Author Archive | Lisa Fuller

This is not my beautiful house

Today’s guest post is written by my cousin Will Porter.
IMG_4180I’m standing in a men’s restroom stall at a rest stop somewhere along the New Jersey turnpike, something that I’ve done many times before. This time, however, I’m crowding into it with my two daughters, imploring them not to touch anything. How did I get here? What am I doing so far away from the comfort, convenience, and cleanliness of my own bathroom?

A few hours later, I’m pulled off the windy Saw Mill Parkway just north of New York City to clean throw up out of my daughter’s (let’s call her Bixie) car seat with the shirt I am wearing. I’ve used up my glove box stash of napkins and wet naps on two previous bouts of carsickness in the last few hours and, like any Dad worth his salt, am improvising. As the Talking Heads song goes, “This is not my beautiful house . . . where does this highway go to? . . . My God, what have I done?”

These and many other adventures I’ve had over the years taking my children on vacation are the result of a kind of delusional, selective memory from which all parents suffer.

Many of the memories are drawn from my own childhood and have been edited by time. What remains is a fuzzy slideshow of idyllic summers: cheering as we crossed from New Hampshire into Maine, doing the honk honk gesture to truckers, and eating fast food.

Our trip then as now was to my parents’ house in Maine, where we spent our days playing in the sand, exploring in the woods, and generally being sweet, good natured children. In my mind I am sure we never fought, threw up, or retrieved toilet paper from the floor of a men’s room along the NJ turnpike.

An additional aspect of my delusion is that for some reason, I thought that I could make this eleven-hour car trip alone, my wife has a new job and no vacation time.

I’m a high school English teacher during the year, so at this point, the summer stretched out before me like, well, an open road. What could I do but take to it? I was determined to make this a summer to remember and was off to a good start for all the wrong reasons.

When I arrive safely at my parents’ house with my road weary children, my fantasy of filling them up with Grandma’s mac and cheese and whisking them off to bed evaporates.

I see immediately that, unlike their beleaguered shirtless chauffeur, they are neither hungry nor tired. And then there’s the question of accommodations.

Like most parents I know, each night my wife and I transform our children’s bedroom into a climate controlled sensory deprivation sleep chamber.

Thus, my children are trained to reject any non-womb-like bedrooms. Unless you have had the foresight to practice putting your children to bed on squeaky mattresses in total darkness and 100 % humidity, ‘bedtime’ is just another thing you didn’t bring with you on the trip. In short, my day is not over, not by a longshot.

My journey into the discrepancy between memory and reality continues for the duration of my visit.

Dinnertime with two small children is a lot earlier, louder, and messier than my parents had remembered. The same, of course, can be said for breakfast.

And babyproofing, it turns out, is a relatively new concept.

In my first sweep, I move out of reach or hide out of sight a box cutter, a set of binoculars, a camera, several cactuses, and various other sharp, poisonous, or fragile objects.

Generally speaking, there are three adults around at all times, but my children are adept at exploiting holes in our zone defense. Further, the level of concentration it takes to keep track of a three-year-old is apparently a skill that one can lose.

The challenges do not stop at protecting the house from the kids and vice versa.

21st century parenting, it turns out, is as new and bewildering to grandparents as the need to communicate in just 140 characters.

Talking through the emotions behind a tantrum and using timeout as a discipline system are met with a lot of raised eyebrows and knowing looks from my parents. The extinction of a cocktail hour in which children were seen but not heard is also met with incredulity.

Some things, on the trip, however, are just as I remembered them from my own childhood thirty years ago.

My 6 year old daughter, Dee Dee, catches and holds an eel with her bare hands. My 3 year old, Bixie, reels in her first mackerel. We share homemade blueberry pancakes with three generations of my family.

Dee Dee takes the tiller for the first time in the same sailboat in which I learned to sail. We all collect crabs from among the seaweed on the beach. Bixie finds her first piece of seaglass. They romp around the Maine woods and swim in the icy water with their cousins. Dee Dee learns to skip rocks. We all go to Bucks Harbor to get Chocolate Ice Cream just like Sal!

