You are such an awesome Mama! You are working so hard and thinking so well! And really wanting to figure this out. Yeah you!
It’s great you are going to take this to Listening Time. I think we want to be able to think well about when we set a limit and when we don’t. There is great value in keeping one’s commitments and there is also great value in being able to say ‘no’ and end a commitment. I’m sure you know plenty of adults who stay at jobs too long, relationships too long, etc. ‘trying to make it work’. The bottom line is that WE want to be able to think well and we want our kiddos to be able to think well.
Thus, I think that whether or not they actual keep their agreement is less important than the feelings that might be driving their reluctance or their desire to quit. I have an anxious kiddo and when he was young, I thought it was my job to ‘honor’ his reluctance. I had to learn that it can be quite valuable to SET A LIMIT or EXPECTATION and LISTEN TO FEELINGS. By the way, I encourage you to listen to the replay of the call today. At the end we had a great conversation about the way that Setting Limits and listening to feelings of disappointment or anxiety actually creates new neural pathways in our kiddo’s brain. Their brain/nervous system experiences moving through the disappointment, releasing it in tears, tantrums, laughter, etc. and this creates the neural pathway in the brain that says, “I can feel disappointed and I’m not going to die”. Good stuff!
So first YOU – how to get underneath what’s happening in the present and get to the feelings. While we can talk about what ever we want during Listening Partnerships, I think the real power in an LP is to get to the feelings, memories and old hurts UNDERNEATH the tough time that we had today or last night. Brain science tells us that when we get angry, frustrated, feel powerless, etc. that OLD HURTS and old feelings of powerlessness from the past are being RESTIMULATED. Although you might start out talking about the present, the faster you can get to the PAST, the easier it will be to get to what’s underneath the present feelings, and the easier it will be to CRY, LAUGH, TREMBLE, SWEAT, YAWN. Those are all physical signs that we are actually releasing the old hurts and we are healing. When we release and heal the OLD hurts, we don’t get RESTIMULATED so easily. You’ll be able to think better about this situation.
Here is a list I’ve compiled on how to help ourselves get to FEELINGS.
1) Put yourself in a private space where you cannot be heard and you can move around. Sometimes both are not possible. I often get LT in my car. But I have gotten up on all 4s in my front seat in order to try to release my back and move a bit.
2) Ask your partner for what you need, i.e. -please talk less or please act like my child and whine, etc.
3) SKIP THE DETAILS, SKIP THE DETAILS, SKIP THE DETAILS – your partner doesn’t need to know. Talking ‘about’ a situation often helps us avoid the feelings.
4) Make sounds instead of talking. The limbic part of your brain, where the emotions and memories are stored does not have access to language. If you are talking, talking, talking you are still in your cortex and have not dropped into your limbic brain. Just making sounds can help you access your limbic brain and the feelings that reside there.
5) Move your body, especially SHAKE – for the same reason as above
6) Follow your stream of consciousness thinking from your limbic brain. Don’t try to make sense of what’s coming up and out (see ‘skip the details’ above) I tend to think ‘in pictures’ so I just follow the pictures.
7) Ask YOURself questions like, “what’s underneath this?” “What does this remind me of from childhood?” “When did I feel powerless as a child?” Keep digging and mining the past so you can have a good hard cry or laugh about it.
8) Avoid glossing over the past. Was it really fine? Avoid explaining, justifying or apologizing for yourself or someone else. Your partner is holding the thought that you are good and everyone you are taking about did the best they could at the time. You don’t have to flip back and forth having your feelings, then apologizing for your feelings.
9) Keep your listening time as sacred as possible – no ‘chit chat’ before/after you do your exchange. You can certainly chit chat and socialize at other times, but socializing during LT tends to erode the safety.
You might explore what was it like taking classes when you were small. Were you ever allowed to quit something? Did you have to stay in a class, job, school, relationship even though you hated it? There are also questions you can ask yourself about the present that might lead you to the past. 2 of my favorites are: What’s the fear? ie, my child will grow up to be…. OR when my child quits, other people will think ……. That leads me to my 2nd question: What does this mean about ME? The 2nd question in particular can lead to our old feelings of powerlessness.
Working on general POWERLESSNESS when we were small can be very powerful! You can skip over all the details about your daughter and go right to: What made me feel small and powerless? When did I feel small, not seen, not enough and powerless. Really good stuff!!
Here’s the thing about LPs – it is not meant to be an analytical discussion or even analytical monologue. The more feelings we can clear out of our emotional backpack, the more access we have to our creativity, problem solving and natural intelligence. We may not come to any decision during our LP. In fact, Patty often says, ‘you don’t have to figure anything out this red not minute‘. The aha or light bulb moment may come later. Or you may never get a light bulb moment. Your daughter may shift because suddenly, YOU are more relaxed around the subject of commitments. I’ve experience that with my son over and over again.
Here are 2 great Listening Partnerships stories about a Mom losing patience with her daughter’s anxiety and one about keeping commitments. Just what you are asking about…
Now, as for your daughter and those darn commitments… Because you’ve gotten listening time and you are super relaxed around whether she actually goes to the class that day, you can hold the Limit/expectation and let her tantrum, cry, beg, threaten,… as you simply LISTEN with great love and reassurance that ‘yes, she can do this’. BUT in order for her limbic system to feel safe enough to really work on and release her anxiety, you have to not care whether she goes or not. The point of BRINGING the expectation is so she can work on feelings, NOT to make her go to the class or event.
Here are some success stories.
Laura, I know I’ve given you a lot. As Patty says, you don’t have to decide anything this red hot minute. and you definitely do NOT have to be consistent. We bring a limit and listen when we know that we will have the time, space and capacity to listen. You don’t have to worry if you insist one time and then let her stay home the next time, that you are sending the wrong message. The commitment thing is most likely a PRETEXT anyway – an opportunity to work on fear. You can trust that the next time you say ‘yes, you have to go. you can do it’ that she’ll work on another chunk. It might only take one meltdown. It might take a few, but together, you two will figure this out!
Peace & Smiles,
Hand in Hand Certified Instructor
Conscious Child-raising Creating Cooperation and Peace
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“If we are to teach real peace in the world, we shall have to begin with children” – Gandhi