PAM: Welcome to another Q&A episode. I’m Pam Laricchia from livingjoyfully.ca, and I’m happy to be joined this month by Anne Ohman. Hi, Anne!
PAM: Hello! Just to let everyone know, Anna is busy moving this month so we wish her all the best with that.
PAM: And I am going to get us started this month. So, question one is from Candace in Pittsburg. She wrote:
Candace’s Question (from Pittsburg, US) [TIME: 4:10]
Hi everyone! I’m loving listening to the podcast and really appreciate all of your voices and insight on this amazing unschooling journey.
Quick background about me: I’m a part-time yoga teaching. I teach 12 class a week, early mornings and some evenings. My husband works a regular 40 hour work week. I am home with the kids during the bulk of their time awake.
We have 3 kids ages (almost) 7, 5, and 3. We just pulled them out of school at the end of their last school year (the older two were in kindergarten and preschool respectively.) At first we tried “school at home.” But that ended with power struggles, tears, and exhaustion. We are now fully unschooling, and loving it. (Although, I know that I have some more “deschooling” work to do.) I cannot say enough how unschooling helped every person in our family find connections to each other and ourselves.
My oldest, Cordelia, is very outgoing and energetic. She lights up around other people and loves exploring the world. My 5 year old, Merric, has social anxiety and is very mellow and introverted. He gets easily exhausted from brief (less than an hour) exposure to public settings. When he is home he has a beautifully rich internal world. My 3 year old, Winifred, is very attached to me and asks for a lot of attention, and does not nap. She is a lot of fun, and is happy to do whatever her older two are doing as long as I can hold her.
Anyway, here is the question: how do I honor and meet the needs of all three of my kids, when I am the only one home? If we stay home Cordelia is miserable. If we go out Merric is miserable. And if we go out for a brief outing, and then at home I choose to have quiet time with Merric, to help him restore himself, Winifred physically fights him for my attention.
Any ideas would be very helpful. I feel like whatever I choose these days I am betraying one of my kids’ needs. They are pretty resilient, but I would like things to be a bit smoother, or at least know that they can smooth out in the near future.
PAM: So, hi Candace! It’s very nice to hear a little bit about your family. I love your kids’ names. And it’s so nice to hear that you guys are loving unschooling.
And it does take me back, reminding me of what it’s like to have small children, especially with widely different needs and personalities. What occurred to me as I was going through your question was to think about enlisting your kids’ help in brainstorming some ideas with them, and then maybe later chatting with them about what might and might not work, and the other thing that can do it to help them learn more about each other.
This isn’t a “let’s have one conversation and solve this,” but the back and forth and the trying things is really a great way for them to learn a bit more about each other, and to really feel like everybody’s working together to try and come up with something where everyone is reasonably comfortable, because that’s the goal: all together.
Now, there’s the obvious splitting up when your husband is around. You know, so one of you can take Cordelia out to some places while the other one stays home. But for the main part when you are home with the three of them, I was wondering, are there some places that Merric finds less stressful? Maybe places with less people like the park or places that are quieter like the library?
The other thing that occurred is that he may like some headphones while you are out, so that he can be more in his own world, listening to his favorite music or his favorite stories. Even hanging out with you in a corner, if Cordelia is out and about in the place. So, making a haven for him that he can bring with him wherever it is that you guys are going.
And then for Cordelia at home, what about the possibility of inviting other kids over to play at your house, so that she can have her engagement and Merric can still be home? What kind of activities does she enjoy at home? Are you actively supporting those, even if they take a little more time to set up? Maybe if she likes specific kinds of crafts or specific games that maybe take a little bit to set up. Just check in with yourself to see if you are using that energy to help her set up doing her most fun things when you guys are at home.
And as you mentioned, if Winifred’s big need right now is to be held, at least that is a need that you can meet wherever you are. So, things aren’t going to go perfectly for everyone all the time. But as you chat with them about their ideas, as you try things out, see what happens, tweak things, you’re all going to be learning more about each other’s needs, each other’s comfort zones. And you are going to be finding a path through it.
And then soon, yes definitely, they are going to be older, they are always growing and changing. It’s just hard to see that day to day, but you’re going to start to notice that. A month down the line, two, three, etcetera. Anne, what do you think?
ANNE: Well, in the growing and changing that you are talking about yes, these might not be the issues, but there’s always something, so that’s why it’s important.
