0

Broadcasting from home

My 6 year old got his leg injured while he was practising sports. Unfortunately, the injury happened just before a school sport’s event and he was not able to fully take part in it, although it was clear that he certainly tried his best.

However, after this, he became increasingly preoccupied with not having won a prize and I noticed that his self confidence seemed to have been quite shaken too.

I wanted to help, but I knew that offering him a speech or a lecture probably wouldn’t go down very well. Instead, I chose play, a language that we both speak fluently!

Thursday, one week later: broadcasting from home

The following Thursday he was playing in the pool with a ball, doing funny tricks that involved a lot of physical activity. I watched him for a while and then grabbed the first toy I found around. I held it as if it was a microphone. Pretending to be a sportscaster, I put on a funny voice and started to give a running commentary of what he was doing.

When he failed, I pointed out that he didn’t ever abandon the challenge, no matter how difficult it proved to be.

And when he succeeded, I applauded the effort that he’d put in that had led to the result.

He played along and, after a while, he smilingly asked me to present him with a trophy.

I made a drawing. On that drawing I wrote:

“Congratulations for taking good care of your body.”

He looked surprised when I offered him this drawing, but then he got it. The reason he does sports really is to keep fit and healthy, not to be the first, second or last. That last bit, winning and losing, is merely a detail.

Saturday, later that week: everybody go surfing

Later that week we were having special time, and he chose a game where he plays at being a surfer. I was to be his competitor, he told me.

As we played, the challenges became more and more difficult.

Finally, my son announced that he had to surf through a hurricane. He managed to surf through perfectly safely, while I had to quit the race. In this game, I wasn’t allowed to keep up with my son. He won!

“You lost!,” he told me, looking victorious.

“Haha, I lost,” I said, answering joyfully, “but what a great time we had together,” I added quickly.

“You didn’t get any prize though.”

“Yes, but I still have the sun, the waves and your company, you see. That’s quite enough,” I told him lightly.

He paused for a moment, and then gently comforted me:

“That’s ok, he said. Getting a prize is only tradition.”

I guess he meant that last bit, winning and losing, is merely a detail.

Advertisements
0

Das überraschende Spiel nach der Schule das den Ärger meines Kindes verwandelt hat

Als ich meinen Sohn von der Schule abholte, fiel mir auf, dass er nicht der wie sonst so zärtliche, gesprächige und verspielte Junge war. Stattdessen war er ruhig, wirkte angespannt und lehnte alle meine Versuche zu kommunizieren ab. Als wir Zuhause ankamen, eilte er in sein Zimmer, schloss die Tür und bat ausdrücklich darum, allein gelassen zu werden.

„Niemand darf rein kommen!“ rief er sehr verärgert klingend.

Ich wollte keine Grenzen überschreiten, aber gleichzeitig konnte ich erkennen, dass mein Kind,  das deutlich mit sich selbst zu kämpfen hatte, nicht wusste wie man kommuniziert. Ich wusste, dass es ihm schwer fiel, einen Weg zu finden, um mich zu erreichen.

Also entschied ich, mich ihm vorsichtig zu nähern.

„Ich bleibe in der Nähe,“ teilte ich ihm in einer ruhigen Stimme mit, „ich bleibe gleich hinter deiner Tür“.

Er sagte nichts,  also beschloss ich, ebenfalls nichts mehr zu sagen.

Ich fand einen Zettel und einen Stift und zeichnete ein Herz, darin eine Nachricht:

„Ich liebe dich“ stand darin.

Ich schob den Brief unter seiner Tür hindurch und wartete. Wütend öffnete er seine Tür,  formte meinen Zettel zu einem Ball und warf ihn nach mir. Ich fiel dramatisch zu Boden, machte alberne Geräusche und er schloss eilig seine Tür.

Aber ich war nicht abgeschreckt. Ich fand einen anderen Zettel, zeichnete ein neues Herz und schrieb eine neue Nachricht.

„Ich liebe dich – komme, was wolle.“

Das Szenario wiederholte sich von selbst: Ich schob den Brief unter der Tür hindurch, wartete darauf, von dem Papierball „attackiert“ zu werden und fiel, mit viel Komödien Drama, zu Boden.

Und nur eine Sache änderte sich: Ein Lächeln erschien im Gesicht meines Sohnes.

Das fühlte sich vielversprechend an. Also versuchte ich es noch einmal. Ich nahm meinen Zettel, zeichnete ein Herz und schrieb eine Nachricht:

„Ich liebe dich die ganze Zeit!“

Die Tür öffnete sich und als mein Sohn einen neuen zerknüllten Zettel nach mir warf, sagte ich schnell: „Hey! Meine Briefe wollen zurück in dein Zimmer!“

Ich warf zwei andere Papierbälle zurück in sein Zimmer.

