The other day I picked up my son and put him in the shower. I was frustrated, he was taking forever - and it seemed like the easiest way to get him where I wanted him to go at the time. I was surprised, however, by his screaming and protest. He was really, really mad at me.
The whole dignity dressdown for the both of us was a good reminder that I need to slow down and explain my actions to my kids - even if they can’t respond with words yet.
Long ago in another life I was an EMT for a short stint. One of the most important things I learned in that mini career was the concept of bedside manner. Bedside manner means you need to talk through everything you are doing with a patient - in as caring a way as you can. You can’t just walk up to a patient and shove a needle in their arm. Likewise, you should not just walk up to your protesting son and throw him in the shower. You can give an I.V. - or get the shower going at the same rate - while making the patient aware of what you are doing.
Talk through every step of your action. For example with the needle: You are hurt, you need to receive fluids and medication, but the fastest way for us to do that is with an I.V. I’m going to clean this part of your arm and insert the needle there. This will hurt a little bit, and there will be some blood.
Now with the shower: Ok buddy, it is time to go to bed and before that you need to get clean. I know that you don’t want to do this right now and it looks like you need some help. I’m going to pick you up, and then put you under the water. The water is warm.
The basic principle for an EMT is if you would not be comfortable taking these actions on your own grandmother, you should be doing things differently.
The same standard for communication should be held with our children, and it really helps them know what is going on and why.
There is a three-step process for communicating my actions:
Stop and breath
Make an observation
Intentionally communicate with love.
This simple tool becomes a power tool when you actually voice what you are doing. You say to your child, “I’m going to stop and breath.” You say, “I’m going to make an observation.” - and then make it! You say, “I’m going to intentionally communicate with love.” - and you communicate the action you are taking.
Not only that, talking your communication through like this will help you be more accountable. It will make you live the three steps, and give you a few seconds to figure out what you are actually going to do! Because let’s face it, most of this parenting thing is done extremely in the moment.