Here, I Can Do It… You’re Taking Too Long

The other day, we were at a friend’s house and Bugz was playing with the family’s set of Legos. They have a child who has a fetish (they have thousands of Legos), and a truly rare talent. I don’t know how this kid builds the stuff that is produced, but it’s awe inspiring.

Bugz has never shown much interest in blocks, Legos, or other like toys, yet she routinely builds and invents, engineers devices that serve some purpose which is almost either always self evident, or obvious with only a slight explanation.  Legos?  Well, not so much.  At least she doesn’t play them with me.  She will sit for an hour with her Papa and play with them, but not otherwise.  Maybe it’s me…

That said, this day, she’d wandered into the play room where all this family’s Legos are kept, and she actually started to play with them.  She wasn’t exactly building anything, but she had rounded up all the human-like figures and had slipped into the realm of Legoland.

After she’d been occupied for about 20 minutes with the Legos, it became time for she and I to return to our own home.  I began the alerting sequence (more on this in another post), and in the process, the mother of the family noticed Bugz was struggling with attaching a set of crutches (or some like assistance device) to one of the little Lego people.  I noticed too.  I stood silently and watched her struggle. Bugz looked up at me and explained that she was having a hard time figuring out how to get them to stay where she assumed they should.  I acknowledged her plight.  I replied that I assumed I would find it also a challenge.

Nothing more..
She continued in her attempt and I continued in my silent support.

A moment later, the mother of the family whose home we were in, knelt down and took from my daughter the toy she was struggling with.  This woman did so stating, “Here, let me help you.  I can do it”.

I watched my daughter deflate at first, become confused, then annoyed.

A moment later, “Here, Bugz, I think it’s done.  You just have to know how to do it.”, so says this adult, while attempting to shove the toy back into my now disinterested daughter’s hands.

“I don’t want to play with it anymore.” Bugz then got up to leave, but hesitated when the mother in question spat out an sarcastic, “Well, uh, I, humph… ooohhhkkaayyy.”

About this time, I stepped in, ignoring the adult, and knelt next to my standing daughter.  I told her that I thought it was pretty cool she’d assembled the Lego people she had, and that she had been working with them.  She reiterated she didn’t want to play anymore, and I simply acknowledged her, knowing the lack of benefit if I’d gone any further at that moment (with the other mom right there).

All of this happened in the span of less than 90 seconds.

We departed, Bugz was mad.  She wasn’t stating why.

When we got home, I sat down with her, face to face, to have a conversation about her feelings. She was mad.  Mad.  I asked her to help me understand why.  She couldn’t.  She was just mad.

I knew why… so I led her a bit.

“Bugz, was it frustrating to not be able to get those crutches thingies on the little Lego guy?”

“No!”

“It would have frustrated me… but then again, you are much more skilled at Legos than I am.”

“Yep.”

“So, would you have liked me to have helped somehow?”

“No. It was hard though. They didn’t fit right.”

“You’re right… I think the crutches might have been meant for a special Lego person, different than the one you had chosen.”

“Oooohhh…. Yeah, there was one with a cast on its leg. Maybe that would have been the match.”

Pause… (She spent a moment thinking to herself.)

“Why didn’t you want to play anymore with the Legos after (name of other mom) decided to show you how to force the crutches to stay on the Lego person you were working on?”

“I dunno..”

“Did you like that she decided to take care of making them work instead of letting you figure it out?”

“I couldn’t get them to stay on the blue one. I would have tried the guy with the cast on his leg. She made them stay on but it wasn’t right… That’s why I couldn’t get them to… Why did she take it from me?”

“She didn’t trust that you would be able to do what you wanted to. She didn’t trust your ability to play and solve what you wanted to. She thought you needed her help. Did you?”

“No. I didn’t want her to do it for me. I didn’t know why it was stuck and not working…”

“Would you have wanted me to help?”

“No. I could do it. I don’t like that she came in… and I don’t want to play with those Legos ever again!”

“I understand. I don’t think I would have wanted her to take the toy and do it for me either. I think I would have eventually figured it out, or done something to fix it, or just decided to do something else.”

“Yeah.”

“I think your skill with building and tinkering is really cool, so does your Papa.”

“Yeah, I built him a Navigator Rabbit. He has it in his truck… If you stick it in the cup holder, and move the arms here (shows me) and there (shows me) and then  – – -, and it will tell him, ‘Turn right there’, and – – – it will help him know how to get back home to me..”

– Conversation concluded. –

Lesson: Don’t undermine the confidence and self esteem in your child by stepping in, unless you’re asked (or there is a question of safety, perhaps, and then still, do whatever you do with the utmost respect for their ability).  All you’re proving is that you, the adult, don’t think they’re good enough.  Why would you do this? Seriously.  Does the adult have something to prove (besides demonstrating their impatience, perhaps)?

It’s deflating, it’s undermining, it’s destructive to the spirit of the little person.  Instead, given the opportunity to determine what their OWN solution will be, that little person will develop another strong and solid link in their chain of self confidence and assurance.

Why crush a child’s spirit? Why interfere? It causes them to resent that “assistance” and the person who didn’t trust them to succeed.

This is a common response from parents and older siblings, and it’s so damaging (and so easily avoided). Jump ahead a few years and watch what happens when that same parent  behaves this way toward his/her teenage (or worse, pre-teen) child. And we wonder why so many parents have so many struggles with their teens.  Honestly, it’s not complicated.  Stop smashing your little ones, uphold them and honor them for all they are and all they do, respect their autonomy and value, and acknowledge fully all they accomplish and learn – fully admire their development right where it is, right then, right now.

