My kids throw tantrums. Loud, embarrassing tantrums, especially Mayhem. The kind that make everyone else in the store or on the street stop and stare at you. I am not good at handling the tantrums – I tend to get frustrated very fast and get loud with them. It becomes a fight to see who can be loudest in an effort to be heard. I don’t like being anything but calm and loving with the kids, so this has been my biggest struggle as a mom. The kids are certainly not the only ones who need an education, especially with Mischief home.
To help everyone be calmer, I decided to read up on how the kids process information and think. My husband bought The Whole-Brain Child by Daniel Siegel and Tina Bryson for me. Reading it I feel like I’ve met my children for the first time. What I’ve learned is that I’m not speaking to them in a language that they could understand. I tend to be very left-brained logical when I talk to them. Unfortunately for me, they are emotional and right-brained when they’re mad. My logic (“Yes, I did do that for you just yesterday and here are 5 examples of other times I’ve done the same thing”) is fighting against their emotion (“You never do anything for me!”) and we can’t communicate. They couldn’t hear me because our brains weren’t connecting in those moments.
In the book, the authors discuss how a child in a right-brain moment needs a parent to utilize the same side of the brain in order to feel heard. Only once that connection has been made can the logic and discipline happen. I have been trying to have a conversation and teach lessons that they couldn’t learn. It explains why I feel like I say the same thing over and over and it never gets absorbed. I wasn’t parenting them as well as I could. This doesn’t mean that there aren’t boundaries and limits, but rather that they’re communicated in a way and at a time that the kids can hear.
Last night, Mayhem didn’t want to go to sleep. She was tired, but screaming and fighting and yelling at the mere thought of getting into bed. I used to tell her to just get in bed because she was obviously tired, and would get more and more frustrated, eventually having to leave the room to calm down. Tonight, I said that I understood she wasn’t ready to get into bed, but would she like a hug and cuddle. As soon as her head was against my shoulder, she told me she needed to sleep and could I lie down with her. She needed the emotional connection, but didn’t know how to ask for it, so screaming was her reaction.
This is the not reading, writing, ‘rithmatic part of what I intend to teach the kids, but it’s just as important. They need to know how to have a functioning brain where all the parts (left/right, upper/lower) work together. If I don’t do it myself, how can I expect them to, and how can I be a role-model for them. I’m still fighting tantrums, but now it’s with the right tool. Instead of battling emotion with logic, I’m subduing it with an emotional response. They feel heard, I’m less frustrated, and I can hope that’s a lesson that all of us will learn and develop over the years.