I always talk about the language that we are using to describe our lives, and I think that’s an important thing that we can look at here also. Let’s see. Well, first of all, I asked Pam to do this question first and then she stole all my answers so I’m not going through the stuff that…And uh, backing up, Candace, I love your descriptions of your children.
ANNE: It’s clear that you see them and celebrate them being who they are. And I hear that you want to extend that into their daily lives by honoring their needs and everything.
And first thing that I had on my notes was how people tend to overlook having conversations with the children themselves, asking them for ideas, as Pam was talking about. The thing about our brainstorming sessions that we would have is that both reasonable and bizarre options were the ones that came up. We would get silly with solutions just to have any possibilities come up, because it’s in all those nooks and crannies that we find what really works when we just start saying anything that we have for ideas, so that was fun to do.
As far as the language your using, your question itself, “how do I honor and meet the needs of all three of my kids when I’m the only one at home?” And I get that that’s what it seems like you are needing to do, but that question though to me seems like it’s loaded with so much weight. It sounds like your kids needs not only need to be met at the same time to the same degree but in the same moment, and the responsibility of their happiness rests on your shoulders and your shoulders alone. That does feel like a lot of weight, and I’m just, I’m somebody who just wants to release any weight that we can.
And a lot of it is found in our language, and so if you look at this, this thing doesn’t always happen, they are not always needing to go out or to stay home or anything, and to label them with the way they are going to respond if they do that, it just seems that it is setting up expectations. And I understand that’s part of who they are and everything, but still I think that just seeing every case as individual helps with everything, because as Pam was saying, with going out, there’s so many different ways to go out. And staying home, there’s so many different ways to stay home.
So, just removing the weight from the question, the scenario, may lighten everything up and allow more possibilities to come in, instead of labeling the situation and labeling your children’s responses.
Instead, allow possibilities in the situation and in your children. And anything that like we’re suggesting these possibilities and anything that you came up with, I would use these ideas to start talking to your children about. You know, say, “Pam suggested we might try this!” or whatever and just see what they think of that. That’s how you start the conversation and get them involved in it, and that’s really cool.
As far as the specific suggestions, your oldest loves to be with other people. Does she have friends that she could be going out with does things outside that she would be interested in also? I was thinking you could plan something during the week for her to do on the weekend with either you or your husband, and then that’s something to look forward to once the weekend comes.
Or if there is something that she wants to do or some place she wants to go, talk to them about, Pam mentioned having music and stuff, and I’ve always done that with my oldest son, to kind of build him a sanctuary to protect him from the things that overwhelm him because he’s so highly sensitive and would pick up other people’s energy, so we always had a bag ready for Jacob whenever we were going out, and the bag had a pad and pencil because he loved to draw, the book he was currently reading, his Nintendo DS which had Pokemon. He would also carry touchstone things like that he would find in nature that would make him feel good: a rock from our river or an acorn or something. And he’d have his music and his audiobook or whatever.
I’m seeing so many possibilities with allowing the needs of these siblings to be seen an honored and part of that is just the energy of lifting it up out of the weight where you’re responsible for it all the time, to kind of spreading it out, and listing everybody’s ideas in it.
And it sounds like Winifred can be happy if you’re with her, so I’m not sure how it happens that she’s physically fighting with Merric for your attention, but it feels like you can focus on Merrick and while also holding Winifred, and helping her to feel connected by rubbing her back, playing little games with her, giving her little snacky things, whatever. And if she likes to be in a sling that’s perfect, that’s a good option also.
So again, the need for going out, I’m sure it’s not happening like all day every day, so throughout your everyday, stay connected with them and involved with the things that they love to do throughout every single day, then when this issues does arise, it’s easy to utilize your connection and talk to them about possibilities as Pam was saying, because you know each other so well from connecting all day throughout your normal activities, so that’s how you can go forward.
And then also for you to carry a yes energy, trusting that there’s answers that will allow everyone to feel good. So, and it’s in that space, of your yes energy, where ideas and possibilities will flow into your lives. So, that’s all I have to say about that!
PAM: I loved that piece you had when you talked about equal and treating them as individuals. That reminded me of that talk I have called A Family of Individuals and I’ll link to that, but that whole idea that we can get so easily caught up in that “I need to treat them equally.” That I need to be spending the same amount of time out with Cordelia that I do in with Merric. That’s not a helpful thought. It’s comparing…
ANNE: It’s more weight!
