parenting as a practice
We’re in the car, returning from celebrating the Jewish holiday, Purim, at Temple Har Shalom. We’ve had a fun night, including participating in the rowdy re-enactment of the Purim story and being served a lovely catered dinner. The sky darkens and the kids clutch new toys won at the Purim carnival.
“The one part I didn’t like?” announces Rose without provocation, “is that I didn’t get more cookies.”
A small, cramped place in my brain lights up in silent accusation: After all that fun you’re dwelling on the cookies you didn’t eat?
From the moment we arrived, a table of traditional Purim cookies, called Hamentashen, were available. We told our kids they could choose one cookie after dinner. There are things, as parents, that we’re loose and easy with; cookies before dinner are not one of them.
Dan speaks up. “That must’ve been hard to see kids grabbing cookies all night. All those cookies just sitting there! And you had to wait. That feels unfair!”
“Yeah,” Rosie replies with the buoyancy of a newly inflated balloon. She returns to wriggling the rubber worms won at the beanbag toss. Hamentashen cookies become the proverbial hatchet, buried.
Somewhere down the bumpy road of parenthood, we’ve been duped into believing we can manage our children’s difficult emotions by telling them how to feel. “Shhh, you’re okay,” we whisper when they’re howling after a fall. “You’re lucky you got one cookie!” we insist. “It’s not a big deal, you have hundreds more,” we say when a beloved pink bead rolls down the sewer grate.
Telling your child not to fret while fat tears sail down their cheeks is like speaking to them from behind a glass wall. The excellent and logical soliloquy on why cookies are special treats is lost on a child who’s gripped in disappointment.
The good news is that if you apply empathy (which is simply non-judgmental listening without problem-solving or lecturing) like a bandage to a wound, the child feels heard, understood, and not bullied into defending their position. (Trouble will escalate if your child becomes invested in defending their feelings). You don’t have to believe or not believe that being denied unlimited cookies warrants disappointment. You simply acknowledge and allow your child’s feelings. And feelings don’t last forever. When your child eventually moves from the primitive brain of “emotional stuckness” back into executive function, she can consider a rational explanation regarding your position on sugar before dinner.
I’m just a little extremely excited that my friends and mentors, Natalie Christensen and Nathan McTague, are coming to Durango to offer their nationwide workshop, Building an Emotionally Safe Space. Here, you will learn the latest brain science to understand how emotional processing affects children. They say, “Everything we want for our children, students, and families hinges on healthy emotional processing and the development of optimal neuro-emotional habits.”
This means that although it feels like we want compliance now damnit! what we really want is children who choose to cooperate (at least the majority of the time) because a two-way street of respect has been forged that doesn’t rely on bribes, threats or rewards.
As I practice “peaceful parenting” I can feel my muscles of patience strengthen, and the space of my own pause before reacting, lengthen. (And sometimes Dan and I rescue each other in the nick of time). This prevents me from saying something I’ll regret, and helps me see my child as needing support and encouragement, rather than needing to be wrestled into submission. This truly is a practice, one which I appreciate the opportunity to deepen. See you at the workshop!
What: Building an Emotionally Safe Space
When: Saturday, April 19th, 2-4:30
Where: Rocky Mountain Retreat Center, 848 East 3rd Ave. Durango
Who: Natalie Christensen, certified Positive Discipline Teacher, and Nathan McTague, Certified Life Coach and Positive Discipline Teacher
To Sign Up: Call 970-903-0672 or e-mail: sanjuandrive(at)frontier(dot)net
$30/person; $40/parenting team
Limited childcare available ($10/child)
This workshop looks at the latest brain science to understand how emotional processing affects children. We dive into the “ins and outs” of empathy and how to use it effectively to help children manage emotional upheaval and move into their “upper brain” where faculties like reason, logic, critical thinking, self-awareness, cooperation, and eventually empathy itself become accessible. We also share strategies for creating a home or class environment that fosters children’s complete comfort in sharing and moving through feelings. Everything we want for our children, students, and families hinges on healthy emotional processing and the development of optimal neuro-emotional habits. This course will get you there!
easy comprehensible steps
thorough, take-home outline and resources
3 comprehensive charts for quick and easy reference
research that supports the information
helpful, clear graphics
question and answer time
the after-school meltdown/reconnecting after school