‘Naughty naughty’

Today’s Irish Independent (1 June 2016)  ‘Mothers and Babies’ supplement article p. 11 : ‘When it comes to disciplining your children, it’s something that parents find tough.  Parenting coach Val Mullally talks to Andrea Mara about the methods that do and don’t work.’

Last edited June 01st 2016

 

Perhaps you have one of those ‘school angel – house devil’ children; good as gold when out with others but driving you mad at home? Or perhaps your child’s behaviour is driving everyone mad. Maybe it’s some particular behaviour that you wish you could do something about – get them to listen, get them to be more confident, stop whining, stop fighting, stop bullying, stand up for themselves, do their homework. 
I don’t think that there’s a parent who doesn’t puzzle about what to do when it comes to dealing with challenging behaviour, at least some of the time.

Over the next few days I’m going to share three practical insights about challenges parents face and give you some helpful tips to help you create less stress and more fun in your home. I’m asking your to read this and then take time to REFLECT on what this might mean to your family – and especially to you as parent. It’s easy to read something, think ‘yes, ‘yes’ and then rush on to the next item in your agenda. But the three thoughts I’m going to share with you in these articles over the next few days could move you to a whole different and more enjoyable path of parenting. What it will take is time to let them soak into your mind?

So here’s the wildly challenging thought for today:
Getting your child to be ‘good’ might be bad for your child.

Yes, of course you’d like a ‘good’ child. ‘Good’ would be so much easier.

A child who always does what they are told. Who wouldn’t want a ‘good’ child!

Is ‘good’ what really matters?

But your focus on what you need now you might be overlooking the long-term cost of  ‘good’. That cost may be far too high. That cost might mean low self esteem, it might mean becoming a ‘yes’ person to whatever others demand, which will get in the way of your child’s fulfilment  and happiness in life. You want a child who does what he is told, right? But if that’s what you instil then don’t be surprised if this becomes the teen who does whatever anyone else asks: stealing, drugs, sex. Your ‘good’ child is likely to become a vulnerable target for others’ selfish desires. Because ‘good ‘ is about your child fitting in with your agenda, ignoring their own needs as human beings.
And who decides what is ‘good’?
What parent doesn’t wait for the school report, hoping to read the words ‘excellent pupil’, ‘well behaved’  – anxious about the teacher’s comment. And it makes sense that teachers tend to praise children who are compliant. In most school situations teachers are overburdened with too large classes, administrative demands, a syllabus to complete and the emphasis on examination marks. Our school system is set up to encourage ‘good’, also known as ‘compliant’. But the compliant child is not going to be the mover and the shaker that is what the world needs now. Do you really want a ‘good’ child or do you want to support your child to grow into the full potential of the unique, wonderful, awesome human being that he or she already is? The children who grow up to really make a difference in the world are very often the ones who didn’t ‘cut it’ at school.

Think of Einstein, Steve Jobs, Oprah, Richard Branson. I wonder if there’s a school report lying around some dusty attic for any one of those characters! I bet that would make interesting reading, and I doubt you would find the word ‘good’ on their school reports.
You’d be more likely to spot phrases like ‘daydreamer’, ‘doesn’t listen’, ”won’t settle in class’. Children in touch with themselves and with life don’t put their focus of fulfilling someone else’s agenda. They intuitively know they must follow their own inner calling.

So what are the words that are maybe used to describe your child that cause you concern?

‘Wilful or stubborn’ – They know what they want.

‘Daydreamer’ or ‘easily distracted’ – Their minds are on other more exciting things.  ‘Imagination is everything. It is a preview of life’s coming attractions.’ Albert Einstein knew how to use his imagination. That’s how he discovered such amazing things.

‘Needs to listen’ – maybe your child listens to his or her own inner rhythm.

So if you are dreading receiving one of those school reports, maybe it’s time to think again.
Take time to think about:
What am I actually focused on when I want my child to be ‘good’?
What do I really want, when I think long term?
In what ways could my child’s challenging behaviour actually be a positive?
What do I need as Parent (or support person to the child) to help this child to develop to his or her full potential?

