Another week of Positive Discipline Parenting Tools. This week we worked on the tool card Validate Feelings. The main point here is to allow your children to experience and and all emotions, help them with identifying/noticing the feeling they are having and allow them to work past it.
This tool is such a respectful and honorable tool. It fits in with the Montessori philosophy so well, as many of the tools do! What I really like about it is that it makes you look at the child as a competent, sensitive, insightful human being. There is no dismissing of feelings or emotions, even the ones that push our buttons, and that is what really hit home for me.
I have always been pretty good about helping my daughter to look at the emotion she is feeling, name it and talk about it with her if needed. We also spend a lot of time in our house talking about negative versus positive emotions and how each makes us feel inside. Positive emotions like love, joy, excitement, passion, etc make us feel good all over. Negative emotions, like anger, annoyance, boredom, jealousy, sadness, etc. often make us feel bad, both physically and emotionally. We like to try to take deep breaths, ask for hugs, and use words to explain how we are feeling before these negative emotions take over our bodies. This isn't always possible, and so we also talk about ways to let out the negative emotions in a way that is not hurtful, physically or emotionally, to ourselves or others. Things like crying, taking deep breaths, or writing what we are feeling down are all acceptable ways to physically express a feeling like anger. With children, and adults for that matter, this is something that takes time to learn.
That brings me to the pushing my buttons part. The hardest part of parenting, for me, is not allowing my self to be sucked in to the emotional rants of my children. I love them so much and I spend so much time with them that I find it hard not to take it personally when they are angry or upset. When I respond with anger it only makes things worse, MUCH WORSE! My five year old daughter is very emotional at times. I am sure most mother's of five year olds would probably say the same. She can go from peaceful to frenzied in a matter of seconds over a broken crayon or the proverbial spilled milk. The thing is though, she can go back to calm that quickly, IF the response she gets to her outbreak is calm, non-confrontational, and respectful. If I don't allow myself to be consumed by her negative emotion, and get angry about the feeling she is having, things usually work themselves out. In the end negative feelings are usually the expression of painful past experiences or expectations of the future, not really what is happening that moment. The first few times your child spills her milk she will not be upset by this, but if you yell or respond in a negative way to the spill, then he next time it happens she will also get angry and or upset, more because she anticipates your response and is thinking about how she felt the last time you got angry about it. The spilled milk is really no big deal, let it go.
In then end this tool card for me is more about teaching children to recognize the bigger picture -- the present moment. When they can do that they often don't need to spend time feeling the negative emotions, they can learn to just let them go. Children are naturally much better at doing this than adults, so when we start talking about validating feelings we also have to be careful that we aren't magnifying something that we could really just let go!
And the next tool is: Positive Time-Out, uh-oh this one is a tricky one!