By Gari Lister
This morning I started off my day with a cascade of nastiness from my usually reasonably-fun-to-be-around fifth grader. “I’m not going to eat those pills. Are you serious? Is that what we’re having for breakfast? Well, of course, we’re going to be late because of her [the sweeter younger sister].” First, I spent a moment thanking my yoga teacher for helping me to understand equanimity.
Then, I reached out and tried to give her a hug. “Don’t touch me!” Mmm. Truthfully, hugs apparently only work on fifth graders about half the time. This mood required the big guns – in this house, they are known as MEHAM, or Mom-Embarrasses-Herself-And-Me. When she was four or five, we invented the family “butt dance.” A cranky small child almost always cracks up if you make her do an exaggerated backwards wiggle, especially if you give it a name. Ours is called “Shake Off the Bad Mood,” and it requires one to turn around and . . . well, you know.
After I successfully tried the approach years ago in a Barnes & Noble, the technique stuck, and it’s stayed a family favorite. When in doubt, we butt dance. As the kids have gotten older, though, it’s changed. Years ago, my little girl danced in the store or wherever the bad mood struck while I secretly looked around for any acquaintances nearby. (Those were the days when I still pretended to be cool.) I have learned, though, that it’s a lot harder to get an 11 year old moving than a 5 year old. So what to do?
Well, now Mom dances. Yes, I have lost all my coolness. But when I break out a butt dance . . . it almost always gets a smile. And once you get a smile, it’s only a step or a skip to a hug. This morning, we were running a little late and I didn’t want to make her more stressed by being tardy, so rather than a full butt dance I chose to sing along to 80s music while doing a modified wiggle during our drive to school. It took a full three minutes of Rick Springfield, but I did get a smile and then a laugh. And we all felt better.
Try it – the next time you’re faced with a cranky or stressed child, stop yourself from talking or lecturing and do something silly.