I am not meaning to toot my own horn, though the sweet acknowledgement here may seem like it. I received this email from a former client this week and I was tickled by the story. By his permission, I hope you are, too.
I was thinking about you the other day when I saw an episode of “Dog Whisper” with Cesar Milan, have you seen this show? At the start of the show he explains how he “Trains owners and rehabilitates dogs.” It was just like you! Train the parents and rehabilitate the children. Cesar Milan talks about “eye contact” and “the energy” the owner conveys; the parallels were fascinating. I don’t want to go too far with comparing children to pets, but what really struck me on the show was the amount of importance Cesar gives to making sure the owner’s emotions and verbal commands are consistent, as the dogs are very perceptive to the emotional environment.
I was (and still am) frustrated with the lack of logic my children convey when we have confrontations. I naively explain to them, “Of course you are late for school, if you would have gotten up with your alarm you would not be late. If you would have gone to bed earlier, you would not be so tired. Why are you yelling at me when I woke you up three times and YOU went back to bed.” I am bewildered by their failure to recognize such linear cause and effect relationships. The Dog Whisperer showed me I did not give my children credit for understanding the situation better than a dog. RAD children are aware of their role in being late, but are even more painfully aware of our emotional interactions and are responding to that: the elevated level of anxiety every time I went to wake them up, the sarcasm in my voice “of course you are late,” and my lack of addressing their emotional needs (the panic that their favorite sweatshirt is dirty, can not be simply addressed by handing them [I wish, honestly on many occasions it was throwing] another perfectly functioning and clean alternative). They have a better understanding of the situation than I really wanted them to have or gave them credit for. With calm eyes and an engaging presence, I had a successful morning today getting my sleepy children out of bed. Both slept through their ringing alarms (how they do this amazes me). I stayed loving and engaged….AND THEY RESPONDED!!!!!!
Thank you Ce! You are a Parent Whisperer!
Ha, this is such a wonderful learning. I just had to share it with YOU. Those of you who know me know that being treated like a dog, in my family, is akin to being treated like the King and Queen of your own little kingdom. Likening parenting children to puppy training (no spanking newspaper in our house) was by no means degrading.
While I don’t really deserve the moniker, I’m going to keep it.
Ce Eshelman, LMFT and Mother
Attachment Specialist and
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