The secret to raising children who generally cooperate with our rules and direction has very little to do with specific strategies or wordplay like “I won’t let you” versus “Don’t hit.” What matters most — and essentially makes or breaks successful guidance — is the way we perceive our children and our overall attitude toward boundaries and discipline.
The good news is that once these perceptions are on-track we can make lots of mistakes, and yet we’ll almost never go wrong.
Treat them like people
Seventeen years ago I was invited to attend the introductory session of a parenting seminar led by Mary Hartzell, a highly respected author (Parenting From the Inside Out) and preschool director. I remember little about Mary’s lecture except that I agreed with her approach. What I recall vividly is that when it came time for questions, it was as if a dam had broken – a flood of fervent questions poured forth from the audience, and they all began: “How do I get my child to…?”
Parents wanted to get their preschoolers to brush teeth, pick up toys, toilet train, leave the park or stop hitting, pushing, biting, spitting, etc. It was clear from the tone of their questions, especially the repeated use of the word ‘get’, that many were on the wrong track. They were approaching these issues with an “us and them” attitude rather than a teamwork mentality. They were looking for quick fixes, tricks and manipulation tactics instead of working person-to-person and building the kind of trusting, mutually respectful relationship that makes discipline (and every other aspect of parenting) much simpler and more rewarding.
Of course, I doubt that I would have recognized this had I not been fresh out of my training with infant specialist Magda Gerber.
A few days after the lecture, I ran into the friend who’d invited me and expressed my appreciation. He raved. “Mary is wonderful. She has helped us so much. The amazing thing she taught us was to talk to our 3 year old about our expectations just like I would talk to you… just like we would speak to any other person.”
“Sounds great!” I replied. “Magda Gerber teaches us to do that with babies.” My friend’s expression froze and he looked puzzled, as if he thought he’d misheard me. “Really?” he asked, eyes glazing over. And then we both dropped it. It didn’t seem the time to try to explain.
Babies are sentient, aware people from the moment they are born, ready to begin an honest, communicative relationship with us. Through our respectful relationship, children (of all ages) are far more inclined to listen and cooperate.
On the other hand, trying to get the people in our lives to do the things we want them to do seldom works more than once or twice, and it doesn’t it make us like each other or really teach anything (except perhaps mistrust). Presenting ourselves as the gentle leader that guides, models, demonstrates, coaches, helps our children to behave appropriately is the key to discipline.
Redefine quality time
The way I see it, parents have to wear two hats: a party hat and a professional hat. When we’re wearing our party hat we’re enjoying our kids, feeling connected, loving and fun. It’s easy to recognize this as quality time.
Wearing the professional hat is not so much fun, but it does not have to be excruciating either. I implore the parents I work with to re-imagine ‘quality time’ to include those moments when we are calmly, but assuredly facing our child’s resistance to his or her bedtime routine; firmly preventing our baby from hitting the dog; or patiently removing our children from situations when they’ve lost all control so they can meltdown safely in our presence.
Meltdowns and setting limits, quality time? What?! I know it’s counterintuitive, but from our children’s perspective, I feel certain it’s true.
The times we must wear our professional hat are perhaps the most precious kind of quality time, because children need our empathic leadership even more than they need us to be their playmates and most ardent fans. I truly believe that our kids sense how difficult it is for us to wear this hat gracefully, and they will test our limits to see if they can knock it off (the hat, that is).
Embracing the idea that this “professional” time is also quality time is especially crucial for working parents, or those with multiple children, or parents who (for whatever reason) don’t have as much time to spend with their children as they would like, either routinely or just on that particular day.
Of course, we’d all prefer to spend the little time we have together joyously, but quite often that is not the dynamic our children need from us. They need to be able to complain, resist, stomp their feet, cry, express their darker feelings with the assurance that they have our acceptance and acknowledgment. They need to know that they have a leader who will help them to comply with rules and boundaries in the face of their No’s, and not be intimidated by their displeasure and disagreement.
