Where Do I Place My Attention?

I had a unique experience today which I believe will serve me well in my journey to become a more conscious parent.  Actually, I imagine it will help me in ALL my relationships, even the one with myself.  I was looking back over some notes I took at a workshop where the presenter talked about how our entire perspective can shift based on where we choose to place our attention.  You know the drill, do we see the glass as half full or half empty?  Depends on where we place our attention, right? 

Well I decided to do my own experiment as I was sitting in my easy chair in the living room reading through my notes.  I looked around the room and placed my attention on everything I could see that was “wrong” with the room.  All the things that I didn’t like about it.  And here’s what I noticed:  This room is too cluttered.  Look at all the stuff on those shelves!  Look at all the shoes piled in the corner; there must be 36 pairs of shoes in there!  The glass doors to the sunroom are hand smudged; I can see fingerprints from here.  And there’s a hole in the sunroom window screen.  There’s the baskets I bought just sitting on the floor.  I’ve never taken the time to rearrange the shelves and put them on there.  There’s the space on the shelf where the TV used to be; and there’s a hole in the wall where the back of the TV went and it’s patched with posterboard.  Jeez!  The couch slipcover is falling off.  I’ve never gotten around to getting new curtains and decorative pillows since the room was painted.   The new rugs already have dog hairs all over them.   And what kind of centerpiece is that for the mantel?:   a McDonald’s hamburger and french fries?! 
(Sidenote:  The kids and I saw a youtube video where someone saved a McDonald’s Happy Meal for 4 years and it didn’t spoil, rot, or get moldy!  So we bought one too.  Our Happy Meal will celebrate its first birthday next month and although it has gotten hard, it pretty much looks the same as it did about a year ago. It’s aging better than I am and the experiment occupies a place of honor on our fireplace mantel where it’s a real conversation starter… but that’s another story…)

Want to know how I was feeling after taking this visual inventory?  I was bummed!  I wanted to throw everything out and start from scratch.   I felt yucky sitting in my easy chair in that horrible room. 

Okay…Phase 2 of the experiment:  I closed my eyes and took 3 deep breaths.  I still felt yucky.  I took 7 more breaths.  And then I opened my eyes and I placed my attention on everything I liked about the room.  I love those shelves.  There’s plenty of room for books and more books.  And look at all those shoes!  My kids are so blessed to have so many to choose from:  basketball shoes, baseball cleats, tennis shoes, sandals, slip-ons, crocs.  How much of the world goes barefoot?  And here my kids have a shoe for everything they do, including doing nothing!  Those wicker baskets are going to look fabulous when I get those shelves rearranged.  And I bet if I put a basket right there on that shelf, it will hide the hole in the wall  where the TV was.  Isn’t it nice not to have a TV in the living room anymore?  Now when we’re together in the living room, we’re really together.   I love the new light color on the walls.  It has really brightened up the room.  Just look at all that light that comes in from the sunroom windows.  I can see through the wall of windows out into the trees.  It’s so green and alive!  And the new sisal rugs, they’ve really added natural texture to the room.  I actually like how the 16-year-old sofa was transformed by a slipcover when it just wasn’t in the budget to buy a new couch.  Look at that unique centerpiece!  I bet no one else has that on their mantel… if anyone gets hungry, there’s a burger and fries within easy reach!

I had to smile after this new inventory.  I loved my room!  It was bright and cozy and well…lived in.  The shift inside me was amazing.  Absolutely nothing about my external environment had changed, but now I really enjoyed and appreciated my room and all its reminders of family around me.

What if I applied this to my parenting?  What if I chose to place my attention on what I love and appreciate about my children?   What if I actively noticed and what if I expressed it to them?  What if I noticed all the things I love and appreciate about my spouse?  My parents?  My colleagues?  The man who carefully arranges my Subway sub?  The cashier who scans my groceries?  What if I noticed what I love and appreciate about myself?  How might my world change?

That’s my assignment for the coming weeks.  Anyone want to join me?

Today I’m the Host of Day 13 of the Virtual Tour for our Ebook


Parenting Responsively for Connection

Day 13 –Understanding Your Child’s Behavior

 Today’s excerpt is from my chapter “Nurturing Connection Through Setting Your Intentions” and the excerpt is about “Understanding Your Child’s Behavior”. 
Enjoy! and please pass along via facebook share if you find it useful.

