Emotional – Update.

February 4, 2013 at 2:01 pm | Posted in Battles (aka: toddlerhood), Mama Bear | 10 Comments

Thank you, so much, for the comments and suggestions on my last post. There was a lot in there that was really helpful, and I really appreciate the support.

So the first thing I decided: I need to start communicating better about how *I* manage my stress and frustration. I have always struggled with my anger and temper, ever since I was a kid. I know I’m not perfect, and I don’t expect to be, but I tend to tolerate and tolerate and tolerate until I hit the red zone, and then I yell. And I don’t JUDGE people who yell, but I know that Charlie hates it, and I see Lucky doing it as well, and it just doesn’t seem to be working for our family.

My anger is one of the things I really dislike about myself, and it’s something I’d really like to work on. And I DO feel strongly that I need to parent by leading; if I don’t want Lucky to hit someone, I don’t hit him. If I don’t want him to yell, I don’t yell.

And at the end of the day, I want him to recognize his emotions, feel them, and release them in a healthy way.

And you know something? I want the same for me, too.

So I have been talking more. When I start to get frustrated because I feel like he’s not listening to me, I start to count out loud. And when he looks up, I tell him, I am frustrated right now because I don’t feel like you’re listening. So I’m counting, because counting helps me calm down. Would you like to count with me?

And when he yells because he’s frustrated, I say calmly, I can’t understand what you’re saying when you’re yelling so loudly. Can you take a deep breath, please, and use calm words to talk to me?

And when I’ve yelled (which I admit, in the past couple of days, I have yelled. I know. Work in progress), when I recognize it (usually in mid-yell), I’ll stop, take a deep breath, and say, Well, that wasn’t a good way to use calm words, huh? And then I’ll repeat what I just said in a calmer tone of voice.

I don’t know if it’ll work, per se, but it’s something that makes ME feel better.

We have always mirrored his reaction to him, putting his feelings into words. That was a product of me never feeling like anyone listened to me, so I am a REALLY big proponent of showing Lucky that I understand how he’s feeling. This tactic worked really well when he was 3. It doesn’t work now, though – he gets madder, as if he thinks we’re making fun of him or something.

So basically whenever he’s mad, all I can do is say, I understand you’re mad. But we don’t hurt things or people when we’re mad.


We have never done timeouts, really. We’ve tried them, of course, but they were the opposite of effective. A time out would make things WORSE, really. They basically turned into a power struggle, where we’d have to stand over him and force him to sit on the stair. Or we’d put him in his room and hold the doorknob while he screamed and kicked and tried to open the door. Or I’d sit with him and he’d fight to get off my lap.

But we’re to the point where he now does things with INTENTION. As in, he’ll look at us, and do exactly what we told him not to.

So this weekend, he had a fit of anger about “messing up!” on a game he was playing, and when I took the iPhone back (because it was time), he was so mad he was screaming, knocking magnets and pictures off the fridge, and kicking the carpet edging in the kitchen.

Which, honestly, as I’m typing this, doesn’t sound so awful. But it breaks our rule that we don’t hurt things or people when we’re angry.

So I reminded him of our rule, and as much as I understood that he was angry, he needed to calm down, or he would get a time out.

And he looked right at me and hit the magnet off the fridge. And as I took him to time out, he was hitting the pictures on the wall.

I was angry myself. So I sat him on the stair and took myself to the kitchen for my own time out. I set the timer and took deep breaths.

And he sat there, yelling and stomping for the first two minutes. But then he calmed down. And I calmed down, too.



I haven’t managed to find a good time to talk about how I feel about this past fall yet with him. I have no problem talking about it, I just don’t see a good way to bring it up.

But last night, when I saw the Newtown kids chorus singing “America the Beautiful” before the Superbowl, my eyes filled up with tears.

(A side note: I wish I knew why Newtown unhinges me so much. I cannot read anything about it without crying. One of those tragedies that I cannot separate my own grief from, I suppose.)

And Lucky was playing near me, so I asked him if he could give me a hug, because I was sad and his hugs made me feel better. And he was full of questions, of course. Why was I sad? Why was there a bad man that hurt a lot of people? How did they hurt them? Why did the bad man want to hurt people?

I kept it as age appropriate as I could, of course. I told him the bad man was angry and had a gun and hurt a lot of people in the school, and that I was sad for all the people who got hurt. And that his hug felt like a kiss to a boo-boo on my heart. It’s a start to making sure he knows that when I’m sad it isn’t because of him. I hadn’t really thought about the fact that maybe he would think it had something to do with him.

And I feel a little better, anyway, that we’ve made a start in all of these areas.

