The Four Year Old Blues: Parenting the "Difficult" Child
Cranky Children and Cranky Mom
The night of New Years Eve crossing over into January 1 was one of the most difficult I've had in a while.
My youngest daughter was sick. Her coughing was out of control, but unlike her older sister, she refused everything I offered to make her feel better. The night consisted of our frustration saturating the walls, so much so that I decided at 4:15 to make coffee.
Go ahead and greet the day.
When my second daughter was born, I adopted this philosophy. If the night gives you nothing but anxiety, then get yourself up.
She was tired, and all I heard the next day was "You're not listening!"
You're not listening. How dare she? All I was doing was listening.
This is where we are.
She says "fill my water cup," and when I do it is too full. I tell her to say "Don't fill the cup," or "leave room," instead of what she was saying, but I'm missing the point.
It's not her words I'm not listening to. It's her.
I was so busy fixing things for her, or trying, that I missed what she really wanted was my understanding that she was angry and sick and lonely and confused, and that life sometimes makes her cough all night and she is so sleepy.
We get in this mode a lot. I'm a fixer, but sometimes I'm just not listening to all the things in between the words.
It's an art to see someone. Really see them. It's messy and uncertain. I get down on my knees so I can look into her eyes, and I acknowledge in myself that I cannot fix her right now. I accept her as she is in all her snotty, sticky, angry glory.
She wanted me to listen. She wanted me to wait and let her get through her own mess.
I needed to wait.
The Five Year Old Silence: Parenting the "Shutdown" Child
My oldest daughter got in trouble for lying to her teacher recently. It was difficult to talk to her because she was tired. She kept redirecting to a picture she drew of hearts.
She drew them because she loves me, she said.
And I know she is distracting me. She is pulling on my weak points, but somewhere she also really means it. It was a message to me. She is afraid I won't love her back after this note from her teacher.
She shut down completely then. I wanted to tell her to look me in the eye, but instead I waited for her to process what happened, process what I said, process that I wasn't going anywhere even if she does something wrong.
It's difficult to wait.
But I did. I made her mac and cheese. I refilled her apple juice. And I waited.
More Talk Isn't a Solution. More Action Isn't Either.
The Art of Waiting:
They always come around. When I have control of my own explosive emotions, they come around and we can talk. I forget that they are new to this earth, and they still don't know that I'll never reject them because of what they do. They don't know for sure that I won't walk right out the door and out of their lives in anger over one episode of lying to their teacher.
It's my job to show them again and again that we can talk through negative things and come out stronger.
This is the process that works with my oldest who is independent and secure in her space:
- Address the problem.
- Ask for her to look at my face.
- When she shuts down, I politely ask if she needs space. She never answers so I give it to her.
- I go to something comforting. Something she expects me to do like make food, or clean the table.
- I check on her until she opens back up, slowly like a flower I'm watching for blooms. Tell her I love her.
- I ask for her ideas about how she can change the ending of her story, how we can redo what was done the next time.
And this is the process for my youngest who needs physical reassurance and is quick with all her emotions:
- Address the problem
- Stand firm and calm in the immediate explosion
- Ask if she needs a hug
- Get on her level and let her hug me while she is still exploding
- Wait for the quiet, right there, without letting go
- Tell her I love her
- Ask her for ideas about how she can change the ending of her story, how we can redo what was done the next time.
So just wait.
Even when it is hard. Even when you want to deal with your children (or yourself) right now and be done, wait for things to open to you.
It will make the road sweeter to walk. I promise.
How do you deal with your (or your child's) negative lessons?
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