Archive | Connection & Love

Winning Genuine Cooperation by Showing Empathy and Validating Feelings

You know those times when you’ve just got to get your child to do something important (go to the doctor, to swim class, the dentist…) and she/he refuses to cooperate? Then you think, “Why can’t they just get with the program this one time? Why does everything have to be so hard?”

Well, let me introduce Susan, mother of 9 year-old Alex, and a recent graduate of my 7-week parenting class. In this story, Susan shares the remarkable shift that happens when she uses tools she learned in the series. Without giving too much away, here are the two conversations (with very different outcomes) between Susan and Alex:

BEFORE taking Positive Discipline Class

Susan:  “Hey Alex, Dad and I forgot to tell you – Swim lessons start today, so you need to get ready to go.”

Alex: (Playing with Legos) “What? I don’t want swim lessons! You know I hate lessons!”

Susan:  “Alex, learning how to swim is really important – it’s about safety.”(Susan begins to feel angry and thinks, “What’s so hard about going to swim class? Swimming is great. This should be fun. Why is it so difficult?”)

Alex:  “I don’t want to.”(He starts to crush his elaborate Lego creations). “I’m not going.”(He sits defiantly on the couch.)

Susan: “Swim lessons are a privilege, young man. That’s enough of your whining. Stop it. Now!”

Alex:  “You never ask me what I want – I HATE YOU!”

Susan: (Thinking… “I hate this. I hate how hard it is to motivate my son. Forget it, I give up.”) She stomps off to another room to grab the swim gear.

Susan: “We paid for this class. Now get up and get to the car!”

Susan and Alex are both miserable and swim lesson does not go well.  

Sound familiar?

AFTER taking Positive Discipline Class

Susan:  (Taking some time beforehand to prepare herself.) “Hey Alex, Dad and I forgot to tell you but you’ve got swim lessons today. I’m really sorry that we’re springing this on you, but we gotta go now. I’ve got your swim gear and a snack for the car.”

Susan held up these two cards - Validating Feelings was where she experienced the most growth

“Both of these Positive Discipline Tool Cards were key.  I feel I learned the most about the power of validating feelings!

Alex:  “What? I don’t want swim lessons!  You know I hate lessons!”

Susan: “Honey, you only have to go four times and we found a new place where there are fewer kids so you’ll be able to hear better.” (She shows remorse for not giving him any warning and feels empathy for him, knowing that while he hates lessons, he actually loves to swim.)

Alex:  “I don’t want to!” (He starts to crush his Lego creations.) “I’m not going.” (Alex plops himself defiantly on the couch.)

Susan: “Alex, sweetie, I know this is upsetting, but destroying your Legos is not OK. You can hit a pillow if you’re angry.” (She allows him to express his feelings. She calmly and firmly tells Alex that swim lessons are something he just needs to do. Susan uses only one or to sentences instead of lecturing him.)

(Alex violently hits the pillow. Susan leaves the room. Then she remembers that staying with him might feel encouraging to him. She goes back and keeps him company but doesn’t try to fix or change his feelings.)

Susan: (After some time has passed, speaking gently…) “Honey, it’s time to go.” (Alex gets up and together, they walked to the car. During the drive Susan felt connected to her son through their easy conversation and a palpable sense of calm.  Alex even seemed to enjoy the lesson!)

This story’s a beautiful example of how empathy and encouragement go a long way toward winning genuine cooperation.  Through her use of grounded positive energy and empathy Susan not only accomplished her goal of getting Alex to his swim lesson, she laid the groundwork for a foundation of trust.

Later she she told me,

It was a tiny miracle that I didn’t lose it and Alex was able to get up to walk to the car. It worked mostly because I didn’t flip my lid. Being there while he hit the pillow actually calmed me down too! Now Alex is doing great with his lessons. He still complains, but there is an ease and matter-of-factness about our interactions.

Thank you Susan for sharing your story!

If you’re curious about deepening your parenting practice and learning the art of cooperation through empathy, check out my one-on-one coaching opportunities and it you’re in the Bay Area, my fall Positive Discipline Series.

CONSIDERSHAREACT

What gets in your way of just being with your child while they’re caught up in a feeling? Next time a big emotion hits, try bearing it with an attitude of love and let us know what happens!!

