Sara has been very busy with the children today. She has played in the floor with her toddler, laughing, making memories. They made a car out of a cardboard box in between nursing and caring for her infant as well. The children are well taken care of and happy, but the house... Well the mess from the day's play is lying around when her husband, John, gets home. John shoots her a look of disapproval that makes her heart sink. Hasn't she been good enough, today? She goes over to connect with a hug, and he withdrawals from her. Feeling the sting of rejection, she immediately starts picking up the mess. John goes to take a shower. When he gets out, the mess is picked up, and the house looks good. He nods and gives his wife a loving hug. "This looks much better. Thank you."
What sort of feelings did this story bring up for you? How did it leave you feeling about John? About Sara? What can you deduce about their relationship from this story?
The question was posed on my Facebook page recently, "If he doesn't pick up his toys, should I give him a hug as a reward?!"
Friends, love is not a reward. Hugs, attention, affection, kind words - these are not rewards to be dangled in front of a child, only given when he performs to our liking. These are a child's lifeline. They should be given without condition, without hesitation. Always.
We've developed this rather strange idea that loving children too much is bad for them, but if we offer just enough love at the right times, they will jump through hoops to get it. And they probably will, but they shouldn't have to. Withholding love and affection most certainly works to control a child because this is very real need, and they must get it met in whatever way they can, but take a moment to stop and feel the sadness that the child feels - the rejection, the feeling of needing to get it right before being worthy of love and affection.
I imagine Sara feeling a sense of relief, and even loved, once John gave her his affection and approval. I also imagine there is emotional instability and pain.
Please don't make children earn your affection. As Dr. Gordon Neufeld said, "If children want attention, then why on earth wouldn't we give it to them?"
Take a moment to watch this video in which Dr. Neufeld explains why children need to be able to rest in our love.
Too much love won't spoil. Kindness doesn't provoke poor behavior. Respect doesn't invite disrespect. This is backwards thinking which has caused us to feel trapped into being too harsh for too long. Generations of children are still searching and longing for unconditional love.
Parenting educator Lori Petro, founder of TEACH Through Love is offering a 4 part FREE training series on conscious communication. Sign up here. ******* Are you wondering how you can connect more deeply with your child? Would you like to know how to talk to kids using peaceful conflict resolution strategies to ease tension, or calm aggressive behavior in your children? Often, we can be triggered by our own unresolved traumas - big and small - and this can make it extremely challenging to remain compassionate as we confront our kid's big, explosive emotions. Kids are great at reminding us when we veer from the path. Love - Connection - Repair
Your kids feel it and RESPOND to it!! The biggest challenge to using the kind of respectful language that you want your kids to emulate is your own patterns of behavior and habits of reacting, which are based on FEAR.The emotional baggage that you carry around can be unzipped without your consent. Then, you unleash unrestrained emotions and actions driven by automatic unconscious memories and feelings. Your past can trip you up, triggering you into reactionary patterns, and causing you to get stuck in a cycle of disrespect, defiance and demands. If you had a punitive childhood -- Can you think back to a time when you were younger, smaller, less experienced - maybe some time in the first 10-15 years of life when you were judged for your behavior, or maybe punished, shamed or isolated?
Maybe it was a time you felt unheard as you tried to explain your thought process or you felt anxious or angry as you tried to get what you needed.
What did it feel like to be evaluated and told that you were naughty, ungrateful, a mess, trouble, or that you would suffer consequences or be isolated from peers, family or activities you loved if you did not listen.
What parts of your body are awakened when you let those emotions surface now? Now, what would it have felt like if the adults in your life had...
Held the limits firmly, with compassion and non-judgment for your less than experienced ways?
Calmed their anger and approached you with an honest intention to help rather than control or convince?
Maintained tolerance for your youthful curiosity and patience for your unskilled demands and bargaining?
What would it be like if we could spend the first 20 years of our lives hearing that we were doing our best? When we feel understood, we can hear and process NEW information.Whenever you go in with the attitude of "you're wrong" - in return you are likely to receive defensiveness. Assumptions (right or wrong) tend to cause the other person to shut down to anything you have to say because no one likes to be accused of being "wrong." Compassionate requests are more likely to get you heard. Fear gives us an easy, seemingly negligible, tool to use for obedience. A raised eyebrow coupled with a certain tone - "growly" as my daughter's favorite book character "Junie B Jones" would say - are sometimes effective, but only sometimes. Ultimately, fear keeps us focused on the outcome - it leads us to want to control behavior so we can feel better faster but what does that teach kids about the world?
that others can influence our behavior (rather than lead us to reflect on how our behavior has affected others).
that it is okay to use our power to dominate others.
that it doesn't matter what we think or feel - we simply must obey.
Consciously parenting is about thinking in new ways - ways that build your relationship, because when you do, your kids will WANT to cooperate with your requests. When you communicate respectfully, your children will do the same! It's not about scripts, exact words, or all-or-nothing choices, nor should your goal be "making kids obey." It's not that you say these EXACT words or even ALL the words - but that you go in with the attitude and intention of the Connecting Words rather than the attitude and intention of the Disconnecting Words.
Lori Petrois a Speaker, Advocate & Parent Educator. She founded TEACH through Love as a vehicle to help families heal the cycle abuse and trauma through the relationship-building tools of empathy, compassionate communication and peaceful conflict resolution. As an adult with Aspergers, Lori understands the demands of parenting kids with special needs and believes that by building strong bonds, we can cross the bridge to understanding the behaviors and needs of all kids. Lori is a sought-after speaker who consults privately with clients, teaches online and shares her insights and information in her weekly TEACHable Moments videos. Connect with Lori on Twitter @TEACHthruLove, Facebook and her Website: http://www.teach-through-love.com.