The concept of baskets is one of my favourite parts of NVR, and it’s absolutely something you can use in all aspects of your life, not just parenting!
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“The less I react, the calmer the home, the more opportunities we have to create those conversations to help us resolve the struggles that we’re having.”
I use this concept as a parent, but also to help me stay organized, reduce the overwhelm and to stay on top of what I’m dealing with. It’s a way that you can figure out where you’re going to put your energy and decide what you’re going to prioritize.
So often as parents we can feel overwhelmed by the amount we are trying to do, not just in terms of supporting our child – particularly if they’re struggling, but also things like, the paperwork that comes with kids (seriously, it’s ridiculous), making sure they’ve got everything they need, school uniforms, packed lunches, etc.
In NVR we use the “baskets” approach. We have a red basket, sometimes an amber one, and a green basket. It teaches us to prioritize where we put our energy, and I think it’s brilliant. I know that lots of parents I work with, both in the Connective Parenting Hub, and in a one to one basis, love this approach as it takes the pressure off them.
If, like me, you have a tendency to “nag” your children, then this is really good. It will help to reduce the nagging – because we all know, nagging doesn’t really work: you know the drill, you ask your child to do something, they don’t do it. You ask them 28 more times, they still don’t do it, and it’s probably just going to make the situation worse when you get more and more annoyed at them for not doing the thing!
The best way for me to talk to you about this right now is to take you through this little exercise:
Step 1: I want you to think about all of the things that annoy you, frustrate you, irritate you…. All of the things your child does along those lines. Pick just one child to do this exercise with to begin with.
Take a few minutes to write this list down. It doesn’t matter how long or short the list is (I’ve seen steam rising from parents pencils as they’ve done this list!). I know that we can feel bad as parents if we’re writing a really long list- don’t worry about this! If you have a partner, I’d encourage you both to make your own lists.
Step 2: If you and your partner have completed your lists, you’re going to compare them! I cannot tell you the number of couples that I’ve worked with who have had really different things on their lists, and haven’t always realized what it is that has wound their other half up – this is a really great exercise to help get you both on the same page, and demonstrates what things each of you can do to help the other avoid their triggers.
Step 3: Now, pull out the top one or two priority behaviors that you want to stop. If you’re experiencing violence from your child, violence needs to be the top priority. If you don’t have violence on your list, that’s great. Maybe you have a 13 year old who’s very determined and is very clear on what they will and won’t do. Or you might have verbal abuse, or swearing, or refusing to do schoolwork, or help out around the home, or be mean to their brother/sister… Whatever you choose as your top priorities is up to you. These one or two top priorities are going to go in your red basket and they are there to really help you know that that’s where your energy is going. Your energy is all going on resolving those behaviors. When you’re parenting as a couple, you need to agree what’s going in that top basket, so you need to work together.
Step 4: If you’ve got more than ten things on your list, the next three or four things is going to go in your “amber” basket. These are the items that are lower priority than what you’ve just placed in your red basket, and these are the behaviours that you’re not going to pick up on every single time. Not everyone uses an amber basket and they just put all the rest of the behaviours in their green basket.
Step 5: The Green basket. The things that go in your green basket are things that for now, you’re going to ignore. These are your lowest priority.
I know, I can hear you right now saying “What? I’m not ignoring that!”, parents often look at me as if I’ve gone mad when I tell them they need to ignore these low priority behaviours. But we know that often these smaller things are anteceding behaviours to the bigger behaviours. They’re the triggers. So if we can stop these behaviours and not create escalations out of them, we end up with the bigger escalations less.
For example, if your child’s table manners drive you nuts, if we try to ignore those and not let ourselves get frustrated when those things are happening, we don’t often end up in the bigger behaviours. You know how it goes, you start by mentioning what it is they’re doing, they continue to wind you up, and eventually everyone is frustrated, and the bigger behaviours that are in your “red” basket start to appear.
Step 6: Once you’ve decided on your baskets, don’t change it on a weekly basis – the baskets are set. Until you really start to see a reduction on the items in your red and amber baskets.
I know it’s hard, but if we ignore those in the “green” basket, we are less likely to create a bigger escalation.
We are therefore creating a calmer home and more opportunity to talk to our child about the things that they struggle with, to help them find solutions.
We need to be thinking “the less I react, the calmer the home, the more opportunities we have to create those conversations to help us resolve the struggles that we’re having”. I completely understand that this is not easy, but it does work.
Often our children do those smaller things because they know they’re going to get a reaction, so when we don’t react, over time they’re going to stop doing it.
Those smaller things are really frustrating, but putting them in the green basket and doing everything you can not to get annoyed or irritated, will help you really start to change things at home.
There’s something very empowering about deciding which battles you are picking, and the advantage of the baskets approach is you are then being very consistent with the battles you’re picking – whether you’re having a good day, a tired day, a bad day, a busy day… because we all know that a consistent approach is always key to improving behaviors, and anything that can help us stay consistent with the battles we’re picking has to be worth a try, right?