Let’s move beyond ‘good’ to ‘happy’, ‘curious’, ‘interested’, ‘imaginative’ , ‘tenacious’ and all of the other crazily wonderful qualities that make your child a unique person who lives fully.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not advocating wild, out of control behaviour. Rather I’m saying that as parents and people working with children we need to think further than ‘good’. But rather than striving for compliant behaviour we need to know how to create environments that encourage cooperative behaviour. That’s what the Koemba approach is all about. Watch out for my next blog in a couple of days, because I’ll be chatting about how if you  focus on keeping your child ‘safe’ it may not actually nurture your child’s health and well-being.

Last edited April 04th 2013

‘My child’s become so unreasonable. He used to be placid and easy going. Now he suddenly explodes for no reason.’ Perhaps you are like this parent, trying to figure out where your child’s anger has suddenly come from and what to do about it.

In my work as a Parent Coach, I’ve noticed how often parents find themselves dealing with children’s anger after they’ve experienced some major change. Perhaps it’s starting or changing schools, or after the death of a loved one. This all makes sense when we recognise that anger is a very common reaction in times of loss and it makes sense because anger is always an inner sign ‘I need change.’ And sometimes the change we   wish we had was to change things back to how they used to be.

It’s unsurprising that children, with limited reasoning and verbal skills, may express this anger in a socially unacceptable way – through tantrums, verbal or even physical outbursts – possibly at those closest to them. Claude’s father had recently walked out of the family home. Claude screams at his mother, ‘I hate you!’ Our reaction in such a situation may be to feel hurt or angry. Perhaps we would find it easier to cope if we remind ourselves that the child is battling with complex and painful emotions.
When a grieving child suddenly kicks the dog or smashes a treasured object, he may be trying to say something he cannot find words for. If he is experiencing frustration and anger, he needs to be handled with the same reassurance and care we would offer grieving adults. Punishing a child who is reacting negatively will only increase his rage and possibly cause him to bury his grief.  Rather, we need to guide him gently towards more socially acceptable outlets, and help him to find words for his feelings. For example, if a child has just thrown a toy across the room, a helpful response might be,‘You’re feeling angry. If you throw the toy it may break. Let’s find something else you would like to play with.’Acknowledge the child’s feelings, gently letting him know that his action was inappropriate, and find another activity that will help him ‘let off steam’ in an acceptable way.  Creative activities that can help hurting children vent their anger include:

  • play dough
  • puppets
  • fat wax crayons and large sheets of paper
  • hammer, wood and nails.

We can use activities like these to help children to ‘let off steam’ in a way that won’t hurt themselves or others. When a child is ‘stuck’ in their pain and anger and you are feeling unable to help them move through that experience I recommend seeking professional help such as Play Therapy. Your child may need a safe space to work though ‘tangled emotions’ and troubled thoughts, and play therapy uses toys, which are a child’s ‘natural language’ to give the child a safe space to do this. We also need to learn the skill of deepening  communication with our children.  (If you are in Ireland or nearby, don’t miss out on the ‘Coaching Approach to Parenting’ course. Click on this link for detail).

Sometimes a child’s experience with us is that it’s not okay to talk about troubling things. I love Catherine Wallace’s statement:

‘Listen eagerly to anything your child wants to tell you, no matter what. If you don’t listen eagerly to the little stuff  when they are little, they won’t tell you the big stuff when they are big, because to them all of it has always been big stuff.’

This applies to children but recently I’ve been challenged to recognise how it applies with the elderly as well. An aging father wants to buy his adult daughter a rather expensive gift and she resists him spending money on her.

‘But I want to get you something special before I die,’ he says.

‘Don’t be talking like that, daddy,’ she exclaims. ‘Of course you’re not going to die!’

Whilst it’s not an easy subject to discuss, the fact is that sooner or later the old man must leave his loved ones and take that journey to an unknown destination. As with the child, if we shut down the conversation now when it doesn’t seem relevant or urgent to us, we may be shutting down the opportunity for the other to share their anxieties or to say something they need to say. When we shut down the topic of conversation by ignoring it, or making light of it, the message we might be giving is, ‘I can’t discuss this with you.’

