It was after bath time, Sussie was TIRED (really grouchy, prone to tearfulness and general meltdown). We both walked into her room to start the cream and pyjama routine and I saw all her toys on the floor from earlier.
I had purposefully left them there for her to clean up when we came home. It would have been so easy for me to pick them up quickly after she was in bed. Instead I asked her, "Please Sussie put your toys away quickly.'
No response from Sussie, she was ignoring me. I was about to ask again, when, despite my own tiredness and eagerness to get her to bed, I remembered my new skill. "We're tired Sussie, Sussie, this is your toys talking. Can we go to bed too?" She turned around IMMEDIATELY and began packing them in their box.
I continued, "We love to cuddle with each other, warm and safe in the cupboard at night, thanks Sussie." I swear that within a minute they were all in the box, ready for bed. The rest of our routine went like a dream.
Today was a very powerful session (and quite emotional too) and my husband and I were reflecting tonight how much we’re enjoying the course. Then – the challenge presented itself.
Background - Jack asked for a “duvet day” yesterday (he’s allowed one a term) and he was up and down to the loo several times that morning (a clear sign that he’s feeling anxious) so that’s what we did. This morning was all fine until we got a message from Tessa that Jack was not feeling well, so we ended up taking him home at eleven.
He said he was feeling sick but was fine at home, playing and teasing his brother etc. Then bedtime…., he said he was feeling sick and again up and down to the loo. Each time one of us wanted to leave his side he became quite panicky and said he wanted to come downstairs with us, he was feeling sick.
After an hour and a half I was doing the usual asking if there was anything he was worried about and “Jack, I believe you’re feeling sick, but you’re NOT sick, I’m just downstairs and I’ve got to go and cook supper for dad and I”.
Panicked, teary child downstairs two minutes later and “I wish I could go to sleep, but I can’t”. So up I went again and was just lying with him, quietly but silently frustrated as he made another trip to the loo and then asked for yet another minute when I said I had to go. And then I thought about our session this morning, about being present with our children, praising them and acknowledging the people in our lives.
I said something along the lines of that I was really proud of him the way he had dealt with the move to his new school, that he had made friends and his teacher thought he was really special, and he was happy to go to school again and enjoying learning and that his new school looked like it was really working for him.
I went on to say that his body was telling me that something wasn’t working for him right now and it could be at home, school or about life but in the same way that I was trying hard to tell him and his brother when the situation wasn’t working for me (rather than just lose my temper and shout -and scare them), I needed him to tell me what wasn’t working for him so we could look at how we could make it work for him – in the Synergy way!
I asked if he wanted to share anything and he said no, so I told him I didn’t need to know right now but when he felt he had something to share, I was ready to listen. The tension in his little body eased immediately. I left, he came downstairs to cuddle while I was cooking and when I went upstairs five minutes later, he was asleep. On reflection, I guess it was just observing and describing what was going on rather than asking for answers and trying to fix the problem. Powerful Stuff!!
I woke up after having a bad night sleep and had a grumpy 7 year old on my hands at the same time. My son hates his school shoes and socks as the socks slip down and go to his toes. He says this happens all the time and he makes sure he tells me about it all the time.
This particular morning it was his socks, a sore on his arm and his school top was now upsetting him more. But this time I used the skills we learnt and really listened. I looked at his arm, acknowledged his feelings and asked what we could do to make it feel better.
He came up with a plaster idea and we made our way to the kitchen and sorted it out. The morning was calm after that and what I have noticed is that when I take the time to acknowledge his experience and deal with it, the drive to school is calm and everyone is happy verses a downhill mayhem – amazing.
On Saturday Bonnie was very upset with one of her friends, she went into her room and was screaming and tearing up a magazine, I went into her room and was listening to what she was saying. “I have no luck and my life is hard and nothing ever goes right for me”.
In the past I have dismissed her or told her that she was being silly but I decided to try something different and asked her to close her eyes. I then made all kinds of weird noises and told her to open her hands. I placed 2 magical bags in her hands, the one had luck in it and he other one had love.
I then pretended that I was sprinkling magic dust of love and luck on her from the bags, then made a big deal about tying the bags up and told her to keep them safe in her pockets. It worked so well, she stopped crying almost immediately and told me she loved me so much.
I was very surprised that it worked so well. I have been including fantasy into our lives everyday since then, it is really great and it brings a fun element into parenting.
During ‘quiet play’ all the children (aged 4 & 5years) sit on the mat and play educational games or puzzles. Throughout the year I have been nurturing the life skills of negotiation and conflict resolution with the children. It was all summed up in the following incident.
I was building a puzzle with two children with my back turned to a group of four playing a card game. As their game progressed, tension surfaced and accusations of cheating were thrown around.
