Archive for June, 2010

Does feeling follow behavior or behavior follow feeling?

June 27, 2010

My parenting plan often operates with the idea that feeling will follow behavior.  In other words instead of sitting around waiting for everyone to feel great about something I often encourage behavior that suggests that feeling.   Yes it is a bit of “fake it till you make it” theory but sometimes that can result in some  positives.

I woke up on Saturday with a mission in mind.  Our house was a disaster area.  Things were out of place, laundry was undone, everything needed to be vacuumed and dusted.  I knew that when I announced the plan to clean as a family my 14 year old and 11 year old would not be thrilled.  I knew my husband would agree with me but likely respond badly once the kids started complaining.  Still, I persevered.

I gathered everyone in the family room/kitchen area and announced we were going to clean as a family because we all liked it when the house was neat and tidy.  (I threw the “because” part in there since  a book I had just read on persuasion gave compelling research findings that “because” statements  improve cooperation.)  I laid only one ground rule and that was that we had to all remain in each room until it was completely done.  In this way we would all be together and helping each other.

There was mild grumbling and sighing as we got started but again I persevered.  I became the cleaning cheerleader.  I helped the 11 year old get started taking everything out of the family room that didn’t belong there.  (Sounds easy but this included everything from an unmatched flip flop to a staple gun.)  I exclaimed “Perfect!” as my 14 year old started emptying the dishwasher.  I conversed obviously with my husband who was mining for lost items in the sectional “Honey, working as a family team is so much more fun and fast!  Don’t you think?”  My wink and smile to him got him in the spirit and before you knew it we were all four cleaning and chatting away.

The family room /kitchen area hasn’t received so much attention since a remodel job a few years ago.  Cabinets and floors were polished and cleaned.  Countertops and appliances were scrubbed to a sparkling shine.  Dust and pet hair vanished and were replaced with that lemony clean smell.  It was wonderful.

But the best part happened later that day when I checked my Facebook account and found my daughter had updated her status.  Katie tells me you will all think I made this up so I’m adding a picture as proof:

Reading that was better than smelling the clean house!  All of the cheery teamwork behavior had led to cheery teamwork feelings.  Not rocket science I admit, but amazing and wonderful none the less.

My house cleaning story is really inconsequential in comparison to the effects that “fake it till you make it” can have in more important situations.  I was recently talking to a friend who adopted an older child several years ago.  The child  is now a teenager and their family is happy and thriving.  Even so, my friend reminisced with me about how hard the first year with her new son was.  She was often wracked with guilt because the difficult behaviors of her new son made it hard for her to feel the same way she did about her biological children especially in the early stages of the adoption.  When I asked her what had gotten her through she told me about a conversation that she had had with a mutual friend who is also a therapist.  The therapist’s words had helped this mom because they acknowledged for her that  a “love” feeling doesn’t always come immediately upon adopting a child.  The therapist reminded this mom that her commitment to the adoption and the process of becoming a family was most important  and that that commitment itself was a loving act.  She went on to tell the mom  that when she behaved like a loving nurturing mother it helped to move her “feelings” in the right direction.  This mom told me with teary happy eyes how true that statement really was, how much love she now feels for this child, how mutually this love is returned, and how important it had been for her to hear that important advice during that difficult time.

Give it a try.  Behave in the way you wish to feel today and encourage your family to do the same.  See if feelings really do follow behaviors for you too.

Heart of the Matter Seminars website


Single Parent Adoption Article

June 24, 2010

I was interviewed for an article on single parent adoption by Laura Willard for Check it out here.

From Our In-Box

June 22, 2010

I just responded to an email that came to our general mailbox.  It brings up some great points about education vs. training vs. dispensing information:

I’m interested in purchasing the Because They Waited course.   My husband and I are adoptive parents;  our daughter (adopted from Ethiopia) joined our family last September at the age of 7 months.   We were careful to follow the attachment guidelines we’d read about and our daughter appears to have adjusted well and to be attaching well.   (more…)

Frustrated and Tired is a Two-Way Street

June 15, 2010

A long time friend of mine (who teaches children with autism) posted something on Facebook that immediately resounded with me.  She graciously allowed me to re-post it here to share with you:

Sometimes I get caught up and a bit self absorbed thinking about how difficult it is to teach a child with autism, then I get a wake up call…

My kiddo, 2 yrs old, and I are working on speech; he is non verbal. We’ve been focusing on making the “ah” sound for 3 months now and have seen very little progress.