Imagine if you had to take a journey to a foreign land and whenever you tried to broach the subject, people avoided the conversation. Imagine how much greater your anxiety would become if this subject is taboo. Imagine your sadness if you couldn’t say the words of farewell that deep inside you wanted to say.

This is why it’s so important  to use whatever entrances in conversation come your way, no matter how small or unexpected, to give the message, ‘If there’s something on your mind, I’m here to listen.’

When we learn how to create a safe space for any subject to be discussed, we give the gift of connectedness.

Part of this blog is an excerpt from ‘Working with Under Sixes – a  handbook for everyone in children’s ministry’ by Val Mullally. 

This practical book includes helpful chapters on:

– play

– storytelling

– encouraging creativity

–  dealing with discipline

and helping children cope with loss

Last edited February 26th 2013

You’ve just had a melt-down!  After Tantrum #7 and many attempts to figure out how to calm your toddler you lost it.  A few seconds later you feel as though you have just watched a bad movie, starring you as the Monster parent!  “I can’t believe I screamed at my child!  How could I have reacted that way?  What an awful parent I am!”  And it probably doesn’t stop there.  You continue to beat yourself up periodically throughout the day.

The Perfect Parent  

You remember all of those report cards.  If you’re like most people in our culture, throughout your life you received messages about how well you were doing, not just in school, but perhaps in sports, in attractiveness, and in how “nice” you were.  You may have been taught to strive for perfection.

And so you learned to measure and judge yourself.  Am I smart enough?  Fast enough?  Pretty enough?  And am I a good enough parent?  With self-judgment often comes self-criticism, which may consist of some fairly harsh, negative, mental thrashing (e.g., “What a bad parent I am!  Why did I lose my temper over something so silly?”).  Clearly such negative thoughts serve to tear down our own sense of competence.

The truth is:

  • There is no such thing as a “perfect parent” thank goodness!  How would your child ever live up to the expectation to be like you if you were perfect!  Talk about pressure!
  • Parents are human beings.  Human beings do not behave consistently all of the time.  You, as a human being and a parent, have many emotions that sometimes just push through your attempts to be calm and rational.  It’s human nature.

So while you may intend to always react calmly to your children, when the unexpected happens (e.g., You sniff out the stench in the house to discover your 10-year-old’s missing baseball socks under her bed, growing mold) you just might scream!

Instead of beating yourself up…

Try a little kindness.  Your child is going to see you get upset for a variety of reasons from time to time.  What’s important is that s/he also sees you treat yourself with compassion.

If you feel you have mishandled a situation with your child, rather than beat yourself up, try comforting yourself. You don’t deserve to be punished for your mistake, but that is what you are doing when you criticize yourself in a demeaning fashion.

According to Kristin Neff, Ph.D. the first step in a self-compassionate approach is to be aware of what’s going on inside:

  • Take a moment to notice what you are saying to yourself.  You might be thinking, “Of course I know what I’m saying to myself!” But most people don’t actually stop to hear the words and how harsh they sound; it has become automatic to say “What a dummy,” etc.  We end up sending ourselves these critical messages over and over again.  Unless you become more consciously aware of these messages, you continue to chip away at your own self-esteem.
  • Pay attention to the “tone of voice” you are using in your self-talk.  If you are calling yourself names, you probably sound angry, and harsh.
  • Then, just as you would comfort your child, or a good friend, be compassionate with yourself.  Soften your tone of voice.  Choose words that serve to comfort.  Practice an attitude of acceptance.  You might tell yourself, “That didn’t turn out the way I wanted…. Like every other human being on this earth, I made a mistake.” You could smile, and even give yourself a hug.  According to Dr. Neff, your body responds to that physical gesture of warmth and care.  It may seem silly, but self-hugging can help to soothe distressing emotions.
  • In this attitude of compassion, seek to repair the disconnect with your child.  For example, you might say, “When I found your socks I really just lost it.  I didn’t handle that well.  Would you like a hug?”  Then just listen.  At a later time you can restate your expectation that your child will put dirty socks in the laundry room.In the case of the tantrumming toddler, just be present.  Hold your child when s/he is ready to be held.  In a soothing voice you might say, “You were very angry when I said we couldn’t go outside…..And then I got angry and I yelled.  I’m just going to sit here now and be quiet.  Do you want to sit with me?”  Even if your little one is too young to understand your words, say them anyway.  Your child will hear your compassion.

