Sunday, March 21, 2010

Positive Discipline Tool Card - Winning Cooperation

Children feel encouraged when you understand and respect their point of view.

1) Express understanding for the child’s thoughts and feelings.
2) Show empathy without condoning.
3) Share a time when you have felt or behaved similarly.
4) Share your thoughts and feelings. (Children listen to you AFTER they feel listened to.)
5) Focus on solutions together.

Has anybody else noticed that every tool card seems to be perfect for the current week? I can't tell if this is because the tool cards are so good or because I need so much help with my parenting. This week in particular I am not feeling very capable as a parent. Last weeks tool card was Encouragement and I couldn't have been less encouraging if I had tried.

My son and I have really been struggling to connect lately. So I was hopeful that the Encouragement tool card would be helpful. I was really focused on finding ways to be encouraging, especially with Gibson. Unfortunately I only managed to create more distance. From my perspective it seems like Gibson is trying to be as annoying as possible. If he were any more annoying he would be my ex-wife! I'm sure from his perspective I am just being a complete Ogre.

Friday was a perfect example. I usually have to run a few errands for work right before dinner. My daughter often likes to go on these errands with me (probably because I let her watch a movie in the back seat). But on Friday I asked Gibson if he would go with me and I told him we would stop by the store so he could buy some of the snacks he likes. Lately Gibson has been complaining that there is nothing to eat, so I figured this would be a good time for him to buy the things he likes.

He jumped into the passenger seat and immediately pulled out his Gameboy and started playing a video game. Not a whole lot of connection going on there. After my errands we arrived at the store and I let him choose some snacks. Now pay attention, because this is where the major disconnection begins to take shape. As we approach the self checkout stations, Gibson walks over to an open register and I walk to a different register. I motion to Gibson to come over to where I am. He pauses and seems to be deciding whether he should hold his ground. Finally he walks over to where I am and says "Why couldn't we use that checkout?" I said "Because that checkout only has one bagging station and we have a lot of stuff so it is easier to use the checkout with 4 bagging stations." He surveys the situation and then begrudgingly concedes.

As I begin to scan the items, I notice that the computerized voice keeps scolding me on every item. "Please place the item in the bagging area!" "Press skip bagging if you would like to skip bagging!" "An attendant has been notified!" I'm standing there frantically pushing buttons trying to appease this computer voice. Finally one of the employees walks over and says "Sir, your son is leaning on the scale." I look over and explain to Gibson that he can't lean on the scale or it messes up the weight of our groceries.

Now let's venture into the mind of a teenager. As far as I can tell there are two things that are the worse things that can happen to a teenager. Number One - being embarrassed and Number Two - being wrong. This was the double whammy for Gibson and I guess it was too much for him to bear. So as I began scanning the items, the computer voice started yelling at me again. I looked over at Gibson and he was gently touching the scale. I said " CAN'T touch the scale!" I guess he was trying to see how much pressure it would take to set the thing off, but I was not in the mood to experiment with the damn computer voice.

I managed to get a few more items scanned through when the computer voice started in on me again. You can imagine my frustration at this point. I look over at Gibson and he is touching the top part of the scale. I was speechless for a moment, then all I said was "Gibson!" and I looked over at his hand. He said "Oh...I didn't know that was part of the scale too." Finally we got all of the items checked out and left the store.

When we arrived home I began putting the groceries away. In the background I can here the following discussion between Gibson and Emma.

Gibson - "Emma, why did you play with my nerf gun?"
Emma - "I didn't!"
Gibson - "Yes you did, it wasn't where I left it!"
Emma - "I didn't play with your nerf gun!"
Gibson - "Since you played with my nerf gun I get to shoot you!"

I begin to walk over and diffuse the situation when Gibson pulls the trigger and shoots Emma square in the face. I grabbed the nerf gun and was furious! I was yelling at Gibson telling him that if he ever shoots Emma again I will break that nerf gun into a hundred pieces! I'm sure I said a few more choice things.

For the next hour I didn't say a word to Gibson and he was laying upstairs on the couch. I went downstairs to watch basketball. Then mercifully Gibson was invited for a sleepover at his friend's house. While driving him over to his friend's house, Gibson decided this would be the perfect time for us to bond. Huh??? Now??? When I am fuming and frustrated and can't wait to kick him out the door, he wants to bond?

He starts asking me why I didn't come upstairs. I told him that I was very angry that he would shoot his sister in the face. He said "Come on dad, Emma forgave me. Why can't you?" (Emma had gone over earlier and given Gibson a hug) I told him that being mean to his sister was not a good way to earn brownie points with me. By that time we were sitting in the driveway of his friend's house. I guess he sensed that I was trying to get rid of him, so he sat there and continued talking to me. Finally after a couple of minutes he said. "Come on dad, how about a hug?" So I gave him a hug and he got out of the car.

Clearly I have a long way to go before I understand how to connect with a teenager. When I'm tired, frustrated and angry...that's when my teenager wants to connect. It's like they are testing us every step of the way to see what we are made of. They should use teenagers as interrogators during times of war. Those prisoners would be begging to talk after a couple of hours with a teenager.

But gratefully we have another tool card to work on this week. I am really going to try and utilize this tool card to create a connection before things get out of hand. I'll let you know how it works.


Karen said...

Brad, if it's any consolation at all, your post sounds oh so familiar - I could have written it myself.

I think you should give yourself some credit though because there were positive things happening (Gibson did go with you even though he was on his Gameboy, Emma forgave Gibson, Gibson did want to connect eventually, and you both ended it with a hug!).

I think those scanner things are enough to put anyone in a bad mood! I do find that teens will push to do things their way (part of the individuation process I guess) so sometimes it might be worth a try to do things they're suggesting even if it means it's not the most efficient. There might be less focus on (subconsciously?) sabotaging your suggestion.

Good luck this week - we'll be working on this much needed tool card too!


Jane Nelsen said...

Brad, as usual I had to laugh out loud. It is so refreshing that you are willing admit and share the frustrations we all go through. It would be interesting to have Gibson read this post and share his point of view.

Single Dad Brad said...

Thanks Karen, I shouldn't complain so much because Gibson is a great kid. It's just so puzzling sometimes. You should have seen us at miniature golf today. I made one suggestion and Gibson was determined to do the opposite. He wound up knocking his golf ball off the course and into a bush. But to him that was much better than taking a suggestion from his dad. It was so funny because Emma looked at me, shook her head, rolled her eyes and said "Teenagers." :-)

Karen said...

Too funny about the golf course! Emma cracks me up. I really appreciate your honesty and your sense of humour. :)

Karen said...

We had our family meeting last night and it went so badly :( Everyone was really grouchy and not interested in being there, put downs galore, people interrupting - YIKES! When we got to the part about introducing the new tool card though, it did brighten the mood, because it seemed so IRONIC!

We've never really had success with family meetings but my husband and I are really committed to them - so we're going to start at square one and ease into them by having good snacks, focusing on compliments, planning our family vacation and ending with a game for those that want to play. We really need to win the cooperation of everyone for the meetings to work so we're going through the steps on the card to try to make that happen. I'll keep you posted!