PAM: It’s more weight and expectation that I need to be doing this much that this one likes and the same amount as this one. It’s not like that. The flow of your day is so much greater!
ANNE: Right, that’s it.
I was going to say it makes everything small. And the same with having the expectations about how they are going to respond to the going out or the staying in—that’s limiting to them! Who are we to say that our child always gets anxious when they do this or whatever, because there may be the day when they don’t, so that’s what the conversations are about and the tools to help them. And one day they will find that they don’t need their bag of stuff when they are out or whatever.
That’s what we always talk about, the language, and we don’t want language that’s limiting possibilities, that’s limiting our children’s potential to do what they are, and that adds weight to what we already feel is a weighty situation.
ANNE: Alright so, question number two is an anonymous question and they write:
Anonymous Question [TIME: 17:50]
We are an unschooling family with 2 little kids, aged 2&4. We have been on this journey for a couple of years now and having this podcast and deschooling really helped us to get to a point where I felt like everything was going ok.
However we have had some really really hard times with a job loss, an upcoming move and just the stress of an uncertain future. My husband and I have been fighting a lot and some of it has spilled over in front of the kids. I’m really ashamed to admit it but they’ve seen some screaming matches. I’ve also been disconnected and spending a lot of time by myself while my husband handles them. Which is fine, but I’m usually the primary caregiver so their routine has gone for a toss as well.
My husband and I are working hard to make up and work things out. We are also trying hard not to let the kids sense our tension.
Any ideas on what would help make up for what they’ve already seen/heard? I feel like the overall atmosphere of our home is so stressed and so so sad. What can I do? What can we do? Please help me.
ANNE: Oh my goodness. Hello. You are in my heart. You are going through so much, and I know, it’s hard sometimes, and I hear you. Life does that to all of us at times, and I’m sorry you’re feeling so overwhelmed by it.
Personally, I think it’s so important for you to allow yesterday to just be exactly where it is—behind you. I feel the best thing you can do is to go forward in a way that allows you to release the guilt about yesterday, and to start building up feeling good about yourself again.
So, right now, everything that you feel was a mistake from your yesterdays is gone, because you turned them into an opportunity to see more clearly and do better next time and that’s really fantastic.
It’s also really important to be aware of how easily we can slip into thinking that the view of our entire life is stressed and sad in these challenging times. If we do the work to stay connected to even the smallest piece of light during these challenging times, then that sliver of light that we let in can lead us to even more light.
But our work is also to walk in the direction of that light, and I’m calling it our work because of how easy I said it is to slip into feeling that everything is downhill! So, the work is to do the opposite, to look for the light. And another part of that is to deliberately choose to connect with our children in their light.
How do you let light in when you’re feeling so weighed down? I pay attention to things that feel like gifts to me. Whatever it is that makes you feel good, give that to yourself, and then fully receive that feeling of feeling good as a gift for you from the universe, because that’s really exactly what it is. You can really look around at everything in your life and seek out things that are beautiful, that make you smile, that give you a feeling of love and comfort.
There are really so many of those things all around you every day. Wrap yourself up in a blanket and label that blanket love and watch a funny show or a movie with your kids. Notice that sliver of sun shining through the trees, coming down in a beam, or that bird singing a song on the porch, so close to you. The soothing deliciousness of a cup of tea or a piece of your favorite chocolate. These are all just little gifts that are really just for you. They are pieces of life and you can let them in and totally receive them.
I often say out loud “I have received” when I feel that feeling, and gah, just that allows the gift to touch my entire being-ness, and after that up bubbles all this appreciation, not only for the gift, but for all the other gifts in my life. So, when you’re a witness to something that’s amazing—and really it’s usually simply an everyday kind of amazing—these are the gifts that are just for you, take them in, hold them in your heart, receive them fully, and take note of your appreciation for them.
Also, find ways to connect with your children in calm and gentle ways that are soothing. Maybe by some of those wonderful coloring books that are everywhere now and glitter gel pens. This is a gift for you, again, but invite your children in to do them with you, rip out pages for each to color and sit around the table and color away and chat. I’ve always found that it’s easier to talk during those times, too, when you have this distraction, this coloring thing to detract away from the weight of things that you might want to talk about or say to them about things that are going on.
And maybe it’s then when you’re just hanging out by each other happily coloring that you can apologize for how things have felt lately, and maybe say ‘this feels so good right now, doesn’t it? I feel so happy being here with you.’ It’s this way that you can include them in your quest to seek out the things that feel good and receive them as gifts. If you point out that sliver of sunlight streaming through the trees to them, you’re connecting with each other over these simple everyday yet amazing gifts in your lives.
