I went on a long hike today (I’m not sure I’ll be able to use my legs tomorrow) and I ran into a few families going on a walk with their children.
It was very interesting to see the family dynamics. There is the usual mix: crying children, running children, couples fumbling with new babies and mums carrying bags and bags of extra toys and wipes.
What made me write this newsletter though, was what I overheard a mum tell her young son as we crossed each other, barely a 5 second interaction.
As they were walking towards me, the boy (who couldn’t have been older than 5) was clearly distressed. He seemed tired and unwilling to walk. “Bless that lady” I thought in my mind - but as we passed each other, I heard her say “OK honey, what would make this situation better for you?”
And I was baffled.
The things I usually hear being said to rowdy children are: “Stop it, you’re embarrassing me”, “If you don’t stop crying now, I’m going to be very angry… 3…2…1….”, “let’s get you some ice cream so you stop crying”, “it’s not your fault, it’s my fault for bringing you with us today, I’m leaving you home next time”, “fine, don’t walk, me and your dad will just go home and you can stay here.”
But that? It was so beautiful, so respectful, so empowering. This lady had made her crying son actually think. Even though he was just a child, it was now his job to realise the situation: they’d have to walk a few more minutes to get to the car, there was nowhere comfortable to sit, he was too heavy to be carried away for a long time, and there was really nothing else to do.
I never heard his answer. Perhaps it all was because his shoes were tied too tight. Or he was thirsty. Or he’d just realise he wasn’t being denied anything and the situation was just unpleasant.
Either way, he wasn’t shouted at, he was respected, and I was utterly speechless.
I’m not yet a parent, so I don’t really have anyone to treat this way, but if you’re in the same boat, how about we ask ourselves this question more?
How about instead of trying to reward or deny ourselves something for sticking through things we don’t like, we actually ask ourselves what would make it better? How about instead of shouting to ourselves when we’re unhappy, and shutting our feelings down, we explore just what, perhaps, can make the situation better for you?
Wishing you a brilliant week,