The next time your little one is losing it over something you think is silly (like maybe they asked you for a banana but not a PEELED banana, and, well, you peeled it! Who knew this could cause such pain and upset, right?!? but they are kids – not mini adults, and believe it or not, it DOES…) and you’re tempted to stay “Stop crying” or “Don’t cry”, take a deep breath and as you offer them the peeled banana anyway, say instead “I see you’re sad/disappointed. It’s okay to cry. I’m here…”
Say these words and mean them. Be there for your little one who is just beginning to learn about this thing called “feelings” … including anger, disappointment and yes, even rage.
Sure. It’s not easy to sit there and listen to your child cry when every cell in your body wants to yell “ALRIGHT ALREADY HERES YOUR DANG BANANA. SHEEESH WILL YOU STOP CRYING??!?! IT’S NOT THAT BIG OF A DEAL!” as you reach over to the fruit bowl and grab another banana.
But imagine instead you simply say “This is your banana today. If you want to peel your banana tomorrow you can. This is your banana today. It’s right here if you’d like it.” Instead of being angry and reactive, these words are responsive, like training wheels, helping your child learn to be with their emotions, to express them and to shift.
As you sit with your child in the middle of their upset, look to yourself. What is happening in your body? Are you holding your breath? Are your shoulders tense and way up by your ears instead of relaxed and sitting on your ribcage? Does your face look all scrunched up, irritated and/or scary? Take a deep breath. Soften the lines on your face and keep breathing (this is the first thing that goes when we’re upset). Imagine a moment with your child where you were at peace and FULL of love. Snuggling. Staring into their big, dark eyes when they were a newborn. Breathe, holding this memory in your mind as you allow for this less than peaceful child that is before you to be seen as well.
As you sit there together, accepting your child and all their many feelings, she will likely still cry and she may never reach over and eat that peeled banana, but in the end, she will feel HEARD. And even though she was dealing with some downright big/scary/ugly feelings, the two of you will leave the experience feeling closer to one another instead of mad/angry/frustrated and further apart. Instead of learning to whine and cry to “get her way” your child learns 1) you can be trusted with their big emotions and 2) you can be loving even as you are setting limits. Limits that are clear, firm and respectful. What a gift.
Let your child know in ways great and small, you are a safe place for them to feel their emotions no matter what. Because you two? You are on the SAME SIDE OF THE COURT. You are connected. You are a team.
(And a damn good one at that.)