Friday, January 23, 2009

More parenting...

I'm looking some more at the "Beyond Consequences..." book and trying to integrate the philosophy.

Forbes writes about parenting out of love, rather than fear. I've written about this before, but it is hard to grasp. I thought maybe if I wrote about it some more, I'd understand it better, so here goes.

We generally believe that the techniques we use ARE out of love rather than fear.

But any system of rewards/consequences has an element of fear attached to it. You are telling the child that they need to behave in a certain way in order to gain certain rewards and avoid certain consequences. You are introducing some degree of fear, either of losing the reward, or of receiving the consequence. The behavior becomes externally controlled, rather than an internal motivation.

How is it different when you are parenting out of love? I'm trying to understand this well enough to describe it.

Love involves a two part focus. The first is loving yourself and the second is loving your child. The two have to be balanced in order to parent in a loving manner.

Loving yourself...
You are secure enough in your own abilities that you don't see your child's behavior as a reflection on you. You know that you are a good parent and that you are doing good things for your child, so when they are misbehaving, it is because there is something keeping them from being themselves.

If you don't love yourself in this way, you will feel threatened by misbehavior rather than empathetic or understanding.

Loving your child...
This involves being able to set aside your agenda in order to understand your child. It also involves seeing your child as someone basically good.

Now for a little bit of brain discussion. According to the book, our ability to use logic and think through behaviors in order to make good choices is one of the highest functions of the brain. When we are stressed, or feel threatened, or fearful, etc., we lose some of our ability to use logic and make good decisions. We back up to more basic survival mode.

Consequently, when our kids are stressed or threatened or afraid, or even hungry or tired, logic takes a back seat to the other things that are going on. When we approach them with logic, or a consequence, or a reward, their ability to respond to that is limited. The more upset they are, the less they can think logically. And actually, since consequences and rewards are based on pushing them toward a certain behavior, the consequences and rewards actually add more stress, making it less likely that they will be able to use logic.

So what do you do? If their physical needs are not the problem then their emotional needs are the focus. The goal is to lower their stress by validating their emotions. This gets dicey sometimes because their emotions may be based on faulty perceptions. But since their logic is gone, you won't get anywhere by correcting the perceptions. You have to validate the emotions first.

One of the tougher ones is if a child is acting out because they believe something isn't fair. How do you empathize and validate their outrage without agreeing with them that things are not fair---or that YOU are not fair?

Somehow you have to come to the point where you can honestly see that if you believed what they believe about an incident, you would probably be feeling the same emotions they are feeling. Then you reflect that back to them without saying that the things they believe are wrong. First you talk about how awful it feels when things aren't fair. You empathize with how angry and hurt they feel when it looks like they are being slighted. You continue to reflect back the emotions until they relax and show that they feel understood.

Doing this already demonstrates your love for this child. And after the child is calm and relaxed, they are much more likely to be able to discuss their perceptions logically.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Inauguration Day

We spent the morning of Inauguration Day at criminal court. As usual, the court had a huge docket. There was not nearly enough room for all the persons scheduled to appear to sit down in the room. There is a narrow hallway that leads past the two doors at the back of the courtroom. That hallway comes from a larger area flanked on both sides by a bank of elevators. Both areas were filled with people standing, sitting on the floor, milling around, trying to peer into the door to get a glimpse of their lawyers, etc.

I passed two women talking about their court ordered inpatient treatment. I don't know what kind of treatment it was, but they were empathizing with each other about being told that if they left treatment early they would lose custody of their children. One told the other that if she had been assigned any outpatient therapist other than the one she had, she would have done just fine.

Bail bondsmen circulated through the group, trying to find their clients. One was talking with a Spanish speaking woman near me. She nodded frequently and made affirmative noises, but I could not really tell if she understood this man's important information. He tried to tell her that this was a first appearance. The court would likely not bring charges, but they could choose to bring charges. If they brought charges, a new bail would be set and she would have to call him again. If they did not bring charges, her friend would be out on bail. Charges could still be filed for up to two years from now.

She nodded again and again. He would ask if she understood him. She would say yes, and nod again. He indicated that when he had visited with her friend they had used an interpreter, but no such person was there yesterday to help her.

Lawyers also came through the group, looking for their clients, explaining that for today, they would be getting a continuance. One person was advised that he could request a jury trial or he could waive that right. Either way, his case would not be heard for another month. Either way, there would be opportunities to talk about plea bargaining.