We’ve been home now for just over a week, and already my memory of the trip is getting fuzzy around the edges. Had I not kept some notes on what the visit was like, I would not have been able to write this.

For my children, it took even less time for their memory of their three weeks in Maine to turn into a seamless highlight reel. But it’s a good highlight reel, and I can’t wait to do it all over again next summer.

Thus is parenting a sisyphean trap, or more comically, the optimism of the coyote chasing the roadrunner of his memory off the edge of the cliff. We can’t help but be the joyful patsies of our memory, but why would we want it any other way?

Will’s cousin Lisa Fuller has a new Parenting with Positive Discipline series starting in September. Strategies for parenting in public restrooms offered upon request 🙂 

4

Stop pretending to listen to your kids… they know you’re not.

I have a confession.

When my daughter asks me if I like Elsa or Anna better, my eyes glaze over. (In case you don’t live in my universe, they’re characters from Disney’s latest blockbuster, Frozen.)

Seriously, I don’t care, much less have an opinion.

I must’ve nodded off at a pivotal moment of character development. I wasn’t paying attention.

Yes, I admit it. Tuning into to my child’s frequency is sometimes a real challenge.

Apparently, I’m not the only one.

IMG_0309A mom in my last parenting series described a similar scene: Denise and her 5 year-old daughter, Tanya, were in the car. Tanya loves to weave a tale – especially when she’s got a captive audience! So, she started in on one of her detailed stories and after a minute, Denise tuned out and started with an auto pilot response of a ha, a ha, aha, in an unconscious attempt to convey listening to Tanya.

Tanya stopped, mid sentence.

You’re using your pretend voice mommy.

It’s humbling how kids NAIL IT. Count on your kid to expose, with raw precision, whatever it is you feel you’re “hiding”.

Have you been caught using your “pretend voice?”

Has your child let you know, in so many words, when you’re out to lunch?

Note: as they grow and become accustomed to your shenanigans, they’ll stop talking if they don’t feel listened to.

Denise told Tanya she was sorry and that indeed she wasn’t listening – [validating Tanya’s feelings] please start again at the beginning because I want to really pay attention to what you’re saying.

Here’re 3 tips for listening… even when the topic may not enthrall you.

  1. Contain the conversation so you have a fighting chance to earnestly listen.

Your kids will get the message you’re listening when you put distractions away. Phone in a drawer, laptop out of sight and T.V. off (so passé).

Make eye contact. Remember the term undivided attention? That’s what we’re after here. And yes, it’s no wonder we struggle with the ADHD epidemic when there’s a host of devices beeping to grab your attention.

  1. Clear the clutter from your mind. Sure, sounds good but what does mind clutter look like and how do you clear it?

I’m referring to those great ideas that pop up when someone’s telling you a story and you’re just waiting for a space to open so you can share your brilliant thought.

We’ve all been there.

Set your brilliant ideas (aka clutter) aside and imagine your mind is a clear blue sky, or whatever vast image inspires you. Mindfulness anyone?

  1. Curiosity creates a bridge. Although I might not be interested in Elsa and Anna, when I muster the curiosity about her question and it’s answer, I’m building a bridge between us. Of course it’s not about the characters but the qualities that she most admires and why.

Another option for Denise would have been to acknowledge that the container wasn’t ideal …“Honey Pie, you’re right, I wasn’t paying close attention. I’m sorry. Could you save that story for me when we get home because it’s hard for me to concentrate on two things at once and I’m focused on safe driving right now.”

When we truly L*I*S*T*E*N we get the juicy goods. We learn so much about what makes our children tick.

Sure, there’s plenty of tedious stuff too, but the juicy stuff is there. Just waiting for you to hear it :).

And in case you’re curious, my daughter likes Elsa better because she’s “not clumsy” and she’s got magic freezing powers! I hear that….

