Over the years, a number of parents have been concerned about their child’s hesitance to assert themselves. I wrote the tale below in 2014 with that (and a very special girl) in mind. I like to imagine living in a kingdom where our leader models assertive Confrontive I-Messages! Here’s how one such person came to be so wise.
It's so easy to feel aggressive when we impute bad intentions to our kids -- e.g. He's deliberately NOT writing the invites to get a rise out of me. If we pause to contemplate the spins we put on kids' behaviors, we just might choose not to believe them.
These teens work hard.
Some are lucky -- they take the course with friends who will whisper, "Hey, send an I-Message!" or check, "Do you want me to Active Listen or do you want my advice?"
Others -- buoyed only by an 18 hour respite where they got to glimpse another reality -- reenter a world defined by winners and losers, full of blame and shame and "I get the last word."
"One way under the anger and blame you are both feeling is to ask yourself: If I had to let go of the story of how the other person is wrong, what would I have to feel?"
As my husband talked about the strained relationship he had with Jake, I started itching to share something. Asking with my eyes and receiving his permission, I told everyone how we had received a letter from Jake last month in which he called his father his “best friend.”
From the state of affairs just a few years ago to "best friend!!!!!"
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 . . .
Brene Brown, a mother herself, found that parenting is "a primary predictor of how prone our children will be to shame or guilt.” (page 224) She exhorts us to -- and I love her term for it -- parent with shame resilience as a goal.
So how to do this when confronting our offspring?
With a huge semantic tool: the Confrontive I-Message!
It is truly humbling but, as you may have read in my last post Roadblocks I - Child Owns the Problem, our patterning is just to use a heck of a lot of Communication Roadblocks instead of helping our children or confronting them with good results.
Change starts, though, with a simple decision and firm commitment. We've got your back as you strive to communicate in new ways that better serve you, your child and your relationship together. You will love the results.
With all the talk in P.E.T. about how anger is a secondary emotion, however, some participants have seemed stumped and even sheepish when trying to identify their feelings.
"All I know is I'm angry, but I'm not supposed to feel that, am I?"
"I know I have to find what's beneath the anger but what do I do about the fact that I want to strangle my kid?"
Gee, I guess we all must have missed the school lesson on how to deal with anger. Hah! So few of us -- are there any? -- have been supported with processing any emotion, much less this biggie.
Doing this important work now, though, means we can give a ginormous gift to our children through modeling and consulting!
I don't think anyone noticed my barely audible intake of breath. I was momentarily dumbstruck but for the best reason: I was stunned by the fact of my own transformation.
I'm still a work in progress but, OMG, I used to be pretty far down on one end of the passive-assertive-aggressive spectrum.
This is a huge boon, right? I wish I had had these skills way back.
Over dinner recently with friends, I was reliving how stressful it was when my eldest was diagnosed with moderate to severe asthma and allergies at the age of three. That began a series of arguments between my husband and me.
Over what? My mother in law.
The Gordon Training International official P.E.T. Facebook page recently shared a humorous video of why some parents don't seem to get anything done. I can refer to it as funny because I am far removed now but I remember feeling exasperated and burnt out A LOT back in the day. I did a fair amount of "No!"-ing, desperate to finish the housework so when the baby napped I could have some precious me time.
I let them leave it at that so I could focus on the line of traffic in front of me. Inside I was swelling with pride. This is stuff I just recently learned how to do myself. How awesome is this kid's life going to be?
Just a few days ago, I dropped my P.E.T. roadmap (aka the Behavior Window) and ventured into the land of Roadblocks. Even though the trip lasted just a few minutes, it's never fun losing your way like that.
The Behavior Window is the handy visual that Dr. Thomas Gordon created to help parents get to where we want to go.
He went on, "The point is, Mom, Jake always complains and makes everyone's life hard and Dad doesn't like it so he goes out and gets him a new one just to make it stop. Whereas, if I just keep quiet and act 'good,' then it pretty much sucks."
When I gently raised the topic of language I realized I was jumping the gun. "Mom, I don't need that right now. I need to be Active Listened. You're supposed to do that stuff later. I'm still very upset."
I didn't mind the correction at all. Not. At. All.
Left with little sis Claudia (10), Jake was reminded constantly of how she is so NOT his brother. When his frustration showed, Claudia noticed and engaged.
Ah, what to do with summertime bickering?
Coulda, woulda, shoulda. Nothing remotely like that transpired. Instead, I did a Roadblock Mash-Up:
OH MY GOD! EVERYONE COME HERE RIGHT NOW! (Ordering) WHO DID THIS? (Interrogating) WHO . . . DID . . . THIS????? (Interrogating very slowly) . . . [silence on the part of three beautiful and terrified youngsters] . . . IF NO ONE IS GOING TO TELL THE TRUTH, THEN NO VIDEO GAMES FOR ONE MONTH! (Threatening)