While standing in line for a bus one day I heard a woman say to a friend, "If any one in my family has a hard time staying calm it is me, and my children know it. But, we have a vocabulary that has changed everything so that I can stay calm more often now." This mother went on to explain to her friend how she learned from my book about a skill called disagreeing appropriately and how her children are really good at that skill.
At this point, I had to get more details. So, I praised her for teaching the skills to her children and following through and then asked how disagreeing appropriately has helped her and the children. She is a single mother and shares custody with their father, so she was worried that they would have a hard time learning the skills. She said, that they learned them fantastically and are even using them at their dad's house even though he doesn't know about them.
But, the biggest success was that this single mom has learned how to be calm when it would normally be hard for her. She has taught her children to disagree appropriately with her if they ever want to tell her something they don't like. So, when she starts getting agitated, or starts saying things she shouldn't, her son or daughter says, "Mom, may I disagree appropriately?"
At this point mom says, "yes" and immediately realizes that she needs to be calm and ready to hear the appropriate disagreement. Since one of the steps for the children to disagree appropriately is to keep a calm voice, face and body, this mom knows that she needs to have that same calmness.
As soon as one of her children asks to disagree appropriately the mother uses the statement as a trigger to analyze her own calmness and to prepare to really understand her children. Then the child will say, "Mom, I know you are upset, but right now you are yelling, can you be calm please?"
She said, "Learning to disagree appropriately is just as much for me as it is for my children. It keeps me calm and disagreeing appropriately too."
I thought this was such a great reminder for us all. When we teach the disagreeing appropriately skill we are teaching ourselves to calmly disagree at the same time. And, we all know that we are the most difficult to teach.
This story is also a good reminder to keep tolerances low. Don't argue with your children. Instead, teach them how to disagree appropriately. If you don't you will end up tolerating too much oppositional behavior and most likely end up losing your cool and calmness too.
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