Want to Build a Better Relationship with Your Child?
Connect Before You Correct!
Does this sound familiar?
“Henry, sit down or you’ll spill your milk.”
“Lily your shoes are on the wrong feet.”
“Sammy don’t stick that toothpick up your nose!”
“Alex…why didn’t you tell me you had a spelling test today?”
Or maybe you’re caught in a pattern of doing business with your husband…
“Chris, did you pay the dentist bill?”
“Okay, honey, it’s going to be a busy weekend. On Friday night, you take Ted to Chuck-e-Cheese, and I’ll get Lauren to Jennifer’s party…Then on Saturday, we can’t sleep in. Anna has to be on the soccer field at 8:30, Ted has his game at 9…and Lauren has another birthday party at the skating rink at 10. Then…”
“Date night? Oh maybe we should just stay home. The house is a mess. I’m overwhelmed and exhausted…”
Even with family members and friends, life can be so busy juggling home life, work life, marriage, schedules, who has time for relationship?
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“Sorry Mom, can’t talk right now. Could you watch Sarah on Wednesday at 1? But you really can’t play with her. It’s her naptime…and I’ve got to get Joe to his check up ASAP…we’re way overdue.”
“Oh hi Mary…oh yes, I’d love to go for a walk. Let’s see, do you have time in September…2015?”
Several years ago I learned about a concept that has forever changed the way I communicate. It’s called Connect Before You Correct.
No matter who we are in relationship with—our kids, spouses, parents, siblings, friends—we yearn for connection. We do this by communicating, hearing and being heard, giving and receiving love, being for one another, concerned about one another’s good, and coming alongside one another in the journey of life.
In this busy world we live in, when sometimes all we have time and energy to do is correct, go over To Dos, or make sure everyone is where they’re supposed to be when they’re supposed to be there, how can we make the shift?
Let’s look at a couple of scenarios and see how we can implement the Connect Before You Correct principle.
When my daughter Catie was about six years old, the fighting over homework began, along with a battle over what to wear each day, and resistance to go to school. The pattern began subtly enough. She had always been sensitive to the feel of certain fabrics against her skin. A very active child, Catie had a fairly short attention span when it came to sitting down and doing simple math. And these both had the effect of ramping up her anxiety…and mine!
Before we knew it, we were at odds ALL THE TIME. I actually braced myself when she got home from school because I knew for the rest of the day we were both gearing up for homework stress. Once homework began, my frustration would kick in quickly…Catie was on the defense…the night often ended with one or both of us in tears…a stiff hug and kiss, and a curt goodnight.
How could this be happening? What was wrong with my child? How could I be such a horrible, impatient mom? ßClick to Tweet
Catie was feeling I was against her…out to punish her and yell at her.
“Mommy…why are you always so mad at me?”
“Mommy…you don’t like me.”
And at the end of the night… “Mom…are you still mad at me?”
I knew I had to do something to change this pattern that was destroying my relationship with my sweet girl, depleting her self-esteem…and heaping on mountains of mommy guilt.
The concept of Connect Before You Correct helped me make a paradigm shift. ßClick to Tweet
I started by making a deeper connection with Catie, so she would be more willing to be corrected…or even better, correct her behavior herself.
I had to re-establish the love, care, and even respect in our relationship. A teacher named Carter Bayton put it this way, "You have to reach the heart before you can reach the head."
Step 1 in Connecting Before You Correct is to Express Understanding.
So as Catie and I sat down at the dining room table, I calmly stated,
“Catie, it seems like getting your homework done can be very hard for you.”
My statement was met with a raised eyebrow and suspicious glance.
“Are you tired after a long day at school?”
Hesitantly, she answered, “Ye-es…”
We went on a bit with the conversation. Catie talked about some of the stresses of school. Wishing she could play more, work less, have more time to run around outside. Wishing she didn’t have to do MORE work when she got home.
Step 2 is to Show Empathy
Rather than try to talk Catie out of her feelings (do you ever do that?) with “Oh it’s not so bad…you’re lucky, some kids don’t get to go to school,” etc., I validated and related.
“It’s true, Catie, playing all the time sounds like fun.”
Step 3 is Share Your Feelings and Perceptions
“Sometimes I wish I could play all day too,” said I.
“Sure…I don’t really like to do laundry…sometimes I don’t even want to make dinner. But I have to. Otherwise we’d have no clean clothes. And we’d be pretty hungry too.”
Catie just giggled, nodding her cute little head.
I explained that going to school is kind of like laundry and cooking…we have to do them.
Step 4 is Brainstorming
I asked, “How do you think we could make it easier for you to get your homework done…and give you a little more time for playing?”
And from there we went on to talk about giving Catie a little more down time, organizing her clothes for a whole week, even getting her up earlier in the morning so she could play after she dressed and ate breakfast.
I am not an early riser, so my husband agreed to handle this part of the plan. He also was able to get less emotionally entangled with Catie. One morning at about 7:00 am, I heard this wild loud echoing clomp, clomp, clomp…reverberating through our mostly sleeping neighborhood.
What the heck? I found Chris and Catie by the garage putting something away.
“What are you doing? Did you hear that noise?”
At first they looked puzzled.
”Oh...I told Catie she could go up and down the block once in her Moon Shoes since she was dressed and finished her breakfast.”
Oh my, we laughted hysterically…and decided maybe in the future we should wait till at least 8:00 am when the neighbors were more likely to be awake.
Anyway…the bottom line is, we figured out a way to Connect with Catie before we Corrected her. And this was a lesson, often without going through all the steps, I have been able to apply in raising my four kids…and in all my relationships.
Connect Before You Correct can be a powerful marriage communication tool too. I’ll share about that in an upcoming post. Until then, try Connecting with your kids before you Correct them. And let me know how it goes…
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