Monday, October 7, 2013

The Day I Turned My Daughter into a Mountain

So I have a 5-year-old boy and a 3-year-old girl, and the boy has been perfecting his button-pushing technique for 3 years, and knows exactly what to say to make his sister cry. Since I spend at least an hour with both of them in the car every day, I do a lot of, "Don't be mean!" and, "Be a good big brother!" and also the occasional, "Seriously? You like it when she cries?"

Problem is that I had never looked at the other side of the equation. I only dealt with him, but hadn't tried to stop her from being offended by every little thing he said. Sure, it was up to my boy to stop pushing her buttons, but it was up to her to not let it get to her. And really, if my job is to raise a strong female human, I can't let her lose it every time someone says something she doesn't like to hear, especially if that someone is a person who loves her and she loves back. If that's how she reacts to her loving brother, how will she deal with really mean kids who may want to destroy her?

I realized it was time to try something new. We were on a highway, and her screaming tears, followed by an even louder, "I'M NOT A POOPY!!!" were driving me insane and making it hard to drive. But since I couldn't stop to have the usual, "You, leave her alone. And you, stop screaming" chat, I turned the music off, and very calmly started talking to her.

She was a mountain. And her brother's words were like the wind. And just like the wind moved up and down a mountain without affecting it or bothering it, her brother's words would just flow by her, and she'd remain strong, calm, and still.

Now, that's not me. I have no idea what exactly I said there, or where this mish mash of Eastern philosophies came from, but she loved it. And since then, every time he says something that makes her upset, I quickly shout, "What are you?" And she shouts back, "I'm a mountain!!!" And she's no longer upset.

Small victories... That's what it's all about.

And next on the agenda, two things:

1. Stopping my boy from saying mean things.

2. Finding a way to apply this to myself. How can I become a mountain?

Wind Redux
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  1. Great work! Definitely will keep this in the mental Rolodex.

  2. Wow - this is WAAAY better than pulling over next to a cemetery and telling your kids if they didn't stop screaming, that was where they were going to end up. Not that *cough* I ever did that. *cough* *cough*

    Seriously, well done and such wisdom. :-)

  3. Thanks. I write (and think) a lot about being a clueless dad without a plan. Self-deprecating is not my schtick, it's the only thing I know. But every once in a while I can shamelessly give myself a small tap on the back and admit that I'm not the worst dad in the world.

  4. Great plan! Love it. (And if you want some of the original (and quite straightforward) "I am a mountain" philosophy, the first CD of this set by Thich Nhat Hanh has you covered:

  5. I have this same issue with my boys. I realized I had to tell my youngest that he needed to stop whining and think in his mind, "is what my brother saying true? If not, then who cares?" I said to him and still say to him, "who cares what he says. it doesn't matter and that's how you have to look at it. What your brother's saying is just to annoy you and you have to just ignore it." It helps because once his big brother realizes that what he says isn't having an effect, he stops. So many opportunities to give life lessons to our kids.

  6. Thanks! I did read a little bit from him when I worked at a bookstore 10 years ago, but I don't remember anything... Who knows, maybe I got a lot more than I actually remember, though.

  7. That's great. Going beyond the going-from-one-kid-to-the-other-and-saying-"stop it" routine is definitely worth it in the long run.



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