We’ve all been there. Seemingly out of nowhere, a child just loses it. These meltdowns have an almost surreal beginning, leaving us wondering, “Where the hell is this coming from? “ They quickly escalate into an exorcist-like demonic possession. What else can possibly explain what is being spewed from the mouths of babes? The litany of complaints, grievances, and injustices fly out like one speaking in tongues.
Eventually, we lose our patience as the words offend our own sensibilities, the disobedience crosses the demarcation line of disrespect and the behavior becomes unacceptable. Too easily our initial instinct to calm reverts to a more primal instinct to threaten with punishment.
Recently, two films have provided valuable insight into understanding what is really happening – not with them - but with us.
A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood is as simple and important film you will see. It’s the story of a journalist who has forgotten both how to forgive and how to understand his or anyone else’s feelings. An assignment to interview Fred Rogers leads to a conversion of sorts. Mr. Rogers guides him gradually towards discovering and accepting his own childhood feelings. This is a marked difference from when we dismiss or delegitimize our feelings or those of others. Feelings are real regardless of whether they make sense to anyone else. What we can do by acknowledging them is to move towards a conversation around what we can do with them.
Instead of trying to change feelings, we accept them.
Instead of calling out bad behavior, we call-in more positive alternatives.
Throughout the film, Mr. Rogers gently reminds us to focus on how someone is feeling and not what someone is doing.
If that film provides guidance on how children can be a window into understanding negative feelings; the upcoming film, Wendy, looks like it might offer child-based inspiration in appreciating more positive feelings.
This new take of the Peter Pan tale is seen through the eyes of Wendy, a child who yearns to sneak away for adventure and freedom. The trailer will make you feel invigorated, awakening a desire to be more free and unconstrained. To feel unbounded wonder, curiosity, and restlessness. To have that light in your eye that suggests you’ve never fully grown up. Watching the trailer makes you not just want to see the movie but be in it.
To really see the feelings of children -- positive or negative -- can be a powerful source of reflection. One that helps us relate both to them and ourselves infinitely better.
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