Thursday, August 30, 2012

looking for opportunity

I have a three-year-old. A three-year-old middle child. He is doing some very typical three-year-old-middle-child things. And I have found myself responding in ways I just don't want to. Distracted. Impatient. Angry. Not amongst my favourite parenting attributes.

At the end of a half-hour three-year-old-middle-child tantrum yesterday morning, whereby the entire street heard his heartfelt desire to put on mah flashy shoes I exhaled deeply and thought for a moment. In emotional terms, a tantrum is exhausting, draining. In logical terms, the tantrum can be an opportunity to teach my child and build on our relationship.
I want my child to treat others with kindness. If I respond to his uncontrolled, confused anger with my own anger, he will repeat the cycle over and over.
I want my child to know that he is loved, unconditionally. If I hold a grudge against him, after he has probably forgotten the tantrum himself, he will feel confused about my love for him, or, worse, let down by me.
I want my child to understand acceptable boundaries of behaviour. Socially successful people understand these boundaries, and treat others in a respectful way. A three-year-old is involved in an ongoing process of learning to be socially successful. I must wait, gently, for him to calm down and participate in appropriate behaviour. There is no forcing a three-year-old.

None of this is easy, or natural. After years of teaching young children, and now working in the home raising my own, I have decided I have far more patience for others' children. Probably because I have a lot more invested in my own children. Sometimes a tantrum is a great opportunity to develop, sometimes it really is the wrong time or place for anything other than getting to the other side whichever way you can. But before I take it as a personal assault, I'll look logically at the next tantrum, and if I can see the opportunity to show my boy that he is kind, he is loved, and he can behave in an appropriate way, I'll take it.


  1. Well said Sarah. I've been thinking a lot about tantrums too. I'm trying to calmly detach and say to myself 'I'm not joining this wave of anger and frustration but I'm right here to help them through it if they need me'... It worked wonders the other day. They were both at it. I let them process it and we carried on marvellously afterwards. Today, I responded with impatience. I'll try again tomorrow. P.S. Your little boy's such a cutie.

  2. spot on but oh so hard at times x

  3. So beautiful. I always asked the preschool teachers for advice, they knew what was suitable for the age & stage of each child - i had my eldest & youngest throw tantrums, they were very smart, trapped in toddler bodies, we realise now. The twins, equally smart, yet able to engage with their same age sibling & just made life so easy as they never felt out of place with their age or stage. Hugs to you for your patient approach, i just had the mentality of 'everything can wait while you melt down' & made sure they couldn't harm themselves & sat down & possibly meditated, it was tough but better than yelling or losing control too!! Best wishes, love Posie

  4. Oh wow. This is really beautiful parenting. I love your words, thinking and actions! I needed to read this! Thank you! Xx

  5. It's so hard not to lose it as well, yes? One thing is for sure - he's bloody cute x

  6. oh my gosh Greer, so hard, yes. my intention and my practice are often misaligned ;) work in progress!



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