Helping My Child with Keeping Agreements

911615_shaking_hands

(C) 2007 Richard Dudley

One morning I told my daughter (7.5) it was time to clean her room before watching TV. “Oh mom,” she said. “You know I need time to wake up and just want to relax and watch a show before doing anything else.”

I kneeled down and said, “Okay, I get that. So do you agree that after your show you will pick up your room?”

“Yes,” she agreed.

Well as life goes she watched her show, got distracted with other things and didn’t want to clean her room anymore.

I reminded her of our agreement. “But I don’t wanna clean my room!” she whined in reply.

I had to bite my tongue from saying, “See?! You just get what you want then don’t follow through! I should have known not to negotiate with you.”

Instead, I reminded myself that she was probably feeling disconnected and struggling with some tension around cleaning her room. What she really needed was some listening and connection from me, anything else would just get us into a power struggle.

I sat next to her on her bed and listened as she complained about cleaning her room. She got up from her bed and stormed around her room telling me all the reasons why she couldn’t do it and didn’t want to do it. As I listened her tone escalated. She told me I couldn’t make her clean her room and that she didn’t have to!

Staying calm, I kept my focus on just listening to her. It can be easy to jump into the lecture, but I reminded myself to focus on really hearing her and allowing her to express all that she needed to say. I knew if I said anything much at this point she wouldn’t really be able to hear me anyway. It was important that I keep my center and not get hooked into her feeling about cleaning her room or worried about how this was all going to work out. Her cleaning her room was going to take a back seat to my really connecting with her right where she was at so I just kept listening taking in everything she had to say.

It didn’t take long before I noticed her tone started to calm and she relaxed next to me. When she seemed finished I told her that she was right, she didn’t “have to” clean her room and I wasn’t going to “make her”. This caught her interest and I had her full attention. Then I told her, since we had made an agreement, I would like her to keep it. I let her know that trusting a person’s word is an important quality to me. If she chooses not to keep it, that is her choice and that choice would influence my making future agreements with her because I’ll know she doesn’t always keep her agreements.

I let her know it really was her choice, gave her a hug and kiss, and then went on with what I needed to do to get ready for the day.

When I walked by her room about 5 minutes later I noticed she was cleaning up her room. And, she seemed quite happy with herself too!

As a parent it’s easy to get caught by worry when our children are not keeping to their word. We want so much for our children to keep their agreements that it’s easy to resort to trying to make them and telling them they have to. When we forget to simply connect with our kids and see what’s making this moment hard for them it’s easy to resort to threats, shame, blame and guilt.

By taking the time to listen however, we form a powerful connection with our children. As we hear them fully, we not only get to know what is in their hearts in that moment, but it also opens them up to hearing us in return. This moment where we hear them and they look to us, ready to listen in return, is where we have the influence we so want with our children. It is the opening where we can share our values with them and know that they are really taking in what we are sharing.

This moment with my daughter has led to more dialogues about trust and keeping our word. We’ve talked about times where we may need to break agreements for different reasons and how we can do that without damaging trust. And, I’ve listened to her tears when, for instance, she wanted to skip a party she had already committed to so she could go to a different party. In these instances I have felt it important to listen, and then hold the limit that she keep her first agreement, and not change because something “better” came along.

I can see my daughter is learning from these moments. Recently, when I was reluctant to negotiate on something with my daughter she looked at me earnestly and said, “Mom, I keep my agreements.” I nodded, smiling, and said, “Yes, you do.” And, together, we found something that worked for both of us.

~ Michelle Pate, Certified Parenting by Connection Instructor and Consultant Learn more about the power of listening and connecting with your child by joining Michelle in her upcoming Building Emotional Understanding Course.  You can also connect with her on Facebook.

Play Helps Dissolve Frustration

nightgownBefore bed, my daughter and I had a fun Special Time together doing whatever she wanted. When the timer beeped (signaling the end of Special Time) she happily trotted off to her room to change into her new nightgown and get ready for bed. Within a few minutes though, she returned very unhappy.

“This nightgown is too short and I’m cold,” she complained.

“Yeah?” I replied. “Do you want to wear something else?”

“Ugh!” she growled. “I hate it! I don’t want it! You can just donate it!”

Since she was so happy after our time together I wasn’t sure what had shifted. I suspected the nightgown wasn’t really the issue, but sometimes I wonder is it the clothes or is she just needing something to get upset about? Only time would answer that question so I decided to stay close, available and calm to see what she would show me next.

