Thursday, June 30, 2011

Options and Empathy, pt.2

This the second part of a gentle parenting post.  Read part one here.


Henry is a lot like me.  He wants what he wants when he wants it.  He usually wants it right now and then he wants a little more.  He doesn't like people constantly telling him what to do and he likes to do things himself.

Oh, wait.  He sounds like a normal toddler.  And his little sister.  And his mama.  And his daddy.  And pretty much everybody I know, young or old.

Henry is a person, albeit a very short person, and I try my damnedest to treat him with the respect he deserves.

I'm not going to lie.  It's hard to be nice to Henry all the time.  He drives me absolute up the wall on a regular basis.  The tears.  The hysteria.  The pushing down little sister.  Combine his toddlerhoodness with sleep deprivation, the desire to do something I want to do for just one moment, and a busy little baby gets to me eventually and I don't always do right by my little  boy.

But, I try.  I try to remember his brain soaks up everything he sees and hears.  I try to remember if I want him to learn to deal with conflicts in a positive manner, I must consistently model the proper way to deal with stress and conflict.

And, as the adult in the situation, I also try to structure his day so he can succeed in the behavior game.

Enter, my "empathy and options" mantra.

Scenario 1:
Henry is jumping, with his dirty little sandals still on his feet, on my pale yellow chairs.  I was obviously childless when I reupholstered those chairs.....
Ineffective: "Don't jump on the chairs." ----> I know this doesn't work because I've said it a million time.
Effective:  "Henry, I know you like to jump but I would rather you jump on the couch.  Or would you like to go jump on your bed?"
* Ideally, I would rather him jump into the swimming pool but it's a thousand and one degrees outside and we don't have a shady backyard so cut me some slack.

Scenario 2:
After eating breakfast at City Bagel this morning, Henry proceeded to blow water out of his cup's straw onto every surface of our house.
Ineffective:  "Henry, quit spraying that water.  You're making a mess."
Effective:  "Henry, do you want to sit on the back steps with me and spray water on the concrete?"
* It worked like a charm and he quickly tired of spraying the water once he was allowed to do so and moved onto his next activity.

So yeah.  Empathy and options.  I remember with all my might that he is my most special little boy.  I take a deep breath.  And, I give the kid a path to succeeding in which everyone is happy.


Laurin said...


Laura @ our messy messy life. said...

It might be if I were better at it :)

Mollyandollie said...

I figure that with toddlers and infants and tired mamas, if we're able to act with compassion 5% of the time we're doing pretty well. LOL. No, in all seriousness, it is a journey and one that involves human beings. Both them, and us. Being aware of Our actions is a great start and if we can begin to actually put that into practice by changing them then more power to us! AND practice makes perfect, the more you do it, the easier it will get. Now, I am going to gently redirect my two year old from playing baaase-baaaalllll with his umbrella and giant ball in the house.

Lane said...

Great post! I loved your idea about sitting outside and spraying the water. What a great way to think outside the box! I know I need to do that more rather than just tell E what not to do. Thanks for sharing!

Ten said...

brilliant! i love your perspective on how to change how you word things to get him to change his behavior. love this post!

Laura @ our messy messy life. said...

Exactly, Molly, it does get easier with practice and I am in no way very good at speaking positively when I am tired/pissy/frustrated. But, I try and when I don't do good I try to bank that as something to do better than next time.

Lane, thanks! But, surely that sweet little Ellington doesn't need much correcting :)

Ten, brilliant is a bit much......I try but I'm not always very good at the positive phrasing. But, it surely does make life easier when I take the time and effort to speak in a respectful way to Henry.

Zoie @ TouchstoneZ said...

Great redirection and empathy examples! The investment is challenging, but the pay-off is amazing, isn't it? It's so easy to get caught up and not stop and just BE with our kids while they explore.