I just want to blame the blister—but the fault was all mine.
My daughter has a huge blister right on the back of her heel, so the morning’s meltdown was all about how she couldn’t. Possibly. Go. Back. To. Camp.
And I jumped straight into problem solving mode. I brightly told her “we’ve got moleskin, plain moleskin, padded moleskin, circular patches of moleskin with holes in the center. We can put on a small piece, a big piece, a piece going horizontally to wrap part way around your ankle.” And the more I tried to fix it, the quieter she got.
Because, it turns out, I wasn’t actually helping. I was mixing everything up.
Did you ever learn Pretty Please My Dear Aunt Sally in math class? It was a way to remember Parenthesis Powers Multiplication Division Addition Subtraction. Basically, it’s telling us the order we must use to solve a problem, or we’ll mess it all up and get the wrong answer. You can’t subtract before you multiply. The order of operations matters.
And this morning I got the order of operations wrong. I tried to do facts before feelings. And so when I thought I was building her up, what I was really doing was shutting her down. Her shoulders slumped, her eyes dropped to look at the floor, and then her lips trembled.
She didn’t want moleskin, she wanted me.
She wanted me to understand her, to see her, to be with her, to get what she was feeling so she wasn’t feeling it alone.
#feelingsbeforefacts. That’s Summer of Love Week 4.
In parenting, in any relationship, when someone tells us their story, they aren’t doing it to relay the facts, they are doing it so we understand how they feel. When we hear “So and so asked me to do such and such before blah blah blah!”, there is an emotional truth underneath it. Sometimes we hear it and reply “Oh! No wonder you are so upset!”
And other times we miss it and jump straight to the facts. We try to problem solve, fix, convince, justify. Think back to the last time your kiddo yelled “That’s not fair!” What was your response?
When we hear what they feel, we’re offering them empathy. “Ugghh, what a disappointment.” “Yes, how stressful!” “Wow. I can see by your face you have big feelings about that.” (a good go-to line with little kids when you aren’t quite sure exactly what they are feeling).
Empathy doesn’t mean we necessarily agree. We may think their response to our saying no is crazy. That’s okay. Empathy just means we see that from their side of things, that’s how they feel. We get their perspective. Empathy means they don’t feel it alone.
So this week, when you hear a story, take a breath. Listen for the emotion. Empathize. And don’t do anything else. Because often that’s enough. Acknowledging their emotional truth is fixing the problem.
#feelingsbeforefacts. Give it a whirl. Let me know how it goes. I promised to understand how you feel.
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