Mary Nelsen Tamborski
Recently my mom, Jane Nelsen, and my brother, Brad, approached me with a new project. They invited me to participate in practicing a different tool card each week for 52 weeks and then blog about it. I immediately said "Sure!" I thought to myself, this should be easy considering I practice these tool cards daily...right? Not exactly. You would think that after being raised with Positive Discipline (PD) as well as teaching parenting classes that I would be an expert at this stuff. Not even close! I will be the first person to remind every parent out there that there is no such thing as perfect parenting. In fact, the more mistakes I make, the better parent I become. After all, "Mistakes are wonderful opportunities to learn."
For this last week we have been practicing the tool card Listen. Before the week started, I thought this should be easy. I've always considered myself to be a "good listener." Parts of this tool card include; validating feeling, giving choices, and most importantly listening to your children. The tool card reminds us that, "Children will listen to you after they feel listened to." I'm also really good at "Asking vs. Telling" (another tool card) so naturally I thought this would add to my children feeling heard since I would be "listening" to their choices. Wrong again. Yikes! I quickly found out that I am not as good of a listener as I thought I was. I was abruptly reminded every time one of my boys would get louder (yelling), pouting, back talking, whining, or basically any time I felt disrespected. I reacted instead of acting. I flipped by lid.
It seems so obvious now, once I'm writing about it or after I "flipped my lid" and would totally lose control. My boys were mirroring my energy/tone and the problem would escalate...sigh. Oh yeah, it's easy to forget, that we are our children biggest teachers/role-models and that we expect them to keep control of their behavior when we can't even stay in control of our own.
Just a couple of days ago, I was driving with my mom (of course) when Greyson was acting obnoxious or in other words, like a typical 5-year-old. He was demanding that his younger brother Reid share the toy that he was playing with. Back and forth they were yelling and saying mean things. I looked at my mom and said, "I am so annoyed right now, what should I do?" She said, "Stay out of it." Did I listen to her advice? Of course not! It didn't take me long to get into the "flipped lid" response (not thinking rationally at all). Before I could even think about it I "reacted" and I turned around and said, "If you don't share with your brother and give him back his toy I'm going to take it away from both of you and then neither one of you will have it." Naturally, Greyson gave me attitude and started threatening me and was being mean and disrespect. Hmmm...I wonder why? Could it be, that he was modeling/mirroring me and my behavior. Of course he was! After I dropped my mom off, I got out of the car to take a few deep breaths and confront my mistakes with the "expert." She kindly reminded me that so often parents expect their children to control their own behavior when the parents can't even control theirs. Right then I had my "ah ha" moment when the learning/lesson just clicks. She also went on to say that Greyson is only 5 and that I as expecting more from him at 5 then even I could model at 36.
The good thing about my mom is that she is always supportive and non-judgmental. She is constantly reminding me that everything I am feeling and doing (mistakes and all) she did too. I am continuing to practice listening this week, but when I am not listening the clues that I am getting are loud and clear; it's mostly when my kids are feeling frustrated and therefore shouting or saying hurtful things. (We hurt when we feel hurt) and we don't listen when we too don't feel listened to. My mom reminded me that the times I listen to my children outnumber the times I “lose it.” Mistakes are my reminder to, STOP, take a deep breath, validate their feelings, ask for their ideas, respectfully give them choices—or just let them have their feelings and faith that they can work through their frustration.
The following day it was Christmas morning and Greyson had the idea of playing Santa Claus where he would bring the presents from under the tree to everyone--since he's learning how to read, he was feeling proud and capable of this task. Before we could agree, his younger brother Reid said, "I want to play Santa Claus." Before we knew it the boys were already arguing and the first present hadn't even been opened yet. Dad immediately chimed in and started giving his two cents, and nobody was being "heard." I said, "Let's listen one at a time until we can all agree." Once we finally let Greyson speak and we listened, he came up with a brilliant solution of letting his brother help by Greyson reading the names, and Reid would deliver them. It's amazing, that when you can actually stop and listen to what your children have to say, they can come up with some great solutions. I believe that as parents, we underestimate our children and their intelligence and logical thinking...even at 5 years old. After all, we want our children to be critical thinkers, and problem solvers, but so many times we butt in and take away their opportunities. In the end, it's funny to think about how Christmas is suppose to be about the kids but as parents we want it to be "ideal" or "perfect" and then it ends up being more about us then the kids...oops again!
I can honestly say, that when I use PD...it works! Every single time! But, when I slip and fall (which I often do), another lesson will be learned.
Cheers to all the Positive Discipline parents out there and to a Happy New Year...mistakes and all!
On a side note: Greyson asked me earlier this week if he has "sensitive ears?" One of his friends had stayed at our house for a sleepover a few weeks ago, and I had told Reid that when he screams, it especially hurts this friends ears because they're "sensitive." In response to Greyson question was "No, you don't have sensitive ears, your ears are perfectly fine." Greyson says, "But Daddy asked me if my ears are working and if I hear him, because I'm not listening." :-)
Mary Tamborski, MFTI
Roots & Wings Consulting