Over the years I’ve heard a lot of moms talk about how other moms handle feelings. I believe that comparing another parent's methods to yours creates a dividing line and that diminishes us all. Parenting is hard whether you are a working mom, stay-at-home mom or a step-mom.
Krystyl W. asks, “Anyone have any tips on difficult stepchildren?” Her question addresses the one thing that unites all moms, including step- and bio-moms: feelings. Every mom has to deal with a child’s feelings.
When a child has “big” feelings, an outburst, a tantrum, or hurt feelings, a parent's world can feel like its coming to a crashing halt. Feelings are messy, loud, can be embarrassing in public, and take time to flesh out and resolve.
We can’t change the fact that kids have big feelings and reactions. What we can do however, is change how we deal with feelings.
Some parents are comfortable with feelings, and some are not. What’s true for you?
• Does your stomach feel tied in a knot when your child has an outburst?
• Do you want to run away from feelings and let someone else handle them?
• Do you want to clamp down on feelings and stop them at all costs?
• Do you let the feelings come up so you can see where they lead you?
A parent’s comfort level around feelings dictates what will happen next. I believe that dealing with feelings, flushing them out, is the first step in changing behavior, not the last thing we do after a consequence or punishment.
Here are 5 tips parents can follow to help them navigate feelings.
1. Get out of your head. Your child does not yet have the capacity to think about things the way you do. She is young and emotional. Every decision she makes is based on feelings. The ability to think logically won’t appear in her brain until the age 7. Once formal logic has appeared in her brain she’ll work with it, test it, and learn how to connect what she thinks and feels to what she does—for the next 11 years. Do not expect your young child to think the way you do.
2. Drop to your heart. When I say, “drop to your heart” a lot of parents think I mean be sympathetic towards your child. Sympathy, or feeling sorry for your child, can stunt their growth. It sends the silent message, “I know you can’t do it, that’s why I feel sorry for you.” Sympathy rescues a child; it does not empower a child.
Empathy on the other hand mirrors a child’s feelings and empowers him to learn how to handle things for himself. It sounds like this: “I see how angry you are that you have to clean your room, I don’t like cleaning either, but it has to be done.” A simple statement like that acknowledges his feelings, allows him to feel heard, and doesn’t rescue him from doing what you asked him to do.
3. How you would like to be treated. Children are just short people who have huge gaps in understanding. When you start a new job and are learning the ropes, how do you want to be treated for your lack of knowledge and understanding? It’s the same thing with kids.
4. Everyone makes mistakes. Mistakes are the pathway to learning. If a child isn’t allowed to make a mistake he won’t learn as much. A mistake always has a feeling at its root. A parent’s job is to help a child peel back the mistake and release the feelings so the lesson can be exposed.
5. Reconnection is the final act. It’s so easy to forget to reconnect with your child after dealing with a mistake. The truth is reconnecting is how a child learns that things are resolved, feelings are managed, and the event is over. So when it’s over, let it be over, give hugs and kisses and move on.
Sharon Silver is a parenting educator and the founder of Proactive Parenting. She's also the author of Stop Reacting and Start Responding: 108 Ways to Discipline Consciously and Become the Parent You Want to Be.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, POPSUGAR.