Mindful Disconnection – Practical Ideas Pt Two

Mindful Disconnection is the term I give to a group of skills parents need to develop if they want their children to grow-up being able to successfully self-manage, and to cope when things don’t go their way. I wrote about what it is here: Connection and Disconnection: Optimal Parenting Part One. (From crawling to around age three is covered here: Mindful Disconnection: Practical Ideas Pt One)

From around the age of three years (until around six) things start to get interesting. Many parents have expressed that they find three year-olds far harder to deal with than toddlers. Although I don’t base any of my information on what Rudolf Steiner said, it is interesting that he points out that around the age of three children start using the word  “I”. Their sense that they are their own person, rather than being part of their mother, is in place. They are at the beginning of self-awareness. (To be very clear, I am not about to suggest that we force our children into self-awareness. It is just something that seems to emerge around this age.)Children at this age and stage, are also more aware of the power of their words and are usually able to speak competently. Their world is naturally expanding. If they have had opportunities to explore playgrounds at their own pace when younger, for example, they are able to competently use them without assistance (appropriate playgrounds) by three or so. With a bigger world, they also are desperate to find the edges (like a baby being held – they feel safe when they know where the boundaries of their world lie).

Where all these things meet we have our next stage of parenting. There seem to be a few common situations which arise at this time. (I don’t have a child in this stage at the moment, and will re-blog when we are there again – anything I’ve missed will come flooding back, I’m sure!)

The first is hurtful words. Children between the ages of three and six-ish are often hurtful with their words. They are exploring the emotional power of them and will continue to say nasty things if we are not Mindful with our Disconnections. In other words, if we react or reason with them we are reinforcing the behaviour. Children at this age will often try out comments like:

1. You’re not coming to my birthday party, Mum.

2. You’re the meanest Daddy in the world.

3. You don’t love me.

4. I won’t love you, if you don’t do X for me.

5. I don’t care.

They are trying out their new skills in speech and the beginnings of the knowledge that they can get a reaction from us. Mindful Disconnection in this situation (and can be used at any age) is the calm, no eye-contact, non-emotive phrase, “That’s a shame.” Diane Levy, NZ Family Therapist, is the one who put us on to this little phrase and it works wonders at diffusing the situation. This is not the time to reason or explain about hurtful words – that kind of thing at the time they make the hurtful comment, gives them a tool of manipulation. (If I say something mean then Mum/Dad will stop what they are doing and talk to me.)  Rather, you can talk about mean words and what effect they have on others at a later time.

If you have explained this to them several times – they KNOW. They need no more reasoning or explaining, ‘That’s a shame’  – is enough. You have permission to stop working so hard!

Getting dressed seems to be a big issue in many households for three to six year-olds. This is where their emerging sense of self can be supported and simultaneously their need to find the edge of their world helped. The first issue here is what to wear and how to wear it. The way of Mindful Disconnection would be to accept any clothing in any order on any way – except when it is inappropriate for the weather or special occasions. (Special clothes for weddings etc might need to be put away.) I have lost count of the number of parents of three to six year-olds who have said to me, “Oh s/he just won’t wear warm clothes.”  Newsflash: it’s your job to ensure your child is adequately dressed for the weather. Some people at this time go with the: you can wear your red sweatshirt or your blue sweatshirt, type of approach. I have found, after discussing this with many, many parents and from our own experience, that this can lead to more power-type tantrums. (The child will often not be able to chose between them. Even this can be overwhelming – another situation of too many options for many children.) So the hand the sweatshirt to them, tell them to put it on and Mindfully Disconnect by turning your body away from them and either walking off, or pretending to be very interested in something else, has the quickest and least fuss result.

The second issue with clothing at this age and stage (three to six) is who is going to do the dressing of the child. Now, it is possible for most children – certainly by the age of four to be able to dress themselves. However, when they ask to be dressed or want help getting dressed they are asking an emotional question – not a physical question. They are asking us if we are as there for them as we say we are. Yes, they probably can dress themselves. But even this can seem overwhelming to children at times. At times when a child is feeling a little disconnected (Where was your focus this morning? Did you connect before you got busy?) or tired/ill these are not battles to be fought and won. These are the kinds of times where helping is doing more for our child than trying to force the point. By giving them the support to get dressed, you will often find that they will happily complete other tasks. If you make it an issue, then other things will become issues too – because you’re not dealing with the underlying need for support. On other days they’ll happily dress themselves and will be proud to do so.

