18 Aug

Two things that help kids WANT to cooperate

Your child’s behavior is not the problem. Really.

If your child’s behavior is not the problem, then what is?

Some parents reply, “I’m the problem!”  It’s true that you may be part of the problem but here’s the real answer . . .

The problem is the problem. There’s always something deeper that causes the behavior to show up. Always.

Behavior is only what we see . . . it’s on the tip of the iceberg.

But under the surface children have beliefs, thoughts, feelings, and abilities (or lack thereof based on developmental stage and physical or neurological differences) that are driving what we see.

When we get curious, and look under the surface, we begin to see that our kids want to do well, they want to please us and stay connected, but something is getting in their way. Our job is then to figure out what that is . . .

Sometimes what’s getting in the way is a basic feeling of hunger or fatigue. We’ve all seen how hunger and fatigue can affect our kids’ behavior, right?

Sometimes what’s getting in the way is abilities or rather, the lack thereof. When we expect our kids to do something that they’ve not yet developed the skills to do, that can also end up looking like “misbehavior.” For example, if you tell your 4YO child to color inside the lines, they might throw the crayon or scream out of frustration.

But there’s something else that gets in the way.

Alfred Adler, the pioneering psychiatrist whose philosophy underlies Positive Discipline, proposed that very often, what’s getting in the way of behaving well are feelings, thoughts or beliefs having to do with two things:  Belonging and Significance.

BelongingIm included, connected, loved

SignificanceI matter, Im capable, I’m worthy

At the heart of Positive Discipline is the Adlerian theory (it’s really more fact than theory now) that all children (and adults) have a strong and basic need for belonging and significance.

And when children feel, believe, or think that these basic needs are not getting met, they will try to get their needs met, in whatever way they can think of, which might be to whine, or have a tantrum, or sneak, or any number of “misbehaviors.”

For example, if you believe you’re not included, not connected or loved enough after a new baby sibling comes home from the hospital, you might be more clingy or whiny, or you might try to push the baby off the bed (exactly what my oldest did at age 3.)

These are feelings, beliefs, and thoughts that can get in the way of doing or behaving well.

Think of yourself for a moment. When you feel rejected, (for example, how you might feel when you don’t get invited to the neighborhood Mom’s night out) or humiliated (when your boss criticizes you in front of the whole team), do you behave differently?

Most adults will admit that it’s hard not to behave differently because things like rejection and humiliation hurt.

Thanks to brain scan research using FMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging), we now know that the place in the brain that registers social pain is the same place in the brain that registers physical pain. (Read more about this fascinating research in Matthew Lieberman’s book, “Social”)

To the brain, a threat to my belonging or significance feels just like a threat to my physical safety, and before I know it I’m ready to fight (with defiance or back talk for example), or flee (avoiding, lying, sneaking, etc.), or flop (accept my fate as a boring and useless member of society and give up.)

The opposite is also true:  when belonging and significance are strongly felt, many misbehaviors simply disappear.

There’s no need for back talk when I feel connected and respected. There’s no reason to push the baby off the bed when I know I’m loved, valued, and needed as much as ever.

As Jane Nelsen of Positive Discipline frequently notes, “kids do better when they feel better” and “where did we get the crazy idea that in order to make kids do better, we have to make them feel worse?”

The opposite is true, and it’s true for me, too:  when I’m well-fed, well-slept, and when I feel loved, appreciated, respected, and capable, I do better – as a Mom and person in general.

So how do we help our children perceive that strong sense of belonging and significance (without feeding a sense of entitlement)?

One very easy thing to do is put your smart phone away and really listen to your child with your eyes, your body, and your heart. Deep listening is one sure way to send the message that “you matter, and I care about you.” This tool is called a GEM, a Genuine Encounter Moment and I swear when I use it, my child naturally gets more cooperative.

Another is to give your children meaningful responsibilities in the home, so that they learn life skills and create the belief that “I matter, I’m needed, I’m capable.”

