Encouraging Resiliency

So last night, I was lucky enough to listen in on a tele-class put on by the Positive Discipline Association.  The speaker was Glenda Montgomery, a certified Positive Discipline facilitator and lead trainer.  The title of the class was Building Resiliency in Our Kids and I signed up for it to keep PD fresh in my brain, both as a parent and facilitator.  It was only an hour long and it was fantastic.  The great thing about these tele classes is that you can sign up to listen to the call live, or you can sign up and download the call to listen to later.  I think this is a really flexible way to share information with busy parents...

So building resiliency in kids....  What does that look like?  When I think of resiliency, I think of someone who can roll with the punches, doesn't sweat the small stuff, someone who is easy going.  I think of a child who isn't beaten down by not winning a game, but instead learns from the experience and is ready to try again.  Does this make me think of my kids?  Not so much.

We love our kids, right?  We know what it feels like to be angry, sad, disappointed, and we want to protect our kids from those emotions - or maybe we want to protect ourselves from the meltdowns that accompany those emotions....  Well, it turns out this is a huge mistake.  When we protect our kids from these emotions we are sending the message that we don't have faith that they can handle the emotions.  Not only that, we are robbing kids or the opportunity to learn how to self-sooth, how to get over it, how to move on.

I love the faith part.  How powerful it must feel for a child to know that their parent believes in them, in their ability to handle challenges, solve problems, feel better.  But it is hard to be a parent and watch our kids live through disappointment and sadness.  We want to fix everything!

Last night this played out beautifully...  When I finished with my tele class, I came into the living room and observed Ian in a bit of a rage, and Ben (husband) and Rowan playing Battleship.  Ian was clearly mad and carrying on about how Battleship was his game and he didn't want anyone else playing with it.  When I suggested other things he and I could do together I was met with a loud, "No!"  Hmmm, I thought, how can I help Ian to live through this moment and turn it around.  What can I do?  

I decided to try one of the techniques that was talked about in the tele class - listening for understanding.  So I said, "Ian, it sounds like you are feeling really mad because Rowan and Daddy are playing your game and you wish they would stop."  He looked at me and said, "yeah."  I didn't say anything else.  I didn't tell him he should feel better, to get over it, or comment on the fact that Battleship was for everyone to play with.  Yes, I actually kept my mouth shut, not always easy to do. After a minute or so Ian went in to the other room to play with his legos.

Holy cow!  This was awesome!  After a few more minutes I headed into the other room and built legos near Ian.  He had totally turned around his negative emotions and was moving on...  Hip hip hooray!  Could it be that just allowing our kids to live through their emotions, to get to the other side with no help from us, would indeed add to their ability to be resilient?  Well, its a piece of the puzzle anyway.

I had the chance to practice this again at bedtime.  Ben read and sang to Ian while I spent time with Rowan.  As I was leaving Rowan's room I could hear Ian shouting at Ben about his song choice and then saw Ben leave Ian's room commenting on how he didn't like to be kicked.  Hmm....

When I entered his room, Ian whined, "Daddy didn't sing the songs I wanted him to sing!!!"  Now, I knew there was more to it than just that so I asked, "And what did you do?"  "I yelled at him," he said.  Hmm, where do I go from here?  Don't fix, just let him be with his emotions.  "So you are feeling upset because Daddy sang songs you didn't like and you wish he would have sang other songs?"  "Yes," he said. I stood there for a quiet moment then asked, "Would you like me to turn on your music?"  "Yes."

That was it.  I gave him a kiss goodnight and headed downstairs.  About ten minutes later we heard Ian calling to us from his bed.  I encouraged Ben to go upstairs to him, reminding him they had somethings to work out.  When he returned downstairs he told me that the first thing Ian did when Ben walked into his room was to say, "I'm sorry that I yelled at you, Dad."  Aw, closure for both of them.

I'll leave you with a quote from Jane Nelsen, author of Positive Discipline and many other books...
"Social skills do not come without practice and there will be many yelps of complaint and tearful faces.  But, if adults can focus not on playing rescuer or referee but on nurturing healthy children who feel influential and capable, and who can achieve a sense of belonging, then they will be helping children acquire the social skills they need to thrive in the world of relationships."

I for sure want my kids to thrive in the world of relationships.  Encouraging them to be resilient will help them be better prepared for that world...