Tuesday, April 12, 2011

unconditional parenting | 5. change how you see, not just how you act

well, well, well... me thinks it's high-time for an unconditional parenting installment.

i think about this stuff all the time. something will happen and it's just begging for me to write about it... but then life gets in the way of life... rinse, repeat.

but it's time to get back to it.
and today's unconditional parenting principal is "change how you see, not just how you act." and alfie kohn hits it out of the park – again.
he says – and it's so true – that "conditional parents" are much more likely to see misbehavior as an infraction that calls for consequences or punishments and "unconditional parents" are more apt to see these as teachable moments and opportunities to involve the child in the process of arriving at a solution.

and he's right when he says it's much more than the "working with" as opposed to the "doing to" response – it's not about the reaction to what's happened, it's about looking at what happened from a completely different perspective.

i think back to a post i wrote a long time ago on code name: mama when these moments were just starting to arise and i was just starting to put all the theories and ideas i had to use.

it probably goes without saying but i've had a few more opportunities since then to think about how i see things and how i act – and react.

what i love more than anything about the parenting path i'm on is that the work really begins (and often ends) with me. and it makes me understand why this may indeed be the road less traveled when it comes to parenting: it's about changing yourself, not your child. and maybe that seems like it'd be harder path to choose but i think the opposite is true since, after all, the only thing we can truly control is ourselves!

it feels really good to fine-tune how i see the rough patches – not just how i handle them – because it's actual forward motion. working on how i see things is like sweeping the dust into the dustpan and disposing of it properly whereas only working on how i act or react is like sweeping the dust under the rug – the dust is still there, it's just been dealt with temporarily. hence no forward motion.

do i make sense?

we're not really into the phase proper misbehavior or grossly inappropriate actions at this juncture but i still feel like i am in full swing with examining how i see bonzo's behavior when things are starting to get off the rails a bit.

i mean, things can get gnarly around here.
bonzo's knocking on the door of 21 months and dude. he's got an idea or two about how he wants it all to go down. and sometimes he'll bust out with something less than awesome in the behavior department.

now i admit that sometimes it can be difficult to turn moments of upset or misbehavior into teachable moments – particularly when every last nerve has been fried – and i am totally guilty of less than graceful reactions to bonzo's shenanigans but i really try my very hardest to keep my point-of-view (and sense of humor, indeed) when i'm met with bonzo's tough-stuff. and it makes everyone feel better. obviously bonzo needs more than one encounter with a situation to really grasp much of the concept behind what he's learning but he really does seem to understand a surprising amount – which makes me so glad that i'm on this path.

lately i've been making a real effort to turn his (totally understandable and age appropriate) impatience into teachable moments and i'm really proud of his ability to roll with it.

example: i'm doing the dishes, bonzo wants to be held. behavior devolving.

i will reiterate back to him what he's saying more than once so he understands that i understand what he wants – but lately i have been telling him what i'm doing and why i need both hands, or why i can't do what he needs instantly – but that when i'm finished i would be happy to do what he wants or needs.
in this case, the dishes.
if i've just started, i might just do another couple dishes or if i'm close to finishing, i may finish but i try not to take too long because i really want to use these moments as teachable moments. then i turn off the water and show him that i've done what i need to do and that i'm ready to – and happy to – hold him now.
the other day he said, "mommy all done doing dishes" when i scooped him up after i was finished and he wasn't necessarily eagerly awaiting me to finish so i could hold him. but he was getting the concept of me being finished doing what i was doing and moving on to the next thing. score, bonz!

and last night. oh, last night.
bonz really wanted to go outside and it was t-minus 90 seconds to dinner time – of course. there were tears and tiny bodies flailing dramatically about. but once he felt the big feelings and could hear me, i told him that as soon as we were done eating dinner that we would go outside and play.
sure, i had to remind him a handful of times during dinner but right when we were done i made a big point to use it as a teachable moment and told him we were done and that it was time to go outside and play. i really wanted him to understand that i was going to hold up my end of the bargain – and it was important to me that i didn't just put him off for a "later" that may or may not even come.

i didn't just see his feelings or behavior as something annoying to be stopped. they're valid and totally appropriate feelings and actions for him to have and seeing them as such is important. and it really makes me want to continue to make him feel heard and feel like he's a part of the solution or outcome to the situation.

and i totally don't mean to break out the pom-poms for myself, either. i'm just livin' and learnin' over here – and i definitely don't think i have it all figured out.
and while i certainly think the path i'm on is the best and right path for me, i respect everyone's choice to walk down their own – whatever that may be.

i know that as life marches on, i will be faced with more situations that are more challenging and more difficult but i like to think – and sometimes hope – that i'm adding to my toolbox little by little and that when i really need to reach in there and grab something, i will have added to it enough that it'll be there for me.

oh, and it's always nice to add a dash of cuteness to lofty parenting talk... so:
just a little reading in the buff.

1 comment:

blake said...

aww, tummies. I love 'em. love the cute dose at the end of a fantastic post! I totally feel you on this topic... been going through the same thing with the doing dishes (or cooking, folding etc)/pick me up conflict. This week, I started involving J in said task. It can get WAY more messy and take way longer, but it seems to be working. He's involved, interacting with me (what he wants) and he's learning something too. Plus, you can't beat that proud look on his face. These toddler times do get trying sometimes, but isn't it so exciting to see the connections, things clicking?! Sounds like you're doing a fantastic job, chica xoxo