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REFLECTIONS. PASSIONATE ESSAYS ON THE NATURE AND RESPONSIBILITY OF PARENTING.
Number 17, Sept-Oct. 1997
Debra Batcher, Editor
Welcome to "Reflections." "Reflections" is a reworking of "The Natural Parenting Paper." For the past year NPP has been a 2 page spread. While this looked good and gave me lots of room to create it cost more than the subscriptions can support. Hence back to the single page format. Also included in this decision has been my desire to continue simplifying as much of my life as possible. Over the past year I have come to realize the most important objective of this newsletter is the sharing of my thoughts and the creative satisfaction I get from writing. I realized if I shrink the type size and remove all the extras in the newsletter I am left with lots of writing room. So while the newsletter appears smaller in reality it will present the same amount of info. Plus I can keep to my original goal of providing thought-provoking writing that can be read in a single sitting, something very useful for busy parents.
In redesigning the newsletter I felt the name "The Natural Parenting Paper" was too wordy and didn't accurately reflect the new spirit of simplicity and objectivity I am striving for. So "Reflections" as a name came to mind. I like "Reflections" because it is exactly what I do when writing the newsletter; I reflect on my recent parenting journey by writing my feelings and exploring the thoughts they provoke. While "Reflections" is not a very unique name it seems to fit well for now.
Let me know how these changes feel to you. Write or call with your thoughts and ideas; they are always welcome.
Recently a friend of mine shared a book with me she found helpful on her parenting journey. The book is unusual in its format as it is written as a conversation among two facilitators (the authors) and parents in a parenting seminar. The goal of the seminar is to give the parents as many strategies as possible for interacting with their children during difficult situations, hence the goal of the book as well. This book is very intriguing in that many strategies it promotes fit nicely within the truths my family lives by. For example the strategies never involve hitting, yelling or undermining a child's character with "making" them behave. Conversely the book strives to help parents look at family dynamics by stepping outside the situation to see the role each person is playing. With this knowledge parents can change their own behavior in a variety of ways that stimulate desirable behavior from the child.
So what does this mean? Well I have been trying several of the strategies and have had some dramatic results. In the case of sibling rivalry, which I find lots of in my home these days, using the validation strategy conveyed in the book I'm seeing a great reduction in the negative physical contact between my two children.
In the past I learned validation of children's feeling meant "'You feel" statements said to a child to help them verbalize what they were feeling at a particular time. While this is by no means the only way to validate a child's feelings it is the most popular in trendy parenting books. I've always felt this method is lacking something. It seems to me this method identifies a child's feeling for the child by giving it a name, but it doesn't actually validate the feeling. It doesn't let the child know that this feeling they are having is an OK feeling to have. This method always left the situation unresolved. My son typically would look at me and reply "Yeah I'm disappointed" with body and facial language implying "what are you going to do about it?" This new book suggests a validation strategy that actually validates the child's feelings and behaviors as well as helps the child find a healthy out let for behavior parents deem undesirable.
"You really like" is the statement the book suggests using and then find a way for them to do what they like. For example Max is playing with something Shane decides he wants. Max refuses to give or share with Shane. Shane decides to pinch Max with a pair of pliers. Max screams and yells and threatens Shane but doesn't hit him. I enter the scene and check out Max's wound encouraging Shane to look at the mark the pliers made on Max. At this point it is very difficult as a parent to remain objective but it is of the utmost importance to do so. As calmly as possible I said to Shane, Shane, when you are jealous you really like to pinch so let's find some thing you can pinch". Then calmly and quietly we looked around for things he can pinch. After a few minutes I asked him if he needs to pinch some more and he replies "no". It has never been an issue again.
Use of this strategy has dramatically reduced the use of physical hurting to release frustration between the boys when they are upset with each other. They still make a lot of noise and occasionally say things that make my hair raise but at least they are not beating each other up as often.
