Techniques for change
There are techniques scattered throughout the site but these are goodies and I couldn't figure out a place to put them. Hopefully more will be coming along!
I spend a lot of words on persuasive arguments of why it's natural for kids to fight against control and unfortunately not enough words on saying "But don't let go all at once!" Announcing no more rules is like saying "I don't care about you anymore. Do whatever you want." Try just saying yes more. When they ask, say yes! The benefit is you'll increase the joy in the house.
Instead of no, ask yourself, "Why not?"
Instead of jumping in to fix things, sometimes it's best to ask, "How can I help?"
Remind yourself that each moment we're creating memories. Think of those moments as photos in a photo album. We have no control over which pictures they'll keep. Ask yourself, "Is this a moment I want my children to carry with them forever? Is this how I want them to remember me?"
With that last in mind, here are a couple of posts about memories it was best not to have created:
You know, my Mom threw away my rocks. She really did. I had cleaned them and sorted them and named them. I thought they were like dolls or pets or something. I had spent hours that day finding them. My mom threw them away. I was five. I was so sad. I (obviously) remember it to this day.
If she hadn't touched the rocks, I might not remember them. Now I remember them, and it is a sad memory. Those kinds of memories, I think, people can do without.
I think Moms should feel like a safety net. I think Moms should feel cozy. Moms should not feel like the treasure thrower-awayers.
I have posted in the past that I have no memories of happy times with my mother in our home when I was a child and growing up.
Sandra has a page on Progress and how a simple technique can keep moving toward whom you want to be as an unschooling parent. Or anything!
If you decide how you want your home to be, and then make choices that get you nearer to that, things will get gradually better.
If you don't decide, or if you don't think of it many times a day when you make small choices, and decide how to act and react, then things won't get better.
Not every step will be forward, but if most of them are, then you'll make progress.
My Dad told me that every time I got mad at Trevor, to just pick him up and hug him. WHA? I didn't quite get it then, though it sounded nice. Over the years, I have learned how to do that most of the time. Hugs and love really do more to help difficult behavior than ANYthing else! It's true.
Here's an idea that will work with just about every aspect of life: Every time you make a decision, wait until you've thought of two choices and choose the better one. It seems simple, but I was surprised when I thought of that way to ratchet the quality of life up to find how many times I was acting without really thinking.
When I get frustrated when having to do things for my kids sometimes, maybe laundry or taking care of one who's sick or has had dental surgery (liquid diet and painkillers for three days or so after Kirby's wisdom teeth came out), I give myself an internally stern reminder to STOP IT. Every one of my children is strong and whole. I have no wheelchair bound child. I have children who can see, hear, and speak. I have no child whose ass I have to wipe as a teenager; many parents do and I'm grateful and happy that mine will likely move out of our house by choice, carry their own boxes, and not have to have government subsidized health attendants to do it.
From the time my daughters were born, I've tried to keep two thoughts in my mind: treat them with kindness, and treat them with respect.
I don't think it will come as a shock to most people on this list that the result of keeping those two prime directives in my head is: my daughters treat me with kindness and respect.
I don't worry about being on the street myself in my old age. Not that financial planning is a bad idea, but I have no fears I won't have two daughters, treating me with kindness and respect, until I die.
How do you go from a very verbally reactive person to one who takes a few moments to calm down before she speaks or acts? How do you change for good, and not just for days or moments? Practice, I guess? Any ideas?
Stop thinking about changing "for good and not just for days or moments." That is just another thing to overwhelm you and you don't need that!
Just change the next interaction you have with the kids.
Stop reading email right now and do something "preventative" - something that helps build your relationship with them. Fix them a little tray of cheese and crackers and take it to them, wherever they are, unasked. Sit down on the floor and play with them. If nothing else, just go and give each of them a little hug and a kiss and say, "I was just thinking about how much I love you."
Okay - so that is one good, positive interaction.
Again - just change the next interaction you have with the kids. Focus on making the next interaction another one that builds up your relationship. If the next one is because the kids are fighting, STILL keep in mind that you want this interaction to do something positive for your relationship with the kids and stretch your thinking as to how you can make that happen. In other words, you kind of think from their point of view about yourself. Consider what thoughts you want going through their head. Do you want them thinking: "She never takes time to even find out what the problem is?" Or, "She always blames me?" Or, "She's such a hypocrite, doesn't want to hear us yelling, but then she yells at us." "She hates me." And so on. What do you want them to be thinking - what words (articulated or not) do want tumbling around inside their head? Maybe, "She understands how I feel." Or, "She really cares about helping us solve our problems." Or, "She is trying hard to be fair." Or, "She's calm even when I'm not." Or, "Mom is the best listener in the world." "Mom loves me even when I'm causing problems."
And, eventually, you want them to think like this?
"Mom will help us find a solution." "I can stay calm like mommy does even when I'm mad." "I can listen carefully like mommy does when there is a conflict." "I can recognize feelings, like mommy." "I can come up with new ideas, like mommy does when we have trouble."
There is no substitute for being authentically "there" for them ? for genuinely trying to help them resolve problems. For putting your relationship with them at the forefront of every interaction, whether it is playing together or working together.
None of us are perfect -- we'll all have some regrets. But with my kids 19, 16, and 13, I can now say that I will never say anything like, "I wish I'd let them fight it out more," or "I wish I'd punished them more," or "I wish I'd yelled at them more." I will only ever say that I wish I'd been more patient, more attentive, more calm and accepting of the normal stresses of having young children.
One interaction at a time. Just make the next interaction a relationship-building one. Don't worry about the one AFTER that, until IT becomes "the next one."