The Language of Family Whispering
Naming something makes it real. New terms expand our minds and our range of possibilities.
“Parent think” focuses solely on children, whereas “family think”–looking at all members, all relationships, and whatever else is going on in the family and outside it–gives you a new perspective about your everyday comings. More. Parent think isn’t bad; it’s just not broad enough to give you information about your whole family–a term we introduced in our first book. Remember, Tracy warned not to make your new arrival “King Baby”! Below are some of the other new terms and language you’ll find in this book. Understanding them will enable you to analyze your unique family and figure out what it needs.
the individuals (each family member brings something different to the table)
their relationships (how they interact)
their context (the various settings and environments that affect them, such as neighborhood, the economy, where the parents work and the children go to school)
Grow up and show up is a reinforcing loop. In the best families, every member is a “stakeholder,” who (to the best of his or her age and ability) pitches in to run the family and, in turn, reaps the benefits of being part of group of loving, supportive humans. [more…] As family members show up, their “investment” in the family makes them grow up. As children and adults (no one ever stops growing and changing) become increasingly mature and competent, they also become more inclined to show up!
REAL is this book’s key acronym, urging you to be Responsible, Empathetic, Authentic, and to Lead with Love. Parents practice and model these qualitites; children develop them. [more…] “Getting REAL” inspires cooperation and commitment to the family and, not so incidentally, strengthens us as individuals. REAL reminds you to be a power of example and to reinforce these traits in your children:
Responsibility. Pitching in when you’re needed gives you a role in something bigger than yourself.
Empathy. Stepping into another’s shoes enhances your relationships and lets your loved one know you understand them.
Authenticity. Honest, direct communication allows you to be yourself and lets others know that you accept them for who they are.
Leading with Love. Putting your best self forward–reaching for a kind response–dials down negativity and helps you flourish as an individual and as a family member.
TYTT–the “Tell Yourself the Truth Mantra”–is the best self-help strategy ever. Use it to understand and better your relationships, deal with change or hardship, or help siblings work through their differences. Here’s how it works… [more…] When you find yourself in what we call a Whoa! moment–an unexpected turn of events, bad news, a family member’s action that brings up strong feelings, or an unpleasant awareness that you can no longer tamp down–instead of getting stuck in worry and rumination, take these three steps:
Look around you. Gather evidence. What came before this moment?
Tell yourself the truth. Admit what is–your role in it, what you can and cannot change.
Take an action. Do or say something. If that doesn’t get you “unstuck,” go back to the first step, start over, and do something else!
The Zones are periods and categories of responsibility that most families move through on a daily basis. Together, they constitute your household routine [more…] Of the 3 Factors that affect our families, we usually can’t change context–our circumstances and whatever else swirls around us. But there is one context you can change by paying attention to the ten zones: prep work, wake up, breakfast, transitions, reunions, casemaking, home maintenance, dinner, unscheduled free time, bedtime. You feel more in control when, instead of going through these periods on auto pilot, you pay attention, understand “the challenge” of each zone, and take action when your family routine needs tweaking.
The Four Requirements are by-laws that keep a family balanced. The best run families take care of business the way a co-op does: Everyone–each “I”–is a “stakeholder,” invested in the welfare of the family–the “We.” [more…] When the co-op prospers, so do the members. Regardless of your unique family situation, everyone is more likely to feel part of the whole when there’s a healthy balance between the I and the We. It happens when the Four Requirements are met:
The We values its members. There is an “I” in family. Each member’s I is respected and accepted as an essential part of the We and knows that he or she matters.
The We is cared for. The adults are the directors of the family co-op, the children help run it, and everyone pitches in to protect it.
The We is fair. The family’s resources–money, energy, and time–are spent thoughtfully, discussed openly, and divided fairly
The We is loved. Everyone participates in memory-banking–noticing small moments of connection, planning and savoring good times, as well as remembering–and being grateful for–the times we bent without breaking. Memory-banking makes a family feel like home.
Family “check-ins” allow family members to be in it together–talking, sharing, supporting, learning, exploring new ideas, making plans, getting everyone to pitch in (see “role doling” below). It’s a time to look at the what the We needs and also to see how each I is doing.
