Can I ask you a question? As parents do we express our feelings to our children? Do we make ourselves vulnerable to them? Most of us do not. We believe that as adults, we shouldn't burden our children with our emotions; rather we need to deal with it ourselves. We feel it’s necessary to show that we are strong. We think that expressing sadness, fear, anxiety or other such emotions is a sign of weakness. Anyway, they are children and they may not understand what we are going through.
The truth is that when we are open and share our feelings, we connect with our children and very often get compassionate responses from them. For example, “Arun, I had so much work today. I am very exhausted.” By expressing what you are feeling, you may make him aware of how the day was like for his parents. He might respond by saying, “Oh, why was it?” We get an opportunity to share with our children about what is happening in our lives. “Your Thatha is not well and I am worried.” The child may ask, “You are sad? What happened to Thatha?”
When we communicate our feelings and speak in a respectful manner, we receive cooperation from our child.
Young parents, especially mothers who are mostly with their small children 24x7, need to take care of themselves as well. You may be stressed, and want some rest, but at that very moment, your 3-year old wants to play. Even with your little one, you can be honest and say, “Mummy is so tired. I am lying down now. See the clock there; when the big hand goes to 5, I will play with you. Do you want to sit on the bed and play with your toy till then?” When you say this instead of, “Don't trouble me.” the child feels close to you and does feel rejected.
It can be frustrating to see the toys and books lying around. Instead of blaming the child, “You never clear up your room!” we could say, “I am very concerned about Paati as she may trip and fall over them. It needs to be put back on the shelf.”
An email needs to be sent urgently and dinner's not ready, instead of comparing, “You just do not help! All your friends help around the house.” We can ask, “I am overwhelmed with work, can you heat up the food and set the table for us?”
Instead of criticizing, “You are not studying for your exams!” we can say, “I am anxious to know how you are preparing for your upcoming exams.”
Instead of threatening and name-calling, “You are a very bad girl! If you kick again, you will get a spanking.” we could communicate to the child honestly the effect of her behavior. “Ouch! That really was painful! I don’t like to be kicked.”
Instead of commanding “Don’t you dare leave my hand when we are on the road’, we could say, “I feel really scared when you don't hold my hand on the road. I am worried you may get lost.”
When we blame, criticize and compare, the child feels hurt, discouraged, troubled or angry, to name a few feelings. They feel that they are not good enough. When they are in this emotional state of mind, are they in a position to engage or cooperate with us? No, they are not! They are not going to listen or do what we are asking them to, as they are disconnected from us.
Dr. Thomas Gordon, a clinical psychologist, recognized as a pioneer in teaching communication skills and conflict resolution methods, states in his book, P.E.T. Parent Effectiveness Training, that by communicating our feelings respectfully, stating realistic expectations and trusting the child to handle situations constructively, we help the child to believe in themselves, to take responsibilities and understand others’ needs.
Author: Sujata Dewaji is a certified Parent Educator with Parenting Matters, An organization which empowers parents to build deeper connection within families.