This post is part of a series documenting everyday respectful parenting moments. Reading real life parenting examples inspires me. I also find it helpful to look back on situations and think about what went well or what didn’t. Maybe you will too!
“What are you supposed to be doing?”
“PLEASE just find your shoes!”
I wasn’t yelling, but I know I was doing a poor job of keeping the frustration out of my voice. She felt it too.
Thank God I do not have to get out of the door to school every morning because who knows what kind of parent I would be. I imagine a frustrated, impatient, angry, and rushed one.
I felt myself morphing into that person on this day. A little bit of frustration can easily snowball and before you know it you’re tumbling along, oblivious to anyone else’s feelings, only focused on your destination and getting there as quickly as possible. Knocking people down in your wake.
But today I caught myself. I held on tightly and refused to be caught up in that storm. I listened to the thoughts in my head…
‘She won’t listen to me!’, ‘I’ve told her a hundred times already!’, ‘Can’t she just DO IT!’, ‘She’s purposely ignoring me!’
And when I listened to those thoughts instead of just letting them happen and accepting their truth, I was able to see how ridiculous they sounded. How untrue they all were.
“If you’ve told a child a thousand times and he still doesn’t understand, then it is not the child who is a slow learner.” – Walter B. Barbe
I remembered that this child that I love so much is helpful and kind. I remembered that children don’t WANT to make our lives difficult. They don’t WANT to upset us. I remembered that ALL behaviour has a reason. I realised that she was obviously trying to tell me something but didn’t quite have the words, or know how in this moment.
So I took a deep breath. I stopped what I was doing. I got down on her level. And I asked her.
“You’re having trouble getting ready. I wonder what’s going on? Do you want to tell me about it?”
“Are you feeling unsure”
“I don’t want to go”
“You don’t want to go? Are you feeling worried about going somewhere new and meeting new people?”
“No. It’s just. I want to see friends. But I don’t want to go there. I don’t want to walk to the island” (We were going to a new place and I’d mentioned we might be able to walk out to a little island at low tide)
“Oh you’re worried about the island?”
“Yeah. I don’t want to do that”
“That’s fine. We won’t do that. Is it ok if we still go and if you want to go home at any time you can let me know?”
“Ok. Thank you for talking to me about it. Do you want to find your shoes now?”
Wow. I almost missed that. Frustration almost stole that moment of connection from me. We could have argued more, I could have resorted to punishment or force. I could have never understood that she wasn’t ignoring me, or not listening, but that she was feeling worried and unsure. She could have learnt that my wants are more important than her feelings.
Instead, we strengthened our relationship. She learnt that her feelings matter to me. She was reassured that I am there for her and that she can always talk to me. That I am her partner, not her adversary.
How many times have I not stopped to see what was really going on? How many times have I been impatient and frustrated instead of loving and approachable? How many opportunities for connection have I missed? How many times have I thought that she was just distractable and not very good at getting ready, instead of seeing her feelings and needs? How many times has she felt anxious and unsure and not had the opportunity to tell me about it? That breaks my heart.
No one is perfect, and that’s an important lesson for my kids too. I’m lucky that I’ve been on the respectful parenting path for a long time now. Though some habits are hard to break. Some learned reactions are hard to overcome. But, I will forever remember this moment. I will file it away in my mind for whenever I need it. A perfect example that behaviour is ALWAYS a form of communication. And when I feel frustration rising inside of me I can remember this. I can stop and listen to my child instead of that frustration.
I can stop letting frustration steal more moments of connection from us.
We had a lovely day out by the way. They played with friends for 6 hours and no one asked to go home. In fact, when it was time to pack up they wanted to stay even longer! Confident that she had been heard and that she wouldn’t have to do anything she was uncomfortable with, Miss 5 enjoyed herself immensely.