This article is going to focus on the three CMP strategies, because these are the three things that will improve your parenting faster than anything else if you are doing them consistently. They will help you move from corrective parenting to connective parenting. We’ll dive into the first strategy in depth today, and we’ll talk about the second and third strategies in the upcoming episodes.
The Three CMP Strategies
The three strategies are:
1) Understand your own behavior so you can leave room for theirs, meaning your kids’ behavior.
2) Consistently connect, and I’m gonna define what that means and how it’s very different than just hanging out in the same room as them.
3) Choose closeness when there’s off-track behavior.
It’s really in these three simple, doable strategies that everything will change for you.
So let’s jump into strategy one, which is understand your own behavior so you can leave room for your kids’ behavior. This strategy focuses on understanding our nervous system, our triggers, our traumas. All of the things that cause you to feel frustrated or irritated or annoyed or resentful when the kids have off-track behavior.
Parenting by connection starts with how you show up as a parent, not with your kids. It’s not about fixing the kids, it’s about understanding and getting curious about their behavior.
Let’s dive into how you can do this.
Inside League, my parenting group, I teach a tool called STEAR. it’s inspired by Cognitive Behavior Theory, along with a few other individuals such as Victor Frankl, who wrote a book called Man’s Search for Meaning. When I read Frankl’s book, I was incredibly inspired by his heartbreaking story.
He has two quotes that were so inspiring to me. The first one is, “When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.” Isn’t that so good? It will forever be my mantra.
The other one that really stood out to me is, “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing, the last of human freedoms, to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
And I’m also incredibly inspired by the works of Byron Katy and Pema Chodron. These individuals and so many more helped to change my worldviews and these changes led me to develop the tool I now call STEAR.
Using STEAR in my daily life allowed me to learn from past events, prepare for upcoming events, and have so much awareness about what was going on in my mind. I was eventually able to change my habits, and my relationship with my kids for the better.
The STEAR model is an acronym, and it’s not spelled correctly. This is a purposeful misspelling. It’s spelled S T E A R. I’m gonna go through what each of those letters mean and unpack it for you as we dive into Strategy One.
It’s such a cool acronym because not only does it work perfectly with what I’m gonna teach you, but I also love that it gives you this imagery of a steering wheel.
You are in control of driving your life, and if you let your life go on autopilot, you’re going to steer down some random path, and end up with a life that you do not want and did not choose.
I want to break apart STEAR line by line so that you can understand it conceptually, the easiest way for me to think about STEAR is stacked up vertically. If you think of lined paper, put one letter on each line
The S in STEAR stands for SITUATION
The situation is the only thing you don’t have control over. You don’t have control over your kids’ attitudes. You don’t have control over the weather. You don’t have control over traffic. You don’t have control over the things your teenager may say to you. You don’t have control over those things outside of you. You never will.
It’s so much better if you can accept the things that you have no control over and focus on the things that you CAN change.
Stop Trying to Control Everything
I’m constantly getting asked questions like: “Andee, how do I get my kids to want to listen to me?” and “How do I improve my relationship with my kids?”
The first step in the process is to stop trying to control the can’t control. This doesn’t mean that you give up on your ability impact or influence over your kids. You’re not going to be a passive parent. You’re actually going to be more active, more impactful, and more influential the less you try to control the things that are not within your control.
Once you start focusing on what you actually have control over and start seeing the neutrality of all the things you don’t have control over, your emotional response will be grounded and you’ll be able to show up, calm, connected, confident. You’ll be able to set limits and have difficult conversations. It starts with focusing your attention and energy on yourself and understanding what’s going on for you.
This is where you must begin because you, as a parent, set the tone for your home and for your children. When you give up your need to control everything, and figure out why you’re so frustrated and irritated and are able get to the real root of your struggles from a place of curiosity, your life will improve in ways you can only dream of.
You need to know this from the beginning, because when I first started understanding what was happening in my head I was very critical and mean to myself. I was extremely critical and hard on myself any time that I would get frustrated or explode on my kids. I understood why my brain felt the need to react in such a way, but I couldn’t give myself the space to actually heal and improve.
