The times, they are a-changin.
I've sent myself to parenting re-education camp.
After a few weeks of stressful home-life, I consulted my favourite parenting handbook: The Science Of Parenting. There's always one book that speaks your language, I think, and this is mine.
In Sunderland's breakdown on tantrums, she splits their causes into 6 possibilities:
1. Tired or hungry. (Easy fix.)
2. An undeveloped emotional brain.(Some bad behaviour kids just can't help, like the impulse to shout and run.)
3. Psychological hungers. (For recognition, for stimulation, for structure.)
4. Needing help with a big feeling.
5. Picking up on your stress.
6. You activate the wrong part of their brain. ( For example, shouting, activating stress hormones rather than play and laughter, releasing calming opoids.)
I think I do pretty well with most of these, but it's number 3 that kept me up last week, as I chewed on it. Attention? How can I give more attention? I'm there all day, I thought defensively, but it felt hollow. My presence is there, yes, and I attend all the time, but the quality of my attention could use improvement. Something rang painfully true.
Ivy, at almost-three, needs a lot more stimulation than she did at two. And Teddy, at one, seems to have leapt, overnight, into a new realm of development. He climbs, he babbles, he needs constant cuddling. Ivy's demands for stimu-ttention have been outweighing my supply. Tanks: empty.
It was either diazepam prescription (refillable), short stay at farm (funny), or new system. I chose door number 3, and took a hard look at myself.
My expectations of Ivy and Ted are too high. Really, I've thought that they should be able to play for periods alone, and happy, while I get on with maintaining house and home around them. I'm in the same room, I would think, I'm talking to you as I fold the washing, or cook, or plan a wedding, or *insert any of a thousand domestic tasks here* Isn't that enough??
WHAT MORE DO YOU WANT FROM MEEEEEEE? my internal voice has been screaming. Did you hear it?
They are two, and one, these creatures. They don't know anything. They need me to teach them which end of a banana is the food. Why am I not teaching them how to play alone? Teaching them more tricks?
I'm retreating, feeling stressed and frustrated, spending less time getting down and dirty in fun-and-games land, so I'm forcing Ivy to up the ante to get enough attention. I need to rethink the amount and type of stimulation I'm giving her so that she doesn't have to go crazy-bananas to satisfy that need for action.
there's a new routine in play at the house. It's a work in progress. My aim is to create a happier, calmer space for us all, to bring some order to the chaos, to release Ivy and I from a pattern of defiance and discipline, to create space for positive praise, and higher-order learning than there's been room for lately. I'm playing a lot more. Reading more books. Making the cubby, but getting in the cubby too, and hanging out in there more. Setting up the zones. Helping with 'sharing' practice. Mainly, I'm thinking of myself as 'teacher', and improving my classroom.
My expectations of how our days should run are shifting, and I feel more connected with both her and Ted. My expectations of her behaviour are still high, but there have been almost no tantrums, and, it hurts to admit, no puddles on the floor. Has she even been weeing on the floor to get my attention?
*oh, the guilt*
Maybe my changes this week will help us to grow, as a family, in a happier, healthier way. And here: a little band practice in the afternoon. Nobody on the naughty shelf, and my spirit hopeful that I'm doing a better job this week than last.