At the end of the day, I’m not sure there’s one real issue at play here; I suspect it’s a combination of factors. He’s a boy, he gets focused in what he does and waits until the last possible second to use the bathroom. We had a tough fall where I struggled emotionally and his daddy was traveling. There are a lot of expectations on him at school and home about being more independent. He’s at an age where he feels things strongly and needs to understand the balance of emotional release and proper behavior.

It’s all going to work out okay, I know. I just want to do right by my little boy.



RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

  1. Do you know the “Your One Year Old” (etc.) series of books by Louise Bates Ames? They are older now, so some of the things in them seem quite funny and there are some gender assumptions, but Ask Moxie put me on to them because she said (and I agree) they are really good for just honing in on what is going on developmentally with each year, and which years tend to be more about equilibrium and which are more about disequilibrium. Might be worth a read on the fours and fives.

    I also feel like I remember Moxie and a number of her commenters saying that 4.5 was the nadir of human existence. So it could be things are about to naturally improve too.

    I am working so very hard at not yelling when I get frustrated, because I am someone who bottles and then explodes, and I can tell that freaks E. out. It is not easy some days.

  2. GREAT for you! You did such beautiful modeling here. And it’s good for him to know that it doesn’t come easily, that you have to work at it. I’m going to steal liberally from you. 😉

  3. You are doing so many really good things here! I never know what to do when J deliberately does what I just asked him not to do. Usually I say, “did you WANT a time out? Why?”, which sometimes works and sometimes doesn’t.

    I didn’t read the comments to the last post, but the only thing I can think of you haven’t already mentioned is to read books about emotions. We have a series called “When I’m feeling…” by Trace Moroney that I like. Some of them are positive feelings (i.e. kind) and some of them are negative ones (i.e. sad). They’re not too cheesy, and we don’t necessarily talk about them when we read them. But I do think they help J think about emotions somewhat.

    Staying calm is not easy!

  4. You know…I used to be so good at doing those things. And I really should, the tension in our house has not been good the past year. You have reminded me of some good techniques to try again.

  5. It sounds like you are doing a great job teaching Lucky that it’s OK to feel angry, but it’s not OK to behave destructively. I’m just catching up on your last few posts, and you asked for advice a few posts ago, so here is my anger-management tip. My daughter (like many kids, I think) has also struggled with stubbornness, anger, etc., and one thing that I’ve found really helpful is a storybook called Ahn’s Anger, by Gail Silver. It’s the story of a little boy coming to terms with his anger after a fight with his grandfather. My daughter LOVES it, and shortly after I brought the book home, she started going to her room to “sit with her anger” (which is what Ahn’s grandfather asks him to do in the story) without being asked! Obviously a storybook isn’t a solution, but it did make a noticeable difference in my daughter’s understanding of anger, plus it has cool pictures.

  6. We went OOT on Friday afternoon, so I didn’t get a chance to reply to your last post, although I had much to say re: similar battles! Last week was hellish. Someone here mentioned “Between Parent and Child,” and so I picked it up again yesterday evening. INSTANT RELIEF and very constructive advice. Also, it just makes good sense. I think you would like it, especially because of what you experienced with your own mom. I am glad the last few days have been smoother for you and Lucky!

    (Re: Newtown… same here. Same with D. Same with my SILs. Same with my best friend’s husband, who is a police officer [and who says that a lot of police officers are struggling — it was a cop’s nightmare scenario as well as a parent’s]. It’s time for me to put this grief to good use: getting involved with Gabby Gifford’s organization at the local level and supporting our school’s policy changes. Also, explaining myself to my NRA-supporting dad and brothers!)

  7. Wow, such an insightful, perceptive, and attuned post. I’m a bit envious of your wherewithal. You are doing such a great job, really, in identifying an issue and reframing it in order to gain better understanding and appropriately model the behavior. I will steal some of your word tracks.

  8. I just wanted to let you know what has helped with my daughters accidents. With her I think it is simply not wanting to stop what she is doing and go pee. She is having soime UTIs because of sitting in wet underwear so we really are trying to help her find a solution. We have gone to a nephrologist and have had a void check which was normal. We got her an alarm watch I set it to vibrate every 2 hours and she knows when it buzzes she has to go in the bathroom no matter what. I have told her teacher and she is fine with her leaving no matter what is going on in the classroom (she doesn’t even have to ask). I can’t tell you what a difference it has made, I got it on Amaz@n it was about 60$ and totally worth every penny. I wish you luck with your son.

    • Nancy – thank you. I might try this. We’re close to the point of having to put Lucky back into pull-ups, so I’m ready to try anything at this point.

  9. Serenity, I feel like my temper fails me every single day. In fact, my temper does fail me every single day, somewhere around 7-8pm. I think we both just have to keep trying. I will if you will?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

Blog at WordPress.com.
Entries and comments feeds.

%d bloggers like this: