The kids climbed into my van, chatty and glad to be out of school for the day. I checked to make sure my book was still in the console next to me. My daughter Maddy, age 9, usually held her own with my friend’s two boys, Jordan, 11; and Jeffrey, 7. The 25-minute ride began and the volume of their banter gradually increased until genuine arguing began. That’s where my book came in.
It had been awhile since I returned from Kansas, having gone for a week to become a facilitator for the Parenting With Love and Logic® Program. Upon my return I wrote and obtained a grant to implement a pilot program providing parenting classes in three schools. After practicing the new parenting techniques on my daughter for several months, I was now both eager and anxious to try them in the world of mothering outside of home.
“Sounds like there’s some arguing going on back there…” I noted.
“No, we’re not!” assured Jordan, while batting off his younger brother from taking the snack bag.
Silently, while they continued, I pulled over to the side of the road, put the car in park, unbuckled my seatbelt, and began stretching my arms, moaning softly but noticeably.
“Mom? Are you OK?” My daughter was concerned.
“What are you doing?” Jordan sounded incredulous.
“Is she OK?” Jeffrey turned to Maddy. I listened with a hidden smile and channeled my old theater days.
“Ohhhhh, wellllll, all that arguing is just drawing the energy right out of me. I just don’t have enough energy to drive!” I reveled in my acting skills. I picked up my book and began (pretending) to read, listening intently for how this method would play out.
“Oh, no,” my daughter said. “That’s just my mom. She’s crazy. We have to put energy back into her.”
“What? What does that mean? What do we have to do?” Jeffrey asked.
“This is not good. You can’t do this!” Jordan commanded. “I have baseball practice. You’re making me late for baseball practice. My mom’s going to be so mad at you!”
“Oh, gosh, that sounds frustrating,” I said with true empathy. I knew it was, for him.
“Fine. We’re sharing now.” Jordan pushed a little bag into his brother’s hands. “How’s that?” He asked me.
“Ohhh, I’m feeling a LITTLE better…” I said, not moving.
“Here!” Instantly a bag of crackers came flying at me from the rear, smacking against the front console. “We’re sharing with you! Have some crackers!” the voices said. “We won’t argue anymore. We’re all done!”
“Oh, OK. I’m feeling more energized, thanks. Let’s see what happens.”
I buckled up, started the car, and we were off. It only took a slow move over to the right lane about 10 minutes later for them to self-correct the next conflict. Jordan got to baseball practice right on time.
As parents we want our children to take responsibility for their problems. We don’t want to battle with them constantly or get caught up in yelling matches. And yet when we don’t feel equipped, or we’re tired, that’s what happens. How do we give problems back to our kids and teens to solve on their own, teaching how cause and effect works for themselves and others? Is it possible to give empathy to someone when you really want to shout at them? Can we parent well when fearing the outcomes, battling the influences we cannot control, when realizing the things we have been doing are not working but not knowing what to do instead?
Yes, we can. The Parenting With Love and Logic® program teaches how to disengage and neutralize arguments, hand problems back to the child in a nurturing and supportive manner, and provide effective, logical consequences when necessary. Yet having the presence of mind and the confidence to implement these techniques comes from education, self-awareness and practice.
When we learn to ride a bicycle, we’re taught that where our head turns determines the direction in which we steer and therefore where our bike will go. It is important to do the same with parenting—knowing where we want to go. Rather than focusing on the behavior or reason for your frustration, decide what skill or character trait you’d like to see your child replace it with. Begin your journey with your “steering wheel” pointed in that direction. You can even bring a parenting book along for the ride.
Naomi Weinberg is a licensed social worker in New Jersey with a BA in psychology and a master’s degree in social work. She has worked as a school social worker, medical social worker, presenter, parenting instructor and coach. Naomi combines well known methods of empowering parents and teachers with her own personal and professional knowledge and experiences to create strategies that truly work. Her classes study scenarios generated by the participants. Naomi’s own mothering adventures through a multitude of life challenges come to life during her humorous and inspiring presentations. You will leave her class with the confidence and ability to use your new skills and experience successes immediately! Register for classes at www.TucsonParentingInPeace.com or email Naomi at [email protected]