I am a connected parent and I did the wrong thing. I messed up this evening. Big time. I broke connection and what could have been a minor inconvenience turned into an evening ruined.
You see, transitions are tough. Changes in plans are even worse. Throw in time restraints and it’s guaranteed things won’t go well.
I should have known and been prepared.
This post contains affiliate links. Please see disclosure (affiliate button at beginning of post) for details.
What Went Wrong
The kids were supposed to be at a movie hosted by volunteers this afternoon. I planned my afternoon around it. The kids would go to the movie and I would stay home to fix supper. Then we would eat on the way to a ball game.
I found out parents were supposed to stay at this event when I dropped the kids off. We were already there and I couldn’t just pack everyone up and say never mind, so I stayed. That meant supper wasn’t going to be ready. (Count them. Changes 1 and 2.)
Then the movie started late. (Change 3.)
My husband was able to throw something together for supper and meet us outside the movie so we could leave immediately for the game on time. This, however, meant two more unexpected things happened. We had to leave the movie before it was over and we did not have time to go home. (Change 4 and 5.)
I gave a warning at ten minutes. Then a five minute warning. All but one got up and walked out when I said it was time to go. I gave a gentle reminder that we had a game to go to and then walked out to the van. I knew that given time to process without pressure, the child would follow. (Transition.)
What I Did Wrong
By the time we were all in the van, we were running late. (Time Restraint.) The child who has the most difficult time with all of these triggers requested to go home for an mp3 player. I said no. When the child said, “I am dysregulated and need music,” I put my foot down and said, “Then you should have come when I told you to.”
I was so upset about my afternoon being messed up and now being late for this game that I did not consider what was going on inside my child. Focused on behavior, I could not hear the need behind it.
Seventy percent of children will stop there and understand the consequence of not coming right away. Some will not understand it at the moment, but begrudgingly accept it and eventually calm enough to understand. This child does not have that capacity of understanding. In that moment, the child was so stressed that it was impossible to reason.
Looking back, it was remarkable that the child was able to say, “I am dysregulated and need music.” I should be thankful for that progress.
Sadly, I failed to meet the need. We were literally right across the street from home. A few extra minutes would not have made a big difference. It also would have been easy to music from my phone. I could have found some way to say yes rather than place blame. Instead, I reasoned that I should be obeyed right away and if you don’t do so, you don’t deserve to get your way.
Why I was Wrong
Self-regulation is disabled in most children from hard places. It can look a lot like autism. Therefore, my main job is to help the child regulate, especially in stressful moments. If I am stressed, my child is probably stressed. Essentially, I am on double duty.
Maybe this illustration will help. Imagine the child is hearing impaired and during this busy afternoon, the hearing aide batteries died. I was not heard when I said it was time to go. Eventually, the child saw that we were gone and realized it was time to head out. Once in the van, the child informed me that we need to go home for batteries and I respond with, “You should have come when I told you to.” Do you see how ridiculously unfair that is? At the least, I could apologize for not picking up on the problem before, and then offer to interpret for the child.
By meeting the need, I could have averted disaster. I ignored the need and things quickly spun out of control. We never made it to the game.
What I Did Right
Knowing that children are meant to develop in a balanced environment of stress and protection, I shifted my stance. It took a lot of dysregulation to get there, but I learned from my mistake. We learn and grow within a cycle of rupture and repair. At the end of a long night, we were all ok because we all repaired relationships.
You will not be the perfect parent. Every parent will get stressed and try to regain control in unreasonable ways. Parents mess up, but these moments don’t define us. Remember to to keep the cycle going and regain balance through repair. And take care of yourself, because you are on double duty.
Parents, you’ve got this. It’s going to be ok.
See These Posts for More About Stress, Regulation, and Connected Parenting: