As I start out again on the Fall speaking circuit, going to schools and PTA meetings and discussing organizing tweens and teens, or positive discipline, or power struggles, or morning mayhem I keep bumping into this concept of parents (people) desperately wanting their kids (spouse, friends, parents) to be different, but they don’t want anyone to feel bad, or uncomfortable, or discouraged, or like a failure, or embarrassed.
They ask me, filled with love, compassion and good intentions: “Paige, please tell me a magical way to tell this person in my life (child, friend, spouse, sibling, parent) to change. What they are currently doing really bugs me AND I have a lot of evidence and reasons why they should change and actually they would BENEFIT from the change. When they change I will stop being so annoyed, irritated or put upon by them and life will be good. BUT, Paige, I don’t want to hurt their feelings or make them feel uncomfortable. How do I say it so they get the message but no on is upset?”
This is the relationship equivalent of people wanting me to fit their 100 books into their bookcase that fits 70 books. Ummmmmm, I wish I could and it’s not possible.
Here’s the thing, reality is so, so, SO very helpful. If the change you are seeking has not happened by doing things FOR your kids (thinking then they will magically get the hang of it), or nicely making suggestions about ways they can change, or by signing them up for things that will make them change, or by using our evidence based researched lectures on why THEY should change . . . well, we need another way.
That way is uncomfortable, cringe worthy, takes practice and in the end releases so much energy and compassion and self-respect back to OURSELVES we will wonder why we didn’t do it earlier. Let’s see it in action!
Child: Messy Room (back pack, cubby, playroom, etc)
Old Way: We clean. We complain. We nag. We buy them more stuff. We clean. We nag. We yell. We swear we won’t clean it again. We clean it againl Lather, rinse, repeat.
New Way: We de-clutter child’s room (with / without child - call me to discuss if you need help on this one, not joking!). We see if child keeps room clean. We stop purchasing items (clothes, books toys) if room is not clean because we have enough mutual respect to NOT add to the mess. We offer help weekly, we respect their answer. We clean our own rooms.
Old Way: Friend over asks us to carpool (volunteer, watch their dog, watch their kid, etc). We do it. We lie sometimes that we can’t do it. We gossip behind their back about what an over-asker they are.
New Way: Friend over asks to carpool (volunteer, watch their dog, watch their kid, etc). We tell them, “No, we are not available to do that carpool on any other days then the ones we signed up for.” We end the sentence there. The friend squirms, is embarrassed. We love that friend so we hug them and move on to a new topic. Sometimes this friend needs to experience more then one compassionate and firm ‘No’ to right-size their asking of favors.
Old Way: Parent butts in on our parenting our kids. We have nicely told our parents, ‘we got this’, or ‘you don’t need to help, you can just relax and enjoy!’
New Way: BEFORE our parent butts in again (they will) we tell them, privately, that we love when they are over. When sticky parenting situations occur we would find it very helpful if they observed the interaction with out jumping in. Then after (way after, like the next day) the sticky parenting situation we would like our parent to help diagnose the problem and brainstorm solutions (if we do actually want this help). This well meaning parent will need some follow-through. We will EXPECT the accidental butting and we are prepared with the phrase, “It’s not helpful to me to have two people talking at once.”
I’m not saying this is easy people. I’m saying if we want things to change we gotta “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” (Gandhi).