I’ve been a parent long enough now to know one thing for sure – there is no magic wand. Eager parents come along to my talks and workshops hoping to get that one key tip that will make their life eternally easier… I’m sorry to disappoint. Parenting is hard, relentless and ongoing.
Faber & Mazlish believe that children must have their feelings acknowledged in order to move on when they are experiencing a tough time. It’s the same for adults too… when we have had a bad day and finally get home to download to our nearest and dearest, the last thing we want is for them to say ‘suck it up’ or ‘don’t worry about it’.
The fact is, when we are upset, we are upset. When we are angry, we are angry. When we are worried, we are worried.
And so are kids.
Acknowledging our kids’ feelings means that we accept that they are not our feelings and that they see the world through different eyes to you. Just because you think it’s ridiculous that they’ve had a tantie over coming last in a game, doesn’t mean it is ridiculous. Because to them it’s a big deal – and it’s allowed to be.
Our kids are not mini versions of us – they have their own feelings, ideas and thoughts. That may sound obvious, but it took me a long time to really understand that. Some kids want to talk about it, get empathy and brainstorm how to handle it. Some kids want to bottle it up and just mull it over. Perhaps you can identify with one of these methods also?
It’s not easy for us to listen to our kids whinging or crying. It brings us pain to see that they are hurting. But remember – we are not them and it’s not up to us to dictate what to do with those feelings.
When we really acknowledge and accept our children’s feelings, we trust in them to make the right decision of what to do next. We leave the ball in their court and don’t expect them to do things to please us. Saying ‘I can see you’re really upset. I’m here for a hug or a chat’ allows them time and space to process their issue and decide what to do next.
And what if they keep whinging and crying after you’ve said that? I know it’s hard to listen to, but you must let them tough it out. Once you’ve done your job of acknowledging that they are unhappy, it is up to them to ride the emotional wave. If you can, try and put some physical distance between you and your child so that you are not tempted to keep talking and solving the problem for them. If you can’t leave the room, leave their corner and divert your attention elsewhere. Proximity communicates a lot!
Finally, be mindful of your own feelings. If you’re going through a rough time, think about how you relate to your kids. It’s much better for you to say ‘Kids, I’m not feeling very well today. I would love to play but my body needs a rest’.
After all, wouldn’t you rather they spoke this way to you too? Teach them to say ‘I’m not feeling happy right now. I need to have some time in my room to calm down.’
I’d much prefer this to yelling, crying and tantrums.