Helping My Child Go From Complaining to Laughing!

The past two afternoons have ended with me trying to cook dinner while my daughter, in tears, tells me I’m the meanest mom in the world and never, ever, let her have what she wants. I should mention she says this after an hour long Special Time in which I have done everything she wanted. Oh, the irony, huh?

Lucky for my daughter I understand. Whenever we are feeling good, and safe with someone, the not-so-great-feelings come up to the surface. Getting everything we want can kick up those feelings from the times we didn’t get what we really needed. I notice after the hour-long Special Times she will ask for things she knows I’m going to say “No” too, like a bowl of cereal right before dinner. Or more TV when she knows she’s filled her limit for the day.

She goes deep into her frustration with each “No,” then runs to her room to be alone. I follow her in, empathize, tell her I love her and let her know I’m going to finish cooking dinner and will check on her soon.

When I check on her she asks again for the things she knows I’ll say “No” to. I tell her she can have more TV or computer time tomorrow, but not now. She cries more and yells about how she never gets anything she wants. She tells me to, “Go, now!” I tell her I’d like to sit with her a few more minutes before I go check on dinner again. This is just another blow to her, another example of her not getting what she wants. I listen more to her yells and cries, then go out to check on dinner.

When it’s time for dinner, I go back into her room and sit next to her. She buries her face into her pillow. I’m willing to listen to more tears if needed, but I’m also hungry and would like to eat a warm meal, so I think maybe shifting to humor will help.

Somehow it comes to me to say, “I have a present for you.” This makes her peek at me. Then I make my “naked mole rat face.” (Eyes closed tight, nose crunched up and front teeth sticking out!)

I make some little nibbling sounds. Luckily, she’s receptive to my attempt at humor and starts laughing.

“And, your second present is a wrestling naked mole rat!” I say, giving her the “vigorous snuggle.” She keeps laughing so hard she’s gasping for air, so I pause for a minute. “Oh my gosh,” she says, as she catches her breath, “That’s so funny.”

To keep the laughter going I make silly lizard faces and then warthog faces and she continues laughing deep belly laughs.

We take a breath, snuggle close and talk about how good it feels to laugh that hard. Then we get up and head to dinner. She shows dad all the funny faces and is in a great mood the rest of the evening. When she shows resistance to brushing her teeth at bedtime, I make more funny faces for a couple minutes and then she’s off to brush with no more resistance.

In the morning, the laughter continues as she requests more “face-making.” I love that we could move from tears to laughter in a way that was really helpful to her and me too. So go ahead, try making a naked mole rat face, and laugh the tension away!

~ Michelle Pate, Parenting by Connection Instructor and Consultant. Join her Building Emotional Understanding course, beginning March 14th. Connect with her on Facebook.

2 thoughts on “Helping My Child Go From Complaining to Laughing!

  1. It’s good to know mine isn’t the only one to complain unfairly after a special time, and to ask for obvious “no” items!

    I have enjoyed using similar humor at times, but then it “seems” to backfire, because it becomes another thing for her to control. One time I made her shoes talk to her in silly voices, begging her to put them on so they could enjoy some warm feet. But now, every day, more than once a day, I am begged to do the shoes’ voices… and for a really long time… and it’s no longer any fun for me! (And yes, I don’t always give in and do the voices, and yes, sometimes I do.)

    And then it feels like maybe my next attempt at humor might also go into the same “Things I can pester Mom to do for me” basket, and the whole thing escalates. It makes me reluctant to try anything else.

  2. Oh Marcy, I hear you! There have been times when I have wanted to scream, “Do I have to make everything FUN for you?? Can’t you just do XYZ without me having to make a game of it!?”

    It is a valid feeling for us to have as parents, especially when we are feeling tired and under-resourced ourselves. We are not going to always feel like Playlistening or Staylistening or having Special Time. Sometimes it’s going to feel like a drag, feel like our children want more from us than we could possibly ever give.But underneath those burdensome feelings is that yearning to connect deeply, to be playful, to listen to tears and give our hearts to our children.

    You deserve lots of support so you can keep your playful spirit going. And with your daughter, you can even be playful about not wanting to be playful. Let yourself roll on the floor groaning, “no, nooooo, no more playful, funny mommmy….puh-leaaaaazzee, i can’t be funny for one more second! Waaaahhhh! I don’t wannnaa.” This can help dissolve some of your tension while also meeting your daughter’s need for fun and giggles.

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