And DON’T STOP when they become old enough to oppose you. Whether that happens at two years, ten years, or 16.  Value that confidence and ability in them, know that your faith in them helped put it there. You don’t want a kid that agrees and follows, complies with everything, and doesn’t think for themselves.  You don’t.  It’s not easier. It’s not better. And if you think this is what would make your life easier, if your teen or pre-teen would just “pay attention and do (whatever it is you want/don’t want them to)”, you’re wrong, and YOU are the problem – fix it by starting with yourself and learning what you did to create the environment and dynamics now unwanted.

~~~

Would you take a few minutes today and make a list of whatever comes to mind that your child(ren) possess a unique or individual skill/ability for. Something exception, something simple. Then, make a list of some things they’re struggling with.  After each line of struggles, explain directly WHY you have faith in them to solve their own struggle to their own satisfaction (not your way).

Now, give them the list (or speak it to a younger child over the next day/two).  Say nothing more. Expect nothing. Just observe and keep your responses to a limited smile and nod, eye to eye, if the child responds at all.

Wait (an hour, a day, a week… maybe months).
– You’ll see.

________________________________________________________________________

Would you take a moment right now and create your list? Would you share it here?

What about an experience you’ve had where you’ve observed the response of a child who has been the recipient of an adult who has ‘stepped in’ where the child would have otherwise succeeded/or not (to their own satisfaction) on their own. Put yourself in the position of that child… What feelings does it evoke within you? Can you imagine now how you – being that child – might feel if, after speaking your opposition to the diminishment, was then also told that opposition was wrong/ungrateful/rude/inconsiderate/disrespectful (or any other slew of condemnations adults might throw)? Do you see what we do to our children when we tell them we don’t have faith in them? Do you? So… just don’t.

 

When Parents Are at Odds

This morning, based solely on my facial expression from what I can tell, my daughter assessed my general state of mind and, determining something had to be done, came up to me and said, “Mama, you can figure this out.  You’re sad but I have so many happy feelings I can share with you that you will have to be happy and laugh. Besides, you can fix your stuff. I know you can!”

Then, she followed that a couple hours later with, “Papa can understand and so can you, so you both can be smart enough and care about it to fix whatever all has you so sad.”  – Her father is currently traveling on business. It’s actually a positive situation because it gives us a chance at gaining some perspective apart, while keeping things calm where she is. The drawback is she misses her Papa and he would very much like to have her there with him.

We’ve gone through such a massive and prolonged transition, so much more challenging than either of us could have fathomed, that when stuff happens that hits a deep nerve (even if it’s petty), we both seem to lose site of what matters too quickly. You’d think after 16 years of marriage, we’d be better at this…

Thing is, we are getting better, but the challenges are keeping up.  It’s an extremely difficult process.  It seems that there should be other ways.. that it should not be so ridiculous. Some of what we’re contending with runs so deep that the only way we can work through to the other side is to dig up the root and remove the entire plant. When you plant a tree, don’t water it enough, prevent it from sun and proper nutrients, and then force it to contend with wind and no support stake in sight… Well, you get the picture.  If the thing manages to survive, it’s going to be weak, rather humorous looking no doubt, and probably never bare fruit or do whatever it was intended to as a healthy plant.

Another analogy: Build a house without a foundation, on stilts no less… Then expect it to withstand repeated hurricanes.  Yeah, probably not huh.  And yet, how many of us either force our children into situations where they have no foundation, or a pathetic one.  Better yet, how many of us lack that foundation ourselves?

When you don’t have that solid foundation, you can’t give one to your kids either. So, if at some point when we, as an adult (parent), become aware of the ‘missing’, it’s paramount  the work be undertaken to build or provide for what is missing.  This is taking care of us so we can take care of our children.  Akin to oxygen on an airplane, and putting on your own mask first so you can actually be useful to others instead of dead, success means our children will grow without the same chunk(s) missing; they’ll grow whole.

Today, I chose to see her.  It took looking through the mud of hurt and confusion, and a lot of management of my own aggravation (none of which has a single thing to do with her),  but, I managed to find my goggles.

The article that follows is one that I’d like to encourage you to read first, then we can talk about it over the next couple of days.


Parents Who Fight May Harm Children’s
Future Emotional Development

How parents handle everyday marital conflicts has a significant effect on how secure their children feel, which, in turn, significantly affects their future emotional adjustment. This finding, from researchers at the universities of Notre Dame, Rochester (NY) and Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., was published in the January/February 2006 issue of the journal Child Development. It provides powerful new evidence regarding the impact of parental behavior on children’s future behavior.

“A useful analogy is to think about emotional security as a bridge between the child and the world,” explained lead researcher Mark Cummings, Ph.D., professor and Notre Dame Chair in Psychology of the Psychology Department of the University of Notre Dame in Indiana. “When the marital relationship is functioning well, it serves as a secure base, a structurally sound bridge to support the child’s exploration and relationships with others.”

“When destructive marital conflict erodes the bridge, children may lack confidence and become hesitant to move forward, or may move forward in a dysregulated way, unable to find appropriate footing within themselves or in interaction with others.” The researchers based their report on two separate long-term studies of marital conflict and children.

The first study involved 226 parents and their 9- to-18-year-old children. The researchers examined the effect of marital conflict over three years, finding that forms of destructive marital conflict, such as personal insults, defensiveness, marital withdrawal, sadness or fear, set in motion events that led to later emotional insecurity and maladjustment in children, including depression, anxiety, and behavior problems. This occurred even when the researchers controlled for any initial adjustment problems.

