Here we were school run morning and I’m waiting for the children to get dressed. Now this part is usually the part where we slow down what with attention lacking, lost glasses but this day it seemed to be going well. My son was upstairs busy and my teenager was in her room-no surprise there then, and my daughter was almost done. Only her tights to put on.
She came and sat in front of me and on went the tights. One second later she was squealing about the tights being silly. She very quickly escalated to screaming. As you can tell she is not fond of wearing tights, even though she would choose a dress over trousers no matter the weather. Sometimes she will ask me to help her by twisting the ends of the feet for her as she did today, but it was plain to see that she was holding a strong belief about these tights being uncomfortable so however I would move them this morning they couldn’t improve.
She went to get a different pair of school tights as time was ticking away. I hoped maybe she could make peace with a different pair. Seconds later she bounced down the stairs in total contrast to how she left, now with her usual happy tone and her bright big smile. She had one leg in this new pair and had come down to let me know that she can do these ones. It was quiet funny to watch as she sat herself down with a giggle.
She began with her happy tone talking to herself as she guided her second foot into the grey tights. The foot was in, all seemed well and then something changed. The light happy tone of her self talk slowly began to go from positive to negative. It was as if a switch inside had been flipped and she began to talk herself out of being able to put on these tights too! “But this one is the one that will be tricky” she said, then “I can’t do this one”.
Sure enough her belief had changed from being able to do these tights, now these were tights of terror too. It wasn’t long before those tights went flying through the air to the opposite corner of the room. Now all I could hear was screaming, louder screaming then shouting and protesting.
At that moment I thought about what was going on, mostly about the assault on my ears. I thought about her behaviour although I had not judged it as bad so I felt no frustration or unease about it. I could see how her actions could have been seen as bad or wrong, when she was just reacting to her beliefs. What should I focus on now I thought, her happiness and help her with the tights? Getting the tights on fast? Or how I act towards her at that moment, as well as getting her to put on the tights herself.
I knew she was past the point where she would listen to reason. Usually she does but she was so invested in her emotions and feelings about how terrible those tights were. I didn’t want to do them for her that would lead to more noise every time she did tights until I help out. If I had worried about her happiness then I think I would have given her a cuddle and helped her with the tights but that wouldn’t have helped her in the long term. She would continue to want help and expect it in more instances in life to. She would lack the self belief that she can do it and during P.E at school would she need the teachers help?
That wasn’t what I wanted to do so I focused on how I wanted to react. She was doing her thing, what could I do? I could react with annoyance which would be easy because her reaction to putting her tights on was a little over the top to say the least. How would that help the situation? I would feel the horrid feeling of being annoyed, I’d probably raise my voice or talk with anger. Then I would have the day feeling bad about how I was with her.
I decided to be loving and accept her just how she was. From this place I found it easy to let her know clearly that we would leave soon and she had to get the tights on. I left her to it obviously unhappy with my reaction she continued to shout and stamp. Sure enough though, when it was time to go, I returned to her and there she was, ready tights and all. She was pleased with herself and happy to go to school. It was as if she’d done it with no problem!
As parents it can be easier for us to do the small things, it’s easier because we can do it quick with no fuss, but then we make it easy for them not to try. They may even think they can’t do it, but when they really give things their focus they are more than capable. That was a while ago now, before it she would ask for help with those tights very often, but she hasn’t since. Although she will still choose not to wear them if she can.
Is there something that you find yourself doing for your child to save the tantrum or time? What is it? Why do you do it? How about today you take the opportunity to teach them a new skill.