Homework can bring us to our knees — “Just, will you JUST, finish it ALREADY!?” It’s hard to like ourselves as we scream, judge, blame and compare when we’ve flipped our lid. And, once we’re calm, it’s difficult to let go of the guilt. It’s crazy making stuff that we want to be SO DONE with.
That softening and willingness to take in someone else's perspective had the startling effect of her daughter picking up a towel and starting to dry the dishes. "We got over it within a matter of minutes whereas before it would have meant a ruined Sunday afternoon," Therese gushed.
Oh, the gratitude we all saw in her wide, winning smile and bright eyes!
There's no doubt that my children are watching.
They have tried some of my strategies -- Jake, who's 15, likes the Headspace app on my phone -- but, more importantly, they see me vulnerable and open. I don't share too much of my childhood, just what I think is appropriate for them to know. But they appreciate my admission that when I fly off the handle or fall into a defensive, mistrustful stance that my behavior has nothing to do with their inherent goodness and everything to do with my own journey of healing.
And that kind of thing happens less and less. Oh, thank goodness! Working on communication skills, tending to my inner child and increasing my mindfulness helps me to choose actions and words that fit the situation and child in front of me now, today, in the present moment.
Watching Tracey Larcombe's Nobel Prize, I cringed, not only as a certified instructor of Parent Effectiveness Training but also as a mother who recognized her former self in the ordering around and the go-go-go. I may never have been quite so harsh, but I have said my fair share of things I regret.
So rather than just lambaste the characters, I thought it might be more helpful to turn a P.E.T. eye onto the situation and imagine another set of interactions.
After all, most of us are familiar with what we DON'T want to be doing when it comes to our kids. The trouble is knowing what better options would look like.
Last year, a friend described senior year (Year 13 in HK) as "excruciating," joking that she'd be relieved when her son, after dragging his feet for months on his college applications, finally took off. I just nodded nervously: would that be me?
Not so! I am deeply grateful I am enjoying Harrison's last year.
And then there's the Q & A session Jake held recently for my class participants . . .
Something comes into focus as we consider the groupings on the poster we have drawn up:
It is primarily the many factors within ourselves -- TOTALLY INDEPENDENT of the child's behavior -- that affect our receptiveness to it.
This is a huge reckoning for the many of us who have been in the habit of blaming our children for our response to them: "You are making me so mad!"
But it is also most freeing because of what it implies . . .
You may be wondering though: Is it worth it?
Based on my experience with three kids now 17, 15 and 12, here is how learning Dr. Thomas Gordon's paradigm and skills can pay off in spades: mindfulness; support for the parent; quick, if not immediate, results; children who want to be with us; joy and influence.
I wish someone had sat my butt down and made me read Lawrence Cohen's Playful Parenting. His approach jibes well with the philosophy of P.E.T. and I've been recommending it left and right!
So where might play fit in the Behavior Window? Turns out -- all over the place.
By zooming in on behavior, we often feel in an uncomfortable bind: Gee, I don't want to encourage this! If I give her attention or Active Listen her, isn't that rewarding unacceptable behavior? I need to teach her that that is NOT a good way to act.
Dr. Gordon points out that, in raising children, we often rely too much on unacceptance of behavior. We think the optimal way to guide is to send the message that their behavior -- here, the crying and screaming that many might deem "too sensitive" or "clingy" or "wimpy" or "babyish" or "crybaby" -- needs to change.
He advocates a vastly different approach:
I love, love, love my job! I am invited for a while to have a front row seat at people's transformation.
With this participant's blessings -- I'll call her Flo -- I hereby share her story. Mind you, this happened a mere four sessions into the course!
I used to go to sleep feeling remorseful 70% of the time. I remember telling my husband this when our oldest was still an only child. "Lose the guilt!" he said in shock.
Hah, easier said than done. To the reader who requested this topic, this one's for you AND for so many of us.