I remedied this by applying the brain invaders to myself and my own behavior, because, yeah, I can be a little dramatic and distractible myself. My son of course gets a huge kick out of this strategy, and is quick to tell me which brain invaders might’ve infected my brain that day. This way, he gets to learn the concepts without a sense of shame or blame.
I found that once I humbled myself—i.e. showed my son that I’m a human being who doesn’t behave or react to situations perfectly all the time—it gave him permission to do the same. He became a lot more open to, at least tentatively, applying the concepts in the book to himself. He has a seriously difficult time admitting fault and taking responsibility, to the extent that he’ll often turn and yell at me when he’s stubbed his toe and I’m ten feet away. No exaggeration. It’s that “mom is the all-giving everything” phase, which means mom is also at fault for everything. Really fun.
Anyway, the fact that he’s even poking around the vicinity of honestly looking at his own behavior is a revelation. Nothing could be more exciting to me as a mom than instilling the muscle for this kind of self-reflection at such an early age.
Responsibility vs. Blame
Of course, I want to tread carefully and ensure that my son’s reflection doesn’t become self-criticism, as I already suspect that he takes after mom in the realm of perfectionism and high expectations of himself. I model compassion for myself when I reflect on which brain invaders I’ve been inadvertently affected by that day, reminding him that it’s okay to make a mistake and that I’ll do better next time.
This gives him a framework for working through his own process of identifying the behavior, taking responsibility for it, and then dropping it. No holding, no self-blame, and no long lectures about how to do better next time (those never, ever work for us, by the way). I trust that this process is deepening his capacity to eventually reflect in the moment and catch himself during an undesirable behavior, and even further down the line to have the pause to choose to avoid the behavior altogether.
Until then, patience, both for him and for me. I always remind him that he can change, that he can improve, that he has a choice and is not beholden to any labels or preconceptions, and especially to the past. I remind him that change takes a lot of time and a lot of effort, just like the warrior characters in one of our favorite TV shows who are dedicated to lives of discipline and practice. This analogy always puts the wind in his sails. He is my little warrior, and he deserves to see himself that way.