The second study again examined the connection between marital conflict and emotional problems over a three-year period, this time in a different group of 232 parents and much younger children (kindergarteners). Researchers again found that marital conflict sets in motion events that led to later emotional insecurity and maladjustment. Again, researchers controlled for any initial adjustment problems, further supporting the conclusion that marital conflict was related with children’s emotional insecurity and adjustment problems. Both studies involved representative community samples and everyday conflict behaviors (for example, verbal hostility) about everyday sources of conflict between parents, such as childcare and household responsibilities. Because of this, the findings can likely be generalized to most American families.

Parents and even mental health professionals are likely unaware of the significance of marital conflict for the well-being of children, said Dr. Cumming, and few may know that children’s security is so closely tied to the quality of parental relationships. At the same time, however, other work from Dr. Cummings and his peers find that constructive marital conflict, in which parents express or engage in physical affection, problem solving, compromise or positive feelings, may increase children’s security. “Thus,” Dr. Cummings noted, “this study is a warning to strongly encourage parents to learn how to handle conflicts constructively for the sake of both their children and themselves.”

Summarized from Child Development, Vol. 77, Issue 1, Interparental Discord and Child Adjustment: Prospective Investigations of Emotional Security as an Explanatory Mechanism. By Cummings EM, Schermerhorn AC (both of the University of Notre Dame), Davies PT (University of Rochester), Goeke-Morey MC (Catholic University of America), and Cummings JS (University of Notre Dame). Copyright 2006 The Society for Research in Child Development, Inc. All rights reserved.

Andrea Browning
abrowning@srcd.org
Society for Research in Child Development
http://www.srcd.org

Why Command or Demand When All You Have to Do is Request?

Instead of a command or demand, (how often do you see parents barking orders at their kids, big and small, and becoming very irritated and resorting to punishment when the child doesn’t offer immediate and utter compliance), try making a reasonable and considerate request.

I received a comment/response to an earlier post in which a mother describes a scenario in her home. In this case, the mom explained directly to the child directly that “the volume level (his preferred level) was more than she (or the family) could enjoy with him at that time, and asked him if he would please turn it down”.  Her manner of handling the situation  was absolutely brilliant, and kind.  Perhaps this mom knows that referring to the family as a whole works better in her home, and maybe another home would work better if it were individualized, either way, the adult taking time to treat the child as they would their spouse, friend, co-worker, or even a stranger in the room, elevates the child’s self esteem and ability to connect and co-exist to such an extent that instead of the parent having to try (or force) to get cooperation, all they have to do is ask.

BUT here’s the catch…

A parent willing to demonstrate compassion and such a level of maturity and awareness as this type of scenario, must also be willing to bend.  Treating her child as she would an adult in the grown-up world, (sitting in one’s office, guy in the cube next door blaring awfully annoying noise – asked to please turn it down – guy either refuses or does so to such a degree that it doesn’t help), she knows that sometimes she gets what she wants and other times she doesn’t.  If the child knows he or she has the right to deny the parent’s request (scary, I know.. but hang in there with me), then the child can choose how he/she behaves, and becomes responsible for those choices. While sometimes it means the parent has to accept their request being denied (just like in the real world), it can just as easily be extremely satisfying and rewarding when the child chooses to grant the request out of genuine selflessness, compassion, or empathy.  Talk about parenting on a different level. Imagine having a teenager that respected you so greatly, and your respect of them was equal, that instead of power struggles and fear based control tactics by the parent, the parent could simply establish boundaries, set expectations, request cooperation, and trust the loyalty of the friendship between the parent and teen, and trust the teen to make his/her own choices, to accept responsibility for them, and each enjoy the other and their shared life.  This takes courage.

Hard to imagine?

Well… when you set it up from day one as a mutual partnership, a mentorship, a friendship, a love that does instead of just says, it’s not difficult and it is not imagination either, it’s reality.  Day one can be at birth or as soon as you become aware and decide to allow the paradigm shift in your mind and home.  And keep in mind, no human is consistent 100%, but grace and compassion take care of the inconsistencies until the inconsistencies take care of themselves.


 

Request vs. Demand

Request Demand
Attention Attention is on the needs of others and myself Attention is on strategies
Intention To get everyones needs fulfilled To get the others to do what I want
Appreciation My appreciation for the other person does not change, if the other one says “No.” I do not appreciate the other person as much, if the other one says “No.”
Trust I trust, that my needs will be considered and satisfied. I am scared, that my needs do not count.


 

>>> From the blog: The Key to Getting Your Needs Met

The number one reason people’s Needs are not met is unclear requests.” – Marshall B. Rosenberg, Ph.D.

Mastering Requests

Why:

Requests ensure that I am giving the people around me something actionable and clear so that they can respond to my Need.
Making requests of each other, rather than demands, assures that we are doing everything for each other out of an energy that will not later interfere with the quality of the connection.
As I said earlier, one of the most important insights in NVC is that whenever we do anything for one another, I for you or you for me…
…the energy with which we do it is just as important as the action itself. Because when we or others act motivated by fear, guilt, shame, obligation, shoulds and have-tos, the relationship pays a big price, usually in terms of resentment and often an erosion of trust.
Unclear requests create confusion, and waste time and resources.
 Demands squander goodwill and trust.

What:

A true NVC request is distinct from a demand, and meets four criteria (below).
