I stumbled upon a golden opportunity to start teaching my 3 year old a valuable life lesson yesterday. We started a new little weekly tradition of spending Sundays with my parents. They live about 45 minutes away so we start off our drive at the local Barnes & Noble, pick up a latte for me, a cappuccino to bring my mom and the NY Times for all of us to read when we get there and then head off on our drive. Yesterday, Drew was holding onto a new pair of sneakers I bought her for when we are out there. My parents have 6 acres of land with woods and we spend most of our time there outdoors so she has been in need of new sneakers for trudging around out there. She had the box in her hands and took the lid off and was playing with the sneakers, then tried to put them back in the box and put the lid on. But she couldn’t get the sneakers into the box properly so the lid wasn’t going on right. She FLIPPED OUT in frustration, screamed, threw the box and shoes down, folded her hands across her chest and started glaring out the window. I watched all of this in the rear view mirror as I drove.

Usually, the 45 minute drive each week is my time to reflect on my life and the things around me and I spend it either thinking of the things I’m happy with that I’m changing daily within myself or think of things that I need to keep working on. This week, as a result of the incident with Drew, I decided to use that time to talk to her about some stuff in life.

I stopped her from screaming and asked her to take deep breaths while I counted to 10. This is our way that we get her to calm down regularly and she responds really well to it. She immediately calmed down and I proceeded to talk to her about how sometimes things don’t work how we want them to but we can choose to either throw a fit and scream about it and be mean and negative or we can slow ourselves down, look at the situation calmly and work on a solution. Frustration is a normal emotion. The reason she was having problems and got frustrated was that instead of changing how she was trying to put the shoes in the box, she just kept doing the same thing that wasn’t working and it, surprise, kept not working!

After slowing down and calming herself down, she picked up the box, tried putting the shoes in a different way and they went in properly and the lid went on as it should. Smiles all around. And she proclaimed “It worked! I tried harder and it worked! I’m happy and having fun now!”

Exactly.

Things aren’t always how we want them to be in life. We may expect something to happen one way and when it doesn’t we can either keep forcing something that doesn’t work or we can try something new and find a way that makes life happy and fun for us. Being able to adapt to things without throwing a fit or becoming negative is the first step to finding a new way. It doesn’t have to be THE way. The beauty of individuals is that we all have a way that we see things working. What works for me may not work for the next person. And things that I see working for other people aren’t things that would work for me in my life. I can either try to force something that isn’t right or I can embrace the way I see and find the happiness and fun in it.

I feel good about the lesson I was able to start teaching my daughter when it came up yesterday. I don’t want her to think she has to do everything the way she sees others doing around her. I want her to think for herself, find the way that works for her and go with it. That is how she’ll find happy in her life.

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