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.
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!
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:
What did my son learn from this interaction? “Mom is crazy, Mom is mean,” etc.
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.
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!
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!
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 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!
I 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.
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!
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.
The scene: I’m putting my 6 year-old, S, to bed and have just finished reading her a bedtime story.
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.
- Stuck in limited “role” of mom
- Focus on how I’ve failed as a mom
- 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.
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.
I did something I never imagined I’d do.
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.
[tweetthis]Then I would stop and remember that feeling of ease when we first pushed off. “Don’t be in a hurry,” our friend had said.[/tweetthis]
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.
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.
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?