I am having a very difficult time with my overly sensitive 3 year old. First off, she is a wonderful baby most of the time. She helps me around the house, picks up her toys, eats well, brushes her teeth well, bathes well and even bedtime is a snap on most nights. However, probably for the past four months, she has been getting very angry at me for my choice of words or reactions. For instance, if I correct her in any way, she will spit at me and hide underneath the kitchen table. If I laugh at her choice of words, in a cute way, she will also have a major meltdown. We had a tornado come through last month, and my dd kept calling it the "tomato" and I thought it was cute, but she was upset that I laughed at her. We were walking to church one morning, and she said "Oh, crap!" and I asked her where she learned that phrase. Again, she was very angry and even let go of my hand and ran away from me while we were walking on the sidewalk. My dd was singing Katy Perry's California Girls song, and it took me a while until I recognized the lyrics, so I praised her for being cute, and she had complete meltdown in the department store. We recently lost our cat, so I told my dd that the cat was sick and will not be coming back. My dd then says, "because he's dead?" I was a little shocked by her choice of words, and yesterday was one of the biggest meltdowns ever. I am most definitely not trying to make my dd feel bad, but how do I correct her or laugh with her without her getting upset?
Its like I have to choose my words before I talk to my own dd. My own opinion of what is happening is that she is either getting embarrassed or angry because she thinks she is wrong, and she doesn't know how to handle that type of emotion. I am so frustrated. After she has her meltdowns, she spits at me, and says she doesn't want to see me or talk to me. I get so frustrated that most of the time I end up in tears myself. Has anyone else dealt with this kind of situation? Please advise.
I am so with you on the sensitive three year old. My DS is very emotional about any embarassing moments, or when he is wrong about anything. Lately, when he is frustrated with my reaction about anything, he will tell me he doesn't like me, or doesn't love me (ouch!), but then it could literally be moments later that he moves on from his frustration and is happy as a lark...leaving me crushed. I don't think he really understands that words can be so hurtful, and this is simply his way of expressing his frustration with me. He is super clingy/whiny too. I have to do everything for him and he is super shy in any situation he is not familiar with. I hope it is just a stage and that his neediness is simply something that I should cherish because too soon he will be independent and not need his momma for everything. I do think that if you practice attachment parenting, you child is, well, attached, and depends upon you to understand every little emotion they feel...and they may feel frustrated if you are not completely in tune with their emotions. It's difficult, but I trust it will pass and that my DS will be more secure and able to express himself in a way that is not so hurtful!
Personally, I think your being a little hard on your DD. Even when she makes mistakes you think are "cute", it's hurting her feelings when you laugh at her. You're not laughing "with" her, you are laughing at her. No one likes that. If she makes a mistake you don't have to tell her she's wrong and correct her. Just model the right way to say it. If she says "the tomato came through" you can say "yes, the tornado did come through. Just emphasis the correct word, and she'll get it.
Just think how you would feel if your husband, or sister, or best friend was trying to teach you another language, and every time you said anything, they'd laugh, or correct every little mispronunciation you made, or ask you "who taught you that phrase?" You'd likely be getting very frustrated, angry at them for being so harsh, plus losing the desire to learn the language more.
I think it's good to keep in mind that human beings go through a roller coaster of feelings and emotions when we see someone we care about hurting, and we are powerless to change it. Empathy and trying to fix the situation becomes hopelessness which (for our own mental protection) starts to become frustration, anger and separation. You kind of need to release yourself from the burden making it OK, at least in the moment. It's hard to do sometimes, and especially hard to do if done while still having compassion.
You are probably right that she is embarrassed by the corrections. Your DD sounds smart, extremely smart and I bet people have noticed this. I bet she's noticed that people she interacts with put that quick wit, and intelligence on a pedestal. So a smart kid trying to figure out the world might come to the conclusion that if when she's right she's good, amazing, wonderful, then when she's wrong she's bad or dumb. Smart kids do that kind of logic leap all on their own. No one ever has to mock them for being wrong, no one has to tell them flat out you are bad if you were wrong about something. They come to these determinations because of the praise and associations of being right a great deal of the time.
So what can you do? I'd try pointing out when you yourself are wrong or when other smart people were wrong and kept at it to try to make things right. Flood her daily life with as many examples of graciousness when incorrect as you can. Help her to see that being wrong doesn't mean you are dumb. That a person is still smart even if they don't know the answer, or if they had the wrong one.
As far as the spitting is concerned. You can be supportive and empathetic over feeling embarrassed or just feeling out of control, while making it clear that spitting is not an appropriate way of handling things when we feel overwhelmed. Kids, and adults usually spit when they feel weak scared and overwhelmed. They don't feel strong enough to get away with throwing punches, they are mentally too overwhelmed to fight back with effective debate. So they spit, a very primal offensive move. Someone who is so angry they are spitting cannot be reasoned with at that moment. They are unable to think critically, so it's not worth it to try to explain that you were joking, or that you didn't mean to insult her, or try to get her to think of alternatives. Once she is a bit more calm that discussion can occur, but not during the meltdown, it's just going to frustrate you and her more. In my house I'd say "I'm sorry you are hurting but you cannot spit on me" stop talking after that but I'd open my arms for a hug and if she refused I'd tell her if she wants to have a hug she's welcome to it at any time. Then when everything is calm, really calm not just quiet, I'd try to parse out what happened, why it happened and try to come up with strategies to make this not happen again.
None of these suggestions I'm saying will result in tomorrow's meltdown ending with "Oh mommy I really didn't like the way you laughed like that. It made me feel bad" because that kind of emotional control and confidence is a learned skill. Learned skills take time trial and error. Even superstar athletes miss the goal even after years of practice. That doesn't make the practice useless KWIM?