I stayed stagnant for a very long time. I don’t want you to do that. I’ve seen the same pattern in my clients as well. If they’re critical, if they’re beating themselves up, they’re don’t make the progress they want.
That’s because you can’t change when you’re critical and beating yourself up.
That’s what keeps you stuck. When you think about the things you’ve done in the past from a place of curiosity and not judgment, you’re able to learn and grow and do better in the future. True progress comes when you can see the mistakes you’ve made without judgment, without your nervous system being triggered and without being critical towards yourself.
You have to look at your struggles from a place of neutrality like a scientist would. The results of their experiment are just the results of their experiment, nothing more. Just like your reactions and frustrations are just that, emotions and feelings that don’t mean anything unless you give them meaning.
Let’s look at an example of how to apply STEAR in your everyday life.
The kids are fighting in the kitchen.
That’s our situation.
And then we can say, okay, my thought is they shouldn’t be doing that. And I’m feeling really frustrated. And if I continue down this path, I’m gonna walk into that kitchen. I’m gonna start issuing consequences, and the result will be disconnection.
This is the STEAR you would build for the situation above:
That’s the STEAR you want to start to understand. You want to look at those STEARs and see what’s happening. As you are able to look at those STEARs with clarity, you can pivot and change how you behave in the future.
It’s these small and steady changes that create new neural pathways so that our default for parenting is one of connection, not correction.
Another Example of STEAR
We’re gonna use the example of the boys’ bedroom that has two piles of knee high dirty clothes, beds that haven’t been made, and five dirty plates and three cups, let’s say. So this is the situation, the S of STEAR.
Now what happens when I walk into the bedroom and I see this situation?
I have a thought about it.
In this example, I’m gonna say, I’m not doing so hot that day. So my thought is, “What slobs, I can’t believe they didn’t clean up the room like they were asked to.”
My emotion is going to be frustrated.That’s the E in the STEAR, the emotion. It’s what happens in our brains when we have a thought. We have an emotional response. Chemicals are released in our body. It’s this physiological reaction that we have, and I’m feeling the emotion of frustration.
So I go into action mode, which is the next line of the STEAR, the A line. I go into action mode and let those boys know that they are supposed to clean their room. So we have a messy confrontation. I lay down the law, I restrict privileges, I give them a consequence, and I finally get them to go clean their room, begrudgingly.
The result, the R line of the STEAR, is a clean room. But I also disconnected our relationship and more likely than not in a week, the room will be dirty again.
So let’s go through it really quickly. Again, S is the state of the boys’ room. My thought is, “What slobs, I can’t believe they didn’t clean up the room like they were asked to. The emotion is frustrated. The action is me going and getting after them and nagging them. And the result is a disconnected relationship and maybe a clean room, but at the cost of the relationship.
This is the STEAR for the example given above:
So that, in summary, is STEAR.
It will help you gain so much awareness around what’s going on in your brain. You’re gonna understand your own behavior, your own mind, your own thoughts, so you can leave room for theirs. You’re gonna be able to calm your nervous system down using this amazing tool.
A Different Perspective
I grew up in Arizona where we get a couple of inches of rain every year. And I was talking to my friend who lives in Washington State one day, and she made a comment about how it was raining.
In response to the rain I said “That’s so exciting! Don’t you just love the rain?” To which she said “I’m not really that excited about it. It’s the kickoff of our rainy season.”
And I was confused. I said, “What are you talking about? You have to be excited, it’s rain!”
But my friend was actually disappointed that it was raining. And I am telling you this because it is a good example that your beliefs and thoughts about the things outside of you are going to be very different from other people’s beliefs and thoughts based on your unique perception of reality.
I think rain is amazing and that we should stop everything we’re doing when it rains to fully enjoy the rain-filled moments. It rained here not very long ago, and my daughter opened the door immediately. I stopped what I was doing and went and watched it with her. One of my other daughters ran outside and ended up getting soaking wet. We all celebrate rain, it’s just what we do.
