Posts tagged Connection
In the Big Picture Parenting class today, we had a great conversation about control. The question goes something like this: “How do I make sure my child is doing or not doing Certain Important Things while still respecting their autonomy and independence?
It’s a darn good question, because at the end of the day, the only thing we really have full control over is ourselves.
Our children, when small, are within our control to some extent. But they still cry when THEY choose, pee when THEY choose, sleep when THEY choose, and eat what THEY choose. (Many power struggles develop, in the long term, around sleep, potty training, and food – so if you’re trying too hard to control in these areas, listen up!)
The more time we spend in a power struggle in the short run, the less influence we have over our child in the long run.
And in the long run, ALL we have is influence. So the sooner we figure out that working WITH our child, respecting our child’s autonomy, while still providing clear limits around the things we can control (ie ourselves, our actions and reactions), is possible, the better.
As a single mom, I had to figure this out early. My daughter would head off to her dad’s house and I had NO control. I no longer got to decide what she ate, or what she was exposed to on TV, among a myriad of other things. After a few years of trying to control HIM (you can guess how that went 🙂 ) I concluded that the key was to build my relationship with her, NOT so that I could control her, but in such a way that she would respect me enough to consider my ideas and opinions, in the short term and in the long term.
So, how do we stay out of the power struggle, and stay in the game?
First, remember that it’s only a power struggle if YOU make it a power struggle. Your child is just doing what children do, trying to figure out how things work in the world, and doing exactly what she needs to do to learn what she needs to learn to move through her current developmental process.
Second, do what you need to do without feeling guilty. If you must stop the behaviour, stop the behaviour, support your child as she moves through the disappointment, and move on. Don’t get all in a knot about your child’s autonomy when you need to do what you need to do. Self-doubt helps no one.
Third, accept that some things aren’t in your control, and let those things go. When you are not all charged up about something your child is doing, your child won’t be as interested in doing it anyway. I was visiting a wise mama at dinnertime once, and her daughter wouldn’t come to the dinner table. She eventually chose to let it go, saying with a sigh, but obviously, no attachment and no intention to make her child feel guilty, “Well, I’m disappointed.” When you can’t control it, support yourself through the disappointment, and move on.
Fourth, give your child information so that he can make good decisions about the things that he has control over, and then let go of your attachment to which choice your child makes, whether it’s the colour of the sippy cup he chooses or whether to pay attention in class. Over years, your child will practice exercising that decision-making muscle, and will make better and better decisions about bigger and bigger things. (This is a key area of building influence – when you give your child the information she needs to understand her world and feel good about her choices, she will come back to you for more information.)
Fifth, decide what you believe is “basic respect”, and start young with creating clarity. Children raised with age-appropriate autonomy and your focus on building influence will figure out basic respect/social etiquette eventually, but you can decide what behaviour you’re comfortable with at what age in a restaurant, for example. This is up to you – an area you have control over. If you are not comfortable with your child’s behaviour in the restaurant, either don’t take them out to the restaurant, or remove them if things get out of hand.
So, how much control should you have over your child? Enough to keep them and others safe. After that, it’s all about having control over yourself, building connection, and developing respect-based influence. And here’s what’s amazing. When we lovingly focus on what WE have control over – our child’s behaviour will change, too.
Any insights? Questions? Post them below!
And consider joining me for the Discipline Without Guilt class coming up in April/May 2015. I’d love to help you find ways to manage your triggers, build influence, set your child up for success, and build connection with your child at the times when it’s hardest to do. <3 Register HERE.
Chances are, your child is an expert at pushing your buttons. Here’s how to short circuit the button, so that you can stay in that loving Zen place and stay connected, instead of pushing the disconnection even further along.
If you’ve been reading my blog at all, you know that connection is big for me. Parents tell me ALL the time that what they want most is to know that their child can share things with them, and will come to them when they need support – they want to stay connected, and they want to be trusted. Is this you, too?
When our children get good at pushing buttons, it drives DISconnection and weakens trust. Here’s what to do…
First, remember what I said in my last blog post (read it here): Your child is doing exactly what he needs to be doing to learn what he needs to learn in order to become the person he’s meant to become. Read that again! It’s a BIG concept. Your child MUST push your buttons. He’s learning SOMETHING from the process. So, you may as well use the same process to learn something awesome, too.
And here’s the awesome thing that you can learn from it. (And, happily, a beautiful thing for your child to learn, too.) Your child does not control you. You get to decide how you will react when your child pushes your buttons.
