Sunday, July 26, 2009

Angry Reads!

As promised, here's a new Read Your Way Through post. My bookish attempt to counteract:

  • Tantrums

  • Anger

  • and Frustration, oh my!
Although my smart little J is sensitive, perceptive, loving, and a well-spoken 2 year-old, he's struggling with how to express his feelings of frustration.

"No" has been present in his vocabulary for over a year now, but the volume at which it is said is really cranked up these days. If what we want to hear is "Yeah, I want to", instead the response we get is "But, I don't want to".

Shoes and socks are now dangerous projectiles. Warnings are ignored; and, time-outs are less effective now--they almost seem to rev up his anger, causing further outbursts and stress.

Turning to books for advice, tactics, and insight into this behavior has reminded me to:
~take extra note of his good behavior
~focus on being compassionate and calm even as the shoes are flying into the front seat of the car on our way home from a playdate
~spend less time and energy enforcing time-outs, instead focusing on modeling "cool-down" tactics and teaching words to express frustration

Here's a handful of books I've found helpful without being preachy. J enjoys them too, just as any other "regular" story about trucks or trains or animals.

Mouse Was Mad by Linda Urban
This one's great because it isn't corny, it gets J to laugh at Mouse's situation, it shows how NOT to deal with anger, and then it models a fantastic cool-down technique--taking deep breaths.

So simple! Now, when I see J revving up, I go straight to "Remember Mouse? When he was mad, he took some deep breaths and then felt much better. Why don't you try?" I do it with him and then when he's calmed a bit, I jokingly remind him of how Mouse got so hopping mad that he fell into a "mucky mud puddle". He thinks that phrase is hilarious.

Feet Are Not for Kicking by Elizabeth Verdick

While I'm happy to say that kicking isn't an issue in our house, I know it can be an outlet for frustration and anger. This book is cute because it's a simple board book that reminds you of all the fun stuff you can do with your feet: running, jumping, kicking a pile of leaves. If you have a younger toddler struggling with hitting and kicking, I think this would be helpful.

When Sophie Gets Angry--Really, Really Angry by Molly Bang

When Sophie gets really angry, you can see it in her eyes! The illustrations make sure of that--there's a two-page spread of just Sophie's angry face!

Instead of lashing out, Sophie takes off running to vent her frustration and clear her head. Obviously an older child, Sophie and her particular situation and solution don't resonate all that well with J. But, I like this Caldecott Honor book because of the color and vibrancy with which it depicts anger, frustration, and eventually: THE CALM.

Lastly, I'll leave you with some lyrics from the great Jim Gill. (Give him a guitar and a room full of kids and he'll have them laughing, singing, dancing and doing whatever he tells them to in no time!) He has a cute song called Hands Are for Clapping, which J likes to dance along to. Besides being fun, this song gives me ammunition when I need to remind J that hands are not for hitting!

Hands are for clapping
Clapping to this song
Hands are for clapping
Let's all clap along

Toes are for tapping...

Knees are for slapping...

Fingers are for snapping...

Teeth are for brushing....

And, books are for reading! Enjoy these reads.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

power struggle

Hello world! I'm still here...but feeling swamped and sunk thanks to this little pair:

a certain toddler's tantrums (new Read Your Way Through post coming soon)

How can a child be so loveable and melt-your-heart-sweet one moment and then so utterly rotten the next? I mean, he can literally turn on a dime! Take today, for example. We had a nice brunch out with a friend. J climbed into the booster seat of his own accord and then proceeded to sit still while I buckled him in. He colored before his food came, he drank his milk without blowing bubbles, and ate his meal without throwing anything on the floor. Of course, he used his shirt as a napkin and interrupted us constantly, but, hey, I can deal. At one point, he even stopped my friend mid-sentence and said sweetly, "Am I being patient?"

Yes, yes he WAS.

That is, until moments later when we went into Target for 4 things. Just 4 desperately-needed things. A quick errand for Mama and then it was on to the park. But, no. The patient toddler was suddenly replaced by the angry, LOUD toddler. The toddler who hits his mama as she races down the aisle for the 4 things on her list. The toddler who, at odd random intervals, removes a shoe or a sock and hurls them out of the cart and into the aisles or on top of the shelves of diapers that his mama is scouring while trying to figure out unit price in her head amidst the screaming of said toddler. The toddler whose behavior elicits one of three reactions among the other shoppers:

The first, and any mother's favorite: sympathetic smiles. These are from parents or grandparents or just kind people who can see that I am hurrying on my way and doing my best to remain calm despite my embarrassment.

The second: glares or eye-rolling. These people would probably like to stop me and say, "Maybe you should leave and come back another time when he is either calm or you can come without him." I do not get that option. It's totally unfair. Leaving Target during a temper tantrum doesn't reprimand or correct J's behavior. It just inconveniences me. And I'm already inconvenienced by having to deal with a tantrum while buying diapers and other items to care for the child who is throwing the tantrum!

The third and worst reaction: snickering. Yes, snickering! I've not experienced that one until today. I didn't know it was possible to pause in your shopping, observe a child hitting, kicking, screaming, and then audibly snicker and giggle. Did they think J's behavior was funny? Were they laughing at me, stuck in this crappy situation? "The nerve!", as my mom would say. Well, I shot that guy a glare, but then decided not to look at any of the other shoppers on the way to the checkout in case they were smirking too.

The other thing bogging me down lately is the hectic and completely opposite work schedule that C and I have. Let me tell ya, doing the Toddler Stop Drop and Roll day after day gets old. But, I hate to complain because it is what it is and it is what we chose. We are lucky--and we tell ourselves this often--that we each get quality time with J. We made smart decisions to make this lifestyle work for us. We have very accomodating jobs. Nevertheless, I guess I'm going through a little phase where I either want what I don't have or I want what isn't possible.

And, sometimes that's enough to make me want to have a tantrum. Thanks for bearing with me.