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.