Sorry if that sounds patronizing. You’re a smart person, and of course you know that you have control over your own emotions, but if you’re reading this, chances are you’re having a tough time accessing, or acting on, that knowing in the moment.
First, I’m going to increase your motivation to learn this. Your child needs to know that he or she does not control you. Being in control of a parent’s emotions is a BIG responsibility for a little child. Your child needs to know that YOU are in control, that he or she can trust you to handle stuff. When your little person pushes your buttons and sees you react, that is scary stuff for her. She needs to know that she does not have the power to throw her whole world out of kilter. If your child is older, or a teenager, your peace, your ability to stay calm, gives him or her a safe place to land.
So here’s the magic move. It’s incredibly simple, and it’s much more powerful than you may know.
When the button is being pushed, breathe UNTIL your brain turns off and your heart is speaking clearly. Breathe UNTIL your love for your child bubbles up and overtakes whatever ego-driven, power-focused thing you were about to say or do to your little person. Breathe UNTIL either the moment passes completely, and you can’t remember that the button was pushed, or UNTIL you know exactly what loving thing you can do instead of reacting from fear or anger. Keep breathing.
Breathe into the crunched-up, angry part of yourself that can’t seem to let go of the crunched-up, angry thought that you are holding (see my last blog post to understand where that thought came from ). Breathe into the tips of your toes and the bottom of your belly. Feel and follow your breath into the spaces between your ribs. Breathe with ALL of your attention. Breathe with ALL of your power. Breathe with ALL of your heart. And when your attention shifts back to those crunched-up angry thoughts, breathe louder and deeper.
If your attention is 100% on your breath, your mind will shut off, and the crunched-up angry thoughts will float away.
What will your child do while you are doing all this breathing?
First, he or she may just stop doing whatever he or she was doing that was pushing your buttons, because broken buttons are no fun to push. Second, he or she may try harder to push your buttons, because broken buttons can also be frustrating. That’s okay, chances are you can out-breathe your button pusher. If you can’t, that’s okay, too, because you can always start again. Third, your little button-pusher may get a little worried about you. You are behaving in a way he or she is not used to, and it may be a little disconcerting. Keep breathing. Breathe as if you are eating chocolate, enjoying every single melty bit of it in your mouth, down your throat, in your belly. Breathe joyously. Breathe determinedly. Breathe, breathe, breathe.
Remember that breathing does not mean that you don’t DO anything else. It just means that you don’t do anything IN ANGER. And that is the ultimate key. You may still not know what to do (if this is you, join us for Big Picture Parenting 2015 and learn What to Do Instead of Rewards, Punishment, Praise, and Shame) but there’s a good chance you’ll come up with something much better to do than what you would have done otherwise. And you’ll do it from a place of peace, a place of understanding, and a place of kindness.
Start breathing now. The more you breathe, intentionally, every day, all day, the easier it will be to breathe in the moment. The more your mind is used to existing without thoughts, the easier it will be for your mind to go there when your buttons are being pushed.
Your child will thank you for it.
If you need help short-circuiting your buttons, check out Big Picture Parenting 2015 or call me for a little coaching… 403-607-1463. I’d love to support you!
Okay, I’m just going to blurt it out.
The bottom line is, we get mad at our kids because we think they shouldn’t be doing what they’re doing, and because we think that, if they are doing what they are doing, it means that we are bad parents.
Here’s how it works:
The child doesn’t listen to us. We think they should, and we assume that since they didn’t, we have done something wrong – we are bad parents. When the thought arrives that we must be bad parents, we resent our child for making it so clear to us that we are bad parents. Finally, we get mad and lash out at them, because if they did what we want them to do, we wouldn’t feel like bad parents. Then we feel guilty for lashing out, and we backpedal and cater and fix it for them – to convince them that they aren’t bad, and to convince ourselves that we aren’t either. Often, it all happens in a split second, and by the end of it, EVERYONE feels bad.
The problem with this whole vicious cycle is that it is based on faulty logic in the first place. When your child does whatever he does that you don’t like, it does not follow that someone has to be bad.
Most of us grew up in cultures that evaluated, judged, compared, and rated us, all the time. We were told to be “good” and most disagreements between children ended up with a good guy and a bad guy. So, it’s not surprising that EVEN THOUGH we know in our hearts that our kids aren’t bad, it’s hard to get our heads around the idea that we aren’t bad, either. Because the culture we grew up in taught us to choose: “Someone has to be wrong here, and someone has to be right.” When we’re upset, our thoughts run wild, and we waffle back and forth between, “He’s bad,” and “I’m bad.”
