Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Living Beyond Tyrant/Victim Control, Part Two

This is the continuation of An Interview with Sherrie Loertscher.

Part One is posted here:  

The book Sherrie is talking about - the guidebook she used in raising her children - is Children, the Challenge, by Rudolf Driekurs, M.D. and Vicki Stoltz, R.N., available for purchase here: http://acornandrose.com/Shop.aspx

Sherrie: I thought it was a disservice if I didn’t show my children what was waiting in the real world.

Do you think children respect themselves when they pitch fits to get what they want?

Sherrie: I think you can have a child who is into power and loves to control, but again it’s all in what kind of attention he gets – being criticized and reacted to or being heard and encouraged. A child knows when he is being disruptive.

What about a child who is constantly driving for attention? No matter what? How do you negotiate something like that?

Sherrie: I’m a firm believer that children love boundaries but they take great pride in being consulted and listened to. If they have an issue you don’t understand, there’s nothing wrong with asking them if they’re of an age where they can tell you. Offer alternatives.

You could look at your children and see them as individuals who really knew what they were doing, even though they had a very undeveloped frontal lobe, they could manipulate you if they wanted?

Sherrie: Oh, you bet! You bet!

Is there a leader in this group? Are the parents the actual leaders?

Sherrie: There are times when the child is the leader, for example when you know they need a nap every day at two. Then the child leads, he’s leading you because it is healthy for the child to get a nap when the child deserves to have a nap.

What would you say to a parent who has a four or five year old who is well potty trained who poops his pants. What’s going on?

Sherrie: A child who is definitely potty trained but on purpose would poop his pants, it can be a couple of things in my way of thinking. He can be really excited and happy with what he’s doing and not want to take the time to go potty. The other one of course is it’s his way of controlling the parents. And I didn’t get this until I read this book. Negative attention – they love it. You think, oh, don’t be silly, how could they want somebody who looked at them in disapproval or didn’t like what they were doing. But negative attention is better than no attention. He explains that in the book. So they’re wanting attention, and there’s ways to get attention. But if you see what they’re doing you don’t have to let it totally disrupt you. It's clear when a kid is really calling for help or when they want your attention – there are behaviors when they should get no attention.

Your boys really did learn to respect you and in doing that they learned self-respect?

Sherrie: I would say – you know it’s cute because you’re saying did they respect you. They definitely saw me clearly – they did! I might have looked at them through veiled eyes but they saw me real clear!!! But I tell you – I don’t want to say that the book helped me enjoy them more but it definitely helped me appreciate them more. But I did later on – there are certain times, raising your children, when they go through phases and you can’t claim to enjoy that part of it. But I had tools to understand the necessity of letting them learn their way with the consequences to an action.

They can understand that principle?

Sherrie: They really can.

And they can understand cooperation and respect for everyone in their group?

Sherrie: Yes. That is what the book teaches. And another thing: it’s very important for a child to enjoy alone time with himself.

Why is that important?

Sherrie: Because in the end it’s his opinion of himself that really matters. If he doesn’t think much of himself what’s he going to offer the world at large?

Did you have moments or times when you didn’t love your children and you didn’t want them around?

Sherrie: Yes – I would just take time and go off – it’s easy on both sides to be resentful – I had devoted myself to my children so that whatever they wanted was the most important, to the point that I didn’t know my own food preferences! You know you’re doing them a disservice if you’re picking them up every second if you are totally losing yourself to the point you don’t even know who you are, how you think about things, what kind of food you like. All you do is create a little Napoleon.

A mother as an individual in a group where everyone has wants and needs – it is important for children to see what you enjoy as a person, share with them what you are doing and encourage them to do the same. Everyone gets to be out of the cage.

This book offers a way out of our war-torn ways by recognizing that we all have some of that, and lets us know how to handle controlling, warring qualities without turning our back on the being. These victim/tyrant things need to be expressed.

Children vie for control, parents vie for control, and everybody is frustrated. You are saying this book offers a way to be truthful, with a light heart, and move to a centered place.

