Originally Posted by mamabird83
I have done my best to parent with Gentle Discipline, although like all of us some days are better than others. Lately my 3yo daughter has begun crying when she is upset and being disciplined, "nobody loves me", "nobody is here to take care of me", or "please be my friend". She says these things with tears flooding down her cheeks and an incredible amount of grief in her voice. When she is upset with us for telling her "no" she will say, "I want Papa/Mama. He/She loves me."
As much as I use patience, calm words, reassurance of love, lengthy explanations while disciplining- how is it that she still doubts my love? It breaks my heart and I am worried that I have somehow broken my child's spirit.
I was not parented gently and remember crying myself to sleep, convinced that I was all alone in the world. I have desperately tried to spare my child this pain, and yet in spite of my best efforts she seems burdened with these thoughts at age 3!
And maybe this isn't at all about you, but about her and her developing conscience? You can't stop a child going through a developmental stage, no matter how hard you try. You do want her to develop a conscience, because without one, she'd be a sociopath. You can spare her some of the heartache of realizing that sometimes she does things wrong, but you cannot eliminate it. I'd argue that you don't want to eliminate it because she needs these experiences to learn.
The most helpful insight I had as a parent was when my children exit infancy, my job changes. During infancy, it is my job to make sure that they have every need met. It's my job to answer every cry and try to fix whatever is wrong, because that cry means that something is wrong. Crying is the only way they have of communicating. However, when a child reaches toddlerhood and beyond, my job changes. It changes because they have changed. Instead of preventing all crying, it's my job to help them learn to deal with frustrations, disappointments, anger, jealousy, guilt, rage, joy, excitement, anticipation, etc. I cannot fix things for them. I couldn't make my son's candy cane whole again, no matter how hard he cried. (I figured that superglue was probably toxic, and wouldn't work anyway. The mere fact that I even thought of superglue shows how much that we, as parents, really want to make the world whole and good for our children.)
I'd go further to argue that I shouldn't fix everything for them. They need to experience their emotions. They need to know that it's OK to have these emotions and then develop appropriate coping skills. It took my 7 year old a week to process the fact that someone else in her reading group got a bigger part in the play than she did (they were assigned by random draw). In this week, she experienced disappointment, jealousy, anger, frustration and probably a whole host of emotions that she couldn't name. I wasn't about to call up her reading teacher and say "really, my daughter should have gotten the biggest part because she is the best reader in the class." I couldn't fix it. I didn't want to fix it. So, I listened to dd. I helped her name her emotions. I gently reminded her that she was not the teacher and didn't get to make the rules for everyone. I comforted her. (And then I finally told her that she could rant about this for 5 more minutes and then I was done for the night.)
The other thing that I'd say is that 3 year olds in particular (and maybe all children) need a translator. When she says "nobody loves me" what she most likely means is "I don't feel very loved right now (because you're angry at me)." "I want Papa/Mama. S/he still loves me." = "I want to be with someone who isn't mad at me right now."
Between 3 and 4, children learn that there are consequences for their actions. They learn that their ideas don't always match their parents' ideas. They also have very short-term thinking. They're most likely not lying in bed sobbing because you told them at 11:30 am that they could not have a bowl of ice cream and chocolate chips for lunch.
Two book recommendations to end my novel:
How to Talk So Your Children Will Listen by Faber & Mazlish -- your daughter is at the perfect age for beginning to use some of these ideas of reflecting back her words, helping her to name her emotions, and keeping yourself from over-interpreting what she's saying. Note that it takes a fair amount of practice, and your daughter may not demonstrate what she's learning until she's much older. I've used this kind of language with dd from a very early age, and even at age 7, I get tears first, indignation second, and then a description of the 'real' reason.
The Emotional Life of the Toddler -- your dd is a bit older than a toddler, but I found this book really helpful in understanding young children's emotions.
If your daughter is very sensitive (or if you are), you might want to add: The Highly Sensitive Child by Elaine Aron.
But be gentle with yourself. You cannot prevent every heartache or bump along the road. All you can do is to be there to help her pick up the pieces again.