I recently read a funny post about the two ways parents react to their inconsolably screaming babies in restaurants: those who leave, and those who Live and Let Scream (I am definitely in the camp of Quickly Scoot Out With Heads Ducked in Shame, but the reason lies more in the less noble I Really Hate People Looking at Me Especially in a Judgmental Fashion camp than the Doting Mother Who Puts Her Child’s Concerns First one).
This phenomenon got me thinking on the crying issue in general.
I love my kiddos. Adore them. It is a surreal kind of love that I never understood until they were a part of my world. Seriously. I want nothing more than their utter and complete happiness.
But I logically know a state of constant happiness is not only impossible, it is also unhealthy. We all need to experience the good, bad, amazing and ugly on the emotional spectrum to really live the fullest life possible.
We have to learn to deal.
Yet I too often try to shut down my children’s “negative” emotions. If a child is crying, I want to stop the tears. If they are angry, I tell them to stop screaming and deal calmly. If they are whining, I hand them a lollipop.
Don’t get me wrong, I strongly believe we should support and nurture our children. When they are infants we just need to keep their butts dry and clean, their tummies full, their bodies warm and well rested (You can tell it’s been a year or two since I’ve had an infant if I can sum it up that easily, yes? Nothing to it! Please no hate mail from parents of newborns.).
For infants, crying is an accepted form of communication. But for older kids who seem to be such little PEOPLE, for goodness sake, it’s easy to expect them to “know better.” I catch myself constantly trying to shut down the whining, crying and screaming so we can talk about things reasonably. Please contain your surprise when I tell you: This ain’t working.
I guess my point (I think I have one) is that, at least in the privacy of our own homes when we won’t be disturbing others, what’s wrong with a little kicking and screaming once in a while? It’s not our jobs to keep our kids happy all the time. We are not pacifiers, we are parents. Kids need the most help when it comes to figuring out the difficult situations involved in this quirky little thing called Life.
When a child is losing it, that is when they need us the most. Not to correct their feelings by telling them they are wrong, as I often do (This is not appropriate behavior. You are overreacting. It is not a big deal. Stop your valid emotion and react like I want you to. And do it NOW. Etc. Etc.), but by simply listening. Kneel down so you can look into their eyes, nod empathically, repeat key phrases (if you can make any out), maybe give a hug. Whatever works for you, and especially whatever works for the child.
I think next time I will try running a positive dialogue in my head, kind of a mental cheerleader thing: Be mad, my child! Be frustrated and angry! Be jealous and petty! Feel disappointment and rejection! Wallow in that ridicule for a bit. Immerse yourself with sadness. You are doing great. You are learning and growing right here before my very eyes. I am amazed by your capacity for emotion and sheer strength of spirit! I’m so proud of you my heart could burst! Feel the hurt; it won’t last forever. All things are temporary. I am here with you. We will come out of it in a bit, and we’ll both be better for it.
You know, stuff like that.