Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Clash of the Titans!

I took my first STEP class 20 years ago when my son was 3 years old. I figured that I needed help when I was arguing with him over whether the garage door should be up or down, and it was an argument that he was winning!! He had always been a handful even as an infant.  He spent the first 3 months of his life screaming and projectile vomiting. Of course that was because he had a hard time with his formula but I took it personally.

I threatened, I cajoled, I tried to break that defiant spirit numerous times but it didn't work and I was worried. What would happen in 10 years if we continue yelling and screaming at each other? Where would he go to find love and acceptance if he wasn't finding it at home? What would he use to find comfort? I had lived through addiction in my family and wasn't going to watch it happen again, especially to my kids.

So I hesitantly took a parenting class. I say hesitantly because I was skeptical and didn't want anyone to tell me how to raise my kid.  It wasn't a magic wand, it didn't work overnight; but one morning I saw a light at the end of the tunnel. His usual routine when he would wake up and find his dad had gone to work was to question where he was and then throw a fit when I told him he had gone to work. That usually sent him into a tailspin and I would end up telling him to knock it off. I would explain that his dad would be home later and he could see him all he wanted but that just made it worse. 

So one day I decided to try this new STEP skill, reflective listening, that we learned in class! It's a skill where you listen and reflect feelings which, in turn, helps the person who is talking to you feel validated. I couldn't wait to try it and then tell my parenting facilitator that it didn't work. I thought it sounded crazy and wouldn't produce any results. So, that morning, Luke comes into the room, asks where his dad is at, and I tell him. He says, "But I wanted to kiss him goodbye and now he's gone." Ok I thought this is it...."Luke", I said, "it sounds like your sad because Dad is gone and you miss him." First, he just stood there and looked at me like I had lobsters coming out of my ears; then he said, "yeah, I am." and walked away!!!  You mean that's it, that's all he wanted, I could have been getting better sleep a long time ago had I known this 3 years ago.

Since then I've obviously become a disciple. I've been doing this for 20 years and it's the best $30 investment I could have made in myself and my children. I now use this skill with everyone from my adult children to the cashier at Meijer who is having a bad day. And, knock on wood, my children are now 20 and 23 and not using drugs. I believe with all my heart that it's because of the skills I learned in my first STEP class.

Well, I also think it's that defiant spirit that I hated so much when he was 3. I asked him once when he was 18 why he hadn't fallen into the trap of drugs that were so readily available to him and his friends. "Well", he said, "my friends know that I won't do it and if I have to tell someone more than once, I'm done with them."

So, I can't tell him what to do but apparently no one else can either!

If you are interested in more information on parenting issues, CARE of Southeastern Michigan offers parenting classes throughout the year at various locations in Macomb County. You can view upcoming classes, get more information, and register online at http://www.careofsem.com/workshops.php or call CARE at 586-541-0033.
I also co-host a parenting chat at http://www.macombdaily.com/ with the Health and Lifestyle Writer, Maryanne Kocis-MacLeod, on the 1st and 3rd Wednesdays of the month at 11:30-12:30 pm.

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