It was a horrible Sunday, one of those where everything just seems to fall apart. We thought Sunday school was starting for Josh, but it turned out to be the following Sunday. He turned out to be ultra-sticky (thankfully to the father, who erm… looked desperately like he needed extra-strong coffee by the end of the 2-hour service.)
He had to be carried out kicking and crying, mostly because he was hungry and cranky. This boy is hungry ALL the time, and we only brought out 1 snack, which he polished up within 10 minutes of entering the door. (Blame it on the blur of the morning for not anticipating this and packing more.)
Then, when we picked up JJ from Sunday school, he threw a fit and suddenly wanted to go into the cry-room (where we had just escaped from.)
Going back into the cry-room, from Sunday school, would mean 50 steps back in the wrong direction. And also a new precedent which I wasn’t going to start. So no, I’m sorry, young man, we are calling a car and getting us all back home for lunch.
We all finally managed to have lunch, and Josh naturally wolfed his down, and then clamoured for more.
Then, he napped, and I felt like I needed to lie down too. (The hubby had already KO-ed by then.)
In the afternoon, there was another incident, this time with Vera.
The hubby and I had planned to bring the kids out cycling / scooting followed by dinner at the hawker centre. But Vera promptly turned down our proposal, saying that it was hot and she didn’t want to sweat. (Lately she’s morphed into a home-body who prefers to snuggle on the sofa with one of her books.)
On a normal day, we’d be fine to let her have her way. But on this particular afternoon, there wasn’t anyone else at home and we couldn’t just leave her alone. So I explained the whole situation and gave her a couple of options to choose from (she could scoot / cycle / walk / jog), hoping to change her mind. We were all dressed, and the two boys were rearing to go. So…FOR THE SAKE OF THE WHOLE FAMILY, PLEASEEEE.
She refused to budge. And I nearly blew my top. I couldn’t believe that she couldn’t see our need as a family, to do something together. What happened to the Vera I knew? The Vera who’s compliant and considerate to others?
Breathe, I said to myself. Walk around, do something else, change tact.
I came back to the negotiating table and asked her what was her reason for not wanting to go. She finally said in a whisper that she didn’t want to eat at the hawker centre, because it’s too hot after cycling there.
When I finally understood her need, I told her we’d find an air-conditioned place to have dinner, and that she would feel comfortable there. With that, she finally went to get ready.
Once we were out in the park, the air changed. Our moods were all tons lighter. We started to smile and joke again.
It was just a small thing…
Yes, our family had a shared need – to go out and get our bodies moving, something she wasn’t so keen on in the first instance.
But she also had her own need. Which was waiting to be voiced out and heard.
At that moment, I felt like flaring. I felt like throwing in the towel. I’m glad I didn’t. The problem had a ready solution, that could be win-win. If I had flared and fought, it would have been lose-lose.
Sometimes, we need to take a step back.
Sometimes, we need to give the child the benefit of the doubt. She wasn’t being ‘the problem’. She just had a need that was waiting to be understood.
(Of course I hope that one day, she’ll be able to set aside her needs and consider the greater need. But that’s work-in-progress…)
For now, we’re just interested in solving the problem, and crossing the hurdle together.
It’s amazing what open space and fresh air can do for the soul.
The next time you feel like you’re engaged in a battle of wills, try any of these instead:
1. Remind yourself that you don’t have to engage in a battle. You can be firm on what needs to be done, but leave some room for the child to decide how to do it.
2. Walk away and do something else for a minute. Drink a sip of water, anything to calm things down in your system.
3. Change tact. Soften your tone. Approach things like a problem that is waiting to be solved.
4. Ask how she really feels, seek to understand things from her perspective (in other words, in her shoes).
5. Describe the problem you’re facing. Ask if she has any ideas or solutions to propose. Try to come up with a viable solution together.
I read this from ‘How To Talk So Kids Will Listen And Listen So Kids Will Talk‘, and it helped to put things in a fresh perspective.
It requires a great act of faith to believe that if we take the time to sit down and share our real feelings with a young person, and listen to his feelings, together we’ll come up with solutions that will be right for both of us.
There is an important message built into this approach. It says, “When there is conflict between us, we no longer have to mobilize our forces against each other and worry about who will emerge victorious and who will go down in defeat. Instead, we can put our energy into searching for the kinds of solutions that respect both our needs as individuals.”