Thursday, July 12, 2012

Life Lesson: When to ask for advice

I need some advice.  Like actual advice.  Like don't sugar-coat this advice.

Today when I arrived to pick up Claire, I was greeted by an Incident Report.  She had pushed and scratched two children. 

As this was explained to me several feelings washed over me.  First, embarrassment.  Second, sadness. Third, fear.  I was embarrassed because it seems like this is something I should be able to deal with.  I shouldn't have the kid that pushes people.  I'm not violent.  My husband isn't violent.  I felt like a failure as a parent.  I was sad because I don't want Claire to be marked by teachers and other parents as "that kid" and become the outcast.  I don't want people to think that she's anything other than the loving, caring, friendly kid that she is.  I was afraid because what if this is an emotional problem that is going to only get more difficult from here?  Do I need to have her evaluated?  What do I do?

On the way home, I cried on the phone to my husband who is out of town on business this week.  I wanted him to give me the answers.  I wanted someone to tell me, "oh, all you have to do is _____."  This is not reality.

When we pulled into the garage, I turned to Claire, sitting in her seat enjoying her bunny crackers, and said with tears streaming down my face, "it makes Mommy sad when you hurt people at school."  She said, in response, "Mommy crying?"  Then we talked about how hands don't hurt, they help and that we give hugs and kisses with hands.  She will tell you adamantly, "No pushing!  No scratching!"  She'll even show you what to do with hands.  She'll stroke the baby's back and say, "sweet hands." 

So, how do I solve this Rubik's Cub of child development?  I've done my research, I know this is normal 2-year-old behavior.  That doesn't mean I'm just going to stand by while she's becoming the class bully.

It broke my heart today to see her sitting at a table by herself eating her lunch because she was in trouble.  I don't want her to have another day like today.  I certainly don't want her to have a life of isolation.

We do "time out."  We re-direct.  We pay attention when she's playing with other kids (as much as possible) to try to catch the behavior before it starts.  But I'm not Super Mom.  I don't have psychic abilities and I can't predict how things will make her react. 

So, any suggestions are welcomed.  If any part of you just smiled a smug smile of congratulations because your kid never hit, pushed, or bit, get off my blog.  You're an asshole.

While writing this, Pusherman is playing in my head.  But it's not Curtis Mayfield singing it.  It's my brother-in-law, Ryan.  If you know him, he's now singing in your head, too.  You're welcome.



  1. First of all, like you said this really is normal behavior for kiddos Claire's age. Hendrix was bit by his little buddy Lucy at his daycare/school back during the winter. I was concerned and started having those thoughts like, "Is he safe at school?" "Are these people watching my son like a hawk like I would to ensure his safety and happiness?"...but, I just told myself that kids will be kids at long as the behavior isn't completely outlandish, it's just trial and error...I think when kids Hendrix and Claire's age get excited while playing, at times emotions run high and they act on impulse (sometimes a physical impulse). Claire will be just fine. I really like how you handled the situation by talking to her and explaining that hands are for helping, not hurting. Well played in my opinion! I would just continue to reinforce that positive message to her before school and any other time you feel the need and she will continue to thrive. Don't be embarrassed, all kids act out. You're doing a great job as a parent.

    1. I've read that at this age kids are the most emotional that they will be in life, ever. However, they can't understand or communicate those feelings. I imagine it must be pretty frustrating.

  2. I think that you handled it the right way. It's just really hard for kids to contain their emotions and she's still learning the appropriate ways to *feel* things. In addition to the 'hands are for loving, not hurting' schpeal, I'd also include some affirmation and golden-ruling. Affirm her feelings in that moment (if you know or can guess what they were...) and help her recognize other people's feelings, too.

    "You were so angry that Susie messed up your tower. You were angry and sad. It's okay to be angry and tell Susie how she made you feel. It's not okay to hit." And then comes the golden-ruling. "If Susie hit you when she was angry, how would you feel? You would feel sad and hurt, and that's how she felt when you hit her." Part of understanding how to control our actions comes with understanding empathy. Push empathy :)

    And good luck. We're all in the same boat! You're doing a GOOD job and being a parent is HARD. Now go getcha a margarita ;)

    1. Isn't it hard to explain feelings to a kid? I find myself trying to help her make those relations and feeling like I might as well being explaining the Higgs Boson particle.

    2. Heh :) You lost me at Higgs Boson.

      But I think the whole point of speaking their feelings FOR them is to slowly teach them the words so they can eventually use them themselves. Bear already knows what her feelings FEEL like, but she doesn't (maybe) know what they're called, and that they're normal. You verbalizing the names of the emotions starts her on the path to controlling her emotions.

      Or something.

  3. You've received very good advice here! It's going to happen (hitting, scratching, and kicking in anger is a normal stage in development), and all you can do is reinforce the positive behavior (commend her when she does use her words, and doesn't hit) and ignore the negative behavior.

    That's to say, if you witness the Bear hitting/scratching another child, remove her from the situation, tell her no, and leave it at that. Then go and immediately comfort the other child. A very short while later (no longer than two minutes, I'd say), follow up with Bear, and tell her what was said above: "You were angry. It's okay to be angry. It's not okay to hit. We must use our words when we are angry. Bear will learn to use her words when she is angry, just like the grown-ups do. We do not hit."

    It will take a few times of reinforcing this (and the teachers should be doing the same), but girls Bear's age will catch on quickly-- usually within 3-6 incidents-- if you follow this pattern.

    However, if the issue is biting or spitting, there are other things that may need to be done.

    1. When we see it happen we swoop in like a zombie on Carl...

    2. Ah-- ever since I watched the new Talking Dead last Sunday, I've been craving zombies again! I cannot wait for season 3. Carl was on Talking Dead, and promised there'd be less, "Get in the house!" in season 3.