Thursday, February 23, 2012

My Strong-Willed Four Year Old

These past few weeks we've been going through a lot of  'behavioral challenges' at our house.  Our normally sweet, funny and silly four year old has been testing boundaries like they are no body's business.  The majority of it has culminated in potty language or talking back or stomping away while muttering something under his breath.  But, there have been a few times where it has resulted in hitting -- and this isn't just happening at home to mom or dad, we've had reports of him hitting at school too (both classmates AND teachers).  I have no tolerance for children hitting in my house -- neither does school, so this HAS to end.

Punishing or reprimanding him when this happens results in large tear-fests or temper tantrums.  Then I find myself asking: Am I getting my point across by implementing a time out or are we just having a power struggle and neither of us learns the lesson at the end?  Is there a better way that I could handle the situation?  Probably...I am open to any and all suggestions...

I have to admit, though this should be the least of my concerns, I am embarrassed by his behavior.  I find myself blaming myself as his mother -- that he somehow must be learning to do this at home.  I know I'm not a perfect mother -- after a long day I might snap back or have a shorter than normal fuse.  I'm only human; I have to admit that.  I do try to recognize when it happens and apologize to him and ask for a 'do over'. 

Is it coming from somewhere deeper.  Is it an inability to find the words to express his frustration? Maybe; he is 4 years old with quite an extensive vocabulary, but maybe he can't find the words quickly enough.  Is it a lack of practice in patience and not being able to hold back his frustrations?  Probably; don't we all have problems with that from time to time?  Is it just a cry for attention?  Once he gets my attention by throwing the fit, saying the naughty words or striking out he seems to calm down.  I just want my boys to grow up to be nice people, kind people, empathetic people -- how can I make this be a reality?

Why am I sharing this with you?  I don't really know...maybe there are some of you out there who are dealing with things like me (I know of some of you already)...and maybe, just maybe what I've been going through can help you or you can help me.

Maybe it is just to get this off my chest in a public way so I can't pretend it's not happening anymore or ignore it... Honestly, I don't know why I'm sharing this please bear with me.  :)

What have we tried so far?  Re-directing, removal from the situation, time outs, loss of privileges -- none of it seems to be working.  I think we need a new strategy and quick. I have a few ideas.

But first, I have to share with you one thing that has been weighing on my mind since my husband brought it home from Parent/Teacher conferences on Monday (no I wasn't there because I totally spaced out on it and FORGOT...BAD MOM). 

Max's teacher interviewed the kids and asked them all sorts of questions:  their names, their address, their parents name, etc. 

One question in particular struck a real chord with me:

What does your mom do?  "type on the computer while we play"

Max read this to me and made fun of me.  It was particularly funny when you read the next question:

What does your dad do?  "wash the dishes"  BAHAHAHA.

But I digress -- is this how my child sees me?  As a computer typing maniac that doesn't spend time with him?  Because that is EXACTLY how I am reading it.  And then it got me to thinking.  Back at the beginning of 2012 I posted my goals for the year.  Remember #7?  Let me refresh your memory:

"7. Be more present in the moment -- it is amazing to me how many times I comment on or realize how fast life goes by -- how my youngest is ALREADY 20 months seems like he was just born. I want to be more in the moment to be experiencing all these moments in their childhood. It seems silly that I should need to remind myself to be more present, but I do. There are so many distractions out there -- Internet, magazines, TV, etc."


So, before I go analyzing anything more about what might be 'wrong' with my four year old, or wrong about my behavior or his, I am going to fix this one thing.  Because I have a strong feeling that it is going to make a huge difference.  And I will let you know how that goes.

So, my strategy for now is to:
1.  Be more present in the moment -- be a MOM to my kids and not just "mom" my kids
2.  No hitting and no yelling at home period.  Even when a swat to the bottom is tempting or I feel I am losing my cool, none. This might be hard, but I HAVE to be vigilant.
3.  Give more choices.  A good friend passed along this article to me, and reading through it I felt like I was reading about my child.  I don't WANT to break his spirit -- it is part of what makes him so incredibly adorable to me.  I need to remember that his 'big passionate feelings' are important (and oh man does that describe ME to a "T" also!!)

And at the end of it, I hope this is what I get to see more of every day:

None of this will happen over night.  I know it takes time to make change happen -- just like going on a diet or learning to eat right.  This will not be easy and it will be a challenge.  But, isn't that life?  And in the end, isn't it worth it?  I DEFINITELY think so...

**photos courtesy of Shannon Wucherer Photography**


Megan said...

Stef - Thank you for sharing your struggles as well as your joys. You are a marvelous mother, and Max WILL grow into the man you want him to be, because of your love and support. This is such a hard time for them - 4 is really tricky.

But what really hit home for me was your thoughts about being in the moment. This is my biggest challenge, too. Thanks for the reminder of what I need to be doing with my time.

Itty_Bitty_Wittes said...

If it makes you feel better all I do all day is clean and do projects for myself and yell at Daddy on the phone to come home -according to the 5 year old. :)

Thank you for sharing. Although it might have been hard to type, because we all want to be the best, all of the time. That didn't really make sense.

When I feel like you do, I have to remember that they are only 4 and that their processes are still a work in progress. I have to try and focus on the positives. "Thank you L for not yelling at B for messing up ____. That was a good choice." Sometimes it can be redundant, and feel dumb when the words come out of our mouths, but I feel like it has really helped me and my yelling issue. :)

Hugs to you, and, to second what Megan said, thanks for the reminder to BE there.

Itty_Bitty_Wittes said...

I would also like to add that you are an amazing mother, and person. You have inspired me in so many ways and you have such a cool job.

One great thing about 4 year olds, is that they turn 5 eventually. :)

Emily S. said...

Stef, I love your honesty and can truly sense your pain and worry over this. I am so so sorry you've been thrown into a deep pit of doubt right now.

I think you're headed in the right direction. I love your thoughts on being in the moment. But also--- I think you've been heading in the right direction all along. You're a GOOD MOM. And this will be okay. You will love him and he will mature a bit more and you will both work to be better, and you'll keep going in the marvelous direction you started out in.

BIG hugs to you. You are going to be okay.

and a side note: LOVE these shots of Max, and you're awesome (as usual) to give credit to the photographer. :) :) :) Love you!

gemma kelly said...

Great blog! xx