The following is a guest post written by Julie Bogart of Brave Writer.
Recently my daughter, Caitrin, took up “longboarding.”
A longboard is an over-sized skateboard, and it looks like you’re surfing on asphalt! My youngest son, Liam, owns one and uses it all the time. Caitrin got curious.
The other day Caitrin flung open the front door and exclaimed through stifled sobs: “Get me bandages. I’m bleeding.”
Liam leapt to his feet; I abandoned my laptop.
Caitrin took quite a spill (“street pizza”)! One knee gouged and bloodied, an elbow throbbing in pain, scraped red, another patch of skin bleeding on her side, with lesser abrasions littered across her thighs and forearms. Spectacular crash!
I quickly assessed my resources and agreed with myself: “I’m no nurse.”
We limped to the car and drove to Urgent Care where the attending doctor, I kid you not, related his own downhill crash on a longboard in college (which must have been only a pair of years ago, if you were to go by his baby face).
Caitrin bucked up. She bore the pain of clippings, injections, and the pressure cleaning of the open wound like a champ. Naturally Liam Snapchatted and Instagrammed the event. Consolation flowed in from all her friends while Caitrin was still on the table! (Social media is awesome.)
We drove home with bandages, Neosporin, and Advil.
A child’s physical pain and/or injury arouse any parent from work or sleep, television viewing or yard work. We jump to action and take care of our kids.
Imagine if Caitrin had come through that door, bleeding, and I had said the following:
“You’re not hurt. You’re lazy. If you paid better attention while skating, you wouldn’t be injured now. I’m in the middle of work. I don’t have time to help you with bandages. Get in that bathroom and attend to yourself. I don’t want to hear another word until you are bandaged, AND back out there trying again. This TIME, do NOT fall!”
We would be seen as the worst parents ever if we took this approach to physical injury.
Yet how do many of us respond to emotional injury?
If your child is struggling with math or reading, writing or French, the struggle may not be as obvious as blood streaming down a leg. It shows up as listlessness, dawdling, whining, arguing, giving half effort, not trying.
All of these behaviors are inconvenient to you. Yet they are covers for pain. Your child is mitigating the dull throb of undeveloped skill. It’s hard work to write, read, think, calculate!
When a child fails (crashes into the wall of criticism, red pen strokes, a whole page of calculation errors), the child hides the embarrassment by pretending to not care.
Pretending not to care = pain.
Competence leads to joy and alertness.
Development equals struggle, strain, effort.
Do not expect a child to sustain interest beyond what he or she can. If a child can give you a minute of undivided attention, take it! If that minute turns into 2-3, even better. But if by minute five, the child is looking at the ceiling swinging his legs, he’s done.
For kids who are yelling, whining, complaining, and fighting with you—that’s the WALL they just crashed into. Pain! Right in front of you.
Get out the bandages (hugs, understanding, a cup of hot liquid, a yummy treat, a break).
Move on to the next less taxing lesson. Do not create chronic pain by pushing, yelling, shaming, blaming, or labeling.
No child wants to fail in school. No child wants to stay a non-reader or non-writer forever. All of those declarations are cover-ups. Your child wants a ride to Urgent Care and Advil.
Photo by Mario Antonio Pena Zapateria
So, follow these steps for emotional pain:
Dress the wound: “This is too hard today. Good work so far.”
Rehabilitate: “Let’s focus on ______ now. We’ll come back to X another day.”
Heal: “I want to help you not hit that wall again next time. Let’s talk about ways to make _________ less painful.”
Take pain seriously.
That is the best gift you can give your children.
Have you run into any of these pain signals from your homeschoolers?
Originally posted on September 25, 2014