Session 2 of Parenting Workshop started with a small interactive exercise. We were given a situation and asked to write down our feelings on a sheet of paper. It would help if you write down yours too. Here it is….
You had a lousy day at work. Your boss gave you some work to be done by the end of the day, you started working on it but there was an emergency that came up in some project and it took your whole day to sort out the mess. You didnt have time to breathe, you had late lunch at your desk and completely forgot about the work your boss gave you. When you are getting ready to leave much later than usual your boss came up and asked for it and you tell him that some other thing came up which took your entire day but he was not in a mood to listen and yelled at you in front of your colleagues saying rude things like he’s not paying to listen to your excuses, and walks away. You need to pick up your child from day care so you can’t stay longer and finish the work. Back home you narrate the incident to different people, who react in different ways. You need to write down how you feel for each reaction. Don’t mention what they are trying to say, or how they are trying to deal with your mood or the situation, write only about your feelings.
1. You tell your husband about what happened and he says “Its just your job, why take it to heart. Just let it go”
2. Your parents say “Life is like that, sometimes shit happens and you need to accept it”
3. Your siblings say “How dare he yell at you in front of everyone without even listening to your side of the story? You need to confront him tomorrow and give him a piece of your mind. If he still doesn’t listen just put in your papers. That will serve him right.”
4. Your colleague says “But how could you forget about that work? What was the other thing that came up? Couldn’t it wait? Couldn’t you stay late in office and complete it ? What are you going to do now?”
5. Your elderly Uncle and Aunt say “Maybe he had a bad day and took out his frustration on you. Its not easy being a boss, he’s answerable to so many people….”
6. Your friend says “Oh… how horrible! must have been so embarrassing to be yelled at in front of everyone. You must be so angry.
Now, lets see what we felt in each case…
1. Not understood because the job is important to you
2. Not empathized
3. Slightly comforted but you know what they are suggesting is not right
5. They are defending the other party… how unfair
6. Empathized, understood, comforted
In short, cases 1-5 deny our feelings of anger and frustration at the situation and that’s why they don’t help us feel better after sharing. 6 puts us at ease by saying that she understands and accepts our feelings.
The same goes for our children. We need to accept each and every feeling of our child, listen to it and acknowledge it. Its ok for the child to feel angry, jealous, hate, frustration…. though its not always acceptable to act on these feelings. Constant denial of feelings result in the child losing trust in himself.
For example, a child is jealous of his younger sibling. When we say how can you be jealous of your baby brother, he’s so cute and he smiles at you, we are denying him his feeling. We need to say something like “I understand you are jealous of your little brother because he takes up all of Mama’s time, but he is too small to do anything himself so Mama needs to help him more”
Even when we say things like “How can you not be hungry, you ate 5 hours ago? You are hungry but you are not realizing”, or “How can you not feel cold, its freezing here.” or when we see the child fall while playing and we are sure it didn’t hurt much, yet the child comes to us crying and we tell him that it was nothing and that there is no reason to cry we are not trusting him with his feeling of not being hungry and cold and hurt.
When our child comes to us to share any feeling, we need to avoid:
- Denial of feelings (case 1)
- Philosophical response (case 2)
- Advice (case 3)
- Questions (case 4)
- Defend the other party (case 5)
As a parent, we do need to give them philosophical advice and help them see other person’s perspective but don’t do it when the child has brought the issue to you. Do it at a later, neutral time when the child has calmed down.
When children are fighting among themselves, its best not to interfere and let them resolve it on their own until they start hurting each other. When they want to play with the same toy, don’t give the other kid privilege to play with the toy… either they share it, play with it together or take turns or nobody gets the toy. Most times parents are hard on their child and expect their child to let go, this may seem like a small gesture but it impacts the child.
When you are angry at something the child did, like spilling water on the floor or creating a mess in the house, state your feelings of being angry at the situation, but not accuse the child for it by saying things like “I am angry because there is water on the floor, or because the house is in such a mess.” Again, avoid making it personal.
Natural consequences to something your child does are ok but not punishments. Eg. You go shopping one day with your child and he creates a scene in the super market demanding candy or a toy and you could not finish your shopping. Next time you go, don’t take him along saying that last time when you took him you couldn’t shop. This is a natural consequence. But when you deny him icecream for creating a scene in the mall, it is a punishment.
Teach the child to understand and name his feelings. Identifying makes dealing with feelings easier. Use lot of words identifying his feelings in your day to day communication with the child, and try and equate it to his feelings at the moment.
– When your child is upset, listen with full intent. Give 100% attention to connect
– Acknowledge the feeling with a word eg. Ah.. I see, Ok…
– Give the feeling a name
– Resist the temptation to give advice and make it better for the child
Don’t create a praise junkie. Let them focus on the task, don’t let them do it only to get the praise. Let them have the pleasure of doing something well. Praise reduces the sense of achievement.
Alternatives to praise:
– Appreciation –> Acknowledge by actions
– Say what you see, avoid generic adjectives like “good job”, “very nice”
– Ask them about their experience eg. how they felt when they ran fast
– Use your feelings to state good things that the child did eg. Mamma was happy when you finished your food
– Make sure you don’t say it to manipulate the child
Too much generic praise puts pressure on the child. A lady at the workshop shared her experience with her 6-7 year old daughter. She said her daughter was so good at everything she did that they kept praising her all the time. Now she’s got the feeling that she IS good at everything and can’t do anything wrong. So, now if she’s making a drawing and is not able to get the sun round enough she gets very upset. She feels pressurized to do things perfectly.
Also, when you praise using words like ‘finally’, ‘at last’ it also has a negative edge to it and so should be avoided. Eg. Finally you gave the right spelling for all the words.
These are just little things and most times we know them already but it takes only a bit of effort to remember and follow.