I followed her into her room where she took off the nightgown and threw it into the laundry basket. I opened her drawer and pulled out her favorite jammies. “Do you want these?” I asked.

“Ugh!!” she growled again as she grabbed them from me and put them on.

I wanted to offer her my warmth and support for whatever was coming up for her, but wasn’t sure what direction to go. Did she need more connection through play or just my quiet presence and listening?  So, I said, “I noticed you were pretty happy a few minutes ago. And now, it’s like PHEW! all this stuff’s gotta come out.” I waited for her response to clue me in to what she needed.

She made some more ‘growly” noises, but then looked at me playfully and said, “Yeah! I just need to wrestle you!”

“Alright!” I said enthusiastically. Play was the way to go!

We wrestled for a little while. She laughed hard and came up with some new wrestling moves. We had a lot of good, non-stop giggles. When I was ready to stop I gave her a big hug and said it was time to brush teeth. She transitioned easily.

While we were in the bathroom she said, “I’m really hot, maybe that nightgown is a good idea.” She went back to her room and changed into her nightgown.

Just as I suspected, the nightgown wasn’t the issue. Just a little tension that needed to be released through a fun time wrestling and laughing with mom. Connection and play saves the evening again!

– Michelle Pate, Parenting by Connection Instructor and Consultant
Join one of her upcoming Building Emotional Understanding classes starting May 22nd @ 6pm Pacific Time OR May 23rd @ 10:30 am Pacific Time —– You can also connect with her on Facebook.

How Listening to My Son Helped his Separation Anxiety

We went away camping with four other families.  Between us, we had eleven kids between the ages of 1 and 7.  The weather was beautiful.  We cooked over a wood fire and the kids hung out playing well and laughing together.  The sea was still warm enough for a swim.  It was a beautiful weekend.

On the last day, my partner and I went to pack up the tent.  I’d told my son earlier that we were soon to pack away.  We’d just taken the fly sheet off when he came rushing over to us. “I need a rest, put the fly sheet back on,” he whined.

I let him know that we weren’t going to put the fly sheet back on, but said he could rest inside the inner tent if he wanted.  He went inside and started leaning against the tent walls.  I got inside and put my arm gently behind him, “No, I’m not going to let you lean against the tent like that. It could rip.”

He stayed put, so I said, “I’m going to move you away now,” and did just that.

He protested loudly, “Get away from me!” he shouted angrily.  I moved back a little.  He was still very angry, but crying now, too.  He kept screaming, “Get away from me!

I wasn’t quite sure how close to be, so I thought I’d experiment with distance.  I moved back further. He was still shouting at me and crying, so I got out of the tent.

Come back,” he shouted!

I had obviously gone too far.  I got back in, and he started crying harder.  The anger subsided and just tears remained.  I moved a little closer.  The sobbing died down and we cuddled.

I got on with the packing and he lay in the tent for a little while longer, then got up and joined the other kids, who were eating sausages.

Amazingly, there was no further issue or upset about leaving.  When it was time to go, he happily went round saying goodbye, and hopped straight in the vehicle.

It seemed like the wonderful weekend had made him feel safe, loved, and good.  And that feeling of goodness allowed some buried sadness to pop up.  Probably because he’s been listened to regularly, he was able to let me know I’d moved too far away from him!  I think by staying close and listening to his anger and tears, I helped him clear away old hurts.  When they were flushed out, he was free to think well and say goodbye with lightness and warmth.

Rachel Schofield, Certified Parenting by Connection Instructor (living in Australia)

Rachel SchofieldJoin Rachel in her upcoming Building Emotional Understanding online class starting June 1.  Learn more >

Listen to the podcast of her teleseminar How Do I Connect With My Baby?.

You can learn more about Parenting by Connection in the Listening to Children booklet set.

Parenting Help: Burn-out Can Be Lightened by Listening

Yesterday I had a new friend over with her 3 daughters.  My 9-year-old daughter, Maeve, was feeling shy, and we had already had a bumpy weekend, including a cancelled trip that she very much wanted to go on.

After the girls made art for a while, we decided to go to the park and get a muffin on the way.  The cafe was closed for a film shoot, however, and we went straight to the park.  Maeve started asking over and over again whether she could just go ask the cafe owners to see if they could get something to eat anyway.  She said she was hungry, but her tight, insistent tone sounded like it was not really about that.  I told my friend that I had to take my daughter home to get her something to eat.