When do you find it difficult to listen to your child? Do you notice other times when it’s easy? Please share your thoughts in the comments below!

If you haven’t already done so, join me on this journey!

Wanna talk? Schedule a time here.

0

Kids and Chores: Why Giving Up (and Giving In) Hurts Everyone

Let’s face it. Most kids today  s–l—i—-d—–e  when it comes to contributing.

You go through the motions of assigning chores, but most of us find that it’s just easier to do them ourselves. Especially if the alternative is to beg, cajole and demand that they take out the recycling, take out the recyclingtake out the recycling!

Who can blame you? Why bother? It’s painful all the way around.

Here’s what I learned during supper with my Granny. From my vantage point, she’s not your average centenarian.

Sure, it’s the middle of summer and she’s wearing her blue wool sweater. But she’s got ALL her wits. — Only her hearing and sight are diminished.

granny photo with Sonja

Granny reading with my daughter

At 103, she’s a beauty with a blunt white bob, light blue eyes and a genuine interest in others that permeates every conversation.

She loves to ask about details. And she’s interested in mine.

On this occasion I made a conscious effort to ask her the questions… at least one.

Dinner with Granny

Due to her hearing loss, a snippet of our conversation (in a dining room full of people) went like this…

GRANNY, I’M STILL TEACHING PARENTING CLASSES.

Won-der-ful! (her pronunciation deliberate and bright)

I’M CURIOUS ABOUT YOUR EXPERIENCE AS A MOM. AFTER 78 YEARS OF PARENTING, WHAT WOULD YOU SAY WAS THE MOST IMPORTANT LESSON? 

I really don’t recall (she waves her hand and shakes her head as if that’s too far back to remember)… but mother and father (she’s referring to her parents) did a marvelous job.

WHAT DID THEY DO THAT WAS SO MARVELOUS? 

(She pauses for a few moments to consider before answering) I was allowed to help with a lot of things. We didn’t have any help so we were the help.

She grew up in a modest, hard working immigrant family in Perth Amboy, New Jersey. Her mother from Denmark, her father from Norway and she the youngest, by far, of 3 and the only girl to boot. She said her brothers always teased her saying she was favored.

So when she says she was allowed to help, she means it – she felt special sitting beside her mother making and mending clothes, weaving rugs, cooking meals, planting vegetables in the garden, etc.

Granny is a practical woman. Learning useful skills that enabled her to contribute to the wellbeing of her family was deeply satisfying.

Our conversation went on, she acknowledged how proud I must be of my growing children – my voice echoing throughout the dining room.

It’s that simple.

I’m struck by the power of a sense of usefulness to withstand the test of time. With love and caring as a cornerstone, Granny’s sense of being a useful member of the family is paramount in her childhood memories.

I know I struggle to get my kids involved in day to day housework. You and I both know, it’s so much easier to just do it ourselves!

Over dinner last summer Granny reminded me of just how worthwhile that effort is.

My story

Yesterday I had laundry that needed to be unloaded, carried, sorted and put away. Seven year-old S. was in a bit of a snit after-school and I knew asking her to help with this relatively light task could easily back fire and become an unpleasant battle.

Here’s what happened:

Me: I’m going to get the laundry – you can come give me a hand or meet me to fold it in my room.

She didn’t say anything but scurried along beside me (things are looking good!)

I took towels out of the drier.

Me: How many can you carry?

She got silly.

S: Mommy, put them all on my head, I CAN DO IT!

I played along for a bit and then just grabbed a few towels so that she could see as she walked, covered in towels, to our room.

In my bedroom she watched as I began folding clothes and towels and stacking them on my bed.

Me: How about you take alike things and put them away in your drawers – like this stack of pants?

S: Okay. (Miraculously she purposefully takes a few trips, arms fully loaded, and then decides it would be interesting to switch with me and be the folder)

We went on like this until the task was complete – all clothes and towels folded and put away. This is a minor miracle – usually things get put away over the course of a day or two – often clothes take the most direct route – basket to body).

