My 8 year old son Grey (I know, cool name), is a sweet, loving and kind child. Grey loves to get out, see the world and try new things. The only problem is, I do not.
Exhibit A - Family vacations. Grey wants adventure -- swimming with the dolphins, whale watching, even an attempt at surfing. But, that's exactly what I don't want. I have enough going on in my everyday life that I really need some time to relax while on vacation. And that's where the tears come in. But, I'm ok with them. Let me explain.
We are lucky enough to travel with Grey's Grandpa. He too loves adventures, and so he's a perfect travel buddy for Grey. They can visit the hotel concierge, review the brochures and pick out the perfect outing while my husband and I relax. Except for one thing, Grey wants us to come.
On our last trip Grey and Grandpa booked a trip located to visit an underground nature reserve of caves and rivers. Super cool. Grey is 8, he fit the tour profile, he was on board, pumped, psyched and ready to do this! Well, until the next morning at 6 am when the tears began.
I was peacefully reading on our balcony when I heard the sliding doors push open and my crying kid was staring at me. "I'm afraid of the stalagmites. I want you and daddy to come with". Silently I thought, "Good grief! Really? Really kid?"
So here's the tough part. Do I give in and let the kid skip the already booked, not inexpensive outing that I know he will really enjoy? Or, do my husband or I give in and come with, only to pacify the kid's fears? Because I know my customer and because I'm confident in myself and my parenting, I resolved that the kid was going on this trip and he was going without his parents.
I turned on my 5 Point Plan:
Step 1: Hear Him Out
Kids need to be heard. True his fears weren't valid, but they were his fears and telling him that his fears were wrong wouldn't get either of us anywhere. So we talked about everything he was scared about.
"It's dark in the caves";
"I won't be able to touch the ground when we are swimming";
"Those rocks look pointy and sharp"; and
"I want you to come with".
I listened to them all, I heard him out and I didn't invalidate any of them. Sure I may have rolled my eyes a few times, but I turned my head away from his line of sight first.
Step 2: Reassure Him
While I didn't want to invalidate his fears, I needed to reassure him that everything was going to be fine. So I did, quietly and patiently.
Step 3: Use Misdirection
You can't keep feeding the beast. There's only so long a parent can listen to the fears and only so long you can handle reassuring a child. The truth is, after a certain point, you are just going in circles. The more you feed into your kid's B.S., the deeper it will go. Dismissing it outright doesn't work either. What does? Misdirection.
"Let's hit the gift shop and buy an underwater camera", I said. Yes, it cost me a bit of money, but because I know my kid - and his love for buying crap - I knew that would get his butt off the couch, dressed and out the door.
Step 4: Ignore The Crying
"I want you to come with me," he continued to cry. Now I'm tough, but I'm not made of stone. His tears really made me sad. But I knew the truth. He'd be fine. Five minutes after he left with his Grandpa the tears would end. So instead of giving in to the worry and fear, I played hardball with both him and myself. I continued to ignore the crying and talk to myself, "Kid, you'll be fine. I'm sad, you're sad, but there's no f#$%^ way I'm going with you."
Step 5: Let Him Go
As Grey, Grandpa and I stood in silence waiting for the tour bus, and Grey continued to cry, I knew we needed to rip this band-aid. I gave him a big hug, a bigger smile, told him I loved him and I fled!
Fast forward 6 hours --- there were smiles, fun stories, beautiful pictures and a smile on Grey's face.
"It was actually pretty good Mom."
"Yeah, no kidding , you dope ☺," I thought to myself.
Listen, kids cry. Sometimes life sucks. That's part of growing up. If you always rescue your child you are doing a disservice to both him and you. So yes, I made my kid cry, but I feel strongly that continuing down this path will allow him to navigate our big bad world.
Next time your kid is giving you the waterworks try my 5 Point Plan. Be kind, be patient, use a bit of trickery, and then shove 'em outta the nest.