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!
Miss 6 is talking to her friend over the fence. I come out to give the little girl a message that I want her to tell her Mum…
Me: ‘Good morning!’
Friend: ‘Good morning.’
Me: I start explaining and Miss 6 cuts me off…
Miss 6: ‘I’ve already told her!’
Me: ‘Ok. I just wanted to say…’
Miss 6: ‘I SAID I’ve already told her.’
Me: ‘I heard you. I just wanted to explain.’
Miss 6: ‘I’ve already told her! Now buzz off Mum!’
Me: I feel angry at the way she has spoken to me. I want to tell her DO NOT speak to me like that and insist she comes inside now because she has been so rude. Thankfully some rational thoughts come to me and I decide to walk away and think about what to say instead of retaliating in the heat of the moment. I say ‘I don’t like it when you speak to me like that’ and walk back inside, shutting the door behind me (and honestly wanting to lock it and tell her to stay outside until she’s in a better mood). I hear her say ‘whatever‘ as I walk off, making me more cranky.
Inside, with some space, I try to think about what might be going on for her. This week I’m really trying to focus on the fact that ALL behaviour is communication. She is not being rude for no reason. This is my girl. She is not rude. This is really not typical behaviour for her. Something must be bothering her. She’s not trying to be rude, she’s just having a hard time. I remember that this morning she couldn’t find one of her special teddy bears and was worried it might have gotten caught up in her sheets and put in the washing machine. I was rushing around trying to do things with the younger girls and not as understanding as I could have been. I brushed off her feelings because it wasn’t a big deal to me. I cut her off, just as she cut me off. Did I make her feel like what she had to say wasn’t important, just like she has made me feel now?
Yesterday afternoon she and her sister also broke the trampoline netting which they were very upset about. It’s hard dealing with natural consequences and the disappointment of something you have caused. She was probably reminded of this when she went outside this morning too. Maybe one or both of these things were bothering her?
Twenty minutes later she comes back in and I feel calmer and more understanding so I go to talk to her.
Me: ‘I didn’t like it when you said ‘buzz off’ to me before. I’ve never heard you say that. I’m wondering if there’s something bothering you?’
Miss 6: (Immediately I see tears in her eyes and I know she’s sorry for speaking that way to me) ‘I’m sorry Mum.’
Me: ‘You look upset.’
Miss 6: ‘I’d already told her what you were saying.’
Me: ‘I know that, I just wanted to make sure she knew all of it. Is there something else?’
Miss 6: (crying) ‘I still can’t find White Teddy. She’s my favourite teddy and I can’t sleep without her! And I wanted to go on the trampoline but then I saw that it was still broken and I love the trampoline.’
Me: ‘It sounds like you weren’t feeling very good and that maybe that made you speak in a way you wouldn’t usually.’
Miss 6: ‘Yes. I’m sorry Mum.’
Me: ‘I understand now. I can help you look for your teddy. Do you need a cuddle?’
Miss 6: ‘Yes please.’
Wow, I’m so glad I walked away and didn’t react in anger and indignation. In these kinds of situations parents are often tempted to punish. But what would punishment do? Would it help me understand? Would she have told me what was really going on? Would our relationship be closer? Or would it have caused more tension between us? I know the answers.
Punishment addresses the behaviour, sure. But behaviours are communication. And don’t we all want to know what’s behind them so we can help our kids with their feelings and worries? Punishment makes it less likely that you’ll find out.
Today I am thankful for patience, and understanding, and little girls who aren’t afraid to tell me to buzz off.