Here are four fundamentals to keep in mind to increase your odds of success when encouraging kids to pitch in:

  1. Do house work WITH your kids – side by side if they are 7 and under. When they’re young they still love doing most every task with you so use that to your advantage while you still can!
  2. Shift your focus from getting the job done perfectly to seeing it as an opportunity to be together teaching your child life lessons/skills.
  3. Take time for training. With younger kids this means methodically doing a task together, with older children it means using a specific list of ”to do’s”, rather than a vague “clean up the playroom.”
  4. Hold the jobs lightly. While follow through is extremely important, you’ll win more cooperation by saying “I notice the dog looks hungry,” rather than demanding, “Rachel, feed the dog right now!”

Let’s brainstorm specific jobs kids can help with around the house. I hope this list encourages you in this challenging and wildly worthwhile parenting responsibility.

Here’s a list by age:

My daughter cleaning up a spill

My daughter cleaning up a spill

2 to 3

  • put toys away
  • feed pets
  • wipe up spills
  • put dirty clothes in hamper

4 to 6
the list from above plus

  • unload clean flatware from dishwasher
  • weed
  • water plants
  • set house alarm
  • bring in mail 
  • help prepare meals
  • scramble eggs

    My niece preparing apples for crisp

    My niece preparing apples for crisp

7 to 10

the lists from about plus

  • vacuum
  • help make and pack lunch
  • help do laundry
  • help load/unload dishwasher
  • help grocery shop
  • help make dinner (apple pie)
  • take pet for walk
  • make toast

10 to 13

the lists from above plus

  • fold and put away laundry
  • wash car
  • wash windows
  • babysit younger siblings
  • take out garbage & recycling
  • garden tasks
  • run walkable/bikeable errands

14 and up

I’m helping Granny make her famous apple pie crust!

the list from above plus

  • grocery shopping
  • cooking full meals for family
  • extended sibling sitting
  • transporting siblings and running errands in car

Being allowed to contribute has an impact that lasts a life-time.

I’ve only scratched the surface with these ideas. Please share yours in the comment section below and help grow these lists…and in doing so – help us all have more satisfied families!

If you haven’t already done so, join me on this journey!

Wanna talk? Schedule a time here.

4

4 Ways to Fix “If you’re not in the car in 1 minute I’m leaving without you!”

It’s a typical morning, nothing out of the ordinary.

The boys haven’t brushed their teeth and I’m yelling, BRUSH! And then Get your rears in the car NOW.

It feels like we do this every. Single. Day.

When I get in the car, I feel like a real heel – this isn’t how I want my boys to get off to school in the morning. Yelling let’s go, let’s go, let’s gooooo! – Probably isn’t the most inspirational start to their day.

traffic-sign-6756_640Sound familiar? Are bells ringing? Would you prefer mornings with your kids be fueled by calm cooperation instead of high-volume threats, pleas and crazy-making?

I promise, it IS possible. Read on!

Introducing… the Conversation Guides Series – the first of which – Morning Departure Guide: Practice scripts for parents, so that getting out of the house is a wee-bit easier – is available starting today! And it’s my gift to you 🙂

Quick story about how I got the idea for scripts. In a recent parenting class I was role-playing a conversation, between a parent and teen, using Positive Discipline tools. The teenager, played by a parent volunteer, was forgetting to take out the garbage. (Been there?)

As our demo came to an end, an observing parent vigorously raised her hand, “You were going really fast just then and I’m not sure what happened but it sounded awesome. Could you go through it again but this time slowly so I can understand?”

I’ve fashioned these scripts to support you – they’re like training wheels to get you over that bumpy patch in the road. At first, they may feel a little stiff or clunky – just like training wheels – but it’s worth giving them a try. Especially if you leave the house in the morning shaking your head (or crying), wondering why parenting is so darn hard.

The Conversation Guide slows down the parent child interaction. Think of it as parenting in slow motion, word by word, so you can rewind at any time.