I highly recommend the book, Self-Compassion, by Kristin Neff, Ph.D., who writes openly about her own struggles with parenting her autistic child.  Take a few moments to look at her website http://www.self-compassion.org, where she has a brief video clip and some guided meditations.

Last edited June 23rd 2012

Like most mothers, I constantly strive to achieve harmony in my home and help my children know the difference between right and wrong. Many parents, crèches, early education centers and primary schools use a ‘bold step’ or ‘bold chair’ where the child who has misbehaved must sit and take ‘time out’ from an activity until they are invited back by the parent or teacher.  Even Supernanny on television is a big fan of the ‘bold step’ and ‘time out’ concepts.

I have never been comfortable with the parenting tool of ‘time out’ but I couldn’t see any alternatives.  When I did use it, I always felt like it was a battle of wits between myself and my son. The scene would play out as follows: him acting in a manner which I felt warranted punishment, me telling him to go sit on the bold step, him refusing, me ordering him to go, him still refusing, me dragging him there, him getting up, me putting him back etc. etc. By this stage, both of us have lost our heads and neither is thinking rationally. What could be the possible learning point here for any child? I, for one, cannot see any benefit for either him or me.  However, in the absence of an alternative, I continued periodically to force my son to take ‘time out’.

One of the things that made some difference was helping my son to try to control his anger. For example, when his sister annoyed him, his immediate reaction had been to lash out. I suggested counting to ten, taking a deep breath or walking away.  However, if the behaviour continued, I would have then ordered him to the ‘bold step’ and we’d be back to the battle of wits.

For the past six months I have been on a parent coaching course with Koemba and as a result have had my eyes opened to alternatives when it comes to disciplining my children.  Besides the helpful tools and insights on the course itself, one of the features is reading and reviewing books on parenting. In his book entitled ‘Unconditional Parenting: Moving from Rewards and Punishments to Love and Reason’, Alfie Kohn describes time out as ‘a version of love withdrawal when children are sent away against their will’. He believes that by removing the child, you might get the behaviour to cease but it is only a short term solution.  It doesn’t examine what’s causing the behavior. He states ‘it is the child who engages in a behaviour, not just the behavior itself that matters’.

Kohn provides a number of alternatives to time out as follows:

1. If possible talk to your child and try to ascertain the reason for the behavior and explain why the behavior in question is not helpful;

2. If the child needs to first of all calm down, ask him/her if they would benefit from taking some time to themselves, e.g. in their room.  It’s important that the child does not feel they are being forced to take time out;

3. If the child does not want to take time to himself/herself but it’s not appropriate to leave them where the behavior occurred, then the parent, as a last resort could remove the child and stay with them.

‘The Whole-Brain Child’ by Daniel Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson is a very interesting parenting book. It describes how a child’s brain develops and explains the difference between the left and right sides of the brain.  When a child is upset, they are overwhelmed with right brain emotions and cannot employ left brain logic until they are calmer.  The authors recommend that when a child is flooded with right brain emotions, parents should initially respond with their own right brains instead of trying to reason with the child which would mean using the left side of the brain. Responding with our right brain could mean making soothing sounds, being present for your child, listening attentively.  I really like the following quote: “when parent and child are tuned in to each other, they experience a sense of joining together”. Once the child has calmed down, the parent can then apply logic and reason.

This book also explains how the upstairs and downstairs of the brain differ. Shortly after reading this section in the Whole-brain Child, I explained to my six year old son about “flipping the lid”.  I showed him the illustrations in the book which were created specifically for children. They describe how our lids get flipped when we are cross or upset about something.  It is only when we are calm, and our lids are back down, that we can be start to think clearly again. My son understood this message immediately.  He was now able to put a label on how he felt when he got angry and wanted to lash out.

