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Sunday, January 31, 2016

taming the 3 year old tantrums: with hugs and kindness

My daughter is 3, going on 4 in April. And the last few months have been, well, let's just say challenging. I utter the words with sighs behind them, "She's 3 going on 13...." and "I've got her aunts, uncles and grandparents on standby to have her stay with them when she's a real teenager..." It's HARD managing mood swings from a post-toddler, now pre-schooler who has great BIG ideas and wants and needs and interests and thoughts and words to say behind those thoughts now... when she wants things on HER time, NOW.

I'm trying to balance letting her be confident and independent (the old "I do it myself" phase is here in full force and taking us a lot longer to get ANYWHERE!). I'm trying to support her and encourage her to learn and grow, yet maintain my sanity in the meantime. It's hard. I do a lot of deep breathing.

A month or so ago my daughter went through a ridiculously hard week of negative behaviors. Stomping, sassing, not listening, etc. things I had not seen before with her. I had no clue where it came from, but realized it was normal. It was frustrating. Where did my sweet girl go?

I realized somehow that she was seeking help, needing more from us than she'd needed the weeks and months before, for whatever reason. Perhaps a growth spurt? Perhaps seeing other kids misbehave and testing us and needing boundaries. I'm not sure really why it happened, I just know it's normal and that she needed more from us.

When she was acting like a crazy monster teenager / 3 year old, she needed patience, tolerance, support, encouragement, and love. She didn't need to be snapped at, or for me to show impatience with how she was acting. She didn't need me to even put her in time out, it would not work, believe me, I'd tried. She didn't need to be sent to her room alone to cry. She needed more from me. She needed hugs actually, quite simple she needed ME. 

It's certainly not easy to show love, patience and kindness and even give a hug when your child is acting rude or defiant toward you. It actually makes YOU want to cry, act rude and defiant, stomp your feet even. And there are times for sending them to time out and even to their rooms, I believe. There are times when you need a break before offering up some listening ears to them.

But what I've found with this weird 3-4 phase, is that it's just what my daughter needed. The crazier and out of control her behavior, the MORE she needed ME to remain IN control, patient, THERE.

It's kind of like that phrase "kill them with kindness." My daughter couldn't stay upset or angry, stomping around for long when I was offering up hugs and one-on-one time, wiping her tears, understanding her, and asking her to explain to me what was bothering her. I spent more time with her on the floor playing or in her room dressing baby dolls. I put MORE into her, as I could see she was struggling with whatever weird feelings she was having about being independent now.

I tickled her when she was getting attitude with me. She'd be laughing, I'd be laughing. Instead of saying "Don't talk to me like that young lady, you take a time out, alone over there, away from me." Tickling helped.

When she'd get easily frustrated and get upset with not being able to take her shoes off, instead of showing my own frustration that I was doing 10 things and knew she could get her shoes off herself, I'd drop what I was doing to help her out, tell her to take a deep breath as I did the same, and laugh about that silly shoe giving us a hard time. She'd end up laughing, helped, and not alone.

When she wanted something her brother had and she was having a fit about it, I'd hold her, physically being close helped a lot. I'd remind her I'm here, it's OK, let's talk about it, and figure it out together and then have a turn with that toy. It helped deescalate her quicker than telling her to take a break would have.

We're also having her be the leader, the one in charge, giving her more choices, things that help her be the important one. This helps her feel better. She's helping set the table, picking what we have for a side dish or a snack in the afternoon, and doing little jobs for me. She loves the extra attention this gives her.

It's not simple or easy. In fact, it's more effort to do this at first. And it doesn't work with all issues. But I've found that girls are VERY sensitive. They do cry more than boys, at least in my own experience having one of each. They need us to be more patient, more tolerant and more physically there for them, hugging them, holding their hands through the tough feelings that we all know happen as girls ourselves.

Sometimes our girls just need their Momma's love, support and arms. 

3 going on 4 is NOT easy. I'm hoping these tactics help us out more than just the last month or so. We shall see what 4 is all about...

Keep hugging, moms. They need it, despite what they're saying in their now independent, do it themselves bodies. Keep the hugs flowing.

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