Celebrate Calm: Kirk Martin's Words of Wisdom
When Your Authority is Challenged
As I started to become overbearing on my son (4), and more and more frustrated with the lack of any positive result, my wife reminded me that she had your CDs at her office and suggested that I listen to them. What a revelation!
When my parents' authority was challenged, the challenge was met with swift and painful punishment. This led me to believe that talking everything through was the best way to deal with my son. What I didn't realize was that barking orders while lording over a four-year-old isn't a very effective way to communicate.
I found your words very helpful, especially the CD for Dads (Stop Defiance & Disrespect series), which I have now stolen from my wife's office library, and keep in my car, and I thank you for helping to improve the relationship I now have with my son. In remaining calm with my son and respecting his time and space, our relationship has become fun and engaging rather than the dictatorship I once tried to make it.
Last weekend, I felt very proud of our relationship as we sat talking at the counter of our local bakery eating donuts (our new Saturday morning ritual). A gentleman walked up to me on his way out and said that he had been sitting at the end of the counter listening to our conversation. He said that he wished he would have communicated with his son, when he was younger, the way that I was communicating with my son. Thank you.
Calling Your Child's Bluff
Calm is not a doormat. We don't let kids "get away" with anything. Quite to the contrary. When you are in control of yourself, you can see clearly and discipline effectively. When you are yelling and upset, your kids are actually in control of you. And that never works well. Here's a tough discipline tool.
When kids declare, "I don't have to do my chores," our typical response is to rationally point out how much we do for our kids, how we need to work together as a family, how important it is to learn the value of a good work ethic for future success. Blah blah blah. Your kids don't care. So here's what I did with Casey when he was younger.
Casey marched into the room and declared, "I don't have to do my chores and you can't make me." I sat down and replied evenly, "Hey, I'm great with that choice IF that's the way you want our home to work. I'm not going to MAKE you do anything. As long as you understand your choices have consequences. So next time you want dinner, Mom doesn't have to make it. Next time you just have to go to Best Buy, I don't have to take you. Excellent."
He walked away thinking, "Wow, this is cool." The next morning, he came downstairs. "Dad, I've got a hockey game this morning. We have to go." I sat down, crossed my legs and said matter-of-factly, "Casey, yesterday you chose new house rules. I don't have to take you."
"Dad, come on. This is my hockey game. I can't miss this."
"Casey, you chose this. Not me."
He started getting upset. "You-have-to-take-me-now!" His face was red. I could see my wife in the other room with pleading eyes. She knew what was coming. 5-4-3-2-1. A huge meltdown.
"My coach is going to bench me! I'm letting down my teammates! Dad, this isn't fair!"
"Casey, I completely understand why you'd be so upset and frustrated. You'll have to explain to your coach and teammates why you missed the game."
"Okay, okay, I get the stupid your-choices-have-consequences thing. I'll do all my chores after the game. Can we go now, please?"
Needless to say, it was a miserable day. He fumed and complained and whined and yelled the entire day. I sat and endured it. I didn't lecture, badger or justify anything. That's a huge key. Do not make this about YOU because they are making the day miserable. "Well, if you had listened to me, I wouldn't have to do this. So it's your fault!" That's us being a big baby and throwing our own tantrum, isn't it?
There is a deep inner joy that comes when you know you are putting your child's future ahead of your present pain. Read that again. This is hard work. But you are putting up with the present meltdown and ugliness because you know you are building something eternal and strong inside your child.
Now here's where we transition. Later that day, I heard him muttering as he walked outside and began raking the leaves. I smiled inside. Then I walked outside, grabbed a rake and started helping him. We worked in silence together. Nothing needed to be said. He had learned his lesson. I didn't need to score cheap points. After awhile, I said softly, "Remember when you were little and we used to jump in the leaves? Let's make a huge pile of leaves and jump off the trampoline into them." An hour later, we wrestled in the leaves and I held my little boy in my arms as we looked up at the sky.
"Dad, I'm sorry about today. I shouldn't have called you those names."
Ahhhh, that's what happens when you LEAD your child to a place of humility. You get contrition instead of the forced apology.
You CAN discipline your child AND build your relationship at the same time. And that's what you want. We can show you how to do that. Your car comes with an owner's manual. Toys come with specific directions. Ever wish you had an owner's manual telling you exactly what to say and do with your intense kids? Now you do.
