Hear me out. I know no-one enjoys a toddler tantrum, but as I drove past a park the other day I saw a mum trying to lift her toddler off the ground. Said toddler clearly didn’t want to leave the park and was embracing gravity for all they were worth.
It struck me all at once how this little scene was in fact a lesson for how to deal with all sorts of people, tantruming or not. I mentioned it to my teen who immediately understood what I meant and why I thought it related to him, and his peers.
Parents lift toddlers all the time. They’re heavy, but moveable. Mostly because they’re all ‘up! up!’, and hold themselves up.
Toddlers who refuse to be lifted are a different story. It’s like they’ve sucked in gravity and it’s holding them bound to the earth. When you finally heave them up, you might get a kick in the stomach for your pains and a screech in your eardrum.
We can try and lift people, and help them, and support them, but sometimes they aren’t ready. Sometimes they’re lying on the ground refusing to get up. Sometimes they’re frightened to get up. They push us away, shout, cover their eyes.
When people want to be lifted, it’s a lot easier.
This isn’t to say that we walk away from them when they’re not wanting the help. That might be necessary for our own wellbeing at times but mostly I think when we have the spoons we want to stick around to help.
What it means is that we can’t save everyone. We can’t always help people who aren’t ready to be helped. Who don’t want us there.
And that isn’t our fault.
It’s not a burden in particular that a teen or child needs to bear when friends or those close to them aren’t ready to be helped. I think it’s an important message to let young people know that they don’t have to be the saviour. They can still try and help, but they need to know that stepping back to look after themselves is okay. Refill the jug. Put your own oxygen mask on first.
The way I see it in teaching is that I can easily help a kid who is struggling in my subject but who wants help and wants to improve. It’s so very much harder when they don’t want to be there at all. Part of the rewards of my job is when, through patience and kindness, I can wait long enough for the student to shift, to be able to sit up and ask to be lifted.
Many people I’m more than happy to wait it out. Be there until they’re ready.
But sometimes we can’t do that, and it’s actually okay.