Thursday, March 31, 2011

Off Loading Big Feelings

by Amy Trayer, 4-day parent and board president

I took my 5 year old twins to their favorite store recently to help me pick out a birthday gift for a friend. I don't make it a habit to buy them something every time we are out (especially since they just had a birthday). In fact, we've been really working on this - talking beforehand about what we are going to buy, to not ask me to buy them anything once we are there and I often try to shop without them to avoid arguments altogether. It's been working most of the time, other times huge meltdowns happen because they want me to buy them something (forgetting our deal!). It's an on-going learning process for all of us. On this particular day I told them ahead of time that when we got to the store, we would buy their friend a gift, and they could each pick something out for themselves (I was feeling generous, it's been a good week). They did great! They spent a lot of time really thinking it over and they each found something they wanted at a reasonable cost (which we've also been talking about). Everyone left happy – success!

After wearing her new nightgown all evening, my daughter came out of bed that night very upset. She did NOT like her new nightgown, in fact she wanted to take it off and take it back to the store right now. She wanted a different one. She began to shout at me and get very upset. She refused to go to bed. I could have gotten very angry, yelled and physically put her back in her bed. But instead, I took a deep breath and decided to just listen and let her unload these big feelings.

I calmly walked her back into the bedroom with her brother watching and listening the entire time. It was about 40 minutes of her crying and telling me all sorts of things: she wanted to rip up the nightgown, she wanted to throw away everything in the house, she wanted a different nightgown, grown-ups are not in charge, grown-ups get mad at children, she misses daddy (he's been working long hours lately), she doesn't like any of her toys, her brother is mean to her and much more........

How did it end? NOT with me yelling or getting mad or thinking she's acting spoiled by wanting a different nightgown or feeling frustrated that it’s now way past her bedtime and I’m not getting anything done that I had planned. I realized she needed to unload and I let her. I didn't interrupt, I didn't tell her to stop or force her to go to bed and I didn't tell her we'd go back and get her a new nightgown. I just listened. I stayed close. I looked her in the eyes the whole time. After, she began to calm down and she hugged me for a long time and we snuggled together in bed until she fell asleep. As I lay there, I was thinking how letting her pick out one thing in her favorite store was probably really overwhelming and she was regretting her decision now and that was very upsetting to her. Or maybe that shopping experience was the catalyst for off loading these other feelings she had built up inside of her. Probably a little of both. Whatever it was, it ended with her feeling reconnected again and me feeling good that I handled it the way I did.

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Monday, March 7, 2011

Honing My Nurturing Instinct

by Denise Ferguson, T/Th parent

In the book “Nurture Shock” the authors introduce the notion that parents rely on the impulse to nurture but have to figure out how best do it. I completely agree with this. For the first few years of my daughter’s life I relied on my instinct A LOT. This seemed so easy to me. I’m not saying that I knew immediately what to do but my instinct told me whether I could implement a parenting plan.

When I needed to make a decision, I contemplated it, discussed it with my friends, family and husband and then implemented it. IF I felt good about the decision, I could go through with it. If not, then I had to go back to the drawing board – or whatever parenting book I had on my nightstand. For example, letting my child cry herself to sleep. Yes, I did that but only when she was ready (ie and when I was ready to follow through with that plan). My willingness to follow through was my indication that I believed it to be the right thing to do.

That system of researching and contemplating is no longer an option. My child can speak and demands an answer promptly. I no longer have the luxury of taking the time to dig deep into my parenting resources and come up with an answer, try it, and see if I feel good about it. To be prepared for everything that my child comes up with is impossible. But after reading “Nurture Shock”, I am confident that there are a handful of guidelines that I can implement in my household to make parenting my growing child possible.

The author's daughter at Explorer's front gate on her first day of school.
I could probably get by on my parenting impulse but what Po Bronson offers is a way to better nurture my child. My impulse might get me through an awkward or embarrassing situation with my child but it won’t enable me to turn those moments into opportunities to teach my child valuable lifelong lessons. This concept has been particularly insightful for me and having Po Bronson present it in person at Explorer Preschool last month was a memorable and motivational event.

One specific example is related to instances when children lie. Po discussed the fact that children lie, the reasons that children lie and the ways to handle it. I had suspected my daughter has lied to me a few times but it wasn’t until I heard Po speak about it and the ways to address it that I took her lying seriously. Not only did I take her lying serious but I also looked forward to the next lie she told! She told a lie this morning and I got the chance to try Po’s instructions. His instructions were to and show how happy you are when the child tells the truth.

Embracing honesty is only the first of many of Po’s parenting suggestions that I will implement in my parenting technique. As I go to implement the next one I will remember Po’s talk.