Today after an intense sound imitation session that lasted about an hour, he looked me right in the eye and let out the most beautifully appropriate ‘oh’, threw his little baby head into my lap and cried. I could tell he was more exhausted and more frustrated than I could ever dream of being. Our kids are some of the bravest and hardest working little people and I thank God for my little reminder of that toady.

Our children, who have had less than optimal starts in life, live this in various ways every day.  May my friend Jeannie’s post give us the extra self-control and empathy we need to keep up the hard work of good, solid parenting when we need a boost.

“We don’t do that!” (Yes we do.) Word Choice in Parenting

June 14, 2010

So I’m in the library helping my daughter pick out books when a commotion breaks out in the next aisle.  The sound of little feet running and little voices squealing breaks into the normally quiet environment and  as I finish my selections and walk around the aisle I see a very tired looking mom grab her preschooler’s arm with one hand and a 7 or 8 year old’s arm with her other.  As she is hustling  them towards the door she leans down to whisper loudly to them,

“We don’t run and yell in the library!”

Now I did feel for this mom.  I’ve been there and done that (and I’m sure many of you have too.)  But I couldn’t help also sighing to myself at her comment.  So often I hear parents begin their discipline with “We don’t….” and end it with whatever the child is actually doing or just finished doing.

“We don’t talk with our mouth full.”

“We don’t hit.”

“We don’t leave toys on the floor.”

The problem is that whenever we say these things just as the child is doing them we really look a bit foolish and incompetent because clearly the child IS DOING these things.   Sending poor competency messages can be a minefield for any parent, but for those of us parenting children who began life in a less than optimal environment this can be an even bigger problem.

Why is this?  Those of you who have completed Because They Waited will remember the module about promoting attachment.  Children with attachment strain need even stronger competency messages from their parents in order to move to a healthier place on the attachment continuum.  Their early life experiences have often left them with reduced or lacking trust and when a child cannot trust they often have an increased need or urge to control their environment.   This means that our children are even MORE likely to engage in challenging behaviors, especially when we respond in ways that signal we are less than able to handle the situation.

Word choice seems like a little thing but it is really powerful in sending (or not sending) messages of competency.   The following statements still make the parental expectations clear without reducing parental competency:

When we run or shout in the library we have to leave.  (Parent then leaves with the children)

Talking with your mouthful is considered bad manners.

Stop!  Hitting hurts!  (Remove child from the person he or she is hitting.)

Someone might trip over toys left on the floor or your toys might end up broken.  (Help the child pick up the toys.)

These statements are only slightly altered and yet they send  much stronger messages of competency

Heart of the Matter Seminars Home

Handwriting, Child Development & Less Than Optimal Beginnings

June 7, 2010

I recently caught a short story on our local news about the program, Handwriting Without Tears, becoming more widely used in public school systems.  I was too late in finding a link to the original video I saw, but I did find a link to a written article online here.

I first heard about Handwriting Without Tears about 10 years ago through Children’s Therapy Group here in Kansas City.  They provided a summer class for children using this program.   Now, it’s being used with the general population in public schools.  I find this fascinating because it is a real-life example of what we at Heart of the Matter have always believed–that parenting or caring for children mildly or moderately affected by less than optimal care in the beginnings of their life is oftentimes just a more purposeful, more intense, more lengthy and more conscious form of overall “good parenting”.   (more…)

Quotable Quote

June 1, 2010

A friend just posted this as her Facebook status:

If you find yourself in a hole, stop digging.

I love this quote!  It reminds me so much of parenting.  How often do we find ourselves doing things that don’t work, but we keep on doing them?   In our recorded course, Managing Your  Child’s Bid for Power, we actually talk about how some parents dig themselves into a hole by engaging in power struggles with their children.  The problem?  The child starts seeing the parent as incompetent and the parent starts feeling incompetent!


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