I’m not saying that our belief about rain is better than my friends. It’s just very different based on our perception. We don’t get very much rain in Arizona, and so we cherish every drop that falls from the sky. My friends from Washington State gets a lot of rain, so she doesn’t feel compelled to drop everything when the rain starts pouring.
Understanding the reality of different perceptions is really valuable. It helps us see and appreciate the way we’re interpreting the world, while simultaneously accepting and allowing many different worldviews.
Your Inner Dialogue Is Key
Your thoughts about your life, about your kids, about how they behave, and even about the mess or the cleanliness of your home will directly impact your experience of life.
I have a belief that rain is one of the best things ever. Because of that belief, I have a very positive emotion around rain. My friend associates rain with gloomy and sunless days on end, so her emotional experience of rain, at least in this particular situation, is generally more negative than mine. That is totally fine, it’s just really interesting to examine our different experiences with the same situation, namely, a rainy day.
The situations outside of us, that aren’t in our control, are completely neutral until we have a thought or belief around them. I’m using rain as an example because it’s very simple for us to look at and understand the illustration.
We have a thought, it creates an emotional experience, and those emotions are the drivers to our action. They’re the fuel. My thought about rain leads to a positive emotion, which most often creates a positive action and leads to a positive day. My friend’s negative thought about rain causes her to have a negative emotion, which may lead to a negative day.
A negative emotion is going to create negative action and a negative result.
A positive emotion is going to create positive action and a positive result.
You can’t create a positive result from a negative emotion. It doesn’t work that way, and that’s okay. We are allowed, as humans, to have negative reactions and negative emotions, but we also get to decide to either remain in the dark of those negative emotions or to make our way out of the gloom and into the bright day of positive emotions and experiences
Sometimes we will, sometimes we won’t.
A lot of the work you’re doing to understand yourself is geared towards helping you see how your negative emotions are coming automatically, and how they are creating actions and results you don’t like.
We’re able to see the STEARs and identify the unconscious thoughts that have been guiding your life up to this point. You will begin to see that you have thoughts based on your reality and perception of that reality. You have emotions that come as a result of your thoughts, that drive you into action and ultimately create your life.
The Baby Powder Blizzard
Let me tell you a story about how I first became aware of STEAR. It wasn’t pretty. It was absolutely incredible though, because it taught me so much.
There was this day in 2007, the baby was asleep, my oldest had gone to school, which left me with three toddlers at home to care for.
I was able to get the laundry and dishes done before lunch, which was a miracle. I even got dressed, but 30 minutes into my my unusually productive day, I noticed the unusual quiet and realized that I didn’t know what my toddlers were up to.
I figured they were in the playroom, a converted two car garage off the kitchen. It was decked out in seventies dark cabinets, and indoor outdoor carpet that was brown and rough. We had the kid’s toys in there, our DVD player and even our Nintendo game cube that we had just sprung for.
I peeked into the playroom and I lost my mind.
I saw the Costco sized bottle of baby powder on the floor. My kids had done a phenomenal job of turning this room into a winter wonderland. They opened up cabinets and drawers and dumped it in, dumped it on themselves, dumped it on the giant brown beanbag. The carpet was covered. They had actually tipped the DVD player on its side so they could dump the baby powder right into where the disc should go in. Our brand new Nintendo Game Cube never worked again.
I am not proud of that. I can’t even respect the person I was. I yelled at them saying things like, “Why would you do this to me?” I really felt the victim of their behavior. I punished them with no friends for the entire week and any other consequence I could think of. I was desperate.
Traditional western parenting methods teach us to manipulate control and influence our children using external stimuli and consequences, positive or negative. When we’re in this parenting mindset, we are taught to believe that our children’s behavior reflects us and our value as parents.
I looked at the baby powder blizzard and I thought,
“You are a big fat failure.”
I looked at the kid’s behavior, at how they were not obeying the rules, and were out of control. I started to define myself by my children’s actions, which in that moment, meant that I was a horrible parent. That’s where my brain went.
