“I don’t like it,” the 3-year-old muttered to herself as the guests left. Miserable throughout her older sister’s birthday party, she was now growing angry. “I want Ally’s doll, not this one!” Her parents had bought her a consolation present, but the strategy went down like a bomb. The girl threw her doll to the floor. “Ally’s doll! Ally’s doll!’ She began to cry…
“You seem sad. Are you sad?” is what the girl’s dad said. The little girl nodded, still angry, too. The dad continued. “I think I know why. You’re sad because Ally’s gotten all the presents. You only got one!’ The little girl nodded again.“ You want the same number and you can’t have it, and that’s unfair and that makes you sad.” The dad seemed to be pouring it on. “Whenever somebody gets something I want and I don’t, I get sad, too.” Silence.
Then the dad said the line most characteristic of a verbalizing parent. “We have a word for that feeling, honey,” he said. “Do you want to know what that word is?” She whimpered, “Ok” He held her in his arms. “We call it being jealous. You wanted Ally’s presents, and you couldn’t have them. You were jealous.” She cried softly but was beginning to calm down. “Jealous,” she whispered.” “Yep” Dad replied, “and it’s an icky feeling.” “I been jealous all day,” she replied, nestling into her daddy’s big strong arms.”
Excerpt from Brain Rules for Baby by John Medina, pg 207
I love this story. It makes so much sense. And it reminds me of Janet Lansbury’s recent article about acknowledging your child’s feelings.
When children fall or hurt themselves, I’ve seen parents pick them up and try to distract them with a toy or something new and shiny. Either the child keeps screaming or has a confused look on his/her face. When I feel hurt, I hate it when my friends try to get me to see a movie or have a drink. But when they say, “That’s hard. It is really tough to have that happen to you.” I always nod and say, “Yes, it IS hard!” Their simple acknowledgement makes me feel so much better.
Brooke and Mackenzie are 11 months now. Whenever one of them falls, gets hurt and starts crying, I’ll pick her up, hold her and then I say, “It hurts, honey. The word is ‘hurt.’ Can you say, “Mommy, that hurt!” It works like magic. A cry or two more and they are ready to crawl out of my arms and move on to the next thing.