Deep down I have always known this but sometimes, okay, many times, my actions would not have lead anyone to believe it, least of all myself!
This standpoint or perspective however, has been pivotal to me really being able to bring about positive changes in my children’s behavior. It is also a work in progress, as it is only as good as I am at implementing my own change process.
Here’s the deal and I truly believe this:
- If I want my kids to stop being controlling, I have to stop feeding it. My kids can’t control anyone if there is no-one to control. I have to control myself, change my approach and drop the rope so that I don’t get drawn into battle with them
- If I want my kids to listen without me shouting, then I have to change what I am doing: stop shouting. When I stop shouting and change my approach, they might just change theirs and start to listen
- If I want my kids to be less defensive, I have to be less defensive with them. I have to control myself and change my approach so that I don’t get hauled into the argument
Whatever it might be, in order for me to parent well and see changed patterns of behavior in my children, I am the one who has to change my approach first. I am the parent and in most situations, I do know better although there are times when anyone watching me would question that!
Having read “Change the World” by Robert Quinn the concept of self-change has become even clearer to me. He believes that the key to effective change starts first with our journey in changing ourselves.
In this excellent book, Quinn recalls a story about a woman who came to him seeking help in managing a relationship in her work place.
“My boss is driving me crazy” she told him
“Your boss?” he replied questioningly.
“Yes, and he just doesn’t change!” she went on.
Quinn explained to her that it was really herself who was driving her crazy and the only thing that he believed she could do would be to change her approach with her boss.
She did this and judging by the comments from other members of the team, her boss was a “changed man!”
In changing our approach we will bring about a change in the response and deep, profound, sustainable change can only really happen with success when it comes from the inside out.
I’ve seen this play out many times with my teenager. When I react to his every (entirely normal) teenage moment with the frustration it can bring out of me, it goes nowhere other than push him away from me. If I engage with his impulsive comments, which at times, despite knowing I shouldn’t, I do, we go head to head.
However, I notice that when I change my approach for the better, he changes his. It works every time. The challenge for me it to make sure I choose to nail it with more consistency! This is my work in progress.
The foundation for all meaningful change is self-change. When I change my approach, I have noticed that my children change theirs. I cannot change or control them and nor do I really want to although sometimes I just can’t help myself! I can, however, influence them but the only way I can consistently do this well is to change and control my approach with them.
The effects of this are far reaching. I know and believe that the smallest of things can have the most profound effects and what you focus on grows. I have seen it happen.
A key piece to this being effective is consistency and being able to adopt the changed approach for long enough in order for it to become habit or default.
I have now seen these positive change processes work their “magic” too many times (with myself and with my clients) to know and believe that this is without doubt the way to go when dealing with challenging behavior.
Whether it be from toddlers and their tantrums to teens and their attitude, it is hard work, but believe me, it works!