Die Stimmung änderte sich und das Spiel änderte sich.

IMG_6538

Nun hatten wir eine Papierball – Schlacht. Er versuchte die Bälle aus seinem Zimmer heraus zu bekommen,  während ich versuchte, sie rein zu bekommen.

Ich habe oft mein Ziel verfehlt, sehr zu seinem Vergnügen.  Lächeln und Gekicher fingen an hoch mit unseren selbstgemachten Papierbällen zu fliegen.

Unser Spiel wirkte wie Magie,  verwandelte Zorn und Distanz in Gelächter und Verbundenheit.

In dem Buch „Listen: Five Simple Tools to Meet Your Everyday Parenting Challenges“ erinnern uns die Autoren Patty Wipfler und Tosha Schore daran, dass „Ein unverbundenes Kind sich wie das hartnäckigste, pingeligste, wehleidigste, undankbarste, aggressivste oder überaktivste Kind der Welt aufführen kann“.

Quengelei und Zorn sind schwierig für Eltern. Wir können sie als undankbar, manipulativ und sogar als gemein interpretieren, Patty und Tosha erklären sie aber als visuelle Hinweise dafür, dass unser Kind sich schlecht fühlt. Was sie uns zeigen ist, dass der für logisches Denken und Kommunikation verantwortliche Teil des Gehirns stillgelegt ist. „Was ein individuelles Elternteil nicht sehen kann, ist dass Kinder auf der ganzen Welt ihren Eltern exakt die selben Signale senden. Die Botschaft ist: „Emotionale Notlage! Ich fühle mich nicht verbunden!“. Dies wird im Verhalten, nicht in Worten vermittelt.

Wenn wir die lückenhafte Nachricht deines widerspenstigen Kindes übersetzen würden, würde der ordentlich ausgedruckte Zettel meinen:

„Liebe Mama oder lieber Papa:

Danke, dass du meinen Zettel empfängst. Ich bemühe mich sehr, deine Liebe zu spüren, aber ich kann es einfach nicht. Es macht mir Angst, mich so weit entfernt zu fühlen. Würdest du dich bitte, so früh wie für dich möglich, hinsetzen und mich zu dir einladen? Können wir ein wenig Spaß haben oder könntest du wenigstens deinen Arm um mich legen, sodass ich zumindest eine Chance habe, deine Liebe zu spüren? Bitte halte mich auf einer netten Weise davon ab, unartige Dinge zu tun – ich will wirklich keine Probleme verursachen. Deine Hilfe wird Dinge so viel besser machen.

Ich liebe dich bis ins Unendliche!

Dein (vorübergehend) weit entferntes Kind.“

******

Dieser Beitrag wurde von Cornelia Dewald übersetzt.

0

The After-School Game that Saved the Day

When I picked up my son from school it was clear to me that he was not his usual affectionate, talkative and playful self. Instead, he was silent, seemed tense and rejected all of my bids for connection. Once we got home, he rushed into his room, closed his door and clearly announced that he wanted to be left by himself.

“No one is allowed to come in!,” he stated, sounding very angry.

I didn’t want to cross boundaries, but I was able to recognise, at the same time, that my child, who was clearly struggling, didn’t know how to communicate. I knew that he was having a hard time finding a way to reach out to me.

So I decided to gently reach out to him.

“I’ll be nearby,” I announced in a light voice, “I’ll be just behind your door.”

He didn’t answer so I figured I shouldn’t say much either.

I found a piece of paper and a pencil and I drew a heart with a message inside it:

“I love you,” it said.

I slipped the letter under his door and waited. He angrily opened the door, made a ball out my note and threw it at me. I fell dramatically on the floor, making silly noises, and he hurriedly closed his door.

But I wasn’t put off. I found another piece of paper, drew another heart, and wrote a message again.

“I love you no matter what.”

The scenario repeated itself: I slipped the letter under the door, waited for the paper ball ‘attack’ and fell, with plenty of comedy drama, on the floor.

And just one thing changed: A smile appeared on my son’s face.

That felt encouraging. So I tried one more time. I got my paper, drew a heart, and wrote a message:

“I love you all the time.”

The door opened and, as my son threw a newly scrunched paper ball at me, I said quickly:

“Hey! My letters want to go back to your room!”

I threw two other paper balls back into his room.

The mood changed and the game changed.

paper

Now we were paper ball play fighting. He tried to get the balls out of his room, while I attempted to get them inside.

I often missed my target, much to his obvious delight, and smiles and giggles started to fly high along with our handmade paper balls.

Our game worked like magic, transforming anger and disconnection into laughter and connection.

