Does this sound familiar?
“Henry, sit down or you’ll spill your milk.”
“Lily, your shoes are on the wrong feet.”
“Sammy, don’t stick that toothpick up your nose!”
“Alex…why didn’t you tell me you had a spelling test today?”
Or maybe you’re caught in a pattern in a similar pattern with your husband…
“Chris, did you pay the dentist bill?”
“Okay, honey, it’s going to be a busy weekend. On Friday night, you take Ted to Chuck-e-Cheese, and I’ll get Lauren to Jennifer’s party…then on Saturday, we can’t sleep in. Anna has to be on the soccer field at 8:30, Ted has his game at 9…and Lauren has another birthday party at the skating rink at 10. Then…”
“Date night? Oh maybe we should just stay home. The house is a mess. I’m overwhelmed and exhausted…”
Life is busy, juggling home life, work life, marriage, schedules, who has time for relationship? << Click to Tweet
However, we yearn for connection — with kids, spouses, parents, siblings, and friends. And the way we build those connections is by communicating, hearing and being heard, giving and receiving love, being concerned for one another, and coming alongside each another in the journey of life.
Several years ago I learned about a concept that has forever changed the way I communicate. It’s called Connect Before You Correct.
In this hectic world we live in, sometimes all we have time and energy to do is correct, go over To Dos, and make sure everyone is where they’re supposed to be when they’re supposed to be there. How can we make the shift?
Let’s walk through the Connect Before You Correct principle together.
When my daughter Catie was six years old, we began to fight over homework, what she should wear each day, and her resistance to go to school. The pattern began subtly. Before we knew it, we were at odds ALL THE TIME. I actually braced myself for her arrival from school because I knew for the rest of the day tumultuous. Once homework began, I was frustrated…Catie was on the defense…the night often ended with one or both of us in tears…a stiff hug, kiss, and a curt goodnight.
How could this be happening? What was wrong with my child? How could I be such a horrible, impatient mom?
Catie was feeling I was against her…out to punish her and yell at her.
“Mommy…why are you always so mad at me?”
“Mommy…you don’t like me.”
And at the end of the night… “Mom…are you still mad at me?”
I knew I had to do something to change this pattern that was destroying my relationship with my sweet girl, depleting her self-esteem…and heaping on mountains of mommy guilt.
The Connect Before You Correct principle shifts the paradigm. <<Click to Tweet
I started by making a deeper connection with Catie, so she would be more willing to be corrected…or even better, correct her behavior herself.
I re-established the love, care, and even respect in our relationship. A teacher named Carter Bayton put it this way; "You have to reach the heart before you can reach the head."
Step 1: Express Understanding.
So as Catie and I sat down at the dining room table, I calmly stated,
“Catie, it seems like getting your homework done can be very hard for you.”
My statement was met with a raised eyebrow and suspicious glance.
“Are you tired after a long day at school?”
Hesitantly, she answered, “Ye-es…”
This approach allowed her to open us and express herself. Catie talked about the stresses of school. She wished she could play more, work less, have more time to run around outside. She didn’t want to do MORE work when she got home.
Step 2: Show Empathy
Rather than try to talk Catie out of her feelings (do you ever do that?) with “Oh it’s not so bad…you’re lucky, some kids don’t get to go to school,” etc., I validated and related.
“It’s true, Catie, playing all the time sounds like fun.”
Step 3: Share Your Feelings and Perceptions
“Sometimes I wish I could play all day too,” said I.
“Sure…I don’t really like to do laundry…sometimes I don’t want to make dinner. But I have to. Otherwise we’d have no clean clothes. And we’d be pretty hungry too.”
Catie giggled, nodding her cute little head.
I explained that going to school is kind of like laundry and cooking…we have to do them.
Step 4: Brainstorming
I asked, “How do you think we could make it easier for you to get your homework done…and give you a little more time for playing?”
We went on to talk about giving Catie a little more down time, organizing her clothes for the week ahead. I even suggesting getting her up earlier in the morning so she had time to play after she dressed and ate breakfast.
Step 5: Implement a Plan
It was helpful for my husband to get involved because he was less emotionally connected to the frustrations Catie and I were having. Plus, he is an early riser, so he was better suited to handle the earlier mornings. One morning at about 7:00 am, I heard this wild clomp reverberating through our quiet neighborhood.
What the heck? I found Chris and Catie by the garage putting something away.
“What are you doing? Did you hear that noise?”
At first they looked puzzled.
”Oh...I told Catie she could go up and down the block in her Moon Shoes since she was dressed and finished her breakfast.”
Oh my, we laughed hysterically…and decided maybe in the future she should wait till at least 8:00 am when the neighbors were awake.
Anyway…the bottom line is, we figured out a way to Connect with Catie before we Corrected her. I applied in raising my four kids…and in all my relationships.
Connect Before You Correct can be a powerful marriage communication tool too. I’ll share how in an upcoming post. Until then, try Connecting with your kids before you Correct them. And let me know how it goes…
Elise Daly Parker has been married for 28 years and is mom to four mostly grown girls. She is a writer, editor, writing coach, and blogger. She believes we all have stories that matter--big life bios and small meaningful moments. Elise believes our stories are a reflection of God’s glory and are meant to be shared. They have the power to inform, reform, and transform. She loves God, family, friends...and really likes travel!
photo credit: iStock- OJO_Images