Monday, September 27, 2010

PD Tool Card: Mirror

The other day I described an interaction with my kids in which my only role was to describe what I was observing. One of my friends, Hanah, had a question about why I chose this objective-third-party strategy and left this comment:

This is really interesting, and I'm glad it worked. I'm curious about your intervention, though, because it just seems like a weird and unnatural thing to do. You joined the conversation without turning around and facing the people you were talking to. You narrated what was happening as if you were explaining it to a third party instead of to the participants in the situation. Do you speak this way frequently? Is there a theory behind it?

And so I wrote back:

Good question. I'm glad you asked, because I guess it does seem weird! It's not unnatural, because I do this quite a bit.

Sometimes just a statement about what you are observing is a great way to send a message without starting up a big argument or putting people on the defensive.

So "I see a wet towel on the bathroom floor." is often more than sufficient to jog someone's memory, and it's less likely to invite a battle than "Why did you leave a wet towel on the floor?"

I do the observation thing a lot, and that's what I did yesterday. I didn't want to turn around and face them because that invites Ryan to try to get me more involved in the disagreement, and I thought by his tone that he would do that.

So by just making my observation Greek Chorus style and without getting involved too much in their discussion, I helped Morgan gain some words that she then used to support her argument. Knowing what to say and having enough energy to continue the discussion are the things M needs help with most.

Ryan needs help with listening to Morgan's point of view (even if she hadn't re-used my words, my saying her POV is a way for him to hear her message) and would have gladly changed from a battle with Morgan to a battle with me.

And I needed to help them both without getting sucked in.

So it was kind of a WIN-WIN-WIN!

And yes, there is a Positive Discipline Tool Card for this:

Funny, too, because I used the wet towel example in my response to Hanah. I have used this technique so much in the past, and it's one of my favorites--and I never realized until this writing that there was a tool card for it! :o)

Mirror is a great technique because it demonstrates your confidence in the kid's ability to be rational, that this is a problem that they can solve. I also like it because statements of fact really help me keep unnecessary battling to a minimum (yes, I do unnecessary battling, and I'd like to get it down to zero). If someone argues with you, then all you have to do is back away with a "Just sayin'." kind of comment:

Me: "Hey, your bike is still out in the yard."

Kid: "Why do you always tell me to do stuff?" or "SHE left it, not me!" or "But I was just going back outside to ride it!"

Me: "Oh, I'm not telling you what to do, I'm just noticing that it's still outside." or "Oh, I didn't ask who did it, I'm just noticing that it's still outside." or "Oh, I didn't tell you to bring it back in, I'm just noticing that it's still outside."

That's often enough to deflate even your most fervent litigator, who is also then redirected back to your original statement and generally thinks about, and even does, something about the issue at hand.

I LOVE this tool. Do you use it?


Mike N said...

Great post Jenn. I'm going to recommend my three sons and daughters-in-law read it. They have two kids each. All under the age of 6.

Lady Baker said...

Yep, all the time! This morning when he forgot to put on his school uniform I just commented with a smile, "Ooops, those aren't school clothes." I continued on into the kitchen to make breakfast. Five minutes later, he completed what he was working on, went upstairs, and changed. Ah, the peace of just noticing a fact of reality!

Jenn Casey said...

Thanks Mike and Rachel! I hope your children find this useful, Mike. And Rachel, I love your phrasing: "just noticing a fact of reality!" :o)