Have you had that experience where you find yourself in a tight parenting situation and low and behold a friend, stranger, or even your child pops up at the perfect moment to remind you of what’s important and then, voila!…crisis averted?
Sheena, a graduate from my parenting course, Parenting with Positive Discipline, tells this story:
“At a local pool this summer my daughter and I were changing in the locker room when I realized I’d forgotten to pack her swimsuit. Oh no! She was not happy. I checked to see if I could buy her a swimsuit. …nope. Maybe our friends had one I could borrow?…Nope. Luckily I found a swimsuit in the lost-and-found, a little worn out, but wearable.
Back in the locker room I showed my daughter the lost-and-found suit. She was still unhappy. At first I was a really nice mommy: I apologized for my forgetfulness and told her we wouldn’t be able to retrieve her swimsuit from home. The look on my daughter’s face said that wasn’t working either. Next, I tried bribing her with cookies, and ice cream from the snack shop. She did not budge.
Now I was starting to get mad. How was I going to get her to wear this swimsuit?! I walked out to the pool to tell our friends we were leaving.
Then I saw Lisa. Having taken her parenting class, I prayed she would have some advice for me.
I quickly told her the story and she gave me some words of compassion She held up the swimsuit and said, “what a gorgeous suit!” and “that pattern is so pretty!” (She glanced over the mildew stains on the butt…). It took me a second to realize what she was doing…I wanted a hard and fast answer to my problem and she was admiring the swimsuit?
Then I caught on…ah ha. I headed back to the locker room and my waiting daughter. This time I was a lot calmer and less determined to get her to “wear the suit or else!” I sat down next to her on the bench, offered her one of the cookies, and said lets eat these while we think of what to do next. I then held up the swimsuit and did exactly what Lisa had just done. I started to admire the swimsuit. Within a minute my daughter had changed into the suit and was ready to go swimming. It worked! It worked!
Thank you, Lisa. Your calm and thoughtful approach to parenting is an inspiration.”
What shifted this situation?
Sheenas’ experience is one we all know too well. Our patience gets tested, we get emotionally charged, and our minds become less flexible. My hunch is that our chance encounter gave Sheena a touchstone to her open, creative mind AND a renewed sense of faith in her child and herself. During this ah ha moment, she was able to beam out from the weeds and the trees to see the entire forest.
Our little ones pick up on our mental shifts. When a child senses her parents urgency, she will dig in. (Aha! here is a game I can play and maybe even win!)
Take urgency out of the equation, and there’s nothing to resist or engage. When we let the air out of that balloon, we all get a chance to relax.
That day at the pool when Sheena bumped into me, it wasn’t my advice or expert knowledge that helped. Rather, I offered a reminder of what she already knew. Afterwards, Sheena relaxed and let go of her goal to get her daughter in the suit. Sensing this shift, her 6-year old similarly let go and decided that swimming would be more fun than continuing with a deflated power struggle.
What helps you shift your perspective from struggle to connection?
What’s most important to you about your relationship with your child?