A bit about today's guest blogger, Michelle Carlson:
Michelle lives in Los Angeles with her two girls, 8 and 11. Before becoming a Hand in Hand certified instructor in 2015, she worked for 12 years in public schools as a teacher and counselor. She also served as an adjunct professor, in the Department of Education, instructing in the teacher credentialing program, none of which prepared her to be a mom. After years of consequences, bribes, and star charts she found Hand in Hand parenting, created by Patty Wipfler. It reshaped her relationships with her daughters, and she credits it with changing her life.
She is passionate about helping others find their way through the murky business of being a connected parent. She loves leading groups and finds the dynamic transformative. Michelle also strongly believes that listening partnerships are the cornerstone to moving through difficulties.
Michelle has helped herself and others make meaningful connections, work on sibling rivalry, and alleviate school problems. Aggression, fears, withdrawnness, and sleep are just some of the struggles she has shared and helped others rectify.
She holds a Master’s Degree in Education, speaks fluent Spanish, has been trained as a Council in Schools Facilitator and an ADL Trainer fighting against bias of all types on school campuses. Michelle offers phone, Skype, and in person consultations to parents and caregivers.
Check out Michelle's website: peaceandparentingla.com
There is much talk about teaching our kids to self-regulate, use impulse control, and learn to react calmly to adversity. This is all well and good but talking about it and wanting it to happen certainly don't ensure that our children will move through adverse situations with ease, merely because we want them to. We can tell them to calm down and take deep breaths, use their words, and make good choices but, again, will they magically internalize this way to "be" just because we’ve told them that's what’s best?
When we don't react with yelling, anger, threats, bribes, or consequences, which are not models of self-regulation, we often engage in the "talking to"- code words for "lecturing". We explain things ad nauseam with the expectation that our children will look at us with adoration while agreeing with how much sense we are making, thereby choosing to alter their behavior to be more acceptable. When has that ever happened? Do they appease us by agreeing and nodding because they are dying for the lecture to stop and counting the moments until they can move on and away from the shame? I guess it's a step better or perhaps just different than our own parents, who would often tell us what to do, "no ifs, ands or buts about it".
What does happen after a lecture is really anything but productive. I’ve heard parents say, "We had a long discussion about "x" and now I think he really understands". This is probably not the case. What likely has happened is you have spoken at great length about how you think things "should" be. You have explained every facet of the occurrence and told them just how wrong they are, leaving no place for them to save face. Moreover, this type of interaction erodes your connection, leaving your child feeling judged and scolded, even though there has been no punishment or consequence. It’s been made plainly obvious that they are wrong and you are right. We know from experience how that feels.
So, how do you teach your children to self-regulate? I love using the statistic from a group of researchers on learning: It has been said that 80% of what children learn is what is modeled to them. I became about 80% like my parents without having them tell me a thing. Merely by watching, I learned to yell, scold, and belittle. I wasn't instructed to be this kind of parent, nor did I study this type of behavior as my guide to parenting. I'll tell you what though, it was modeled to me and that modeling became instinctual, almost second nature. My default.
We teach self-regulation by regulating ourselves. In adverse times, when things get crazy in our worlds, we show our kids how to be calm and relaxed. When Pia tries to kick me, Esme says she hates me, the water boils over on the stove, I trip over the cat and dinner is an hour late, I remain calm. I come with love and kindness, and I take really deep breaths, talking to myself with mantras of serenity. I remind myself that these things are normal, that my child is not "bad" or "wrong" but rather having a hard time, which has nothing to do with me. Dinner can be late and water is easily cleaned. Over time, lots of time...perhaps their entire childhood, they will learn self-regulation. Will it happen the first time you chose not to lose your temper? No, but with consistency, it will happen, slowly but surely.