And I’ve found that it’s in this space that the challenges also seem to flow more easily. Maybe they loosen up their reigns on us a little bit. Lose some of their weight, because you’re not buried under the weight of feeling bad about yourself or your situations. Your focus is—or your distraction of the weight of the thing that is your focus is—on the things that make you feel good. What a relief to feel that you don’t have to carry the burden of difficult moments all of the time. That, for the majority of the time, you’ve been given these gifts that you’re able to see more clearly now and share with you children.
PAM: That was beautiful Anne. Yes definitely, I’m sorry about the challenges and the stress that you and your husband are feeling now. It is hard. And I know in stressful times, my first instinct too is to withdraw, to process what’s going on.
But each time I’ve realized that it’s been so valuable to reconnect with my kids as soon as I can—for them and for me as well. Because I’ve learned that when I’m alone, things often feel more overwhelming, and more insurmountable, but my kids bring me back in to the moment, back into life, back into those pieces of joy, or those gifts that are all around us but we have a hard time seeing. It reminds me that things aren’t as impossible as my fears had convinced me and that I can actually think more clearly now.
Anne talks about it as that weight being released a bit, and being able to see different possibilities now, different paths forward that we might be able to take.
With your kids, it’s not about making up for what’s happened, it’s about moving on from here, from where we are, from today, in this moment. In relationships, things are going to happen in life that are disconnecting. It’s the reconnecting that’s so very important.
And as Anne mentioned too, you can apologize, you can be with them, it doesn’t need to be anything special. Coloring, Lego, toys, whatever, they just need you around, chatting with them, playing with them, doing the things that they enjoy with them. Reconnecting, showing your love and support by being loving and supportive. And by doing that, it helps us so much as well, it just gets us to a much better place that things aren’t so overwhelming and we can start to see that light, right? I know, it’s hard.
But we laugh because we’ve all been through it. And it doesn’t stop!
ANNE: The flow of life!
PAM: Exactly, exactly.
It’s the flow. I posted a new blog post, The Nature of Time—the ups, the downs, and the ups again, when you start to see the bigger picture. There is just a flow of life to it, and there’s valuable things that we learn about ourselves and our kids, in those low moments as well. They are all parts of our life; they are all meaningful parts of our life.
ANNE: That’s how we grow. It’s not that we need these challenges, but this is where we do a lot of our evolving. I’ve gone through painful stuff this past year and thought things were the worst that I could ever face, and I came out the other side more me than I’ve ever been. That’s part of the evolution, and the yin and yang of life.
Anyways, it’s still hard, but that’s why I focus on the light, because I know it’s always there, I know it’s always there. And when I get to the other side it’s brighter than ever before.
PAM: Yes. All the best. OK, question three is from Erica from Missouri. She writes …
Erica’s Question (from Missouri, US) [TIME: 28:12]
Being raised in a standard power and control authoritarian model home, what functionally practical steps would you recommend to get started surrendering the illusion of control and practice honoring my children’s autonomy? Specifically what choices can I make when the urge to dominate and control monster where I become my authority models rears it’s ugly head? Did you face this and if so how did you deal with it? Thank you in advance love future unschooler current momster.
PAM: Hi Erica!
ANNE: That’s “Momster” with an M. M-O-Mster.
PAM: Definitely, it’s something that more people work through as they move around from so much of the conventional wisdom that surrounds parenting, you know?
For me, it seems simple, but start by saying “yes” more. Not to everything, not all at once, but step by step—it’s definitely a process. Like, if they ask to stay longer at the park or to watch their favorite show, just smile and say yes. But then, don’t just stop there. Then see what happens. Really see their joy. Really see their learning. Breathe it in. That’s what it’s all about. That’s your learning.
And, in my experience, often that urge to control things arises in response to some fear we are feeling, and I discovered that that happened most often when I was disconnected from my kids. I started imagining all kind of scary-to-me things, rather than being in the moment and seeing what was actually happening.
So, you can use that urge to control as a clue to connect more deeply. Because not controlling our children is just one side of the equation. We want to replace it with connection, or else you just end up with a vacuum, and that’s where chaos brews.
