Last week while cleaning up the kitchen pantry, I stumbled upon a few packs of chocolate cookies that had been opened, were half finished, sitting there for over 8 months. I decided to chuck them in the bin. Pari spotted her favourite cookies on the kitchen bench, just as I was about to discard them and insisted I let her eat them.
I tried my best to explain to her in easy terms what an expiry date meant and why she shouldn’t eat these. I even offered to take her shopping later in the day to buy fresh biscuits. But Pari stayed put. She tried getting the packs from me but I distracted her, sending her to play. Half an hour later having cleaned up the pantry, I retired to working on the computer.
Around an hour from then, when I went into the kitchen to fetch a water bottle I let out a scream when I saw Pari fishing out the cookie packets from the bin. She saw me, looked straight in my eyes, pulled out a cookie and almost ate it (okay it was 1/10000000 inch close to her lips though not touching it). I thundered, warning her to stop. She dared me and bit on the cookie. I was so mad that I pulled the pack from her hands and gave her a smack on her back.
No prizes for guessing how Pari reacted. I was too angry (mainly because Pari had had a course of antibiotics hardly 12 days ago for a stomach infection) to bother consoling my obviously agitated, disturbed child. When her grandma tried to console her, she brushed her away and went to sleep. She slept in hardly ten minutes and that’s when I got back to my work.
In the evening, when I tried to talk to her, after initial reluctance, she did warm up a little but all along I could sense her hurt. Pari is a very emotional child who doesn’t shy away from letting her feelings show. Her emotional maturity sometimes matches mine. I was just like her as a child and am quite similar even today. What’s in my heart is always written bold and clear on my face.
A couple of days passed and soon it was weekend. I had made Pari to sit and finish her homework while I supervised our domestic help. Suddenly, Pari refused to do the homework and very angrily blurted “Mumma, I don’t want to do anything what you say. You don’t love me that’s why I won’t talk to you from now.”
The helper waited for me to react, but I didn’t. We continued working and Pari in absence of anymore provocation went quiet. Though in my head a bomb was ticking, I decided to think it out before saying anything. From the corner of my eye I had seen Pari scribbling the notebook dirty where she had been practicing the numbers.
In the hours that followed, my mind was over-working, analysing what had I done wrong to trigger such a reaction in Pari. My mind swung back to the time I had said something similar to my parents. It was when I was going through a bout of depression and when my parents had commented that I was behaving crazy, there was nothing so serious to make me feel the way I had been feeling. This was when I had lost my cool.
What had followed in my case was from then on was I had hidden myself in a shell, choosing to never again share my true feelings with my parents because I knew they would never understand. The bouts of depression reappeared often and I spent many precious years of my life suffering silently.
How could I prevent the same from happening with Pari?
“Just like children, emotions heal when they are heard and validated.” ~ Jill Bolte Taylor
Validation simply means that you acknowledge your child’s feelings and understand (or make an attempt to understand) where he or she is coming from. It doesn’t have to mean that you like or agree to what they have to say, but be patient enough to hear out their point of view.
This time, I had ushered Pari to move on but had failed to validate her emotions, that were now gnawing at her innocent self making her throw tantrums like she did this Sunday.
“Trauma is personal. It does not disappear if it is not validated. When it is ignored or invalidated the silent screams continue internally heard only by the one held captive. When someone enters the pain and hears the screams healing can begin.” ~ Danielle Bernock
What did I do?
I sat Pari up by my side and asked her to tell me what had been disturbing her. I could see tears well up in her eyes and soon they were in mine too. But this was not the moment to be lost crying. She told me how hurt she had felt on the day of the cookie incident. I could have interrupted to repeat to her the same lecture I had given her on food expiry dates or in how unhygienic dust bins are, but I resisted. I wanted her to purge out her pent up hurt and anger.
This time, I was interested in hearing out her part of the story because I already knew my side of it. It turned out that Pari had acted resistant knowing well that she had been caught red-handed because she wanted to show me she won’t let me if anyone for that matter win without a fight.
Thinking from a 4-year-olds perspective, I could now see how strong and brave she had actually been instead of playing obstinate as I had seen then.
She too could read from my face, my awe-struck, painted in guilt expression that where she came from was beginning to make sense to me. We both ended with tears in our eyes, saying sorry to each other, hugging tightly and determined that from here on we both shall listen to each other before reacting.
Did this act of validating my child’s feelings work?
I could see the tensed look on Pari’s face ease out immediately. She looked relieved as if a burden had been lifted off her tiny shoulders. She herself sat down to finish her homework and took care to rub off the scratches she had made earlier in the day. All this while, I act busy but in my heart I was feeling that finally I had taken the right turn. This incident has restored Pari’s faith in me that she can walk up to me and share all she pleases and I will listen to her.
What I think helped was my being open, attentive and interactive while Pari poured her heart out to me. I did not even attempt to act wise or in control because it was not about me. It was all about letting her speak, her thoughts to someone in hope that her side of the story is valued, her emotions mean something to me. That she is precious to me. Isn’t this also what I had promised to her when I had said I’d listen to you, always?
Do you practice validation with your child?
Have you craved for validation in your life at any point?
* This post is part of the April A to Z Challenge 2016. My theme is Parenting.
Please find my other posts here.
** My laptop died yesterday and has refused to be revived since. With the final 5 days to go for the A to Z challenge, I’ll be trying to post using the WordPress app like today. Please bear with me if I miss out on reading your posts or with errors on mine.