Over the Winter break, Cricket and Buzzy Bee got Big Kid Bikes. The first day of riding went well. The second day, we had issues. We took them to a parking lot that has a tee tiny gentle slope (calling it a hill would be a massive offense to hills everywhere). Cricket was doing fine until she went down the slope and got scared.
We took her instead to a tennis court and coached her again. Start! Now brake! 60% of the time she did it and smiled and we gave her a high five. 40% of the time she would cry and say “I can’t”. I could just see her brain shutting down her body.
I haven’t the foggiest clue how to teach a kid to be with fear. There’s an excellent book called Anh’s Anger by Gail Silver and Christiane Kromer that is fabulously awesome for teaching kids to be with anger. But fear? That’s another thing entirely.
One of the biggest changes to my mental landscape as a result of my mindfulness practice is that I’ve stopped telling myself to not feel feelings. I love Carl Jung’s quote “What you resist, persists”. I totally found that to be true – the more I told myself to not feel a feeling, the more I felt it (and the attendant feelings like failure and guilt that come along with shoving away what you’re feeling). If I’m scared, rather than say “Don’t be scared, it’s going to be okay” I gently identify the feelings that come up (“Hmm, fear. Scared. Heart pounding.”)
So the last thing I want to tell my kid is “Don’t be scared!” She’s scared. Of course she is, she’s learning something new. I tried to tell her that it’s possible to be scared AND do the thing that scares you. I tried to tell her that her mind was telling her a story and she shouldn’t listen. Yeah, that didn’t work so well. I had to laugh – most adults struggle with preventing their brain from screwing with them and here I am trying to teach a four year old to do just that.
Fast forward to last night and I was working with Cricket writing the letters in her name. I could see the same thing – her brain disconnecting from her body then she says “I can’t”.
I pulled her into my lap and I said “Cricket, inside your head is a tiny birdie and he keeps cheeping “I can’t I can’t I can’t!” Don’t listen to that birdie! Every time you hear that birdie, I want you to pinch his beak shut! Then start fixing the problem.” She loved the metaphor and was giggling and miming putting her hand over a birdie beak.
I haven’t the foggiest idea if this will help. Will it help her be with her fear? I don’t know (and as long as it’s 25 degrees F outside, we won’t be finding out soon!) I’m really starting to realize that parenting is an ongoing experiment. Guess I’ll just have to wait and see how this one goes.