My back hurts. That’s no surprise. As a 40-something mom of 6-year-old twins and a full-time working parent, I experience all kinds of aches and pains.
At the moment, though, these aches bring me some sweet thoughts of my two daughters, who recently started first grade. I began my tenure as CEO of CALM (Child Abuse Listening Mediation) just nine months ago, and every day I learn something new about myself and about parenting. I try to bring home and “try out” these new skills with my daughters.
I recently learned about something called the “PRIDE skills.” PRIDE stands for Praise, Reflect, Imitate, Describe and Enjoy.
So many of us moms, myself included, can get so caught up in schedules, getting out the door in the morning, and just having our kids listen to us! When they act up, or actually, when they act their age — after all they’re only 6 — I can be short tempered. Sometimes I yell. I’ve even been known to offer a bribe on occasion. (What parent hasn’t?)
However, what I learned about the PRIDE skills is that by praising the behavior I want to see, reflecting on how my daughters feel, imitating what they are doing right and describing that behavior to them, I enjoy my children more and get the added bonus of better compliance.
When I say to my daughter, Sydney, “I really appreciate the way you got yourself dressed this morning! I notice that you chose the red, white and blue shirt to go with the orange flower skirt! That’s an interesting combination (ugh!). You really showed how grown up you are to plan your own outfit and get ready to leave on time.” I find that the next day, Sydney is once again dressed and ready to go.
It is exactly these kinds of tools that can help parents motivate and encourage their children — even during stressful times.
Stress is all around us. Many parents and children who come to CALM are dealing with very stressful life situations.
Take “Tommy,” who started coming to CALM because he was kicking, biting and hitting his preschool classmates. Sometimes, he did the same with his younger brother. His mom was at her wit’s end. She had not hit Tommy, but she was definitely losing her patience with him. She had been yelling at him quite a lot, and really didn’t know what to do.
Tommy was at risk of being labeled at school, and Mom was at risk of reacting in a way she didn’t want. Without help, Tommy’s teachers and parents might have just seen him as a “problem child” — one who couldn’t pay attention, couldn’t learn and couldn’t control his emotions or behaviors. In other words, Tommy could very easily be seen as TROUBLE.
Luckily for him, his teacher recommended trying CALM, and his mom agreed. With education and support, Mom learned the PRIDE skills, and she practiced giving Tommy positive reinforcement for the behaviors she wanted to see. His teacher also incorporated PRIDE skills into her classroom interactions with Tommy, so that he was being supported in a consistent and comprehensive way.
Eventually, Tommy learned to express his big feelings appropriately and really enjoyed playing with Mom, his brother and his friends. His behaviors at school and at home started to decrease. Thanks to CALM, Tommy is on track at school and has a positive relationship with his family.
My daughters are the same age as Tommy. Sometimes they struggle with big feelings, too. Working at CALM inspires me to try to remember to use the PRIDE skills. Even though I’m tired and overwhelmed at times, I want to do everything in my power to develop the best possible relationship with my girls, while also teaching them healthy ways to express their emotions — a skill they will need throughout their lives.
Which brings me back to my sore back. I’ve seen the impact of the work we’ve done with Tommy, and with the many other children like him, so I’ve been spending a lot more time playing with my girls. In the last month, our family has been playing a lot of board games. Most nights, I am having so much fun that I forget to get up and stretch as often as I should.
In the last week, we have been playing and talking about what it’s been like going back to school, having new teachers and being in separate classrooms for the first time. We are connected. Bonded. Solid. My sore back reminds me of how much I love my children and how precious my time with them is.
I’m grateful for the work that CALM does to help kids get a good start in school and in life. And, I’m especially proud of the work we do to support stressed-out parents who sometimes just need a little help in getting through the day.
It can be tough to juggle everything that comes at us, but the connection with our kids makes all the difference.
— Alana Walczak is CEO of the nonprofit CALM (Child Abuse Listening Mediation), a leader in developing programs and services that effectively treat child abuse and promote healing, as well as programs that help prevent abuse through family strengthening and support. Click here for more information, or call 805.965.2376. Click here to read more columns. The opinions expressed are her own.