Taming the Beast


I’m still laughing at my socks and shoes post.  I crack myself up sometimes.   But behind the laughter I was losing my mind.  I’m at my wit’s end with my daughter’s behavior.  Even worse, I am doubting my ability to handle it.  She is 6-years old and still throws the mother of all tantrums.  And I feel like I’m “doing it wrong.”  All of it.

Once she starts her freak out, she cannot calm herself down.  The rational side of me, the one that reads the books and listens to the “experts” (a.k.a. friends and family), says this is normal.  Even her kindergarten teacher worked with the whole class on ways to calm down; things like “belly breathing” and “noodles” which is about letting all the muscles in your body go limp when you feel like you’re going to explode.  So it happens to all kids at this age, right?  They blow up and freak out?  I repeat to myself over and over “normal…normal…normal.”

It’s hard to see the normal when you find yourself walking on egg shells because you never know what’s going to set her off.  During an epic tantrum last week about us not having anything for her to help us with outside (OMG REALLY?) she wouldn’t snap out of it and it escalated.  It turned into hysteria about how we don’t want her anymore and then about how the bugs were scaring her.  The screeching!  She was physically throwing herself around too.  It was only a matter of time before she banged an elbow or a knee, making the tantrum even harder to control.

It reminded me of the time we tried to sleep train her and she cried so hard she barfed in her bed.  So we had to make a choice:  Ignore her and let her calm herself (and risk the barf), speak to her and try to talk her off the ledge, redirect her to snap her out of it, or coo and soothe her.  But really, I wanted to shake her, scream at her, tell her to stop acting like a baby.  To snap the fuck out of it.  Yeah, let that sit with you a minute.

I understand that she is going through a lot of changes.  She’s developing and growing at a rate that is shocking to me.  I take for granted that a lot of what she does and sees these days, she’s experiencing for the first time ever.  Sometimes these experiences are scary, sometimes they’re confusing.  She must feel like nothing is within her control in this world of grown-ups, schedules and rules.  I have to remember that.  But boy, does this girl know how to push my buttons!  And more often than not, it’s my buttons that get pushed, not my husband’s.    Why does she always pull this crap with me?  Because she knows how to play me.

Oh, you freaked out because you don't want to go to camp? Let me find someone to take you to the zoo instead... Photos: C. Poloski, babysitter extraordinaire
Oh, you freaked out because you don’t want to go to camp? Let me find someone to take you to the zoo instead…
Photos: C. Poloski, babysitter extraordinaire

Has she figured out already that I hate confrontation and will do anything to avoid it?  I am most likely the one to try to talk it out with her when she’s like this or try to calm her by soothing her.  It never works and I usually just walk away in frustration.  I do my share of belly breathing.  Dad then has to step in and be the “heavy” and that’s not fair to him either.  He shouldn’t have to be the bad guy all the time.

The choices we make as adults, as parents, affect our kids in ways we do not know yet-in ways that we may not see for years.  Isn’t that a scary mo-fo of a statement?  You constantly have to be on your guard and try to make the right choices.  The way we talk to our daughter and the words we choose are absorbed.  A comment you make in the heat of the moment or that you consider to be an off-hand remark can stay in a child’s mind for a long time.  Her brain is not aged Swiss cheese like mine; she never forgets.  The way we adults talk to each other, the way we treat each other is also absorbed by our kids.  Even the things we don’t think they see, they see.  But seriously, folks, no pressure.

It’s time to take my own advice.  Snap the fuck out of it and get it together.  I have choices to make now that will affect our mother-daughter relationship for years to come.  I have to find a way to be solid, firm and consistent but still allows me to maintain the lovey-dovey side of the relationship.  She needs more than a mom who coddles her.  I have to tame the beast, but is the beast her and her tantrums or me and my insecurity?  The wise woman answers, “Both!”

11 comments on “Taming the Beast”

  1. I just finished reading a book that you might find helpful – Beyond Time Out: From Chaos to Calm (obligatory Amazon link: http://www.amazon.com/Beyond-Time-Out-From-Chaos-Calm/dp/1402777647) It’s all about restoring the balance of power in your house through a totally manageable process. It also gets you thinking about what kind of parent you are and how that might be contributing to the problem, despite your best intentions. I tend to avoid confrontation too but this book helped me stiffen my spine to handle it better. She does talk quite a bit about how you should word or phrase what you say to your kids so that it’s effective but non-judgmental at the same time. Good luck!

  2. This is very hard, for sure. Believe it or not, my advice is to watch back episodes of The Super Nanny (Jo Jo). She is a wealth of knowledge and in my opinion, a very wise child behaviorist. I learned a lot from watching her show when it was on; strategies I used in my classroom and recommended to parents of kids in my class. Check it out. Consistence is key as is not getting sucked in to too much drama! 🙂 Love you, Kriste ❤

    1. Thanks Aunt Nancy. I have seen that show before and always am amazed at how she does things. I need to channel my inner Jo Jo! Love you too!

  3. Always so impressed with your talent for balancing humor and wisdom. Also, this line especially cracked me up: “Yeah, let that sit with you a minute.”

    Hang in there. These girls seem to be very determined.

    Think she’ll still be looking for things to do outside this weekend? If she’s allowed to use a weedwhacker or hedge trimmer, I may have some ideas to keep her busy.

  4. They do zoom in on our vulnerabilities like heat-seeking missiles! Try not to be hard on yourself, if your weak spot was a different one, she’d still find it. They are masters that way. My kids have my number too. You are aware, and that matters. Perhaps your belly-breathing in those triggered moments may be just the ticket to interrupt the cycle. Hang in there!

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