In a demand the other person’s Needs are not perceived as equally important, and the other person may do what we’re wanting out of a motivation of fear, guilt, shame, obligation, shoulds, have-tos, etc.
When I make a true request, your Needs matter to me just as much as my own. And I remember the consciousness that NVC teaches me in which I prioritize the relationship over specific outcomes, and when we are connected we find that we co-create mutually satisfying outcomes.
If I have made a true request, I can hear a response of no with as much love as a yes. Below are the four criteria for an NVC request:
(1) Specific. (Vague requests are less doable, and therefore less likely to result in your Needs being met. They are also prone to being misinterpreted; e.g.: “I want more space in this relationship.” Response: “Are you saying you’d like me to contact you in five years?”)
(2) Present. (Actionable in this moment. Even if what I want is a future action, what is actionable right now is agreement about that future action.)
(3) Positive action language. (What we do want the other person to do rather than what we don’t want them to do).

Natural Consequence, Results of Actions, Absence of Control

In our home, we don’t teach our kids that there are consequences for their behavior – we don’t fabricate a world for their learning of the negative, or for the purpose of giving them lessons.  In our home, results of behavior occur for the child just as they do for the adult.  Of course, if a result would be harmful or damaging, we buffer, but otherwise we do not.  When a result should occur for the purpose of them learning something, and in fact nothing related really happens, we either simply verbalize our relevant thoughts or we let it be, trusting that the child will acquire the necessary understanding at a later time when the child is ready.

Parenting like this requires trust in the mind of the developing child, openness in communication and raw relating from parent to the child, and a complete lack of fear of losing control – because there is no “controlling” in the first place.

Does this lack of control mean my kids run my home? Actually, to some it may seem that they have too much influence because we choose to accept and accommodate their wants, preferences, and needs as equal to our own. Yet, if someone were to be a fly on the wall, they’d see that this respect we bestow upon the children is returned without force.  I don’t need to control my child because I trust her ability to reason, I don’t fear her making a mistake because I trust in her ability to accept herself and learn through experience, and I am willing to be inconvenienced for the duration of her childhood when necessary.

There are exceptions, when I must enforce something out of practicality.  Even then, however, my prevailing mentality is not to direct but to allow her to explore and learn through her own understanding and experiences.  Tonight my kiddo (4) decided to set a square box (cushioned cube) to sit upon, right in front of the tv.  Initially, I talked with her about the decision as she was too near the tv and the tv isn’t securely mounted as of yet (it’s new).  I asked her to make certain that if she was going to leave the cube to sit on so near the tv that she not bump the stand (or make the tv move) at all.

A few minutes passed and before long, she’d stretched herself between the cube and the tv stand like a bridge, and needless to say, the tv was jostled and wiggling in time with her own movements.  I watched for a few moments, to determine whether she’d correct the situation on her own.  She didn’t.  I stepped in.

I knelt near her, paused the program she was engaged in, asked for her eye contact, and said in a flat and gentle tone, with respect and not condescension in my voice, “Bugz, your feet on the stand are causing the tv to move too much.  There’s a good chance the tv might get damage because of how much it’s moving, and how close you are to it.  I mentioned to you just a few moments ago that if you were going to sit on the cube so near the tv you’d have to make sure not to bump the tv or the stand…  (She reflects, then I continue.)  I see the tv is still moving a bit even after you’ve now taken your feet off the stand.  I don’t want our new tv damaged and this concerns me.”

Her response, “Why does the tv move so much?”

My explanation, “Because the stand is meant to allow for some movement safely that won’t damage the tv, but we don’t have the tv in a good place yet and so it’s not secure.  It’s my job to mount the tv and I haven’t done it yet.  I know.. if it were, then we wouldn’t be talking about it..”

She responds, “Yeah, so can you fix it cuz I want to make a bridge but I don’t want to mess up the tv.”

I simply told her at that point that I wasn’t going to mount it at this time (I’m sick today, the room isn’t ready, the wall isn’t ready… I’m procrastinating… etc, etc.) and that the she was welcome to continue using the cube to sit on, but that it would need to be moved back a few feet from the tv.  She responded with some annoyance and disappointment, but she acknowledged me and picked up the cube, moved it to the center of the room (6′ or so from the tv) and resumed watching her show.  Shortly thereafter, she found herself climbing on the back of the couch, mimicking the cat on the tv, and was quite pleased.

I acknowledged her interest in the physical elements of the placement of the cube.  She likes to climb, stretch, jump, and teeter on things that are entirely not stable but she manages.  She also actively interacts with the tv, as we don’t use it except for education and/or entertainment that she physically responds to/with.  It’s unfair of me to restrict her just because I am too lazy to take care of the reason I am compelled to restrict in the first place.  If I took the time to mount the thing as it is meant to be, or at least set it onto a surface that was safer than what I have chosen, the entire conversation would never have happened.  She knows this.  She knows I have chosen to procrastinate, and that as a result I have had to ask her to forgo something she finds enjoyable.  Yet she doesn’t throw a fit, doesn’t intentionally defy me.. She also (this time) didn”t refuse to respect my request even with my own laziness being the cause, and her being well aware of it.  She chose to acknowledge the real concern I had for preserving the electronic equipment, chose to respect my request because it made sense to her and she happened to value the same that I did in tihs case, and she chose to modify what she could do to suit her desire to use her body to enjoy what she was watching on the tv.

Does she always make these decisions that go my way?  No.  But most of the time she does, and most of the time, I make decisions that go hers.  Though, if I demand something I can almost guarantee her respect and consideration of me, my wants, expectations, etc., become the very last thing she is interested in honoring.  Is an adult any different?

