When Punkin was a baby, I heard all the time about what amazing patience I had. I was in that new motherhood phase of thinking things were going to go exactly how I wanted them to. I was going to raise him this way and discipline that way and only organic food all the time ever! In my defense, Punkin was an amazingly good baby, so it's just as much his fault as it is mine (joking!).
But then something happened. Something called "toddler" came over my child and I'm afraid my patience was worn very thin. Especially with the addition of a little sister to hit and push and steal toys from.
One day, when I picked Punkin up from school after an especially frustrating day in the office, he sat in the back seat playing with his Leap Pad while I drove thinking about dinner and jammies and bed time. Punkin has a new found love of recording himself and then playing it back so he can hear it. His Leap Pad has one such game. So he's sitting in the back seat recording himself screaming. This awful, deep, incredibly loud scream. After telling him three times to please stop screaming, I lost it. I yelled as loud as I could so he could hear me over his screaming "STOP SCREAMING!!!".
"Sorry.", was all he could meekly say. I felt immediately relieved that he stopped. Happy with myself even, that I made him listen to me.
Then I realized, he recorded that whole exchange. Pretty soon the sound of myself screaming at my child was being played back to me over and over and over again from the back seat. Me yelling and him saying "Sorry.".
Needless to say, I felt so bad. I sounded out of control and scary. To myself. What did I sound like to a 3 year old?
This was a lesson I needed. It's so easy to just snap. It's so easy to take the easy way out and throw a temper tantrum just like Punkin would. It's hard to keep your cool.
So, I make the extra effort to understand why he's upset. Most of the time, if I get down on his level and speak to him about why he's feeling the way he's feeling, I avoid a fit. One time he was upset about something or other, and I sat down on the floor of his bedroom and just talked to him.
"What are you feeling right now?"
That was all it took to start the conversation. He told me why he was upset, I offered a solution and told him it was okay to be sad. At the end of it, he gave me a hug and said "Thank you for making me feel better, Momma." and I wanted to cry. Why couldn't I do that all the time? How hard was that, really? I had my shining motherhood moments, but lately it seemed like I was losing my cool more than I was offering solutions.
So, I make the extra effort as often as I can. Sometimes it doesn't work and I have to put him in time out or take away a toy. But most of the time, it does. When he cries, we take deep breaths together (something Austin actually discovered), and when he's upset, we talk about our feelings.
It's important to remember that while it's our duty to teach our kids, they end up teaching us as well.