My friend was driving her three children to school early one morning. We’ve been meeting for a while to share and discuss the Nurtured Heart Approach®. I asked her last week what was going well and she told me this story, starting with: “Well, my son and I have been working on getting ready for school for about a year now.”
I’ve known her son – both charming and challenging – since before he could speak. When she said she’d been working on getting ready for school for a year, I got it.
First, I know him. Second, I understand from my own experience what it’s like to not succeed at getting a child to do what I want – simple stuff - like brush teeth, comb hair, eat breakfast, find jacket, etc. I know what it’s like to lose it in the morning; to not want the children really to wake up at all because I don’t want to face the coming battle; to seemingly fail and not get why. This is why this approach has been so gratifying. I am seeing the changes. It’s not miraculous, it’s not overnight, but it’s real. My friend's story was just a slice of her life, but when she told me about it we both knew the power behind the moment.
“It had been a bad morning. Lots of pulling teeth. But…he did everything he was supposed to, in spite of resisting and fighting me all along the way. We were finally in the car and I knew I had come close to losing it, but the fact was, I hadn’t. I had remained calm and done nothing I might later regret. My two older girls had been especially patient. Together we formed a sort of front.
"Then my son started to whistle.
"I don’t allow whistling in my car.
"It’s distracting and rude and feels like he does it explicitly to annoy us.
"It wasn’t long before I pulled over.
"After the tenseness of the morning, I knew I was about to let him have it verbally. I knew I couldn’t drive with that whistling and all three kids knew it too.
"But then, instead,
"I opened the car door on his side. I took him by the shoulders, breathed in and said, in a very firm, intensely audible voice, and slowly with a look to match:
“You got out of the house this morning and got yourself ready for school and now we are going to get to school on time. I’m proud of you. Good Job!”
She said he recoiled at first; then had look of puzzlement; finally, a slightly nervous giggle. He was quiet the rest of the way. Her eldest daughter in the front seat, also taken by surprise, muttered “nice going Mom.” By the time they made it to school her son went literally skipping off to class.