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One EASY way to get your kid to butter her own toast!

ToastOne of my favorite sayings in Positive Discipline is “Don’t do anything for your child they can do for themselves.” All of this “doing for” prevents our kids from learning and growing.

Yesterday morning I had a simple, accidental revelation with my dexterous 7-year old daughter. Short on time, she decided to have a piece of toast for breakfast. Knowing I’m the best toast-butterer in the world, S. said, “Mom I need butter on my toast – please butter it for me.”

My hands, immersed in sudsy, warm dishwater, scrubbing away at the long-neglected dishes, were not fit to butter toast. The wheels in my mind slowed,  I sensed the opportunity at hand and replied empathetically, “Oh honey, my hands are all soapy, I don’t want to ruin your toast.”

Disappointed, S. tried again. “But mom…I’m not good at buttering toast and you’re really good at it!”

“Darn… sorry about that, Sweetie. Just look at these sudsy creatures!” I lifted my hands to show the yucky soapy mess that would envelop her toast.

Suddenly resolute, S. asked, “Okay Mom, where’s the butter?” A minute later with quiet pride she said, “Look Mom, I did it all by myself!”

Sometimes I have to be creative, play a bit silly, a bit incompetent or just plain unavailable, to get my kids to step up and take the initiative on a task well within their grasp or even one that seems a bit out of reach.

CONSIDERSHAREACT

Have you had a similar experience? Share it or plan your “incompetence” ahead of time and let us know how you imagine it could encourage your child.

Your comments inform and empower other parents! Examples with kids of all ages encouraged!

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I LOST IT with my kids

You know those moments when you are pushed to the brink, when you know that just one more movement or word from your sweet angel will push you to explode, to yell “I CAN’T TAKE IT ANYMORE!!!!” so loud it freaks out the neighbors?

If you’re like me, you also strive to maintain a sense of calm in the midst of the craziness of parenting. Yes, this is a worthy goal, but we’re only human!

Here’s a not-so-pretty story from my own life a few years back:

I was sitting down to supper one night with my kids (pre-iPod), when my ten year old son, E., for the second time that night, ignored my request to strap his portable CD player to his body. (For his occupational therapy, E. did therapeutic listening for a half hour each morning and evening.)

E. rose to get himself a glass of milk and the CD player slid precariously to the edge of the table.

Reenactment photo taken by my now 7 year-old daughter!

Reenactment photo taken by 7 year-old S.

That’s when it happened. I completely lost it – full on, crazy-woman, raised-voice, heart-pumping LOST IT. I vigorously pointed my finger at him and yelled,   “THAT’S IT! YOU NEED TO TAKE CARE OF THIS NOW BEFORE YOU DO ONE MORE THING.  YOU ARE PUSHING ME! WHY DO YOU KEEP PUSHING ME?! TAKE CARE OF IT RIGHT NOW!”

We stood two feet apart, his eyes wide, me breathing fast. Honestly, I felt like strangling him.

Ghost like and calm, E. turned and floated out of the room to find the belt device. I returned to my seat – heart still pounding.

I took deep breaths to regain my composure. I felt the heat of embarrassment rise in my body as my oldest son sat quietly at my side. In a matter-of-fact voice, my three year-old daughter said, “That was too loud mommy – it hurt my ears.”

When E. returned, he looked at me – a twinkle in his eye – already he’d forgiven me. With effort he pressed his hands on either side of his mouth, to keep from laughing.  I couldn’t help but smile as I said, “Thank you for taking care of it,” (my Positive Discipline know-how seeping back into my consciousness).

As these words came out of my mouth laughter bubbled out too.  Soon, we were all roaring.  Through his giggles, E. commented “I’ve never heard you be so loud!” The laughter was healing and reassuring, like we knew I’d just been possessed by Mommy Dearest and was now back to my usual self.

As we ate and laughed some more, I said I was sorry and expressed my regret.  I could tell they were eager to move on. We felt close and connected.

Jane Nelson says, “Instead of feeling guilty when you make a mistake, rejoice that you have just provided a good example for your children.”

I wish I could rejoice but I’m not there… yet. When I make a mistake, I consciously keep the guilt to a dull roar so that I have the energy and bandwidth to be present and take the opportunity to connect. Now that’s something to rejoice about!