I was acutely embarrassed, and when we arrived home, I said all the things I know not to say.  I told her she embarrassed me, and I said, “Can’t you just give me a little bit of time to do something I want to do?”  She started crying, and I didn’t care.  I was exhausted, and the last thing I wanted to do was repair anything or try to be close to her.  She went upstairs, and I headed back to the park for a short while.

After my friend left, I emailed one of my listening partners and set up a time almost right away.  I cried hard on the phone with her, which was a great relief.  The thing that brought up the most crying was telling her that I didn’t want to have to fix anything, that I was tired of parenting, and that I wanted to quit.  I told her that I hated that you can never quit it, never leave entirely, and never feel carefree again.  I told her that I hated that I try so hard, and I still mess up so badly.  It felt like too much work.  The responsibility felt like too much.  I told her how I hated being responsible for people’s LIVES!  It was just so good to cry hard right when I needed to.  She simply listened and made sympathetic noises.  She hardly needed to do anything — she just heard me and didn’t judge.  I felt some weight lift and I was more available to my kids for the rest of the day.  I could probably have benefited from having even more time to cry, but I didn’t know how long Maeve would stay upstairs in her room.

When Maeve came down later, I asked her what would make her day better, and we planned sushi at home while watching TV.  It gave us some space to hang out together and be close.  Things were a little better.  Later we did some Special Time, and I rubbed her back while she read.

I particularly noticed the difference the next morning, in a “cleansed” feeling and a renewed energy for parenting and everything else.

Sandra Flear, Certified Parenting by Connection Instructor

Keiko Sato-Perry

Join Sandra in her upcoming Building Emotional Understanding online class starting April 23.  Register now!

Listen to this 3-minute audio clip, in which Sandra describes how you can help your listening partner release emotions.

You can read more of Sandra’s stories here and learn more about Parenting by Connection in the Listening to Children booklet set.

Using Playtime to Help My Son’s Speech Impediment

When my son was 4.5 years old, he needed to see a speech pathologist for a significant difficulty he had with his pronunciation.  At the end of the first session I felt light and hopeful that this might really help.  The Speech Pathologist sent us home with some exercises to do. And then came the challenge: getting my son to practise!

Well, I tried everything.  I tried making them fun but he hated it anyway, he just put his fingers in his ears and made silly noises.  I tried some Playlistening – getting his teddies to do it, pretending it was a really stupid idea, and putting them in the bin, etc.   I got a few laughs, but it didn’t help him want to do the exercises.  So I tried setting limits – first playfully “oh, yessy, yes, yes, we’re going to do our sounds practise,” and letting him run away and giggle as he hid from me, but that didn’t work.  Then seriously, “We’re going to do our sounds practise,” but all he would do is say silly words and throw our sheets of paper away.  I was beginning to lose my patience and my ability to think.

Listening Time for me!  I vented to my Listening Partner on my frustration and let my feelings of overwhelm and confusion flow.  How on earth was I going to get him to practise?  This was just too hard…

For the first time in 4 years of using Parenting by Connection ideas, I was thinking I would just have to resort to the rewards approach the speech pathologist had suggested.  I really couldn’t see any other way.  We had to practise or the therapy was a waste of time; maybe just this once I had to let go of my beliefs and do whatever it took to get the practise done.  And just as my mind was starting to think about what kind of rewards system to set up, another idea flashed through my head and I found myself saying to my son, “Okay today we’re going to have a Special Time Sandwich.”  This wasn’t pre-planned, it just popped out my mouth.  “After breakfast, we’ll have 10 minutes of Special Time, then sounds practise, and then 20 minutes of Special Time.”  He looked interested.

Well, much to my amazement, when it got to sounds practise he was fully engaged.  He tried really hard to do the exercises.  I could hardly believe it.  So we tried the Special Time Sandwich the next day and the same thing happened.  He was fully part of it and even had ideas like “can you hide the sound cards around the room and I’ll find them and say the word.”   The next day he brought his teddy and made it do the practise and get everything wrong .  I started to hear him practising the sounds by himself during the day.  He would ask me questions about words like “is it skittle or stittle?”  After about five days of this he came up to me at the end of the day saying, “could we do some more sounds practise today , I really enjoy it.”  He wasn’t asking for special time, just the sounds practice!

