I was listening to the audiobook for "Hold on To Your Kids" by Gordon Neufeld and Gabor Maté and
heard him speak of frustration. Specifically the importance of not intervening in the frustration-acceptance cycle. A couple things clicked in my head. Things we're collectively doing wrong as a society and of which I am personally guilty.
Frustration is the reaction of mankind to reaching limits or boundaries (which Neufeld calls 'futility'), wether spiritual, intellectual or physical. In order to work through the frustration, the brain goes through a set of steps to reach acceptance of the limit: frustration - anger - sadness - acceptance
Often, when we expose our kids to a limit and face their - sometimes heartbreaking - sadness, we are prone to 'give in'. We feel like we are making them cry, we feel incapacitated and fear we've done something wrong. Thus, disallowing them to reach the stage of acceptance, when all the while they were so close.
Whereas, when a child has reached that acceptance, it is integrated. The limit becomes part of his frame.
A little example: My son saw the box of cookies we had received for his birthday and wanted one. I gave one, telling him he could have just the one, since it's not good for his teeth (I'm not one for food restrictions, but he does have pretty bad teeth, read here what we're doing about that). He happily toddled away with the cookie and munched on it for a couple of minutes. Low and behold, when the cookie was done, he came back to the kitchen?
No, I said, you already had the one.
His face turned to anger: "Cookie!" he said in a persistent tone.
I told him no.
He then fell to the ground and cried, stomping his feet and covering his cute little face.
*ENTER BAD PARENTING MOMENT*
"If he feels that strongly about the cookie," I thought to myself, "why don't I let him have one? It's pretty random to give him just the one." So I give in, and give the cookie.
Now one cookie isn't the end of the world. But it is important as a parent to know that we cannot save our children from frustration, and know, that frustration is an essential part of growth.
A little sidenote: Obviously, some limits can be reconsidered. Sometimes we set limits for our children without even knowing why, and it is ok to reevaluate. However, if we sense in ourselves that this is one we should stick to, we shouldn't be persuaded by their tears of grief. Instead, we should nurture those tears, and guide our children through. We will come out stronger - both the parent and the child.
Having been parented through fear, we often shy away from the hard stuff, fearing ourselves to do to our children what has been done to us. But sadness and frustration, the sense of futility, they are part of life, they are what inspires growth.
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photo credit: rachel sian via photopin cc