This quote has made the rounds and at last count received 2,221 likes:
“So often children are punished for being human. Children are not allowed to have grumpy moods, bad days, disrespectful tones, or bad attitudes, yet we adults have them all the time! We think if we don’t nip it in the bud it will escalate and we will lose control. Let go of that unfounded fear and give your child permission to be human. We all have days like that. None of us are perfect and we must stop holding our children to a higher standard of perfection than we can attain ourselves.” (attributed to Rebecca Eanes, author, blogger).
I suspect the author was just trying to remind parents to ease up a bit, but here is the deal:
When my children feel grumpy and have a bad day everyone pays for it. They hit and bite and growl. They cry and sass. Am I supposed to just chalk it up to their humanity? Yes, adults have bad moods but yes, we DO indeed get punished for them: we end up alienating our friends and family, get written up at work, lose customers, and irritate our neighbors.
It is much easier to help children calm down if you teach them how to control their emotions and catch them in the beginning of their emotional breakdown. So, yes, Rebecca, parents really do need to nip it in the bud! My fear is not that “it will escalate and we will lose control” but rather that my child will lose control. It is our job as parents to teach our children how to control themselves so by the time they are adults they will be able to handle strong emotions without having to scream and throw themselves down on the floor at the Department of Motor Vehicles because they waited 3 hours just to be told that they were in the wrong line.
If we let go of our “unfounded fear” as the quote suggests, here is what I envision:
“Katie, what is the matter?”
“I hate you.”
“But what is going on and why is Sarah crying?”
I then go over to the playground and kneel in front of Sarah.
“Sarah, honey, what happened?”
“Katie got mad and pushed me off the swing.”
“Katie, did you do this?”
“I am not talking to you!! I am mad!! You are a witch.”
“That is fine, honey. I am so glad that you are mad. It is normal to have those feelings.”
“Sorry, Sarah, Katie is just having a grumpy day, I guess. She’s only human.”
“Auuggggghhhh!! Shut up! Shut up! Shut up!!!!”
“Melissa, what is wrong?”
“The kids!! They are driving me crazy!!”
“You don’t have to yell so much. What did they do?”
“I can’t go to the bathroom alone! Auuuggghhh!!!! And I stubbed my toe and I can’t find my favorite watch.”
“It is OK to have bad feelings. Go push the middle one off the swing. You will feel better.”
“Thanks, honey. I love you.”
“I love you, too.”
Hmmmm….. on second thought…I guess maybe it is a good strategy after all…
If you need free parenting advice from someone that does not believe in "talking it out" with children and has no experience in child psychology other than the time a child psychologist asked me, "Who is the parent here?" then, please feel free to submit your questions and I will answer them on the blog.