In Being at Your Best When Your Kids Are at Their Worst (Shambhala, Sept.), educational consultant Payne coaches parents on how to respond constructively when their kids misbehave.
What would be your elevator pitch for the book’s compassionate response technique?
Our kids are going to push our buttons, so let’s prepare for it and become closer to being the parent we want to be. Enjoying birthdays and holidays together is great, but what really shapes a family is how we deal with conflict and the tough times. Our kids are not really being willfully disobedient. They are disoriented. Basically, right in the moment when our children are at their worst and most emotionally lost, they need us to be at our best and most centered, or as close to it as we can be.
Your technique seems similar to mindfulness theory. Was that an influence on your thinking?
Actually, I developed this practice 30 years ago, long before the mindfulness movement was popular. To be honest, though I had heard of mindfulness, I had never really explored it until recently, when a lot of people pointed out that aspects of the compassionate response practice seemed to be paralleling it. The way I see it, the CRP is very specific to the unique challenges of parenting. The idea is to move awareness of the emotional currents that are flowing within oneself out so as to create a healthier space between our child and ourselves right when they are unhappy and testing us out.
Tell me a bit more about your experience as a young athlete learning visualization practices—why did this have such an impact on you?
Being a so-called elite youth athlete came with a lot of rewards in terms of travel and support, but the pressure to perform was intense. I was shown the power of visualization at quite a young age, and essentially what it did was balance the demands coming from external forces—such as from coaches, teammates, and media—with my own inner goals and capacities. Without doing this, I would have very likely been overwhelmed by outer expectations and demands.
Did you have any experiences with challenging or upset children you wished you handled differently?
Oh gosh. Of course. Anyone claiming to be a perfect parent should come with a health warning. However, what this way of working with my own frustrations as a dad of two now-teenage kids has meant is that I can make the repair quickly, usually within the hour or less, and get family life back on track for the rest of the day. It enables me to integrate my frustration, circle back and say, “Okay, that came out wrong. What I meant to say was...”