Connection before Correction | Personal Post
I wrote this post several weeks back and have yet to publish it but here it is:
I have discovered that coming close to my daughter with gentle hands, a calm voice and an intent to show love does amazing things. That list may sound strange until you consider that when our kids do something they shouldn’t… something that triggers us…. our response is not conditioned to be gentle, loving, or calm.
She was approaching her brother to cause him pain… FOR. NO. REASON. It’s a trigger for me. I despise injustice. When I see her going up to him to hurt him just out of experimentation, all sorts of things typically rise up in my gut…. “stop that! why won’t you stop that! Don’t you see he’s hurt?! Why don’t you care?! I am trying to teach you to care!! Where have I gone wrong?! What kind of person will you become if I don’t show you better?! I will MAKE you better if you won’t listen now!”
Seriously, all kinds of things.
But I am learning to tap into my spirit and my connection to the Holy Spirit when I see her (or him) acting in destructive ways. I approached her and put my hands on her hands and calmly but with urgency, reminded her to please be kind to her brother. She laid off for a sec, but wasn’t done. I was still near, so I pivoted and came to surround her from behind. I gave her a hug from behind and calmly spoke in her ear that I didn’t like it that she was trying to hurt him, and he wasn’t doing anything wrong. There was no need to fight with him about what he was doing. As I spoke, she relaxed and I stood up, bending over her from the waste, arms hanging down in front of her body as a gentle barrier in case she suddenly changed her mind again. And then I saw how our feet were positioned and I loved this shot.
Which then prompted this shot…
So how is this happening? How am I changing a gut response to a love response?
There are a LOT of things I am working through right now as a mom and human, but the very quick actions will be outlined here.
Before I outline those, I do have to let you know the foundation is changing. And until that shifts, the rest are just bandaids at best. I can work on a blog post about the foundation but for now, this is just the quick stuff.
I breathe. I expect my kids to express themselves and I know that until their pre-frontal cortex is fully developed, their emotional expression is going to be uninhibited.
I acknowledge what I think they might be feeling
And then if necessary, I empathize that I might have felt the same in their position
Then I tell them that the behavior they are posing as a solution for their feeling is not a good solution,
but I offer them a better solution
If I have been able to keep calm enough to trust myself to be safe toward them during this interaction, I will typically offer my words with a hug or gentle hand on their offending body part (feet or legs for kicking, hands for hitting or torso if they are trying to lay on or bite someone). If I don’t trust myself due to overbearing emotions in the moment, sometimes I will not even offer correction in that moment. Sometimes, I literally walk away to breathe without saying anything to them at all. Sometimes I tell them I don’t like what they are doing and I need to calm down for a minute so I am going to take a break (this is typically in desperate situations and not helpful as they usually follow me when they know how upset I am. It is actually usually better for them to not know how upset I am until after I am calmer because they chase me and try to address me, which usually makes me more angry in the moment.)
I don’t write these posts to brag. In some ways, I don’t know if it even sounds like anything to be proud of- the level of anger I experience sometimes is heartbreaking to me when I look at it in hindsight. I for sure don’t have it all figured out. I actually write these things down as notes for myself as I am learning new things. I publish them in case someone else finds them helpful. Everything I am doing is a day by day process of learning my triggers, identifying their source and loving myself and my kids enough to seek a better way. I mess up a LOT more than I care to share. I didn’t come from a balanced emotional environment and I have to dig deep and work hard to learn to use the tools that help me balance my emotions and responses. But none of us is an island and I share my journey in the hope that it helps you on yours.
Good luck mama or papa. You got this.