One of the most ironically counterintuitive twists of parenting is this: the more we welcome our children’s displeasure, the happier everyone in our household will be.
There is no greater gift to our children and ourselves than complete acceptance of their negative feelings. (Notice I did not say “behaviors”.) By deleting from our parenting job description the responsibilities to ‘soothe’, ‘correct’ and ‘control’ our kids’ feelings and replacing them with ‘accept’, ‘acknowledge’ and ‘support’, both parent and child are rewarded and liberated.
It can be intensely challenging to let go of our own reactiveness and patiently allow our children to feel. With practice, however, it gets easier and is the key to:
Successful limit setting
Fewer battles, more peace
Our child’s emotional health and healing
A strong bond
Resilient, secure, authentic kids
Anna allowed me to share this note about her personal “victory”:
I want to say thank you for being out there. I found your blog couple of months ago. All difficult questions about parenting being so close to me, your advice and notes were such a treasure.
My son is 7, my daughter is 2. I have major issues with my son. I often used guilt to get something from him, and now it shows. It was easy to intimidate a little child, but it doesn’t work with a 7-year- old. I tried many different ways and styles, but nothing seemed just right… And here is your blog, and at last I felt I found what is needed!
My favorite book always was Children are from Heaven by John Gray. I loved everything about it, except time-outs. They seemed somehow wrong to me, but I didn’t know what to do instead. It is cowardly to deal with a child’s tantrum this way, to just put him in his room and close the door… But it never crossed my mind to just be right near him, sitting with him during the storm. My son would explode for every small reason and accuse me about everything and throw harsh words at me. I was instantly triggered and involved, and there we’d be, standing against each other, screaming and accusing… Time-outs seemed much better to me…
And now I’m trying everything you are writing about, and today was the first big victory! Not over my son, but over myself.
Today I was calm and I was able to stay calm all the way through the tantrum. I was just listening to his harsh words and kept repeating that he was tired and angry because I would not let him watch cartoons. I assured him that feeling angry was ok. When he tried throwing things or to hit, I held him and said that I won‘t let him do it.
It was lasting forever… But I just stayed calm, did not answer his accusations and stayed with him.
The interesting thing was that my daughter usually hates it when we fight, but this time she was calm and just played near us like nothing was happening! And just when I thought that this was not working, my son embraced me and said, “I’m so sorry mom, I don’t want to fight anymore, forgive me please!”
I won that battle against myself, and now it will be easier. I know that it works and I know what to do. It was not easy, but it was worth it.
Thank you so much, Janet! My son is not a toddler, but I hope I can overcome that harm I did in the past… We are blessed with such people like you, thank you for being there!
I share more in Elevating Child Care: A Guide to Respectful Parenting
(Photo by rolands.lakis on Flickr)