Thursday, March 29, 2007

Control - A Tough Morning

I have a 3 year old. Now, people talk about the terrible 2s. But no one tells you that 3 is worse. Tantrums at 2 are a lot about frustration over not being able to communicate. Tantrums at 3 are over control - toddlers wanting to be in control.
My 3 year old comes by her temper naturally. I had one as did my father. Yesterday, my DD threw a horrible fit when I picked her up from daycare. All because I wouldn't let her cut in line to get a drink from the water fountain. I managed to get her strapped into her carseat and she screamed the entire 20 minute drive to church. Then like a flip of a light switch, calmed own, and in a normal tone of voice said, "Mommy look at that truck." Things were fine after that.
This morning I thought DD was in a good morning when she woke up. I asked her to get dressed. She did not. I asked her again. She sat there. I told her that if she did not get herself dressed that I would get her dressed. So I did that and she threw a huge fit -- kicking, screaming, hitting and even biting. I held on to her and put her clothes on her. She was still hitting me. So I spanked her - not one of my finest moments. Just one swat on the butt. It did not phase her at all.
So I sat her on the floor in my lap, wrapped my legs and arms around her so she couldn't hit or kick me or bite me - or herself. I told her I would let her up when she calmed down and could tell me "mommy and daddy are the boss. [her name] is not the boss." She screamed and threw a fit for 45 minutes. At first I was a little mad and very determined that I was the Mommy and I was going to win this battle - had to, so that she would know who was in charge. I knew that I wasn't hurting her physically.
After about 15 minutes I guess (time seemed to move pretty slowly), there seemed to be a slowing down of the screaming. I tried to talk to her calmly - tell her what she needed to say, brush her now sweaty hair out of her phase. She tried to bite my finger and with her loosened hand, whacked me in the face. More screaming ensued.
At this point, I am praying for strength and the resolve to keep doing this. I know it is what I need to do. I know that I am the Mommy and she needs to learn and respect that. I know she is not in physical pain, even if she doesn't like what I'm doing. She really isn't struggling to get free as much as she is struggling to hurt me or herself.
I started having a panic attack. Flashing back to the time when I was about 7 and threw a huge temper tantrum. My mom held me down until I stopped throwing one too. Difference was that Mom did it out of meanness, I think. I wasn't hurting myself or anyone - she just wanted me to stop. With my DD, I didn't care if she screamed or flailed - it's okay for her to get out her feelings that way at her age. But I was not going to tolerate kicking or hitting herself or me. She needed to know I was in charge. I remember my father taking a picture of me when I was 7 and being held down by my mother. I remember him making fun of me and teasing me. I have that picture. I hate that picture. I don't remember my mom/dad doing anything after my tantrum was done except telling me never to do it again and sending me away (to my room I think).
I was praying a lot this morning. I wanted to let go. Didn't think I could do it anymore. Hold my little girl like that. I really just wanted to hug her (although she wouldn't have allowed it at that moment). But I felt like God wanted me to hang in there. So I did. After a LONG time, she said "Mommy and Daddy are the boss." Still wouldn't say "[her name] is not the boss." She needed to go potty and I found myself in a dilemma there. But of course I let her up to go. Afterwards, she jumped straight into my arms, gave me a huge hug and wanted to snuggle. So we did for awhile. I just held her and rocked her and comforted her. Reminded her that she had to obey Mommy and Daddy because we love her and want to keep her safe. She was fine after that - and we went to daycare.
After dropping her off, I had my prayer time and was trying to figure out what it was I needed to learn from this morning. I wasn't holding DD down to hurt her. I was doing it to break the idea in her mind that she is "in charge." To let her know that Mommy and Daddy are in charge. I know she didn't like it - but she had to, with kicking, screaming and heeling, secede that control to us. I think that is what God wants us (me) to do sometimes. He'll hold us through the pain, screaming, kicking, flailing and biting, until we give up and acknowledge his control. And like I did, I bet HE wonders how long we will continue to struggle until we turn and snuggle into His arms.

1 comment:

Tina said...

I am sorry you had to go through this this morning. **hugs** Parenting is never easy - and, when we get frustrated, we don't always make the best judgements. Believe me, I have had my moments too. It is okay - as long as you can think about it later and talk with your DD about it too.

I have a few suggestions for you that might work better for you (and for her). Sometimes tantrums are held onto longer because of the attention they garner from you, and that is something that you obviously want to discourage.

You need to preface this with a conversation tonight so that if it becomes an issue again tomorrow, she knows what to expect when she tries it again. You have to let her know that you and DH are the parents and she is the child - if you tell her to do something, you are going to expect she does it when you tell her to. It is more than just boss/child interaction - but a respect for her elders, which is something she learns in church.

1) If she gives you a hard time about getting dressed in the morning: Tell her that if she chooses to not get dressed, then she will have to go to daycare in her pajamas and stay that way all day. It is her choice to make here: Act like a big girl and get dressed, or stand out from her friends because she has chosen to act like a baby. You may find that, put in those terms to her, she may be more willing to just get dressed instead of making it a battle. You are putting it in terms of her embarassment, not yours.

2) If she does throw a major tantrum, don't try to hold her down or stop herself from hitting herself (unless, of course, she is really, really hurting herself). You holding her down in a means of getting your attention. If you walk right over her and go about what you are doing, she will get the hint very quickly that this attempt at attention will not work. You may find she will just get dressed.

We started this walking-over-the-tantrum very early with Chris - and, he knows now that tantrums just don't work in our world. So, he rarely attempts it - and, if he does, he knows it just won't be paid attention to and he stops.

Good luck!