This was me at 10am this morning. Tear streaked face, hiding in the bathroom with egg stains on my new bathrobe. I had already expended what felt like an entire day’s worth of therapeutic parenting in a matter of two and a half hours—being yelled at, taking part in conflict mediation, teaching social skills, trying to unwire trauma hardwired habits, and making two rounds of breakfast for everyone (wrong morning to tackle coconut flour pancakes and eggs).
We’ve been trying a new discipline technique with Marcus that builds on the previous methods of therapeutic parenting that I’ve mentioned before in posts. I request him to do something only once. If his response is defiant, I calmly say, “It sounds like you’re having a difficult time making this choice. You can take as much time as you need to make your choice and just trade in the time you’ve used in making that choice for what time would have been used as your screen time later.” If yelling then ensues, I say, “It sounds like you’re upset and are choosing to use your outside voice right now. That’s fine if you feel that’s the voice you need to use, but you’ll need to go outside to use it.”
I can excitedly say this new way of approaching conflict seems to be working!! Most of the time I feel liberated from having the back and forth conflict exchange or having to listen to him continually scream at me. All is handled in a calm, respectful manner and I don’t feel like I’m damaging our relationship in the process. I remain in control by staying in control, which in turn, we are hoping will make Marcus feel reassured that we are indeed his safe base. Situations seem to be de-escalating more quickly. So YEAH for that!
When these episodes are over, we hug and I tell him that I love him and that he’s a good boy and then we move on. I’m attempting to stop myself from lecturing about what the bad choice was that he made. There’s a quote from author Bob Goff that I love, “People who mess up need a hug, not a lecture.” This has stuck with me and I’m really working hard to try to put it in to practice, not just with Marcus, but with the other kids as well. And all are responding positively.
So if new behavior strategies are in place and are working well, then I shouldn’t be stressed out crying in the bathroom right??
Even though it’s working and I know it’ll pay off in the end, therapeutic parenting is INTENTIONAL. Oh, how much easier it would be and how I wish it worked to just yell at him and send him away. But it doesn’t. I need to stop what I’m doing (ie making a full-on breakfast), and focus my energy, my love, and my patience on a human being rather than the task I’m in the middle of. Love is terribly inconvenient…
I’ve mentioned author Bob Goff in a couple of posts already. I love his books! They are all filled with awesome nuggets of truth, love, and grace that are so easily applicable to every day life. I tend to agree with most of what he writes, but not today…
“The downside of pie is in the limited number of pieces you can get out of one, even if you cut them into the world’s smallest slices. Love doesn’t work that way. We can never run out of love, never give or receive too much. Sometimes we start to think it’s finite because resources like time and energy can run low. But when we choose to give more love, we get to watch it multiply. People return our love, giving back what we gave away with a little extra. Then the cycle happens all over again, everybody getting a little more than they gave away. Love is one of the few things we don’t have to guard. We don’t have to be greedy with our love. It multiplies when we give it away.” Live in Grace, Walk in Love (pg 66)
Every day I try my best to choose to love more and yet I can tell you, somedays, my ability to continually give love is like that pie plate—empty. That got me thinking about love and compassion and boundaries. I believe it was author and speaker Brene Brown (although I could be wrong, I read a lot and sometimes the “who said what” gets smashed up in my mind) that said the most compassionate people are the ones who have the best boundaries. In order to be able to give at what feels like an ever-increasing rate, a person needs a space, both mental and physical, to call their own. I crave alone time! I used to feel guilty about this, but my opinion has changed. The need to seclude to recharge can find support even back in biblical times…
Jesus is God in the flesh. Yet the Bible recounts that Jesus frequently sought times of solitude. (See Mark 1:35, Luke 5:15-16, Mark 3:13, Matthew 14:13 for a few examples) If Jesus knew He needed alone time to do His ministry here on earth, then I sure as hell with ALL of my humanness need time to check out of life and check in with myself and more importantly check in with God.
I used to believe being a bleeding heart for others was what it truly looked like to be a follower of Jesus. But I’ve come to realize that is not what God asks of us. Don’t get me wrong, we are called to big lives, abundantly full of love, generosity, and grace. But what God doesn’t call us to do is forget that we honor Him when we admit and realize our own human weaknesses, our LIMITS.
Ugh, limits…isn’t it such a hard thing to realize we can’t do it all all the time! I want to do more, give more, be more…but I just can’t. So sorry, Bob Goff, I am that empty pie plate with barely a crumb to spare. But I’m choosing to use that realization to honor God by coming to Him in prayer and meditation to honestly tell Him, “I don’t have this, but you are my place of refilling sustenance.”