Saturday, August 16, 2008

Reference: The Attention Principle

I had to define this for another post, and it deserves its own post at minimum for now.

The Attention Principle:
Any behaviors which we react to with energy, attention or emotion, we tend to see more of.

This principle explains why yelling, reminders, and even excessive "helpful" explaining yield the counter intuitive result of more of the same problematic behavior.

This principle is worth several posts in the future, but I wanted it up here for reference in the meantime. If you want a longer description of it for now, you can find that on p. 3 of this handout from my practice website.

The Preschool Whisperer

I've had more than one client spontaneously refer to Caesar Millan, The Dog Whisperer on National Geographic in reference to staying calm when interacting with preschool aged children. Both of these parents, and I as well, are clear that working with dogs is not the same as working with kids. But there is a powerful metaphor available in thinking about Caesar. On his show he frequently refers to the idea of Calm, Assertive Energy, as way of being around dogs that helps them to calm down and follow his lead. In very brief interactions with a problem, aggressive dog, you can often see the change in the dog's body language seconds after he enters the scene. The dog is in tune with the way he carries himself.

This Caesar metaphor nicely captures a concept that I've had a clear image in my mind about how it looks, but have some trouble communicating. I think the folks at Love and Logic have had the same challenge. It is much easier to describe the techniques than it is to capture the subtle way of being with kids, yet I think the idea is essential.

After reading some of Wayne Dyer's older books I adopted for some time his phrase of "quietly effective" practices. You'll notice one of the pdf handouts on the Enjoy Parenting Again site is titled Quietly Effective Techniques for Working with Preschoolers and Toddlers. 

This idea of calm-assertiveness is a state of mind in which you are responsive, but not reactive. Where you hold yourself in a way that communicates to the child that "I can handle the situation and help you, and I can even handle you if needed." This way of holding one's self helps kids to be calmer and to feel safer, especially when they are melting down. Often instead we can become reactive or aggressive sounding. But this "I've had it" stance communicates something very different, along the lines of "I'm not really in control here. I'm powerful, but just barely managing myself." When kids are around this they often feel unsafe and act out even more. Or the attention principle comes into play.

More on this in future posts. For now I'll just say that my clients have been the source of many powerful ideas I've come across. This is one I'll be hanging onto. 

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

David Allen Stopped By...

I am experiencing a "Holy Smokes" moment right now. I just stopped by at the comments section of my latest article at the GTDtimes, which is about how...

...the smartest people are the ones that realize that they have a big, powerful, dumb part of themselves that has a whole lot to do with what they do. They structure their lives in a very intelligent way that manages the dumb and powerful part. The dumb people think they're smart all the time.

I was just checking in to see if any new comments had popped up. I do this from time to time as the notification system for whatever reason only works inconsistently. And sure enough there is a new comment there...but it is by...get ready for it...David Allen. Really.

For anyone who is not a GTDer (I won't be mean and say, who lives in a cave), this would be a bit like having a Mac zealot write a blog entry about some thoughts on the Mac OS. And suddenly Steve Jobs drops by to say, "Hey, nice write up. I enjoyed your ideas. Let's touch base sometime." And you rub your eyes, and it's actually still Steve Jobs.

So have a peek at the Big Kahuna's comment and enjoy my moment with me. And by the way, the part in italics is not my summary of my article. That is David Allen's thumbnail of it from the comment he left. It's always nice to get a reader who gets the gist of your article. But you don't really expect to have the guy whose extraordinarily successful system you're writing about stop by to say hello, much less to have clearly read your piece. That's not to say I didn't have a very distant hope for it...but I certainly didn't expect it.

And it's nice when life drops these unexpected moments in your lap from time to time.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Merlin Mann and the 90 second GTD Primer

I don't usually just provide a link to a posting, but this one by Merlin Mann on GTD contexts was stellar for its brevity, wit and usefulness. It includes a 90 second GTD overview—very handy in and of itself, an exploration of why GTD contexts are so damn useful, and a quip that made me actually laugh out loud. If that isn't enough to warrant a link to another post, I don't know what would be. 

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Second Children Change How Parents View Parenting

Many people have noticed the tendency for parents to lighten up quite a bit after their first child. With our first born we tend to be tentative and err toward over-caution. I often hear the explanation for the change in behavior that the parents realized that their first child turned out okay despite the bumps and scrapes both figurative and literal. They've discovered that babies and children are pretty hearty, and treading on eggshells isn't required.

The thought occurred to me today that I think it goes a bit further than this. It has to do with this notion that I heard that first-time parents tend to be big believers in nurture. Parents with later-born children tend to be believers in nature. That is, they realize that very important traits central to who their children are that are not at all determined by how they were parented. When the second child arrives, they notice that she is often completely different in traits ranging from how easily startled the child is to how she responds to new stimuli. So this realization can occur within hours of the birth of the second child. The parent realizes, "There was no time for parenting to bring about these traits in our newborn. There has to be something about the child herself that makes her different."

Of course the question of whether nature or nurture rules the roost of who our children become is a false one. The science is absolutely clear that both are at play. I do think though that our culture errs way too far these days on the side of believing that it is always the environment that is responsible for how the child turns out.

In an upcoming post, I will describe the nine dimensions of temperament, the traits that research has shown that we are born with, and that are not determined by our family of origin.

In the meantime, what traits does your children have that you suspect they were born with?