DD’s unpleasant behaviours have been escalating lately, both in intensity and frequency. At first I chalked it up to a transitional phase as she approaches age five. That whole disequilibrium thing. But it’s getting to the point where every single detour from how she thinks things should be, produces an immediate response involving screeching, defiant language (“you can’t make me! I won’t!”), stern body language (arms crossed tightly in front of chest, deeply furrowed brow), sometimes hitting, and often namecalling (“stupid!!” is very popular right now). So last night I decided to watch some more of the Power to Parent series that I got from Gordon Neufeld‘s site.
I started out by reviewing the section on “guidelines for handling incidents”. They are as follows:
- Don’t try to make headway, instead try to do no harm.
- Don’t attempt to control the child, instead take charge of circumstances.
- If you have to convey that the behaviour is not okay, emphasize that the relationship is okay.
In short, “back out of incidents and into the relationship”. I’ve fallen into an awful habit of trying to address the behaviour and respond to it right then, in the moment. I needed to be reminded that this is pointless and ineffective. I also needed to be reminded that the relationship is the priority.
Another point that hit home to me was his discussion of how we, the parents, must be responsible for the relationship. For example, I need to “assume responsibility for fulfilling my child’s attachment hunger”. I began to think of all the times DD asks me to do something with her and I say no. I’m busy, I’m cooking, I’m cleaning, I’m doing this or that…looking back I have not spent much one-on-one time with her lately (but my house has been tidy!). She comes to me wanting her “attachment cup refilled” and I send her away. I’m going to work on saying “yes” to her more often. I know alot of her behaviours are signals that she needs my attention.
His second point about this was to ensure that we convey the message that the relationship is more important than conduct or achievement. I often “talk the talk” by telling my DD “I love you no matter what”. But my intense and angry responses to her bad behaviours, my chastising and fuming, do not “walk the walk”.
I stopped watching at the end of this section because I was very tired and because I’d already filled my head with a lot of information that I needed to process and reflect on. I haven’t even gotten to the section on Counterwill yet, which I will watch with riveted attention. But for now I am going to try and focus on these issues. One, stop reacting to behaviours! And two, take responsibility for filling that attachment cup. I think I rest on my laurels a bit, thinking “yeah, my kid is attached”. But the relationship must be worked on and fed, and unlike a marriage you cannot expect the child to contribute to that. As Neufeld says, whether you feel it or not, you have to send the message that YOU are the answer. He also reminded me that, accordingly, when I screw up, making apologies or asking forgiveness is a no-no. Instead, admit that you weren’t happy with the way you handled the situation, and then move on.
I’m not going to sink into a pity party, or guilt myself into inaction. Rather, I’m going to put that energy into working to get out of the bad habits I’ve fallen into, and see if that brings about some change to DD’s behaviours.