What happened when I started saying “I understand”? – 5 steps to validating children’s feelings.

Pickle is an anxious, sensitive little soul.

She was the most chilled out baby (For the first five months of her life lots of people didn’t realise she existed as she slept so much!) but as soon as she hit toddlerhood – Is that a word? It’s definitely a stage! – she became difficult, defiant and easily distressed. At the time she spent two days a week with a fantastic childminder, who commented on the fact that in her many years of looking after little ones she rarely saw 2 year olds who struggled so much with embarrassment…

We have spent the past 5 years swinging from feeling resentful to feeling complete and utter panic and worry at what the future holds for our angry young Pickle. We have tried many different ways of dealing with her behaviour, some of which seem to help for a short period of time, but essentially any attempts to ‘control’ or ‘curb’ her just end up upsetting her more and therefore upsetting everyone.

I first read about ‘positive/peaceful/attachment parenting’ when the big Ps were little, and tried to incorporate some of the principles into our daily life. But it has only been the past year (since starting to home educate) that I have completely recognised the value of bringing our children up in a household where they feel valued, listened to, important. I realise that all of this pivots around me (and the Stinker) and how we behave toward the Ps.

The following quote sums it up for me in a much more eloquent way than I could explain it:

“I’ve come to the frightening conclusion that I am the decisive element. It’s my daily mood that makes the weather. As a parent or teacher, I possess a tremendous power to make a child’s life miserable or joyous. I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration. I can humiliate or humor, hurt or heal. In all situations, it is my response that decides whether a crisis will be escalated or de-escalated and a child humanized or de-humanized.”
-Dr. Haim Ginott www.ahaparenting.com

So, I’ve been trying so hard to be positive and respond in a sensitive and calm manner to any issues that have arisen recently. It is hard! But responding to their shouting with shouting just results in… you’ve got it… more shouting!

I have been reading a lot about the importance of validating our children’s feelings a lot recently (like this amusing and thought-provoking take on it over at Lulastic) and completely agree that they, as small human beings, deserve to be valued and listened to. That doesn’t make it any easier! It is all too easy to revert to your own childhood (I’m not saying I wasn’t valued or listened to, but it was still the time of children ‘doing what they were told’!) and to respond with a curt “Don’t be so silly” or “No you can’t…”

I am trying hard to change my responses to “I understand…” and “We could…” – in fact I think the Ps are finding me quite hilarious and I’ve even noticed Poppet responding to Piccalilli in the same way!

If faced with an angry outburst or defiant moment I find the following five steps seem to work best for us:

  1. Take a deep breath and say to myself “It’s not about you” (even when the anger is aimed at me!)
  2. Respond with “I understand that you are feeling angry about…”
  3. Offer solutions to the problem and offer hugs
  4. Don’t take it personally if the solutions and hugs are ignored
  5. When the situation has calmed down talk about what happened and how we can avoid it happening again in the future

Of course I know this is not going to stop difficult situations from arising again but it has definitely diffused any problems that we have faced recently and we have been enjoying time together in the spring sunshine 🙂

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Am I going to survive if I have to spend one more day answering random questions?!!

Are we doing the right thing?

Are they learning anything?

Will they succeed in life without having gone through the education system?

Am I going to survive if I have to spend one more day answering random questions?!!

These are just some of the questions I ask myself on a regular basis. As much as I know that (in the current education climate) we are doing the best thing for our family, it is still a radical decision to go against the norm. I’m not saying we’re radical (and maybe that makes it a bit harder still), but to choose to do something different is definitely seen as a bit radical or alternative.

Today has been a tough day. Piccalilli was ill yesterday meaning we had to cancel yesterday and today’s plans (which I’d thankfully not told the big Ps about), meaning I have not had a chance to unwind and chat to adults! The Stinker was late home last night meaning I had to do the whole bedtime routine alone (I know lots of people do regularly!) and also had less time with him to relax.

I’m feeling the need for a bit of me time and the weekend can’t come round soon enough – I’m actually off into the city with a friend for lunch and a museum trip 🙂

The thing is I know my questions will probably not be answered anytime soon:

Are we doing the right thing? We hope and really believe we are but there are probably many ‘right’ ways of doing things on a spectrum. We’ve hopefully chosen the best-fit for us at the moment.

Are they learning anything? Well I like to think that they will learn through life and any extra little snippets I can provide them are a bonus!

Will they succeed in life having not gone through the education system? Again I like to think that there are many ways of succeeding and academically is not the only way. Saying that, many home educated young people go onto university and achieve much in their lives apart from academic qualifications.

Am I going to survive if I have to spend one more day answering random questions?!! Let’s hope so as the majority of them come from my own brain!

Wish me luck!

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