Way back I was a childless teacher, the kind that knew exactly the way I was going to do things as a parent and the kind of child I would have. At four or five months I was panicked that Cole was not interested in books. The whole thing is laughable now, I must have sounded like a nut when friends were surely joking about how they knew I would have him reading by age two. I felt like there were these expectations of me, the one who taught so many to read who would surely have a child that was a reading genius. Soon after that, I let go and never pushed Cole much at all. By three and a half he didn't know his letters so I taught him in a fun way. This year he went off to Kindergarten writing his first name, that's it. Good news is that he is reading now, but not because of his reading teacher of a mother but because it was developmentally time for him to learn to read!
I am off track, because it is not Cole that I want to write about it is my dear other little one Cecily.
Cole was about three when Cecily was born and for all intents and purposes he was a fairly easy child. By the age of 3, he was easy in the way that makes mothering and socializing with others a non issue. He never hit or yelled and was kind about sharing. As I watched other friends grab their children and head off home from play dates with their precious peanuts kicking and screaming, I admit I did it, I thought thank God that is not me!
Cecily came out screaming and I like to say never stopped. Not true of course, but she was difficult from the start. While others had the second child that sat in their little car seats, I had the four month old dying to be big. This is no exaggeration, she was always on a mission to be older and be the boss. I knew she had fire and personality, but I think it was not till after she was one that I realized... Holy SHIT, I got THAT kid! She was the one who would hit, she refused to cooperate about simple things, and when her mind was made up there was no deterring her. I was now the one leaving the play date with the child slapping me in the face, having to hold her down and strap her in the car seat while she threw her fit.
I couldn't believe it, how did this happen to me? I would look at others with envy as their precious toddlers quietly held their hands and walked through the hallways at preschool pick up. Cecily was bolting through banging on the classroom doors. I would stare at the little ones in the grocery store sitting preciously in the cart eating fishies from a cup, while my little doll was running and screeching from me. It felt overwhelming and at times lonely. I am here to tell you that I made it out on the other side. The good news for us is that as she approaches three years old, she has stopped a lot of these behaviors but she is still THAT kid. She will never be the child that sticks next to me as I walk calmly through the store and I know as soon as things start to go well there will be a bump in the road.
How to get through:
- Realize that no matter what this is your child and was yours for a reason. There is not changing who they are. You can change how you react to them which will help improve the behaviors.
- Know that other moms will judge you, but true friends won't. They will help you. You are not to be blamed if your child is strong willed, energetic, or anxiety ridden.
- Be an advocoate for your child, focus on what makes them special and wonderful to you.
- Choose your battles and focus on the behaviors that need changing the most. That may be hitting for now, then back off on them eating their vegetables.
- Use a behavior modification system such as a sticker chart to reinforce positive behaviors or removal of negative behaviors.
- Try your best to stay calm at all times. This is so hard, was easy as a teacher but as a parent there is such emotional involvement. Give warnings and then consequences as matter of factly as possible.
- If your child is old enough explain how this makes you feel, but not in that moment.
- Know that there is no reasoning within the moment. Do not let things escalate out of control. I know with both my children, resolutions are never found mid tantrum.
- Find other friends that are going through the same thing. It was helpful to have my friend who had gone through a similar thing.
- Seek out places where your child does well, it may mean that they go to school more days a week if they thrive on the structure.
- Do not internalize their misbehaving. While you are still suffering over them grabbing their friend's hair, they have moved on and so should you.