Eight-year-old Anton hasn’t historically loved talking about feelings. He’s had a sweet yet rugged demeanor since the day he was born. When he grows up, he wants to live in “the west-y west.” Alex once imagined toddler Anton, who was home sick with our babysitter, “chilling in a corner with an empty whiskey glass, chewing on a bullet.”

Anton’s been this way his whole life. So, when it comes to discussing emotions, he’s generally been tightlipped. Whenever he gets mad, he storms off to his bedroom, stays silent and tries to slough it off. If I follow him to talk, he almost physically can’t respond.

But! After eight years with this little guy, I figured out a work around.

A couple months ago, Anton got upset and stomped to his room. Instead of walking in to sit next to him, I stayed outside the door.

“Anton, honey?”
“It’s Mommy. Can I talk to you for a minute?”
“Well, if it’s all right with you, I would love ask you some questions, and you can just knock once for yes and twice for no. Would you like to try that?”
Silence… then, a knock.
“Are you upset?”
“Are you feeling mad?”
Knock, knock.
“Are you feeling sad?”

Through the door, I gently probed about the situation. He knocked or double-knocked, and then, to my surprise, he actually started talking. Safe inside his room, he felt more comfortable sharing his thoughts than when we were sitting next to each other. He could maintain privacy but also sort through the problem at hand.

When he finished talking, he asked if he could open the door for a hug. I was so proud of him for working hard on opening up. And we have done it a few more times since then — he seems to find it easier each time.

“Look! I’m a mom!”

Anyway, I thought I’d share in case a through-the-door discussion would be helpful for anyone else. It’s so hard to be little, and these kids do such a great job growing every day. Any other parenting moves you’ve tried recently that have worked (or really not worked, haha)? It’s always such trial and error! xoxo

P.S. A seven-year-old’s guide to holiday travel, and three words that change how I parent.