Holding hands

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Try Using Your Imagination

One of the concerns I often hear from parents is that their child doesn't seem able to understand how other people feel. Do you worry that your child won't have empathy? 

The good news is that 80% of communication is non-verbal. The bad news is that 80% of communication is non-verbal. This means that most of what our children learn is based on what we model by who we're being, not what we tell them!

I'm guessing that many of you grew up in families where your feelings (or at least certain ones - say anger, for example) weren't OK for any number of reasons.

My No-Yell Parenting approach teaches that:

  1. Behavior is a child's language to communicate feelings and needs. 
  2. One of your jobs is to help your children feel safe with their feelings and learn to express them in healthy, acceptable ways. 

The challenge is - how do you make space for your child's feelings when it can be hard to even get in touch with your own feelings - never mind be OK with them?

Use your imagination!

Next time your child acts out or is mean or disrespectful, PAUSE...BREATHE (that always comes first, unless someone is getting hurt. See Stop, Drop & Breathe).

Then imagine what your child might be feeling at that moment based on what's going on for them or what just occurred, etc.

As a matter of face, take a second to imagine what YOU might be feeling in the face of your child's behavior. If you have trouble figuring out what you feel, I and many of my clients have found this list very helpful - Feelings Inventory

Imagining what your child is feeling will shift your response from your head to your heart. It will give your child the EXPERIENCE of empathy which is the experience of feeling understood. Then, when you use words to try to teach them about other people's feelings, those words will have so much more impact.


Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Work Your 10 Minute Warning So It Works!

How's it going with your 10 minute warnings? Do they lead to better cooperation or long, drawn out battles to simply get your child to do what you want? If you find yourself arguing with a child who's not listening more than 50% of the time, this is for you!

Next time you want your child to take a bath, brush teeth, do homework, eat dinner, or anything else that gives you that "here we go again" feeling, picture them on their own little train heading somewhere totally different than where you want them to go next.

How are you going to get them off the train effectively with love?

I invite you to try this strategy in 10 simple steps.
  1. Give a 10 minute warning. In 10 minutes it'll be time to _______. Please begin to finish what you're doing. I'll be back in 5 minutes."
  2. Stop talking! If your child starts arguing, says, "No!" or ignores you, exhale a couple breaths and calmly walk away. You can say, "hmmm", or "I hear you," if you want, but DON'T ENGAGE! Don't take the bait! Stop, Drop & Breathe. 
  3. Set YOUR timer for 5 minutes. 
  4. Return after 5 minutes and GET ON THE TRAIN* with your child. Join your child in their activity or just sit by them. After a pause say, "We have 5 more minutes together to finish doing (what your child is doing) _________before (what you want your child to do next) _________. Breathe and be as present as you can for those 5 minutes.
  5. Set a visual timer for 5 minutes where you can both see it. I recommend Time Timer.  
  6. PAUSE AND READ #4 AGAIN. I cannot emphasize enough (though I'm clearly trying) how profoundly different it is to BE with your child during a transition than to try to get your child off a moving train and onto your train!!
  7. Talk less, breathe more and enjoy the next 5 minutes with your child like it's the special time you've been longing for.
  8. Gently slow down the "train"  in the last minute or so as you help your child complete their activity, if they need.
  9. Get off the train WITH your child when the timer goes off. "It's time to ____________ now.
  10. Together, move toward the next activity. For a 3 year old you might scoop them up into a hug or a tickle. For an older child you might count steps to the kitchen, or engage them with a choice of 2 good options. For homework, you might decide how long to work before a 5 minute break.
In order to begin to change your distressing "here we go again" scenario, a new understanding is required. Whatever you're wanting your child to do - take a bath, come to dinner, do homework - causes an increase in your child's anxiety because it is a TRANSITION. Increased anxiety leads to increased negative behavior. 

Warmly in support,

PS: I suggested just a couple ideas for step #10. I'm sure you have a ton of great ideas I haven't even thought of! Please share them below. We want to hear!

PPS: If you could really use some help, just reach out to me at kathy@parentingbeyondwords.com and we'll set up a time to discuss what's going on at home. 

*This metaphor of getting on the train comes from Bob Ditter, through my son who took a camp counselor training. The interpretation is mine.