It’s true, there are many ways to parent that fit with the Positive Discipline principles. My hope is that the four approaches I’ve offered here give you confidence to find your own genuine parenting voice. One that’s both kind and firm – respectful of your child and yourself.

Okay, back to my morning with the boys… what could I have done differently? Let’s see what happens when I ask a question instead of yelling demands at them.

“Guys, what do you need to do before you get in the car for school?” They actually mumble “brush our teeth…”

“Yes, great, I’ll meet you in the car when you’re done.”

Does that sound too easy? With enough repetition, time and the resulting trust, it works.

And if you get zero response to your question – or just eye-rolling – you can calmly let them know you’ve decided to wait in the car until they’re ready (take a good book so you’re doing something pleasurable while you serenely wait).

I know what you’re thinking, if I’m not yelling at them, they’ll never come and then we’ll all be late!  Believe me, when you leave the house, the wind will leave their sails.

The two keys are:

  1. You follow through with what you say you’re going to do – this builds trust
  2. You remain calm, cool and collected – trust x 100

CONSIDERSHAREACT

What get’s in your way of having that calm morning you so desire?

What’s worked for you?

What gets in the way of you practicing these scripts? Share in a comment below so we can learn from each other.

If you haven’t already done so, join me on this journey!

Wanna talk? Schedule a time here.

2

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!!

2

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

ToastYesterday 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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If only I could care less… a guest post by Marcilie Smith Boyle

There it was again.  A wet towel lying on my 11-year-old’s bedroom floor.

I’m not a neat freak, I swear.  I like things to be relatively clean, and I appreciate an organized pantry or filing system.  But there are often dirty dishes in my sink at bedtime, and every horizontal surface in my office is covered with something that belongs somewhere else.

But the wet towel on my daughter’s floor!  And the dirty clothes only inches from her hamper.   And piles of clean, folded clothing on her chair, awaiting their moment to be placed neatly into drawers.  It kind of kills me.

I know many tools from Positive Discipline, and have been using them for quite some time.

  1. Asking rather than telling:  “What do we do with wet towels?”
  2. Writing a humorous note:  “Hi, it’s your carpet here, and I’d appreciate seeing the light of day!”
  3. Pointing to the wet towel without speaking.
  4. Taking time to teach her how to fold and hang a towel.
  5. I even tried joint problem solving.  Her solution:  “Give me a reward every time I put my towel away.”  Huh.  That’s not what I was going for.

She would quickly comply when I reminded her, but I was really tired of reminding her.  Our relationship was turning into a series of reminders.  And then a friend asked me a very good question:  “What if you cared less?”

Wow.  I had to think hard about that one.

The next day, I told my daughter that I was going to give her some space to take care of her own room.  I told her that I hoped she would pick up her towel after bathing, and put away her clean clothes on her own, but that I was no longer going to remind her and that I had faith in her to take care of these things herself.  In short, I backed off.

For the next week, amazingly, her room was definitely tidier.  When her towel was picked up and clothes put away I told her that I noticed and she literally beamed.  But after about a week, I walked in to find her towel on the floor, and (ugh!) I couldn’t not care.  I looked at her with wide eyes and pointed at the towel.  I broke my end of the deal.  (Again, ugh!)   Man, it’s hard to care less.

So, I will try it again, and reflect a bit more on why it’s so hard to care less.  I know that fear is playing a role here:  fear that she will be a sloppy mess for the rest of her life and no one will want to be with her because she can’t take care of herself or her things.  But how likely is that, really?

I, myself, used to put wads of already chewed gum on the back of my bed stand.  Now that’s disgusting.  And somehow I turned a corner and cleaned up my act.  All on my own.  I didn’t end up living alone in a pig sty.

There’s also fear of judgment.  When people look at my daughter, what will they think of me?  I thought I was over that one.  Apparently I still have some work to do.

My realization (slowly coming to me. . . ) is this:  My daughter will change.  She will grow.  She has so much time, and so many strengths.  Some parts of her may not change, but even so, I want a strong, connected relationship with her.  So I have to decide what to care about.  And what not to.

