It is Sunday night. My spouse and I have just returned from a weekend getaway while our four children spent the weekend with friends and family. We are all busy unpacking and settling back into being home when I notice that one of my children is being unkind to their younger sibling. I tune in but pause to give them some time and space to work it out on their own, as I usually do. I notice that it is not getting better and that the older sibling is continuing to be unkind to the younger sibling. I decide I need to get involved.
At this point I have been learning Connection Codes tools and language for about a year and a half so I know that behavior is driven by emotion. I also know that connecting, finding out what is happening beneath the behavior, and processing the emotion is a more effective long term solution than just reacting to or correcting the behavior alone.
I step into my children’s shared bedroom, ask my younger child to leave for a moment, and close the door behind them. I sit on the bed opposite my older child and start asking them open ended questions, attempting to draw them out and find out what is happening beneath the unkindness. It takes several minutes of asking questions and of active, compassionate listening before their walls come down and tears begin to fill their eyes.
At that point I find out that this child spent some time with their best friend over the weekend and that the best friend’s friend was hit by a car and killed over the weekend. I listen through my child’s sobs as they express the deep pain, grief and sadness that had been building within them all weekend.
We processed that experience for many minutes and that led to talking and processing other emotions and experiences as well. The whole interaction felt like a window into my child’s soul. It felt deeply connecting, comforting and powerful.
That experience has stayed with me. I think of it often. Without the Connection Codes filtering my view of parenting, of behavior, of children, I might have missed that moment. I might easily have corrected, admonished, lectured or punished instead of asking questions, listening compassionately, connecting with my child. My reaction could so easily have built a higher wall instead of creating a bridge between us. My reaction might have been the very thing that kept that pain silenced.
They shared their pain, I listened. I never even mentioned their behavior towards their sibling, beyond my initial question of what is happening with this. They already know, deep within them, without me reminding them, that being unkind to each other is not the way we want to live our life. When we reopened that bedroom door they looked like a different kid. Lighter, with different posture and facial expressions and tone of voice. Not another unkind thing was said that night. They reconnected with their younger sibling. I heard chatter and even some laughter.
This experience, as well as many others, have rewritten the way I interact with my children. There are still moments when my knee jerk reaction of admonishing and lecturing gets the best of me. But I am learning to reroute back from correction to connection and at this point, five years into our Connection Codes journey, I am finding that it works every single time.