And I also found it helpful to just sit with my fears for a while so I could learn more about myself, that fear that was arising and starting to take hold. Why? What did I fear was going to happen? Was it societal messages that I’d absorbed? Were they experiences and messages from my own childhood? Did they make sense anymore? Do they make sense now? Why or why not?
And just keep digging into that. Understanding myself better helped me release those fears that I didn’t even realize I was carrying around! And like I said, deschooling is a process, so give it lots of time and attention and alongside that, focus on connecting with you kids and saying yes more, and you learn so much about yourself and about your kids and then your days start to flow, and it all kind of grows out of that foundation.
ANNE: Hi Erica. I feel like your awareness of your ability to slip into the controlling parenting role is really huge, and that in itself shows how you’ve come so far already, in showing that you don’t want the tapes that you were brought up with to become the tapes in your children’s heads. And that’s really good.
Pam went in-depth which is really great, so I’m just addressing the moment where your parents’ words are coming out of your mouth, and you’re saying specifically, “What choices can I make when the urge to dominate and control rears its ugly head?”
Your awareness that you don’t want to hand those tapes to your kids is the thing that is going to just help you to just stop. That’s the word that I’m working with. Pam worked with “yes.” I’m working with “NO!” Because your awareness and your just stopping will allow you space between what is happening and your urge to dominate and control.
When you’re feeling that urge, picture a great big huge red stop button, and you’re going to be pressing that button. And the stop means in that moment, you just don’t say or do anything. Because I know how deeply ingrained those words are and those tapes in our head. So, when you don’t, when you’re in that moment, and you don’t have time right then to do all the reflection you need to do, just hit that stop button. That seems doable, don’t you think?
You don’t need to memorize steps to take, you just need to give yourself space because what you ultimately want is to feel good about yourself on the other side, right? I mean, yeah, there’s a million reasons why you don’t want to hand your children the old tapes that are in your head and your mouth—and I say your mouth and I mean my mouth and everything. Everybody gets what you’re saying here.
Ultimately, when you think about it, you simply want to feel good about yourself and the choices that you make in each moment, because if you feel bad about yourself, you’re living in regret, your owning a lot of weight from what you handed to your children, and you basically can’t see anything through the fog of feeling bad about yourself. So, give yourself the gift of that stop button that you can press, and just don’t say anything until you’ve given it all some space.
As happens every time something is in my awareness, I was on Instagram and Caren Knox had a quote from Dr. Frankel, holocaust survivor and author of the book, Man’s Search for Meaning, which, as an aside, is very awesome. It was originally published under a German title that translated to “Nevertheless say yes to life.” Isn’t that awesome? I love that.
The quote said, “Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”
Give yourself the gift of freedom. The freedom to be who you are without adding the weight of regret onto your being-ness because of something you said to your children that you didn’t want to say. And then, when you have given it that space, when you can look at your children in that space and truly see who they are, allow your heart to let down your guard, as Pam was saying, this is when you examine your fear that is making it come out, honestly, most of the time.
It might just be because it’s all you know how to respond in the moment because of the tapes in your head, but that’s when you can push the play button again, when you’ve gathered yourself together, and you can see your children shining. Maybe you want to share some information with them in that moment, but you’ve gotta push that stop button, and then remove those tapes from your head, see what it is you really want to share with them, and have it come out as information—that’s it—in a connecting way.
Maybe you’ve pivoted enough to join them in whatever it is that you were wanting to change and control. Most of all, make sure you aren’t handing them anything that will have them feel bad about themselves or resentful of you, because then, again, it would make you feel bad about yourself. And, as Victor Frankel said, “in that space lies our growth and freedom,” and, I will add, in that space, infinite options for joy and connection with your children.
So, allow for those possibilities to come to you in the space that the stop button creates.
And if you’ve already said something, it’s not too late. Hit that stop button still, but also, hit the reset button. Got a lot of buttons going on! It’s so important to get comfortable with letting your kids know that you are sorry that old tapes came out of your mouth. I would ask my kids if we could rewind that moment, and we would do that and we would go backwards and everything to the place where it happened that the stupid thing came out of my mouth, and then I would respond again.
I could see them more clearly that time around, and that would always be a beautiful lesson for all of us, especially for my kids to see that adults make mistakes and they ask for a do-over, so that must be an okay, cool thing for everybody to do. So, that’s it!
PAM: That freedom, ability, whatever, to just openly admit, “Oops, I made mistake,” and move on from there. It’s so valuable for everyone, everyone to see, because it releases that fear that we always have of being wrong.
