Listen to this one here >> https://www.podbean.com/media/player/bv85d-6302b6?from=yiiadmin
Parenting is a challenge sometimes, right? (or maybe it’s ALWAYS a challenge)
Last night my 7 year old son was having a hard time calming down for bedtime. He was running around hitting everyone, being loud, bugging people in their rooms so they couldn’t go to bed … it was frustrating, to say the least.
I offered him the opportunity to stop several times, and finally told him that if he chose NOT to stop, I would remove him from the situation so everyone else could have the opportunity to go to bed. That meant that I would have him lie downstairs on the couch until everyone else was sleeping.
He didn’t want to do that. However, he chose not to stop, and so, in order to maintain a semblance of peace upstairs with all the other kids at bedtime, I put my 7 year old on the couch in the living room and told him to stay there, and that I would get him when it was time for him to go upstairs to his bed.
Very quickly, all the other kids fell asleep. Probably within only a few minutes. And downstairs on the floor next to the couch (because he wouldn’t be ON the couch because he had to exert his independence) the 7 year old sat crying and kicking the floor.
He sat there for 20 or more minutes just crying “Mom, can I go upstairs now? Mom, Mom, Mom can I go upstairs now?” Over and over and over and over. He wiggled this way and that way and kicked the floor and slobbered everywhere. He was NOT happy, NOT settling down, and NOT about to be still.
My intention had been that if he was on the couch away from all the rest of the kids that he would be able to settle down more easily and everyone else would, in turn, be able to go to bed. And it worked for the others, but being removed from the regular “program” made the 7 year old MORE upset.
I explained to him that when he was still and quiet he could go up to bed. That everyone else was asleep and if he went up loudly he would wake them. I then sat on my bed listening to his distress, frustration, anger, and angst.
As I listened I felt frustrated that he wouldn’t just calm down. I thought, “if he would just be still for a minute he could go upstairs.” I sat there and was discouraged that my “plan” hadn’t worked how I wanted it to. I thought it had been a really good compromise for the situation. I was frustrated that he wouldn’t be quiet. I was a little annoyed to be honest. I wasn’t angry, but had I let myself get to angry, it wouldn’t have taken long.
Finally I realized that it was NOT working. That he was NOT calming down, and it seemed that he was getting more loud and distressed by the minute. And so I got off my bed and walked out toward him with the intention of telling him, again, that he just needed to calm down and be still and he could go up to bed. (in other words, he needed to do what I thought he should do … he needed to “comply” with my “demands” – I roll my eyes at myself here, just insert that so you know I see how dumb and controlling I was)
The moment I saw him so upset my heart softened. I realized that he didn’t need “hard Mommy” he needed “understanding Mommy” and that in this moment being unrelenting and stern wasn’t going to help him, and helping him WAS my objective.
So I took a deep breath and sat on the couch. He was at the end of the couch on the floor kicking the floor and when I sat down he came up and sat next to me. I wanted to talk to him and explain all the reasons why his behavior was not helpful and not what was ok for bedtime. But as I looked at his face I couldn’t do it. So instead, I talked to him about choices and consequences.
We talked about how we always get to choose. We get to choose what we say, what we do, and how we respond to every situation that comes.
We talked about how there are always “consequences” to our choices.
Sometimes they’re good, like choosing to be kind to someone leads to helping them feel better and lighter, or choosing to stick with a hard thing we’re trying to learn has the “consequence” of accomplishing a new skill.
And then how sometimes our choices lead to things we don’t like. Like when we run too fast and trip and scrape our knee. Or if we say a mean thing to someone how they’ll feel bad and even potentially cry or be sad, or if we touch a hot pan we’ll be burned.
As I sat there talking to this little boy, he leaned closer to me and closer until he was snuggling up against my side and I was running my fingers through his hair. He calmed quickly. His breathing became more regular. He stopped scowling. His energy shifted to be more open and able to listen.
He told me he was scared to be alone in the dark and so we talked about some things he can do to help with that. We talked about how what we focus on grows bigger … looking at it and focusing on it FEEDS it, and when you feed something it grows, and so we talked about if his fear is a spoon and it’s held in front of his face it is the only thing he can see. But if he takes his fear (the spoon) and puts it across the room and looks at something else (like me playing the piano … that was the example we came up with) how that spoon very easily fades away until he forgets it’s even there. If he’s constantly looking at it, it gets closer and closer and closer until it’s the only thing he can see, but when he chooses to “look at” or think about something else, the spoon fades away. It’s still there, just not the focus.
We talked about things we can do to help remove our focus from the scary fear to something less scary and more love filled.
Within 10 or 15 minutes of sitting quietly talking to him, he was calm, relaxed, and open. He was ready to go upstairs and go to sleep. I felt his relief.
Here’s what I learned from this interaction: I need to focus more on what is needed in the moment by him, and less about what I think it should be.
I think I could have had this same outcome (his calm, open, ready for sleeping atmosphere) had I chosen, in the beginning, to sit next to him and talk and connect. Instead I wanted to “prove the point” that he needed to be still and tried to force him to do that in the way I felt it should be … but the problem was it was not what would work for HIM.
My ultimate goal WAS that everyone could go to sleep easily. Trying to force it to look like what I wanted it to look like was where the “hiccup” came in.
I learned that each kid, each person, each unique soul has a language, and finding that language and speaking to each person in their language produces the most effective peace filled results. I couldn’t speak to him in my language and expect him to respond the way I wanted him to … I needed to speak to him in HIS language. I needed to not worry about my ideas of how it should look and focus instead on what would be best for HIM.
I wish I had figured this out 30 minutes sooner … but I did eventually (actually pretty quickly) figure it out, so next time, hopefully, I will remember this experience and use it to be a more effective parent to this little stubborn sensitive sweet boy.
What a gift to learn something like this in a moment of frustration. It opened my eyes and my heart and opened his heart as well. When we were soft and open we were BOTH teachable and connected and it felt amazing.
I never cease to be amazed at the loveliness of expansion. It is truly expanding and it fills my soul.
honorthismoment – #100somethings – 11/100