"The level of cooperation parents get from their children is usually equal to the level of connection children feel with their parents. " Pam Leo
I don’t 100% agree with this statement, I think the emphasis should be on the words usually and connection 😉
I’m also totally not trying to Mum guilt trip you. But I think it's a really important statement to think about.
I don’t want you to think that it’s your fault, that your kids aren’t being cooperative.
I don’t want to send you down a rabbit hole of overthinking.
Sometimes it just is what it is and it doesn’t matter what you do in one particular moment. Your kid is just upset and they need to be heard (and that may take a fricking long time, depending on the child).
Sometimes we just have to let go.
Take a deep breath.
Return and try again.
Keep learning, keep trying.
Practice self compassion.
So What Do I Mean by Connection?
Connection means making an attempt to connect with your child, rather than control their behaviour. This helps us understand where they’re coming from first, or at least just helps them to feel heard, before we go in and force them to make a change.
Emotions need to settle in our brain, before we can hear any words.
Imagine you’re crying and your best friend starts interrupting with a heap of instructions on what you should be doing instead?
How about a little STFU?
You might want to say to your best friend 😉
Waiting, listening, hearing the experience, before going in with a solution, is always optimum.
For example, my Friday with my 6yo and getting ready for school. While I was brushing my teeth, she presented at the doorway crying and stating indignantly “I don’t want to go to school! It’s not fair, I just want to play!!!”
Me thinking in my head, “we don’t have time for this. I don’t want to be late.” Then the other part of me taking a deep breath and responding “you’re so annoyed about going to school (or something like that), you’re really upset.” More crying. “I totally get why you want to play.” Crying changing a bit and starting to listen. “If I had my way I would let you stay home and play. Let’s go and sit down.”
(Meanwhile – luckily my 4yo was entertained and not having an upset of her own, which is often the challenge in trying to respond empathically, we’re pulled in so many directions. I don’t know how you Mums of 3 or more manage it!)
We sat down of edge of bed and I held her while she cried. She started to settle, then I said “how about I pick you up on my own and we head out for a babycino after school?” (as her main thing is that she misses out on just time with her Mum on Friday’s, as it’s my day off). She agreed, settled and then went off to put her shoes on.
If I had have said “don’t cry!” Or “just put your shoes on, we’re going to be late!” (don’t worry I’ve said this before, plenty of times, I’m not perfect) - it would have missed the point, invalidated her feelings and increased lack of cooperation.
No matter whether you agree with their experience, try these 6 steps for connection..
1. Take your own breath and pause (or shut your mouth 😉)
2. Name what you see. E.g. I see you’re struggling, that’s hard for you, you seem upset etc.
3. Take a breath, pause.
4. Name what you see e.g that’s really hard for you.
5. Keep repeating until you see a change. When things are calm go to step 6
6. Work on a solution together – what would you like? What about this?
I will note that some kids have higher needs for connecting with their parents, so you may see more disconnection with them. For example, kids who are more sensitive or certainly those with developmental issues or childhood disorders will be more easily dysregulated. Less talking, working on your own calm and speaking when they’re ready to hear it, is key. Times where you may see challenging behaviours might be, upon wakeup, as they've spent the night without you, after school/childcare, after they've been at a play date or someone else's house or many other situations, where they've been away from you for a while or when they know they’re about to make a separation from you.
I'm absolutely not perfect at offering a connection with my kids every time they're upset or as a prevention. But when I do, it always helps (well eventually)
There are heaps of ways to foster deep connections with your child. Check out my You Tube video where I talk about this more, plus there is a chapter in my book Keep Sane and Parent On, where I also discuss connecting through play.
Keep it up, you're a great Mum and you can keep learning xxx
PS If you didn’t know already, I have a jam packed 6 week online course coming your way on Mon 24 Aug. 6 hours of sessions, mp3s and exercises to help you do the work to make changes for you and your family. Check the deets here 😊
PPS For a free mindfulness of breath MP3 recorded by yours truly and for weekly videos/ strategies and ways to look after your mental health make sure you pop your email address in over here.