Tuesday, March 1, 2011

My New Toolbox, Part 1

In a previous post, I listed all the things that no longer work when correcting our children. My parenting toolbox has become quite empty. I am rebuilding my skill set a little at a time. It feels like I traded in my garage full of power tools for that "first apartment" toolbox. You know the one - it contains a hammer, screwdrivers, a tape measure and some picture-hanging nails. Just the basics, but everything you really need.

So what works for us?

I've said it before and I'll say it again: Everything has to be done with a heart of love and compassion, with gentleness and respect. It's hard being a kid. It never hurts to extend compassion for the people you love most (especially if you don't feel like it.) Anything done with a "baditude" is not going to work.

Most of this came straight from Karyn Purvis and the Empowered to Connect Conference. Some of it was just inspired from her ideas.

  • Proximity
We must be in the same room, on the same level with the offending child. (Also, we need to make a point of spending pleasant time in the same room, on the same level, and engaging in happy play so that our relationship has something to build on.) We cannot lob instructions from the kitchen and we can't correct behavior if we are not with our child, physically and emotionally.

  • Eye Contact
Gently, I say, "Let me see your beautiful eyes.", "Where's your eyes?", or "Are my eyes polka-dotted?" Anything to get Cupcake to look at my eyes of compassion. My eyes must communicate that I'm on her side and I care.

  • The Do-Over
I wish I'd have learned this one years ago. Kids need practice doing things the right way. (Especially kids who learned the wrong way.) Physical memory is powerful. Think about when you get in a different car and your hand goes to the wrong place for the ignition, shifter, and lights. Your physical memory usurps your thinking. So, if it's that powerful for us intellectual grown-ups, how much more powerful is it for kids who need practice doing things the right way. Instead of "getting in trouble", simply take them back to the scene of the crime and ask them to do it the right way.

  • Prevention
Being proactive in parenting is essential. Giving a heads-up before transitions is helpful. Anytime we are facing a new or unusual situation, it is best if I can sit down and explain what will be happening. Reinforce that we are a family and we all stick together, no matter what. Calm and nurturing morning routines make for a good start to the day. As Cupcake jumps in the car after school, I joyfully ask how her day was as I hand her a piece of gum, candy, or protein.

  • A Spoon Full of Sugar
Mary Poppins was right. If we can have fun while correcting, it's, well...fun. This one requires me to be on my game. If Cupcake is upset at dinnertime, I might say playfully, "Oh man! I was hoping you'd join us. We're having your favorite...shoes and underwear. And for dessert...mulch." Whatever I do, it has to be unexpected (and usually corny). I use the old, fake-frowny face as I say, "There will be NO smiling around here. Are you smiling? Hey! STOP THAT!" Of course, it has to end in a giggle-fest. The biggest thing here is that the fun has to be mutual. If I make a funny and she growls, then I have to step back and try another tack because she is perceiving this as making fun of her and not laughing with her.

  • The Oreo
We have a coach friend who has told us about and modeled the Oreo for years, but I'm a slow learner. The Oreo is simply this: Say something positive. Gently slip in the correction. Follow it up with a positive, preferably giving hope for the future. For example, "I love the way you asked, but I'm afraid I can't swing with you right now. But maybe we can do that after dinner." or "That sounds like fun, but I have to work with your sister right now. Maybe you could play with your dolls until I'm free."

So what do you think? Have you used these? What works for you?

Blessings to you,


Kim said...

good tips...i really like the Oreo one...wow...feel like I'm failing miserably sometimes. Love to you!

lisa said...

i love these and the reminder, love when u blog about stratedgies and outlook both practical and spiritual, helps me tremendously. my little girl who is 7 will be coming home from rtc at the end of the month, these are tools i wish i had for the first 3 years she was home. i think we will all be much better with this loving and compassionate approach. glad u are back to blogging. lisa