ANNE: And to keep up the facade that adults and parents know everything. That’s where most parents want to keep up that facade, and it’s just not the truth, and there’s no resilience in that, there’s no give or take to that. There’s no connecting with the other person, it’s just the way it is.
PAM: Love that. Love that.
ANNE: OK, question four is from Alex in France. And Alex writes …
Alex’s Question (from France) [TIME: 38:13]
Hello and first of all let me thank you for your wonderful podcasts, help, advices and support ! It is of a great help and is a big source of pleasure for all parents who listen to them, I am sure !
I would like to hear your opinion about children who interrupt. My boys (5 and 7 y.o.) very often interrupt me and it annoys me a lot. When we are at home it does not happen so often but when we are in a restaurant, at a doctor’s office it can happen very often and it is very-very annoying. I explained them many times that they should wait for their turn and that it is not polite but nothing helps. What can help me to sort out this situation in a positive and polite manner ?
Thank you very very much ! Have a nice day !
ANNE: Hi Alex! I come across this situation a lot in my library. Most parents do believe what you’re saying, that children should wait for their turn to speak and be polite. And when I have my story time day and there are children and parents everywhere, the library seems like it fills up with parents correcting children, and parents trying to teach children lessons all the time. And the interrupting thing is one of the things. And I like to fill up my library with adults understanding and seeing and celebrating children!
So, let’s look at that interrupting moment. You’re talking to an adult and a child interrupts, and most grownups find that to be rude. This is how I see it: they are being children who are bubbling over with excitement and enthusiasm about something that they want to say, or something that they need right at that moment. Not only are they bubbling with all of that, but they also want so badly to share that with you right then.
I personally see that as a great gift from my children, for them to want to share something with me. In fact, speaking of that, one of the greatest gifts of my life right now is my adult children knowing I am here for them no matter what!
My 27 year old son is going through a huge life change right now, and I can’t tell you what a gift it is that he trust me enough to know he can text me at any time, with any thought, big or small, because they are all important, or any report he has to do on how he’s feeling, or to show me how he’s arranging his room with 25 pictures, and he knows that I will create space for him in that moment in case he needs connection from me in that moment. Who’s to say what they need if they are asking for your attention. That lets me know that they need connection from me. So, my adult children are still excited to share with me all those things that are bubbling up in them as they are bubbling. And I’m not sure that there is a greater gift than that, really.
And again, I am going to talk about our language, because it plays a part in how we see things. Labeling this as ‘children who interrupt’ discounts the child as a whole and all that is in them wanting to come out of them. As unschoolers, we need to truly see, respect, and celebrate our children. We can look deeper into each individual situation and see the perfect enthusiasm in our children. And then we get to decide if we want to allow that enthusiasm to grow, or perhaps squash it by telling them that they need to learn to be polite and they can’t speak until it is their turn.
I really understand how hard that is. I have had to put my enthusiasm on hold at times, and it is very difficult for me, even as an adult, because I have so much enthusiasm for so many things that I am that person who annoys everybody else with my enthusiasm. And from what you’re saying, it seems that your children are needing more of your loving attention, and again, I so get that!
They may be feeling disconnected when you are talking to other people and they are seeking some reassurance that you are there for them still. Like, if they are at the doctor’s office, that’s got a lot of uncomfortable feelings, and if you continue to simply see this as children interrupting and you feel that they should be polite and wait their turn, then you are turning off that switch in them that is wanting and desiring to connect with you. And to them, that might feel like you are saying, ‘No, I’m not here for you—I am here for this person I am talking to.’
So, in a roundabout way, that might make them need even more reassurance that you’re there for them. And see how it might cause them to just escalate the interrupting because they’re feeling a bit off and insecure? I’ve always trusted the adults to whom I was speaking to be the one who is able to understand the concept of waiting, because my child needs me frankly. In fact, I might just say “just one second, my child needs me,” and then I’d go from there according to what the situation is.
Because if the child just says something quick, maybe just a small observation, you can answer the child, and then maybe touch the child, have some connection through touch, get down on the child’s level. Maybe put your arms around the child while you finish talking to the adult once the child has said what they wanted to say.
If the child has something that is more involved and needs to explain something or needs to have something explained, and the adult maybe needs to get going, then you can quickly validate the child and say something like, “Oh yeah, I hear you, let’s talk about that in a minute so Dr. So and So can get on to his other patients.” Then, again, the connection to the child is important, sit them on your lap and rub their back, anything that lets them know you are their priority.
I looked up the word polite—that thing that adults think a child should be—and it means “having or showing behavior that is respectful and considerate of other people.” And respectful and considerate are like my favorite words when we are talking about the way we treat children! And that’s why my children grew up with an energy of those words! Everything that they have felt or the energy or desire they needed to say to me was received with respect and consideration. They learn to be respectful and considerate of other people when they are treated with respect and consideration.
I have been around children whose voices have not been heard, and their enthusiasm in the moment has been snuffed under the pretense of them being taught to be patient and respect the adults who are talking. And it’s those children who not only continue to interrupt, but actually learn that they need to start shouting loudly over others in order to be heard. So, I have found that when you respect and consider the child’s voice, then they are not insecure anymore. They know you are there.
They hear you telling the adult that the child’s voice matters to you, so they then in their own time learn to be patient and to not have to fight for a connection with you, they instead trust in that connection and they know it will be there, and you can always help that by doing the things I was saying, touching them and letting them know you are there.
PAM: It’s like treating them politely, respectfully and considerately, right there in that moment, showing them.
PAM: I love that. And I love thinking of it as enthusiasm. That’s really cool. So, hi Alex!
I’m so glad that you are finding the podcast helpful. And I think what comes out of that too is one of the first things to recognize is that they aren’t doing this to annoy you. That is not their purpose at all. That’s what Anne was saying as well. They are trying to get your attention to help them meet their own needs, whether it’s sharing something that they see in the moment or getting your attention if they don’t feel like they are getting it.
And as Anna is fond of saying, behaviors are expressions of need. So, if interrupting is the behavior that you’re seeing, getting to the root of that would be figuring out what needs it is that they are trying to meet. One likely possibility that Anne mentioned is that they want to feel included, that they are feeling a disconnect from you, and I think a shift in perspective might help.
What if you think of it, when you take them places like restaurants and doctor’s offices, that you think of it as showing them the world rather than just bringing them along to the things that you need to do. If you’re going out with them, then help them engage directly with the world as much as they want. It’s a great way for them to gain experience and learn. You can include them as you go about your business. When they feel included in the interactions and the conversations going around them, they’re participating, they are not interrupting. They are there with you, you are all there.
Even if other people expect children need to be seen and not heard, that doesn’t mean you need to follow suit. You can be the mom who engages with their children in the world. I remember so many times at doctor’s offices and even in the hospital, redirecting conversations to include my children, especially when they are about my children! So often, when you are out and about, “What does your child want to eat?” at the restaurant, or, you know, with some medical question they are asking the parent, even when the kid is right there. So, bringing the child into the conversation, I think it helps so much.
And people were often surprised at children actually being included in the conversation! But I don’t really recall there ever being any actual pushback about it, right? There was just surprise! And I found that it was one of the ways to plant seeds just out and about in the world that there’s another way to be a parent, and to be respectful and considerate of my child in that moment, and to help them learn about the world and the ways to engage in it when they were wanting.
If they didn’t feel like talking, they weren’t going to be interrupting anyway, and I would just answer for them or whatever, but it was their choice how involved they wanted to be. There was so much that came out of involving them when we were out and about in the world rather than trying to get them to sit quietly in the corner while I went about the business.
ANNE: I was thinking another option is a briefing before you went someplace, and if your time is very limited with a doctor or, what was the other example?
ANNE: A restaurant? What’s going to be interrupting about restaurant? Give me an example, Pam!
PAM: Maybe when you’re trying to order?
ANNE: Our restaurant experience is just talking with the children, and it’s the server who is interrupting us! If you’re going out and the person is in a hurry, just say, “We only have about ten minutes here, and I need to talk to this person about this, so if you have anything to say to me, if it can wait until after the ten minutes,” and give them an idea of just where you will be in your head if you’re not accessible for them when they need you in any minute.
That’s just one option.
PAM: That’s a great point. And then talking about it again after. The debrief, always.
ANNE: Yes, the brief and then the debrief, of course!
PAM: And that is the last question for this month. Thank you so much, Anne, for answering questions with me.
ANNE: So fun.
PAM: So fun!
And just a reminder to everyone, there are links in the show notes to the things that we’ve mentioned in the episode, and as always, if you’d like to submit a question for the Q&A show, just go to livingjoyfully.ca/podcast and click on the link.
Have a great day everybody. Bye!