One caution I've learned from the book is the general lack of many strategies on the part of parents and the over use of a few. As time has passed I've noticed the validation strategy mentioned above has showed signs of over use. When the kids can predict what I'm going to say and start teasing each other and me with the very words I've used, it's time to switch to another strategy. I think it might be smart to switch before it gets to this point. How many of us use the same strategy over and over finding that it doesn't work? But instead of switching to another strategy we yell louder and louder until no thread of dignity is left. We don't switch because we don't know what else to do.
Typically most of us have two or three present strategies we have been taught to rely on. They may include: praises or punishments, threatening, time out and or hitting. I have found these strategies to be to limiting in their scope as well as fundamentally adverse to my family's truths. My children are such unique diverse little creatures who present many challenges in our daily life I find I need lots and lots of ideas and strategies in our interactions. Intriguingly as I read and reread this wonderful parenting book I find myself using more and more of the strategies demonstrated as experiments to see what will happen and if in fact they will work.
Sometimes I find myself looking at our interactions from a "bird's eye view" thinking if I do this strategy what will happen. When I see my parenting role in this manner it helps me to remain in control of myself during stressful situations. Analyzing the roles each of us play from "the birds eye view" also allows me to plan ahead of time behaviors I would like to try in specific situations. One example in which I tried this approach involved introducing a new food. The strategy I decided to use involves telling the child he isn't able to do something you know he can do but he won 't do if you ask him outright. At first this strategy seemed a bit manipulative to me so I avoided its use. However I noticed with Shane he loves to have me tell him not to do something that I know and he knows he is going to do. Often at the dinner table he will ask me to tell him "don't put that food in your mouth Shane". Then he laughs and gleefully puts the food in his mouth Seeing that Shane enjoys this type of interaction I decided to try this strategy.
One evening at dinner I made a dish with kale, knowing Shane would refuse to eat it if I put it on his plate I kept a huge bowl of it next to me and proceeded to eat it with enjoyment After a few minutes he came over and sat on my lap studying the food very carefully. Obviously intrigued by the food he asked what it was. Between mouthfuls I said; "Oh that's not for you. You wouldn't like this adult food so I don't want you to try it."! "Oh yes I would like to try it Mom." he replied. Shane ate three mouthfuls and decided he had had enough. I was pleased to see him try something different and eat a little of it without coercion ("You will eat this because I said to!"), rewards (when you eat your kale you can have dessert.") or threats ("You can't leave the table until you eat your Kale.").
This book encourages parents to look at parenting as a "Performing Art". In reality we perform for our children every day. Our performance influences and impacts our children's performance in many ways we do and do not under stand. If you have been performing the same show day in and day out this book may help you break through that cycle and change your act. One note of caution, this book is not a "how to" book or a "recipe for success" book. The book is full of many strategies which you have to glean from the book and then adapt to your own particular family It takes a bit of reading, thinking, extrapolating and experimenting for powerful results. Risk taking, exploring, and braveness is required. This book is very powerful but it won't do the work for you. If you are truly committed to improving your parenting this is the book for you. Don't Wait. Order It Now. The book is "Elegant Parenting" by John Gall. You can call his office at [218-547-0095] to order the book. My love and thanks to Mary for sharing the book with me.Hugs, Debi
"Reflections" is published through The Parent Support Network by Lower Forty Pre-Press at 1146 Central Avenue Albany, New York 12205. The Editor Debra Batcher and can be reached at 1237 Thompsons Lake Road, East Berne, New York 12055 or through AOL at DjeaPB35@aolcom, All comments and suggestions are welcome.
"Reflections" is a from the heart attempt to explore the nature and responsibility of the parenting journey. Essays here in are meant to stimulate inquiry, challenge predetermined and prescribed expectations and behaviors, promote contemplation and ask "why" as often as possible.
Subscription to ''Reflections'' is $10.00 per year and includes six issues annually. Please send a check along with your name and address to:
"Reflections" c/o Debra Batcher
1237 Thompsons Lake road
East Berne, New York 12059
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