joi, 27 ianuarie 2011

temper tantrums

Somewhere I read that parenting is the hardest work in the world. Well, it is in a way, but so is living. And like living you just do it, whether it's hard or not, because what else can you do?
And like living your life you can either rely on instinct and just do it or strive to do it mindfully, in beauty and truth.

I'm not really comfortable with the "instinct-approach"; maybe I would if it were working. So I'm one of these parents who are constantly reading parenting books. I'm excusing this with being a teacher, so knowing more about education and children is a good thing, and I really love to read as well.

Everytime, I read a parenting book that contains more than merely receipts of "how to put your baby to sleep" (haha, I could put him any way I wanted, he just didn't), I feel elated. (I'm referring to books like Everyday Blessings as opposed to the Ferber method, for example).

Everytime, I try to carry this feeling of elation and purity with me, and to be super-mom to my precious son. Until it turns out he's wanting something again, like watching TV because he's to tired to go to bed (which he's never allowed at all, no TV in the evenings for him), and we end up with a shouting match and a full blown temper tantrum. Sometimes tantrums for both of us. Because nobody can trigger you like your own kid. (My husband at least shows some restraint, when getting angry.)
Afterwards, both of us sit there, mother and child cuddling, feeling ultimately exhausted, and don't quite know, what we did wrong. Since I'm the grown-up, I should have been able to contain my anger; to see were this has been leading and not to let it happen.

But lately I'm not so sure anymore, whether I did something wrong. Not that I'm thinking "This is only a phase, tantrums happen, he will grow out of it." (All of life is "just a phase" and, eventually, we will grow out of it.) But this "phase" - as every "phase" - is about learning something new. And in a way it never leaves you, even when you're almost forty years old and never would be kicking, hitting and screaming in public.

You see, last week my son and I had a major fight over something small - and it's almost always something small. It lasted about an hour, both of us alternately screaming and trying to make up, him crying, and crying. - It was horrible. And we both vowed, not to fight like this again. I announced some new rules to minimize further conflict, and promised myself to put him to bed earlier.

We were both so shaken; and this little 3year old as weel as me, or maybe even more so. So he was really nice the next day, and the next, and tried to do everything asked of him. He tried so hard not to become angry, to restrain himself and to act like a grown-up. And then - of course - he blew up - in kindergarten.

His kindergarten-teacher was stunned. He had been exploding because he didn't want to drink anything, and - he didn't want to have a water-bottle with him. Very logical. So I finally figured it out: these tantrums were about venting frustration. About adjusting to the new situation of being in kindergarten, and of growing bigger and bigger but not real big. His life just is a little to exciting for him. Even 'though he loves going to kindergarten, it's a big change. And he isn't a grown-up, he's three.

So my task is to find a way for him to cope with his anger and frustration, and the feeling of life being a little overwhelming. How can he release all this tension wthout having to fight with the people he loves. And before being able to show him this, I might have to learn a little more on it myself.

Maybe he needs something physical; time to pull out the bike again ...