Soft, Soft

 

When I was a young mother I was standing in the foyer at church with a friend whose youngest child was the same age as my oldest child. She was an experienced mother who had raised several well-behaved, happy children. We were in the middle of a conversation when her 4-year-old son kicked her in the shin. My first thought was, “My child will never get away with that”, and felt like she should stop talking to me and punish him right then. But she just looked down at him, made a sad face and said, “Oh, please don’t kick me, that hurts”. I thought, “What…” she didn’t spank him or even get really angry with him.

Side note: she also told him that she knew he was ready to go home because that was the reason he was trying to get her attention. Likewise hits can also be a result of an underling, unresolved problem that needs to be addressed.

Now that I’ve parented a little longer I realize that if a child is yelling it is ineffective to yell, “stop yelling”. Or if they hit someone it’s not a good example to spank them and tell them to not hit. So what should you do what should you do when your child hits?

Modeling appropriate behavior and teaching empathy can be ways to teach a child to be kind and not hit. Empathy is defined as “the ability to understand and share the feelings of others”. If your child hits you, or another child let them see how it made you feel. Make a sad face and tell them it hurt and made you feel sad. If they are old enough to understand ask, “Do you like it when someone hits you”? “How do you think it makes your brother feel when you hit him”?

Once when I was holding my toddler while he was being really rough he hit me on the jaw. It really hurt and my natural instinct was to feel angry or physically punish him. Instead I tried something different. I made a frowning face and kindly said, “Oh no, don’t hit, be soft” and then, smiling I softly stroked his cheeks and repeated, “Soft”. He imitated what I did and said “boff”. After that when there would be hits he’d remember and say, “Soft” and he’d want to gently stroke some ones arm or cheek.

Now, the bad news is that this is not usually a quick fix. It can take a long time for a child to learn not to hit when they are feeling frustrated, mistreated or uncomfortable. But if you are able to muster enough self-control to not strike back, or get angry, they will eventually learn by example to be kind and not hit.

To learn more about how to teach children to appropriately deal with feelings in a kind way, take a look at the last post Lindsey wrote titled, Feelings.

Feelings

Growing up my mom used to say, “feelings are not right or wrong, they just are.”

I think that it’s easy to see how others respond emotionally to a situation and think, “they shouldn’t be feeling that way.” But you know what? Their feelings are not wrong.  Many times we can’t help how we feel.

I talk to my students a LOT about feelings.  We talk about how our actions might make others feel.  We talk about how good choices make us feel good inside and bad ones make us feel bad inside.  We also talk about how it’s okay to feel mad, or sad, or hurt.

I remember one day a few months ago our lesson talked about getting mad and how we deal with those feelings.  As I told the kids that it’s OKAY to get mad every child became perfectly still and all eyes were on me.  There are times when kids are listening completely and absorbing every.single.thing you are saying.  It doesn’t happen often, but when it does if feels almost magical! I told them that feeling upset, mad and angry was normal.  I told them that even I feel that way sometimes.  I told them that feeling that was is okay.  They took it all in.

I took the opportunity to take it further.  I then proceeded to talk about what we do with those feelings.  I told them that while it is okay to get mad it’s not okay to react certain ways.  They listened as I told them that it’s not okay to hurt someone, or break something, or yell at other people.  We proceded to talk about some acceptable ways to deal with anger.  The kids shared how they cope with those types of feelings.  One student said he liked to hug someone.  Another student said he likes to go to his room and be away from everybody.  Another student talked about how it helps relieve his anger if he can run or move his body.  I let them know that those were all great ways to deal with anger.  I told them that there have been 3 or 4 times in my life when I felt so angry that I couldn’t take it.  I told them that I liked being alone, just the way that one of them had talked about.  I also told them that those few times I put my face in my pillow and I screamed!  I screamed as loud and as long as I could.  The kids chuckled, but I knew they were really thinking about it.

It’s healthy for kids to hear that adults have feelings just like them.  It’s good for them to know that they aren’t alone in the way that they feel.  It’s also really good for them to hear the right way to deal with those feelings.

I read this article the other day.  I thought it was really good.  That’s actually what got me thinking about all this.

Talk to your children and students about their feelings and reactions.  Just remember that the heat of the moment is not the best time to talk about it.  Talk about it afterwards or when you have time in the car.  It’s hard to think and take in new ideas when you are feeling emotionally charged.  Let your kids know that their feelings are normal and brainstorm good ways to deal with them.  Hey!  You could even talk to your peers or spouse about it since everyone has feelings–they are a part of life and aren’t going anywhere.