Does this sound familiar??
This morning after I changed Spike, Spike’s diaper, I slipped on his pants and we went to his room to find a shirt. He picked one, but refused to put it on. I let it go figuring I would try again in a minute. About 1/2 an hour later, I noticed my little man running around the house without his shirt. I gave him three more options. He chose the same shirt, but again refused to put it on. I told him he needed to wear one and that it was time to get it on. (At our house, we all wear shirts and pants/shorts/skits—something on the top and something on the bottom—just the rules of the house.)
Spike, Spike was not willing to cooperate. I finally just put him in it. He was fighting, screaming, and flailing the entire process—all 30 seconds of it. Then because he cannot yet remove his shirt by himself, he pulled and yelled, “NOT THIS!!” complete with big, alligator tears. It dawned on me that he probably wanted to wear his ‘Uperman” shirt, but it needed to be washed. (We had that conversation earlier in the day.) I asked if he wanted his Superman shirt. “Yes!!! Uperman irt!!”
“Well, it needs to be washed. We will wash it and dry it and then you can wear it. But until it is ready, you need to wear the monkey shirt.”
(I had already let him wear his Uperman shirt three days without washing it and one night was a spaghetti dinner. It really needed to be washed!) “Do you want to help me put it in the washing machine?”
Another light bulb—his breakfast was sitting on the table untouched. I had placed it there two hours ago.
“Are you hungry? Do you need some food?”
I warmed up his breakfast, got his rice milk, and we sat on the step with his oood.
He was scowling. “Just one bite,” I coaxed. “Just one.”
He grimaced and reluctantly took the fork with one tiny piece of French toast attached.
“Put it in your mouth.”
He took a little nibble off of the piece of toast. A look of surprise crossed his face, “Hmmm that’s good.”
Then he did.
It just sounds so much like most of us. We have a specific idea of what we want or how something should go. Then it doesn’t turn out that way and we are frustrated or irritated at the process. We fight. We kick. We scream. (Well, maybe you don’t, but I do….) We want it our way and we will just keep doing things our way until we get what we want!!!
If our needs aren’t being met our attitude is worse—any needs, physical, emotional, spiritual, recreational, psychological, etc…. But this is a key point. When we understand which of our needs is not being met and why THIS particular issue is so important to us (by dissecting the emotions we are feeling and really thinking about why we want it a certain way) we usually can come to realize new information about ourselves, which will either help us meet our unmet need or recognize why we are functioning a certain way. Once our needs are met, the issue usually isn’t that big of a deal, or we have more strength and energy to manage the drama we are creating. (Once Spike, Spike’s blood sugar went up, he didn’t really care that he needed to wear a shirt. The issue was not about wearing a shirt, it was about how hungry he was. He did want to wear a specific shirt, which once it was out of the dryer, we put on him. Does that make sense?)
Sometimes things we are holding fast to, or things we think we cannot do without are really more about unmet needs we may not be aware of. Take care of those needs (easier said than done, because sometimes you really have to analyze yourself to figure them out) and the drama can just go away.
Next time you are working with a really frustrated person, child or otherwise, ask them why they are frustrated and listen for clues they share with you about what the particular situation means to them. How are they viewing the situation/interaction/comment? What label are they attaching to the behavior? Find the underlying emotion (it is never anger, anger is always secondary…there is another emotion under that). Label the emotion and ask them if [this] is what they are feeling. Empathize with their emotion, “That must be really difficult,” or “How frustrating,” or “I am so sorry.”
You don’t have to give any advice or fix it for them. Sometimes they just need to know someone else cares how they feel. If they are your baby, pick them up and love them. Fix what you can and let the rest go. Help them make the world right. Take the time. They deserve it.
It’s what Heavenly Father does with His time. Now if someone would just listen to me….Oh Wait! He does!