Mindful Disconnection – Practical Ideas Pt Three

Mindful Disconnections work best with children who are well attached to their parents or to the adult who is looking after them (this works well for teachers etc too). To tell how attachment is going for your children you could read these posts here: Attention Seeking is a Big Fat Lie,  Signs of Great Parenting: Babies and Toddlers and Signs of Great Parenting: Pre-School to Age Six.

Mindful Disconnections are still useful for children who aren’t well attached to their parents, but harder work.

Intense attachment to a parent is a great start for our children, but it isn’t the be all and end all. Sometimes our children do things they shouldn’t, or don’t do things they should. These are the times when it is our job to help them develop self-management skills: their brains don’t develop these automatically. By experiencing small doses of cortisol (stress hormone) their brain creates the pathways it needs for later on in life. (There will be times when they are in the big wide world when they will have to do things they don’t want to do.)

Mindful Disconnection is a great alternative to shouting or smacking. This is the second part about dealing with three to six year-olds – although these techniques can be used with older children, it’s a good idea to start at around age three at the latest. (We usually start once our children can walk unaided. No – not all the time for many things, but for one or two things a day – once we’ve shown them what to do.)

What to do when you want your child to do something

The biggest hint to this is: use your body-language.

Often just handing kids the item that is to be put on or put away is enough. Sometimes you don’t even need to give them an instruction. For our older boys, all I have to do is point to their plates (left on the table) and they will pick them up and put them in the sink and fill them up with water, or in the dishwasher. 

How does it work? We hand them the item and then we turn our bodies away from the child – perhaps only slightly, but enough to convey that we expect them to complete the task. (We’ve Mindfully Disconnected.)

When parents stand next to their kids after they’ve given an instruction or watch them complete the chore, they are basically implying that they don’t expect the child to do as they are told. Children always follow body-language first and words second. Children who are well attached to their parents will (most often) do as asked in this situation without any bother and fuss.

Once done, we always say thank-you but rarely praise (perhaps comment on how hard they’ve worked – if appropriate). If you’re interested, there’s a post on why we don’t praise floating around here somewhere too.

Most times we ask our kids to do something we have either warned them that the task is coming, “in five minutes you’ll have to pack-up” or we wait until there is a natural pause in their playtime. These two ideas save a lot of hassle. We are also careful not to overload them – so we don’t ask them to do much, but what they do is done properly (clothes in the washing hamper with no bits hanging out). We are also mindful of any potential overwhelmed states: is the mess huge (in their eyes), is the child tired – that sort of thing.

But for a basic refusal to do as told it takes a bit more work on our part, and most importantly – their part. It’s their brain which needs help developing skills for self-management. And we can’t do their push-ups for them, but we can help them through.

Most of this technique came from Diane Levy, the end is the bit she left out of her process – and – respectfully Diane, is really, really important.

1. Ask  (in a conversational voice) “Put your backpack away.” (Wait 10 seconds if they do, say thanks, if not move to step 2)

2. Tell (Invade their body space and say firmly) “Put your backpack away.” (Wait 10 seconds if they do, say thanks, if not move to step 3).

3. Move them to a place (anywhere not necessarily the same place each time, and perhaps not even out of the room), and say, “You may leave there once you have decided to put your backpack away.” And turn our bodies/attention away from them. (Mindful Disconnection)

If we smack or shout at this time = we are doing all the work – they (might) get too much cortisol.

If we reason or explain at this time = we are doing all the work, they don’t get the important shot of cortisol.

If we hover = they think we don’t expect them to do as they are told.

If we leave them to process the situation  = they experience the small shot of cortisol and do all the (thinking/processing) work.

No, they might not want to put their backpack away. Yes, it needs to be done. No, they don’t want to sit to one side. Yes, they’d prefer to go and do X. Isn’t that the way of the big wide world?

No, we don’t abuse our natural position of power due to greater strength and ask our kids to do a 1000 things. Yes, we expect them to do a few things well. We’re not about turning our kids into mindless puppets.

4. When they’ve done what they’ve been told, we say thank-you and reconnect with eye-contact and/or touch. Reconnection is vital for their cortisol to turn off and levels to fall back to normal.

If they come away from ‘the spot’ and don’t do as asked. We simply put them back. Sometimes I’ll give the instruction again, most times I won’t. Sometimes it takes several returns to the spot.

We rarely have to do anything like this with our older boys. They are not robots, but they understand that some things just have to be done.

The time to do this is through that three to six year-old stage. At this stage children have a bigger world to explore and want to find its edges. By providing boundaries, we give our kids a different kind of security from loving them to bits and being well emotionally connected. This is the same security children get from rituals and stories = there is a beginning, a middle and and end. They learn which of their behaviours are acceptable and which are not. The reconnection phase ensures they know they/themselves are acceptable. They feel a greater sense of self-assurance when they go out into the world and the world places expectations on them.

