Have you ever been in a situation where you are having a conversation with someone and you “randomly” start to cry, or you get annoyed or upset by something that actually isn’t a big deal? We go through things in life which cause us pain, anger us, make us feel fearful or frustrated, and when it comes out we end up taking it out on something or someone else. And, our children (no matter what age) work the same way.
I want to stress that while I am giving the example of my 5 year old, this lesson applies to crying babies, tantrumming toddlers, silent children (many times distress can be silent as well), rebellious teenagers and even other grown ups (or our grown up children). And while most parents will recognize these behaviors are cries for attention, to parent with consciousness means that no matter what the age, we are ready to look both inside of ourselves and help our children explore within them, what is triggering them to behave in this way.
[ihc-hide-content ihc_mb_type=”block” ihc_mb_who=”unreg” ihc_mb_template=”1″ ]
A few weeks ago my 5 year old had a friend over for a playdate. They were playing outside in our back patio and before I knew it, someone had turned on a hose and they were both soaking wet. When they went to change their clothing, without thinking I offered her friend some of my daughter’s dry clothing to change into. Less than 5 minutes later, the friend’s mother arrived, and my daughter started freaking out. Not because her friend was leaving, but because her friend was leaving in her clothing. The tantrum that came after came on so strong and fast I felt like I got hit with a riptide and in that moment I had no idea what to do.
Fast forward a few weeks, my daughter had another playdate with a different friend. Everything was going great, and when it came time for a snack, my daughter offered her friend a sandwich of dill lox (my daughter’s favorite) and they both ate their snack together. When the friend asked for another half I automatically gave it to her, using up the last piece of the dill lox. My daughter asked for more, and I told her there wasn’t any…cue plate being thrown to the floor and hysterical crying.
In both cases my husband separated my daughter from her friend, trying to console her, but to no avail. There were tears, screaming, arms crossed, legs flailing and absolutely no child to speak to or reason with.
In the first case the friends mom was already in the house, and in the second case I knew the mom was coming soon. If I am honest, my first reaction past confusion, was embarrassment. What will the mom think? What kind of parent am I? Clearly, I can’t control my child. Will they think I can’t handle a playdate? Will they think she’s really spoiled, they’re going to think there’s something wrong with her.
So the first step was noticing my reaction and recognizing that the first step to solving this was to take responsibility for all of those emotions that made me worry about how I would look. What won’t help is to get upset at our children, embarrassed (although when it’s in front of others, understandably that’s a really hard one), scream back, or to insist that our child just snap out of it. The first thing to do is to give them the time and space they need to calm down, and rather then getting angry send them love, light, calm energy and MERCY. Make sure that they know you are here to talk when they are ready, but you are not pushing them.
The second step is understanding it wasn’t about the clothing, or the lox, but what triggered this reaction in my daughter, and what I had to learn from it as her parent. Why are they are acting in this way and where is it coming from.
In the first scenario, finally she was able to explain to me that what bothered her was that I had given the clothing to her friend without asking her. The second case helped me to understand her feelings even deeper. It was about 30 minutes later and we were standing at the door to say goodbye to her friend that she leaned over and whispered in my ear “you chose her over me when you gave my lox without asking me first”. Ah, ok then, gotya.
I would probably also feel bad if I felt my mom (or anyone I loved and felt should put me first( had chosen my friend over me, and gave them something that I felt belonged to me, without asking.
So, does my daughter get an excuse for her behavior? Absolutely not. Does she need to learn to express herself without going into a full on tantrum? Absolutely yes. Do I need to help her learn that when we have guests come over we need to put them first. For sure. But those are all effects. My role, is first to figure out the cause, what it is that is bothering her deep down and help her handle them so the then all of the behavior issues, the effectwill follow.
Our job is not to take our children’s reactions personally nor to get upset with them for having them in the first place. Our job is to figure out what it is that they are trying to tell us through their outburst. We want to help them get to a place where they learn to express themselves constructively, but for them to get there we need to learn to LISTEN. Just like our reactions aren’t always proportionate to what is making us react in that moment, our children might have a very dramatic response to something that to us doesn’t seem like a big deal. As adults, we should reflect on what it is that is triggering me in this moment, and as a parents it is our job to help figure out what the root of our child’s reaction is. And then going forward help them to understand it and work on it.
I want my daughter to know that getting what she wants in the moment form me or anyone else doesn’t equal love. I want her to know that her worth isn’t defined by being chosen over someone else. I want her to learn to understand and express how she feels without being dramatic.
As parents it can be very hard to know how to handle these situations in the best way; it requires a lot of patience, mercy, love and being a very good detective. So always keep your detective hat and microscope handy because these mysteries are worth solving.