Since then my son has been learning to identify the signs when he is about to flip his lid.  Even when he does lose his cool, he knows that he then needs to take time to himself until he calms down. He is effectively taking ownership of his own time out instead of me forcing it on him. Sometimes I just say, “Maybe you should go upstairs until you calm down” but most times he just goes to his room without any prompting. He then returns when he decides he is calm, not when I tell him to. That could be after two minutes or anything up to ten minutes later.  When he returns we discuss what caused him to lose his cool, how he could have handled the situation differently, how he would likely deal with a similar scenario in the future, how he felt when he flipped his lid, how he feels now and how he thinks others involved in the incident felt.

While my 6 year old son is happy to go off on his own until he calms down, my 4 year old daughter takes a different approach.  When she is upset and has flipped her lid, she wants me to stay with her while she calms down.  She often wants me to hold her while she does this.  Maybe, over time, she will follow her brother’s example and go to   her room, but for now having me there is helpful for her.  So, where an argument comes to a head between the two of them, he takes off to his room to calm down and she stays with me. When he returns with his lid back down and when she is calm again, we discuss the argument in a rational and non judgmental way.  We all learn and grow   from these experiences.

It has been amazing seeing my son and daughter develop in this way, taking control of their own emotions. In fact, my son recently said to me,

“Mam, you’ve just flipped your lid”.

That stopped me in my tracks and when I’d calmed down, I thanked him for pointing that out to me and explained that everyone loses their cool from time to time.

The bold step no longer features in my house. In fact my daughter has never been on it and I don’t envisage ever using it for my 2 year old son. It’s great to know that there are alternatives to smacking children or using ‘time out’. It’s up to every parent to find the one that best fits their family and their quest for harmony in their home.

 

Marie Reilly

Mother and Trainee Parent Coach

April 2012

 

 

Last edited October 21st 2015

The debate rages and, no matter which side of the argument you’re on, you can see you’re right.  And what if, in one sense, both parties are right?

I say both parties may be right because I’m looking past the ‘to smack or not to smack’ and I’m asking a different question. I’m asking ‘What is it we really want to achieve?’ And I suspect that both parties will agree without hesitation that what we want is young people who are respectful of other people and of others people’s property.

So what would happen instead of trying to outshout each other’s argument regarding whether or not smacking is okay, we reflect on what might be learnt from the mindset of the other.

Here’s what it looks like from my viewpoint:

The ‘Smackers’ are right about children needing boundaries. When you’re standing on the ‘Smackers’’ side of the fence it’s obvious that many good old -fashioned values and behaviours have been undermined.  They are saying ‘children need boundaries.’  And they are absolutely right. Children need boundaries for our benefit and also for their own. A child without boundaries can feel very insecure because he doesn’t know where the limits are. I once heard a wise lady describe a child raised without boundaries as being like a blind person trying to walk in a room that went on and on, without any walls. Imagine how disorientating, and perhaps even frightening, it would be to have no walls to help you gain a sense of direction. Children need boundaries so that they know what to expect and what’s expected from them. In fact, the ‘Smackers’ are cautioning something really significant here – Discipline is essential if we want peaceful society.  ‘Kids who are brought up with firm, fair, consistent boundaries don’t go off the rails so easily.’  Sue Atkins[1] Certainly part of the problem with the UK riots had to do with lack of boundaries and discipline.

And what if the ‘Non-Smackers’ are also right because they have figured out that actually children are people too and all people deserve to be treated with respect?  What if they’ve recognized that violence begets violence?

For some insight into why smacking isn’t going to achieve what’s needed, here are some key points that leading international neuroscientists recognise:

1.  The child’s brain is still ‘under construction’.  This means that the child will not always perceive things as we adults do. Yes, there are times when children will need our intervention and guidance.

2. Because the child’s brain is not fully developed, it also means that at times of strong emotion, children need adults who can be the ‘emotional thermostats’ – helping to keep the heat of roused emotions at a reasonable temperature.

