I will be the first to admit that as my daughter gets older my expectations change and I find it harder and harder to tolerate some behaviors. I have to continually remind myself that my daughter is only four and that she still needs lots of emotional and behavioral support. I recently read Peaceful Parents, Happy Kids and found it really helpful in putting my daughter’s difficult behaviors into perspective and giving me some tools to handle my own reactions (I promise to write more on this book later, in my new space).
My daughter is what the parenting books call “spirited.” She’s also pretty smart, intellectually, and can be frustrated that her emotional maturity is not up to par with other ways she processes things. At four years old she still struggles (mightily) with disappointment and we’re still working through the best ways to process her big emotions when she doesn’t get her way.
I honestly don’t mind tantrums. I don’t mind yelling, or flailing on the ground. Obviously I don’t enjoy these behaviors but they don’t push my buttons. They don’t leave me seeing red.
The stuff I do mind? Aggression, specifically when it’s calmly and cooly directed at me. When my daughter hits me, or spits at me or even sticks her tongue out at me with a face that says, “oh yeah, I’m doing this right now, and what are YOU going to do about,” it makes my blood boil. When my daughter is physically aggressive toward me I totally lose my shit.
The good news is I’m WAY better about extracting myself from the situation and walking away. I try to stay and be with her but if I start to see red I leave, and I forgive myself for needing to do so.
We talk about it later. I don’t come back until I can be there for my child in a supportive and forgiving way. Sometimes that takes a while. Sometimes she’s alone, on the floor, screaming for several minutes, until I can pull myself together and come back.
I’m getting better at this, but I have to admit, my patience for this willfully aggressive behavior is wearing thin, really thing, threadbare, actually. At four years old, I KNOW she knows not to hit and I guess I have the expectations that she can use the YEARS of coaching and do overs and play acting we’ve done to practice responding differently to good use. If she has the presence of mind to look at my in the way she does before she does it, she should have the presence of mind to stop herself from doing it. The older she gets, the less tolerance I have for this behavior. At this point, when she hits me or kicks me or scratches me or spits at me, I have a REALLY hard time holding it together or showing empathy. I’m starting to wonder if this kind of behavior is “normal” for a kid her age. Should we be looking for outside support on these things? When does the hitting stop?
(I want to add that while it rare for her to direct this kind of aggression toward her peers, she does blow up at school occasionally and twice so far this year we’ve gotten two reports of her hurting other children. Also, she has never acted aggressively toward her brother, but she also doesn’t interact with him much in ways that would upset her. Mostly she acts out when she is denied something she wants, so it generally happens with us.)
If you have any advice or suggestions, I’d really appreciate it. I’m at the end of my rope.