I never realized how loud the music was or how gently the air blew in the back of the minivan until I had to sit there. I couldn’t hear a thing that was being said to me from up front, and the air conditioner – though blowing very loudly in the Arizona heat – was doing little to cool me off.
When they were younger, my children didn’t always say “turn the music down”, yet they said “turn the music louder” at a very young age – probably because the air blows so loudly, it’s hard to hear the music. They also weren’t able to express the fact that they were hot – and to please make it colder.
I soon realized that’s how the parent-child relationship exists in many arenas. Our children are often not able to verbalize what they are thinking, feeling, or needing. Our encouragement for them to “use their words” often comes too early in their lives, and it is important that we give them pre-verbal tools for communicating while they are still learning. When the tantrums strike – frustrating as they may be – it is our responsibility to listen, to decode, and to respond appropriately.
Yelling is not a response that works. Ignoring frequently falls short of fulfilling their desperate need. Getting frustrated only fuels their frustration. You are the parent. You are supposed to know what he or she wants. It can be a confusing space for a child.
How often has a morning filled with raised voices succeeded at getting children ready more quickly? When your daughter wants to wear her pink skirt for the third day in a row, how easy is it to convince her otherwise? Can you really tell your seven-year old to get dressed, walk out of the room, and expect him to do it?
We, moms, need to anticipate the patterns of difficulty. We need to prepare ourselves to manage these scenes in a calm and effective way rather than panicked and out of control. We can accept that which we cannot control and guide that which we can.
It is important – essential, perhaps – to speak to our children at a developmentally appropriate level. Get down on our knees and look them in the eyes. Hold them tightly in a loving embrace even though you want to wring their necks. Do not set unrealistic expectations.
Think about life from the perspective of a child, not the adult who “knows what it’s like” or who wants their child to “trust me – you’ll understand some day”. Talk a walk in your child’s shoes. Set aside your own desire to rip your hair out, to yell loudly, or to tell them how senseless they are being. Respond while modeling patience, communication, and understanding.
And, if all else fails, drop to your knees and pray for it to pass quickly.