For the last three weeks when it comes to Saturday it has become a complete nightmare with Sammy. He wakes up and whines and moans and just seems to be unhappy.
It got to a point where it was upsetting the whole family. I asked Sammy on a couple of occasions what it was that was bothering him. Initially he could not figure it out himself, but after a while he was able to verbalize what he was feeling and that he did not enjoy being in the mood that he was in, he just does not enjoy whining and being the way he was.
I listened to him as he explained what he was feeling inside and how he was able to own up to his emotions and that he really wanted to do something about it. So I suggested that he write down a list of things of what he can do to support himself when he feels frustrated as he has been feeling during the weekend lately.
He wrote a list and brought it to me and I told him that this was his and that he must use it to support himself during the weekend. This was also a lovely way for me to see what he would like to do and I said to him that I was more that happy to participate with a couple of the things (not all) he has written on the list.
We will see how it goes this weekend but by me engaging with him and helping him identify what he can do to help himself made him feel not only supported but also empowered.
Liam caught his finger in a lid of a Tupperware, and started to whine. Rather than dismissing him, I asked him lots of questions about the pain, one of which was whether it felt like a crab had pinched him.
The tears stopped instantly, as he was very intrigued by what a crab pinch felt like and he happily carried on a conversation about crabs, and their pinches and when they would pinch etc.
Although I know that this isn’t really acknowledging his emotions, I still did something different and it was better than what I was doing before!
Although not usually bothered by where my son leaves his shoes, I decided I had to try out what I had learnt in session 2 inviting cooperation. My son (Angus) had been unusually compliant and I was running out of time to test the theory out before our next session.
I first told Angus "Sweetie, your shoes are on the floor." and was told "I know Mum, I put them there."
I then gave him the information "But don't shoes live in cupboards or on feet?"
Angus replied " Yes, but not when I take them off to watch tv - then they belong on the floor in a mess." I then came out with "Angus, SHOES!"
To which he replied " Mum, SHOES WHAT?"
So, I made a wrinkled up nose face and put on a strange accent and said, "I am the monster that smells cheesy, stinky shoes and I can smell some in this room. I have to tickle anyone who hasn't put cheesy, sticky shoes away in a cupboard!"
Angus jumped up, ran out the room with his shoes, laughing his little head off and put the shoes in his cupboard.
I duly put a note in the cupboard near his shoes.
Dear Angus. We love this dark, smelly cupboard, please put us back here when you have finished wearing us. Love your cheesy, stinky shoes.
When we put his shoes on the next morning, he was fascinated by the note and asked me what it said. As I told him the giggles began again.
Jason had been sick for a couple of days and had been off school. I told him that he was returning to school the next day, and he said that he didn’t want to go to school. I humoured him, and the conversation went like this:
Me: “but you wouldn’t want to miss playball tomorrow would you?”
Jason “ Oh No – I love playball.”
Me: “ Okay, we will tell your teacher that you are just coming to school for playball, and then you will come home again. But what about show and tell, are you happy to miss that?”
Jason “ Oh no, I want to go to show and tell – and playball, but come home for the other things.”
Me: “ Okay, just for playball, and show and tell, but what about story time?”
And so the conversation continued, until he wanted to be there for everything except for snack time – he decided he would pop home for snack time. We then decided that if he had something fun in his lunchbox it would also definitely be worth staying for that too. It really was a fun conversation, and Jason was laughing and very engaged as he felt very empowered.
It was a great way for him to realise that he in fact loved school, and I didn’t have to do any persuading!
Philip, my younger child, started seeing a girlfriend during the holidays. They went to the movies a couple of times as well as to lunch. I was a little concerned that my older son, Matthew, would tease Philip about Tara and try to embarrass him. Much to my surprise he didn't.
I mentioned this at the workshop and Robin asked me whether I'd let Matthew know that I had noticed his behaviour. I decided to write him a note, praising him, which I did. I've just gone and got the note out of his box where he keeps special things - he still has it 3-4 months later.
Dear Matthew. Since Tuesday - Philip and Tara’s date - I've been thinking a lot about how well you handled this 'new situation'. I wanted to tell you that I noticed how you gave Phil the opportunity to be with Tara without interfering. I have also noticed that since the date has happened, you've once again not intruded on his friendship with her. You've behaved in a very understanding and mature way and I wanted you to know that I've noticed your behaviour and I've been feeling very proud of your maturity. It can be tough growing into a young man. This is certainly an excellent beginning.
love Mom xxxx
This note had a profound effect on Matthew - he suddenly became more sure of himself - not in a cocky way - but in a quietly confident way. He acknowledged the note with a smile and we have never discussed it, but it was one of the most positive interactions I've had with him.