Sherrie: Yes! It just gives you a framework to do that, explaining to you and cautioning along the way, if the kid is reacting in defiance, if you are angry – take another look, there is always more to learn. I learned that discipline is not a negative thing, they really are looking for it. They don’t like an open-ended-ness, they want assurance. They are so curious and so enthusiastic and so wanting to learn about everything, and it is wonderful to appreciate and enjoy that. Yet at the same time they have to have something to bounce off of, and if they don’t have it they are just scattered.

You are saying that being too lenient - or too strict - creates a controlling yet insecure tyrant? Or may create a withdrawn and victimized kid?

Sherrie: Some people will define that differently. But kids need to know what’s expected so they have a balanced place to start. If they don’t have an expected place to start from, they are all over the place and they are unhappy. They need guidance – then they can branch out from there. You have to have a known place to start from to expand into the unknown. And how that known place is presented, you may change the structure as you go, but that’s something the child calls . . . it has to be able to express but not in a way that won’t allow them to enjoy life. They have to learn certain ways of expression that do no harm to the environment, other people, themselves – it’s about life and having a respect for life and how you teach them, especially in these times where life is held really cheap.

One of the greatest helps is to get them out in nature and let them watch something grow. You teach them to listen to the frogs, birds, listen to the wind in the grass.

The other thing about this book: it let me know I was up to the task. It gave me confidence because the things I applied worked. It brought peace to my household.

Children are incredible in their understanding if you can just listen to them, when they’re talking to you and what they’re really telling you. And sometimes it’s just, stay as simple as you can and listen as best you can. I often said, “What can we do about this? What would be your idea?" You can often get an “I don’t know,” but the more you work that way the more they do start being willing to trust you enough to tell you what they are thinking and a way they’d like to do it. And it wasn’t always something I was real crazy about doing but it made sense to them and I would do it!

I always was a working mother. So it wasn’t that I was getting time for myself but I would have to go to work. So they always were used to sitters, and I used to feel guilty about that at first. But again, in that case, they taught me, because they would say things to me – like if I would find out their babysitter said something that I didn’t necessarily care for – I don’t even remember a subject but I remember being distressed and I would say, “Now did Linda say this to you?” and they would go, “Well yeah Mom but you know that’s just Linda.”

What would you say to parents now who live in a really different world, there are so many challenges, it is a loud world with so much light and noise, so much stimulation that is harsh to the senses . . .

Sherrie: I always thought a family should be about love – not just a feeling but daily moments of working things out – it is a beautiful balancing act, being present, but the allowing part comes when you can be at peace even when they are in distress, knowing that they are working their way. Allowing is not just letting them have their way, allowing can be holding your tongue, pulling back from giving your opinion on everything. If you learn that it is not for you to control them, you are miles ahead – because there can be so many different ways of playing the game where you think you are in control. Control is not logical, how can they learn or grow or change.

It doesn’t mean there’s disrespect for things like the law – not that I think the law is perfect, but you agree to certain things and to abide by the law. There’s an intent there, again, of respect – you respect where you live enough to want to follow its laws, and you may not understand them at the time, but then the more you have your own experiences the more you can see the reason for certain things.

Did you ever have to encourage your children to take risks?

Sherrie: Yes. Sometimes they would get frustrated because I would pull myself away from a situation and they would have to make their own decision. This was later in their lives – high school, college age. They learned to make decisions they would have to live with, their father and I couldn’t make decisions for them. I just felt it lightened my load as a parent to know that they could ask questions about anything.

Being a working parent gave them room to move a little more because they dealt with other people and children who had parents who stayed home. But it was funny because I did respect the decisions they were making, even in grade school. They really did raise me. It surprised me how I approved of what they were wanting to do.

But to teach them that they have a right to their own space to develop what they had to learn, and if you can help them just a little bit going toward finding their way – they sense this – I was rewarded every time with that. Simple choices like going to a movie or spending time with me. And if I could stay quiet long enough they actually asked me a question, without me wanting to give them all the answers, I was rewarded. There’s nothing like it when somebody wants to share a good conversation with you. And when it’s your own child, it’s such a wonderful experience and it helps you know it’s all been worthwhile.

In a nutshell, Sherrie, what in all these many years have you learned from your children?

Sherrie: I love seeing them interact in the world, I feel like I’ve given something when I watch their compassion for others.

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