You Can Do It
Filed Under (coping strategies)

A friend and I took our four daughters on a long walk.  On the return trip, with a mile to go, my friend’s daughter declared that she had to use the bathroom and no, it couldn’t wait.  Immediately the girl was showered with suggestions from the group – knock on that door, go in the woods, cross your legs….none of our suggestions were appealing.

My friend, silently assessing a daughter she knew best, said, “I think you can make it.  Make a goal for yourself.  Get to the next telephone pole.”  Concentrating on the more manageable task of walking a few hundred feet, the girl felt less anxious.  Arriving at her checkpoint, the girl said with relief, “I did it!”  Mom congratulated her and asked what the next goal would be.  Checking in with her again, the girl sounded more hopeful.  If she could repeat this process a few more times, she would be home.  Confident now, and armed with a strategy, the girl skipped ahead to join her friends.

Considering the alternative, less constructive, methods of dealing with this familiar crisis, my friend gets a gold star.  Had she released a condescending ‘you know you should’ve gone before you left the house’ or a frustrated ‘you’ll just have to hold it’ this mom would have disempowered and humiliated her daughter.  Instead, she conjured up a teachable moment and calmly demonstrated a way to manage a crisis.

 Every day parents have the chance to build a child up or demoralize her.  Often our go-to reactions are the ones that do damage.  They might be the methods our parents used on us.  They are reflexive.  If we could just remember to pause and count to ten before we speak, we might have the chance to override our irritation, disappointment, and frustration and choose instead to add to a child’s self-esteem instead of ripping it out from under her.

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