Thursday, October 21, 2010

Good Night Moon

I first heard about Bedtimes are for Suckers from a colleague who posted a link on Facebook. She asked what people thought of this blog, which is billed as “a preschooler fed up with being exploited by her mom’s ‘mommy blog’ tells her side of the story.” The responses on Facebook were almost evenly split between people who thought the blog was hysterically funny or a reflection of their world and others who thought it was at best crude and at worst horribly wrong.

The first photograph you see at the site is a preschooler in large sunglasses with her arms folded across her chest and her feet firmly planted. She emanates the classic power struggle response, “I don’t want to and you can’t make me” or “just try and make me.” The next photo is the same young child holding up her left hand with the middle finger extended under the post entitled “5 Reasons I Don’t Want to Go to Bed (So Get Off my Ass)”. It is explained elsewhere that the gesture was photoshopped. Other posts include the following phrases in the titles: “Idiotic Parents,” “WTF is that on My Plate,” and “Mommy Put Down the Goddamn iPhone.”

Here is what I like about Bedtimes are for Suckers – The piece about moms and iPhones from the perspective of a child is brilliant in concept.

Here is what I don’t like about Bedtimes are for Suckers:
• The tone is hostile, sarcastic and manipulative. The language is crude. The purpose of the blog is to fight, so it does not create closeness or connection.
• If a parent envisions his child thinking or behaving like this, it will become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
• Thinking of children in these terms is not in the best interest of your relationship with your child.
• Children do not think like this. This is adult language, beliefs and attitudes being attributed to a child.
• Karen Deerwester, author of The Entitlement-Free Child and owner of Family Time Inc, said the blog is “a celebration of a precocious attitude that a child has learned.” The child has learned this behavior, and adults have permitted the behavior to persist.
• The blog feels pornographic to me in that a child is exploited even as the blog claims to be fighting exploitation. The child is not a fully consenting participant in this endeavor even though thoughts, behaviors, beliefs and attitudes are attributed to the child.
• There are no solutions to problems or improvements in the relationships. There is no desire for solutions or improvements in the relationships.
• Our children do what works, and mom does not take responsibility for her child’s behavior. The sarcasm is actually blaming the child for mom’s lack of leadership.
• Family life does not have to be this way.

I checked out if I had somehow left my sense of humor aside when reading the blog. A few lines did make me laugh. The presentation of a child and the relationship between a parent and child in such a corrupt light simply did not hold any humor for me and I’m OK with that.

Personally, I think bedtime is for everybody.

Goodnight room. Goodnight red ballon. Goodnight moon. Sleep tight.

Friday, October 8, 2010

The Feelings Behind the Words

One of the most helpful suggestions in the Redirecting Children’s Behavior™ course is to look for the feelings behind a child’s words and actions. When discovering and understanding the feelings are your top priority, it is easier to separate the “deed” from the “doer” so that your response is helpful, calm and non-reactive even when your child may be out of control. Your response is directed towards your child learning a different way of doing what he is doing rather than becoming a statement about his character. Your response honors your relationship.

Two triggers that can quickly escalate a conversation into an argument are “never” and “always”. The use of either of those words, particularly if they are describing someone else’s behavior – “You never clean up your room” – do not solve problems. Imagine a scenario in which you’ve said “no” to a request from your daughter to spend the night at a friend’s house. She responds angrily, “You never let me go anywhere!” If you were to quickly react, you might become defensive, seeking to provide evidence of how that isn’t true. You might prove how wrong she is by tossing out all of the times that you said “yes” to her requests. The interaction could easily become a heated power struggle with you thinking she is ungrateful for what you do and your daughter feeling like you do not understand her.

Instead, look for her feelings behind her words. She is striking out because she is disappointed and angry. Looking at her feelings behind her words allows you to respond lovingly and effectively. Your response can then be, “You sound very disappointed. You must have really wanted to spend the night at Lisa’s house.” That will not be the end of the conversation, and it can be the end of the power struggle.

The same holds true for “always.” Imagine that your child says, “You always tell me what to do. You are not the boss of me!” If you look at the feelings behind the words, you will see a classic power struggle in which your child is proving that you are not the boss of him. He may be feeling powerless or over-powered. Your response can then be, “You are right! I am not the boss of you. You are the boss of you.” Again, that will not be the end of the conversation, and it can be the end of the power struggle.