I am a single Mom that was raised in the south (now living in the nation’s capital). I am a firm, but loving mother, or so I thought. The rule is spare the rod, spoil the child, right? I have a wonderfully bright and strong-willed 3 year old son who is looking to me for guidance. But, he and I have been at war over everything, getting dressed, brushing teeth, going to bed, getting out of bed. You name it and we fought over it. I was angry at myself for failing as a parent and not being a better mom. I was resentful of the way he acted and I took it personally. I felt that his acting this way showed the whole world that I am a terrible mom. I tried spanking him, which only taught him to hit me back. I tried taking away toys, dvds etc, and he only threw bigger tantrums.
I was at my wits’ end when a friend sent me link to Celebrate Calm. I recently received my Celebrate Calm CDs and started listening to them. I was shocked and amazed. For the first time I do not feel all alone. I see my son so differently now. I had no idea that I was actually perpetuating Jameson’s bad behavior. I reacted to his bad behavior with my own bad behavior and voila – A HOT MESS.
In a very short period our home life is so much better. I know that we have a long way to go, but I feel so much more empowered to help him reach his full potential. I feel empowered to be a confident mother. I am relieved that I do not have to judge his whole life based on his actions at age 3. I realize for the first time in my life that I cannot control anyone else but myself. NO ONE! Furthermore, I want him to be empowered to make his own decisions and accept the consequences whatever they may be.
His teacher pulled me aside yesterday and asked what I was doing at home. Of course, I cringed thinking oh no what now. But she proceeded to tell me that he was much calmer and happier this week. He is not trying to get attention by acting badly. Yesterday he walked up to her and gave her this look and she said do you need a hug. He said yes ma’am. Okay so the fact that he said yes ma’am made me happy but knowing that he is feeling safe enough to start expressing his feelings is AMAZING!
So, big hugs to you for helping us. I do not know what I would have done without this new understanding of myself and my son. I know that we will have a challenging road once he starts school, but knowing what I know now will help me to face that with much more confidence. I look forward to getting more CDs in the future to continue helping us grow.
With Sincere Gratitude and Love,
It is so tempting to think that if you are struggling in your marriage and family life, that you are a failure or “messed up” as one Mom wrote recently. But that’s not true. Relationships are difficult. They are supposed to be difficult. And that’s what gives them meaning.
I have been so humbled and inspired by the stories that I am reading as I prepare for the Relationship Rescue and Calm BootCamp that begin at the end of October. These are stories of men and women who have survived circumstances that would have caused many to give up–parents were alcoholics, they were abused, they’ve survived cancer and other sickness, they have children with multiple disabilities.
So this is my message to the families who are humbling themselves and asking for help with relationships that are in disarray. Do not hang your head low, do not feel like a failure, do not think you’re a bad person. No way. The fact is you are courageous. You are standing up and saying, “I need some tools. I need to learn new skills. I have the courage to own my weaknesses and mistakes, admit that I need help, and take action to change my future. My past does not determine my future. I am going to become a brand new person. I refuse to give up, I refuse to just let things spiral out of control, I refuse to just ignore my issues and hope they go away.”
THIS is the voice of a courageous person. And you have my admiration and commitment to walk through every painful step with you…because you have a great future ahead of you. Thank you for being an inspiration.
Somewhere we got this romantic notion that our children would practice patience, empathy and compassion toward each other. Squabbling and wrestling would be rare. Right. And politicians would never lie. The history of mankind is littered with examples of sibling fights (and worse). We all want kids who can get along, problem solve and handle conflict.
Three critical questions:
1. We want children who can control themselves. Can you control yourself? Do you find yourself yelling at your kids? Can Dad stay calm when things go wrong? If not, how can you expect your kids to control themselves?
2. Do you and your spouse know how to handle conflict? Do you actually solve problems? Or do you run away, act like they don’t exist and hope they go away, or become controlling and try to “fix” everything away?
3. Have you taught your children how to control themselves and problem solve? Or do you just yell at them to stop fighting, separate them, or make them apologize? Our kids will never learn to get along if we don’t teach them.
Today, I celebrate imperfection and everything beautiful that entails. I celebrate my humanity, that I am dust, that my imperfection gives me opportunities for redemption in my relationships. Imperfection means I walk without the burden of the perfect answer, the perfect solution…because sometimes there isn’t one. It relieves me of the compulsion to control people and situations–sometimes days are meant to be gray and messy. Imperfection means right relationships are more important than right behavior.
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Calm is not a doormat. We don’t let kids “get away” with anything. Quite to the contrary. When you are in control of yourself, you can see clearly and discipline effectively. When you are yelling and upset, your kids are actually in control of you. And that never works well. Here’s a tough discipline tool.
When kids declare, “I don’t have to do my chores,” our typical response is to rationally point out how much we do for our kids, how we need to work together as a family, how important it is to learn the value of a good work ethic for future success. Blah blah blah. Your kids don’t care. So here’s what I did with Casey when he was younger.
Casey marched into the room and declared, “I don’t have to do my chores and you can’t make me.” I sat down and replied evenly, “Hey, I’m great with that choice if that’s the way you want our home to work. I’m not going to MAKE you do anything. As long as you understand your choices have consequences. So next time you want dinner, Mom doesn’t have to make it. Next time you just have to go to Best Buy, I don’t have to take you. Excellent.”
He walked away thinking, “Wow, this is cool.” He didn’t do his chores. Fine. A couple days later, he came downstairs. “Dad, I’ve got a hockey game this morning. We have to go.” I sat down, crossed my legs and said matter-of-factly, “Remember the other day, Casey, you chose some new house rules. I don’t have to take you.”
“Dad, come on. This is my hockey game. I can’t miss this.”
“Casey, you chose this. Not me.”
