Validate bad times, c’mon!

6 September, 2012

(sung to the tune of Kool and the Gang’s Celebration, obviously. You totally got that, eh.)

On one of our trips away this summer we were rushing to get our train back. I jumped on before Ramona and Tim, determined to get us a table seat. We had so much luggage – all our camping gear- and there were three of us so I was feeling pretty deserving. As I entered the carriage I saw an empty one and honed in on it – unfortunately a businessman had spotted it too- entering from the other door. He pipped me to the post by about 0.7 seconds and with a triumphant flourish sat his un-heavy-laden solo self down. Fortunately there was another! It wasn’t over! I shuttled forward to the next table- and exactly the same thing happened again, this time with a women, arms full of shopping bags.  There was no eye contact, just that same  flourish.


I carried on up the train in, yeah, what was  bit of a rage, and came upon Tim and Ramona who had found a perfectly fine seating arrangement with bags of room. “You will not BELIEVE what just happened!” And I relayed the story, indignantly… “and the way they sat down… with such a triumphant flourish!!!” I was genuinely feeling a bit bruised by it.

Tim, kindly and very rationally,  responded to my woeful tale with “Never mind. These seats are really perfect.”

I was tired. And feeling a bit harassed. And grumpy and bruised. I, er, didn’t appreciate his comment.

I huffed and puffed and sunk into myself. I might have even whispered something a bit mean.

You see, what I wanted was someone to understand my -albeit irrationally upset- feelings. I wanted Tim to agree “What?! That is WELL out of order! No wonder you feel cross!”

And as our train jolted forward it hit me – we deal with toddlers in this way all the time.

Carboot puppy -The best 20p Ramona ever spent

At least once a day I’ll hear a variation of the following -and yep, sometimes out of my own mouth;

“Oh, don’t be silly, we’ve been at the park for hours, it’s time to go home”

“You just can’t scatter cereal all over the floor, that’s the way it is.”

“C’mon, that’s not for you to play with – look! Have a ball instead.”

“Don’t cry about it-  we can do it again later”

We discount our children’s feelings, sometimes outright by saying it is ridiculous, and sometimes more subtly and in a kinder way,  by trying to explain why they don’t need to worry about it.

I have been trying to validate Ramona’s feelings since she was really small – but only in this moment of immaturity on the train did I feel like I was trapped in a toddler’s body – having my feelings kindly, but subtly, invalidated. (By the way. I honestly think I was being unreasonable on the train. I am an adult, with all the right wiring – I hope– and a –fairly– developed brain and my husband has a really good balance in understanding my feelings but also calling me out when I am being a bit out of order myself!)

Another one of our trips was to a farm with a friend and her two toddlers. She parented so gently and playfully, always validating her children’s huge feelings, even when they seemed unreasonable. It was such a delight to see her sitting on the floor next to her wailing child and, in a undramatic and calm way, letting her know that she understands how hard it is.

“I can see that has made you really upset. ”

“It  is really frustrating when you can’t play with the things you want to, isn’t it?”

“You feel as if you should have longer in the haybales, don’t you?”

“It makes you upset when you can’t help me make dinner. Perhaps you could help me make the pudding?”

It isn’t rocket science, but it doesn’t come naturally either. I think it takes a lot of practice to make empathy and validation the first response, particularly when it is over something so blatantly trivial. I am constantly trying to understand that for Ramona the sense of the feeling is often huge, even if the cause of the feeling seems tiny and minor to me.

I think validating our toddler’s feelings often does avert full blown tantrums, and can often save time in the long run. But mostly I think I want to nurture a relationship based on understanding, to take every opportunity to connect with my toddler.  I want Ramona to get that there is a place for her big feelings, and it is right to sometimes feel sad and cross and frustrated. She doesn’t have to bury these feelings, to distract herself by the next thing.

So, isn’t it great when we can learn something from a particularly low ebb in our adult emotional maturity?  Really great. I just probably shouldn’t have slipped a special little revenge parcel in their bags to discover later. (JOKES)


Let’s all validate and have a good time!