Within a few days, you can stop the yelling, stress and fights...whether your child is 4 or 14. Get practical, step-by-step strategies to stop the negative behavior, alleviate anxiety, build social skills and help your child be internally motivated. The CDs & DVDs cost less than two visits to a therapist. Listen on your iPod, with your kids, in the car.
"My Son Doesn't Have Any Friends"
As we check into our hotel, the front desk clerk says she recognizes us from a flyer her school had sent home. Awkward! She's concerned. "My son doesn't have any friends." So I went through the list of questions:
1) Is your son an "old soul"? Does he feel more comfortable in the adult world? That's okay because that's where he will ultimately live his life.
2) Does he connect well with younger children and animals? The sensitive part of our kids identifies with innocence and vulnerability. It's how they feel inside. The outward defiance and outbursts betray a tender heart.
3) Does he invade personal space, dominate conversations (anxiety, need for control, akin to being bossy) and do impulsive things that repel other children?
4) Does he need downtime and prefer alone time to group events? Being around kids at school is overwhelming from a sensory and emotional standpoint.
5) When he gets a friend, does he smother him and treat him like his own property?
She nodded and said, "You just described my son." I told her that's a good thing because it means her son is perfectly normal and okay. He's just different.
And all of this makes us anxious as parents. We want our child to have friends, to be liked, to feel part of a group. And yet they don't always fit in. It makes us sad.
What can you do to help?
1. Control your anxiety. Don't project your fears, expectations and what makes YOU feel better onto your child. Some kids DO NOT want a lot of friends. They are content. It's our pressure that makes them feel odd.
2. Ask teachers to pair your child with a classmate who shares similar interests. Have them work on a special project together (helpful during recess so kids who feel left out can be doing something purposeful together).
3. Invite one friend to your home. Don't send them to their room to play at first--your child will boss them around! Instead, bake cookies with them and SHOW your child how to carry on a conversation. Ask questions, listen, identify common interests. Then send them off with a very specific project and timeline. Keep the first play date short so you create a success. Then build on it.
4. Role play different social situations. Give your kids a "script" to follow--actual words and questions they can ask. Building social skills takes practice.
5. Build their confidence. Does your child feel good about and like himself? Are you thirsty for your kids to hear, know and believe they are important? That they matter? We recorded the CDs so your kids know there isn't anything wrong with them. Listen WITH your children, again and again. The CDs are empowering, encouraging and hopeful. Plus we give you hundreds of very practical strategies like the ones above for every difficult situation you face.
For less than a few visits to a therapist, we give you tools to literally change your relationships for the rest of your life. You will never regret changing your family tree.
Listen on your iPod, with your kids, in the car.
You just fought about homework, dinner and bedtime.
Of the 45,000 people reading this, I bet about 18,757 just had a power struggle with their child over homework, dinner, bathtime/shower or bedtime. A few thousand lucky parents had the pleasure of fighting over 3 or 4 events. Aren't you glad you are a parent?!
My message to you tonight is simple. Sure, I can give you very specific strategies to help you overcome those power struggles:
- So homework isn't a continual time of crying and pleading, "If you would just focus, you could be done with your homework in 45 minutes instead of it taking 3 hours!"
- So dinner doesn't involve bribery to "take another bite" or result in resentment over cooking three different meals every night or devolve into dad yelling, "Jacob, you need to sit down right now so we can enjoy dinner together as a family!"
- So you don't end up just saying, "Forget your stupid bath, I'll spray you down with Febreze!"
- And so bedtime doesn't end with you snapping and threatening and warning your child to get into bed...followed by tears...and your child getting out of bed endlessly.
Stop trying to create the perfect home life. Family life isn't supposed to be perfect. It's supposed to be imperfect. So swim in that imperfection. Revel in it. Play in it. Be thankful for the opportunities that imperfection provides to help you change deep inside, to grow in patience and kindness. Marvel at the opportunities to teach your children how to control themselves as you learn self-control yourself. Learn to forgive others and get back on the horse after blowing it big time. Humility is a powerful tool that changes people.
Know that perfection is not your goal. Growing up and become a mature person who can handle imperfection and conflict is. Accept the fact that life is not about controlling what other people do-it's about controlling what YOU do, no matter what they do.
Enjoy your imperfection tonight. And tomorrow. And the next day. Here's to a new you and a new family tree.