Pretty soon they called me to intervene. I turned around and said, “Guys, it sounds like that some children are not playing fairly. If you don’t like what is happening you need to speak to each other.” I turned my back again.
I listened carefully as the group of children struggled to communicate their feelings and ideas about who was cheating and how they didn’t like it. I soon realised that the two children who I was building with were as interested in the process as I was because the one soon whispered, “They are negotiating now. They must talk about their problem.”
he other joined in and said, “They are solving their conflict.” The three of us carried on building, aware that the group of four needed to grapple with the issue on their own.
Chad was a child who had trouble expressing his anger and the parents informed me that there was a lot of sibling rivalry between him and his younger sister. Chad often hit children and we had already tried all of the skills. There came a day when I took Chad outside, to a quite place.
“Chad it looks like you have quite a few friends and you love playing with all of them. I notice that one of your best friends is Ashwin and you guys play with the cars mst of the morning. At times, it also looks like that some of the other children seem to annoy you and that makes you want to make them go away. It seems that as you do this, some children are getting hurt. We now need to think about how else we can support you to make sure everyone is treated respectfully.”
Taking a piece of paper, we wrote down all our ideas.
Robert: “What do you think Robert should do if Chad keeps hitting other children?”
Robert: “Well, Robert could hit Chad back……..”
Robert: “We could go talk to the principal……?”
Writing down all the ideas, Chad said, “I could go inside and sit on the mat.”
Robert, writing, “Mmmm, Chad could come inside and find something to do on the mat."
Robert: “And if Chad keeps hitting the children?”
Chad: “I could go to teacher Lamees’s class”
Robert: “Okay, lets put that down as well. Chad could go to teacher Lamees’s class. Lets look at what we have written. Robert could hit Chad, Chad could go to the principal, Chad could go inside and Chad could go to Lamees’s mat. Let’s cross out what isn’t acceptable. Robert doesn’t hit Chad so we cross that out. How about going to see the principal?”
Chad shakes his head and I cross that out. Sitting on the mat had not proven successful so I said, “I see that Chad still hits other children so we need to think of another thing. How about going to Lamees’s class?”
Chad nods his head.
Robert: “How long do you think you should stay there?”
Chad: “ Two weeks:”
Robert: “Two weeks? That’s a long time. I think two days is okay. What do you think?”
Chad agrees. We then write out on a paper, “If Chad hits other children then he will go to Teacher Lamees’s class for two days. Signed. Robert and Chad.” We both signed the paper and then I photocopied the agreement and gave him the original and I put the copy on the board so we would be reminded of our agreement. Chad restrained himself from hitting other children for a long time after that.
On Sunday morning we were watching an old DVD of the girls’ school play which is based on the music from Mama Mia.
Margaret - Dad I really want to be a queen bee like Jane in the school play. (she said this with a very whiny tone)
Dad,- so you really would like to be the queen bee?
Margaret- Yes and I want the special wings and crown. I am only a ballet bee. It's not fair.
Dad – Hmm, I see. (I was feeling I a bit nervous here, not sure what was going to happen. Was my acknowledgement of her emotions encouraging her to get upset?)
Margaret- She has a beautiful dress. Can you get me one? I WANT the crown the wings and dress. Get me every thing!
Dad- So you really want to be a queen bee. Hmm. I am sure there will be another opportunity for you to be the queen bee in the next play, and when it comes along, let’s make sure you can put on all the wings and the clothes of the queen bee.
Margaret- Yes, please can we watch Mama Mia again now?
I was surprised by this as I thought she was going to keep persisting that I get everything now. But it didn’t seem that was needed.
My example for this week happened when I went to fetch my 9 year old son Sebastian from a birthday party at which all the boys had been swimming. I could see that he was really angry/upset about something, so I asked him what had happened.
He said that one of his good friends had been calling him names over and over, but he didn't go into detail. He and the other boy really are the best of friends, so previously I would probably have just dismissed it as harmless fun.
This time though, I tried the listening skills we spoke about on Wednesday - I said that it must have been really hurtful for him to be called names, especially by a good friend. Sebastian agreed and started to tell me more - they had been swimming and he had been wearing goggles, when his friend started calling him "hairy goggles man" repeatedly. I managed to come up with a few more comments along the lines of "that sounds like it made you really angry", which really helped him to calm down.
I then went for the "rational" explanation that his friend probably didn't mean to hurt his feelings and was just having fun. We then spoke about what Sebastian could do if a similar situation happened again and I suggested that he just laughed and told his friend that that was a silly name - I think he understood that by getting angry, it just gave his friend more ammunition to keep on calling him "hairy goggles man", whereas if he just laughed it would have diffused the situation.