But then I had a moment of brilliant clarity.
My three-year-old was the one who had orchestrated the event.
When I started to lose my mind, he started crumbling. I could see his face go from “Mom! look at what we created!” To, “oh my gosh, mom’s mad at me, I’m not a good kid.”
I had this moment where I questioned what I was doing and challenged my interpretation of the situation.
I said, “What if this isn’t the only way to interpret this situation? What if you’re wrong about what you’re thinking about the baby powder all over the playroom?”
I was able to shift from thoughts like,
“This shouldn’t be happening, They’re making my life hard. I’m overwhelmed and under-appreciated.”
To thoughts like,
“They’re just kids. They’re not trying to make my life difficult. It’s okay.”
And when I pivoted my belief, my emotions shifted. The chemical reaction in my brain changed. Because I was able to change my awareness and pivot my perspective, and my thoughts changed, everything else changed.
I started to feel acceptance of the situation. I was not resisting it. I just accepted what was, I was able to laugh about it. We have a picture of the baby powder blizzard scene. It so fun. We cleaned it up quickly.
It didn’t create disconnection. Sure, there was that momentary disconnection when I lost my mind for a minute, but not long-term disconnection. And I started to realize how powerful it was for me to get present to my thoughts and emotions.
Now, this didn’t come all in the moment, but as I continued to think about it and study developmental psychology and neuroscience, I realized that I didn’t need anything outside of me for me to be happy.
I found my freedom and started experimenting with how I could be calm and confident and connected no matter what was going on outside of me.
The playroom didn’t have to be baby powder free for me to feel calm.
I didn’t need my kids to get along or bedtime to go perfectly or homework to get done for me to feel confident and connected to my kids.
If you think you need the house to be clean, to feel peace, you will constantly be chasing those positive emotions, thinking those external things, the clean house, the kids not fighting, are going to solve your problems. You have no control over whether your kids fight or not, or if they decide to do their chores or not.
Sure, you can impact and influence that, but ultimately you don’t have any control over those things.
When you don’t understand this, when bedtime goes on for two hours or your teenager’s attitude is especially terrible that day or chores don’t get done, you think you have no choice but to think the kids shouldn’t be acting that way, you end up feeling frustrated, annoyed or upset.
There are other options you can choose to change your thought about the situation, and then everything changes how you feel, what you do and the results you’re creating.
This is what happened with the Great Baby Powder Blizzard of 2007. I shifted my thought about it, which changed my perception of it. I went from an unintentional STEAR to an intentional STEAR. My unintentional STEAR was driven by the thought “They shouldn’t be doing this.” And my emotion was frustrated, and the actions I took were yelling and nagging and lecturing.
And the result I would’ve created, and I did temporarily create, was disconnection.
I was able to pivot and realize that the situation did not require me to be frustrated or angry. And that became my new thought. And then my emotion was calm. My actions were to lean down and connect with them, take a picture, let them know I wasn’t mad at them. And the result was I was able to set a limit about the baby powder blizzard saying, Hey, we don’t do this and we need to pick it up together. And we were able to do that.
So when I talk about the power of understanding your behavior, giving yourself and your kids the benefit of the doubt, that doesn’t mean you go passive.
You’re actually are more capable of taking decisive action and setting clear limits that are compassionate and firm. When you are feeling calm and connected your kids will listen to you, they will feel heard and seen. The results are so much better. Everything you need to shift your parenting is within your control.
That’s what I’ve got for you today.
If you wanna learn more about STEAR I’m including a link in so you can look at it visually. Play around with it this week, bring more awareness to your own behavior so you can leave room for your kids. And then let me know how it goes by putting a comment under this episode on our YouTube channel.
It’s been so much fun talking to you about this first tool, the first strategy in the Connect Method Parenting framework!
Understand your own behavior so you can leave room for your kids’ behavior. I can’t wait to dive into Strategy two in the next episode.
Until then, we’ll see ya. Bye!