his book â€œHardwiring Happinessâ€, author Rick Hanson said for every intimate
relationship to thrive, there should be at least five positive interactions
over a negative one. As a parent, I used to find this ratio hard to achieve
with my children. The number of daily little crises like tantrum, sibling arguing
and fighting,â€¦ surely beats the number of family vacations every year, picnics
at the park or birthday parties every other weekend, and beautiful moments we
have together now and then.
then realized turning such daily situations into opportunities to bond with my
kids is therefore important in hardwiring our mutual happiness and
strengthening our relationship for the years to come. But what is the way?
over a year ago, I decided to break the cycle of either being helpless or yelling
and forcing when facing with parenting challenges. And I applied brain-based
conversations from my profession as a career happiness coach with my then
2-year-old daughter and 7-year-old son. I find myself love my children more and
I know they also love me â€œso much up to the moon and backâ€ as my daughter often
says indeed. Moreover, I believe they also develop better the much needed human
skills nowadays including EQ as well as thinking ability.
Into my day or well, your
day in some wayâ€¦
morning, my three-year-old daughter, Tutti, and I woke up to a bright blue sky,
twinkle sunlight and warm spring air outside our window. After her favorite
ritual of touching my belly button, Tutti wore a big smile and whispered to my
ear, â€œNow, I am the Mummy and you are the Baby. OK?â€ The â€œMummyâ€ then told the â€œBabyâ€
story after story, and we giggled.
my son, Wiki, was still half asleep till Tutti pointed to my belly and announced,
â€œNow you are Mummy and inside your belly, thereâ€™s a baby!â€ Wiki rose up and
laughed out loud. My husband followed and we rolled over each other. The next
fifteen minutes was non-stop kidsâ€™ sliding up and down my husband legs
stretched from the bed to the floor. The bedroom was filled with as much laugh
and excitement as the sunshine it was bathed in.
suddenly went to the living room to take her toys. Wiki then told us the
grown-ups to cover ourselves with the blanket, his hand holding the door handle
so Tutti could only come in when we were totally hidden. Tutti managed to go
inside, opening the blanket, seeing my still back and started to cry loudly.
She ran straight to her brotherâ€™s room and jumped on the bed, weeping in
streams of tears. â€œMy brother locked me out and my mom and dad ignored me. How
could they do it to me?â€ She must have thought. I followed her just to be
shoved away by her little but powerful hands.
afternoon before, I picked Tutti up from school. As we strolled back home, she chirped
with many short stories about her day, pointing at a helicopter above us or a
train passing by in between. I joyfully merged into her world. She was too
cute, I thought and kissed her on her two pinky cheeks.
we were near our place, Tutti wanted to get off the stroller and walked. Once
being on the ground, she ran on her ballet shoes and stumbled. With her knees
in pain, she cried loudly. I scooped her up and chatted with her till she felt
calm again. It was not over, however. When we reached our apartment building, she
wanted to press the lift button, but habitually I had pressed it. She was angry
and burst crying again, her feet jumping up and down, and her hands beating me
on my thighs.
morning, Tutti woke up earlier than Wiki and played by herself. She found two
balloons and asked me to pump them up for her. I did. And she and I had so much
fun playing with the balloons together.
fifteen minutes later, a furious roar stopped us. Wiki had arisen from his
sleep. â€œTutti, give them back to me!â€ His voice was in full volume, his face
red, and he raised his fists, â€œThose were my
balloons! Give them to me!â€ Tutti shouted back, â€œNo!â€ And they kept
ping-ponging between yes and no for a while racing for louder and louder volumes.
I chronical my day as a parent, every day is different but the mixture of
flavor is more or less the same. My daughter who is super cute, super adorable
and super lovely a minute earlier suddenly turns into a furious alien. My
caring son who tells me things that melt my heart within moments becomes a wild
dinosaur. Our beautiful bonding moments can any time become a choir of arguing,
crying and shouting.
Into the brain-based
conversations that strenthen the bonding between my children and me
the powerful tool of brain-based conversations, I enjoy happier relationship
with my daughter and son. Here are the principles I often use with my children.
