Monday, August 29, 2011

The right thing is sometimes the hardest thing



I have been learning so much much from "Parenting From the Inside Out."

One of the things that has really stuck with me is how we work through situations with other people. This, of course, is true in parenting, but it fits every relationship. Check this out.

We all can figure out that when something is said or an experience happens, we receive it. Then we process it (grapple with what just happened, what was said/done and the "why?"), and then we respond. That's a pretty simplified way to explain the millions of different interactions throughout every day.

Receive >>>> Process >>>> Respond

Yet, it's how we respond that completely alters an interaction. Particularly with parenting, we slide into a default we have seen and experienced over and over and over again. It looks like this:

Interrogate >>>> Judge >>>> Fix

Can you remember a time someone has done this to you? Can you think of dozens, maybe hundreds of times? Roll around in it for a minute. Try to remember what happened. Try to remember how you were feeling. Did you feel you were heard and understood? Were you purposefully being mean/bad/manipulative just for the sake of it?

This process is the norm in parenting. It's easy to do. It's not because we're all bad people who don't give a crap about our kids. It's because we're human and we repeat what we know without ever thinking twice about it. We do this because changing a default habit takes a really, really really long time. I assume I will finally form permanent changes in my parenting about the time I am no longer parenting. THAT'S when it will come easy to me. heh.

So, the example above is a perfect way to disconnect with someone. If behaviors are communication, then we are ignoring their desire to connect with us. Another way, which actually creates collaboration, would look like this:

Explore >>>> Understand >>>> Join

Easy to say, I know. I KNOW! It's one thing to read this, and nod your head and understand in this moment. It's another thing to fight your natural gut reaction when you are being triggered by a behavior.

I KNOW. Really. However, there is a big "but" ...

The difficulty of doing the right thing does not negate the fact that it's still the right thing.

So, start by making cheat notes. Write the word "explore" all over your house. Or just big "E"'s everywhere. Explore. When you feel triggered, that is your alarm to remind you it's time to explore and understand what is going on with your child. Take a long, deep breath until your eyebrows can lilt in a very loving look of discovery and compassion. If our behaviors are a reflection of what we're feeling, then keep breathing until you can see the feeling behind the behavior.

Then move to understanding what is really going on. Acknowledge that your child may not experience life in the same way you do. Admit that you don't know how they feel because you have not had to live through the same experiences. Study them so you can learn.

Finally, join them there. Agree with them. Hear their experience of the situation and let your face join their face. If you truly don't "get it," still join them: "I had no idea you felt this way. This must be so hard." Because if YOU felt that way, would you desperately not want to be alone in it? Join them.

Screw up and try it again the next time, anyway. Practice this so you don't suck at it so much.

"It is when a child's behavior is taken personally, that the parent reacts. In essence, a parental reactionary stance is telling the child, 'You need to stop acting this way so I'll stop feeling this way.' Look for these unconscious patterns in order to stop shifting the blame onto your child for your own reactions." - Heather T. Forbes

Yeah ... OUCH! Don't worry. I understand how you feel. I'm joining you. We're all kinda' bloody after this one.




(photo by Mariska van Brederide, used with permission)

10 comments:

Erika said...

Yay! Good one! TODAY I caught myself THINKING about how my child was making me so mad... on purpose... just digging around to make me mad. I really needed to hear this today, because it left me feeling less than good.

Heather EO said...

Oh lady, I needed this. I'm so in the sleep-deprived trenches at the moment and I've been STRUGGLING with reacting to my older two. For about two years it has said "Don't react" on my fridge. I need to make that bigger. And stick it everywhere else too.

Thank you.

Kerrie said...

UGH! This is SO HARD because I love love love to fix things so the work better. And by "things," I mean, "people." Yeah. See the problem there? So when Princess struggles with something, I want to show her how she can fix it. Which, besides being incredible conceited, creates the problem of: if I can't fix it, I haven't done a good job.

I have worked SO HARD to just join her and empathize with her struggle. I have worked SO HARD to not take her behavior as a personal affront. I have worked SO HARD to not judge my personal worth by the rate of her healing. But I screw it up 1004 times a day. Average.

But I don't want the person I was before Princess came around anymore. I like this one better.

Shawn said...

I just found you through your pee song on youtube. And then I read where someone interviewed you and your response to the "What is the hardest thing about parenting a kid with attachment problems" question made me sit in my office, at a big law firm in downtown denver, and sob. You nailed it lady. THANK YOU for putting into words what I have been going through.

Shawn
home 4 months with a beautiful, smart, funny, amazing child from Ethiopia who is driving me crazy

Mom of Many on the Road said...

your response to the "What is the hardest thing about parenting a kid with attachment problems"

OOOOOOOOO, where is this interview? I'd LOVE to see it ...

Cathleen said...

The world needs "cheat notes" posted around For when our kids venture outside our walls

the wrath of khandrea said...

coincidentally, i just emailed a friend last night and told her how much i struggle with matching what i feel to what i do. i am pretty good at maintaining a surface calm, but inside there is a whole different dynamic going on. and it ain't pretty. i would love to be able to feel inside what i portray on the outside, as i believe it would truly remove some of the obstacles to our progress.

Kathleen said...

another good explanation and model... filing away... will be linking too!

Sammie said...

I'm behind on reading posts, but I love the book Parenting from the Inside Out. I know how I need to change, but its so hard to do. I think I need to start a book group for other adoptive parents going through this book as its really something you need to process with others. Maybe there is someway we could set something up like this on line. I also love Heather Forbes and her approach. My older son has been home for ten years and is now 15 and half, we still have a lot of work to do... so all you newer parents hang on for the ride. Pace yourself, its a marathon and not a sprint. If I could do some things over again, self care would be what I would and am doing more of. You can't be your best thought full parenting self if you are stressed, and lord knows our kind of kids are stressful.(I have two) As a single Mom its been tough and very isolating, but we do make progress, we also slide backwards sometimes. Get support wherever you can find it because no body else will get it like another parent who is parenting a trumatized child.

Sammie said...

I'm behind on reading posts, but I love the book Parenting from the Inside Out. I know how I need to change, but its so hard to do. I think I need to start a book group for other adoptive parents going through this book as its really something you need to process with others. Maybe there is someway we could set something up like this on line. I also love Heather Forbes and her approach. My older son has been home for ten years and is now 15 and half, we still have a lot of work to do... so all you newer parents hang on for the ride. Pace yourself, its a marathon and not a sprint. If I could do some things over again, self care would be what I would and am doing more of. You can't be your best thought full parenting self if you are stressed, and lord knows our kind of kids are stressful.(I have two) As a single Mom its been tough and very isolating, but we do make progress, we also slide backwards sometimes. Get support wherever you can find it because no body else will get it like another parent who is parenting a trumatized child.