My parenting wake-up call:
I have always touted the amazing benefits of Positive Parenting. It has some really basic and simple tenants which work like magic… on my children until they reach the age of 4.
I have the reputation of making motherhood look easier than it is. I don’t complain, I have a generally very optimistic, “Oh it’s not that bad” kind of attitude when I comes to raising my girls… even with twins, I didn’t struggle the way I thought I would.
Did I really feel this way except for a few occasions when I felt like I missed the ball entirely?
Yes, until now.
I hit a major roadblock and my tried and true parenting tools were not working. Everything I did to help was blowing up in my face and I was losing patience. Losing patience is something I have never experienced up to this point, so what the heck is going on?!
What is going on: My daughter is growing up.
Okay, it’s not like she’s going off to college, she’s 4 years old, but my parenting skills must grow and develop with her. It’s no longer about the basics of keeping her safe and fed. I have introducing healthy food down, sleep is a non-issue (at 3.5 months old, all my kids began sleeping 12-13 hrs straight each night – read my sleep training novella to learn how I made this happen). These young kid logistics are not my focus anymore (thankfully). The shift has moved from keeping her physically safe, to finding ways to help her feel emotionally safe. This may sound too touchy-feely, but it’s my reality and I’m sharing my experience here in search of support from other parents who have been in this boat. Throw me a life jacket if you can!
I knew I had to change the way I parent when I was giving myself time outs all the time. Telling her I will come back when she calms down was not helping. She was only ramping up the meltdown and crying fit. It was exhausting, draining, and it made me feel all over icky. I don’t want to feel this way about parenting my daughter!
Instead of relying on “rules” and “time outs” to manage undesirable behavior, I learned I need to take the time to explain and have many many MANY conversations with my 4 year old about why a certain situation is happening. I need to communicate (in language and terms she understands) why I cannot do what she would like me to do, while throwing in things like, “I know it’s frustrating when you don’t get what you want right away. Sometimes, I get upset, mad, angry, sad [insert any applicable emotion here] too when things do not happen the way I want them to.”
How communicating with my 4 year old actually worked!
Real life example: On a long road trip with just me and my 4 year old, her pillow fell onto the floor of the car. She was crying and screaming for me to pick it up (because she’s strapped into her 5-point car seat harness). I kept telling her I cannot pick it up (without mentioning I’m going 70 mph on the interstate). I couldn’t handle her screaming for another 3 hours, so I calmly said (but projected loudly so she would hear me over her wailing), “Esther I need you to listen to WHY I cannot pick up your pillow. The pillow is on the floor of the car and it’s not safe for me to reach back there and get it because we’ll have a car accident. I know you want your pillow, so once the car stops I will be able to get it for you. Right now, I need to be safe, so I cannot get it.”
SHE UNDERSTOOD. Her meltdown ended, she quieted down, and she was calm again.
It was like I found a new magic potion to cure “SCS” aka Screaming Child Syndrome.
So I’m giving the whole “I’m going to have a real conversation with my toddler” thing a shot.