On a very early morning a couple of days ago and while I was in the dentist’s chair, I listened to the two professionals working on my mouth talk about a little girl, aged 3, who refused to take part in her dance lesson the previous day, and instead wanted to sit with her mom and cry. I was immediately transported back to my younger mommy days where I learned to commiserate with my 2-year-old son.
Max was a volatile 2-year-old and when he flipped, I flipped. I’m thankful that it didn’t last long because I am still frustrated with myself that I too flipped. He was speech delayed and we struggled to understand what he was trying to say to us. For a brief period, I used Time-Out but I discovered that it was only fixing the situation in the moment, not really addressing his volatile behaviour nor teaching him how to honour and deal with his emotions. I know that this method is used in love but even when Time-Out is used briefly with dialogue following, I feel that it is an undesirable form of punishment that fails to teach problem solving, invites submission and creates pleasers.
One evening my husband Brent, quite by chance, picked up our 2-year-old emoting fella and just held onto him, with love, whispering and kissing his head. Max struggled to go but Brent told him it was Time-In time and Max just relaxed and began to cry. From that point forward, we commiserated with Max, saying things like, “You must be so frustrated. Sit with me until we can figure out what you need.” Max became a puddle in our arms during these very few times that needed to occur and what seemed like instantaneously, we no longer had a volatile child but a little boy who wanted us to know what he was feeling, asking for our help.
At 17, Max is certainly in touch with his feelings, honouring them and emoting constructively and positively. Would he have been otherwise? Possibly, but this way of being with Max, that Brent created, was a change for the better that I am utmost grateful for and as a mom of a teen who will be leaving home soon, I know which encounters are important and which ones I can let go of.
What I wish I could have offered to the two professionals, talking about the little girly at dance, was that that little girl will not be 3 for long. I want them to cherish each moment and if she is not ready to dance with a group, hold her gently, wrap her up and let her dance at home.