A few weeks ago we dropped the boys off at my parents house and they had some people over who gave myself and DadingWITHOUTanxiety some weird vibes. You know what I’m talking about, parents. The mom radar went off. When we went to leave I could see that Biggie was acting off, standing off by himself and looking upset. I went over and asked him if he was ok, and if he was nervous. He told me yes because he didn’t know who that man was and didn’t know his name. I reassured him, told him to stay with Gramma and Papa, and that I was proud of him for telling me how he feels.
This got me thinking when we left about how truly proud of him I was. That my unease about this stranger was also shared by our 4 year old. I was proud of his intuition and that he felt comfortable enough to tell us he wasn’t comfortable. DadingWITHOUTanxiety and myself both work in Law Enforcement, so we have a heightened awareness of the world already, and spend a large amount of time reinforcing the positive role of public safety to our boys.
I read a lot of op-eds about not forcing your kids to hug anyone, or say hi to anyone. I agree with this- if we are trying to teach our children about safety, it counteracts things if we force them to say hi to every stranger in Target. (but is anyone really a stranger at Target? I digress. #TargetisLife.) Just last night we went to dinner and were dealing with the elderly female magnets that the boys are in public, per policy. It prompted another conversation about the rule we have for the kids- if we say hi, you can too. Otherwise we don’t talk to strangers. We also told him that if he didn’t want to say hi back, he didn’t have to-even if Mommy and Daddy were being friendly.
Biggie has been going through some epic meltdowns lately and the talking back is Debate Club level. (If every sentence out of their mouth doesn’t start with “but” do you even have a 4 year old?) We cut him off a lot during these arguments and sometimes I notice that it isn’t just him trying to get the last word. Sometimes he is legit upset because he is trying to be heard and we are not listening. I try to really pay attention to him and give him a chance to talk if I can. I think this is similar to the “stranger danger” episode. We spend a lot of time talking to and at our kids. A lot of energy into shaping their minds and teaching them to be aware of their surroundings so they can be safe. In turn, we need to give them the space to think for themselves and engage back. I want them to have the confidence to say when something doesn’t feel right and know that we have their backs. I want to be able to pause in the middle of one of the meltdowns when I notice he is desperately trying to be heard. I don’t want to talk AT them, I want to talk WITH them. And then take away their iPad because they actually were, in fact, just talking back 😉
Kids are a lot more aware then we realize. And I want to teach mine to stand up for themselves, say when something makes them uncomfortable, and be able to talk to us when they are upset or scared. And to do that I need to make sure I am listening.