Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Parenting 101: Behavior does not Cause Reactions!

I am reading an interesting book about play therapy. Attachment is an ongoing issue around here. These little ones brought some baggage with them and attachment seems to be the only way to unpack and organize it.

I know all three would benefit from formal attachment therapy, but at what cost? I realized that in order to get even one or two of them in regular therapy, it would necessitate giving up T-ball for the boys. With school, there are simply not enough hours in the week; we barely scrape by as it is, timewise, during ball season. So then comes the necessity of deciding which will benefit them more, play therapy or "play ball."

This book, The Parent Survival Guide: From Chaos to Harmony in Ten Weeks or Less, offers me a chance to do both. I am in the stages of assembling my kit and making my plans, so "special playtimes" haven't started yet. The Captain, on the other hand, is undergoing some sort of new metamorphosis that is not sitting well around here. He has become extremely stubborn and has realized I will not physically make him do anything so is experimenting with simply not doing anything at all -- and or having a giant tantrum -- when I get too directive with him.

I, on the other hand, no candidate for parent of the year, am trying to remember to use the reflective technique the author, Theresa Kellam, teaches in the book. Basically, I am to narrate his behavior, without sarcasm, meanness or irony in my tone. "Oh, you are laying on the floor," "You're pretending you can't hear me," etc. Once I've done that, the next step is to narrate his feelings. "You are angry because I said you can't watch TV."  This part is trickier than it sounds because I don't honestly always know what precipitated the behavior. In that case, it has to be simplified to "you are angry, you are afraid," etc.

It is very hard to remember to do this when a child is pushing my buttons. When I can remember, it works very well. It takes some self discipline too; my first impulse is to push back. A mark of adulthood is having the maturity to regulate my behavior. It seems so obvious but it is so easy to blame the child for my reaction. I cannot control my emotional response but I can control my reaction/behavior. To me, the real irony in all of this is that this is exactly what we are asking our child to do and hoping to teach them. Your emotions/feelings are real and valid; nonetheless, you have to control your reaction.

I have said all this as much to remind myself as to enlighten you. So step one is for me to get very good at the technique just described and, step two, is to gather the tools I need for the therapeutic playtime and implement it as soon as reasonable. I am aiming for getting it started during spring break.

This is a good book with sound principals and no "tricky" parenting. I recommend it for anyone in the trenches.

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