At MOMS group on Thursday we had a Christian counselor come and speak with us on The Art of Parenting. It was a great talk. She introduced a new discipline technique that had most of us incredulously questioning. It was thought provoking and intriguing, and hard to believe that it would “work”.
The meat and potatoes of the technique is something called “mirroring”. We do this without even realizing when we are interacting with a newborn baby; if the baby is gazing at you, you kind of open your eyes wide too and engage in talking about what they might be thinking or looking at. If the baby is fussy, you might make a down-at-the-mouth face back and say something along the lines of, “Oh you’re so sad! Do you need a diaper change? Do you need to eat?” and verbalize what may be going on with the baby.
When you “mirror” your child, you imitate their facial expression and repeat what they say. That’s it.
The objective is not to modify behavior, but to connect with your child on an emotional level, to show them they have been seen and heard, which are crucial for a healthy state of mind.
I chose to implement this when the children are whining or crying which are two of the behaviors that drive me the craziest, I most want to get to an underlying cause of, and most want to eliminate completely in our home.
The afternoon after the meeting: Brielle and Aviana are arguing in their room and Brielle is speaking extremely rudely to her sister.
“Brielle, come here!”
(whining crying verge of tantrumy voice) “Mama, Aviana wouldn’t wet me have the foopstool!”
(in a similar voice, similar face) Aviana wouldn’t let you have the footstool
(whining crying verge of tantrumy voice) No, and I really wanted it!
(in a similar voice, similar face) You really wanted it!
(whining crying but no longer almost out of control voice) I had it and she tried to take it fwom me and I wouldn’t wet her have it!
(in a similar voice, similar face) You had it, and she tried to take it from you and you wouldn’t let her have it.
(just a little whining voice) I yelled at her, and tried to get the foopstool.
(in a similar voice, similar face) You yelled at her and tried to get the footstool.
She snuggled quietly into my shoulder and rested there a while.
Then I said, “We don’t yell at one another, do we?”
“No.” “We don’t treat each other unkindly, do we?”
“No.” “Ok, go apologize to Aviana for being not treating her with love, and give her a hug. “
“OK Mama.” And she did!
(and of course, I called Aviana in and did a similar process with her, because when kids are fighting, they are BOTH being selfish and BOTH their hearts need dealt with.)
IT was AMAZING! Usually, I’d be more stern and expect the child to get herself under control before she talks to me. If she couldn’t, she would have to be disciplined because now she’s disobeying, and it’s hard to put a tearful child on the Naughty Step. Sometimes it would escalate further.
Instead I felt connected to my child. I felt I’d relieved her of some hurt. I felt I’d helped her. And I still felt like she could hear the necessary correction and could change her heart.
It worked with Aviana.
And it even worked with 18-month old Cadrian. He usually has huge fits when he doesn’t get his way, like when the computer cabinet gets locked, or the pen gets taken away or the snack is denied, or he gets put on the floor. you know, the usual terrible travesties in a young man’s life. Usually I just say, “we don’t scream at Mama” then ignore him and ask after a few minutes, “are you ready to be quiet now?” And then pick him up when he nods and is quiet.
I tried mirroring instead, and while he still had the fit, it didn’t last as long and wasn’t as loud, as it usually seems like it is.
Mirroring worked with all kinds of tearfulness and whinging in the past couple of days. And every time, nothing further was needed. The child felt heard, felt validated, FELT LOVED.
The next time you need to discipline your kids, please, try mirroring!