3. When we are upset we don’t ‘think straight’. This is because we don’t have one brain. In a sense we have three brains, and the innermost section of the brain, often called the reptilian brain, is the part that reacts when the person is under threat.  When we sense ‘danger’, the brain focuses its energy on this deep inner brain – causing us to go into reactive mode, of fight, flight, freeze or appease, to help keep us safe in an emergency.  The cost of this ‘survival mode’ is that clear logical thinking temporarily shuts down.  It makes sense that when a child is smacked, they are going to feel under attack, which means the primitive ‘survival’ mode of the brain is triggered, which means that they won’t take any learning from the situation.  All the child will gain is a fear reaction that will get them to avoid being in the same situation again.

Will it teach them not to repeat that behaviour any time the authority figure is present to reinforce the punishment? Yes.

Will it teach them compassion or consideration for others?  No, because the part reptilian part of the brain that is triggered when we are under attack doesn’t do compassion or reasoning – it only does survival.  Crocodiles don’t worry about connection – they just do survival!

David Lammy UK author of  ‘Out of the Ashes: After the Riots’ [2] states in an article in the Guardian, where he blames anti-smacking law for UK riots.  “The ability to exercise their (parents’) own judgment in relation to discipline and reasonable chastisement has been taken away. ”

What I’d like to say to David is that I agree with him that children need discipline but Punishment and Discipline are not synonyms.  ‘Chastisement’ is Punishment  – not Discipline. Punishment attempts to work from the outside in. Discipline works from the inside out.[3]

Smacking (a.k.a, Punishment) isn’t going to achieve what’s needed because, in the words of leading neuroscientist Daniel Siegel:

“Discipline” really means to teach, not to “punish”.[4]

What we want is surely to teach our children acceptable social behaviour.

Some parents resort to smacking children because they don’t know how else to maintain boundaries. Some parents don’t smack but resort to other tools of coercion and manipulation that ultimately might be just as harmful,  (and much of this is advocated on popular TV Parenting programmes).

I appreciate that David Lammy  MP is voicing that the violence that erupted in the UK is a signal that this is an issue that needs urgent and serious attention. When Smackers and the Non-Smackers choose to focus on the outcome we desire: ‘What is it we really want to achieve?’, here’s some of the factors we’ll most probably agree on:

Yes, society needs children to have boundaries.

Yes, children need to have boundaries.

Yes, everyone deserves to be treated with respect.

And it’s time to learn from experts in the fields of child development, attachment parenting and neuroscience about what’s needed to raise emotionally healthy individuals who respect themselves and others.

What’s vital is that parents and educators are equipped with helpful discipline tools that work, not just on the short term from the adult’s perspective – but ‘work’ in the sense that they are going to achieve the long term goals of a peaceful and respectful society, where everyone’s needs, including children’s,  are taken into account.

 

Other related articles:

Rioting Teenagers – can your parenting make a difference?

Teenage Freedom?

Helpful resources by Val Mullally related to this topic:

Managing Anger in the Home CD & MP3

 

Dealing with Discipline CD & MP3

 

Soon to be released: Children’s Challenging Behaviour

(Sign up for our newsletter to keep in touch with new releases).


[1] SueAtkins Twitter @SueAtkins 30/01/2012

[3] Adapted from Danny Silk

[4] Siegel, Daniel J and Payne Bryson, Tina, ‘The Whole Brain Child – 12 revolutionary strategies to nurture your child’s developing mind

 

 

Last edited January 30th 2012

An Option to Meltdown

‘We had total melt-down this week.’

It was the fourth week of our Parenting Programme, and  Jane shared her story with the parents and myself, as facilitator, in her group. She’d had the flu during the week and one day was so off-colour that she left her five year old son, Timmy, to choose his own clothes for school. Later in the week he decided that he didn’t want to choose from the either/or outfits that she’d put ready – he wanted to choose his clothes himself. He started whining. She can’t stand him whining so she became increasingly uptight. He started having a meltdown and Jane left the room before she exploded. The other parents gave little chuckles – it was easy to identify with this situation.

‘How do I do it differently?’ she asked.

