Have you ever watched a 3-year-old proudly try to pour a large carton of milk into a bowl of cereal on his/her own only to see it splash all over the table, the floor and everyone else within five feet? It can be very upsetting, and not just for the little ones. Yup, often it's the grown-ups who also lose their cool.
As parents, we revel in watching our children learn numerous daily rituals: squeezing toothpaste onto a toothbrush; pulling a button through a way-too-tiny hole; getting the zipper to slide up a jacket; fitting a puzzle together; cracking an egg right into the cookie batter or turning the page of a picture book. We exclaim "You did it!" when they succeed and hopefully something along the lines of "Awesome effort!" when they don't. Naturally, many kids get frustrated when they try something and it doesn't turn out the way they thought or expected it would. We're grownups, we should be able to relate to this by now. It all comes down to how we manage frustration -- most importantly, how we model it for our children.
Ever since she could crawl, my daughter always frustrated easily. As a first-time parent, it was difficult to see her repeatedly get upset over what some may call "the little things." There's no shortage of new experiences for kids to dive into, so this is a scenario that can quickly spiral to some very unbecoming places. It goes like this -- she'd get frustrated and meltdown, I'd get upset, raise my voice and then it was all downhill from there. Sound familiar? Rather than be in constant anticipation of a potential frustration breakdown, I "checked myself" and made a promise to work on keeping my cool. I needed to model calm behavior for my daughter (and for myself). Then came the vanilla custard...
When she asked to stir the billowy mixture, I slowly handed my daughter the spoon with a smile. With one quick whisk (splat!) the heavenly concoction went flying everywhere, including all over the two of us and one very happy, hungry cockapoo. There it was... that familiar look in her eyes. I knew what was coming next, so instinctively I gave her a playful look and quickly blurted, "No biggy! Let's just take a deep breath, wipe ourselves off and try again." She watched me take a slow, deliberate breath. I wiped the custard off my cheek and gave it a taste. "Mmmm, yummy!" I exclaimed.
Suddenly, that look in her eyes disappeared. She gazed at me, took her own deep breath and tasted the custard. "Yummy mommy!" she shouted. Together we wiped some of it off the table. "No biggy," I repeated with a giggle and a shoulder shrug. "No biggy mommy!" she exclaimed. We followed that up by practicing to stir the custard what we lovingly call "low and slow." Sure, there were a few more small splats here and there. "No Biggy!" Meltdown averted. Smiles all around.
And, so it began... the launch of a new, inspiring mindset in our family. The No Biggy! mindset. It all came full circle when our dog ran into the house with wet, muddy paws. My contorted face obviously said it all because before I could even let out an "Ugh!" my daughter looked right at me, her expression proud and strong. "No biggy mommy," she said, grabbing a few paper towels and wiping the dog's paws. There she was -- my 3-year-old, modeling calm behavior for me, the grown-up.
I'm not claiming "No Biggy!" is foolproof, but it's definitely been an effective tool for everyone in our family. Sometimes, a little levity is all you need to change your perspective.
Our daughter is almost 7 now and still loves saying "No Biggy!" when something doesn't go as planned. "No Biggy!" helps her put a fun spin on managing frustration - now, there's something we could all benefit from.
Elycia Rubin is the author of No Biggy!, a book helping kids (and grown-ups) playfully manage frustration. She is the Contributing Entertainment Editor at Women's Health and Men's Health magazines and is one of the founders of the Fashion and Lifestyle Department at E! Networks. Previously, Elycia authored two successful style guides, Frumpy To Foxy In 15 Minutes Flat (Fair Winds Press) and Curves Rule and Flat Is Fabulous (Kensington/Citadel). You can read more of her lifestyle tips and what she loves by visiting her blog: www.WhatImLoving.com, find No Biggy! at www.NoBiggyBook.com, and follow her on Twitter @ElyciaRubin