Okay, I have to temper how I give this to you.
When my son hurts himself, I hurt, I’m in pain. I feel it.
The other day I was cooking on the bbq outside and it was probably 12 degrees, right. He was riding his bike around without any shoes on and I suggested, ‘Hey buddy, how about you put some shoes on while you ride your bike – you could hurt your feet’.
So what does he do? He rides his bike into the door and jams his toe in between the pedal and the door – and he’s in pain. I was in pain and I felt his pain.
After he calmed down, I said to him, ‘What did you learn from this?’
And he said, ‘Well Daddy, I shouldn’t ride my bike without shoes on.’
So, I said, ‘That’s a bloody good lesson.’
As much as I feel pain when he feels pain I know it’s a part of the childhood process. It’s part of the neurological development that’s required for children to become resilient. Children who don’t experience pain don’t become resilient and may become soft or weak.
For me, pain is what is required for someone to develop strength.
As parents, our goal is not to prevent them from experiencing pain, our goal is to support and nurture them when they are in pain. By virtue of us being there to support them, cuddle them, nurture them, and touch them reassuringly biosymbotically when they’re in pain, it’s teaching them to regulate their emotions. It’s allowing blood to flow to the parts of the brain that allow them to regulate the stress and the emotion that physical and mental pain bring up.
For me, pain is important for a child. Mental and physical pain is important for a child. And although I don’t wish more pain on my son, what I do wish for him is a level of pain for him to learn an abundance of skills that allow him to learn how to self regulate.
Kids are a puddle of potential
He’s an incredible little guy and he already knows how to regulate. So if he’s in pain we’ve got a couple of little things to do if he stubs his toe or falls over. His mum taught him to say, ‘Cancel that.’
And so, when he hurts himself, we say, ‘Cancel that’, to cancel the signal between the limb and the brain.
And the second thing I say is, ‘Ok buddy, remember to breathe to regulate the pain’. This kid is four and when I say ‘regulate’, he naturally takes purposeful breaths, he’s already regulating.
The most important thing is not preventing pain. In some cases you want to be, not protecting them of every sort of pain but allowing them to experience pain. The most important role as the parent is to nurture them when they are in pain. It’s super, super critical for the parent to be calm, base neutral, to be present and say, ‘Hey, it’s ok. it’s ok’.
Even though the parent wants to respond physically very strongly, we have to regulate ourselves, keep ourselves neutral because that’s what the kids are basing from. If the kid’s in pain and our baseline is escalating and we’re freaking out, the kid thinks, this is what happens and this is what we do – we freak out, we escalate. We freak out, we freak out.
But if we teach them to breath and keep taking good deep breaths when their in physical, mental or emotional pain what they learn is… ‘I’m in pain – Dad’s calm, I’m in pain – Dad’s calm, I’m in pain – Dad’s calm.’
They learn – Ok, so I can be calm when I’m in pain. We teach them that that’s the natural response. The response of regulation is to experience less intensity of pain.
The benefit of this, is that their brain develops in more healthy ways and the less chance they have of developing all sorts of conditions, including things like addictions as an example. The kids that don’t learn how to regulate pain – mental, emotional, physical pain – their brains develop in different ways that can make them susceptible to addiction and other things that regulate for them.
We want to teach the kids how to regulate biologically and not through external mechanisms.
Hope that helps.