Friday, April 29, 2011

Emotion Games

Like most toddlers, Sasha doesn't like it when she doesn't get her way. I try to always view things from her perspective. I would try to calm her down when she was upset. And then I read this post from This is Worthwhile about a child's autonomy.

It is easy to understand, as aware mothers, that our children have autonomy. We don't force them to hug or kiss anyone. I try my best never to manhandle my daughter even for a diaper change. If she needs a few minutes bare-bottomed, so be it. I'm prepared to deal with the mess. She doesn't want to wear socks (she does, for medical reasons), well a night without socks isn't going to harm her. I think by mainstream standards, I am spoiling her rotten. Sometimes my husband accuses me of such. I'm really trying to simply respect her as a person.

This article opened my eyes to a new angle, though. Emotions. Just because Sasha is upset about something, doesn't mean that I should try to stop her crying. I should, of course, be here to support her and explain things she doesn't understand. That doesn't mean that she can't be upset about things. Emotions are a big part of life and she isn't yet equipped to deal with them.

Sad SashaSad Sasha

Jessica's article came to me with the most amazing timing! Soon after reading it, rereading it, and saving it, Sasha started to play what I dubbed "Emotion Games." See, she likes to play in the fridge. Sometimes she wants a snack, but sometimes she just wants to count the items in the door. She might want to empty the fridge into the floor. Sometimes I let her, but when it is late (or whatever other reason I have), I say no. Sasha does not like it when I don't let her into the fridge. (Can I just say, I am SO glad she can not open it by herself!)

So after finding this article, she wanted into the fridge. I said no. She sits down with her back to the wall in protest. I wanted to be supportive, but I did not want to try to force her to change her emotional reaction. Her reaction was totally understandable! So I told her that I loved her and offered to pick her up. She dropped her head down.

Alright, you say, this does NOT sound like a game. Except as soon as I went back into the living room, she came to get me again with a big smile on her face. In fact, after a few rounds of this game, she would peek up and grin at me from her sad head-dropped state. It makes me smile even now, thinking back on it.

That was her big deal that week and I played along as much as she desired. After all, how many opportunities do your kids give you to "practice" emotions? It was really a very sweet game that honestly didn't last very long. It helped instill what I agreed with about the article. She is her own person, including her emotions. I can be there for her without trying to force her feelings to make me feel better. That is what it is all about, right? I mean, we try to make people stop crying because it makes US uncomfortable. It has very little to do with what the crier needs.

Jessica very eloquently provides examples and explanations. She points out that emotions inherently have no value. We tend to think of negative emotions as "bad" and positive emotions as "good." They really aren't one or the other.

Click over and read Jessica's post at This is Worthwhile.

How do you handle uncomfortable emotions in children?
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