“Emotions are neither right nor wrong, they are just part of the beautiful complexity of our human nature and interaction with the world” Dr Deborah MacNamara
For me, the hardest part of my parenting journey with William is accepting and being ok with emotional expression. By this, I mean the full gamut of emotional expression. Of course it is easy to be ok with the laughs, giggles, even the cry when he is hurt (compassion kicks in straight away). In fact, the chasing the laughs and giggles is the best and most rewarding part of my day! But the hardest part for me is accepting the other end of the emotional expression ~ the frustrated cries, the tantrums (although we are blessed to have very few of those), the whinging.
As soon as any of them start, I feel my body start to tense. It makes me feel frustrated, upset and worst of all, lose the patience I normally have so much of. The worst of all is ‘deance’ ~ when I ask him not to do something and he looks me square in the eye and does it! Boy did I start to see RED!
I was not fully conscious to my internal reaction at rst. It just happened, without much knowledge. But then I read a few articles and a few books and became conscious to what was going on inside of me. Once conscious to my ‘reaction’ I started thinking about it. Because, really, I don’t want to feel that way, nor do I want to be a parent that loses patience right at a time when my child needs me the most. I want to be a kind, empathetic and nurturing mother.
It’s me, not you! So to me, the rst step was to realise that it is not William making me feel that way, it is me. William is being a completely normal 2 year old when he cries with frustration that his toy train will not stay on the track; when he wants to keep playing in the driver’s seat of the car when I need us to go inside so I can start cooking dinner; when I ask him not to throw his fork on the wooden table, but it makes such a nice sound! He is acting in an age appropriate way.
Why do I feel this Way?
So, knowing it is not William, it is me, I needed to know why I feel this way. e only reason I can put it down to is that I was raised (probably the same as you) that there are good emotions and bad emotions. The bad emotions are to be hidden away. This was subconsciously taught by the ‘big girls don’t cry’, ‘stop your whinging’ ‘nobody want to hear you [cry/whinge]’ etc. We learnt that those emotions are not good, and whilst we cannot not feel them, we can hide them and consider them wrong.
Now as an adult, it is difficult to hear and watch these emotions. Changing this mindset Whilst I know that mindsets that have been engrained since childhood cannot be changed overnight, I am confident that over time I will change my mindset.
However, taking one step at a time, I have got a mantra that I nd helps significantly when I start getting tense. at mantra is: “He is not giving me a hard time, he is having a hard time” is immediately makes me remember it is about William ~ William is having a hard time. That turns my frustration almost immediately into compassion and empathy, as no parent wants to see their child having problems (especially problems that we can help them with).
So whilst it has not yet changed my initial feelings that the particular emotional expression should be stopped, it has helped me be able to be the empathetic parent I know I can be (without my childhood baggage!) I have also found the article in this issue ‘Emotional Expression: Helping Children Learn the Language of their Heart’ (page 30) has really helped work on the underlying reasons. And the article ‘Don’t Put the Cart Before the Horse: Looking for the Reasons Behind Children’s Behaviour’ (page 38) also provides some insight into the reasoning behind some of your child’s behaviour, which can help you deal with the root issue rather than the surface issue.
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Enjoy the gift of Nurture!