Is he not the cutest? I just love this picture of the Bean!
Our youngest is a bundle of joy and emotion. A polite reference is to call him 'spirited.' I've read a slew of parenting books, websites, and articles, and yet there are still days when I am just at a loss for how best to mother him.
(I know many of you can relate.)
Saturday at my daughter's ballet recital I had to leave the theatre with him because he was having a ginormous melt down. I sat on a bench as he hurled anger and rage at me for over 30 minutes, with plenty of onlookers watching the show.
I believed tantrums would have stopped by now.
I believed the talking back, protesting, and screaming would have been over by now.
I believed the separation anxiety, the unfriendliness to other people, would have improved by now.
I believed he would make more sense to me by now.
I believed his impulsiveness would wean as he got older and learned delayed gratification.
I believed consistent discipline and holding the line would eventually pay out.
And that's not to say it isn't getting better. Or that I don't see rays of improvement or progress. Because I do. Many nights I tuck him into bed and we're smiling and singing and having so much fun. We have many sweet moments of affection, laughter, and tenderness.
But some days are just plain hard.
My primary feelings as it relates to some of our struggles with the Bean are: fatigue, aggravation, fear, responsibility, and confusion.
Gosh how we love our children. Love them. We would jump in front of a bus for them. Swim across the lake for them. Do whatever we could to see them succeed in life--to see them happy and healthy and following Jesus.
And as I've been praying and trying to help him, understand him, I've come to realize some of my own faults in his behavior challenges. Improvements need to be made on my end.
Some things I'm evaluating:
1. Do we give him enough quality time? The Bean is our 3rd. He is toted to his brother's 3-hour baseball games and 2-hour ballet recitals to watch his sister. He's an extremely active kid who finds himself confined at long events that don't revolve around him. Perhaps we need to have more realistic expectations on what he can (and cannot) do in a given day.
2. Do we reward good behavior or simply correct the negative? When Pumpkin and Peanut were little I used positive rewards often, but admittedly, I haven't done many sticker charts or reward charts for the Bean. We went to the dollar store this weekend and bought several goodies and put them in a toy box. I made a "Kind Eyes" sticker chart (focus on ONE behavior at a time that needs affirmation/encouragement). At the end of every day, if he had kind eyes, he earns a sticker. After he earns 5 stickers, he gets to choose a toy from the box. The best part about the chart is that he is the only one who has the possibility to earn a toy. And he knows it. He feels quite special because of it.
3. Do we rush him and expect him to move at the speed of a big kid? He's 4. When the other kids were younger I would have a countdown--5 more minutes until we leave. 3 more minutes. 2 more minutes. I've realized I don't do this nearly as much nowadays. Little kids don't move quickly, period. And some children like the Bean have a harder time with transitions than other children.
4. Do I expect him to understand, communicate, and learn like my other children? Both Pumpkin and Peanut were early language kids, and I've always been able to talk with them like they are a couple years older than they are. Do I unfairly have this expectation on The Bean? Also, I believe the Bean is 100% tactile. That means he wants to touch everything, and by touching everything he's learning. (And therefore, when I teach him by telling, does he hear, understand, and grasp what I'm saying?) Should I take more time to show him than tell him?
5. Do I label him? This is a hard one for me, but I'm convicted. I don't want the Bean to get put into the box of trouble-maker, toy-breaker, mess-maker, tantrum-thrower, interrupter child. He is a sweet boy, and things come out of him big, bold, imaginative, expressive, hilarious, competitive, and vibrant. Because he tests more, I can be guilty of marking him with negative. This is on me to change my attitude and set the tone in our family--to make sure we all treat one another with respect, starting with me. Even if I'm justified, there is a time and place to vent and let my own emotions flow. But I need to be guarded about agreements I make with the Enemy on his character, heart, behavior, potential, and our bond.
Also, we have very recently engaged a child psychologist to explore if there are any additional reasons behind some of the Bean's frustrations. We're looking into attachment issues, learning disabilities, sensory and auditory processing, ADHD, etc. Sometimes there are neurological, physiological, and emotional reasons a child might struggle. Hopefully we'll find there are none of these present, but I don't want to leave any stone unturned.
Finally, I'm scheduling myself breaks here and there. It's the summer and my children are home and we are having a blast together. But I am not super human. It's exhausting maintaining self-control, gentleness, and empathy all day every day. In 20 minutes my niece will come to babysit for a couple hours. It's a gift I'm giving me (and my husband is giving me). If you're struggling with a hard(er) child, give yourself permission to get away and regroup. You'll be a better mommy because of it.
Grace to you, beautiful moms. You love your children so much. And He loves them even more. I'm off with my pen and Bible and walking shoes to breathe.