Our relationship with our kids is the single most important thing and the foundation for any future discipline to be effective and sustainable. The first priority for parents of SWC is to rebuild a strained relationship and to strengthen it by connecting in deep and meaningful ways with one another.
MODULE 2 / The Parent-Child Relationship; Building the Foundation!
- Quality time
- Being with
Build the relationship by intentionally spending quality time together, being with one another, attending and amplifying.
Often, in families with strong-willed kids, there is a cycle of breakdown. They act, we react. We react and they act. Additionally, despite our best intentions, the way we act in response to the behavior that drives us nuts, often further invites that very dreaded behavior.
- We must stop the cycle of breakdown and rebuild the relationship so that it is healthy and so that we are again connected and thriving together.
To do this we must create opportunities to connect deeply and meaningfully for this is our foundation for anything that is to follow. I invite you to spend intentional quality time with your child and not “because baby is sleeping now I have some time for you,” but rather “because I want to spend some one-on-one time just with you,” even if baby is in fact sleeping and the time is in fact perfect for you!
- Be intentional and let your child know that she is special and that you noticed so!
Remember that our words create our reality so always choose them wisely. Be with your child doing something or nothing. Get down on the floor with her and play dolls, sit on the couch and cuddle, or just watch her play. Set the iPhone in the other room, turn the TV off and give her your full attention. Enjoy the quality time with her whatever it is you are doing…or not doing. Simply be together. Remember that we are all wired to connect and in our busy and hurried lives we must often intentionally create the opportunities to do so.
There is nothing more your child wants than to be with you, to truly BE with you without distractions and interruptions, to have all of you present with her. Yes, sometimes she has an odd way of showing it as she grapples with intense emotions and needs she is unable to express, I get that. I invite you to set aside time each day, without distractions, to simply BE with your child, to notice her. Notice what she is doing.
- Notice who she is just as she is, without any “shoulds,” without judgment.
Start by challenging yourself to do this at least once a day then take it up a notch to several times a day. Set iPhone reminders so you do not forget. Make it intentional! Just be with her and notice her!
- Then try Attending by verbalizing to her what you notice, without positive or negative judgment…just notice what’s so.
For example, you must say, “I see you are drawing a flower,” then be quiet. Do not expand into how beautiful the flower is or what a great artist she is, just stay with what you notice, with what you see. If she launches a counter argument or challenges your “strange talk,” let her. You can tell her you are “just noticing”.
- Do not engage with her in any pushback, but rather continue to JUST BE with and to notice her.
This is where your mantra may come in handy! Recite it to yourself a few times and move on. Do not be a reaction to her. Attend again. Schedule it in. Do it often. Do it every day, several times per day, until it becomes second nature. With attending, you are giving her the attention she so desperately desires in healthy and meaningfully connected ways, when things are good versus when she is in breakdown mode.
- Trust the process!
It takes time. With consistency and practice you will start to notice change, in both of you. Do this before, or in between, meltdowns and breakdowns. It will be hard, awkward and you may not feel like it. Do it anyway! Be intentional about it. Schedule it into your day, several times per day, when things are going well.
Amplify what you wish to see more of
Once you’ve practiced noticing/attending a few times, it is time to add in the practice of amplifying! We amplify what we wish to see more of. Sometimes the behavior is already there but sometimes we have to fish for it.
- Look for even the smallest inklings of good, of the behaviors and characteristics you want to see more of, grab them and go!
Look for opportunities, even small ones, to point out what your child is already doing well or what you wish to see more of.
- Point out what IS working, what IS good and stay with the positive. or Flip it!
Instead of saying “you didn’t have a tantrum” try “You are SUCH a great listener,” or “I know you didn’t want to clean up now and you did it anyway. You are so responsible,” (notice I used ‘and’ vs. ‘but,’ for the latter negates anything that came before it), or “I know it is hard to share, did you forget you are such a great share-er?” Dig for it!
- Stay away from thanking them for their behavior or lack thereof for that matter.
Instead, stay with the positive and tell them what you see in them, what you see possible in them…”you are so independent,” or “you are so generous,” even if generosity was a huge stretch in the particular instance…you have to dig for it! Dig for it and share it! Amplify what you wish to see more of!
Exercise 2 – Part A, B – Challenge Yourself!
- Part A. Notice and Attend!
Start by choosing one time/day to simply notice your child as she is. Write down the scenario and what you noticed. (example: morning, she was playing dolls, I noticed…) Next, choose another time/day to try attending and write down the scenario, what you noticed, and what you said.
*To follow the program and begin to see change in approximately 4-6 weeks, notice and attend several times per day, every day. Schedule it in! Be consistent, be patient and practice practice practice! Trust the process!
- Part B. Amplify!
Create an amplifying cheat sheet: Make a list of all those characteristics and behaviors you wish to see more of. Stay with the positive. Instead of ‘stop throwing tantrums’, ask yourself, if she wasn’t throwing tantrums, what would be possible, what would she be doing? Perhaps she would be agreeable or peaceful?
Practice Amplifying: Once you have practiced noticing and attending, choose another day/time to practice amplifying – point out something you wish to see more of! Write down the scenario, what you noticed, and what you amplified.
*To follow the program, amplify several times per day, every day. Use your cheat sheet and always be on the lookout for opportunities to amplify. Be gentle with yourself. There is a learning curve! Practice!