Let me hold your hand and tell you something, straight from my heart.
You are not a bad parent when your child doesn’t listen to you. Your child is not a bad kid, either.
Now, let’s reframe this whole situation starting with a different basic premise.
Let’s start from the truth – that your child is doing EXACTLY what he needs to be doing in order to learn what he needs to learn to move successfully through his current developmental process, with his or her personality.
Your two year-old MUST resist and say “no” as she discovers that she is not you. Your 3 year-old MUST experience overwhelming emotions, in order to learn how to manage those big feelings that come in life. Your 4 year-old MUST intentionally not listen, in order to find out where he has power to choose and where he does not. Your 5 year-old MUST experiment with saying Really Mean Things in order to discover his own power to hurt, and to heal, another.
“But,” you say, “My friend’s 2, or 3 or 4 or 5 year-old doesn’t do those things!!”
Not every child is alike. The developmental processes are the same, but every personality experiences those developmental needs differently. A more outgoing personality with a need for intensity and leadership potential will explore with power differently than a more introspective personality with a need for quiet and a love for being part of a team.
Your child, in order to develop his or her potential, strengths and self-knowledge, MUST do EXACTLY what he or she does to test hypotheses and to learn, whether you like it or not.
So, what to do with this information? Does it mean that, since we don’t get mad, we just let the child do whatever and walk all over us?
No. But whatever you do, if you keep in mind that your child is doing exactly what he’s supposed to be doing, and that nobody’s bad, your actions will no longer be laced with anger and designed to punish your child.
You will still sometimes need to pick your child up and leave the birthday party amidst screams and misery. But you won’t blame your child or yourself, you won’t feel the need to stay mad or punish your child, and you won’t deem the situation a failure. Nobody has failed.
Instead, your child has succeeded in discovering one more thing about herself in the world, and you have succeeded in helping her learn, compassionately.
I’d love to help you identify how your child’s behaviour is reflecting his or her developmental process, and help you figure out what to do instead of rewards, punishments, praise or shame. Check out Big Picture Parenting 2015, or call me up for some coaching!
We can coach by phone, by Skype, no matter where you live, or in-home (if you live in Calgary, Canada). Call me to find out if coaching with me might be a good fit for you…403-607-1463.
I’d love to connect!
Most parents these days don’t want to be authoritarian, and they don’t want to be permissive.
Unfortunately, since most of us didn’t have a strong example of what The Other Way looks like – in practice – we sometimes flounder when all of our firm-but-gentleness and consistent respect are met by Resistance (despite our gentle requests!), Selfishness (despite our abundant sharing!), Anger (despite our best intentions!), Mean Words (even though We Don’t Call Names in Our Family!), Ingratitude (despite our giving, giving, and more giving) or a myriad of other Things Kids Do When They Are Growing Up.
Many parents who call me up for coaching say things like, “He was fine until he turned…(3 1/2 or 5 or 12).” Most children, at some point, will experiment with behaviours that you don’t like. Some will start experimenting early, and challenge you all through the years. Others will throw you a wild curve ball somewhere along the way.
So then, when the curve ball comes, or frequently through the years, we worry that Gentle Parenting Doesn’t Work and we try some other stuff, stuff that may not feel good in our hearts.
I want to offer you some reassurance. Often when a parent of young adults hears that I am a parenting coach, and after we’ve chatted a bit about my take on parenting, they say, “Oh! You help parents be the kind of parent I was!” When this happens, I take the opportunity to do an informal interview of that parent. As you know, I also read a lot of books and look at lots of research about specific parenting styles. The interviews always back up what I know. They go something like this:
Me: Soooooo…..how was it? Raising your child? The teen years?
Parent of Young Adult (with a big smile and sparkling eyes): It was amazing! She/He was definitely (15 – with a vengeance), (a little distant around age 20), (a rebel without a cause for a while), but it was great. And it’s even better now. We have a great relationship and we (talk on the phone several times a week), (have dinner together every Sunday), (go on amazing trips around the world together), (have the same parenting styles, now I have grand-kids!), (are best friends), etc, etc, etc.
Whatever your personal hopes and dreams are for your relationship with your kid(s) as they grow up, I want to reassure you that gentle parenting works. It’s not always easy. You will be challenged, again, and again, and again, to choose kindness over punishment, to choose love over power struggle, to choose connection over proving your point, and to think for days about what is the right way to handle the particular curve ball that your child has thrown at you.
