Earlier this week I was wondering why my head was spinning and my supply of patience seemed to be forever on low. At first I blamed my hormones, and while that may have been a contributing factor, they surely weren’t completely to blame. I realized that while DD has recently grown (partially) out of her dictator phase, DD has jumped head first into it. What am I talking about? Well if you have raised kids you know that they go through all kinds of phases….
As infants their crying alerts you to their basic needs of sleep, discomfort, and hunger. When they get a bit older they start to have meltdowns due to their frustration that they can’t communicate with you. All the while there are the meltdowns due to teething – which seems endless. (Of course you could have one of those children that gets all their teeth at once. I’m not sure if this is better because the misery isn’t drawn out or worse because your little one suffers this cyclone of pain while they all come in at once.) Anyway, the “dictator” phase started right around 3 for DD and 3 yrs 3 months for DS. During this phase they NEED everything on THEIR terms. There are lots of meltdowns, screaming, and crying. I’m sure some of you are thinking that your kids have been in this stage for about a year. It seems like there is an intensification of these symptoms for a bit while they struggle to learn how to gain control and express their needs. Reflecting their emotions back to them by letting them know that you understand what emotion they are feeling helps them feel understood and helps them identify their feelings.
I don’t have an answer as to how to make it through this stage without being completely mentally exhausted (because it takes a great deal of effort to maintain calm and reason). I have found that talking things out always gets better results than quick frustrated action – at least in our home. While I would LOVE to just snatch objects away from my kiddos when they aren’t using them appropriately or are being harmful, I have found that talking to them avoids meltdowns more times than not. If DS is playing with his toy tools and is hitting something inappropriate with his hammer, I tell him that he can hurt the wall (or his sister’s face) if he isn’t careful with his hammer. I also tell him that if he hits (the object in question) again with his hammer that I will have to take the hammer away. I remind him that it is his choice if he wants to play with his hammer or if he wants mommy to put it away. If he continues to play in a harmful way then I hold out my hand and say “hammer away”. I give him a minute to hand it to me and I often have to remind him that it was his choice to give mommy the hammer because he wasn’t playing safely. I know people look at my like I’m crazy for talking like this to my kids in stores etc but I’m teaching them not to snatch things away from people and they are learning that actions have consequences.
Many times when DS is upset he repeats his want on an endless loop and can’t hear me. I have to make sure that he hears me say “I hear your words, you want to watch Diego.” Once he pauses, I can explain that we already watched Diego today and now it is time for lunch (or whatever else it is time for). Often times I need to explain why we have to do whatever it is that is next in our day. I always bring our reasons back to keeping the kids healthy and safe. If my reasons aren’t to keep them safe or healthy then we are more flexible on what is next. Pick your battles, right?
When I’m totally frustrated and exhausted from this process it has helped to either take a mommy timeout or remember the time that has already passed. My kiddos are already 3! “The days are long but the years fly by!” Sharing with my fellow twin moms helps me keep perspective and know that before I can blink, the kids will be driving and off to college and all this constant teaching and hard work will have built some amazing people. As I sit typing this post, DD is on my lap and has already leaned in randomly to give me a kiss on the cheek. Isn’t it incredible that one small moment in time can vastly overwhelm so many negative ones? Thank goodness for random I love yous, kisses, hugs and all those little ways our kids say thank you before they even know that’s what they are doing!