Sometimes children ask us “do you love me ?” by their behavior. Sometimes when children are being at their very most challenging selves, they are shouting for us to hear, to notice, to show them they are indeed loved.
I spoke with a parent recently who was so frustrated with her two- and- a- half- year- old daughter because every night when it was time to go upstairs to bed, she wanted mom to carry her up. Mom already had her one-year-old son in her arms and so felt that this little girl needed to walk up the stairs on her own.
The little girl would sit on the bottom step, ask first, then whine, then shriek, then bawl. Mom would insist she could walk upstairs on her own, to which this persistent child would sob, “but I want you to carry me”. On this would go until both of them were exhausted, and mom would go down and resentfully carry her daughter upstairs.
I asked the mom, “can your daughter walk up the stairs?” “Of course”, she said,” and does so many times a day.”
“What do you think might be going on here?” I asked the mom. Mom immediately answered, “She just wants her own way.”
“You’re right about that. She does want her own way, but do you think she might also be asking something else – do you think she might be asking ‘do you love me’?”
I suggested to this mom that for the next few nights, she cheerfully give her daughter a choice – ” would you like me to carry you upstairs tonight, or would you like to walk up with me?”
Simple as that – before the fact, before her daughter had to ask, before the drama.
Perhaps Mom will have to make two trips – put brother in his crib and go on down to pick up her daughter. But I believe, given the gift of being invited to be carried upstairs to bed, at this vulnerable time of day, as this girl’s little brother was, it will validate her mom’s love for her in her eyes and reaffirm her spot in the family.
I doubt this need to be carried upstairs will extend for long – this little girl will probably soon be capable once more of scampering upstairs at bedtime.
When our children are growing, everyday does not have to be a leap. Sometimes they lean back and linger for a moment or two – even taking a few steps back – to get their balance, to feel that their place in the world is just right.
Look for those moments, consider the need behind the emotion, don’t be afraid to meet the need, as you both continue on – in love.
The Parenting Place is offering The Magic of Connection on Tuesday, January 28th, 6-7:30 PM in La Crosse. Register for this class to learn strong strategies for developing and maintaining a positive, healthy connection with your child. Find out why a healthy connection with your child is basis for his or her development and life-long well-being. Join us and let’s learn to make magic! Give us a call at 784-8125 to register. Limited childcare is available. Call early.