Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Patience failure in the morning.

This morning I was reading a new book to my son and youngest daughter at the breakfast table. The other two were happily chomping away at their cereal and listening to the book.
My eldest daughter came into the kitchen and exclaimed: "I want to read that book too, and I can't see it."
She snatched the book out of my hands and began reading it in her chair.
I got really angry.
"Fine, if that is the way you are going to behave then I will not read to anyone." I bitched.
What I could have said was: "I am taking my reading skills upstairs and taking a shower. NaNaNa."
At this point I felt my anger and was able to calm down. My wife took the book from my oldest daughter and everyone sat down to breakfast. The other two had hardly noticed that I had stopped reading.

I should have been more conscious of how much fun I was having reading to my two youngest. Then when L came along with her needs I could have realized that they conflicted with my own. Also, if I had seen her side of things I could have easily suggested that she move over to the other side of the table and read along with all of us.
The faster that I can feel that shot of anger down my spine the closer I will be to emotional mastery.
I believe I am getting closer.

Compassionate speaking.

I have posted a thought on patience on my cube at work: "Think about compassion before you speak."
This reminder has been working very well with my wife and kids lately. I find myself making fewer knee jerk remarks that make family members angry.
By trying to put myself in the other person's shoes before I speak, I have been managing the emotional content of our exchanges much more effectively. There will be more on this in posts to follow.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Reducing competition between siblings.

My daughter, L (5 and a half) looked troubled at bedtime.
"What's cooking?" I asked.
"Grampie said that he loves me more than anyone else, but that can't be true."
"Why not?" I asked.
"Because you and mom are with us the most. You must love us the most."
I smiled and realized my daughter's wisdom. "Parents and grandparents each have special love for their kids and grandkids. We all love you very much."
L smirked and said: "I know who you love the most....."
I froze and I felt a little sick to my stomach. I was not ready for my daughter to compare herself to her siblings. I wanted to nip this idea in the bud. My mind began preparing a lecture about how I love all of my kids the same. In my fear, I was about to launch into the diatribe when I realized that L had not told me what she was thinking.
"Who?" I asked.
"You love me, more than other kids. Like the girls that you coach on our soccer team. You love me and T and M more than them, right?"
She knows that I love all of my kids the same without me having to lecture about it. She lumped herself and her siblings together in the same package of super sized love. I was thankful that I had not jumped to my original conclusion.
"Yes, L. You are right. But I do try to love all of your friends as much as you. It is just that I love you so very much."
"I love you too daddy."

Friday, June 03, 2005

Stay out of the kid's fight.

T and L were playing in the living room. I noticed that they had not cleared their dessert dishes from the kitchen table.
"Guy's, please clean up the table." I urged.
The kids kept right on playing.
I got down on the floor and looked T in the eye. "Time to clean up."
He moved towards the kitchen. L was already at the table. She realized that there was some ice cream left in T's dish and she quickly gobbled it up.
At 7:00 at night this injustice was too much for T to handle. He broke down into a screeching wail.
L on the other hand, sat at the table summarizing, while licking the rest of her plate clean.

What are my options in this situation? I thought to myself, "I have no dog in this fight. I have absolutely no stake in this crisis. The only thing that concerns me is the ear splitting yelling. If I can get over that, then the kids can work this out on their own."
But no sooner had I thought that, than T, cranked the volume up a notch. Then I thought of a solution and acted on it without thinking at all.
I grabbed L's bowl out of her hand.
"Wait L, you took T's ice cream, save him one bite of yours"
Now I had two sirens wailing, but T's had toned down quite a bit while he watched L and daddy battle.
"I only ate some of his jimmies! You're not nice!" L screamed.
T cranked the screaming back up.
I consciously directed my anger into my voice.
"You want to hear not nice!" I boomed in my deepest daddy shout.
The effect was more than I bargained for. Both kids jumped 1 inch off of their seats. They jumped with the butt cheeks.
"You scared me T, whimpered."
I know guys. I was just trying to show you how silly you sound.
My 1 year old came to the rescue.
"Aaaaarrrrggghhh" she shouted as she stammered across the kitchen.
"Look!" I said, "M is yelling, now!"
We all looked at each other and burst into hysterics. We laughed for 30 seconds straight. L, tried to transition into a cry, but her giggles kept popping out.

That exchange was another roller-coaster of emotions. I failed by raising my voice, but recovered quickly with humor and the ability to laugh at myself. In the past those exchanges might end with daddy brooding and angry over the exchange. This one ended up better. Hopefully next time, daddy will keep his nose out of the exchange, where it belongs.