Thursday, August 7, 2014

Toddlers, Tantrums, and Trying.

If you try your best to be the best parent you can be, you will have done all that a human being can do and all that God expects you to do.

A couple weeks ago I went with a friend and her baby (Ainsley's age) to the zoo.
Ainsley is little miss independent lately and if she's not allowed to do whatever she wants (which is usually just to run free and explore which often translates into destroying stuff or getting all up in people's bidness-she's really good at that), she throws a major tantrum. At the zoo she wanted to run and explore, of course, but I'm trying to teach her that she needs to be obedient and stay by me. My rules are that she needs to listen and stay close, hold my hand, or sit in the stroller. She was running away from me, almost getting run over by strollers and trampled by herds of first graders, and going behind the allowed line of the exhibits. She wouldn't hold my hand or stay close, so I had to strap her into the stroller. She flailed and fought me and screamed, but I eventually got her buckled into the stroller (thank goodness for 5-point harnesses...which she often still wiggles out of). She still hasn't stopped screaming bloody murder. A zoo keeper came up to me and asked me if I would leave until she could be quiet because she was upsetting the chimps. That happened. She was upsetting MONKIES. In a ZOO. My child is too crazy to be at a GOSH DARN ZOO.

I realize now that this is funny, maybe a story to discuss at family reunions; but at the time, it was anything but that. 

I have a million stories like this. Just last week she almost knocked a stack of sparkling champagne GLASS bottles onto the floor. I feel like I can't control my child and that makes me feel like a failure of a mom. Every outing lately involves several tantrums. I get so discouraged because I don't know how long it's going to take her to learn, and how much more of it I can handle! I am consistent and calm, the two things every article and experienced mother suggests, but I don't seem to be making any improvement. She is at a very frustrating age because she has very strong opinions, but doesn't understand much direction. I try. My heavens, do I try! But so far, it hasn't made a difference. 

Of course it's important to teach your kids correct behavior and to discipline them.

However, I think we sometimes forget that teaching them to be themselves and to cultivate their strengths is equally important. It might not be socially acceptable for Ainsley to tap on the people in the booth behind us and start talking to them (which is usually fine until you get a grumpy Gus), but I feel that that's a big part of her personality. I want to teach her that it's important to give other people space, but I don't want to take away the huge aspect of her personality that is that little outgoing, spit fire, social butterfly that I love so much!

Is it wrong for Ainsley to want to explore and be independent? Of course not! Those traits will serve her well later in life! I'm not meant to change her, just to teach her proper boundaries. It's harder said than done, but when we remember that our job isn't to change the core of our kids, it gives us a little more perspective. First and foremost, love them. Second, teach.

So much of the "acting out" kids do, is them exploring their world and learning what is acceptable and what isn't. Ainsley hasn't learned that it's okay for her to run and be crazy at the park, but not at the grocery store. She's been on earth for eighteen months for goodness sake! She's just starting out. Every second is a learning experience for her. Oh, I wonder what will happen when I throw this carton of eggs out of the cart.

I think we are also often harder on children than we are on other adults and especially ourselves. Sometimes we give adults more of a benefit of the doubt than we give to our own children. That mother at the grocery store cut us off on accident because she was overwhelmed and distracted but oh, my child threw a temper tantrum because they are a brat down to the core! Children are learning all about emotions. To them, a broken cracker really is a tragedy when they were expecting a whole cracker. They don't yet know constructive ways to express their emotions. It's our job to teach them, but I'm learning that this is a slowwww process. They feel angry, so they scream and hit. Heck, I want to do that when I'm angry! It takes a lot of self control and that's something that takes time for those little people to learn. It's important not to invalidate their feelings. If I told Clint I was upset because I went to make dinner and we were all out of an important ingredient, I wouldn't want him to tell me to get over it. That doesn't help either of us. Emotions aren't inappropriate, they just need to be expressed and handled appropriately. 

It's also so impossible to compare children. I'll admit, sometimes I feel like I have the worst behaved child. I will go out with other friends and their kids won't make a peep while Ainsley, in the mean time, is throwing her tenth tantrum and I'm trying my best to ignore her and not burst into tears. I was talking to a friend the other day who said she went home after a play date with us and told her husband she was worried that she was raising a bully! I didn't think a second of it because I was worried I was raising a defiant drama queen! Ainsley has never been a hitter, but my, does she throw a fantastical temper tantrum. Different kids struggle with different things at different times. Do some kids just come harder than others? Absolutely. I think so. But that's not a reflection on your capability as a mother or their worth as a child of God. This life is hard and you're only going to make things harder on yourself if you waste your time comparing.
(Although my kids is definitely better than yours at climbing up a stack of diapers while her mom's back is turned for 3 seconds. Just throwing it out there.)

I certainly have my work cut out for me with this one. 

She challenges me every day. No, every second. But I love her more than words can say. I take comfort in knowing that I can have Heavenly Father's guidance on how to raise this precious daughter of his. 

Do the best you can through these years, but whatever else you do, cherish that role that is so uniquely yours and for which heaven itself sends angels to watch over you and your little ones.
-Jeffry R Holland, Because she is a Mother 

(oh, you thought I was done quoting that talk? NEVER!)


Katie said...

Oh my goodness, your story about the zoo made me literally laugh out loud! But I am SURE it was not funny for you at the time! The great thing is that I think most people are pretty understanding...every once in a while those grumpy people happen to be around, but I am trying to not let them bother me! Kids will be kids! Loved what you had to say about all of this!

Ariana said...

The world needs strong women. And strong women typically start off strong from day 1 aka strong willed toddler girls too. Bless your mama heart for not breaking her spirit and trying to teach her, but not force her into a mold she doesn't fit. And if I was walking by you in the grocery store when she decided to throw a tantrum and you were just letting her rage, I'd bring you a candy bar. Paid for. Because we all need a treat to go with the entertainment our children provide, eh?

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