I know lots of people will disagree because they dread the teenage hormones, but I have never been concerned. I’m actually looking forward to the challenge of hormonal teenager daughters and I got a preview of what’s to come last night.
My 4 year old is having crying fits and meltdowns one after another. The tears were streaming nonstop and this is what set her off:
- She wasn’t allowed to eat only goldfish crackers for dinner.
- I was outside when she wanted me inside.
- Her father said, “I love you.”
- Her sisters were not doing what she wanted them to do.
Clearly, life is tough when you’re a “four-nager.”
She screamed, “No you don’t love me!” slammed the door to her sisters’ nursery and went into her room because she wanted to be alone. I could hear her sobbing and my husband gave me a look of, “I don’t know why she’s so upset” but my heart was telling me to go to her. Instead of employing Positive Parenting which recommends ignoring the behavior you do NOT want to see, I have made the switch to Mindful Parenting with my oldest because it’s what she needs…
…and I think it’s what I really needed when I was her age and a teenager.
I seriously remember how it felt to be overwhelmed with intense feelings and emotions (aka hormones) and I didn’t have the skills to cope (like taking a walk, meditation, writing in my journal, or talking to close friend/partner). I was the kid who pouted, A LOT. While I was pouting, I really just wanted someone to come talk to me. I was yearning for a Danny Tanner moment, where music swelled in the background and he comforted DJ, Stephanie or baby sister Michelle. I never had my sitcom moment, but I really wanted someone to comfort me, and my heart knew this is exactly what my 4 year old needed last night.
I knocked on her door and found her curled up on her bed crying into her pillow (like a teenager full of angst).
Mama: “Do you want to hugs and cuddles?”
4 year old: “Yes, I want to rock.”
<<I carried her to my room where the glider is, and where I often rock with the girls in my lap.>>
Mama: “Tell me what’s going on.”
4 year old: “Nobody was doing what I wanted them to do and I wasn’t allowed to do what I wanted to do.”
Mama: “Yeah, it’s really hard when you don’t get what you want. When I was a little girl I remember getting really upset like this. It’s okay to feel upset and mad. I needed time to calm down.”
4 year old: “I wanted to be alone in my room.”
Mama: “Did being alone in your room help you feel better?”
4 year old: “Not so much.”
Mama <<still rocking with her in my lap>>: “Are you feeling better now?”
4 year old <<suddenly super chipper and happy like nothing ever happened>>: “Yes! I’m going to go see my sisters! I hope Daddy doesn’t make me cry again!”
<<4 year old hops off my laugh and happily trots off to her sisters’ room>>
Also, in the midst of my rocking session, one of my 2 year olds had her own meltdown because I would not let her jump on my bed unsupervised. I can only tackle one crying kid at a time, OY. When my oldest exited, my 2 year old took her place in my lap for her own rocking session.
The bottom line is, I follow my gut and heart more than my head when it comes to these situations because I don’t think logic is always the best approach. [Except earlier in the week we needed to explain why she could not put a plastic bag over her head. She thought she was being funny. We told her to stop, which lead to a meltdown and I needed to calm her down before explaining the logic behind needing air to breathe and how we don’t want her to die from self-asphyxiation. I said we told her no because we want to keep her safe. TRUE STORY.]
My daughter was being ridiculous for getting so upset over goldfish crackers, but it didn’t really matter. The goldfish crackers meant so much to her and she didn’t feel ridiculous in the moment. In the moment, I needed to validate what she was experiencing and help her feel better. I did not need to school her on how goldfish crackers really don’t matter in the grand scheme of things. Patronizing isn’t going to help.
Being a presence and source of nonstop love, understanding, and emotional validation and safety is how I’ll approach the teenage years. There are going to be many more episodes of someone crying over something incredibly trivial, but in the moment it means the world to them and I have to give them the emotional space, respect, and support to process it. I think the teenage years will be just fine.