“Whoever is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who has a hasty temper exaults folly.” ~ Prov. 14:29
Lately, I’m not sure if it’s all the stress of moving or just life, but I find myself getting frustrated and telling Ethan, “No!” and “Stop it!” with harsh looks to match more often then I would like. It just seems like most days, I’ve had it with the whining and the fits by 10am.
For Ethan, I especially want to learn how to handle his whining and meltdowns better. I want to be empathetic, but I also want him to learn to not take everything to heart. Lately, I realized that the majority of Ethan’s meltdowns are not because he is purposely acting out or acting bad. Instead, as he transitions from toddler to preschooler, he’s having to learn more appropriate ways to express himself.
Instead of getting frustrated, I would like to try to see to the core of the issue on a consistent basis. Is he sad, angry, or needing/wanting something? If he is sad or angry, I want to give him ideas about how he can better express those feelings. For example, we’ve been working on anger this week. So if he throws or hits something, I might say, “Oh, no, that is so sad Ethan hit momma because he was angry. You’ll need to go sit on your bed for 2 min. until the timer goes off.”Then when I go to get him, I ask, “Are you ready to act kinder now?” I’ll give him a hug and tell him I love him, then I might say something like, “It’s okay to be angry, but it is not okay to hit people.”
I think after several times of this scenario this week, it may be sinking in. Today he was angry about something, and he made a very angry face and crossed his arms, but he didn’t hit anything. We’ll work on dirty looks later, right now that’s an improvement!
The whining I have to work with the most is just plain old things aren’t going my way whining. The idea I’ve been using the last few days is to give him choices. I’ll ask, “Should we whine and throw a fit about it, or should we say, ‘Momma, will you please help me?'” (Or whatever would be a better course of action.) Usually he picks the right choice in the end. Granted, he may have to repeat the last part several times to get the right tone of voice and give me a smile, but eventually it works. Eventually.
Another way I’m learning to handle whining is to give Ethan choices. A few weeks ago, when he stared whining (again!) about going to bed and wanting to eat his snack instead, I was able to stay calm and instead ask him, “Do you want me to put your snack on the table, or do you want to do it?” This simple question, redirected the fit and gave him something else to think about. Then when he started whining about leaving the snack on the table, I asked him, “Do you want to put your milk in the fridge, or do you want me to do it?” Putting milk in the fridge is a big deal right now, so once again, the questions refocused his energy and stopped the whining. Then without his snacks, he was much easier to get to bed. Not without a little more whining, but at least without a big fit.
I wish I could remember to do this all the time. To ask questions instead of fighting and to give logical consequences and better choices instead of just saying, “no, No, NO!” It takes retraining, on his part and mine.
I’m learning, because keeping calm instead of responding with what I’m really thinking and feeling is so important. I don’t want my children’s memories of childhood to be filled with angry faces from mom. Instead, I want them to remember a mom who was calm and spoke quietly and firmly, even when it would have been easier to blow my top.
I am nowhere close to mastering the ideas I’ve talked about the last few weeks, and I don’t want to pretend I even have it a little bit figured out. These are just the lessons God has been teaching me lately.
Just yesterday I was wondering if I would ever get there. If I will ever consistently answer with love, empathy, and wise words instead of frustration and anger. If I will ever get words like “no,” “don’t,” and “stop it!” mostly out of my vocabulary. If I will ever learn how to put my children first in my day instead of my to-do list. (I’m sure you older and wiser mothers are just smiling and shaking your heads.)
Just this week I met another couple who gave me hope. One of those rare couples, who quite frankly right now baffle me. Their sons are mostly grown up, but these parents are still so invested in them. You can tell by the tone of their voices and the way they talk about their children that they are passionate about doing what it takes to support their children and give them what they need to succeed. When you meet these types of parents you just know. They aren’t co-dependent on their children, instead it’s a passion that just radiates from them.
I just want to sit at people’s feet who have that kind of passion about parenting and absorb some of it. You can tell by the way they talk and the results you see in their children that while their children were growing up, they majored in their children.
I encourage you to find such people and surround yourself with them. Before you follow any of the hundred interests calling your name, first stop and major in your children. Others tell me that though this time of life seems forever, it goes by so quickly. There will be time to passionately pursue other interests later or you can even pursue them on the side now. But while your children are young, please choose to major in them. From what I see in those around me, no other decision has the ability to bring you more heartache or more joy in the years to come.
If you’d like to study this topic deeper…