Since we are delving into conscious, connected, creative parenting over on the eCourses in February and March, I thought I'd offer some reflection here on a common parenting practice ~ the time out
Let's imagine a child is cranky for some reason or another and is complaining or disruptive. Mama is tired of his whining and sends him to his room for a time out.
Let's look at what it means to send a child to his or her room for being miserable. Misery is a feeling, an expression of emotion.
A miserable child is having some big strong emotions, like sadness and disappointment. Children do not know what to do with these big strong feelings, so they lash out and have meltdowns and have tantrums.
This is completely normal and to be expected.
Children have big emotions. They squeal with joy, cry in frustration, stamp their feet, interrupt and whine in the most annoying way.
Our initial impulse is probably to push it away, make it go away, or at least put it out of earshot. (this is probably a protective impulse of sorts!)
Yet the more connected we are with the child and the more accepting we are of their feelings in the moment, even if they want to pummel big brother, the more easy it is for them to get it out and move on.
And the more we ignore it, or discount it or poo poo it, the more likely it is to resurface with new found intensity in a completely unrelated moment. For our emotions go somewhere. They go in deeper and get stronger and heavier to carry around. They emerge with more force the next time. Sometimes they come out in adulthood, and take shapes we had not imagined could exist. But they do.
When we name it and acknowledge it, the child will usually moves through it, like this, "you're feeling sad about not going out to play, you want to be with the other children. you are angry at me for saying no."
Right there we help the child be in his body, be fully present and grounded and aware that he is feeling something strong and it is sadness and anger. If we share a story of our own about being young that helps too sometimes. No need to process the feelings or get into to them deeply or talk about them beyond naming them and acknowledging the child in the moment.
If we send them off to be alone because we are feeling uncomfortable with their feelings, then we have some work to do on ourselves. Sending them off when they are in distress is a form of abandonment.
This is a great example of where inner work helps us grow and understand our children by understanding ourselves. Then we can respond with calm action rather than react all over the place and make a big mess of it, make our children fearful and teach them to stuff their feelings.
When my children's behavior arouses feelings in me, that is a sign that I have something to look at and release from my own experience of childhood in order to really see my children and respond healthily. We all have it. It is part of being human. When we ignore it and get angry and frustrated with our children's behavior it is very difficult to guide them. We need to take care of ourselves first. Then we can be grounded to really see, hear and feel them and guide them through the big emotions and challenges of life.
When we send our children to their rooms because we don't like their behavior, we are missing a chance to look beneath that behavior at what the child is trying to tell us, what does the child need in this moment? Usually it has to do with connection. A separation only drives it all deeper and makes it harder for the child to grow and learn how to get their needs met in healthy ways. And then we feel bad about ourselves.
Rather than have bad feelings, let go of them, remember we are all learning. Our children are our teachers.
Come on over and join the eCourse here if you'd like to plunge into some parenting practices practice, connect with others on this path of conscious, connected and creative parenting, and find ways to ease the struggles, while deepening your understanding of the underpinnings of Waldorf education.