never more aware

Thursday, I spent the entire day completely aware of EVERY single word that came out of my mouth.  Sound exhausting?  If you’re a thoughtful person you might think that you’re always aware of everything you say, how you say it, etc… I thought I was pretty aware until I made a decision to completely modify my behavior.  This week has been a homage to the terrible 2s.  I’ve been at my whits end trying to figure out how to help Sophia communicate in a more appropriate way, learn to deal with her emotions (mostly frustration), and do what I ask her to do.  On Monday she began throwing herself onto the floor for an all out fit every time we would try to leave somewhere or doing anything that wasn’t her idea… I even had a “nice” fellow mother ask me in the middle of a tantrum if I needed help.  Hmmm…  I probably looked like I could use some.  By Friday we were definitely doing better.  Tantrums were fewer and shorter, and her overall attitude is better… But, modifying my behavior was what has been difficult.   I realized that as she was acting out I was pointing out all the bad things she was doing: don’t do this, no to that, scowling with disapproval…  I realized that all of her behavior was reactionary to mine, for attention or for play.  We tried telling her diaper change isn’t a game, this isn’t the time to play, etc., but everything seemed to ultimately backfire from laughing-noncooperation to screaming tantrum.  Obviously, we were having a communication breakdown.  So, I turned it around.  I decided that I would ask no more questions, especially not yes/no questions, but instead tell her we were going to do this or that.  It worked pretty well.  I noticed that every time I asked a question it was met with a “no,” but when I told her we were doing something she rarely said “no.”  I changed my voice inflection to one annoying “up-talk”–you know the always positive kindergarten teacher voice?  I only said positive things, pointing out positive behavior and completely ignoring bad behavior.  I would ignore a tantrum, move her through the motions of what I wanted her to do, and then say something positive.  Argh!  It was so against my nature!  I felt the urge to immediately discipline verbally.  I have to say, though, that I saw an immediate change in her!  She responded so well to my positive energy.  We seemed to have successful communication.  She smiled more, said “no” less and was so much more affectionate and less ornery!  I got my sweet little girl back!

So it seems in hind sight that Sophia just wanted attention.  She figured out a way to get my attention.  Saying no was getting her our attention.  Running away or falling on the floor during inappropriate times was getting her our attention.  These activities gave her a bit of power, a bit of control over our behavior–though, it seems she didn’t understand that it was negative attention.  She’s so young.  Anyway, Thursday was a day of self-reflection and self-control and self-evaluation for me.  It’s amazing the habit of speech and communication one can acquire in only 18-months of parenting.  Someone wise told me that children bring a mirror and a flashlight into our lives.  I’d say that that’s true, even now.  Here’s to a bit of success on this whole learning to parent thing.

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