WHEW! Now that took me some time to read! Well worth it though, what an incredible exchange of ideas. I've been away from the board for a while (on an extended vacation in Canada) and it was good to come back and fall right into a discussion that provides so much food for thought (pun intended).
I have been doing a great deal of thinking about my parenting philosophy lately. My MIL and I have had a total breakdown in communication, a huge blowout actually (ParisMaman I feel your pain) and one of the main factors is my parenting style. I'm planning to try and paste together an entry for my online diary on the subject using posts I have written on other boards and blogs (seems this topic has been coming up for many of my online contacts lately). I think my passion for this way of parenting is starting to rival my passion for birth - and I just need to spend some time articulating it all so people around me understand on some level. I'd love to share it here when it is finished and hear comments from you all.
Anyway.... through reading all the posts on tantrums, I noticed that there was much discussion about how to deal with tantrums once they have occurred, but very little mention of giving children specific tools to help them deal with rising emotions BEFORE they hit the boiling point. I've been giving this a great deal of thought lately - I feel I need a big bag-o-tricks (GD-style) to deal with the many dilemmas and situations I face as a parent, so that I have a set of tools on hand and am not having to resort to impulsive, reactive parenting. That is the main reason I love this board - because I get ideas and tips that I never would have thought of or been exposed to otherwise. This line of thought led me to begin thinking about how my dd (almost three) could probably use her own bag of tricks beyond my simply modeling behaviours to her, and respecting her emotions when they occur. I began to wonder how much more empowered she might feel if she knew she had something simple, concrete techniques to fall back on in times of stress. I'd love to hear from any of you who have developed "tricks" that your young children can use to help themselves in situations where emotions are starting to run high.
One simple, and very effective tool we have come up with (a total fluke actually) works to provide a physical break for dd when things start to heat up. When we start to notice her getting to the frustration stage where words just don't penetrate, we act out the following (mostly just verbally directing her at this point - but at first it seemed very important that we were doing the actions along with her). The actual sequence is totally random, just what came to my head the very first time I tried it, I imagine you could substitute just about anything. I’ve had parents come up to me all over the place asking about this and how we came up with it
-Raise your hands in the air
-Touch your toes
-Raise your hands up high again
-Tickle your armpits (this almost always gets her giggling)
-Take some deeeeeeeep breaths
I am telling you, as simple as this sounds, it has worked amazingly well. It provides enough of a break in her building emotions, and just a little bit of physical movement to work out some energy. All except for a handful of times, she’s been able to calm herself enough that we can move forward and work through the issue that got her heated up in the first place. The few times it hasn’t worked (when she told me "Mommy, I do not WANT to raise my hands in the air!") I’ve recognized that she really does need an emotional release, things have gone too far to cut off and I try to support her as best I can. I've even witnessed her do the whole sequence herself at one point (she was trying and trying and trying to open the fridge door - not asking for help so I stayed sitting - but getting visibly and audibly frustrated. Just when I was expecting her to have a mini-meltdown, she stopped, raised her hands in the air, went through the whole thing and then calmly stepped back to the fridge and opened the door.
We have known for a long time that when she is at all emotional, Bella needs physical reminders of things, words just don’t cut it – she needs to DO something or be physically SHOWN something. When she was having a bad tantrum issue at one point (when she was younger), we showed her how she could jump up and down to get her frustration out. She has a whining button (her nose), a volume button (her ear) that I can just touch at times when I know she is not able to *hear* me with her ears. These serve as a reminder to her that she is doing something that people around her have a hard time dealing with. She loves to test out how well these buttons work on others as well – which gives us a good opportunity to model the negative behaviour, so she understands what we don’t’ like, and also see adults stop themselves from doing it. The touch gets through to her when nothing else will, and usually we are able to move on in a calmer manner so I can actually understand her needs and not feel frustrated and stressed myself. As with the tantrum thing above, sometimes she tells me "But I want to/have to cry/yell/whine", and when she tells me that I trust that she knows what she is talking about. For her, physical interventions like these really work, and she picks up on and internalizes them very quickly. It is beautiful to see her connecting with these coping mechanisms and using them on her own.
I get frustrated with the generally accepted notion (not around here of course) that my job is to ‘make’ my daughter into a ‘good’ child. Most people I encounter are surprised and more than a little perplexed by the fact that I care very little about raising a child to fits into the mainstream mold of what a ‘GOOD’ child should be. My focus is on building a framework for the type of internal discipline that will server her well through her life, so I try not to worry to much about whether she has a tantrum at the mall or whines for a toy. I deal with those of course, one at a time as they occur, and feel that every parenting ‘problem’ is actually an opportunity for teaching and learning (not just on Bella’s part, but most assuredly on mine as well). At each uncomfortable crossroads we have reached on this parenting journey, I try to ask myself "Is my reaction to this situation empowering my daughter to develop a sense of internal discipline?" Later in life, when the stakes are much harder, that is what will really matter. My main goal is that parenting in this manner will lay the groundwork for a child who can think outside the box, who knows that not all situations have a cookie-cutter solution and who EXPECTS to be respected and to have her voice heard. I actually want my children to question authority. Yes, even mine.
No, parenting cannot usually operate as a true democracy, but on the other hand, I have no interest in running a dictatorship
For me, the final frontier on my total conversion to GD is one of the main topics of this thread – the whole food issue. In fact, I’ve been meaning to come here and post about it for ages. This is the one area where I fear I have been more dictator-like than I would hope….reading all these posts has been a wonderful lesson for me in other ways to approach the situation.
I hope this post continues, in whatever meandering fashion it takes. I love how it has made me think and reevaluate thus far, and I think both of those are essential as I continue to evolve into the very best mother I can possibly be.