Sometimes our children are holding on to BIG feelings that can't be released in a smaller amount of listening time. We call these issues “Emotional Projects”. Below is one mom's story of how she used every listening tool, from Staylistening to Special Time to Listening Partnerships and more to help her son overcome his sudden fear of using the toilet.
After a big trip overseas my son had stopped wanting to do his poos. He would hold them in as much as he could which meant he was uncomfortable all day and each time his poo would come he would clench his bottom and walk on tippy toes, with fear in his eyes and body.
He would often have little bits of poo come out so we would have to change him a number of times during the day. This also meant I had him in nappies again some of the time rather than in undies. The constant changing of his nappies/undies and the fear he was experiencing was really triggering for me. We were both really stuck and I felt like I couldn’t help him through it.
The first thing I did was take my stuff to listening time. I cried, raged, talked, shook, growled, banged and stomped about how hard this was for me. I wanted a magic wand; I wanted it to stop; I wanted it to be fixed; I wanted someone else to come in and fix it for us; I wanted to know that it wasn’t going to be like this forever. The more I took time to focus on my feelings about this issue, the less triggered I felt by his actions and the more I felt it was possible to help him work through the issue.
I also asked for help! I emailed Patty and she was able to help me see what was happening for my son and to give me the key I had been missing in attempting to use the listening tools – go slow!
Of course, I wanted to make it all disappear as quickly as possible, so I had to take these feelings of mine back to listening time.
When I was ready to work with my son, I talked to him about his poos and how important they were and how he really needed to let them go. I told him that I was sorry he was feeling so worried about it, and that I would be there to help him through it so he would be happy to do his poos again.
The next time I saw him on tippy toes, with a worried look on his face, I moved towards him and put my arms around him. I said “Hey mate, it looks like you need to do a poo. I’m going to help you”. That was all he needed to start crying – he fought hard against me as he cried, “No, No, NO! I don’t want to.”
I held him, but didn’t make any attempt to move anywhere and I just reminded him that he needed to do a poo and I was going to help him. He cried and cried and struggled against me. As his cry subsided, I reminded him again and I slowly moved him towards the toilet. He walked with me and as soon as I could feel his panic and fear resurface I stopped and held him and listened, reminding him how much I loved him and how he really needed to do his poo and how I was going to help him. This process went on for some time as we slowly made our way to the toilet and onto the toilet.
We had a number of sessions like this, some lasting up to an hour and a half.
Another Staylistening session we had was on the change table. As well as not wanting to go to the toilet to do his poos, he also hated it when I would change him and get the poo out of his pants. One time, when I had noticed that he had a poo in his nappy, I set the limit and moved in and told him I was going to get the poo out. He started to struggle away from me and was desperately trying to avoid getting his nappy changed. I slowly made it to the change table and as he lied there, we spent over an hour and a half with him crying and struggling and sweating and kicking as I held the top of his pants and told him I was going to take his pants off. I didn’t take them off and I didn’t hold him there, I just listened and poured my love into him as he worked through the big pain he had been holding in.
The Staylistening sessions were intense and regular over the first 4 days and they slowly reduced over about a week. It was after one session in the toilet while his nanna was around that he started to do his poo in the toilet again.
As well as the Staylistening, I was also doing regular Special Time with my son over this time to ensure we had a strong connection and to ensure that he knew our relationship was also about fun and games as well as the hard work we were doing together. In special time he could take the lead and make me do whatever it was he wanted to. We played a lot of football and games in the bed. I would delight in him and shine big beacons of light on everything that he did.
The Playlistening we did over this issue was tricky for me. Because I was so stuck in the issue as well, it was hard for me to find the funny side of it. I tried being scared of the toilet, but that didn’t make him laugh. I tried running around and pretending to do my poo everywhere but the toilet, and that only made him laugh for the first time. I tried making light of the poo in his pants by saying things like, “Oh no! A sneaky poo has landed in your pants! How did it get there? Did it fly in from the window? What are we going to do about that? Where should we put it?” This worked pretty well, especially after we had done a couple of Staylistening sessions and I had done lots more listening time, there could be more of a relaxed spirit around it and we both were a bit more open to it being a funny topic.
This was a big emotional project for my son. I still can’t be sure exactly what the big fears he had been stuck in were all about, but I have a lot of clues. Going through the process of working through such a big issue has made me feel like I can work through anything. It gave both of us confidence in our capacity to deal with feelings, it strengthened our relationship and it gave my son more emotional space. After working through this issue he has been much more relaxed and happy. He can laugh more easily, he has started to become more creative and adventurous. He tackled new skills more eagerly and best of all he was finally all out of nappies and using the toilet in a relaxed way.
– a Parenting by Connection mom in Australia
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