12 Nov Children Need Connection
“Tiny humans need connection, not perfection”
This is a quote that a friend of mine shared on facebook and I could not agree more. Parenting is about relationship and connection.
It brings to mind an experience I had with my son a few years ago. Our son is full of excitement and energy; so much so that sometimes this energy can get him into trouble. The kids had been out playing at the park with their friends and he came in frustrated and angry. As he started yelling and throwing pillows around I could sense my panic setting in.
I am extremely uncomfortable with the expression of anger and with every bone in my body I want to suppress it. Usually I would do this by sending him to his room or ignoring him until he was calm, but for some reason this day I did something quite different. Everything I had been trying did not seem to be working well and so I thought it was time to try something very different.
I walked over to him, and in the midst of his fury I wrapped my arms around him and I just hugged him. At the time I wasn’t really even aware why I was doing this, I just knew I had to try something different. In that moment, almost instantly, his body began to soften to my embrace and then the tears started to flow. Connection. He knew in that moment that I was with him. Even in the midst of his frustration and his mistakes, he was assured that I loved him and that I wanted to be with him. This is a message my son needs to hear over and over again.
Like many kids his age, he doesn’t always think before he acts and sometimes he ends up hurting someone. He instantly feels guilty and the fear sets in. He is worried that people will not like him, that no one will want to be with him anymore because of his actions. If I continued to focus on the behaviour, I would have never understood this for him and my actions would reinforce his fears.
Too often as parents we focus on the behaviour and try to suppress or eliminate it. The problem, is we never get to the heart of the issue and no learning ever occurs. How can you be more prepared to connect with your child?
1) Be aware of what you are feeling in the moment – for me it was my own fear of anger. Does the behaviour trigger something from your past that you need to acknowledge. Are you worried that people around you are judging your child’s behaviour or your parenting?
2) Putting the behaviour aside just for a moment, what is your child feeling? It’s ok if you don’t always get it right, you are showing that you are interested in his/her feelings and he/she can let you know if you don’t quite get it.
3) Don’t be afraid to get in there, let them know you are there and that you notice they are upset. Help them ride the waves of their emotions so they do not have to do it alone. When the wave has passed, you will have an opportunity to talk about it and learn from it because you have the relationship to do so.