My daughter, Alex, and my 2-year-old grandson, Eli (pictured above), visited me at my house a few weeks ago. Eli was sitting in his highchair for dinner and started to get fussy about the food. You probably know what that’s like. Kids at any age want to choose what they eat and may throw a tantrum or two if they don’t get their way. He was VERY fussy, pushing away the food and shaking his head indicating he didn’t want it.
Well, then the most interesting thing happened.
Alex calmly said the following words: “Eli, I know you are frustrated right now. But my job as your parent is to decide what food is offered, where it is offered and when it is offered. Your job is to decide whether and how much to eat of what’s offered. I will stay here with you right now until you are ready to eat. I love you!” (By the way, this is the pioneering work of dietician, psychotherapist and author Ellyn Satter, who created what’s known as the “Division of Responsibility” in feeding.)
Then the craziest thing happened. He immediately calmed down and started eating. Frankly, I was a little shocked to hear Alex talk to her 2-year-old in such an adult manner, but it seemed like he understood what she said, and her cadence was slow and calming to him.
Later, after he went to bed, I commented to Alex that what I had witnessed was amazing.
She then told me about a parenting book she had read titled Good Inside by Dr. Becky Kennedy. Alex said the book and her podcast were recommended to her by another parent of a toddler. Alex had gifted me a copy of the book a few months earlier after she met Dr. Becky in person at a book signing!
I put the book aside and it quickly got buried on my desk.
Well, a few weeks later I was having some personal challenges and Alex and I were talking about them. She said, “You know, mom, that Dr. Becky book might be really helpful—it’s not just for parents of young kids. I think everyone would benefit from reading it!” Challenge accepted. So, I immediately downloaded it on Audible and invested a few hours listening to Dr. Becky herself. (I just love it when the author does the recording of their own book!)
I learned soooo much from listening to that book. I actually used some of her phraseology when dealing with some tense situations on the golf course, and it worked like magic! The other person immediately calmed down and felt acknowledged.
I’ve actually found myself using Dr. Becky’s techniques during my work interactions as well, and her tactics have smoothed out some tensions.
And last time my grandson, Eli, was over, I tried Dr. Becky’s technique with him. He was in the kitchen opening and closing my non-child-proofed drawers and cabinets, and I was afraid he was going to get hurt. In a calm cadence, I said, “Eli I know it’s fun to open and shut the drawers and make loud noises, but I don’t want anything to fall out and hurt you. So, let’s close the drawer and go into the other room and we can play together.”
And like magic, he turned and walked with me to the family room to play!
Later, my daughter Alex commented on how great I did! She said I was a good learner! (Talk about turning the tables.)
So, whether or not you have young children, chances are you have frustrating situations. Instead of raising your voice or getting upset with these situations, I hope you’ll gift yourself Dr. Becky’s book Good Inside. The title of the book embodies her philosophy and serves to remind you that your child/spouse/coworker/sibling/friend is good inside and to repeat that mantra to yourself over and over as a way to be more calm.
I can’t wait to meet Dr. Becky sometime soon, so I can share my stories with her. When you get the book, let me know how it’s helped you, too.