Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Because You Can't Tell Your 4-Year Old to "Get Over It"

Picture this: It's scorching outside. You buy your little one an ice cold lemonade. Being the conscientious mommy that you are, you portion out a little bit of the sugary beverage; some for now, and some for another time. A day later, your little girl runs to the refrigerator in anticipation of finishing off the cached portion, only to find the juice is missing. She is screaming and crying because the lemonade--HER lemonade-- is gone.

You understand the problem. She's hurt because someone --some indiscriminate adult--took her juice without her permission. And despite all comfort-- even a conciliatory CapriSun juice pouch -- nothing stops the huge meltdown from erupting.

She's a smart girl. She devoured the very same juice pouch with delight just the other day, so why won't she be reasonable? There are so many other things in this world deserving of a category 5 flood, but Sweetheart this ain't one of them. You want to delicately navigate these emotional waters, but you're pretty sure that any maneuver to gain compliance from an already hurt and agitated four-year-old will only worsen the impending tantrum. So, what do you do?

Validate her feelings. Acknowledge that her feeling stripped of control is legitimate. Look at the situation from her perspective: you feel stripped of control because she won't accept a reasonable substitute for the lemonade, but that doesn't mean her preference for lemonade is bad.

It sounds so simple in theory, but the reality is I have a hard time allowing my children to own their feelings. I don't like to see them upset, especially when I am the indiscriminate one in this case who siphoned the lemonade. To boot, I don't have the time or the patience to deal with an "irrational" hissy-fit. Still, validating her feelings makes her feel better, teaches her to identify her emotions, and helps her recognize her right to own them.


Mike and Katie said...

I remember learning that from the "Men are from Mars Women are from Venus" book and then training Mike to say, "I understand," instead of trying to fix everything. At first he would say, "I understand," while shaking his head. Eventually I forgot I had told him to do it and I began to believe that I had the most understanding husband in the world.

Girls are funny. I'm sure he wanted to tell me "Get over it!" some days.

Jewels said...

Wow this is really insightful. Thanks for sharing I feel like I get to learn about parenting from reading your blog. I know it will will be hard for me to put this into practice because patience is not one of my stongest qualities. To think that I can help my children feel okay about feeling there feelings is huge. What a job we have as parents. Thank God it is one day at a time.

The Reverend's Lover said...

I try and remind myself in those moments:

I'm an adult...I'm not afraid of temper tantrums...stay calm...

ughh, easier said than done sometimes, eh!?

Kristen said...

I just wrote about how hard it is to validate my kid's feelings on my own blog this morning. It's tough!!


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