Are those ears working?

Sometimes when my son doesn’t listen to direction I’ve given, when he completely ignores what I’ve just said- my voice gets louder.  The other day my son even said to me “mom, you’re not using your inside voice…”  Yes, I’ve been guilty of yelling at my child just like anyone else.  Especially when I find myself pulled in a few different directions, feeling stressed, and my son takes that moment to ignore my direction.

It’s not ever the case that I actually believe that he didn’t hear me.  Yelling is not something that I think about doing.  That’s the problem, though.  It just kinda comes out sometimes.  I don’t think at all, I’m operating from the point of my frustration only and not using the logical part of my brain at all.  Most of the time when we operate from emotion alone we end up taking action that we wouldn’t normally take.  I hear about this from a lot of parents in my office and I usually recommend that we take some time alone, without their child present, to work on this a little bit.  I’ll tell you right now exactly what I say in those sessions 90% of the time and save you the copay J

We need to slow down.  We need to think before we act.  If I always took the time, prior to yelling at my child, to breathe and listen to the wise part of my mind- I would hear it telling me that no, my son is not hard of hearing; no, I do not feel that yelling at my child is an effective means of discipline and no, it doesn’t make me feel good about the parent that I am.  If I listened carefully, my wise mind would tell me that taking the few extra moments to walk over to my son, ensure that he follow my direction, and follow through with a natural and logical consequence for not listening when I know he heard me- then in the future I would have less incidents where the impulse to yell would even come up- because my son would be more likely to respond to me the first time direction is given.

We know, when we stop to think about it, that raising our children is the most important job we’ll ever encounter.  Yet because it’s a 24 hour job, we often fall into parenting on auto-pilot.  We continue doing the same thing, with the same results, without really thinking about why or to what end.  I’m not saying that you’ll be able to or even need to have every single interaction with your child include intense focus and deliberately chosen approaches.  Spontaneity is good sometimes.  I’m just saying that it’s important to recognize when you’re faced with an opportunity to support your child in gaining the core values that you hope they’ll come into adulthood with (and that you should know what those core values are, but that’s another post…).  I’m guessing that one of these values includes the ability to control emotion, since it’s so important in our daily lives as adults.  A good way to teach our children to control their emotions is to do so ourselves.

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Emotional Intelligence

My son started kindergarten last week.  It’s been a major week of transitions and emotions.  After his first day of school, my son’s teacher sent home some homework for us to do together regarding how his first day went.  It went something like this: I was brought to school by_____.  The best part of my first day was _____.  Etc, Etc, Etc.  So, like a responsible mother, we sat down to complete this homework together.  I asked him to fill in the blanks as I read it to him and I recorded his answers.  When we got to the sentence that said: I felt _____ on my first day of kindergarten, he looked thoughtful for a moment.

Do you know what his answer was?  “I felt FRAGILE on my first day of kindergarten.”  Wow.  Is that a loaded sentence or what?  Now I’m not sure if he immediately understood what he had said.  So I reminded him what the word fragile means.  He decided to stick with it after I clarified and I can’t seem to get over what a perfect word he had chosen to describe his feelings on his first day of school.

This led to some great conversation around what it meant to feel fragile and I shared with my son times that I’ve felt fragile as well.  Had he used a word that was a little more general, a little more expected for a 5 year old- I probably wouldn’t have taken the time to discuss this more with him.  He could have said scared, even, and I would have validated his feelings and moved on.  But fragile- that’s a whole different thing, isn’t it?

I’ve been feeling proud, since this moment, that my son is able to articulate his feelings so well.  If not for his clarity, I may not have been able to give him the support that he needed around his feelings.  As it was, I could talk with him about how it feels now- to know that he was feeling fragile but didn’t break, to know that he was stronger than he thought he was.  And we could help him to grow from that experience. This would not have been the case had he not been clear about how he was feeling.

It’s important to teach our children to be able to speak to others about emotion.  If you’ve read my other posts, you won’t be surprised to hear me say that the best way to do this is to practice this yourself.  If your child hears you accurately describing your own emotion, they’ll likely catch on.  Here’s some other resources to help out, though:

http://www.parenting-child-development.com/emotional-intelligence.html

http://www.gottman.com/48995/Parenting.html

 

Forgiveness

I recently read a book that talked a lot about forgiveness.  Decent book, maybe a little redundant, but check it out if this is something you could use some work on.  I’ve found myself in several situations (with more to come, probably) where I’ve needed to harness the power of forgiveness and move on with my life.  It’s not a super simple thing to do, but the more I’ve practiced it, the less time I’ve spent in a state of anger before choosing to forgive.   Anyway, the book had some good insights, but I like my take on it better.  😉

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Here’s one thing that I’ve learned to understand and accept that has changed my life: 

Everyone you encounter is quite simply doing the best they can with the cards they’ve been dealt. 

Now you can read this, and nod and agree with me- but unless you LIVE it, you’re not getting the point.  Start small- there are people in your life whose choices annoy you.  They continually make choices in their lives that baffle you, maybe even aggravate you and it becomes difficult to be around them.  Now hold that person in your mind for a moment.  Forget everything you think you know about their journey and open your heart to accept that this person is trying as hard as they can to succeed in a way that they feel is significant.  Furthermore, they’re using the means that they’ve learned over the years from their experience to be most effective in getting to this goal.  No one sets out to be a failure, a weight on society- and I personally don’t believe any life is a waste.  The problem, I believe, is that we place judgments on others.  On both their goals and their means.  But the only basis we have for creating these judgments is our own goals and means, which may be just as misguided depending on what lens you’re looking through.   

Now let’s kick it up a notch.  Who in your life needs to be forgiven?  What toxic anger are you carrying around?  (by the way this anger is toxic only to the one who holds it- the person you’re angry at isn’t impacted by your anger.)  Again, hold this person in your heart and look at them with love and compassion (not easy).  Do you honestly believe that this person set out to hurt you, or to make you angry?  Or were they just responding to situations in the best way that they know how?  If you’re honest enough with yourself, I think it’s likely that the person who you need to forgive was quite simply doing the best they knew how.  

My blog is about kids and parenting.  The reason I bring this topic up is because I hear so many people comment on the innocence of children in accepting everyone.  It’s almost as if it baffles people- children’s power to accept and love all.  It’s not actually baffling.  I believe that it’s because children have a firm grasp on the concept above that’s not yet clouded by their own judgments.

I believe, and will tell anyone who will listen, as many times as they’ll listen, that we can’t teach our children to be loving and compassionate adults without learning how to do it ourselves.  If we want our children to do better than we’re doing (isn’t that the point?), then we need to teach them using tools that we didn’t have.  We need to learn it and practice it ourselves first.