He started getting upset. “You-have-to-take-me-now!” His face was red. I could see my wife in the other room with pleading eyes. She knew what was coming. 5-4-3-2-1. A huge meltdown.
“My coach is going to bench me! I’m letting down my teammates! Dad, this isn’t fair. If you don’t take me, you’re a jerk!”
“Casey, I completely understand why you’d be so upset and frustrated. You’ll have to explain to your coach and teammates why you missed the game.”
“Okay, okay, I get the stupid your-choices-have-consequences thing. I’ll do all my chores after the game. Can we go now, please?”
Needless to say, it was a miserable day. He fumed and complained and whined and yelled the entire day. My wife wisely went out for the day! I sat and endured it. I didn’t lecture, badger or justify anything. That’s a huge key. Do not make this about YOU because they are making the day miserable. “Well, if you had listened to me, I wouldn’t have to do this. So it’s your fault!” That’s us being a big baby and throwing our own tantrum isn’t it?
There is a deep inner joy that comes when you know you are putting your child’s future ahead of your present pain. Read that again. This is hard work. But you are putting up with the present meltdown and ugliness because you know you are building something eternal and strong inside your child.
Now here’s where we transition. Later that day, I heard him muttering as he walked outside and started raking the leaves. I smiled inside. Then I walked outside, grabbed a rake and started helping him. We worked in silence together. Nothing needed to be said. He had learned his lesson. After awhile, I said softly, “What about making a huge pile of leaves and jumping off the trampoline into them?” An hour later, we wrestled in the leaves and I held my little boy in my arms as we looked up at the sky.
“I love you, Casey.”
“I love you, too, Dad. Sorry about today.”
You CAN discipline your child AND build your relationship at the same time. And that’s what you want.
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As I started to become overbearing on my son (4), and more and more frustrated with the lack of any positive result, my wife reminded me that she had your CDs at her office and suggested that I listen to them. What a revelation!
When my parents’ authority was challenged, the challenge was met with swift and painful punishment and I knew by my early teenage years that if I were to ever have a child, I would never use physical punishment on them. This led me to believe that talking everything through was the best way to deal with my son. What I didn’t realize was that barking orders while lording over a four-year-old isn’t a very effective way to communicate or parent.
I found your words very helpful, especially the CD for Dads (Defiance & Disrespect set), which I have now stolen from my wife’s office library, and keep in my car, and I thank you for helping to improve the relationship I now have with my son. In remaining calm with my son and respecting his time and space, our relationship has become fun and engaging rather than the dictatorship I once tried to make it.
Last weekend I felt very proud of our relationship as we sat talking at the counter of our local bakery eating donuts (our new Saturday morning ritual). A gentleman that I didn’t know walked up to me on his way out and said that he had been sitting at the end of the counter listening to our conversation. He said that he wished he would have communicated with his son, when he was younger, the way that I was communicating with my son and that because of the way we talked to one another, we would truly know each other as men one day.
I appreciate you and your family for opening your lives to the world and helping me create a closer bond with my family. Thanks.
A Proud Father
Today, I assume the best about others’ intentions. Instead of blaming, I give people tools to succeed. Instead of assuming my child is just being difficult, I discover the root of the issue–does he need tools to help with his anxiety or stress? Is that student lazy…or overwhelmed? Is that child misbehaving or just in need of some purposeful stimulation?
Did my spouse really mean to sound that short with me, or is she overwhelmed? Instead of being defensive, I put myself in his shoes for a few minutes. When you assume the worst, you blame, judge. When you assume the best, you find solutions, you help, you make life better.
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Today, I make myself a priority. My peace of mind is important. Even though I am busy, I carve 20 minutes out of my day/evening to read, garden, listen to music on my headphones, rock in a chair alone, pray, call a friend, be creative, use MY gifts, exercise, learn something *I* am interested in. My time is important. I get respect from my kids and spouse when I respect myself and my time. What are YOU going to do today to show self-respect?
Can you relate to this email (reprinted with permission) I received this morning?
“I am ashamed to admit that I am glad it’s Monday. I hate weekends. I wondered why I was feeling hopeless yesterday. I mean it’s a break from the chaos of the school week–and that’s nothing but non-stop rushing for us. So I should like the weekend, right, time to be with my husband and kids like everyone else? Here’s what I came up with. I don’t like weekends because when life slows down, I realize how miserable I am in my marriage. Don’t get me wrong. We don’t hate each other. We don’t even fight. Sometimes I think a good fight would make me feel like we actually care. There’s no connection. I read the Relationship Rescue blog you did and you nailed us. We’re playing this game where I let him think everything is okay, but inside I get more resentful and hurt every day. But you know what? It’s my fault, too. You’re right. Because I never say anything and when I do, it’s usually out of anger and I’m sure that pushes him away. His father was distant so I don’t think DH knows how to be different. Can you help?”
Ashamed & Afraid In PA
I can assure you that you are not alone. By the way, you just described our marriage several years ago. It may seem hopeless now, but you both can learn new tools IF you are honest with yourselves and each other. You are in Pennsylvania–I encourage you to make the drive to D.C. or Long Island to attend the Relationship Rescue. You’ve already invested 16 years in your marriage–make the time. Click here to learn more about the Relationship Rescue. (And feel free to call Brett at 888-506-1871 if you have any questions or need payment plans.)
Can you relate to this sentiment? (You may post below anonymously with a fake name and fake email address.)
Calm is not a doormat. Calm does not roll over. Calm is not passive. Calm does not ignore situations. Neither does it try to make situations go away. Calm allows me to stay engaged in the midst of ugly meltdowns and conflict. Instead of my intensity inflaming situations, I use my intensity to listen to my child (spouse), problem solve and praise instead of punish.