General non-compliance seems to peak in [well parented] children during these three years. They have their own agendas and they have the ability to move competently. Well nurtured children are sure of their place in the world. They know they are loved even if not all of their behaviours are not lovable. Under-nurtured children are lost and desperately need to learn how to behave in acceptable ways. (The empathy bits of their brain aren’t properly developed.) So at this point there develops the: ‘not doing as told issue’ and ‘the doing something unwanted issue’. These I am going to write about in the next post. There’s much to say and this is already long enough.

(Should you find this article useful, Koha is accepted and  $1 is fine. The button is under my blog-roll. :))

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About Karyn @ kloppenmum

kloppenmum is me, Karyn Van Der Zwet, mother of three and ex-teacher. I'm part of a revolution in parenting, with the aim to raise mature (not sophisticated) and self-assured children. I also know some stuff about adults. I have written the books I wish I'd had to read BEFORE I had children ('All About Tantrums - Why we have them How to prevent them What to do when they happen' and 'Why People Drive You Crazy - Pt 1 A Fresh Look at Temperament') I have also had articles printed in The Journal for The British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (Children and Young People) and the US parenting magazine, Pathways to Family Wellness, as well I regularly write for World Moms Blog (named as one of the Forbes 100 most useful blogs for women 2012 &2013). You can follow me on facebook (kloppenmum) pinterest (Karyn at Kloppenmum) and twitter (@kloppenmum). I'm also vaguely on LinkedIn (Karyn Van Der Zwet). Thanks to Joe (Mr Hare) for taking the photo. Cheers, son: xxxx.
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14 Responses to Mindful Disconnection – Practical Ideas Pt Two

  1. have you been spying on me when I’m dressing Nathan?

    we’ve had issues getting dressed since 2.5…he’s now 3.75 and he’s a lot better…but like you said, if I haven’t connected fully or I’m hungry/tired and he knows it then we have major protest and lots of negative expression.

    I find it very hard NOT to say, “fine, don’t go to school” or “okay, I guess you’re going to be late to preschool because you can’t cooperate.” I need to engage less and listen/guide more!

    • No spying, promise Jess! It is hard not to come out with *those* comments, and I do find I pull them out of the bag with our six-year-old (although he is fairly motivated about not going to the bus-stop, for Mr Hare, with no pants or undies on). But everytime it’s a connection or tiredness thing it just compounds. I’m all for putting my foot down when needs be, but these are not the battles to pick IMHO. Thanks for commenting. :)

  2. IfByYes says:

    Very interesting!

  3. Team Oyeniyi says:

    I think Mindful Disconnectrion might work with teenagers as well!

  4. Marcy says:

    Is there ever a time when connection is not appropriate even though it is wanted? Like when it’s time for nap or bed and a million “can you X” things come up? Or is it ever better to offer connection in a different way (hug, cuddle, story) instead of doing something for them that they can do themselves?

    • Hi Marcy,
      Our kids always want to eat or drink just before they drop off to sleep…so we have a banana and milk supper just before bedtime now. When they are in bed and we are beside them, we listen to what they have to say with ever decreasing degrees of responsiveness. We found ignoring them at this stage made them more frisky – so I’ll start with a proper conversation, then end up pretending I’m almost asleep and just murmur a kind of response. All the boys including the nine year-old were asleep by 7.15pm last night – it seems to be working! A Boring Cuddle could work if they are wanting help with something they can do for themselves – but you’d have to gauge that on a case by case basis. Hope this is all useful. Have a great day.

  5. faemom says:

    You’re so smart! I want to grow up and be you.

  6. Christine Reeves says:

    Wonderfully helpful to here how you and others handle the day to day!
    Thank you!
    Chris

  7. Mindful Mum says:

    I just wanted to drop you a quick note to say how useful and well written your articles here are, so well done. We run a similar blog for parents over here in the UK and it’s always nice to get another person’s view on these things.

    • Thanks for your support. I am currently under the weather with Seasonal Depression, but as the spring days extend and the sunshine gets into my brain again I intend to visit your blog. Until then….:)

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