I’ll be honest with you, I’ve read a lot of advice about strong-willed kids and none of it has “worked” for me. I’ve tried talking to them and matching their emotions (this was like adding vinegar to baking soda), I’ve tried whispering and it went as well as I expected (they were unable to hear me #theywerescreaming), I’ve tried validating their feelings, listening, comforting, and all kinds of discipline techniques…etc.
My most recent “method” has been pretty advanced, it’s called: surviving.
The other day one of them had a meltdown at a friends house. I was late to get somewhere and I was in a hurry. The ending was abrupt and she didn’t take it well. She dug in her heels and I dug in mine and what ensued next was a battle of wills that escalated to level: shit show.
Afterwards I thought back wondering what I could have done differently. The nagging question I couldn’t get away from was: why was I in such a hurry?
I am always in a hurry, and I don’t know why.
Yes, I was late, but no one was going to die if I took ten minutes longer than I did.
I don’t think I could have avoided the tantrum, but I know that I didn’t help by adding in my stress to the concoction of emotions she was already feeling. Here sweetie, how about I add this lighter fluid to your fire??
I wake up in the morning and I already feel behind. The kitchen’s dirty, everyone needs breakfast, and I usually need (or want) to get out the door. I channel all my stress into rushing. I constantly feel like I’m driving down a road going as fast as I can and someone is tailgating me honking their horn. I don’t know if that’s part of my struggle with anxiety, or just my personality.
When one of my strong-willed kids has a blow up I try to rush through it the same way I do everything. I think I was looking at all those parenting techniques as quick fix-its. I expected them to work like a button I could push to stop the meltdown (FOR THE LOVE MAKE IT STOP) but that’s not realistic (at least for us).
What I haven’t tried is waiting. (Waiting…patiently.)
I don’t mean “waiting” as a new parenting technique to somehow teach them to stop (there’s no secret plan here), but waiting for the sake of waiting. Waiting because I’m a grown up and I could use some lessons in slowing the eff down.
Waiting because they’re little and I’m creating space for them to be little.
These meltdowns and tantrums are like storms. They will blow over. I know from experience that we will cuddle afterwards and we will be able to talk then, but they can’t talk in the moment. I have to give them space, and I have to give them time.
Yes, I need my kids to respect me and listen, however, there’s barely ever the rush I think there is for that to happen. The only rush is coming from my own impatience and embarrassment.
My husband and sons went out of town this week and so it was just me and my two girls. I decided to experiment and I gave myself one goal: slow down.
I can’t tell you how many times I felt the familiar angst and hurrying feelings rising up in my chest, but (most) of the time I asked myself this:
What the hell is the hurry?
And then I told myself to SLOW DOWN.
And it was amazing.
There was only a couple meltdowns, but when they did happen I reminded myself that I didn’t have to be anywhere but there in that moment, and that I had all the time in the world to wait for the emotions to wind down.
I’m not saying all this because it’s a “fix” for all strong-willed kids everywhere. It’s not. It isn’t a fix for all moms and dads either, because we are all different.
All I want to say is if you are “hurried” like me, I feel you girlfriend. The struggle is real.
My new summer goal is this: slow the crap down.