She tells me, “No!” As her little hand rises up then descends defiantly on my leg. Her face is serious; her lips curl into that predictable frown as tears begin to stream from those gorgeous big blue eyes. In a matter of maybe three seconds, my daughter has clearly acted out the well-versed tantrum of a toddler just shy the age of three.
As her mother, what on earth must I do?
A little bit of personal history may articulate well why my answer to this is, well, my answer: I was raised by two young parents – to put it easily, by the time my mother was 24 she had created a brood of 5 children all under the age of 7. I am the middle child with two older brothers, a younger sister and a younger brother. My father, being only one year older than mom, worked very hard to support his big family – somehow we managed to survive cooped-up, rainy winters and long summer days in the great NW. Anyway, to put it mildly, above all these things that an outsider may see as was lacking in my upbringing, the greatest of these was patience. Dad worked long, hard hours, and mom worked – in her own right – with a house full of obnoxious kids pulling at her pants, screaming, “MOM! He hit me… MOM! She looked at me the wrong way!” all day long. They tried their best, of this I am certain, but it explains pretty plainly why I may have a tendency to shout a little too loud at times, why my patience is as thin as a piece of thread and why I prefer the sound of chaos to the sound of silence. It is in my DNA, it’s just a product of my lineage – but one that has shaped aspects of my personality in ways I do not particularly enjoy…
In answering the aforementioned question, then, there is within it a sheer declaration to my failures as a parent, and for this reason, it is why I am now analyzing and thus after asking for help as to the best methods and resources I can use to raise my children the “right” way.
My answer to the question was to give her a timeout.
To the surprise of nobody who is or has endured this toddler phase of child rearing, timeout was ineffective. I moved to a form of punishment that may work for her: Taking away all her toys…
From here, I do not know where to turn.
My daughter is intelligent. Saying this is not to be taken as a statement of a proud mama, no, Layla is SMART. She articulates well beyond her age as says any teacher who has observed or instructed her and she understands concepts like action/consequence, give/take, etc. Her ability to recall minor details is astonishing.
Where modern guidance says a child in this age group will forget something five minutes after you tell her, I watch my daughter retain and recite back later tidbits of things that I am sure other children her age would have so easily overlooked. She is not “average,” she is extraordinary.
This in itself presents a major challenge, because not only am I contesting the wit of a toddler, I am trying to appreciate her incredible ability to really understand what is going on around her; this makes for extremely difficult parenting – I am forced to strategize and critique my own efforts and style of parenting so that I can find means to adequately raise a bright, well-rounded, compassionate little girl.
With the way I was raised, I fear I will fail even under the light of the best intentions.
My patience gets so thin too quickly, and I believe I expect too much from her because although she is smart, she is still a baby in a sense, and I should not be putting so much expectations on her “abilities” and punishing her when she does not meet the criteria I have put before her to follow.
The challenge, furthermore, is BECAUSE she is so smart, the expectations I have for her are good-natured, because she CAN understand me, and she DOES know to an extent the right and wrongs of the world around her (what she can and cannot do.)
My efforts are thwarted time and time again when she purposefully hits me, tells me “NO!” and then runs off down the hallway throwing a Titanic-sized fit. All because I did not give her fruit snacks?
There are other obstacles on this road to parental know-how that make the journey quite difficult. Layla is the product of a broken home because her father and I could not sustain a marriage, so she is shuffled between households each week, sometimes day-to-day, and I believe that instability plays a major role in shaping how she relates to me and the rules in our home. She does not even call our home her home, she calls it, “Mama’s house,” which I am sure is another clear indication as to the confusion taking place in her capable mind.
I do not know how to conclude this other than to say I am frustrated, and I am feeling like a failure. More than most I remain acutely aware of the how’s, what’s, and why’s in the way my life is conducted because I have little eyes watching my every move. This just makes my moments of weakness where my patience eludes me bear that much more heavily on my shoulders.
My children deserve patience. They deserve calm guidance, warm nurturing, and above all else, unconditional love… I am trying my best, but I fail more often than I win this game of motherhood in the land of toddlerville.
What can I do?
Where can I turn?
What did YOU do to get through this phase of parenting?
I need help, and I would very much appreciate ANYTHING anyone can say to encourage this journey; helping me become the kind of mother my children deserve.
My little Layla darling is too valuable and at a critical stage in her development, there is so much on the line. I need to do what is best for her – and Jemma, when she gets to be this age – my girls deserve the best…
Someone, please! Tell me how to be that for them!