February = Connection
Posted: February 05, 2020
It’s February so isn’t it natural to take a look at relationships? This blog will focus on the relationship with you and your kids. The following concepts, however, will help improve any relationship that you choose to apply them to!
Picture this scenario: Your child hit the snooze button one too many times. This small delay set off a chain reaction in your house of panic, an uneaten breakfast, a lost backpack, a missed bus, and then you have to step in to correct the situation- making you late for work.
If we’re not careful, it’s easy to get focused on what’s going wrong in our relationships over what’s going well, especially with our kids. Am I right? In our defense, it comes out of a place of just trying to do what’s best and create the best in our kids. Typically as humans, we don’t like discomfort. We have a problem and we want it fixed! It can be really easy to jump into “solution” mode or “fixing” mode, at the first sign of discomfort or unwanted behavior. And the world will always offer infinite solutions to us in our distress: “Try this new technique, try that new strategy.” That’s not always a bad thing ... honestly, at Star Martial Arts, we do that too! We have PLENTY of tips and tricks to support families in behavior change and motivation. Sometimes though, it may serve us better to pause and look a little deeper at the issue before jumping to fix the surface level symptoms, and ask ourselves...is there more to this? What is the REAL issue, the DEEPER cause?
When I refer to “symptoms”, I’m referring to surface level behavior: Our child has developed a habit of whining, rolling their eyes, or lacking initiative. It can also look like doing what they’re told the first time, befriending a new student at school without prompting, or taking responsibility for their mistakes. When I refer to the deeper cause, I’m referring to their motivation, what’s driving the behavior. Just like different illnesses may have similar symptoms, the same can be true in behavior. For example, our children may not be giving off a bad attitude because they’re lazy and disrespectful, but rather because they’re not feeling heard, understood or validated … ultimately not feeling connected. And connection is one of our deepest human desires. It tends to be more difficult to be disrespectful to someone that we’re in good rapport with and connected to. (And for the record, sometimes it really is just plain lazy and disrespectful behavior. Just remember, lazy and disrespectful behavior doesn’t mean that’s who they are at their core nor should we label them as such. Haven’t we all made lazy and disrespectful choices at times?)
But how do we connect? Where do we even start?! Sometimes it takes slowing down and taking the time to intentionally “re-meet” each family member. This is where there are no quick-fixes. Here are some ideas to get started:
Notice when your full attention isn’t on the person you’re with. Once you start noticing you’re distracted and not fully connected, practice re-focusing on that person. That may mean you ask the person to repeat what was just said, turn your body and eyes to face him, or put your phone down for a second.
Set aside some time to purposefully connect. This doesn’t have to be new time that must be found or created during our already busy schedules. This can be time you’re already together like driving to/from school or during a meal, but instead of being in your own world and thinking about your own life, make an effort to enter into their life by talking to them about something they’re interested in or doing something you know they like. This can start with as little as 5 minutes of connecting time! If you don’t know what they’re interested in, use a resource like google or pinterest to search for questions for connecting with kids. You’ll be surprised what all you learn about your family members by asking silly questions like would you rather… or what is your favorite...
Listen and ask questions. Instead of giving advice or opinions, stay quiet. Many times others will volunteer more information going on in their head when they’re not interrupted and they know they have a listening ear. If they don’t process externally, ask questions, but do so in a spirit of true curiosity and a desire to understand the other person. Try not to listen only to the what, but more importantly the why. Why are they upset about this or happy about that?
Observe natural behavior. Does your child draw you pictures? Give you extra hugs? Just want to spend time with you? Light up when they get a compliment? These are all “clues” as to how they communicate (and prefer to receive) love, also called their love language. We recommend you check out Gary Chapman’s book “The 5 Love Languages” for more information on this topic
When we are connected to our family members, the surface level behaviors will often fix themselves. And even when they don’t (because after all, one of our jobs as parents is to correct and discipline), this necessary part of parenting can be done out of love and not emotion and frustration- which is where regret often follows. Creating a foundation of connection, trust, and understanding is what will outlast all the frustrating symptoms in behavior that a family can encounter. Happy February and happy connections to your family!
~Master Melanie Birky