In the book Listen: Five Simple Tools to Meet Your Everyday Parenting Challenges, authors Patty Wipfler and Tosha Schore remind us that “a disconnected child can behave like the most stubborn, picky, whiny, ungrateful, aggressive or overactive child on earth.”

Whining and anger is difficult on parents. We can interpret it as ungrateful, manipulative, even mean, but as Patty and Tosha say, these are visual cues that our child is feeling badly. What they do show us is that the part of the brain responsible for reasoning and communication is in shutdown mode. “What an individual parent can’t see is that children around the world send exact same signals to their parents. The message is: “Emotional emergency! I don’t feel connected!” It’s sent in behaviors, not words,” they say in the book.

“If we translated your scrappy, unruly child’s message, the neatly printed note would say:

Dear Mom or Dad:

Thank you for receiving my note. I am trying hard to feel your love, but I just can’t. It scares me to feel so far away. Would you please, at your earliest convenience, sit down and invite me to be with you? Can we have a little fun, or could you at least put your arms around me so I have half a chance of feeling your love? Please stop me nicely so I don’t do nutty things – I really do not want to create problems. Your help will make things so much better.

I love you to infinity!

Your (temporarily) far-away child.”

0

One clean enough emotional backpack and a face nicely painted :)

In her talk on “Supporting Parents in Raising Boys”, Tosha Schore, Hand in Hand Trainer, parent coach and writer mentioned, as a characteristic of children’s emotional intelligence, “the capacity to self-regulate”. I loved how she defined this quality, in a genuine Hand in Hand way: she explained that, when “the child has a cleaned out enough emotional backpack, when he gets triggered, he is still able to think clearly enough to get out of the upsetting situation without hurting anybody else”.

What does “a clean enough emotional back pack” means? I believe that it means that, along time, the child was listened to with warmth and respect by his parent, during his best and his worst. It means that parent fostered a strong sense of connection with his child, remaining warm and engaged while setting limits that make sense and expressing reasonable expectations, without threatening or punishing the child.

This introduction being made, I would like to report a little success, that I would like to believe that indicates that my boy is on his way of acquiring, step by step, the capacity to self-regulate.

He had been troubled for quite a while. He was just starting school, a new school… and all this change (a new environment, new colleagues, new teachers) triggered some of his old separation fears. Sometimes he expressed his fears openly, just naming them. (“I wish you could teach me, mommy, I do not like being away from you.” – he told me once.) Some other times, he simply went off track.

Like this Saturday morning when he kept pestering the dog. He needed my limit, so I went on and set it. Without blaming or shaming him. Just preventing him to continue.

He got angry with me and attempted to hit me, instead. I didn’t allow him to do so, setting yet another limit.

I saw him getting more and more upset and expected the worse, really.

But all that he did was to tell me, in a angry voice: “OK! Then we’ll have some special time right away and I will paint your face”. I agreed and he started. Furiously, at first, but getting calmer and calmer, as he continued. At the end of our ten minutes, we were both laughing wholeheartedly.

 

The morning ran smoothly afterwards: he even wanted to dance with me and asked for a family photo to be taken; the dog was as well included in this photo, I might add.

So instead of melting down, my son was able to recognise that he needed connection and asked for it, naming it “special time”. The result was a lovely, relaxed morning, that we were all able to enjoy.

I will end this anecdote with a quote from the book “Listen”, co-written by Patty Wipfler, the founder of Hand in Hand Parenting and Tosha Schore:

Want your child to be a good friend to others? Build his sense of connection. Want him to be brave? Nurture his sense of connection. Want him to be able to amuse himself part of the time? Plump up his sense of connection. Want him to know right from wrong? Keep restoring his sense of connection. He’ll learn to catch himself before whomping on a friend in anger, or sneaking the guinea pig in his room and losing it there.

0

A Fondness and Admiration Exercise :)

My son has first shown his concern through play. We were having special time and I was his old cat, one that he was afraid that might die soon. Not long after that, he started to ask specific questions: about my grandfather, who passed away and about a dog that I used to have.

And, when I got stung by a bee, he went ahead and expressed his fear openly:

  • Will you die, mommy?

No, I was not going to die because a bee stung me.

His questions haven’t stopped there. Who would take care of him, if I would die, he wondered. So we spoke about the big and caring family that we are blessed with. I also mentioned the fact that I plan on being around for a long time. And that I am actually actively working on that: that is why we are careful what we eat, that is why we spend so much time outdoors and that is why we take all those long walks. All these things that we purposely do are meant to help us lead long and healthy lives.

