When you are doing your parenting or considering how to do it better, how much time do you put into correcting behaviors, and how much time do you put into helping things go right?
In the book, Anatomy of Peace, they have a triangle that shows where we should be spending our time to have the greatest impact on our relationships with people. And 90% of our efforts need to be spend in helping things go right and only 10% spent on correcting.
“Only 10%?! But my kids are crazy and need constant correction!”
Oh yes. You see, if you are spending a majority of your time and effort on the bottom part of the triangle, it greatly reduces the struggle because children WANT to behave and listen because of the bond and relationship they have with you.
Think about it. If a stranger or even a rude boss just demands something of you, ‘get this done, NOW!” how do you feel about doing it? But if a loving friend asks, “could you do this please?” You are much more willing.
Not on the triangle but important to know
So, before we talk about the different levels of the triangle let’s cover a few things.
- You need to first change your mindset about your children, or anyone for that matter, from seeing them as objects to people. It sounds funny but often we see others as people to be controlled or manipulated to get what we want rather than seeing them as a human with real feelings and needs.
- Just like in the food pyramid, the lower levels are the biggest and therefore take up the most of your time and attention. Be sure that these foundational levels are strong.
- And because the bottom is like the foundation that the upper levels are built, the solution is usually the level below it that needs work.
- The triangle is meant for dealing with people in general but I will change it up to apply it as a parent.
Your Personal Way of being
Originally this level is ‘Approaching the relationship with a heart of peace’. Then as a parent we need to first address ourselves. Are WE in a state of calm? Do we have a heart of peace toward our child or are we at war with them? I know I have one child that I am constantly at war with and am working at softening my heart toward her.
YOU have to be the one to reach out with love and acceptance. We have to show that Christ-like love. We have to be humble and willing to forgive. Even if you reach out with love and they do not immediately accept you and change, keep trying and reaching out! This is not a quick fix.
Start by finding out their love language and showing them more love that they can feel. Let them know by your actions and example that you are trying and love them no matter what. Do not get into fights with them! This is a lot easier said than done but it takes two to fight. If you feel yourself starting to get upset or frustrated let them know that you value your relationship with them more than the issue and will come back to it when you can get into a better state of mind and heart.
A few things that might help
My favorite mantra is to Connect Before You Correct. So even if it is as simple as, time to clean up, be sure you get on their level and connect with them first so they see you as on their side. You don’t want to see them as the enemy nor them see you as one. Find ways to be on their side while still moving things along that need to happen.
This might also look like self care. You cannot pour from an empty cup so make sure your well is full. It is hard to be compassionate and understand and patient when you are cranky from lack of sleep. It is hard to think clearly if your brain is clouded from eating bad foods. So be sure to care for yourself so that you are at your best to care for those you love.
Relationship with Spouse
Next on the pyramid to helping things go right is Build Supporting Relationships with people who have an influence on the person. Or in the parenting world, your spouse.
How is your relationship with your spouse? This is pretty crucial because you need to be in unity, otherwise it invites more discord. It is important to be on level ground with your spouse. One is not inferior to another. We do not have one spouse that parents the other. There needs to be a good relationship built on respect for each other as equals.
If this level is not strong and is struggling, take some time to look at the level under it. How is YOUR heart? Do you look down on or feel belittled by the other? Is YOUR heart at peace with them? Are you speaking their love language? How can you soften your heart toward them?
Next up is Build the relationship. Here we are just now starting to even consider the child. Be sure those first two levels are solid before you start looking at problems the child might be having. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Or it can also be said to First get your house in order. First things first and THEN you can move on.
So, your heart is at peace and not at war. Then you have built a strong relationship with your spouse. Now we look at building a strong relationship with the child.
Ways you can do this might be:
- Playing with them
- Showing empathy
- Focused attention and not being distracted on your phone
- Simple conversations to build that connection
- Listening to what they say. Look into their eyes. Get down on their level.
- Helping them problem solve
- Speaking their love language
- Recognize their perspective
This helps them to feel like they are important in your life and not just a nuisance that gets in the way. When they feel truly connected to you then they develop a WANT to serve you and make you happy because you make them happy. Just like when you have that great relationship with your spouse you want to and look for ways to help and serve and listen to them. This holds true with children.
Teaching the child skills
This level of the pyramid is Teach and Communicate which works and makes since here as a parent to teach the child the skills they need. Here is where we spend some time and attention on setting the children up for success.
Do they even know how or have been trained to do what you expect them to do? Don’t just assume they will pick up on things and know how instinctly or because that’s how they have always been done. When you do that you leave it open if incorrect interpretation or bad habits to start. Be sure you are laying down the rails for they way you want things to run.
Do they know how do properly get your attention? To get what they want? To feel seen and heard? Or have you inadvertently taught them to whine?
Do they know the proper way to deal with conflict or do they resort to hitting because they don’t know a better way?
In this level, the way you can help things go right is to spend some time BEFOREHAND teaching and establishing good habits to your children. In the moment of conflict or stress is not the time to address issues of attitude or laziness or whatever the case may be. It is well beforehand or after things have calmed down. Which leads to the top level.
A fun and effective way of teaching certain traits is through stories. Read more about how and why here.
Now here at the very top and the smallest part of the triangle is when we work on correcting. This shouldn’t take a ton of time if all the other levels are strong.
When you do correct your lower levels needs to be strong.
- Are you in a state of peace and calm?
- Are you and your spouse in a good place or has there been an argument in front of the child that might have them upset and out of sorts?
- How is your relationship with the child? Have you been filling their buckets? Do they feel loved and connected or are they crying for help that they cannot articulate?
- Have they been taught the skill that needs correcting? Do they know the correct way to behave?
When you do correct, try to remember to connect before you correct. Tell or show them the correct way to handle the situation, as long as everyone is calm. And then give a hug or high five to remind the child that you are on their side and it is not a bad thing to be corrected but because you love them and are just trying to help them become better and more capable.
Correction often feels like it tears down the relationship when the other levels are not strong. There is yelling or fussing, belittling or arguing. This doesn’t help anyone. We often feel like we need to spend all of our time correcting. But if we are spending most of our time helping things go right – filling our cups and hearts, ensuring a strong relationship with our spouse, building the relationship with the child, and proactively teaching skills – than there won’t be as much need to correct and when we do it can be with peace and love and received.