…and now I’ve hit the 1000 word limit – so will have to cover what to do when they do unpleasant things in a later post. 😉

(This is officially how I help put food on the table. If you’ve found this article useful, please feel free to use the Koha button just above my blogroll. Even the smallest amount is appreciated. 🙂 )


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 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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11 Responses to Mindful Disconnection – Practical Ideas Pt Three

  1. Thank you for posting this. I enjoyed reading today’s article very much. Spending time with my family is something I do often. I try to keep up with today’s trends so we have more in common. Thanks again for sharing your article.

  2. It was my pleasure. Thanks again

  3. otownmommy says:

    This works! We have done this a few times with our three year old. She would make a huge fuss about brushing her teeth before we leave for somewhere, or fuss about getting dressed before we go anywhere. It was such a huge struggle everytime. I got tired of it one day, and I knew she was about to do it again, “her little routine”. I was prepared and I just told her, today we need to go out. I want you to get dressed. (a task she can do by herself with NO majore difficulties. when she did her song and dance. I placed her clothes on the bedside, told her to get dressed and that she could come downstairs when she was ready. She cried, she fussed but I was downstairs with my husband. 5 minutes later she was downstairs completely dressed. and always is to this day,. same with toothbrushing. just wanted to tell everyone and you that it definately works. you know what your talking about 🙂
    love (as always) reading your posts

    • @otownmommy – But what of the children who don’t get dressed, brush their teeth and come down? What would you have done if after waiting x-minutes you went upstairs to find your daughter still crying, fussing, not dressed in her intended clothes and teeth not brushed? When we were kids, when we were told to get dressed because we were going somewhere, we got dressed. And if we didn’t, the parents didn’t stand at the front door waiting for us siblings to dress in our own sweet time. They’d get in the car and wait with the engine running, which sends a VERY strong signal. In that home, the kids didn’t run the house, the parents did and one of the biggest mistakes parents make is letting their kids dictate. And then society bemoans the generation of selfish spoiled brats and wonders how they got to be that way!

      • I’m going to butt in here, Allycat & Otown.
        With children who have been emotionally supported compliance comes really quickly when parents use Mindful Disconnection. It works. I’ve done the start the car business too (with our oldest two and only once or twice) and that is a form of Mindful Disconnection too (although a very firm stand) – your parents weren’t buying into any nonsense, Allycat, and that’s a good thing. I agree there are many parents who let their kids dictate what’s happening in the house, but there are also plenty of other kids for whom emotional connection is missing. Meeting emotional needs first isn’t a sign that the kids are in control. All of the science indicates kids need both connection and disconnection to grow up to be healthy adults. And I appreciate your comment Allycat – there *are* people who complain about the current batch of kids and don’t know how to make a stand. (Post coming soon.)

        • Having been around the block more than a few dozen times, I’m confident in saying that (in Western cultures and definitely in America) (a) the majority of kids aren’t having their emotional needs met and (2) kids run the show at home. As an aside, it wasn’t my parents making the firm stand but my father; my mother didn’t know what the f**k she was doing, she had no business being a so-called mother then or at any other time.

          • Can’t speak for anywhere else, but would say many Kiwi parents are still on top of the ‘who’s in charge’ at home thing. The emotional side is a little more shady, IMHO. Sorry to hear that your Mum didn’t know what she was doing, that would have made life damned hard for you all. Yay for Dad.

    • Yay! Pleased this worked for you (kinda knew it would 😉 ). If you ever find it doesn’t work, she’ll be feeling disconnected or tired/ill/hungry – fix the first issue and compliance always comes with Mindful Disconnection. Pass the word – I’m here to help. 🙂

  4. faemom says:

    So do you think this would work with getting them dressed in the morning? Evan has outsmarted his way out of every technique so far. Like Friday, he didn’t get dressed, so he grabbed his clothes and put them on in the car at school. Ugh.

    • I took our eldest to kindergarten in his pjs one morning and he got changed there, too. Perhaps he and Evan should never meet. LOL
      The getting changed thing is often about how well they feel connected to their Mum. Our Mr Owl (who is six) is going through this at the moment. If I don’t remember to make warm eye-contact and actually ‘see’ him first thing in the morning we have all the huffing and puffing and I’m to tiiiiired, and all that to deal with. Sometimes he’s just got to sit on the sofa until he’s ready to get dressed (which he hates if others are playing with lego 😉 ). But if I do connect with him as soon as I see him in the morning, Mindful Disconnection works a treat. This is all part of the next post I write on MD. Which I must write one day soon.

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