(I wrote this blog in 2015)
Every Halloween, my son wants to make his own costume. The therapist and educator in me absolutely loves his initiative, determination, creativity, high standards and resourcefulness The mom in me gets triggered and dreads this. All I see are the barriers, the frustrations, hard work, messes, costs, and disappointment. It happened again this year where he feels my dread and it brings him down. I know it is not fair so as I practice what I preach, I chose to ask my son this morning as I was acknowledging how he was right about feeling my resistance, “How are we going to open this day with joy and curiosity?” I then reframed our day by stating, “I am very curious how we will get this all done and I look forward to the joy my son will feel when his costume is finished.”
I am happy to report that after great effort, we have a 5 foot Salamence costume all ready to be painted and fully assembled in time for Halloween and my son is already filled with joy with the progress. He even volunteered using his own money for the expenses, made the shopping list, went to the store and did most of the work. Here is video of his costume:
Clink link to see video of a past creation that fortunately his father helped him with: Spinosaurus Son
Here is a link to Parenting Resources on topics of Halloween:
P.S. My son also learned valuable lessons which he was able to express through processing and tears. He worked so hard on the costume, yet he encountered many frustrations and disappointments (many which his father and I had foreseen yet didn’t tell him). He says next year he will choose an easier costume and help his sister with something special as he was so appreciative of her support and realized all the drawbacks to huge costumes.
One day, my son was feeling badly about not living up to his potential. He expressed negative beliefs of “not being a good enough, being lazy, stupid, feeling guilty/shame about his choices and behaviors.” It hurts me tremendously to hear him share these deep negative beliefs as they are the same ones I have battled through much of my life and often triggers me into a dismissive reaction. Thus, no matter how much my partner and I told him how much we loved him and highlighted all the good things he does, he could not hear us and resisted our attempts. As a therapist, I know too well that our reactions and attempts to minimize his emotional pain were invalidating and actually making him feel worse. That one must first truly listen, accept, validate the speaker’s feelings and expressions so they may be able to process their pain and move on. Yet being a parent, feeling so responsible and sad for hearing your magnificent child feel so bad is hard to accept and cope with, especially on top of all of life’s other stresses.
After becoming conscious of my own insecurities and triggers, I then chose to respond by cuddling with him and remaining silent as he cried and vented. I agreed how painful this must feel. I apologized for the times my actions have led him to feel this way and that I will keep working on improving myself. I then shared a story of how I woke up early yesterday and caught a glimpse of the intense orange from the sunrise. I was reminded how blessed we are that *God gives a beautiful new horizon to awake and go to sleep with every day. I thought about Easter approaching and how many are celebrating how Jesus rose from the dead. I told my son that holidays are really just symbols of the gifts God gives us everyday. We have been given the gift to rise every day and try again to be more kind, helpful and align our beliefs with our actions.
My son immediately said “Thank You,” gave me a kiss and popped up exuberantly. He began to hug and say “thank you” to all the many items on his bed: his books; his new big, blue, soft blanket; his giant stuffed elephant, his fan, his light, etc. I then read him some stories, the last one was being I Believe In Me. Listening, holding a safe place, using respectful touch, and acknowledging feelings allows negativity to process which naturally leads to calming down and making new connections. The next morning, I was awoken early by my son meditating “Ohmmm, Ohmmm, Ohmmm.” He was inspired to start his day on a positive note. I wish every one to see the beauty and miracles given everyday and when you don’t, forgive yourself and others, and rise again.
Deep breaths and baby steps,
*I believe God is universal and defined by what feels best for you and your family’s belief system.
When my son was six years old, I had two teachers suggest that my son was “emotionally immature.” Honestly, these complaints were very hard for me to swallow on many levels, especially since I am passionate about emotional intelligence and helping children to cope with emotions.
I, as respectfully as possible, accepted and validated their comments because of course, he is emotionally immature: he’s six years old. I felt defensive, shocked and angered. I just wanted to rip my son away from these people who I had entrusted to care for him. I even home-educate my son because most affordable school environments, in my opinion, are emotionally neglectful and abusive.
