Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The day I told my husband to self-soothe

My husband arrived home from work, but as he stepped through the door, I could see that he was clearly upset. He shared with me that he was tired. He'd been dealing with some indigestion because his lunch was rushed. Then he sat down to share some more. He began talking to me about some concerns he had at his work.

That's when stopped him in his tracks. I shushed him.

He looked up at me with confusion, then started talking again. I cut him off again.

I told him, "Look, you need to take a time out. You need to sit in the other room and learn some coping skills and self-soothing skills." At this point, his confusion changed to anger. I could tell he was clearly upset now, but I continued to hold my position.

I was irate now. "You ate, right? The bills are paid? You have a roof over your head? You need to understand that your basic needs have been met. None of this whining about other things. You're on your own for those. You need to figure out how to deal with them alone."

His flash of anger had finally turned to hurt and sadness. With tears in his eyes, he looked up at me and asked me why I was doing this to him. He started to cry openly and reach out to me. I took a step back and set him straight.

"You need to stop manipulating me! You are way too old for that kind of clingy, whiny behavior! You need to figure out how to calm down by yourself. I'm just being a good wife. This is for your own good. What will the neighbors think? Stop crying now or I'll really give you something to cry about!"

Do you have a problem with the way I treat my adult husband? Do you see a problem with interacting this way in an intimate, caring relationship? Tell me, why is it okay to set these standards with our infants and children, even teens?

We demand that our infants and children do things that we don't expect from grown adults. We refuse to listen to them when they are having a bad day, insisting instead that they deal with it, and quietly!

We brush off their attempts to reconnect with us, sometimes physically pushing them away or removing them to separate rooms and time out spaces. We invalidate their negative emotions or punish them for expressing any sign of vulnerability and hurt.

WHY!!!???? If you wouldn't treat a grown adult this way in a loving relationship, don't force your infants and children to experience it either.

Relationships are about being there for the other person, not only during wonderful times, but most especially during the hardest and darkest of times. People find the strength to keep going when they are supported, validated, and respected. Their fears are soothed not by being hidden behind closed doors, alone, but rather by being welcomed with a warm heart and open arms.

How would you have treated your husband if he walked through the door upset today? And how will you treat your baby when she cries out in the middle of the night? Or your 4 year old when he whines for food? Or your teen when she gets angry to hide her hurt over a disagreement?

Instead of focusing on laying down the law and obtaining power over the other person, shift your focus to restoring the relationship. Stop focusing on invalidating the other person. Start reconnecting. Affirm. Uplift. Listen, truly listen with a caring heart. Empathize. Relate. Build rapport. Support. Share honestly if giving advice, but with kindness. Be there for the other person.

© 2014 Holly Paz

Holly Paz, mother to four, puts her mothering where her mouth is when it comes to perspective and experience. She's walked many roads including a c-section birth and VBAC. She used the CIO (Cry it out) method with her first child and has made a complete 180, learning the value of responsive parenting along the way. She wants others to also be inspired to change, to better their parent/child relationships and to raise children in tune with their needs and feelings.