They need parents who can be capable leaders (so capable that we actually make it look easy), not just Good Time Charlies, people who they sense deep down have their very best interests, health and good character in mind.
One of my biggest aspirations as an educator is to effect change in our perceptions of discipline, boundaries and limits — to help transform these terms from negative to positive. When offered non-punitively in the context of empathy and respect, boundaries and discipline are gifts we should feel proud of, one of the highest forms of love. Once this is recognized, I’m convinced that parents and children will struggle far less and enjoy each other much more.
For guidelines and specific examples of respectful discipline, please check out my Amazon bestseller,
No Bad Kids: Toddler Discipline Without Shame
I also recommend Lisa Sunbury’s posts on discipline and my discipline section
(Photo by David Goehring on Flickr)
What is the best approach when setting a boundary? Do you set it first or wait for something to happen? I’m trying to communicate to my girl that I want her to sit at her little table and chairs to eat so that food isn’t spread across the house. She has been testing me by watching me with food in her hand and moving step by step away from the table. I have told her what I want her to do and why. How do I enforce the boundary without using a consequence?
First I would briefly explain your expectations ahead of time: “I want you to sit at the table to eat and you can get up when you are done.” If possible, hold her hand and don’t allow her to walk away from the table. “I won’t let you leave the table with food. The food needs to stay at the table. When you are done, you can leave the table.” If she insists on leaving the table, or you can’t stop her in time, say, “Thank you for letting me know that you are done eating.” If she rushes back to the table, you might give her one more chance…or not. I advise trying the table and chairs approach for snacks first, so that you don’t worry about her not eating enough. If you are clear and consistent, she will learn these expectations very readily. I’ll also mention that I don’t perceive ‘consequence’ as a bad word (as some advisers seem to) in the context of a respectful, communicative relationship and if it is logical, honest, relates to what is happening.
Thank you Janet. That’s very helpful! I don’t mean to offload all my parenting dramas on you but she also wont allow me to brush her teeth at the moment (she is 2.5 years old). She has molars coming through and says her teeth hurt. I tell her why we brush our teeth (that our teeth need a bath after eating food all day) and that I will be gentle and slow but she wont let me. I even tried letting her do it but she wont do that either. I absolutely don’t want to use force. I have been unable to come up with a solution that doesn’t use manipulation/coersion.
I would let her know that it’s important she brushes her teeth and that she must do this before books and bed, and I would ask for her cooperation. I would also try brushing your teeth together. Here is a very inspiring video by RIE Associate Erica Orozco: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lSAOBXvWgOg
I understand to let them know the importance of brushing their teeth, and do explain that before leaving the bathroom that’s what will happen, but what do we do when they STILL refuse to cooperate?
This is happening with my 14 month old and I at the moment, and so his teeth actually get brushed less often than once a week. On all other days he just plays with his toothbrush.
So what now?
Anna, as I tried to explain in this post, this is all about connecting with children on a human level and working with them. So whether we are wiping noses, brushing teeth, or diapering, etc., we slow way down, calmly tell our child what we need to do, acknowledge his or her point of view (“you are saying you don’t want to brush teeth. I hear you and understand, but need your help”). Then allow your child to do this task as autonomously as possible. Wait. Give him a choice, like does he want to brush teeth in the bathtub or when he gets out? If he is “playing” with the toothbrush inside his mouth for a few seconds, that might be enough brushing for a 14 month old. It’s about our attitude.
I was having this exact same problem with my little girl, I decided to let her brush my teeth- which was silly and fun and it lightened the whole mood about toothbrushing. We brushed each others teeth for a little while and It became playful!! 🙂
Best of luck!
If I may just chime in here…I had a year long toothbrush battle with my toddler…I used to wait till he sleeps then i’d give his teeth a brush until I heard one expert give me the following advice: tell your toddler you are going to take out the bad germs, then you let him/her hold it in their hand and they get to flush it down the loo or as my toddler preferred throw it on his Dad. It works like a charm! overnight changes!