Smeeta1I do lose it with my kids sometimes. Rather than brushing it under the rug, I try to do the following:

  • Acknowledge my mistake with my child in a timely manner so that it’s relevant to them.
  • State a brief, simple sincere apology, “I’m sorry I lost my temper with you.” What’s critically important here is that I don’t add – “but if you’d gotten the CD holder like I’d asked you to…” – this turns my apology into punishment (more on that later).
  • After some time has passed I work with my child (or myself) to come up with a plan so that the explosion will be less likely to happen next time.
  • Finally, there’s an element of trust and letting go, of being the best role model I possibly can and, of acceptance that I am…exquisitely… imperfect.

CONSIDERSHAREACT 

Do you lose it with your kids?  You’re not alone. In another post I’ll share a “losing it” redo – what I learned from my triggered response and how I was able to step back and use Positive Discipline tools to make a different choice the next time. Empowering!

Share your thoughts below! The parenting journey is so much more fun when we travel it together!

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Should I be more like my dog?

BooneI’ve been thinking a lot about my oldest son – 18 today!

He’s the first born, a quiet, self-sufficient guy who keeps busy with many interests and responsibilities. He’s easy going, never complains – a boy who’s finally grown up to be a young man. The letters and emails from colleges are arriving and soon he’ll be heading off into to the big wide world.

Have I supported him enough? Could he possibly know how much I love and care for him?

When I say, “I’ve been thinking about him”, the reality is I’ve been thinking about myself in relation to him. Recently I’ve been trying too hard and in all the wrong ways.

When we’re in the same room, I feel an urgent need to connect. I find myself falling into a default, one-way, boring-as-heck line of questioning that runs like this:

How’s school-How’s it going-What’s going on-What time’s practice What are your plans after school-What friends are in your classes this semester?

While he’s patient with me, this stale inquiry goes nowhere.

I feel an awkward gap between us.

Here’s a beautiful contrast. First thing when my son comes home, he goes to the dog, and they share a few moments of mutual adoration and affection (face licks, tail waging, IMG_3038cooing noises). Seeing them together warms my heart.

What does my son see in his special friend?

  • The no-pressure act of just being
  • No one is asking, prodding or demanding ANYTHING
  • The warm & fuzzy factor

Then I get it:  for him, my efforts to connect feel like poking, nudging, and even prying; less like a relaxed, neutral, loving presence. Ichh!

So I decided to make a shift. Instead of eagerly confronting him at every turn with the usual litany of hollow questions, I would stay put, be present and let him come to me.

Once I embodied my new perspective, I noticed an immediate change. He came to me simply asking for help finding supplies and this felt HUGE from a kid who RARELY asks for anything.

Stepping into his shoes is helping me let go. At the same time, I’m learning to adapt to my children’s ever changing needs.

For my 18 year old, I’m channeling my inner pooch.

While I draw the line at face licks, happy whimpering, and faithful obedience, my inner snoopy-mama is more present (letting him come to me), unconditionally loving (fewer questions and less attachment to the need for answers), and always happy to see him.

CONSIDER⇔SHARE⇔ACT 

As always I encourage you to share your insights and questions below. The parenting journey is so much more fun when we travel it together!

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The Message of Love

IMG_1440Over dinner recently, my dear friend Katie, a graduate of one of my very first parenting classes, shared her biggest take away from the series:  THE MESSAGE OF LOVE. I asked “What effect does this concept have on your parenting today?” She answered,

“For me, the message of love means continually focusing on the big picture with my kids and letting them know that I love them. I apologize for my behavior when I lose it with them. They’re used to that. Even though I make plenty of mistakes and am not a perfect mother, I’m certain they know how much I love them. Every day I’m aware of the value of communicating that love, even in the smallest interactions.”

Today’s message is simple.

How do you show your love within and beyond the many daily acts of caring — the chauffeuring, cooking, laundering…?

Ironically, the hectic pace of Thanksgiving, with all of the preparations, attendant traveling, cooking, and socializing, can distract us from a grounded connection with our kids.

Remember for a moment, someone from your own childhood who you knew cared about you. How did you know? What did they do?

