While preparing for week four of the parenting communication course I teach this past week it dawned on me that many of us are parenting in one dimension. One dimension where the focus is on our singular experience of situations versus taking the opportunity to really view the situation in 3D and respond differently as a result. I believe that one simple premise, that there is no misbehavior, only unmet needs, which is taught in the Parent Effectiveness Training Course developed by Dr. Thomas Gordon, can help to expand your parenting into the realm of 3D.
Let's think about it, in our common, one dimensional view of situations we label/judge children's behavior as misbehavior because it is annoying to us, or it is causing us a problem, perhaps it is stopping us from doing something, or stopping us from meeting a need of our own, perhaps it is embarrassing us, or we think it is reflecting poorly on our parenting skills. Whatever the case, in most situations we selfishly think about how we are being impacted. We then rush to punish that behavior and/or reward an alternative behavior so that we can have peace and quiet.
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What a world of difference it would make if more of us had the view that there is no misbehavior there are only unmet needs. Instead of rushing to use punishment or reward we would take a moment to actually see what is really taking place. To take a moment and pretend to put on 3D glasses and see it from the child's perspective and try to figure out what is leading to the behavior in the first place, and ask "what is the unmet need the child is trying to satisfy with this behavior?" We are missing moments of connection with our children by not doing this more often.
I observe these missed opportunities all of the time. This past week I took my son to Chick-Fil-A for a late lunch before an activity and there were quite a few toddlers there who I am sure had been enjoying the indoor play area. It was obvious that it was the point just before nap time and I watched as moms were trying to pack up the kids and get them into the car and home for a nap. I also watched as one little guy was reaching up to his mom wanting to be carried out to the car. It was obvious that she was annoyed because she was trying to carry her bag, the car keys, and what seemed to be a very precious drink in her hand because if she would have put that down she could have picked him up.
It was so obvious that he was tired but for this mom he wasn't doing what she needed him to do in that moment and right away the threats of punishment started "we are never coming back here to play until you can walk on your own to and from the car." In that moment I just felt sad for the missed opportunity to connect with her toddler. Imagine the difference if this mom could have put on her 3D glasses, and put down her drink, and acknowledged "you'd like me to pick you up and take you to the car so that we can get home faster and get that nap." Not only are tears avoided but the child is given the confidence in his communication skills, even though he was so young he was not using many words yet. The parent displays empathy and connects with the child in a meaningful way.
Many of us are missing these small but numerous opportunities to really connect with our children. So put on those 3D glasses the next time your child is doing something that you might otherwise call misbehavior. Stop and ask yourself, what is the need that they are trying to meet, and see what a difference it makes to the situation.
I would love to hear how you get on so do let me know.