We were having a busy morning. My other half had gone away for a couple of weeks for work and I was conscious that I needed to stay on top of the chores during the day – especially because I had a bad cold and didn't feel up to doing household jobs once the kids were in bed. Along with my two year old I had dropped my two older children at school and had gone straight off to do the food shopping. By the time we got home I knew a little bit of reconnecting with my little one would be a good idea, and so I offered him Special Time.
He chose to watch TV and selected the programme he wanted. He told me that I was to sit next to him, and off we went.
I struggle with using TV when it's requested for Special Time, so on this day I focused on sitting close, talking about the programme, and looking frequently at my son to take in all his loveliness – even if he wasn’t looking back at me!
His programme finished and I knew the timer i'd set was due to go off, but my son asked for another programme. I told him there wasn't much time left but that we could put another programme on, however, just before I found the show he wanted the timer rang.
I told him that our time was up. He looked up and said, “Just a bit more TV?”
With lots of compassion, I said that I was sorry but that it was time to turn off the TV. He got upset, crying and thrashing around, saying that he just wanted to watch the programme. I murmured a few things now and then, like that I understood that it was hard to turn the TV off, and that I could see how much he had wanted to watch more.
I held my limit throughout his protestations, and I stayed warm, even when he climbed off the sofa and grabbed a huge tub of pens. He threw fistfuls of them across the floor, yet even that wasn't enough to relieve his upset. He tipped them all out and swept them all over the floor.
As I watched him swoosh them back and forth, I suddenly wondered if we could have some fun.
He immediately smiled and came straight over to ‘steal' them back from me. (If he hadn't, I think I would have gone in for the long haul with Staylistening.)
I acted shocked and mock cross, saying things again like “Oh no – you can't have those, those are mine.” I tried to scoop them away from him – unsuccessfully – making sure I let him take the power.
There were lots of giggles from both of us as I desperately tried to gather the pens before he managed to sneak them away from me, and I'm pleased to say that we ended up feeling very connected. He gave me a huge cheerful cuddle and then we went off for a lovely lunch.
Not so long ago, I would have been frustrated about my son's emotional reaction, maybe giving him a grudging “yes” followed by a “But this is the last bit, understand?'” in a stern voice, as a way to avoid his upset.
And I would never have played with him when his reaction turned destructive – in fact I'm sure I would have come down much harder on him.
Now, I feel able to set a warm, empathic limit and really feel his (very real) pain about having to stop the TV, and I am confident that I can turn the experience into an opportunity for playful connection.
I wasn't bad at Setting Limits before, but now, finally, saying no feels good.