Last week you learned about the 7 Disconnecting Habits and how ineffective they are for changing your child’s behavior. They’re ineffective because they pit your relationship with your son or daughter against your desire for control.
Oddly enough, neither win in this battle. Your relationship suffers, and you don’t get control. Criticizing, blaming, threatening, nagging, complaining, punishing, and bribing are a recipe for misery.
To be effective, flip those disconnecting habits over. Try the 7 Connecting Habits instead: supporting, encouraging, trusting, accepting, listening, respecting, and negotiating differences.
Ditch Your Desire for Control. Relationships Come First.
Let’s take a step back. Before I teach you about the 7 connecting habits, first let’s take a look at what Choice Theory identifies as the 5 Basic Human Needs:
- Love and belonging
Choice Theory, developed by William Glasser, MD, tells us that everything any human does is to satisfy one or more of these needs. For example, did you drink coffee this morning? If you’re a caffeine addict, you may say you drank it for survival! But maybe you joined a friend for coffee, and sharing the warm beverage brought you a feeling of closeness.
Love and belonging is the most important of these needs. If we aren’t close and connected with the people we care about, we’ll have an extremely difficult time meeting the other needs (paraphrased from the William Glasser Institute’s website).
Relationships are essential to our own personal happiness. That’s what I’d want you to remember while you’re reading this: the tail doesn’t wag the dog. If you want to get your family life back under control, you have to lead from love. It’s much more effective this way.
Reality Therapy and The 7 Connecting Habits
The 7 Connecting Habits are:
- Supporting…not criticizing
- Encouraging…not blaming
- Trusting…not threatening
- Accepting…not nagging
- Listening…not complaining
- Respecting…not punishing
- Negotiating differences…not bribing
Would you believe me if I told you that when you give up external control, you actually get the control you want?
Our friend, Toothpaste Mom, didn’t believe me that she could be happier at home without nagging and screaming. Still, she decided to give it a shot. We created this plan in one of her Reality Therapy sessions.
Putting the 7 Connecting Habits in Action
The secret for Toothpaste Mom was enlisting the help of her children to make home life run more smoothly. She had spent a few days noticing how often she used the disconnecting habits – it was a lot – and realized they would be hard habits to break. She knew she needed some help.
After a nice dinner, TM brought out a special cake for dessert (but a wee bribe!) and told them she wanted to talk to them. She said she had a plan for how she could improve her relationship with them.
Mom expressed how she wanted to change how she handles herself when she’s upset, and taught her children what the 7 disconnecting habits were. They laughed and said, “Yeah right, Mom! YOU not nag?!” Their skepticism was warranted – they were used to their mom’s plans.
- Instead, Mom discussed how it makes her feel when she asks for their help to keep the house in order and they disregard her. She said it made her feel hurt and not respected.
- Then she said if they continue to choose this unhelpful, disrespectful behavior, she will remain disappointed. Disappointed in the fact that she has a picture of how she wants them to work together for an orderly home, but not disappointed in them.
- Mom said she didn’t want to yell, nag, threaten, or punish them to have this picture met, because she thought it was harming their relationship.
- She said how she wanted to work hard to make their relationship stronger…and then her kids said, “Well Mom, it also takes us to make it stronger too.” (Mom almost fell out of her chair!)
And get this. As their great talk was wrapping up, the kids cleared the table and began doing the dishes while Mom ate the last bit of the bribery cake.
Keeping the 7 Connecting Habits in Action
The next morning was unfortunately not as magical, Mom reported to me in our next Reality Therapy session. “They did all the things that drive me crazy!” she said. “I had to bite my tongue a lot!”
The first bite was when they didn’t get up on the first call. “I started to go into their bedrooms with guns blazing, and then I remembered. I focused on how much I wanted us to be a team.
“I calmed down and sat quietly on one of their beds. That got their attention! Once they were all looking at me I said,
I meant what I said yesterday about wanting to do things differently. I don’t have all of the answers, and I’m scared this won’t work. Can you guys please help me out here?
Sure, there were some unmade beds, and yes, toothpaste in the sink! But everything went much more smoothly after that talk.
And get this. As Mom continued to tell me about the morning, she remembered something she hadn’t really noticed. Her youngest child had poured her a cup of coffee and brought it to her. They also had some nice chit chat while getting out the door. And no yelling!
Remember: It Takes Time to Reconnect with Your Child
Changing the dynamic between you and your child simply won’t happen overnight.
Celebrate the little victories, like the kitchen cleanup and the cup of coffee. And enjoy them. Your children want to connect with you, too.