I invited her to role-play the situation, with me being the mother and her taking the role of the child.  I wish I’d had the video camera rolling, but this is roughly what transpired.

THE ‘KOEMBA–CONNECT’ MODEL

I reminded the group of the ‘Koemba – CONNECT’:

‘PARK – CONNECT – FOCUS – EVOKE before you PLAN.’

As I role-played Jane’s part I consciously chose to PARK my own stuff (particularly I recognised I’m parking my worry about what the group might think).

I also imagine what I might have to PARK as Jane:

my own agenda  (‘We’ve got to get going!’ )

my perspective  (‘What’s wrong with the clothes I’ve chosen?)

my frustration (Why can’t he just co-operate?’)

my opinions (He’s just doing this to annoy me!)

my fears (If I let him choose, he’ll put on something ridiculous!)

All this is ‘my stuff’ and will pollute the space between us, unless I choose to park it.

Only when I put myself in PARK  (In ‘neutral’ position) can I CONNECT.

I gently move in closer, I make eye contact at his level, using a ‘soft gaze’, I’m aware of keeping a calm tone of voice and open body language. Because I’ve already PARKed my stuff, what’s happening on the outside is actually a reflection of the inside– my intention is to CONNECT (Not trying create an instant solution, nor to cajole him into doing what I want). I know it will take time moving through the process to get to PLAN.

Timmy: I don’t want to wear these. I want to choose my own clothes.

Jane: You don’t want to wear those today.

Timmy: No, I want to choose my clothes for school.

Jane: You want to choose your clothes for school?

Timmy: Yes, when you were sick, I did it myself.

Jane: When I was sick you chose your own clothes.

I ‘timed out’ the conversation and checked in with the group. I recognized that as I was role-playing the mother, I wasn’t feeling up-tight and there was no sign of tension in ‘Timmy’. I checked in with ‘Timmy’  – he was ‘feeling heard’. I checked in with the group  – what did they observe? They were aware of the calmness. There was no whining or emotional temperatures rising. And ‘Timmy’ was not doing an out-of-control pre-schooler reaction  – but speaking in a very rational tone of voice. I (as ‘Parent’) had FOCUSED on the situation and EVOKED a response (rather than a reaction).

The Parent group then imagined what would be the situation now if this was an adult-to-adult discussion. We’d PLAN – we’d work together to find a solution that met both our needs.  Jane laughed.

‘I guess I’m worried he’d make a crazy choice but actually he dressed very sensibly when I was too sick to organize his clothes.’

Another mum shared,

‘It’s always a rush in the morning.  I think if we just do it ‘my way’ it will save time.  But when I push my own agenda and ignore what my child needs, it takes much longer and we’re all uptight and upset.’

HELPFUL PROBLEM SOLVING TOOL

‘I get that,’ said one of the dads, ‘but sometimes that’s not practical.’

We discussed a great tool that Faber and Mazlish introduce in their book ‘How to Talk so Kids will Listen and Listen so Kids will Talk.’

My YouTube video clip ‘Power Struggle Solution’ demonstrate this approach – click here if you’d like to discover this tool. Sometimes you’ll be surprised at how ‘copped on’ your children are at coming up with workable solutions and it’s a great way to build their problem solving and negotiation skills.

THE POWER OF THE ‘KOEMBA – CONNECT’ MODEL

The group recognized the power of the Koemba-CONNECT approach to move out of the power struggle and to create harmony in the home.  What it’s sometimes hard to remember in our Parenting, is that it’s not our job to persuade our children to think the same as we do.  Our role is to support our children to be themselves, with their own thoughts, experiences, emotions and viewpoints. What we can do is to guide them to be response-able.  We can CONNECT so that they can articulate their own opinions and respect others’ – we can model how to connect and compromise.  That’s the potential power in our day-to day parenting struggles. Every upset is an opportunity for growth.

Instead of our children growing up thinking ‘my way or the highway’, they’ll absorb powerful tools to deal respectfully with conflict in relationship.

 

Last edited December 14th 2016

‘Good girl’, ‘bright child’, ‘difficult’, ‘ADD’, ‘ ‘slow’, ‘shy’, ‘lazy’.

