The evening before my 7-year-old daughter had her audition for a community theater production, she asked me, “Why do I have to go to the audition?” I reminded her that she had enjoyed her theater experience the previous year and had wanted to sign up for this year's show. Her tone instantly became more strident: “I want to quit! I didn't really want to do it!” Ah! I recalled how scary the audition had been for her last year. So perhaps she needed me to listen closely. We went back and forth for 20 to 30 minutes. She grew increasingly desperate and angry, shouting that I was forcing her to do something she no longer wanted to do and that I was not listening to her. I reassured her that while I knew it was challenging and scary, I was confident with her preparation and from her prior experience that she would do fine in her audition.
I must admit that when she burst into tears, I felt wobbly and wondered, “Maybe this is truly how she feels, and she's not just letting off anxiety. Maybe I should let her quit now.” I decided to keep giving her warmth and closeness as she yelled about how mean I was being and that it is her life so she should make the decision.
After a while, she petered out and transitioned to something else. I felt the change in her energy, and we went about going to bed. I went to sleep wondering whether the next morning would bring more of the same and we'd end up e-mailing the director to cancel her audition.
From the moment she opened her eyes the next day, she was all smiles. When it was time to drive to the audition, she immediately took her dad's hand and went to the car without one word of complaint. Later, she reported that the audition was fine and that she was excited for the show. For the past month, she has been rehearsing most weekends, and her attitude is always cheerful and upbeat. Perhaps she may need more listening and connection as we approach the first show next month. I will be ready!
I am so grateful to Hand in Hand. Without the insight into how children's emotions work, I would have been much more likely to take her words at face value and let her drop out. It's hard to have your child accuse you of being insensitive! With my training in Parenting By Connection, I was able not to be triggered by her outburst and to give her the warmth and love she needed in order to release her feelings.