I realise there is a probably a lot I could/should have done differently, but it was very satisfying to be able to help Sebastian out of his hurt and anger so quickly when previously my lack of empathy would most likely have left him feeling angry and sulking for the rest of the afternoon.
Thanks for a great course, it really is helping me to think more carefully about how to react in situations like this one.
After week one of the course, Lana was eating breakfast and started complaining that her breakfast was not sweet enough, not enough sugar in, this is a constant argument between us. One I normally respond to her with denial that it is sweet enough and I have put more than enough in and the battle persists for awhile.
This particular time she started complaining, I went to sit with her and said is it really not sweet enough? No dad, it’s just that all the sugar is on the bottom, I asked her if I could stir it for her, her reply was, yes please. Which I did and to my amazement was now fine and sweet enough.
After the week 2 of the course -We had gone away for the night, I had sorted macaroni cheese for Lana’s supper. After a activity filled day we settled down for supper. I dished up for her and all was cosy…..Dad can I please have some tomato sauce?
Oops. She always has tomato sauce with macaroni cheese. I checked to see if there was any in the cupboards…no luck. I took a moment, and would have handled it completely differently before our last workshop. I told here there was nothing in the cupboards.
I sat with her and said in graphic detail, I wish I could take 100 of the largest tomatoes and cook them in a massive pot and make all this tomato sauce. I would make this awesome tomato sauce and package it into little bags and take some where ever we went and we would never run out.
She contributed to the story a bit and then surprisingly said its fine, and started eating with no more complaints. I was pleasantly surprised. The next morning we woke up early and got ready for a walk.
Lana was walking in the middle between myself and Cathy. She wanted us to swing her, we had just started the walk and I knew it wouldn’t just be 2 swings. So I thought let me give this fantasy skill another try, even though the situation didn’t really call for it.
I said, I wish I could swing back and forwards to get real power and swing her in one big swing all the way to the moon ,which was visible in front of us. And she would land on the moon, she could wave at us from the moon and tell us all about the moon ,and I would wave back.
She added to the story telling us what she would do on the moon. And that was that, she didn’t ask again.
This morning, we were about to leave for school and running very late. I picked up Brian's bottle from on the couch (he’s two and a half years old). It had a little tiny bit of milk left in it so I poured it out and started washing the bottle.
He was super upset and couldn’t think why he was going to be so upset about such a small thing. He cried loud with real tears all the way to the car "I want my lait-lait" "I want my lait-lait"(lait is French for milk). I acknowledged his feelings by saying "So you really want your lait-lait, hey Brian?"
"Yes I want my lait-lait" crying and crying, I did not know what else to do, I could not understand why he was so upset. I was trying to find a reason, a logic, he looked so sad.
I picked him up and hugged him and said "I am so sorry Brian I thought you didn't want any more because you left it on the couch and when you leave it on the couch for me it means that you are finished with it."
He was still crying "I want my lait-lait" but was calming down a bit. I said "Oh! Brian wants his lait-lait badly now. He really wants that bottle to be filled with lait-lait." I was just holding him and saying these things to him.
Then I told him "It does not matter so much Brian, I've got an idea, when we come back from school, I'll make you a big lait-lait, ok? Would you like that?"
"Yes mom". He had calmed down radically. Amazing! Yay!
The watch that Luca had been given came with these red rectangular sheets of paper. Luca had lost his and could not find them. This was around home time and he was tired and he lost the plot. I eventually found one sheet (white and red speckled on one side with plain white on the back).
But it got bad and the crying hysterical. I again decided I know I can handle this differently. My father was saying the usual, ‘Come Luca, stop crying like a baby, that is enough now.. blah blah", you know the usual way we handle things. I told my dad that saying things like that would not help right now and said goodbye and we left.
In the car, Luca was crying and crying. Instead of doing as my dad did, which we are all guilty of, I asked him instead, ‘What are those papers for Luca?” He told me, between breaths of despair, that they are for writing down messages to your friends and then you drop them on their doorsteps of their houses.
I continued to ask more, so what sort of messages would he write and to who and so on and so on. He chatted away, getting less upset, talking about it. I eventually said, "geez, you are really upset that you lost them hey?"
He said he was and he really wanted to have them back. So I suggested that I go to the copy shop the next day and get some new ones cut out the same size. He then rattled off all the instructions to me.. it must be red and white speckled on the one side mom, and plain white on the other, and the exact same size.. blah blah. And when will you have them mom… By the time I finish school etc etc.
I went and got them cut for him later that afternoon and he has them kept in a special bank packet ever since and THAT IS THE END OF THAT STORY!
Isn’t that great!
