Monday, June 8, 2015

Tools For Transforming Parenting

I work with Summit Prep School as a contracted parent coach.  This is an article I wrote for their newsletter.

There are times in our relationships with our child, spouse, or partner, when we need a tool to quickly get to the bottom of a conflict or issue.  Here is a fabulous tool I learned from Alan Seale’s book Create a World That Works.  It is called the 4 Levels of Engagement.  I present this early on in my coaching sessions with parents at Summit and use it as a point of reference throughout our coaching. 
Drama ê
The first level is Drama.  You know this well as a Summit parent.  This is a surface level experience, residing mostly in our bodies and fueled by adrenaline.  This is the level when we get all caught up in the story.  We can feel the swirling of the story on an emotional level and in our bodies as we go through the he said/she said stuff.  We find ourselves in reaction most of the time, hooked into the assistance role, the rescuer, the accuser, you name it. 
The focus on this first level is on who is at fault here, how did this happen, can you believe it!  Many of you know this feeling well. 

Take a moment to check in with your body and feel where this resides.  Is it in your shoulders? Neck?  Belly?  Hands?  As you allow yourself to feel at this level, is there a burst of adrenaline that moves you into fight or flight? 

Situation êé
The second level is Situation.  This is when we catch ourselves in reaction and spinning emotionally and we back off and shift into our heads and become the problem solver.  We give ourselves some space to see what is going on, what facts we can see, and the path of what to do presents itself.  You make the necessary calls, you have the difficult conversations and issue the consequences.  You are in the mode of damage control and our fix-it persona’s jump into action.  This is where our co-dependence exists, this is where we set the hook of cause and affect.  You do this, I do that!  As a parent, this is exhausting, and there is no real learning going on here, just a series of actions in and attempt to solve the problem.

We spend most of our time at these two levels of engagement.  We are challenged with the recycling of the same issues, in different forms, with different people, yet the underlying issues are rarely addressed here.  As soon as one problem is addressed, another pops up.  We are managing our children, our families, and our lives, and it is exhausting.

Check in with your body as you read this.  Can you feel your body shift?  What does it feel like?  Can you feel your body tense up?  Your eyebrows come together as you move into your mind for solutions?
                                                                               Management focused
w w w w w w w w w w w w w w w w w w w w w w w w w w w w w w w w w w w w w w w w w w w 
                                                                               Personal Ownership
Choice êé
When we stop our managing role and look at our own personal roles in what is happening, we invite in a whole new level of consciousness.  Once we put down the distracting energy of drama and situation, we can step into choice.  We consciously choose how we want to approach each scenario, with curiosity and openness.  Here we are not speaking of the choices about how to fix a situation, we are looking at who we will be in the situation – our relationship to what is happening. 
            Who am I within this situation?
            What is my role in how this situation came to be?
            What is my role in what is happening now?
            How do I choose to engage going forward consciously?

It is in the power of choice that we understand that I may not be able to change the situation, yet I can choose who I am in the situation, and how I want to experience the situation.   This is a HUGE step beyond where most people go.  We are now claiming responsibility and choice in the issue, the door is now open for possibilities of transformation and sustainable change. 

Now, how does your body feel?  Can you feel the weight lift off your shoulders?  Your forehead relax, and your breathing dropping down deeper and fuller?

Opportunity é
Once we can relax and open to the concept of choice, we begin to see all the events as a form of a message or larger picture.  With space and breath, we drop to the deepest level, the one we rarely get to in our culture, and the one where the most profound parenting and leadership is possible.   From this place of self-awareness and empowerment, we ask ourselves, what is the opportunity here?  What wants to happen?

This is where our true power lies.  This situation happened for a reason, it wants to tell us something to help us clearly recognize what is not working or what wants to change or heal.  We learn that drama is a wake up call alerting us that something wants to shift or transform.  When we apply opportunity to our parenting, we magically begin to understand our child on a new and different level.  We become a partner in self-discovery with our child, and with ourselves. 

As a parent, remember, the bigger the drama, the bigger the opportunity!

Once we have identified the opportunity, what wants to happen, we then get to choose how we want to engage with it and what role we will play.  We move back and forth between Choice and Opportunity.  Each level reveals more about opportunity, and the deeper we go into the opportunity, the clearer our choices become.  As a result, our perceptions start to change.  We create movement towards a different relationship.

Now, how does your body feel?  An you feel the deepness of your breath?  Can you feel the expansion of your own sense of empowerment?  The acute awareness of all the details in the world around you, such as the colors of the room, the vividness of the way you can take in all the details without attachment?

Here is a quote from Alan’s book.  We are all faced with a series of great opportunities brilliantly disguised as impossible situations”.            ~ Charles R Swindoll, American writer

Enjoy the invitation to shift into choice and opportunity with this article and let your student’s therapist at Summit know if you would like to explore this tool in parent coaching.