Saturday, September 6, 2008

Guest Post Over at Parent Talk Today

I've recently added a link to a very useful parenting site Parent Talk Today  by a friend, Kathy Sena, a seasoned journalist that covers parenting, lifestyle, women's issues and more for magazines you'll recognize like Women's Day and Family Circle, and for newspapers like the Chicago Tribune and the L.A. Times. You'll notice that I haven't yet linked to any other parenting sites since I'm a bit picky about whose stuff I "sign off on". 

Anyway, Kathy recently posted about an article by a friend of hers from the L.A. Times, "Should We Pay Our Kids to Learn?" I commented on the article and got a bit long winded and my comment ended up a few paragraphs long. Kathy is the kind of friend you want to have...instead of asking me not to clutter up her site with article length comments, she creatively turned my pontification about how we motivate kids to learn into a guest post. So here's a good excuse to head over and check out her site.

Squidoo Page on Raising Your Credibility with Your Child

I heard from one of the website effectiveness folks I have a lot of respect for, Sonia Simone over at Remarkable Communication, that Squidoo is a worthwhile format to invest a little time into. It essentially is a way to build little mini websites on any area of expertise that you have. I came up with a page to give Squidoo a trial run. I must say that I do enjoy the format and the intuitive tools to build with. I was able to put something together in short order that I think turned out pretty well.  

The Squidoo page on cooperation that I came up with has some nice, practical tools for raising your credibility with your kids so that when you need them to follow your lead for their best interest, they are more likely to be able to do that. 

Do any of you Squidoo? Stop by and let me know what you think of the page. If you do Squidoo, let us know in the comments below what your pages are about. When you're done, if you do any blogging, have a website, or are curious about how to communicate effectively and persuasively, especially for marketing purposes, check out Sonia's site. I'll be surprised if you don't enjoy yourself over there.

Save the Words for the Happy Times, Next Installment

Just a quick post to let you know that Part III of Save the Words for the Happy Times should be up by Monday, and possibly as early as later today depending on how the weekend plays out. It is a busy one. I know a couple of you had mentioned looking forward to the next post. Hope the first week of school went well for all of you. More soon.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Save the Words for the Happy Times, Part II: Circling Back

We looked last time in Part I at what you might do right in the moment in the moment to avoid the flood of words that can come during difficult situations with your child. We could think of there being two phases to saving the words for the happy times. There's the not sayin' much phase during the difficult moment, and then there is the second phase, which is what you do say and do during the "happy times". Or as I like to say, when you circle back.

Note: As it it turns out this has morphed into a four part series rather than the two I originally planned. The second phase has a few different directions it can take and I think at least three of them deserve a closer look so they're detailed enough for you to use.

"Save the Words..." Origin
Incidentally, the title to this two parter is a mnemonic phrase used by Jim Fay of the Love and Logic Institute. I think by "Save the words for the happy times' Jim largely meant to communicate the concept I'm calling the Attention Principle. If you're doing lots of talking when things are aren't going well, you are inadvertantly reinforcing behaviors you would like to see less of, but that because you're pouring on the words, you are going to see more of.

I like his phrase because it is brief and easy to remember. It sticks. But it does elide the fact that you can save the words not only for the happy times, but also for "neutral" or even just "more neutral" times. Beyond the avoiding inadvertent reinforcement the attention principle predicts, it also give the brain a bit of time to cool off. And finally and just as importantly as the others, it gives you time to think. When we make decisions in the heat of the moment as parents we're going to see painful, smoking bullet holes through our shoes more often than we'd like.

Finding Out What Happened and Re-Connecting (Empathy)
So assuming we manage to keep our words brief and not do a lot of talking when our kid is acting in a challenging way, what are we going to do when we circle back?

Your first best bet, however you decide to proceed is find out more about what was going on. Let's say the situation was that your tween was on the computer and when you asked her to get off. She did, but started screaming at you about how mean you are and slammed a couple of things around on her way to her room.

That is done best with a bit of empathy. "Looks like you were pretty ticked at me when I asked you to get off the computer," can be a nice way to start off. Asking your child to tell you about what was going on with her is a good idea. Sometimes if she's reluctant, we can provide a little help by taking a guess or two about how she experienced it. "So was part of it that you were frustrated that what you were focused on was being interrupted. You were really into your game?"

Checking In
Check in with your child to see if they think you've got the gist of how they experienced the interaction. If they don't think you've got it, I'd suggest a couple of repetitions. Ask them to explain again, and then see if you can communicate back to them what it was that they said. Most kids soften considerably when they get the sense that you are are really trying to understand. I've seen many kids go from completely withdrawn and angry to genuinely talking about what was going on with them.

Usually when she sees that you really get what was going on with her at the time, she is willing to hear out what you have to say with a lot more willingness. And sometimes after hearing what was going on with our kids, we legitimately see things differently than we did at the moment when all that seemed to be in our field of vision was disrespect and insolence. This isn't too surprising when it happens because when we're not in the heat of the moment, our frontal cortex comes back online.

Where to Go From Here
Often though even when we do see what the incident or interaction was like for our child, there is more to talk about, and some instances where something needs to be done. These options can range from you just letting them know what the interaction was like for you; to doing some preventative collaborative problem solving; to applying a consequence. Often the best solutions end up being blends of the three.

So in Parts III and IV we will look at some of the common options for the second phase of Saving the Words for the Happy Times after we've done the initial reconnecting. Don't miss out on these. They've saved my hide as parent, teacher and as a parent coach more often than I can count.

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