I’ve also decided that I’m teaching her how to do her own laundry ( :

What do you want to care less (or more!) about?  Please share your thoughts!

marceliMarcilie Smith Boyle, MBA, is a Certified Positive Discipline Parenting Educator and Life Coach.  She’s facilitating a Parenting with Positive Discipline 3-week mini series themed, “Parenting Styles and Inviting Cooperation,”  in May.  Visit the Parenting Classes tab of www.WorkingParenting.com for more info.

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My “losing it” redo plus a powerful Positive Discipline tool

Do you often feel CHALLENGED by your child? You’re not alone. If you’re like me, you’ve got a kid who will argue with or defy you at every turn. Can you say, “power struggle”?

Here’s the twist – I’ve grown to cherish this quality in my son, E. – he’s inspired me to teach Positive Discipline and grow in ways I never imagined.

Amen!

In my last post I wrote about a time when I lost it with him.

Today, I want to introduce a powerful tool that will give you concrete, helpful responses to your child’s misbehavior based on… drum roll please – how YOU feel.

The end result? A child who’ll more likely cooperate, contribute, and act like a leader in the best sense.

Here’s my before-and-after story to illustrate how using this tool, and identifying my feelings, gave me the opportunity to have an AFTER to write home about!

Before

I was cooking dinner one afternoon. My 12-year-old son was playing the piano in the other room. From the kitchen I could hear 8-year-old E.(enter our ‘hero’) join his brother at the piano and begin running his forearm up and down the keys, causing a cacophony.

My jaw clenched. I burst onto the scene and yelled at him, “WHAT ARE YOU DOING?! LEAVE YOUR BROTHER ALONE! GO UP TO YOUR ROOM RIGHT NOW!”

Not my most inspired parenting moment but one I think many parents can relate to.

Later, I asked myself these questions:

  1. What did my son learn from this interaction? “Mom is crazy, Mom is mean,” etc.

  2. Do we feel harmonious and connected? No. I’m angry. He’s likely feeling indignant, hurt or both.

Now’s my chance to use that tool I mentioned earlier.

Don’t let this chart intimidate you! I use it to give me an idea of how to respond based on HOW I FEEL when E. bangs on the piano. Yes, it sounds counter-intuitive, but observe how it WORKS….

In my noisy example I’m feeling CHALLENGED. Based on the chart (see second row – misguided power), my son believes “I count or belong only when I’m boss, in control, or proving no one can boss me.”  This rings true to me… how about for you?

Here’s what happens when I use the suggestion in the final column.

After Soup Beginnings

Piano cacophony starts: I say calmly, “E., I could use your help here in the kitchen. What do you think about using this sharp knife to chop these carrots for the soup?”

His eyes light up, and before I know it, we‘re working together, happily making dinner.

Giving E. work and/or responsibility is often right on the money when I start to feel provoked by him. This requires me to pause and have the presence of mind to respond rather than having my knee-jerk reaction.

Don’t try to memorize the chart. It’s simply a tool for guiding new responses based on how YOU feel when your child misbehaves. Hang it on your fridge or bathroom mirror so you can refer to it easily.

Positive Discipline isn’t about doing everything just right for your kids.

It’s more about the power of thinking ahead and the awareness that my child’s misbehavior is an opportunity to teach him what I value most – in this example: patience, creativity, and that the work it takes to create a yummy meal can be fun.

Utilize the chart and one day, when the scene is set for that familiar conflict, you’ll respond (instead of react), and out of the blue, experience the wonder of your child’s generous cooperation.

P.S. Carefully place a sharp knife into your toolkit and… magic!

CONSIDERSHAREACT 

Do you have an on-going dynamic with your child where you could see using this tool? How?

What’s the difference for you when you respond rather than react to your child or for that matter, anything in your life?

Share your thoughts below! It’s encouraging to know we’re not alone in this parenting journey!

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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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