Monday, July 21, 2014

Gentle Discipline, Limits, and Tantrums

The kids were extremely well-behaved at Mass today, which makes my whole day run more smoothly. I'm not frazzled from trying to keep them in line and am filled with grace from being able to focus on God. Turns out I was desperately in need of that grace by the end of the evening. Peter seems to have entered another phase of limit testing. My little scientist is conducting experiments to see if the results can be replicated each time.

I try very hard not to take it personally, not to get angry at him. He isn't doing it out of spite, just trying to learn where lines are and if he can trust me to be consistent. Sometimes being the grown-up isn't fun.

On a more positive note, I have discovered an important question to ask when he is tantruming. What first comes to mind is, "What is your problem?!" But that's not particularly helpful. A more caring question is, "Why are you upset?" But when he is having a tantrum, that question usually makes it worse. He is struggling to maintain control and doesn't have a lot of cognitive resources left to ponder his motivation. Here is my new go-to line: What do you want me to do right now?

It has worked wonders! He doesn't have to process past events or explain anything. The answer to this question is a present action, very simple. Most of the time, it is something I am willing to do; the tantrum resolves quickly, then we can talk about what caused it once he is calm. Occasionally, it is not something I am willing to do, but then at least I can address the issue at hand, rather than trying to guess what is happening. I hope it proves helpful for some other moms of little ones, too!

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