What worked with my son was having the cat watch as his teeth were brushed. He wanted to show off for her.
Another tremendously helpful and insightful post (I feel like I repeat myself a lot saying that every time I read your posts…! Worth repeating though) We are in the heart of this process with 2 year old Pablo, and while I feel like I’m really getting the hang of it and DO feel like this boundary setting IS quality time where we both learn about each other and ourselves, the challenge comes in different family members (dad and grandma) practicing this to a lesser extent. They’re willing and agree with the idea, but they find it more challenging in practice and resort to more pleading, distracting, negotiating and asking, rather than standing kindly firm. (And of course, I noticed there’s a lot more testing going on when Pablo is with more than one adult.) I feel like the byproduct of that is that Pablo comes to me a lot (if I’m in the house) when he’s upset that a boundary has been set (stop playing with something, dad or grandma told/asked him to stop doing something). He knows I won’t let him do what he’s crying about, but he also knows I’m going to empathize with his disappointment and be there while he goes through his feelings. Which is good and bad, I guess I wish he was able to get more of that support from dad and grandma… I’m sure he senses that they are not comfortable when he cries or has a tantrum. Work in progress I suppose…
Thank you, Helene!
My thought when I read this was “wonderful!” :”He knows I won’t let him do what he’s crying about, but he also knows I’m going to empathize with his disappointment and be there while he goes through his feelings.” Wow, this so clearly validates the approach you are taking. He doesn’t want everything to be YES, he just wants someone to understand his point-of-view.
Have you shared about these incidents with your husband?
Thanks, Janet. Yes, it’s an ongoing discussion we have, and he sees that my method with Pablo really works with tantrums or outburts etc. I think it can be easier said than done for some adults, and requires a fair bit of self-awareness and self-knowledge to not just REACT, but have a mindful approach. I print your articles for him on a daily basis! 😉 That’s why I had been hoping you or RIE would have parent/toddler classes past 2 years old, I think it would help my husband to have that guidance from another source than me, and seeing it in practice with other parents too. Have you ever thought of doing that? Had I known about RIE before Pablo was a toddler, we would definitely have signed up for the classes (though I don’t think I was too far off when Pablo was a baby, also because RIE is close to the French approach in many ways). But I’m thinking there would be a lot of parents of 2-3 years old interested, who might have discovered RIE around the toddler years…
Helene, I do have classes that go beyond 2 years old (just today I graduated a class of 3 year olds!), but I don’t happen to have a class for children Pablo’s age. 🙁 Other instructors might feel differently, but I would always welcome a 2 year old into my group if the other children were anywhere near that age.
I understand how challenging it is FOR ALL OF US to allow our children to feel their feelings. But I am more and more convinced that this is the most important thing parents do… So, please keep up the wonderful work you are doing!
Thanks so much, Janet, for the kind words of encouragement 🙂
This is exactly what I needed to read right now. Thank you.
🙂 Thanks, Malissa.
Thank you for this clear, insightful message. I have recently been observing the word ‘consequence’ used by some parenting advisers as if it were a bad word, something to avoid. In the world children are going to face consequences. If you don’t do your homework in first grade or don’t behave respectfully toward your boss, there will certainly be consequences. There is no better place for children to practice and understand this dynamic than in the safety of their family. Quality time is not just in the fun moments, some of your most vital teaching as a parent happens when you’re in the weeds. We have also begun discussing the concept that effective discipline starts with a parent’s mindset, not in a particular set of methods. This post had fitting timing for us and I appreciate seeing that you help parents walk the important line of healthy, connected, authoritative parenting.
Hi Chrissy! Thanks for your insights and supportive feedback. I love what I am reading about your center…such a terrific job you’re doing!