In addition to that, I paid extra-attention to all those things he was already able to do by himself: each time he succeeded to independently accomplish something, I made sure to notice and appreciate his effort and the outcome. And I have also started to set more limits about the help that I would otherwise keep offering unnecessarily.

I used to help him with his pajama before bed, for instance, although he didn’t need that. So I decided to stop doing that.

  • I would like you to try and put your PJ’s on by yourself, sweetie.

I stayed close and lovingly listened to him, while he cried and protested. And I picked up the PJ’s when he threw them away, reassuring him that I will stay by his side:

  • I’ll be right here with you, while you try.

We kept this routine for several nights in a row, until he eventually accepted the change.

  • I’ll get changed by myself, he told me one evening. But would you at least come along so you can ADMIRE me? 🙂

And yes, he had my full admiration, this wonderful boy of mine. For being brave to ask questions and face his fears and also for teaching me to say an honest “no”, even when I wanted to “fool time” and do things as if he was still my sweet little baby. Except that he is no longer that small. He turned out to be this strong, independent, smart and capable young person, who makes me so proud to call myself his mother.

4

Monday Blues

Monday morning, 6:45 am:

It is not the alarm-clock and I cannot hit “snooze”.

This is, in fact, my son. Crying.

  • What’s wrong, sweetheart?
  • Please don’t make me go, I don’t want to go….

I breathe a sigh of relief: no, he’s not sick. Not again. He just doesn’t want to go to the kindergarten, that’s all.

Set the limit and then listen carefully.” – my mind whispers to me. “Thank you, mind.” – I answer politely. “Although, being my mind, you’re well aware I haven’t had coffee yet, aren’t you?” – I briefly inquire.

And then I proceed.

7:15 am:

Things are under control. I’m getting really good at this stay-listening thing, you see.

I can even fix some breakfast now.

  • You are SO bad! You are such a BAD mother! Why do you have to make me go?

I still got good reflexes, so I prevent getting kicked by the toy he has just thrown at me.

Proud of my self-defense skills, I playfully inquire:

  • Are you, young man, messing with the queen of wrestling? Are you, indeed?

It turns out that he does. So we start showing off our strength. Mine, obviously, resides in making goofy faces and falling over. A lot. Which makes him giggle. Yay! 🙂

7:30 am:

I’m happy. He seems happy too.

But, then again… more crying follows!

I listen. I mean, really listen. His fear is real. His tears are real. This is my son, trusting me, showing me how he feels. And I honor the chance that he offers me, that of being there for him. We’re together in this.

7: 45 am:

  • How about having some Special Time, sweetheart?

He agrees and I set the timer for only five minutes, we are late already.

For the first time in our “special time history”, he chooses to spend those minutes wrapped up in my arms. He whispers something to himself. I cannot understand the words, but my heart melts.

8:30 am:

He cries when we arrive at the kindergarten and, when I get to leave, I cannot stop thinking that nothing, but absolutely nothing worked for us this morning. I am discouraged and sad and dispirited.

And yet…

12:00 am:

  • He had a WONDERFUL day today!his teacher informs me. He has been so present, so focused and active!

He looks happy and proud as he shows me some Easter decoration he worked on.

And then he starts talking about his day.

0

Jane, the Snake’s Charmer :)

Saturday evening. Bed time, more specifically. Which usually equals with never ending discussions about the way we have spent our day, followed by a bed time story, some giggles and cuddling. And yet, this evening my son wouldn’t even look at me. Something bothers him and I try asking him what that is. He wouldn’t answer though. He just shows a distressed little face. I do not insist.

Next morning, when the Special Time’s moment comes, he chooses to play an adaptation of “Tarzan of the Apes”. In his version of the story, there is no Tarzan though! However, I get to play Jane; I am a snakes’ tamer and I have these special powers: I can hypnotize snakes only by playing music to them. My son chooses to play the role of cobras (lots and lots of them).

When the cobras attempt to attack Jane, she charms them, then she feeds them with really good, nutritious food; when the cobras cease to be dangerous, she builds this wonderful shelter for them. As a result, the cobras turn into the most loving and protecting beings she has ever met.

snakescharmer

Later that day, when I expected the least, my son asked:

  • Still want to know why I was upset last evening?
  • Absolutely! – I answered, without any hesitation.
  • I thought about my orange plastic snake. And I imagined that it came to life and bit you. I didn’t want to be left without a mommy. – he added.

Do you remember the story? Tarzan’s mother died soon after giving birth to her son and, later on, a giant ape killed Tarzan’s father too. I haven’t realized how frightening that story could be to a five year old until my son invited me to explore that together, during our Special Time, this “active form of listening, in which our child’s play becomes his vehicle for telling us about his life and perceptions”[i].

[i] Patty Wipfler, “Special Time”