Have you ever known a three year old?
Then you know. Like, KNOW KNOW. Like, I could not write another word and you would hear exactly what I'm telling you.
Three year olds is CRAZY. My daughter has become someone I can't even compare to the baby she was because I think someone replaced her in the middle of the night. The meltdowns, the bossiness, the screaming at mommy, the turning away from hugs and kisses...
Oh, sweet Jesus the individuating. I am Person, hear me roar. I'm not YOU Mommy, I'm not YOU Daddy, I'm DD Bird and I'm my own. "Only big girls can do this," she tells me, 100 times a day. Eating a whole apple. Putting her pants on by herself. Going to dance class. "Only big girls can do this. Not babies. Right mom?"
MOM. When did I stop being "Mama" and "Mommy"? I'm MOM already? What's next? JJ? "Hey JJ, can I have the car keys?"
I'm stubborn. She's mine. I like things my way, she likes things her way. You can imagine there are some epic holy battles around this small house. I try to be the bigger person because I am literally, the bigger person. I'm supposed to be the parent. Most of the time I am the parent but some of the time, I am the tired human living in the same house as another human and I don't want to be the creative mom. I want to be the mom who says, "Go get your pajamas on" and voila! Pajamas are on.
I wrote a long time ago in a blog far, far away that resistance to a situation is the only reason for suffering. (Click to tweet the message!) I have been resisting this age and all the emotional components of it since this age came to pass. I'm waiting for her to grow out of it.
When I realized I was resisting this age, and when I realized that the resistance is causing me the suffering because I want things to be different, I was able to move into a space of accepting it (not condoning it). In that space, we are able to see more clearly and make parenting decisions that come from our inner wisdom, and not from our suffering.
This morning, as she was coloring and occupied, I went to watch some videos I'd been saving for a snowy day. They're my homework and I have a deadline and very few free hours. And there she goes. "MOM! I can't CONcentrate with your MOVIE on! Turn it OFF!!" Inside, I wept. Who is this child who talks to me like this? Breath. Acceptance. She just *is* the child who talks to you like that right now.
Empathize. "OK DD, you're having a hard time with your mazes book because of the movie sound." She nods. "Well, I really want to watch my movies and you really want to concentrate on your new mazes book, right?" She nods again. I think I have her hooked. "We both want to do things in the same room," says she.
The question that changed everything: "DD, what else is possible here? What can we do?"
This question took the ball out of my problem solving court and helps her take responsibility, rather than feeling angry, for solving the problem.
"I don't know. You turn the movie off."
"Well, I can't move the computer, but can you move the books a little further from the computer so the sound is quieter?"
She picked up her stuff, moved it to a further point in the room, and resumed. Peace, love, and happiness returned.
Did she solve the problem on her own? No. But The Question That Changed Everything shifted her from the Meltdown Meanies into a space of cooperation and working together to find a solution. I am pretty sure if I'd just said, "C'mon, let's move you over here instead" I would have been met with resistance, because that's how three year olds do. Want ice cream? "NOOOOOO". OK.
By using these steps below, we created a solution and secondarily taught her an important skill - collaboration.
Here's how I think that process played out:
1) Non-judgment. Acceptance of the situation. Quite literally describing to yourself, neutrally, what's going on.
2) Empathize. Summing up the situation aloud from the child's perspective and tacking your own on too. You want, I want.
3) Listen. Sometimes, they have a little something to add that we didn't think of. In this case, DD did tell me that the mazes book was new and hard for her.
4) Ask the Question. "What else is possible here? What can we do about this?"
5) Propose a solution and get the child's buy-in - by describing the benefit to them.
Do you have any reliable strategies for the Meltdown Meanies, Screaming Mimis, and Sassy Attitudes?