Maybe they spend time with you, listened to you, taught you a skill or game.

Below is a list of ideas, with concrete examples, for communicating the message of love. This list is a beginning. Please share your ideas in the comment section below!

Shared experiences

• Play a game together (we’re into Sorry right now – especially the 14 year old!)
• Cook together (favorites: eggs, lemon squares, help with prepping anything)
• Learn to do something together (friendship bracelets)
• Work together on a project (put together an Ikea desk, replay chess champion game moves, garden)
• Wrestle and rough house
• Walk the dog or take a hike

Empathetic communication

• Deeply listen to your child – no devices, no interruptions.
• Use phrases that convey empathy, such as:

  • You seem__________.
  • You look___________.
  • You sound__________.
  • You are____________.

Body language/tone of voice/alignment of internal and external energy

Be aware of how loving you feel on the inside. Notice how this is reflected on the outside by your facial expressions and body language. When these match you’ll come across with

  • Soft face & open heart
  • Warm, relaxed tone of voice
  • Sincerity and empathy
  • With an older child closet listening is a great option.

Katie reminded me – THE MESSAGE OF LOVE is powerful!

Take the time to BE with your children and communicate the message of love in your own, imperfect way. (Maybe it’s about not sweating the small stuff).

Take a moment to share in the comment section below how the MESSAGE OF LOVE is communicated in your family!

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A Sliding Door Moment

A favorite time of day for me is when my family has gone to bed. The children are all tucked in, I crawl into bed, and get to chose from my IMG_2902stack of great reads.

One recent evening, my 13-year old son came into our room. Just as I was settling into cozy contemplation, about to nod off, he asked “Mom can you come and lay with me while I go to sleep?”

I’d been reading Brene Brown’s Daring Greatly, a powerful book about relationships, parenting and life.  On the pages I’d just finished reading Brene referenced John Gottman’s “sliding door” moments. The sliding door moment is when we come face to face with a choice, exactly the moment I experienced with E standing next to me.

In this moment, we have the possibility of connection or turning away.

Of course it doesn’t boil down to one moment but rather the trend established over time. Gottman says that trust erodes very slowly if we continue to turn away.

Now let’s return to my moment. I so wanted to turn back to my book and the warmth of my cozy bed. However, in front of me was a clear choice. Did I choose to connect with E, or turn away from him? What would you do?

I realized my thirteen year old son was offering me a precious moment to build trust and share affection. I pulled myself out of bed (with some effort & audible moaning, I confess), and padded down the hall after him. I’d made my choice.

Next time you have a sliding door moment and your first instinct is to turn away, take a moment to observe yourself and see what happens when you choose to connect with your child.

CONSIDERSHAREACT

Notice when you say no and when you say yes to a sliding door moment.

What is a moment you are going to say yes to this week?

Share your thoughts here in the comments and pass this on to a friend.

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Transforming the Little Moments to Bring in the Light

Wouldn’t it be great to have a “before” and “after” parenting show?

Last month I traveled on swanky Virgin America and enjoyed the guilty pleasure of watching “What Not to Wear”. Are you like me? Loving the transformation of the frumpy working gal into the self-confident put together chick? (Hint: I’m a great candidate – waiting to be nominated).

I’m drawn to the details of improvement – the way a crowded, gloomy living room, rearranged with better light, pillows, and plants becomes a welcoming space for activity and life. Powerful.

Let’s bring this analogy home to my role as parent. Here’s a situation I’m sure you’ll relate to. Notice the before and after scenes – I’m the same, loving mom in each. The difference is, in the second scene, I have a deeper understanding of Positive Discipline and with a few tweaks, the interaction with my daughter is transformed at the core.

photo

The scene: I’m putting my 6 year-old, S, to bed and have just finished reading her a bedtime story.

Before:

S: Mom, I’m afraid.

Me: What are you afraid of? (a bit annoyed and really thinking “what could you possibly be afraid of?!”)

S: I’m scared to go to bed.

Me: There’s nothing to be scared of – you’re in your cozy bed and your family is home with you. (My annoyance is building.)

S: I’m still afraid.

Me: That’s silly cause you are perfectly safe. (I’m determined to leave and stop this conversation.)

