It had been a long day for all of us. The baby was fussy and her behaviour just wasn’t typical of her characteristic happy-go-lucky, six-year-old way of being in the world. It was clear that something was bothering her, but it was becoming more and more trying to get to the “what” because of my own response to her behaviour. So I decided to try out this new language of empowerment.
Step 1: Check in with self.
What was I feeling? What ideas were running through my head as I stood, feet firmly planted in the realities of “right here, right now?”
“She’s being so naughty!”
“This is embarrassing. How am I to help others if I can’t keep my own children under control?”
“Get me out of here!”
Step 2: Self-empathy.
Wait a second, Laura Mae. You are a parent, and parents are not perfect. We are humans with feelings too. Sure, you feel disappointment at not having loving thoughts when your youngest child is having a tantrum, but your human. Surround yourself with love, light, and healing. There will be many opportunities to try again.
And there certainly were, so when a new moment arose, I tried again. But this time, I did some more self-reflection both before and after to better understand what worked and what didn’t.
On this day, I made an explicit decision to discuss the importance of respect with the girls. We had been having some issues with speaking rudely to each other, and I wanted to find a way to move the family culture into a new, more peaceful and positive direction. But as I embarked on this new empowered conversation, things did not work out as well as I hoped.
The outset was promising. I asked the girls to help me because I really wanted us to speak respectfully to each other. I explained that I had noticed that many times we used our words and conversations to judge one another and that this was not working very well for our family. In fact, these behaviours went against our promise to value respect in our house. I asked the girls if they knew what “judgment” meant and each took turns explaining how it felt to be judged and what opportunities were lost in finding out what was really “in the book” if we stopped short and judged it “by the cover.” “I’m on a roll!” I thought. Let’s keep this going.
And that’s when it began to break down. Maybe I was trying to do too much, or maybe the little ones were just not ready to have an empowered conversation. Whatever it was, it ended in frustration on my part and a feeling as if nobody cared about our conversation except for me. So I decided to pack it in, and after telling the kids that maybe we could talk about this another time when we all felt like discussing our family values, I went into my office to re-group.
Step 1: Check in with Self.
(a) Judgements: I suck as a parent. I can’t control the kids and they don’t listen to me. Nothing I have to say seems to matter and nothing I’m saying seems important to anyone. I’m not sure how to get us out of this mess.
(b) Feelings: I’m disappointed that our “empowered conversation” did not work. And I’m sad that I’m not a master of non-violent communication.
Step 2: Self-empathy.
(c) Empathy: It’s a process, Laura Mae. I am hearing that you feel hurt that what you feel is important is not being recognized by your family. And I am hearing that you are disappointed that the process of change that you are on is taking a little longer than you hoped. Each day has been getting better though, and I hear that too because you were able to list your feelings about what happened. And you know what else? You took the time to give yourself what you needed by stopping the conversation rather than reverting to the dominant paradigm of controlling the kids, punishing them for not listening, or even blaming or judging them for not doing what you wanted when you wanted. In fact, guess what? I’m proud of you Laura Mae because you held on to a space of love and honesty even then we didn’t get what you wanted. That made me feel really proud and hopeful because you made visible our devotion to integrating a peaceful paradigm into the family.
Step 3: Check in with Self… again.
(d) Each day has been getting better and recognizing that you are not perfect helps. Giving yourself space to learn and work through your emotions around all of this also helps.
Step 3: Figure out what you need and make a place your order with the universe.
(d) Needs: I need to be softer and more gentle with myself first, and then I can share that gentleness with the kids.
(e) Request: To devote myself a minimum of 10-15 minutes each day to meditate and /or do some deep breathing exercises while holding a space of unconditional love for myself.
And with that, I continue my journey into authentic communication with those around me. It’s not about judgment, it’s about feelings. It’s not about diagnosing and blaming others, it’s about recognizing how we feel, what we need. It’s not about you, it’s about me.
And being about me is okay. It’s not selfish or needy. It’s crucially important pro-active work that will allow for more patient, loving, caring, and empathic communication between me and the world.
With love, light and healing,