“I Hate Oatmeal!”

My husband was making a pot of oatmeal for breakfast last weekend, and it was time for the family to come to the table.  But our 8-year-old son saw that the oatmeal wasn’t the kind he usually has, and he started saying, “I hate that oatmeal!” My husband responded, “Well, that’s what there is for breakfast.  It is either that or nothing!”And our son said, “I want the oatmeal I always have! I hate that kind!” I was quietly listening to the conflict. Our son left the table screaming and yelling and very upset.  He kept saying, “I hate this oatmeal!”

My husband was getting a little upset too, and suggested, “If you don’t want to eat this oatmeal and you want to act like this, then you can go to your room, please!” At this point I saw our son going to his room alone, and I told my husband I could take it from there. I followed him into his room, and said, “Hey, you really hate this oatmeal, don’t you?” Our son said, “Yeah!” and started yelling and screaming even more.  “I hate always doing what you want me to do!”

Soon he became physical and I needed to hold his arm and to keep a safe distance so that his hitting and kicking would not land on me.

I kept saying, “You hate this oatmeal!” and he kept saying, “I hate this oatmeal!”

I kept blocking the hitting, and his kicking and hitting continued while he kept hating the oatmeal. Then, all of a sudden, he started laughing while still kicking. When I heard his laughter, I felt assured that I was doing the right thing by allowing him to let off steam and to be understood.  His little brother was relieved at seeing this too.
Then, together, my son and I alternated between stomping our feet around the room, chanting, “I hate this oatmeal!” and him doing protected kicking and hitting. We wound up laughing until we both fell on the floor. Finally, our son stopped and said, “I am ready to eat my oatmeal now!”
And he ate the whole bowl of oatmeal and even had a second!  He was cheerful all morning after that. Today, a week later, we asked him if he would like to have some oatmeal. He saw that it was the kind he had hated so much a week ago. He answered, “Oh, I like this kind of oatmeal!”
–A Parent in a Skillbuilding Class

Stupid F*(&#! Pillow!

My daughter, who is 7, had trouble separating at bedtime, and went through a period of crying every bedtime, without relief or change, when she wasn’t allowed to sleep in my bed. I let her cry each time, hoping it was doing some good, but it was always the same. One night, however, she was very mad and started punching and kicking me. I had just watched a Hand in Hand video on working with aggression, so I felt more clear about what to do. I met her aggression with warmth. I kissed her hands when she punched, deflected her kicks, and told her that I saw how angry she was.

After a good long while, she lay on the bed and told me about something that happened at gym that day. They did a parachute game, which she had never done before. It was familiar to all the other children at her new school, but she was confused about what to do, and felt scared when she was under the parachute. She said everyone loved the game, but she hated it.

She seemed to want to kick some more, so I encouraged her to kick a pillow I held and pretend it was the parachute. She did and she loved kicking it. She then turned to punching it down with a karate chop, over and over again. She then threw it back over her head and down the hall repeatedly, calling it a “Stupid, f___ f___ pillow!” “F___” is a word she has been a bit fascinated with, and it holds a lot of power for her. She also threw it down the stairs and said she hoped it hurt. I thought it would go on forever, but I let her keep going because she seemed to be getting so much out of it.

After a while longer, it was getting late for a school night bedtime, and I suggested she could do some more another time. She seemed satisfied with that, and went to bed without crying. She hasn’t cried since when she can’t sleep in my bed, though she still doesn’t like it, and it still holds some fear for her. The difference before and after this listening time is remarkable though, and I was surprised and happy that one listening time had such a big impact.

Sandra Flear, Certified Parenting by Connection Instructor

Keiko Sato-PerryYou can join Sandra in her upcoming Building Emotional Understanding online class starting June 4. Learn more >

Listening Time Clears My Mind

I was going through a particularly stressful time. I wasn’t sleeping well, and often felt impatient with my kids, and not available enough for them. I had a consultation with a Hand in Hand consultant: in it, she helped me connect back to a memory of time when I felt very afraid as a child. Later that evening, I had a huge cry and rage in the car on the way to the gym. I felt cleaned out after that, and I was more available for my daughter the next morning than I had been in a long time. My daughter was having a hard time that day, but I felt calm and peaceful, able to listen and help her, and she was able to feel better, too.

Sandra Flear, Certified Parenting by Connection Instructor

Keiko Sato-Perry

Join Sandra in her upcoming Building Emotional Understanding online class starting April 9.  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.

Not Liking Her Father’s New Partner

I told my daughter that another parent from her school would be taking her into school that day because we carpool. She was upset and cranky about it for 45 minutes, and wanted me to take her instead. I held the limit and told her that the other parent would take her in that day and I would take her in tomorrow. A few minutes before the other parent arrived, she started crying, and told me how upset she is about having a “stepmother.”

She cried and said she never wanted her dad and I to separate, she never wanted a stepmom, that she’s never liked her, and she wants to live just with her dad and brother again at her dad’s house. I’d never heard these feelings before, and didn’t even know she had them. I share my feelings about this with a listening partner, which helps me to support my children’s dad when he has feelings about our daughter not liking his partner. All of this opened up a conversation between my daughter and her dad about why we separated, and how she feels about his new partner. She seems more settled about it now.

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.

When Our Kids Show Us They “Get It”

One family in my Skill Building group has a five- year-old son, and a four-month-old daughter. The parents have been practicing Parenting by Connection for 8 months now, and have been very dedicated to using the Listening tools with their son before and after the arrival of the new baby. In one of the meetings we had recently they were telling the group how their son was encouraging them to let his baby sister cry, in a very caring and loving tone. When they were trying to offer her a pacifier once he specifically told them, “No, don’t give her the pacifier, it’s good for her to cry, she needs that.”

For me, this kind of reassurance from our children says that we are doing something right here. Our children can really feel how, by allowing them to offload their hurts through crying, we help them feel much better. And it is through all those sessions of Special Time, Playlistening and Staylistening that we all feel good about ourselves, and connected to each other. It’s the emotional intelligence that comes with getting the emotional support that you need.

I also see that with my own daughter (14), who sometimes does Staylistening with her younger sister (9) when she cries. She will sit on the floor right next to her, gently touching her arm, and listen with as much attention and care as she can. Those are the moments I would like to cherish and always remember. As Patty once told us, “Today we are parenting the parents of our grandchildren,” and what better parents can we ask for?

Ravid Aisenman AbramsohnYou can learn how to build connection and more moments of “getting it” with your family with Ravid Aisenman Abrahmsohn in one of her classes. Register now for one of her limited seats, beginning May 7.