Parenting with Presence in Real Life
How can I keep from being bugged by my child’s whining?
QUESTION: My four-year-old’s whining drives me crazy. I know she’s little and can’t always put her wishes into words but for some reason her whiny the voice sends me through the roof!
SUGGESTION: You are not alone. There is something about a child’s high-pitched
the wail that can set a parent’s teeth on edge. But becoming reactive only makes the problem worse.
Try viewing your daughter’s whining as a completely neutral event. Just as with a child who persistently taps his pencil or kicks his foot, these behaviors aren’t inherently good or bad. What makes them annoying is that we decide that they are, which sets us up for a power struggle. If you need your child to stop doing something because you decide it’s irritating, then unless your connection is very strong, you are likely to provoke her into persisting.
It may sound very Zen-like, but if you can move into a place of noticing rather than labeling or judging her whiny voice, you will be able to say, “Sweetheart, I want to hear what you need, and I’m happy to wait until you can use your regular voice.” When you are less reactive, your daughter should be able to figure out how to appropriately ask for what she wants.
What is my sassy tween teaching me?
QUESTION: My eleven-year-old rolls her eyes or mimics me when I ask her to do something. I find this behavior very disrespectful. What could I be learning from having to deal with a sassy tween?
SUGGESTION: How much time do you have? The things we can learn from our sassy tweens could fill volumes! Let’s start with not taking things personally.
There is a notable lack of positive role models for youngsters your daughter’s age, who are desperately trying to figure out how to step into adolescence and start individuating from their parents. Unfortunately, many take on the snarky behavior of kids on popular TV shows, where eye-rolling and talking back is rewarded with an enthusiastic laugh track.
Refuse to make your daughter’s eye-rolling mean more than what it is — an awkward and (hopefully) ineffective way of announcing that she doesn’t feel like doing what you’ve asked or that she is testing your limits.
If you can refrain from taking it personally, you’ll be able to simply say, “Why don’t you take a do-over on that one, honey” — hopefully, without a sassy tone in your voice!
What am I learning from being ignored?
QUESTION: I have a fifteen-year-old son who treats me as if I don’t exist. He walks in the door and heads straight to his room without even saying hello.
What could he possibly be teaching me?
SUGGESTION: Alas, child-rearing can be brutal, especially for those who have unfinished business around having felt invisible, unimportant, or unpopular. The good news is that by approaching these experiences consciously, we are able not only to parent more effectively but also to heal some of our own childhood wounds.
Be present with what you’re experiencing instead of focusing on how to change your son. If you have a physical reaction — tension, anger — be friendly toward the sensations without making them bigger or smaller.
Name them — there’s clenching… in my belly… like a knot that’s getting tighter.
If your reaction is more emotional, stay present with what your feelings bring up. There’s sadness… reminds me of feeling invisible in middle school … I hated how kids ignored me at lunch…
While each person will have a unique set of feelings that come up when they start being more present with what gets triggered by their kids, my recommendation is the same. Start with what’s going on within you before taking on the issue with your child. Only then will you be able to address the problem as the Captain of the ship, without infusing it with neediness.