As Jax quickly approaches the age of 3, I’m focusing my attention more on discipline–more specifically, gentle discipline.
His tantrums (and boy do I hate that ugly word) have been few and far between, but they do seem to be ramping up lately, becoming a little more frequent, longer, and harder to bear.
He had a meltdown this weekend because he didn’t get to help me vacuum the living room area rug. He’d been upstairs playing while I did that part of my cleaning. Once I realized how upsetting this was to him, he was in full-throttle hysterics. So at that point, I didn’t want to pull out the vacuum and “give in” to his demands, even though I knew it would make everything better, because I don’t want to teach my child that behavior like that will produce the desired result.
However, it was painful to endure his crying–especially when it led to dry heaving and sobs and blotchy red eyes (just like mine when I’m crying). And then the rapid-fire thoughts came: What is the right way to deal with a tantrum? Do I even know what I am doing? Should I ignore him? Give him a time out/away? Maybe I should just drag the darn vacuum out again!
But instead of letting my thoughts run wild any longer, I took Jax into his bedroom and shut the door (I locked it, to contain my little runaway, and I pushed away the guilt I felt over doing so) and asked him nicely to sit with me and calm down. He refused the first couple minutes. But when he climbed into my lap in the glider where I used to nurse him, we talked about how he was feeling (upset with mommy, sad, frustrated, etc) and that it’s ok to feel sad but feeling happy is more fun! I asked him to take a deep breath and try to calm down. And I was silent for a few minutes while he cried a bit more, too. When he finally calmed down, we had a sweet moment together with a long hug.
I think it’s important to let kids feel what they’re feeling and not try to stop it every single time or tell them it’s “wrong” to feel a certain way or to cry. And I am trying so hard to avoid raising my voice or punish him.
But that’s just me.
I don’t think my husband buys into the same methods I do. We’re having a bit of a disconnect when it comes to discipline. But enough about that, as I’m sure it’s probably normal and will get worked out over time (when he realizes that I am always right, haha).
All I can do is what I think is best for Jax. Parenting is a learning process, every single day. Although I know my son inside and out and better than anyone else in the world knows him, he is constantly changing. And these tantrums are definitely a new challenge for me.
For now, I’m going to keep doing what I’m doing. I’m reading a book recommended to me by several parents of toddlers: Parent Talk by Chick Moorman. I love the subtitle so much, as it mirrors two of my discipline goals: How to Talk to Your Children in a Language that Builds Self-Esteem and Encourages Responsibility.
I also value what Attachment Parenting International teaches about “positive discipline“:
Attachment Parenting incorporates the “golden rule” of parenting; parents should treat their children the way they would want to be treated. Positive discipline is an overarching philosophy that helps a child develop a conscience guided by his own internal discipline and compassion for others. Positive discipline is rooted in a secure, trusting, connected relationship between parent and child. Discipline that is empathetic, loving and respectful strengthens that the connection between parent and child, while harsh or overly-punitive discipline weakens the connection. Remember that the ultimate goal of discipline is to help children develop self-control and self-discipline.
Empathy may be the one quality about myself I most cherish and hope to teach to my son. Empathy is at the heart of gentle discipline. It should be at the heart of everything we do, ideally.
And I love what The Hippie Housewife wrote about gentle discipline, complete with tips for the rest of us!
One thing I’ve noticed–in a lightbulb moment–is that tantrums are most likely to happen when Jax is tired or hungry (duh). I can’t make him nap or eat if he doesn’t want to, but I am learning to anticipate when he might be susceptible to meltdowns and try to stop them before they start by offering snuggles & snacks (and by avoiding public places at naptime!).
I’d love to hear your tried-and-true methods for calming a tantrummy toddler!