And, interestingly, he became increasingly frustrated when he wasn’t understood.  He started to get quite angry and start crying when I couldn’t make out his words.  This was loud anger that I found quite hard to listen to and my heart ached for the frustration he was feeling.  But I did manage to listen and the anger would turn to tears.

He made fantastic progress.  The speech pathologist was impressed – and so was I!  His speech came along in leaps and bounds.

I think what happened was that he could feel all the effort I put into helping him try and practise.  He kept letting me know he couldn’t do it the ways I was suggesting.  I have a hunch that if I’d have dived straight in with the Special Time Sandwich it might not have worked. I think he needed to feel that I was on his side, that I was partnering with him.

—Rachel Schofield, Certified Parenting by Connection Instructor (living in Australia)

Keiko Sato-PerryJoin Rachel in her upcoming Building Emotional Understanding online class starting June 1.  Learn more >

A Shark Attack on my Child’s Feelings

I took my boys, 6 and 7, to the Museum of Natural History to see a 3D movies about marine dinosaurs. The youngest is especially sensitive to traumatic events in movies and games, so I had checked that the movie’s rating was age-appropriate.

However, instead of having an impersonal nature movie, the plot was a mommy prehistoric dolphin who gave birth to two babies, and the story centered around their lives. Just at the description, I started feeling wary. I’ve been surprised so many times about what is considered appropriate children’s culture. Sure enough, halfway through the movie the mother got eaten by a huge shark. Our youngest turned to me wide-eyed and asked if the young siblings were okay.

I said yes, but a few minutes later the brother was also killed and the sister was injured by the large shark. By then I knew that I would have some emotional cleaning-up to do later that day.

I had promised them a look around the museum shop before leaving and my youngest came running to me with a (no surprise!) 30-dollar plush Great White shark which was way out of his budget. He was heartbroken when I said that we weren’t going to buy it. He balked, pouted and whined all the way home. At home he kicked and screamed and would not eat any snacks. I began making contact with him and he said that he really wanted to buy the shark so that he could play with it and (again, no surprise!) his own toy dolphin.

I said that his big brother had a blue soft shark that he could play with but no, he wanted a grey shark, THAT grey shark. My mind was racing, trying to figure out how to help my little guy unload his feelings. I was pretty upset, actually, so play was far from my mind. I found a grey long-sleeved t-shirt and wrapped the blue shark in it. Only the teeth were sticking out in the front. My son whined that the tail was sticking out and it was blue. I saw that he was wearing grey socks and playfully pulled one off to put on the blue shark tail. And then I approached him with the ill-disguised blue shark which looked so ridiculous that we both started laughing very, very hard.

Until then I wasn’t really focused on playing, more on “seriously” providing him with a good-enough grey shark. But that was just not going to happen, and instead we got something much better in return. From then on, it all unfolded beautifully. I could start being creative again having found an inroad to his feelings. I played stupid and kept telling everyone that he was an authentic, grey, terrifying, prehistoric shark, in spite of his terrible disguise. I also played the scared shark who swam away screaming with fear when the dolphin stuck out his head from hiding. The whole family was shrieking with laughter. Later we also re-enacted the killing scene but the dolphin killed the shark instead because the shark was too full and sleepy from eating and had a tummy ache, etc… After this the boys took over the game for a couple of minutes and played out other unrelated scenarios, and little brother was his happy self again, ready for a snack and more good times!

Are you ready to learn how to employ parenting techniques like this, and turn troubling moments into ones of connected play time? Sign up for one of our core classes, Building Emotional Understanding.

My Son Finds the Courage to Speak Up

My son and his babysitterOur babysitter came over, and she and my 4-year-old son were having a pillow fight in the other room. My son ran to me and buried his face in my lap. I could sense he was very upset about something that just happened. I put my hand gently on his back and tried to make eye contact with him. I was quiet and listened to him cry. I could tell he wasn’t badly hurt and just needed me to do some Staylistening with him.

After a minute he popped his head up from my lap and said, “Emily was too rough with me.” “Oh, I see,” I said. “I’m wondering if you’re okay?” He pointed to his back. It looked fine.

Emily came in the room and said he hurt his back. My son was still crying and I continued to listen and offer my warmth and attention. After a couple of minutes he got up and went to eat something. About 10 minutes later my son said very clearly, in a big voice, “Emily, you were too rough with me.” She apologized.

-Christine Ashe, Certified Instructor