Friday, July 7, 2017

Little People & Big Emotions: Handle with Love

Our house is loud. How do such small people make so much noise? Craig laughs in amazement at my ability to tune it out sometimes. I'm really good at staying focused on my work or my book or my music with sibling squabbles going on full tilt in the background (a carefully honed survival mechanism). Until it hits a certain high, screeching pitch: then my natural instinct is to come charging out to Make Everybody Be Quiet Now! Honestly, at these times I am generally more annoyed that my concentration was disturbed than enthusiastic about mediating another conflict.

Overcoming my natural reactions to reach in and pull out the better me is not easy. And on top of that, I have a lot of ingrained notions about how children should be treated who are being loud and mean. And most of these ingrained notions, I've been finding, are not helpful. In fact, whenever I try to apply them, things invariably get worse. I'm talking about the stuff we do to try to manipulate our children into behaving in the desired manner; threats, bribes, the Mean Mama voice, withholding our presence and affection, etc.

A few months ago I wrote about this ingenious idea of loving on your children and the amazing effect it has one them. I thought I'd update you on how it's going.

The basic method is pretty simple: whenever you'd normally resort to anger, yelling, or that frustrated tone of voice that your kids hate, you surprise and shock them with a gentle and calm voice, a listening ear, hugs, and snuggles.

But wait... what if they just did something really bad? You just let them get away with it? No, not at all. But amazingly, holding a child on your lap while you quietly tell them what they did wrong, listening to them while they tell you about it, telling them what the consequences are, and talking about how to make things right or restore relationships with people they have hurt... all these things go in much deeper and easier if applied in this manner than with a yelling, angry and impatient manner.

I can tell you that I feel like my meltdown child is finally making some serious progress in learning to control emotions and make better choices than this she used to. Sitting and having quiet snuggle sessions while we talk about why she feels so out of control have become invaluable. And she is learning some things about herself, like how much fatigue or spending too much time non-stop with friends can overload her and cause her to fall apart easily.

I'm learning that children need their mommies and daddies to be there for them when they are feeling big, out-of-control emotions. We don't hesitate to pick up and comfort our screaming babies. Just being close to us, touching us, helps them calm and regulate themselves. As they get older, they are learning the process of separating themselves from us, but they still need us when they are experiencing huge scary-angry-sad emotions. They need us to help them put into words what they are feeling, to ask questions, to figure out how to make better what they just royally messed up, to experience boundaries being placed in their lives in a comforting way to keep them safe from the things they don't even realize are harmful to body and soul.

If you want a little more reading on this topic, here is another article I really liked, and stay tuned for more from me, because I guarantee I'm going to have more to say on this subject!

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