Sunday, November 7, 2010

The Changing Room

We are stuck in the changing room.
Hearts are stuck and wills are locked.

What should be a fifteen minute trip is quickly becoming a saga that may last longer than the BBC version of Pride and Prejudice.

It comes down to clothing.
The truth is that certain textures really irritate one child.
But so does colour, style and cut.
And it's turning into a full blown storm.
In public.

As a parent, I have a few possible responses:
a. Leave the store and vow never to enter another one
b. Mediate the challenge
c. Leave the store and vow never to leave our house or go in public again

The leaving option has nothing to do with actually growing my daughter's character or dealing with the problem. It has everything to do with my pride and wanting to save face in front of strangers.
Clearly, it's not an option a mature person would choose.
(And yet, so tempting!)

I ask my daughter to sit and take a minute to self-regulate.
"I'm on your side and I want to have a good day as much as you do. Let's take a minute to pray and calm down and then I want to hear all about what you're thinking and feeling."
I use the time to calm down and come up with a consequence for the very disrespectful attitude and display of emotion that just occurred. I'll reveal that at the end of our time together, but it's important for me to determine the boundary ahead of time so I don't flip-flop on the consequence later.

"OK, ready to talk?"
"Yeah." Or something like that is mumbled.
"So, we've had a big display of emotion just now. A lot of anger coming out. Wanna tell me about that?"
I get a glare with crossed arms.
"OK. You have a choice. You can self-regulate and talk with me or I can give you a few minutes to calm down on this chair."
"OK. Let's talk. Where's all that anger coming from?"
She explains her frustrations. I need to ask a few more questions to probe deeper and discover what's at the heart of the issue.
I empathize. "I can understand how that would make you feel like we don't care about your opinion. I've felt that way before." I share a story of when I was younger and I felt like my parents weren't really listening to me.
It brings out a smile on my girl's face.

We look at the clothing options.
We discuss the intent of the clothes: a nice dinner at a restaurant should be accompanied by nice clothes.
I ask, "Can you come up with three reasons why nice clothes are important to wear at a restaurant?"
She sighs and provides two quite easily. We come up with a third reason together.

"What do you think you should do about this problem?"
A heavy sigh. "Wear nice clothes."
"Ok. Which shirt could you wear for two hours tonight?"
She points slowly to a blue striped shirt.
"Let's try it on and get an opinion from Dad."

While she's trying it on, I update Dad on the mediating that's gone on.
He sees the shirt and oohs and ahhs over it, pointing out three positive attributes. My daughter loves pockets and she points out this feature as a positive attribute.

"It still feels funny," she says.
I bring out the Optimistic Alternative: "I see you had the shirt tucked in earlier. Would you like to tuck the shirt in again and wear it that way?"
She nods with a smile.


I sit her on my lap and whisper to her how proud I am of her. I show her all the things she's accomplished today:
She calmed down and worked with me toward a solution.
She shared her feelings and helped me understand why she was upset.
She came up with positive reasons for wearing nice clothes.
She faced a challenge and made a decision about what to wear.
She found positive things about her choice and she found a way to wear that made her still feel comfortable.

"I'm proud of you."
She rests her head on my shoulder, ready to leave the dressing room that has contained our dilemma for the past 45 minutes.
"Anything that you'd like to say."
She apologizes and then we discuss her consequences. She agrees to them and says she's sorry again.
I hug her and hold her close, thankful to God that I didn't leave the store to save my pride.

***Important notes to consider on this example. This scenario took almost an hour to deal with. My husband and I have come to recognize the 'battle moments' that need mediating and we both know that at this stage of our ML journey, mediating these type of situations require HUGE time investments. As we progress, and we get familiar with using the techniques to deal with emotions, the process speeds up.
It also immensely important to us to review the success that has taken place at the end of the moment we've mediated. I walked through how things started, the changes that occurred and the positive ending. I showed her self-change and re-iterated to her that she was capable of change and chose to do it on her own. This has proved to be a powerful tool for building momentum with mediated learning.

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