Monday, February 18, 2013

Read My Lips

What is the underlying message that you send your kids when they’re behavior is out of line?

Shame on you?
You’re bad?
I can’t believe you would do that?
What’s wrong with you?

Think about your body language.  
Consider your facial expression.  
What words do you choose?

Sometimes we can send these messages without even thinking about it. 

I know I do.

A few years ago, Cupcake was having a difficult time joining the family for dinner.  Defiantly,she ran downstairs.  I went down to try to calm her down and bring her back into the fold. 

I stood non-threateningly, with my palms open, trying to be cheerful.  My voice was light and gentle.

I said the right things. 

“Honey, we would love for you to join us at the table.  We want to spend time with you.  I made a nice dinner for you.”

She started screaming, “Stop that!!!  Stop it! I hate that!” 

Puzzled, I asked, “Stop what?  I don’t understand?”

This!” She pursed her lips, not angry-like, but in a smile.  Just like me.  Something about that expression freaked her out, made her feel judged, unlovable. 

I have no clue as to why tight lips lead to such a dark place in my girl’s life, but now I know to avoid them because they don't convey the message I hope to send. 

What I want to say with my words, actions, face and body is:

I approve of you.
I’m on your side.
We’re in this together.
You’re safe with me.
I like you.
Now, let’s do something to correct your actions.

It's much easier to write about this than to practice it in real life.  But the more I practice, the more comfortable it feels.  Starting with "I approve of you." rather than "Shame on you." sets the tone for true relational parenting.

How about you?  What do you do to show your children that you approve of them, even when they have done the wrong thing?  What do you avoid?

Blessings to you,