Before I get to the beautiful posts about the holidays and traveling, I have something ugly to write about. Tantrums. Screaming, crying, hitting, kicking, uncontrollable temper tantrums. But not from our two year old, as might be expected. From the four year old. The mature, intelligent, kind, funny, loving, almost perfect child who sailed through her “terrible” twos and threes without ever causing us much trouble and who handled major life changes such as becoming a big sister, moving across the country and then across the globe, and starting school for the very first time with aplomb and grace has started having the most epic, violent melt-downs whenever something goes wrong.
I am in no way trying to have you believe that she was never in need of discipline up until this point. She has spent her fair share of time in time-out. But the discipline that we used generally worked for us…until last week. We had a process for infractions: warning, reminder to take a deep breath, count to three, time-out (one minute for each year of age), apology and hug. About a week ago, that all went out the window. All of a sudden. Now she won’t even let us give her a warning without screaming at the top of her lungs and when we have to forcefully pick her up and move her to a place where she can safely sit in time-out in order to calm down, she lashes out in any way that she can, be it punching, kicking, biting, whatever. And it takes her a lot longer than four minutes to calm down and listen to what we have to say.
It started about a week ago during our trip to Munich. Yes, it makes perfect sense that all the traveling, sleeping in different beds, being away from her own stuff, being around strangers, changes of routines, and getting sick would cause a young child to misbehave…but you know what? That doesn’t make it okay.
The tantrums have unfortunately followed us back home. (We were kinda hoping to leave them in Germany.) Granted, we’ve only been home one day and are certainly not back in the swing of things yet, but I’m going to assume that this is just a fun new phase in Adele’s development and I’m going to do as much research into ways of disciplining this particular behavior as I can, because I know there’s something out there that will work.
I have two things that I must say at this point:
1) Our vacation in Germany was wonderful. Adele had great fun and was a joy to be around 99.999% of the time. The tantrums were a low point, but they in no way defined the entire trip. It just happens to be what I am writing about first (because we just had another episode this morning when she drew on the dining table with a permanent gold paint pen and then slapped me as I was placing her in time-out)*.
2) I do not believe in physical discipline. I’m not a hippie; I just know that it DOES NOT WORK. I believe in identifying the root cause of the trouble, addressing it as well as the resulting behavior, and using discipline to guide the child into the independent, intelligent, kind adult that I want them to be. Also, I totally am a hippie.
So…if any of you have any experience with similar behavior or can point me toward a website that might help, let me know!
The point of this post was to let you all know that we’re not perfect over here. I post a lot of cute pictures of the kids and talk about all the fun things we do together, but there are tears too, of course! And i think I’m a really fantastic mom, but I don’t always know what to do. So I really am asking for guidance. And I think I have really, REALLY fantastic kids.
*If you’re curious how we handled the table situation: while trying to explain to Adele why painting on the table was wrong and put her in time-out for four minutes, she kept yelling over and over again that she did it because she was so tired, she forgot that it was wrong. Okay, so, I know that that was just an excuse that she came up with, but also knew that she probably was a bit over-tired. So I let her lay down in her bed for about fifteen minutes before I went back in to talk to her. The good thing was that she was much more calm and easy to talk to. The bad thing was that she had almost forgotten that she had been naughty at all and was just ready to play. But I tried to have a serious talk with her, both about painting on the table in particular as well as our current tantrum trouble in general. I prefaced the whole conversation by saying that I love her always, even when I’m angry at her, and also by saying that I believe she is a good girl, even if she acts inappropriately sometimes (I said this both because I just read this article and because some of the things she has yelled while sobbing in the past have made me a bit worried about her self-esteem, which is something I take very seriously). Then we talked about why it was not okay to deface the table and that she had permanently damaged something which had cost us money (Jeff actually got the gold pen off the table, but left scratches from the sponge all over). We don’t give her an allowance, so we couldn’t ask her to pay to have it fixed, but we did say that the next time we were going to buy her and her sister a gift, we would instead just buy May a gift and have Adele pick out a table-fixing product at the hardware store. She actually quite enthusiastically thought this was a good idea. However, then I read online that we could use coffee grinds to hide the scratches, which we tried, and it worked a little, but then we tried black crayon and it worked wonders! We had Adele help out as much as possible in this process. As for the tantrums, she maintains that it’s just because she’s so tired. So right now she’s taking a nap and we will continue to try that daily until her school resumes.
On a lighter note, here’s Mommy’s Little Angel on vacation: