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Leave a Tender Moment Alone

Leave a Tender Moment Alone

“Thank you for the flower, sweetheart. You’ll be okay, but remember this is why we don’t touch rosebushes.”

When a child reaches out with a tender feeling and you turn it into an opportunity to instruct them, you can destroy bonding and trust. One of the most frequent mistakes we make as parents is trying to teach during a tender moment. If we change our child’s focus from the tender feeling, we may be guilty of sabotaging the best opportunities for emotional closeness, and create emotional distance instead.

There is always plenty of time for teaching, but tender moments don’t come around nearly as often.

Tender moments start when a child comes to you with positive or negative emotions. Neither should be short-circuited and turned into educational moments.

Other tender moments that get sabotaged may sound like this: “I’m sorry they picked on you. This is why Mommy tells you to be kind.” Or “I know you are upset about your grade. This just means you have to try harder, that’s all.” Or sometimes we tell them, “Congratulations on that great big A! See, this is why we told you to study.

When a child wants to share their feelings, they need you to be in tune with their feelings. Not instruct. Not educate. Not remind. They need for you to be present while they feel. Anything else requires that they stop feeling and start thinking. At that point you are dismissing their feelings.

Over time they come to learn that you are not comfortable with their feelings because you change the conversation to right and wrong, or education. The more they are dismissed the more they will move towards avoiding you when they have tender feelings. Think about how that plays out in the long run, because we want them to tell us when they are being bullied, disrespected, hurt, happy, proud, and a myriad of other tender moments–especially as they get older and it’s harder to know what is going on.

It’s the same for us as adults. We want someone present in our tender moments as well. Without teaching us or dismissing our feelings.

After the emotional need is taken care of, children often say things like, “You told me not to.”

Then you can say. “It’s okay baby, we all make mistakes.”  At that point we don’t have to drive the point home.

Parents get over-concerned and worry that if they don’t crack the whip, their child may not survive, or the child will learn the hard way. But take a deep breath and realize that emotional needs come before educational needs. We can’t reverse the order.

A wise parent will leave a tender moment as just that.

By: Deborah M. Maxey PhD,

Licensed Professional Counselor

Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist

Join us at www.just18summers.com for our parenting blog each Monday-Friday and for info about the Just 18 Summers novel.

One Comment

  1. Great advice! I wish I’d known that when I was raising my own kids!

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