Last week Offbeat Families recommended a book called, Raising Our Children, Raising Ourselves: Transforming parent-child relationships from reaction and struggle to freedom, power, and joy, by Naomi Aldort. I didn’t read up on Naomi or the book before ordering it on Kindle, so that I could have an open mind. I wasn’t really looking for advice, I am feeling really good about my mothering in the past few weeks, even relaxing around the edges of weaning. I actually feel that we’re closer to weaning, though I’m actually nursing more often.
At any rate, the whole premise of this book is to encourage attachment and intuitive type parenting to increase children’s belief/understanding that they are unconditionally loved and respected. Though, I will say, I am glad to report that nowhere does she say “let your kid do just whatever they want, whenever they want.” While autonomy, respect, not controlling, and unconditional love are explored, it felt right, for me, and something I’m already doing a pretty good job of, but want to explore now (and in further posts) some of the nuggets that I will be taking away with me.
First, I really resonated with the quote:
Talking about feeling sad, upset, or disappointed may or may not be grasped by a younger child. Instead, young children feel most validated when facts are acknowledged.
Whoa! Revolutionary! Whenever Potamus cries, or gets upset, I tend to “forecast” what he’s feeling. “Oh buddy, I’m sorry you’re sad,” rather than focusing on the facts “I asked you to stop playing with that toy,” or “I wanted you to go to bed, but you probably didn’t want to.” I’ve even noticed, that when I’ve just stated the facts, without TELLING him what he feels (or guessing), that he’s been a lot calmer. Revolutionary, because I thought that acknowledging what I thought he was feeling, giving voice to it, that I was helping. While I haven’t actually read any of her research, I am going to just try an experiment and give voice to the facts of why he might be upset, and see how it goes.
Like, today, instead of the usual storyline I tell Potamus in the car, “we’re going to school, and you might be sad, but mama will be back this afternoon.” While this might be true, he might get sad, am I putting on him a storyline that he should be sad when I leave? I don’t tell him that story at any other place and he adjusts really easily. So, today, I said “I am going to leave, and it might be before you want me to.” I noticed that I was more relaxed in daycare drop off, stayed with him a bit, and then he did cry…we’ll see how he does the rest of the day.
Anybody want to join me in this experiment? Validating our kids by stating facts, and not just putting our storyline onto their emotions? If you do it, lemme know the results! Any changes? Differences? Differences in YOU?
This is an interesting premise. . . In my practice, I often advise parents that less is more verbally, when it comes to dealing with children’s high emotions or power struggles. So, is the premise of this book that when you project an emotion onto an upset child that you are subliminally suggesting to them that they think/feel/behave in the way you are predicting? That it is more reinforcing negative emotions/behavior as opposed to validating them?
I’m not sure that is exactly what she’s suggesting, but it’s the way I took it. She does focus a lot on what we, as adults, are thinking/feeling (the story we’re telling ourselves about our child’s behavior…or their should-be behavior) and having us examine those stories first so that we can validate. She gives numerous examples of children’s behavior that is really neutral, but parent’s react a certain way because of our stories/emotions, and that we can’t validate well if we’re focusing on those subconscious thoughts.
But then she also talks about how to validate, which seems to probably work best with verbal children…about exploring feelings by stating facts ‘jimmy took your toy,’ and then letting the child talk about those feelings (or cry or scream, or whatever) to move through them while feeling validated. But that if a kid is told “you’re okay” when they’re not feeling okay, then that is invalidating, and not just trying to distract them from feeling those strong emotions. She suggests that if a kid is crying to try and state what happened, and maybe connect by asking questions or saying things like ‘I remember once when my brother took my toy, I was angry’ but not trying to focus too much on what the adult thinks/feels.
I’m curious what you would suggest!