“You can’t make me!”
“You’re not the boss of me!”
Strong-willed (spirited) children can test your every nerve. There is something about the defiance in a child that you’ve cared for and nurtured that can bring any parent’s blood to a boil.
As Michelle’s five-year-old son grew more outspoken and defiant, she could hear words coming out of her mouth that belonged to her mother. Even more worrying, she could feel the tone of their communication grow increasingly tense. That’s why Michelle wanted to share how she used the Guidance Method and found a way to connect with her son. Along the way she learnt why his personality traits were exceptional and how they could be honoured.
But first, what is the Guidance Method?
The Guidance Method is a simple, but very effective, five step process for connecting and guiding our kids in a way that helps them feel confident to be their best selves and make great behaviour choices – even when we are not around.
5 Steps of The Guidance Method
- Step 1 – Connect with your kids. As a right brain activity this requires a gentle touch and sincere words of understanding.
- Step 2 – Seek to understand. Often we forget that our kids have a right to their wants and also to be able to express them. Listening with the intent of understanding allows kids to connect and open up to our guidance.
- Step 3 – Empower. Show your confidence in your kids to find the solutions. Kids are exceptionally creative and can work out the answers to most conflict once they have the confidence to do so. This also opens up your relationship allowing you to work as a team to tackle family challenges.
- Step 4 – Teach Love. Teach your kids to find solutions that considers the needs of all those involved and to express apologies sincerely when required. The best way to teach love is by example. Showing kids that you considered their needs teaches them to do the same when they interact with others.
- Step 5- Skill development. Remember like physical development, emotional development requires practice. So be patient with each other especially when guiding your kids to develop the skills of using words and kindness to find win-win solutions.
How Michelle Used the Guidance Method to Connect and Guide Her Spirited Son
As a single mum, Michelle felt that she and her son Chris were trapped in a never-ending power battle that was not supported by any of the popular parenting techniques. She turned to the Guidance Method for help. It allowed her to understand her son’s needs more deeply and work with him to develop win-win solutions for their family.
One Friday pizza and game night, Michelle asked Chris if he thought he’d be able to help her solve a problem. Chris was sure he could help no matter what it was. Michelle then explained that she didn’t like it when they spent their precious time together arguing about what should be done and how to do it. Chris agreed that he didn’t like it either but then said he felt many times he was pushed to fight.
This was Michelle’s clue to explore. She asked Chris is they could make a list of things that trigger their arguments. Here is Chris’ list:
1. When you tell me no for no reason at all.
2. When you don’t listen to my ideas.
3. When you don’t let me do things the way I want to do them.
Reading his list Michelle realised for the first time that Chris’ defiance had nothing to do with her; he was simply trying to have his voice heard and valued. Chris wasn’t stuck with the indecision that she sometimes faced. He was sure of what he wanted and the way he wanted to do things: a strong skill Michelle was sure would serve him later in life.
Michelle and Chris then made a brainstorm list of things they could do to work out their differences of opinions in a better way. Here is their list:
1. Give options instead of just saying no to each other.
2. Ask why they each wanted something done in a particular way.
3. Be open to trying each other’s way and take turns to make sure they each got to try their way.
4. When possible, try to negotiate a win-win.
5. Give a flag for the things mummy has to insist on, in order to protect Chris.
Michelle identifies that putting these things into practice was as much a learning process for her as it was for Chris. However, together they found a way to seek to understand each other more and became more connected. Michelle also found that trying things in the way Chris suggested also allowed her to be more flexible as a mum and have more fun with her son.
This wasn’t a magic wand for all arguments, but now Chris and Michelle don’t waste their time in power struggles and have a relationship that supports both of their personality types.
Nicole Telfer is a mum of two beautiful boys. She poses your toughest parenting questions to the “real” parenting experts. Get life-changing advice based on psychological and family research. The aim is to empower parents to raise a whole new generation of empowered kids. Get more information on the Guidance Method at www.empoweredkids.co.uk.
Adapted (added words) with permission from Dave Bezaire and Susi Havens-Bezaire via Flickr Creative Commons