I thought her treasured Golden Lab had finally passed.
Every time I asked why she was crying, she cried harder.
I was really worried.
Finally, she squeaked out "I caught Adam lying.
It took me a second.
The sobbing seemed disproportionate to what she had just said.
"Are you telling me that all this sobbing is because Adam, your four-year-old son, lied to you?" "Yes," she said, "but be quiet; I don't want anyone to hear you.
" I couldn't help myself.
I started laughing.
The kind of laugh Julia Roberts burst into when Richard Gere SLAPPED the jewelry box closed and surprised her in Pretty Woman.
N is an intelligent, educated, down-to-earth woman.
She navigated her way through a colicky baby and a husband who traveled a lot during the first three years of Adam's life.
So, I was completely caught off guard by her response to this infraction from her four-year-old son.
I did compose myself quickly, when I realized she really was upset.
We chatted for a while, I ran her through the A-B-C exercise, and she experienced a MAJOR "Aha!" moment.
We ended our call with her having a plan and me feeling like I had redeemed myself and regained her trust after my insensitive outburst of laughter.
Fast-forward three weeks: I get a phone call from N.
She is giggling, happy, and excited as she shares that Adam lied again, but she used the plan, and WOW! Will I do her a favor? She asks me to share the A-B-C exercise, because she suspects that other parents, moms in particular, will find this a powerful tool, which they can use immediately to squelch the nasty stories playing in their heads that are making them act like, in her words, "ninnies.
" Here it is, courtesy of N.
A - Activating Event In N's case, a child who lies.
If you have ever said, "they know just how to push my buttons," consider that to be YOUR activating event.
It could be anything: manners, hitting, bad grades; anything that sends you into orbit fast.
Question: What is YOUR activating event? B - Beliefs In N's case, children who lie will become full-time liars who will flunk out of school, lose their friends and their jobs, and, eventually, turn into adults whose lives, again in N's words, SUCK.
What's worse though, is N's belief about HERSELF as the mother of this lying child.
What will people think of a mother who is raising a liar? Nothing good, I can assure you.
I could go on here, but you see how this line of thinking could get you into big trouble over a little thing like a four-year-old telling a lie.
What do you believe about children who "X" 2.
What do you believe about parents who raise kids who "X" C - Consequence This is the emotional consequence that both N and Adam pay for N's over-the-top response.
In her case, a long lecture, tears, moralizing, more lecturing, phrases like "Do you understand how SERIOUS this is Adam? You cannot, must not lie to your mother.
" Poor Adam; can't you just picture him looking completely bewildered and terrified at his mother's outrageous outburst? Poor baby.
Question: How do you over-react to your activating event? D - Disputation This is the good part.
This is where you get to create a brand new story for yourself that sets you free to parent from reality and not some past fantasy.
It didn't take N long to create a more realistic story that allowed her to deal with the situation in a calm, rational, loving manner.
Question: What is your new story? Anything will do.
You don't have to believe it yet; you just have to be willing to try it.
E - Encouragement Finally, and most importantly, using encouragement to release the past and accept the present helps us stay on course until the shift in thinking is complete.
N shared stories of her own childhood in which she had told a lie or two, and then had the courage to admit that even as an adult, she has told a lie from time to time.
What she realized was this: she is a high-functioning, loving, productive, fully engaged woman, wife, mother and friend.
That is the truth, and that is what set both she and Adam free from her madness.
Question: How will you encourage yourself and your child, as you adopt more useful parenting strategies that focus on this:
- What will it take for my child to find the courage to tell the truth?
- What will it take for me, as the parent, to find the courage to update old, limiting beliefs so that I can parent from my best?