Reya stepped on Gautham’s head while he was laying down and an argument ensued. Gautham tried to talk to her but she was too upset. He left the room and Reya was crying. I went over to her and we talked. Here are some parts of that conversation.
Reya: *Crying* Daddy is angry at me and he was so rude to me!
Me: I saw that. How did it make you feel?
Reya: It made me sooo sad 😭
Me: Why do you think daddy acted that way?
Reya: I don’t wanna talk about that part. (*lol I love her honesty)
Me: I think we need to talk about all the parts but we can do after some time has passed.
Minutes later, when she was ready to talk about that part;
Reya: Daddy said I hurt him but I didn’t hurt him!
Me: Did he say he was hurt?
Reya: Yes but he was not hurt!
Me: When someone says how they feel we have to believe him. I believe that you didn’t mean to hurt him and I also believe that daddy felt hurt.
Me: Go and talk to him. This is how you make stronger love – by figuring things out together. And you and daddy have strong love.
Reya: I am feeling sad so I will make some warm milk to take care of myself first. Then I will say sorry. (*Haha – we stan a self care queen)
A few minutes later, I overhear her with Gautham.
Reya: Dad, I’m sorry for ruining your life.
I’m sure you can imagine that she fills my days with so much laughter. She’s sassy, sweet, goofy and so self-aware.
My conversations with her have always been important to me. We’ve been communicating from before she could even speak. We always ask for her opinion on matters, we welcome her in our conversations and decision making and we amplify her voice. I want her to grow up knowing that her voice matters. I want her to grow up with self awareness and emotional intelligence, as these two things are important for me in my own growth journey. As such, communication has always been an integral part of our household and each year brings to light new layers of communication and true connection between all of us. Reya just turned 4. Here are some of the communication skills we practice daily.
Help them process the things that happen
The good and the bad.
Something as simple as not being able to go to the ice rink/playground/aquarium (some of Reya’s favourite places) when she wanted to can be so disappointing for her. Devastating, even. After something significant happens in our day, I believe it’s important to address the topic again at a later time when she is in a calm and regulated state.
I say something like; “Hmm, we didn’t get to go to the aquarium today as you wanted to, did we?”
And then I just leave space for her to share her thoughts on it. Sometimes she is reminded that she is still upset about it and we can talk through it. Other times, she has already found closure and has the freedom to express that too.
I also bring up the good events too so we can express gratitude or however else we feel about it. “What was your favourite thing you did at Disney world?”
This has taught us to reflect on the things that happen to us in our day and ultimately, in our life. It reminds us that all kinds of things happen to us in our life, but we can always work though them.
Show them how to resolve disputes
In a similar vein, as a family, we try to practice resolving disagreements that come up with thoughtful discussion. The first step is always to listen. We all struggle with that at times. After some sort of disagreement (usually with her Gautham haha), I encourage her to go and talk it out with him. I tell her that love becomes stronger when we figure things out together. It builds trust and intimacy. She knows now that talking things out is the final and most important step after a dispute. She doesn’t always want to do it, which is fine by me. It takes all of different lengths of time to process things internally before we are ready to discuss with another person in a balanced way.
Of course, from an adult perspective, all of her concerns/issues can feel insignificant in the grand scheme of things, but two things I know about the little things are:
🌸 How you handle the little things as a family will evolve into how we handle the big things too.
🌸 Little things are not little for our young children. Their entire world/life is built on just a handful of things; a few key family members that she knows best, her favourite tv show, her favourite toy, her favourite place to go, the things she likes to eat, and the things she does not like to eat, maybe a particular thing she’s been trying to do etc. It’s all so simple, but when one of these things is altered without her consent, of course it is devastating.
Learn to love problem solving
Life can sometimes feel like a series of problems that crop up which require our care and attention. Our perspective on problems can make the difference between a tiring and depleting life versus a nourishing and expansive one. Problem solving is a skill that can enhance almost every aspect of it. If we see problems as opportunities, and if we can actually enjoy the process of problem solving, life becomes fun!
When we hit a roadblock, Reya and I brainstorm different outcomes, and different things we can do. Sometimes we play this in bed where I give her different scenarios and we talk about all the different ways we could handle it and what the outcome would be.
By practicing this, we learn to be someone who is always solution focused and ultimately we change the way we look at life.
make mistakes and reflect on them
We try to create a safe space to make mistakes that will not endanger her health or safety. No shame, no judgement, no scolding. Just natural consequences and ownership. I have told her that there are three parts to an apology; the ownership, the words, and the action. An apology is not a real apology without all these three parts.
Ownership is reflecting on our contribution to the mistake.
The words are “I’m sorry for…..”.
The action is what we will do next time for a different outcome. I will ask something like “Oh what can we do next time to make sure we don’t spill our drink?” and we can can brainstorm things like “Maybe we can try walking with the glass in our hand instead of running next time.”
Hold space without teaching
As a parent there are so many opportunities to teach. But there is so much value in refraining and simply holding space for our children to just be and share what is within them without any kind of intervention. When she tells me a story about her day, even if it’s one that has a great “lesson” in it – like if she did something “wrong”, or if she witnessed a friend doing something “wrong”, I just listen! I just ask questions and let her share. Imagine how annoying, frustrating and unfulfilling it would feel if you were sharing about your day and someone keeps trying to “teach you” something about it. I think this is a key component of building a friendship with your child.
These are some of the things we are learning together. Parenting my children involves re-parenting myself, and it has been a beautiful and awakening experience.
Watching her grow has been such a joy.
But the thing is, I’m also growing up.
I’m so happy she gets to witness that too.