Today I have the great pleasure of being the host on Day 13 of the Virtual Book Tour for the E-Book Parenting Responsively for Connection.  Written by ACPI Parenting Coaches for parents to deal with the most difficult task of maintaining connection with the growing child whose behavior changes and shifts.

Yesterday, the book tour stopped by Dr. Caron Good’s blog at http://HeartwiseParent.com/blog. Visit now if you haven’t had the opportunity to meet all the authors.   And be sure to follow the Virtual Book Tour tomorrow when the next stop is the blog www.classantics.com with blogger Corey Green, M.Ed. 
As usual, please share your comments and thoughts below. I love reading your feedback.  We appreciate the retweets and sharing on FB to spread the word.

Understanding Your Child’s Behavior
©2011 by Sherri Boles-Rogers 

                I often hear parents say things like “He always throws a temper tantrum just to get my attention,” or “She’s just trying to manipulate me.”  I know that it often feels that way, but I believe that when our children behave in less than desirable ways, there’s something deeper going on.  The more we understand what  the driving force behind the behavior is, the better we will be able to respond to it effectively. 

                What if I told you that all behavior is an attempt to get needs met—whether consciously or unconsciously.  I really don’t believe children get up in the morning and ask themselves, “How can I best antagonize Mom and Dad today?” Although some days it may seem like they do!  I believe our children (as well as us adults) behave, speak and act in ways that express our needs in an effort to  get those needs met.  It’s as simple as that.

                So often, we as parents place our focus on the outside–the behavior, rather than on the inside—what’s happening within our child to “cause” the behavior.  When we just deal with the behavior in front of us, we are like a doctor who prescribes cough syrup for a cough instead of treating  the infection in the lungs which is causing the cough.   Until the root cause is understood and addressed, the symptoms (and behaviors) will likely keep recurring.  So how do you find the root of the behavior? By thinking in terms of universal needs.

                Universal needs are those qualities of life that when met, enrich our life.  They are universal in that all humans on the planet share these needs.  Some examples of universal needs are  air, food, water, shelter, safety, security, rest, autonomy, connection, love, touch, acceptance, belonging, community, consideration, trust, honesty, support, reassurance, peace of mind, authenticity, meaning, self-worth, order, peace, harmony, ease, creativity, fun, play, to matter and the need  to contribute to others.  These are but a few of the universal needs we share as humans. Is there anything on this list that you would be willing to do without for the rest of your life?

                Obviously, we can’t get all our needs met all the time.  In any given moment, there are usually one or more needs that are more prominent than the others.   So strong and primal are these needs that we are constantly seeking ways (both consciously and unconsciously) to have them met.  Sometimes, we are aware of our needs and can make requests of ourselves or others to get our needs met.  For example, when we feel hungry and have a need for food, we may fix ourselves a sandwich or ask our spouse to take us out to dinner.  Other times, we are not consciously aware of what we’re needing and yet that need will manifest outwardly in an attempt to be met.  Your child’s behavior that you see in front of you is an outward expression of an inward need.

                So let’s take a look at the previous situations and see if we can discern what needs are driving the behaviors that are described:

Your daughter continues to draw instead of putting on her shoes as you asked.

 What needs is she trying to meet?  Creative expression?  Autonomy? 

 

Your sons are poking each other with their forks instead of eating. 

What needs are they attempting to meet?  Fun?  Play?  Connection? 


Your teenage daughter sneaks out of the house at night and meets up with a few friends. 

What needs is she hoping to meetAcceptance?  Belonging? Fun?

 

You get exasperated and yell at your young daughter, angrily grab the forks from your sons, and ground your teenage daughter for the rest of her life. 

What needs might you be attempting to meet?  Cooperation and ease?  Peace and harmony?  Safety and peace of mind?

                If we are to maintain our primary intention to connect,  how can we engage our child, address the behaviors, get to the root cause and stay connected?  I believe it starts with an attitude of curiosity.  In other words, we must strive to set an intention to understand what is going on inside of our child.  We must ask ourselves what could possibly be causing the behavior we see so clearly before us?  Then we can connect by making a guess at what our child is experiencing.  Even if we’re wrong with our guess, if we are sincerely investigating in an attempt to connect, we will likely discover what’s going on inside.