I have been really making a conscious effort to acknowledge my girls this week. One day when I needed to take Lucy to an appointment straight after school I asked Belinda if she would stay home with Zuki, our Domestic.
Belinda doesn’t really like being left behind and usually kicks up a bit of a fuss but she agreed in the end. I fully expected her to fall asleep but when we got back she was wide awake and had been playing happily for a couple of hours on her own.
I especially thanked her for playing so nicely while we were out and told her that I thought that was really patient of her. She said: ‘Okay, mom’, but it seemed like she was quite chuffed. What has been interesting is that in the days since then if I have to quickly pop out she has been a lot more accommodating and instead of a whole long discussion, she just says, ‘okay, but don’t be too long!’.
Have you said this before in an attempt to gert your children to eat or pack away?
- "Do you know how many children there are in the world who do not have food?"
- "How would you like it if I gave all your toys away to the children who don't have any toys? maybe that would teach you to look after them."
Length: 1 minute
This interview is part of longer one on SAFM radio. The longer one can be heard here
Overall this past week has actually emphasised the ‘’fun’’ in parenting and that I don’t always have to be so serious and it has also shifted my conditioned belief that conflict is ‘’bad’’ and I should rather ‘’avoid’’ it at any cost and hence compromise on my boundaries to an awareness that conflict is rather a challenging source for development.
Reflecting back I’m realizing that being a divorced parent and only having Johanna 2 days a week, I have probably been overcompensating and even succumbing on a level to Johanna’s needs, wants and desires purely for happiness.
I want her time with Dad to be filled with love, fun and a happy environment. I find myself at times backing down in particular situations to gain this. I realize this works short term, but can be damaging in the long term.
An example of this…. Johanna was eating a naartjie in the lounge, she peeled it and tossed the peels on to the coffee table, some hitting and landing others fell on the floor. She then also spat the pips, trying to hit the table, most landing around the table onto the floor.
We were getting ready to leave for mom’s house and I walked past and asked her to pick them up, she replied she needed help. I told her it was her mess clean up. I continued to get ready. After a while I walked past and said “Naartjie peels!”
She ignored me. Now time to go so I just cleaned it up to keep the peace. And I wonder why she doesn’t want to clean her room? …hmmmm I find that the 2 days I have Johanna fly by, and find myself a little behind the rest of the group in the workshop, this doesn’t concern me, and am happy to slow it down and work at my own pace.
I was invited to attend a pre-school groups’ ‘camp fire evening’. The 6 year old group came together on a Friday evening to eat boerewors rolls around a fire and sing songs at school. Each child also needed to bring a torch as the school lights would be turned off later in the evening.
It was a beautiful evening and the children were very excited and ran around the garden exploring the darkness with their torches. Soon enough a young boy came over holding out his torch which had fallen and had stopped working. He was crying.
“Well you’ll have to share with someone else then, Gary.”
“But I don’t want to!” Gary managed to sob out.
“Well, Gary, it’s broken and there’s nothing we can do about it. Crying won’t do you any good, but smiling sometimes does.”
“My mom will be really angry. Its my new torch.”
“Come now Gary, we are going to light the sparklers soon.”
More sobbing while trying to shake the torch into operation.
“Gary, your tears will put the lights out. Don’t ruin our evening. Look, Liam’s torch doesn’t work either and he isn’t crying.”
By now I was about to take the torch and smash it over the teacher’s head hoping to shake her into decent operation.
Later on in the evening, they lit the sparklers. As the children ran around waving the sparklers in the air, one child’s jersey caught alight. She came running over and it was soon put on with no injury.
“Who did this?” shouted the teacher. “Who lit the jersey? Anthony was it you? I saw you were playing close by.”
“No, it wasn’t me. I swear it wasn’t me.”
“Come on everyone. Who was it?”
I don’t know what the teacher had expected to gain by asking that question. The children had been playing around, waving their sparklers and occasionally they bumped into each other. I noticed Anthony looking very uncomfortable. I went over to him and said,
“It looks like it was an accident. Sometimes accidents like this happen easily. I don’t think anyone really meant to burn the jersey.”