So, I don’t demand, and I don’t control.  I guide, educate, share and communicate very openly, demonstrate empathy and equal respect, respond out of compassion, and gently smile as the amazing things really impress me and the not so great just fade a moment later out of importance.  I screw this up a lot too… but the more I mess up, the more aware I become, and the I can choose how I interact, and what being in the position to parent really means.

So Encouraged.

Wow guys!  You all started speaking, and at the same time!  I can’t tell you how big the smile on my face is tonight as I attempt to respond to the comments (most of which have triggered yet another post on the horizon, so please, keep your experiences and understandings coming).  I experienced a rough situation tonight that, for a myriad of reasons, I can’t elaborate on at this moment… but reading through the responses to the “Why We Don’t Punish & What is Discipline” is healing. I want to share a bit about our day, however, in hopes of sharing my smile with you.

My younger brother is getting married tomorrow; my daughter is his flower girl.  My daughter has been 4 since mid October. I still slip once in a while and refer to her as three, and I hear about it from her when I do.  “Mama.”, says my little coherent.  “I am 4. Do you not remember my birthday? It went on for a month Mom.  We are still celebrating! I want to celebrate everything, always. So please remember to stop forgetting that I am not three now. And soon…!!!  I will marry Papa too (wedding theme abounds of late). So, but you have to be 4 at LEEEAST, or maybe 7, to marry somebody.  But I think 22 is really old. It’s big. Are you that old??”  I hear this same line of thought about three times a week and it never ceases to make me smile.

Yesterday we traveled the 5+ hour drive from our home to my brother’s.  Today, she awoke way earlier than I thought she would (have mercy – I should have gone to bed earlier last night) and kept her Grandma (staying with my parents) going for the better part of the morning.  But, by 11am or so, she started whimpering and just being sort of whiny.  At first I assumed she was hungry (we are going through the “hunger satiated after bite two – until 20 minutes from now” development segment), and so when she turned down an offer of food, I didn’t think much of it, until we got in the car to head to the wedding venue.  She was exhausted.  That didn’t make sense.  I asked if she was hungry.  Nope.  Just thirsty.  Ok… but then suddenly I knew I needed to observe her for a moment longer (you know, the parallel sensation somewhere in your core that if you pay any attention to it at all, you realize just how much you can perceive and understand about the world and people around you).  Sure enough.  I took her hand in mine and waited a moment, touched her neck just under her chin, and could feel her body temperature rising. She was succumbing to a pretty significant attempt by the “yucky germs” and when asked how she felt, she replied (that) “The white blood cells in my bloodstream, and the big, tough antibody guys are gettin’em Mama.. But they’re really having to work hard and it’s making me so tired.  But I can heal.  My brain has told my body to get hot on the inside to fry those germs away.  But my head hurts and I don’t like how I feel and so I think I don’t like these germs.”  Followed by, “Where’d they come from anyway!” – My kid has a current thing for anatomy and instead of ending a fever with Tylenol, we hop into a hot bath and help the body do its job to restore health.

Fantastic, I’m thinking.  It’s dress rehearsal for my bro’s wedding, there’s supposed to be a dinner after that, we’re in a hotel in the middle of the mountains in Colorado (though, mind you, it’s warmer here than we’re accustomed to at home), and we have nothing but travel and more travel, oh, and a wedding tomorrow… Eyes watering, flushed, pale and gray.. and I somehow expect this little thing to play grownup tomorrow, at the grownup’s party, and like it to boot.  Yeesh… Ok.  Time to step back and re-prioritize.  Time to ask the kiddo what she thinks about everything.

Upon inquisition, she offered that she was pretty sure her body was strong enough for her to practice for her uncle’s wedding.  Besides, she really wanted to throw flower petals around so she could go collect them and plant new flowers.  🙂    So, I let her participate as much as she decided she wanted to.  She did pretty much exactly what everyone asked and wanted, and then some.  She was brilliant and excellently cooperative, attentive, and even showed a ton of compassion and patience to another little one that was there (1 year old).  Then, the eyes started watering again, the fever began to climb, and my little Bug asked for arms.

She slept through dinner.

Then, instead of going to bed, we took a hot bath.  She reported it being very helpful, and after tolerating me putting her fragile locks into rags for the purpose of hair preparation for the festive event, she and Papa snuggled up and went to sleep.  We’ll see what tomorrow brings.

Eventually I’ll post about the part of today’s experience that I can’t discuss yet.. But to give you some insight into the positive side of it, basically it’s as simple as this, even though my daughter was miserable, sick, exhausted, and generally really miserable, she chose to be involved tonight and she did so not because either her dad or I told her she had to, or kept pushing and prodding her to cooperate, she chose to (and I know this because she communicated her preferences directly to me) be involved because she thought her uncle and future aunt would value her being there.  She asked if they wanted her there, and if so, she’d be there, says the brave little Bug.  And while there, she did her thing, we played, we rehearsed, we ate hot chocolate and marshmallows (and so did half the group, as she went on a mission of marshmallow sharing madness).  Her willingness to learn what the adults wanted her to do, follow instruction, and just generally totally be “there” in spite of how she felt (or what her curiosity suggested she check out), all came from her.  She had no fear or even remote concern of me or her Papa punishing or scolding her for not performing or conducting herself in some way we (or the other adults) expected.  I don’t think she even comprehends this sort of scenario because every time she sees it with another kid/parent, she flips, asks a ton of questions, and demonstrates sorrow at the other child’s discomfort.

I don’t have to threaten.  I choose to explain.
I don’t have to give ultimatums.  I choose to allow her autonomy.
I don’t have to punish. I choose to allow her choices to result as they will, and to stand by her as she experiences those results and learns what to do with them.

I ask for her involvement in our shared life, I explain the details, I educate her as much as possible about the whys/whats/whens, and I have no fear telling her that the only reason something is expected a certain way is because Mama is being intolerant at that moment/about that subject, or some other adult is focusing on themselves and forgetting to see the world through her eyes too.

