A mother came to a talk that I ran earlier this year on “Helping Children With Their Fears”. Later, she told me this story:
“My son, who is 9, is a good singer, had gone through an audition process and been selected to sing a solo part in a choral concert at the Opera House. He was extremely anxious about this. He is really smart, but tends to be very sensitive. Before the concert, he developed a tic in his eye and was having bad dreams at night, waking up screaming.
Madeleine suggested we do some roughhousing – physical play which focuses on laughter and allows the children to be the strongest, swiftest and to win any contest that might happen.
My husband and I went to the park several times (maybe 4 or 5 times) with both our children, and played lots of games where the children were the winners. Throwing the ball – we would fumble and try to catch it; playing chasing – we would just get close enough to hang on to their shirts, but they would get away. They got to laugh a lot. We played some games from my country, Peru, where people need to be crafty and to run in order to save their own lives. Everyone always laughs a lot.
A few weeks after we started playing like this, the tic stopped, he was sleeping well, and he got up in front of thousands of people at the Opera House and sang beautifully.
Afterwards everyone congratulated him and he was very pleased with himself. But the next evening, when we were playing together, he fell over and slightly sprained his ankle. It really was not bad, but he cried hard for over an hour. I just listened, and did not try to stop him.
The next time he performed, also, was similar. The following day, he spilled some milk on the table – it really was not a problem but he got very, very upset. My husband did not understand why he was so upset. But I realised that it was connected with the performance he had given the day before. He was getting rid of the tension.
I was so glad that I had learned at Madeleine’s talk that children do this – that they will find small things, pretexts, to get upset about. But it is often about some other, much bigger tension. Madeleine calls it the “coat-hanger effect” – he was finding a coat-hanger to hang his big, difficult feelings left over from doing such a challenging thing as singing in front of thousands of people.”
A mother in Sydney, Australia
Posted by:Madeleine Winter
Certified Parenting by Connection Instructor
madeleine.s.winter ‘at’ gmail.com
How fine that this parent’s attention enabled her son to perform at the iconic Sydney Opera House. A bit of flexible playfulness goes a long way.