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.
A few weeks ago, I spent two days at your university, listening to deans, advisors and mental health professionals tell us parents how to support you and your classmates in the upcoming year. I was pretty relaxed; nothing they said was too jarring.
It all made me wonder: What would this moment be like had I not learned P.E.T.?
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.
The 12 Communication Roadblocks are all around us - gosh, everyday we must hear dozens of them!
Dr. Thomas Gordon laid them all out for parents to see that, despite best intentions, our efforts to help our children can backfire.
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.
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!
With my eldest now 16, I'm at the point where I can say that I'm dealing with stuff that's big by anyone's standards: drinking & curfew; faith v. organized religion; choosing a college; whether to take the SAT again; and sex, sexting & romance.
I once randomly pulled off the highway just to make the fighting stop!!! In retrospect, you could say my desperate act in Whereever-the-Heck, Hong Kong was actually a safe move. Children are, after all, recognized to be a major distraction to drivers.
I don't resort to such dramatic lengths anymore. Now, more often than not, my car is a moving No Problem bubble.
Upon leaving the house, I kept my mouth shut and did not mention homework in any way, shape or form nor did I discuss League of Legends (you may remember from last week that L.O.L. was his siren call). I simply nonchalantly waved “Buh-bye!” to Harrison, who was still in his pajamas. Under my breath I repeated that day's mantras: "His homework is not my problem" and "I can choose to be a new kind of mom!"
Active Listening is the first thing we tackle in class and is, hands down, the most challenging to master. But build up this key skill and your children will know who to go to when they need help. And that, I think, qualifies as a parenting grand slam.