All children experience disappointments, and how they react to them can vary from upsets to rage. Unleashing these feelings of disappointment can be enough to help release the tension, but sometimes kids get stuck.
Hand in Hand instructor Anca Deaconu describes how her son reacted to a disappointment with a big tantrum, and how setting a limit for him to stop his out of control behaviour lets him fully release his feelings in order to move on.
“My son and my mother have always shared a very special bond. Although we live far apart, my mom has been a constant, caring and loving presence in my son’s life.
We were expecting her to come and stay with us for a few days, and in the weeks leading up to her visit excitement and anticipation was building at our house.
My son was full of questions and suggestions:
- What present would she enjoy? Would she like a drawing?
- How should he dress for her arrival? What about pinning a red flower to his t-shirt, as he’d seen on TV?
- How should we prepare her room? We should have fresh flowers waiting for her!
But, life happens.
Just before the visit my grandmother got sick and was hospitalized. My mother had no choice but to postpone her visit.
I broke the news to my son as gently as I could, but the bottom line, of course, was she couldn’t come and see us as planned. He flew into an upset.
“I hate your grandmother!” he said. “It’s all her fault! Why did she have to get sick right now?”
It wasn't the right time for me to lecture, so I let him express his hurt and disappointment but when he started to throw Legos all over his room, I knew that I had to do something. He needed my help, and the help he needed was a limit. He needed me to say, “No, I cannot let you throw the Legos,” as a reason to blow. I knew then that he would really release his feelings of upset.
I set the limit, and I stayed close and listened. I held him close as he cried and cried.
Later that day, we retold the story of what had happened, to try and make better sense of it. We talked through the event step-by-step: my son’s eager preparation, the unexpected illness of my grandma, how my mother might feel about her own mother, and also about us and how hard was for Ovidiu to hear and accept the circumstances. We talked about the future, and about speaking with grandma about rescheduling her visit.
As I write this, my mother is here and spending time with my son. This is her last day with us and saying goodbye will be difficult for him. But I’ll be here. Not to “fix” things. Only to listen, love and care. That’s enough, I’ve learned.”
From the Hand in Hand Toolbox:
When faced with her son's disappointments, Anca used two of Hand in Hand's positive parenting tools. Listening to a child’s feelings validates them, and allows them to play out. We call this special parenting tool Staylistening. Next, rather than shaming or punishing her son for his outburst, Anca set a limit, giving her son something bigger and more tangible to push against to express his upset. If you'd like to stop yelling and punishments and bring a sense of calm to your parenting, read all about Hand in Hand's tools in our series of booklets, which are available to download.