Draw your hopes & uncover paradigms

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“Honey, please do not walk on the pillows that belong on the living room sofa.”
“Don’t touch those Mom.  They’re my castle!”

Your little tyke and you may view a same situation and interpret it differently.  That’s because you have different paradigms, different mental maps through which you view the world.

(This article is a sequel to Listening with Open Minds)

Mom invests in living room pillows for comfort or decoration.   Junior might notice the soft fabric and pretty colors on the cushions too;  that’s what makes them better for building mansions.

Both perceive the same data (soft fabric and beautiful designs) yet interpret the value differently.

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It’s like when Mom comes home with a newborn.  Everyone notices that mother spends time feeding and bathing the babe.  New Big Sibling also sees this was time previously dedicated to him. Mom interprets her new behavior as caring for her family.  Might Older Sibling take it personally and question his important?Paradigms matter.  A child who believes he matters feels better and behaves better.  The opposite is also true.  A child seeking belonging express it…often through misbehavior.

So, the next time the Delight of Your Life acts up, try connecting with him in a new way.  Explore his perspective.

Easier said than done.

That’s why we propose this game-like activity where parent and child get to draw pictures and explain them to each other.  Is the use of the living room an issue of tension?  Then map it out.  Is your child a I-Will-NEVER-Eat-Vegetables?  Try drawing an ideal meal.  Siblings fight?

How To Map Out Your Home

– Draw your respective maps of your home or living room.

– Attention spans can be limited so give yourself a limit: 5-10 minutes on the kitchen timer or a maximum of 10 items in the living room.

– Take turns to present your interpretations.

“Castles have those special doors.”  
“Drawbridges?”  
“Yes.  Your favorite chair makes a good drawbridge…”
“!!!”

– Compare drawings. Remain factual and, when possible, positive.

– Conclude by finding a way to satisfy both of your needs (partly, is OK).

“Sweetheart, you may use the chair for the drawbridge.  You may use the pig pillows to build your castle, but they need to be put back in place BEFORE you leave the room.  The little pillows stay on the sofa…
…Let’s check next week how well this castle-building agreement is working for us.”  

Next week.

“Darling, about our castle-building agreement, how well did it work?”
“Fine.”
“Who picked up the pillows?”
“Uhh…..”
“So, this week, let’s try something new.  How about if you build your castle in your bedroom with your pillows?”
“But I LIKE the living room castles!”
“Show me that you can be responsible with putting pillows away in your room and we can test caste-building in the living room again.”

Yes, next week is tweaking time again.  Do notice, though, the change in the starting point of the discussion.  The parent gained in understanding.  The kid knows he has responsibilities and that his choices and behavior count.

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Stop lecturing.  What does a parent-diatribe REALLY contribute to the family besides frustration?

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The kids need correcting.  Again.  Again? AGAIN!   As if on automatic pilot, the parental lecture rolls off the tongue.  On cue, the kids close their ears and roll their eyes. “Aaagh” for everyone!

Let’s step back and gain a new perspective on the situation.  What has happened?

  • Kids misbehave.
  • Parents, often kindly, react to the behavior. It might sound like, “Please don’t _____.”
  • Children misbehave again.
  • Mom and Dad, desiring to be “good parents” and to make sure their tykes learn, correct the behavior again. “I told you to _______.”
  • Again!?! The same childish misbehavior?!?
  • With each recurring incident, parents react with GREATER INTENSITY…and somewhere along the line, an inappropriate action became a problem child.

“I can’t believe you just….” then 

“We just went through this last week (yesterday, two minutes ago…) !  How many times do I have to tell you?!”

“Don’t you care that…?.”

“What is it with you that you keep doing the same wrong thing?” …

If this exchange were a ball-game…

…an umpire might whistle, “Foul!” Too many hits.  And not just on the ball.

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…the one receiving the ball (a.k.a. the child) could exclaim, “This game is no fun.  I quit.”

boy gives up sports

…a scorekeeper might wonder, “Who won?  The parent got to free his conscience.  The child gained attention and succeeded to bring mom and dad to wit’s end.  No one is happy…”

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…and a coach could reassess, “Let’s review the basics.  Effective impact is ONE moment during the swing.”

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The swing consist of preparation, impact, and follow through.

Why not apply these sports principles to our parenting too?!
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Prepare to discipline without a lecture

Possible?  Yes.  Read on.

“The only position that matters is the club’s at impact, which is determined by the clubface alignment (the most important factor),” asserts John Jacobs renowned golf teacher inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame.

Same with other ball games.  In a recent volleyball class, the coach shared the keys to winning the game.  First on the list: Get your feet to the ball.  Preparation consists of positioning oneself so that contact with the ball might create the desired impact.   Too close or too far away we “wing it” and hope for the best.

What might preparation look like in a moment of parental correction?  A posture focused on helping the child learn and the relationship grow stronger.

Dr. Jane Nelsen, founder of Positive Discipline, cracks me up when she presents the situation this way, “How many of you when looking up at someone screaming at you thinks, ‘What valuable feedback this is!  This is exactly the person to whom I will turn in my moment of need and vulnerability!”  Ha ha yikes!

Nelsen encourages moms and dads to refocus parental energies on the qualities and life skills we wish to pass on to our child(ren).

Does this sound counterintuitive?  After all, isn’t correction about telling someone what they do wrong?

What do you want your kid to know?

  • That he can’t get something right OR To learn to pay attention to directions
  • That she is selfish OR To be sensitive to others
  • That he is lazy with his homework OR To love excellence and effort
  • That she is a cry-baby OR To use her strengths to resolve conflicts

Challenges, like our children’s misbehaviors, present an invitation to focus on the life skills we seek to build.  Think through those goals through now BEFORE that moment of difficulty.   The clearer your objectives in your mind, the easier it will be to transform the spilled milk episode into an opportunity to teach foresight.  “Humm.  Where might you put the full glass next time so that it does not fall off the table?”

But WHAT DO I WANT MY KID TO KNOW?  Get your parenting hopes into focus with our easy to follow guide.  This is STRATEGIC advance preparation.

When misbehavior strikes, give yourself a few moments to recall these parenting goals.  The time to run your hand through your hair.  The time to sit down before speaking.  The time to go to your room, close the door, scream, and return to face your child.
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