Connect before Correct

 

By Talia S., Parent of Wise Watermelon Robby and Aloha Pineapple Aubrina, and Teacher of First Grade Upstanding Unicorns

 

It was a typical morning. The kids were eating breakfast at a snail’s pace. “We have five minutes until we have to leave, and you still have to brush your teeth. Please finish eating!” I said to them as I walked out of the kitchen and down the hall to brush my own teeth. An all too familiar feeling of anxiety was beginning to creep in, and I silently told myself that today would be the day we get out the door without a fight. A few minutes later, Robby came into my bathroom.

“Mom, I have a ques-”

“Have you brushed your teeth yet?” I interrupted.

“No but-” he answered, trying to ask me again.

“Go brush your teeth! We’re going to be late!” I could feel my voice and anxiety rising. We were about to fall into our same routine of me shouting to get the kids to finish their tasks, and all three of us leaving the house a little grumpy.

“But Mom, can I ask you a question first?” He tried again. To be honest, I wanted to say no. I wanted everyone to just focus on the tasks until they got done, and for no one to complain or say another word. But today was going to be the day that we changed that routine, I reminded myself. I took a deep breath.

“Of course you can. What’s your question?” I said.

“If the same water has been on Earth for millions of years, then is it possible that there is a drop of water somewhere that has never been touched by a living thing?” he asked me earnestly.

Wow. Where did that come from? Although the question seemed to come out of nowhere, it didn’t really surprise me. Robby has always asked thought provoking questions, questions that I have no clue how to answer sometimes.

“Hmmm. I’m really not sure. That is such an interesting thing to think about!” I answered. “Maybe we should try to find the answer after school today.”

“Ok. I’m going to brush my teeth now.” he said.

As he walked away, I couldn’t help but wonder how many of his thoughtful questions I’d missed, simply because I was unwilling to take the time to listen. Although I do my best to use Positive Discipline to influence my parenting, I’m human and I’m guilty of sliding back into what seems easy in the moment. Taking a moment to connect with my children before offering a criticism or giving feedback sometimes seems to take too long. It’s quicker to just shout to get what I want. But that’s not what I really want. I want to build a trusting and caring relationship with my children, and that won’t happen without taking the time to remain calm and listen, especially when times get stressful.

Later that day, I saw another example of connection before correction at work. This time it was on the softball field. Aubrina is on a new team this year, with a coach who has a reputation for always having a winning team. He has a loud voice, and he always knows what every girl is doing. Aubrina is on a team with girls who are taller, stronger, and older, so it’s not hard for the coach to find things to coach her on. Watching practice that day I realized a pattern with how the coach communicated with each girl. He would first say something positive, and then afterward he would give his feedback. For example, when Aubrina fielded a ball and then threw it to first base, he said “Aubrina! Nice job getting behind that ball. Next time follow through with your whole body on the throw and you’ll have more power.” The entire interaction was simple, quick, and demonstrated that he sees the positive and not just what needs to be fixed — a way to connect before offering correction.

It’s easy to forget that as adults we don’t get a lot of feedback on our behavior from others, whereas kids get criticism and correction all day, everyday. Connecting with our kids first is one sure way to build a relationship where they feel safe, supported, and loved.
 
 
For more about the “Connect before Correct” tool card, visit the Positive Discipline web blog. For more Positive Discipline Parenting tool cards, visit the Positive Discipline website.
 
 


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