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(14) Parents & Kids

"Counting Apples" - Education for Children and Babies, Kids Learn to Count Numbers 1234

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Where did we ever get the crazy idea that in order to make children do better, first we have to make them feel worse?

 -Jane Nelsen

  What You Can Do: Be Clear about What You Want from Your Kids

When you want something from your kids, ask yourself the following two questions: What do I want my child to do? What do I want my child’s reasons to be for doing what I want them to do-guilt, shame, fear of punishment, to get a reward, or to participate and to contribute to their well-being and the well-being of the family?

 Notice: When children do something because they feel guilty, ashamed, afraid of punishment, or anxious to get a reward, you will pay a big price. Guilt, shame, and punishment often trigger anger and revenge. Rewards trigger behaviors very much like addiction: you will be required to continually offer bigger rewards to get the compliance you want.

Decide: Is it worth it to you to interact with your children in ways that trigger their guilt, shame, anger, revenge, and bargaining for bigger rewards?

  Habits of Thinking and Communicating

 Even when your objective is to connect respectfully with your kids, habitual ways of listening and talking to them can get in the way. Throughout this book we will distinguish between communication that fuels conflict and communication that defuses conflict and facilitates co-operation.

The use of two words-in particular, the words but and should-dramatically affect how your kids will respond to what you say. Notice how often you use these two words and the responses you receive from your kids when you use them.

Imagine you are your child hearing the following messages: I really had fun with you at the game, but . . . I know you’re having fun playing, but . . . I hear what you’re saying, but . . . Kids know exactly what is coming next-something that should be done differently. And that’s the only part of your statement that they will hear and register. The word but is an eraser: it wipes out everything that was said before it. The word should is even more dangerous. When you use the word should-and any of its forms including must, need to, and ought to-you are actually saying I know what’s best for you, and without checking in with you to see what you think and feel about it, I’m going to tell you what to do. There is nothing that triggers a child’s distress faster than a parent’s demands. When your kids hear demands or commands, fear and anxiety are stimulated, the reasoning centers of the brain shut down, and they go into fight, flight, or freeze mode. You have no doubt experienced them digging in their heels, tuning you out, or otherwise shutting down.

The word should also communicate to kids that you have an ideal or expectation of what they should be. If you are holding on to ideals or expectations about how your child should be, you are likely to miss what your child is trying to express. And their deep needs to be seen and heard, to be accepted, and to feel safe will go unmet.

The degree to which you entertain should think will also determine the amount of anger you experience. It is should thinking-not what other people do-that is the cause of anger and other negative feelings and emotions. When what you are seeing and hearing doesn’t match how you think things should be, the difference between the ideal and the real trigger your emotions. Should thinking then lashes out to blame, criticize, and shame others. (Alternately, blame, criticism, and shame can be directed towards yourself, in which case you will feel depressed.) The same should thinking that provokes anger, conflict, and aggression between parents and children is also what contributes to pain and aggression between groups, political parties, and nations throughout the world.

 It is an open question whether any behavior based on fear of eternal punishment can be regarded as ethical or should be regarded as merely cowardly.

-Margaret Mead

 What You Can Do: Use a Language of Respect

 These are the main points we’d like to leave with you here:

 (1) Children learn from whom you are and what you do rather than what you tell and teach them,

 (2) Children will usually respond in kind when respect and co-operation are shown to them,

 (3) Your needs and your children’s needs are equally important, and

 (4) You can replace habits that fuel conflict with those that defuse and resolve conflict.

 

 

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