The list goes on and on – but what is the impact of the labels we put on our children?

Think about going to the store. You pick up a tin of peas.

What do you expect to get inside?

Peas.

What you see is what you get – right?

The label on the can refers to what’s on the inside.

The labels we put on children are putting a name on what we see on the outside.

When we label the child we’re naming a type of behaviour that we’re seeing on the outside.

We’re seeing the lazy behaviour, or shy behaviour, or whatever.

And we’re presuming that that’s what’s on the inside.

The label is ignoring all the other wonderful aspects of this child.

The label limits us to seeing just some aspect of our child’s behaviour, as though that is who the child IS.

When we’re labelling children ‘What you see is what you get’ is often the outcome.

We’re putting blinkers on ourselves regarding all this child’s wonderful potential.

And we may well be putting blinkers on the child as to all he is and all he’s capable of becoming – his wonderful potential.

Label a child and he’s likely to live up to your expectations.

Even pet names: ‘My little monster,’  ‘cheeky monkey’, ‘my baby’ can have an alarming way of becoming a self –fulfilling prophecy.

So what’s wrong with positive labels, you may be asking.

We’re still limiting who that child is.

The child who owns the label ‘clever’ may find it difficult to relax, have fun.

He’ll have to be living up to his reputation of always knowing the answer.

And that might mean always having his head in the books.

”Little miss sunshine’ may end up denying her sad feelings, her angry feelings. She may become a people pleaser – because the message she received was that it’s her job to be the sunshine in every situation.

What about ‘good girl’?

Doesn’t every parent want their child to be good?

Well, yes, of course we do.

But stop and think about it.

We use the label  ‘good’ when the child is doing what WE want them to do.

Does that mean that they’re ‘bad’ if they’re not complying with us?

When the child’s agenda is at odds with ours, she’s likely to resist or protest.

We might not like that behaviour but what’s it trying to tell us?

If our focus is to raise competent children who have a sense of who they are and where they’re going in life, it’s helpful to resist labels as far as possible.

I was recently at a Parent and Toddler group and watched a four year old carry the plastic cups back to the counter.

Resisting the automatic  ‘good girl’ comment, I said, ‘Thank you.’

She came back with two more cups. I said thank you again.

The third time I said, I figured I needed something else to say:

‘You’re picking up the cups and bringing them back for us.’

Round four:

‘And now you have two more cups!’

Round five:

‘You’ve picked up all the cups off the tables. That was helpful.’

I had to think harder to find a meaningful response that fitted the unique situation. I also named the impact that this had.

If she hadn’t picked up the cups, that wouldn’t have meant that she wasn’t a ‘good girl’. She might have been tired, or occupied with something else.

Sometimes labels are given because we are seeking to understand some challenge the child is facing.

Perhaps a clinical diagnosis has been given.

This can be very helpful for the parent to have some sense of what challenges  they’re facing.

I’m just asking that we bear in mind that this still only describes some aspect of who the child is.

There’s a big difference between saying,

‘My child is dyslexic.’

and

‘My child has dyslexia.’

The dyslexia (or whatever) is the challenge your child is facing.

It doesn’t define who he is.

Think about the difference between saying,

‘My child has a learning disability.’

And

‘My child has a learning challenge.’

A disability is something you have to live with.

A challenge is something that the courageous can overcome.

Language can limit.

Or we can choose to use language that affirms and believes in our child’s amazing, unlimited potential

Like the name on the tin, a label is just something that we attach.

It’s something we can also discard.

If we recognise labels that aren’t helpful– we can toss them today.

We can choose to see the incredible richness, the wonder of who our child is and can be.

Last edited April 12th 2011

When Emotions Get Heated

Imagine being a fly on the wall observing your own parenting.

You might figure:

‘Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.’ (Albert Einstein)

You recognise that there are repeating patterns of behaviour in your family, that aren’t helpful.

You want to choose a different way  – to respond rather than react.

You know you’re the only one you can actually change.

So, the next time you have an upset with your … (Click here for full article)

Last edited December 14th 2010