Friday, November 7, 2008

The dynamics of it all

Last night I was in bed awake thinking about these tantrums. Yesterday night E had one where she repeatedly started banging her face (with a open mouth) into the floor. This isn't the first time this is happened but it was the first time Pete saw. It is very upsetting to see and scary as well because I do not want her to hurt herself. I am hoping this is normal and not a symptom of something worse. After I went to bed I started thinking about the dynamic that causes the tantrums. I started to think about my own behavior and if it is effecting E's behavior. Although I am often right there with her I have to admit that I am sometimes not as present mentally as I could be. My mind might be off thinking about dinner or who knows what. I think if I really pay better attention to her I might be able to prevent a lot of the tantrums.

I know many people recommend ignoring tantrums but I do strongly feel there are two different types of tantrums. I think some are tools of manipulation and others are out of frustration. If Eliza gets frustrated because she is unable to accomplish something then I think what she needs is empathy. I will help her successfully accomplish the task by providing support and encourage her to communicate to me through whatever means possible. On the other hand if I feel she is trying to manipulate me I will ignore her unless I feel she will hurt herself by banging her face into the floor or who knows what else is to come!. I don't believe that holding therapy, or what I like to think of as a tight hug, is giving in to E. At that point I feel like she has lost control and I am merely helping her get in control- not giving in to what she wants.

Eliza is and always has been sensitive to her environment and stimulation.I strongly believe in attachment parenting and will try to respond to Eliza with sensitivity at all times. I am going to pay much better attention as to why she is throwing a fit in the first place. This morning she got upset because I wouldn't let her touch a picture on the wall. She didn't cry but she did throw back her head and arched her back so I moved her from the couch onto the floor (a safer place) where she proceeded to hit her face into the carpet a few times. I didn't react at all and she stopped after three times and moved on to something else. In this case I think she wanted me to let her touch the picture but that just wasn't going to happen.

Thanks for all your kind words and support. It really help to hear what other moms are doing and I know Pete and I will figure out what works for us as a family.

8 comments:

Lori said...

I totally know that when I'm not myself, Blake is more likely to not be himself. As a stay-at-home parent we realize that our moods play out in our children. That is why I say that getting out by yourself from time to time and finding something that helps you feel like you will help you be a better parent.

You have to figure out what is best for you and Eliza... no person, expert or not, can tell you exactly what will work best for you and your child

UD said...

Consider, perhaps, that since you are paying so much attention to her that you are making it less necessary for her to communicate verbally or using her signs. When you hover around her waiting to satisfy her needs, she has no reason to use her communication. My parents recently spent a year or so living with a toddler. They thought it was odd that he didn't speak much, but after leaving for a few months and returning to visit, he was talking up a storm. My mother thinks that it was the fact that they were so enamoured with having a baby around again and jumped at his beck and call that he wasn't forced to communicate. Perhaps making her recognize that she isn't going to get her way by screaming or bashing her head into things will encourage her to try to communicate when she does really want something.

cathy said...

i so feel for you going through this stage right now. i read on another blog that sometimes it's helpful to have a little mantra that you tell yourself, like "This too shall pass" (it's just a stage, things will be different in a month, etc.). i'm not there yet so i don't have any advice, but just know that i'm rooting for you!

BundlebooMaMa said...

You are such a good mommy and your instincts are right on! Its hard not to feel helpless when you want to help your child succeed at expressing themselves and it ends up as frustration tantrums. I believe in AP, and Katy threw some pretty impressive displays. I cant say that I ignored her because I didn't want her to feel like I did not care about her frustrations. Instead, I would sit by her while she had her tantrum...(making sure that she did not seriously injure herself)say..."I understand that you are upset and I would like to help you, but I cannot while you are screaming and kicking. When you are all done, come over here and give me a hug and we'll figure out what's bothering you." Sure enough, when she got it out of her system she would come over and give me a hug. Its tough for them to process emotions in a form that is "civilized" at that age.

I think that if we feed too much into the tantrum they learn to think that its okay to kick and scream because they are getting overt attention from us. If we are quiet observers they know that we are there and care but them but we aren't responsive in the way they would expect by that kind of action. I hope that makes sense.

Pam said...

I think you have a great plan of action and you are a great mommy for trying so hard to do what is best for your family. I know that at this point- most of Riley's tantrums are due to frustration. He either wants something and can't communicate it to me or he is frustrated because I won't let him have/do something and he doesn't understand why. He only understand he want it and he wants it at that moment. His tantrums get bad- he hits, bites, throws.....it is wearing me out. I don't give in to him and I do give him the 'hold' at times to keep him from hurting me or his sister or himself. I keep telling myself it will get better as he learns more words (gosh I hope that happens soon!). But, I'll be honest - some days, it brings me to tears and I don't feel strong enough.

Tracy said...

Oops just read this after sending you an email. The open mouth thing is way scary. I too know what you mean about not being mentally present and it affects on tantrums. It is when I'm thinking aobut dinner, work, whatever that Madison begins to act out. Your rational thinking before a situation occurs is awesome and I'm sure will not only help deal with them when they happen but stop many of them from happening all together.

MoziEsmé said...

I like your insights here. I know with Esme that if I'm paying her attention and playing etc with her, she doesn't act up much. It's when I'm busy trying to get other things done that she starts finding "ways" to get my attention. I'm trying to find a balance, because I DO need to get the other things done and can't play 100% of the day with her, unfortunately. (Though I admit sometimes I get sidetracked by blogging, and I really DON'T need to be doing that!)

Marcy said...

I think this post is great, that you are being very sensitive to E's needs and that she definitely benefits from that. Everything you said sounds spot-on, from what I know about toddlers and tantrums. It sounds like you have a great plan for trying to handle these difficult moments... I'm sure we're not too far behind having to deal with this with D (the other day he got really upset when I took him away from the door handle he was playing with) and I hope to keep these points in mind.

Of course having a plan and even being certain that you're doing things well doesn't help make the tantrums easier to deal with. But I think you're doing a great job. =) (and I'll probably be coming to you for advice soon!).