Natural Consequences – Allowing ‘Life’ to Happen

By Kristin Mariella

I was in a beautiful toy store with my 3.5-year-old daughter last weekend. After spending some time browsing around the store, looking at different toys and objects, she found two beautiful swans that lit up, sort of like a cosy night-light, One was pink, the other, white, and she was obviously captivated by them. She played with them the whole time we were in the store – so focused and peaceful, it was lovely. 

When it was time to go, I gave my daughter a little warning: ”We have to go soon. I see you are playing with these pretty swans. You can play for five more minutes.” 

Ironically, I myself was looking to buy a small night-light for her bedroom so I thought I’d surprise her and buy one of the swans. When the five minutes were up, I told her: “We have to go now but you know what…? I would love to buy one swan for you. Which one do you want?” 

“I want both of them…”  was her immediate answer as she held them close to her chest. 

“Ahhh I see, you want both of them. They are so pretty and it’s hard to choose… I hear you. I can only buy one.” 

She struggled with the idea and I was quickly running out of time since both my husband and our friends were waiting on us at a nearby coffee shop. I told her I could see she was having a hard time choosing and if she needed more time, she could think about it over lunch. When she knew which one she wanted, I would come back for one of them before we went home. 

I told her I could see she was having a hard time choosing and if she needed more time, she could think about it over lunch.

At that point, she was already crying, telling me over and over that she didn’t want to leave the store, and that she wanted both swans and not just one. I was able to calmly empathise with her, but at the same time confidently told her that it was time to go. 

“We need to got now, I’m going to pick you and help you out of the store. Here we go…” 

Once outside, she calmed down on her own. She happily ate lunch and ran around playing with her friend until it was time to pack up and go home. I then reminded her that I was ready to go back to the store and pick up one of the swans like promised. We didn’t have much time since we were all leaving together (two families) and if she would tell me which one she wanted, I would quickly go in and get it before we left. 

But she was still not ready to make her choice, telling me that she only wanted both swans. 

“I hear you, you really want both, you liked playing with the two of them together in the store, they are so nice! But I’m not going to buy both, you have to choose either one.” 

“No, no, no Mommy! I want both!” 

And just then, the taxi arrived. 

“Ah, see Y, the taxi has arrived and we need to leave. I don’t have time to go into the store anymore. The opportunity has passed sweetheart.” 

I then had to physically carry my disappointed toddler, who was by that point in complete meltdown mode, into the taxi still empathising and acknowledging the loss of the two swans. 

She cried and screamed, asked to go back, told me that she was ready to choose, quickly adding she still wanted both! All was expressed and all was let out. I held her calmly in the taxi and welcomed the feelings. 

Letting out big feelings of loss and disappointments through a tantrum is our child’s way to essentially accept the limits we give them, and to process their experience.  This is one way children internalise important lessons that present themselves in our daily lives. Accepting and acknowledging these feelings and allowing them to pass in their own time makes the experience very valuable to them. 

As parents, we need to be willing to allow life to “happen” because through these real life lessons our children get a chance to learn how the world sometimes works. 

I then had to physically carry my disappointed toddler, who was by that point in complete meltdown mode, into the taxi still empathising and acknowledging the loss of the two swans. 

Relaxing into the moment and allowing our children to experience life in this way, while we stand close ready to support them through the often disappointing experiences, is truly a valuable gift we can give to our children.  But it is our job to trust they can go through somewhat painful emotions with our emotional support, as we acknowledge their feelings, stay calm and centred ourselves – like the anchor in the middle of the storm. 

So often we will unknowingly rob our children of these learning experiences – usually because we’re driven by fear of the emotional outburst, their reaction, or the dreaded tantrum. We then find ourselves running around, trying to meet their every need, whether they’re reasonable or unreasonable.  

Parenting with compassion and empathy 

With all of this said, we have to be careful about where we are coming from. Our own energy, our thoughts, and state of mind when following through with our limits, allowing natural consequences to play out, going through big emotions with our children, makes a huge difference in how our children internalise these lessons, or if they will internalise them at all! 

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