By Ayah Sarhan – Certified PET Instructor & Family Relationships Coach
I used to watch Wimbledon Tennis tournaments when I was a child, I dreamed of becoming a Tennis World Champion.
Of course, that was just a dream. Why it wasn’t fulfilled? Well, I have my list of excuses and blames. Anyway, I was decided to fulfill my dream through my kids by involving them in different sports and encouraging them until they become world champions.
My elder child, however, was not showing much interest in sports. Instead she loved reading and doing arts and crafts. I tried every possible way to fulfill my dream for her; team sports, individual sports, in different places. In the first couple of months, she would be so excited to try out but eventually she would lose interest.
In Parent Effectiveness Training (PET), Dr. Thomas Gordon talks about the Behavior Window and how certain behaviors can be acceptable or unacceptable to us. So in my Behavior Window for my daughter, I had a problem with her not practicing sports. At the same time, her resistance was a cue that she also had a problem. As this was a Conflict of Values (I owned the problem as well as my child but there was no tangible effect on me), I decided to think more about my value and position on the subject and then chose one of the strategies we teach parents in PET which is Confrontation.
It took me some time to accept that this was my dream and not hers. I started reexamining my value about sports. After some thinking, I realized that yes I had a dream when I was a child but it was not my intention to pressure my children to fulfill it. What I really wanted was to provide them with the support and encouragement that can help them achieve their own dream. I also wanted them to be healthy and physically fit. Accordingly, I still needed to change her behavior and motivate her to practice sports.
I had two sets of feelings…
1. One was being disappointed after putting in time, effort, and money to research places, select one, and get her enrolled.
2. The other was worry about her not following through and that this could be later translated in an attitude of passiveness and weak will power.
So I had to confront her about all this.
As I did, I felt that she wasn’t happy about quitting either, so I wanted to know more. Luckily, I know how to Active Listen (feedback my understanding of what she is saying (verbal & non-verbal) with empathy).
I discovered that she feels that she was putting too much effort and was not interested in pursuing further than the basic level of knowing how. She felt that she didn’t like being pushed into competitions. She would rather go to an aerobic class to move and be active. She also preferred spending time doing things such as coloring, drawing, and playing music. She enjoys coming up with ideas and finding ways to implement them. She loves researching the internet about things like jewelry making, drawing, playing music. The other day she came from school so fired up and excited about knowing how to build a website and she did it and keeps updating it regularly. As I listened further, she explained the difficulties she faced in each sport she tried, and then she moved on to talk about what she enjoyed. Eventually, she told me what she would like to continue to play.
After this conversation, we both felt relieved and closer. We were smiling and there was a nice warm hug at the end.
My second child is quite the opposite. She loves moving around, over, and under things. I remember when she started walking, she pushed a chair near a kitchen counter, climbed over it all in a matter of seconds like a little monkey. She plays sports and wants to follow through.
My takeaway here would be that as parents we need to be flexible and sensitive to our child’s talents and capabilities. We can’t just set our rules in stone for all children alike, just allow for your child’s creativity and become a growth agent and facilitator. Of course, active listening and empathy come a long way and will help you understand your child natural potent talents to leverage on them.
We need to be smart about everyday issues and not turn them into power struggles, instead we need to focus our attention on understanding underlying needs and generating options that can work for everyone.
At the same time, you need to express yourself to your child and how important things are for you. As you saw with my first child I was clear on how important I regarded exercise and activity. When she understood that and saw that I considered her feelings in the very beginning, she came up what suited both our needs.
A problem solved peacefully using skills that we coach PET participants on.
We would love to coach you learn the skills to handle such situations, so call us now.