Surely one strategy for a better life would be to be a better parent? But strangely this concept is not on the radar of many. Parenting just happens. But a new concept for parenting, a new perspective, would be to view yourself as a teacher. Not as an authoritarian personality and in a position of power as many of us would have experienced from our teachers from years ago, but as a person who has useful knowledge to impart to a young and impressionable person. A person who can teach, but also has the humility to learn, for our children have lots to teach us.
The Book – Stop Think Do Parenting suggests setting out some guidelines for our children and then standing back to see how they handle them. For a child who has always been told exactly what to do this can be a bit scary. To be given a choice is scary, because they, at that time will not know the result of their choice. They have to find out, and also learn some consequences of different choices. This is where a good parent begins.
Stop Think Do Parenting is a conflict resolution parenting method. It’s very clear, very simple, and very effective if implemented early enough, that is, before a child has any other ideas!
Steps: Think of a set of traffic lights, and keep this image in mind when you are parenting.
You STOP at a RED traffic light. You can see a potential problem with the behaviour of your child or children.
You can react in your usual way – stepping in and physically doing something, e.g., separating two fighting children, or removing something which is being damaged and telling the child off. In other words you react quickly because you want this “situation” to be settled quickly and effectively.
But Stop Think Do Parenting suggests different behaviour. While thinking of the RED stop light, you stop your usual reaction.
- Stop and observe what’s going on – you may see things that you don’t usually see because you are usually part of the whole problematic behaviour yourself and can’t be objective. Look and listen! Step back physically, and just observe, unless there is a possibility of someone getting injured when you then take the necessary action to avert any danger.
- Keep calm, count to five or ten if necessary!
- Don’t second guess about the reasons for the disturbance.
- Don’t say or do anything at this moment.
- Try and see what is actually happening, and what are the facts in the situation.
- Get ready to communicate with your child or children.
This is the hardest bit, because we are so used to stepping in and “fixing” things and telling the kids what to do, or to stop doing something.
Express your feelings in an honest way, using “I” to begin. For example:
“I feel very cross when I see you two fighting.”
This is instead of yelling, and stepping and separating your kids.
Then you say something absolutely astonishing!
“What can WE do about it?” At this point you are not blaming, or looking for someone to blame (assuming you think that A usually starts the fights with B).
At that point the kinds will usually start blaming the other for the fight, wanting to get you on their side. “He started it” “She took my toy” etc.
You continue: “OK. What can WE do about it?” You are inviting them to come up with a solution!
At this point your children will look very puzzled as this sort of thing has probably never happened before (unless you’ve read the book! See below)
OR, this is when they will teach you – they will come up with a “solution”.
This is the YELLOW light part of the interaction.
You can listen to their solution, and it’s important not to judge and dismiss it as “stupid” or “that wouldn’t work”. You all brainstorm solutions, thinking of as many as you can. Then you think of some consequences of the suggested solutions which may not have been thought of by the kids. You are at this point teaching them because they are inexperienced in this type of thinking.
GREEN light when you have the best workable solution then it’s GO. Time to implement the solution which has been suggested and owned by your children. You see if this solution works, and if it doesn’t work then you begin all over again. This takes time and patience, but is worthwhile.
One important thing to do before all of this
Before you begin this type of parenting you need to read the book, have the method clearly in your head, and then sit the kids down at a quiet time and explain the new
routine to them. Then when a situation arises you can ask them “What can WE do?” and they will know what you are talking about and can begin looking for solutions. It will also speed up the process of resolving the conflict.
You need to be listening carefully to the “solutions”
Kids are very smart and will sometimes work a solution to suit themselves. Some of these moves can be to get attention, or to get out of doing something. You can put your bit in here. “But if Mummy went around picking up all the toys she would be very tired, and she wouldn’t have time to do all that.” Ask them for more ideas. So you are explaining to the child that you are not going to be a servant and you are still looking for solutions.
Even a very small child can come up with a reasonable solution, for example the two year-old who kept leaving his toys everywhere came up with a solution – he would pick up half if Mum picked up half. Reasonable for a very small child. Later he could be taught that other people had feelings about certain solutions. Kids don’t always understand these things, being very self-centred, but they need to learn. They need to learn to be empathic, and if you are empathic towards a child, e.g., helping him with his toys, and teaching him about feelings, then later he will learn to help Mum out, and to understand that she has feelings and wishes about certain things.
Always give a child credit for trying, and improving, and don’t expect them to do everything perfectly – they can’t. Watch the tone of your voice – is it nagging, judgemental, or critical? Try to change it.
Impatience on the part of the parent often leads to a loss of control, and the child is taught impatience. Your new job is to learn not to be reactive, but to step back and observe. Be patient with yourself, as you too are learning.
Sometimes it helps to have some Red, Yellow, and Green stickers to stick up around the house to remind you of the new behaviour you are now following.
The book is Stop Think Do Parenting by Lindy Petersen a clinical psychologist. I have no vested interest in you buying the book but I know the method works because I used it in parent training sessions. The child learns social and perceptual skills self-awareness and self-control, how to think and solve problems and how to implement solutions. The parent also learns to be a better and more observant parent. Get the book from Amazon, The Book Depository and other Australian booksellers.
© Kathleen Crawford 2018 www.coachingpsychologyonline.com Strategies for a Better Life.