A woman sitting next to me greeted a man across the hall and asked about a mutual acquaintance. He answered her briefly but seemed to not want to encourage the conversation. When she moved into another area, he leaned toward his friend and commented that she was a drunken b**** and that he didn't want to have much to do with her.

One man in the hall looked very uncomfortable and nervous. He listened as a young man spoke with a woman nearby. It became clear that the woman knew how things worked, that she might even be a lawyer. As soon as she concluded her conversation with the younger man, this other man approached her, explaining this was his first appearance, he had no idea what to expect, could she explain things to him? She gave him a card, told him she could help him, advised him that someone would ask him if he was hiring his own lawyer or if he wanted the court to appoint one. She told him to say that he was hiring his own lawyer. They did not talk about cost. I wondered if she was kind, or if she was taking advantage of his fear.

The lawyers were conspicuous by their clothing. At one point someone remarked that he wished he was wearing a suit so that he could just walk into the courtroom with authority, instead of waiting in the hall.

Chuck and I sat on the floor, I with my knitting, he with his notebook, waiting for the case we were there for. Sometimes we talked with the people we were with, but not much. Mostly we waited to find out what would happen in their case, while they also peered through the doorway and tried to hear if their names were mentioned.

During the entire time, no one mentioned Barak Obama. No one spoke about regretting missing the swearing in or the speeches. People didn't seem particularly hopeful or empowered by the day.

I know from watching the news later that the crowds were huge, and had to have included many who have seen the tougher side of life. My hope is that the energy for change, the calls for volunteerism, the concern for those who are stuck in difficult life circumstances, will touch even the hallways of the Wichita courthouse.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Gran Torino

Yup, we went to a theatre and saw a movie that hasn't already gone to dvd. The choices at our local theatre that I would consent to included Gran Torino, Marley and Me, and Valkyrie. I didn't want mindless and we both decided against a downer so we chose Gran Torino. After you see it you can decide if we were successful in getting what we wanted.

Clint Eastwood played himself in a story made for me (yes there is a sap quotient). I don't think it will be a timeless classic unless it ends up being Eastwood's last movie, but we enjoyed it. The acting is somewhat wooden, but I liked the story enough to not mind that too much. I'm not good at teasers so I won't tell you much about it other than it deals with prejudice, redemption, and with standing up for what is right regardless of risk.

Before the movie we had lunch at Mokas and did some shopping. Afterwards we ate at Napoli's and had a quiet evening of conversation. The boys were at their respective youth retreats so we had a free evening.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Residential treatment?

I spoke with stressed out adoptive parents today. They had questions about the boys' ranch where we sent two of our sons. It brought up many things to think about.

Chuck and I spent quite a while talking this morning about the ranch, about parenting styles, about whether the ranch helped us or not. It is a hard thing to talk about. There is so much guilt and sadness for me about not having been the parent I wanted to be. Things were so difficult then, and we had exhausted our resources. I was losing perspective and becoming abusive.

Still, the abandonment they each had to feel as we dropped them off at this place is something I can't imagine, and I so wish I had been able to find other options.

How do you figure out these things? Sometimes I wonder, if we had heard about 'Beyond Consequences" parenting sooner would the ranch have still been necessary?

There are times when I am at peace with our decision to send the boys there. I know it hurt them. I don't want to minimize that. I have to weigh that in with the fact that I was also making things worse for them at home during that time. I did not know what to do.

And we had to consider the effects of life as it was on our other children. Too often there was chaos and out of control anger, and afterwards, I was drained. I leaned on them too much, probably.

We can't know how things would have been if we had known more, or done things differently.

Family celebration

I've had a bit of a break from the blog for family events. The longer I am away from it the harder it is to go back, not because I don't want to write, but because I seriously doubt that I have anything to say that is worth reading.

However, it is good practice for me to write.

I never look at my site meter, so I don't know if I'm wasting anyone's time or not.

Therefore, if I AM wasting your time, you can leave and I won't know or be hurt.

That said....

Family celebrations:

I was really hoping to get some good pictures this year when we were together for Christmas, but that didn't happen. I forgot to bring my camera to some events. I didn't remember to get it out at other events.

It was good to spend a lot of time together with all the kids. We decided this year to bring a meal to the homeless shelter as part of our Christmas celebration. The food was mostly prepared ahead of time and we just put finishing touches on it before delivering it. It was good for me. In a small way it was inviting more people to the banquet, although we did not really eat together. But as the chili heated, I began to wish we were eating chili too, instead of our traditional cheese dip, because it smelled and looked so good. A few days later I made another pot of chili because I still hungered for it.

