Have you let your child feel today?
It’s a bit of an interesting question, one that would normally be answered, “yes, of course I have” loaded with defence.
However if you really observe your behaviour with your child, have you allowed them to really cry out their last fall?
Have you really allowed your child to unravel in their latest tantrum (or as we like to call it a rage break) or did you find yourself saying “it’s ok, don’t cry, calm down, you can’t react like that”.
Now, think of the last time you honoured an adults feelings. How did you talk to them?
What words did you use? Did you tell them to calm down, not to cry, not to feel that way?
We respectfully allow adults to feel a whole myriad of feelings and most actions are justified because as adults, we experience such complex life experiences.
Is this not the same for a child? Is a child’s life experiences less intense, less meaningful, less valid?
No parent intends to talk to their child in a negative or harmful way (well, most of the time) but with teen suicide rates on the rise and anxiety disorders being the second most common disorders among all children in Australia, there is something we are not doing for our children.
We all know parents are spending twice as much time with their children as they did 50 years ago, but why the rise in anxious, depressed, overly stressed out children?
People like to blame screen time, video games, role models, the school system, divorce etc etc…
But a lot of those aspects are external influences. They are secondary variables that our children are exposed to in various degrees & levels. They are secondary to one of the most influential, significant relationships they will ever have in their life with; their parents.
The parenting journey is so often described as being an important job, a responsibility of a lifetime, the most rewarding experience. However, it’s rarely described as a ‘relationship’. But that's primarily what it is; a relationship.
Of course we are responsible for a child’s wellbeing. At minimum, we need to fulfil their basic needs and then in time, we allow them to fulfil their own needs to become independent. Beyond these responsibilities, there's a bit of a grey area.
That’s when culture, religion, traditions and values come in. We incorporate how we were raised, we edit what we don’t want and implement what we would like. This attitude focuses on how we feel the best way to raise our children should be.
That’s where we’re going wrong. We’re looking at it all from our own perspective. We’re not raising mini me’s, little versions of ourselves, the better, faster, smarter, stronger or richer me.
We’re raising completely individual people that have the right to their own feelings.
A common practice in parenting is to validate their child’s behaviour and feelings based on external factors. Like if they’re tired, hungry or it’s their personality type. And we are told, by so many parenting books and psychologists, that this is the right thing to do. It’s the best way to understand your child and know how to manage them.
But we ask, what right do we have in doing that? Why can’t a child feel their feelings in whatever shape, reason, time, space they like? What is our obsession with making sense of a feeling and partnering it with a prescribed, appropriate behaviour response?
The way a person digests life experiences is so complicated that there is no formula for the appropriate amount of tears a person should cry or screams a person should scream.
A recent documentary series aired in Australia, that looked at Lindy Chamberlain’s story and the case of the death of her baby, Azaria. One of the leading parts of the story was that during the investigation of her baby’s death, the media and public opinion of Lindy was not a forgiving one. She was labelled a cold and heartless mother that was guilty of murdering her baby, because she never publicly shed a tear, about her baby’s death. She never ‘looked’ like a grieving mother. Now, after 40 years since the death of Azaria, we consider what should a grieving mother look like?
Lindy was exonerated for the crime, but the slander has not gone away. People have made countless jokes and jabs about her all because she didn't fit the “normal” way to behave.
Lindy’s story is an extreme one, but we mention it because it helps give perspective on the severity of imposing behaviour expectations on people.
Consider this naughty idea...
Next time your child is having a full blown, irrational, unwarranted, unexpected tantrum (rage break), let them. Just leave them to it. Join in even!
Grab a pillow and show them how to scream into it and then ask if they want a hug or to talk about (most probably they won’t want to) and then continue on with your day. Let it be exactly what it is, with no explanation and no justification. We promise you, the more you allow your child to just be individual from you. To feel they want to feel without your understanding of it, the better your relationship will be.
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