My 4 year old daughter called me a “fxxxing dxxk” and I froze.
This isn’t the first time she has called me this particular phrase, the first time was when my husband was out and I was actually relieved he wasn’t there to hear it.
She was on time-out for not sitting properly at the dinner table and listening when asked to, and I walked by and heard my darling little angel child pour spite and profanity the likes I had never heard from either her or her older brother.
Every muscle in my body immediately tightened, I wanted to react but I quickly realised I didn’t know how. At her age, I would have been physically punished and sent to my room. A little older and living in a different situation I would have been sent to bed without dinner after being called every vile name under the sun. Neither of those are an option in my family.
I feel strongly that food is neither a punishment nor a reward, but a basic human right – even inmates for the most serious crimes still are provided 3 meals a day and I cannot let my children go hungry as a punishment. I grew up malnourished and hungry and will not allow my children to experience that at my hand.
I am not going to physically abuse a 4 year old like I had been. Hitting teaches that when you are frustrated it’s okay to hit. It made me feel helpless and scared when I was small, and my children will never fear me like that.
I will not call my children names in return, it does nothing but hurt their self-image, their self-esteem and our relationship as a family.
Because I know these fundamental truths about myself, what I value and where my boundaries for myself are, I could react to the situation rather than my emotions. I was able to use a different blueprint to teach my child rather than acting out my past experiences.
I did send her to her room, while I calmed down and thought about her behaviours and what she was telling me.
During that time apart, I realised that she has had a really hard time starting school with a new routine, a new set of expectations and new children that she didn’t go to nursery with. She has been learning new social dynamics, skills and classroom etiquette. That is a lot to go through for an adult, think how stressful and anxiety inducing a new job is, and then think how many years we have been practicing and honing controlling our emotions. It’s no wonder she is overwhelmed and unable to process all these feelings. She comes home and releases everything which is great, because she feels safe to. It’s also a massive pain in the arse!
The emotional control Centre of the human brain doesn’t fully mature until we are in our early to mid twenties, this little girl is 4. I am expecting her to deal with all these big feelings in the same way, I, a 34 year old would approach the situation and that isn’t only unrealistic, it’s setting her up to fail. To feel a failure.
I went upstairs and sat down with her on her bed. We had a cuddle and I explained to her that I know she is feeling a lot of big emotions and asked her to tell me what they feel like in her body. I listened to her and named her feelings as being overwhelmed and that she is getting used to not having as much autonomy in school as she does at home and nursery. I told her I understand, but under no circumstances can she call anyone those words. That she will be in time out if I ever hear them again. We hugged. We kissed. I told her that I love her and we went downstairs holding hands. She sat at the dinner table and ate her tea while we talked about whatever she wanted to.
I’m not through the woods, today she said it and my husband was home and I felt sick instantly when he reacted to what she said. I don’t know logically what I thought would happen. He is nothing like the men I knew at her age, but my body was instinctually scared. I’m getting there, and adjusting everyday, even after nearly 30 years, but I love how far I’ve come.
And for the record, my husband spoke to her, and put her on time out exactly as we had said, as a calm and in control dad. I quickly used my coping skills to relax my body back to a base state and all is well again.
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I am by no means perfect, and I guarantee that when my kids are grown they will have plenty to say about my parenting, but I will be in their life and they will feel able to tell me and feel safe that I love them anyway.