I’m not proud. But it is an occupational hazard. Kids cry. I tell this to their parents all the time. We have to know that it’s okay for kids to have BIG emotions, which they do at this age. We also have to let them feel those emotions and ride it out.
I truly believe this is a healthier way to teach kids how to deal with their feelings, rather than having a grownup rush in and do backflips to try to stop them from having their feelings.
What sparked today’s crying was a dispute over where bodies belong in the yard, and helping me clean up one part before we move on to the next. My property is clearly divided between driveway (where we ride bikes, play basketball, draw with chalk) and yard (swings, toys, bubbles, barefoot joy). The rule is that we stay together as a group in either place.
We were riding bikes in the driveway and the kids were ready to move on to the yard. My two olders said woo-hoo, let’s go swing, and disappeared into the yard. Normally I would go over and tell them to come back, if you don’t come help I’m coming to get you, yadda yadda. But I wasn’t in the mood for the routine today. I just said (as they were yelling at me to push them), “People who help me in the driveway will get pushed on the swings!”
This set the younger two into action. They were all over those bikes. When we finished I took them and the baby to the swings and started pushing them. The other two (aka The Escapees) wanted to be pushed. Miss R, who knows I stick to my word, just chose to swing herself. But my Miss A, who is by nature a wee bit dramatic, started pitching that fit.
I let her go. She wandered around the yard screaming for a while. When she got back within earshot I said “Miss A, come here.” She did, in that “Oh FINE, I will come to you in my own good time, because I really want a hug but I’m still so freakin mad at you!” three-year-old-girl way.
When she finally meandered her way over to me I knelt down, put my arm around her shoulders, and said, “You can push yourself on the swing. But you didn’t listen and help me clean the bikes so I can’t push you.” She said, “Oh. OK, Amy,” and got on the swing.
One of my part-time kids, Miss M, lives across the street. During my quiet time yesterday they came home with Miss M’s baby sister. I could hear Miss M wailing the moment Mom opened the car door. Now being the professional that I am, I didn’t judge. I actually thought, Oh poor Mom. The kids are losing it.
But Mom did a great job. She got the baby out of the car, let Miss M continue to wail, got her out of the car, and quietly negotiated getting the two of them into the house. She wasn’t freaking out or responding in any way other than, “OK, let’s go inside.” I was so proud! Just stay focused on what you need to do and keep things moving. Don’t get bogged down in a tantrum. (Now that’s a parenting mantra if I ever heard one.)
Ironically, Younger Son had a big meltdown last night and I can say I didn’t handle it nearly as well as I handle other people’s kids’ meltdowns. I was all over that freakout, hugging him, getting him toys, talking about his pain…. he actually asked for Daddy at one point and sadly, I was thinking the same thing. He would come in here and be all Tough Love on us and we’d get over it. But he cried for two gut-wrenching hours and I had to go downstairs and watch YouTube to put it out of my mind.
And one more thing before you freak out on me. (You’re making them cry! You horrible woman!) I strongly believe that we need to challenge kids to be their best selves in a safe environment. This is the safest one I know, and they will grow from this. I keep them safe while they work it out. It’s all part of the deal – and I think we’re doing a damn good job.