Getting Back on the Same Team
You know those days with your children when nothing you do or say seems to work, when no validation of their wants is enough, and every tiny thing that comes up turns into a huge drama?
I do, and I can assure you it feels so frustrating!
There are days I feel like nothing is enough to fill the enormous need for power my kids have, especially my older daughter. There are few things that trigger me as much as feeling helpless, feeling that none of the things I want matter to anybody at all. Yep, that's a big one for me! And then I feel this huge need for power myself, the need to control, to just stop my kids in whatever they're doing to feel powerful again. As you can imagine, that´s like adding fuel to the flames, and it usually ends with me losing my wits.
Last week, we had one of those days, and since I've started to practice SAY WHAT YOU SEE® (SWYS) for myself lately, I just gave it a chance:
Me: "Here I am, doing SWYS, validating my daughter's wants, facilitating her emotions, AND managing my own feelings of tiredness and frustration, making all these huge efforts to make our day work out, and nothing works. And I hate it!"
SWYS: "You really don't like that! It feels as if you are never enough, as if none of the things you want seems to matter at all!"
Me: (Big nod!) "I just want to have a peaceful day, enjoy my kids and have fun with them! Who wouldn't! And here we are struggling over a pair of socks again! I just want to stop it!"
SWYS: "You want to stop it right now, and that's not going to work. Your child wants to feel powerful, to feel that what she wants matters, and she is trying to get there by controlling you."
Me: "Yes! And that's not OK with me! That's not healthy at all!"
SWYS: "You don't like to be controlled at all—that´s definitely not ok with you—nor does she like to be controlled by you. Hmm, must be something you CAN DO to have a peaceful day, have fun with your kids, AND have her feel that her wants matter as well."
One of the things I love most about Language of Listening is that you can be so open and authentic about what's really going on. So, when I got to this point, I knelt beside my daughter who still looked really angry and defiant, and said: “Now I get it! You want to control me! You want to tell me what to do! That's OK. I can do that for a while. I think I can actually do that for 5 minutes. Go ahead. Tell me what I should do!”
When you bring out what's really going on, make it OK, so that children can feel THEY are OK the way they are, and then turn it over to them, that's where the magic happens.
Since my daughter is used to being in the lead in our Power Playtimes, she went straight into action. She took me outside into the garden where she grabbed a pair of pool noodles. She gave me one of them and started to fight me. She kept giving me instructions on what to do with the pool noodle while telling me about the game she had invented for us. It went something like this:
My daughter: “I'm a knight, and that's my castle (pointing at a spot of grass behind her). You are a knight as well, and that's your castle (grass behind me). We are fighting each other. We both have special powers.”
We fought a while with the pool noodles while she told me which powers she could use, and which special powers I had to fight her, while I accompanied the game with SWYS. At one point she told me that she had a treasure hidden in the woods behind her castle, and that I wanted to rob that treasure from her, and that she wanted to steal my treasure as well. So we both went and stole the other's treasure, again following her lead.
During the whole game, we seemed to be quite even in our special powers and nobody got to win at any point. That surprised me because I had expected that she would have wanted to win all the time. Instead, it felt like we were quite even. There had to be something more so since the time was up, I extended the boundary. This is when the magic happened:
Boundary: “5 minutes are up, and you know what? This is fun! I think I can do this for another 5 minutes.”
We kept playing similar versions of the same game for a few more minutes when she suddenly stopped in the middle of a pool noodle fight and told me:
My daughter: “We just realized that the other one was good!”
She told me to act that out, so I said:
SWYS: “Oh, you aren't really bad, you are good!” and she nodded, and we had to hug, and the knights became friends.
My daughter: “Now they are on the same team!”
SWYS + STRENGTH: “Now they are on the same team. You did that exactly the way you wanted!”
No need to say that this made our day. We didn't have any more fights for the rest of the day. My daughter had met her own need for power through her play in a way that was totally fine with me. She knew what she needed. The very moment I opened up a space where she could do that in a way that was OK with me, she did what she had to do, and that was it! It is a truly amazing experience to see how kids really know what they need!
So, here we are, back again on the same team, working together instead of against each other. And I have learned a huge lesson of trust. Knowing how resourceful my daughter is when it comes to meeting her own needs, I´m learning to step back, create these moments of safe space where she can do what she needs to do, and then we go back to our daily stuff. I also feel that thanks to the playtimes, my daughter has learned to trust me and the space I offer her to do whatever she needs to do, being just OK the way she is.
And look at that: In the end we wanted the same thing—to get back on the same team!
Angelika Wetter is a cultural anthropologist, language teacher, and mom of two little whirlwinds. Ever since her daughters came into her life, she has been fascinated by the way children see the world. In Language of Listening® she found the perfect companion to explore and understand her children´s world, support them right where they are, and grow for and with them along the way. She is looking forward to sharing her enthusiasm for Language of Listening as a coach for parents in Argentina (where she lives with her family) and her native country Germany.