Kids can break into full-on tantrums at the drop of a hat, and nearly every parent has been where actor Justin Baldoni found himself this past Father's Day weekend.
Baldoni, who starred in "Jane the Virgin,", was shopping at Whole Foods with his family when his wife, Emily, took this photo.
In it, Baldoni and his father stand patiently by as his daughter, Maiya cries. Her little body is face down on the concrete floor, mid-tantrum as the two men look on calmly. And, though surrounded by shoppers, they do not appear to be in a hurry to stop this young girl from expressing her displeasure with whatever might have been going on for her in this moment, nor do they appear embarrassed.
The two men are simply standing by, giving this little girl space and time to feel her feelings.
Baldoni shared some thoughts about the way his father used to treat him when he was growing up along with the photo above.
"My dad always let me feel what I needed to feel, even if it was in public and embarrassing," he wrote.
Father to son, son to daughter. This is how we pass compassion down, generation to generation like a family heirloom.
Here are some of the thoughts Baldoni shared along with the photo:
"I don't remember him (my father) ever saying "You're embarrassing me!" or "Dont cry!" It wasn't until recently that I realized how paramount that was for my own emotional development. Our children are learning and processing so much information and they don't know what to do with all of these new feelings that come up. I try to remember to make sure my daughter knows it's OK that she feels deeply. It's not embarrassing to me when she throw tantrums in the grocery store, or screams on a plane. I'm her dad…not yours. Let's not be embarrassed for our children. It doesn't reflect on you. In fact.. we should probably be a little more kind and patient with ourselves too. If we got out everything we were feeling and allowed ourselves to throw tantrums and cry when we felt the need to then maybe we'd could also let ourselves feel more joy and happiness. And that is something this world could definitely use a little more of."
We can think it is our job to make our children "happy"; to protect them from feeling things like anger, rage, disappointment and sadness. But that is not our job at all.
Our job as both parents and educators, is to help children feel and express their feelings as they are able, learning to respect themselves and others along the way.
How do we do this?! We do it, exactly as modeled in the story above, by example. We do it when we respond instead of react, even when our child is lying face down in the checkout lane.
Teaching children how to be with their feelings is important work, right up there with teaching them their ABC's and their 123's.
As adults, we have the power to teach children it is safe to tune in and trust what they are feeling through our words and through our actions.
If this story inspires you, but at times, you struggle to find that pause button on life when it's your child that is losing it in the store, I want you to know, nothing is broken. The fact is, unlike Baldoni, many people do not grow up with a father or a mother modeling this approach to feelings. More often than not, feelings are shut down, dismissed, denied, or labeled as "too sensitive", weak, and/or bothersome.
So if you find yourself reacting to your own child's emotions, I want you to know that you are likely responding exactly the way you were taught to respond. The great news is that as adults, it is never too late for us to find our own inner pause button.
If you'd like to grow your skills when it comes to supporting children in understanding and expressing their big emotions, make talking about your thoughts and feelings a daily, playful practice in your home and you will find yourself naturally being pulled ever closer, not only to your children, but to yourself.
And one day who knows, you might be the grandparent in the picture, standing by as your child parents their child with patience and love, stemming forth from an inner calm that you yourself helped to instill.
Image credit: Justin Baldoni/Facebook