10.12.2011

Correction- what I learned at ETC Part 3

One of the mindsets most parents approach information about parenting is, "I see a behavior that I don't like, now teach me how to 'fix' it." While this is not necessarily a good starting place for any relational parenting, it is especially toxic to parenting children from hard places. We need to not worry so much about "fixing" as much as seek ways to "heal." If you see the behavior of the child and your ultimate goal is to change it, you will miss the heart of the child. The goal must be trust, healing and connection through relationship.

Understand that misbehavior always has a purpose or a function. Besides we should not "punish" these children for something their brains are causing them to do- see previous post. Not all of the negative responses you see from children are of willful disobedience.

So the goal for parents should be to get to a place where you can see every opportunity to correct as an opportunity to connect. Seek a more "trust based relational intervention" plan.

The 3 checkpoints of successful correction should be:
1. Corrected behavior
2. Connected relationship
3. Contentment in caregiver AND child

CORRECTED:
When a flare up occurs we need to respond with positive words. This shows the child that their caregiver wants them to succeed and is willing to do the work WITH THEM to help them do so. Respond as your child leads b/c often the parents' emotions will guide the mood which typically causes more stress and in turn, more reaction. Don't be married to the path of getting there just the outcome.

Often times we react with "distancing strategies" like: timeouts, consequences, lectures and sermons etc. But when a parent approaches the child's behavior with a connecting discipline style they will ultimately bring the child closer vs sending them away. You want to pursue resolution and problem solving in effort to show them how families who value relationships handle conflict.

There are levels of intervention starting with a playful engagement: being silly about it and keeping it light. "No need to go after a gnat with an elephant gun," as they say. If that doesn't change things, give the child choices or try to come up with a compromise (IE: either you can walk into the house on your own or I can carry you into the house. Which would you prefer?) If things remain at a stand still then you can apply the 'think it over' time, or re-do options. This is where you have them reenact the exact same scenario until they come up with the correct response to the same request. I have used this on our kids a few times and it definitely helps them KNOW how it should have gone down rather than me just telling them.

You should also try to engage as many of the senses as possible when offering instruction (eye contact, hold hands, be at their level, speak in a loving tone etc). Shouting from the other room distances the impact and learning ability for the child.

CONNECTED:
When a child knows you are their partner in healing you can teach them anything. You can only heal relationship based trauma through relationship so it should be a priority to parents to find the source of the reaction, meet the need and reestablish the connection.

If a child starts business with you then they have to finish business with YOU. Sometimes parents defer to their spouse or another caregiver but b/c it is with you where the rupture occurred it is with you that the reconnection needs to happen. Both the parent and the child need to feel secure again before a correction can be complete.

Shame is an enemy to connection. When you guilt trip a child into changing their actions you can do major damage to their self esteem and your relationship to each other. You are no longer their advocate who loves and is mentoring them but a dominating warden. Your kids need to see the determination in you to call them into their preciousness. Never let their value be for grabs. One way you can achieve that is by focusing on the behavior and not direct your correction toward the child.

CONTENTMENT:
We should apply the "it's not over til' its over" mantra to changing behaviors. That means the issue needs to be resolved not just deferred. Much like the Bible says in Ephesians 4:26, "Don't let the sun go down while you are still angry." But its also important to add, "But when it's over, it's over!" That means let it go. Forgive each other. Walk away from the situation with nothing but love for each other. This is most often harder for parents than children. Don't hold this flare up against them again. You can represent God best when as parents you are an example of confession, saying I'm sorry, and of forgiveness, cleaning the slate.

With frequency, intensity and duration these correcting responses can be the path to your child's holistic healing and your relational strengthening. In sum: connected children learn their strategies from connected caregivers.

Lastly I want to remind those of us that are parenting children from hard places that these exhausting, troublesome and sometimes violent behavioral reactions are not personal. Say to yourself whenever necessary, "this is my child's history in action, NOT an attack on my parenting."

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