to prove those thoughts true.

That’s where the evidence file comes in. You need to start looking for and keeping track of evidence to prove your new thoughts and beliefs true. For example, let’s say you have the belief, “parenting is hard.” That’s what your brain will look for. That’s what you’ll see. And when you think the thought, “parenting is hard,” you might feel frustrated and inadequate, which causes you to yell at your kids, creating more evidence that proves your belief: “parenting is hard.” When you give yourself evidence to prove a belief, the neural pathways in the brain get stronger, and the belief becomes even more ingrained. There may be several moments in your day when parenting is easy or even fun, but your brain will ignore those moments or rationalize them away.

If you want to start believing that parenting can be easy and fun, you have to look for evidence of that every day and write it in your evidence file. Also, you create evidence through your actions. When you believe that parenting can be easy and fun, you’ll feel more excited and playful, which might lead you to play more games with the kids, take spontaneous trips to the park after school, or bake cookies with them on the weekend. Your actions create evidence to prove that parenting can be easy and fun, which reinforces your new belief.

I’ve used this concept with kids, too. When a student comes to me and says that his brother is always mean to him, for example, I’ll tell him to pretend he’s a detective and to look for all the evidence that his brother isn’t always mean. I’ll tell him to write down all the evidence he can find that his brother is sometimes not mean. Or that sometimes he’s even nice. Or maybe sometimes, he’s the one being mean to his brother. Then, he’ll come back to me, and we’ll talk about his findings.

Confirmation bias and the RAS are great when the beliefs you’re proving true feel good and give you good results in your life. They’re not great when you’re confirming beliefs that feel terrible and give you terrible results in your life. So, use your RAS to collect evidence of the story you want to create in your life. Take charge of your mind, and tell it what to focus on. What you think about, you bring about.

After this episode, get a file folder and label it, “evidence.” Then, grab some paper and at the top of each page, write down the thought you want to believe. Here are some examples. If you believe you and your husband aren’t on the same page when it comes to parenting decisions, you’ll write, “My husband and I are on the same page,” and you’ll look for any evidence to prove it true. If you say to yourself, “My kids never listen to me,” write, “My kids do listen to me,” at the top of the page and then seek out those times when they do. Don’t just stop there, though. Ask yourself what was different about those situations. What were you thinking, feeling, and doing? If you believe, there’s never enough time, write, “there’s plenty of time for what’s important,” and start paying attention to how you spend your time and where you might be wasting time on things you don’t even realize. You can do this with any thought about anything. You can find evidence for any thought you want to believe. But — you have to be willing to be open. You have to be willing to be wrong about your current thought, and you have to be willing to let it go.

In the early stages of keeping your evidence file, your brain will continue to offer you old, familiar thoughts. You can just notice them without making them mean anything bad or that you’re doing something wrong. It doesn’t mean those thoughts are more true than the new ones. It just means you’ve practiced them more. So, keep going. Keep practicing the new thoughts and looking for evidence to put in your evidence file. That’s it for today, Mama. I’ll talk to you again next week.

If you enjoy listening to this podcast, and you’re ready to feel calmer, more confident and more at peace in your family and life, I invite you to sign up for a free consultation with me to learn about how my coaching can help you achieve the exact life you want. You’ll take the concepts and tools I share in the podcast and apply them to your own life, and as your coach I’ll be there to support you every step of the way. Go to lessdramamoremama.com/mini and sign up now.

 

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As a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, Certified Master Parenting Coach, and former K-8 School Counselor, I’m on a mission to empower moms to feel calmer and more connected to their kids.

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