                One way we can investigate is by asking questions.  “Are you frustrated that I want you to stop drawing now and put on your shoes because you want to choose what you do?”  Here you are guessing a need for autonomy.  Your daughter may reply, “No, I want to give this to my teacher today.  It’s a picture of a dog and her dog died yesterday.”  This new information may lead you to guess again in order to get an even clearer picture of what’s going on inside of her, “Oh, so you’re wanting to contribute to your teacher and let her know you’re thinking of her?”  “Yeah.  She was really really sad yesterday.” 

                With this short dialogue you now know what is happening inside your daughter.  You have figured out that in this moment she has a need to contribute to her teacher.  Surely you can resonate with her need.  Since needs are universal, you also know what it feels like to want to contribute to someone. 

                Isn’t this useful information to know?  Would this perhaps shift your thinking of “She’s so uncooperative,” or “She never listens to me?”  Once you get down to the needs level, conflicts fade away.  How could you be in opposition to her need to contribute?  The conflict only occurs at the strategy level–the way she has chosen to get her need for contribution met—by drawing a picture when it is normally the time to leave.

                Similarly, it can be just as eye-opening to take a look at what’s happening inside of ourselves when we feel frustrated and anxious or when we speak harshly or start doling out consequences to our children.  Taking the time to pause and understand what it is we need can open up a world of possibilities.  By asking ourselves what need are we longing to meet underneath our behavior we can identify the need and likely find there are more choices to meet that need than we had imagined.

                When interacting with your child and it feels  like she’s simply not listening or doing what is asked, pause and reflect on why it’s important for your child to do what you are requesting.  If you want your daughter to stop drawing and put on her shoes so you can leave for work, perhaps you have a need for cooperation.  You can check inside to see if there are other deeper needs by asking, “And if I had cooperation, what would I have?”  Well, I’d have ease.  “And if I had ease, what would I have?”  I’d feel grounded and connected—to myself and to my daughter.  Ahhhh, aren’t those wonderful needs to have?

                When  you have a clear understanding of what you are really dealing with–your daughter’s need to contribute and your needs for cooperation, ease and connection– together, can you brainstorm solutions that will work for both of you to get your needs met?  Perhaps she will agree to carry the crayons in the car to finish the drawing.  Perhaps you will agree to give her an extra five minutes to finish up.  When you get down to the needs level, you often find an abundance of solutions waiting to be discovered.

The concepts in this chapter, Nurturing Connection Through Setting Your Intentions, are based on the principles of Nonviolent Communication™, a communication process and needs-based consciousness developed by  Marshall B. Rosenberg, Ph.D.  To learn more about Nonviolent Communication, visit www.cnvc.org.

 

Parenting Responsively for Connection

BRAND NEW E-BOOK that INSPIRES, CHALLENGES, REASSURES and provides ANSWERS

$14.95                         BUY NOW

Written by 12 Parenting Professionals, Parenting Responsively for Connection is a treasure trove of parenting insights, motivations, and tips.   From strengthening connection with your child to making family dinners enjoyable, from guiding your strong-willed child to strategies for school year success, there’s something for everyone in this book.  And since it’s written  from so  many different perspectives, you get a taste of many different experiences.  If you’re wanting to learn how to connect better with your child and respond effectively to their needs, then get your copy of the book today.
(ebook is delivered in pdf format).

Download Table of Contents

Connect with the authors

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What is Parenting Coaching?

Parenting coaching, first and foremost, is a relationship.   The coach/client relationship enhances your ability to learn, make changes, and achieve desired goals. The coaching process leads you through a systematic framework that helps you to clarify your objectives, explore new options, make decisions and become accountable to act on your choices.

Often, coaching begins with choosing what areas you want to focus on in your family.  Are you experiencing challenges with “temper tantrums,”  sibling squabbling, defiant teenagers?  Are you wanting more connection and fun with your kids, more ease in your daily interactions, or more respect?  Focusing on your areas of concern, you use the coaching framework to set goals, create action items, and make commitments to change.  Together with your coach, you brainstorm strategies, analyze what worked and what didn’t, celebrate successes and receive encouragement and support to move forward toward your goals.

Your parenting coach holds your vision for your family and keeps you connected to it, even when the going gets tough.  Often your coach, as an outsider looking in, can provide an honest assessment and will challenge you to bring out the best in you.  With your parenting coach at your side, you will have the support you need to reach your parenting potential and create the family life you desire.

New Parenting ebook coming out

Yippeee!  I just finished writing my chapter for the forthcoming ebook anthologized by Academy for Coaching Parents International.  It took way longer than I had expected and I hope this writing thing gets easier and quicker as I do more and more of it.   I’d like to share an excerpt with you and would love to hear your thoughts.  What is the foundation for your relationship with your child(ren)?