I internally chewed long and hard on their statements. I really had to grieve this situation. I typically blame myself whenever negative situations occur and worried intensely if I had messed up somewhere… I felt guilty for adding stress to the teachers; Was I crazy for teaching him to question authority and share his feelings? From their point of view and context, I could see where they were coming from yet it sickened me that this is the mind frame of most.
I want to just shine a bright light on the world about emotional development… You see society tends to think that one is emotionally mature because they handle their emotions. This is true to a degree, but one needs to have opportunities to express their emotions in order to learn how to handle their emotions in various settings and relationships. There is a learning curve for every new dynamic or experience.
It seems we give kids until about the age of one to three years old to work this out, then we demand they listen and obey us without whining or tantrums. Sadly, what many think as an emotionally mature child is one who is appearing obedient under the guise of actually feeling fear and freezing (like in a state of fight, flight or freeze). They don’t know what to do but have learned that more negative energy will be directed at them if they don’t just stop. Eventually, this leads to suppressing emotions and even dissociating when triggered in stressful environments. Far worse consequences and dysfunctional patterns develop from here.
Here’s is one my favorite quotes about emotional development and children:
“What is a normal child like? Does he just eat and grow and smile sweetly? No, that is not what he is like. The normal child, if he has confidence in mother and father, pulls out all stops. In the course of time he tries out his power to disrupt, to destroy, to frighten, to wear down, to waste, to wrangle, and to appropriate…At the start he absolutely needs to live in a circle of love and strength (with consequent tolerance) if he is not to be fearful of his own thoughts and his images to make progress in his emotional development.”
-Donald W. Winnecott, The Child, The Family, and the Outside World
Now, back to my sweet, sensitive son… Anyone who knows him well has seen his empathetic, kind, and resilient nature as well as his ability to regulate himself. He started initiating group hugs when he was two and doing the meditative “umm” when he was in pre-school to calm down. He made a dragon from Legos to guard his baby sister’s ashes and deeply mourned the loss of his great-grandma. When I am stressed, he echoes the words of the sage in me. He’s my buddha boy, and this is just a quick snapshot of the gracious qualities he shines upon his family and dearest friends.
During this same period of time, my son was overwhelmed by contradictory messages. He would complain about how come he often sees other kids hitting other kids and their siblings. I validate that it is confusing and may seem unfair yet stress he has learned a special skill and can control himself even when he feels so angry. I describe how many others are still in the process of learning to control their emotions and behaviors and how their brain gets flooded and they can’t get to their loving, smart files.
He also would ask why he cries so much but no one else seems to cry. He agonized about what’s wrong with him and feels stupid that he cries so easily. I validate his pain yet stress that he cries because he has a big heart: he cares so much about what people think of him and the quality of work he produces. That although he appears weak and dramatic by society’s expectations for “normal boy” behavior, he is indeed strong, brave, spirited and willful. Sadly, with so few kids to empathize with him, he was starting to wish he didn’t care so much.
Another sad part of all this is that when a kid, or even an adult for that matter, is being emotional, that can actually be a sign of trust; that they feel somewhat safe to process their hard and vulnerable feelings with you. Emotional outbursts are opportunities for connection and growth yet we as listeners can’t often handle the feelings. We feel too uncomfortable and just want to contain them as quickly as possible. Teachers fear they are disturbing learning environment instead of seeing it as an intense learning experience. Even with my successful experiences of utilizing intense emotions, I still get triggered by fear and just want to stop the discomfort and run away. It is also hard to be compassionate and present with an angry child especially when the child in you just wants to fight back.
The next time a child is giving you grief, take a deep breath and give them the gift of your presence, attention, a warm embrace, a shoulder to cry on and listen. You don’t even need to think of things to say just be still, present and listen. If it feels right, reflect only what you are hearing them say like identify feelings.
