I started researching behavioral psychology to make better investment decisions and, therefore, more money. Once I realized that money wasn’t my ultimate goal, I applied my knowledge towards coping with my daughter.
Kids test our patience and I have caught myself shifting into a conflict mindset – rewards, punishments, dominance, rule enforcement. These methods are ineffective and wear everyone out.
Balanced against conflict management, I’ve observed that my daughter is no different from myself – she likes activity to manage her energy, tasty snacks, acceptance and love. Looking deeply, I can see a path away from conflict towards sharing things we both like.
So rather than conditioning her to my arbitrary rules, I’ve been figuring out how to create a weekly schedule that she can repeat.
She’s a very focused little girl – I’ve been tracking how much time Monica and I spend with her, rather than each other. She’s got me at least 4:1 with my own wife!
Bedtimes have been a focus for me as I found myself dreading them. As well, when I travelled, Monica was exhausted by dealing with them solo. I spent time considering my daughter’s motivation and needs (as well as my own).
There are six things that need to happen:
- Brush teeth
- Go to bathroom
- Read Book
- Drink Milk
- My Exit
At the beginning, it was a battle and bedtimes were taking up to 90 minutes – so I worked backwards and started by 8:30 pm. That removed the time pressure on me because I know that I’ll get enough sleep.
When my daughter hasn’t spent time with me, she has a clear incentive to maximize the duration of this process. Why? It’s her only time with me! When I am in town, I remove this incentive by spending an afternoon and evening with her. I also make it clear that I will be around in the morning to see her.
Given that I want her to calm down, I need to calm myself.
Other than a few elite buddies, my daughter is one of the higher-strung females in my life. I realized that my role was to teach her to relax – rather than submit to an arbitrary schedule. When she goes off, I sit cross-legged in the middle of her room and relax.
I keep the routine exactly the same each night, sit in the same spot in the room, and wait calmly for her. Then we read a book and I teach her how to breathe while lying beside her in bed. The first few times I did this I realized that she was panting – the conflict method wasn’t good for either of us!
I’ve cut the time in half but, most importantly, I’m not stressed after my exit. A 90-minute battle is the absolute worst thing for my own sleep. It was taking me an hour to chill out from ninety minutes of (ineffective) parenting!
Interestingly, my daughter has a complete inability to maintain (manufactured) rage in the face of me telling her that I love her. Genuine love is a powerful relaxant.
I’m sure somebody taught me all of this during a win-win negotiation course.
- Remove time pressure
- Understand the motivation of the other party
- Meet their needs first
- Reduce anxiety via routine and calming our own reactions
- Focus on desired outcome
When my kids test my patience, I remember that if they died then every single minute of my life with them would become my most cherished memories. An extreme tactic, for sure, but one that reminds me to enjoy my brief time with my little girl.
No matter how difficult, there’s no way that I will regret spending time with my kids. What I needed to do was improve the process for my experiencing self.
Video link for you that covers the underlying psychology I am applying with the little people in my house (20 minutes).