May 09th, 2017
Ann Magalhaes, who runs our classes in Rye, New York, was listening to a radio programme in which the interviewee was Norman Lear, writer and producer of sitcoms, who was just shy of his 94th birthday. Mid-way through the interview, he was asked if he had any tips for getting to 94 as spry and as successful and happy as he is. This was his response:
“[It] may be as simple as any two words in the English language – over and next. And we don’t pay enough attention to them. When something is over, it is over … and we are on to next. And if there was to be a hammock in the middle … between over and next, that would be what is meant by living in the moment.”
Ann said as a parenting educator this hit home! At The Parent Practice we encourage our clients not to linger on the ‘bad’ things our children have done. We often stew about slammed doors, muddy shoes in the hall, rolled eyes, tantrums … and we find ourselves staying angry or resentful about things that have already happened. Those of you who have ever asked a teenager to un-slam a door – well, you know how that goes!
Over and Next serve as a reminder that what happened is over and now it’s time to move forward with some learning. It’s now, as Lear says, ‘hammock time’, that split second between your child’s emotional outburst and your response – the magical moment that enables you to connect with your child without anger, judgement or blame. It is the time to be present — take a deep restorative breath and remember that what happened is now over – and you get to choose how you handle what comes next. When we can get into the habit of responding this way, we no longer have to lose it with our kids! As Steven Covey (7 Habits of Highly Effective Families) suggests, we can push the pause button and decide on a more constructive response.
Next is all about supporting your child in a constructive and positive way to learn a more appropriate behaviour; to make amends; or simply to solve whatever problem they are facing that day. This way, your child can start to think about what he or she can do the next time they are feeling that same emotion, so that they are empowered to deal with it in a more effective and positive way.
‘Hammock time’ is a moment to decide to build a deeper connection with your child. It is about practicing living in the space between over and next – the space where you can listen, encourage and love.
The key to making use of hammock time lies in these 5 things:
Taking good care of ourselves is not being selfish or self-indulgent – it is taking care of our needs so that we are better equipped to support our families. Try thinking of it as on-going professional development for your job as a parent. When we’re calm, we can access the parenting skills we already have, and the ones we’re learning and working on.
What can you do to look after your physical, intellectual, social, emotional and spiritual wellbeing?
To make sure you get into action:
TAKE one small step – rather than applying to run the marathon next year, join a local fitness class or download some running tracks and set off for the local park.
COMMIT money – if we pay up in advance, we’re less likely to back out on the morning.
SCHEDULE it – the act of writing it into our diary makes it more likely to happen.
FIND a friend – either persuade a friend to join you in your run or trip to the museum, or ask them to act as a ‘stand’ for you which means you give them permission to call you and find out how it went.
It may help to use some calming techniques in the moment too so you can access your ‘hammock’ moment.
VISUALISE You can either visualise the stress and get rid of it or visualise something very calm and soothing.
VERBALISE Use a mantra to help you calm down. “Breathe and relax.” Or maybe “That’s over. What’s next?” Counting to 10 also works.
MOVE Take deep breaths, do something physical like go for a walk, splash cold water on your face or hands, get a massage, leave the room.
Understanding why our kids do the things they do and why we respond the way we do is the subject of chapter 7 of our book, Real Parenting for Real Kids.