In a span of less than two weeks, J had given me some challenges just like any other 7-year-old would.
It is not that I am complaining but rather it is very satisfying to realize that we can slice through any parenting challenge with ease and confidence. Therefore it is critical that we equip ourselves with some “tools” that can help us in tackling any situation that may arise before it actually happens.
It is my hope that by sharing my own experiences, I can help you to have the upper hand when these challenges stare you in the face.
“I don’t want to play piano.”
J uttered these words not long ago. What she really meant was to stop playing piano and stop going to piano class. This is what I hoped not to happen ever since we bought a piano. After talking to her more deeply, she actually likes playing piano (especially when she has learned a new song). The piano teacher said it was time for J to prepare herself for Grade 1. Failing to play Gavot the way she wanted it after many rounds of practice, J was on the brink of giving up.
I told her if she really didn’t like playing piano, she could stop any moment. On the other hand, I told her, giving up on something too soon would not bring any result too. She had to persevere until she got it. I suggested to her to practice the song in a different way (eg: by blocks instead of the complete song). I even pulled up some videos on YouTube of some children playing the same song to encourage her.
For some unknown reason, she managed to play the piece up to her satisfaction. She was very happy when she did and now without much coaxing (before this it took great effort to get her practice), she plays the song happily – with or without my request.
Now she likes piano… yet again. She even plays it when visitors came. A totally different scenario than it was before she grasped the song.
What I Learned: Give freedom to your child to express his preferences. Respect his choice. But at the same time encourage him to just try a little longer before giving up. Don’t impose your likes and dislikes on him. Put emphasis on learning because it is fun, not because you want him to learn something or to sit for exams. Once the child loses his interest, it is hard for you to get him back.
J cried during a shopping trip with grandparents
My in-laws were in town. We took them to, as you guessed it, shopping. Since it is not often they come down, my wife paid extra attention to her mom (it is a girl thing anyway) more than J. Despite her young age, J knew she was neglected. She was particularly upset with her mom as she spent most of the time shopping for grandmother’s stuff rather than hers.
She acted out.
I was with K at that moment but I could sense that J was not happy. I decided to do something so that J would not do something that could spoil the moment we had with my in-laws. I told myself not to lose my cool and handle the matter calmly. I spoke to J about her feelings. She refused to say anything at first. After I played along with her and she finally burst out and admitted that she didn’t like the idea mom was not shopping for her.
First, I acknowledged her feelings that she was upset that her mommy was not paying attention to her enough. This very move worked wonder and really toned her down. Then I explained to her carefully the reason behind why that happened. She gradually accepted my explanation that we could always go shopping together again next time when grandmother had gone home. After she regained her composure, I gave her a choice: to follow K and me or to follow mommy and granny for the shopping. She happily chose to follow her mom.
What I Learned: The first thing to do is to acknowledge the child’s feelings when she acted out. Don’t undermine her “right” to get upset or sad – no matter how silly it may sound. When this is done, the rest is easy. Also if possible, find out the real reason for the acting out.
J’s second meltdown in the same shopping trip
Yes, J acted out twice in one same shopping trip!
This time around it was caused by another reason. Mommy broke her promise to her over shopping for her stuff. I didn’t know about the promise until I spoke to J when she acted out the second time. I was relieved that she told me the real reason behind the tantrum. My wife forgot about her promise that she made with J. Again, I acknowledged her feelings. I even told her I would be as mad as her if someone didn’t keep his promise to me. That really soothed her nerves. I told her I would help her to ask mommy why she didn’t keep her promise. I offered her that while mommy and granny were doing their shopping, we could go to a bookshop to read some books. Before the conversation, she turned down the idea. But after I talked to her and listened to her, she agreed. We had one hell of fun time at the bookstore until mommy came (read: finished shopping).
What I Learned: Again the same technique worked: acknowledging the child’s feelings. Listen emphatically and feel for the child. Children never act out without reasons. We just have to find out why and bring them out of the negative feelings.
J is not outspoken in class
Every time when we talk to J’s teachers, we always find out from the teachers if she ever talks in the class. The reason we do this is J hardly talks when she is not at home. To her talking is not something that comes by easily.
My wife realized that it is not healthy to ask teachers about this when she is around. I agree. And I take it further that we shouldn’t emphasize too much on her outspokenness. Instead we should focus on her strengths. We should talk and think more of what we want, not what we don’t want. When we do this, we feel better.
We decided not to put pressure on J to mold her into what we like her to be. As for now, we want her to be who she really is and I believe she will finally come out of her shell and be her true self when the time comes. When that happens, getting her to talk in class will be a thing of the past. I shall update you when this happens.
What I Learned: We always focus on the weaknesses of our child so much so that we neglect to hone his strengths and talents. We must speak in a positive tone (what the child can do) rather than what the child can’t do. Let the child be who he truly is and not the person we want him to be.