I somehow escaped the much dreaded "Terrible" Twos and Threes. Looking back, I can count on one hand the amount of times over those two years that my son had a full blown tantrum. I don't tell you this to brag, I still don't even understand how it happened, but it did.
It's a different story these days, now that he's five and craving the most autonomy he's ever needed. A couple of weeks ago, I realized how everything has become a battle. And I mean Every. Thing.
If you were outside of our window for a period of time, you'd certainly hear an impertinent little voice exclaiming:
- "NO! I don't want to brush my teeth."
- "No! I'm not taking a shower!"
- "I'm NOT hungry!," when clearly VERY hangry.
- "I want more tablet time!!!"
- "Whyyyyyy do I have to get dressed?"
And then the impertinence started to escalate when son began dropping to the floor and hysterically crying. This being uncharted territory for me, it's been incfedibly a strange experience witnessing him react this way all of a sudden. And I let it, it can be extremely triggering. Especially at the end of a long day when I'm trying to throw dinner together or right before bedtime. Now of course, the easiest way to respond would be yelling "go to your room!" but the long term effects of that certainly aren't worth the short term "fix."
Knowing that I need to approach things differently, I've been taking more time to make sure that I'm grounded. I'm journaling more. I'm taking deep breaths even when my emotions aren't escalated and inviting my son to join me. I'm also not letting myself get hangry because that is a sure fire way to ensure I will be short on patience when moments like this require me to have more patience than ever before. As a result, my mind is fresher and I'm able to get ahead of the outbursts before it even happens.
Earlier this morning, I was reflecting on all of this as we were getting ourselves ready for school drop off. During the last week, I've leaned into giving my son more choices and using sand timers when needed. You'll now hear my calm voice if you were to listen in from outside:
- "Do you want to get dressed first or do you want to brush your teeth first?"
- "You can have 30 minutes of screen time. You can choose either TV or your tablet, but you can't do both."
- "Ok, you're choosing your tablet? Perfect. Flip this timer over and when it's done, it's time to turn the tablet off."
- "I see that you're still waking up. Do you want to set a timer for 10 minutes to let yourself get out of bed or do you want to watch 10 minutes of a show on the couch?"
- "I know you still want to play with your slime. That's great! Please get dressed first and then you can keep playing with it. Do you want me to pick out your clothes or do you want to?"
You get the idea. Sure, it takes more effort and 100% presence from myself to navigate and anticipate my son's needs. Is it a little more exhausting? Yes, but isn't parenting exhausting no matter what? I'm going to be tired and emotionally depleted if he's throwing tantrums and I'd rather be tired from anticipating challenges and preventing tantrums because at least with this, we are way more connected to each other when we're both keeping the peace.
After reinvesting my energy into this, I've noticed a huge difference for both of us. My son is taking time to take deep breaths if he feels frustrated. He's calmly asking for more screen time and he's much more understanding if the answer is "Not now."
And best of all, he's even started saying at the end of every day, "You're the loviest loveliest Mom ever."