The Simplest Resource That Solves So Many Problems... And We ALL have It!
Today’s writing is inspired by a conversation I had during a 1:1 session with a parent last week. It’s a subject that comes up in many of the conversations I have: TIME.
Whether it’s our child experiencing ‘the problem’, or us having a problem with our child, many of the most effective solutions simply mean letting time pass or involve being patient.
Childhood really doesn’t last very long, and yet we are so often in a hurry for them to grow up: The frustrating or annoying moments when we want them to do more for themselves, to mature faster, to finally master the skill we’re trying to teach them.
Or because they simply refuse to do what they’re perfectly capable of.
But when are those most important times, when we can -and should – bide our time; when it’s time to let time do its important work?
Here are three of them…
WAIT: When your kids come to you with a problem
Sometimes of course, their problems are easy to solve.
But often they’re not, especially those situations which involve uncomfortable emotions like sadness or pain, worry or fear.
Our most instinctive response is usually to go into ‘fix it’ mode.
Or, when we can’t fix it, we might default to minimising the problem or sugar-coating it with ‘at least’s’ and positive perspectives instead.
It’s always well-intended, but we what we can inadvertently do in these moments, very easily, is express to our children that we’re not taking their experience seriously, that we’re not really listening, that their problem isn’t valid.
The most powerful thing we can usually do is stay out of problem-solving, or ‘don’t worry’, or ‘yes, but‘, and use what I call the ‘A&E’ technique.
‘Acceptance’: Validating what our child feels and that it’s ok to feel that way.
‘Empathy’: Connecting with their experience, without trying to change it (or at least before we try to).
Resisting the urge to make the problem go away can be very uncomfortable, but for the child, it can be healing all by itself to just be able to feel whatever they need to feel, for as long as they need to feel it.
(BTW it can be healing all by itself to just let OURSELVES feel whatever we need to feel, for as long as we need to feel it)
WAIT: When your child (or their parent!) is in a state of emotional overwhelm
When they’re in a state of emotionally hijack or distress, their ‘thinking brain’ isn’t online; in other words they’re not receptive.
Give them time to compose themselves.
There’s no point trying to address the situation until their brain is working properly again, no matter how great the urge to ‘nip it in the bud’ or resolve the situation.
PAUSE. Even when it feels like doing something is better than doing nothing, like you’re being a passive parent, like you’re ‘letting them get away with it‘. You’re not.
It’s far better to take the time needed to work out the deeper meaning behind the behaviour or attitude, and deal with that – properly – than firefight the symptom and most likely add conflict to the situation as well.
WAIT: When your beliefs about what they ‘should’ be developmentally capable of may be inaccurate.
The world tells us a lot of lies about this…
Should they be able to sleep alone and in their own bed from infancy? No.
Humans are the only mammalian species on the planet that births their young, and then doesn’t co-sleep with them. Developmentally, adolescence marks the stage when young mammals are ready to leave the nest (and thus do so of their own accord).
Should they be able to ‘make good choices’, or manage their behaviours and regulate their emotions by the time they start school? No.
4 and 5 year old brains have an awful lot of maturing to do.
Should we worry when our child isn’t co-operative or compliant with grown-ups? No.
The developmental nature of growing up requires them to make their own decisions, think for themselves, disagree, or choose their own course of action – even if that goes against ours.
If only in the spirit of compassion, empathy – and for the sake of our emotional state – let’s remember that plenty of adults can’t do what the world sometimes expects children to do.
So next time you find yourself hurrying yours to be and do more than they’re offering in that moment, just wait.
Because Mother Nature may have made different plans for your small human.
Wait until they’re more receptive to talking, listening or problem-solving.
Wait until they are genuinely old enough to ‘know better’.
Wait until you’ve had time to compose yourself and give the situation some breathing space.
If you need more personalised support with a parenting dilemma, you don’t have the time to ‘wait’, or you need more tricks up your sleeve than patience, 1:1 support is available!
More info here or enquire here. Or just email firstname.lastname@example.org if that’s easier.
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