I was recently visiting family with my two children and my husband. At one point when I was with my cousin, my youngest, 21 months old, was playing a bit rough with the dog. I was redirecting him and showing him how to use gentle touches with the dog. He stopped.
The dog was under the chair my cousin was sitting on to do work on the computer. My son started to climb the chair and the dog growled at him as if to protect his owner. She misunderstood and thought he was being rough again and turned around and said, rather sternly, “Now Bobby, if you don’t stop that I’m going to spank your hand. You can’t do that to the dog.” I quickly explained that he wasn’t doing anything to the dog, just playing with her chair and scooped him up and took him out of the room.
A few minutes later, she came out and said, “I’m sorry. You know I wouldn’t really do that but I had to get him to stop. I hope you don’t think I’d do that.” “I know,” I said, “but next time I’d like you to just ask me to take him out of the room. I don’t want him to be hit and I don’t want him being told he’s going to be hit.” It was actually a very amicable conversation and I was pleased that I could be so clear with her without attacking her.
My husband and I left soon after. As we drove off in the car, I noticed I was feeling very anxious and scared and my thinking was fuzzy. I knew I could use some listening time. So when we stopped for gas, I went over to the side of the car where my husband was pumping gas and asked, “Could you just listen to me uninterrupted for about three minutes? I’m having some big feelings.” “Sure,” he said.
As I talked about what had happened at the house, I was able to remember:
1. My cousin loves children and was operating on the best parenting information she’s had access to. She is a good person and she cares deeply for my children.
2. I was able to do what I felt was necessary to keep my child safe. I did the very best for him and am able to make good on the spot decisions. He will not be scarred by that incident.
3. I am safe now. No one is going to hit me anymore. I know what to do to keep myself safe, and I am able to do that.
4. The fear I was experiencing was old. (I was hit repeatedly as a child.)
It was amazing to me how quickly I could recover my thinking, offload that anxiety, move on to have a relaxing, fun day with my family, and have no ill feelings towards my cousin. Sometimes three minutes is all it takes!
—Kirsten Nottleson, a Parenting by Connection Instructor in Austin, TX
Preserve your own peace of mind as a parent. Train someone close to you as a listener so that on a regular basis, or when times are tough, you have someone who can help you notice, identify, and shake the stresses that make parenting difficult. You deserve it!
-Join Certified Instructor Kirsten Nottleson in her Building Emotional Understanding course. Starts March 27. Register now.