Removing a Splinter, and Much More, Through Staylistening and Playlistening

We have a very old kitchen floor, and it is a miracle that my four-year-old daughter, Magda, hadn’t gotten a splinter from it before. But last week it happened. She took her sock off and told me it was itchy under her foot. We checked, and it was a splinter. She was not upset by it until I said that we needed to take it out with tweezers.

when your kids push you over the edge
photo courtesy of christopher eriksen

She started crying and kicking her legs, with a scared look in her eyes. I listened to her feelings, and now and then repeated that I would need to take out the splinter. I showed her the tweezers, and I listened. Every time she calmed down, I would show her the tweezers and she would start again. In between cries, she checked the tweezers out and held them in her hand, but when I said that we had to get the splinter out or she would get an infection, she started kicking and screaming again. Tears and sweat poured out of her.

As an infant, my daughter had had to have a tight hip harness strapped to her for several months. Though she had cried a lot about it then, I believe that when I held her foot gently, that little bit of restraint triggered her old fear.

She cried quite a bit, on and off. As time passed, I became increasingly worried that the splinter would break and become even harder to remove. So I suggested a bit of play:  I let her try to get a small piece of plastic out from between my fingers with the tweezers. I let her use the tweezers in this game again and again, hoping to empower her. After several times, I set a limit and told her I would take her splinter out now. She started crying again but with less resistance. After I had listened to her for a while longer, she relaxed her foot long enough for me to get the splinter out.

We taped the splinter onto a piece of paper, wrote “Magda’s first splinter” on it, and put it up on the fridge. She was very proud of herself for getting through this experience successfully. And I was very proud that we had been able to listen to her feelings so well!

The next day, I noticed that Magda was very calm and relaxed and did not demand much attention. She played happily on her own for much of the day. Also, she took out a puzzle that she usually had trouble with and needed lots of prompting to complete; that day she did it by herself without needing any help at all. Of course, I can’t be positive that this hour long cry is what enabled these two excellent developments, but I’ve seen these kinds of results before. It’s amazing the way these deep cries can shift feelings and development in areas that one never expects.

— Sarah Nolden, Bruehl, Germany

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