I typically hesitate to speak of parenting techniques much, considering I'm still figuring this whole mom thing out, and I only have four years of experience under my belt. I'm not sure what exactly qualifies one to become an expert in the raising of children, since the longer I do this with the two I have, the more I realize I have so much to learn. However, when I discover something that works and makes sense, I want to share it with my fellow-mom friends because we're all kind of in this thing together, this imperfect parenting thing in an imperfect world with our beautiful imperfect children...
I have this child. We call him Colton... Mostly because that's actually his name. He's a spirited one, that boy. Like a young colt, in fact. Energetic, vivacious, a strong-willed mind of his own. He's two years old now, but he's always been what one might label "challenging". He's got a big personality with a lot of determination that can tend to boil over into a big rebellious and stubborn mess. At least, those are the negative terms I come up with for him when I'm completely exasperated by his behavior.
Sometimes he goes through these phases where he screams a lot. He only communicates with tantrums. The kind that grate on your eardrums... and nerves. Constantly. I. Can. Not. Tolerate. Screaming.
So then my lovely friend, Mom Guilt, moves in because I just can't stand to be anywhere near the child.
But I have learned to realize when there's a disconnect between he and I. It is imperative to take everything that's on my life's plate and set it aside, because this boy needs me.
His most unlovable behavior is a plea for love, attention, validation, assurance, and security.
I'm his mom, I am the only person who can provide that for him.
So I get down on his short little level and I look directly into his eyes. I use words, calmly, and encourage him to do the same. I smile reassuringly. I give hugs, a lot of them. I ask him what is wrong, and I show sympathy for his many afflictions whether real or imagined. I scoop him up and bring him to the kitchen with me; I give him a few random ingredients along with a bowl and a spoon and let him think he's helping me as he's doing his thing and I'm doing mine, right beside him.
All of a sudden our world is peaceful again. He's smiling and calm. He's trying so very hard to use words and construct sentences because he really wants me to know what he thinks. And I listen. He feels useful and important. He's safe. He realizes that I'm not going to abandon him and leave him feeling lost in this big busy world that's towering over him. And as I make it a habit throughout my day to take time for him, the tantrums become nonexistent and his communication skills hit a new high.
Little ones don't have behavioral problems as much as we like to think, they have small-human problems. They very easily succumb to panic, fear and insecurity because their little hearts are so delicate. They can only grasp a very minimal reality of life and what is going on around them. Meanwhile their body and cognitive development is growing and changing at such a rapid rate. Pain confuses them, yet they experience it frequently as they clumsily discover the laws of gravity. They often have to suffer through brand new teeth slicing through swollen and painful gums, and it makes no sense to them. But what really takes the cake is there's this huge communication barrier between them and their mommy and daddy--the very people who are their complete life and love and security. Their desires, needs, pain and emotions all frustrate them, and they don't know how to calmly communicate them. It's no wonder they cry and scream and behave in all sorts of ugly manners.
Some of the experts like to tell young moms like me to train my babies to sleep, to teach them what "no" means, to get them on schedules so they can learn about self-discipline and quiet play, and tantrums, oh my goodness, the tantrums! those are bad, and if your child should throw one you should be embarrassed and ashamed of yourself. But I say no. How about we show them love and comfort. Let them experience the gift of selfless love so as they mature they are better equipped to give it. How about we nurture those big fiery spirits because God knows we need more gigantic hearts with strong wills to change the world. How about we be that safe space that shows love and teaches boundaries in a way they can understand. And when they scream and express frustration? How about we show them that it's okay... they're safe, and loved.
Kids aren't supposed to be convenient, they are supposed to be loved and nurtured and cherished. A child should never be given the opportunity to doubt that.