You know what I realized? A stressed out parent who is feeling impatient and a stressed out kid who doesn’t feel understood, because they don’t even understand themselves, are like oil and water. The two just cannot mix.
I am sure there are parents who feel like their child is out of control like I do right now – she’s peeing everywhere, refusing to pee in the potty unless I’m there but then also doesn’t want me there, has a tantrum or emotional explosion at the drop of a dime. But, I try to remember to think comprehensively/globally – what does she need right now that she isn’t getting? What is causing this overall dysregulation all. the. time. Instead of focusing on the separate incidents and getting resentful and angry about it all and being exasperated that she won’t do XYZ, I take a step back and dig deeper.
So we know a stressed parent doesn’t mix with a 2+ year old who is also feeling dysregulated and we also know that it isn’t good to get caught up in the incidents themselves. So how do you do deal? Here are three of the things I have done that have been subtle game changers.
1. I just sit in her room and watch her. Not when she’s in a bad mood or the dysregulation already started but for no reason. Also, not in a creepy way, I just sit and smile and I might say “I’m just watching you play!” or I don’t even say anything unless she includes or involves me. She just feels noticed. When she feels noticed, fully, without a phone beeping or conversation happening over her, she thrives. She feels confident and safe and I realize that. I also realize how rare these times happen in her life because life is hard to take pause from but when I can, I do this. It’s so therapeutic and honestly feels like I’ve meditated, something that de-stresses me too.
2. I approach the potential tough moments prepared to meet her where SHE is instead of FIGHTING where she is. For instance, I KNOW she isn’t going to want to let me put a pull up on her before bed without a battle, I know that she will stall bc a pull up on means less independence and it also means closer to dreaded bedtime for her. So I will say “we have 2 more minutes to watch TV and then we can put on your pull up first or brush your teeth first, you get to pick!” When she decides this order, she feels she’s decided on the pull up = independence! I also make sure not to let her know this is a tactic, I dont keep saying “okayyy so you know after you brush your teeth you put the pull up on, you decided Tess, so you need to let mommy do that” doesn’t that just sound condescending instead of empowering? so instead I say “ok great! let’s go brush your teeth” and after her teeth I just hand her the pull up and wait. I’ve empowered her to make the choice and to follow through on it. It doesn’t always go smoothly but better than any other way and I’m sending the right messages.
3. I’ve stopped beating myself up. I have stopped saying “Jennie wtf happened, you’ve done everything right, why isn’t it working anymore” or “omg if I had this girl in my 2’s class, I would have said what is wrong with her parents!?” I realize that’s not what this is about…at all and I wouldn’t have judged the parents, so why am I judging myself?!
What I do instead is think:
“she’s feeling a lot right now, she feels a lot with me, the person who has allowed her to feel and has not judged her to feel any way she feels – now it’s up to me to empower her with tools and to continue to learn from her.”
Children aren’t a science project or a math problem we solve and its over, they are changing, growing, evolving, and our approaches sometimes need to as well. What may have worked before, may not work now.
Today, after one of the worst tantrums she’s ever had when I had to force the pull-up on her before nap, she screamed, cried and walked around her room – but demanded I don’t stay in the room with her. So, I just sat outside the room. She opened the door during her fit and I just said “im right here” she slammed door. Again she opened it, I said “I’m still here” and she left it open a crack. I then saw her peek every few seconds to make sure I was there. This was amidst screams and cries. It’s like I took steps 1-3 above and wrapped it into one situation. Then, finally, when her cries started to calm, I walked in, scooped her in my arms and said “I know how hard it feels sometimes and how angry you feel sometimes, but just know that I love you no matter what you feel and I will help you no matter how you feel and that’s why I’m here. To love you and help you.” I didn’t try to say any of this while she was crying and angry. I waited until the “calm after the storm.” After a few seconds when I thought “ok she’s not even listening” she said “ok mommy that sounds like a good idea.”