These are just two of many tools that you’ll learn about in the interactive, online class I’m facilitating, “Peaceful Parents, Cooperative Kids:  from conflict and chaos to cooperation and calm in 8 weeks.”

You’ll also learn (and practice):

  • My favorite 3-step ritual to stay cool, calm, and curious in the face of really irritating behavior
  • How to set loving limits that stick
  • Specific words you can use to foster resilience and a “Growth Mindset” in your child
  • How to leverage your family team (including your partner) in household responsibilities
  • Simple, tangible, and effective Positive Discipline tools to reduce defiance, tantrums, back talk and other challenging behaviors
  • The one principle that matters most in helping your kids to become responsible, respectful, resourceful, and happy adults (and how to put that principle into practice every day)

So, if you’d like to

  • yell less
  • have fewer power struggles
  • connect more
  • share the load more
  • feel more confident and peaceful in your parenting
  • and raise children who are respectful, resilient, and plain old happy,

then please join me for an 8-week adventure that you can participate in from the comfort of your own home or office using video conference.

I’ll be using Zoom Meetings which feels about as much like a physical classroom as you can get without actually being in a room together. All classes are recorded so if you miss a class, you can catch up.

Sign up by August 30 to get the Early Bird Pricing and immediate access to my parenting resource web page loaded with tip sheets, videos, podcasts, and articles to help you become the parent you want to be.

It is my mission to equip, empower, and support parents so that they can raise respectful, responsible, and resourceful children who are excited about life and motivated to contribute their talents to the world.

Join me!  Learn more about the virtual class here.

This virtual class gets 4.6 out of 5 stars from over 100 participants.  Here’s what some of them have to say.

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27 Oct

Sugar Buzz or Sugar Bust — What To Do With Too Much Halloween Candy?

We face the same problem with Halloween candy every year.  I don’t know why it continues to surprise me . . .

Last year I was mortified by the two pillowcases full of candy that my tween brought home on Halloween eve.  And this was after the sugar-filled school parties earlier that same day.halloween-candy

 

I immediately began to panic . . . how could my children actually want that much candy?  Do they have an eating disorder?  Have I deprived my children of too much sugar, fueling their desperate craving for anything sweet?  Will they ever be able to moderate their sweet intake by themselves?  How have I failed as a mother?  And what about the dental bills?

All of this and more swirled through my head and I reacted the way I often do when I feel out of control . . . I grabbed for the very control I lacked.

“You CANNOT eat all of that candy.  No Way!  Give me that right now.”

I reached out for the pillowcases but (surprise, surprise) they did not land lovingly in my hands.

Instead, my daughter said, “I worked hard for this loot!  You can’t take it from me!”

And as a result, the old familiar power struggle ensued.

So this year, I’m going to get ahead of the pillowcases.

By making agreements.

Agreements are such a powerful Positive Discipline parenting tool.  They help us get in front of the problem moments, so that those moments are fewer and farther between, and pass with far less drama.

Here’s my plan:

  1. During a calm time (this is very important), I’ll invite my children to help make a plan about Trick-or-Treating.
  2. I’ll ask them to share their feelings about Halloween candy.  “I noticed that last year we had some conflict about the candy.  I’d love to hear your thoughts about what you’d like to do this year with your candy.”
  3. Then I will shut my mouth and listen to their thoughts, feelings, and perspective.  I’ll validate their feelings, “I hear you.  You don’t get a lot of candy and it is a once-a-year opportunity!”
  4. Then I’ll (succinctly) share my feelings:  “My concern is that too much candy is unhealthy.  How can we find a win/win this year?”
  5. Then we will brainstorm solutions — every idea, no matter how ridiculous, will get written down.
  6. Then we will select a solution we can all agree on.  I’ll let them cross out ideas they can’t live with.  Then I’ll cross out the ideas I can’t live with.  I’ll ask them to vote on the ideas that remain.

