Getting Perspective when Seeing Red
Some days I just see red. Call it myopic vision.
The boys display excellent teamwork skills...playing Mario Kart. I only notice the dirty dishes left on the table.
Amazingly, my husband does not stop all activity to listen with ears and eyes while I share some erudite wisdom. I take it personally.
A colleague does not answer me immediately and I wonder at his priorities.
Looking out the window on a recent plane ride, I wondered about my current outlook on life. Do I have an ant’s or an eagle’s perspective? What am I missing by focusing toooooooo closely on details?
Leaving Paris and looking down onto the French countryside I admired a haphazard looking patchwork of greens, yellow, and browns. Arriving in the US, I notice the circle-shaped fields. Water is more sparse than space, so farmers plant to maximize irrigation.
Getting perspective sounds great in theory. But how do I find it when I need it most?
I ask for help.
When Outside Feedback Reveals the Inside Scoop
During a large family reunion, I learned the value of creating moments when my sons would receive feedback from adult relatives. It first happened by accident.
My father opted to share his wealth with future generations while he is still alive and as such has gifted us with some amazing family reunions, among them a safari in Tanzania. My husband stayed at work leaving me the pleasure of the adventure AND the responsibility to manage four high-energy boys. My father’s expectations were clear: adult-like behavior, even from our 8 year-old son.
In true “encouragement” Positive Discipline style (ha! ha!), I simultaneously threatened and bribed my boys: “You better be on your best behavior. Good behavior will mean that you are appreciated by the other adults on the trip. If they have a positive impression of all of you, you each get an increase of ___€ (significant amount) in your annual clothes budget. If not, it’s Walmart equivalent for the year.” (Yes, they have been managing their clothes budget for years. That’s another story.)
Sometime between sighting the kingly lions, crossing paths with the magestic elephants, and meeting the regal Masai, I launched into the promised follow through.
“So, Uncle , what have you observed about my sons?” His simultaneously loving and challenging insights blew me away. Where I saw the trees, and sometimes only the bark, these relatives had a more distant perspective and could see the forest, even the path through it. The contrast looks like this:
The results of my myopic vision: “Eat your veggies. I said, “TASTE NEW FOODS.”
My relatives’ in-context viewpoint: “You love to befriend these Africans and enjoy hanging out with the cooks. How sincere do they find your friendship when you refuse to taste their cooking?”
My problem-centered focus: “Stop tantalizing your brother AGAIN!”
My extended family’s opportunity-inspired insights to one of my sons: “You have great capabilities. You will be a great leader when you recognize that other people have great abilities too.”
With a speedily transformed attitude, I created opportunities for my boys to hear this feedback directly from their loved ones. No more behind-kids’-back disciplinary discussions. Hello face-to-face precious opportunities for maturity.
At our closing meal of the trip, we created a new family tradition: every member goes around the table to share something they learned or appreciated through this reunion. Of course, I looooved discovering the wild animals. Yet even more, I grew from the adults who freed me from seeing the beastly side of my kids and pointed with loving firmness to the men that they can become.
When Annual Family Feedback Facilitates Daily Life
Our regular readers may remember reading about the Family Annual Review. Inspired by the performance review at work, we create a time for kids to give helpful feedback to parents...and then visa versa.
One of the ABSOLUTE BESTEST MOST INCREDIBLE feedback I received came from our youngest son when he was 9 years old:
“Mom, when you are angry go to your room.”
This simple statement transformed our family life.
- My confidence soared. Yes, my children did hear me! When I repeated myself time and again, some message did get through. Phew!
- Unbeknownst to him, our son CONFIRMED this go-and-calm-down strategy as the norm for dealing with anger in our home. What had previously been words out of Mom’s mouth, now became the family way of doing things.
- I was given the physical and emotional space to calm down. “Don’t bother Mom. She’s in her room....”
- The children knew to take their positive time out too. “Mom, I cannot talk right now. I’m mad. We’ll talk later.” If the issue is important to either of us, we do get back together when each is ready to listen and to learn.
You can have the Annual Family Feedback for your family too. Click here to pre-register for our June sessions. Join us for this Web-Workshop where we guide parents and kids in a positive discussion to uncover ways your family can be at its best.