I’m a recovering autocratic parent and my first reaction used to be to point out what is wrong, spew out a advice and point out any lessons that should have been learned from the situation. You can imaging how that would have turned out with my son that day on the slopes. Not good.
Instead, I had a chance to practice and put together some of the best parenting lessons of my life to transform a tough situation for both of us into a chance to connect and effectively coach my son.
Here are the three steps again. These work best for children 5 and up that know how to speak well. These communication techniques are also effective for adults and teens, just calibrate for the age of the person. .
STEP ONE: Pause and Observe. What emotion are you experiencing? What emotion is your child (or whomever) experiencing? Susie Walton, in her Joy of Parenting course calls this the “heart connector” and recommends touching your heart prior to responding. This is your chance to notice how you are being triggered as well as the emotion the other party is experiencing.
STEP TWO: Connect and Relate. Don’t share any judgement and good advice at this point. Give a genuine encounter movement and show that you know what they are experiencing by making an observation of their state without judging it. A hug is also a great idea if they are in a place to really receive it. Eye contact helps and excessive talking doesn’t. Notice that I didn’t say “connect and then correct”. Any correction, if necessary, has to come once your child calms down.
STEP THREE: One Small Next Step. For frustration, anger, and many other emotions, coach or help you child make just one small step forward. For my son that day, getting one boot set in the ski was all he needed to get back on track.
When you are dealing with your own emotional state of frustration or anger, the three steps are only slightly modified.
STEP ONE: Pause and Observe Yourself. How do you feel? Where do the body sensations cluster? Sit with those feelings for as long as you practically can.
STEP TWO: Connect with your greater self. Adjust your self talk to be kind to yourself. When I find myself in harsh self talk about what I could or should have been doing I remind myself that “i’m did my best and I’ll do better next time.”
STEP THREE: One Small Step. Figure out one small thing you can do to move forward and do it. Don't worry about the big picture or anything else going on. If you have access to it, find what emotion you are in on Pam Dunn’s Tone of Voice table and follow the advice in the last column to “turn it around”.
Click here for Pam’s table and a chapter from her new book she pre-released to us last month.
Pam Dunn’s table is an amazing tool to learn and use. I’ve pulled out my workbook and referenced the table during conversations with my boys, colleagues, employees and friends. It has always helped. My personal goal as a parent and coach is to know this table well and to use this knowledge to help identify my emotions via my tone of voice and body gestures and those of the people in my life.