Friday, January 22, 2010

Parenting Toolbox: Connection Before Correction

originally posted at Reepicheep's Coracle

This has been the week of Jane Nelson for me. On Wednesday night, I attended a lecture she gave here in Atlanta on Positive Discipline with my friends and bloggers Jenn, Ansley, and John. Then, yesterday, Ansley, Jenn, and I went to Jane Nelson's all day workshop on positive discipline. John had to work. And let me take this opportunity to thank John, Brendan, and Aaron, who work at their jobs everyday to make this full-time parenting possible.

I've been at this non-punitive parenting for a long time, and much of the lecture and the workshop were review, but they were review I needed. It's easy, at least for me, to get complacent, to stop being creative, to stop being playful, and to respond to problems with the same old response, no matter how well it is working. So, for full disclosure, let me tell you guys that I have been engaging in some power struggles. I want her to do something, she doesn't want to, I insist, she screeches, we fight, she cries, I feel terrible. This has been happening too often. So, I went into the lecture and workshop with this problem in mind. Here's what I came out with.

One of Jane's Positive Discipline Parenting Toolcards is "Connection Before Correction." The card reads "Create closeness and trust instead of distance and hostility by making sure the message of love gets through." This is exactly what Livy and I need. I have gotten into the habit of making the behavior the first priority instead of our relationship. And no, brushing your teeth right this second, or getting out of the house on time, or going to bed are not more important to me than my relationship with Livy, no matter what impression I sometimes might give.

Now, lest anyone think I mean the behaviors are not important, let me clarify. Teeth need to be brushed sometimes. I need to get places on time. And I need to get to bed at a reasonable time. But, if I can connect with Livy FIRST, before working on solutions, I really do think the two of us can find a way to meet both of our needs.

So here is my plan, which I intend to run by Livy when she returns from her dad's house to see if she likes it. When I start to feel frustrated by a problem, instead of getting bossy and controlling, I will ask for a hug. If I get to connect that way, I think I will be calmer and able to carry on with problem solving instead of with bossing. If Livy and I are both getting mad and frustrated, I don't think the hug thing will work. So, one of us will call, "UNO!" Then, we will sit down and play one round of UNO, giving us time to calm down, before we try to solve the problem. Both of us are very very very intense, and we have been doing too much problem solving in the heat of the moment, which leads to fighting and yelling and general unhappiness. After our calming time, then we can tackle whatever problem made us so mad.

I know that there will be times when we don't have time for that kind of elaborate calming ritual. Especially when we are trying to get out of the door. So, I am thinking I will keep the toolcards in my backpack. If we are having an issue, it might be fun for Livy to pick a card. Then, the two of us can see if that idea might help us solve it.

I like that part of the plan for three reasons: 1. The picking of the card and reading it will be a good calming time to diffuse any screaming either of us is feeling like doing. 2. It sounds kind of fun, like a game. 3. I think these tools are not parenting tools, as much as they are life skills for social interactions. Therefore, Livy needs them as badly as I do. I want her to learn them now, so that she doesn't have to struggle to communicate respectfully and effectively, as I have had to. We will be working on the problems we encounter day to day, as well as teaching both of us good skills to apply to future problems. And, since both of us are life-learners, that's what we should be doing all the time.

I'll report back and let you guys know what Livy thinks of the plan and how it works for us.

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