Does she know when compliance is mandatory?  Yes.  She understood this at about 13  months.
Does she know that if compliance is mandatory and she chooses to refuse, that her mom or dad will step in one way or another?  Yes.  She knows we will do what is necessary to keep her safe and to keep us sane in dangerous or extremely stressful situations.
Does she know that we trust her with the choices and information she currently has?  Yes.
Does she know she has the right to refuse our requests, just as we have the right to refuse hers, and that compromise and flexibility are highly valuable skills and traits to develop? Yes.  But she also knows my love, my grace, my compassion and empathy, my understanding that the world is massive for her right now (like it’s really any smaller for me).

Why does she work with us when we ask?  Because she knows deep within her that we honor her and accept her entirely just because she exists.  AND because we work with her when she asks..it’s a two way street.  She feels good and secure inside when she knows that our family is sharing our lives together in harmony.

Discipline & Being Non-Punitive

The term discipline, and how our society as a rule uses it, is about to drive me batty. Discipline, the way it’s used, means punishment. To me, discipline is a quality of inner self, of integrity.

Punishment is something that happens to someone.
It’s a quality. Something that has been fostered and developed. When a person has discipline they have the inner fortitude to make right choices, to do what needs to be done.   – Source –

The other night my daughter (just 4) was playing with pine cones in our family room. She had them flying through the air, one in each hand.
We were working on various projects in the room, and as usual, I was barefoot. So was she.

After playing for a few moments, one of the pine cones came crashing to the floor, spraying splintering pieces of wood in its wake. So, I spoke to my daughter in a command to not throw the pine cones onto the floor. I did not ask, did not explain, did not expound. I was busy and annoyed. She knew it.

…Not one of my better moments.

Three or so minutes later, another pine cone hit the floor and I initially snapped at her. This, however, not only demonstrates a complete lack of respect on my part, but it elicits a similarly disrespectful and rather dismissive response from my daughter. Thankfully, I caught myself mid sentence, stopped my mouth, took a deep breath and walked over to her and took her into my arms. We then had a conversation.

This time, I decided to remember how to be decent to her, remember to see the world through her eyes and mine, and remember that she is equally valued and equally considered in our home. In other words, instead of being controlling and speaking down to her (or what some might consider a proper authoritative tone), I spoke evenly and with respect.

I explained that I was upset that after I’d just asked her to not throw another pine cone on the floor, one hit dead center and left pieces everywhere. Then I corrected myself, and recalled that actually I had not asked anything but “told” her not to “throw pine cones”, when I should have said, “Please do not allow any more pine cones to hit the floor BECAUSE when they do, they split apart and send sharp pieces of wood flying all over the floor that one of us is then going to either step or sit on and end up with a pokey sticking out of our skin.” This she would have comprehended… This she would have heard. This, she would likely have granted. My demand and annoyance instead immediately caused her to shut off her willingness.

When I restated what would have been a better comment to have made to her initially, her defensiveness dropped and she made eye contact. I could see her shoulders raise, her chin relax (from being rather set just a moment before), and the stress reaction to fear of the big person (who was not behaving very well) disappear from her face.

A moment later, I set her down, knelt next to her, and asked (yes, asked) her to clean up the pieces. My words were, “Bugz, so that no one gets hurt with all these pieces on the floor, will you please pick up every single piece you can find and put them in the trash?”

She began, and, handing them to me (instead of the trash), we both cleaned up the floor together.

I could have thrown her into time out. I could have spanked her for what so many would consider deliberate defiance. I could have ridiculed her, demeaned her, squashed her for not doing what I wanted. I could have lorded over her, assumed my role as parent and thereby big person who is so much bigger that I can MAKE her do what I want, one way or another… Instead I chose to remember the value of not resorting to threat or condescension.

I chose to take a breath and pause. I chose to change my attitude and treat her with the same amount and sort of respect I would an adult who had my admiration. I communicated by explanation, honored my need by my own example (I got down on the floor and picked up the pieces with her), and reconnected by helping to renew and strengthen her sense of self, value, and ability.

Three days later, I have seen a pine cone on the floor (where it doesn’t belong), exactly once. I asked her to relocate it to where she’d like, but where it wouldn’t get stepped on and where we wouldn’t have to worry about the sharp pokey ends breaking off and getting left for our feet to find. She decided to grant my request. She picked it up, took it to the tree, placed it where she wished, with no fuss, no hesitation, and instead of dread or annoyance (having to do a chore), she exhibited interest and delight because she was in control of where it should go.

End result desired – achieved by the mama.
Education and empowerment – gained by the kiddo
.

In our house, my daughter does not comply out of fear of punishment. In fact, she doesn’t know what punishment is and compliance is reserved for safety and inescapable social situations. She chooses to grant requests, when she does, out of her own sense of purpose and reason. She knows she can choose to refuse our requests, and she knows we can choose to refuse hers. This works because, in our home (unlike so many I have seen), we do not choose to control her and do not fear being unable to retain control because control is not what makes our home function. In our home, we live together, support each other, and collaborate on life. All of us. We work together, we work independently, we share and cooperate, we value each other equally and we each know that it takes all of us, together. If today one of us is too tired, then we make up for it tomorrow. Is everything always even and fair? No. Does the Mama (or Papa) screw it all up sometimes? Yes. But humility, grace, and compassion fill in the gaps and keep things going.

