Tag Archives: connection

Attention Isn’t a Reward

Connection

I don’t even know if I have the capacity for normal emotions or not because I haven’t cried for a long time. You just stifle them for so long that maybe you lose them, partially at least.”

That is a punch to the gut for anyone who feels like they have to hide their emotions or “true self.” Science continues to affirm that concealing your emotions is destructive. Dismissing our feelings makes us less able to maintain our sense of well-being. Our inner, ignored swamps create a distance between us and those we love.

Time does not heal all wounds; connection does. When someone you care for struggles with their feelings, you reach out a helping hand. Sometimes pain comes in the form of destructive behavior—as a society, we recognize this. We acknowledge that addiction indicates alienation and that the most aggressive among us are hurting.
So why do we admonish people for giving their children attention when they are having a hard time?

What are Rewards?

You shouldn’t reward behavior like that.”

If you pay attention to him, he will just keep doing it.”

Paying attention to someone isn’t a reward. Loving someone isn’t a reward. Love is an automatic reaction. We should not pretend to turn it on and off as a means to manipulate.

Are you a good person or bad person for feeling sad?

Are you an upright citizen or dreg for feeling anxious?

Does your regret make you admirable or awful?

These are of course ridiculous questions.

Rewards are something that you get for doing something good. Punishments are for doing something bad. Emotions are not on a moral spectrum.
Labeling feelings as negative or positive is destructive. Learning to accept a wide range of emotions contributes to our ability to self-regulate, an important life skill which you are teaching your child how to do (or not to do) now. When your child makes bids for your attention, that is an opportunity for you to coach them through their feelings.

Attention

Australopithecus_afarensis.JPG

It is easy for us to forget in today’s society what attention actually is. It is even easier to forget as adults because we feel and believe that we “take care of ourselves.”

Attention is our lifeline. Without the attention of others—in our evolutionary past and today—we either die or simply survive. In harsh environments, ostracism is used as an extreme punishment because we are social mammals; being ignored by your community is a threat of death and not an idle one.

Our attention and love are not rewards for our children. Once we recognize belonging as a fundamental human need, we can let go of the fear that we are rationing it incorrectly. You wouldn’t take away air, water, or food from your child as a punishment for their bad behavior. You shouldn’t take away your love.

Wanting attention is a legitimate need. If you find yourself thinking that the desire for attention is something that needs to be fixed in yourself, reflect on this belief, where you got it, and how to fix it. As trendy as pathologizing basic human desires and behaviors is, your family will benefit if you resist the urge.

Overwhelm

In the name of authenticity, we should admit that we want to show our love for our children when they break down. Breaking down can be palatable—the shuddering of shoulders, the “blue zone” that Dr. Siegel talks about where our children clam up and avoid eye contact. Or it can be the dreaded “red zone—the tantrum, yelling, crying, screaming that everyone seems to think they will be able to avoid because they will parent right.

Both of these are normal human reactions to being overwhelmed. Children feel overcome with emotion more often and more easily and have outbursts to match.

What should you do when your child is having a tantrum? You don’t need to tell them that their behavior is great. You certainly don’t need to actually reward the behavior with ice cream and toys. You don’t need to help them quickly get over the emotion. Stop harmful and destructive behavior (physically, if you need to), and just be with them. You don’t want to be alone in your tough emotions. Neither do they.

All behavior is communication. Sometimes that behavior is communicating, “I need your help to stop. I feel out of control.”

child-788498_960_720

The Quote

The quote at the top was made by a really famous guy. Jeffrey Dahmer.
I’m not saying that your child is going to cannibalize people if you ignore their emotions. They could grow up to be healthy, well-adjusted adults. They may learn how to regulate their emotions.
You are your child’s emotional coach. What are you teaching them?

Please share this post if you enjoyed it! Comment below: How do you handle your children’s tough emotions?

Family Board Meeting

black-and-white-child-connected-265702.jpg

There’s a well-known rule in the business world and in economics called the Pareto Principle—the 80/20 rule. It means that 80% of your results come from 20% of your effort.

This is something that is hard to integrate into our daily lives. It is easy to believe that all of our marginal decisions and extra efforts are making a difference.

But this is a lie.

Too Close To Call

In fact, there are only a few things that we do in any arena of life that are getting us results.

We stress and strain over minor decisions and actions that don’t matter much. We spend time trying to figure out whether this or that is the best. It’s so close–too close to call. What if you make the wrong decision?

It won’t be the wrong decision.

Most of the time, it will be an inconsequential decision.

Get clear, in each part of your life, on the 20% of things that you are getting the most of your results from. Think about this in terms of your relationships, as well as your work life. Think of it in terms of your exercise. Think of it in terms of you diet. Think of it in terms of your routines.

With our children, there is an effective strategy to employ that will get us big results.

It will matter much more than which gift you get them, how many mortgages you pay, or the time spent lounging together.

summer

Family Board Meeting

That is the family board meeting strategy. It’s a concept in the book of the same name by Jim Sheils.

Here’s the main idea:

In the business world, there are board meetings that are conducted quarterly—once every three months. Everyone connects with each other, often face to face, to see where all lines are leading and to make sure they’re going in the same direction.

Have a board meeting with each member of your family, every three months.

Here are a few guidelines:

1) One-on-one: Every three months. This is possible, no matter the size of your family. Being paid attention to, without any distractions, creates a different kind of bond—one that allows each person to feel seen.

2) No technology: No distracting people, no distracting things. Playing video games and watching TV together may have its place, but this is about paying attention to each other.

That is impossible if mom, dad, daughter, or son are checking their phone every few minutes.

3) Four-Hours: Once a quarter, for each family member.

As the author of this book often reminds people, you only have eighteen summers with your children.

When we get together, we need to decompress before we can do things shoulder-to-shoulder in a truly connected way.

4) Freedom: Try to give as much freedom as possible to your children in deciding what to do. There are limits to what is possible, but take their preferences into heavy consideration.

Eighteen Summers

bury-1153042_960_720.jpg

Eighteen summers. Then they’re adults, and they can decide how much they want to see you.

How are you going to use that time?

What sorts of things do you think will build a loving, trusting relationship that keeps them interested and engaged with you now, and long into the future? Are you doing those things? Or are you hoping that all the tiny things that you do, the unseen things, the lower 80% things, will add up to the big results you’re hoping for?

Having routines and rhythms in our lives is one of the best things that we can do for ourselves. It allows us to be more mindful. It allows us to schedule our priorities, rather than bumble through and hope we get to them.

Keeping the Pareto principle in mind will help you be a productive, focused person, rather than a busy one. It will allow you to stop worrying if you make the right, tiny decisions, because you’re making big, intentional ones with results.