May 27, 2008

Ask a Facilitator: Won't My Kids Run Wild?

Q: Carol, those of us with kids could use some inspiration. I've had trouble applying The Work here at home. We are such an applications-oriented society (well, we're an applications-oriented family, anyway) that if you don't have a solution/process/procedure/outline you can throw at a perceived behavioral issue, you're sort of left gasping. So doing The Work hasn't felt adequate or proactive enough.

I've often wondered if there are people who use inquiry in their family life with terrific results. (Yeah, I know about Katie's daughter Roxanne, but she seems like a special case!) I think many of us parents are afraid to trust The Work. I certainly have this feeling that if all I did was do The Work, instead of intervening and dealing out consequences for fighting and rudeness, our entire household would blow up, the kids would run wild, my marriage would end, and the dog would run away.

A: Who says you'd just do The Work? Questioning your thoughts doesn't mean you won't have rules in your home. Still, like it or not, kids—like every other human being—do what they do. Sometimes they smack their sisters and brothers, cut classes, experiment with drugs and alcohol, talk back, have early sex, don't do their homework, won't clean their rooms, prefer others' company to ours, cling too tightly to us, are colicky and fussy infants, grow up to ride motorcycles, become philosophy majors instead of going to law school.

If what we're doing doesn't "get results," at the very least, we can understand the reasons why our children's behavior is troubling to us...which may alleviate the reactivity that doesn't help them or us. Out of that clarity might come better solutions than the ones that haven't worked...including kids who feel loved and heard, and who might come up with solutions themselves.

This is what I hear most often from parents who do The Work: they come to realize they love their children as they are. In the peace of that discovery, as parents they are better listeners, more supportive, and less fearful. Behavioral changes (in themselves as well as their children) often happen in ways never brought about by punishment.

Sometimes these parents also end up with kids who, when scolded, love to admonish mom and dad to "turn it around." Let's face it: aren't they right? (And that doesn't mean there are no consequences for them when they knowingly do something that's not okay with you.)

©2008 by Carol L. Skolnick; all rights reserved.

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