Before they head out in their League of Legends and Bat Cat costumes, I’ll ask them, “Hey guys, what was our agreement for trick or treating?”  When they play it back to me I’ll say, “Thanks for remembering.  I trust you to follow through later.”

I’ll let you know how it goes!

Making agreements in this way does so much more than just get in front of the problem.  It also teaches children how to solve problems:  how to listen, take another person’s perspective, empathize, brainstorm, compromise, and follow through.  Those are skills that will come in handy well beyond this holiday.

What are your ideas for managing the abundant sugar this Halloween?  I’d love to hear them!  Leave your comments below.

27 Jul

3 Easy Ways to “Connect Before Correct” in parenting

Connection Before Correction is one of my all-time favorite Parenting with Positive Discipline mantras. I believe these are words to live by both in the moment of dissatisfying behavior, and in the long run as a foundation for any relationship.

artwork by Lana Tillis

artwork by Lana Tillis; phrase from Jane Nelsen’s “Positive Discipline”

Several years ago I began to feel like a nag to my then 11 year-old son so I tracked the content of our interactions.  On one side of a paper, I tracked the “correction” interactions.  On the other, I tracked the “connection” interactions.    After only one day the corrections more than doubled the connections.  No wonder we were both annoyed with me!

When children feel strongly connected to you (they feel loved, valued, and understood), they are simply more open to your influence.

It’s true for adult relationships, too.  Think of someone who really likes or loves you, respects you, understands and listens to you.  How open are you to that person’s influence?  

On the other hand, how open are you to someone who’s frequently telling you what to do, how you’re wrong, and what you need to change?  

If you’re guilty of jumping to correct undesirable behavior without connecting first, it might be for one or more of the following reasons:

  • It’s faster and more efficient to get right to the point
  • You believe the other person values your candor
  • You’re busy and have more important things to do
  • You feel the behavior needs to be corrected immediately

Sometimes these reasons hold.  However, when we focus on correcting behavior all the time without investing in the relationship, at some point, the relationship degrades and the correction falls on deaf ears (or even worse, defiant ones.)

So if you’re a “get it done and move on” kind of person, I invite you to pay attention to your own tally, and try out these three easy ways to practice Connection Before Correction:

1. Give Hugs.  So simple and effective!  Hugs (and any form of physical affection) release oxytocin, a “feel good” neurochemical, into the brain which helps the child calm down and be more receptive.

Correction: “I’ve asked you five times to put away your toys.  Do it now!”

Connecting first with a hug:  “Oh, come here, buddy (Big Hug).  I see toys that need to be put away.  Do you need help or can you handle it alone?”

2.  Acknowledge Feelings / Empathize.   Acknowledging feelings can help children learn that feelings are always OK, but how we act on those feelings is not always OK.  Empathy also helps children feel understood, which again helps them feel more calm and receptive.

Correction:   “You cannot grab things without asking first!  Give that toy back to your brother!”

Connecting first by acknowledging feelings:  “I can tell that you really want to play with that toy, it’s really cool!  And, we have to ask first.  Let’s try again.”

3. Say, “I love you.”  Start with these three words (spoken in a warm, heartfelt way), and whatever comes next feels softer.  

Correction:  “No, you cannot have ice cream before dinner, so stop asking!”

Connecting first with I love you:  “I love you, and the answer is no.”  When delivered with compassion and kindness, the “no” doesn’t feel quite so bad.

These three examples all use Connection Before Correction in the moment of undesirable behavior.   However, this mantra is most powerful when connection defines the relationship long term, not just in moments where parents want compliance.  

You’ve probably heard the quote, “I don’t care what you know, until I know that you care.”  I don’t know who said it first, but it sure rings true in my experience as a parent (and as a partner and professional, too.)  

So make it a habit to play, laugh, listen, hug, empathize, and share your love with your child in good times and bad.  That strong, connected relationship will be the foundation for the future, when your child is a teen or young adult, and you pray that your influence still counts!

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