I am a bit prone to the odd story (you may have noticed). My kids have been entertained over the years by many a tale and fictitious character. 5 years on, even my 12 year old will still request a “Lily story”. Lily is the youngest of 4 children in the Dinklebrot family, and keeps her 3 older brothers and parents well entertained. And then there is Gloria, the Irish lady that has been materialising at the bathroom sink for about 9 years. Her dodgy accent and playful nature has won over the most stubborn teeth brushing refusal- time and time again.
I guess I have always appreciated the power of a story.
Our 3 kids go girl, boy, girl. So our son is sandwiched in between the girls. And being female I can only guess what it must be like to be a male. But let’s face it, none of us ladies really get it, Right?
Why he runs to his sisters to be as close as possible when he needs to fart. Burping has to be done in someone’s face. The rugby tackles, headlocks, balls to the face at point-blank range, Climbing on everything (including his sisters….and parents. Shouting ‘specky’ and catching an ‘air footy’ does not make that ok!) playing his snorkel like a trumpet until your ears ring. Do I need to go on? I’m sure anyone who has a brother or son is on my wavelength. (It’s only funny because it’s true.)
My natural go-to of course is drawing attention to what I want him to STOP doing! That’s important, but I also know that what you focus on you get more of. I see this case in point because the more I am on his case, the worse his behaviour seems to get. And the more our relationship is impacted and not for the better.
The thing is, there is no such thing as a resistant person, only inflexible communicators.
I hear you say, Huh?
Human interaction is essentially communication. We’re all trying to say something in order to get something or give something. Whether we are successful in our communication is evident by the result. It either works or it doesn’t.
As the person communicating we tend to do it in a way that makes sense to us, what would work if we were the recipient, what is easiest for us, or how we are in a habit of doing it. Now the recipient either takes it on board and the result is achieved or they don’t understand or reject it. At this point there is nothing more the recipient can do. But there is more the communicator can do. They can change the way they are communicating! Do something different, say it a different way, add more detail, be more abstract…. go through the back door rather than the front.
There are various possibilities for the communicator to change their ‘method’ to increase understanding or acceptance. Hence the statement there is no such thing as a resistant person only inflexible communicators.
As communicators we get stuck in the same pattern, or habit of delivery and we choose to refuse to communicate differently. Can you hear yourself saying “I’ve tried everything”…. what we are really saying is ‘everything’ I can think of, or am prepared to do. Just think of your kid refusing to put on their seatbelt for you. Then dad/mum/grandma comes along and says or does something differently and on it goes without protest. Remember too our nonverbal communication is still communication.
This dawns on me as I wake up to the dulcet tones of my eldest screeching “Why do you always come and fart right next to me! I’ve asked you to stop doing it”. Ahhhh good morning. So I find my son in his room a bit later and I decide that I need to find a form of communication that is going to get me better results!
There was this little mouse, that loved all the other mice so much. Whenever it saw them it just wanted their attention. It would run up and dive on them, scratch them, chase them, pull their tails and squeeze them with all its might. Soon, every time the mouse got near the other mice they would run away. It started to feel sad and bad about itself. Then one day a little baby mouse came up to the mouse and it was so excited it jumped all over the mouse, over and over again. The mouse said “ouch that hurts, I don’t like it” and the baby mouse just kept on jumping. So the mouse said to the baby lets have a race instead and they ran as fast as they could back to their hole. It was so much fun they were laughing and laughing. The next day the baby mouse saw the mouse again and was so excited he came over and scratched the mouse all over. “Ouch that hurts, please stop it” said the mouse, only the baby kept doing it, until the mouse said lets climb up this blanket. They climbed up as high as they could before they fell off onto the floor laughing and rolling around, over and over they played. By the third day some of the other mice came over and were watching the mouse and the baby. By the end of the week the mouse had all the mice playing and having fun together. He had found a way to have fun that everyone liked.
Our unconscious minds are amazing and what happens anytime we hear information is what is called a transderivational search TDS. Where it searches for a link or a match in data. It looks to find a way for the information to relate to experiences and memories that we have from our past. It asks how does this relate to me? What can I take from this? While consciously our brain is busy enjoying the details and creating pictures of the little mice. Our unconscious mind is busy taking on the message and how it relates to our life.
I am not saying that now he respects his sisters completely and we haven’t had an incident since ( having said that, a few weeks on when I think of it the issue really has subsided. So much so that I can’t remember the last time something OF THAT NATURE occurred ;). What did happen is that he came and sat on my lap and ate his breakfast with me. Had I chastised his behaviour I dare say this would not have happened. My more flexible approach provided a greater connection with my son while still communicating the desired outcome.
It reminded me that there are so many ways we can communicate. Engaging children with stories, games and fun can be a wonderful way to get the results we are after.
Why not try out a tale or two and see where your flexibility takes you. All you need is a relatable and distant enough story that engages them cognitively so the message can slip by. Hence all the stories, fairy tales, and fables throughout history.
It’s the era of DIY & custom made so why not give it ago and create your own! (You also have permission to rip off “The story of the little mouse” 🙂
Photo from Upsplash by Giuseppe Martini