I understand that some use ‘consequence’ to mean ‘punishment’ and I think this is why there are advisers who’ve gone to the opposite extreme and panned all consequences. But parenting is about developing an honest relationship between two people and understanding each other’s boundaries. I might not be willing to stay up to read the usual 2 books together instead of 1, if my child refuses to brush her teeth. That’s honest. That’s taking care of ourselves, being clear about our personal needs and protecting our parent-child relationship, rather than yelling at or resenting our kids.
this totally speaks to such a bigger picture, too.
the only thing in life we can truly control is ourselves…
it’s really is about how *i* approach things mentally and physically and how *i* set the tone – for myself and for my kids.
from that perspective, it really is so easy to see things as they are: when dylan’s off track in the evening before dinner i can see quite clearly that he needs the limit. he needs to know we’ll hold it for him because he’s too tired after a long day to hold it himself.
and how him needing to – and getting to – unload feelings within that boundary is some of the best quality time we can have because he feels safe and so connected. i can see it while it’s happening, with the way he emotes. i can tell he feels he’s in his safest place and being able to be that for him is the most important thing in the world to me.
great post, as always! xx
Very insightful and beautifully stated, Sara. Thank you! xx
Thank you for this great post! I really appreciate how you get right to the heart of the matter in a way that is clear and so accessible. I’ve been working with these ideas for a few years now and I still enjoy and learn from every one of your posts!
I just want to share briefly what a phenomenal experience it is to see the “fruits of my labor” so to speak when it comes to using an RIE approach with my now 2 year old daughter. Since I discovered RIE when she was 4 months old I have allowed her (as much as possible) to express all of her feelings to their completion, especially in times of emotional crisis. I have questioned myself on many occasions, but at my daughter’s birthday a couple of weeks ago, her actions proved to me that this method of raising her is working beautifully. There were several other toddlers at her party, all of whom were scrambling over each other to sit in a wagon, but there was not enough room for all of them. One of the girls, slightly younger than my daughter threw herself to the ground in tears, upset that there was not enough room in the wagon for her. To my dismay, most of the adults at the party laughed at the girl’s emotional display, including her mother who said “Oh my, REAL tears” in a mocking tone. My daughter walked over to the girl, sat down next to her on the floor, put a hand upon her back and said “You Sad.” I was so proud, and so happy to see that using this approach really does instill true compassion and genuine empathy.
Wow, Heather, such a wonderful story! Thank you so much for sharing…I’ll post this on FB
This is a helpful post-thank you! Is it possible to include what this language looks like/sounds like? For example if your toddler is doing XX and they need to be doing XX you might say XX. Language examples will be a great addition. Thank you!
Hi Carrie! This is probably the only post I’ve written that doesn’t include specifics…and that was the point. Our general attitude of respect toward our child and boundaries is far more important than the words we use. But please check out the post I’ve linked to at the bottom of this one and/or others in my discpline section and you will find many, many examples of the language I recommend. Also please look at my replies to parents’ specific issues in the comments on these posts.
I LOVE your note about parents wearing a party hat and a professional hat. I firmly believe that both of these things are vital to developing a respectful relationship between parent and child. It’s not just all party (the Fun Mom) but it shouldn’t just be all business (the Mean Mom), either.
Thanks, Shasta. One thing I didn’t mention is that when we have the pro-hat thing down, we can actually have fun with it much of the time. You know what I mean? When you are comfortable with your leadership, you can guide your kids with a genuine smile.
The quality time part is life changing advice for me. I’ve been reading your blog for years, and I still feel like another piece of the puzzle falls in place every time I read one of your blog posts (sometimes several times!). It’s so counterintuitive to me (since it’s not the way I was raised at all), but I feel peace when I read your blog (and most RIE writings). Thank you for presenting so well such a unique perspective.