”When children feel understood, their loneliness and hurt diminish. When children are understood, their love for their parent is deepened. A parent’s sympathy serves as emotional first aid for bruised feelings. When we genuinely acknowledge a child’s plight and voice her disappointment, she often gathers the strength to face reality.” ~Haim Ginott
I recommend the book Raising Cain: Protecting the Emotional Lives of Boys by Michael Thompson, Ph.D. & Dan Kindlon, Ph.D.
Here’s also a video on how important it is to meet emotional needs
Take Wonderful Care,
Disclaimer: Positive Reframe shares resources with the intent of the positive progression of informed decision making related to issues associated with emotional, relational, physical and spiritual wellness. While I share personal and professional perspectives, my writings reflect my personal opinion and not intended to substitute professional advice, diagnosis, and treatment. The online medium does not lend itself to the level of detail and rapport building required for thorough assessment and therapeutic intervention. Thus the content shared on this page is for informational purposes only. To make well-informed decisions that best meet your family’s unique needs, I highly recommend exploring and researching available options, consulting primary health care providers, and referrals from a trusted source for professional counseling. I am a licensed Marriage and Family Therapy in the state of Illinois, USA
You have the right to be you.
You have the right to put yourself first.
You have the right to be safe.
You have the right to love and be loved.
You have the right to be treated with respect.
You have the right to be human – NOT PERFECT.
You have the right to angry and protest if you are treated unfairly or abusively by anyone.
You have the right to your own privacy.
You have the right to your own opinions, to express them, and to be taken seriously.
You have the right to earn and control your own money.
You have the right to answer questions about anything that affects you.
You have the right to make decisions that affect you.
You have the right to grow and change (and that includes changing your mind).
You have the right to say NO. You have the right to make mistakes.
You have the right to NOT be responsible for other adults’ problems.
You have the right to not be liked by everyone.
YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO CONTROL YOUR OWN LIFE AND TO CHANGE IT IF YOU ARE NOT HAPPY WITH IT.
I was 18 when I first read a list of rights like this one. I was actually surprised to learn that I had these rights. I had to read it daily for awhile to kick start my healing. It takes on average 21 times to experience a situation the way you WANT to experience it before our brains can make a secure connection, to FEEL the benefits and to BELIEVE it is real. I use to have to read at frequent intervals when fears and insecurities would try to sabotage what my heart knew and felt. Fortunately, my healing grew exponentially as I accepted & asserted them.
Here’s a video on the history of Human Rights. I guess I was not alone in not knowing them. Please share them with love and compassion and put these rights to action.
“The first step to take is to recognize that ALL emotions are healthy. In our culture, feelings such as joy, peace, and courage are seen as good feelings, yet feelings such as sad, mad, and scared are seen as bad feelings. Let’s rethink this to understand that it is not the feeling itself that creates negativity; it is the lack of expression of the feeling that creates negativity. And in children, this negativity is often expressed through poor behaviors.” ~ Heather T Forbes
It always amazes me how a genuine, simple acknowledgment of one’s feelings will almost instantly relieve the tension and transform into positive energy. This often leads to feeling understood, accepted and normal. Being receptive, sensitive, and in tuned to other’s needs and unique qualities builds trust and gives them the confidence to move on. And even though I have experience this beautiful transformation time and time again, I can still get caught up in the moment and react, especially when I am under stress. I have been blessed to have been able to witness this philosophy truly work which helped me learn to accept my children’s as well as my own negative feelings as we all need a safe place to process those big and often conflicting feelings. I discovered that my own negative reactions to behaviors were often a symptom of me not understanding or needing to nurture myself. I am grateful I read Heather’s book and see her in person. She gave me the permission I was unconsciously seeking to parent my child from a place of unconditional love and acceptance, and not from fear.
