DD is almost 3. Lately, she has been going through a phase of screaming, yelling, crying, stomping, or banging things when she becomes angry. In short, she throws a fit. This includes any time we enforce a boundary or something isn't working the way she wants or she wants us to give her something or do something for her. I draw limits when it comes to banging things, but I strongly believe that children's feelings deserve respect, and it is unjust to punish them for their feelings. The past month or so has just caused me to wonder what the balance needs to be between allowing and encouraging children to express their strong emotions and helping them to find more acceptable of handling/responding to their strong emotions.
It is absolutely acceptable to have whatever emotional response one has to a situation, but not every action that one could choose to respond to an emotional situation is appropriate. I am trying really hard to speak calmly with her and ask that she speak calmly with me when she wants me to do something, that she use words to tell me what she wants, and that she talk to me about it if she disagrees with one of my boundaries. She's actually very smart and much more capable of communicating these than I would have ever expected of a not-yet-3-year-old. She surprises me every day with how she can communicate with me about complex and unfamiliar situations and topics. Her issue is not one of not having the communication skills. It is one of not yet having the emotional skills to calm down on her own.
I think she's in a very developmentally appropriate place. I'm just trying to figure out the best way to lovingly guide her through the difficulties of this phase. There have just been a lot of days recently where she is getting upset and screaming about something every few minutes for most of the day. I'm not exaggerating. She'll go through days when she screams for almost every thing she's asking for, and she asks for things quite often.
The screaming really gets to me. I feel like I'm losing control of myself. My head hurts, and I'm exhausted. Try very hard to say what I mean and mean what I say, but I find myself saying things I don't mean, and I find myself going back on boundaries or being unwilling to draw boundaries that need to be drawn, such as when she is physically hurting me, in order to avoid conflict. I find myself just trying to fix the situation for her when she screams because I can't stand the screaming, and I know this just makes things worse. Inconsistency will just give her more reason to scream. Sometimes, I snap or even yell at her, demonstrating the hypocrisy in my trying to teach her to deal with her strong feelings appropriately when I can't even do it myself. It sometimes helps me to remember that the emotions she is dealing with are no less difficult to respond to calmly than the emotions I am dealing with when I am yelling at her, but it doesn't mean that it's really OK for either of us. Also, I try to be very proactive in parenting, meeting my child's needs to set her up for success, and it's really difficult to think in those terms when I am reacting to her outbursts all... day... long...
The way things are going, it is very easy for things to turn into a vicious cycle where her outbursts are driving me crazy, and in that state of mind, I am not helping her to manage her emotions well and am actually even encouraging more outbursts, and I'm trying to figure out how to keep things from getting into a downward spiral. Basically, there are two questions I'm trying to answer. First, what can I do to find control for myself? I can handle it the first twenty times she screams at me in an hour, but how do I keep control over myself the next 50 times she screams at me in the next three hours? Secondly, should we be giving her consequences for outbursts, and if so, what? The only consequence I am completely comfortable with is requiring her to ask calmly and politely before addressing her request (and I try to do this consistently). Refusing her request just because she screamed for it doesn't sit right with me, especially when some of the things she is requesting are things that she needs (help washing hands, a drink of water, food, etc). I'm not a big fan of most of the more generic consequences such as time-outs, etc, either. I prefer to stick with natural and logical consequences. I just don't know what to do that would tip the balance to help us make quicker progress in this area.