Part 2 of 2 ~ Letter to a client about what to do when her child shouts “I hate you!”
from my A Client Writes* series
(Continued from Part 1 of 2, posted on 25 February, 2013)
Let’s continue the math teacher example to start with.
A thoughtful teacher would stay focused on helping Suzy learn something. She’d also not tell herself unhelpful stories about Suzy being too stubborn, stupid, or lazy to learn. She might have noticed that Suzy had the numbers right, but backwards, and say:
“Suzy, you think the answer is eighty-four. Can you come put those numbers up on the board for us?”
Suzy goes to the board and writes (correctly) 48, whilst saying “eighty-four”.
“Ah! You’ve got the maths right yes, the answer is forty-eight, but in your mind you see the eight coming before the four don’t you? So you shouted out eighty-four! Let’s you and me chat later about how to get the numbers in the right order in your head – that can be tough!”
Whole different ball game, right?
No self-defending, shaming, giving up on, or belittling her. Suzy is probably excited to know she has the basic maths right, even though she sees she has some work to do in not muddling the numbers up.
To the extent we parents can come at these issues calmly, like a good teacher, we can help our children become excited about, and competent in, their emotional intelligence.
Meanwhile, back at home, if you can see Alice’s “mistakes” as attempts to tell you about her emotions, you can respond like the thoughtful teacher. Here’s how this might look.
“Oh Alice, you have strong feelings about this! Do you feel ~ [guess what she might be feeling here]
- irritated that I’m asking you to clear up now?
- maybe frustrated, since you’re nearly done?
- even resentful that grown-ups can stay up as long as they like on their projects?
- and maybe a bit sad, because it’s not going quite the way you’d hoped and you’re not sure how you’ll fix it tomorrow?”
If you’ve got the feelings wrong she will correct you, or you can ask her ~ “Where am I right and where am I wrong? Help me understand what you are feeling.”
Let her know that when she says something like “I hate you!” she may well be mad at you, but you wonder if there is more. And because you care, you want to help her figure this out. Let her know most people don’t like to be told someone hates them but there is a way she can talk about her feelings that will help her gets her needs met in a way that makes friends, rather than in a way that makes enemies.
Maybe what Alice needs now, as she stops her project prematurely, is to make sure she sets aside some more time tomorrow to finish it up and maybe she needs better glue since things keep falling off (or whatever – you get the idea, right!).
Let me know how this goes and what you notice.
Tomorrow: How to use Feelings to point toward Needs.
* My clients get much more than the typical “50 minute hour.” I’m on their team. I often write between sessions, and encourage regular texts and emails. In these intermittent “A Client Writes” postings, I share some tools and tips I’ve been asked about (after removing any identifying details of course). If you want some of this – let’s chat!
Gemma, this is so timely. I have heard this phrase in stereo this week (two boys).