Someone once complained to me that their child never wanted to put his gloves on, or even bring his gloves with him when they were going to be spending time outside in colder weather. Inevitably, after 5-10 minutes in the cold, this child would start complaining that his hands were freezing and that he wanted to wait in the car, or leave the activity, etc. The whole issue was becoming quite a power struggle and it was driving this parent nuts. “I tell him over and over, bring your gloves. Your hands will get cold,” the parent says. “But my child ignores me. I get mad and it all goes downhill from there.”
Here is a parent who wants their child to be warm and safe and enjoy a family activity. The parent has given great advice: Bring your gloves. The parent feels ignored and feels like the child is being disrespectful. Here is a child who exercises his free will by refusing to wear or bring gloves. When his fingers get cold, he wants to be done with the activity.
What would you do? You could just throw the child’s gloves in the back of the car. You could get angry. You could view it as a child being belligerent and punish the child for talking back. You could just let the child freeze. So many tough parenting decisions.
Circle of Security® Parenting has a quote that I love. “You only need to be a ‘good enough’ parent 30% of the time.” What that means is that sometimes, we bring the gloves ourselves. Sometimes, we get angry. Sometimes we yell, force or coerce to get our way.
And sometimes, we use the situation as an opportunity to build connection and to teach. And if we find ourselves being able to do this 30% of the time, then, according to COSP(R), we are “good enough” parents.
How do you use moments like these to build connections and teach? Here are a few ways: Teach him how to pull his hands into his sleeves to warm them up. Wrap your hands around his and blow on his hands to warm them up. Or put his hands in your pockets... these all show love and connection. You are not “giving in” to your child or “making him soft” by doing these things. Instead, you are teaching empathy and kindness and you are building connections.
When you need to have warm clothes/gloves again, you can gently remind: "Remember when we were outside at the park and your hands got so cold? Are you sure you don’t want to bring the gloves?" And if he doesn’t, it’s ok. You can remind him how to put his hands in his sleeves to warm them up or how to blow on his hands to keep them warm.
Did you learn to play the piano the first time someone showed you how? Of course not. Piano playing takes practice. Your child may also need practice in these situations. You may have to repeat the teaching many times. As parents, we too must practice being patient, calm and kind in our child’s upset.
When a child seems to be not following our direction, or they are having a meltdown or they are bouncing off the walls, take 2-3 deep breaths and remind yourself, “I am safe, Keep breathing, I can handle this.” Then ask, “What does my child need?”
And in answering that question, the best way to begin is by filling up their “emotional” cup. Meet them where they are at. Fill them with love and acceptance. Be bigger, stronger, wiser, kinder. Be kind. Follow your child’s lead, and when necessary, take charge. (From Circle of Security® Parenting )
You’ve got this.