My husband and I are taking a weekly parenting class based on the parenting philosophies expounded by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish in their best-selling books, How to Talk so Your Kids Will Listen and Listen so You Kids Will Talk, Siblings Without Rivalry and Liberated Parents, Liberated Children: Your Guide to Happier Family.
The major tenant of their approach is the establishment of a framework for parenting and communication that is based on empathy, respect, self-awareness, and self-empowerment. In the exercise of really paying attention to how certain words or approaches make me feel, I have gained a better understanding of how to communicate with my kids, AND my husband. I have ashamedly recognized too much of myself in the examples of what not to do/say (i.e., being the ever-louder and increasingly less effective commander in chief), as well as some bright spots of of, oh, now I understand why other certain approaches always work (i.e., being playful, or simply describing the situation or what needs to be done and thereby empowering my kid to take ownership of the resolution, or removing the "but" from my sentences - as in: I know you want that toy, BUT it belongs to someone else and we can't take it, as opposed to the more neutral: I know you want that toy. The problem is, it belongs to someone else and we can't take it).
Simple tweaks (if only we always had the energy, patience and wherewithal to make them) - big impact.
So yesterday in class we were asked to share a story of how we had used a novel and "positive" approach to solicit desired behavior or outcomes in a situation with our kids. Various scenarios were described - the use of funny accents, the clever notes written from the perspective of the various inanimate and misplaced objects, the use of role play. Then it was my turn to offer a clever, replicable and useful example of creative and success-driven parenting. Having an wealth of examples to draw from (hah!) I offered the following as an example:
One evening I was home alone with the kids and attempting to corral them through the bedtime routine. I got them fed and set about filling their bath. Then I went through an extended and totally futile series of attempts to get them into the bath - asking nicely, pleading, yelling, threatening - all with absolutely no effect. I stood there in the bathroom, exhausted and frustrated, looking at this beautiful warm bath and wanting nothing more than to submerse my tired, aching body in those clean, warm waters. Fine! I thought to myself They don't want to get in the bath? Well then I am going to get in.
Before you could say seriously? I was naked and lying in the bath, eyes closed, totally relaxed. Hearing a noise I opened my eyes and saw two pairs of wide-open eyes pressed against the glass staring at me in surprise. Mommy is in our bath! they exclaimed giggling and laughing. I want to come in with you! I want to come in! they shouted spilling all over themselves trying to get undressed and get in. Needless to say those two little munchkins who had previously been driving me crazy joined me in the bath for a silly, frolicking little bathtime and my kids still talk about the day that Mommy got in our bath!
So there you have it. One of my finest parenting moments, and one that I am sure will come in endlessly handy for you as you navigate these tumultuous waters of parenthood. Maybe I should write a book - When all Else Fails, Get in the Tub.
To learn more about my Fitness Project, please contact me at Mommytasker@gmail.com, MommyTasker.com, or connect with me on Facebook.