Friday, 22 June 2012

Reading Signs and Understanding Behaviour Cues

Yesterday was mayhem. I’m talking complete craziness. The day started out good, as most days do in this household. We wanted to get out and enjoy the beautiful start to the day so we took our little one to Mad Mango. Figured we better get in as much mango jam as we can before we move away from Pat and her awesomeness. Typically, Len loves it there. It is chill and fast and delicious. Plus, it usually is super busy so she can people watch in the small space easily as we wait for food and sip coffee. But not yesterday. She had some crazy leg syndrome going and sunshine energy flowing through those little bones and she couldn’t sit still. And she wouldn’t. 

Back and forth we battled her to stay in her seat, stop shouting, no yelling, on and on, until eventually James took her outside to run around. She came back into the store, gave me a big ol hug, and continued on her merry ‘i don’t sit still’ way. Finally, the food came and she mustered up the patience to chow down. But the moment she was done, we were off.

There are times when Lennon will have it no way but her way. Of course I understand this mentality as I struggled with control issues and honestly, still do. There are simply some things that a toddler cannot be allowed to do. Running on the road is one of them. But she was determined that she would run across the road. James told her no. She screamed. She threw herself on the ground in a flailing display of rebellion. We managed to get her across the road just in time for her to launch into full attack mode on her dad. Ripping his hat off his head and throwing it on the ground. Then going for his glasses. If he wasn’t savvy to her ways, she would have mauled the beard next. Not cool, little one, not cool.

Help! My world is ending! Oh wait, nevermind.
I warned her that if her behaviour continued like this, we would leave and go home. Our plan was to head to the water park. We had been there the day before and had a really great time. She loves water. She somewhat acknowledged the parameters I have placed on her and so we make our way to the park. Before we have even gone ten feet, she sees the lake and wants to go in. I tell her we will play at the water park, the lake is freezing and she didn’t have her swim stuff on yet. Maybe on the weekend we could go to the trailer and swim in Kalamalka lake. This was not the answer she wanted to hear. Again, she throws herself on the ground, refuses to stand up, kicks my legs, slaps my hands away from her, tries to bite me as I pull her up from the ground, people gawking at us as though never would their children behave like that let alone themselves (bullshit). So I tell her that I wasn’t just warning her, I am serious. This kind of behaviour, like all behaviour, has consequences. This time the consequence was that we would leave and that is exactly what we are going to do. The moment I picked her up, I expected a couple of face slaps, maybe a head butt or two, but instead, she went with me. She didn’t fuss. She didn’t scream. She just accepted it. Hm, kind of strange for a girl who fights everything tooth and nail. I didn’t think much of it because I was just glad she had stopped freaking out and I had held my ground and stuck to my parameters.

The rest of the day went smoothly. We played in the house and organized our millions of things that need to be sorted in the next month. Not a single temper tantrum. Eventually, we had to do some errands and go pick up James from work. She protested. I warned her about time out. She went along with me, but whined the entire time, finally breaking out into a full blown meltdown freak out which essentially threw me over the edge. There is nothing worse than driving around in a small little car while your toddler screams at the top of her lungs. We got home and did a time out. She gradually calmed down and we ate dinner. Things seemed to be going good again until all of a sudden, around bedtime, she lost her marbles again. Screaming, throwing herself on the ground, general flailing. I asked her if she wanted to go for a timeout. She said yes. Wait. Yes?

Suddenly, all of the pieces came together. We had had a crazy week full of activity. We went to the woods and explored, had friends over to our house, went out for dinner, went to the water park and coffee shop, as well as all of the usual groceries, house chores, and evening walks. She was spent. I have this strange ability to just keep going and never stop. I run myself and those around me into the ground. Even as a 40 week pregnant woman, my closest friends could not get me to sit still and rest my feet. In forgetting that I need rest and relaxation in the quiet comfort of my own home, I also forget that my child needs rest and quiet as much as she needs stimulation and fun. 
Having a blast. Maybe too much fun?

Hiking takes it out of a little one!
Tantrums are a part of being a toddler. Similar to being a teenager. Life seems so difficult when you can’t have it exactly the way you want it and unfortunately your view is limited at this age of what and how the world truly works. In these moments of being so wound up caring for someone who seemingly fights you over getting dressed, eating food, everything, it is easy to forget that firstly, they can’t really communicate the way they want to, and secondly, their actions are their words.

Here I thought I was battling against Lennon’s desire to run around at inappropriate times, or her inability to go along with me happily while I do errands, which neither of us really want to do to begin with, but I was actually missing her behaviour cues and misreading her signs. She wasn’t telling me I don’t want to do that because I don’t feel like it and I like watching you suffer (which it can feel like somedays) but instead she was asking in the only way she knows how to slow down. Her little body needs rest and even though she is still playing and possibly whining, she is at home in her safety zone having necessary down time.

So if you are at your wits end with your kid who either doesn’t want to go out or doesn’t want to stay in, or just seems to be having all out crazy behaviour, take a breath and ask yourself what is this behaviour telling me that my child cannot and how can I help remedy the situation for the both of us.

So tired in fact, she fell asleep in my lap this afternoon. Been months since that happened.
I’m not saying that there aren’t days where they just want to scream bloody murder at you because they think its funny, because we’ve had those days too. What I am saying is that with our advanced communication capabilities when its come to verbal language, we forget that our children are using the first communication tools available to us: body language and behaviour. Becoming more aware of what are children’s behaviour is telling us can also help us to realize what our behaviour is telling our children and each other. 

Heck, if it helps, thats one less meltdown a day and I would take that and run with it people!

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