Nurturing Connecting Through Setting Your Intentions excerpt:

               When it comes to building a strong connection, there are no shortcuts. Connection is the foundation of your relationship.   It requires awareness, intention, practice, and commitment—and all of this rests with you.  Connection doesn’t require your child to behave a certain way and it doesn’t require you to be a perfect parent.  It does, however, require you to be aware of how you habitually react to your child’s behavior and to have an understanding of how to effectively respond.

                When  you’re experiencing turbulence in your relationship or you’re feeling disconnected, notice what’s going on inside of you:

  • Are you trying to understand what is going on for your child? 
  • Are you offering compassion? 
  • Is your motive to correct, coerce, or punish? 

                Understanding and compassion lead to connection. Correction, coercion and punishment can lead to disconnection and discord.  Through coercive tactics you may be able to temporarily modify behavior, but in the long run, coercion erodes the parent-child bond and teaches your child to behave a certain way out of fear, guilt or shame.  Understanding and compassion, on the other hand, nurtures the parent-child bond and your child’s natural willingness to cooperate and contribute.

                So how do you nurture connection with your child during tense moments?  The most important thing you can do is to pause and  focus on your intention before you speak or react.

                When you pause, take the opportunity to remember how it feels when you are in close relationship with those you love.  For example, consider the kind of connection you feel when a friend really listens to you, not just gives you a nod of the head, but listens deeply, asking questions to be sure she understands what you’re saying.  It’s that warm feeling you get when your partner genuinely wants your input in a decision that will affect you both.  It’s the  tenderness you feel when you’ve made a regrettable mistake and instead of saying, “I told you so,” your friend empathizes with how embarrassed you feel.

                When real connection occurs,  deep needs are being met. Whether it is the need to be heard, the need to be considered or the need for empathy and understanding, connection meets needs.  And acting and speaking with the intention of meeting  needs is how you nurture connection and nourish relationship.  When you focus on your intention to connect, you are seeing the big picture of your relationship. 

                Connection doesn’t happen overnight and isn’t even always present from the moment of birth. Connection builds over time as trust is established and openness is embraced.  Once the foundation of your relationship has been laid and you’ve established a quality connection with your child, the ups and downs of daily living become more manageable and less stressful.  When this happens, teaching and modeling the behavior you desire is better received by your child.  

Watch for the ebook coming soon to my blogsite!

How An ACPI Certified Coach Helps You!

A parent coach is a trained and certified professional who helps you achieve your goals in creating a fulfilling family life.
As your coach, I will help you clarify what you want to accomplish, set specific goals and make an effective action plan.  I provide you with support, structure, perspective and techniques as we move through the coaching process together.  I am your best cheerleader!  My job also is to hold you accountable for making progress toward meeting your goals.

Parent coaching is inspirational, educational and practical.
We will discover together how much you already know about how to create a healthy home life.  In the occasional “need to know” moment, I will provide skills training in a practical way, so you can use new concepts and skills right away and apply them to your situation.  Coaching is designed to unlock and maximize your parenting potential.

Parent coaching is transformational and beneficial.
The focus of coaching is achieving your goals in parenting and communicating with family members.  We will identify specific plans and ways of thinking that will move you toward achieving your desired goals.  Since our focus will be on the present and the future, we will usually not direct our attention to past issues or missteps.  However, an outcome of coaching is often that healing old history does take place.

The structure of coaching is flexible.
We will design a coaching arrangement that meets your individual needs and schedule.  The basic design consists of:

  • an intake interview
  • an intial session to create a coaching strategy
  • regular on-going coaching sessions (usually by phone)

Coaching sessions are usually weekly or every other week, lasting for 50 minutes.  Sessions may be focused on one specific challenge you are facing, or on a much broader set of family issues.  Coaching relationships to make lasting change usually lasts from three to six months.  The nature of the goals and the changes you wish to make will determine the length of time that makes sense for you.

Welcome To My ParentingHeart Blog!

I’m excited to share with you my new blogsite on parenting.  My intention is to provide a forum where we can explore together and support each other in our parenting adventures.  I’ve been a parent educator/workshop facilitator since 2005 and in March, 2011 was certified as a parenting coach. 

I hope you find the blogs useful, helpful and inspiring and I look forward to hearing from you.

From my parentingheart to yours,
Sherri