Hi Janet! Thank you so much for this blog. Putting your advice into practice and using RIE approaches has brought so much peace, clarity, joy, and confidence into my being and thus into our household. I found you about 8 months ago and I think I cried tears of relief when I read in one post that setting limits can be a way of connecting with your child- much like you suggested in this post. I wish I had found this years ago! Anyways, the issue that is plaguing me right now is how to appropriately set a boundary with my almost 4 year-old son when it comes to being so rough and impulsive with his 15 month old sister. He knocks her down, steps on her hands, runs into her, squeezes her, etc, “constantly”! Most of the time he’s not acting out of anger (which is almost easier to handle)- he’s just so impulsive. But, it is still very intentional- not accidental. The phrase you use, “I won’t let you” has helped us a lot, but what does “not letting him” look like in this scenario? Even though I am always in the same room or very near, I can’t possibly anticipate every time he’s about to act out towards her- I’d have to be a full-time hovercraft! I try to watch my daughter to see if what he does actually bothers her, and not interfere if she’s totally ok with it. Some of the time it doesn’t actually bother her, but lately it seems like she is really getting hurt. He smashed her face into my bed’s footboard the other day when she had her mouth on it (teething), and pinched her cheek hard enough to leave a bruise yesterday. Currently, I tell him that keeping him and her safe is my job, and I’m not going to let her get hurt. If he’s not keeping his body safe around her, then he’ll need to be in a different room. If he hurts her again, then I will direct/physically move him if needed to another room. It’s usually just a few minutes and then I check in with him, breifly, and ask if he’s ready to keep his body safe around his sister. I hate separating him, but right now that’s the only way I can think of “not letting him”. What do you think about this? I think if I had the conviction that this was an appropriate way of helping him control his body and respect his sister and my boundaries, then I could do it more consistently and it would probably help. But as it is, I’m not sure- I worry about him feeling excluded/isolated and then acting out even more because of that, so I’m probably not as consistent as I should be. Thoughts?
I’d also love tips on this- how/ what to say after the event as I too cannot get there before the hand is up for the push! 🙁
Hi Nina! Please read this post (if you haven’t) to help you understand your son’s experience:https://www.janetlansbury.com/2013/04/helping-kids-adjust-to-life-with-the-new-baby/
To help your son not behave in this manner (which may well stem from his internalized anger, fear and sadness), I would provide the baby with a gated-in area, so that when you are not there, both children can be safe. I shared more about that here: https://www.janetlansbury.com/2010/09/sibling-struggles/
This makes so much sense to me. I have a 2 year old and never really consider how we’d discipline as the pregnancy was thrust upon us . But studying counselling and communication it just makes so much sense to me, I’ve been using naughty corner/ threatening to take things away etc as I didnt want to smack but I can see how they are unhelpful I just didnt have concrete examples to follow, do u have a book or something with more concrete examples for specific situations? There’s nothing really in particular but just most situations moms struggle with I guess, holding hands, helping pack up/clean up, not running off, not eating dinner, throwing things, and say if a child was being rough like u gave in one example, what if they continue to do the behaviour constantly. Should u just remove them from the situation?
Hi Rhian! Here are some thoughts:
Holding hands – must be non-negotiable, in my opinion. Insist your child holds hands or offer being carried (or a stroller) if those things are viable options.
Helping clean up – honesty, “we’ve got to pick these toys up, can you please help?” Then possibly an honest consequence: “I can’t let you take out more toys out until we pick these up.”
Roughness – be a capable leader and calmly prevent children from hurting each other while you address the desires and feelings: “I won’t let you hit your friend. I see how upset you are.”
Yes, if a child is behaving dangerously and impulsively, I would remove the child from the situation and allow him or her to meltdown (which is invariably what’s coming when they behave this way) with us at a more private location.
Janet very well written well said and clear!!
Love your hat analogy!!
My 4 year old son is a very wild one. He will tell any adult with authority “No”, he wont listen to anybody. He hits kids in pre-k, our dogs and other small children in the family and friends circle. I can really go on and on… but I just need some guidance to my solution. I have tried time out, spanking, talking a bit louder than normal and I really feel like nothing is working. Any suggestions??