“Children need unconditional love and unconditional acceptance from their parents; we all know this and believe this. However, do we ever stop to consider how so many of the traditional parenting techniques accepted in our culture work contrary to this primal goal? Traditional parenting techniques that involve consequences, controlling directives, and punishment are fear-based and fear-driven. They have the ability to undermine the parent/child relationship and because they are tied into behavior, children easily interpret these actions to mean, “If I’m not good, I am not lovable.” Thus, children often build a subconscious foundation that says that love and approval is based off of performance…
So the next time your child becomes defiant, talks back, or is simply “ugly” to you, work to be in a place not to react to the behavior, but respond to your child. Respond to your child in an open way—open to meeting him in his heart and helping him understand the overload of feelings that are driving the behaviors. He doesn’t need a consequence or another parental directive at that moment; he just needs you to be present with him. As your children learn to respond back to you through the parent-child relationship, they won’t have the need to communicate through negative behaviors anymore. You’ll both have more energy for each other, building a relationship that will last a lifetime.”
Please click the link to read the full article: Parenting Beyond Consequences By Heather T. Forbes, LCSW
The good news, everything can be healed in safe, nurturing and responsive relationships today. Every day is a new day to try again and you have the power to create more of what you need.
Take wonderful care,
You can learn more about me and my services here at WeCounsel
Disclaimer: Positive Reframe shares resources with the intent of the positive progression of informed decision making related to issues associated with emotional, relational, physical and spiritual wellness. While I share personal and professional perspectives, my writings reflect my personal opinion and not intended to substitute professional advice, diagnosis, and treatment. The online medium does not lend itself to the level of detail and rapport building required for thorough assessment and therapeutic intervention. Thus the content shared on this page is for informational purposes only. To make well-informed decisions that best meet your family’s unique needs, I highly recommend exploring and researching available options, consulting primary health care providers, engaging in respectful dialogue with friends and family as well as seek referrals from a trusted source for professional counseling. I am a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapy in the state Illinois, USA
We are all born good and connected which gets disrupted when vital needs go unmet. Every interaction is an opportunity to connect, nurture, heal and grow…
Human defense mechanisms intrigue me (i.e. passive/aggressiveness, distortion, projection, denial, fantasy, rationalization, minimizing )…They protect us from absorbing too much pain at once so that the body/mind/heart can prepare to process the uncomfortable, hurtful, and overwhelming experience in order integrate and transcend but if we depend on these mechanisms or use them too long, they harden to bricks that build a wall. You might feel the illusion of safety behind this great wall, but the build-up of toxins, the natural consequences and negativity will delude you. Connection, being able to touch another’s mind/body/heart is one of our vital needs. Many of our other needs are cultivated within safe, well-connected, mutually satisfying and respectful relationships. Unfortunately, what we need the most to heal, few have ever truly received or witnessed. The unknown triggers fear as it is perceived as a threat. We then end up learning to fear and mistrust what we need the most.
When I reflect on my life, I took risks to allow people behind the wall I had built to protect myself. Of course, a few of these people I trusted backfired yet they all helped break down my wall. My need for these defenses continues to decrease as I find more pro-active and responsible ways of getting my own needs met. I am unsure if it is possible to rid them completely, after all, we are human. Yet as I become more aware of my use of defense mechanisms and triggers, I am better able to embrace the value and those around me. I can love myself and everyone else through the hurt even though I may be running into their walls.
Below is my favorite list of needs from the book, Healing the Child Within by Charles L. Whitfield. It is difficult to move on to getting another need met if the one before it is unmet or threatened. Sadly, I witness too many stuck and fighting at number two…
Hierarchy of Human Needs
- Touching, Skin Contact
- Mirroring And Echoing
- Being Real
- Others Are Aware Of, Take Seriously And Admire Real You
- Freedom To Be Real You
- Tolerance Of Your Feelings
- Belonging And Love
- Opportunity To Grieve Losses And To Grow
- Unconditional Support
- Loyalty And Trust
- Mastery, Power, Control
- Having A Sense Of Completion
- Making A Contribution
- Altering One’s State Of Consciousness
- Enjoyment Or Fun
- Unconditional Love
(compiled from Maslow 1962; Miller, 1981, Weil, 1973; & Glasser, 1985)
Below is a talk I gave on how getting vital needs met lead me to my Light…