My husband and my son do not often always get along. I like to joke that had my husband and I met when we were five, I likely would have driven him crazy, potentially pulled his hair or hit him, and definitely told him he was my boyfriend whether he liked it or not. Our son is very much like me, and he has the same stubborn spirit that I had at that age. It can seem at times that these two boys I love above all others speak a completely different language. As my husband holds firm and speaks calmly in his language, my son’s exacerbation escalates and pleas become yells and at time physical fits of frustration.
Last week we had parent/teacher conferences, which meant that the kids came home early from school only to be jostled back into the car to sit patiently in the hallway while we spoke to their teachers. My kids are incredibly patient and go with the flow pretty easily. They’ve sat on planes on tarmacs during long delays, sat in airports waiting for a flight crew to arrive (seriously…ugh), stood in line waiting for rides, and have dealt with their crazy work at home mom hopping on expected calls just when they wanted to play a game. However, something really upset my son on this particular day. He did not want to put his shoes back on and leave the house, and nothing that my husband said to him worked to help him through his frustrations. By the time we got in the car, his little face was red and his body was tense. I could see that just speaking to him had the potential to launch him into a full on fit. But I tried it anyway.
“Noah, why didn’t you want to leave the house today?”
“Because it’s 11/11/11 and there was a new island on Poptropica today.” Poptropica.com is his favorite website. And in that moment I realized that this little guy waited for days, maybe weeks, for 11/11/11 to arrive. Then he waited patiently at school all day, trying to focus on his school work, knowing that when he got home he would be able to finally play this game and see this new level. Then five minutes after walking in the door, we told him he had to leave again.
Rather than tell him that he had to go with us to the school and there was simply no way around it, I focused instead on what he really cared about – his game. I let him know that it was really important to me that he had the chance to play Poptropica as soon as possible, and that it was a really exciting day since the new island was finally here! He enjoyed sharing his excitement and telling me more about the changes to the site that were being revealed that day. Then I told him exactly how long the meetings would last, what he would be doing during those meetings, why he couldn’t play Poptropica (no WiFi) until afterwards, but what time he would be able to play Poptropica.
And that was it. His demeanor changed. His body relaxed. The rest of the day went off without a hitch, and the arguments were done for the day!
Not only do we need to acknowledge our children’s emotions, but we also need to let them know that we value what they value. If it is important to them, it needs to also be important to us so that they know they are being heard and are a priority in our lives.