I just love reading all of these comments and responses. It brings tears to my eyes to see how my almost 3 year old son is growing into a young and mature boy. He will usually sit back and observe his environment first before playing with his friends. He is becoming more and more independent each day and I am so proud of his growth. This growth is on his own, when he is ready. Last weekend we were at a birthday party and we said, “I’m going to go ask that little boy (the boy was actually older than him and much taller than him) if he wants to play with me”. He then walked over to the boy on his own and said, “would you like to play with me”? I couldn’t believe it! Amazed everyday!!!
Beautiful story, Stephanie! Thank you for sharing…and congratulations!
Thank you Janet! I also have a 3 month old baby that is very independent….he observes and is learning when he is ready. I wish that I would have known more about RIE with my older son but we started RIE with him around 2 and it’s been wonderful!
I would like to be on your mailing list.
Thanks a lot for this post Janet!
I love you soo soo much . Can’t even tell you how much I have learnt and grown as a person after discovering your blog.
Along with your post, its also the comments section which really interests me and your wonderful responses to them.
God bless you Janet.
I am wondering what exactly I should be doing when my daughter is having a tantrum. My daughter is 22 months and I also have a 3 month old son. Lately she had been having tantrums while I am nursing my son. I try my best to remain calm and tell her “I’m sorry but I can’t pick you up right now I’m feeding your brother. I will pick you up after he is done. I know that makes you sad and upset”. I also give her the option of coming to sit or stand beside us but she usually stands far away and cries and yells “Mama up”. Just wondering if there is anything else I should be doing or if I am on the right track. Thanks so much. I have read your book No Bad Kids and it had made a world of difference offering me some useful strategies and opening my eyes as to what to expect from my daughter and how to adjust my attitude and not get ruffled.
I recently stumbled on your website and it has turned everything I thought about parenting upside down! I am trying to apply RIE principles with my 8 month old but it is quite difficult. My grandmother is taking care of him for a majority of the day (I feel I have to remind her that he is my baby and not hers) and my Asian culture does not understand the concept of a non-“community” baby-the many friends and family we encounter everyday love to parent him the non-RIE way unfortunately. But I will keep trying! Thanks for your wonderful posts and encouragement.
I am slowly working through your website and find so much info; I am excited to review it all but being a FT working mom of the 20 month old, i have very limited time. I am wondering what your thoughts on Time Outs are. I have a feeling it is not supported and I am really on the fence if it is something that is reasonable and effective. Can you direct me to the discussion on this topic if on your site? I did a search and could not see anything. My thinking that you are not supportive is by way of your other positions on discipline but would like more explanation of its lack of effectiveness and disservice.
I have a wonderful, energetic and smart 24 month old son who has started to voice his independence and his way of seeing things. Even my ped has recently commented that he ‘is a handful’. I really like the RIE approach and have read your book and it seems that we do communicate beautifully (generally). Lately though I have to admit that I am at a loss on how to deal with his stubbornness, so much so that I’m starting to doubt myself (it doesn’t help that my mother keeps telling me to distract him when she sees that we are at a point where either he or I need to cave in). The example today was that whilst having dinner, (he ate all his food sitting down at the highchair), he wanted some favourite items that were still on my plate. I have no problem is sharing my food however I expect a “tomato please mama”, words that he knows very well how to say rather than whining, hitting the highchair with his feet and banging his hands on the highchair tray. I calmly said that if he says the word please and which items he wants then he would have them on his plate. needless to stay his stubbornness kicked in and crying, shrieking and more banging ensued, plate being thrown on the floor. i stopped eating and told him that i understand he’s upset and when he calms down he can tell me what he wants and ask nicely with the word please. after 15 minutes of crying and shreiking, my husband took him down from the highchair, he came for comfort, i explained it again but by that time he was so worn out by the crying that he didn’t want to eat anything else, he just took his pacifier and went to lie in his reading corner. i felt that i failed in my lesson and this has started happening regularly as in i’m not sure whether my message is getting through. any advice please? should I see through it? should I have left him in the highchair until he calmed down and then what? your advice is much appreciated
