I just wanted to clarify something that I wrote about on Saturday...about fairness...
Remember when I was talking about Seth's frustration and sadness about the unfairness of having to fold the blankets when Lizzie had also used the blankets? Remember how he and I engaged in discussion about fairness and he asked (and I answered) questions about why I'd let this unfairness happen given that I'd also experienced similar feelings of unfairness with my little sister?
I wanted to add this: I didn't engage in any of that discussion with him until after he'd gone through the frustration and had experienced the sadness of feeling the futility of his circumstances, and until he'd come to a place of rest about it - which happened to take place on the same day/hour, but which might not have (in which case I'd have waited to have the conversation with him until a different time/day or just not had any conversation about it at all and simply waited for another experience of futility with him).
When we are in the height of frustration or sadness, it's doesn't help (and, in fact, can hurt) to go to logical/rational thinking - ie. pondering the 'why' of things. This is an interesting factor in the idea of futility and adaptation because for so many of us it seems so easy, natural even (because it's the way we've been raised) to go right to the head knowledge stuff rather than experiencing the emotions of frustration and sadness. I wanted Seth to live with his feelings for a while and therefore I chose not jump to his head for a discussion based on rational thought. It's the feelings of sadness that come from a soft heart that ultimately lead to adaptation, not the encouragement of thought and rationale. My goal is to let the kids live in their feelings of sadness for as long as it takes, so that they empty themselves of those feelings and experience having survived the experience. That's what leads to adaptation.
I'll give you the example that our Neufeld consultant gave us some time ago, that made a lot of sense to me.
Imagine a child asking for a cookie just before dinner. I, as the parent, say no to that request and the child puts up a fuss and perhaps tries to reason me into allowing the cookie. If I'm engaging his head (ie. trying to reason with him), the conversation might go something like this:
Me: "No, you can't have a cookie right now."
Child: "But why?"
Me: "Because we've having dinner shortly and eating a cookie now will spoil your appetite for supper."
Child: "No it won't Mommy. I'll just eat one, ok?"
Me: "I want your tummy to be nice and hungry for supper in just a little while, honey."
Child: "But it will be Mommy. I promise. I'll still be hungry. I'll eat my supper."
Me: "How about we have one or even two cookies after supper? That way we'll make sure your tummy is hungry and you can still have cookies to eat."
Child: "I don't want them after supper. I want them now. You gave me one before...."
The conversation might continue on at this point, where the child continues to argue or negotiate and I counter each of his arguments with my own statement about why it's not going to happen.
But think about what the problem is here: Have you ever heard your child, after you tell him that he can't have the cookie because it'll spoil his dinner, say something like "Oooh! Now I understand why I can't have a cookie. I won't ask that again."
Of course not...they don't have these lightbulb kinds of moments based on reason and rationale. They're not primed to learn that lesson in that moment of frustration, especially if I continue to engage in the argument with him.
What if, on the other hand, I have this conversation with the child:
Me: "No, honey, you can't have a cookie."
Child: "But why?"
Me: "Because Mommy said no."
Child: "But Mommy, I really want a cookie...just one??"
Me: "No, I'm sorry. I know you want one. But No cookie now."
Child: "Please Mom? Just one?"
Me: "No, Mommy said no darlin'."
Child starts to cry - perhaps out of frustration. He is experiencing the wall of futility. I am the wall of futility.
Me (perhaps hugging child): "That's so hard. You really wanted that cookie."
Child (still crying): "I did. I do. Can I have one?" (hopefully)
Me (sympathetically): "No. No cookie."
Cue more crying, eventually leading to sadness - when he fully understands that the cookie is not forthcoming. I'd offer comfort and any of my kids would accept it when they're crying sad tears. And eventually, after feeling that sadness of futility (ie. they're sad because they simply cannot change the outcome to what they wanted), they would simply accept that there is no cookie coming before dinner. They don't argue it any more b/c there's nothing to argue when it comes to a wall (of futility)...they just adapt to the inevitability of no cookie.
When our kids experience the sadness of futility, that is when they are able to adapt...perhaps after many such incidents, but that's how they truly adapt and know that they will survive the disappointments of their expectations and hopes. This is a minor example, obviously, but it holds true in other situations equally well.
Sometime later, after the whole frustration and sadness thing is done (likely even on a different day), I might engage in conversation with my child again about that cookie when he and I are in a close moment. In that moment, I might remind him of the cookie incident and offer him some rationale/head thought about it. That's an ok moment in which to offer education, a moment in which he is able to process thought about it (because his emotions aren't heightened) and perhaps have some of that explanation sink in (or maybe not yet, maybe not until he's had more experience with futility).
I'll give you another example.
I don't always force my boys to play with Lizzie when she wants to be included - there are absolutely appropriate times for the kids to include everyone, in my opinion, but it definitely doesn't mean always, in our household. Sometimes (regularly), even when she really, really wants to play with the boys, I'll allow the boys to play by themselves, effectively excluding Lizzie from that form of play. She is often frustrated by that at first and pleads with me to allow her to play with them. At that point, I could choose to offer her all kinds of rationale justifications for why I'm not going to allow it: Sometimes boys and girls like to do different things; I'll just give them ten minutes and then you can join them; wouldn't you rather do something with me anyway; the boys haven't had much time together lately so I'm thinking it's a good idea to let them have some space right now; etc etc.
But what I do instead, when faced with her pleas to know 'why' is simply say something like "because this is the boys' time to play" or "because that's what Mommy decided." When her frustration dissolves or changes into tears of sadness, because she knows she can't change the outcome, that's when adaptation can take place over time. She will learn (over time and with lots of experiences of futility) that she will survive being excluded, even though she doesn't like how it feels. Talk about a life lesson to learn for later on, when some teenage girl excludes her from some activity or when a boyfriend breaks her heart.
At different points in time (not in the heat of the moment), Lizzie and I have had LOTS of discussions about why sometimes boys like to play by themselves, and I'm perfectly happy to engage her head with reasoning in those moments where we're sitting together having meaningful conversation. This gives her time to process things in her own way, and to come to some understanding about it (even if she still doesn't like it).
Also, I find it interesting that a few months ago, I started hearing from various teachers in her life (Sunday School, gym class, etc) that Lizzie was becoming really good at including other kids in games, even pulling them off of the sidelines to make sure they were welcome to participate. My theory is that she knew well how it felt to be left out and was going to extra effort to ensure others didn't have to feel that way. She was developing a sense of compassion for such situations...and she had learned to accept my 'no' as being a 'no' and was able to learn how to do other fun things without always having her brothers at her beck and call. Yay on all fronts.
...back to my discussion with Seth about the unfairness of blanket folding. I wanted to note here that my engagement in conversation happened with him after he'd completed his feelings of sadness over the situation and had come to rest about it. Had this not happened on that day, I wouldn't have engaged his head in the 'why' of it all...I would have empathized with (and encouraged) his feelings of injustice and sadness on that day, and saved the rational head stuff for another day or for a different situation when he encountered futility and met it with sadness.
I'm so sorry if this all sounds complicated. It's really not as complicated as it sounds, more of a outlook/attitude than anything, but it does require a long term perspective on things because those experiences of futility need to happen over and over for our children.
Does this make sense? What do you do differently/the same? I'm so interested in your thoughts!