Anthony looked at me. He looked a bit surprised but I could see he was sizing me up. He was wondering if I could be trusted.
“It was me, but it was an accident. I didn’t mean it.”
I nodded my head. “Accidents happen, Anthony. It’s okay.”
As your awareness sharpens, and as you find respectful ways to resolve these kinds of issues, it can become unsettling to listen to the communication patterns of our spouses, friends and your child’s teachers. In every workshop the concern comes up of how to convey this awareness to spouses and other relevant people. It brings up dynamics of power, and perhaps new conflict. In the case above, the teacher was the principle of a well-known Cape Town school. Did I feel comfortable in pointing out to her another way of communicating that conveys respect? The thought of it was too uncomfortable.
I've found it very helpful this week to think of ways to achieve the desired outcome with constructive dialogue as outlined in the notes, rather than targeting the child with comments like "you never do this or that" or "why don't you listen when I ask you to do something".
I've found in a couple of situations especially with my 6 year old son that by describing the problem or giving him choices, he seems to respond better than when I blow a fuse at him not obeying my instructions without me having to ask over and over.
My two boys were playing tennis for the first time and the youngest was being a really bad loser. As I was watching, I saw my eldest son relax and allow Phil to win.
Afterwards when Phil had beaten Matthew, he started to show off and I could see Matthew starting to feel angry and wanting to retaliate. I walked over to Matthew said quietly, “I saw what happened on the court - it takes a big person to do what you did to keep the peace”. He immediately smiled and was his old self again and the moment passed.
On our way to school today I asked Cailin what we needed to do with the Barbie (which she had taken from th school the day before) when we arrived at school. She said: “Mommy, when you gone I will speak to Malie, (her teacher) only when you gone”.
I realised that she didn’t want me to support her in this process and at the same time I was a bit nervous that she would not engage Malie around the Barbie incident. I then asked her what she is going to say to Malie, and she replied: “It was an accident. I took the Barbie home”.
As I wanted to complete the process by asking her what we can do next time so that it doesn’t happen again Cailin said: “I will say to Malie, next time I will only hold the Barbie during story time and when we finished I will give it to back”.
As we arrived at school she saw Malie at the tree and she asked me to move away as she wanted to speak to Malie. I wanted to share with Malie around the incident before Cailin does so I said to Cailin tha she must wait here and I will ask Malie to come to her.
I also assured her that I will go and put her bag in the locker so she can have privacy when sharing with Malie. I briefly shared with Malie what happened last night and how Robin dealt with the incident and what Cailin wants to share with her. Malie then walked to Cailin where they had their little meeting.
Later Malie shared with me that Cailin did share that she took the Barbie by accident and that she will ask Malie next time.” I then later asked Cailin how the meeting went, she replied: “She said that next time I must ask then I can take it and bring it back again”.
My four-year-old son has got into the habit of throwing a golf ball against our garage door. We have told him many times not to do so as it may come back and hit him in the face. As I was about to leave to come to the workshop, I heard the knock-knock of the ball against the door and soon a loud howl from my son.
I ran out to see him, fearing the worst as he was holding his eye. I caught myself before I said “I told you you would hurt yourself but you didn’t listen.”
This time I said, “Ouch, that must be really sore. The ball gave you a big fright.” He nodded his head and he calmed down amazingly quickly. My husband came out to see what had happened and was just about to say “How many times did I tell you…” when I gave him a look and said, “Don’t say anything, I’ll explain later.” Amazing.
I want to share a little story with you that made me laugh yesterday. Margaret and I were outside for the first time in a week, it has been so cold and wet on the beach front!
On the ground outside the house there is a patch where grass struggles to grow but clover does well. For the second year Margaret has called this her Radish patch. She pretends to grow and produce radishes and we play games involving harvesting her crop and taking it to sell at market.
Yesterday as she was harvesting she said "Oh I to pee NOW". I said "OK take off your leggings and pee on the grass", knowing that she wasn't going to make it to the loo. As she stood half naked with bent knees she called back "But not on my radishes!", as she pulled back onto the pathway.
I was again reminded that although I am playing with my imagination, she is inhabiting hers.
My young 2 year old son Jacob likes to play with water and to move the water around. He fills his bucket and then empties it somewhere else. This time he was heading for the lounge, so I quickly stopped him and showed him and used the skill of showing him where he could empty his bucket instead and with just as much fun. And it worked!