Clearing the space first
I start a coaching session with my clients, we often have a so-called â€œclearing
the spaceâ€ exercise. The purpose is to help us to be worry free of any other
topics and stay focused on the coaching matter. Each side shares the three
things in the background of our minds, our feelings towards them and whether we
could put them aside for the duration of the session.
scienctific foundation here, simply explained, is that each of us has Emotion
brain and Logic brain. As the amount of energy in our brain is limited, when
the Emotion brain is hijacked and hence consumes more energy, the Logic brain has
less energy and as a result, cannot do its functions including listening, understanding,
seeing options, cooperation, etc.
children, â€œclearing the spaceâ€ means putting them in the right emotional state.
Once their emotion is regulated, they will be willing to collaborate. For both
of my children, what works is to acknowledge their feelings, go into their â€œheadâ€
and speak what they think. What is often used but never works is to try to explain
the situation right away and cover up the problem they see. Often, with my
3-year-old daughter, itâ€™s much more effective. With my 9-year-old son, he wants
to be alone some times so he could calm down by himself (well, we have a few
coaching conversations about this topic and this is among the solutions he came
the above situations, here are what I talked to my children:
you went into the room. You wanted to see mum and dad. But we covered up and
didnâ€™t talk to you. So you feel sad right?â€
were running and you fell off. The ground is so hard that your leg is painful,
right? You fell right here, right? Now the leg hurts huh?â€
wanted to press the lift. You told mummy so, but mummy has pressed it. Mummy
didnâ€™t let you press it and you feel angry right?â€
I am so sorry. Tutti took your balloons and I pumped them up when both of us
didnâ€™t ask for your permission while you were sleeping. And you find we donâ€™t respect
you and you feel angry right?â€
Setting the vision and letting them know Iâ€™m always by their side
the kids feel better as their feelings are acknowledged and their thoughts are understood,
their Logic brain will work again and they will start to listen. This is often
a good time to set a vision so they see the big picture or the good stuff. And
often, the vision for us as a family is love and a happy family.
the above situations, here are what I talked to my children next:
am sorry, honey. I love you and dad loves you. Your brother loves you. Next
time, we would keep the door opened and see you OK?â€
Tutti still turned away. So I told her, â€œDo you love mummy?â€ And she softly
said yes. But she didnâ€™t want me to cuddle her. â€œNow mummy will go outside and
when you want mummy to come in, you call mummy ok?â€ She nodded her head and I
knew she was already fine.
and I should have asked for your permission. But you were sleeping so we didnâ€™t
want to wake up you. But anyway, that should not be the excuse. And you still
love your sister and me, donâ€™t you?â€ I asked.
Wiki was still in frustration. So I told him, â€œI will leave you alone so you
could calm down. Whenever you feel better, Iâ€™m just at my desk if you want to
talk ok?â€ Five minutes later, when I was in my room, I heard my husband told
Tutti, â€œOh, your brother pumps the balloon for you. He loves you so much huh?â€
And I knew my son was more than OK.
Asking the coaching questions
is the part where the conversation could go into any direction depending on how
the child responds. Just like in coaching, I â€œdanceâ€ with my clients. Having
said that, there are a few typical question that I often use with my 9-year-old.
if the matter is about problem-solving, once he has a clear vision or goal, I
would ask him how he would get there. Sometimes, if he says he doesnâ€™t know
then I would give some suggestions to trigger his thinking while letting him
know such intention.
the above situation, here is what I would ask my son:
you could travel back on a time machine to when you woke up and saw Tutti
playing with your balloons, what would you do and say differently so that you still
get what you want and show your love to both your sister and me?â€ or,
would a loving, caring and calm brother do?â€
if something bad happens, I would ask him reframing questions such as â€œWhat are
the five worst things that could happen but didnâ€™t happen?â€, and â€œWhat are the
five great things you have that you are not aware of?â€ or learning questions
like â€œWhat would you do differently next time?â€
Throughout the past 1.5 years, as I gradually master my brain-based conversations with my kids, I find myself have a lot more opportunities to bond with them. I donâ€™t have to look far. As life unfolds, I see every crisis a chance to â€œhappifyâ€ us and help my children build inner strengths.
Itâ€™s still a journey but now I know that parent-child relationship ratio is not only achievable but also â€œuplevellableâ€.
Visit my A Mother 4.0â€™s Diary for weekly real-life stories of my brain-based conversations with my children, my husband, and others, and how I train my own brain for happiness and positivity through daily situations to better bond with myself, my family and the world.