Monday, December 7, 2009

Throwing a Fit vs Communication

I've mentioned how Caleb is such an easy child to pretty much every one that I know. And I will mention it again for those of you who don't know. He's very laid back and doesn't really get into stuff he shouldn't be into. He's also perfectly content playing by himself for sometimes hours at a time. Every once in a while he comes to check up on me and pulls me to where he has been playing because he has something so exciting that he wants to share with me. He doesn't complain when it's bedtime, he doesn't fuss for more than a few minutes when we need to come inside, and he is all around just a very even tempered and easy going little boy.

Now that I've bragged about my amazing son (every mother is entitled to let others know how great her children are) I will let you know that he's not perfect. He is a toddler and toddlers aren't all that great at communicating their emotions. Caleb's current way of letting us know he's upset consists of laying down on his tummy and whining (sometimes very angry sounding whines). Adam has tried to call them "fits" or "temper tantrums." I, however, would like to give my son the benefit of the doubt. I call it "inability to communicate."

Here's what I think: Caleb doesn't talk. He feels emotions very strongly and they are all new to him. He doesn't understand my reasoning when I tell him he's not allowed to play with something. So it makes sense that he gets upset and doesn't know how to express his feelings. I think that looking at his behaviour in this way has taught me to deal with it a little differently than if I looked at it as a temper tantrum.

The first time Caleb laid himself on the floor when he was upset I sat down beside him and tried to explain what he was feeling. I did that because he didn't know how to explain it but when he starts talking he will have the words necessary to tell me instead of show men how he feels. I said something along the lines of "You're upset aren't you? You don't like that mommy took away your porch privileges" Then I went on to explain to him why I did that. "Mama has told you that the kitty dishes are off limits. They are not a toy." Sometimes if it's something dangerous then I tell him that and why it's dangerous. Then I try to build up his emotions again "Mama loves you, Caleb I love you. You're a wonderful boy. Would you like a hug?"

My theory is that I'm teaching him that it's okay to feel those emotions but there are better ways to deal with them. And once he makes the decision to get up off the floor, I'm waiting with open arms. Sometimes I rub his back, just to give him that human contact and remind him he's not alone. And sometimes he pushes my hand away at first, but he always accepts it after a little bit.

Another important thing that a lot of moms have found is to see when they start that behavior. It is usually at a time when they are either bored, hungry or tired. Eliminate those factors and you'll find that those times of difficult communication lessen drastically. Or at least they don't last as long.

I know that it will make a difference in the long term. I'm a firm believer in "train up a child in the way he should go." That and I believe that children are just that, children. They don't understand things the way that we do. We expect way to much of them a lot of times. They like to try things and explore reactions and don't mean any harm by it. Just like I mentioned with the water cooler, they see something that looks like fun and don't understand the consequences. Yes, even if you're told them 100 times, they don't always remember. Kind of like husbands who need to be nagged sometimes.... not that I ever nag of course.... ummm yeah....

So anyway, Caleb barely lays on the floor like that. He did it really bad a couple times but now he will just lay there and wait for me to sit by him. Then he holds up his hand for me to help him up and crawls into my arms. It's really cute actually. Yes, I give my son attention when he "throws a fit." He's learning that I am paying attention to him and that his feelings do matter.

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