Grace and compassion – not permissiveness. Our daughter knows when compliance is mandatory. In her 4 years here, she has demonstrated only a few times her reluctance when it’s clear to her that she “must”. At her young age, we have had to step in a few times and physically cause compliance to preserve her health, but as she’s grown, these instances have become fewer and fewer. In fact, at this point, about the only time I try to actually force compliance is when I am being impatient, demanding (as in no longer requesting her cooperation) or unwilling to see through her worldview. To date she has not once refused instant compliance when she hears threat of danger (or fear) in my voice (i.e., stop! – car coming!). It is rare that I must speak this way anyway, as she has been educated well enough and makes wise decisions appropriate for her age most of the time. But every once in while, a situation arises, and it is during these that the most compelling positive evidence for grace and compassion based parenting, instead of punitive and trained/controlled governing of little ones becomes so easily observed.

_________________________________________________________________What about you? What experiences have you had where you either caught yourself mid stream and changed your approach to a more respectful and considerate one, or where from the very beginning your way of existing with your little ones caused a successful outcome of an event that would result in punishment in a typical home? Share your experiences please, we can learn so much from each other.

Powerful Praise, More Powerful Than You Might Think

“Value judgment.”

Think about that phrase.  How does it sit with you?  What thoughts occur? 
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Praise is an interesting thing. It can, when offered in an appropriate occasion, completely change the environment of all within reach of the effects of that praise.  It can also, when repeatedly used to control and/or manipulate behavior, damage so far beyond the apparent that waves of hurt often remain for a lifetime.

Today I’d like to repost an article that came by my desk, though there are others that I have read and shared before on the same subject.  I will add links to other dialog and discussion concerning this important concept at the end.  Please take a moment to think on this, reflect, and open your mind.

Encouragement or Praise for Children?

by Elvin Klassen

Praise is an expression of worth, approval, or admiration. It is usually given to a child when a task or deed is well done or when a task is completed. Children need feedback on the work they do. How can we provide feedback most effectively?

Observe what happens in the following scenario when the teacher praises Tom. This example provides some interesting insights:

Tom, a 7th grader who seldom finishes any work, was actually writing the answers to the social studies questions in his notebook. The teacher was so surprised by this unusual behavior that he wanted to acknowledge Tom. “Tom, your answers are really great.” Tom looked at the teacher and sneered, spending the rest of the period with his head down. Jim, who sat near Tom, followed the teacher to the front of the room and asked, “How about my answers; are they great too?”

Several things happened in this class­room which are common results of praise. Tom may have felt the comment was manipulative and insincere. He was not used to praise and handled it poorly. The other student, Jim, may have felt slighted because he did not get praise and stopped working to seek teacher attention. He was not secure enough to judge the quality of his own work and was dependent on teacher opinion.

Praise sets the teacher as the standard by which everything is judged. It can be discouraging for those not receiving it. Failure to earn praise is often interpreted as criticism. Some students ridicule others whose behavior or work is singled out for attention. For students who set exceedingly high standards for themselves and fail to meet them, even sincere praise may sound like scorn or may convince the student the teacher does not have very good judgment.

An alternative to praise is encouragement. It refers to a positive acknowledgment response that focuses on student efforts or specific attributes of work completed. Unlike praise, encouragement does not place judgment on student work or give information regarding its value.

Encouragement is specific. Instead of saying, “Terry, your painting is beautiful,” the teacher can make specific comments about the picture like “Terry, I noticed you used a lot of blue,” or “You worked a long time on that painting.” Judgment about the quality of the painting is left to Terry.

Encouragement is generally given in private. When children’s efforts are acknowledged privately, teachers avoid the potential for embarrassing them and diminishing the self-image of other children through implied comparisons. This encourages the potential for an honest exchange of ideas and an opportunity for the child to talk about his or her work. Otherwise, the children who are not being praised publicly may become discouraged and resentful or the child being praised may fear being criticized some time.

Encouragement focuses on improvement of the process rather than evaluation of a finished product. Instead of saying “good job,” it is more appropriate to say “You did that all by yourself,” or “I noticed you have been working here all morning.” When Sally, a poor reader, reads six new words, it is inappropriate to say, “Sally, you are such a good reader.” She knows she is a poor reader. Rather say, “Sally, you read six new words,” or “Sally, you’re learning to read some new words.”

Sincere, direct comments delivered with a natural voice are encouraging. Using encouragement helps teachers avoid overused phrases such as, “Good job,” “Wow, terrific work!” or “That’s beautiful.” By being more specific and honest, teachers can more easily avoid using contradicting gestures or body language such as frowning. Encouraging statements should be offered with honest feeling. They should be credible and varied to suit the circumstances.

Encouragement does not set children up for failure. Phrases such as “Jimmy, you’re such a nice boy” are not encouraging because it is impossible to be nice all the time. Rather, use a comment such as, “Jimmy, I noticed you shared with Mary today.” Jimmy is left to determine for himself if he was indeed nice. The acknowledgment of the behavior is a form of reinforcement.

Encouragement helps students develop an appreciation of their own behaviors and achievements. Statements such as “You looked excited the way you ___” help the child analyze his own behavior and to better appreciate his own efforts.

Encouragement uses the child’s prior accomplishments as a context. Such statements as “You read by yourself for 15 minutes. That’s longer than the time you spent yesterday,” or “You’re getting faster at matching those shapes” promote a child’s recognition of change and progress.

