Cognitive distortions: overcoming should statements for moms and dads

Thank you for joining Stay-in-Bed Mom Blog (SIBMB) for an ongoing positive self-talk series. Self-love starts with positive self-talk. We’ll continue to discuss cognitive distortions, or unhelpful thinking styles, through the lens of parenthood. Last time we discussed overcoming emotional reasoning. A little cognitive distortion here, a little exaggeration there isn’t going to affect your mental state in the short term. However, if your negative thinking becomes chronic, then your mental health will undoubtedly suffer.

What are should statements? “Should statements” appear as a list of rules about how every person (e.g. a mom or dad) should behave.

What’s an example of a should statement? “I really should cook more for my family and not eat fast food so much. I shouldn’t be so lazy.”

What do should statements look like in your mom or dad life? When you see other people – perhaps other parents – break the rules, you get angry. Or you may feel guilty when you break your own rules.

How can should statements be harmful? If you direct “should statements” towards yourself, the result is guilt. On other hand, if you direct “should statements” towards others, then you may feel anger, frustration, and resentment. Stop the “Shouldstorm”!

Am I using should statements in my daily life? You may be if… you catch yourself using words or phrases like…

  • “I should…”
  • I ought to…”
  • “I must…”

Do…use the 3 Cs!

  1. Categorize the negative, self defeating thought. Identify the unwanted thought or thinking pattern (e.g. all-or-nothing thinking, overgeneralization, mental filter, disqualifying the positive, jumping to conclusions – mind reading and fortune telling, magnification (catastrophizing) or minimization, emotional reasoning, should statements, etc.). Write it in a thought journal.
  2. Challenge the thought. Look at what you wrote down. Review your thought journal and look for signs of should statements. Reframe the undesired thought. Ask yourself how someone else would view your thought. Is this really true?
  3. Change the thought. Replace your thought with a positive or an optimistically realistic one. Believe you can create a different outcome in the future. A single negative event doesn’t hold true forever.

What can I do to overcome should statements? Resist the urge to “should” all over yourself. Really it’s not worth it. You deserve so much better. Banish “should”, “ought”, and “must” from your vocabulary.

Photo by Nathan Cowley on

A Final Thought – From the Pillow

I’m not good enough. Scratch that thought! I AM mom (or dad) enough. 

So keep talking back to your brain.

What strategies have worked for you for overcoming should statements?

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