Hello! I have a very caring and sensitive 3.5 year old boy. He is smart and loves to help and do things by himself. However, he has these negative tendencies that we are trying to get him out of! We are all for positive parenting and we try to always go with positive words rather than harping on negative things. Meaning we say ‘please stay on your chair’ rather than ‘don’t get off your chair’ etc. Anyways, if we give any resistance to him he begins with his negative words. His big one is ‘I don’t like you’. Or ‘I don’t like anyone’. And lately he has started going up to pout in his room when he ‘doesn’t like anyone’. We try to tell him we only say positive things and then we give a few suggestions, or we say some positive things to him. Is this just a phase? Is there something more we can do? My fear is that we end up with some disconnected ’emo’ child who doesn’t like anyone and hides in his room! We even tried playing a board game as a family and he just hits the pieces away and wrecks it for everyone, and then went to pout in his room after… I feel like we are giving into his behaviour and enabling him by going after him, and playing into his ploy for attention… maybe more attention in other areas would remove this tendency? But I do not feel he lacks attention…
“One of my biggest aspirations as an educator is to effect change in our perceptions of discipline, boundaries and limits — to help transform these terms from negative to positive. ” Thank you for this… it is exactly what you have done for me 🙂
Hooray! I’m so glad to hear that, Andrea. 🙂
“The times we must wear our professional hat are perhaps the most precious kind of quality time, because children need our empathic leadership even more than they need us to be their playmates and most ardent fans.” This really spoke to me tonight and is just what I needed. I have been following you since my son was 1 (he is now 3) and it IS very hard sometimes as I am a full time working mama. My husband definitely wears the party hat all the time and I feel like I have to be the professional one all the time (not that I am not fun, but I always have to be the one setting the limit). However, when my son does have has his meltdowns, hard feelings, etc., he always comes to me and wants to “talk about that”…we sing songs, etc. about the difficult feelings/situations and viola, he is better and it is so so very connecting for us both. Thank you for teaching us to always acknowledge and accept <3
I have to say I’ve seen mass improvement using several of your methods with my 2.5yr old daughter. I was so proud last weekend at a playdate. Kids were taking turns riding and driving in the big hot wheels car. The older kids were pushing her out and taking longer turns. Instead of her usual crying, on the ground, pushing back other kids and a tantrum, she walked over to the steps, sat down, took some deep huffy breaths and when I asked if something was wrong, at just 2yrs old, she looked up and said “I fwustrated mommy. I really sad. You help?” (Pointing at the big kids not taking turns). I felt so connected to her and proud she knew to step back, feel her feelings in a safe space, and ask for my help.
Now she still has bad days. Like yesterday at the pumpkin patch she threw herself on the ground over not getting a longer turn riding the hot pink tractor. I sat with her as she cried for a minute, told her I understood and taking turns can be hard, as dozens of ppl walked around us. I finally said “I’m sorry your sad but I can’t let you block others and just lay here kicking where you may accidentally hit or trip somebody. So you can walk to the car with me to feel sad a bit longer, or I can pick you up and carry you to where it’s safer.” She didnt like either option and I had to carry her kicking and screaming. We ended up leaving and going home. She cried the whole way home. It was exhausting and my nerves were shot. But it’s those good days I remember and like to think of on tuff days…where i know something’s connecting and in the end that feels far better than how i felt as a kid when my mom in public would yell at us to “straighten up” and “better stop this crying or I’ll give you a real reason to.” Fear was what kept us in line. We all turned out ok, and still love and are strongly connected as adults to her…but I never really felt that connection as a kid. If there is this other, more positive way I can get the same results without using fear so we can connect while shes young AND as an adult – i choose that! It’s tuffer some days, but feel it’s worth it. Thank you.