Role doling is the divvying-up of responsibility. Unlike a “chore,” which is something a parent “assigns,” role doling is done by the whole family, together. [more…] At a family check-in [link to Family check-in, above], you figure out what’s needed to run the family and divvy up responsibilities in a way that is both fair and appealing. For example, dinner requires food-shoppers, cooks, table-setters, table-clearers, trash-takers. Households with a dog need dog-feeders and dog-walker. Role doling allows everyone to develop new skills and to feel needed and truly useful.
Accidental parenting, a term introduced in the first book, describes practices that inadvertently rob your child of independence. As children grow, accidental parenting can become an even greater problem. [more…] Parents of older children tend to underestimate what their kids are capable of doing on their own. They rationalize by insisting the children are “too busy.” They even feel sorry for them. Even worse, they do for their kids, instead of letting them and trusting them to try, practice, make mistakes, struggle and learn to tolerate frustration and failure. When children take responsibility for themselves, make repairs, take part in family projects, and help clean, cook, and care for pets and younger siblings, they understand what it takes to get through the day. Most important, they become confident and competent–eager learners who are willing to take risks.
HELPing parents Hold back, Encourage exploration, Limit when necessary, and Praise appropriately. An idea introduced in the toddler book, it’s even more important as your children get older. Set guidelines but also know what your children are capable of learning and doing–based on maturity, not age. Then, let them.
A family-focused solution to “chore wars” involves the children. In many households, parents argue over who does what and when and how it’s done, but it never occurs to them that their kids might be part of the solution.[more…] Chore wars breeds discontent. At worse, the “chore wars progression,” positions parents as enemies–one becoming the Designated Doer (DD) and the other the Shirker. Certainly, the adults need to communicate better and to see if the problem goes deeper than housework. But they also have to look at how and why they’re stopping the children from participating in running the family.
Sib-wrangling is a family-focused approach to sibling rivalry, which middle school parents label their “chief child-rearing concern.” [more…] Like other challenges of family life, sibling dynamics are better understood when wearing 3F glasses so that you factor in what each individual needs, what kind of relationship skills they have (or haven’t) learned, and what’s going on in each child’s context–in the household and out, with family members, peers, and others who affect them.
An “exit speech” consists of measured, loving words that acknowledge that you’re not walking away from an argument; you just need to take a PTO (personal time out). It can stop heated discussions from escalating into arguments. [more…] Use it when you’re drawn into a conversation you’re not ready to have, either because one or both of you is too emotional or to depleted to listen. It might seem contrived to write an “exit speech” ahead of time. But household arguments tend to repeat themselves. If you take the time to find the right words when you’re calm, you’re more likely to remember them when you’re not. In the heat of the moment, also invite the other person (adult or child) to take time to calm down, too. Agree to continue the conversation when tempers have cooled.
Self-control is a wonder; it works better than trying to control the other person. When a child (or partner, for that matter) has a tantrum, giving in or “grandstanding” doesn’t work, because it’s never just about the child. [more…] When we pull back the lens to view “the problem” in households where parent/child conflict is a daily occurrence, we see parents who tend to let children either have their way (out of guilt, pity, or wanting to restore peace) and when finally exasperated, they then try to control the child by asserting their authority as parents. Instead, parents have to look at what else is going on in the family and to muster their own self-control. By not letting themselves spin out, they are more likely to help their children learn how to manage their moods as well.
Family “grit” is a measure of how tough and together your family is, especially during hard times. “Grit,” a concept usually used to describe individuals, can be applied to families as well. [more…] Families with grit are ready for change and crises. When one member becomes ill or disabled, when relationships falter (as in separation and divorce), or when they have to face a hostile environment, they are creative and courageous and somehow stay the course. Families with grit have:
strength and solidarity – the family has a strong spiritual core
determination – collective strength and stamina enables everyone to persevere
good “management” – the adult or adults set policies that benefit the whole
family consciousness – they respect the power of family, leaning in to each other, reaching out past their own borders.