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Hello to my fellow readers! I am so sorry that I have been off the deep end lately. But alas, my little girl started walking at 11 months of age, turned one year old just a few weeks back and well, there has been no looking back let alone time sitting down to write such posts.
Today, however, I felt I needed to write about something I have been struggling with. What, you may ask, could you possibly struggle with a one year old? Don’t get me wrong, she is a bundle of giggles, smiles, and laughter. My little Sunshine is full of spunk, passion, and is what some may call a “fire cracker.” With this, however, comes a lot of miscommunication or her frustration in her inability to communicate what is bothering her. What, you may also ask, can a one year old possibly have to say that is frustrating, angering, scaring, or pissing her off? Oh, my dear readers…. PLENTY.
The past few days Sunshine has been rather difficult. Sunshine has been seen stomping around, throwing mini-tantrums, wanting to be held, but then once in my arms, pushing struggling to get out of them. When she is placed down on the ground she screams bloody murder at the top of her lungs. You would think I was battering my kid or something by the sound that comes out of her mouth. This, however, is not the case. She has all of these emotions and they are coming from somewhere, and stupid me… totally forgetting that she has the same emotions that I do, I am just able to better express and verbally identify what those emotions are and then do something about it.
My good friend Alana, has helped me see that this behavior is what we call “hitting our head against a brick wall.” The brick wall effect is one way to see it, but I also see it as shaking an unopened soda pop. Here, Sunshine has all these pent up feelings and emotions, all those feelings getting pent up become a little scary and she doesn’t know how to vent them, give them names, and feel comfortable with them. Then, all of a sudden- “BOOM” she lets it loose. Sometimes, she vents a little at a time, others she just saves it up, give that can a huge shake and lets it go.
Now, as I grew up, my family really wasn’t comfortable with anger and frustrations. We were taught that if we were mad or upset, that it was not okay to have those feelings. We could only be happy or pleasant. So this avenue, of letting Sunshine vent her feelings is new for me and slightly unsettling. Instead of telling her what a lot of mainstream parenting practices call for (“stop crying,” “don’t be a cry baby,” “I won’t give you what you want until you stop crying.”). This doesn’t sit well with me at all. It is also difficult to let her have a tantrum. Even more difficult if it is in public.
I want my kids to know that it is okay to have those feelings and to get them out. She doesn’t understand more positive ways to express those emotions yet, but she still needs to be heard and feel validated. So what do you do, if your child is having a difficult time and really wanting to be held by you? Butdoesn’t want to be held? Seems like they do not know what they want? The solution I have tried lately, and has shown to work, is “Stay Listening,” or in my terms “SitListening.”
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Here are your general directions:
1) Get down on the ground with your kid. Not 2 feet up on a futon, or chair looking down at them…. Get your butt down on the ground with your kid, face to face with them on the ground.
2) Turn off all tv’s, radios, and put down the damn phone. Any and all distractions need to be dismissed. Your kid knows when you are not giving them your full attention.
3) This is the most important: Listen to them. Let them know you love them. Tell them you are sorry that they are frustrated, scared, angry and that you will be there for them. That it is okay to cry and get it out. Validate their feelings.
4) If they want to hit, bite, and be physical, remind yourself over and over that it is not personal. You can set them aside, and let them know that biting hurts, but don’t turn from them. They need to know you are still there, listening, and that you love them. All kids have a shut down mechanism, just like grown ups, that when things get too much, too scary that they can’t comprehend, that their flight or fight system comes into play. They are trying to butt their heads against that brick wall so they can get all that aggression out and communicate what is scaring them. If they are too young to figure out what that is… you get the biting and hitting. Ever seen a kid in a play group go up to another kid and bite them, or hit them? Tends to be the kid is overwhelmed, can’t express what they are feeling so they shut down and do what comes naturally. They bite and run. They hit and walk off.
