There’s something that makes my heart sing at one moment and sink the next – parents who love a child so very much yet find themselves afraid, discouraged and out on a limb when it comes to trusting their relationship with their child.
I met with a couple recently who have a challenging two-and-a-half-year-old. They believe that they have messed up their daughter for good – from loving her too much, and now feel like things are falling apart.
Just as their daughter has reached the age where she is seeking more control, independence and power in her life, mom and dad are frantic to own the control and power first and so the fireworks ensue.
But it doesn’t have to be about control. In fact, why not make it be about connection? For it is connection that grows and nurtures a sustaining relationship with our children that will see us through to young adulthood and beyond. Ninety percent of interactions with your child should be about connecting so she can accept the ten percent that needs to be about correcting.
I understand the panic and the frustration. A child who has tantrums, hits, and screams can put anyone into a state of fear. And it is this fear that makes us react to our child by meeting their outbursts with anger and outburst of our own. However, the answer is not to be louder and angrier than your child but to acknowledge the emotion your child is displaying and show him you understand how he is feeling.
When we think about having a terrible day ourselves and a good friend “gets” it – knows exactly why we may be feeling/acting/speaking the way we are, we feel heard, understood, grateful and more relaxed and secure.
Children are the same. We often use the expression my child is “acting out”. When a child is acting out, he is sharing with us emotions/upsets/stress that he is not able to express verbally. But when parents recognize and show understanding of the emotion or stress the child is experiencing, it makes her feel validated, loved and safe.
Responding to the emotions a child is displaying is something all of us as parents can do. But first we have to drop the idea that this child is “out to get us”. Recognize the significance of empathizing with your child’s emotion first, letting her experience your compassion before beginning to address the situation at hand.
It is this sense of security and love that heals the hurt and opens the heart and the mind to listen to a better way.
If you would like to talk more about how to validate feelings and connect with your child in their most fragile moments, give me a call at The Parenting Place, 784-8124.