**This is an older post I forgot to publish! Curly is now 4.5 and I see that pre-frontal cortex development making strides in emotional regulation :). Time to practice what I preach with number 2.
You know when number 1 comes along, and everyone wants to give you advice? I was like, “butt out, I’ve got this, I’ll work it out on my own thanks!” or maybe that was just me. Now? Number 1 is 3.5 and I’ll sidle up to strangers if there’s a chance for some free parenting 101. I thought I’d prepared her well with boundaries and consequences…but nothing quite prepared me for being screamed at by a little red face with clenched fists, “NO! NO! NO!”
It’s all well and good to look from afar and claim, ‘that child just needs consistent consequences’…but dishing out said discipline to your own little bundle of sunshine, is not such an impassive affair. For starters…tantrums are messy, and sneaky! Sometimes it’s not until Curly is pointing her little finger at me saying, “I will not!” that I realise something went wrong five minutes ago and all this could have been nipped in the bud. Then put on the spot I have to come up with an approach that will be fair, appropriate to the situation and teach some sort of life lesson in resilience and emotional intelligence. But no pressure.
I’ve yelled. I’ve even *gasp* attempted a smack on the bottom, I’ve stood in front of my little three year old with tears streaming down my face saying “WHY!?” Needless to say, these reactions have never been effective. But human relationships are rarely logical exchanges between two non-partisan individuals. We’re emotional, passionate and selfish…yes, even mum’s are selfish. I’ll be the first to admit I wish my daughter would just say sorry and tell me how much she loves me, but my emotional needs are not hers to fill…even if I sometimes lose sight of that. In a heated exchange, when it means the world to my three year old that she wear a t-shirt in the freezing Winter weather, I have to be the adult, the mum, a fount of un-conditional love and sage wisdom.
Yes she is three, she has not learnt how to fully regulate her emotions (geez, neither have I!), she might be feeling unwell, overwhelmed, tired etc etc. But Screaming and hitting mum are not behaviours tolerated in our house.
So what do we do then? We’ve been doing 1,2,3 …Timeout:I did a post on this a year ago (here), and when we do this right (with a lot of compassion thrown into the mix)…it seems effective! Now she’s older the yelling is a bit louder, but this approach still seems to get results, in a way that’s gentle on everyone.
And yet, I’m also learning, and still learning, how effective empathy and compassion are in taming a wild three year old. Time outs have their place, and being rude to mum or dad are not tolerated behaviours. For the less serious things, I forego the time-out route, plop Curly on my lap and listen to her, empathise with the emotion she’s experiencing and then suggest a better way to handle the situation. For a person like me, who thrives off rules, structure and systems (don’t I sound like a bundle of fun!) this isn’t a rigidly applied formula, do a,b,c and out comes the perfectly behaved child. No, this is a relationship. My little girl is finding her identity in this world and I’m part of that, I get to be her mum, and sometimes that means listening instead of punishing, teaching instead of rebuking, holding close instead of isolating, and saying ‘sorry’ when I get it wrong.
Little children scream. Little children hurt other children, they do silly annoying things. Sometimes Curly reaches deep within her diaphragm and lets out a roar – it actually sounds very therapeutic, I should try it next time I’m mad.