Encouraging statements do not compare one child to another. Most teachers who say, “You are the quietest walker,” or “Jane is the best clean-up person in the room” intend to acknowledge effort, not to compare children. Yet children may hear the subtle comparison. Encouragement for the same behavior might sound like “You walked quietly, your feet made no sound,” or “Jane, you cleaned up the library and placed all the books in their places on the shelf.”

Encouragement focuses on the effort the child has put into the work. It emphasizes the problem-solving process over the product. Encouragement may actually describe the student’s work or behavior, allowing the students to make their own judgment of the quality. Encouragement recognizes the act, not the actor.

Read the following statements and indicate whether they are praise (P) or encouragement (E)1. Remember, praise gives a value judgment and focuses on the person, while encouragement makes an observation about a behavior:

_­__    1.    What a good girl to clean up your room.

___    2.    I’m so glad that you enjoy learning.

___    3.    Your story is exciting and uses very colorful language.

___    4.    I’m proud of you for learning your multiplication tables.

___    5.    I’m pleased with your behavior on the field trip.

___    6.     You figured that out all by yourself. Aren’t you pleased?

Through effort you can begin to use more encouraging statements with your children. The results, in turn, will encourage both you and your children!

Reprinted from the March 1999 issue of Parents Teaching Overseas. Permission is granted to copy, but not for commercial purposes.

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What Every Parent Needs to Know About Praise
Why Praise Sabotages Your Child — And What To Say Instead

What To Say Instead of Praising

“Say It, Mom!”

 

 

Needing to

Tonight, I am compelled to write.

I don’t know what yet…

It’s been a long while that I’ve had the precious few moments I have now to write and share with you.  As such, I am exhausted now and so won’t edit this right away; please grant me grace. Much has happened in the past months, as my little one has grown extensively and on so many different levels and layers.  I am learning daily.

I have come across three (maybe 4) excellent resources for parents in the past season.  Some of these have simply been reassuring, while others seem to be uncanny in their timing of critical information as it relates to my present experiences, often brilliantly the very day it is most beneficial to receive the external perspective.  I’d like to share them with you and will do so at the end of this post. In the mean time, however, I’d like to share what our family is doing now, and some of the challenges and triumphs we’ve had of late.

My daughter awoke the morning of her 4th birthday to discover sand beneath her feet and a very large ocean 50 or so steps away.  We took her to Northern California for her birthday and first official family vacation.  We managed to land the RV on the coast after dark the night before her birthday, timing it wonderfully for her special day. She squealed with delight (as did her big “sister” who was with us) and ran on the beach for an hour non-stop.

What is it about seeing your child run free on the beach, playing in the sand and kelp, jumping over waves and off rocks, and stopping every two inches to explore and discover the many creatures and debris washed up on shore with each new movement of the ocean that just sets the spirit free?!  It’s surreal.  And much to the dismay of a few in my family, I am thoroughly convinced we belong on the coast (as in our residence) and I intend to make it so.

The joy and pure, simple delight I observed my daughter bask in while on the beach, and then wonder and curiosity (and courage) as she relished the giant Redwoods, moved me beyond words or even clear thought for a few days.  It was all I could do to just watch and admire as she grew and developed right in front of me.  Honoring her right where she was, as she was, and how came as naturally as breathing.  I will hold on to that sensation and experience and recall it when reality returns and she and I engage in the daily grind that sometimes generates some rather intense conflicts and challenges for us to overcome.

My daughter, all of 4 and a few weeks, is a formidable opponent.  I am thankful for this.  She speaks her mind, states her intentions, makes known her desires, and stands her ground.  She also has the compassion and empathy of a wise old woman, weathered and tendered from a lifetime of choosing to find the beauty and bestow the love that can be found and given.

I am starting to see another trait in her that, while it is not at all surprising, it is quite intriguing to me.  My little one has a sense of justice that rivals my own, and is very insistent on her need for it to be recognized and respected. It is a very effective method of me having to be genuine and fair consistently. And though at times this aspect of her being is aggravating from the adult perspective, when I stop and see through her eyes, our world takes a shape that allows me to re-evaluate my actions/thoughts and create a sense of peace and justice for her that I’d not otherwise have bothered to generate.

Lately, my daughter has been exhibiting some significant feelings.  In short, she’s demonstrating anger.  I assume it is related to the many transitions, and the seemingly endless list of tasks her father and I must accomplish while still making sure we are available to play (and inviting her to play as well).  She also wants a sibling, which is an interesting point of debate she and I have gone rounds over.

Her feelings are big, her actions are intense, and her ability to communicate clearly grows daily.  She senses things more than even I had realized, and she is in a stage of mimicry that is as precise as it is intelligent.  As a result, her father and I are reviewing our own behaviors and actions almost constantly now and working where work is required.

I hope to begin chronicling our daily experiences that might be useful to you all again soon.  I understand that the dialog and interplay relayed in story form seems to be the most appreciated and useful, so I will endeavor to allocate an appropriate amount of time to write.

And as I’ve said before, it is valuable to have your feedback as it encourages me to share, as well as provide invaluable perspective to me and to each other.  Thanks for taking the time to see the world through your little one’s eyes tonight.  May your day tomorrow be intentional, and may your child(ren) know you (the internal you) in a way that comforts them and renews their security and self-esteem.  Wholly respected and loved without condition… imagine what can happen in a single generation.

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Peace for Parents

Aha! Parenting

Peaceful Parenting

Respecting Children: Gently Parenting a Wholly Loved & Honored Generation
Please feel free to join in the discussion