Lot’s of times we are faced with the undaunting task of dealing with our children. They may be 5, they may be 15, they may be 25. The thing is they still are our children. We have this visceral, emotional connection with them…which forces us to want to place our will onto them to make them do the things that we want and expect them to do. My wife has introduced me to a wonderful approach that Dr. Stuart Albon has co-authored in several peices of his work called Plan B. The reason I bring this up, as it is very right brain thinking and that many of us put our own needs on hold (with personal growth and goal setting) to help others that we care for and care about. Also I wanted to provide some quick insight into how to help our own children excel–especially if that is a goal that we have set for ourselves.
Dr. Ablon along with Dr. Ross Green say, and read this closely, that children do well if they can. This is a revolutionary concept to most parents. We have spend most of our time, as I mentioned above, imposing our will on our children. Our expectations of them may seem common, however, never seems to be realized. Dr. Ablon says that there is something holding them back from succeeding at the task. This task could be something as simple (in our minds) as following a bed-time routine: go upstairs, take a shower, brush your teeth, get on your pajamas and get in bed. Simple? Of course. Easy to follow? Most definitely. Does it get done? Almost, if not never easily. The reason our child (or children) can’t get it done is because there is something getting in the way. This is where our frustration takes hold. We get angry, start to raise our voice and often get so upset that we just give up. Dr. Ablon says there is a way to help everyone be successful in this transaction: Creative Problem Solving with your child. A right brain approach to helping our child succeed.
Here is a synopsis in the form of a story–a real story, invovled with one of my children.
Parent: “Go up and get ready for bed…take a shower, brush teeth and get your pajamas on…”
Child: “No, that’s stupid…”
Parent: “Why is that stupid? Just do it, your dirty.”
Child: “No, I am not an idiot.”
Parent: “Your not an idiot. You will feel better if you shower before bed.”
Child: “No I won’t. Showers are for losers.”
Parent: “No they are not. Just take a shower, now. If not, you won’t get stories.”
Child: (level of frustration increasing) “Yes, I will…I am not an idiot…I am not taking a shower, I don’t want AND you are going to read me stories!!!”
Parent: “No I am not…just take a shower…if you don’t get ready for bed…”
I think you can see where this is going…
Child: (Now yelling) “I AM NOT TAKING A SHOWER…I DON’T WANT TO…If you don’t read me stories, I am not going to bed…”
Parent: “Okay…just get into bed…make sure you brush your teeth…” (And by the way…stories are read any way)
This interaction may sound typical to many of you. I wanted to point out that this was not a win-win situation to the effect that the child is clean and had stories read. They child still went to bed without showering. The only thing that was saved in all of this is that the child didn’t have a full-on melt-down over the shower and stories. We were able to stave off of continued frustration on both parts by aquiescing to the child’s needs.
We presented this situation to Dr. Ablon and he walked through the same scenario with our child. All of this is paraphrased…
Dr. Ablon: “So, (name), I heard from your parents you didn’t want to take a shower the other night…”
Child: “Showers are for idiots…”
Dr.: “Why are they for idiots?”
Child: “Because, the sound bothers me…”
Child: “Because the water get’s in my ears all the time…”
Dr.: “Oh, so the water in your ears bothers you?”
Child: “No…it hits my face mostly…”
Dr.: “So, the water hitting your face bothers you?”
Child: “No…I like to swim…”
Dr.: “Oh, (name), so what bothers you about the shower?”
Child: “Well…I don’t like the feeling of the water on my neck…”
Dr.: “Wow…how do you think we could get all the things accomplished that we need to do before bedtime?”
Child: “Uh…I don’t know…I would take a bath every night before bed…”
Amazing. As simple as it sounds here…it wasn’t so simple as a parent. Dr. Ablon explained that we can have 3 paths to solving a problem.
Plan A–is Adult Centric. This is us imposing our will on our child or children. Essentially, if you don’t do what I say, then something is going to happen to you: “I will take away TV time if you don’t clean your room.”
Plan C–Child Centric. “If you do what I say, then you will get a prize…” This is short term and usually non-effective the second time around.
What we should be doing is Plan B–Both Centric. This is were we collaboratively solve the issue that is holding us back. We seek for understanding of the impasse by actually spending time to ask the question WHY? And ask it several time until you can get out of your child what they would be willing to do that will make you both happy.
As I mentioned this is very right brain. It goes against all of our teachings as a parent–I am the parent, I am in charge, you will do what I say, because I am the parent. It is actually an exploratory method of finding out what the root of the issue is. Funny thing is, so far it has never been what I thought it was. For the shower scenario, I thought it was because he was afraid…we have this skylight in our bathroom and my child has a fear of aliens coming to take him away. In the end, it was all about the water sensation from the shower head. The best part about this, is that my child came up with the solution that satisfies all the needs AND he actually felt good about. His self esteem was boosted because he offered the solution and WE accepted it.
This type of right brain thinking is needed in our personal situations. We need to find out what’s holding us back. Asking those 4 to 5 levels of WHY? Why am I not acheiveing what I set out to do? Why is this getting in my way? Why can’t I seem to move on? and so forth…we need to look at what is surrounding our goal and find out the implications of acheivement and the implications of success. What are going to be the trade-offs for both, and then put it into perspective.
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