Today, I watched an incredible interaction between parent and child.
The child came into our music school for his music lesson– crying uncontrollably. His mom told his music teacher he was in a little bit of a mood, then she turned back to him and spoke to him very calm and reasonably. She asked if he was taking deep breaths, and told him he knew what he had to do to calm down. He started breathing bigger. She encouraged him, reminding him that music lessons are only 30 minutes, and he could make it through. He listened to her and asked for water. She asked him to say “please”. Kindly, and through tears, he did. She got him water, she talked to him until he was ok (though not done crying), and she let him deal with his emotions and slowly calm down. He proceeded to his lesson and made it through the half hour without another tear.
Here’s what amazed me about this interaction:
His mother wasn’t upset that he was upset. She wasn’t shaming him, she wasn’t embarrassed by him, she wasn’t taking his mood personally. She didn’t tell him to shut down his emotions, or speak to him like he didn’t have the capacity to manage them or that they were something out of line or burdensome. She didn’t tell him they were ridiculous or that he was being dramatic. She didn’t shame him for being male and crying–she didn’t tell him he should buck up or that boys don’t cry or to be “strong”. He was not in defense mode. His ego was not triggered. He was able to help himself with her guidance, patience, and calm support. She did not compromise her role as his teacher, nor did she take a disciplinary route I’ve seen so often.
I don’t see this kindness between parent and child often. I mean, in general I don’t see too many kids crying in public since I stopped teaching in the elementary classroom, but when I do usually the parent is trying their best, but they’re also tired and worn out and so I see emotion reacting off of emotion.
Often you’ll see a child’s emotions shut down, or a parent trying to help their kid but not totally understanding how, and so growing impatient. When a vulnerable and hurting emotional self is met with ego (defense or offense) the self will harden up and get more resistant to help or helping one’s self. Ego triggers ego, especially with children. When we can be mirrors for those we love in crisis instead of judge or fixer, we give others the safety and the support to help themselves.
I don’t mean to make judgments of parents who would react any other way. This mother has her privileges, some mothers don’t and that can affect their patience. I am just pleased to see this kind of enlightened parenting happening around me, to children I care about. This woman is clearly psychologically aware, and sees her child as able to comprehend his own mind and mental awareness. This is the kind of awareness that will lift the stigma off of those suffering from mental illness, as well as those of us who just have a lot of emotions.