I’ve observed a number of my Canadian friends posting about “Remembrance Day” (observed the same day as the American Veterans Day) on social media, but it was this post that really made me sit down and reflect:
As I remember today, I remember not only fallen soldiers, but strive to understand what led to these large scale failures of humanity. I hope, one day, we will understand humans better in order to prevent this violence long before it happens.
It hits me hard in my heart. I spend a good deal of my days trying to prevent, avert, manage, and heal the small scale quibbles and misunderstandings that happen in my home. Is war not an extension of these small and seemingly insignificant moments of impatience, intolerance, and general lack of empathy – carried out by more powerful individuals and sustained by nations?
On most days I come up with an instinctual canned response to disagreements – “Don’t hit your sister”, “This is a moment when I think you should apologize.” It isn’t cutting it anymore. As my children get older, they are reasoning in different ways. They are more verbal and their emotions aren’t predictably rational. This is further complicated by my inability to be predictably rational too. When I can’t figure out the way to manage their screaming, I feel most inclined to scream at them and what sense does that make?
So recently, understanding how to truly empathize with my children, my husband, and my community has come to the forefront of my life. I thought that I had a grasp on disciplining my children with words in a way that resolved things. My daughter disagreed. Not only did she disagree, but she would retreat to a corner of our home on top of our bed. She would yell hurtful things at me. She would cry. She would hit. She would insist that she needed her father at that very moment.
My go-to strategies were not just failing to work, they were building an escalating level of stress for my daughter to try and work through on her own. At age 5, she doesn’t have the emotional toolkit to deal with the ways in which I cannot communicate clearly. So it was up to me to change. But how does one go about (re)learning effective communication?
The blogosphere and Internet-at-large is rife with advice on how to “deal” with disobedient children….and honestly, some of the wisdoms are frightening. This was bigger than the issue of disobedience. It was looking beyond the behavior altogether and asking why my daughter was so revved up.
First, my husband and I had a couple good long talks about what we observed during the day, including a replay of those moments when she boiled over. It helped to simply commiserate with someone else. We picked apart her day – mainly changes in her schedule and how often she gets to see each of us – and brainstormed her possible sources of stress. It became clear that she had experienced a huge disruption of an otherwise static schedule when school started.
Canadian researcher on attachment Gordon Neufeld states that there are two types of tantrums – one born of sadness, the other originating from frustration. It was fairly easy to label her outbursts on-the-spot. The ongoing daily lessons are how to appropriately respond to the emotional feverpitches, but I am developing a much deeper understanding of my daughter’s emotions.
I’m also starting to understand these articles on parent-child bonds (which I’ve been reading for years) in a new light. Slowing down when my children are expressing a need to be quiet, still, home, or protected is paramount. When we are out in the world, my husband and I need to be ready to stop and focus on our children if they are frustrated. Now I expect that we will have to stop and speak with our daughter kindly and out of love when her expectations aren’t met, so it no longer stirs my impatient nature. It is still frustrating and oft irritating, but now I get that she is truly making an attempt to figure things out. We can move forward with her buy-in instead of her silenced and bruised heart.
Things have been going brilliantly at home. My daughter feels heard, and I feel better for having heard her. There are more sweet moments between us now. I know that any ambition for peace on the grand scale begins with peace in our homes.