So, that’s the delayed gratification answer – you’ll know that gentle parenting works when your child is an adult. Probably not so great to hear if you’ve got a 3 year-old or a 5-year-old that is challenging you right now, so here’s a big slice of shorter-term encouragement….
You’ll get a lot of amazing moments along the way. You will be at the mall one day, and your 5-year-old will see a parent threaten, then punish their child, and will slip her hand into yours, look up at you, and say, sadly, “Mom, I’m so glad you don’t punish me.” Your 7-year-old will call you the Best (and some days the Worst) Mommy Ever – and you’ll know that his judging mind has kicked in, and he’s actually thought it through, compared you to his friends’ parents, and you’ve come out A-OK. Your 8-year old will confront her teacher in a meeting with you, her dad, and the principal, will state her values and ask for respectful treatment, and your heart will beam with pride and respect for her articulate and kind assertiveness. Your 10-year-old’s friend will confide in you, and tell you how much he likes having an adult actually listen to his ideas, and your own child will say, as they walk away, “Yeah. My dad’s awesome at listening.” Your 12-year-old will mobilize her class to earn $5000 for an orphanage in Tibet, then crawl into your bed that night after sending off the cheque and say, “How can I do more?”
And your child will be 3 1/2, and 5, and 9, and 12, and 14 (boys) and 15 (girls), with a vengeance. They will live out their developmental stages, and explore the strengths and weaknesses of their personalities in ways that are not pleasant for you, and you will doubt yourself. You will question your values. You will make mistakes – lots of them.
Parenting in keeping with your values is hard. And, I want to reassure that it will be worth it. You will cry. You will worry. You will wonder if you’re giving your child the skills they need to thrive. You will second-guess yourself.
And, in spite of all your imperfections, your children will forgive you, understand you, and probably even grow wiser than you.
And one day down the road, you’ll be the parent I interview, and your eyes will sparkle, and you will tell me, that yes, gentle parenting works.
And please, post below about one of those special moments along that way that gave you a big slice of hope. We’d love to hear!!
It seems like a big and scary goal – The Parent I Want to Be.
At the same time, I can’t really settle for anything less – it matters way too much, and so much love lies in the balance.
So, every year, and multiple times during the year, I re-evaluate. I tweak. I adjust. I take stock of what I’ve learned. I take a deep breath. And I start again, doing my best, with all the information, ability, and heart, that I can draw on, right now, today.
What I love about the New Year is that I am inspired to reset goals, to re-imagine my vision. This year we’re doing something extra special.
I was inspired by the gorgeous family mission statement in the photo.
Each year, my daughter and I have made individual vision posters for the New Year. It has been inspiring and amazing to share that with her, but this year – she’s 8 – I felt it was time to take our joint values and create something really special.
We started with a question, “What do you want our family to be like?” We got out our big whiteboard, and our little whiteboard. We started by brainstorming on our big whiteboard, until neither of us had any more ideas. Then we went through and chose the phrases and ideas that we both felt strongly about, and that included some of the less powerful ideas. We kept these, and erased the others, then began to transfer the ideas to the little whiteboard, to order them by size, to position them, to group them. Lastly, we cleaned off the big whiteboard, and transferred them all back, carefully arranging them as we went.
Then we went out to buy that green painting tape and special acrylic paint markers for writing on walls, and next we’ll paint the most central wall in our home with our Family Vision. I’ll be sure to sub in the photo when it’s complete! In the meanwhile, here’s our whiteboard.
I can’t wait to paint this on the wall!
Creating the vision of the family you want to have, and more importantly, CO-creating that with the rest of your family members, is a key step towards manifesting the reality of your vision. I was amazed at how aligned my daughter and I are in our vision for our family. She designed the final poster, telling me where each idea should fit, and how big to write each word, and most of the time, it was perfect.
As we move into 2014, we will have this solid, beautiful, physical reminder of how we want to be with each other, what our shared values are, and what matters most.
I know that I am a better parent when I am accountable to my children for my behaviour and my choices. I know that I am a better parent when I have reminders of the positive language I want to use when things get tough and I just want to Say Mean Stuff. I know that I am a better parent when I have reminders that we are on track, and a compass to keep me going in the right direction.
There are lots of ways to do this – a framed poster on a single page, a book you write together, a poem, a set of stairs, a painted wall, or something else you choose.
Do you have a vision or mission statement for your family, or for yourself, as a parent? If so, please do share some of the key concepts below! The Big Picture Parenting Class starts by helping you define your vision, clarify the values that matter most to you in your parenting, and express those ideas in ways that inspire you. Come join us! Details for Big Picture Parenting Class of 2014 HERE.