Punctuality -- C.U.E. #8

Punctuality -- C.U.E. #8

Last Sunday I did a three minute jig on those steps again:

After I describe my short and, well, not so sweet Consciously Unskilled Episode, I'll share how I made good and grew from the experience. (If you like this C.U.E post, please check out the others -- here's the first one.) 

The Missteps

My daughter Claudia, age 11, was supposed to be picked up at 6:45pm by a classmate's father who would take her and her friend to a laser-tag party.

At 6:08, I went back to Claudia's room to remind her of the pick up time and ask her to clean up. She had had a sleepover the night before and sheets and blankets were still strewn about.

I busied myself until 6:40 when I went in to check -- all looked good -- and to point out the time. Back in the kitchen, though, I saw a text from the dad saying they were running late and would arrive at 6:55. I reported that to Claudia who said, "Ok!"

At 6:51, she was nowhere near the foyer. I yelled back to her room and this is where that dance began. How many Roadblocks can you recognize? 

Claudia came running out and searched the shoe cabinet; when she couldn't find her sneakers she asked in a stressed voice where they were. At that moment, my cell phone lit up with the message that they had arrived at our apartment building.

Instead of just giving her the information (that I had no idea), I raised my voice. "I don't KNOW, Claudia!" Then I threw some shoes at her, "Just wear mine. They're downstairs waiting!"

"Yours are too small," she stated.

"OMG, then wear these!" I took a looser pair of mine out. "Or wear flip flops and just take your socks!"

"Oh, I need a jacket." My daughter was darting about. "Oh, no, where's my jacket? I left it right there on the sofa!" 

"Claudia," I said sternly, "Just get another one. This is ridiculous. What were you doing anyway? What would you have done if I hadn't reminded you at 6:51?"

"What, Mom!? It's not my fault. I was ready earlier!"

"Yes, but now you're not," I argued.

The Repair

Removing myself to my room, I took a deep breath, put my compassionate hand on my heart and said out loud, "It's ok, this is not an emergency." 

That was enough! My mindfulness work paid off and I came to my center a lot faster than I used to. I walked back to the foyer and calmly addressed Claudia as she was leaving, "Hey, I'm sorry. This is MY issue. I have to get over my belief that if you're late, I will be judged as a bad mother. You're not a reflection of my self-worth! Have fun!"

What a send-off!! I locked the door, shaking my head and chuckling.

The Take-Away

In P.E.T., we look to see where behavior falls in the Behavior Window; once we're clear on problem ownership, then we know what skills to use.

Who Owned the Problem?

My child was showing me signs of being frazzled as she scrambled for her stuff and, ideally, I could have adopted the role of helper to her. Sure, I was there physically and giving her my attention, but I had neither empathy nor acceptance as I lectured, interrogated and judged.

It didn't even dawn on me to do a quick Active Listen: "Oh, this is so stressful for you right now!" 

The fact is, her behavior was also under my Line of Acceptance. Recall that a behavior can fall in one or more areas of the Behavior Window, and that we aspire to use skills in a top-down manner. So next time, Catherine, stay helping in the top box longer and then mindfully choose skills under the Line of Acceptance that will be effective.

Now let's see where else this behavior belonged in the Window.

Was it in Parent Owns the Problem area?


This box covers instances where the child is fine, but her behavior has a concrete, tangible effect on you meeting your needs. Claudia was not hunky-dory in this instance.

Was it a Conflict of Needs?


Needs conflicts occur when the child's behavior has a concrete, tangible effect on the parent or is otherwise relevant. Here's our helpful inquiry: 

Did Claudia's behavior cause me to spend time, money or effort?


Though I could argue that I had to remind her and then help her get out the door with all her things, I can see now that I actually didn't HAVE to do any of that. 

(You might disagree and that's fine. Keep in mind that it really depends on how the individual parent feels and whether the child accepts that there is an effect on the parent.)

Was I prevented from doing anything?


Claudia's last minute requests for help did draw me away from my work in the kitchen, but I could have just said, "Honey, sorry, can't help you right now."

And, besides, if she had just come out on her own at 7 saying, "Oh shoot, I'm late" and left the apartment without asking for assistance, I wouldn't have been held back from living my life in any way. And yet I still might have been annoyed! (For more on why that is, read on!)

Physical distress?


"But," many parents plead, "Doesn't feeling upset qualify!?!? I mean, aaaggghhhhh!!!"

I can so empathize -- the stress hormones running through my system did NOT feel good.

And yet, this question refers to the actual impact of the behavior itself; to wit, the examples on page 52 of the workbook are loud sounds, bright lights, harsh temperature and pain or injury. 

Did I lose anything or its enjoyment as a result?


(Unless you count temporary loss of sanity but I can hardly blame Claudia for that!)

Would it pass the relevance test? In other words, would Claudia accept my answer to her asking, "What's it to you whether I'm late, Mom?" 


While she would buy that it mattered a little because I was the one dealing with the father's texts, she might protest my extreme reaction: "Gosh, I wasn't even late at that point. He was a little bit early! And no one goes exactly by the clock except for you, Mom!" 

I truly get her point. 

Was is it a Values Collision?

Uh. . . yup!

Now with values, I have gotten into the habit of asking myself these three questions from Session 8: 

I initially wanted to say that my values were:

  • Punctuality shows respect for others
  • Punctuality is a good sign of self-discipline 

But there was more to it when I started thinking about where these values came from. My mother (I focus on her because my father passed away when I was two) did not model rigid punctuality. 

I realized my strictness comes from the keen discomfort I feel (less and less now but it's still there!) when people are displeased with me. 

Through inner child work this year, I have been acknowledging -- and working to release myself from -- my underlying belief that people easily get upset and judge me out of anger. In other words, that my world is not safe. 

In light of this, I saw that being punctual -- far from being a true value I had carefully considered and adopted -- was actually a solution I had devised to meet my needs for safety and acceptance

And I emphatically don't want to pass this on, at least not in the extreme form that I have practiced it! Really, a parent waiting a few minutes on the way to a party drop-off did not warrant the alarm I was feeling in my body. Why instill anxiety in my innocent, live-in-the-moment-joyful daughter? 

Of course, if things get really bad and my daughter is late for many important commitments and/or prevents me from meeting my needs, then we can do a Method III Problem-Solve or a bit of Consulting.

For right now, though, I'll focus on Modifying Self some more, easing further around the issues of being late and feeling judged. Thanks, sweet daughter, for inspiring me to live more unburdened in the present.

Credits: Punctuality visual (http://misterknuckles.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/Punctuality2.gif)