I was recently at a parenting workshop with Dr Larry Cohen (more on that amazing experience when I feel like my feet have come back to touch the ground) and a story came to me.
When I was around 15 I was babysitting for two kids I had never met and the little boy who must have been around 6 started chasing me with a huge metal pole. I have no idea how I diffused the situation but I remember as I was putting him to bed (I didn’t run out screaming, apparently) he suddenly burst into tears and said “Nobody likes me, nobody at school wants to play with me! You don’t like me!”
Maybe this is one of those first moments I realised that behind “off-track behaviour” is a mountain of hurt. Suddenly he’s not a psychotic child trying to kill me but he’s a 6YO who is struggling to find his place in social circles, a feeling I know all too well. Not racing for the hills (I don’t even know if I ended up telling his parents) made him feel connected enough to me to show me his upset.
When we get to chasing people with a metal pole level of off-track behaviour, there’s obviously a LOT of hurt and pain but it doesn’t mean we can’t help. First thing is to really let those feelings come out and to StayListen to them empathically. He is such a good example of how that works… he started crying and was then able to verbalise what it was all about. By 6 if a child isn’t used to emotional releasing, it may be a lot harder but there’s also laughter as a great release too.
I sometimes berate myself for getting to the Peaceful Parenting too late. My daughter was 2 and I only wrapped my head around the emotional releasing part in the last couple of years so my son has had more of the benefits than my daughter. This story came back to me and beautifully reminded me that I’ve always been an advocate for children’s needs and even at 15 I must have understood that they are inherently “good” even in the face of a big metal pole.