You can watch the video version of this on my Facebook Page.
Today I want to chat about our comfort with comfort. Take a second to process that. Something I’ve noticed since moderating the Parenting Posse for the last 5 years and doing the MudRoom for the last two years has been that every time I suggest logical consequences or things like kids playing outside solo, there’s always a few people who pipe up with “but what if they CRY?!” And you can bet that if a few people are actually typing it out there are dozens if not hundreds thinking the same thing. What if they get upset? What if they cry? What if they freak out?
So I’ve thought about this a lot. The flip side to that is that I have at least a handful of people asking me every week the opposite: what to do when my child is “okay” with the logical or natural consequence? It turns out we’re kind of a controlling bunch as parents- we want our kids to be upset at very specific times to display that they “get it” when we discipline them, but otherwise, we expect them to be happy and compliant.
Which- I’ll be honest- is kind of fucked up.
I know how us millennials were raised. Our childhoods were the epitome of the failed “if everybody acts happy all the time and nobody is ever disappointed or singled out then everyone will be happy” experiment. Unfortunately, the fallout of that is that we- as a general group- are terrified of our children’s emotions. We’re genuinely scared of them, so we try to control them. Y’know- it’s okay to be mad, but only when I expect you to be mad. It’s okay to be upset, but only when I deem whatever it is that you’re crying about “worth it.” It’s cool to be hesitant and cautious- unless it’s when I think you should be jumping in with both feet. Can we really blame kids for being confused?
That also means that we’re terrified of being uncomfortable. We’ve had limited experience losing, being hurt, being excluded. Don’t get me wrong- I’m sure we’ve ALL experienced those things- but we survived them. We’ve got it in our heads that in order for our children to be healthy and happy we need to protect them from ever having those experiences. However, that’s not how the brain works. There’s a saying or a song lyric, ”There is no up without down, no highs without lows.” It’s okay for there to be peaks and valleys. High points aren’t high points if there’s never a low point. You can’t know what happiness feels like if you’re never sad.
We need to start getting comfortable with being uncomfortable. We need to be okay with experiencing uncertainty when our kids want to do something that we aren’t 100% positive is 100% safe. We need to be okay with them experiencing physical discomfort when there is no risk to it. If your toddler doesn’t want to put their jacket on to walk to the car that’s 10 feet away, it’s okay to let them experience that natural consequence. Nobody died from being cold for the few moments it takes to get to the car without a coat on! Nobody dies from being upset that their parents are enforcing a boundary. It’s okay if you enforce a boundary like gating your child into their playroom or putting them outside to play. It’s okay if they don’t run off to play and protest. They’re just telling you that they don’t feel 100% safe in that moment. And y’know what? It’s okay if your child doesn’t feel 100% safe all the time. That’s how you learn to take calculated risks; By doing things that scare you when you have deemed there’s no real risk to it and then realizing that it’s not as scary as it seemed. That’s how you grow as a human being. The first time I did a live stream it was pretty damn bad…I was so scared! I did NOT want to do it. No siree. I avoided it for months. Until I said no, I’m going to do it even though it’s going to suck and it scares me. Look what happened! I have over 80 episodes under my belt in 2 years because I was scared, but I did it anyway. We grow when we’re scared and do it anyways. I’m sure you can think of something you’ve done that you were scared of and then did it anyways and great things came from it. You learned something really valuable. And you work up to it! You don’t have to send them out to play solo for 3 hours the first day. That’s the ideal goal, not a starting point. The first day you do 5 minutes. If they stand and cry at the door for 5 minutes, that’s okay. They were scared and they did it anyway. Then when they can do that you bump it up to 10, then 20, 30, etc. I did the same thing- there’s about 6 months worth of videos that I did exclusively in the Posse group. Then I did this annoying thing where I started out on the Uncommonsense Sense Parenting page by announcing the topic I kind and then switched to inside the group. Then finally I got up the courage to do it on the page from beginning to end. I started talking for 5 minutes, then 10…now most nights, I’m reminding myself at the half-hour mark to shut up. You work up to it.
All this to say that when we stay comfortable, we miss out on so many opportunities for growth and amazing experiences. You hear parents complimenting certain kids on being fearless, brave, super confident, but you cannot gain confidence by always being comfortable. It’s impossible! Does any of my readers watch kid’s cooking shows? Have you ever thought “WOW- there’s no way my 6 years old would ever be able to do that!” while watching? Well, those kids on the show learned to do it because their parents got comfortable with being uncomfortable. They let their children try something even if they were uncomfortable with it- and I don’t care who you are, when your preschooler wants to fry an egg, you’re very likely uncomfortable with it! It’s better to teach our kids young that it’s okay to be uncomfortable and push through it, then to raise another generation terrified of discomfort.
Our world is kind of a mess right now, and we need kids who are comfortable going outside of their comfort zone to be the leaders of tomorrow. To take risks, to try something new. All that starts with spending 10 minutes alone in the back yard. Baby steps. If we only start teaching them to take risks when they hit teenagehood, or worse- adulthood- the habit of complete safety is already established at that point.
I shared a video by Mel Robbins not to long ago on the page- and she was explaining that motivation is a construct we have created that is totally false. Our brains are not wired to take risks, our brains are wired to keep us safe. Our brain is structured to keep us physically and mentally safe, and when it detects what it perceives as danger, to run away or get angry. Right? Fight or flight- and many people, me included- include freeze and fib. Note that I said what it perceives as danger. That doesn’t mean that everything that makes us alert is a danger. The point Mel was making in that video is that no, you are not going to be motivated to do difficult things because difficulty is perceived as a danger, and our brains are designed to keep us safe. You are not going to feel like doing hard things. Whether that’s start exercising, cleaning the house, playing by yourself outside, or sleeping by yourself. Those are all new, unknown things that will make your brain go “I don’t know how this will turn out, so let’s just not.”
We need to get our kids in the habit of evaluating whether a risk is actually a risk, and then doing it anyway. Mel Robbins describes a “micro-moment” where we perceive a threat and then instinctively decide to avoid it. If we can pause in that moment, if we can breathe through it and reconnect to our thinking brain and make a conscious choice vs. just acting on instinct- that’s when amazing things happen. We can teach our kids to have that control over the micro-moment, too.
Before I finish this up, I just want to remind you that if you haven’t already- my Scripts for Managing Crazy-Making Behaviour are still available for free. There are 10 scripts in there so you can dip your toes into setting boundaries, starting to use natural and logical consequences, and building executive functioning skills.
That’s it for me. Thank you for being here with me today, have a great rest of your week, try and do something that makes you a bit uncomfortable, and I will see you next week for another uncommon sense parenting class! Bye.