Posts tagged Obedience
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!