We went to family dinner. Family had arrived from London bearing gifts. Charmaine bought presents for the boys, but only having an 8 month old herself, she did not know what to buy the cousins here.
She bought the older 2 cousins (Luca and Devon – age 6.5 years old) these battle watches with all these functions and they were a great hit. So much so that Neil (age nearly 4) was devastated he didn’t get one. His robot t-shirt paled in comparison.
He was beside himself, going on and on about the watch and crying and really making me feel very embarrassed. I apologized to Charmaine who was apologizing profusely for creating the situation in the first place. I consciously decided I needed to do something different – dissolve/dilute the situation.
I asked my dad for a pen, sheet of paper and cello-tape. I called Neil and said I was going to draw him a watch that looked just like the ones Luca and Devon had. I called Luca with his watch and I copied the watch as best I could. Neil was intrigued and watched with glee.
I got the cello-tape and I taped the watch to his wrist and told him that his watch could do everything that Luca and Devon’s could. I added the final touch by saying, “and please, Neil, use this watch carefully and do not blow us all up!”
He was so happy, he ran off to play with the other kids using his watch just as they were. I was so chuffed it worked, I glowed with satisfaction at my newly used skill.
I am writing about an example this week which I succeeded in because I was totally amazed. My husband told my kids that we could all go for a bicycle ride in the road – they spent 5 minutes getting dressed with jackets and shoes etc.
Eventually when they stepped out into the road it started bucketing down with rain. My 2 year old son was devastated and really started crying a lot. I started telling him it was raining and he could not go out into rain and ride and get wet. But he was NOT going to stop crying as I could see as he was REALLY disappointed.
So I tried the whole fantasy thing! I said to him, Robert, if you did go riding outside now, would you go up the hill or down the hill first (as we live on middle of hill) – he immediately answered me, “up the hill,” he paused and said, “then Susan and I would race down the hill, and daddy would not know which of us to catch first”……by now he had totally stopped crying and was so interested in telling me about the ride he was going to have!
And that was that – the crying stopped immediately and the incident was over! I was absolutely stunned and delighted !
On Monday I arrived at my children's new school 15 minutes early to pick up my boys. While I waited, I decided to read the notes from the course. Time came to fetch my boys and so all inspired from the notes, off I went.... As I approached Sammy before we had a chance to greet one another he asked:
Sammy: “Am I going to my old school to say goodbye on Wednesday?”
Me: “ yes”
Sammy: “I am not going!”
Me: “ but we have to go... We are just going to go and say goodbye, we will not stay for long”
Sammy: “I DON’T WANT TO GO AND YOU CAN’T MAKE ME”
Me: “Come on it’s the right thing to do and I have made the arrangements already so we are going.”
Sammy: “I am not going!”
Well that set the mood for our beautiful scenic drive home over Ou Kaapseweg. Needless to say it was like squeezing blood out of a stone to find out how the day went at school. Later on that afternoon I was preparing dinner when I had a “light bulb” moment. I realized that there was something about his old school whether it be an emotion, a person or the environment that did not make him feel good.
When he came to ask me something I sat down with him:
Me: “You know what, I think I know why you do not want to go say goodbye at your old school” , he looked at me curiously, I continued “you do not get a good feeling in your tummy when you think of your old school?”
Sammy: “yes, I don’t”
Me: “ok, now I understand. When we go I will be with you. We can take some delicious doughnuts and give your gift to your teacher, say goodbye to your class and that is all you have to do”
Sammy: “ ok”
We went to Sammy’s old school and when he arrived he got a huge wonderful welcome from all the boys. He really felt very special and was very happy to have gone to say his goodbye.
During one of our workshops on Supporting Independence, we were brainstorming the qualities we would like to instill in our children. After going through all obvious ones of independence, tolerance, respect, caring etc, a father put in as an after thought, “I would like my children to feel sexy in the sense of them feeling good about themselves.”
We all chuckled at this and wondered how we could develop this sense in our children. A week later a mother came in with this story:
“My child was diagnosed with global developmental delay. At four she had the mentality of a two year old and at eight years old I still treat her like a four year old. I resent the fact that my daughter “expects” me to dress her.
Just recently I decided to get up earlier. I put out 2 sets of clothes and told Tasneem to choose one and then sat watching her while she proceeded to dress herself.
Okay, so the pants weren’t on straight, the buttons not 100%, but Tasneem was so obviously proud of her achievement, that I found myself being naturally encouraging, regardless of the time factor.
Soon I gave her the option of choosing her own clothes from the cupboard. I was sitting in the living room when in she walked, stood in front of my family and myself and said, “Look at me everyone. I’m sexy.”
The chores of a township child are very different to those of a rich suburb child. But are the skills used to get both these children to cooperate the same?
A short clip on this: 1 minute