Have you ever noticed that when we’re having trouble with our spouse, neighbor or our children we begin to wonder what we can “do” to make the situation better? Can we devise a new system, have a good old-fashioned “talk it out” session or come up with a consequence/reward and so forth.
Recently I was mentoring with a mom who found herself in that sticky place. She wanted to know if I had any counsel that might help. I want to share with you what I shared with her.
Blame is an indicator
Relationship is everything and ultimately it depends on you! You can’t “do” yourself into a good relationship. You have to “be” yourself into one. Our way of being is far more important in our relationships, especially with our children, than anything we can do. It comes down to how we are with them. How do we treat them? How good are our own boundaries? How consistent are we? Do we have control of ourselves? Do we keep the promises we make to ourselves and to them? When “how” we are changes, when our way of being is right, everything begins to change and the relationship grows.
I always know when my “way of being’ is at the heart of an issue. I can tell because that is the moment I point my finger at someone or something and blame them for how I am feeling. Blame is an indicator that we need to look at our own behaviors, our own stories.
This good, loving mother shared with me that her son is needy, sometimes whiny, and doesn’t respond when asked to do something. He doesn’t like being directed. It’s frankly annoying. The energy between them is not positive and she is short with him.
See that blame finger pointing. Because of how he is, how he is behaving, she has to put up with feeling irritated and annoyed.
You Can Re-write the Story
As we talked further here is what else came out:
• He loves to snuggle
• He likes having a choice
• He needs details to move forward in a job or activity with confidence or to make a smooth change in plans
• He is interested in learning
This mother realized that she was telling herself two different stories about her son and that her focus was most often on the negative story about him.
So she designed an experiment to change her “way of being” with her seven-year-old boy.
She rewrote her story. He isn’t needy. He is bright and needs detail and information to move forward and when given a choice is responsible for doing a good job. He likes her company because he loves her and he loves connecting with her.
She has coupled this new story with a new way of being when she deals with her son. She gives him a choice when asking him to do something. For example: “You need to clean your room. Which would work for you, to clean your room now and then go play, or to have 30 minutes to get stuff done you want to do and then clean your room?
When major plans change she takes him aside and lets him know before they tell the whole family. For example: They had a family activity planned. As she and her husband looked over the calendar for the week they realized that that one extra activity would mean they were gone from home every evening of the week. They decided to do the activity the next week. She let her seven-year-old know why the change needed to be made and when they would do the activity. When they told the family he didn’t make a scene.
She has also begun using “random touches” with him as often as she can remember to do it. A random touch takes 3 seconds and is accompanied by silence while looking the other person in the eye. It’s just a pat on the arm or back as you walk past them, a squeeze of the knee when sitting by them, etc.
I asked her today how her experiment was going. She said that when she remembers to give him details it works PERFECTLY. When she gives him a heads up about a change in the schedule it works PERFECTLY. And as for random touches….well that is making ALL the difference. Not just for her seven-year-old, but for all of her children.
She said that using random touches has changed how she is with her children. For example: When she is working and a child asks her for help in some way, if she turns so she can touch a shoulder or arm she is able to disengage for a few seconds and focus on them. She is learning to be PRESENT.
Check Out Your Way of “Being”
When you find yourself angry, frustrated or bewildered in any relationship when you feel that someone or something outside of yourself is causing your discomfort or pain that is the time to check your “way of being”.
This mother’s efforts to change her “way of being” in this relationship is paying HUGE dividends in her family.
Remember that relationship is everything and that you can’t “do” yourself into a good relationship. You “be” yourself into one.
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This is so empowering. We are in control of our responses! We can take responsibility of the quality of our relationships! If we aren’t liking something, what can WE do to change it.
You are right, Jenny. It is empowering. The two tricks I use to stay in control of my responses are –
1. Check out your story. When something happens our mind creates a story around it. Sometimes the story is false. So I like to see if the story ha any blame in it, does it make me look or feel less than and is it based on fact or assumption. If any of those three elements are there I rewrite it and then I respond better.
Second, I remember that I am not a victim. If I am hurt it is a choice. If I am angry it is a choice. No one can make me feel bad, that is a choice I make.
Man, this takes practice but over time we can get better and better. : )
Here are a couple of articles that give good examples of this idea of taking control of our story so that we have better responses.