Knowing what matters keeps decision making on track. Teaching children how to rate things keeps them on track.
How to practice Emotional Fitness Training’s Rating Exercise: Every time you feel tempted to complain, rate the complaint: Trivial is one; Life Changing trauma is ten. Hurts but not for long is five.
The younger the child, the more s/he lives in the now and what matters is feeling okay or good. Rating scales can be taught to a child as soon as he or she begins toddling. Why then? Because the child is getting a few bumps and bruises, but also because s/he is acquiring language. This age and stage lets you teach your child to rate pain:
- “Big hurt” if the child is crying inconsolably.
- “Hurts” for small weeping moments.
- Tiny hurt for when child complains but seems able to comfort self.
For the big hurts, keep saying “Big Hurt” as you comfort the child. For the “Hurts” repeat that one word and when the child stops crying, smile, hug, and say “Good job.”
For tiny hurts, ignore or say “Tiny Hurt, well handled.”
By the way, some experts say there are only two emotions: pleasure and pain. Makes some sense by also important to realize that as we grow what feels pleasurable or painful becomes personal. Need an example? Here’s one based on my experience as a foster parent.
Many of the children who came to live with us, had been abused or seriously neglected. The logical assumption would be that living with foster parents who were not abusive would be pleasurable. Not so.
As one young man said, “Please beat us once in a while. You treat us better than our parents and that hurts.”
Fritz Redl and David Wineman in their book Children Who Hate called this inability to tolerate good enough parenting “Treatment Shock.”
In my work and life, I have found three elements working in terms of pleasure or pain.
- Deprivation of basic survival needs leads the list. And sexual deprivation is included as a basic survival need, although survival of the species not the individual.
- Physical pain.
- Emotional pain including uncertainty and fear of pain.
As children grow, each of these three elements can be rated.
- Survival needs are rated in terms of their impact on the body. Water needs? A bit thirsty vs dehydrated; Food needs? Mildly hungry vs near death from starvation. Sexual needs? No sexual tension versus aroused enough to violate safe sex rules including forcing sex on someone.
- Pan has already been discussed. but useful to think about uncertain and fear of pain in the following ways.
- Emotional pain? Rate on tiny hurt, hurt, and big hurt scale. Think about uncertainty in terms of mildly curious to disruption of core beliefs enough to act violently to those who believe differently. Fear of pain? Reasonable caution vs immobilizing fear.
But it all begins with teaching a toddler to rate pain.
What to do if your child is past the toddler age? Once a child is in school, you can take a direct approach. Again your response starts the process. Look for when a child is “awfulizing” a trivial hurt.
What’s awfulizing? Albert Ellis founder of the Institute for Rational Living coined this word. Most simply put it involves making mountains out of ant hills. Think of the teen who won’t leave the house because of a pimple you cannot see. Or the Little League who drops a fly ball and acts like he or she lost the World Series.
You have a number options, but the best is simply to ask the child to rate how bad it is. You can do that by saying, ” suspect by next week you won’t feel so bad, and by next month you will hardly remember feeling so bad and by next year, you will have forgotten this entirely.” I usually add, “Life goes on.”
My mother’s response to awfulizing took these three forms.
- “Suck it up Butter cup.”
- “Be glad it isn’t worse.”
- “Life goes on.” Which is where I got that one.
Many of today’s parenting gurus would find my mother’s edicts hurtful. These tend to suggest if you cannot praise, say nothing. I disagree. Part of being a parent is preparing your child for the realities of life. Hurt is a reality and learning to rate hurts realistically an important life skill.
THANK YOU FOR ALL YOU DO
Remember’s sharing is caring and the easiest way to practice kindness now is to share this post with someone who will find it inspiring. Thank you.
P.S. This post was partly inspired by today’s WordPress Daily Prompt.
Ripped from the Headlines! Head to your favorite online news source. Pick an article with a headline that grabs you. Now, write a short story based on the article.
I thought about the controversy over Starbucks Christmas Cups. Stupid to waste time on something so trivial. Well, at least in my Cranky Old Lady’s Opinion.