The forecast doesn’t look good. In an era of parental paranoia, lawsuit mania and testing frenzy, we are failing to inspire our children’s curiosity, creativity, and imagination. We are denying them opportunities to tinker, discover, and explore — in short, to play.
The reason why I created a non violent preschool for my son, and the reason why I am on the hunt for a humanitarian school (or at the very least a compassionate teacher) for his elementary school experience, is completely selfish: I was a troubled child. I was the hard one. I had BIG emotions, and they were usually not understood. (OK, I admit it…I am STILL the troubled child, and I STILL have BIG emotions!)
There is a fine line between sympathy and empathy. Learning the difference can make huge changes in your relationship with your child. My mother was a professional worrier. Whenever I expressed having a problem with anything, she sympathized, “Oh my poor dear. That’s so awful. Do you really have to do that?” Her sympathy was not helpful. As a matter of fact, I stopped sharing my problems with her because then I had her feelings and worry to deal with as well as my own problem.
I was thinking about a conflict the other day that involved my son and myself. I realized that ‘conflict resolution,’ per se, doesn’t truly exist when the conflict is between the two of us. And that is because I have an agenda. You see, I think I know the better way, the better tactic, the “truth,” and even before I let my son explain his thoughts and intentions, I am already formulating my response.
You see a 5 year old child who is crying and screaming, sobbing about something. His parents are sitting with him, trying to sooth him. You might think “That child cannot control his emotions. He is emotionally immature. He needs to learn how to control his emotions.”
I refuse to damage my sons! I will not allow my sons to play with girls’ toys, because I want to preserve their authentic selves….
My son Kian has always been good at conjuring up plans… but bringing them to life is another matter entirely. The pieces wouldn’t fit, the parts would fall off, or the wheels would not turn. His grand visions just needed his building expertise to catch up a little more…. and his ensuing frustration would start to leak out sideways, screaming like steam from a kettle. It was impossible for me to ignore: his loud keening was a veritable curse to the gods. It penetrated me. I could feel his chafing frustration in my heart, seeping in like hot oil. It would sit and simmer then, until something would finally snap. There was no turning back! I would lose all control, and spring into “Fix It Mode!”
This is an article by Patty Wipfler of Parenting by Connection which teaches the Hand in Hand tools of listening so parents and caregivers can be more connected to the children in their lives. I found this helpful and illuminating in light of the recent tragedy.
Allowing doesn’t have anything to do with having no limits, or not stepping into a guiding role for our children.
Parents often have a hard time with children who “think they’re the boss.” The irony is, that none of us want a marshmallow, a follower; and most of us want a happy, self-satisfied, confident child! (…a leader, perhaps?) So maybe it is as easy as shifting our thinking! We can embrace it as AWESOME that our child knows what s/he wants! This is the type of child who will probably not follow the pack like a lemming out to sea! What our child needs is help learning ways to get those needs met; ways that don’t conflict with another’s ability to get their needs met! It is as simple as that!