Sunday, August 18, 2013

Own Two Feet

It Isn't About The Shoes

I have a fundamental fear of raising overindulged little brats.  So being witness to tantrums that escalate from the totally mundane really gets me going.  It doesn't take much for my internal dialogue to start running a loop about how spoilt and entitled my children are becoming.

It's a filter through which I see all my children's challenging behaviour and I am beginning to realise that these thoughts might actually be escalating the situation.  Making things worse.

The last few months in our house has seen some difficult behaviour, particularly from my little girl, in the form of lay-down tantrums and a general over dramatisation of minor irritations.

It's worried me because it seemed to be born out of a need to control the situation (whatever situation she was in) and an inability to cope with things not going her way.  Oh yes, her behaviour is immaculate when she is getting exactly what she wants.  

And of course as a parent of this generation the importance of "building resilience" has been drummed into me so much so that each meltdown has me fearing I am creating a person that cannot cope with adversity.

Also I have to acknowledge my own control issues and the uncomfortable truth that she has most probably learnt a lot of this behaviour from me.  Ouch.  That smarts.

And if I really think about what is going on in these situations I can see that when her need to control (her surroundings) and my need to control (her behaviour) clash things escalate.  They turn ugly fast.

Acknowledging all this is a big deal.  A "light bulb moment", if you'll let me get all Oprah on your asses.

Recognising my contribution to this conflict has allowed me to just chill the hell out.  To remind myself that the only behaviour I can really be responsible for is my own. 

This calmness means I can see that sometimes it's not just that she is being a little brat for not getting what she wants.  Sometimes there is an underlying fear, frustration or sense of injustice.  

One particular morning we were on the verge of a face off because the shoes she wanted to wear for kinder were wet and she didn't want to wear the suggested alternative.  

I totally thought she was being a prima donna and making an issue out of nothing.  

I was infuriated and she was getting hysterical.  

I had a voice in my head telling me I was raising a little shit who couldn't cope with the smallest of challenges, an over-sensitive, over indulged brat who just needed to learn how to suck it up.  

I was ready to lose my shit and it could have gone either way as I battled to assert my authority and assuage my fears that I was raising a despot.  

Then I stopped.  

I just stopped.  I relinquished control.  I silenced that speculation.  I decided, I suppose to be the adult.  But not a shouty tyrant adult (the exact beahviour I rail against seeing in her), I decided to be the calm compassionate adult.  

I stopped.  I calmed myself down.  Then I calmed her down and asked her why this was such a big deal.  

And that's when the magic happened.  

She was able, in the space I had created, to tell me that because she had yoga that day at kinder she needed her "yoga shoes", the ones she always wore on a Wednesday, the ones that were easy to get off and easy to get back on - without asking for help.

The ones I were suggesting were tricky, too tricky for her to manage by herself.  We chose another pair together and the problem was solved.

And it wasn't about her getting her own way - although I had to shut my thoughts up long enough to see that.

Instead I got an insight into just how hard she is trying to assert her independence by not asking for help at kinder.  And into the fact that she needs my support on that journey towards independence, and not my authoritarian, pre-conceptions about who she is becoming.

She is doing such a big job out there in her widening world.  Home and more importantly me need to be a safe place for her.  I need to come at her with love, affection, understanding and acceptance not with anger and control.

I need to be the person that sees the best in her, not the worst, that gives her the benefit of the doubt, that assumes that she is doing her best and has the best intentions. Because, most often she does.

This was a big moment for us.  But bigger for me.  It was an incredible lesson learnt.  

But the thing about parenting is we seem to need to learn these lessons over and over again before they finally sink in.  And I don't fool myself that I won't make the same mistake in the future.

It's my job and my challenge to try and remember all this the next time my daughter is pressing all my buttons, to recall it in the heat of the moment.  

To recall the beauty that can happen if I can just create the space.  

And to remember it probably isn't about the shoes.

Listen To Natalie Holmes Own Two Feet

Image Licensed Under Creative Commons


  1. What a great story. You're right, a lot of situations can be defused by giving that little bit of space so kids can explain themselves. It also teaches them that calmly explaining their reasons is better than shouting and yelling. It won't hurt them, either, if we are not perfect as long as we admit our failings and show we are trying to do the right thing.

  2. Thanks for your supportive comment h.e. I agree kids need to see us being human, and being humble when we have behaved badly. Just as well, because it happens in our house all the time.

  3. wow, i just had to comment - i followed a link from mamamia to your blog and read this story - while i'm not a parent i'm really impressed by your ability to take a step back and make such a huge inroad to a great relationship between you and your daughter. i often worry about how to ensure my (future) children aren't spoilt or entitled, and i think this is a great lesson here. thanks for sharing! Ax

    1. Welcome Allie,

      Thanks so much for visiting and taking the time to comment. My reply is a bit late as I have been on retreat for the last few days but I was so pleased to see this waiting for me on return.

      It's not always easy to take that step back but the outcomes, when I can remember to be completely present are extraordinary.

      Look forward to hearing from you again.