That’s really the only way I can describe the transformation I’ve manifested in my life.
That may sound airy-fairy, but maybe if I show you the before and after snapshots you’ll understand how both magical and practical it's been.
A few years ago I realized I was caught in a less-than-satisfying communication pattern with one of my kids. It's humbling to tell you all this, but it's what our daily interchange really looked like.
Late afternoon/early evening I begin to make dinner. I realize that my daughter has been on the couch reading for two hours since she got home from school and no chores have been done. I start feeling agitated.
I call from the kitchen to where she is in the living room.
Sweetie, have you done your chores?
Dinner will be done in half an hour, please go take the dog for a walk.
Fifteen minutes later.
Stop reading and take the dog for a walk!
—I don't care! I'm busy. I'll walk him later.
GO NOW BEFORE IT GETS DARK!
A half later we sit down at the dinner table. I've got an edgy feeling in my chest that feels like it might explode if provoked.
Did you do your chores and take the dog for a walk?
What do you mean? I told you to do that before dinner. Did you finish your homework and straighten your room?
ARGH. Why don’t you do what you’re supposed to?! Now you have all this stuff to do before bedtime and I bet the dog won't even get his walk!
— I don’t care! You can’t make me! I don’t want to do anything!
She storms out of the room and runs upstairs, slamming the door to her bedroom and leaving the rest of us to finish dinner in an awkward state of yucky feelings.
I'm disappointed in myself and in my daughter. The edgy feeling in my chest is now heavy and regretful and I have a hard time eating.
This went on for longer than I want to admit. It certainly wasn’t the only place in our family life where there was antagonism and strife, but it’s a good example of what was going on.
I decided there had to be another way and set my mind to changing myself and my language to shift the dynamics.
*********MAGICAL TRANSFORMATION OCCURS********
Late afternoon/early evening I begin to make dinner. I realize that my daughter has been laying on the couch reading for two hours since she got home from school and no chores have been done.
I go to the couch and kneel down beside her.
Hey, sweetie. I know you’re deep into that book. I’m sorry to interrupt you. Can we talk for a couple minutes?
She stops reading. I make eye contact and touch her arm.
I’m starting to make dinner and it’ll be ready in about half an hour. What chores do you have left?
— I need to walk the dog, do a little homework, and straighten my room.
Ok, would you be willing to get the dog walked before dinner and then we’ll have time to play a game after we eat?
— Yeah, but I just have three pages left in this chapter. Can I finish it and then walk the dog?
Sure, are you willing to really stop when you hit the end of the chapter?
— This book is so good I just want to keep reading! But yeah, I’ll stop. Maybe if I get everything else done I can read a little more before bed!
That’s a great idea. Ok, I’m going to go cook and make sure that we have something good to eat in a little while. You’ll finish the chapter and take the dog for a walk?
We sit down at the dinner table a while later.
How was your walk?
— Good! We saw a baby blue jay getting fed by its mama.
Cool! What game do you guys want to play after dinner?
A happy family time ensues. No yelling. No disconnection. No running upstairs. No beating myself up for being a bad mama.
Basically, that shift brought harmony, ease, and joy into our house just about every evening.
It’s not really magical—but it feels like it. The tools I used are all easily learnable skills.
But (through no fault of your own) you probably weren't taught the principles of Agreements vs Expectations, am I right?
I'd love to help you learn. Just use the contact page to let me know and I'll share more with you. ♥︎
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