If you can’t help your child get those emotions out with laughter and giggling, which helps get that repressed energy out somehow, then try some type of physical activity. If they have hit that brick wall and are lying down on the ground, throwing themselves backwards, perhaps try some hugging. What I do, is give Sunshine a big hug, hold her arms down and keep her
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safe. She will push and push, but she just needs that resistance to get that energy out. If you put them down, they may cry even more, like she does. She doesn’t want me to let go. She wants to be close, but to have that resistance. If your kid wants to let go or get out of the hug, let them, but remind them you are there. Hold their hands and keep telling them you love them no matter what and will be there after all the fear and feelings are gone. Now, don’t get me wrong. Hitting and biting are NOT okay. But if you can separate yourself for the time being, and know that it is not the behavior of biting or hitting that is the issue, but a symptom of what is really going on. You can deal with the issue first, and later teach that hitting and biting people are not positive ways to show those feelings. Perhaps hitting a pillow is a better alternative for now, as they are kids and may need to physically get that emotion out.
5) Give it time. The rant could last for 5, 15, or 45 minutes. It depends on your kid whether they like to let it out all at once, or a little at a time.
To give you an example: Sunshine has been pretty upset the past few days. I just couldn’t chalk it all up to teething, or bad sleep, or getting over the colds and flu she had the past week. There are moments where she obviously feels great and happy. I realized she has been pretty upset every time I stepped two feet away from her, or was out of her sight. This has been since I left her at the nursery on Sunday during church. I went by myself and knew I couldn’t do it without hubby, who was sick at home. Since then, any time she can’t see me she gets upset. Being I am a stay at home mom, she is with me most of the time so this is understandable. She is also at that anxiety stage.
So when she started the tantrums this morning, I practiced what my friend offered which is the “Stay listening.” So, I sat. For about 10 minutes she went on and on. I reassured her and stayed with her on the floor, at her level. She figured that I was listening, said her peace, and was done for the time being. She went back to her happy self. If I hadn’t done this, it could have gone on all day and I was SOOO not up to the task of that. I also knew, that if I was right about the situation (of my leaving her) that if I went to the YMCA to go swimming today and she was left in the nursery there, that she would give me the same reaction again.
Sunshine not so sunny….
Upon picking her up, she seemed fine, was happy and we went home. I could tell she had been crying while I had been swimming though. I am so glad that I took care of myself and went swimming because I had the energy and peace of mind to be totally “present” for her later if she became upset. We returned home and commenced with our regular routine. At one point she helped me start a wash and we went into the other room to play with (fold) clothes. I heard the washer was unbalanced so I got up to straighten it out and start it up again. Not more than 45 seconds was I out of her sight.
This started a good 40 minute rant in which she expressed to me in all the Sunshine words she could muster how upset she was. I sat down with her and realized she has a lot of pent-up feelings to work through as I have had her watched by several people in the past few weeks. I have to admit, when she stopped crying, looked up at me, smiled and then made the sign she wanted to nurse, we just laid down and were peaceful for another good 20 minutes.
Can I tell you what a weight that took off my shoulders?!! She felt listened to! (Something I really lacked when I was growing up so I tend to overcompensate by talking as grown up instead of doing more listening). I feel so much better having let her have her moment and telling me in her words what she was feeling. All those feelings, of being left, abandoned are scary as an adult. Think of what that feels like as a kid who doesn’t have the ability to express that yet??! (total headsmack!)
So, while I share this with you, my little girl is playing catch with her daddy. Mainly rolling and bouncing the ball back and forth. She has a thing for bouncy balls…. I believe that will be her next word.
Hopefully, this helps some of you. Or perhaps sheds some light on what may or may not be occurring with your little one. All, in all…. it was a learning day for me and the learning curve was a big one! (Thanks, Alana!)
For other articles on this topic and others visit:
Aha Parenting: Hand in Hand Parenting
Kindred Community: Understanding Children’s Feelings
My hugs to all and Don’t Forget to Giggle!!!