I’ve noticed that I am much more confident and in control of my emotions/responses on the weekend when I have not spent the majority of my day at work, away from my son. The rest of the time, especially when I’m tired or unfocused, I feel that I am poorly responding to his tantrums, demands, and neediness.
It is scary to find that I can so quickly call up and repeat the responses I received from my father…yelling, shaming, lecturing, and tantrum-ing right back. After every episode I commit to myself and to my son that I will try harder and do better in the future, but in that ‘heat of the moment’ my intentions are like a pixelated image in a far corner of my memory, too fuzzy to be realized. It is even scarier to me that my inability to project patience, guidance, and love means that my son will have the same challenge and repeat the cycle when he becomes a parent.
Do you have suggestions for meditative practices, mantras, etc. to help parents center and calm themselves while in the heat of the moment?
– Concerned Parent
So, rather than trying to respond “properly” and risk becoming affected by our children’s moods, focus on letting feelings be. Our children’s emotional expressions (no matter how unreasonable, ridiculous or unfair they might seem) need to be okay with us as is, for as long as they last. Our acceptance is what allows them to be expressed in a healthy manner.
- When your daughter can’t stand her little brother, let her feelings be. Acknowledge, “He’s bugging you right now.”
- When your son doesn’t want to play with the other kids on the playground, let his feelings be. Assure him, “You can sit with me for as long as you like.”
- When your child is upset because the sun disappeared behind a cloud, let her feelings be. “You wanted the sun to keep shining.”
Remember that our reasonable limits don’t cause our children’s feelings, but rather provide children the opportunity to release feelings that are already there. Trust this process.
Your child wants you to keep playing, but you need to do something else. You let his feelings be by staying calm and moving on. “You are holding onto me. I feel that, but I’m going to remove your hands so I can get our dinner ready. You’re upset about that.”
Letting feelings be doesn’t mean being permissive or giving in to our child’s demands or wishes. In fact, acceptance usually requires we do the exact opposite. Holding firmly to our boundary or position gives children the message that their disagreements and disappointments are perfectly acceptable.
“You didn’t like it when I took you out of the bath. You wanted to stay in longer.”