PS- If you are interested in this I do recommend reading some of Naomi Aldort’s stuff. I am currently battling through her book, Raising our children, Raising ourselves-  but her articles are a million times easier to read!

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  • Sonya Cisco 6 September, 2012 at 10:58 am

    I try, but sometimes I fail! Sometimes I run out of time and patience, but I do my best!

    • lulastic 6 September, 2012 at 11:42 am

      I am hearing you! Aldort also suggests taking a minute out, to figure out your feelings and decide on a response!

  • EllaS 6 September, 2012 at 11:12 am

    We finally got a copy of unconditional parenting too which is well worth a read. I find it really hard to validate and NOT offer solutions or consolations, but like everything it gets easier with practise..

    V cute pic of Ramona btw!

    • lulastic 6 September, 2012 at 11:43 am

      I understand, solutions eh? Almost as unvalidating, but much kinder. I think it is okay in question form “Do you think we should…” or “What could we do to make it better?”

  • EllaS 6 September, 2012 at 11:13 am

    consolations probably wrong word, but you know what I mean.

  • butwhymummywhy 6 September, 2012 at 11:32 am

    As a parenting worker this is music to my ears! Validating feelings is so important, yet hard to do when you’re feeling stressed. You are right though, it needs practice as it does feel weird at first. Great post xx

    • lulastic 6 September, 2012 at 11:43 am

      Yep, I felt particularly weird validating her in public at six months old but think it is paying off teehee

  • Saffron 6 September, 2012 at 9:22 pm

    I’m an Alfie Kohn (& all that) fan but still fail miserably far too often. I find it particularly hard when my two (16 months apart) are raging at each other as it totally drives me round the bend. But in the lovely cuddley aftermath I do try to run through things with them, validating their feelings as we go.
    As a mother, I find very little validation for my own feelings of frustration that gradually build up throughout the day so have found going to hardcore circuit classes at the gym helps me unleash all that in a positive way! Am sure my feelings as a child were dismissed & not validated & therefore as an adult I feel the frustrations in a big way. Gawd I really hope I’m helping my children to develop their emotional intelligence the majority of the time…….oooh the guilt….!

    • lulastic 6 September, 2012 at 9:32 pm

      Hehee, fabulous. I think you are right, not having our feelings as adults acknowledged DOES build up, until we get hugely angsty about the smallest thing. I think I probably take mine out on the roads, as I cycle about!

      I am SURE you are nurturing your two in this way – even just trying, and failing sometimes, is about a MILLION times better than what most of us grew up with- in the era when children should be very much seen and not heard 🙁

      • anne 8 September, 2012 at 11:31 pm


        [Your Mummy!]

        • lulastic 9 September, 2012 at 3:13 pm

          Hehehehe. The reason I don’t have this emotional dips is probably because you bought me up so wonderfully well 😀

  • nyssapod (@nyssapod) 8 September, 2012 at 11:14 am

    Very interesting and thought-provoking post. Thanks!

    (this is a comment from the blogger formerly known as minibreakmummy)

    • lulastic 8 September, 2012 at 9:21 pm

      Ah! I thought you’d changed on twitter!

  • Kellie 17 March, 2016 at 7:43 pm

    Arghhhhhh, I wish you had written this earlier. I have just spent the better part of a month battling, bribing, making deals and just giving up and missing with my son to get him to go to Playcentre and all the other places we go.
    This morning I said as we were about to have another battle to get out the door ‘it seems to me like its really hard for you to leave your toys when we go out”. He then spent the next 5 minutes telling me about how he misses his police car and his fire truck and how they miss him whenever he goes out, while happily getting in the car and driving off. No fuss at all.
    Even more annoying is that I had tried validating, I just kept spoiling it by adding “but you enjoy it once you are there” everytime.

    • Lucy 18 March, 2016 at 8:47 am

      Oh maaaaaannn! We totAlly do wreck our validating with that little extra don’t we! It negates it. Ah, you have it sussed now 🙂 x x

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