Here's what K.L. suggests you do to keep your level of resentment and anger low (and energy and kindness high).
1. Put yourself and your partner first!
- Ask, "Is this good for me? What's in it for me?"
- Are you including this child in a family activity out of guilt, pity, or because you would enjoy his company? - If it's the former two get a sitter.
- Take breaks. It's OK to tell the child you don't have the energy to help them right now and you'll let them know when you're ready to come back (can be a day or weeks - as long as you're recharging). No emotional responsiveness allowed until you're ready to come back - this is what K.L. recommended for me.
- Tag team with your mate. Neither of you has to be supervising and discipling all the time. I don't know how single parents do it!
- Date night is an absolute must! No talking about the kids! It's the latter that's hard for Hubby and I.
2. Be responsible for your own needs and insecurities.
- Your kids are not going to love or trust someone who is less in control than they are.
- Know the difference between youtrait behavior vs your behaviors that are a consequence of the relationship. Easist way to tell? Ask yourself do you (or anyone else) act like this all the time with everyone or only in this relationship?
3. Stop beating yourself up! The "second arrow" effect. The first arrow is your "bad" behavior. The second arrow is how you punish yourself for launching the first arrow. You need to accept how you feel; and change how you behave.
4. If you are feeling awful and/or acting punitive (THIS IS ME!), you must shift roles (for me out of parent/warden role into coaching role).
- You can give yourself permission to spend less time in the "parent" role. This is hard because parent role is a huge part of your life! You can think positive thoughts and reframe your thinking all you want, but you are stuck. Maybe you can think of yourself as "neighbor mom" to that weird neighbor kid who is always at your house - like Eddie Haskel from "Leave it to Beaver." Think group home leader or coach.
5. You don't have to love this child and they don't have to love you! Some of our kids just can't handle the love and intimacy of a family. An authentic parent-child relationship must begin without the expectation that we must love now.
6. Do not sacrifice your physical and emotional health! This is huge and takes practice, practice, practise and scheduling. Do not take on the problems of others either (this includes negative friends who drain you!).
To get reciprocity from your child you MUST TEACH him what you need and how to satisfy you. He doesn't know how and cannot read your mind or learn by example.
For me this was the most confusing part of Nancy Thomas and the like, who said you must be the Queen Bee and demanded everyone rub your hands or brush your hair or something. Now I get it!
To feel filled up and comfortable, your child needs you to satisfy this need, but he can't be fixed from the outside.
So the question is what do YOU need? My responses were, "I need him to stop lying." "I want him to turn in his writing assignment." The former is a Stop Behavior and we're not ready to make those changes yet. The latter does not really answer the question of how is doing his writing assignment, or chores, or whatever, really benefit me and the relationship.
Hugs was the example in the book. Bear does hug me, but always on his terms. When I demanded hugs on my terms he fought back and even got his therapist involved ("Mom hugs me too much. I'm not used to hugs, and it makes me uncomfortable." He got the therapist to make this my issue, and I backed off.) Instead we have to figure out what we need. Maybe a good night hug? Katharine says Mom's arms are ALWAYS on top and only mom's are allowed to pat. She very specifically teaches the child exactly where the hands go and how tightly she likes to be held.
Ironically tonight the next example was "reenacted" by Kitty tonight! Today is her 15th birthday and coincidentally we had therapy too. Our attachment therapist has never approached Kitty for affection (that's for Moms!), but after 3 years of therapy with Kitty and I, Kitty is no longer RAD. Tonight after a walk down memory lane with Kitty, at the end of the session, the therapist asked Kitty if it was OK if she hugged her. Kitty said OK. And the therapist hugged Kitty. Kitty just stood there for a second, then she hugged back. Kitty has learned how to give good hugs! Before it was like hugging a plastic doll (tense/stiff and cold). Now she molds in and gently squeezes back.
- Another example of a child who is "getting it" was K.L. overheard some of her children trying to figure out how to get her to take them somewhere. One child says, "Let's tell mom we'll weed the garden for her then maybe she'll take us." She taught them well!
- A parent comments about the rain, "Wow it's really pouring out there." He says, "Not as much as yesterday." Rather than scold him for being contrary, she says, "Honey, this is where you say to me, 'You are right Mom, it is really coming down." He repeats after Mom and she goes on to talk about how great this will be for her garden.
- A child gets upset when you ask about an assignment and yells, "F___ you!" Obviously this could mean grounding or some other punishment - which really punishes you as well. Instead you say, "Would you like a 'do-over?' Your response did not match the situation so I know something else is going on with you. This is where you say to me, 'Mom, I am so ticked off right now."
This would have been a great thing for us to have done Saturday night.
Bear made the mistake of "growling" a response to Grandma in front of Hubby (Bear is usually on his best behavior in front of Hubby). Hubby confronted him on it, at which point Bear instantly dropped into defensive, Fight, Flight or Freeze mode and denied that he'd done it. Hubby then argued with him. Bear then said Grandma started it by yelling at Bear (perception!). Hubby called him on that too. Bear got upset with Hubby for "yelling" at him. At this point Hubby said, what we always say or want to say, "I'm not yelling. You want to hear me yelling? I can yell at you!" It denigrated to Bear saying he didn't want to be part of the family and he was leaving as soon as he could, and Hubby basically threatening, "you're not acting like part of the family anyway."
There were raised voices and all the kids were upset by the hour long fighting/argument. Of course this happened in Grandma's living room where Bear and Ponito sleep on Saturday nights - so BOTH kids were an hour late to bed. Bear did calm down so he stayed.
I wasn't part of this so I can more easily see what "should" be done. *grin*
I think this probably could have all stopped by Hubby saying, "Hey bud, would you like to try that again? Your response did not match the situation so I know something else is going on with you. This is where you say, "Grandma, I didn't understand what you're talking about and I'm really tired right now." If Bear chooses not to "try again" and continues to argue defensively, then maybe Hubby could have said something like, "I can see you're not able to talk about this right now. That's OK. We can talk about it later." And walk away.
Which leads us to the next points:
- Do not over explain or lecture. K.L. says, "Stop talking. Take action!"
- Do teach appropriate family behavior and skils. Do not expect that doing so will guarantee that they will ever love you or that their past wounds will heal, or that their brains will function normally.
K.L.'s example, her son came in while she was working and began babbling. Not to get her attention, just doing what came naturally. K.L. finally stopped him and said, "Son, another child would have thought to himself, gee my mom is really busy I won't bother her with silly stuff. I'm going to help out and vacuum the living room without being asked and without wanting something in exchange. I am going to do it just because it would make my mom happy." He said to her, "Well I didn't know that's what you would want." And he probably didn't/couldn't. She is teaching him step by step.