I have worked with a number of families referred by the Department of Children and Family Services in Illinois, usually because there has been domestic violence between the mom and dad.
One of the statements I have heard many times is that the kids did not know about it, or did not hear it, ect. and so they were not impacted by the episode(s).
So I begin right there, perhaps by asking them to recall their own childhood, and how they felt when mom and dad were arguing, or how they felt if there was tension in the parental relationship, and I teach the parents in my office that the children are cued in to mom and dads relationship on an emotional level and the kids feel anxiety about their own survival when mom and dad are not working well as a team.
(While the kids may not use the word survival, that is the issue especially for the little ones.
So I let the parents know that the kids are impacted, and that they have a responsibility to learn some skills for their relationship and for their parenting that helps the kid's brain develop normally, which we call attachment.
I may not have all the time in the world, so I begin by using the Gottman model called the Art and Science of Love, and we work on sustaining positive emotions.
Lots of folks do not understand that, for example,I can still have feelings of gratitude even though my wife and I have not settled our gridlock on the kids college education investments.
So we work on nurturing positive feelings, and perhaps I will even teach them about HeartMath, an extraordinary biofeedback tool, that can leave them feeling content, even though their are many external problems to solve.
And then we might just move to considering how mom and dad and even the kids can get on the same heart beat, and everyone can attend to the physical and metaphorical heart beat.
But first, here are a couple of quick videos, about nurturing positive feelings and HeartMath.
Parents Counseling and Nurturing Positive Feelings
Parents Counseling HeartMath
One of the things that the parenting coaches do not clarify well is that my anger, or any of my feelings, arrive very rapidly. In fact, the amount of time I have seen for emotional responses varies from Michael Merzenich's 1/45th second to Paul Ekman's 1/25th second to respond to facial expressions to Csikszentmihalyi's 1/18th second for the limits of consciousness.
So I had better learn a parenting model that lets me put the system in place fast, so I parent from the system rather than my emotion, which is what Ray Varlinsky talks about in the above video.
And if I do find myself angry, then I had better have a tool that allows me to soothe quickly, if I want to deliver the consequence at the moment of the kiddie crime.
One of the modules of John Gottman's program deals with flooding, and in that module he says that men who find themselves flooded with adrenalin and cortisol should take 20 minutes minimum to calm down, and their self talk should stay away from victim talk, and move to something more responsible, while their bodies clean the adrenalin and cortisol.
The perfect tool to use for that self-talk is the Freeze Framer model from HeartMath.
Once I learn the HeartMath process, I can cue a coherent heart beat on any heart beat I want.
So HeartMath is a wonderful tool to use to cool off, and get back to that affiliative and cooperative physiology that allows me to parent from my system rather than my emotions, and HeartMath is a wonderful tool to practice anytime on any heartbeat.
Imagine snuggling with your little one, feeling all that love, and moments later you watch that same tender child kick the cat, kick it hard, and you switch feelings just imagining it.
If you had your HeartMath process in place, you could calm down before delivering a consequence, calm down rather quickly.
HeartMath is the tool that allows you to get on the same heart beat with your mate as you talk about differences, so the solution you negotiate today comes from a place of affiliation and cooperation.
Ten Keys to Successful Parenting
It is important that we discipline in a way that teaches responsibility by motivating our children internally, to build their self-esteem and make them feel loved. If our children are disciplined in this respect, they will not have a need to turn to gangs, drugs, or sex to feel powerful or belong.
The following ten keys will help parents use methods that have been proven to provide children with a sense of well-being and security.
1 - Use Genuine Encounter Moments (GEMS)
Your child's self-esteem is greatly influenced by the quality of time you spend with him-not the amount of time that you spend. With our busy lives, we are often thinking about the next thing that we have to do, instead of putting 100% focused attention on what our child is saying to us. We often pretend to listen or ignore our child's attempts to communicate with us. If we don't give our child GEMS throughout the day, he will often start to misbehave. Negative attention in a child's mind is better than being ignored.
It is also important to recognize that feelings are neither right nor wrong. They just are. So when your child says to you, "Mommy, you never spend time with me" (even though you just played with her) she is expressing what she feels. It is best at these times just to validate her feelings by saying, "Yeah, I bet it does feel like a long time since we spent time together."
2 - Use Action, Not Words
Statistics say that we give our children over 2000 compliance requests a day! No wonder our children become "parent deaf!" Instead of nagging or yelling, ask yourself, "What action could I take?" For example, if you have nagged your child about unrolling his socks when he takes them off, then only wash socks that are unrolled. Action speaks louder than words.
3 - Give Children Appropriate Ways to Feel Powerful
If you don't, they will find inappropriate ways to feel their power. Ways to help them feel powerful and valuable are to ask their advice, give them choices, let them help you balance your check book, cook all our part of a meal, or help you shop. A two-year-old can wash plastic dishes, wash vegetables, or put silverware away. Often we do the job for them because we can do it with less hassle, but the result is they feel unimportant.
4 - Use Natural Consequences
Ask yourself what would happen if I didn't interfere in this situation? If we interfere when we don't need to, we rob children of the chance to learn from the consequences of their actions. By allowing consequences to do the talking, we avoid disturbing our relationships by nagging or reminding too much. For example, if your child forgets her lunch, you don't bring it to her. Allow her to find a solution and learn the importance of remembering.
5 - Use Logical Consequences
Often the consequences are too far in the future to practically use a natural consequence. When that is the case, logical consequences are effective. A consequence for the child must be logically related to the behavior in order for it to work. For example, if your child forgets to return his video and you ground him for a week, that punishment will only create resentment within your child. However, if you return the video for him and either deduct the amount from his allowance or allow him to work off the money owed, then your child can see the logic to your discipline.
6 - Withdraw from Conflict
If your child is testing you through a temper tantrum, or being angry or speaking disrespectfully to you, it is best if you leave the room or tell the child you will be in the next room if he wants to "Try again." Do not leave in anger or defeat.
7 - Seperate the Deed from the Doer
Never tell a child that he is bad. That tears at his self-esteem. Help your child recognize that it isn't that you don't like him, but it is his behavior that you are unwilling to tolerate. In order for a child to have healthy self-esteem, he must know that he is loved unconditionally no matter what he does. Do not motivate your child by withdrawing your love from him. When in doubt, ask yourself, did my discipline build my child's self-esteem?
8 - Be Kind and Firm at the Same Time
Suppose you have told your five-year-old child that if she isn't dressed by the time the timer goes off, you will pick her up and take her to the car. She has been told she can either get dressed either in the car or at school. Make sure that you are loving when you pick her up, yet firm by picking her up as soon as the timer goes off without any more nagging. If in doubt, ask yourself, did I motivate through love or fear?
9 - Parent with the End in Mind
Most of us parent with the mindset to get the situation under control as soon as possible. We are looking for the expedient solution. This often results in children who feel overpowered. But if we parent in a way that keeps in mind how we want our child to be as an adult, we will be more thoughtful in the way we parent. For example, if we spank our child, he will learn to use acts of aggression to get what he wants when he grows up.
10 - Be Consistent, Follow Through
If you have made an agreement that your child cannot buy candy when she gets to the store, do not give in to her pleas, tears, demands or pouting. Your child will learn to respect you more if you mean what you say.
This document is produced by the International Network for Children and Families and the 350 instructors of the "Redirecting Children's Behavior" course.
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