A friend and I were spending our vacation together. Between us we had five children aged from three to six years old. It was their first time meeting.
A few times I had perceived a little upset from my son, Lucas. One night, he had not wanted me to leave the room before he fell asleep, and then I had felt he awoke still a little saddened the next morning. His face was blank as I approached him, and he hid in the pillows. I did spend a few minutes Playlistening with him in an attempt to connect with him, but probably not as much as he needed.
A while later, we all took a seat at the table for breakfast, but Lucas was not satisfied with the seat that remained free for him. I checked with him to see which seat he thought would suit him better, and soon found a more agreeable arrangement, but then he said, “I want the yellow bowl, like Diego.”
Although I sensed that he was going to need some connection, I tried offering him a similar yellow bowl to the one his friend had. He pointed out that this other yellow bowl had a blue groove on the edge and therefore didn’t suit him at all!
At that time, it seemed necessary for me to set a limit. I moved to Lucas slowly, kneeling by his chair so that I could look him in the eye. “There is no other yellow bowl like Diego's,” I said softly.
Lucas immediately began to cry. It was a very soft, but deep cry and tears were rolling down his cheeks. I felt sadness behind his tears that day.
A few times I repeated the trigger, telling him, “Another time you can have the yellow bowl, ” or, “I'm sorry that you cannot have the yellow bowl this morning.” These words gave him a pretext to bump against, giving him full permission to cry as much as he needed.
Lucas kept crying a few more minutes and I kept close and Staylistened. Then, he stopped spontaneously – as if the rain clouds had passed! Breakfast continued in a very relaxed way, and I found Lucas particularly joyful, calm and cooperative, not just then, but throughout the day.
Why it Works:
Sometimes new situations can be unsettling for children, even when they can pinpoint or tell you why. You'll notice this is happening if they start to move off-track. Instead of their lively, happy selves, you'll see them acting out, not behaving as you'd prefer them too. They might become distant, aggressive, clingy or seek extra attention in other ways. These signs signal to you, “Help! All is not well.”
Laughter is a great stress reliever, and a perfect first port of call. Chloe tried Playlistening, trying to get laughter going. Games like “hunt the grouchy bug,” where you lift them into your arms and “search” their body for the pesky grouchy bugs might raise a smile and so can physical games.
But if this does not dislodge the pent up feelings, the behavior continues. Setting a Limit warmly, as Chloe did over the bowl, helps give a child reason to cry, and space to clear out all the yucky feelings bothering them. That's why Lucas was able to carry on with his day in a more relaxed and playful way.
How do you set limits warmly? Read Listen Launch Post: Three Steps to Setting Limits.
How to See When Your Child is Disconnected shows you what signs to look for and how to move in calmly and help.