I started following Gentle parenting about two years ago when one day my cell phone came up missing. Since I wasn't working and didn't have anywhere to go that day I just shrugged my shoulders and went on, knowing I would find it at some point. I was shocked to find my then 5-year old frantically searching for it. When I asked her why she thought it was so important that we find it "NOW" I expected her to say she wanted to call grandma or maybe play a game but instead she said "we have to find it mommy...you NEEEEED it...you always have it in your hand so I know its important to you!"
Wow...talk about a knife to the heart moment... I honestly didn't realize I had become one of those parents. I realized then that some things needed to change...I had to stop telling my kid to wait .....just one more call, just one more update, just one more text. It was then I started looking for ways to be a better parent...to make sure I was connecting with them vs just sitting in the same room. didn't think I was a "bad" mom (a mom trying her best and failing will never be a bad mom in my book) but after a few nights of reading my eyes were opening to the possibility that I could do better.
What stuck with me the most was a simple concept that in theory would prevent melt downs and such. The idea was to catch a child BEFORE they got to the point of no reason (ie kicking and screaming in the middle of Wal-Mart) and make sure their cup was full. By connecting with a child...giving them enough positive attention and interaction...you fill their "cup" so they can better handle a long checkout line or being told no candy til they eat their lunch. If their cup is empty ....meaning they need more cuddles, more of your full attention, more laughter...they are much more likely to meltdown.
As I make my way through the bumps and curves of parenting I have always kept this cup analogy in the back of my mind. Recently, my daughters cup seems to be constantly empty. It might be that she is still adjusting to a new teacher or that she is growing and changing or maybe simple sibling jealously but whatever the case she seems glued to my hip.
Jokingly I said to her "come here so I can fill your cup with extra cuddles, it seems to be empty!" Instantly she went from sassy meltdown to sweet and very intrigued . While I explained how cranky she got when her cup was empty and that sometimes all it takes to fill it is an extra hug, she surprised me by dancing around the room singing "my cup is empty my cup is empty!" My first thought was on my what have I created, but then it hit me....maybe an empty cup is better than a full cup.
An empty cup means she is stepping out into the world - exploring, trying, learning - and she is able to get through the scary stuff because I keep filling her cup. Why would I want her to come home from school with a full cup? That would mean she didn't grow any that day.
A full cup will become stale, while an empty cup is the result of something enjoyed -- koolaid drank, water splashed, paint brushes rinsed.
As always I learn so much from my children....their minds fresh and unaffected by the world. Her perspective was much better than mine. I kept thinking "ugh I have to keep refilling her cup!" While she was thinking "Yes! My cup is full, now I can have fun emptying it!" Every time your child starts to meltdown remember that their cup is probably empty and unlike soda you can refill it any time any where with smiles and hugs.