That’s okay. Loving your child doesn’t always mean you like their behavior. However, I think feeling that way is a good sign something needs to be different (and before you jump in and say, yes, my child needs to do “X” to make that happen!), please read on for a few encouraging words.
- Please, please work hard to connect with this child in a warm and loving way. Plan to just “be” together, no agendas, no judging, just observing. Play with your child, tickle your child, love your child. If a child is in a difficult developmental stage or the family is going through stress and changes and this is being reflected in the child’s behavior, he or she needs your support and love and warmth to get through it. You are the adult, and you must be that wall the child can bounce off of, see the boundary that is still there and that you are still there even if they fall apart. You really can do this! Connect, connect, connect – connect when everyone is falling apart. Try the book “Playful Parenting” by Lawrence Cohen if you need some ideas for incorporating play or humor into your parenting.
- Gather some support for yourself! Find some friends who have children around the same ages, call your local La Leche League Leader (did you all know that one of the philosophical tenets of La Leche League is around loving guidance – these Leaders do know about positive discipline!), call your local Attachment Parenting Leader, go to some meetings from these groups about loving guidance and gentle discipline. But, please, please, please, do NOT talk about your child’s behavior in front of them! They hear everything you say and take it to heart! Try to get your support without them in ear-shot!
- What are the non-negotiable things in your house? What can you be flexible about? Are you being creative enough and using humor or are you just being the hammer that comes down? Are you spending time with your child and enjoying them and not just saying things to them about how to behave? What does your Family Mission Statement say? What is important in your family, and does this behavior affect that?
- Are you getting your tank filled? How are things between you and your spouse? What stress are you under, and is that coming out in how you are handling your child? In times of stress, humor with discipline situations is sometimes the first thing to go! Make a date to get some time ALONE and some time with your spouse as well….. It can make a huge difference in your parenting.
- Do you have realistic expectations for yourself? It is very hard to work outside the home, homeschool, do this and that and be a great parent. Are you putting way too much pressure on yourself? What will happen if you are not perfect? There is no perfect, there just is being there in the moment.
- Are you putting way too much thought around this? If you ignored a few things, really picked the essential things that had to happen, what would change for you and your child? If this is your first child, do you think you would be paying so much attention to this if you had two or three other children to look after at the same time? It is harder with your first child when you go through these developmental stages because you have never been through it and you are still creating your family’s culture. I know mothers who looked back and told me they were way too hard on their first child, and expected way too much! Maybe this child needs less spotlight on the negative, and more spotlight on the positive. At the same time, you cannot count it a good day if your child doesn’t melt down, throw a fit, etc. That is just what kids do. You can be calm through it; your point is to love and guide and help your child, not look at this situation as a black mark on your day. You are teaching your child how to deal with life, with conflict, with the fact that there are some things that have to stand, and what to do when we make a mistake.
- Do you have realistic expectations for the age of the child? There are many, many posts about that on this blog. Remember how very, very small the under-7 child is. Four is a great age for sitting on laps, and five is just a step up from that. Six is an age of so-called “rebellion” as noted in traditional childhood resources, but an age where a more pointed statement can be used to guide behavior. Seven is inward, eight is outward and enthusiastic and nine is the beginning of the separation of the child from the world, realizing that he is not his family, he is not the tree or the rock. He is I. A powerful and confusing time!
- How much outside time is this child getting? The behavior is much better when the child has a release for all that energy. Two to four hours outside per day(or more!) is about right for a small child, depending on the weather conditions and their energy level. I remember years with my oldest where I felt as if we essentially lived outside for the whole year!
- Are you using the right tactics? Saying something over and over does not make it happen. Usually the first thing a child says after you announce, “It’s time to…” is “NO! I am not doing that!” That is why, to me, it is so better to have a strong rhythm, to use yourself doing what you want the child to do first, to employ humor, and with small children you simply cannot be afraid to touch them, move them, carry them, hold them. They often need your gentle hands to help them. It is part of life with wee ones. They don’t need a lecture or a book on the subject that they tune out after the first sentence.
Here is also a back post to help you out: http://theparentingpassageway.com/2008/10/05/thoughts-on-challenging-developmental-stages/