We did the meal for the shelter because it happened to be our church's week to staff the shelter. My kitchen is small so it isn't really a 'whole family' activity to get that meal together. We all brought parts and put it together.

Another year it might be fun to do a different kind of service. One of us suggested volunteering together somewhere. Whatever we do, I would like to be sure it is an activity that gives us a chance to interact with each other as much as possible. We will probably never all live in the same place, so the time together is precious.

The kids overwhelmed us with gifts this year. Their generosity humbles me. Gifts of service combined with gifts to help with our trip to Vermont and some handmade gifts...

I was going to say that the gifts make me feel so loved, but the truth is, I felt very loved before the gifts. I am grateful for the gifts, and even more so for these people that I have in my life.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

The first day of Christmas

It's been a good day. A visit with Mom and Grandma (who actually was sleeping) in the morning, then errands, then lunch with Ben and Chuck that included good food and good conversation. Luke was here for the afternoon and was terrific as usual. I got to talk with Randy on the phone for a while, keeping him from his work longer than I should have. Tim and Wes got home from school. Then Andrea joined us, and then Becca and Joseph, and finally Greg. We pulled together a supper out of what Andrea had already started (a delicious pizza) and stuff I had, and then enjoyed each other's company.

Highlights:
*Seeing Shannon's care as she helped my grandmother into bed this morning.

*Hearing about Ben's best ever and worst ever gifts---and discussing what makes gifts fun or disappointing.

*Learning that when ordering a hamburger at a chinese restaurant, it is wise to smell the mustard before putting it on the hamburger. It's OK. I like clear sinuses.

*Smelling Andrea's pizza baking.

*Watching Luke light up when he heard Laura's voice on speaker phone. He talked back to her and kissed the phone a couple of times and smiled and smiled.

*CJ (our Boston terrier) singing/howling along with Greg who was playing recorder.

*A whole evening hanging out with Becca, who stayed up long past the exhaustion point to be with us.

Even as I've savored this day, my thoughts have been with others close to us who have had a much more difficult day today. I hope they feel the thoughts and prayers coming their way.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

The Shack

Who hasn't yet heard of "The Shack"? Lately it has been coming up in a lot of conversations.

Usually the conversation about this book is pretty mysterious. No one wants to give anything away about the book, but they seem driven to talk about it.

People say, "I've read it and now I want to think about it some more." or "I need to read it again so that I can absorb it better." or "Sometime I want to talk to someone about this book."

So far, I haven't been in a conversation that went much farther than that.

I think there are two reasons for that.

The first reason is that there is often someone present who has not read the book and no one wants to give them any biases for or against the book.

The second reason, I think, is a bit of fear. The book challenges some things that we have always believed. Maybe 'challenges' is a bad word. The author tries to put things in a new light. He tries to help us see things from a different angle. He enlarges the picture, so to speak.

If we say we liked it, will people judge us? If we say we didn't like it, will people judge us? If we agree with the new ideas will we be heretics? If we don't agree will we be rigid and judgmental? Scary.

Scarier still is what we think of ourselves. If we believe this, will we be right? If we don't believe this way, will we be right? Is it important to be right? What if we are wrong?

On a side note, since it is obvious I have read the book, I will say a few things about it. It is a fairly gripping story, but a little bit too sentimental/over-emotional for me. The reason I write about it is more because of the ideas presented than because I loved the writing. In fact, there were times when the writing frustrated me enough that I wanted to throw out the ideas because I felt they were not presented well.

I guess they were presented well enough to make me think about them after I was done with the book. Maybe I will go back and look at some parts again and think about it some more. After that I might like to talk to someone about the book...

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Christmas is coming

Christmas vacation ended today.

I will finish my Christmas shopping tomorrow, I hope. I know what I'm getting and where, but I don't know their hours and whether I can get there tomorrow during those hours.

We will celebrate Christmas next week.

I talked with friends about Christmas and our not celebrating it at the 'right' time like everyone else does. They said that this is more real. No one really knows when Jesus was born so why not celebrate at other times?

An older woman said she'd really rather celebrate in summer when the roads are good and daylight lasts until later in the evening.

I've had fun shopping this year, and I'm not a shopper. Maybe I should start now for next year and take advantage of the mood.