I normally use a general word for the anger fits which Joy displays at the slightest trigger – tantrums. Its a useful word when I cannot gather the energy to think through them, or explain them. I often wondered if there is any kind of centre or helpline for toddlers beyond parental control, because it’s been happening very, very often for us, like every single day, sometimes, a few times in a day. As a result, I say “no!” a lot to her and she me.
The older folks at home snigger at me and shake their head. “This is no way to bring up a child” they say, barely out of earshot. Some friends openly think that I am a pushover. “You give in too much to her”, “you obviously spoil her already”. When we’re out, people stare and make nasty comments. “Don’t bring your child out if you don’t know how to control her“. I didn’t ask, but the solutions they offered ranges from “don’t let her cry for so long, just give her what she wants to stop her crying first” to “you can talk to her, can’t you? she can learn, can’t she? reason with her!“. Oh, the judgements, social embarrassment and solutions people think of.
It is obvious to me that all of the above will not work for us but this is where I am lacking in experience – I cannot find any examples from my childhood on how I can get a child to behave, without resorting to beatings and scoldings. I tried smacking her butt. She retaliates by smacking back because I have just shown her that “its ok to hit people when they don’t do what you want” and “its ok to hit people when you are angry”, although my beatings are never done out of anger. I can really shout very loudly because of the vocal training and sometimes, so much frustration builds up inside me that I shout at her uncontrollably. And, as expected, she shouts back, because I have just shown her an example of how shouting works. If it scared her before, she could try and use it to scare me, so that I back off. In some ways, I prefer that she fights back when “attacked”. The challenge is in teaching her to fight back or react to these attacks in the right way.
Judging from her character, if I go on smacking and shouting at her, she and I may not be on speaking terms by the time she reaches her pre-teen years. That defeats my greater purpose. I want to be her home ground, someone she thinks of first, whenever she runs into trouble. Not sure if it will only be a dream but when she is growing up to be an adult, I want to be the shelter that is safer than friends and the consultant whom she looks to first for advice. To even have a chance at this, there is a need to remove fear in our relationship.
I spent many sleepless nights thinking about how I can handle this phase and read many articles on tantrums and how to handle them before I finally came up with the following as a guideline for me to teach Joy.
- refuse all requests made by way of screaming and shouting to show her that it will always be a “no” when she does that
- Not to acede to each and every request made respectfully, and not to make a big deal out of it, so that Joy knows that you don’t get everything you ask nicely for but its no biggie.
The respectful words and the disrespectful words
- Joy to say “Please, may I …..” when she wants something
- Joy to say her thank yous
- Joy to say sorrys, citing reasons why
- Not to say “I don’t want you”
Special words to use when things get overwhelming
Joy found the words to tell me how she felt when it got overwhelming. While crying during a tantrum, she said “Mummy, I have a lot of angry inside me”. After that, we kept on using the same way to talk about any overwhelming feelings she has
“I have a lot of sad inside me”
“I have a lot of happy inside me”
“I have a lot of angry inside me”
I want to correct the words “sad” to “sadness”, “angry” to “anger” all the time, but I decided not to push it. I rather she tells me how she feels than feel conscious of the words she uses to tell me.
The respectful things to do
- taps my hand when she wants my attention.
- no hitting, scratching and throwing things
At my end, I have been trying to make these adjustments:
Demonstrate respectful words and actions
- I’ve been saying my thank yous and sorrys to Joy right from the beginning, but basically what she is supposed to say / not to say, I have to do the same. Also, Try not to say “no” but rather, choose words like “how about…” or “let’s do … instead”.
- Show her that I respect her by getting consent before I remove her diaper in the morning, or remove her clothes for bathing or changing, or take away her toys.
Work with the teachers
Two days ago, I sought Joy’s teachers’ help to work with me to handle our situation.
- They encourage Joy’s classmates to praise her when she arrives in school without throwing tantrums
- They talk to Joy about wanting happiness for mummy
- They talk to Joy when she is feeling unhappy or weepy.
Check my expectations
I believe that she can do it, but I’ve been reminding myself as well that Joy is just 3.5 years old, as of now.
Give it time
I obviously haven’t been successful in reducing the tantrums greatly but I once in a while I see that we have small progress. I know it takes time and I must give it time.
Sometimes, I go back into my older posts to relive the good old days, when she was unbelievably sensible and tantrums were the least of my worries. It gives me reason to believe that she has a good nature. Also, read articles which re-affirms my desire to bring Joy up respectfully, or articles about handling tantrums, like this one which I came across yesterday.
This is really trying for me, because I can be very impatient but I think that Joy is a child who feels a lot and I need to help her use it to her benefit. This is not a “tips” post, I am writing on a day when I’ve had a little too much – in Joy’s words, “I have a lot of frustration inside me”. Hopefully, it serves as a reminder of my greater purpose to myself for the days when I find myself wavering.
If you have found ways to deal with this, please share, I need to hear them!
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