By: Mia L. Hazlett
One of the things I’ve learned about my kids, they are people. They are exactly like us adults when it comes to their emotions, they just require much more guidance with their emotional expression (so do some adults for that matter). When I was a first-time mom, this was one of the hardest parts of parenting I had to learn. How do I deal with my daughter’s emotions? With the help of my BFF, I learned I had to let her have any emotion she felt whenever she wanted. My job as her mother was to not suppress the emotion, but guide how she expressed it.
Ten years in, this is very easy comprehension. Not so comprehensible, when she was throwing her first temper tantrum in public. I was mortified to be “that” mother with the screaming kid in the store. In a phone call to my BFF, she told me it was okay that she was angry she couldn’t get the candy. I wasn’t to get upset at the fact she was angry. I was to get upset and make sure she knew she was being punished because she chose to fall out all over the candy aisle. That’s what was unacceptable in the situation, not the anger. My BFF is wonderful with lament’s terms, “Say your boss says no to your request to your day off. You have all rights to be angry. As an adult you suck it up and walk away without a day off. Now he would have all rights to fire you if he said no and you proceeded to hitting him until you got your own way. Your job in all of this is to basically teach her to walk away.”
It wasn’t easy, but she now grabs her money before we go out to the store. She knows there is the possibility I will say no, but I really don’t say no to what she chooses to spend her money on. Now my youngest is five and I haven’t had to encounter many public displays of the temper tantrum. Her anger issues usually stem from not getting her own way when playing with her sister. I always thought she would be that kid that would have me at the school all the time, but it’s quite the opposite. She let’s loose at home. When it comes to conflict resolution, I pretty much allow my girls to go at it, as long as they don’t touch each other.
This has been a fairly successful approach. They usually shout it out or it’s a simple agreeing to disagree (rarely, but it happens.) But I can say lately my youngest who is five, has chosen to make at least 40% of the disagreements with her sister, physical. For instance, last night my youngest perceived that her sister was “bothering” her. I wasn’t there, I only saw the scratch on my ten year-old’s face when she came to get me. My youngest came down about five minutes after and I asked her if she had touched her sister. The tears began streaming with the cry-talk. I always let them give their side, but instead of detailing what lead up to the scratching, she answered my “why?” with, “I’m so angry.” I wasn’t really expecting that response. Usually they do the blame game and don’t accept any responsibility. But here she was claiming what she did, apologizing to her sister, and expressing to me how angry she was.
She cried she made a mistake. Her mistake being, acting on her emotions. She has always been very good at vocalizing her anger and telling you to leave her alone. I used to have a problem with her telling people to leave her alone, but then I had to take into account how I feel when people choose to bother me when I’m angry. I prefer they leave me alone. I’m an adult and don’t turn around and attempt to scratch someone’s eyes out when they choose not to leave me alone, but Lord knows the temptation is right there. My oldest has basically learned to leave her sister alone when she tells her to, because that’s a lesson for both of them. I still don’t condone my youngest hauling off and hitting her sister, but I do let my oldest know she is subject to consequences for not adhering to warnings.
My oldest has had to learn the opposite lesson, it’s okay to be angry and let people know. Because I found it just as detrimental to her well-being by continually saying, “Nothing” when I would ask her what was wrong. I made that go away by continuing to bother her through her, “nothing.” Then she would usually blowup or cry, ” just leave me alone!” I would simply follow-up with, “why?” And she would shout, “because I’m angry and I don’t feel like talking to anybody.” I would then tell her, she has to start the conversation that way. She’s now very comfortable telling me to leave her alone. Unfortunately with her coming up on eleven, I don’t think she wants me to leave her alone because she’s angry, I just think she doesn’t know how cool I continue to be even though she is getting older.