Sunday, November 7, 2010

Self-Regulation: MacGyver style

We decided to go through all of the girls clothes.

Let me just preface this little story by saying that we have LOADS of hand me downs from four different cousins who have great taste in clothing. I also have little space in which to keep it all, so it's packed in the garage and brought out whenever the current wardrobe is looking ho-hum, too small and has holes in the knees of every pair of pants they own.

My eldest really likes her jeans and her dinosaur shirt. And her red and blue shirt.
And that's it.

Bring out the mediated tool box to understand the 'WHY' behind her preferences.
We have a little discussion as to why she only likes certain clothing and it boils down to texture. There are just some things that really irritate her skin and cause her to feel tight, itchy or prickly.
I can relate. It's why I'm a blue jeans girl for 90% of my week.

We also talk about the benefits of play clothes vs. "town clothes". (INTENTIONALITY AND RECIPROCITY, BRIDGING, MEANING)
Town clothes are for wearing out of the house when we will be seen by the public.
I want my kids to be comfortable in what they wear and presentable. (ie. No holes in the knees, no shirts that have been stained with everything from the fridge and art cupboard over the last 6 months).

We share with the girls that we are going to go through the mountain of clothes and determine which ones we keep, which ones we save for later and which ones we give away.
Everyone's on board. The mission is a "go."


I hold up the pink cardigan sweater.
A stream of angry words erupts out of my oldest and she says that she is not putting on the "ugly, horrible, pink pukey sweater."
She crosses her arms and glares at me.

Normally, this behaviour would throw me for a loop and I'd scramble on how I was going to handle/discipline/understand the situation.
But I have tools now.
Mediating tools.

I look Anne in the eye and say, "A little self-regulation here?"
She turns her shoulder to me and glares straight ahead.
And then I ask that all important question, "What's going to happen if you don't self-regulate?"
Her shoulders lose their defiant slump and she mumbles the word, "Consequence."
"Right. So, what do you need to do right now?"
She rolls her eyes and sighs. "Self-regulate."
"OK, you tell me when you are ready and then we'll try on this sweater."
The temper raises a bit with the words, "I don't want to try on that sweater."
"We can talk about that once you self-regulate and apologize for the way you just spoke."

The air crackles with potential explosion, but then the potential bomb of anger is diffused and my eldest sighs and says, "Ok. I'm sorry for how I spoke to you, Mom. And I'm ready to talk about the sweater."

I sat there a little stunned.
We've been working on the self-regulation criteria concept for two weeks now. I mean, daily conversations with tons of bridging examples.
I was beginning to wonder if it was making a dent into our lives. I was beginning to doubt god's ability to use Mediated Learning as the tool to help my eldest and I stop butting heads.
Normally, we have quite a show when the temper is flaring and change is happening.
But just now...
that potential bomb was diffused, mere moments before explosion.
Rather Macgyver-like if you ask me.

We both stared at each other for a moment.
"I forgive you." I catch her eyes with mine, "Come give us a squinch?"
She wrinkles her nose as if to say, 'you know I don't like that saying.'
I know she doesn't, but I say it anyway.
She knows I will always say it.
It's our joke.

She ambles towards my open arms and and flops her arms around me in a hug.
I look up into her intense green eyes, "I think you can give a better hug than that."
She squeezes me with all her might.
I wrinkle my nose as if to say, 'you know I don't like that.'
She knows that, but she does it anyway.
I know she will always do it.
It's our joke.

I pull her down on my lap and using the Asking Questions technique, I say, "So, tell me ,what is it exactly that makes you hate this' pink, pukey sweater?' "
She giggles at my use of her words and opens up about her reasons.
We talk it all out and she tries it on.
It's not her favourite sweater and she doesn't want to wear it all the time, but she admits that it will keep her warm in winter.
I ask her if we can find an Optimistic Alternative. We discuss it and decide to wear it on Sundays only, but not two Sundays in a row.

She folds the sweater and puts it into the "town clothes" pile. I tug on her hand and say, "Hey you. I'm very proud of you right now. Let's look at what just happened here: Mom introduced some changes that you weren't expecting (introducing new garments into her wardrobe), you reacted wildly and then made a good choice to self-regulate, you apologized and kept a good attitude while we tried on the rest of the clothing, and you made a great decision about this sweater. How do you feel?"

She looks at me with a beaming smile. "I feel like I want to try on those black pants."

I feel like we've just left off in a place of success.

Criteria Focus: self-regulation, optimistic alternative

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