As I leave the room a jumble of thoughts go through my mind:

  • What have I done to make her so insecure?
  • What’s wrong with her that she can’t simply go to sleep?
  • What’s her fear going to become as she gets older?
  • It’s simple, she hasn’t had enough hardship in her life – if she’d had more trials, like me, then she’d know what fear really is!

After (with a Positive Discipline approach):

S: Mom, I’m afraid.

Me: What are you afraid of?

S: I’m afraid to go to sleep. I’m afraid of all the normal stuff that people are afraid of.

Me: Where do you feel that in your body?

S: My heart. It’s like I have butterflies fluttering in my heart and frogs jumping in my stomach.

Me: Oh, that doesn’t sound good. (I place my hand on her heart).

S: Do you ever get scared?

Me: Yes. Remember last week when we were on the airplane and it was really bumpy and you were laughing and whooping it up? I was really afraid – I didn’t like how that felt AT ALL.

S: I was scared too but it was also fun and funny.

Me: People get scared of different things – I LOVE GOING TO BED.

I left the room, my daughter fell asleep. I wasn’t worried about her future. I felt close and connected to her.

Let’s look at some of the obvious differences in how I felt and acted in the two scenes.

BEFORE:

  • Worried
  • Fearful
  • Stuck in limited “role” of mom
  • Focus on how I’ve failed as a mom

AFTER:

  • Curious
  • Open
  • Interested in our shared human experience
  • Willing to share my vulnerability
  • In the present
  • Faith in my daughter to figure it out

While there’s no perfect way to parent, we can make small, subtle shifts that bring in the light to reveal our higher self. When we allow this to happen, we truly sparkle. The end result? An intimate moment of precious connection with our child. There’s nothing more beautiful than that.

We have much to learn from each other.

CONSIDERSHAREACT

In the comments below share what motivates you to go from scene 1 to 2? What helps you sparkle?

Next time you’re in that #1 scenario, stop, breath, connect, wait. Let us know what happens.

Contact me to learn more about parent and life coaching and future Parenting with Positive Discipline Classes.

 

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What I learned on our RV vacation

I did something I never imagined I’d do.

RV

Start of Hammond Coastal Trail, Arcata, CA

 I took an RV trip with my family for 9 days.

One of my husband’s fondest memories was a 3-week RV trip with a friend’s family. This summer he was determined to make such a trip happen for our kids.

I was going to be a good sport and go along for the ride.

6 days later we were packed. Our Cruise America RV (awkwardly parked on our narrow tree lined street!) was loaded with games, food, 3 tubes of toothpaste, toilet paper, dog chews and miles of cords, headsets and devices.

As we pulled away from home I felt a friend’s wise words — don’t be in a hurry — settle into my bones like a slow exhale.

I felt it when my husband, known to hide a speeding ticket or two, pulled over with a new civility and moderation to let the faster cars pass. Most folks waved or gave a friendly honk. He was relaxed and I could sense that he was enjoying the change of pace.

At times I was aware of the habitual worry creeping in. What had I forgotten? Was there somewhere we needed to be? The creeping worry is indeed a fixture in my day-to-day life.

I felt it just knowing that we were together. For 9 days we biked, played board games, prepared food, cleaned, and continually shared the experience of our new surroundings.

We hiked through the magical giant redwoods, biked along the Northern Californian coast (trying not to crash as I was awed by the splendor of the Pacific Ocean) and waded in the Rogue River while salmon jumped just feet away.

Don’t get me wrong, my kids did the normal bickering – etc. but I’ll save that for another post!

One of my solitary pleasures was getting up early to pick blackberries to share over breakfast.IMG_2292

I was sad when the trip came to an end. It was a sweet time of togetherness.

Now I’m home. Summer’s coming to an end with school starting tomorrow.

I’m wondering about that sense of ease during our trip. How do I re-capture the feeling of time slowing down, of being present with myself and, my children, husband and dog.

What allows YOU to be at ease and present in your everyday life? I want to know. Please share in the comment section below for the benefit of all our readers.

CONSIDER⇔SHARE⇔ACT

What allows you to be at ease and present in your everyday life? Generally and specifically.

What commitment are you going to make in order to bring more ease and presence into your life?

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