Ahh how sweet it is!!

Ahh how sweet it is!! That is how I tend to sum up my life in a few words. Plain and simple, life is wonderful! This site will give you just a sneak peak at my thoughts throughout my life. Love, Mel

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Location: Bountiful, Utah, United States

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Mother's Day Debacle

Don’t Forget Environmental Modification

On Mother’s day I became deskilled. Oh, not for long and not calamitous, but enough so that I wasn’t happy nor was I able to help others to choose to be happy. Yes, it happens—even to the best of us including those who do (not just ought to) know better.

The scene was at the Carr residence where I and the other brethren were preparing a Mother’s day lunch for our wives and mothers. In the midst of setting out the salad, chips, Jell-O and other items, I was suddenly confronted by twenty (excuse the hyperbole—it seemed like 20) children all with their un-Pure Work hands into everything: touching the silverware (on the business end), putting fingers in the cake, spilling the punch, etc. As the mothers watched, I reverted to a bunch of commands, none of which resembled an “I-Message:” “Get away, don’t touch that, go play on the tramp,” etc. Finally, I even grabbed one child’s arm and gave it a squeeze hard enough to leave marks, I’m sure. I commented to Lance, standing nearby, “Man, it’s hard to send I-Messages at a time like this,” to which he responded, “Yea, it doesn’t work with kids.” Flustered, I could say no more. In my heart—and with tons of experience—I knew it does “work” with kids. But how could I refute him? The proof was in the pudding right before our eyes. Even sweet, little, never-do-anything-wrong, constantly smiling Monet was among the perpetrators. Not only was I exasperated (another word for “deskilled,” but I was fearful of losing Lance as a proselyte (similar to missionaries bringing an investigator to testimony meeting only to have the ward bozo stand up).

What happened? I’ll tell you. I became deskilled in trying to use a skill when it will not work. Here’s the deal: I-messages always work EXCEPT under three conditions: 1) You send a lousy I-message, viz., “When you put your dirty hands in the Jell-O, I’m afraid I going to bust you in the nose!” When this happens, fix it. 2) There is no tangible effect on you, viz., When you squirt mustard on Johnny, I worry that his mom will be upset.” When this happens, look for a tangible effect or skip it. 3) The other has a strong need. “But we’re hungrrrrrrrrrrry, and there are more of us than of you!” When this happens, get ready for method III problem solving.

Now, in the above situation, it should be clear that 20 hunngrrrrry children represent a strong need and that sitting down for a nice Method III, at that time, would not be recommended. Does that mean we are finished? That we must abandon hope? That we return to physical and verbal punishment? NOT AT ALL.

Remember, there is a “no problem” area in the rectangle. The key is to bring the other person’s behavior, and yours, into that area. This can be done by: 1) modifying the other, 2) modifying yourself, or 3) MODIFYING THE ENVIRONMENT

Modifying the environment is a great, but often neglected, skill for resolving problems before they occur. “You never have to win a battle you don’t fight.” PET, chapter 8, explains. Had I to do it all over again (and I bet we will next year), I would have realized that we were late in the day (kids hunngrrrrrry—strong need), that Danny’s patio has a small work area, that logistical issues are at a max, etc. I would have Brandon be ready with a number of kid games—all ages (enriching the environment by introducing activities or materials that capture the interest of the child). I would have prepared the plates for all the children in the house, by myself (impoverishing the environment by reducing stimuli—no cake, etc.). I would have fed the children first and then sent them off to play (systematizing, etc.).

By using the skills of adding, removing, changing and planning within the environment, I am sure I could have avoided the very behaviors under which I “chose” to become frustrated and deskilled. (Please note that I still, and always, have the choice to modify myself—in this case, be happy and calm and just let the kids have a food fight. However, I’m not sure how the Mothers would have like strawberry Jell-O on their new mother’s day dresses.

Love, Dad.


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